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Shabbat Parashat Matot 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Questions about Religious Services in Eretz Yisrael #111 part I

Date and Place: 2 Adar I 5668 (1908), Yafo


Recipient: Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, author of Dorot Harishonim. We have featured various letters to him in the past few months.


Body: I will do my best to answer your questions. First I will quote your question, and then I will answer. 

Question #1: “Is it good and important to try to have rabbis in all settlements, just as there are in every Jewish community in Russia, in order to give strength to the Torah and all elements of every detailed aspect of Judaism?”

My answer: In Russia, the rabbi’s role can be broken up into three main parts: rendering rulings on halachic, religious questions; monetary jurisprudence; involvement in communal needs. There is a fourth part that applies to some rabbis, and that is giving public addresses on Torah and inspirational matters.

In regard to rendering halachic rulings, it would bring great advantage, given the religious situation in the moshavot (agricultural settlements), to have a rabbi [in each community] who was rendering such rulings.

Regarding the second matter, of monetary issues, things are very different in Eretz Yisrael. All matters of dispute are under the jurisdiction of beit din, and it is sometimes necessary to coerce a party to submit to their authority. This is necessary because the Jewish community on a national level depends on the power of its judicial system. For that reason, it is an absolute necessity that the power of the judiciary be as strong as it can be. Since the general rabbinate in our holy city is strengthened by the police force, and the moshavot in the area of Judea accept their directives, thank G-d, it is not worthwhile that anything should be done to weaken the foundation of the system. It would also be very difficult to incorporate a judicial body in each individual moshav in a manner that would not damage its tranquility and welfare. Therefore, it is better presently to leave matters as they are. It is also worthwhile to take the necessary steps to connect the additional moshavot, especially in the Gallil, to the leadership of the Chief Rabbinate, so that the authority of the laws of the Torah in the Holy Land be organized and national.

Regarding the matter of communal needs, the matter is also very different in the moshavot. From their establishment, the moshavot have been lead by representative councils, and these councils are involved in all of the public, communal affairs. They deal with all of the elements of communal life in a very proper manner, considering the resources available, like the best governmental apparatuses in Europe. So, this is not an area in which the rabbi needs to make an impact.

If Hashem will give us the success to attract rabbis who are also truly gifted orators, people who are truly imbued with fear of Hashem, and they have a desire to raise the standing of authentic Judaism in the Holy Land, then I believe that they can accomplish a tremendous amount in the moshavot.

We will move on to the next question next time.



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