With such dismal and visionless government leaders in Israel, it is hard to feel joyous as the New Year approaches. Therefore, we must remind ourselves that the scenario of Jewish History is all a part of a supreme Divine Plan that is being orchestrated by a faultless Conductor.
Everything is under control.
Our Sages have told us that the Redemption of Israel is a gradually unfolding process, similar to the dawning of the day (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1). First, the Jewish People return to Zion to rebuild their homeland. Once the physical body that houses the nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well and return to the Torah.
ZIONISM AND NATIONAL T’SHUVA
Rabbi Kook taught that even in the return of the non-religious Zionists to Israel there is a profound holy core. The inner source of their desire to return to the Jewish Homeland is an expression of the Redemption itself. With time, its spiritual core will surely be awakened. This great transformation may take fifty years. It may take one hundred. We need to remember that after nearly two-thousand years in exile, a few generations is like the blink of an eye. The important thing to know is that the t’shuva of the Nation of Israel is sure to come (Rambam, Laws of T’shuva, 7:5). Rabbi Kook writes:
“The awakened yearning of the Jewish people as a whole to return to their Land, to their roots, to their spirit and way of life — truthfully, there is the light of t’shuva in this” (Orot HaT’shuva, 17:2).
The book of Ezekiel includes an overview of Jewish history which traces Israel’s exile among the gentile nations, and our ultimate return to the Land of Israel and Torah. Only after the nation’s physical revival in Israel is underway do the Jewish people undergo the period of spiritual cleansing which leads them back to Torah.
“For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own Land. Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all of your uncleanlinesses, and from all of your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart will I also give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit in you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. And you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I shall be your G-d” (Ezekiel, 36,24-28).
The great and ongoing physical return of our people to Israel is something we have witnessed in our century. First, out of the graveyards of exile, came a new hope and zest for life, as if our scattered, dry bones were rising to rebirth. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the Jewish nation was reborn in Israel. The Hebrew language was restored. After two-thousand years of wandering, the Jews returned to being an independent nation in their own Land. An incredible, new awakening of Jewish valor and physical prowess, epitomized by the Israel Defense Forces, startled the world. The ingathering of exiles from the four corners of the earth led to the building of a dynamic, progressive society. Yeshivas were opened all over the country. Today, Israel is unquestionably the Torah center of the world. All of these things are aspects of t’shuva, of a nation returning to its roots.
As Rabbi Kook writes:
“Without question, the light of Mashiach and the Redemption of Israel, the rebirth of the Nation and the Land, the revival of its language and literature — all stem from the source of t’shuva, and everything will be brought out of the depths to the heights of the highest t’shuva” (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:11).
Our government leaders may be fools, but the orchestra’s Conductor knows what He is doing, and everything is under His guidance and control.
The return of a scattered people to its Land is no simple matter. Because of the magnitude of the undertaking, there are numerous problems. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kook assures us that our inner Israeli longing for
G-d will overcome all of the barriers. Even the brazen secularism, which seems so contrary to the nation’s holiest goals, will become a powerful vessel bursting with Torah.
“Out of the profane, holiness will also come forth, and out of wanton freedom, the beloved yoke (of Torah) will blossom. Golden chains will be woven and arise out of secular poetry, and a brilliant light of t’shuva will shine from secular literature. This will be the supreme wonder of the vision of Redemption. Let the bud sprout, let the flower blossom, let the fruit ripen, and the whole world will know that the Spirit of G-d is speaking within the Nation of Israel in its every expression. All of this will climax in a t’shuva which will bring healing and Redemption to the world” (Ibid, 17:3).
This necessary developmental process from the physical to the spiritual should be obvious to everyone, including our friends in Virginia and Monsey. The Talmud teaches that the Beit HaMikdash was first constructed in a normal, profane manner, and only after its completion was its sanctity declared (Me’ilah 14A). Similarly, Adam was first created from the dust of the earth, and then the soul was placed within him. So too, a Jewish youth only becomes responsible to keep the Torah at the age of thirteen, after his body and mind have developed in strength. This is the pattern of spiritual building; first comes the physical vessel, and then its inner content. First the ark is constructed, and then the Tablets are placed within (Rashi, Shemot, 38:22).
It must be remembered that the Zionist movement did not begin with Herzl, but rather with the giants of Torah, the Baal Shem Tov and the Gaon of Vilna, more than a hundred years earlier. The “Gra” sent his students to settle Eretz Yisrael, teaching that the active resettlement of the Land was the path to bring the long-awaited redemption (See the book, “Kol HaTor). Other great Rabbis, Rav Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher, Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, and Rav Shmuel Mohliver were the actual founders of the early Zionist groups like the “Lovers of Zion.” As the movement spread, its message attracted many non-religious Jews as well. Rabbi Kook explains that the newcomers embraced the call to Zion in a way which fit their own understandings, national aspirations, and dreams. While this temporarily lowered the loftiness of the message, it insured the necessary first stage of physical rebuilding. He writes:
“Occasionally, a concept falls from its loftiness and its original pureness after it has been grounded in life when unrefined people become associated with it, darkening its illumination. The descent is only temporary because an idea which embraces spiritual goodness cannot be transformed into evil. The descent is passing, and it is also a bridge to an approaching ascent” (Orot HaT’shuva, 12:12).
The original, pure, lofty idea of Zionism, as handed down by our Sages, is that the revival of the Jewish nation in Israel is the earthly foundation for the revelation of the Kingdom of G-d in the world. For the secular Zionists, the return to Israel become something else. For some, the Land of Israel was merely a refuge from the persecutions of the gentiles. For others, it was a place to build a utopian socialist society. Because of their large numbers, the influence of the secular Zionists was widespread. Additionally, Rabbi Kook explains, the secular Jews were more suited to the task of settling the barren, swamp-ridden land. The religious Jews of the time lived in a spiritual world, having little contact with earthly matters. The physical side of their nature was neglected and weak. The secular Jews, on the other hand, had an abundance of physical energy and prowess, along with the subsequent will and desire to work and achieve through concrete endeavor.
When a holy idea needs to be grounded in reality, it necessarily descends from its exalted elevation. Rabbi Kook explains that when this happens, people of lesser spiritual sensitivities seize the idea and profane its true intent. Because greater numbers of people can grasp the idea in its minimized form, its followers increase, bringing more strength and vigor to its practical implementation. This trend continues until powerful spiritual figures arise, girded with the strength of Divine righteousness. They grasp the idea in its original purity and hold it aloft, rescuing it from the depths where it had plunged, stripped of its holiness and spiritual splendor. As a result of this new infusion of light, the original idea is resurrected in all of its majesty and power. Even those who attached themselves to the idea in its fallen state are raised up, and they are inspired to a powerful, lofty t’shuva.
“This process will surely come about. The light of G-d, which is buried away in the fundamental point of Zion, and which is now concealed by clouds, will surely appear. From the lowly valley, it will raise up G-d’s Temple and Kingdom and all of its branches. All those who cling to it, the near and the distant, will be uplifted with it, for a true revival and an everlasting salvation.”
Rabbi Kook’s deep spiritual insight did not blind him to the unholy lifestyles of the secular pioneers. However, he knew that the holy essence of Am Yisrael guaranteed that the Nation would return to its roots. Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Kook described this process in almost prophetic terms:
“We recognize that a spiritual rebellion will come to pass in Eretz Yisrael amongst the people of Israel in the beginnings of the Nation’s revival. The material comfort which will be attained by a percentage of the nation, convincing them that they have already completely reached their goal, will constrict the soul, and days will come which will seem to be devoid of all spirit and meaning. The aspirations for lofty and holy ideals will cease, and the spirit of the Nation will plunge and sink low until a storm of rebellion will appear, and people will come to see clearly that the power of Israel lies in its eternal holiness, in the light of G-d and His Torah, in the yearning for spiritual light which is the ultimate valor, triumphing over all of the worlds and all of their powers” (Orot, Pg. 84).
Also vital to recognize is that the spiritual darkness presently hanging over the State of Israel is not so much a product of the profane culture of the secular pioneers and their children, who are still in power today; rather it is because the majority of Orthodox Jewry failed to respond to the call of Redemption and chose to remain behind in Boro Park and Monsey and Antwerpen and Manchester, England. As Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook often proclaimed, if the G-d-fearing Jews of the Diaspora would have made aliyah, the religious situation in Israel would be very different today. If they had come in their hundreds of thousands, Israel would have been immeasurably strengthened, both physically and spiritually, and our weaknesses in the face of our enemies, and the tragedies of Oslo and the Disengagement, would never have occurred.
As Rosh Hashana approaches, the important thing is not to despair. The t’shuva of our Nation is promised. Our government leaders may be fools, but the orchestra’s Conductor knows what He is doing, and everything is under His guidance and control.
[More of Rabbi Kook's writings on T'shuva are available now online.]