Our Great Master Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Tetzaveh 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

What was special about our great master, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who ascended on High thirty years ago? He ascended on High, but from there he continues to illuminate our path down here on earth.
First of all, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was the continuation – indeed, the consummate continuation -- of our Master, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohain Kook. For Ha-Rav Kook had, has and will have many disciples, but each one inherits a different aspect from him. Thus, they are his disciples to various degrees, some more and some less. One adds and another subtracts.
There are great disciples and simple students. But Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was the ultimate disciple, neither adding nor subtracting.
Now, one might say, “Obviously he didn't leave anything out. But why couldn't he add? Was he nothing more than an imitation? True, he was a "cemented cistern which loses not a drop" (Avot 2:10), but did he not add a drop himself?! Was he not a "spring that ever gathers force" (ibid.)?”
Certainly he was. But how can that be? The answer is that nothing that flows out of a spring is external. Its water all derives from the spring itself. Likewise, everything Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said was already stored away in the words of Rav Kook, and it makes no difference whether or not Rav Kook actually said it or not. This is the principle derived from the double wording of Devarim 11:13: “If you obey” [Im Shamo’a Tishme’u]: “If you hearken [Tishma] to the old, you will hearken [Tishma] to the new” (Rashi). When one hears a lot of ancient wisdom, with all one’s heart, soul and might, with all one’s intellect, emotion, imagination and will, with all one’s mind, spirit and soul, then the new wisdom, which seems so new, is really old.
What then was the approach of Rav Kook? What was his unique, Divine mission? As stated, Rav Kook’s path has been defined in many ways, because everyone took hold of a different approach. Our master, the consummate disciple, was the one who transmitted to us the definition: “The Redemptive Torah”, clarified at length in the work “Ohr LiNetivoti” (p. 280). This definition includes three parts, which are in fact one: 1. Torah 2. Redemption. 3. Redemptive Torah.
1. Torah. One might ask: Obviously Torah! Surely Rav Kook was a Torah scholar and his mission was Torah. Yet Rav Kook taught “the whole Torah”. The Torah in its entirety, all of its spheres included. The Torah is G-d’s will. It is G-d’s wisdom, the soul of the universe.
It is what gives the world meaning. It is the world’s cure.
2. Redemption. Rav Kook, the Cohain Gadol among his brothers, saw that G-d had decided to bring Redemption to His Nation, that He had inaugurated the third return to Zion, the rebirth of the Nation in its Land. He rose up and proclaimed: “Dear brethren, the time of your Redemption has arrived.” In his day, the Land was already being rebuilt, the ingathering of the exiles was taking place, and a Jewish State was in the making. And indeed, later on we witnessed the State of Israel itself coming into being, the wars fought on her soil, the further unification of the Jewish People, the return of Jerusalem to the Jewish People, and the Torah’s return to Land of Israel.
3. The Redemptive Torah. In other words, the Torah instructs the Nation about its current rebirth. The prophecy, “Joyfully shall you draw water from the wellsprings of salvation” (Yeshayahu 12:3), is rendered by Onkelos as, “Joyfully shall you receive new learning from the greatest of saints.” There are different levels of saintliness. We honor and love all of the saintly, but there are different levels of saintliness, and the “greatest of saints” are at the top.
And who are they? It is they who open for us the wellsprings of salvation in the Torah and fill us with the supreme joy of holiness. It is they who transmit to us the new learning that reveals the soul of rebirth.
Now we can understand how far Rav Kook goes and where Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah begins.
Their common ground is the Nation’s rebirth in its Land, illuminated by the Torah. But Rav Kook elucidated the spiritual strengths at the foundation of that rebirth, while Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah spoke about the actual revelation inherent in a Jewish State and army.
There is a story that Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah asked his father, Rav Kook, “Where are we in the Redemption – at the beginning? The middle? The end?” Rav Kook responded: It depends on our focus. If we are talking about the practical Redemption, then we are only at the very beginning. If we are talking about the Nation’s spiritual strengths, then we’ve already got it all stored away, from start to finish (Igrot Ha-Re’iya vol 4, p. 67). The entire tree is already stored away in the seed.
Now we can understand why the Redemptive Torah constitutes the entire Torah. In the exile we were a scattered, divided people, both physically and spiritually. Every stream, every Jew, took one holy portion as his inheritance, devoting himself fully to that portion. Now the time of the collective has arrived. The Jewish People are uniting in their Land and becoming a collective entity once more. And the Torah as well is being restored to its collective nature, in study and practice, mitzvoth and character refinement, law and homiletics, morality and faith. The entire Nation needs to rise up to rebirth.
Rav Kook ascended on High, but he left behind sustenance for the coming generations, many generations: the generations of rebirth. He prepared the rebirth of holiness.
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah ascended on High, but his spirit affects us and lives on within us. Not only within his books and through his disciples, but even within the entire nation, which has absorbed his words, consciously or not.
We carry on, by the light of our great master, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, building our Land and country, and being rebuilt through it. We carry on with the rebirth of our Nation and the rebirth of holiness, amidst the miracles being wrought by G-d for His Nation and inheritance.