Our Rabbi & Character Traits

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Don't get excited
The administrator of the yeshiva once entered in a rage and said to our Rabbi: "It is written in the newspaper that they do not learn in the yeshiva but waste all of their time with Soviet Jewry and politics. We cannot be silent. We must respond!" Our Rabbi did not respond. He took counsel with a few people and decided not to respond. A journalist once interviewed our Rabbi and published an article filled with distortions. A student said to our Rabbi: "You must respond. It is impossible to let this pass in silence." Our Rabbi did not get excited. He explained that there is no need to respond to every little thing. (Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald)

Like everyone else
Our Rabbi participated in a funeral and the eulogies went on for a long time. One of the family members of the deceased went to one of the neighbors and brought our Rabbi a chair to sit on. Our Rabbi refused and said: "Everyone is standing. I will therefore also stand." But he leaned one leg on the chair and explained: "I am standing like everyone else, but if someone exerted effort and brought a chair, I will use it." (Ha-Rav Mordechai Greenberg)

Saying Shalom
Our Rabbi said that according to an explicit Mishnah, one should say "shalom" and not use other greetings (Berachot 54a). When he was asked: But Jews customarily say good morning or good evening in Yiddish? He responded in surprise: Is Yiddish our language?!

Who goes first
A student who was holding a chair was walking in a narrow hall in the old yeshiva building. He met our Rabbi in the hall and immediately moved to the side to make room. Our Rabbi said: One who has a load and one who does not have a load – the one with the load goes first (Sanhedrin 32b), and he insisted the student go first.

Fear of Heaven
Our Rabbi davened with great concentration, and he was very strict that the students not talk in the middle if davening. He would repeat the words of our Sages: "These are things that are the most important in the world, yet people disgrace them" (Berachot 6b). New, young students occasionally chatted during the davening. It once happened that our Rabbi pointed it out once, then twice and the third time, when they were speaking during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, and he threw them an admonishing look. Right after the davening, our Rabbi strayed from his custom and did not remain to hear the Halachah class given at the conclusion of davening. Instead he went up to the library, where he usually removed his Tefillin. Those students felt responsible and went up to the library to apologize. When they opened the door, they found our Rabbi crying. They approached in trembling, asked forgiveness and promised not to continue in their foolish ways. Our Rabbi then said to them: "You think I am crying on your account, I am crying on my account, since our Sages said: 'Anyone who has fear of haven, his words are heard' (Berachot 6b). And if I told you once, twice and three times and you did not listen, it is a sign that there is a blemish in my fear of heaven." (Ha-Rav Chanan Porat. See Or Le-Netivotai 3, 308, 326)