Thursday, April 26, 2012

The greatness of Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook

[Originally posted in 2009 here. I repost it now because the original received too few comments, and because I love it]

Yeshivat Hesder Ramat Gan published “Go’el Yisrael גואל ישראל,” several years ago. The book collects considerable quality material on Yom ha’Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, from Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, his son Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, their students, and other giants of Religious Zionism. It also offers a complete order of prayer for Yom haAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim.

On page 300-301, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook is quoted regarding the Chief Rabbinate’s recommendation of saying Hallel without a berachah on Yom ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day:

On the Erev Shabbat preceding Yom ha’Atzmaut, a certain important man came to me and asked why our rabbis do not permit us to recite a berachah upon Hallel for Yom ha’Atzmaut. I replied to him that the ruling of the Chief Rabbinate is balanced and correct.

The enactments of the Chief Rabbinate apply to the entire community. Since, to our pain and shame, a great portion of our community does not believe in the great act of Gd which is revealed to us in the establishment of the government of Israel, and since, due to its lack of faith, it lacks joy, it is not possible to obligate them to recite Hallel with a berachah. It is like someone who sees a friend and is glad to see him, who is obligated to recite a berachah; if he is joyous, he recites a beracah. If he is not joyous, he does not recite a berachah.

Rav Maimon, whose entire being was dedicated to building Gd’s nation and portion, was filled with the joy of faith, and so he established in his synagogue to recite Hallel with a berachah. The same is true in other, similar places – the IDF and religious kibbutzim. However, the Chief, all-inclusive Rabbinate cannot enact a berachah as an all-inclusive ruling for the entire community, when the community is not ready for it.

In our central Yeshiva we had followed the ruling of the Rabbinate, for we are not a kloiz of a specific sect. We are associated with the general Jewish population centered in Yerushalayim, and since that population includes, for now, to our pain and our embarrassment, obstacles to complete faith and joy, and therefore to the obligation to recite a berachah, it is appropriate that we also act according to the ruling of the Rabbinate for the general population.

I find this explanation fascinating for many reasons, including the following:

• I’m not sure which group he means, when he speaks of those who don’t believe in the great act of Gd – does he mean those who do not believe in Divine intervention? Or those who do not believe that the State is an act of Gd?

• I wonder how many people who do not believe in Divine intervention, or who do not believe that the State is an act of Gd, daven in Mercaz haRav – and on Yom ha’Atzmaut in particular?

• I believe that his insistence on keeping the yeshiva – the bastion of his father’s Torah! – as an institution open to all, and serving all, and avoiding divisive practices even on matters we hold most dear, should be a model for all of us. This is true leadership.


  1. I have trouble understanding the reason to say Halel on this day for a few reasons:

    What gives a court the right to impose Halel, even a half Halel, on all of BN"Y? The M"B writes in the laws of Purim that a town can impose a "Purim" on its residents for a miracle that happened once. The limitations of this are that it's only on that town, and not on Bnei Yisrael as a whole; and on Purim we don't say Halel!

    I certainly don't mean to belittle the day, though; I'm only trying to understand why we would do this.

  2. I appreciate the work of Rav Kook very much. Yet the complaint I have about the Rabanut [Israeli Rabanite ]is something I heard from Shimon Buskila --they are too connected to the "establishment." Now I know this sounds like typical hippie breslov talk, but I have found it to be true. If there are yeshivot of the religious Zionist type that are open to all I have not heard of them. [Try to walk into one and sit down and learn Gemara before you tell me I am wrong.] At least with Charedi Yeshivot I could walk in and learn Gemara and in some of them no one bothered me. [However even this has changed. Recently many have become closed private clubs]. Now I am not totally against private clubs. These private clubs that are called yeshivot should be just that,-- private clubs. They should not go around collecting money claiming to be doing some type of public service. The yeshiva private club scam has gone on long enough.

  3. r'ba
    no hallel on purim is a different story (see megila 14a)
    your larger point is the real issue, iiuc r' kook understood shivat tzion not as a local issue but a klal yisrael issue, something not dealt with halachically for over 2000 years.
    KT and may hkb"h open all our eyes
    Joel Rich

  4. I do not understand the longevity of either Rav Kook's hashkafah.

    R' AY Kook wrote about atchalta dege'ulasa, how there would be a slow rising of the sun from his era of pre-1948 Zionism to the mashiach. But a couple of weeks after his petirah was Krystalnacht. There was no "sometimes the sun goes behind a cloud" in his formulation. Instead, the worst hesteir panim, the deepest most painful part of our galus, was during this period in which he taught it would be over.

    And as for Zionism itself, RAYK saw the era of idealism in which he lived, when people were drawn to Zionism or Communism, as evolving into idealism for ideals ever-closer to Torah, the true Ideal. He didn't foresee the materialism and post-Zionism of a mature State starting a middle-aged rut.

    As for RZYKook, I would have thought his philosophy died on 10 Av 5765. When his followers learned, "zeh KEN yihyeh, zeh KEN yiqra", r"l.

  5. 1. The logic also seems to be against a smaller group (shul, kibbutz...) instituting its own beracha of Hallel on this day within their walls.

    2. It's possible for the present-day followers of RAYK or RZYK to look on the major setbacks as temporary within the grander scheme, even if these leaders did not foresee them.

  6. ba, Joel-
    You might take a look at this article by Rav Jachter.

    R' Micha, Bob-
    1. In terms of their philosophy, I do believe that Rav Kook Sr's approach to רע as enabling טוב and being a necessary part of the process may be applied here.

    2. That said, I think their popularity is far more about their lives than about their words; most "followers" of Rav Kook could not name a single sefer of his teachings. Which gives me an idea for a post for the start of next week, actually.

  7. Which followers of Rav Kook are you referring to who could not name a single sefer of his teachings? Certainly not the thousands of talmidim who learned in Merkaz, Har haMor and the dozens of other Yeshivot founded by talmidei talmidim of Rav Tzvi Yehudah ZTZL.
    Rav Tzvi Yehuda's psak on not saying the bracha on hallel on Yom Atzmaut is typical in that it sees the Rabbanut haRashit,and its psakim as binding for all of klall yisrael. Unfortunately the Rabbanut Harashit has evolved into an institution that is only a pale version of what Rav Kook and Rav Tzvi Yehudah envisioned. There are many reasons for this but the simple fact remains that the Rabbanut today is really harabbanut haMISHNIT

  8. David-
    That's definitely not the group I was describing, no. The group I am talking about are people who know Rav Kook was a great posek and a Zionist who reached out to everyone - but they have not actually studied what he said and stood for.

  9. i must admit religious Zionist are in general people after my own heart. I really appreciate how they learn Torah and serve in IDF and go to university and in general are a fine bunch. the problem that are there i think are simply a result of the fact that human beings are the basis of the system.

  10. In Shiloh the psak by Harav Elchanan Bin-Nun is to say Hallel with a bracha. Shiloh Musings: The Miracle of The Jewish State