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Judaism: Gaza, Obama and Harav Kook

Rav Kook was correct in his view of Redemption as a process.
Published: Sunday, August 03, 2014 12:50 PM


Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook served as the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi for the British Mandate of Palestine (today’s Israel) between 1921 and 1935. He is considered by many to be the founder of modern Religious Zionism.

As a Torah scholar and student of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), he wrote of Redemption. To oversimplify, he believed that Redemption was not a singular, unique event that would occur in a (probably) unexpected instant. Instead, he believed that Redemption was a process that unfolds in history.

He died in 1935 before he could realize how correct he was.

In the book, War and Peace, (Commentary by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman, Torah Eretz Yisroel Publications, Jerusalem, 1994), Rav Kook is said to have written that G-d directs the world in a natural, historical fashion, achieving His aims through the vehicles of nations and kings (i.e., national leaders) (p.43). He believed that the prophesied return of the Jewish people to Israel would be an historical event sure to come true (ibid, p 42).

How would that happen? Through history.

For Rav Kook, Divine Providence works through history. In history, a process unfolds. This process is similar to what man experiences: just as man develops from infancy to adolescence to maturity, so, too, history evolves, stage after stage (ibid, p 39). This process, Rav Kook said, is the blueprint that HaShem has created for the world—for man, history and for the Jewish people (ibid).

Redemption is part of that process (ibid, p 40). Look at what our Sages teach: war, our Talmud says, contains both destruction and the beginnings of Redemption (Megilla, 17b) (see ibid, p 40). Rav Kook wrote that when there is war, then, in accordance to the magnitude of the conflict, the Redemption of Israel moves forward faster or slower. This is precisely what has happened with modern Israel.

For example, World War One brought us the Balfour letter, which set into motion the re-creation of the Jewish national homeland on Biblical land (ibid). World War Two brought us the founding of the modern state of Israel (ibid). The June, 1967, Six-Day War brought us the reunification of Judea-Samaria with Israel—and the recapture of the Temple Mount.

Now, Israel fights another war. This war is against Hamas in Gaza. So far, this war has moved Israel closer to its ‘destined perfection’ (ibid, p42) by bringing Israelis together in a unity not seen for decades (“Shimon Peres: I Have Never Seen the Nation So Unified”, Arutz Sheva, July 30, 2014).

Recently, we saw the possible beginning of yet another step forward. Because of this Gaza war, we may be looking at a sea-change in Israel’s relationship with its secular ‘master’, the United States.

The United States has always been a friend to Israel. But that friendship has always been bitter-sweet. For example, the birth of the modern Israel could not have happened without the support of the US. But then, at almost the same instant Israel was ‘born’, the US joined Britain in an arms embargo against the new Jewish state just as that state was invaded by Arab armies.

The US has always had a love-hate relationship with Israel. For many, the US has been the master and, too often, our leaders have been nothing more than American puppets. For some, Israel’s destiny will always be stalled when it replaces G-d with such an indifferent master.

That love-hate relationship may be ending. The current US President has never really liked our Prime Minister Netanyahu—and he now  appears to reveal that he can no longer even be civil to Netanyahu.  

A tape recording has emerged. That recording might never have seen the light of day but for a US assertion that Netanyahu had asked for a new cease-fire with Hamas (“Kerry: Netanyahu Asked Me to Help Broker Gaza Ceasefire”, Arutz Sheva, July 29, 2014). The recording emerged because, it would seem, that assertion was a flat-out lie.

In the short-term, both sides have chosen to deny the authenticity of the tape. That’s okay. That’s called, ‘managing the news’.

Nevertheless, the voices on that tape exist; and proverbial cat is now out of the bag. We have seen the emperor with no clothes on—and what we see is ugly.

Specifically, the recording presents the US President as demanding, with great force and hostility, that Israel not only accept a cease-fire, but make that cease-fire unilateral (see “In Leaked Tape, Hostile Obama Tries to Force PM to Accept Truce”, Arutz Sheva, July 29, 2014). It presents us with a shocking show of raw power applied with an intense hostility.

We will have to wait to see how this tape influences events—and leadership decisions. But already, one result has been visible: despite Obama’s demand, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have continued fighting.

Rav Kook has written that history progresses with the aim of bringing the Jewish people to its destined perfection. You may not believe in this process. But you cannot deny two things: (1) the world map has indeed been rearranged to create modern Israel (ibid, p 43); and, (2), war brings us increasingly closer to the Jewish Redemption.

Rav Kook was right.