Zvi Yehuda Kook

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Zvi Yehuda Kook (Hebrew: צבי יהודה קוק‎, born 23 April 1891, died 9 March 1982) was a rabbi, leader of Religious Zionism and Rosh Yeshiva of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. He was the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and named in honor of his maternal grandfather's brother, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Rabinowitch Teomim.[1][2]

His teachings are partially responsible for the modern religious settlement movement in the West Bank. Many of his ideological followers in the Religious Zionist movement settled there.

Under the leadership of Rabbi Kook, with its center in the yeshiva founded by his father, Jerusalem's Mercaz HaRav, thousands of religious Jews campaigned actively against territorial compromise, and established numerous settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many of these settlements were subsequently granted official recognition by Israeli governments, both right and left.


Zvi Yehuda Kook was born in 1891 in Zaumel in the Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Žeimelis in Northern Lithuania), where his father served as rabbi. His mother was his father's second wife, Reiza Rivka, the niece of Eliyahu David Rabinovich-Teomim, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem together with Shmuel Salant. In 1896, his father with his entire family moved to Bauska, Latvia to serve as rabbi there.

In 1904, he moved to Jaffa when his father was appointed Chief Rabbi of the city, then part of Ottoman-controlled Palestine. He studied Gemara under the guidance of Rabbi Reuven Gotfreud, the son-in-law of Rabbi Yoel Moshe Salomon, the founder of Petakh Tiqva. Later he studied under R. Moshe Zeidel and Benjamin Levin. His principal teacher, however, remained his father throughout his life.

In 1906, Zvi Yehuda Kook went to study at one of the most prominent yeshivas in Jerusalem at that time - Toras Chaim, in the future building of Ateret Kohanim. There he befriended R. Zerakh Epstein. His studies there did not last long. By 1910 he was already preoccupied with publication of his father's writings in Jaffa. There he published three of his books: Tzvi laTzadik, Shabbat Haaretz, and, in 1913, HaTarbut HaYisraelit (The Israeli Culture). One of his main collaborators in that activity was Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap, a future head of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva together with Rabbi Zvi Yehuda.

Seeing he lacked time to truly study Torah like most people his age, he decided to remove himself from public activity for some time. First he went to Porat Yoseph, the leading Sephardic yeshiva of Jerusalem. Then he left to Halberstadt, Germany and studied there in the local yeshiva. He also attended philosophy lectures at the local university.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he was arrested as a citizen of the Russian Empire, the enemy country, but was soon released and joined his father in Switzerland, where he was stuck due to the war. In 1920, he returned to Palestine (then under the British Mandate) and began teaching at Netzakh Israel school. A year later, he went to Europe to promote his father's new movement "Degel Yerushalayim" among the leading rabbis of Europe.

In 1922 he married Chava Leah Hutner in Warsaw. Chava Leah died childless in 1944, and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda remained a widower until his death nearly 40 years later. From 1923, he served as the administrative director of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. After Rabbi Charlap died in 1952, he became Rosh Yeshiva until his own death. After the Six Day War in 1967, he induced the Israeli government to approve the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and sent his students to that mission. He tried to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, which he saw as the precursor of the future Sanhedrin. He died in 1982 in Jerusalem.[3]


Political support[edit]

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda greatly admired Rabbi Meir Kahane and his activism on behalf of Jewry.[4] When Rabbi Kahane formed a political party, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda endorsed his bid for a Knesset seat. Though he had originally been a staunch supporter of the National Religious Party, he broke with them in 1974 after they entered the Rabin government over his opposition. In his letter of support to Kahane, he stated: “The presence of Rabbi Meir Kahane and his uncompromising words from the Knesset platform will undoubtedly add strength and value to the obligatory struggle on behalf of the entire Land of Israel.” The announcement of his support of Rabbi Kahane and his letter were made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.[5]

According to his student Rabbi Uzi Kalheim, however, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook's support of Rabbi Kahane was more nuanced. The rabbi approved of Kahane's activities in the U.S. to protect Jews and bolster Jewish pride. But in Israel, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda did not agree with Kahane's positions. He felt that Rabbi Kahane should be able to serve in the Knesset and express his opinions there, but he himself did not agree with his views. He explicitly wrote that his support for Kahane was "without any identification with or connection to the specifics of his words and aims."[6]

Rabbi Kook’s view was that Israel's struggle with the Arabs over the Land of Israel is a national one. The rights of individual minorities, however, must be respected. Thus, when the Israeli High Court ruled that the Elon Moreh group of settlers had to evacuate lands of the Rujeib village, which was under Palestinian ownership, the rabbi told his followers to abide by the court's verdict, even though his ideological view was: "There is no such thing as Arab land in Eretz Israel." Katzover recalls: "The rabbi told us several times, 'We cannot damage land belonging to Ahmad and Mustafa,' that we couldn't touch lands that had belonged to Arabs for generations."[7]

Rabbi Kook’s approach is also apparent in a letter he wrote in 1947. The rabbi lodged a complaint with the principal and teachers at a Jewish school in Jerusalem after he witnessed a group of students physically and verbally harassing two Arab street vendors. “I was deeply pained and ashamed at what I saw,” Rabbi Kook wrote. “This incident, which pained and embarrassed me, requires me to inform you of the need for particular attention to educate against such actions. Students must be taught that such behavior is prohibited - both due to the essential teachings of Torah, Judaism and morality, and also due to the practical value for the Jewish community and maintaining peaceful relations with neighbors.”[8]

Settlement movement[edit]

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook was the leader of the now defunct[9] settler movement, Gush Emunim. Their beliefs are based heavily on the teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda's father, Rabbi Abraham Kook. The two rabbis taught that secular Zionists, through their conquests of the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), had unwittingly brought about the beginning of the "final redemption", which would end in the coming of the Jewish messiah.[10] Gush Emunim supporters believe that building Jewish settlement on land God has allotted to the Jewish people as outlined in the Hebrew Bible, is an important step in the process of redemption. Like his father, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Kook did not advocate aggressive conquest.[11]

Teaching Emunah[edit]

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook rarely gave lectures in the traditional yeshiva subjects of Halakha and Gemarah. This was not due to lack of knowledge, as his writings readily prove his halakhic genius. The reason is that he felt his target is to teach Emunah (Jewish philosophy). Once a student asked him to teach a Gemarah lesson and he refused, explaining that his life project is to teach Emunah. His attitude to Emunah was influenced by his father, Rabbi Abraham Kook.

In many yeshivot, there is little or no study of Emunah texts. In the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, where Rabbi Zvi Yehuda was the yeshiva's head for many years, there are lectures on Emunah topics and the students devote around one hour a day studying Emunah.

Rabbi Abraham Kook, the father of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, wrote about the need to study Emunah, especially in our generation, in numerous places in his books. A notable example is the essay titled "Me'at Tzori" in the book Eder Haykar.

Attitude toward earlier rabbinic authorities[edit]

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda held the previous generations of rabbis in the highest regard. He would quote the Talmudic proverb: "If the earlier generations are like angels, we are like people. And if the earlier generations are like people, then we are like donkeys". He explained that if we view the scholars of earlier generations like angels, then we are people; but if we view them as normal people, then we are like donkeys.

In his writings, there are references to many of the major rabbis of earlier generations. For example, in the book Mitoch Hatorah Hagoelet, he wrote that the first Rebbe of Chabad, the author of the Tanya, was a "great man" but the Vilna Gaon was even greater.


The most well known among his students are rabbis Moshe Levinger, Shlomo Aviner, Zvi Thau, Avihu Schwartz, Zalman Melamed, Dov Lior, Zephaniah Drori, Issar Klonsky, Haim Steiner, Yoel Bin-Nun, Eliezer Melamed, David Samson, Moshe Ganz Nachum Romm, Haim Drukman and Yaakov Ariel. Numerous yeshivas in Israel claim to follow his teachings.


Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook did not write any books, but he wrote articles and letters which are printed in a book format. Additionally, there are collections of his lectures.

  • Articles books: "Or Lenetivati", "Lenetivot Israel", two volumes.
  • Letters books: "Tzemach Tzvi", "Dodi Litzvi", and some of his letters printed in the book "Igrot HaRaaya".
  • Lectures book: "Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda" on the Torah (5 volumes), Mesilat Yesharim, Moadim (festivals), etc. by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.


  1. ^ Alan Dowty (1997). The Jewish State: A Century Later. University of CaliforniaPress. ISBN 0-520-22911-8. 
  2. ^ David Weisburd (1985). Jewish Settler Violence: Deviance as Social Reaction. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-02673-1. 
  3. ^ The New York Times obituary
  4. ^ Kahane, Libby (2008). Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought Volume One: 1932-1975. Israel: Urim Publications. p. 225. ISBN 965-524008-8. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda invited Meir to accompany him to the Western Wall. Before they went, the rabbi asked another student, Rabbi Yaakov Filber, to bring his camera, and they were photographed together in the sukka and again at the Western Wall. Rabbi Yosef Bramson pointed out that Rabbi Kook did not like to be photographed, but he admired Meir so much that he actually requested it! 
  5. ^ "Kook Supports Kahane". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Jerusalem. January 31, 1977. 
  6. ^ Volbershtein, Hilah. Mashmia Yeshu'ah. Mercaz Shapiro, Israel: Machon Ohr Eztion. p. 325. ISBN 965-7277-18-3. 
  7. ^ Levinson, Chaim (March 11, 2012). "Rabbi Kook's Followers Are Still Debating His Legacy". Haaretz. Retrieved June 14, 2016. 
  8. ^ Miskin, Maayana (March 7, 2013). "Orbach: Rabbi Kook Against 'Price Tag'". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved June 14, 2016. 
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica: Volume 8, p. 145
  10. ^ Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1991). Torat Eretz Yisrael. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications. 
  11. ^ Judaism and the ethics of war, Norman Solomon. International Review of the Red Cross. Volume 87 Number 858 June 2005

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