Monday, September 5, 2016

On The Yahrtzeit

From the archives:

HaRav Kook ztz"l was one of the most influential rabbonim in the last 100 years and arguably the greatest and most unique. There is so much to say about him personally and about his thought that I would need to write a few full length books in order to scratch the surface.

When Rav Eliyashiv would say "The Rov" without a last name, he meant Rav Kook of whom he was a great admirer [and I believe that Rav Kook made the shidduch between Rav Eliyashiv and Rav Aryeh Levin's daughter]. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related that when he was little he would go to watch Rav Kook learn Tanach and was tremendously inspired just watching him. Later, Rav Kook was his mesader kiddushin when he was married.

I wanted to share a few highlights about his personality from which we can all learn and grow therefrom [is that a word? Now it is...:-)].

1] Diligence - He would learn fifty pages of gemara every morning after a "gezunte shluf" of 2 hours a night!

He wouldn't write with a pen but with a pencil because his thoughts flowed so quickly that he didn't have time to dip his pen in the ink quill. [What is a "ink quill"? What is a "pen"?]

Before he died from a painful skin cancer he was crying. His brother asked him if he was crying from the pain and he explained that he was crying because of all of the deep thoughts going through his head that he didn't have the strength to write down.

When he was a Rov in England during World War 1 and he needed to learn English, he was afraid of bittul Torah so he went through the Tanach with an English translation.

2] Tzidkus: He wore tfillin all day long. When he was learning in the Volozhiner Yeshiva some of the students didn't appreciate this behavior. The Rosh Yeshiva [the Netziv] told the boys to leave him alone. For other boys it might be haughty and arrogant but for this neshama it was completely natural without a trace of arrogance [gyveh]. He penned a sefer called חבש פאר about the kedusha of tfillin.

His house was constantly filled with people who came to ask for favors or to learn from him etc. No matter how busy he was, whenever his elderly father entered the room he would stand up until his father sat down or left the room.

Rav Kook's brother related that this holy neshama would make a bracha on his mother's milk BEFORE HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY!

From the age that he realized that a woman is a woman - he didn't look at one. His wife once covered her face and brought him a shyla in Taharas Hamishpacha. He paskened that she was permitted to her husband. She said "How come when I brought you this very same shyla, you were strict with me and said that we were assur?"

When he was a yeshiva bachur, he rented a room from a woman. He paid the first price she asked for and didn't bargain [so un-Jewish:-)]. When asked why he didn't try to lower the price, he explained that keeping the teaching of Chazal to minimize one's speech with women is worth the extra half-ruble.

3] Tefilla - Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer [father in law of Rav Aharon Kotler and one of the great roshei yeshiva of his generation] said "I wish that I would daven mincha on Yom Kippur like Rav Kook davens on a regular weekday."

In 1921, Rav Kook went to rest in a place called "Har-Tov". One day he was uncharacteristically late for davening and he was instead involved in a conversation with a simple Jew about plants and flowers. His talmid Rav Charlap asked his Rebbi what happened and he explained that he was so thirsty and yearning for a connection with Hashem that he felt that if he davened he would die from כלות הנפש [unrequited love]. In order to come down to earth, he spoke about mundane matters.

In 1914 Rav Kook went to the Galil with Rav Charlap zt"l. Rav Charlap related "I woke up in the middle of the night and found him on fire, pacing the room to and fro, with a stormy spirit. He grabbed me and his hands were cold like ice and his face was burning like a torch. He said 'Rav Yankev Moishe, I am burning up from Ahavas Hashem'.

4] Ahavas Yisrael - He once said about himself "I never refused a request to do a favor for a fellow Jew" [!!!!]. This was a person who due to his position a Chief Rabbi was asked thousands of favors, some by people who made his life miserable with their anti-zionistic zealotry for whom he particularly extended himself.

After the slaughter of the students of the Chevron Yeshiva in 1929, Rav Sarna, the Rosh Yeshiva, related that he felt tremendous anguish. But Rav Kook felt it more. When he heard the news - he fainted....

A sick person once needed money and Rav Kook didn't have any handy, all he had was an expensive watch that he received from an American [which is a great story in and of itself] which he promptly handed over. Other times poor people would come and if he didn't have money he would tell them to choose any sefer on his shelf which they could sell and use the money.

5] Rav Kook taught that Eretz Yisrael is not merely a "Jewish Homeland" but the life and breath of Am Yisrael. He also repeatedly emphasized that Am Yisrael are more than just a people who have more laws than anyone else but the essence of holiness on earth from which all of the other nations receive their existence and spiritual sustenance.

[The stories and much, more are cited and documented in the sefer Otzros HaRiiyah in the first chapter].

What can we learn from this angel?? This is a man-angel who said that he can "see" how sins seal one off from the Divine Light? He has many passages where he relates his semi-prophetic visions of spiritual worlds. He is beyond us! I am a pashute yid and how can I strive to emulate this elevated neshama. [His handwriting was once broght to a handwriting expert ("graphologist") who wasn't told the identity of the author. He looked at the text and after analyzing the letters he said "This is a person who lived 350 years ago at least. Such people no longer exist in our world..." I would guess that being such a great ohev yisrael and also a kohen that he was a gilgul of Aharon Hakohen]

That is true. But still, what we CAN learn is to be a bit less materialistic, a bit more spiritual, less ego and self absorption, more love, care, sensitivity and devotion to others.
If Jews would truly care in both thought and practice about other Jews MOST of Klal Yisrael's problems would be solved instantaneously.

There is enough money among the Jewish people that NOBODY has to be poor, yet there are so many in need.

There are enough jobs to be had yet so many are unemployed.

All of the horrible "get" stories we hear would never happened if people internalized the ethic that one must NEVER EVER hurt another human being - even if we feel that this person pained us.

So many of the single people would be married if others were not able to sleep at night racking their brains thinking about possible matches and doing everything they can to make it happen.

All of the lashon hara and rechilus on the blogs, websites and newspapers would cease because people would think "How would I feel if people wrote that about me [even when true]?"

All of the horrible scandals involving breaches in tzniyus and monetary indiscretions would stop because such behavior is simply unholy and impure. Some of the perpetrators are sick and need help. The community would make sure that offenders are duly punished, distanced .... but also helped.

Many of the kids off the derech would come back because they would see a religious world that is not filled with hypocrisy and criticism but with love and acceptance.
Beloved friends - it is in our hands!!!

To conclude with two great quotes from the Rav ztz"l:

We are great and our faults are great and therefore our problems great and great are our consolations.

Oros Hatchiah 5

The pure tzadikkim do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.

Arpilei Tohar page 2

Love and blessings to all:-)