The Third of Ellul: Yahrzeit of Rav Kook
The third day of Ellul marks the 82nd anniversary of the passing of the Gaon and Tsaddik, Rav Avraham Yitshak Hakohen Kook (1865-1935).
One of the Rav’s remarkable deeds that the general public is unaware of, was the Rav’s concerted effort to reestablish the great spiritual teachers in the Land of Israel. In Rav Kook’s capacity as Chief Rabbi, he was able to obtain from the British Mandatory government “certificates” that would enable Jews from Eastern Europe to immigrate to Erets Yisrael. Both Rav Kook and his son Rabbi Zevi Yehudah were extremely active in this endeavor.
Rav Kook’s broad outlook on the organic totality of the Jewish People translated into deed. In Rav Kook’s comprehensive vision, it was important that the teachers of all the different communities and traditions be represented in the emerging Yishuv of Erets Yisrael. I will name just a few of the great teachers (and their families) who were saved thanks to Rav Kook’s direct intervention.
(Before I proceed, I must stress that Rav Kook’s view was not Eurocentric or ethnocentric. His love for the so-called Oriental communities is famous and incontrovertible. A testimony to his well-balanced view of Jewish intellectual history is his essay “To the Two Houses of Israel,” recently translated by Bezalel Naor and included in the new edition of When God Becomes History , available from Kodesh Press. PURCHASE)
- Rabbi Shlomo Elyashev, Lithuanian kabbalist, author Leshem Shevo ve-Ahlemah, together with his daughter Hayah Musha, and son-in-law, Rabbi Abraham Elyashev, Rav of Homel, and grandson Yosef Sholom Elyashiv (who would eventually become the posek ha-dor or supreme halakhic authority).
- Rabbi David Zevi (Radatz) Hen, Rav of Tchernigov, together with his daughter Rahel and son-in-law Rabbi Sholom Shelomo Schneerson (brother of Rabbi Levi Yitshak Schneerson of Yekaterinaslav, today Dnieperpetrovsk, and uncle of Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson of Lubavitch-Brooklyn), and granddaughter Zelda (who would eventually become a celebrated Hebrew poetess).
- Rabbi Pinhas Hakohen Lintop of Birzh (Birzai), Lithuania, an unusual kabbalist who attempted to synthesize the various schools of Ramhal, the Vilna Gaon and Habad! (Unfortunately, Rabbi Lintop died in Birzh in 1924 before he could make use of the certificate issued to him by Rav Kook.) See Bezalel Naor, Kana’uteh de-Pinhas (Hebrew), available from Orot. PURCHASE
- Rabbi Shlomke Goldman, Hasidic Rebbe of Zhvill, and his grandson Mordechai. The Rebbe of Zhvill was a direct descendant of Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel of Zlotchov (Reb Mikhel Zlotchover), a major disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov.
- Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz of Breslov (who went from Erets Yisrael to Uman, Ukraine and was not released by the Soviets until Rav Kook intervened).
One of the most famous interventions of Rav Kook was on behalf of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn of Lubavitch who was sentenced to death by the Soviets. (In that case too, Rav Kook and his son, Rabbi Zevi Yehudah, hoped that the Rebbe would settle in Erets Yisrael, but that did not come to pass.)
In the volume, Igrot la-Rayah, one sees letters from the great spiritual leaders of Eastern Europe—rabbis, roshei yeshivah, Hasidic rebbes—beseeching Rav Kook for certificates, either on their behalf or on behalf of their students.
Rav Kook wanted to set up Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzenski of Vilna, world-class halakhic authority and leader of East European Jewry, as “Resh Galuta” (Exilarch), a plan that did not reach fruition.
There are many other greats whom I have left out for constraints of time, but one begins to see a picture how Rav Kook’s prescience and “mesirut nefesh” (self-sacrifice) contributed to saving a precious remnant who might otherwise have perished at the hands of the Soviets and later the Nazis.
Zekhuto tagein ‘aleynu!
May his merit protect us!