Abraham Isaac Kook

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It is forbidden for religious behavior to compromise a personal, natural, moral sensibility. If it does, our fear of heaven is no longer pure ... and we have certainly been mistaken in our faith.

Abraham Isaac Kook (7 September 1865 – 1 September 1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, Jewish thinker, Halachist, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar. He was one of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the 20th century.

Quotes[edit]

The good will is all — and all the talents are ways to fulfill it.
  • Our generation is wonderful generation, full of wonder. It's very hard to find an example of it in all our history. Composed of contradictions — light and darkness mixed.
    • Ma'amar Hador.
  • When the spirit shines, even foggy skies make pleasant light.
    • Meged Yerachim.
  • The free movement of the moral impulse to establish justice for animals generally and the claim of their rights from mankind are hidden in a natural psychic sensibility in the deeper layers of the Torah. In the ancient value system of humanity … the moral sense had risen to a point of demanding justice for animals. … Just as the democratic aspiration will reach outward through the general intellectual and moral perfection … so will the hidden yearning to act justly towards animals emerge at the proper time. What prepares the ground for this state is the commandments, those intended specifically for this area of concern. There is indeed a hidden reprimand between the lines of the Torah in the sanction to eat meat.
    • "Fragments of Light: A View as to the Reasons for the Commandments," in The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems, trans. Ben Zion Bokser (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), pp. 317-318.
  • ...The preferred Shofar of Redemption is the Divine call that awakens and inspires the people with holy motivations, through faith in God and the unique mission of the people of Israel. This elevated awakening corresponds to the ram's horn, a horn that recalls Abraham's supreme love of God and dedication in Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. It was the call of this shofar, with its holy vision of heavenly Jerusalem united with earthly Jerusalem, that inspired Nachmanides, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, the students of the Vilna Gaon, and the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov to ascend to Eretz Yisrael. It is for this "great shofar," an awakening of spiritual greatness and idealism, that we fervently pray. There exists a second Shofar of Redemption, a less optimal form of awakening. This shofar calls out to the Jewish people to return to their homeland, to the land where our ancestors, our prophets and our kings, once lived. It beckons us to live as a free people, to raise our families in a Jewish country and a Jewish culture. This is a kosher shofar, albeit not a great shofar like the first type of awakening. We may still recite a blessing over this shofar. There is, however, a third type of shofar. The least desirable shofar comes from the horn of an unclean animal. This shofar corresponds to the wake-up call that comes from the persecutions of anti-Semitic nations, warning the Jews to escape while they still can and flee to their own land. Enemies force the Jewish people to be redeemed, blasting the trumpets of war, bombarding them with deafening threats of harassment and torment, giving them no respite. The shofar of unclean beasts is thus transformed into a Shofar of Redemption. Whoever failed to hear the calls of the first two shofars will be forced to listen to the call of this last shofar. Over this shofar, however, no blessing is recited. "One does not recite a blessing over a cup of affliction."

Orot[edit]

Orot [Lights].
  • The delight of the Torah is ignited by an inner awareness. A man begins to sense the great tapestry of each letter and point. Every concept and content, every notion and idea, of every spiritual movement, of every vibration, intellectual and emotional, from the immediate and general to the distant and detailed, from matters lofty, spiritual, and ethical according to their outward profile, to matters practical, obligatory, seemingly frightening, and forceful, and at the same time complex and full of content and great mental exertion — all together become known by a supernal holy awareness.
  • The good will is all — and all the talents are ways to fulfill it.
    • Orot Hatshuva 9.
  • We are great and our faults are great and therefore our problems great and great are our consolations.
    • Orot Hatchiah 5.
  • A tiny remnant of a big thing is better than a whole little thing.
    • Orot Hatchiah 14.
  • We forgot we have Holy Body not less than our Holy Spirit.
    • Orot Hatchiah 33.
  • The difference between the Jewish soul, in all its independence, inner desires, longings, character and standing, and the soul of all the Gentiles, on all of their levels, is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal, for the difference in the latter case is one of quantity, while the difference in the first case is one of essential quality.
    • Orot Yisrael, Ch. 5, article 10, p. 156; as quoted in "The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah" by Rabbi David Bar Chaim
    • Variant:
    • The dissimilarity between the Jewish soul, in all its independence, inner desires, longings, character and standing vis-à-vis the soul of all the Gentiles — on all of their levels — is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal, for the difference in the latter case is one of quantity, while the difference in the first case is one of essential quality
    • Variant:
    • The difference between the (higher) Israeli soul (neshama), her essence, her inner motivation, her aspiration, her character and stance, and the (higher) soul (neshama) of the nations, all of them, on all their levels, is greater and deeper than the difference between the (vital) soul (nefesh) of a person and an animal. Between the latter the difference is only a matter of quantity, but between the former the difference is in qualitative essence.”
      • The contrast here is not between Jews and gentiles. Just the opposite, individual Jews and gentiles are equated in the comparison between humans and animals. What is the main difference between people (including Jews) and animals? People are more intelligent. The difference is only quantitative - people have higher IQ’s than animals. The contrast in this passage is between the soul of the Jewish nation and the soul of non-Jewish nations. Most nations were formed through natural processes and exist for collective self-preservation. The Jewish nation was created beginning with a Divine command - “God said to Abram, ‘Go….’” As we saw above, the Jewish nation exists not for itself, but for the world. This is a completely different existence from that of other nations. The difference has nothing to do with individual people, as people. The difference is between the “inner motivation, the aspiration” - the higher soul - of the nation of Israel and that of other nations.
        • As quoted in "Aside from the Messiah: Distinguishing Judaism from Christianity" (2018) by Michael Derfler.
  • It is forbidden for religious behavior to compromise a personal, natural, moral sensibility. If it does, our fear of heaven is no longer pure. An indication of its purity is that our nature and moral sense becomes more exalted as a consequence of religious inspiration. But if these opposites occur, then the moral character of the individual or group is dismissed by religious observance, and we have certainly been mistaken in our faith.

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