Israel Drazin

Fights among the Zealots

Just as fights exist between religious Zionists, they exist among the Zealots. Judaism is destroying itself. Maggid Books in Israel has reprinted the original 1920 version of the classical mystical book Orot, “Lights,” by the famous Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook. The 2023 publication appears in its original Hebrew with a preface, introduction, translation, and notes by Bezalel Naor. Naor’s preface and introduction are extensive, with over 70 informative pages. He describes Rabbi Kook’s thinking and writing and how fellow pious rabbis criticized him and made his life miserable. The book is interesting. 

  • Rabbi Kook was born in Latvia in 1865 and died in Jerusalem in 1935.
  • He was a right-wing Orthodox rabbi and the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine. Although very conservative, he had some modern ideas which brought violent criticism from other right-wing rabbis. His current views made him one of the fathers of religious Zionism.
  • Like his fellow zealots, his “message was that there is danger inherent in secular studies, which is a cause for concern, and …there must arise in Jerusalem a world-class yeshiva concentrated to sacred studies.” He created one.
  • He appeared in “the old mold: by outer appearance, dressed in traditional garb – fur hat, satin coat, long beard, and payot (side curls).”
  • He felt that prophecy could only exist in the land of Israel.
  • He extolled mysticism.
  • Yet, he extended a hand to sinners, whom his adversaries shunned. He compared the zealots who separated from those who were not religious to the people of Amalek who attacked the stragglers at the end of the Israelite camp when they left Egypt. He wrote that the righteous need “to discover a light of holiness in all the languages and wisdoms of the world.”
  • He insisted, “Just as wine cannot be without dregs, so the world cannot be without wicked people.” Even atheists have a positive function. They rid monotheism of the idea of corporeality. While Haredi Jews hated Zionism, he saw value in it. Every human must be respected.
  • He encouraged people to perform physical exercise and enraged his colleagues, who insisted they should sit and read the Talmud.
  • Despite repeated harassment, he never reciprocated. And despite his mystic and ultra-conservative views, he is remembered with respect.
About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.
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