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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: The Torah as a Source of Political Theories #140

Date and Place: 27 Iyar 5668 (1908), Yafo


Recipient: Rabbi Shmuel Alexandrov. Alexandrov was a yeshiva-trained scholar, who was an autodidact in languages, philosophy, and science. He was a very independent thinker who at times angered the Maskilim and at times angered traditional rabbis. He was a member of the Mizrachi movement and tried, over the years, to recruit Rav Kook to take a leadership role within that movement. This is one of many correspondences between the two on matters of Jewish philosophy.


Body: You find signs in Judaism for the political theory of liberal moral anarchy. Fine; after all, all ideas can be found in a source of truth. Truth cannot be partial but must include everything. However, truth’s special quality is that it turns everything into true, illuminating light.

It is not only the anarchism that is connected to liberalism that has a source in Judaism, in the light of Israel. Individual, material anarchism also has a place, but it too must be purified when it comes to the realm of purity.

The higher recognition of unity, when it is isolated in its loftiness, by necessity declares that the whole existence of individuals is just a false impression resulting from a limited field of view. Our body’s limbs have an organic connection to each other. Therefore, if one of them is damaged, all of the body feels it and is impacted by it. Similarly, we have a self-love that applies to other people, which can be called partially anarchistic. It can be broadly captured by the phrase, “For skin on behalf of skin” (see Iyov 2:4, in reference to the idea that man is more concerned with the pain that afflicts himself and not that which affects others, including those closest to him). This extends to other people based on the “pipes” that pass feeling from one person to another. These types of relationships exist on an experiential, spiritual basis in the connection between people who love each other, and this is the basis of the founding of a family. If it were not difficult to free ourselves from what we are used to, we would not find a significant difference between this extended connection of feeling and between the positive feeling and pain that extends from one limb to another or from a son to a father or two other people who love each other.

When the “pipes widen” even further, the feelings become more flowing, palpable, and noticeable. When the “national organ” is full and complete, it too “weaves a family-like fabric.” This develops by broadening the pipes so that the individual unity expands to the level of nation. From the national, it can expand another step to all of humanity, and from there a step to all living things. When one is interested in all that comprises earth, and he has an internal desire to complete existence as broadly as possible, this just requires a further step of expansion, albeit a distant one. To reach such an eternal level, one need not rush the matter. However, this phenomenon can elevate the individual to be closely connected to the entire universe.

Therefore, we do not need more than anarchy, when the self-love is so great, powerful, and developed. The paths that lead to this level are paths of life that flow from the source of unity of the One G-d who is the life of all the worlds, [and this finds expression] in Judaism. When such lofty sparks of spirituality fall down, they descend and sink in the depths of the “mud of life.” What we need to remember is that Judaism contains everything in a broad manner, but it has very specific and unique ways of guiding people through life. These are ways that exist for the purposes of our children and us. When the light of these ways breaks forward, we will no longer need to question the matter, as the night will be full of light like the day.

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