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The Judaism of Tomorrow
My Rav Kook
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#26 Divine Morality
8Collections 3:210, 3:166; Glimmerings of Holiness 3:1

We1 are filled with moral emotion: we yearn2 to be living a life of purity.

Our imagination stimulates3 this desire in our hearts into picturing

the highest and loveliest [ideas and acts],

the purest and noblest [deeds];4

our innermost wish desires that our day-to-day willpower become pure and holy,

that the whole direction of our life be mindfully chosen5,

and aimed towards the most exalted ideal of life.

And all of these desires can be fulfilled,

but only through our dedicated devotion – internal and external – to Godlight,

to divine morality,

which is revealed in Torah, in tradition, in human understanding and in honest living.

Secular morality is not deep, and does not penetrate the innerspace of the soul;

and even though a person might be drawn to follow it for good reason,

in that he recognizes the integrity of logical things,

this kind of guidance has no enduring grip [on a person]

in the face of an attack by various passions when they are powerfully aroused.

And so certainly a morality as weak as this does not have what it takes

to guide the all-inclusive whole: the human community, in all its depth and its vast scope.

[It does not have the power] to penetrate to the deepest soul-depth,

and transform the heart of universal and individual Man from stone to flesh.6

For [the human community] there is no strategy other than being guided by divine morality.

And it is more worthwhile that a person make some mistakes in the course of his journey,

but always base his vision of the world and the morality of his life

on the profundity of divine morality,

than if he has fewer failures

but lives a weak spiritual life,

[enfeebled] by the shallow effect of secular morality.

עברית +/-


  1. These two pieces, one beginning “We are filled with a moral emotion,” the other beginning “Secular morality is not deep,” are printed together in Glimmerings of Holiness, even though they are distinct entries in Rav Kook’s spiritual diaries. I kept them together because their combination is fruitful. Back to text
  2. Kemeihim, from the root kaf-m-h. Its meaning shimmers with intensity and gives off heat: ‘to be faint [with longing], to thirst for, to be hot, to be eager.’ In its one Biblical appearance, it is used by King David in describing his intense desire for Godunion. See Ps. 63:2: “O Lord, You are my God; I keep searching for You: my soul is thirsty for You and my flesh is eager (kamah) for You in a parched and weary land without water.” Back to text
  3. Malhiv (l-h-b; from flame) means ‘to set aflame, inflame,’ or ‘arouse enthusiasm.’ Back to text
  4. The words in brackets are only inferred in Rav Kook’s texts: Hebrew does not need to express them. A truer translation would be “picturing that which is highest, that which is loveliest, that which is purest and that which is most noble” or “picturing the highest [of all], the loveliest [of all], the purest [of all], and the most noble [of all].” Back to text
  5. Berura can also mean ‘clear, distinct, evident.’ Back to text
  6. See Ez. 11:19 and 36:26. Back to text
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