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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim 5781

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Keeping to His Own Interpersonal Style

Date and Place: 12 Shevat 5667 (1907), Yafo


Recipient: Avigdor Rivlin, a businessman in Boisk, who kept a personal connection with Rav Kook even after Rav Kook left his rabbinate in Boisk to make aliya.

Body: I have received a few letters from you, and I did not have enough time to respond despite my love and respect for you. I hope you will forgive me and judge me favorably.

I am hereby very appreciative to you, my distinguished, beloved friend, for your advice, which shows loyalty, and for revealing your desire to help me in the noble project of printing my works through the auspices of the Yere’im (“G-d-fearing”) community (similar language and apparently idea to what is today called Haredi) in Germany. However, I am not capable of taking any practical steps in that direction. I can only take advantage of the means that are in place in the process of going about the spiritual improvement. For example, I yearn strongly to write and publish as much as I can. Maybe Hashem will arrange through this that people with means will realize that it is worthwhile to assist me so that I can get out to the masses my ideas, whether they are hidden by me, in my heart or in manuscripts in my home.

However, how can I present myself [to this group from Germany] as a “fighter” when I love peace and pursue it with all my heart and soul? I recognize that especially in Eretz Yisrael, there is no place or justification for creating divisions, even if it is for spiritual purposes. How can it be that I would make use of a type of style that is not according to my spirit? To the contrary, I hope that as time goes on, the leaders of the Yere’im in Germany will realize that they should incorporate in their approach a broader and more light-emitting style. Specifically, they should find the hidden light and sanctity in the depths of every individual in Israel and cause it to surface with purity from all of the idolatry that stuck to them due to the contact with spiritual strangers. Then, hearts will be able to start to join close to each other, and the House of Israel will increasingly be built into one nation to serve Hashem on sacred soil.

Regarding your personal situation, my advice is as follows. If your family will write to you that they believe there is a way to hold on to your store by incorporating your son in the operation, then you should certainly not leave the business, which one way or another provided a livelihood for several years. If you have the opportunity to set up the business in a different city, that would be better, but that seems to me to be unlikely. Therefore, it would seem better to stay in Boisk, as you have been doing.

I again ask that you, my distinguished friend, not take offense by my delayed responses to you from time to time. You should know that my love for you is as sincere as it ever was and maybe even more. It is just that my preoccupations prevent me from responding quickly. You should not treat me as I treat others but should write your dear letters, full of pleasantries that make our hearts happy due to our loving connection.

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