Rav Kook on the Shoah: The Monster Shofar
“The shofar of the impure animal is transformed into the shofar of Messiach. Amalek…Hitler and their ilk are awakening redemption.” -Rav Kook-Rosh HaShana, 1933
“שופר של חיה טמאה נהפך לשופרו של משיח. עמלק, פיטלורה, היטלר, וכו’, מעוררים לגאולה”
On Monday evening and Tuesday, Israel observes mourns and memorializes the apex of evil known as The Holocaust. Yom HaZicaron LaShoah ve’Gvurah-Memorial Day to the Holocaust and the Heroism is marked with numerous ceremonies and testimonials. A nation wide 10 a.m. siren marking two moments of collective silence focuses the day.
This day-Nisan 27- was chosen by the Israeli Knesset in the early 1950’s because in 1943 it was the day of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. And since it comes out a week before Yom HaAtzmaut-Israel’s Independence Day-Iyar 5- it makes explicit the historical connection between the holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel.
What would Rav Kook ZT’L say about the holocaust?
We can not know for sure.
What we do know for sure is what he did say about the Nazis and Germany before he died in 1935.
Let us reflect on two remarkable statements that he made.
The first was on the first day of Rosh HaShana -October 22, 1933. Hitler came to power on January 30th of that year and by this time was Chancellor and Fuhrer. Mein Kampf was a bestseller in Germany and it was clear that this wasn’t good news for the Jews (or anyone else.)
These events were being followed closely and anxiously in the Jewish communities in Palestine. It was announced that on that day Rav Kook would doven at Beit Yaakov-also known as the Hurva-Destroyed- Synagogue in the Old City and would speak about ‘inyanei de’yoma’-matters of the day.
The synagogue was packed when Rav Kook arrived with his entourage and the prayers began. Before the blowing of the Shofar, Rav Kook stepped forward to speak. In a hushed voice he began:
“We say in our Rosh HaShana prayers, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise the banner to bring our exiles together.”
What is the significance of this ‘great shofar’?
There are three types of shofars that may be blown on Rosh Hashanah. Preferably, one should blow a ram’s horn. If this is impossible, one may use a shofar made from the horn of any kosher animal other than a cow. But if neither of these types is available, we may blow the horn of an animal which is ritually unclean. We do so without reciting a blessing.
These three shofars of Rosh Hashanah correspond to three ‘Shofars of Redemption,’ three Divine calls which are summoning the Jewish people to be redeemed and to redeem their land.
The preferred Shofar of Redemption is the Divine call that awakens and inspires the people with holy motivations, through faith in God to manifest 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 and dedication to God in Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac.
It was the call of this shofar, with its holy vision of unity between the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem. This 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. We fervently pray for this ‘great shofar’ to herald an awakening of spiritual greatness and idealism.
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 spiritual awakening. We still recite a brachah/blessing over this shofar.
There is, however, a third type of shofar. (At this point Rav Kook burst out in tears.) 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. These 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 in the Diaspora. In this case, the shofar of the impure animal is transformed into Mashiach’s shofar. Amalek, Petilura [a Ukranian Jew killer-1879-1926], Hitler and their ilk- awaken us to redemption The one who did not listen to the sound of the first shofar and the ones whose ears are closed up and do not want to listen to the sound of the second, ordinary shofar will have to listen to the sound of the impure, invalid shofar. They will listen against their will.
Over this shofar, however, no blessing is recited. “One does not recite a blessing over a cup of affliction” (Berachot 51b).
We pray that the Holy One does not force us to listen to the invalid and impure shofar. We also do not long for the ordinary, medium sized-almost secular- shofar. We pray, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom”, a shofar which comes from the very depths of the sanctity of the Jewish soul, from our Holy of Holies. Then we will experience the ‘geula shleima-complete redemption’.
We all await that great day of which it is written:
וְהָיָ֣ה בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִתָּקַע֮ בְּשׁוֹפָ֣ר גָּדוֹל֒ וּבָ֗אוּ הָאֹֽבְדִים֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ אַשּׁ֔וּר וְהַנִּדָּחִ֖ים בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהִשְׁתַּחֲו֧וּ לַֽיהֹוָ֛ה בְּהַ֥ר הַקֹּ֖דֶשׁ בִּירוּשָׁלָֽ͏ִים׃
‘It shall come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be sounded, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria, and the oppressed in the land of Egypt will come and worship God at the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13)
Rav Kook explained that Hitler and Nazism was the call of the impure shofar calling upon the people to flee, to return home to the Land of Israel. This drasha had a deep impact on all who heard it and was repeated in the newspapers of the time.
Shortly before he died in Elul 1935, Rav Kook wrote his last words of Torah. They are contained in a short notebook entitled “Jerusalem, Notebook 34“. After a number of pithy spiritual insights, Rav Kook wrote a short essay entitled-’The Land of Israel, The Land of the Tanach (Bible)’.
He began by explaining the Biblical connection of Israel to the Land of Israel and the importance of encouraging the return of the Jewish people to its land. He concluded the piece thusly.
“The events that are occurring recently are stirring spiritual and national recognitions within Am Israel-The Nation of Israel in relation to its return to its ancient land. This understanding is also penetrating into the hearts of the refined among the nations of the world…
England and all people with a more developed sense of hearing have begun to understand this wondrous secret that will bring life to the world in the near future.
Germany has begun to stand against the spirit of pure prophecy of the Book of Books as it unveils its vicious hatred to the people of the Bible. It must return in complete penitence to save itself from absolute destruction.
And finally the Land of the Tanach must be rebuilt by the Nation of the Tanach in order to bring the Godly Biblical spirit of peace/wholeness [רוח השלום] in all its supernal refinement to the lives of all the nations on planet Earth.”
This is basically the final teaching that Rav Kook left for us.
The reference to Germany was chilling then and continues to be in hindsight. Huge destruction followed in the wake of its subsequent actions.
Rav Kook completed with an imperative that continues to call out to us: “The Land of the Bible must be rebuilt by the people of the Bible in order to bring universal Divine peace to the entire planet.”
Be’Meheira be’Yamenu-Speedily in our days!
Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, [email protected], www.haorot.com