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Optimism, Rav Kook, G-d and Creation


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Sivan 29, 5771
I have a fundamental question on Rav Kook’s philosophy. I understand the concept that as big of an upheaval (like war or terrorism, the disengagement and retreat from Gush Katif) that there is in the world, that’s how much mashiach will progress, kind of like a pendulum. What I’m having trouble understanding is why is that a given? Why is the destruction followed by light? Is it a natural process of the world- like a child growing up and gaining maturity? But it seems that according to nature, once something starts going downhill it should spiral down out of control. Thanks again for all your help, S.
Hashem Imach! The basic positive and optimistic direction of the world (with all of the ups and downs on the way) found in the writings of Rav Kook, is based upon the basic goodness which the good, even perfect G-d, built into the world. As he writes in Orot HaTshuva (5, 3), evolution is one of the "ground -rules" of creation, where we see that trial -and -error is simply the way of life, from infancy on, we're constantly learning and improving. Just like sports records, medicine, technology etc. are constantly improving, so too the individual and mankind as a whole constantly strives to improve, learning from mistakes, trying and adopting new and more successful ways of doing things. This is true not only in the physical aspects of life, but also regarding ideals, morality, and ideology. Thank G-d, slavery, imperialism, chauvinism, racism, dictatorship and the likes are definitely "out" in modern society, because mankind, with the help of 3300 years of monotheistic morality has gone a long way and improved in all fields. Even if modern advancement may cause a certain problem (for example, cellphones may cause cancer), Hashem made the world in a way where, it's just a matter of time until mankind will come up with a solution (ex.: to make cellphones with less radiation) which will eventually render the previous problem obsolete and free us to work on solving the next problem and making the next advancement. Even more so, G-d created the world in a way that in order to jump, you must first crouch down, and the further you pull back in the "wind-up", the further you will throw. The lower you push a spring, the higher it will jump, etc. The Zohar explains that all of these physical rules are meant to teach us meta-physical or spiritual rules. That there is no advancement in life without first going down, or what our rabbis call, yerida l'tzorech aliya! It is also true that when something starts going downhill, someone must make a conscious effort to stop it, but as above, that "someone" will inevitably come and step in, because just like you don't like the Nazis, most people don't, and the world got together to fight them. We still have a long way to go in many fields, but the process of improvement (tshuva) and optimism is "built-in" to the world, as is logical for a world created by a good G-d for a good purpose. That's in a nutshell why any thinking monotheistic person must inevitably be an optimist- not just because we believe in ge'ula, but because it's logical! Bhatzlacha! Rav Ari
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