Mother Rivka's Call to Arms: Rav Kook on Jewish Power

It is time to read religious Zionist Torah sage and first Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitschak Hacohen Kook's words on Jewish militarism, translated by the writer.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch

Judaism Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch

I once had the opportunity to meet the political aides to a candidate for the US Senate from the state of Pennsylvania. The aides were Jewish, and had brought the candidate to Israel to impress upon him the physical realities of the country's smallness, which leaves its six million Jews vulnerable to extermination. I made the point that the leftist policies of the last 20 years have left the country even more vulnerable, having brought in thousands of PLO terrorists from Tunisia, and armed even more tens of thousands.

I was flabbergasted to hear one of the aides contradict me, saying that the "peace " process had not led to more terror, but that the Arab terrorists had simply "gotten better at it, what with suicide bombings and all."

It therefore seems that it is time that I translated Rabbi Avraham Yitschak Hacohen Kook's philosophy of Jewish militarism. This is found in his work Midbar Shur, chapter 29, and is explained in Rabbi Tzvi Tau's Emunat Iteinu, volume 4, pages 55-92:

Have you ever wondered about this convoluted story of parshat Toldot and the blessings? Why was it that Yitschak (Isaac) loved Eisav (Esau)? And why did the Lord bring about such circumstances that Yitschak's blessing for Yaakov (Jacob) was said by Yitschak at the time that he thought he was blessing Eisav? The answers are:

Yitzchak was not totally fooled by Eisav. Yitzchak knew Eisav's crude nature (although not the depths of his depravity and evil acts), which was accompanied by tremendous strength. This strength matched Yitzchak's own trait of gevura (strength), and indeed had been inherited from Yitzchak, Eisav's father. And the likes attracted one another. Yitzchak also knew that Yaakov was righteous, much more than Eisav.
But Yitzchak feared that Yaakov's righteousness lacked the strength that would be needed by the nation of Israel to survive in this world. Therefore, it seemed to Yitzchak that the founder of the chosen people would descend from Eisav, though not be Eisav himself (his crudeness, and lack of learning and righteousness precluded that).

And so there must be a place in the chosen one's good soul to accept the necessary use, sometimes, of evil traits (midot ra'ot), without which the chosenness cannot reach its fulfillment, cannot emerge victorious in the war the bring light to the world and to turn this world from a Hell into a Gan Eden.

In truth, Yitzchak was wrong. It was the will of the Almighty that Yaakov be the chosen one, his trait of truth being absolutely pure, having no trace of midot ra'ot, as they are a blemish on the soul. Yet, there is the necessity to sometimes use these midot ra'ot, in order to subdue the forces of evil that exist in the outside world, in Eisav and in Yishmael, so that their impurities be removed and that they be turned from darkness to light.

And so, it was God's will that Yaakov have in him a foreign power (koach zar), outside of his pure soul, so that he thereby make use, at times, of these midot ra'ot. This was achieved by the blessings and their occurring as described in this parsha. Eisav's hands are hairy, always; his way is a limitless appetite for power and conquest. Yaakov can make use of the same hairy hands of power, but only sometimes, donning the hands reluctantly, at the bidding of Mother Rivka; and removing the hands when they are no longer needed, as one dons and doffs a Purim costume.

That is why the boys were twins: the common womb, Rivka's, which they shared, furnished a 'beachhead' in Yaakov, a fertile ground having the necessary preparation so that use could be made of his neighbor's traits.

Rabbi Matis Weinberg comments that the meaning of Rivka's name is "yoke", a device to harness two often opposing forces, two polar personalities, and to train them to work together.

If it was Rivka's womb and teachings that allowed Yaakov to use the traits of Eisav, it follows, therefore, that the womb of Rivka, her makom tolada, gives hope that Eisav may someday share in the good traits of Yaakov, as we see in the historical friendship of Rebbe and Antoninus. This idea provides hope for peaceful cooperation between the polar worlds, secular and religious, Yaakov-like and Eisav-like, that comprise Israeli society . Perhaps what we need is a Rivka-type prime minister.

This common womb is the tolada of our parsha, Toldot.

And so we see that Yaakov grabs Eisav by his heel (Genesis 25 ,26). The heel represents a natural quality, whereas the hand represents a willed, reasoned action.
Yaakov's hand acts out of thought, making use of power only after judging its appropriateness, making use of midot ra'ot as a free-willed action. But the leg's action is more natural, without wisdom and knowledge (as the Midrash says of King David, that he, like Eisav, was red-haired and killed, but Eisav killed on his own and David only did so mida'at HaSanhedrin, only according to the ruling of the Sanhedrin).

And so, the Romans, Eisav's descendants, in their 2,200-year-long rule over the world, showed koach and gevura, power and might. To rule over others, an attacking nature and cruelty, and the love of glory, victory and the sword are necessary. Rivka saw all this, and so, she put the hairy goat-skins on Yaakov's hands and neck, to show that in order to perfect the world, Yaakov will have to possess military power in his hands; and he will need power in his mouth, to decide and decree, in order to rule over his part of the world.

Furthermore, in the future, this same sa'ir, this same goat, will be the scapegoat offering of Yom Kippur. This shows that the demonic power with which Eisav sins is, to the Jews, our atonement: for we Jews may sometimes misuse that power, but the sin is only external and accidental, and in our hearts we don't want to use that power at all.
The cause of sinning via use of these midot ra'ot is because Eisav has perverted these midot, and so anyone who touches them is blemished somewhat (if he is not a perfect tzaddik, which most of us are not). But the Lord grants atonement and purification to Israel even in the case of these sins. For He knows that these sins do not derive from the Jewish heart and soul, which quickly does teshuva for the sin, as the Jew returns to his true self (doffing the hairy 'costume').

So teaches Rabbi Kook. Thus, we see, for example, that long before the founding of the State of Israel, the rabbis of the Midrash, and later Rabbi Kook, pulled the rug out from under those who argue that Jewish rule and use of power are immoral, perverting the Jewish soul. The argument, as we have seen, is false.

Those leftists who don't want to rule and make use of the power we were given by G-d have caused rivers of Jewish blood to flow in the Land of Israel during the Oslo-"peace" years.

In truth, those who don't want to rule over Arabs shouldn't be ruling. Period.

Ariel Sharon and all the other leftists abrogated their responsibility to provide security to this nation.

As the Haftorah says, Edom (Eisav) says that he will make a comeback and rebuild. But as opposed to the gevura of Yitzchak, who digs "rechovot" (Genesis 26,22) - a place of openness, fruitfulness and positiveness - the perverted gevura of Eisav (and those who follow in his brutal ways, as Sharon did) inverts the Hebrew letters and "builds Chorovot," builds "ruins", not buildings. All that he touches, he destroys. Just take a look at Gush Katif. And what the prime minister did there, he wants to repeat several-fold, Heaven forbid. May the Almighty grant to Yaakov the power to prevent such a catastrophe, and to create a more proper Jewish government in His land.