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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: The Need for Torah Devotees to Write on Jewish Philosophy #164 part I

Date and Place: 26 Tishrei 5669 (1908)


Recipient: Moshe Zeidel, a protégé of Rav Kook. In earlier years, there were several letters to him.


Body: Affection for you, which does not leave my heart, always reminds me about my obligation to write. However, am I able to fulfill my obligation, as my heart pulls me to do? I must respond in the negative. I am involved in many types of work, and each one creates feelings that contradict those created by the other involvements. I am always forced to jump from one to another, to the point that when I want to “pay a debt,” which my heart greatly desires, there is usually not enough time to do so. When I am able to extricate myself from my constrictions and “pay,” I have to carry it out in haste, so that I do not find a full sense of satisfaction in the manner I write. Nevertheless, true love covers up all shortcomings.

In truth, I very much desire that there should be friendly conversation between people in our peer group, between the elite few who understand and feel that we have a powerful spiritual task, which is new and extensive. We must engage in the spiritual subjects of the Torah with the same vigor with which we rightfully engage the practical subjects of the Torah. This is my old, favorite idea. Give and take and questions and answers on matters of Jewish philosophy and belief need to be written, with clear logic and with a spirit of intellectualism and boldness, specifically by Torah scholars who are fixtures in the “tents of Torah.” This is despite the fact that in this generation, most of those who wrote on such subjects are those who learned Torah and then strayed from its observance. These are people who live a haphazard life, at least in regard to recognition of the light of Torah, and by so doing, have sealed off the path to the freedom of recognizing the hidden light, which lives and exists eternally, in the treasure house of the life of Israel.

Therefore, I would very much desire to set up an ongoing correspondence among all of the remaining wise young people, who know and love Torah, remain faithful to it and follow its commandments, while at the same time are involved in academic pursuits in a proper and diligent manner. With people like that and like us, we can come out with serious intellectual writing, creating a proper genre of spirituality and innovation, in the nearly abandoned field of Jewish Philosophy and belief. We can do it in a successful manner, “like fatty meat on a gold table.”

According to the importance of the matter so are the obstacles to setting up such a framework, formidable. Nevertheless, I have not given up hope, and I look to Hashem, Who gives us the light of the world in the treasure house of life, that He may still give me the privilege to fulfill my desire. With your help, my beloved brothers (you and Rav Binyamin Moshe Levine) and a group of your friends from there (they were in the university in Bern, Switzerland at the time) and here; everyone who is diligent to act, who has a spirit of Hashem in him, will rise up and lend you a hand. There should be between us a flow of letters full of the goodness of Hashem, encouraging the increase of analysis of the truths of intellectuality, which is appropriate in our days in order to reinvigorate our nation’s spirit and reveal its light and grandeur to its children.

We should fulfill that which I wrote in a recent poem: “From the points in my thought, they should be gathered in their masses; I will take my letters, and they shall turn into articles; the articles shall become books, and the books shall be circulated in every place.” Together we shall sing these songs in practice, and from the corners of the world songs will be heard, and the joy of being close to Hashem shall be our strength.

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