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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Weddings in Shuls #154

Date and Place: 18 Elul 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient: The council of Zichron Yaakov and especially Rabbi Y. Wolfert (spelling unknown). Rabbi Wolfert was apparently some type of spiritual leader in Zichron Yaakov, but I have not found him in lists of its rabbis or found other information on him.

Body: My dear, beloved friends, I am allowing myself to speak to you, honorable people, relying on your good characters and the fervor for pure Judaism that burns in your pure hearts. I have heard the heart-warming news that a new spirit of purity has come to the holy faction in your moshava. In the past, you had no religious guidance, and certainly when there is no “prophecy,” the nation will become undisciplined. Indeed people who are far away from religion and Judaism ruptured the walls of observance. These are damaging obstacles for the holy path we must follow based on the Torah’s instructions to Israel, as the Divine Presence has never abandoned us as we wandered through foreign lands. This is even more objectionable when Hashem has arranged the wondrous beginning of our salvation, returning a portion of the remnant of Israel to their Holy Land. The national bastion, which is connected to the sanctity of the holy religion and the light of Hashem, will be a special element of the personal and, all the more so, the national way of life. In this way, we will be a sign of salvation for all the House of Israel and humanity. Hashem’s Name will be upon us (those who live in Eretz Yisrael) to uplift us to the status of the beginning of the emerging salvation of the whole nation.

However, accidentally, some customs have been corrupted, as foreign shoots and customs of foreign nations have become mixed in among the holy congregation. Now that the light of Torah has returned to the moshava, with the presence of a set religious leader, who teaches wisdom well and knows how to communicate pleasantly, we can all hope that all will return to better times. Zichron Yaakov will be a jewel among the moshavot of the Holy Land, as is appropriate for it.

One of the worst customs that I have heard has become entrenched in the moshava is having wedding ceremonies in shuls, along with other customs at the ceremony that are not in line with Jewish spirit and the sanctity of the Torah. This includes matters of modesty between the genders, which has been the holy nation’s hallmark of acting with great sanctity as is appropriate for pure people. In any case, all of the greatest rabbis in Israel have already decreed that the ceremony should be specifically under the open sky in the courtyard of the shul or the like. Therefore, I hope that this will now become the set practice in the moshava, without exceptions, thereby returning to the strength of the holy Torah. Practices that violate the ways of Jewish modesty should be changed. Then we will know that the spirit of Hashem has started to frequent His nation in the Holy Land and give new life to the nation, whereby the light of the Torah of life will be a crown for our heads.

I am confident about your reliable hearts and good attributes, especially the venerable rabbi, who is your spiritual leader, who improves the way Hashem is served in the moshava. May you all rise up, peacefully and calmly, with love and grace, to remove stumbling blocks in this area and others in which you identify need. All those who love Hashem’s nation, land, and legacy will be pleased with and praise the moshava, which will be elevated to a source of pride in the Gallil region, when the disgrace of foreign practices will cease to exist within it. The glory of Judaism will be felt with a light of Torah and good attributes.

It is known that there are, in the moshava, wonderful people in various fields of intellectual attainment and good personal attributes befitting our nation. It is time, though, that these people should be more visible and take on more of a leadership position. May He Who chose the Desired Land and foresees good things for Israel, spread a canopy of peace and glory. May He give you success and prominence in the Land, as we rejoice together in His salvation. 

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Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
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