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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - “Place Us in a Ray of Light” - From Dabar Le dor, pp. 79-81
[Rav Yisraeli delivered this address at a gathering commemorating the 70th anniversary of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, founded by Rav Kook under the name, “Hayeshiva Hamerkazit Ha’olamit” (Central, World Yeshiva). Rav Yisraeli was the co- rosh yeshiva.]
All of us who have been affiliated with the yeshiva are of the same spirit, based on the foundation that our master, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen [Kook] dreamed when he founded the yeshiva. This is what he intended by calling the yeshiva, Hayeshiva Hamerkazit Ha’olamit. The intent is not geographical, to gather students from the far reaches of the world. Rather, olamit refers to the perspective of eternity. [The word, olam,in Tanach refers to an eternity of time; in rabbinic literature, it usually refers to the world, as an expanse of space.] He desired to house within its walls all of the shades of Torah-true Judaism, not to slight anyone, but to sanctify, value, and learn from all of the knowledge and sanctity of Judaism throughout the ages. All the great works of the different approaches unite and become one corpus.
The gemara (Berachot 17a) brings R. Alexandri’s prayer at the conclusion of Shemoneh Esrei: “May it be His will that He place us in a ray of light (keren ora) and not in a dark one.” We understand what a ray of light is, but what is a ray of darkness? Also, isn’t it obvious that if there is light, there is not darkness?
The answer is the foundation of Rav Kook’s guidance for us upon founding the yeshiva. Chazal (Sanhdrin 24a), based on the navi, Zecharia, taught that there are two different “rods” of talmidei chachamim: noam (pleasantness) and chovlim (damagers). The scholars of Eretz Yisrael are noam, because they build each other up when dealing with halacha. This cooperation is the rays of light. The “abrasive” form of learning also has rays, but Chazal relate to Talmud Bavli the pasuk: “In the darkness you placed me.” The Eretz Yisrael approach is one of broadness, which is what Rav Kook taught; that of Bavel is one of restrictiveness.
The broadness we refer to is the ability to respect another individual and another movement, as long as it is anchored in the Torah of Israel and based on the Shulchan Aruch. It can be Chassidic or Mitnagdic, Sephardic or Ashkenazic, from here or from there. The basic, unifying point is that the people follow the Torah, learn it, and lead their daily life based on it. Mutual respect is not only for fellow talmidei chachamim but for every level of society. This is based on a realization that the whole of the Community of Israel contains foundations of sanctity, whereby each individual manifests his sanctity in his way and according to his needs. When we connect ourselves to this whole, we are placed in the rays of light.
The Torah of Israel does not turn its back on the revitalization of Eretz Yisrael. It encourages settlement, a life of Torah and work, of industry. In fact, this Torah encourages every element of life in Israel that is based on Jewish values. These values include keeping Shabbat, love for one’s neighbor, striving for social justice, and learning Torah with a feeling that one is a “limb” in the “body” of the nation as a whole. One must know that the task of a successful student of Torahis to grow in Torah and influence others. One does not ignore or run away from the greater society because of its problems. One can stand up for that which is right from a standpoint of love, and thus spread love of Torah to others who do not openly feel it.
This is the ray of light that R. Alexandri prayed for. This light must continue to burst forth from the yeshiva and make its impact in the yeshivot thatour graduates have formed throughout the country. Let the institutions be varied, but let them share the basic values that Rav Kook imbued in the yeshiva: rays of light, mutual love and respect, belief, willingness to sacrifice for the greater goal, and pleasantness.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l.
May their memory be a blessing!