Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook
Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook Courtesy

Today, in the Knesset building, an assembly was held marking the 81st anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and the founder of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Religious Zionism and the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva.

Knesset Chairman, Yuli Edelstein said, "It is difficult to point to another personality that has shaped Judaism [in modern Israel] as Rabbi Kook did. Many referred to him [simply] as 'the Rabbi,' but he is without a doubt, not just one of the great minds, but rather a giant among the giants of Israel, a revolutionary."

A former education minister said that "Rabbi Kook was a tremendous Zionist, who longed for the redemption and for the Land of Israel. He viewed his Immigration to the Holy Land as a holy act. He labored for the Balfour Declaration, against [the other] Ultra-Orthodox. I loved his philosophy and worldview that there is nothing in the world without roots in holiness."

Rabbi Arye Stern, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, said: "Aside from studying his teachings, it is even more important to live his teachings. The [religious] authority must stay close to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which is also one of his creations."

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) related his personal connection with Rabbi Kook's thought. "For my day to day life, studying Rabbi Kook's teachings provides a map for a complex reality. It puts in perspective things which seem impossible, because every difficulty is essential to progress. Rabbi Kook isn't just a map; he's also a compass that tells you where to go."

Chairman of the Knesset Legislative Committee Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home): "The more time passes, the more we see that Rabbi Kook's words were just like prophecy. All of those powerful Zionist forces that established the State have incredible merit, but because they were not connected to Torah, with the passage of time, all life left them, and they vanished."

"So many today are cynical and not Zionist, [so] everything is falling apart," he finished. "On the other hand, there is also a tremendous Zionist spirit combined with Torah, and it shines and will illuminate the entire State."

Rabbi Kook was a Torah luminary, poet and philosopher whose works are studied widely. Interestingly, he had been a leading "iluy" - genius level student in a Lithuanian Yeshiva and bucked the trend when he accepted his position as the First Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel.