Wednesday, May 16, 2007
rav simcha hakohen kook on yerushalayim and some thoughts on chinuch
Rav Simcha Kook was in our neighborhood for Shabbos and my son decided he wanted to hear him speak so we davened at a different minyan than our usual haunt. My son has been reading the bio of R’ Aryeh Levine, which touches in a few places on criticism R’ Aryeh received for being close with R’ Kook [the present R’ Kook’s grandfather's brother], so I think he may have been curious to see what someone with the last name Kook would look like and have to say. Rav Kook more than adequately lived up to his 13 year old’s impression of what a gadol b’yisrael must look like (peyos, beard, black frock). Rav Kook spoke about the name Yerushalaim – the name is a combination of yirah, taken from Avaham calling the mountain b’har Hashem yera’eh, and shalom, taken from Malki Tzedek, melech shaleim. Rather than choose one name over the other, Hashem combined the two to make peace, ir shechubra lah. Asked R’ Kook, but wouldn’t Malki Tzedek still have a ta’anah, as he came first, so it should be called shaleimyeru? He answered that yirah=mesirus nefesh, and even Malki Tzedek recognized that for a Jew, mesirus nefesh comes before shalom. With tears in his eyes, R’ Kook then told the story of the bravery of Roi Klein. After hearing Rav Kook speak about Yerushalayim, my son asked me what Yom Yerushalayim is, because in his school, which as he puts it “is non-zionistic”, they had learned nothing about it. Here in the US, the world of Torah is dominated by chareidi or pseudo-chareidi (or as my wife puts it, "limousine chareidim") bnei torah and one really has little opportunity to see a world of torah like the hesder/dati-leuimi/chardal world of Eretz Yisrael. At the risk of a false generalization, I don't think its unfair to say that aside from YU and literally a handful of other institutions, there is no parallel or substitute in the modern orthodox world for the environment of deep immersion in talmud torah and spirituality that has been created by hundreds of RW yeshivos. It leaves people like myself with a torn identity. Philosophically, I take my queue from the Rav, R’ Kook, and their talmidim. But practically, I spend my "keviyus ittim" time in a bais medrash where hallel is not recited today, and if I want my children to grow up in an environment without the influence of TV, where talmud torah is overemphasized so that it becomes ingrained in their thinking, where the base materialism and lower aspects of American culture are at least recognized as bad even if the bulwarks against their influence are not fully effective, then I have no choice but to send them to schools where sadly, today is just another day on the calendar, and Rav Kook is just a name in a history book or a figure viewed with at best pareve indifference.