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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: An Interested Father


Translator’s announcement: Until now, I have been as literal as I could be in my translation. The main purpose was that the writing style is part of the biographical and historical content of the letters and their writer. How he writes to his family and his colleagues, his use of sources, poetry, and metaphors, … are significant. While not abandoning that approach totally, I believe that much of the lesson has already been learned, and from here on, I will cut back on the translation of every detail and nuance, especially in the opening and closing sections and the apparently repetitive matters. This week will be a slight exception to the new rule, in honor of the first letter we have to his son, Tzvi Yehuda.

Date and Place: Cheshvan 5666 (1905), Yafo

Recipient: Tzvi Yehuda Hakohen Kook (Rav Kook’s only son and eventual “spiritual inheritor”; he had four daughters, two of whom predeceased him. Tzvi Yehuda was 14 at the time of the letter.)

Opening: My dear son, shlita (the next letter has a longer greeting).

Body: You made me happy with your pleasant and dear words, may your strength be straight.

I very much desired to write to you at length regarding several details, especially concerning things having to do with proper behavior. However, you know of my work and the matters that preoccupy me, along with the lack of speed due to my health situation, may Hashem strengthen me and give me the ability to advance my Torah and service of Hashem.

I am very happy about what appears from your letter that you have already agreed to settle at this time in the holy city of Yerushalayim. May you have strength! Just exert yourself, my dear son, in good attributes and fear of Hashem and love of Him, in diligence in Torah study, to cover ground and delve into the topics, and to review well so that the words of Torah will be fluent and clear in your mouth (Kiddushin 30b). Develop as much as possible in all types of matters that will improve you and elevate you, and learn things that make a person more glorious. No fine attribute, as minor as it might appear, should be too small in your eyes for you to pursue. Also, no lacking, no matter how small, in your approach, your attributes, or your behavior should be too small in your eyes to have to fix and improve. Always be full of desire, and lean more in the direction of happiness and a positive outlook. Connect yourself to those who fear Hashem and who excel in Torah, those who have clean ideas and are scrupulously honest. Treat your discussions with them as something to learn from even after you applied the matters to your conceptions and intellect.

Please write to us, my dear son, about all of the details of your daily life, in the most minute details, because you cannot imagine how interested we are in knowing about everything that you are involved in. Literally, how you sit and how you get up. At what time do you eat breakfast, and what do you eat? When do you eat lunch and supper, and when do you go to sleep? Have you become accustomed to reciting Kri’at Shema upon going to sleep (with added prayers and recitations) properly? When do you get up, and in what room do you generally sleep? Are you far from the window, as it is sometimes very cold in Yerushalayim?

Sign Off:  I end off with a blessing, my beloved son, and you should have great peace, as is the will of Hashem and the will of your father, who hugs and kisses you, Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook. (Regards to your honored teacher (Rav Zerach Epstein) with great love.)

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