HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, zt”zl

I had never been introduced to the teachings of “The RAV” …..Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zt”zl until we made aliyah. Through Divine Providence, he and his teachings came into our lives and forever changed the way we view Eretz HaKodesh and our beloved Jewish nation. Please enjoy this extraordinary biography of the Rav, so you too may catch a glimpse of one of the greatest Rav’s of the 20th century.



Parshat Devarim: Stating the Facts Relating To the Land Of Israel

 zOya6602930croppedParshat Devarim: Stating the Facts Relating To the Land Of Israel

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

In last week’s Torah portion, which begins the 5th book of Moses called Devarim, we read that Moses’ life is drawing to an end. I cannot imagine the sadness that must have gripped the Israelites, as their beloved teacher and leader is about to depart the world. I find myself getting emotional from reading it. I also find myself longing for our Jewish nation to have a leader and guide of Moses’ stature today, in order to shift everything in the right direction and bring our long awaited Messiah and Our Holy Temple, of which we are now in mourning.

Just as I am becoming immersed in the grief over Moses’ departure, the Parsha shifts to the happy news that the Jewish people will enter the land of Israel after his passing. These enormous contrasting emotions serve, at least in my mind, to convey the greatness of the merit and privilege of COMING INTO THE LAND on the heels of his passing.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak haKohein Kook, OBM writes in the book, “OROT”: “Eretz Yisrael is not an external entity, an addition to the nation or a means to attain physical or even spiritual achievements. Eretz Yisrael is an integral part of the nation, inextricably bound to her inner existence. It is impossible to explain in a rational way.” Perhaps this is why so many Jews residing in the land have an irrational love for the Land. I feel it myself, as do many of my friends and for sure my holy husband.

Gideon Weitzman writes in his book, “Sparks of Light: Essays from Rav Kook” on Devarim,

“The Jews were returning to their long lost home. The Land of Israel had remained a dream for 210 years of exile in Egypt and 40 years of wandering in the desert. Now, they were about to recapture her and there was anticipation and hope in the air. In Eretz Yisrael, they would have unheard of opportunities they had been denied during their stay in Egypt and their desert journey. In Israel, they would have authentic expression as a nation and all that that implied, for only in Israel could the Jewish people be a completely unified nation.

It is at this juncture that Moshe expounds upon the teachings embedded in each of the previous four books of the Bible. Moshe conveys the deep messages of the Torah directives. He speaks of the tasks of Am Yisrael as a nation of diverse ideals. He speaks of certain groups having to deal entirely with spiritual matters while the majority would be entrusted with working in the physical world.  Moshe knew that if they could absorb the principles of the Torah, they would successfully conquer the land, both physically and spiritually.

Moshe implored the people to merge, in order to enable the mundane to rise up and touch the divine, the spiritual to vitalize the physical, not only as individuals but as an entire nation. Moshe longed for them to understand that in order to fuse heaven and earth, the nation must be fully conscious of their abilities and responsibilities and be united.

These were Moshe’s final lessons: his messages for the life of the Jewish people and with these spoken words, he passed from the world. These vital teachings were to be our survival manual throughout history. Far from being the end, however, the Book of Devarim is just the beginning. True, it is the end of Moshe’s Torah, but it is the start of life for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. It is the prologue to the eternal story of Jewish history, of a nation who lived independently in their land, of a nation whose history was all part of a divine plan and of a nation assigned the tasks of revealing G-d’s Divine name in their actions and history.”

And there we have it, the straight facts from Moses, the greatest prophet of Israel—our redemption from Egypt was for the express purpose of residing in Eretz Yisrael, in order to fulfill our Divine mission and claim our birthright. If Moses taught it to the nation before his passing, it is equally binding today. As Gideon Weitzman so succinctly stated, “In the land of Israel, they would have authentic expression as a nation and all that that implied. “

May we merit to comprehend and absorb the deep messages of the Torah that Moses spoke in Devarim and follow through on them today, in order to claim our birthright in the Land of Israel, as loyal servants of the King of Kings. May we all join our nation in our beloved, sacred homeland to fulfill our task of revealing G-ds name and thus bring about the conclusion of our history with our rebuilt Temple, so we can end the intense mourning and turn it into intense joy!

With blessings, Ariella Bracha

Rejecting the Land of Israel by HaRav Kook

Rav Kook Torah

Rejecting the Land of Israel

“And [the spies] began to speak badly about the land that they had explored.” (Num. 13:32)

A dispirited discussion took place at Beit HaRav, Rav Kook’s house in Jerusalem, not long after the end of World War II. The Chief Rabbi had passed away ten years earlier; now it was his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who sat at the head of the table.

One participant at the Sabbath table had brought up a disturbing topic: the phenomenon of visitors touring Eretz Yisrael and then criticizing the country after returning to their homes. These visitors complain about everything: the heat, the poverty, the backwardness, the political situation — and discourage other Jews from moving here, he lamented.

Rav Tzvi Yehudah responded by telling over the following parable, one he had heard in the name of Rabbi Samuel Mohilever, the rabbi of Bialystok.

The Failed Match

There was once a wealthy man who sought the hand of a certain young lady. She was the most beautiful girl in town, and was blessed with many talents and a truly refined character. Her family was not well-off, so they were eager about a possible match with the prosperous fellow.

The young woman, however, was not interested in the match. Rich or not, the prospective suitor was known to be coarse and ill-mannered. She refused to meet with him.

The father asked her to at least meet with the young man in their home, so as not to embarrass him. After all, one meeting doesn’t obligate you to marry him! To please her father, the young woman agreed.

The following Sabbath afternoon, the fellow arrived at the house as arranged, and was warmly received by the father. Shortly afterwards, his daughter made her entrance. But her hair was uncombed, and she wore a faded, crumpled dress and shabby house slippers. Appalled at her disheveled appearance, it did not take long before the young man excused himself and made a hurried exit.

What everyone says about this girl — it’s not true, exclaimed the astonished young man to his friends. She’s hideous!

Rav Tzvi Yehudah stopped briefly, surveying the guests seated around the table.Superficially, it would appear that the brash young fellow had rejected the young woman. But in fact, it was she who had rejected him.

The same is true regarding the Land of Israel, the rabbi explained. Eretz Yisrael is a special land, only ready to accept those who are receptive to its unique spiritual qualities. The Land does not reveal its inner beauty to all who visit. Not everyone is worthy to perceive its special holiness.

It may appear as if the dissatisfied visitors are the ones who reject the Land of Israel, he concluded. But in fact, it is the Land that rejects them!

A thoughtful silence pervaded the room. Those present were stunned by the parable and the rabbi’s impassioned delivery. Then one of the guests observed, Reb Tzvi Yehudah, your words are suitable for a son of your eminent father, may his memory be a blessing!

Seeing the Goodness of Jerusalem

Rav Tzvi Yehudah’s response was indeed appropriate for Rav Kook’s son. When visitors from outside the country would approach the Chief Rabbi for a blessing, Rav Kook would quote from the Book of Psalms, “May God bless you from Zion” (128:5).

Then he would ask: What exactly is this blessing from Zion? In fact, the content of the blessing is described in the continuation of the verse: “May you see the goodness of Jerusalem.

The rabbi would explain: The verse does not say that one should merit seeing Jerusalem; but that one should merit seeing ‘the goodness of Jerusalem.’ Many people visit Jerusalem. But how many of them merit seeing the inner goodness hidden in the holy city?

And that, he concluded, is God’s special blessing from Zion.

(Stories from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam by Simcha Raz, pp. 227-278, 230)

In Memory of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook


RavKookA Jewish National Fund (JNF) publication on HaRav Kook tells the story of his perseverance even to the end of his days. Towards the end of his life, wasting away by a fatal cancer and suffering from severe and unrelenting pains, HaRav Kook was visited by a delegation of the leaders of the JNF, whose mission is to reclaim Jewish lands by purchasing them from the Arabs. They were in a deep financial crisis and desperately needed the Rav’s approval and contacts for a fundraising campaign. He aroused himself to their plight and dictated a letter to his secretary who smilingly responded to the Rav that the rightist critics, the zealots who opposed him, will accuse the Rabbi of being a Zionist. Rav Kook responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Is it at all possible for a Jew not to be a Zionist? After all, G-d Himself chose Zion and is thus a Zionist; and we are commanded to imitate G-d and walk in His ways.” Such was the mettle of this most remarkable man who lived and died for his beloved Zion: The Holy Land and His beloved nation of Israel on whose behalf he fought mightily in so many arenas.

HaRav Kook was born in the fall of 1865 in Grieve, Latvia to a family distinguished by love of learning and piety. When he was 4 years old, he heard his mother speaking about the Patriarchs traveling to the Holy Land, whereupon the child grabbed a walking stick and began to march. His mother asked him where he was going and he replied joyously,”To the Land flowing with milk and honey!”

In his last days on earth, Rav Kook showed a heroism and courage that was other-worldly as he attempted to address a meeting in Tel Aviv related to Shabbat observance. A renowned specialist from Paris was attending to his medical needs, when he got the call from the leader of the group. The doctor was in complete awe at his stamina and tenacity. When the group leaders realized his intent to leave his sickbed and speak at the meeting, they became extremely distressed for his well-being. When Rav Kook saw their concern, he said, “Do not worry, the desecration of Shabbat in Tel Aviv hurts me much more than my physical pains. If I can help avoid even some desecration of Shabbat, it will be better medicine for me than anything my doctors can prescribe.”

Another time, when a devout Jew was visiting from America, he commented and complained about the widespread laxity in the observance of Judaism in The Holy Land. Rav Kook explained that Eretz Ha Kodesh is the emergency room of the Jewish world. He told him that Eretz Yisrael attracts many spiritually ill to our Land because the spiritual climate heals both the soul and the body.

Rav Kook was a man ahead of his time for he could envision the future of not just the Land of Israel but the entire world, in an extraordinary way. HaRav Kook’s overriding goal was the complete unification of the people of Israel, and through them all of mankind accepting the Kingdom of G-d. He believed that all distinctions, separations, differences between peoples, institutions and ideals were but temporary manifestations of a fragmented world. He believed with complete faith that the people of Israel, through the Torah of Israel and in the Land of Israel, are the instruments for the final unification of all mankind, all ideals and aspirations. Without the Land, Rav Kook asserted, Israel must remain fragmented, mankind unredeemed and the great vision of unity dimmed and distant.

Rav Kook passed away on the 3rd of Elul in 1935. Thousands of Jews stood together at his funeral where it was eulogized, “In the hearts of all lovers of Zion, Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, first chief Rabbi of Israel occupies a hallowed place. The story of this saintly figure is an inspiring demonstration of ‘spirit in action’.”

According to the Torah, on the yahrzeit of a Tzaddik, a righteous person, his great deeds and His Torah can be accessed to bring his light into the world for Blessings. May the merit of Rav Kook’s extraordinary deeds on behalf of his beloved Jewish nation bring much needed Blessings and healing to our fragmented world. May his enormous merits and great Torah knowledge be accessible to all who choose to be uplifted by the soul teachings of a Torah giant. May his love of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael enable us to be lovers of Zion in all facets of life. May we also rise to action on behalf of our G-d and our nation.

With Blessings of love and light during this holy month of Elul, Ariella Bracha Waldinger





Parshat Shlach – the first group Aliyah

Inspiring teachings from HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook on this week’s Parsha tells how important is each Aliyah. When you make Aliyah you are helping to complete the spiritual tikun that Am Yisrael continues to do for this outright rejection of the Good Land that HaShem gave to us.


grasshopperShlach: Repairing the Sin of the Spies

One of the greatest tragedies in the history of the Jewish people occurred when the spies sent by Moses returned with a frightening report about the Land of Israel. Their dire warnings of a “land that consumes its inhabitants” convinced the people that they would be better off returning to Egypt.

Unlike the other incidents when the Israelites rebelled, this time Moses was unable to annul God’s decree. The entire generation died in the desert, never reaching the promised land. The best Moses was able to do was to delay the punishment for forty years.



In a 1908 letter, Rav Kook wrote that we still suffer for this catastrophic error. The root cause for the exiles and humiliations of the Jewish people, throughout their long history, is due to our failure to correct the sin of the spies.

How can we rectify the sin of the spies?

To repair this national failure, a teshuvat hamishkal is needed, a penance commensurate to the sin that will ‘balance the scales.’ The spies defamed the Land of Israel, as it says, “They despised the desirable land” (Psalms 106:24). We must do the opposite, and show our unwavering love for the Land.

“[We must] declare to the entire world [the Land’s] magnificence and beauty, its holiness and grandeur. If only we could express, with what may appear to us to be greatly exaggerated, even a ten-thousandth of the desirability of the beloved land, and the splendorous light of its Torah, and the superior light of its wisdom and prophecy!
“The quality of delightful holiness that Torah scholars seeking the holy may find in the Land of Israel does not exist at all outside the Land. I myself can attest to this unique quality, to a degree commensurate with my small worth.” (Igrot HaRe’iyah, vol. I, pp. 112-113)

For Rav Kook, this recommendation on how to address the sin of the spies was not just a nice homily. Stories abound of his burning love for the Land of Israel, and his indefatigable attempts to encourage fellow Jews to move to Eretz Yisrael. Below are a few examples.

‘God Willing’

During a 1924 fundraising mission in America, Rav Kook tried to convince a wealthy Jew to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael.   The man gave various reasons why he could not yet leave America, but concluded, ‘God willing, I too will soon make Aliyah to Israel.’

Rav Kook responded, ‘God is certainly willing. After all, settling Eretz Yisrael is one of His commandments. But you must also be willing…’

The Halachic Leniency

Once an American shopkeeper asked Rav Kook if there is a leniency in Jewish law that permits one to work on the second day of Yom Tov.

‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘there is a leniency that is accepted by all halachic authorities.”

The shopkeeper was thrilled. He eagerly asked for details about this leniency.

‘Come to Eretz Yisrael,’ Rav Kook smiled. ‘Then you will always be permitted to work during the second day of Yom Tov.’

Without Calculations

Once, a Jewish tourist visited Rav Kook in Jerusalem, seeking advice as to the possibility of living in Eretz Yisrael. During the discussion, the visitor calculated the pros and cons of moving to Israel; and in the end, he decided that it was not worthwhile.

Rav Kook told the man:

“Before the Israelites entered the Land in the time of Moses, they first needed to kill Sichon, the king of Heshbon. This teaches us that one should come to the Land of Israel bli heshbon— without making calculations.”


Kissing the Rocks of Acre

The Talmud records that Rabbi Abba would demonstrate his great love for the Land of Israel by kissing the rocks of Acre (Ketubot 112a) as he returned to the Land. What was so special about these rocks that Rabbi Abba would kiss them?

Rav Kook explained that if Rabbi Abba had kissed the soil of EretzYisrael, we would understand that his love for the Land was due to the special mitzvot that are fulfilled with its fruit — tithes, first fruits, the sabbatical year, and so on. The soil, which produces fruit, signifies the importance and holiness of the Land through the mitzvot ha-teluyot ba’aretz.

But Rabbi Abba’s love for the Land was not dependent on any external factors — not even its special mitzvot (see Avot 5:16; Orotp. 9). Rabbi Abba cherished the intrinsic holiness of Eretz Yisrael. He recognized that the special qualities of the Land – such as its receptivity to prophecy and enlightenment — go far beyond the holiness of those mitzvot connected to agriculture. Therefore, he made a point of kissing its barren rocks and stones.

(Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam, pp. 221, 222, 237.)