Rav Kook passed away on 3 Ellul 5695 (1 September 1935). He was considered one of the founding forefathers of Religious Zionism. We have previously featured a biography, including some writings, of Rav Kook on our website.
On the occasion of his yahrzeit which coincided this year with the passing of Rav Shaar-Yashuv Cohen zt”l, who was one of the last people to learn from Rav Kook in his lifetime, we present some amazing quotes from and stories about Rav Kook:
Love for the Nation
“The great love that we feel for our nation will not blind us from seeing its faults – but even after the most wide-ranging critical review, [we know that] it is free from all faults.”
Looking at the Good
“When one looks truly at the good side of everyone, others come to love him very naturally, and he does not need even a speck of flattery.”
We are Great
“We [Israel] are great, and our foibles are great, and therefore our troubles are great – but our consolations will also be great.”
[source: Arutz Sheva]
Proclaim the Beauty of the Land
We experience exile and mediocrity because we do not proclaim the value and wisdom of the land of Israel.
We have not rectified the sin of the biblical spies who slandered the land. And so we must do the opposite of what they did: we must tell and proclaim to the entire world the land’s glory and its beauty, its holiness and its honor.
Then, after all these praises, let us hope that we have expressed at least one ten-thousandth of the loveliness of that lovely land: the beauty of the light of its Torah, the exalted nature of the light of its wisdom, and the holy spirit that seethes within it. (Eretz Cheifetz)
Awakening the Love for Zion
We have a great obligation to awaken the ancient love of Zion: a love that is eternal and burns in a flame of holy fire within the hearts of the Jewish people wherever they may be.
We must fight with all our strength against any hatred of our holy land—which has begun to affect some of us. With a mighty arm of the spirit and with the eternal holiness of the beloved land, we must destroy the contamination of the spies, a contamination which began to spread at the very point of the possible redemption.
“The word of our God will stand forever.”
The holiness of the land and its loveliness has never changed and will never change. All the bitter circumstances, physical and spiritual, which have affected the Holy Land will not overcome it.
Just as no physical destruction can destroy our love for the beloved land, so can no spiritual desolation reduce our holy and profound love of that land of life.
The deep connection between the soul of the Jew and Zion, with all that takes place there, stands firm forever. And the light of that love will increase seven-fold.
It will enflame every heart and exalt every spirit, sanctifying and encouraging everyone. (Moadei Harayah, pp. 419-20)
Gold of the Land is Good
“‘And the gold of that land was good’—this teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of the land of Israel” (Bereishis Rabbah 16:7).
In every generation, it is fitting to have great love for the Torah of the land of Israel. This is particularly true now. We must give our generation the life-giving medicine of the Torah of the land of Israel. We must show this generation the greatness of truth and clarity found within our Godly treasure, in the ideas and insights of the true Torah, in the beauty and exalted nature of its mitzvos, and in its overall view of life. This can be achieved only via the light of the Torah of the land of Israel, via its depth and breadth. Only that connects all one’s awareness and ideas so that one can completely experience it and, more, transfer that experience to others. All of this is possible only via the light of the Torah of the land of Israel.
Our generation is ready. It must be influenced by ideas that have a fresh life and greatness. Shriveled, small matters can no longer capture its heart. Its communal nature has grown exceedingly. We must give everything to this generation in an inclusive fashion: a stream of the flow of life of the entire nation.
This brings us to the essential difference between the Torah of the land of Israel and the Torah of chutz la’aretz (outside the land of Israel). Whatever is small and individual (whether in the general context of spiritual ideas or, more particularly, of those ideas that deal with the great breadth of Torah and faith) when viewed from the perspective of the Torah of chutz la’aretz becomes great and inclusive as soon as it draws to itself the atmosphere of the land of Israel.
The Torah of chutz la’aretz is only aware of how to care for the individual, for his spiritual and physical completion, his temporal as well as eternal condition. But the Torah of the land of Israel is concerned with the totality, with the nation: with its soul and energy, its body and spirit, its total present, its total future, and the living imprint of its past—simultaneously. All details enter it and are subsumed in its exalted state. This is the inner renewal, deep and broad, of the Torah of the land of Israel. It declares that all individual thoughts and ideas proceeding in an impoverished and scattered state—the atmosphere of the land of other nations—must form one bundle, must clothe themselves in one general intent related to the life of the entire nation, under the influence of the land of Israel. (Chevyon Oz, quoted in Moadei Harayah, pp. 157-8)
Religion in the Eyes of Rav Kook
The story is told of how Rav Kook, upon one of his visits to an anti-religious kibbutz, was approached by one of the leaders who greeted him as follows: “With all due respect Rabbi, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to convince us to be religious. It’s not that we don’t know what Torah is, most of us were raised in observant homes. We know Torah, rabbis, mitzvot and we don’t like them!” Rav Kook questioned,”Why?” The kibbutznik replied: “We simply can’t stand your old-fashioned, meaningless, outdated rituals!” Exclaimed Rav Kook, “I agree”. “What?”, asked the surprised rebel. Explained the Rav, “I also hate the “religion” that you describe. But the dynamic, idealistic and deep Torah is so beautiful that anyone who is exposed to it cannot but love it!”.