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The Judaism of Tomorrow
My Rav Kook
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#11 Quintessential Sin – The Denial of Your True Self
8Collections 3:24; Glimmerings of Holiness 3:140

“And I am in the midst of exile...”1

The inner, essential I

of the individual and of the community2

unveils itself in one’s innerspace only to the extent that the person values it as holy and pure,

to the extent he values this sublime power, saturated with the pure light of heavenly radiance,

that glows in his innercenter.

We have sinned in the same way as our forefathers.3

The First Man sinned

by treating his own self like a stranger4,

by turning towards the snake’s opinion, and losing himself;

he didn’t know how to give a clear answer to [God’s] question, “Where are you at, Man?”5

because he didn’t know his own self,

because his true I-ness was lost to him through the sin of bowing down to a foreign god.6

Israel sinned7,

she whored after alien gods,

she deserted her own authentic identity:

Israel abandoned goodness8.

The Earth sinned:

she contradicted her own authentic nature,

she constricted her own power,

she pursued end-results and bottom lines;

she did not put forth all her hidden power

to make the taste of a tree the same as the taste of its fruit.9

[Instead] she aimed her gaze outside herself,

thinking about objectives and the means of achieving them.10

The Moon complained aloud11;

she lost her inward turning, the joy of her own destiny;

[instead] she dreamed about the outer regalia of sovereigns.

And thus the world grows darker and darker12 with the loss of the I of each one,

the [I of] the individual and the [I of] the communal group.

[Then] along come learned educators, fastening their gaze on externalities;

they also dismiss the importance of the I, and add fuel to the fire:

they give the thirsty vinegar to drink13,

they cram minds and hearts with all kinds of external stuff,

and the I becomes forgotten even more;

and since there is no I, there is no He; and certainly there is no thou.14

'The breath of our nostrils, the Messiah of God.'15

This is [the Messiah’s] power, his majestic greatness:

he is not outside us – he is the breath of our very own nostrils16.

Let us seek God our Lord and David our king, let us tremble towards God and his goodness!17

Let us seek our own I, let us search for our own self and we shall find it.

Remove all alien gods18, remove everything inauthentic or bastardized19,

and you will know that I, God your Lord,20

the One Who brings you out of the land of Egypt in order to be your God,

I am God.21

עברית +/-


  1. Ez. 1:1. Ezekiel was the only prophet who prophesied from the diaspora. Back to text
  2. For the sake of clarity, in this sentence I will refer to the individual person, and use human pronouns rather than the neutral ‘it’ (to refer to the community). In Hebrew the pronouns are identical, and Rav Kook means both. Back to text
  3. Ps. 106:6 Back to text
  4. Shenitnaker le‘atzmiyuto. See Gen. 42:7, where Joseph recognizes his brothers (who do not recognize him), but “acts like a stranger towards them” (vayitnaker ’aleihem) Back to text
  5. Gen. 3:9, ’Ayeka, literally, “Where are you?” but best translated with a ‘sixties’ feel, “Where are you at, Man?” conveying an inquiry about his existential, not geographical, location. See Sanhedrin 38b, where God’s question to Adam is translated “Whence has your heart deviated?” Back to text
  6. That God had commanded Adam against the sin of idolatry is noted in Sanhedrin 56b. Rav Kook is saying that ignoring your own self and your own inner voice and letting another direct your life is the equivalent of idolatry. Back to text
  7. Josh. 7:11, which is also about the nation of Israel appropriating the property of another. “Israel has sinned and has also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them; they have taken from the banned property [cherem] and have stolen and have lied about it and have put it among their own things.” Adam’s idolatrous inability to answer God’s ’ayeka is traditionally linked to Jewish national sin by the anagrammatic ’eicha, “How could this be?”, the first (and oft-repeated) word of Jeremiah’s lamentation for the destruction of Jerusalem (e.g., Lam.1:1). Back to text
  8. Hos. 8:3. That is, Israel’s true nature is goodness. And when she abandons it, she abandons her relationship with HaTov, the Good One, God. Back to text
  9. See Rashi on Gen. 1:11. The earth was commanded (and so, of course, empowered) by God to bring forth “fruit trees bearing fruit” (1:11) but instead brought forth “trees bearing fruit” (1:12). The idea here is that, originally, process and product, ends and means, were meant to be of the same quality: the journey would feel as sweet as the arrival, the performance of a Torah commandment would have the same flavor as its paradisiacal reward. The earth’s failure to live up to its God-given powers is the sin for which it was cursed after Adam and Eve’s sin (see Gen. 3:17). Back to text
  10. Kareerot, literally, ‘careers.’ Career comes from the Latin carrus, ‘a wagon, a vehicle.’ Rav Kook is saying that the earth split goals off from how to get there. The Biblical opposite of this split is expressed in Deut. 16:20, Tzedek tzedek tirdof, usually translated “Justice, justice, shall you pursue”; but the two words may be read in a construct state, and thus mean, “The justice of justice shall you pursue”: use just means to get to a just goal, with no split between means and ends. Back to text
  11. Chullin 60b. This Midrash arises from the difference between two phrases in the same Torah verse: “God made the two great luminaries,” and “the great luminary for ruling the day and the small luminary for ruling the night” (Gen. 1:16). First it sounds like the luminaries are equally sized, then it sounds like they are different sizes. The Sages recount what went on between the two statements, when the moon and the sun were still the same size. The moon complained to God: ‘How can two kings use one crown?’ God responded: ‘Go make yourself smaller.’ This ‘sin of the moon’ is to be rectified at the end of days: “The light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven-fold, like the light of the Seven Days, on the day that God will bind up the breakage of His People and heal the blow of its wound” (Is. 30:26). It is interesting that the apparent size of the sun and the moon (i.e., to a person on Earth) is identical (which is why we earthlings can experience total eclipses), perhaps a trace memory of an earlier state. Back to text
  12. Holech veTzollel, from the Hebrew root tz-l-l, ‘to be or grow dark,’ could also mean ‘sink lower and lower,’ from an identical root tz-l-l which means ‘to sink, plunge, clarify.’ In Modern Hebrew, tzollel is ‘a diver’ and a tzollelet is ‘a submarine.’ The meaning ‘clarify’ arose from the process of clarifying wine by letting the dregs sink to the bottom. In Modern Hebrew tzalul means ‘clear, transparent, lucid.’ Back to text
  13. See Ps. 69:22, “They put poison in my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink....” Back to text
  14. If there is no I, if I am not connected to my sacred, unique self, then I am not truly connected to God; and so certainly I cannot relate to my fellow human being as an I, as a unique, sacred spark of the divine. Back to text
  15. Lam. 4:20 Back to text
  16. This means, I daresay, that we (as individuals and as the Jewish People) generate the Messiah, i.e., the energy of liberation and redemption; that it is through the process of taking in, processing and giving off spirit that we construct reality; that we are capable of generating our own salvation through authentic spiritual being. Back to text
  17. Paraphrase of Hos. 3:5. Back to text
  18. Cf. Gen. 35:2 Back to text
  19. For an elaboration of this process, see Glimmering #24, “Personal Work: Negating Alien Influence on Your Soul.” Back to text
  20. A phrase occurring three times Biblically, Ex. 6:7, 16:12, and Joel 4:17, which Rav Kook appends to a complete verse. Back to text
  21. A pastiche of verse-parts from Ex. 6:7 and Lev. 22:33, resulting in a statement which differs from other, similar statements by God about the Exodus (e.g., Num. 15:41) in using the present participle (haMotzi’) rather than the perfect tense of history (’asher hotz’eiti ’etchem) and thus identifying God as the One Who perpetually stands ready to assist us to leave all circumstances of bondage and limited identity and to become our true, God-designed self. Rav Kook’s quote-patchwork unifies into a statement parenthesized by ’Ani haShem, suggesting relationship, even some form of identity, between a person’s true I and divinity. Back to text
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