New York – Israeli Rabbi Discusses Controversial Views Of Rav Kook On Radio Interview


    Orthodox Jewish attend an annual memorial service, for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook in Mount of Olives. Rabbi kook was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandatory Palestine, the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, Jewish thinker, Halachist, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar. He was one of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the 20th century. August 20, 2012. Photo by Oren Nahshon / FLASH90 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.”

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    1. Noone in the frum world questions Rav Kook’s Torah or his Tzidkus. The only issue is that many of his rulings were disagreed with by a majority of Poskim in his day and beyond. Noone questions Bais Shammai’s credentials but the Halcha remains like Bais Hllel

    2. This is historic revisionism at its worst. The fact is that in a letter written by Rav Elchonon Wasserman to Rav Yosef Zvi Dushinsky, and printed in Kovetz Maamarim, of which a facsimile of his Ksav Yad is readily accessible, he refers to R. Kook as, quote, “a rasha gamur.” This was the eternally loyal Talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, who spent his life disseminating his Rebbi’s Torahs.

      Also, the Chazon Ish said that it is Assur to read R. Kook’s Hashkafa works. (See Yalkut Daas Torah p.46, which is printed sometimes after Ikvesa DMeshicha of R. Elchonon Wasserman.)

        • Rav Eliyashiv z”l was not Kosher to those who subscribe to the philosophy of the Satmar Rebbe z”l.

          According to a Satmar friend of mine, the Steipler Gaon z”l did not give Rav Eliyashiv z”l an Aliya (call to the torah) when he was meshadech with him, because the Brisker Rav z”l was very angry at Rav Eliyashiv z”l.

          Maybe someone knows more about that.

          In my humble opinion, the threat of Zionism was greater at the time and some gedolim thought that anything remotely associated with Zionism should be banned.

          Today a typical satmar kid, has no clue what “tziyonim” are. He reads in their papers propaganda that he believes until his first trip to Israel.

          If the Satmar Rebbe z”l was alive today, he would have led the Siyum HaShas and gone together with other gedolim to promote yidishkeit and fight our current battles.

          • it’s very tragic but some individuals and some groups for that matter fill the need to koch in machloches with others. it keeps them from looking within and having machloches with their own yetzer hara.

      • It is a disgrace when one Rav disparaging another great Rav.Why must Jews hate one another?
        Sinas chinum caused the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdos….
        Ahdus will bring Moshiah….

    3. The Chafetz Chaim’s son-in-law, Rav Aharon HaKohen, wrote a very strong letter (in 5688) protesting the insulting way in which people who “pretend to be shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos” treated Rav Kook. These are his words:
      ידעי שאדמו”ח החפץ חיים שליט”א המוקיר ומחבב מאד את כבוד מרן הגאון ר’ אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק שליט”א שנפשו היה דאבה מאד עליו בשמעו אודות הרדיפות עליו.
      [rough translation] “I know that the Admo”r, my father-in-law, the Chafetz Chaim shlit”a — who greatly respects and loves Kevod Maran HaGaon R’ Avrohom Yitzhok HaKohen Kook shlit”a — was very upset when he heard of the persecutions against him.”

    4. I would hope that this is a revisionist history because to believe that Rav Elchanan referred to Rav Kook as a rasha gamur causes me to have a lack of emunas chachomim.

    5. Do you want to form an opinion on Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook? Then learn his sefarim! Unfortunately, many of our hashkafas are based on propaganda that we learn in childhood, and not on serious personal study. Are you willing to be brave, to study in depth, and think for yourself? Then pick up Rav Kook’s sefarim such as Orot Hateshuva or Orot Eretz Yisrael. After you study his works seriously, you can form an opinion. Unfortunately, this is a revolutionary idea in many insular circles whose hashkafas are formed more by social pressure and prejudice and fear of change than serious thought.

      • Yours is not a bad advice but utterly unrealistic. There are many personalities and issues on which one has form opinions, and nobody can’t afford to study every one of them in the detail that you demand: average avreich’s lifetime may not be enough to form an opinion on Rambam alone, to use uncontroversial example. Inevitably, we (and that certainly includes you) form our opinions on almost everything based on what people or sources we trust told us or taught us, there is no other way.

        Do you have an opinion on neutrinos? Have you ever seen one? Has anybody?

    6. Sometimes, a great Rav is not accepted in his generation because people do not give his works and philosophy serious consideration. They want to hold on to the status quo and are threatened by any change, even though it is totally in accordance with Torah and Halacha, and from totally holy sources. When people will get the courage to leave their comfort zones, they will be ble to let in light of holiness of the works of great and holy leaders outside their small circles, such as Rav Kook zt”l.
      They will only add a rich dimension to their lives, and not lose anything they already have.

    7. #1,

      Incorrect. Unfortunately, most chareidi Jews are vihemently opposed to Rav Kook and his teachings.
      Let’s hope that Hashem sees fit to do to him what he did to R’ Nachman m’Breslov, and that in a hundred years everyone will have R’ Kook’s works in their homes!


      You may be correct about R’ Elchannan, but maybe not. There were a lot of propagandist works written then to try to discredit R’ Kook. It’s very sad.
      As for the Chazon Ish, he held the same on many hashkafos that we learn today, including rabbis who hold of secular studies and Chassidim.


      Don’t be silly. The mesader kiddushin is not who qualifies a person as being married, the aidim do!


      Don’t worry about it. If it is true (who knows…) it’s the not only silly thing that a gadol wrote. We have to realize that everyone makes some mistakes, and no one is 100% good or evil.


      This is probably not a true story, but it doesn’t surprise me that the Brisker Rav and the Satmer Rav did anything they could to go against anyone who disagreed with them.
      You’re incorrect that the Satmerer would go to the Siyum HaShas though.

      • Thanks for your intelligent answers.
        Regarding the CI story, the CI never said it was assur ot read Rav Kook’s hashkofa books. Rather, he felt that they were not for the masses, as the masses would find them confusing and come to incorrect conclusions — not because the books were inherently wrong, but because they are difficult for the average person to properly understand.

        How do I knew the above?

        Because I know someone who spoke to the individual who asked the CI and that is what this person said.

    8. What ever differences Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnefeld had with Rav Kook, he still had the utmost respect for him as a talmid chocham and as a tzaddik.
      Rav Aryeh Levin was a close talmid of Rav Kook and Rav Eliyashiv ‘s grandfather teh Baal HaLeshem learned with Rav Kook B’Chavrusa, Rav Kook was Rav Rav Eliyashiv’s shadchan and Misader Kiddushin at his chassuna and Rav Eliyashiv always referred to Rav Kook as Der Rebbe. Rav Eliyashiv once said that Rav Kook was greater them them all

    9. The Gerer Rebbe and Harav Zonenfeld were discussing between themselves if those weird things rav Kook use to do were due to him being a רשע or being a שוטה, they came to conclusion that it was caused by both, being a rosho and a shoite.

    10. Do you study the Rambam, the Ramchal, or chassidus? Well, many rabbanim prohibited learning the works of the Rambam because it incorporated and addressed secular writings. The Ramchal’s writings were banned and he had to flee his homeland and he was persecuted for his sefarim, because the rabbanim in his time accused him of being a student of Shabtai Tzvi. And for centuries, the Litvishe world prohibited studying Chassidus. So Rav Kook is in good company. It will take time for the general oilam to catch up and recognize his greatness. It takes the general public a long time to recognize and accept someone with innovative thinking. They just are comfortable with thinking from centuries back.

      • Good insight. And it goes both way. Many rabbeim and their positions were shunned (for good reasons) during their lifetimes but also had supporters, and today nobody holds from them and almost nobody remembers them. And many others were shunned during some parts or whole of their lifetimes and today we consider them giants.

        Which of these companies, as you phrased it, is Rav Kook in? I suspect the latter but don’t presume to have foresight to know.

        • Yes, I hold that Rav Kook belongs to the group of Torah greats, based on the tremendous positive influence he has had on large segments of the Jewish people and Jewish history. He did not change Torah (which is what rabbanim are understandably afraid of), but incorporated Torah into the reality of modern day Israel. It’s ultimately unproductive to ignore reality and make believe one is continuing to live in the past, such as European shtetlach. It is much harder to deal with reality in a positive way instead of running away from it. Rav Kook addressed the return to Zion, and how to infuse this new era of Jewish history with Torah and kedusha. He provided a vision of the significance of where Hashem is leading the Jewish people in history, based on the Prophets. (Many of the Nevi’im, such as Yirmuyahu, were also reviled and oppressed in their time). We still need to catch up to his vision.

    11. #15,

      Thank you, yes, I’m aware of the Chazon Ish’s view, but keep in mind that there’s often a big difference between what he said and what he held.
      An example of this is his view on electricity on shabbos. He writes that it’s an issur of Boneh but he really held that it’s not assur at all. He told his talmidim that the problem with electricity is that it isn’t shabbosdik, saying “in the future, everything will run on electricity. We have to be moser nefesh to assur it now so that shabbos will still be shabbos”

    12. He was the Gadol HaDor (and still is). I don’t expect that much of the Haredi world which is committed to self preservation rather than hearing G-d’s voice in current history to consider that seriously.
      However it does not change the reality that he is.


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