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Shabbat Parashat Tazria Metzora 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Do We Need New Paths? #146 (part V)

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


Recipient: This time we complete the letter to Rav Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, author of Dorot HaRishomin, whose letters we have featured several times.


Body: You wrote: “We must be very careful to avoid new paths.” I say with confidence, that you will agree that the historical sefarim you wrote greatly helped the situation of Judaism more than the works of several other authors, who wrote classical Talmudic analysis in the old style, even though, compared to classical Torah scholars, you went on new paths. We see the destruction increasing, and there is no escape, not in the Diaspora and not in Eretz Yisrael. The yeshivot that are full of Torah with sharp analysis and breadth of knowledge in Russia will not be able to withstand the flow of destruction, and all of the toil of the small corrections will prove futile.  

Rather we need to provide new paths, which are in truth the oldest paths, which our mentors, the Rishonim, followed, especially those who were active in the periods of Jewish history that were more difficult from the spiritual and material perspective. They lit up the path of the nation with the light of their Torah, based on both their brilliance and their righteousness. If these paths were mainly forgotten, we must reestablish them. The first foundation must be in the Holy Land, in the New Yishuv, as Hashem has planned that it should be increasingly built. We can be sure that whoever helps, will be one of the first of those who will be called to from the tops of the mountains in the ideal future (see Yerushalmi Shabbat 6:9).

You write of agreeing to “practical information and a general approach to the world and its ways.” This is insufficient for the yeshivot, which need to ensure their survival and for providing Israel with light and salvation. Even the elements you refer to cannot be introduced to the existing institutions of the Old Yishuv. It can only happen after they have seen the success of the new approach. However, it will not be enough, even though such knowledge is already crucial for an important Torah scholar of our times, so that he not cause a desecration of Hashem’s Name. However, the main thing is the deep broadening of the mindset in Torah study itself in many aspects, just as there is a need, in these dangerous spiritual times, to build walls and fences [to protect the Torah].

Certainly, the lower divisions [of the proposed new yeshiva in Yafo] can serve the same functions as the school for teachers. However, it too must be “wet with the dew of life” of the different aspects of Torah. This must include new elements that are very necessary at this time in a manner that complements traditional Torah knowledge, without leaving out anything. The higher level is the yeshiva itself. That will include only Torah study; however, it will be Torah studied with all of its richness and glory.

I am just doing what I need to do, as Hashem has sent me to the Holy Land “to provide sustenance” (a take-off on Yosef’s depiction of his arrival in Egypt – Bereishit 45:5). I find it to be a holy obligation to speak according to my inner spirit, on behalf of His great name and on behalf of His nation.

With this, we complete our presentation of this letter.



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