All the Glimmerings in this book are my original translations of Hebrew works of Rav Kook, which are, in their Hebrew published form, printed as prose paragraphs. The division of the translations into thought-phrases – in the wish to facilitate understanding – is my own. In these translations I attempt linguistic precision (I am my father's daughter!) but also seek to convey that quality of radiance which characterizes Rav Kook's writings; I call the process 'translumination.'
However, as has become painfully clear to me in the course of my years of effort, in truth no translation of Rav Kook can convey the rich plentitude of his original Hebrew creations. A quality of Rav Kook's work (that is a characteristic of all Torah writing, with varying degrees of elegance) is how seamlessly he weaves elements from all of Jewish literature into his own original thought. I am not talking here simply about direct quotation but about the nature of Rav Kook's prose itself: his writing is not just exquisite Hebrew, it is an infinite play of sound and light. Every word and phrase shimmers and hums with allusions to Biblical verses, or ideas from Midrash, Talmud, and the Torah commentators of all generations, as well as Kabbalistic and Chassidic literature. And yet, mirabile dictu, each Glimmering can just be read, a seamless flow unto itself, hovering between prose and poetry and spinning off light; you read his words and something happens inside you that doesn't have a name: a kind of recognition, a kind of resonance, a kind of rhyme, a kind of 'ah,' a kind of 'yes.' You may have to be a scholar to appreciate all of Rav Kook's sources and the extraordinary breadth of his creative genius, but you don't have to be a scholar to be touched and illumined by his loving voice and message any more than you have to be a scholar to be touched by a good love song. It might even get in the way.
Katonti. In places where I, with my meager knowledge, recognize associations Rav Kook was making to 'the ocean of Torah' I create a footnote, but his shimmering allusions are indubitably vaster a hundredfold than what I picked up on. I hope more learned readers will use this website to enrich our appreciation of Rav Kook's genius by contributing further citations to Jewish sources that they recognize woven into his words.
Nonetheless, Rav Kook must not be reduced to his sources, indeed he cannot. His contribution is not scholarship, but breadth, vision, music, art, spirit: a Torah of the soul. He draws on all of the Torah of yesterday to hold up a new creation before our very eyes, a new, expansive, radiant Torah that embraces the old but is not embraceable by it, so enormous is the new. It is this new creation that summons the 'yes' inside us, as if our soul has always known it was on the way; as if our soul has always been waiting to hear it/see it/feel it/taste it; as if our soul had eternally lived in expectancy of this love letter from on high, from its own source, its own true Self.
And now a word about translation itself. No translation is 'pure.' Every translation is really a paraphrase; every translation is really an interpretation. Both the new text and the original suffer from a translator's – or a reader's – attempt to deny this. No matter how clean and precise I have tried to be, these transluminations of Rav Kook's words are scented with myself – my voice – in the same way Onkelos' translation of Torah is scented with himself; his vision, his concerns. And as for the choice of the English language to convey to you the radiance of holiness, I know it is not ideal. But my goal in translating Rav Kook into English is to whet appetites, to make Rav Kook's ideas accessible to a widespread audience, as he desired. But once you are intrigued by his ideas, I urge you to turn to Rav Kook's original Hebrew texts. This is Torah – we are all meant to interact with it directly, to participate in understanding it, not merely to receive it pre-digested from another person, already flavored with the other's personality, orientation, and limitations. And as you study the original Hebrew texts, I look forward to new insights into them that only your eyes, and your story, could reveal… tell all of us about them – and about any critique of my translation or interpretation of any Glimmering – on this website too. Let us learn this Torah of the universe together in this global bet midrash, teaching each other.
One last point. You may have noticed that OneSong is not a translation of a particular book of Rav Kook's; what I am offering you is a bouquet of selections from some of his works. This, too, is an act of interpretation. My choice of which Glimmerings to translate out of Rav Kook's prolific body of work, ordering them and clustering them into chapters, and decorating them with wisdoms of the world, is all interpretive. OneSong, too, is a work of art, a creation, a song. And like any song, it had to be intensely personal in order to become universal. This is my Rav Kook I am introducing you to. The genesis of this work came about (and I've been pregnant with it for almost 25 years) because in the course of my in-depth learning of certain of Rav Kook's works (especially his mystical opus, Orot haKodesh), I found I kept getting lost. The editorial arrangement of the Glimmerings did not take me where I needed to go in my personal spiritual work; there would be pieces in the third volume, say, by which I needed to be illumined much earlier in the journey so as not to circle round in some dead ends. For the first few years, I thought it was just me, my poverty of comprehension, but each time I learned through this work in its published order, this impression became strengthened – it almost felt like it was arranged in a way that made sure I couldn't arrive at understanding (paranoid, right?)! I finally dared to imagine structuring a spiritual journey for myself out of those Glimmerings of Rav Kook that were most meaningful to me, arranging them in an order that worked for me, shaping a journey that would reinforce my faith in my own journey, in my own evolving relationship with God. I began to photostat Glimmerings and paste them onto looseleaf pages (these were pre-computer days), which I could then move around, shifting their order until it felt intuitively right, until they could be used by me as safe stepping-stones on my own continuous journey of self-understanding. An important example of this: the halachic prohibition against just anybody studying Kabbala was something that was very deep-rooted in me as a religious Jew and it profoundly colored my consciousness. I could feel a deep inner resistance and anxiety at transgressing into the forbidden territory of holiness every time I rebegan studying Orot haKodesh, an anxiety that would ultimately be relieved by Rav Kook each time around, but which colored my studying until I reached his words of permission on page 155. In the course of my sorting of Rav Kook's Glimmerings for my own personal use, his words permitting such study – indeed declaring that in our time (meaning in our great-grandparents’ time) we are summoned to begin studying the hidden Torah, and that the decision to do so is subjective, that is, you don't have to wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder and tell you that you are worthy or ready – moved up to become the first of the pages in my looseleaf binder, unlocking my brain right from the start of every learning cycle, giving me permission to study the secrets of Torah right up front, as well as a sense of my own holy destiny.
Only many years later did I begin to teach from this personally-ordered harvest of Glimmerings. And then, in a response to students' questions (which revealed what they needed to know about next), this set of stepping-stones, connected by my voice of explanation, grew, became more secutive, and wider; more a pavement than a path. 'My Rav Kook' emerged as a road others could use. The love letter I received became a teaching.
But the teaching mustn't become a frozen teaching; in fact, that's what the teaching is about. Your teaching – based on your spiritual/emotional/artistic uniqueness – is meant to be the end product of my effort, if I've done it well: your song in the world, singing itself in your voice; in your choices and in your loves, in your parenting and in your worldbuilding, in your art and in your Torah. Choose Glimmerings that are meaningful to you. First, take “A Beginner’s Journey” and later you can move them around into an order that takes you where you need to go, to the truth of you, to your Source. Lay stones for your own personal path. Don't be afraid. This I know: God will protect you on your journey to Him. By the time you finish with the Glimmerings in Volume I, A Beginner’s Journey, you will know whether you are called to Living a Consecrated Life, Volume II.