"The Twilight of Rabbi Kook" (Part 2)

The Suffering of Rabbi Kook

Rabbi Kook was completely taken up by his responsibilities. He did not
flee from the demands of the Rabbinate, demands which called for
answering thousands of questions from all corners of the world,
sitting in judgment of Torah-court cases, writing requests and
recommendations for the needy, and caring for numerous other public
needs. In addition, he would give many Torah classes, would
participate in numerous assemblies and conferences, and would warmly
receive his many friends who eagerly frequented the rabbi to hear his
words of Torah. The more the years passed, the greater his burden
became.

Despite the fact that he loved every single Jew, and was able to see
the good in both the old and new settlements in Israel, Rabbi Kook
suffered greatly from fierce disputes. Members of “Neturei Karta”
hated the rabbi because of his friendliness towards the Jewish
pioneers, while the pioneers caused the rabbi anguish through their
insistence on profaning the Sabbath, and eating non-Kosher food. In
his later years, when he took a stand in defending Abraham Stavsky
against an accusation that he was guilty of murdering Chaim Arlazarof,
the laborers were extremely critical of the rabbi. Rabbi Kook was very
sensitive, and was deeply hurt by the words spoken against him. Once,
when he was shown an article attacking him that was written by one of
the malicious members of Neturei Karta, the rabbi did not leave his
room for almost three days. Yet, all the same, he forgave everybody
and carried his burden quietly.

Once, when one of the slanderers who had caused the rabbi great pain
was forced to turn to the rabbi for help, Rabbi Kook forgot everything
and came to his aid. In Israel, his enemies were powerless, but their
malign spread to parts of the Jewish communities in Europe. There were
some who were influenced by these evil reports, and, as a result,
stayed in Europe in stead of coming to Israel; and were eventually
murdered by the Nazis. On the other hand, there were many who, due to
Rabbi Kook’s influence, immigrated to Israel.
If he had wanted, he could have taken revenge upon his adversaries. He
had the majority of the leading Torah scholars and the majority of the
public on his side, not to mention the British authorities (because of
his role as an important leader of the Jewish population in Israel).
But he was pious, and though he heard himself being disgraced, he did
not respond. He could have changed his positions somewhat, not
expressing his views on matters that might not be properly understood,
but Rabbi Kook was a man of truth who stood up for justice with great
self-sacrifice and without changing a single letter of it. He could
have wrapped himself in pride, displaying indifference and disgust
toward his opponents, but he had a soft heart. He therefore bore his
pain in all these matters until finally his body could no longer stand
it and his health deteriorated. Once, his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah,
said that the zealots of Agudat Yisrael and the laborers shortened the
life of his father.

He who was ready to help any destitute or needy person, the Chief
Rabbi of Israel, respected by the masses of the Jewish people, rabbis,
the secular “enlightened,” leaders, and the rich who constantly
visited him; he who donated millions for the good of Torah
institutions in Israel and Eastern Europe, the poor, and the
settlement in Israel, lived in shameful poverty. It would even happen
that sometimes not a cent was left in Rabbi Kook’s home for buying
food. An older Jew who immigrated to Israel from the United States
took notice of the rabbi’s state and made a practice of giving the
rabbi’s wife a “lira” coin which would suffice the family for the
week. Only in his final days of sickness was a benefactor found that
took upon himself putting Rabbi Kook in a kosher nursing home. It was
in this home that Rabbi Kook’s soul departed in sanctity and purity.

Once, Rabbi Kook expressed regret that he could not dedicate all of
his time to recording his ideas; his lack of time caused him to jot
down his ideas quickly and in an unorganized manner. He had hoped to
bring the Hebrew writers of his age back to Torah, and was even
somewhat successful with a number of them: Azar, Bialik, and Agnon.
Yet, even they, much less their contemporaries, were not able to fully
understand the depth of Rabbi Kook’s ideas. There were very few Torah
scholars who actually grasped the profundity of Rabbi Kook’s
teachings. And though everybody was captivated by the rabbi’s
personality, his lessons, and his unique ideas, only a handful
actually understood the true depth of his wisdom. And they were the
ones who were destined to carry on Rabbi Kook’s philosophy in Yeshivat
Mercaz HaRav. They understood that his teachings contained the
solution to the difficulties of our times, and that by learning these
teachings the Jewish people will be redeemed.

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