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Shabbat Parashat Balak 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Are Languages the Solution?

Letter #32

Date and Place 16 Shevat 5666

: Rav Kook’s 14 year-old son, Tzvi Yehuda

: A short response, apparently to a letter by Tzvi Yehuda in which he inquired about how to broaden one’s ideas.

: If I were not so preoccupied, I would … show you how to broaden correct ideas from the depths of the straight heart. This is in contrast to those who think the only way to complete one’s intellect is by force-feeding several languages.
True realization becomes clear to a person when he identifies the foundation of his inner rectitude. For a Jew, it depends on the degree that the light of Torah, in action and in thought, spread broadly through his heart and that fine attributes are deeply rooted in his soul. Then he will be full of the pleasantries that come from the divine aura and delight in Hashem and His goodness with satiating happiness, quiet tranquility, and internal bliss, full of confidence and power. “Those who know Your Name will rely upon You, for You, Hashem, did not abandon those who seek You” (Tehillim 9:11).
When one’s internal foundation is filled with the richness of a life of truth and justice, all that he gathers into his midst from the outside is absorbed properly. Bad elements, which are like the impurities of precious metals, are cast off by the power of internal life, and that which is clear and pure remains. These are things that are collected from every matter, including those from the depths of darkness, in which there is always something that emits flashes of light. Just as the places of greatest darkness and despair are before Hashem, so are the hearts of man (see Mishlei 15:11).
However, since man should desire to share, to the best of his ability, the good he possesses with others, both to his nation and all of humanity, he is definitely more capable of explaining and influencing others when he adds languages and modes of expression. Indeed, everything that Hashem uttered is divided into 70 languages (see Shabbat 88b). But it is wrong to try to replace the intellectual purification process, which is a foundation of one’s persona, with the development of linguistic skills, whether it be on a national or a personal basis. This reduces one’s intellectual/spiritual standing.
Names are the beginnings of languages, as it says: “Adam called names …” (Bereishit 2:20). The nefilim (ibid. 6:4), who caused the world’s spiritual level to fall, were called “the courageous who had always been the men of name (shem).” This hints at the destruction (shimamon) they brought to the world. They thought that their unique ability to speak made them powerful (see Tehillim 12:5).
When Hashem desired to fill all the dark portions of the world with light, he appeared to the choicest human being ever (Moshe Rabbeinu), who referred to himself as having a serious speech impediment (see Shemot 6:12). A similar phenomenon occurred in a much later generation, to someone who drew close by drinking from the “trusted waters” of the master of prophets, who was “drawn out from the waters.” [David] went to defeat the impure Plishti (Goliath), who cursed Hashem and His army, without heavy armor and weapons. The diminutive David said: “I do not have experience with these” when Shaul wanted to give him his battle gear. He took just five stones from the stream basin and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. The slingshot and five stones represent the Five Books of Moshe and the first five words of Shema, which are brought together by the word “one” (the last word of Shema) by the “shepherds” (leaders) who are found in every generation and explain the depths of the one G-d’s wisdom and the Torah’s light. The modest slingshot and stones do not compare to Goliath’s heavy armor, sword, and spear, or his chutzpa. Because David came in the name of the G-d of the armies of Israel, whom Goliath had scorned, the stone was embedded in his forehead, and David took Goliath’s sword in his hand. This message is appropriate in this generation of ikveta d’meshicha (leading up to Mashiach), in which the enemies of Hashem scorned the coming of Mashiach.

[Applied in summary, it is not necessary for Tzvi Yehuda to learn languages, which are often good tools for influencing others, if he develops spiritual greatness.]

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