Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rav Kook at Hebrew University - The importance of a University if subordinated to Torah

Rav Kook  (Hebrew University): some excerpts from Tradition Magazine. 29:1 1994 page 87-92.


 It is interesting to note how similar his vision is to   Rav S. R. Hirsch and how different from Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

It is also important to understand that this speech has been severely misunderstood and misrepresented in the Chareidi world - in particular by the Yated. 
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The prophet of consolation prophesied (Isaiah 60:4-5 ):
Your sons shall be brought from afar, your daughters like babes on shoulders.As you behold, you will glow. Your heart will fear and rejoice for the wealth of the sea shall pass on to you; the riches of the nations shall come to you. [...]
But why "fear"? Why did the prophet preface the phrase "Your heart will rejoice" with the notion of fear? When, however, we look back in retrospect at past generations, and at the spiritual and intellectual movements that have influenced us, we readily understand that the notion of fear) in conjunction with rejoicing, is appropriate.

Two tendencies characterize Jewish spirituality, One tendency is internal and entirely sacred; it serves to deepen the spirit and to strengthen the light of Torah within. Such has been the purpose of all Torah institutions from earliest times, especially the fortresses of Israel's soul - the ycshivot. This includes all the yeshivot that ever existed, presently exist, and will exist in order to glorify Torah in its fullest sense. This spiritual tendency is fully confident and assured. "Those who love Your Torah enjoy well-being; they encounter no adversity" (Psalm 119:165). Despite such confidence, Rabbi Nehunyah ben Haqanah, upon entering the house of study, used to pray that nothing go awry with his presentation and that it not lead to error.

The second tendency characterizing Jewish spirituality served not only to deepen the sacredness of Torah within, but also as a means for the propagation and absorption of ideas. It served to prop· agate Jewish ideas and values from the private domain of Judaism into the public arena of the universe at large. For this purpose we have been established as a light unto the nations. It also served to absorb the general knowledge derived by the collective effort of all of humanity, by adapting the good and useful aspects of general knowledge to our storehouse of a purified way of living. Ultimately, this absorption too serves as a means of a moderated propagation to the world at large. Toward the attainment of this end, the Hebrew University can serve as a great and worthy instrument.

Here, dear friends, there is room for fear. From earliest times, we have experienced the transfer of the most sublime and holy concepts from the Jewish domain to the general arena. An example of propagation was the translation of the Torah into Greek. Two very different Jewish responses to this event emerged. In the land of Israel, Jews were frightened their world darkened. In contrast, Greek Jewry rejoiced. There were also instances of absorption. Various cultural influences, such as Greek culture and other foreign cultures that Jews confronted throughout their history, penetrated into our inner being. Here too, many Jewish circles responded to absorption with fear, while other Jews rejoiced.

When we look back on the previous generations, and reckon with hindsight, we realize that neither the fear nor the rejoicing was in vain. We gained in some areas and lost in others in our confrontation with foreign cultures. This much is dear: Regarding those cirdes that welcomed absorption and propagation joyously, with unmitigated optimism and with no trepidation, very few of their descendants remain with us today, participating in our difficult and holy task of rebuiling our land and resuscitating our people. For the vast majority of them have assimilated among the nations; they found themselves caught up in the waves of the ''wealth of the sea" and the "riches of the nations" that have come to us ..

Only from those who resided securely in our innermost fortresses, in the tents of Torah, enmeshed in the sanctity of the law, did emerge the truly creative Jews-that great portion of our nation who are loyal to its flag who work tirelessly to build our great edifice. Among these were many who propagated and absorbed. They exported and imported ideas and values on the spiritual highway that mediates between Israel and the nations. Their attitude, however, toward this undertaking was never one of rejoicing only. Fear accompanied their joy as they confronted the vision of the "wealth of the sea" belonging to the "riches of the nations."

Quite rightly did the prophet say: "As you behold, you will glow. Your heart will fear and rejoice for the wealth of the sea shall pass on to you; the riches of the nations shall come to you."

But how does one overcome the fear? How do we assure the safety of the nation against the mighty stream engulfing it?

As a representative of the Jewish community, standing on this honored platform, I submit to you the reflections of many distinguished segments of the community of traditional Judaism. It must be understood that the Hebrew University by itself cannot fulfill all the educational requirements necessary for the success of Our national life. We must realize that, first and foremost, it is the great Torah yeshivot, those that now exist and those to be constructed that are worthy of the name including the Central Yeshivah which we are establishing in Jerusalem, which shall be a light onto Israel in all areas of Torah, whether halakhah, aggadah, Jewish action, or Jewish thought that uphold the spirit of the nation and provide for its security. Moreover, the Hebrew University must maintain standards so that the name of Heaven, Israel, and the land of Israel are sanctified, and never desecrated, by it. This applies to administration, academic staff, and students alike. In particular, it is essential that academicians teaching Jewish studies, ranging from biblical study the light of our life to talmudic study, to Jewish history and thought, aside from their academic excellence, be personally loyal emotionally and intellectually to traditional Judaism. Only then will the fear we experience, together with the magnificent vision we behold this day, lead us to glow and rejoice in blessing.

These are our aspirations regarding the institution crowned today with the glory of Israel by the "wealth of the sea" and the "riches of the nations" that have come to us. May the prayer of Rabbi Nehunyah ben Haqanah be fulfilled in us: May my presentation not lead to error. [...]

10 comments:

  1. my blessing to the chareidi, chardal world is that someone will set up such a university.

    במהרה ביממנו

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  2. How does this differ from Rabbi Sacks?

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  3. This is an amazing excerpt from an amazing man. Its astounding how Rav Kook developed such an astounding worldview despite limited exposure to the secular academic environment.

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  4. Garnel IronheartJune 26, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    The opposition to Rav Kook's speech and the willingness to slander and misrepresent it must be seen in the context of the two differing world views.
    Rav Kook was interested in the return of Judaism as a national entity and nations have things like universities. What, a Torah state wouldn't need doctors, accountants and engineers? Where would they train such people?
    His opponents were interested in the perpetuation of Judaism as a religion and religions only do one thing with education - educate about the religion.

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  5. This has been explained many times...

    There never really was chareidi opposition to R'Kook's speech. It's a misunderstanding that arose fairly recently, and I'll try to explain.

    Many of the non-religious were saying that the opening of the University on Mt.Scopus was a fulfillment of the prophecy כי מציון תצא תורה. As you can imagine, this statement was strongly ridiculed and criticized in the Chareidi papers in Europe at the time.

    Since many people were making this statement, the proclamations against it didn't mention any specific names. They just spoke about how terrible it is that there are "those" that are attributing the establishment of a university to כי מציון.

    When it came time for R' Kook to speak at the opening ceremonies, he also addressed, and subtly refuted the claim that we can call this a fulfillment in כי מציון. He discussed the fear that Isaiah talks about when the Jew associates with the outside world. He then spelled out what would have to be done to allay the prophets fears. Every single faculty member and student would have to be observant, full with Torah study, and fear of God, etc.
    Only then, he said, would the Torah not be weakened from the studies in the university.

    R' Kook concluded "If we do that we will THEN be able to say כי מציון תצא תורה". Meaning, if you want to associate כי מציון תצא תורה to the university , you would have to refer to the Torah that was not hurt by the teachings of Limudei chol.

    There is no indication that his speech was misunderstood at the time.

    The tumult arose many years later by chareidi historians. They knew that R'Kook mentioned כי מציון. When they came across in old newspapers the scathing attacks made "at those that were saying כי מציון, they erroneously assumed it referred to R' Kook.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This has been explained many times...

    There never really was chareidi opposition to R'Kook's speech. It's a misunderstanding that arose fairly recently, and I'll try to explain.

    Many of the non-religious were saying that the opening of the University on Mt.Scopus was a fulfillment of the prophecy כי מציון תצא תורה. As you can imagine, this statement was strongly ridiculed and criticized in the Chareidi papers in Europe at the time.

    Since many people were making this statement, the proclamations against it didn't mention any specific names. They just spoke about how terrible it is that there are "those" that are attributing the establishment of a university to כי מציון.

    When it came time for R' Kook to speak at the opening ceremonies, he also addressed, and subtly refuted the claim that we can call this a fulfillment in כי מציון. He discussed the fear that Isaiah talks about when the Jew associates with the outside world. He then spelled out what would have to be done to allay the prophets fears. Every single faculty member and student would have to be observant, full with Torah study, and fear of God, etc.
    Only then, he said, would the Torah not be weakened from the studies in the university.

    R' Kook concluded "If we do that we will THEN be able to say כי מציון תצא תורה". Meaning, if you want to associate כי מציון תצא תורה to the university , you would have to refer to the Torah that was not hurt by the teachings of Limudei chol.

    There is no indication that his speech was misunderstood at the time.

    The tumult arose many years later by chareidi historians. They knew that R'Kook mentioned כי מציון. When they came across in old newspapers the scathing attacks made "at those that were saying כי מציון, they erroneously assumed it referred to R' Kook.

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  7. What is the source of this speech? Is this from Rav Kook's seforim?

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    Replies

    1. l. For details regarding the inauguration ceremony of the Hebrew University, see The Hebrew University Jerusalem: Inauguration April 1, 1925, Jerusalem, 1925. For photographs of Rav Kook at the inauguration ceremony, see ibid., English section, p. 34, and cf. Eli Schiller, ed., First Photographs of Jerusalem: The Old City, (Hebrew), Jerusalem, 1980, p~ 225.
      [...]


      4. [....] for the original Hebrew text of Rav Kook's invocation and poem,. see the volume cited above, note 1, Hebrew section, pp .. 15,.18; Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook, ed., Divrei ha-Ra», Jerusalem, 1925; Rabbi Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen Kook, Httzon hci-Geulah .. Jerusalem, 1941, p. 266; Ma'amarei ha-Ra'ayah, Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 306-308; Rabbi Moshe Y. Zuriel, ed., Otzerot haRa'ayah, Tel Aviv, 1988, vol. 2, pp. l l 16·1118; and Rabbi Moshe M. Alharar, Likevodah shel Torah, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 90·95.[...]


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  8. R kook was promised by weitzman that bible critism would not be taught at HU. When he found ouy he was lied to , he had regret that he came.

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    Replies
    1. ~~ According to Rabbi Isaac Hutner, late Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta R. Chaim Berlin, Chaim Weizmann was able to prevail on Rav Kook to attend the inagural ceremony of the Hebrew University by promising him that the critical study of the Hebrew Bible (a la Wellhausen) would not be included in its curriculum. The promise, much to Rav Kook's chagrin, was not honored. See Hayyim Lifshitz, Shivhei ha-Ra'ayah, Jerusalem, 1979, p. 198.



      3,. Despite his misgivings about the Hebrew University, Rav Kook advised Professor Abraham Adolf Fraenkel ( d. l 965 ), a distinguished German mathematician and Orthodox ] e\v, to accept an appointment to the Hebrew University. Rav Kook explained that "whatever the drawbacks of the Hebrew University, we cannot ignore the obligation to do battle in order to assure a proper presence that will look after the interests of traditional Judaism and increase its influence. Such a goal can be realized only by the appointment of professors who are loyal to traditional Judaism." See Rabbi Moshe Y. Zuriel, ed., Otzerot ha-RaJayah, Tel Aviv, 1993, vol. 4, p~ 190. On Fraenkel, see Yitzhak Raphael, ed., Encyclopaedia of Religious Zionism (Hebrew), Jerusalem., 1971, vol .. 4, columns 440-441.

      Delete

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