Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Keter Malkhut

Here is R' Bezalel Naor's translation of a poem by R' Shlomo ibn Gabirol (ca. 1021-1058):

You are God,
And all the creatures are Your servants and worshipers.
Your glory is not lessened on account of those who worship other gods,
Because the intention of all is to reach You.
But they are as blind men.
Their goal is the way of the King,
And they have strayed from the way.
One has drowned in a bottomless well.
Another has fallen in a ditch.
All thought they arrived at their destination,
And they strove for nought.
But Your servants are seeing;
They go in a straight way.
They deviate from the path neither right nor left,
Until they reach the courtyard of the King.
What strikes me is the identification of failure in the search for God with a static PLACE. Those that understand that the search for God is of necessity a PATH and not a place (which can never be arrived at) are the ones who truly see. The religious paradox is that once you consider yourself to have found this, you are by definition "off the path" and as long as you are on "on the path", then you are "closer” to that which you seek. I find this to be a highly mystical idea but, amazingly, I have only found it hinted at in two rishonim, both of whom have a decidedly rationalistic tendency. The first is ibn Gabirol and the second is the Meiri in this book on teshuva which I will leave for another post.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Rav Kook on mystical thought, freedom, and the self

Orot HaKodesh I, pg. 86:

"Knowledge of the highest secret matters is not meant to spread through the world in a great expansion, that many may know of them, for it is impossible. And if many know of them in their external aspect, they will know nothing of their internal content, and all this will do more harm than good. Indeed, this knowledge must penetrate to all secrets that contain a divine element of supreme contemplation. And those individuals unique in their spiritual height, raise the world from its degredation by their very existence and not by their tangible influence."

Perakim be-Mishnato ha-Iyunit shel ha-Rav Kook, II, pp. 55-56:
"My thoughts are wider than the seas; to express them in prosaic words I cannot, for I am unwillingly forced to be a poet, yet one who is free. I could not be bound in the fetters of meter and rhyme. I flee from simple prose, from its heaviness, its constriction, and I could not put myself in other confines, perhaps even bigger and more depressing than the weight of the prose from which I flee."

Arpelei Tohar, pg. 59:
"Mystical knowledge is unique in every individual. It is bound up with his selfhood, is unrepeatable and transmitted by no sound or explanation. "They shall be yours only" (Mishlei 5:17). A righteous man shall live by his own, his very own faith. And from this luminous faith, which forms a seperate Eden-paradise for him, he goes forth to walk in the gardens of the Lord, bounded as public domain, where his mind intermingles with that of his fellows."

Arpelei Tohar, pg. 40:
"We feel this 'spiritual muteness,' alas, how much we have to say, how great is the light of justice and wisdom illuminating us in the depth of our souls, but how shall we discover it, how clarify it, how will we utter and bring forth even the tiniest edge of that sublime brightness, for that, the gates are shut before us. In prayer we approach them, with supplication we knock, in joy and praise we raise our voices, offering allegory and thoughts, keeping watch by the doors, perhaps they will open a crack, only a needle's breadth before us, and words will stream from our mouths, and our tongues will be as flowing streams, rivers of honey and butter."

Yep, that pretty much describes how I feel. And as I start to imagine the sweet smell of the air of the land of Israel, to which I am, b"H returning this comming summer, I start to long for that clarity which can only exist in the land. At shul friday night, I saw a friend carying Rav Charlop's Mei Marom. I commented that I have never seen that sublime book outside of the land. My friend commented that this is because all who can appreciate this book have made their way back home already. Hashiveinu Hashem veNashuva, Hadesh Yameinu keKedem!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The early Zionists

In the holy book Kol HaTor by the Gaon and Mekubal R’ Hillel Shklover, student of the Gra, there are brought some important and fundamental teachings of the Gra regarding the mitzvah of Yeshuv HaAretz and the process of redemption. In the fifth chapter, R’ Hillel explains the sin of the Spies who despised the beloved land and caused crying for generations, the destruction of the temple and the exile of the Jewish people:

בעוונותינו הרבים, רבים הם החוטאים חטא גדול של 'וימאסו בארץ חמדה'. גם רבים מתופשי התורה לא ידעו ולא יבינו שנתפשו בחטא המרגלים. נסחפו בקליפת חטא המרגלים בכל מיני סברות כוזבות ותואנות שווא ומדוחים, גם מכסים את סברותיהם בדעה המופרכת שאין מצוות יישוב ארץ ישראל נוהגת בזמן הזה... המרגלים האלה רוצים להיות יותר גדולים מרבותינו תנאים ואמוראים שקבעו שישיבת ארץ ישראל שקולה כנגד כל המצוות שבתורה. וכדברי הרמב"ן והתוספות יום טוב, והשל"ה. ומי לנו גדול בכל הדורות האחרונים כרבנו הגר"א, קדוש ישראל, אשר בדברים חוצבים להבות אש האיץ בתלמידיו לעלות לארץ ישראל ולעסוק בקיבוץ גלויות, והרבה לזרז את תלמידיו להחיש את קץ המגולה, לקרב קץ הגאולה על ידי יישוב ארץ ישראל. כמעט בכל יום דיבר אלינו רבנו ברתת והתרגשות, כי 'בציון ובירושלים תהיה פלטה'.

In our great sins, many are committing the grave sin of 'And they despised the beloved land.' Also many of the knowledgeable in Torah do not know and do not understand that they are caught up in the sin of the spies. They have been swept up by the kelipa of the sin of the spies and all sorts of false rationalizations and weak argumentations – they also cover up their rationalizations in the ridiculous idea that the Mitzva of Settling the land does not apply at this time … These spies want to be greater than our rabbis, the Tannaim and the Amoraim who established that settling the land of Israel is as significant as all the mitzvoth of the Torah – as is also written in the words of the Ramban, the Tosephot Yom Tov, and the Shela. And who is as great in all the recent generations as the Gra, Holy of Israel, who with fiery words pushed his students to ascend to the land of Israel and to engage in the ingathering of the exiles, and he often motivated his students to quicken the final end – to bring close the final redemption through settlement of the land of Israel. And almost every day our teacher would speak to us with great emotion, that 'In Zion and Jerusalem there will be a remnant.'

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gedolim Stories in Israeli Supreme Court decisions

Sometimes you find gedolim stories in the most unlikely places. For example, someone who is researching the history of the Israeli draft exemption for religious women (and the exemption from Sherut Leumi as well) will eventually come across an Israeli supreme court decision (בג"צ 456/71 שרה ברזני נ' שר הבטחון ואח', פ"ד כו 2, 543.).

In this decision, the halachic opinion of Rav Zvi Pesach Frank Zt"l is brought as evidence of the strength of religious opposition to the drafting of women. Now, the court has to show that Rav Frank's opposition is not motivated by a basic ideological opposition to the state so it lists some biographical facts to establish Rav Frank as a moderate religious leader. Among these facts, I found the following:

בדירתו שהיתה מקודם בעיר העתיקה ואחר-כך ברחוב מלאכי בירושלים היה מחסן נשק של ההגנה, הטלפון שלו עמד לרשות ההגנה, במרתף ביתו ברחוב מלאכי היה בית- חרושת לפצצות של ההגנה ושם ערכו גם אימונים. לא נמנע מלשתף פעולה עם ההגנה בשל משרתו הציבורית בתקופת המנדט, וכן לא נמנע מהשתתפות בפעולות אחרות להקמת המדינה.

In his apartment which used to be in the old city and later on Malachi Street in Jerusalem there was storage room for the Hagana's weapons. [In his apartment,] the phone was also made available for the Hagana. In his basement of his house on Malachi Street there was a bomb factory for the Hagana and they used to hold training sessions there. He did not stop cooperating with the Hagana even during his public role [as chief rabbi of Jerusalem who was paid by the British -ed.] during the mandate period and also did not refrain from cooperating with other activities towards the establishment of the state.

Somehow, I don't think that this will make it into the Artscroll biography.