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Judaism: Kedoshim: A Letter for the Neturei Karta

A wonderful story about the iconic religious Zionist Sage, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, for whom the flagship Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem is named.
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 8:31 AM


"Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the members of your people." (Lev. 19:18)

During the British Mandate, there was no more unity among the Jews living in Israel than there is today. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and his followers maintained friendly relations with the secular Zionists. On the other hand, a group of very pious Jews in Jerusalem called Neturei Karta ("Guardians of the City") bitterly opposed and denounced the Zionists, and were therefore hostile toward Rav Kook.

The daughter of a Neturei Karta leader once became stricken with a difficult and dangerous illness. The doctors who examined her concluded that she needed to be sent abroad and treated by a certain professor, the world-renowned specialist in his field.

The father made inquires, and learned that this professor was an extremely busy man. A great number of patients made demands on his time. If his daughter came to this renowned physician as just another patient, it was unlikely that he would give her case much attention. Moreover, the fee required was far beyond the family's means to pay.

But the girl's father was told that the professor was a great admirer of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. If he would receive a personal request from Rav Kook to treat the sick girl, he would put his other cases on hold and devote himself to curing her.

The girl's father was now in a quandary. If he approached Rav Kook directly and ask him for a letter to the professor, he would die of embarrassment and shame. As a leader of the Neturei Karta, he had subjected Rav Kook to public disgrace more than once.

Then the man had an idea. He knew that there was a strong bond of friendship between Rav Kook and Rabbi Aryeh Levine, the well-known tzaddik of Jerusalem. So he approached Reb Aryeh and asked him to kindly serve as a 'go-between' and speak to Rav Kook for him. Needless to say, Reb Aryeh readily agreed, and went post-haste to the renowned rabbi's house.

A Second Letter

Once Rav Kook understood the problem, he immediately agreed. "Of course I am prepared to write a letter to the professor for him. What does this have to do with the difference of opinion between us?"

Rav Kook took paper and pen and wrote the letter, taking pains to depict the sick girl's father in favorable terms - precisely because he had reason to resent the man. This way, he explained to Reb Aryeh, "I will let no personal bias influence me as I write this."

Precious letter in hand, Reb Aryeh left the room, in high spirits that he had successfully served as a go-between for such a great mitzvah. Leaving Rav Kook's house, he met two distinguished rabbis who, he knew, could never forgive the extremist pious Jews of Jerusalem for their hostility toward Rav Kook. He greeted them pleasantly and went on his way.

As he walked along, Reb Aryeh suddenly heard his name being called from Rav Kook's house. He was being summoned to return. In momentary confusion, he feared that the two rabbis whom he had met at the entrance might have persuaded Rav Kook to take back the letter.

For a moment, Reb Aryeh stood there hesitating, irresolute. Then he decided, "I cannot demur. If the rabbi calls me, I must go." With a trembling heart, he returned to the house.

"I had another thought," Rav Kook told him. "The trip abroad is very expensive. I remembered that there is a shipping line which honors my requests, and gives a substantial discount in fare to those in need. Let me provide a letter to that company as well..."

(Adapted from A Tzaddik in Our Time by R. Simcha Raz, pp. 115-116, sent to Arutz Sheva by Rabbi Chanan Morrison, of Rav Kook on the Net: RavKookTorah.org)