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Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Follow-Up Questions

#90 part I

Date and Place: 17 Shevat 5665 (1905), Yafo


Recipient: A young Moshe Zeidel.  A close disciple of Rav Kook, from their time in Boisk, he asked Rav Kook many philosophical questions. He would become Dr. Zeidel, a philologist and philosopher.


Body: [We will see some of the questions that he asked in a letter that was for the most part questions and comments of Zeidel to Rav Kook’s letter (#89) that was featured over the last few weeks.]

You wrote that according to me, the Torah is in a process of development. Heaven forbid, I never said such a “foreign” idea. When people refer to development, they refer to the emergence of a “new face,” which causes thoughts that there is a lack of seriousness.

This is what I have to say [about what you call development]. Divine wisdom surveys all that will transpire from the beginning of history to the end. Hashem arranges matters in a manner that only when the elders of each generation must make decisions, they will be based on understandings and feelings that Hashem prepared for them to decide properly.

Therefore, it is only possible for the fullest truths of the Torah to be revealed when the whole nation is living in its Land and is at an ideal point of spirituality and physicality. Then, the Oral Law will return to being produced in its full strength, according to the level of recognition of the Supreme Rabbinical Court which will sit in the place that Hashem chose and will deal with all practical questions whose solutions escape members of the nation. Then we can be sure that every new revelation will be crowned with all the vitality and sanctity that is fit for the nation by and for Hashem.

It is possible that a question will arise regarding a law in the Torah, which, based on a perception of ethics, would appear that it needs to be understood in a different manner than it was previously. If the Supreme Rabbinical Court decides that the law can be implemented only in circumstances that no longer exist, they will provide a source in the Torah that justifies that understanding.

The resulting agreement between the events of the time with the authority of the Rabbinical Court and the way of explaining the Torah sources do not coincide by happenstance. Rather they are like letters that light up with a message from the light of the Torah and the truth of the Oral Law, in whose system we must follow the “judge who will be at that time” (Devarim 17:9). This is not a “development” with its negative connotation.

However, if one were to come for adjudication in our days, when we are in a lowly station and our financial lives are not set up in the optimal national form, which would give us such greatness, then it would be a terrible thing to attempt to employ such authority. When I speak in terms of what was and will be regarding practical principles of the Torah, it is predicated on a vision of our nation living a full national life in its beloved Land in an ideal form of completeness, when we are self-governed, have a proper judiciary in place, and the Land is successfully home to its sons. Then that which comes out of the “spring of the House of Hashem” will be holy.

In contrast, at the time of darkness, although a person can follow his most refined feelings with the intention of elevating his spirit and drawing close to the light of truth and justice, which is of divine origin, this is not the Torah’s guidance but that of a personal approach of righteousness. Therefore, if by so doing, he will cause damage to the lot of the broader community, it will be transformed from moral inclinations to matters that damage the masses. Thus, any wise person will understand that it is the individual’s holiest obligation to curb his spiritual aspirations to help preserve the moral success of the nation, upon which the pillar of justice will have to stand. On this, the pasuk says: “The nation that walks in the dark saw a great light; those who sat in the land of shadows of death have the pure light shine upon them” (Yeshaya 9:1).  

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