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My Rav Kook
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#1 The Summons to Holy Consciousness in the Breaking Dawn of Redemption
8Collections 8:181; Glimmerings of Holiness 1:155

Just in time for a time like this,1

when the rebirth of the Nation [of Israel] is awakening

and becoming actualized2 in colorfully diverse ways every day;

and when the whole entire Earth is quaking in a tumultuous war,

whose hidden overall objective is certainly,

although only God knows the true meanings [of each and every event]3,

to inaugurate the restructuring of the world with [consciousness of] God’s Kingship4

through the return of the Jewish People to their stronghold5

to become a proper nation, and an exalted one,

crowned with all its powers and special qualities6;

for through this [return] the7 bright white light will shine forth,

the divine light,

which will become visible in all modes of life:

in the life of every living thing,

and in all the organizing systems of the inhabited Earth;

in the regimes of nations,

and in the spiritual process of humanity in general;

the hosts of heaven, too, are recovering8 from the dark calamities of the [Temple’s] destruction,

and the bonds restraining the Shechina in her abysmal exile are becoming looser.

The chains shackling the Messiah’s legs are shattering:

they are coming apart [and disintegrating into nothing] like tow near a fire9,

like fine strands of flax passing between blazing flames.

Despite the fact that [both] the national rebirth in Israel

and the signs of the spiritual renaissance of humanity in general

are visible only in their external, physical aspects,

these [physical aspects] themselves are the messengers announcing the joyous news

that the spiritual structure,

and the light of the higher soul in all her sequential stages,

is [also] getting built,

and the light of heavenly deliverance is becoming [more and more] visible,

in its myriad waves of glistening gold.

The time has come for every thinker of thoughts,

everyone who wonders10,

everyone who interprets meaning11,

and everyone in whom is the spirit of God stirs,12

to move himself towards13 desire for the experience of Ruach haKodesh,15

which enters [a person] and floods [him]

through engagement with the secrets of Torah at a proper depth,

with freedom of spirit, with insight and with blessing16,

with contemplation17 of greatness,

and with service18 that has been purified, become powerful, and aimed high.

And this heightening of holiness is revealed to especially sensitized individuals.19

And anyone who, because of his own personal makeup20,

sees in some aspect of his own spirit any sign

– even a faint one –

of this joyful news of emergent holiness,

must work up his courage to tune in on21 the secret murmurings on high,

to rise above the spiritual thinking of the human mind22, which is limited and crude,

and to come for a stroll into spaciousness:

into gardenbeds planted with the sweet smelling spices of the highest holiness, which are constantly perfumed by a radiant breeze fragrant with hidden holy things and the scent of the goodness of the Messiah of the God of Jacob.

Tend your ear and come unto me;

listen, and your soul will come to life.23

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Footnotes

  1. Le‘et kazot. Rav Kook opens this piece, written during World War I, with the words Mordecai used to summon Queen Esther to quell her fears and risk even her life for the sake of her People’s future, reminding her to trust that God’s plan is hidden in all events: “And who knows if you attained sovereignty just in time for a time like this?” (Esther 4:14). No doubt Rav Kook uses this phrase here to remind his contemporaries – and us – that the Jewish People’s attainment of sovereignty – statehood is not the end of the story. The Land of Israel is the setting of our future, the ultimate stage of our national evolution: becoming a channel for God’s light in the world. Back to text
  2. Yotzet min haKoach el haPo‘al, literally, ‘leaves its state of potential (an idea, a dream) for the realm of the actual (a deed, a fact).’ Back to text
  3. Cf. Gen. 40:8, where Joseph, the dreamer and dream interpreter, states: “[Only] God knows the [true] meanings [of dream events and images].” Back to text
  4. Tikkun ‘olam beMalchut Shaddai, literally, ‘the rectification/perfection of the world with/through/under the sovereignty/kingdom of God.’ Rav Kook borrows this formulation from the second paragraph of the ancient ‘Alenu prayer, which is recited at the close of every prayer service (its authorship is attributed to Joshua). This section of the prayer expresses faith in and yearning for the prophesied ultimate era of global rectification and peace, which comes about through mankind’s recovery from all false consciousness: idolatry is wiped out in all its forms and all humanity comes to recognize OneGod, and all human wickedness dissolves thereby. The ‘Alenu prayer ends by quoting the promise of this ultimate, upward paradigm shift in human consciousness: “God will be King of all the Earth; on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zach. 14:9). Back to text
  5. Shivatam shel Yisra’el leVitzaron, the return of Israel to its stronghold. Cf. Zach. 9:12, “Return to the stronghold (shuvu levitzaron) you prisoners of hope, even today shall I give back to you double [My] promise.” This is bitzaron’s only appearance in the Bible. The core meaning of b-tz-r is to be or make inaccessible, unassailable; it refers to collecting a precious and vulnerable scattered multitude into a protected environment. Batzra means ‘a sheepfold’ (see Mic. 2:12, where the ingathering of the remnant of Israel is also described). Mivtzar means ‘a fort, a stronghold, a citadel.’ Batzar means ‘to gather grapes’; batzir is ‘a vintage.’ Betzer means ‘ore.’ Batzoret means ‘a drought,’ i.e., a time when every precious scattered bit of edible produce is carefully gathered and protected. Back to text
  6. Segulotav. See note 19, Yechidei haSegulot. Back to text
  7. Ya’ir ha’Or haMavhik. In Mishnaic Hebrew mavhik came to mean ‘shining, glistening, glittering brightly,’ but the Biblical root b-h-kuf relates to a skin disease, called bohak (vitiligo alba), which begins with an eruption of conspicuous bright white spots on the skin. Now, bright white spots, called baheret, might also indicate leprosy. Bohak (which is neither contagious nor hereditary) is differentiated from leprosy by a close examination: “If the priest looks and beholds darker bright white spots on the skin of their flesh, it is [not leprosy but] bohak: he is clean” (see Lev. 13:38-39). Thus two kinds of bright whiteness characterize bohak; in our sentence it may be divine white light compared to our usual white light, daylight. In Arabic, the root b-h-kuf refers to, for example, light shining from behind clouds, which are also white, but look dark compared to the light. As a little one, I used to wonder if those radiant white rays were God. I still loved that moment in Nature even after I learned that a) it's 'just' sunshine bouncing off the upside of a cloud and b) we Jews don't even try to picture God. Nonetheless, it remains a lovely metaphor of earthly light and light beyond it, and has found its home in art, and the hearts of little children. Back to text
  8. Holchim uMittaknim, uses the same root as Tikkun ‘Olam, see note 4 above. Also note the Jewish spiritual principle expressed by the heavenly parallel of healing: as below, so above. Back to text
  9. keNe‘oret lifnei ’eish. Ne‘oret is tow: the coarse, broken fiber shaken off (n-‘a-r) from the finer strands of flax (pishtan, which appears in Rav Kook's next phrase) before spinning. This image is derived from Jud. 16:9, where Samson easily breaks his bonds “as a thread of tow breaks when it [even] smells fire.” This interaction of fiber and fire traditionally serves as a symbol of inevitable destruction: “Could fire come near tow and it would not be singed?” (San. 37a). Back to text
  10. Hogeh. The root h-g-y means ‘to mutter, to meditate, to think about, to ponder, to muse.’ Back to text
  11. Melitz means ‘a translator,’ an interpreter between two languages or universes (e.g., Genesis 42:23). In Modern Hebrew melitza means a metaphor. I presume, then, that melitz here points to anyone gifted in any of the arts: translators of meaning into media of comprehension. Melitz can also mean ‘a pleader, an intercessor,’ one who stands between the judger and the judged (Job 33:23). Rav Kook refers to taking on this task in Glimmering #278: “Defense Attorney for the Jewish People.” Back to text
  12. Ruach haShem nossesa vo. Ruach means wind or spirit. Nossesa is denominated from the word nes, a flag, and means ‘move to and fro.’ The phrase yields the lovely sensory image of inner movement and response, like the movement of a flag rippling in a breeze. All spiritual process has this back and forth quality, a “flickering like lightning” (see Ez. 1:14); here, and then gone and then here again. See, e.g., Glimmering #20 ORIG #20Radiant Rebeginnings in the Study of the Mysteries. Back to text
  13. Lehitkarev, the hitpa‘el of kuf-r-b, ‘to come close,’ with reflexive force: ‘to bring oneself near.’ This underlines the subjectivity of your response to Rav Kook’s invitation to holiness: don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder and tell you that you are ready or that you are chosen. If Godspirit stirs within you, bring yourself close to desire for holy inspiration and come study the secrets of Torah. Back to text
  14. Hofa‘at, from y-p-‘, ‘to shine forth.’ Hofa‘a literally means ‘an appearance’ – on stage, in print: it refers to the experience of light made perceptible to consciousness. Hofa‘a is often translated by ‘phenomenon,’ which comes from the Greek, where it also means ‘to make appear,’ ‘to show.’ Back to text
  15. Literally, ‘the spirit of holiness, holy inspiration’; the first level of prophecy. See, e.g., Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei haTorah ch. 7. Those who seek prophecy are called ‘Children of the Prophets’ (ibid. 7:5). The restoration of prophecy in the Land of Israel is one of the harbingers of the Messiah’s arrival (Rambam, Epistle to Yemen). Back to text
  16. BeVina uviVracha, a couplet ascribed to God in the alphabetical liturgical poem Ha’Aderet veha’Emuna. Rav Kook means engaging in the mysteries of Torah with all your God-given intelligence and talents, and blessing the One Who is the source of these gifts. Back to text
  17. Higayon gedula. See note 10, above. This means contemplation of your own greatness, as well as God’s. Back to text
  18. 'Avoda means ‘physical labor (work)’ and ‘spiritual service (worship)’. English ‘work’ and ‘worship’ also derive from a common root as do 'cult,' 'cultivate,' and 'culture'. Rav Kook probably means both work and worship, and their unity. See, also, Glimmering #37 ORIG #37 Your Unique Calling, Your Unique Path. Back to text
  19. Yechidei haSegulot. The semantic zone of the Hebrew root samech-g-l includes the meanings ‘to acquire, to save up, to treasure, to adjust, to adapt (in the Darwinian sense of a fit, a oneness, between a plant or animal and its environment), to have the capacity for, to be able.’ The Jewish People is called His “‘Am Segula” by God (e.g., Deut. 7:6 and 14:2), which is usually translated ‘a special people’ but may mean (in a Darwinian sense) a nation adapted for, sensitized to, the environment of holiness; a nation with a capacity for the divine. On the level of the individual, Rav Kook is here summoning the person whose unique soul and life-journey have sensitized him or her, through pain and through blessing, toward the inner meaning of things, and toward the sense that goodness and love will prevail. Like Esther at her own crossroads (see note 1, above), for this individual, his personal story, the Jewish national story and the cosmic story all intersect in a call of destiny. Back to text
  20. MeiRucho. Ruach can mean ‘spirit, mind, disposition, temperament’; the mem is partitive, thus, literally, ‘some of his own spirit’ or ‘something in his spirit.’ Back to text
  21. Lehatot ’ozen, literally, ‘to tend an ear, to pay attention.’ This same phrase (in the imperative) opens this Glimmering’s final quote from Isaiah: Hatu ’oznechem, “Tend your ear... .” Listen up. Back to text
  22. Mima‘al leHagut ruach haSechel ha’Enoshi. Perhaps Rav Kook uses this formula to contrast intellectual spiritual thinking with the only appearance of hagut in the Bible (Ps. 49:4), in which David refers to his heart thinking, hagut libi. Back to text
  23. Is. 55:3. The editors of Glimmerings of Holiness completed the verse in Isaiah, but Rav Kook wrote down only the summons that begins it. Back to text
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