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Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Starting a New Yeshiva in Yafo

#59 part II

Date and Place: 17 Shevat 5667 (1907), Yafo


Recipient: Rabbi Yosef Rabi, Rav Kook’s brother-in-law. As the letter indicates, he was living in poverty in chutz la’aretz and was interested in moving to Eretz Yisrael if he could find an appropriate position.  

: [Last time we saw Rav Kook’s interest in starting a high-level yeshiva in Yafo that integrated some modern elements, but that in the meantime the basic job of religious education was being fulfilled by the simple, G-d-fearing education provided by the Sha’arei Torah religious elementary school.]          

The question is how to establish the new yeshiva. The financial situation at Sha’arei Torah is difficult, and there is not an amount of money we can reach and know that it will suffice for it. Therefore, if we add more meshulachim (fundraisers in the Diaspora), everything will go into the old account, and from where will we take money for new expenses (apparently, Rav Kook saw it as natural that the new yeshiva would grow out of the existing one)? After all, the institution, like all institutions in the Holy Land, is dealing with great debt, and if and when there is an influx of income, the directors want to first lighten the burden of debt. They always come with claims that are correct from a financial perspective. This is how I understand the situation before having tried to take real steps forward.

However, there is one remedy to the situation – to stipulate from the outset that the money that the new meshulachim will bring in will not be given to the people in charge of the old accounts, and their expenses will be the responsibility of the yeshiva in formation. This will create for us a new financial burden, as Sha’arei Torah’s directors will not want to give from the account of the school for the formation of something new. Only Hashem knows if we will succeed, with the help of meshulachim, to increase the income to the point that we can support a significant group of yeshiva students. Even if it starts with only ten high-quality students, it will still cost close to 100 rubles a month, and the salary of the instructor will be at least 40 rubles a month. We have to think, because even if we put in a lot of effort, we are likely to fall short of such a budget.

Therefore, I do not see any alternative other than patience and to wait in the meantime. If you know of candidates for proper meshulachim, please tell me their names, give information about them, and identify where they could work, in places that our existing meshulachim have not yet made it to. We would have to wait several months from the beginning of their work, and when we would see that we have what to depend on, then we could, with Hashem’s help, start to work on forming the yeshiva. That would entail assembling a certain group of worthy students, who would have to be of a significantly higher level than those children who are already learning gemara with Rashi and Tosafot with a prominent teacher, who teaches the basics with sharpness. Even those students are on an average level, and we will not be able to give them the distinguished stature of “yeshiva students.” (Remember that in those times, the established yeshivot – Rav Kook had learned in Volozhin – were elite institutions for the most capable students.) I very much hope that if we succeed in getting this project going, it will develop nicely.

Next time we will conclude our translation of the letter.

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