The Short Vort
Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ
Today is Sunday the 5th of Elul 5774 and August 31, 2014
*Righting the Wrong*
Today in 1935 Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook Zt”l passed away.
His actual Yahrtzeit was on the third of Elul (which was Friday),
however, the secular date that year was August 31, 1935.
Rav Kook who lived from 1865-1935 was the first Chief Rabbi of
Palestine in the twentieth century.
He was a great Talmudic scholar, halachik adjudicator, teacher,
thinker and a compassionate and kind and beloved Rav.
Many of his followers study his works and attempt to emulate his
personality as seen through his teachings and his students.
However, the tragedy of Rav Kook Zt”l is that through a
‘revisionism' of the past and because of those who resort to
Orwellian techniques to rewrite history, many average Frum Jew when they hears the name of Rav Kook, the image which pops up in their mind is a sandal wearing, perhaps guitar strutting ‘semi-observant' ‘rabbi' who might be sporting Bermuda shorts and whose Talmudic learning is limited to reading translated portions of Gemara in English while trimming his fashionable goatee and wearing a bottle-cap size yarmulke covering his right ear as it tips precipitously off his head.
He is too often portrayed as a Rav who interested in finding all types of questionable halachik leniencies which have minimal if any halachik substance.
He is thought of as a cavalier and careless rabbi who vacillated
between true Orthodoxy and those other denominations whose halachik acceptability is shaky at best.
However, worst of all, is the fact that outright untruths and vicious
lies have been promulgated about him that during his life time, the
‘true' and authentic Torah leaders of his time distanced themselves
from him and dismissed him as second rate rabbi of no consequence.
One gets the impression after listening to these revisionists that if
we would be transported back to Yerushalayim of the 1920s we would find Rav Kook surrounded by a cadre of secular followers with maybe a handful of lukewarm Orthodox ignoramuses sitting and half listening to his far fetched and perhaps semi-heretical ideas about Torah and Judaism.
People have disseminated the ‘fact' that the real ‘Gedolim' of
Eretz Yisroel had no contact with this ‘radical' and they will even
claim that his books were banned because of their heretical content.
*Nothing could be further from the truth.*
*And this is a ‘wrong' which must be ‘righted'!*
Let me be clear, I do not study too often his works because of their
difficult and what I find almost cryptic language.
Let me also disclose from the outset, that my Rabbeim rarely used his Seforim as his scholarly approach to Talmud and Jewish thought was clearly not your standard Lithuanian bent.
His approach certainly bordered more on the Chassidic and on the
Kabbalistic and neither of these important disciplines were part and
parcel of your typical Lithuanian styled yeshiva curriculum in which all of my Rabbeim were educated in (and are still not).
therefore, I am not advocating the study of his works per se, as I
am no equipped to make that determination.
However, what I am advocating is the following.
Irrespective of his unique and semi-Chassidic/Kabbalistic approach to Torah and Judaism
*one wrong must be righted./*
And that is the clear and unchallenged fact that he was considered in his lifetime as a true and authentic Gadol.
Indeed, ‘the righting of this wrong' is one of greatest testimonials
to truth that a person can contribute to today's misunderstanding of
this great and beloved and respected Gadol HaDor.
Please do not take my word on the issue.
Please allow his ‘peers' to do the talking for me and then you can
decide on your own.
Here is a list of ten ‘authentic' Gedolim and what they said or
wrote about Rav Kook Zt”l.
1. **The Imrei Emes *
/(HaRav Avraham Mordechai Alter (25 December 1866 - 3 June 1948), also
known as the *Imrei Emes*, was the third Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Ger, a position he held from 1905 until his death in 1948. He was one of the founders of the Agudas Israel in Poland and was influential in establishing a network of Jewish schools there. It is claimed that at one stage he led over 200,000 Hasidim. Wikipedia)/
He refers to Rav Kook as an *“Ish HaEshkolos”* which is a title
reserved for someone who contains ‘everything' (Torah, Mishna,
Talmud, and Aggadah). (See Shir HaShirim Raba 1:60).
It is title given to some who has Torah, Middos and Chesed (see T.B Temurah 15a and T.B. Sota 47b).
It is a title reserved for Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Akiva!
And it is the title which the Gerrer Rebbe referred to Rav Kook with in an open letter to his Chassidim in 1924 (page 78 “Osef Mechtavim of Admor M'Ger”)
2. *Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski* :
"Our friend, the Gaon, our master and teacher, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, shlita" and "The Glory of Honor, My Dear Friend, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, the Famous One... The Prince
of Torah, Our Teacher, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Kohen Kook Shlit”a..."
3. *Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz*:
"The true Gaon, the beauty and glory of the generation, the tzaddik, his holiness, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak, may his light shine, may he live for length of good days and years amen,
the righteous Kohen, head of the beis din [court] in Jerusalem, the
holy city, may it soon be built and established"
4. *Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn of Lubavitch*:
"The Gaon who is renowned with splendor among the Geonim of Ya'akov, Amud HaYemini, Patish HaChazak..."
5. *Rav Chatzkel Abramsky*:
"The honored man, beloved of Hashem and
his nation, the rabbi, the Gaon, great and well-known, with breadth of knowledge, the glory of the generation, etc., etc., our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel and the head of the Beis Din in the holy city of Jerusalem"
6. *Rav Yitzchok Hutner*:
"The glorious honor of our master, our teacher and rabbi, the great Gaon, the crown and sanctity of Israel,
Maran [our master] Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, shlita!"
7. *Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein*:
"Our honored friend, the great Gaon and glory of the generation, our master and teacher, Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen, shlita"
8. *The Brisker Rov- Rav Yitzchok Zev HaLevi Soloveitchik*: “To his honor the Rav, the great and famous Gaon, and the honor of the generation…Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim…”
*9. **The Satmar Rebbe- Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum- *
When asked why he refused to meet with Rav Kook- the Rebbe answered: “I certainly won't be able to influence him, and on the contrary, /I am afraid that he might influence me/.”
(The Rebbe; Rabbi Dovid Meisels; page 43).
From this honest admission from the Satmar Rebbe we see how even he realized how great and persuasive and what erudition Rav Kook possessed as the Satmar Rebbe was not known as a man to back away from his position.
(One has to question how honestly the Satmar believed in his own
worldview if he refused to meet with someone who would and ostensibly /could /change his entire worldview; however, that is for another discussion.)
*10. **Rav Zvi Pesach Frank -* Rav of Yerushalayim.
As is well known Rav Frank was active in establishing the office of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and was instrumental in appointing Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi.
I believe these ten Gedolim speak for all of us (or certainly should)
in establishing the fact that even if many of the aforementioned
Gedolim did not necessarily embrace the views of Rav Kook,
nevertheless, they respected him and accepted him as their peer and
their fellow Gadol.
If there is one aspect of Teshuva we can all engage in during this
month of Elul as we prepare for the Day of Judgment and we all desire to be judged fairly, let's begin by ‘judging' someone who deserves the reverence and admiration that our teachers and great Torah leaders accorded him during his life time.
It is high time that all of us when we mention the name of Rav Kook we should do it with the same love and respect we show to all the Gedolim of the last generation.
In the merit of ‘righting this wrong' and judging he who truly
deserves respect and love and reverence ‘fairly', may Hashem judge
all of us with compassion and mercy.
/“If Not Now- Then When?”- Hillel/
Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ