TeshuvaFenton - Flash 90

In his writings, Rabbi Kook teaches that t’shuva encompasses far more than personal repentance. T’shuva is a global, cosmic phenomena that permeates the Creation from the beginning of time till the end. The ever-streaming waves of penitence effect the world in its entirety, lifting it toward perfection. How does this Tikun Olam come about? Through the historical development of the Nation of Israel who will lead the world to Salvation, marching in front of the parade of nations with its shofars blaring away.

This is all well and good. But first we must ask, what will bring the Jewish people to t’shuva? What will awaken the Divine voice in its soul? What causes the scattered, exiled Jewish nation to return, as we beseech G-d in our prayers, to the glorious Torah days of our past?

Rabbi Kook writes that the rebirth of the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for the ultimate t’shuva, both for the Nation of Israel, and for the whole world.


To understand this concept fully, one must understand the incomparable holiness of Eretz Yisrael and its importance to the Jewish People. While it is beyond the scope of this essay to explore this subject in depth, we will mention a few of the things which point to the unique connection between the Jewish People and their Land.

The Jewish People possess true national vitality only in the Land of Israel. Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; there can be great Jewish artists, philosophers, scientists, and Torah scholars, but the light of G-d cannot appear in a national format when the Jews are scattered all over the world. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews attain their true identity as a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION. As all of the Prophets of Israel declare, for the long-awaited Redemption to occur the Jewish People must live in the Land of Israel in full national sovereignty. Only then can the full revelation of G-d’s Presence become manifest, as the Prophet teaches, “For from Zion will go forth the Torah and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem.”

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

“The source of the moral baseness which continues to darken the world stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and exalted spiritual treasures of the Land of Israel. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to all of the world.”

While Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the t’shuva of the Jewish People and a return to the Torah go hand-in-hand, he indicates that a preliminary stage of national revival will bring this spiritual awakening to pass. First, the entirety of the Jewish people must return to Zion to rebuild their Homeland. Once the physical body that houses the nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well and our people will flock back to the Torah.


We shall try to explain this in a simple manner. We have mentioned that the concept of t’shuva means to return. Suppose a man is expelled from his house by thieves. The wrongdoing will only be corrected when the owner returns to repossess his house.

For the world to reach perfection, G-d decreed that the Jewish people must live a life of Torah in Israel. G-d’s first commandment to Abraham is to go to the Land of Israel in order to serve G-d in the most complete way. Afterwards G-d commands Moshe to bring the Jews out from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Over and over, the Torah repeats that the Jewish People are to live their unique Torah life in Israel. When the holy Jewish Nation lives a holy life of Torah in the Holy Land, the vessel is formed to bring the light of G-d to the world. The Nation of Israel becomes an international beacon, an example and light to all of the nations.

At the time of the Second Temple, when we failed to uphold the high moral standard demanded of us by the Torah, we were punished and exiled from the Land. G-d’s worldly vessel was shattered. Israel was conquered, Jerusalem was razed, the Land was laid waste. G-d’s chosen people were scattered and debased. Like the Jews, G-d’s Presence went into exile. His light in the world became hidden. In effect, mankind was cut off from G-d. Thus to rectify this tragedy and return the world to its Maker, the Jewish People must return to their previous stature, including a national life in Israel, the Land of Hashem, the Land of Prophecy, the only place in the world where the Torah can be observed in all of its wholeness because of the many commandments unique to the Land.

On a deeper level, the Zohar teaches that the Nation of Israel, Torah, and G-d are one. In the very beginning of his book, “Orot,” Rabbi Kook teaches that the Land of Israel is also an integral component of this unique bond. Because each Jew has a piece of the Shechinah, or the Presence of G-d, within him, when a Jew returns to the Land of Israel, he is, in effect, bringing G-d back with him. This is a part of the Kabbalistic concept of “raising up the buried sparks of holiness from the klipot.” Since the soul of a Jew is infused with the light of the Shechinah, when the Jewish people return en masse to Israel, the light of G-d in the world returns with them.

A visual illustration will help us envision what Rabbi Kook is seeing when he looks at the awakened Zionist movement. It is a global vision, spanning all human history. To raise ourselves to a more encompassing perspective, imagine being in a satellite orbiting the earth. Down below, scattered all over the globe, are tiny, little lights. These lights are the Jews, scattered all over the world. Slowly, lights begin to travel to a certain point on the globe — the Land of Israel. More and more lights begin to congregate there. From all over the world, the scattered lights start to unite in Israel. Lights that do not make the journey begin to flicker and disappear. Soon, a great beacon of light is formed in Israel, sending out rays of light to all of the world. These rays are the lights of t’shuva, summoning mankind back to G-d.


Rabbi Kook teaches that even in the return of the non-religious Zionists to Israel there is a profound holy core. Whether they recognize it or not, the inner source of their desire to return to the Promised Land is the Divine Ideal itself. With time, the spiritual core of Zionism will surely be awakened to reconnect with its Torah source. This great transformation may take one-hundred years. It may take two hundred. We need to remember that after nearly two-thousand years in exile, a few generations is like the blink of an eye. The important thing to know is that the t’shuva of the Nation is sure to come, as the Torah and the Prophets assure us. Rabbi Kook writes: “Without question, the light of Mashiach and the Salvation of Israel, the rebirth of the Nation and the Land, the revival of its language and literature — all stem from the source of t’shuva, and out of the depths to the heights of the highest t’shuva everything will be brought to fruition.”

“This process will surely come about. The light of G-d, which is buried away in the fundamental point of Zion, and which is now concealed by clouds, will surely appear. From the lowly valley, it will raise up G-d’s Temple and Kingdom and all of its branches. All those who cling to it, the near and the distant, will be uplifted with it, for a true revival and an everlasting salvation.”


Rabbi Kook’s deep spiritual insight did not blind him to the unholy lifestyles of the secular pioneers. However, he knew that the holy essence of Am Yisrael guaranteed that the Nation would return to its roots. Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Kook described this process in almost prophetic terms:

We recognize that a spiritual rebellion will come to pass in Eretz Yisrael amongst the people of Israel in the beginnings of the Nation’s revival. The material comfort which will be attained by a percentage of the Nation, convincing them that they have already completely reached their goal, will constrict the soul, and days will come which will seem to be devoid of all spirit and meaning. The aspirations for lofty and holy ideals will cease, and the spirit of the Nation will plunge and sink low until a storm of rebellion will appear, and people will come to see clearly that the power of Israel lies in its eternal holiness, in the light of G-d and His Torah, in the yearning for spiritual light which is the ultimate valor, triumphing over all of the worlds and all of their powers.”


Thus, it can be seen that the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel is a necessary stage in the t’shuva of the Nation. It follows that a Jew who becomes a baal t’shuva in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York has only returned a part of the way home. While his personal character and behavior have been purified by the light of the Torah, he has traveled only half of the journey. The “t’shuva train” is continuing on to Israel. The final stop is Jerusalem. Every Jew needs to bring his little light home to the Holy Land where it can join the great flame. He or she have to raise up their private, individual life to the higher life of the Clal and merge their personal goals with the goals of the Nation. To rectify the blemish caused by the exile in foreign lands, Jews have to stop being in exile and join the ingathered, actualizing the words of our prayers, “And gather us together from the four corners of the earth.”

May it be soon.

(Excerpted from the book, “The Art of T’shuva” by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman)