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The Judaism of Tomorrow
My Rav Kook
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#38 Inner and Outer Modes of Teshuva: Recognizing Yours
Glimmerings of Penitence 16:10

A Master of Torah1 can only access the remedy of repentance in Torah and through Torah,

and a Master of inner thought can only access repentance in [inner] thought and through

[inner] thought.

And if a Master of Torah should say, “I am fasting, and through this I shall achieve repentance,”

his words mean nothing real, and a dog may as well eat the meal he skips.2

And a Master of inner thought who says,

“I am repenting by means of diligent external, physical observance”

achieves no repentance.3

His Teshuva must be transcendent:

spiritual, pleasureful, free,

filled with the light of the holy of holies,

crowned with the most exquisite jewels of the higher life;

it is then that he brings healing to himself and to the entire world.

עברית +/-


  1. Ba‘al Torah and, later herein, ba‘al machshava penimit, ‘a Master of inward thought.’ This ancient form of expressing attribution in Hebrew serves to represent a person as possessing some object or quality, or being in some condition. In English, such combinations, ba‘al X, ‘the owner or lord of X,’ are sometimes rendered by single nouns and sometimes by circumlocution, e.g., ba‘al hachalomot, ‘the dreamer’ (Gen. 37:19), ba‘al se‘ar, ‘a hairy person’ (II Kings 1:8). In post-Biblical literature this construction is used extensively, including in the phrase ba‘al Torah, and even ba‘al machshava (‘a thinker, a person who is intellectually creative’), but the descriptive category of ba‘al machshava penimit – ‘an inner-thought thinker’ is Rav Kook’s own, and describes a spiritual personality needing a category beyond scholarship, of which he himself is the exemplar. Back to text
  2. Ta‘anit 11b; that is, his ‘sacrifice’ is not holy and accomplishes nothing. Back to text
  3. And may not recognize the source of the problem: not valuing his natural orientation towards “the mystery of thought.” See Glimmering #55, “Honoring the Sacred Power of Thought.” Back to text
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