Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Peace through Rav Kook's broadminded Judaism

It's a running joke, I know, that the Talmud's sense of humour is best perceived in the line in Berachot 64a, "Torah scholars bring peace to the world." Presumably Rav Kook was aware of this, too, when he wrote the following lines, which appear in Olat Re'iyyah I, page 330 in the standard Mossad haRav Kook edition [the translation is my own]:

"True peace will come to the world only through an embrace of the value of increasing peace. Increasing peace means that all sides and all opinions will be viewed, and it will be clarified that each has a place, according to its value, place and content. To the contrary [of the views of those who object] – all that appears superfluous or contradictory will be seen as revealing the truth of halachah in all of its aspects. Only by collecting all of the parts and details, and all of the apparently varied views, and all of the opposing camps, specifically in this way will the light of truth and justice be perceived, and the knowledge of Gd and awe and love of Him, and the light of the Torah of truth.

"This is how Torah scholars increase peace. When they expand and explain and produce new words of wisdom, from different points of view, with a variety and even contradiction of content, thus they increase peace, as it is written, 'All of your children are learned of Gd.' All of them will recognize that all of them, even those who appear opposite in their paths and views, are learned of Gd, and in each one an aspect of knowledge of Gd and the light of His truth is revealed."

The embrace of the truth in all views is classic Rav Kook/mystical. Call me a liberal, but I am very taken with this; it resonates.

Here's the original Hebrew:
השלום האמתי אי אפשר שיבוא לעולם כי אם דווקא על ידי הערך של ריבוי השלום. הריבוי של השלום הוא, שיראו כל הצדדים וכל השיטות, ויתבררו איך כולם יש להם מקום, כל אחד לפי ערכו, מקומו ועניינו. ואדרבא גם העניינים הנראים כמיותרים או כסותרים, יראו כשמתגלה אמיתת החכמה לכל צדדיה, שרק על ידי קיבוץ כל החלקים וכל הפרטים, וכל הדעות הנראות שונות, וכל המקצועות החלוקים, דווקא על ידם יראה אור האמת והצדק, ודעת ה' יראתו ואהבתו, ואור תורת אמת.

על כן תלמידי חכמים מרבים שלום - כי במה שהם מרחיבים ומבארים ומולידים דברי חכמה חדשים, בפנים מפנים שונים, שיש בהם ריבוי וחילוק עניינים, בזה הם מרבים שלום, שנאמר וכל בניך למודי ד'. כי כולם יכירו שכולם גם ההפכים בדרכיהם ושיטותיהם כפי הנראה, המה כולם למודי ד', ובכל אחת מהנה יש צד שתתגלה על ידו ידיעת ד' ואור אמתו. 


  1. Rabbi Shneur Leiman quoted this concept -- "vechol nesivoseha shalom" -- we have to respect all its paths -- in the context of book-bannings a few years ago.

  2. Even though Rav Kook was basing himself on Hegel recently it has occurred to me that systems based on Hegel might not be so bad. From what I see in America systems based on John Locke can also be problematic. The most directly Hegelian systems were the U.S.S.R. and Israel and I have to admit in both cases I have grown to see the good points of both.

    Institution including the institutions of government are not just people limiting and constraining but also people enabling.

    Some of the good things about the USSR were that the Bolsheviks were the only party that promised and fulfilled their word to exit world war one. That was already enough for them to get my vote.

    Next the organized anti semitic pogroms stopped under Communism.

    Next there were accomplishments of the USSR in some fields.

    There is good to say about the Israeli socialist system also. But like the USSR it is hard to see it from afar. but if one is there and find his rent taken care of by the state and the whole entrance into university process made simple and cheap, one can see the advantages. and though Israel has not been around for long but they also have accomplishments and contributions in Physics and Math and other fields.

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  4. . In America I would vote Republican. The reason is though I value two areas of freedom, personal and financial, still I realize the need for government oversight. The right to personal property still defines me as a Republican and not a liberal.

    But I also realize that the Communists in Russia and the Socialists in Israel were dealing with a more drastic situation. So while I am sympathetic towards the Socialists that founded Israel, I still would be voting Likud because of the personal property issue. To me personal property is still a fundamental human right. This makes me a non liberal. So my orientation is still with John Locke.

  5. For Adam Zur: I think "Moshe" above was addressing TRH, not you (see the last sentence of the post, which opens with "Call me a liberal...").

    For TRH: I've heard a lot about Rav Kook, and this selection in particular resonates for me as well. Could you suggest a good place to start for one who wants to read him in English?

  6. Shalom-
    That pasuk works... until someone tries to define the bounds of 'netivoteha'...

    Thanks; I miss these fun conversations.

    Good question. I know of translations of particular pieces of Rav Kook's writing, but all translations face a fundamental problem: Rav Kook wove flowery pesukim and midrash into his passages, and when those are translated the original reference is lost, and the text just sounds overwritten. At least, to me. So I'm not sure what to recommend...

    1. That's so often the case with translation. A most inexact art. Thanks anyhow!