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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Why Moshavot Do Not Appoint Rabbis #146 part I

Date and Place: 17 Sivan 5668 (1908), Yafo  

Recipient: Rav Yitzchak Isaac Halevi. We have featured letters to him several times before. 

Body: The situation in the New Yishuv is not as religiously strong as [standard, even “integrated”] Diaspora communities. In the Diaspora, as soon as the community reaches a few tens of families, they already feel the need to appoint a rabbi who can make rulings on religious matters and so that in general they will have a full Jewish structure. Here we have moshavot that are average-size towns, with populations of more than 100 families, and they have barely even started to look to appoint a rabbi. There is only one big moshava with a rabbi, Petach Tikva, and that was started, in the first place, by Jerusalemites from the Old Yishuv, and they worked on appointing a special rav.

When I started my contact with the moshavot (Rav Kook was a regional rabbi for the moshavot in addition to being the rabbi of Yafo), I found clearly that if we had important rabbis in every moshava, the situation regarding Judaism would be on a higher level. I started to speak about appointing local rabbis, and I found that the factors that have prevented the appointment of rabbis include internal and external ones.

One of the external factors is the challenge of paying his salary, since the financial situation is weak. In some cases, the fact that the moshavot receive financial support gets them in the habit of not paying for their communal needs from their own pockets. However, this by itself would not prevent appointments. The Shomrei Torah organization and the yeshivot in Yerushalayim are always ready to help and pay most of the salary. If some money is missing, every moshava has special individuals who fear and care about Hashem, and they are always willing to give money with all their hearts, for the support of Judaism, so that it would be easy to pick up the missing amount. Thus, the main external problem is easily overcome.

The main thing is thus the internal factors. The basis of it all is that the New Yishuv cannot stand the atmosphere, the style, and the characteristics of those trained in the Old Yishuv. This is not something that applies only to the “lightweights” who despise the Torah and the mitzvot. Rather, a large part of those [who feel this way] are fine people, people who are dedicated to Torah and have fear of Heaven. The vital movement of the New Yishuv, with its love of life and bravery, broadness, and national pride, cannot stand the bowed back, the wrinkled faces, and the sadness which shows fright and weakness of the heart. They are bothered by the wandering eyes that show resignation and hatred of life, and they are turned off by foreign, eastern clothes. When these things join together with the weakness that accompanies poverty, it brings reactions of shock together with mockery to [a member of the New Yishuv] who is used to European life, whether he has a little or a lot of exposure. These matters cannot be accepted in the New Yishuv without consternation.

When this is the standard style among those who were trained in the Old Yishuv, then there is great opposition among the members of the moshavot to the idea of hiring a rabbi. When I looked into the matter, I realized that even if we can overcome this lack of compatibility, and we will force in rabbis, they will not at all bring the desired benefit, as long as the internal lack of compatibility, which is deep in man’s spirit, is not removed.

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