Rav Kook on Lech Lecha: The universal Avraham and Israel
RAV KOOK ON LECH LECHA: THE UNIVERSAL AVRAHAM AND ISRAEL
ויֹּ֤אמֶר ה֙’ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃
HASHEM said to Avram, “Go away from your land , from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה׃ :I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you;I will make your name great, And you shall become a blessing….
וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ : And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Breishit 12:1-3)
A huge moment in history.
Rav Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L, explained that at this moment began: “The divine activity of illuminating the world with the light of the highest holiness. This will manifest to its full splendor in the latter days of history….humankind and existence will be perfected through the continuation of the holiness of Israel into the world.” (Olat Rayah 1:83)
We are re-reading this as Israel re-emerges on the world scene in the latter days of history. Rav Kook’s illuminated Torah understandings are important guides to help us consciously participate in the elevation and perfection of the world. He was most appropriately named Avraham. In 1914, in one of his most important essays called “The Significance Of The Revival” Rav Kook explained Avraham and Israel’s past, present and future historical significance:
He begins with Avraham: “To be attached to HaShem is the most natural aspiration of a person… There can be no substitute in existence for the longing to be absolutely linked with the living Elohim, with the infinite light…
The primitive stage of humanity, during the epoch of gross darkness, left in the world forms of life that impeded the full manifestation of the divine cleaving…Human weakness intervened and fashioned dumb idols, gross, materialistic, vulgar, limited and defective divinities, and the light was shut out.
We can imagine the suffering of the great soul of the spiritual giant, the soul of Avraham, with all its aspirations, with its mighty longing for freedom and light, over the world’s disgrace. How embittered it is on realizing that the happiness, the light intended for all, for every living being, for every soul is not being experienced.
Avraham heard the vast realm of the divine calling to existence: Be illuminated; calling to every particular being: Fill yourself with happiness, greatness, loftiness, peace, good, strength, love and delight.
But the wells have been shut, the “Philistines shut them and filled them with earth.” (Breishit 26:18)
This lion of a man breaks out of his confinement, angrily takes his staff in hand, breaks the idols and calls with a loud voice for the light, for one God, the God of the universe.” (Orot p. 135)
And we, as Israel, are the inheritors of this divine mission to call out “with a loud voice for the light, for one God, the God of the universe.”
As Rav Kook continues to explain: “The people of Israel took this aspiration as the basis of its national existence, as conditioned by its historic destiny. Thus, out of the free moral impulse-the universal moral system- were drawn the foundations for the establishment of the faith of Israel, which is so vital to us and to the entire world…
The Torah of Israel teaches that morality is not centered merely in good deeds on a societal level. Morality is primarily a refined, inner disposition within the soul to seek the good, the absolute good to be good in oneself, to cleave to the good…
We began to say something of immense importance among ourselves and to the world, but we have not yet completed it. We are in the midst of our discourse, and we do not wish- and we are unable- to stop. Under no circumstances will we abandon our distinctive way of life nor our universal aspirations, which transcend every particular party…” (Ibid, p. 136)
As Avram reaches the age of 99, YHVH made a hugely significant covenant with him as he becomes Avraham:
“When Avram was ninety-nine years old, HASHEM appeared to Avram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai-“God Almighty.”- Walk before Me and be perfect. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous…As for Me, here is My covenant with you: You will be father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Avram. Your name shall become Avraham, for I have established you as the father of a multitude of nations. I will increase your numbers very, very much, and I will make you into nations- kings will be your descendants. I will sustain My covenant between Me and between you and your descendants after you throughout their generations, an eternal covenant; I will be Elohim to you and to your offspring after you.” (Breishit 17:1-7)
The people of Israel are the children of the father of many nations. The covenant with YHVH ELOHIM is strongly with us today and our revival has universal significance. As Rav Kook prophesied in 1914:
“Out of its inner depths Israel will yet sound the same call that was issued by the rock from which it was hewn [Avraham Avinu]. Out of its awareness of light and happiness, out of its profound compassion for every afflicted soul, for every confused creature, out of its concern for the forms of national, social and moral life that are proceeding on paths full of entangling thorns…
Israel will call out to the world: Here is light, here is the voice of the living Elohim calling from the depths of our being, here is the light of eternal freedom for all existence…
All the rebels of the world will yet year, all the heretics of the world will understand, all who have a spark of life will return, their souls will ascend from the depths of the earth and the unfortunate will raise themselves from the bottom of the pit…
The nation of Israel will release a flow of divine life to all worlds…” (Orot, p. 137)
Rav Kook is explaining to us that as the current children of Avraham and Sarah, we are called to be the agents of divine light and goodness. It is for us to give voice to the “the vast realm of the divine calling to existence: Be illuminated; calling to every particular being: Fill yourself with happiness, greatness, loftiness, peace, good, strength, love and delight.”
Thus the flow of divine life will be experienced by all humankind. We will thus all live in peace and well being. We will succeed in returning to the Edenic reality.
Bemhera Beyamenu-Quickly In Our Days.
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, [email protected], www.haorot.com