New York – In an interview that aired on Zev Brenner’s Talkline program last night, Rabbi Moshe Zuriel spoke about Israel’s first Ashkenazic chief rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, in honor of his 77th yahrtzeit.
R’ Zuriel, a Talmid Chacham and Mekubel who has written many dozens of seforim, and former mashgiach of Israel’s Yeshivat Sha’alvim was a talmid of Rav Kook’s son and wrote several seforim on Rav Kook’s writings, explained that while today there are those who look askance on Rav Kook for his great love for all Jews, secular or otherwise, he was a very respected Rav who was considered to be a visionary in his time and was highly regarded by gedolim of his generation including the Chazon Ish, the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchanan Wasserman, Rav Chaim Brisk and Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.
While Rav Kook was a great fighter for Torah observance, he was criticized by some for accommodations that were made for secular Jews, including his policies on shmita, allowing farmers to sell land to non-Jews for the year in order not to lose their incomes for an entire year. R’ Zuriel explained that not only was there some dispute in calculating the shmita year, but many rabbis of the time allowed for the sale of land, quoting a letter from R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach saying it was permissible to sell the land prior to the onset of shmita, in order to prevent people from sinning by working the land during shmita.
According to R’ Zuriel, present day rabbonim don’t understand how well respected Rav Kook was and today, it is considered a badge of religiosity to speak out against the former chief rabbi, particularly between the religious and anti-religious Zionists.
“To be more religious you have to be anti-Rav Kook,” said R’ Zuriel.
Yet, explains R’ Zuriel, Rav Kook was emphatic in his insistence that Eretz Yisroel without Torah could not survive and many of those who speak out against Rav Kook have not only been given totally inaccurate information and have never read any of his seforim in order to gain a better understanding of his views.
Quoting a gemara that discusses how the Satan incites people against great rabbanim in order to lessen their influence on their generation, R’ Zuriel likened Rav Kook to Moshe Rabbeinu, saying how people spoke out against Moshe Rabbeinu in his day.
“A person who insults a talmid chochom?” said R’ Zuriel. “There is no remedy for that sickness.”
Listen to the full 20 Minute radio interview below:
Below responses on Aug 22 2012 by Rav Zuriel to some of the commentators.
“I read some of the comments of the readers to the article. I see there (a certain Joseph, second comment) charges me of misinformation by saying that Rav Elchanan Wasserman had high regard for Rav Kook. I therefore checked with Otzar HaChochma to see where I erred.
I found a wonderful article in the periodical Ma-ayan, Tammuz 5771, pages 75-90 written by Rabbi Eitam Henkin. He verifies that the Keren HaYesod people plagiarized a letter of consent by Rav Kook , to their undertakings. You know of course that Keren Kayemet was to organise funds for purchasing lands. Keren Hayesod was for (secular) educational schools. Rav Kook never supported the latter and even wrote vehemently against them (as quoted there in the article). The opposition of Rav Elchanan Wasserman was due to his being falsely informed of that” support’, which as proven there was an out and out lie.
What is even more interesting is that in the book Kovetz Ma-marim ve-Igerot (of Rabbi Wasserman (part two page 124), in 1935 he asks his brother in Israel what is the medical situation of Harav Kook, since he heard of his illness. This he wouldn’t have done if would have considered him halila as a Rasha Gamur, as quoted there by Joseph. What I mentioned Rav Wasserman in my discussion I heard from a reliable source.”