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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: How to React to Academias Version of Tanach Events #134

Date and Place: 5 Iyar 5668 (1908), Yafo


Recipient: Moshe Zeidel, a close disciple of Rav Kook from his time in Europe. In a postscript, Rav Kook’s son apologizes in his father’s name, that he had lacked the presence of mind to write clearly.


Body: I feel obligated to awaken your pure spirit regarding the opinions that abound in the new research, which often contradict the simple reading of matters in the Torah. My opinion is that anyone whose has a straight mindset should know that although this research’s veracity is unclear, we still have no need to resolutely contradict and oppose them. That is because it is not a principle of the Torah that it needs to tell simple historical facts. The main thing is the essence and internal explanation of the matters. These actually are further elevated whenever something stands up against it, which we need to overcome.

This basic idea appears in the Moreh Nevuchim (I:71), and now we are able to broaden what was written there. It makes no difference to us if there really was an ideal time and place in which Adam enjoyed great physicality and spirituality, or whether the world actually progressed from man being more lowly and developed toward an increasingly higher level.

What we need to know is that there is a real possibility that even if a person reaches a high level and is ready to receive great honor and pleasure, he could lose it all by destroying his path in life. He can ruin things for himself and his offspring for many generations. This lesson comes to us from the account of Adam in the Garden of Eden, his sin, and his banishment. The Master of All Souls knows the importance of a clear imprint on a person’s heart to beware of sin. Because of the depth of this idea, the Torah of truth writes of it at great length. When we understand that, we no longer need to fight against the matters presented by new researchers. When we then do not have an interest in what is the true account, we can judge things honestly, and then we can dismiss their theses in tranquility if that is what the truth shows us.

The main grandeur of our lives is truth, which is the highest form of unity and eternal glory, along with inseparable eternal justice. This is the Torah’s soul, through which we can gaze at the Torah and its cloaks. The theory of gradual evolution is in the beginning of its development. Certainly, the theories will change. They will find areas that can only be seen as jumps in the world’s development, which help make the world what it is. Then the light of Israel will be clear and radiant.

This is opposite what the gentile researchers and their Jewish followers think, that Tanach is to be understood as Christians do – that the world is one great prison. In truth, the Torah is full of light and happiness, as the past indicates, that man was originally very happy until sin ruined things. Obviously, this stumbling block will be fixed, and man will return forever to his level. In contrast, the idea of development without help from the past is scary, as something can get in one’s way or cause him to retreat. According to this approach, we have no reason to conclude that good things are the natural form. Therefore, specifically the fact that man was in the Garden of Eden keeps the light of the world going. Thus, it makes more sense to view it as a historical event, although it is not important to us that this is the case.

There is a major principle in the war of opinions. We do not need to immediately contradict every school of thought that comes to contradict the Torah. We can build the palace of the Torah above it. Then the idea can even be elevated and can help us reveal truths. When the idea does not pressure us, we can fight it later with full confidence. There are a few examples of this, but it is difficult for me to write at length. Brevity is enough for someone like you, and you will know how to prevail in Hashem’s Name.


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