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The Judaism of Tomorrow
My Rav Kook
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#29 A Glimpse of Teshuva
Introduction to Glimmerings of Penitence; His Innermost Chambers (ed.1

For quite some time now, I have been waging an inner war,

and a powerful spirit is urging me to speak on the subject of Teshuva,

and all my thoughts are concentrated on it alone.1

In Torah, [the topic of] Teshuva takes up the biggest portion,

and in life, it is upon Teshuva that all personal and communal hopes are built2;

it is the commandment of God which is, on the one hand, the easiest of the easy ones,

for, after all, even the faintest thought3 of Teshuva is already Teshuva;

but, on the other hand, it is evidently the most difficult of difficult [commandments] to perform,

for it has not yet become realized in its full form in the world and in life.

I find myself tending to always think and speak only about [Teshuva].

Much has been written about it,

in Torah, in the Prophets, and in the words of the Sages,

but for our own generation, the words remain vague and need clarification.

Literature,

which pokes into every corner where poetry and life are to be found,

has not penetrated this marvelous mother-lode of life, the treasure of Teshuva, at all;

the truth is, it has not even begun to take any interest in it,

and to come to know its nature and its value

even in its poetic aspect, which is endlessly fascinating4,

so it certainly has not yet lifted a finger in regard to its aspect of action,

especially as concerns the conditions of our new life.

As for me, here I am [at one instant], feeling driven from within my innermost self

to speak on the matter of Teshuva.

Then here I am [at the next instant], recoiling from my own thought!

Am I worthy of speaking on the subject of Teshuva?

The giants of generations past have written on the topic of Teshuva,

the prophets and the purest of sages, the most piously devoted ones,

how could I place myself in that assembly?!

But no weakness in the world can exempt me from [fulfilling] my inner summons:

I must speak on the subject of Teshuva,

and especially about its aspect that is [both] symbolic5 and action-oriented,

so as to explain its content in our generation, and to actualize it in life,

[both] in the life of an individual and in the life of the collective.6

עברית +/-
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Footnotes

  1. Vechol ra‘ayonotai rak bah hem merukazim. I believe this also might mean ‘and all my ideas come into focus only through [an understanding of what] Teshuva [is].’ Given Rav Kook’s conclusion, ‘I must speak… so as to explain [Teshuva’s] content in our generation,’ he may be telling us that this is where the newness of our era lies, in re-understanding (through the secrets of Torah) this most primal idea of Teshuva, re-examining a Jew’s relationship to God and his capacity to reach Him. With his radically new explanation of what Teshuva is about at the center, all of Rav Kook’s Torat ha’Achdut crystallizes into coherence. Back to text
  2. See Glimmering #36, “Repentance as Natural to Human Nature and Human Life.” It is in the nature of human life to err and to fail. Without the possibility of new beginnings, hope could not exist. Back to text
  3. Hirhur, ‘innervoicing’ (as opposed to dibbur, ‘voicing or reciting aloud’), means ‘thinking to oneself, meditating, musing, reflecting, pondering, planning, imagining, fantasizing.’ Hirhur is the verbal noun of h-r-h-r, which is probably related to h-r-y, ‘to conceive, to become pregnant,’ thus ‘to conceive in mind or heart’ (see Is. 59:13), as well as to har, mountain (swelling). Hirhur is the upwelling of ideas and images out of the flux of mind. Hirhurim may be negative (hirhurei ‘avera are unchaste thoughts and fantasies; hirhurei ‘avoda zara (Berachot 12b) are idolatrous imaginings). Thus, hirhurim can be ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but what they always are is non-verbal, internal, personal and private. Here, hirhur Teshuva might include images of the person you wish you were, acting truly like you wish you could; a fantasy of apologizing to those you’ve wronged; a flash of regret, or the wish to start all over again from the beginning and get it right. Back to text
  4. E.g., how the “bad” in you rhymes with the authentic, God-empowered you which is meant to emerge in the world: there is a unity between them that both is and is not identity, just as “night” rhymes with “light.” Other rhymes include how we act out our inner needs in many dimensions, many worlds, and our capacity to ‘hear’ the rhymes, see the metaphorms, to understand the message they all have in common beneath their surface difference: the longing for the infinite. For more on this idea, see Glimmering #30, “Penitence Begins with Returning to Your True Self.” Back to text
  5. Hasafruti, literally, ‘like literature.’ Teshuva involves coming to awareness of the narrative we are living in, and whether it is our own, and how sinful acts within it point to our desire for newness and change; how the brokenness we live in ‘rhymes with’ the oneness that our soul longs for. Back to text
  6. This revelatory Glimmering is itself a perfect map of Teshuva ‘Elyona, as well as of creative process: the call, the pulling back, the self-questioning, and the ultimate leap to true self and the calling to create. See also Glimmerings #20, “Radiant Rebeginnings in the Study of the Mysteries,” and #90, “Cycles in the Process of Creation/Self Creation.” Back to text
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