Become a Super Jew!

Rabbi Kook assures us that the “secular” Jews in the Land of Israel, who seem to be estranged from the Torah, contain a powerhouse of the hidden holiness that burns eternally in the soul of the Nation. Come and feel it!

Tags: Machon Meir
Tzvi Fishman

Judaism Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi Fishman

Writing can be a pretty lonely experience. Unlike film directing, where you are surrounded – bombarded is a better word – with actors, crew members, location people, accountants, caterers, etc…, when you work on a novel you sit alone in a room for a year, maybe more, without anyone to talk to, without feedback, without encouragement, without money. My mother was right – I should have been a doctor!

That’s why an evening last week was such fun. When I first came to Jerusalem, I learned Torah in a Religious Zionist yeshiva, called Machon Meir. The yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Dov Begun, is considered the baal-tshuva arm of the Rabbi Kook Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva and accepts students on any level of Torah knowledge..

Machon Meir is one of the few places in the world where English speakers can learn the mind-blowing teachings of Rabbi Kook in depth. With learning programs for men and women in the Israeli, Russian, Ethiopian, Spanish, French, and English divisions – and a Hebrew ulpan for newcomers – the yeshiva is a microcosm of the “ingathering of the exiles” and a warm home during the first stage of Aliyah. A whooping ninety percent of the students from the Diaspora remain in Israel.

Last week, the yeshiva held a reunion for English-speaking alumni. Close to the beginning, when everyone was happily meeting old friends, a forty-year-old fellow with a big beard approached me with stars in his eyes. “You’re Rabbi Tzvi Fishman, aren’t you?” he asked excitedly, as if he were meeting Gal Gadot.

“I’m not a Rabbi,” I told him.

“For me you are,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much I owe you! I came to Israel because of your articles on Arutz Sheva. They gave me the strength to break away from America. Especially your blogs about Rabbi Kook.”

My admirer is a psychiatrist by profession – a graduate of Harvard Medical School. He lives on a settlement in Yesha, learns Torah, and has a growing medical practice – another Aliyah success story, thank G-d.

You won’t find Rabbi Kook’s teachings about Judaism and the Land of Israel in any mainstream, black-hat yeshiva. The Haredi world banned his books long ago when he embraced the secular pioneers for their contributions in rebuilding the Nation in Israel, while striving to endear them to the Torah. When he praised the secular youth for their enthusiasm for exercise and engagement in sport, citing the exalted importance of physical strength in the revival of the Jewish People, who, he explained, needed powerful bodies to house powerful NATIONAL souls, like the great Israelite heroes and Prophets of old, Rabbi Kook was horribly vilified by Ultra-Orthodox zealots, cursed in street posters, and hung in effigy in Mea Shearim.

Since, in the Internet Age, few people have the patience to study Rabbi Kook’s writings in depth, allow me to present my super crash-course of his teachings about the Jewish People and Eretz Yisrael from his classic book, Orot, explained in condensed and simple English.  Readers who would like to learn about his teachings in more depth can find many classes by Rabbi Moshe Kaplan explaining Rabbi Kook’s writings on the Machon Meir Yeshiva website and in the book I had the privilege of writing with Rabbi David Samson, Eretz Yisrael, in the “Lights on Orot” series.   

Rabbi Kook’s First Essay in Orot emphasizes that the Land of Israel is an essential foundation of the Jewish People and Torah – and not a two-week vacation or learning experience in order to strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora. The service of G-d can only be complete in the Land of Israel, and a national life of Torah in the Land of Israel is the Salvation for which we pray.

The Second Essay (of the eight) states that Jews in the Diaspora don’t understand the absolute necessity of living in Israel because they don’t learn the secrets of Torah. Therefore, in reducing Judaism to the superficial performance of ritual precepts, Diaspora Jews don’t miss having their own sovereign Jewish State and everything that goes with it, such as their own Hebrew language in the street and workplace, a national and school calendar according to the Hebrew year, a Jewish army, etc. Without belittling the true fear of Heaven found in Diaspora Judaism, Rabbi Kook states that the alienation from the secrets of Torah is a tragedy that we are obligated to fight against with wisdom, holiness, and valor.

The Third Essay explains that true Jewish identity is “Israelite” identity, which is a NATIONAL identity and not the private practice of Judaism, and being an American or French or German Jew filled with dual loyalties, as found throughout in the Diaspora. This NATIONAL, CLAL, understanding and practice of Torah, can only be attained by being a part of the unified Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael, upon on return to our own Jewish Homeland.

Essay Four states that a Jew cannot be loyal to his true Israelite self, or to true Jewish thought and creativity, when he dwells in a foreign, Gentile land. Outside the Land of Israel, revelations of holiness are polluted with impure husks which perniciously influence how we see ourselves and the world, and how we interpret the Torah. Nonetheless, a person who has a great yearning for the Land of Israel, even in the Diaspora, can connect with the pure channels of holiness which exist only in the Holy Land.  

Essay Five explains how faculty of imagination, the channel for prophecy, can only be pure in the Land of Israel. Because the faculty of imagination is bound up with the intellect, wisdom leading to the highest understandings of Torah is only available in the pure spiritual air of the Land of Israel.

In the next Sixth Essay, we learn that if a Jew from Israel has to travel outside of the Land for some necessary reason and finds himself (or herself) incapable of tolerating the lack of holiness in the air of foreign lands, and also feels estranged from everything there, this is a blessing which guards over him and a sign that he has succeeding in forging a deep connection with the Land of Israel. His yearning to return to Israel creates waves and waves of yearning for Israel in the hearts of other Jews and advances the Redemption.

Then, in Rabbi Kook’s “Magical Mystery Tour,” we discover that all of existence is comprised of Hebrew Letters – the true spiritual building blocks of life, with which G-d created the world. When a Jew comes to perform precepts of the Torah – which are also filled with Hebrew Letters – a powerful spiritual, chain reaction occurs. Since in the Land of Israel the Hebrew Letters are the GIGANTIC LETTERS of CLAL YISRAEL, when a Jew performs the same precept in Israel, the letters of his soul are magnified a thousand times more, transforming him into a “Super-Jew.” This phenomenon also occurs to Jews in the Diaspora who have a great yearning to be in the Land of Israel. They can be “Super-Jews” too.

Finally, Rabbi Kook assures us that the “secular” Jews in the Land of Israel, who seem to be estranged from the Torah, contain a powerhouse of the hidden holiness that burns eternally in the soul of the Nation, and makes them ready and willing to sacrifice their life for their fellow Jews and for the Land, an exalted level of attachment to Clal Yisrael.

You too can become a Super-Jew. And you don’t have to wait for next year! At the end of the Passover Seder, when you declare, “Next year in Jerusalem,” turn your words into reality!  There are places waiting for you.