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Shabbat Parashat Bereshit 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Eulogy for Rav (A.Y.) Kook- 5702 - Based on Dabar L’dor, pp. 25-27
Chazal refer to the death of a tzaddik as hafleh vafeleh (a mysterious wonder of wonders). This is because his life is so full of majestic wonder that it is hard to imagine that death has power to separate between his body and soul, which worked so harmoniously during his life.
Rav Kook’s life was a wonder, with his uncommon ability to combine apparently contradictory skills and traits. He was a man of the book and a man of action. He was a man who was very discerning and particular, yet he was a man who was so merciful that he seemed to erase boundaries that separated people. He was a man of prose and of a man of poetry, a man of extreme peace and a man of truth. Rav Kook was so popular and so unpopular, so close to us and so distant, so understood and so misunderstood. Indeed contradictions that we perceive may reflect contradictions within the perceiver and not the perceived. If we were to understand and take the characteristics to their ends, we would see that that which appears as contradictory traits may really be rooted in one source, the source of completeness.
We regularly place people whom we meet into one of two categories: askanim (doers) and men of the tent (more reserved men of study) or extroverts and introverts. There are those who have only a little spirituality but know how to use it. They understand the people on the street, because they are one of them. They know how to come up with attractive slogans, because that is the language they speak. The masses adore them and that is what gives them satisfaction.
Above them are men of the tent. Some are naturally so and others make a conscious decision to immerse themselves in a more secluded life. They shy away from empty noisemaking but are hungry for spirituality. They elevate themselves above the community and at the same time distance themselves from it. They are not even satisfied with their own substantive attainments, and certainly not of those who surround them. One sees these two profiles of people as consistent realities of one distinct type or another, because we do not know people who have reached completeness, people like Rav Kook, z.t.l.
The process of a great man’s development runs along the following line. He connects with others, he goes into solitude, and then he reconnects. When he has filled himself sufficiently in his withdrawn state, he has a desire to speak, to emerge, to teach, and to inspire. Rav Kook once wrote, “I do not speak because I have the power to speak but because I lack the power to remain silent.” He is like a receptacle that runs over, overflowing in all directions. He does not just “sound off.” Rather the influence is quiet, yet sure. It lacks explosiveness but contains a convincing power of convictions. Even those who oppose him are held back by the grandeur of the personality. The whole world enters the “study hall” of such a special individual. He learns about everyone and grows to understand them, even though he is different from them. He influences the masses, as they see his greatness, which enables him to understand people on their level yet to make demands of them. What the askan wants to accomplish with gimmicks and politics, the great soul accomplishes with honest and warm words. This was Rav Kook.
Rav Kook knew not to go down to the level of the nation but to raise it toward him by showing each person the spark in that person’s soul. His battles with the forces of secularism were fought that way, as well. He showed each the light source that he possessed. Rav Kook taught us not to deny an opponent’s kernel of good, for had he had no good he could not exist. Rather he would expose the good and thereby demand of the person to remove the pollution that blocked his potential.
As we need truth and peace so badly today, Rav Kook’s absence, which we feel as we stand by this great man’s graveside, is most strongly felt.
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