Abraham Isaac Kook
Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandatory Palestine, the founder of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook, Jewish thinker, Halachist, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar. He is known in Hebrew as הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, and by the acronym הראיה (HaRaAYaH), or simply as "HaRav." He was one of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the 20th century.
Rav Kook was born in Grīva in the Courland Governorate of the Russian Empire in 1865, today a part of Daugavpils, Latvia, the oldest of eight children. His father, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ha-Cohen Kook, was a student of the Volozhin yeshiva, the "mother of the Lithuanian yeshivas", whereas his maternal grandfather was an avid follower of the Kapust branch of the Hassidic movement, founded by the son of the great Rabbi of Chabad, the "Tzemach Tzedek," known also as Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch.
As a child he gained a reputation of being an ilui (prodigy). He entered the Volozhin yeshivain 1884 at the age of 18, where he became close to the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netziv). Although he stayed at the yeshiva for only a year and a half, the Netziv has been quoted as saying that if the Volozhin yeshiva had been founded just to educate Rav Kook, it would have been worthwhile. During his time in the yeshiva, he studied of Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim, (also known as the Aderet), the rabbi of Ponevezh (today's Panevėžys, Lithuania) and later Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. In 1887, at the age of 23, Kook entered his first rabbinical position as rabbi of Zaumel, Lithuania. In 1888, his wife died, and his father-in-law convinced him to marry her cousin, Raize-Rivka, the daughter of the Aderet's twin brother. In 1895 Rav Kook became the rabbi of Bausk (now Bauska). Between 1901 and 1904, he published three articles which anticipate the fully developed philosophy which he developed in the Land of Israel. In 1904, Rav Kook moved to Ottoman Palestine to assume the rabbinical post in Jaffa, which also included responsibility for the new mostly secular Zionist agricultural settlements nearby. During these years he wrote a number of works, most published posthumously, most notably a lengthy commentary on the Aggadot of Tractates Berakhot and Shabbat, titled 'Eyn Ayah' and a brief but powerful book on morality and spirituality, titled 'Mussar Avikhah'. Another book on Aggadot published in 1911 called "Igrot (letters) Hareiyah", incorporated the acronym of his name Abraham Issac. It was in 1911 that Rav Kook also maintained a correspondence with the Jews of Yemen, addressing some twenty-six questions to "the honorable shepherds of Hashem's congregation" (Heb. כבוד רועי עדת ד) and sending his letter via the known Zionist emissary, Shemuel Yavneʼeli. Their reply was later printed in a book published by Yavneʼeli. Rav Kook's influence on people in different walks of life was already noticeable, as he engaged in kiruv ("Jewish outreach"), thereby creating a greater role for Torah and Halakha in the life of the city and the nearby settlements.
The outbreak of the First World War caught Rav Kook in Europe, and he was forced to remain in London and Switzerland for the remainder of the war. In 1916, he became rabbi of the Spitalfields Great Synagogue (Machzike Hadath, "upholders of the law"), an immigrant Orthodox community located in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, living at 9 Princelet Street Spitalfields. Upon returning, he was appointed the Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem, and soon after, as first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1921. Rav Kook founded a yeshiva, Mercaz HaRav Kook (popularly known as "Mercaz HaRav"), in Jerusalem in 1924. Rav Kook decided to name the Yeshiva "Merkaz HaRav" to represent his vision of the Yeshiva being a place where the "Rav," or "many", could come to learn from all corners of the World. He was a master of Halakha in the strictest sense, while at the same time possessing an unusual openness to new ideas. This drew many religious and nonreligious people to him, but also led to widespread misunderstanding of his ideas. He wrote prolifically on both Halakha and Jewish thought, and his books and personality continued to influence many even after his death in Jerusalem in 1935, reflected in attendance of his funeral by an estimated 20,000 mourners.
Rav Kook tried to build and maintain channels of communication and political alliances between the various Jewish sectors, including the secular Jewish Zionist leadership, the Religious Zionists, and more traditional non-Zionist Orthodox Jews. He believed that the modern movement to re-establish a Jewish state in the land of Israel had profound theological significance and that the Zionists were agents in a heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era. Per this ideology, the youthful, secular and even anti-religious Labor Zionist pioneers, halutzim, were a part of a grand Divine process whereby the land and people of Israel were finally being redeemed from the 2,000-year exile (galut) by all manner of Jews who sacrificed themselves for the cause of building up the physical land, as laying the groundwork for the ultimate spiritual messianic redemption of world Jewry.
His empathy towards the non-religious elements aroused the suspicions of many opponents, particularly that of the traditional rabbinical establishment that had functioned from the time of Turkey's control of greater Palestine, whose paramount leader was Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. He remarked that he was fully capable of rejecting, but since there were enough practicing rejection, he preferred to fill the role of one who embraces. However, Rav Kook was critical of the secularists on certain occasions when they violated Halacha (Jewish law), for instance, by not observing the Sabbath or kosher laws, or ascending Har HaBayit (the temple mount). Rav Kook wrote rulings presenting his strong opposition to people ascending the Temple Mount, due to the Jewish Laws of impurity. He felt that Jews should wait until the coming of the Messiah, when it will be encouraged to enter the Temple Mount. However, he was very careful to express the fact that the Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount were holy sites which belong to the Jews. Rav Kook also opposed the secular spirit of the Hatikvah anthem, and penned another anthem with a more religious theme entitled haEmunah.
Roshei Yeshiva following Rav Kook's passing in 1935 included Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap, Rav Nosan Ra'anan, and Rav Kook's son, Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Avraham Shapiro and Rav Yaakov Shapiro.
While Rabbi Kook is exalted as one of the most important thinkers in mainstream Religious Zionism, there are several prominent quotes in which Rav Kook is quite critical of the more modern-orthodox Religious Zionists (Mizrachi), whom he saw in some ways as naive and perhaps hypocritical in attempting to synthesize traditional Judaism with a modern and largely secular ideology. Rav Kook never shied away from gently offering constructive criticism to his peers, religious and secular. Rav Kook was interested in outreach and cooperation between different groups and types of Jews, and saw both the good and bad in each of them. His sympathy for them as fellow Jews and desire for Jewish unity should not be misinterpreted as any inherent endorsement of all their ideas. That said, Rav Kook's willingness to engage in joint-projects (for instance, his participation in the Chief Rabbinate) with the secular Zionist leadership must be seen as differentiating him from many of his traditionalist peers. In terms of practical results, it would not be incorrect to characterize Kook as being a Zionist, if one defines a Zionist as one who believes in the re-establishment of the Jewish people as a nation in their ancestral homeland. Unlike other Zionist leaders, however, Kook's motivations were purely based on Jewish law and Biblical prophecy.
The Israeli moshav Kfar Haroeh, a settlement founded in 1933, was named after Rav Kook, "Haroah" being a Hebrew acronym for "HaRav Avraham HaCohen". His son Zvi Yehuda Kook, who was also his most prominent student, took over teaching duties at Mercaz HaRav after his death, and dedicated his life to disseminating his father's writings. Many students of Rav Kook's writings and philosophy eventually formed Hardal Religious Zionist movement which is today led by rabbis who studied under Rav Kook's son at Mercaz HaRav.
Support from rabbinic scholars
With the sudden public display of rare letters from the greatest Jewish scholars to Rav Kook, many questions have emerged. Mainly, it is clear that Rav Kook was apolitical. Rav Kook wrote that he was not part of any party – he simply viewed himself as follower of God and the laws of the Torah. His relationship with many different types of leaders and laymen, was a part of his general worldview – that all Jews must work together in serving God and bringing the redemption. Also, one could see from the published letters, that the "Chareidi" leadership was firm in its support of Rav Kook, and in fact had an apparent fond relationship with him. The vast majority of the "Chareidi" leaders publicized handwritten letters in support of Rav Kook, when a few individuals were publicly disrespectful towards him. Rav Kook embraced the support, but made clear that any insults were accepted by him without anger, for he viewed himself "as a servant of G-d," without interest in his personal honor.
Some examples of greetings in letters written by Jewish leaders to Rav Kook:
Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski : "Our friend, the gaon, our master and teacher, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, shlita" and "The Glory of Honor, My Dear Friend, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, the Famous One... The Prince of Torah, Our Teacher, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook Shlit”a..."
Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz: "The true gaon, the beauty and glory of the generation, the tzaddik, his holiness, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak, may his light shine, may he live for length of good days and years amen, the righteous cohen, head of the beis din [court] in Jerusalem, the holy city, may it soon be built and established"
Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn of Lubavitch: "The Gaon who is renowned with splendor among the Geonim of Ya’akov, Amud HaYemini, Patish HaChazak..."
Rav Chatzkel Abramsky: "The honored man, beloved of Hashem and his nation, the rabbi, the gaon, great and well-known, with breadth of knowledge, the glory of the generation, etc., etc., our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel and the head of the Beis Din in the holy city of Jerusalem"
Rav Yitzchok Hutner: "The glorious honor of our master, our teacher and rabbi, the great gaon, the crown and sanctity of Israel, Maran [our master] Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, shlita!"
Orot ("Lights") books
- Orot – translation Bezalel Naor, Jason Aronson 1993. ISBN 1-56821-017-5
- Orot HaTeshuvah – translation Ben-Zion Metzger, Bloch Pub. Co., 1968. ASIN B0006DXU94
- Orot HaEmuna
- Orot HaKodesh I,II,III
- Orot HaTorah
- Ain Aiyah – Commentary on Ein Yaakov the Aggadic sections of the Talmud.
- Reish Millin – discussion of the Hebrew alphabet, grammar and punctuation
- Ma'amarei HaR'Iyah I,II – essays and lectures
- Midbar Shur – lectures given outside the Land of Israel
- Chavosh Pe'er – on tefillin
- Eder HaYakar and Ikvei HaTzon
- Be'er Eliyahu – on Hilchos Dayanim
- Orach Mishpat – Shu"t on Orach Chayim
- Ezrat Cohen – Shu"t on Even HaEzer
- Zivchei R'Iyah- Shu"t and Chidushim on Zvachim and Avodat Beit HaBchira
Unedited and other
- Shmoneh Kvatzim – volume 2 of which was republished as Arpilei Tohar
- Olat Raiyah – Commentary on the Siddur
- Igrot HaRaiyah – Collected letters of Rav Kook
Translation and commentary
- (translation), Abraham Isaac Kook: The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems, Ben Zion Bokser, Paulist Press 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2159-X [Includes complete English translations of Orot ha-Teshuva ("The Lights of Penitence"), Musar Avicha ("The Moral Principles"), as well as selected translations from Orot ha-Kodesh ("The Lights of Holiness") and miscellaneous essays, letters, and poems.]
- Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1996). Lights Of Orot. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications. ISBN 965-90114-0-7.
- Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1997). War and Peace. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications. ISBN 965-90114-2-3.
- Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1999). The Art of T'Shuva. Jerusalem: Beit Orot Publications. ISBN 965-90114-3-1. Online edition.
- (translation), The Essential Writings of Abraham Isaac Kook, Ben Yehuda Press 2006 (reprint). ISBN 0-9769862-3-X
- Rabbi Chanan Morrison, Gold from the Land of Israel: A New Light on the Weekly Torah Portion From the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, Urim Publications 2006. ISBN 965-7108-92-6
- Rabbi Chanan Morrison, Silver from the Land of Israel: A New Light on the Sabbath and Holidays From the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, Urim Publications 2010. ISBN 965-524-042-8
- Rabbi Gideon Weitzman "Sparks of Light: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portions Based on the Philosophy of Rav Kook" Jason Aronson ISBN 0-7657-6080-0 ISBN 978-0765760807
- Rabbi Gideon Weitzman "Light of Redemption: A Passover Haggadah Based on the Writings of Rav Kook" Urim Publications ISBN 978-965-7108-71-0
Also there is now a musical project that presents Rav Kook's poetry with musical accompaniment. HA'OROT-THE LIGHTS OF RAV KOOK by Greg Wall's Later Prophets Featuring Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein – released on Tzadik Records, April 2009 Myspace; Haorot.org; Youtube.com
- The Philosophy of Rabbi Kook, Zvi Yaron, Eliner Library, 1992.
- Essays on the Thought and Philosophy of Rabbi Kook, ed. Ezra Gellman, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8386-3452-4
- The World of Rav Kook's Thought, Shalom Carmy, Avi-Chai Publishers, 1991. ISBN 0-9623723-2-3
- Rav Avraham Itzhak HaCohen Kook: Between Rationalism and Mysticism, Benjamin Ish-Shalom, translation Ora Wiskind Elper, SUNY Press, 1993. ISBN 0-7914-1369-1
- Religious Zionism of Rav Kook Pinchas Polonsky, Machanaim, 2009, ISBN 978-965-91446-0-0
- Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and Jewish Spirituality Lawrence J. Kaplan & David Shatz, NYU Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0814746530
- Simcha Raz, Angel Among Men: Impressions from the Life of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook Zt""L, translated (from Hebrew) Moshe D. Lichtman, Urim Publications 2003. ISBN 965-7108-53-5 ISBN 978-9657108536
- Dov Peretz Elkins, Shepherd of Jerusalem: A Biography of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, 2005. ISBN 978-1420872613
- Yehudah Mirsky, "An Intellectual and Spiritual Biography of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhaq Ha-Cohen Kook from 1865 to 1904," Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 2007.
- Yehudah Mirsky, "Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution (Jewish Lives)", Yale University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0300164244
על-כן הצדיקים הטהורים אינם קובלים על החושך, אלא מוסיפים אור; אינם קובלים על הרשעה, אלא מוסיפים צדק; אינם קובלים על הכפירה, אלא מוסיפים אמונה; אינם קובלים על הבערות, אלא מוסיפים חכמה.
Therefore, the pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom. (From "Arpilei Tohar", p. 27–28)
יש בן חורין שרוחו רוח של עבד, ויש עבד שרוחו מלאה חירות; הנאמן לעצמיותו – בן חורין הוא, ומי שכל חייו הם רק במה שטוב ויפה בעיני אחרים – הוא עבד.
There could be a freeman with the spirit of the slave, and there could be a slave with a spirit full of freedom; whoever is faithful to his self – he is a freeman, and whoever fills his life only with what is good and beautiful in the eyes of others – he is a slave.
- "Chazon Hageulah," p. 11, Jerusalem 1941 (Hebrew)
- "Masa le-Teiman," by Shmuel Yavne'eli, pp. 187-188; 196-199, Tel-Aviv 1952 (Hebrew)
- Rav Kook in London and Rav Kook Torah: Psalm 43 - Fight On My Behalf Against A Merciless Nation
- Jewish Affairs, in Report by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1935 by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Council of the League of Nations on the administration of Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1935, The Office of High Commissioner for Palestine and Trans-Jordan, Jerusalem, 1935
- Bisdeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 236, Chayei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 388-389, Igrot Le-Re'eiyah #316 and Melachim Kivnei Adam pp. 106-107. Maran Ha-Rav's response is found in Shut Da'at Cohain #223
- Introduction to the Thought of Rav Kook, vbm-torah.org
- Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935), Prof. Eliezer Segal
- Teachings of Rav Kook on Torah, Holidays, and Psalms, ravkooktorah.org
|New title||Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine
Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog
|Rosh Yeshiva of
Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook
Zvi Yehuda Kook