Rav David Samson
Rav David Samson Hezki Ezra

During the past 150 years, the world has witnessed the miraculous ingathering of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel in clear fulfilment of biblical prophecy. The two Torah luminaries who taught Am Yisrael to recognize this colossal undertaking as the beginnings of Israel’s long-awaited Redemption were Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook and his only son Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, both of blessed memory.

Father and son were the towering beacons of light who taught their generations to see the Divine Hand behind the Zionist enterprise. They called upon the entire Nation to embrace the miraculous events of the time with joy and great gratitude to the Almighty.

Both of these Torah giants revived Torah study with its original meaning – “Torat Eretz Yisrael” – which returned the all-encompassing NATIONAL FOUNDATION of the Torah, rather than only the individual and congregational aspects, to the forefront of Jewish life, something which had been lost during the Exile when the Jewish People were scattered minorities in foreign Gentile lands, lacking sovereignty of their own. This involved dealing with national issues from a Torah point of view, leading to the establishment of the Chief Rabbinate and its decisions with national significance on kashrut, conversion (an example is the case of the Ethiopian aliya), heart transplants and more.

While Rabbi Kook, the father, is more universally famous than his son, it was Rav Tzvi Yehuda who explained and implemented his father’s teachings to the reborn Israelite Nation after the establishment of the State of Israel. As head of the flagship Zionist Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, he taught his students that the building of Medinat Yisrael, service in the Israel Defense Forces, and the holy settlement of the Promised Land in all of its borders were the natural extensions of yeshiva learning.

From his small two-room apartment in the Geula neighborhood of Jerusalem, Rav Tzvi Yehuda impacted the world more than any other Rabbi in his time. For the past five decades, open any newspaper around the globe, in every possible language, and you are likely to find an article about the settlement of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank). This great "settlement enterprise" throughout Eretz Yisrael was brought about by Rav Tzvi Yehuda and his students. Furthermore, the influence of the settlement movement on Israel and the world, along with the plethora of Torah institutions which crown every community, still continue to command center stage of the global village in which we live.

In the light of this introduction, and on the eve of the 86th yahrtzeit of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, I would like to send a double yasher koach of appreciation to my dear friend and colleague, Tzvi Fishman, on the publication of two new books on the lives and teachings of these two giants of Torah and builders of Am Yisrael in the Holy Land.

The book, “Above the Stream” is an abridged and illustrated biography of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, geared for young readers, ages 12 -120. A master of all disciplines of Torah, the revealed and the esoteric, as well as an extraordinary Jewish philosopher and gifted poet, Rabbi Kook was known for his towering love for all people, a love which often brought him into painful conflict with fellow Jews who lacked his all-encompassing vision.

In addition to the dramatic presentation of Rabbi Kook’s life, told in a fluent style which will enrich readers of all ages, the book is filled with Rabbi Kook's incomparable writings on Torah, T’shuva, Eretz Yisrael, and Israel’s Redemption in our time. Predicting the difficulties and setbacks which would arise along the road to Redemption, Rabbi Kook believed with total faith that a great holy light would shine forth from Zion in a gradually unfolding fashion, just as dawn emerges out from the darkness of night.

The many wonderful illustrations which accompany the lively biography capture Rabbi Kook’s revolutionary insights in a glance without having to rely on long and difficult commentaries.

The second book, “Like Father, Like Son,” shows how the incomparable teachings and visions of Rabbi Kook found expression in the words and deeds of his son, and subsequently in the life of his students – the leaders of Religious Zionism in our time. In combining their lives together in one Torah-packed volume, Tzvi Fishman reveals how the incomparable teachings of Rabbi Kook spanned two generations via the life and teachings of his son who saw himself as a conduit to spread his father’s exalted message. In fact, during my twelve years of study at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, on many occasions, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, in total devotion to his father, would simply read from his father’s writings without adding any explanations of his own.

book coversTzvi Fishman on Harav Kook
book coversTzvi Fishman on Harav Kook Courtesy

The Rosh Yeshiva stated: “Just as the soul of the Gaon of Vilna was sent by the Holy One Blessed Be He into the world to illuminate the very first stage of the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael and the Footsteps of Mashiach, it can also be said that the soul of the elite Tzaddik of our time, our teacher and master, my father, HaRav, z’tzal, was sent by Hashem to illuminate the new light on Zion as the Salvation continues to advance and grow. How blessed we are to share in his incomparable light.”

One year on Gimel Elul (3rd of the Hebrew month Elul) , the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Avraham Kook, Rabbenu said: “In our generation, we have no one to look to for guidance except for the crown of our heads, my father, the Admor of Clal Yisrael. He alone is the great beacon of Redemption who can illuminate new paths of Torah for all of the varying camps in our Nation, from one extreme to the other, and guide them during the Revival in our Land.”

When asked who had been the Gadol HaDor (leading Torah Giant) of the previous generation, Rav Tzvi Yehuda would reply decisively, “Abba!” When he was asked if a certain great Rabbi had been the Gadol HaDor, he banged his hand on his desk and declared in a loud voice, “The Gadol HaDor was Abba!”

When Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav was established in the year 5683 (1924), Maran HaRav Avraham Kook appointed his son as an instructor, responsible for the spiritual guidance of the students. He also gave classes in Tanach and Emunah (faith). Rabbi Avraham Kook, then serving as Israel's first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, was sometimes present at his son’s shiurim and received great joy from them.

To make it clear that the administration of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva was to fall into the hands of his son, Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook wrote: “Behold, by the power of this letter, I grant authority to my beloved son, who is great in Torah and in the fear of Hashem, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, may he live a long and healthy life, to be in charge of all of the affairs of the yeshiva, and that his words and actions will have all the force as mine, in everything connected to the holy management of the Central Universal Yeshiva in Jerusalem (Mercaz HaRav), may it be completely rebuilt in our time. And may Hashem, may His Name be blessed, be an aid to him in establishing this holy institution on a mighty foundation of Torah to be a beacon of light to the Jewish Nation and to the world, from the eternal place of Hashem’s Temple, from the everlasting place of our life.”

While HaRav Tzvi Yehuda nullified his own greatness in Torah in the light of his father’s, he earned his own place as the spiritual leader of the power-packed Israeli generation which sprung up after the Six Day War. To achieve the spanning of generations which highlights “Like Father, Like Son,” Tzvi Fishman teamed up with HaRav Shlomo Aviner, a devoted student of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda and head of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the Old City. An expert of the writings of Rabbi Kook, HaRav Aviner is the distinguished author of some 150 books and Torah commentaries. Thus, “Like Father, Like Son” comprises three books in one – Fishman’s biography of Rabbi Kook, “Above the Stream,” along with “The Selected Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook,” and Rav Aviner’s biography, “Rabbenu,” a collection of recollections and insights into the life of Rabbi Kook’s son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, which has been translated into English by Rabbi Mordechai Tzion.

“Like Father, Like Son” is a treasure chest of “Torat Eretz Yisrael.” An inner glimpse into the lives and teachings of these two modern-day Torah Gedolim, the book is like a “WAZE” for our time, mapping out for us in a clear and dramatic fashion the path of Redemption upon which the Nation of Israel is traveling. In my humble opinion, to truly understand the miracles, setbacks, perplexities, conflicts, and tremendous achievements of our time, and to see the Heavenly Hand guiding the return of the Divine Presence to Zion, the teachings of Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook and his don, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda are required reading for everyone. These two new books are an excellent place to begin.

RabbiDavid Samson (born 1956 in Baltimore, Maryland) is an Orthodox rabbi and a leading English-speaking Torah scholar in the Religious Zionist movement in Israel, and an educational entrepreneur.who works with at-risk youth Rabbi Samson has written five books, most of which are on the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook and Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook.