Our Rabbi & Honoring Torah Scholars

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

Our Rabbi immensely loved every Torah scholar. He would mention a Torah scholar with an awe of holiness and rejoicing of the heart. When he met many Torah scholars, whether or not they were his students, he would hug and kiss them – just as Yehoshafat, King of Yehudah did (Ketubot 103b). He rejoiced in their honor, and was distressed when they were the subjects of derision or worse, when they scorned others. He was exceedingly severe with one who shamed a Torah scholar, and would not be silent until he objected, even with Torah scholars who stumbled in this matter.

Our Rabbi stood before his students who were Torah scholars, and would say that the honor of Torah scholars requires one to be fastidious.

Our Rabbi honored every Torah scholar, even he if he disagreed with him, and he instructed his students to act in the same manner. When he heard a student repeat an expression which he himself had used disagreeing with another Torah scholar, he chastised him: "That which is permissible to me is not permissible to you." Occasionally when he thought that a Torah scholar erred, he spoke harshly, but on subject and with respect.
[In this context, our Rabbi relied on what is related in the book "Keter Shem Tov" that the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, had a fierce opponent, Rabbi Nachman of Horodneko, who would constantly criticize him. One time that same rabbi heard his students speaking against the Ba’al Shem Tov, and he castigated them, saying, "How dare you speak that way against a holy man!" They responded, "But you yourself spoke out against him." He then replied with exceeding severity, "The way that is permissible for me to speak is not permissible for you." He then told a story of two craftsmen who worked together for twenty years in order to fashion the king’s crown. In the end, when the time came to set the diamonds in the crown, one said it should be one way and the other countered that it should be another. The argument grew in intensity until one craftsman called the other an idiot. A passerby who witnessed the argument injected his own words and called the man an idiot as well. The first craftsman, who had called the other an idiot, then said, "Are you aware that we are friends and that we have worked together for twenty years, making the king’s crown? Our lives depend on this last detail, and that is why we are expressing ourselves so sharply. But you! Have you lifted even a finger for the king’s crown? Have you ever in your life seen the king? YOU are the idiot!" Even when Torah scholars argue over Halachah, we - the insignificant - must stand in fear and awe and honor them all.]

In all of his stories about his experiences with people, he had a completely different style of relating to Torah scholars. "Torah scholar" was the most important of titles in his eyes, without any distinction which group he was connected.

During a class, when our Rabbi saw a Torah scholar standing in the outer room, he would call to him to enter and to sit close to him, and would say: "There is room," even though the bench next to him was full. He once explained that onemust honor a Torah scholar and make room for him.