Selected Readings from Various Works of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook / Translated by Yaacov David Shulman / Copyright 1998 by Yaacov David Shulman
Every time our heart beats with a true expression of spirituality, every time a new and exalted thought is born, we hear the likeness of a G-dly angel’s voice at the doors of our soul asking that we allow him entry so that he may appear to us in the totality of his beauty.
To the degree that we meet this angel with an unfettered spirit, a pure heart, strong and healthy emotions, and an inward and solemn desire for the love of the most exalted, honored and uplifted—to that degree will a host of exalted souls appear to us and shine their light on our darkness.
Then, our dealings with the objective spiritual world will be constantly sanctified; our relation to it will grow constantly stronger; the regularity of that contact will cause our minds to be at rest and clear. And then the talent of self-expression, which is a remnant of the great glory of prophecy, will begin to emerge within us; and it will bring us healing upon its wings.
We will be safe from all illusion, evil, and falsehood—with which our imagination can degrade us—if we will hold on strongly to the tree of life of the Torah of our fathers: walking in the pleasantness of its tradition, in its commandments and directives in all aspects of life, in our relationship to mankind, family and nation, to life and all its necessities.
But we do not have to be shackled by the chains of conformity, which can choke the free, supernal spirit and defile the holy that comes from the supernal world, from the world of freedom, where freedom is given the angels—a total freedom to strive, a complete freedom of will and creativity.
Then, in accord with the greatness of one’s freedom, so will holiness grow; so will life be exalted. “And I will rejoice in Hashem, I will have joy in the G-d of my salvation.”
Every individual will visualize in truth and whole-heartedness that which his soul shows him; he will bring forth his spiritual harvest from potential to actual without a trace of false expression. From sparks such as these, light will gather together into torches, illuminating the entire world with their glory. From these particles of inward truth, the great truth will emerge.
Oros Hakodesh I, p. 165
The Flow of the Soul’s Creativity
Those who possess great souls live precisely from within their wellspring. These wise, creative people, to whom the new is the foundation of their life, recognize only in the pouring forth of newness (which ceaselessly streams before their spiritual sight) the constant spreading forth of their caliber and the intensification of their spiritual strengths. They recognize the soul in the depth of its primal being: how it constantly pours forth its cataracts.
With no less actuality than a shining body that unceasingly radiates light, so does the soul—which experiences recognition and desire, feeling and visualization—pour forth the rays of its spiritual, living light. This stream pours forth ever more strongly, creates ever more strongly. No amount of pages will suffice to explain the vision of any period of this streaming forth of the soul in even the smallest of people. Thus does this wealth grow until it comes to be within the exalted thinkers, the greatest creators: to such a wondrous level that the masses are astonished at the illuminations revealed in the fruit of their creations.
And this is so even though the portion that is revealed is by necessity the lowest level of the essence of creation. As for the essence of the creation in its hidden aspect: wondrous are its acts, and its streams, which are the streams of the mind, rush forth. It does not allow us to grasp the inner essence, the quality and the details of these pouring streams.
The most worthy talent is the penetration into the depth of our essential being. Yet how trivial is the work of that talent and how much does it infect the exalted heights with toil and weariness of soul. To the degree that one recognizes this and recognizes how much that penetration must grow aware of the demand of the inner Edenic quietude—to that measure will grow the exalted being within creativeness. Then sparks of holiness will begin to shoot forth upon all of life and its spiritual ramifications.
At every moment, even the most infinitesimal, we create—whether knowingly or unknowingly—a profusion of endless creations. If we only teach ourselves to feel them, to bring them into the realm of our conscious recognition, to habituate ourselves to convey them into the framework of expressions that are fit for them, their beauty and glory will be revealed. Their action will be revealed before all of life.
The eternal truths will flow from the wellspring of life, from the source of the soul that does not know of any empty matters or falsehood. That soul is carved from the torch of truth; whatever streams from its light will be only truth and righteousness forever.
Oros Hakodesh I, pp. 170-71
The Inner Spark
The very essence of the soul, which expresses and experiences the true, spiritual life, requires complete inner freedom. This freedom is its life.
This freedom comes to the soul from the midst of its essential thought, its inner spark. One’s learning and contemplation cause this spark to continually flame. But really, this independent spark is the basis of idea and thought. If room is not provided for the independent spark with its light to appear, then whatever comes to it from without will be of no avail.
This spark must be guarded in its purity. Then the inner thought—in the depth of its truth, in its greatness and exaltedness—will awake.
Then this holy spark will not be extinguished because of any learning and any contemplation.
The internal unity of the soul in the core of itself represents the supernal greatness of the illuminated, Divine seed—”light is sown for the righteous.” From this seed, the fruit of the tree of life shall sprout and blossom.
Oros Hakodesh I, p. 175
The Freedom of Inner Creativity
Spiritual creation is free. It doesn’t deal with any superficial influence. It creates in accordance with the journey of its spirit to the core. To the degree that its essential faith grows, so does it rise to the heights of truth.
On the other hand, falsehood and the evil attached to it come only from a superficial influence. This influence affects spiritual creativity like a scab. It commands spiritual creativity to speak with the power of falseness, and not according to its own spirit. “He has chosen to follow the command” (Hosea 5:11)—the command (the sages say) of idolatry.
Oros Hakodesh I, p. 176
Do not oppose the essential soul when it reveals itself. That self-revelation is constant. Even when the thickest clouds mask the soul’s brilliant light, it shines with all its power. It carries the world and every human being to the goal of his fulfillment—a goal that transcends all definitions.
The soul speaks without speaking. It acts without acting. With it alone do we ascend those steps to which we are impelled by the impulse of that which is truly life, in its most profound mysteries. “Then shall you rejoice in G-d.”
This is the secret of thirst and the mystery of its quenching.
Oros Hakodesh I, p. 173
The Perfection of Life That Time Will Bring
The sexual drive streams into the future,
To the perfection of life that time will bring:
The life of the world-to-come within this world.
That future life is filled with complete beauty and pleasure.
Thus, great is the yearning and the strength of desire
Of the sexual drive, which is all-encompassing;
Only upon this drive does ultimate holiness rest its light.
The pure soul leads the sexual drive to its goal
Within the boundary
Of Torah, wisdom, rectitude and modesty:
The sources of righteousness.
“Whoever guards the covenant is called righteous.”
The basis of the holiness of Israel is tied
To the world of the future.
A holy spirit continuously embraces
The entirety of the nation and its individuals.
“Your people are all righteous.”
Oros Hakodesh III, p. 296
The World of Humanity
A supernal ethical gaze
Flows from supernal consciousness of the divine.
It places its seal on the nexus
Where G-d’s will and the ultimate purpose of sexuality join.
That seal is the eternal and infinite aspect
Concealed in one’s human character.
In this invaluable point,
All supernal pleasures
There exists a precious strategy whose goal is to rectify
This holy foundation,
To turn sexuality and its essential offshoots
To the holy goal of life.
That strategy is the cornerstone of all ethical values.
It establishes the world of humanity,
Both internal and external.
Days will come
When the general culture will gaze with exalted appreciation
At the divine glory
Pervading those thoughts
That now appear benighted
To those who are sexually gross,
Who have an unrefined consciousness,
Who remain outside the camp of Israel.
Those thoughts are connected,
In the mystic aspect of ethics,
To sexual rectification,
To all the fast-day prayers and outcries
Of those who have strayed.
“Light is sown for the righteous,
And to those who have an honest heart,
Oros Hakodesh III, p. 296
The Plague Will Not Enter Your Tent
You can profoundly rectify your mis-spent sexuality
By sanctifying your will
And illuminating it clearly,
Until the light of holiness will stream
Through even your strongest physical drive.
That drive is rooted in holiness that is incredibly strong,
Because it contains the expression of life:
The sexual drive.
The light of holiness will stream within it
To such a degree
That its holy aspect will rule your life
And direct its action and expression.
Then sexuality’s secular aspect,
And certainly its unclean aspect,
Will be totally nullified
Before its holy aspect.
Then, in truth,
The plague will not enter your tent;
You shall be righteous
And guarded from stumbling.
Oros Hakodesh III, p. 298
Prepare Yourself for the Measure of Silence
The entire realm of consciousness,
With everything that comes from it,
To the lowest of all levels
(Which comprise the entirety
Shifts from times of silence
To times of speech.
At the time of preparing
To receive the supernal outpouring,
All is still and silent.
And when those forces that received
Pour forth to those below them,
And also regarding human beings,
The situation is in flux.
When you direct your consciousness
To perfecting those qualities
That are lower than where you stand,
A constricted consciousness rules,
And your practical ability is active.
But when your supernal attention
Grows in strength,
That particularized consciousness
Silence begins to rule.
When you come to this,
The normal activity of consciousness,
In secular or holy matters,
Is below you.
You find within yourself,
To all activity of consciousness
That is rational and ordered.
Prepare yourself for the measure of silence—
Pay attention to the voice from the heights
Bringing blessing, good will,
And spontaneous giving.
The word of G-d will come to you.
Day to day will express speech.
Oros Hakodesh I, p. 116
Limiting Goodness with Goodness
Those who have great souls cannot be separated from the most encompassing inclusiveness. All of their desire and ideal is, constantly, the good of the entire universe in its full breadth, height and depth. This entirety is filled with infinite details of individuals and societies. It is crowned to the degree that it is filled with the perfection of its individual members and its groups, small and great, which complete it.
Supernal inclusiveness, which perfects all, is found within the movement toward knowledge and love of G-d. That movement emanates automatically from the inclusiveness, in accordance with what that movement has acquired and its wealth.
The knowledge of G-d that comes through great love must be filled with its own true light, in accordance with what each individual soul can bear and receive. The absolute light of that knowledge of G-d illumines the universal love: the love of all universes, all created beings, and the entire realm of life and its existence.
The love of all existence fills the heart of those who are good: the pious among all creatures and among humanity. They look forward to the happiness of all. They hope for the light and joy of all. They draw the love of all existence—which contains the full spectrum of the multiplicity of its creations—from the supernal love of G-d, from the love of the total and complete perfection of G-d, Who is the Cause of all, Who brings all into being and gives life to all.
Love descends from the world of Emanation to the world of Creation by being divided into many details, into contradictions and opposites. This fulfills the purpose of constriction, the compression of value and love, into individual details, each for the sake of another detail; into many details, each for the sake of many others; and to details in general because of the complete entirety that they comprise.
The shining lens of love stands at the height of the world, in the world of divinity, in a place where there are no contradictions, borders and oppositions—only satisfaction, goodness, and infinite breadth. The offspring of that shining lens of love is eternal love. When eternal love draws sustenance from the shining lens of love, it attains a great deal of its nature. In its descent, it cannot bear any stinginess or jealousy. When it is forced to constrict itself, it constricts love with love; it limits goodness with goodness.
When those who are suffused with love see the world, and in particular, when they see living beings involved in bickering, hatred, persecution and quarreling, they immediately yearn that they and their lives may be partners with desires that bring about the joining together of life and its unity, perfection and tranquility. They feel and know that the closeness of G-d for which they yearn with the fullness of their soul only functions to bring them to a unification with inclusiveness and for the sake of that inclusiveness.
When they come to the strata of mankind and find factions of nations, religions, sects and opposing ideals, they strive with all their strength to encompass all of it, to connect and to unify. With the healthy spiritual sense of their pure soul, which rises and flies to the G-dly heights above all constrictions, they recognize that all details must be full, that the best societal forms must be elevated and must enter with all the satisfaction of their details into the light of a perfected life. They desire that every detail will be guarded and elevated, and the complete entirety united and filled with peace.
When they come to their own nation, their heart is connected with all the depth of their life with the nation’s happiness, endurance and elevation. Yet still, they find it divided and split, divided into various parties. They cannot effect a complete unity within any particular party. Rather, they desire to unite with the entire nation, totally and entirely, in all its fullness and goodness.
Oros Hakodesh II, pp. 242-43
All of the Plague Has Turned Pure White
Within the totality of the world—
Both this-worldly and spiritual—
The only evil to be found
Is that which exists
In its isolated state.
But in the gathering of everything,
Everything is good—literally—
Not because evil is nullified into the majority
(As the desiccated accounting would have it),
But when seen from the perspective
Of the value
That is independent and ideal.
From this, you can understand
That to the degree
That the quantity of movement
Toward wholeness grows,
And goodness is revealed.
Not only that,
But the gathering of evil in all its parts
Appears as the depths
Of a very great goodness,
Connecting in the depth of the heat of its yearning
To total goodness,
With which evil will not abide—
“All of the plague has turned pure white.”
The life that is hidden
In this eternal point of view
Is what maintains the world,
Placing a bandage on the face
Of all destructive forces,
Not allowing them to cause
The world to totter.
“And he will guard heights upon heights.”
Oros Hakodesh II, p. 454
The Liberated Light
From the well of kindness, your love for humanity must burst forth—not as an unreasoned commandment, for then it would lose the most clear aspect of its brilliance, but as a powerful movement of the spirit within you.
This love must withstand very difficult challenges. It must overcome many contradictions, which are scattered like boulders upon which you may stumble. These are found in isolated Torah statements, in the superficial aspect of a some Torah laws, and in a multitude of points of view that stem from the constriction within the revealed aspect of the Torah and the national ethical sense.
It is clear that when the love of humanity grows remote from its divine source, its blossom withers. And the divine source expresses its light through the conduits of Torah and mitzvah, and through the definition of the Jewish nation as unique.
All this requires the effort of a great spirit: how to maintain these conduits where they stand, and yet draw the waters of kindness in their original purity and breadth.
Again and again, we must descend to the depths of darkness in order to excavate— precisely from there—the most liberated light, the greatest and most elevated.
Oros Hakodesh III, p. 318
Realms of Darkness
When you feel humiliated, empty, lacking all spiritual strength, when you fall and stumble, realize that a great light has been prepared for you.
All these imperfections and breaches—this-worldly and spiritual, in what you did do and didn’t do, from all the days of your life—stand before you. All your sins testify against you.
You are stunned. You feel regret from the midst of great anguish.
Then you rise and repent. You emerge from the depth of the abyss to the elevated pinnacle, from impurity to purity, from blackness to a great light.
As you emerge and rise, you pass through realms of darkness that so greatly eclipse you.
But you know that “G-d is merciful and gracious,” that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evil, for G-d is with me.”
From the midst of these confusions of the abyss, you will cry out to G-d.
Your voice will be heard. You will call out for the light of knowledge. It will shine upon you. Wisdom and kindness will support you and crown you.
Swiftly, you will return to the citadel, filled with wisdom, joy and strength.
Oros Hakodesh III, p. 252
When you feel that you have fallen because of a weakness of the spirit of ethical awareness, consider that from the depths of the abyss you must draw forth precious pearls.
Then you will rise and renew your abilities, in strength and tranquility. You will approach the eternal light with even greater capability than in the primal days.
This rule governs the entire generation It governs the eternal era.
Oros Hakodesh III, p. 252
Your Independent Intuition
It is not the intent of any influence that comes from outside yourself and into your inner being—whether from secular or holy sources—to silence your spirit and mute your independent intuition.
Rather, its intent is to wash you with a flow of light, so that you will absorb it into the essence of who you are. In this way, and from the midst of this, your independent sense of things will grow ever stronger.
When you are desolated by internal shoddiness, you think that the intention of everything that comes from outside yourself is to abrade your independent sense of reality, to crumple you and to make you totter. You become short-tempered and you cease to grow.
Together, the holy and the secular influence your spirit. When you integrate them, you are enriched. You must take what is fitting from each of them.
From the holy, take the light of life and an inner character.
From the secular, take the container, the superficial understanding that provides a basis for grasping the content. The secular provides material for analogies and explanations, for contexts of understanding the ways of the world and good character traits.
There is an abundance that is the sense of division between the holy and the secular.
That abundance becomes ever more clear when you gather the wealth of these various sources. It strengthens and illumines your spirit.
At last, you come to the innermost circle of Torah. The diseased cloud within you that hides the Torah begins itself to glow more and more with the light of Torah. From the fog, lights are revealed in their full beauty.
Oros Hakodesh I, pp. 67-68
The Gold Of That Land Was Good
“‘And the gold of that land was good’—this teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of the land of Israel” (Bereishis Rabbah 16:7).
In every generation, it is fitting to have great love for the Torah of the land of Israel. This is particularly true now. We must give our generation the life-giving medicine of the Torah of the land of Israel. We must show this generation the greatness of truth and clarity found within our G-dly treasure, in the ideas and insights of the true Torah, in the beauty and exalted nature of its mitzvos, and in its overall view of life. This can be achieved only via the light of the Torah of the land of Israel, via its depth and breadth. Only that connects all one’s awareness and ideas so that one can completely experience it and, more, transfer that experience to others. All of this is possible only via the light of the Torah of the land of Israel.
Our generation is ready. It must be influenced by ideas that have a fresh life and greatness. Shriveled, small matters can no longer capture its heart. Its communal nature has grown exceedingly. We must give everything to this generation in an inclusive fashion: a stream of the flow of life of the entire nation.
This brings us to the essential difference between the Torah of the land of Israel and the Torah of chutz la’aretz (outside the land of Israel). Whatever is small and individual (whether in the general context of spiritual ideas or, more particularly, of those ideas that deal with the great breadth of Torah and faith) when viewed from the perspective of the Torah of chutz la’aretz becomes great and inclusive as soon as it draws to itself the atmosphere of the land of Israel.
The Torah of chutz la’aretz is only aware of how to care for the individual, for his spiritual and physical completion, his temporal as well as eternal condition. But the Torah of the land of Israel is concerned with the totality, with the nation: with its soul and energy, its body and spirit, its total present, its total future, and the living imprint of its past— simultaneously. All details enter it and are subsumed in its exalted state. This is the inner renewal, deep and broad, of the Torah of the land of Israel. It declares that all individual thoughts and ideas proceeding in an impoverished and scattered state—the atmosphere of the land of other nations—must form one bundle, must clothe themselves in one general intent related to the life of the entire nation, under the influence of the land of Israel.
translated from Chevyon Oz, quoted in Moadei Harayah, pp. 157-8
Teaching the Children
We must make it easy for our children to explicitly find in all areas of life the exalted ideals that come from keeping the Torah and its commandments.
The Torah should not be “the word of the L-rd, law by law, line by line, a little here, a little there” (Isaiah 28:13). The Torah should be a commandment that is all-inclusive and living, established and faithful—that brings the light of life and the halo of glory to each of our children and to the whole of our people.
Our faith must be filled with wisdom and knowledge.
Our awe must contain glory and honor of the G-d of Israel, of G-d Who is awesome in beauty.
This is one with the greatness of life and the light of joy demanded from each individual whose soul dwells in that light, and from the entire nation that is strong and desires life.
“Children of Zion, be glad; rejoice in the L-rd your G-d” (from Isaiah 33:6).
This is the most holy service of Torah in these generations. The most outstanding scholars—in particular, those who find within themselves a talent and inner ability for ethical and poetic teachings, for exalted thoughts in the highest areas of wisdom—are forbidden to suppress and restrain that praiseworthy endowment. They must broaden and expand it. Each day, with their knowledge, wisdom and talent, they must present broad and suitable teachings.
Such people particularly must devote to such teachings the majority of their talents. They should not be concerned that this dedication will diminish and simplify their study of practical Torah. It may limit them to study the clear halachah and its simple explanation, to clarify each matter as it comes, calmly and unhurriedly, with a broad overview of the given halachah and the basic theory behind it.
But it is from this that true brilliance comes—of its own, and when required—without the great toil of extended casuistics.
The majority of casuistics is intended only for those who otherwise lack the ability to slake their thirst for the breadth of Torah and the strength of intellectual freedom.
A little casuistics is always pleasant and reasonable, good and fine, even for those who are most occupied with their exalted spiritual progress.
But the basic business of these sensitive souls must be “to open the eyes of the blind, to deliver the prisoner from the jail, to bring forth from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:7).
Ikvei Hatzoan, p. 140
Exile and Mediocrity
We experience exile and mediocrity becasue we do not proclaim the value and wisdom of the land of Israel. We have not rectified the sin of the biblical spies who slandered the land. And so we must do the opposite of what they did: we must tell and proclaim to the entire world the land’s glory and its beauty, its holiness and its honor.Then, after all these praises, let us hope that we have expressed at least one ten-thousandth of the loveliness of that lovely land: the beauty of the light of its Torah, the exalted nature of the light of its wisdom, and the holy spirit that seethes within it.Eretz Chefetz
The Exodus Never Ceases
The exodus from Egypt only appears to be a past event. But in truth, the exodus never ceases. The arm of God that was revealed in Egypt to redeem the Jews is constantly outstretched, constantly active. The revelation of the hand of God is the breaking through of the light of God, shining great lights for all generations.
Moadei Harayah, p. 292
Not with depression, not with fearfulness, not with sentimental weakness must we turn to the divine light, but with a clear knowledge that what flows from the depths of our heart to approach G-d is a natural, complete and healthy faculty. It is more than just a natural faculty— it is the basic, natural faculty of our soul. It emerges in us from the soul of the Life of all worlds, from the soul of all existence, of all being.
The more we increase knowledge, increasing spiritual illumination and a healthy physicality, so will this wondrous light shine in us, a lamp on the path of our life.
Oros Ha’emunah, p. 80