Rav Kook on Loving Humanity as well as Jews

Rav Kook on Relating Israel and Humankind – 2

With translation by Rabbi Itzhaq Marmorstein and some comments by Dr. Yitzhaq Hayut-Man, we bring here two  passages from the Rav’s notebooks. Rav Kook was the inspired religious leader of Palestine in the early part of the 20th century.

I – 8 notebooks, book 7 entry 166

The compassion of Avraham includes all humankind, and the compassion of Aaron is concentrated in Israel. Whoever is cleaving to the quality of true compassion, in (or to) the light of Torah, needs to join together the two ‘clouds of glory’ of Avraham and Aaron, and these two lights will radiate upon him. And then it will be said ‘Beloved is the human that was created in the image of the Divine, and beloved is Israel who were given a vessel of delight’ (Ethics of Our Ancestors, 3:14).

This section distinguishes between Israel and all of humankind with regard to the quality of Compassion. Rav Kook brings two models of compassion, that of Avraham and that of Aaron – that of Avraham is turned towards all humankind and is distinguished by quantity, whereas that of Aaron is concentrated upon Israel and is distinguished by quality.

These two symbolic figures, Abraham and Aharon, are regarded by the astounding image of their being “Clouds of Glory” (Ạnane Kavod) – namely the medium through which the invisible divinity can be seen by the people as some light show. Rav Kook equates the True Hesed (Compattion) with the Light of the Torah, and advises those who cling to the true quality of Ḥesed to let these two Clouds of Glory shine upon him. This would bring the fulfillment of the Talmudic saying about God’s love for both all humankind and distinctly for Israel. All humans (including Israel) are beloved as they are made in the image of God, but Israel are also beloved because they were given the Torah, the vessel of delight”.

“And through the quality of the compassion of Aaron, the quantity of the compassion of Avraham will rise and it will also be illuminated with the light of quality that was Abrahams’ true essence….

The quality nurtured by the priestly function that originates with Aaron can be added to the quantity of Avraham that is oriented towards all humans.

Therefore the Holy One brought forth Priesthood from Avraham: “You are a priest to the world” (Psalms 110:4). And he (Avraham) knew that the blessing of the master always needs to precede the blessing of the servant, quality always needs to be the crown of quantity. And then the world will be built as a whole structure, through Awe and in Peace together. “And Jerusalem will be called the throne of God” (Jeremiah 3:17).

It can be added to Avraham, because he too had a priestly function. This function is attested by the psalm that considers a priesthood to the world and it mentions it in comparison with Malkitsedek, the non-Israelite priest. (It might be noted that Rav Kuk’s reading of Psalm 110:4 (which is actually a Psalm to David) is unusual. If we read the whole sentence in the usual sense, it is “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, though shalt be a priest forever (leỌlam), after the manner of Malkiẓedeq” [the Koren Jerusalem Bible].  But Rav Kook apparently reads it not as leỌlam (forever) but as laỌlam – to the world.

In our context of Israel and humankind we should notice that it is not written here that the divine representative nation is “The Jewish People”, but that it is the priestly function of Aaron the Levite meant for all the Twelve Tribes of “Israel” – which is a more comprehensive entity.

This specific “Unification of the Lights” that leads to “the Completed Building of the world”, which will in turn lead to the world wide recognition that Jerusalem is the Throne of God on earth. The Rav does not mention the Temple, but what is clearly implied here is indeed a Temple of Light, in the medium of Anane Kavod, that is going to serve as the visible Throne of God in Jerusalem.

II – 8 notebooks, book 7 entry 109

This passage goes still deeper at relating Israel and all humankind through Avraham.

When the soul’s greatness is strengthened, and the content of Divine faith in its highest form is awakened by its common song; then all the creations join together as one and an inner love radiates to all existence. The quality of our patriarch Avraham, the father of many nations, then shines forth in its full illumination.

Here is the ideal situation , when all creatures are in harmony and inner love shines, then the Compassionate quality of Avraham shines forth with its full array of lights (recall the luminous cloud of the beginning entry.

Sometimes this illumination is muted and instead comes a constricted light that is limited by the structures of conventional life and by the conduct of the world. At such times the Assembly of Israel knows that it is a rose among the thorns (Song of Songs 2:2) and the difference between Israel and the nations becomes much more evident and recognizable.

There are indeed times without this illumination, and the world is sad and mundane. Then the Assembly of Israel know they are in an unkind and hostile environment that and seem like a rose among the thornes.

There are times that the difference between Israel and the nations become very pronounced. This happens when the Abrahamic enlightenment

However the aspiration is always to illuminate the light of universal compassion even when closed in and constricted. But the world has an inner direction that is above all, the very special illumination of the Assembly of Israel. Yet the quality of Avraham that is concealed within it always gives the courage of compassion to direct the whole world to the righteous, and to value the worth of all humankind. In its depths dwells the radiant light of Adam HaRishon, in which the all-embracing law of compassion, love and fraternity encompasses within it all creation, all life and all that sprouts from it. It encompasses all and transcends the sensory world and grows in its recognition of the requirement for goodness and light to reach hidden worlds, beings (Nefesh) and souls (Neshamah) and multitudes of hidden life, to the holy angels and celestials and all the supernal assemblies.

This manifestation then returns and establishes itself in the form of restored and improved social life. It calls for rights and freedom, light and goodness, honor and expansion, for great and elevated living, without pressure, without gloominess, without the darkness of stupidity and evil, life of grandeur and strength, of love and delight, of confidence and courage, of honor and glory for all that is, to every force of life. “The Creator will rejoice in His deeds” (Psalm 104:31).

What more can one say?

 
Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, co-chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, California, and author of eleven books, including two national best sellers: Jewish Renewal—a Path to Healing and Transformation and The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. His most recent book is Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy for Middle East Peace. He can be reached at rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com.
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