The Flashes of Holiness in the World

  • Rav Hillel Rachmani
      YESHIVAT HAR ETZION VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH PROJECT(VBM)
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             INTRODUCTION TO THE THOUGHT OF RAV KOOK

                      by Rav Hillel Rachmani



         LECTURE #2: THE FLASHES OF HOLINESS IN THE WORLD


	In last week's introduction to Rav Kook, we described R. 
Kook's vision of the relationship between man's experience as 
he strives to achieve his goals and the goals in and of 
themselves.  As we saw, each layer of the text revealed a 
deeper understanding not only of the topic under discussion, 
but also of other pivotal concepts in Rav Kook's philosophy.  
By carefully examining each topic in this manner, we hope to 
arrive at a full picture of R. Kook's thought.

	In this lecture, as we examine another mystical and 
philosophical insight, we will attempt to take a step closer 
toward understanding R. Kook's philosophy.  This time, we will 
explore the nature of light and darkness.

	In Orot HaKodesh (2/303) the Rav writes:

"The holy lights which burst forth at specific points 
in time and space, must be appraised at their true 
value, with the knowledge that they are secretly 
spread across all of existing space, that they travel 
through concealed passageways and secluded streams, 
until finally surfacing at one luminous spot."

	In this paragraph, Rav Kook delineates his concept of the 
nature of light and darkness, which he will later apply to 
three distinct manifestations of holiness.  Rav Kook posits 
that wherever a concentration of "light" (or holiness) exists, 
holiness also exists in the surrounding area of "darkness," 
even though it cannot be perceived.  This "invisible" holiness 
flows toward the central point of "light", and there it is 
revealed.  This can be compared to a black disk with a central 
concentrated point of light at the center.  R. Kook maintains 
that mixed within the black around the central light are 
sparks of light which we cannot see, and each one is connected 
to and reveals itself in the central concentrated point of 
light.  

	After establishing this fundamental principle, Rav Kook 
now applies it.

"The holiness of man, revealed through the Jewish 
nation, lies hidden within Everyman, within the whole 
of humanity, in the depths of inviolate chambers, and 
it continually flows through a hidden labyrinth, until 
finally coming to light through the glow of the Jewish 
soul."

	R. Kook first applies this principle to mankind as a 
whole.  He describes the Jewish people as the central 
concentration of holiness, while the other nations exist in 
the "surrounding" area.  According to Rav Kook, the holiness 
that is revealed in the Jewish nation exists in the other 
nations as well.  This dispersed holiness flows towards and 
reveals itself in the Jewish People.  Holiness exists among 
all the nations of the world, but reveals itself through the 
history and collective spirit of the Jewish people.  (Here we 
have only touched lightly upon this topic.  In future shiurim 
we will explain R. Kook's complex understanding of the nature 
of the Jewish people.)

	Rav Kook continues:

"The holiness of space fills the entire world, yet it 
remains hidden and invisible, and the secret waves of 
holiness push endlessly forth towards their destined 
revelation, until they find expression through the 
Land of Israel, the pinnacle of all the dust of the 
universe, and from there to the holy spot, the holy 
Temple, and the Rock of Foundation, 'Out of Zion, the 
epitome of beauty, God has appeared.'"

	R. Kook now applies this principle to the realm of 
"space."  Holiness exists concealed in the whole world.  This 
holiness flows towards Eretz Yisrael, where it manifests 
itself and finds its focus at the Holy Temple, the Beit Ha-
mikdash.  The Land of Israel, therefore, is the expression of 
the holiness of all the countries of the world; within the 
Land of Israel the point of concentration of holiness is the 
Temple.

	The third area to which Rav Kook applies this principle 
is the realm of "time."  He writes:

"The holiness of time spreads across eternity, daily 
expressing benediction, and the rays of holy light are 
drawn along a secret path, until they are revealed at 
the holy times, through the holiness of Shabbat, which 
is the origin of all the holy times and emanates with 
holiness toward the entire world and toward Israel; 
and through the holiness of the holidays, which serve 
as receptacles of holy emanation; and through the 
Jewish people, who sanctify the holidays."

	R. Kook explains that all periods of time are holy, yet 
usually this holiness is concealed.  This holiness expresses 
and concentrates itself in time periods that have been 
designated as holy.  These include the Shabbat, which reflects 
the concealed holiness of the other days of the week, and the 
Jewish festivals.  One can now imagine the incredible 
concentration of holiness and spiritual energy created when 
the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies in the Temple on Yom 
Kippur.  The holiness of man, place and time converge to give 
expression to the holiness of the entire world, and, in turn, 
infuse the holiness into the surrounding world.

	After illustrating his original concept with the above 
examples, Rav Kook provides another insight which expands and 
deepens our understanding of his idea.

"This is similar to the relationship of the soul to 
the senses, the seeing eye and hearing ear, whose 
light is not indigenous but rather stems from the 
light of life which floods the soul and grants life to 
the entire body, and which in turn gives man quality 
of life through the gifts of sight and of hearing; 
this burst of potential, when it reaches the point 
most ripe for its revelation, finds expression through 
sight and hearing."

	While this isn't the place to explain in-depth and 
elaborate upon this citation, allow me to make one point.  The 
form of the human body is not random.  We may learn many 
things from the structure of the human body.  For example, 
most of the surface area of the body is closed, while in 
certain areas - the organs of the senses - there are openings.  
R. Kook views those locations as points of "light" within an 
area of darkness.  Yet, these points are not self-contained.  
They are connected to and respond to the entire body.  They 
are expressions of the life of the soul which infuses the 
entire organism.  Let us move on.

"Thus it is with all the various revelations in our 
world, throughout the annals of history, revelations 
both natural and supernatural; whatever is revealed at 
a designated time is but a concentrated expression of 
a multitude of forces which lay dormant, whose action 
was delayed until the appropriate hour had arrived.
The only true change lies in the naming [of the spark 
of holiness], in public expression and revelation.  
The essence is not new, 'since the creation, I (God) 
have existed.'"

	The phenomenon of concentration and outpouring of 
spiritual energy can also be seen in the historical process.  
No events in history are spontaneous or coincidental.  Rather, 
such events are the result of a concentration of forces that 
have been slowly gaining strength, until they burst forth and 
reveal themselves in such an event.
 
	Having gained insight into Rav Kook's understanding of 
the interaction of the secular and the holy, we can understand 
the idea discerned in the last lecture on a deeper level.  We 
described two levels - the tree and the fruit (see the 
previous lecture).  Originally the two were meant to be 
connected, but were later separated.  If we understand the 
fruit as the point of convergence of holiness, and the tree as 
the surrounding area, we can re-explain the idea of the tree 
losing its taste.  The tree did not necessarily lose its taste 
altogether, but rather the taste was concealed within the tree 
and could only find expression in the fruit!

	While the concepts discussed by Rav Kook are beautiful, 
lofty and inspiring, they do not remain in the philosophical 
realm alone, but can have direct ramifications on our lives as 
well.  Accepting these ideas may profoundly affect our outlook 
on and relationship to the secular realm.  The Secular (in 
terms of man, place and time) is not to be viewed as totally 
devoid of holiness.  Rather, the holy serves as the focal 
point to bring out holiness which can also be found in the 
secular.  This may affect our interaction with secular Jews or 
our concept of secular Zionism.  Rav Kook did not view them as 
alien and as foreign to holiness, but rather as the base, or 
the tree, which must strive for the taste of the fruit.  Not 
only must the holy serve as an expression for the secular, but 
it must also fulfill its responsibility to the secular to 
bring out its concealed holiness.

	Rav Kook ends on a note of prophetic hope:

"For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, and for 
the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still, until her 
righteousness is as clear as light, and her salvation 
burns as a torch, and nations will see Your 
righteousness and kings will see Your glory and You 
will be granted a new name, uttered by the mouth of 
God." 


(This lecture was adapted by:  Moshe Fish)

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