Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook served as the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Erets Israel from 1921 until his death in 1935. Born in Grieva, Latvia in 1865, he studied in the famed Volozhin Yeshivah, dubbed “the mother of yeshivot.” Beside the intellectual tradition of Volozhin, reaching back to the Vilna Gaon, Rav Kook was exposed in early childhood through his mother’s family to the mystical legacy of Habad Hasidism.
The discipline of Kabbalah is generally subdivided into kabbalah ma’asit, practical or applied kabbalah, and kabbalah ‘iyyunit, theoretical kabbalah. In the popular imagination, the kabbalist is a practitioner of the magical arts. However, there is another sort of kabbalist whose way of relating to and interpreting the world is based on a profound system of thought.
Such a comprehensive, all-encompassing thought evidences itself in the spiritual diaries of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (1865-1935). Gershom Scholem, Professor of Jewish Mysticism at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, wrote: “Rabbi Kook’s great work… is a veritable theologia mystica of Judaism equally distinguished by its originality and the richness of its author’s mind. It is the last example of productive kabbalistic thought of which I know.”