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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Improving a Colleagues Work - #112

Date and Place: 11 Adar I 5668 (1908), Yafo


Recipient: Rabbi Pinchas Hakohen Lintup, rabbi of the Chassidic community of Birzai, Lithuania. Rabbi Lintup was a respected friend and reportedly a chavruta of Rav Kook for the study of Kabbala. Rabbi Lintup was a Zionist, fluent in academic spheres, and yet also a fighter of the influence of the outside world on traditional Judaism.


Body: The dear pamphlet “Binyan Hauma” (the Building of the Nation – about steps to take to strengthen observance of mitzvot) came to my hands, and I have read it with internal happiness. I thank Hashem for bringing me to this time, when the greatest of rabbis begin to deal with existential national questions based on Torah sources with a scientific approach in a way that they need not be embarrassed to present the ideas before (philosophical) enemies and friends in the gates (based on Tehillim 127:5).  

However, I am unable to hide from my honorable friend, that you need to seriously fix the style of writing in future editions, and especially be as careful as possible to avoid noticeable grammatical mistakes. This brings people of small intellectual stature, which is most people, to scorn not only the language but even the lofty content of the work. I am confident that you will take my advice, and it is something very easy to do. Before each pamphlet is published, give it for editing to someone who is proficient at Hebrew grammar, and he will fix the matters that are most noticeable.

I will have even enough gall to request of you to be careful to avoid all elements of drush (less rigorous homiletic ideas) and things of that nature at the time that we are dealing with questions that are of the highest level of importance. There should always be a guarded boundary between one world of Torah topic and another. Extrapolating on minutia should not mix in with investigation of crucial matters.

In any case, these blemishes are like spots on the face of the clear sun in the sky, which are not comparable to the great light which you reveal to us through your wonderful books, when they become available to the world.

I will tell my honorable, beloved friend that I have no criticism for the valuable general ideas in the pamphlet. It is full of new and old pure gold, and it is influenced by the sanctity of the internal (mystical) elements of the Torah. This is what I would expect based on my knowledge of you and your drashot. You have recently increased in ideas and lessons, which you have incorporated through the sparks of sanctity that you brought up from the depths of the “peels,” by using many new tools from the world of modern literature. May you be blessed with strength, for this a phenomenon that is appropriate and actually required.

[We will skip a paragraph on Rav Kook’s suggestions regarding technical help in publishing.]

I want to point out that we need to actively invest in building our nation in the Holy Land rather than getting overly involved in criticizing those who have little faith and use their imagination to limit the extent of Hashem’s Hand. As the Ba’al Shem Tov said, we have to serve Hashem in all ways. We also have to look toward national liberation, which is one of the foundations of the service of Hashem, about which we are asked on our day of judgment (see Shabbat 31a). There are different ways to do this, and they are not mutually exclusive. We just need to “prepare the road,” removing the thorn bushes and stumbling stones, whereas all the roads themselves lead to the goal. The closer the goal is the less important the impediments are.


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