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Shabbat Parashat Devarim 5782

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

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

Recipient: Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, author of Dorot Harishonim.

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

[We are in the midst of a comment of Rav Halevi about the apparent lack of excellence in scholarship in Yerushalayim and Rav Kook’s claim that this is not true and that the impression is because of the lack of ability to have prestigious rabbinates and publish books.]

I will tell you the truth – there are people in Yerushalayim today who are giants in Torah scholarship, on the level of the greatest and most famous rabbis of the generation, and people do not take notice of them. They are actually lowly in their own eyes, and totally do not realize their own value. Obviously there are not a lot of people like this, but they exist. The number of people who are on the highest level are not plentiful in the Diaspora either, even though the population there is very large, may they only grow in numbers.

Regarding lesser but still outstanding Torah scholars, there are dozens of such scholars, and they are able to hold their own in comparison with the first level of scholars in the Diaspora. However poverty afflicts their spirits, and those who love Torah in the Diaspora should try especially hard to remedy their difficulties. Yerushalayim specifically and Eretz Yisrael generally would not need to seek rabbis from abroad if it were only a matter of the scholarship of the rabbis of Eretz Yisrael. There is an issue of the scholars here not being known. Also, they lack practical experience, which is a necessary result of the horrible destruction that exists in Eretz Yisrael, due to our sins.

Eretz Yisrael is capable of giving increasingly [great intellectual fruit] when the lackings that result from the horrible poverty will be solved. The fact that the air of Eretz Yisrael makes people smart is clearly visible. I have rarely found a child in the Land who is dim-witted; everyone who is born here is naturally alert and bright, despite all the poverty, suffering, and depressing sights of desolation. These have not succeeded in dulling the light of their intellect, and they are full of wisdom and sharpness.

It is not just that the people of the Land excel in analysis of different sorts. Rather, they have a certain lofty sense and an internal yearning for lofty matters and concepts. If they would have a deserved respite from the difficulties, we could expect that it would bring an increase in giants of spirit, who could bring the nation spiritual salvation. The light of wisdom will shine, and Divine Spirit will start to send sparks as in the days of old.


Question #3,4: What is the best way to educate the settlements’ youngsters, so that they will be observant of Torah and mitzvot and be imbued with fear of Hashem, so that even the simple farmers among them will also have a strong background in Torah and the more talented could continue to develop in Torah while also going to work? How can we know that if we establish religious elementary schools, most of the settlers will send their children there?  


My answer: This all depends on our ability and desire to found the type of religious schools that have all of the good things that the secular schools have. The difference will just be that as opposed to the fact that the teachers in the latter schools purposely influence the children with stupidity and destruction, the religious schools will influence them to be full of a spirit of Torah and true belief in Hashem. The religious schools must possess orderliness and discipline, cleanliness, and health standards. Then I have no doubt that most, even almost all of the settlers, will send their children specifically to the improved religious schools, and we will overcome the schools that teach heresy.  

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