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Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5784

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Support for Jerusalem Old-Age Home #175 part I

Date and Place: 5 Kislev 5669 (1908), Yafo 

Recipient: Rav Naftali Amsterdam, one of the great disciples of the Mussar Movement’s founder, Rav Yisrael Salanter. Rav Amsterdam moved to Jerusalem at an older age. 

Body: I received your dear letter, my honored and great friend. Regarding the wonderful institution, “Gather the Dispersed,” upon which your “flag flies,” I thought that it is superfluous to try to strengthen it with my words. However, since I want to fulfill the will of a tzaddik, I will speak before the whole congregation of our nation, in our Holy Land and in all of the vast Diaspora.

There are several great and holy distinctions of this important home, where you cast your kind eye on the most deprived people in the Holy Land, namely the elderly homeless who have no one to look after them. They cannot come up with any deposit to a fund so that they can get into an institution, a practice that fortunately, has enabled many elderly to live in one of them. The money they are able to give is not enough to pay for their upkeep, which is very expensive, and they get great help from the existing old-age homes who take them in, may their workers and supporters be blessed.

In contrast, the lot of the destitute elderly is more difficult, as they do not have the ability to enter an institution because they do not have even a small amount of property. We are also referring to those who do not have any special distinction. Certainly, distinguished Torah scholars will always be accepted by the existing old-age homes, even if they are incapable to contribute anything to the institution.

Yet, the destitute we are talking about are worthy elderly people, many of whom are knowledgeable in Torah and excellent in their service of Hashem. Therefore, it is distressing that it is hard to find anyone who can help them. Their lot in life is so bitter, as they live in poverty in our holy and glorious city, to which they flocked from afar, often with great sacrifice, because of the city’s holy essence and symbolism.

Therefore, who can imagine how great is the righteousness of the actions of the founders of the Gather the Dispersed Home?! It is, after all, totally dedicated to the deprived among the deprived elderly, who have been forgotten by the world. How great are the acts of kindness, which shall bring eternal credit to the good doers before Hashem, Who loves acts of kindness and dwells among the afflicted and comforts them. There is enough of a guarantee [of fine work] in that such a revered rabbi as you lends his name as a founder of the institution, so that we can be sure that everything is being done the way it is supposed to be done. This is also what was attested to by the holy letter of the giant Torah scholar, Rav Shmuel Salant (long-time chief rabbi of Jerusalem), in response to my inquiry about this great home. It is true that due to his physical state of weakness (Rav Salant was 92 at the time) he was not able to physically visit the institution, however he heard accounts about it from you, our great rabbi.

       I hope that all those who know of your great reputation and righteousness, which fortunately are many, will exert themselves to the maximum to support this great enterprise, which the hands of such a great tzaddik as you have formed. We look forward to the time when many from near and from far will do their part in strengthening this “light post of kindness,” in the midst of the city that is our pillar, which Hashem should build. Then, the institution can expand, and people from around the Holy Land who are in need can be sent there to receive respite, nourishment, and medical help, as they need.


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