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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Questions about Torah Accounts of Creation - #91 part II

Date and Place: 10 Sivan 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, philosopher, and educator.


Body: [Last time we saw Rav Kook’s position that Rabbinic tradition embraced the idea that there were creations of the world well before Adam. He explained that the Torah’s account of creation was just that which Hashem found worthy to share with us at the time, but that the full scope of creation was one of the greatest secrets. This time we will continue seeing why Hashem did not want to write in the Torah explicitly all that had transpired in creation.]

[The idea of not revealing things right away] is also true regarding spirituality. For example, Divine Providence is a foundation of human morality and success. When it will become abundantly clear to the world what the foundation is, we will have the situation the prophets described as a world without destructiveness and with knowledge of Hashem’s ways filling the world (see Yeshayahu 11:9).

The Jewish people had to work very hard in dealing with idol worshippers, to explain that although creation was vast, it is wrong to view man as not significant enough for the morality of his actions to make a difference. Rather, the creation of man, who has the potential for morality, is more significant than that of quantitatively greater creations. It is difficult to engrain this point in the minds of man while at the same time preserving the internal recognition of Hashem’s honor. The latter is the greatest foundation for the completion of the level of mankind and creation in general, in the present and for eternity, in a life of physicality and spirituality. All of this toil was needed to fit within man’s small heart the image of the greatness of creation and lowliness of man along with the greatness of the “Hand of Hashem” and His loftiness above and beyond the value of creations.

What would have been if [thousands of years ago] man would have known about all the worlds that existed? Then man would have seen himself as nothing and would not have taken his moral responsibilities seriously and seek to be a living thing that strives for greatness. Only now that mankind has succeeded in seeing his potential for greatness, it is no longer upsetting for him to understand the sheer numbers of things that were created.

To achieve all of this required time and preparation, with imagery and with stories, whether those that follow from an intellectual view of creation or those that come from the revealing of the providence of Hashem as told by His prophets. They always needed to include the power that gives greatness to life and success in it. It would not have helped man to receive a set of truncated pieces of information to toy with like a young child.

When you contemplate that which I have explained, you will understand the importance of that which was revealed and that which was kept hidden. The means that Hashem employs to hide things are many and great, using the great divine brilliance of the Creator and wonderful advisor of the world.

If you adopt [in your inquiries in the academic world] the approach that I have explained to you, I am sure that, with Hashem’s help, you will not stumble. You will be successful within our nation; you will fear Hashem and fulfill his commandments, which is the purpose of man (see Kohelet 12:13). You will find joy in the greatness of Hashem’s name and in our nation’s great gift – to have a covenant that makes us a light unto the nations. We should merit to rejoice in the joy of the beloved Land and be able to speak about Hashem’s greatness in Zion and Jerusalem as nations gather to serve Hashem, when He brings salvation and grandeur to Israel from Zion. Hashem promised to give light from the secrets of the Torah, as Chazal point out that he already did for great scholars such as Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues (see Bamidbar Rabba 19:6, based on Yeshayahu 42:16).

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