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Don't Throw Out the Baby

By Tzvi Fishman
5/7/2007, 12:00 AM

A reader disheartened by the moral decline of the nation in Israel suggested that perhaps, in retrospect, Rav Kook was wrong in his embrace of Zionism and its non-religious adherents. It may be that he is projecting his own disillusionment onto Rabbi Kook, or that his comment stems from a lack of familiarity with Rabbi Kook’s great corpus of writings.
Therefore my confused and cynical friends in the exile, read these words of Rabbi Kook again and again and again. Be assured that the ship has a Captain, and He knows the course of the journey. Trust in Him to navigate the way through the raging seas and bring us to the harbor of our awaited destination. Don’t miss the boat. Hurry and hop aboard.

Perhaps more than anyone in his time, Rabbi Kook saw the Hand of G-d behind the rise of the Zionist movement, which he viewed as the vehicle of the beginning of Redemption in our time. Yet he was also acutely aware of its shortcomings. Two decades before the establishment of the State of Israel, he wrote a sobering vision of the future that rings frighteningly true for today:

"In the future, if our national aspiration succeeds, and our efforts bring us to be gathered into a political state in the Land of Israel, if we do not take pains before that time to fortify the position of religion and faith, so that it will be the common property of all Jews, then terrible and frightening will be our national state, for the scandals and confusion will proliferate due to fraternal hatred. This is likely to come about since every power is strengthened by the reinforcement of the national living spirit. And if a spirit of heroism and military power accompanies this, as natural to an independent state, will there not be great clashes as a result of the extreme opposition of ideas and the deeds that spring from them, when the central beam that unites the whole nation, the spiritual and religious foundation, is lacking? Can not such conflicts destroy even a settled and mighty nation through civil war?" (See the book, "Selected Letters," Edited by Tzvi Feldman, Letter 37).

Regarding the concept of freedom and how the subjugation to foreign cultures imbues a Jew with a slave mentality, Rabbi Kook also foresaw the likelihood that the sacred treasures of the Jewish People would be contaminated by the foreign ideas of the secularists:

"During the period of transition which leads us to Redemption, slumbering forces awaken. Waves of life roar mightily. At this time of agitation, that which is lowly, both physically and spiritually, awakens, as do the most noble of positive forces. Hence, great caution is required. The pioneers of Redemption, the entire generation that is meriting to witness the first bud of the sprouting of salvation, will necessarily contain many thoughts, images, and teachings which tend to destroy, defile, and annihilate all glory and strength in Israel. Have not educators and leaders risen in our midst who stand at the helm of education and leadership and offer our children to Molech, who inoculate them with every foreign thought and insipid idea, because they prefer alien shoots taken not from the fields of Israel, but from the vines of Sodom and Gemorrah? What has led us to the black depth of brotherly hatred which threatens to destroy and undermine all that has been accomplished through generations of superhuman toil and self-sacrifice? It is the absorption of the chametz of alien spirituality which is a hindrance at the time that the flourishing of our Redemption is progressing. What has caused the blindness preventing us from looking heavenward, from seeing how the Rock of Israel leads us on wings of eagles to the heights of Redemption? We must awaken and rise above the lowly bondage to all that is alien, be it expressed in foreign languages, or be it expressed in our own tongue but with an alien, poisonous spirit" ("Celebration of the Soul," Pg. 145. Translated and edited by Pesach Yaffe).

Rabbi Kook understood clearly that problems would develop during the course of the nation’s revival in Israel. These are the difficult "teenage" years that we are experiencing now. He emphasized that even though the nation did not recognize the Divine spirit fueling the revival of the Jewish People in Israel, this was indeed the "birthpangs of Mashiach," the harbinger of the awaited Redemption:

"The nation develops with all of its powers and essence without yet recognizing the depth of the higher spirit that is the foundation of its revival. Its eye is on the earth; to the heavens it does not yet look. The Name of Heaven is not constantly on her lips, she pursues brawn and strength, but truly all is holy and godly" (Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 32).
Just like with the education of a child, patience is the key. When a rebellious son gets into trouble, a wise, loving parent doesn’t disown him and kick him out of the house. The wise and loving parent patiently suffers through his child’s period of turmoil until he matures and settles down.

To the skeptics, the discouraged, and those filled with doubt that this was truly the beginnings of the yearned for Redemption, Rav Kook called out: "Be strong! Do not be afraid! The light of Mashiach shines, eternal Redemption appears from all cracks, from the darkness of evil and from the vulgar, despised and ineffectual atheism. A supernal light will come that will redeem Israel and will uplift with honor a nation that knows its G-d" (Orot HaTechiya, 14).

Therefore, to our readers who think that living in the lands of the gentiles is better than living in the Land of the Jews, so long as the Hellenists are running the show here, patience - sovlenut. Don’t throw out the baby with the dirty water in the tub. Try to see this unfolding process from an overall perspective, as a developing Redemption, with temper tantrums and dirty diapers along the way, just like the growth of a child. As Rabbi Kook assures us:

"A covenant was made with the Congregation of Israel that it would never become totally impure. Yes, impurity can affect it, causing imperfections to occur, but impurity can never sever it totally from its source of Divine life. The national spirit that is awakened now in the desire for Jewish nationhood, many of whose proponents say they have no need of the Divine spirit and would opt to present the nation on a basis of impurity and self-destruction – they themselves do not know what they want. So connected is the national spirit of Israel with the spirit of G-d that even if one should say that he has no need of the spirit of the L-rd, as soon as he states a desire for Israeli nationhood, the spirit of G-d rests in the innermost point of his aspiration, even against his will. An individual can separate himself from the Source of life, not so the entire Jewish nation. Therefore all the national assets, which are beloved to the nation on account of its national spirit, all are invested with the spirit of G-d: her Land, her language, her history, her customs. If there come a time when people speak only of the spirit of the nation, and attempt to negate the spirit of G-d from all of these assets and from the national spirit – what should the righteous of the generation do? To rebel against the spirit of nationhood, even verbally, and to reject its assets, this is something impossible, for the spirit of the L-rd and the national spirit of Israel are one. Rather, the righteous must work hard to reveal the light and the holiness in the national spirit, to reveal the light of G-d in all of these, until all of those who cling to the national spirit and its assets will find themselves automatically standing, ensconced, rooted, and living in the Divine holy life" (Orot HaTechiya, 9. See the English translation of "Orot" by Bezalel Naor).

Therefore my confused and cynical friends in the exile, read these words of Rabbi Kook again and again and again. Be assured that the ship has a Captain, and He knows the course of the journey. Trust in Him to navigate the way through the raging seas and bring us to the harbor of our awaited destination. Don’t miss the boat. Hurry and hop aboard.