• Meyer Grunberg

R' Abraham Isaac Kook Passes Away, 1935

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: September 1st, 1935

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#onthisday, 1935, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, the father of Religious Zionism, passes away in Jerusalem at the age of 70

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He was the 1st Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine and founder of The Central Universal Yeshiva.

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Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel], R' Kook wrote, "was the spatial center of holiness in the world, radiating holiness vertically to the Jews who lived upon the Land as well as horizontally to other portions and peoples of the earth."

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The air of the Land really did “make one wise,” as the Rabbis had said. In a typical elevation of sociology to theol­ogy, R' Kook argued that the Jewish potential outside the Land had become stunted.

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Rav Kook grasped the urgency of return led by Herzl and other Zionist leaders. He believed Israel’s return to the Land would thus mark the end of a worldwide era of darkness and initiate the redemption of all humanity. When questioned, R' Kook noted that the unique qualities of the Holy Land cannot be comprehended by reason.

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According to R' Kook, the full and varied character of Jewish life could not achieve expression, given oppression and exposure to foreign winds.

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For R' Kook, this low estate explained a phenomenon, which rightly understood, was a contradiction in terms: Jewish atheism.

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Many Jews of thoughtful and moral character had cast off their inherited faith, only because that Jewish faith had degenerated to the point where superstition passed for true belief, and Jewish practice had become frozen in old forms.

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However, the Jews were inseparable in their very essence from God. R' Kook could therefore embrace the Zionist project even though he, no less than other rabbis, knew it to be essentially secular.

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Qualms about the legitimacy of a movement led by professed atheists and characterized by public disregard of the commandments were silenced by the confidence that in due time, such behavior would be seen as the “arrogance” that tradition had said would accompany the first footsteps of the Messiah.

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Overall, RKook was a Jewish thinker, Zionist, posek, kabbalist, and a renowned Talmid Chacham.

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Text Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/abraham-isaac-kook

Image Source: United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

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