Michel M.J. Shore

Rav Kook – The Bridge Between Secular and Religious Zionists

Rav Kook – The Bridge Between Secular and Religious Zionists

(Zionism-Its Thinkers and Implementers) (5)

The truly righteous do not complain about wickedness but add righteousness;

Do not complain about heresy but add faith;

Do not complain about ignorance but add wisdom.

In his apodictic poem,  Abraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Israel’s first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, who died eighty-seven years ago, actually personified himself.

This man of “Shalom Bayit” attempted to make peace in the house of Israel by what he believed was the essence of Judaism. His program called for renewing the old and hallowing the new.

The labor Zionist philosophy of Beryl Katzenelson, David Ben-Gurion’s friend and mentor, and that of A. D. Gordon, intermingle and are swept into the pre-state of Israel landscape with the religious Zionist theology of Rav Kook.

Born in 1865, in Latvia, Rav Kook came on Aliyah to Palestine in 1904, two years before Ben-Gurion arrived. To fulfill his mystic dream, Kook settled in Palestine, in “the spiritual center of world Jewry”, to become one of the pioneers of Zion. Here, he believed, a Jew regains his roots and vital force.

From the spiritual center, Rav Kook built the bridge upon which the religious Zionists would meet and work together with secular labor Zionists. He sought an integration of orthodoxy, Zionism and liberalism, which together, he proclaimed, expressed the goal of holiness. The official Mizrahi Zionist platform, drawn by the brilliant orthodox historian, Ze’ev Javitz, echoed Rav Kook’s national’s credo: ” Zion and Torah are two sanctities that supplement and imply each other.”

The Torah and the commandments, for Rav Kook , implied love for the Jewish people, and that included the humanist ideals of the Zionist movement.

“Return to Zion is a sacred principle”, he extolled; and the Zionist movement was an instrument by which to witness Torah in the world, “both a political Torah that would foster peace and freedom… and a religious Torah enlightened by the knowledge of Divine truth and the love of God’s ways in the life of the individual and society.”

Rav Kook taught that the ultimate purpose of God’s creation was to redeem not only Israel but all mankind, with Israel as a symbol of justice, truth and loving kindness. “We have a force that, despite all estrangement, contains a vital spark of holiness, waiting to be fanned into fuller life, through loving faithful hands.”

Religious Israelis, disillusioned with religious “extremists”, and secular Israelis, disappointed with skepticism, the void of a higher moral purpose, or of a universal essence in the Jewish predicament, now quote Rav Kook: “The sacred and the secular together influence the human spirit, and man is enriched by absorbing from each whatever is suitable.”  In this way, they shun the dogmatic approach of both camps, who have refused to fill the abyss between them.

The spirit of Rav Kook hovers above modern Israel and attempts to be heard “Man cannot fly off to paradise merely by pronouncing his faith.”  He must first learn to live with, and care for, his fellow man. All the rest is left to God.

About the Author
Michel M.J. Shore is a retired judge of the Federal Court of Canada and recently made a home in Israel. He is the writer of several published books and poetry collections.
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