The Uniqueness of Rabbi Kook

Rabbi Kook and the Unifying Torah of the Land of Israel

Rabbi Kook was unique in that he established an organized doctrine
which gives room to all the methods of study and all the paths in the
service of God. This is the virtue of the Torah of the Land of Israel,
in which the Heavenly unifying light is revealed, and in which all of
the Tribes of Israel are consolidated – inspiring one and other in the
illumination of the word of God in this world. Thus the Sages said
(Tractate Sanhedrin 24a) that Torah scholars of the land of Israel are
termed ‘pleasant’ for they act amiably to one another in halacha, and
do not wrangle each other with severity, as do the Torah scholars
outside of the land of Israel.

Division Outside of Israel

Outside of Israel, each community must strengthen and defend itself
from anti-Semitism and foreign influences which threaten to destroy
it, and tailor its own special approach to deal with the challenges of
the location. With the passage of time and the lengthening of the
galut, it seemed to each community that its special style, including
its accent and way of dress, was true Judaism. Although they knew that
other communities existed, and that each and every custom had its own
place and gateway in which to enter, nevertheless, it seemed to them
that in truth, it would be appropriate for all the others to enter
through their gateway, for it included all the other approaches.

Differences between Sectors and Systems

Thus, the Jews of Lithuanian descent believe that their method of in-
depth study is the only way to truly learn Torah, and it would be
appropriate for all of Israel to learn this way and accept their
leadership. The Hassidim believe that the path that was revealed by
the righteous students of the Baal Shem Tov of serving God with
enthusiasm and happiness, cleaving to the righteous and studying
Hassidut is the path which will bring the Redemption, and everyone
should become a Hassid. And there are not a few Hassidic courtyards
who will add – either in a whisper or a loud voice – that in truth it
would be correct for everyone to follow the path of their founder of
Hassidut, for he is the true continuation of the Baal Shem Tov. Many
Sephardic and North African Jews believe that the method of learning,
‘aliba d’hilchata’ with straight forward explanations, as was the
method of the great scholars of Sephardic origin and Rabbi Yosef Karo,
is the proper way for all Jews. There are those who go according to
the kabala of the Ari z”l and the Ben Ish Chai, believing that the
complete ‘tikun’ will come through delving into the secrets of the
Torah and the deep meanings of the prayers, and even if one has not
merited to grasp the secrets of God, it is fitting for him to act
according to the customs of the heavenly Kabbalists. The Jews from
Yemen who guarded their tradition meticulously and with great self-
sacrifice believe that their path is fitting for all, especially since
they go according to the Rambam – the master of all Israel.

The Root of the Split

These deep differences create a great gap between the great Torah
scholars, much greater than the distance between the house of Hillel
and the house of Shamai, to the point where, in spite of all the love
and honor that true Torah scholars have for one another, it is almost
impossible for them to sit together and resolve the issues of the day.
Although they know the words of Chazal concerning differing methods
(Tractate Eruvin 13b) – “Both ways are the words of the Living God”,
since the style and premises are so different, it is impossible to
create a true discussion between the great Torah scholars from
different groups. Only in times of harsh distress is it possible, with
great difficulty, to bring them together for the needs of the hour.
This is a great impediment for the emergence of Torah in our times.
Superficially, people might think that the gap between the groups and
communities comes from a tendency towards egotism and discrepancy.
However, in truth, the root of the problem stems from the deep
differences in principle between the various approaches. Therefore,
although there are truly righteous people in each group who honor all
the other great Torah scholars and pray for unity, the basic problem
remains: how to unify all the approaches without blurring or weakening
any one of them.

Rabbi Kook: Unity

With the kindness of God, who has mercy on His nation – along with the
beginning of the Ingathering of the Exiles, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak
HaKohen Kook זצ”ל was sent to illuminate for us the path of the Torah
of the Land of Israel. From Heaven he was given incomparable talents
and a supreme ability to connect to the root of unity. Thus, with his
genius and insight, diligence and wisdom, Rabbi Kook succeeded to
embrace all of the approaches and grasp their foundations. He
perceived how each of the different approaches complimented one
another, and clearly recognized the special and appropriate place of
each method, in a way that it could contribute fully, without harming
other approaches.

Learning Jewish Faith and Thought

The schism between the different methods of learning Jewish faith and
thought stands out. There are the great Torah scholars who, in a
rationalistic style, dealt with the different philosophical
approaches, such as Rabbi Sadya Gaon and the Rambam. On the other
hand, there are those who greatly distanced themselves from philosophy
and instead dedicated their studies to the wisdom of kabala, such as
the Sephardic kaballists or the great Hassidic scholars. And then
there are those who chose the path of combining rationalism and inner
teachings, such as Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, the Maharal from Prague, and
the Ramchal.
Rabbi Kook was unique, paving a path that included all the approaches.
He required the study of all the different methods, for precisely
through the collection of all the dispersed ideas would a great and
complete revelation sprout forth. Although Rabbi Kook was very busy
answering all those who came to him with questions and didn’t have the
time to organize his thoughts in an orderly manner, nevertheless, in
his numerous writings which he wrote quickly between visitors, are
embedded incomparably deep ideas in which he unified and combined the
different approaches in a wonderful harmony without obscuring one of
them.
This is the great proof of the advantage of Rabbi Kook’s path over all
the other approaches. All the other approaches contain only what they
have within themselves, while Rabbi Kook included in his approach all
the other methods without obscuring their uniqueness. This is the
advantage of the Torah of Eretz Yisrael over the Torah of the
Diaspora.

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