by Tzvi Fishman
My dear and beloved brothers, in all lands of our dispersion and wandering, in order to dispel the feelings of some readers who worry lest this interchange kindles a hatred between brothers, G-d forbid, let me assure you that it is out of love and concern for the well-being of our nation that we write, hoping to bring light to the darkness of exile, just as one calls out to a friend whom he sees falling off a cliff.
If our language lacks the softness and outpouring of love that this holy mission requires, then hear the words of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, whose heart was filled with love for every Jew and for all of G-d’s Creation.
Rabbi Kook emphasized that the true revival and repentance of the Jewish people is in our return to a life of Torah in Eretz Yisrael. Again and again, in his letters and speeches, he called the Jewish people to return home to Zion. One public proclamation, sent out all over the Diaspora, years before the Holocaust, was entitled, “The Great Call.”
“To the Land of Israel, Gentlemen, To the Land of Israel! Let us utter this appeal in one voice, in a great and never-ending cry.
“Come to the Land of Israel, dear brothers, come to the Land of Israel. Save your souls, the soul of your generation, the soul of the entire nation; save her from desolation and destruction, save her from decay and degradation, save her from defilement and all evil, from all of the suffering and oppression that threatens to come upon her in all the lands of the world without exception or distinction....
“Escape with your lives and come to Israel; G-d’s voice beckons us; His hand is outstretched to us; His spirit within our hearts unites us, encourages us and obliges us all to cry in a great, powerful and awesome voice: Brothers! Children of Israel, beloved and dear brethren, come to the Land of Israel, do not tarry with arrangements and official matters; rescue yourselves, gather, come to the Land of Israel...
“From the time we were exiled from our Land, the Torah has accompanied Israel into exile, wandering from Babylon to France, Spain, Germany, Eastern and Central Europe, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere. And now, how happy we would be if we were able to say that she has returned to her first place, to the Land of Israel, together with the people of Israel, which continues to multiply in the Holy Land.
“And now, who is so blind that he does not see the L-rd’s hand guiding us in this, and does not feel obligated to work along with G-d? A heavenly voice in the future will cry aloud on top of the mountains and say, ‘Whoever has wrought with G-d, let him come and receive his reward’ (Vayikra Rabbah, 27:2). Who can exempt himself from doing his part in bringing additional blessing and swifter salvation; from awakening many hearts to return to the Holy Land, to the L-rd’s legacy, that they may become a part of it, to settle it with enterprises and buildings, to purchase property, to plant and sow, to do everything necessary for the foundation of life of a stable and organized settlement....”
Celebrating the Establishment of the State of Israel
“Great is our obligation to awaken the venerable love of Zion, the eternal love which now, as in ancient times, burns in a holy flame of fire in the hearts of our people wherever they are. It is upon us to fight with all of our strength against hatred of the Holy Land, which has begun to insinuate itself into a few among us. We are duty bound to destroy with a mighty spiritual hand, and with the eternal holiness of ‘a desirable Land,’ the filth of the Spies, which ironically, at the time of salvation, has begun to awaken. This sin of the Spies is struggling with its remaining strength, but we can assuredly say, by the power of the Name of the eternal L-rd, who chose this desirable Land, that its struggle is like the last effort of a flame that shoots upward before it goes out entirely. The power of the love for the Holy Land, the love for Zion and Jerusalem, will advance on its path, and will illuminate ‘as the sun in its might,” all of the dwellings of Jacob. With bonds of love, it will draw everyone, all of her children, to the desirable Land, to the wellspring of their lives. The word of G-d stands forever....
“Woe, oppressed and unfortunate brothers, my heart, my heart is with you, my entire being is with you, attend carefully to what I say, give ear and your souls will live – under the garb of sorrow, the apparent and the concealed, in the face of ruin and desolation, of the upheaval and the trampling and destruction of all that is holy (in the Zionist movement), underneath this majestic agony is a brilliant illuminating light, a light that revitalizes and comforts the soul, a light that gives strength and hope, ‘As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you; and you shall find comfort in Jerusalem’ (Isaiah, 66:13). Alas, blind men, who will give you eyes to see deep within your hearts?”
(For the full text, see the book, “Selected Letters,” translated by Tzvi Feldman).
Another public proclamation written by Rabbi Kook was addressed to Orthodox communities in the Diaspora to urge their Aliyah to Israel. In establishing a movement called “The Banner of Jerusalem,” Rabbi Kook called upon all religious Jews to come to Israel to rebuild the nation’s spiritual life, just as the secular Zionists were rebuilding the physical, in the joint cause of national Redemption. (Abridged from “Selected Letters”)
BANNER OF JERUSALEM
“To our honored Jewish Religious Public. Orthodox Jews! We call you to the sacred task of building our Jewish nation in our Holy Land, in Eretz Yisrael. Come to us, rally together under the “Banner of Jerusalem” which we now raise aloft before the whole Jewish religious public.
“We all know the ‘Banner of Zion’ which unites a certain portion of our brethren on the basis of our Jewish secular interests in the Land of Israel. But there are many who have not joined the union of those who bear the Zionist flag, and a great many who feel it impossible to do so. We simply record the plain fact that this is so, without questioning its veracity.
“Yet it cannot be that the largest, most natural, and earnest portion of Jewry, the majority of the Jewish religious public, should remain indifferent to the wonderful events of the present, and not lend a hand in the holy task of building our nation on our sacred soil because of so called objections....
“Zion and Jerusalem go hand in hand. From the early beginning of our history, the term Zion has always expressed our kingdom, our material power, which is certainly holy in itself, and serves the realization of the spiritual aims of the nation, which was, is, and ever will be the kingdom of priests and the holy nation of the world.
“The term “Jerusalem,” however, expresses the goal of attaining holiness in itself as the highest idealistic tenet of our Jewish existence, both for us and for all humanity. The place of our Holy Temple – the future place of prayer for all peoples – the city where our Great Sanhedrin sat, from whence has gone forth and will go forth the Law for all of Israel – this is what Jerusalem signifies....
“We call to all religious Jews: come to us, unite with us, strengthen our power in the pursuit of our religious Jewish interests... Orthodox Jews, all the loyal believers in the Jewish faith, there can be no doubt that the Divine power is now manifesting itself in us amidst the great world events. We are certainly called to return to our ancient home in the Land of Israel, there to renew our ancient holy life....
“We religious Jews must all profoundly know and believe that the Divine hand is now leading us openly to our high, ideal destiny. We must make known to the whole world, the true meaning of the present wondrous happenings, whose purpose is so clearly the hastening of our redemption and salvation, from which alone will also spring forth the redemption and salvation of all mankind.
“With the flaming, illuminating, Divine faith, with all the luster of our holy Torah, with the vitality of all of the most refined and devout Jews, we shall carry our flag, the ‘Banner of Jerusalem’ by which alone the ‘Banner of Zion’ will also be properly hoisted. For the value of Jewish secular power will be elucidated to the world only in the light of our holy Jewish spiritual power, emphasized by the uplifted voices of the whole religious Jewish world community, setting with holy enthusiasm to the task of our national construction, of our return to the Land of Israel, by the grace of the Divine and illuminating light, O House of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the L-rd.”
“With the deepest and most holy inspiration we call on all of you pious Jews, delay not. Do not let the time pass, which is striding along with such giant steps. Speedily come to our holy flag for the return to Zion, for the revival of our people, for the redemption of the Holy Land and its restoration....
“Strengthen yourselves, Jewish brethren. In your masses, rally around our holy, Divine, Jewish national flag, the Banner of Jerusalem. To all Jews, in all lands, in all of the Diaspora, let us without end repeat our motto: ‘You who have escaped from the sword, which is driving you in all ages through the lands of your exile, go, do not stand still, remember the L-rd from afar, and let the memory of Jerusalem arise in your hearts’ (Jeremiah, 51:50). Come brethren. Come in holy masses. ‘The things once predicted to Zion – behold, they are here! Again, I send a herald to Jerusalem’ (Isaiah, 41:27).