Her Broken Vessels Will Be Mended

Rabbi Kook on nationalism and religion.

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Reprinted with permission from Abraham Isaac Cook: The Lights of Penitance, Lights of Holiness: The Moral Principles, Essays, Letters, and Poems by Ben Zion Bokser (Paulist Press).

Inestimably beautiful is the ideal of establishing a chosen people, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, out of a people sunk in frightful servitude, the brilliance of whose patriarchal origin shall illumine its darkness. In the divine heights this ideal abides in the secret hiding place in its purity.

But it must be materialized, set within a particular boundary, among people with good, and also evil passions, in communities in need of sustenance, of gaining a foothold on the land, of gov­ernmental authority. The collective life must allow room for everybody, from the heights of people of pure spirit and re­fined souls to the lowland of inferior people who are bound to pursue the lower aspects of existence. Mortal eyes, bleary, lose all their brightness, the spiritual dimension becomes enslaved and darkened in the darkness of life, which abounds with filth and refuse. Humanity in its limited form, which is pervaded with abominations more than with refinement and light, is therefore likely to influence its devotees with evil and gross darkness.

This is the source of the evil in liberalism. And when the particular nationalisms robed themselves in the thick garments of worldliness, humanity, too, descended from its heights. The nationhood of the Jewish people was broken so that it ceased functioning, and what is left is only the highest dimension of its basic conception, hidden in the ideal of reviving the nation in the highest dimension of its purity.

Streams of light can descend from this august position to revive the edifice of the nation to its original scope, its scope at the beginning of its existence. By drawing on this higher, divine influence, the nation’s worldly garments can also be restored. But if a person should wish to embrace the nation in its decadent condition, in its coarser aspects, without inner illumination from its ancient, higher light, he will soon take into himself filth and lowliness and elements of evil that will turn to bitterness in a short span of history of but a few generations. This is the vision of the evil kind of nationalism that we encounter.

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Rabbi Abraham I Kook,(1865-1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, Jewish thinker, Halakhist, Kabbalist and a renowned Torah scholar. He is known in Hebrew by the acronym HaRaAYaH or simply as "HaRav." He was one of the most celebrated and influential Rabbis of the 20th century.

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