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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: The Power of the Scholars of Eretz Yisrael part I

Date and Place: 5668 (1907-8), Yafo

Recipient: The organization “Beit Va’ad Lachachamim,” dedicated to the advancement of Torah study in Yerushalayim. They apparently asked Rav Kook for an article on a specific halachic matter, which he did not have time to prepare (he related to the matter briefly). However, he focused the letter on his envisioned goals and encouragement for such a group.

Body: I want to point something out to you. Although I do not yet know the essence of your organization and the standing of its members, I must inform you that if in our days you are working on binding together Torah scholars in the Holy City, you should try to strive for greatness.
Ours is a generation with strong aspirations. If those with empty aspirations of destruction and emptiness raise themselves to the highest peaks, how high must the heart of one who seeks Hashem strive for as he approaches sanctity?! The minimum one should strive for is to sanctify the Name of Hashem, the name of Israel, and the name of Yerushalayim. It is very desirable to show the whole world the preeminence and greatness of the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, often that which is deep is low-lying (i.e., not noticed). The proper thing is for the Torah of Eretz Yisrael to take its rightful place – on a high pedestal, for all of the Jewish people and all the nations to see what Hashem has created in the Land. This is the time to seek out Hashem, and the need to do so raises us to high levels. [There are a few lines missing from the letter at this point.]
There is a tremendous difference between the way the Torah is experienced in Eretz Yisrael and the way it is in chutz la’aretz (the Diaspora). In Eretz Yisrael, the flow of Divine Spirit breaks forth ready to attach itself to every scholar who seeks to learn Torah for noble reasons, all the more so on an assemblage of Torah scholars. This broad Divine Spirit adorns the details and expands the scope of the halachot, and all of this spiritual movement is from Above to below.
The Diaspora is totally different. There, one does not have access to a general Divine Spirit. He cannot “breathe it in” in impure air or on impure ground. Rather, every detail within the Torah raises a certain spiritual spark and a glimpse of light, which allow one to draw closer to the spirit of the Living G-d who dwells upon His nation in the Land of Life.
The Zohar in Ruth comments on the words al hageula v’al hatemurah (Ruth 4:7) that geula (liberation) refers to the Talmud Yerushalmi and temura (exchange) refers to the Talmud Bavli (with the former being more laudatory than the latter). This information is enlightening in several elements: the nature of the scholarship, its sections, and the complete manner of service of Hashem that is appropriate for the choicest Torah scholars, who should strive to advance themselves in the place that contains the “light of the world.” In Eretz Yisrael, we can give greater credence to the content of the logic promoted, the laws taught, the creative ideas raised, and the deductive reasoning provided.

      The gemara (Megilla 29a) predicts that in the bright future, the synagogues and study halls from the Diaspora will be relocated to Eretz Yisrael. We are capable of drawing the dew of light that exists in the air of the Desired Land in a manner that everything flows. This will make the spirits of every individual delicate and sacred, to the point that the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi will unite, and the two together will give seven-fold more light. We should strive for this and not consider the aspiration too haughty. After all, a small (three jurists) rabbinical court in Eretz Yisrael is more respected than a great court of an expanded size (twenty three) in the Diaspora (Yerushalmi, Nedarim 6:8).  

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