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Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook #98

The State of Education in Eretz Yisrael – part IV


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Iyar 8 5782
Date and Place: 13 Marcheshvan 5768, Yafo

Recipient: The rabbis of the Secretariat of "Mizrachi of the Western Countries." They had many questions for Rav Kook about the state of education in Eretz Yisrael.

Body: The best place to promote innovative institutions, which are based on a spirit of pure lives, filled with the light of Torah, belief, and sanctity, yet supported by skill in science and craftsmanship, is specifically the New Yishuv (the "modern" areas of Jewish settlement), and not Yerushalayim the Holy City. In Yerushalayim, the old style of education must continue. In Yerushalayim, there is not a clear collapse of trustworthy Judaism.

We should also remember that there is a purpose for the approach of abstinence from certain areas of "complete life," at least from the perspective of the external eye. The purpose is as a sign of our exile and the related affliction of the soul. In Yerushalayim, the impact of our national mourning is very poignant, as we can see the ruins of our Holy Temple, the Sanctuary of our King, before our eyes, and we are in its midst as lowly servants. This situation pierces the heart and brings pain to the soul. It by necessity leaves traces of fear and wariness of broader education and a more open lifestyle, until the time when Hashem shows us signs of relieving our situation.

The New Yishuv has a different status. Here, the spirit of live nationalism is increasing and in the air. In fact, the New Yishuv has been established by a movement that is based on this spirit of nationalism. The issue is that without a basis of true Judaism, of a sanctification of the truth and the light of eternal life, as the Name of Hashem rests on His nation and heritage, this spirit of nationalism is not worth anything. It would pass like foam on the face of water and would be comparable to a withering blossom. When the nationalism will be based on the work of religious laborers who recognize their obligations and know how to serve Hashem honestly, according to the Torah of life and the light of truth, then their efforts will represent a clear spirit, which will bring dew of reawakening to Israel and the tents of Judea. Only when the power of the peripheral communities will increase will Yerushalayim also be elevated as its center, an event toward which our eyes and heart are focused.

Therefore, we must establish in the heart of the New Yishuv an advanced yeshiva that will operate according to all of the paths of honor and the best and most embellished life that is attainable. In this type of yeshiva, the greater part of the studies must be on the Written Torah and the Oral Torah in an orderly manner, in a way that incorporates all that is worthwhile from the Jewish (philosophical) scholarship of our generation. The spiritual and scientific elements of the Torah in all of their applications need to be studied as independently valuable, just as Talmud and Halacha are studied. The external order in the yeshiva needs to be done with good taste, acceptable to everyone who is upright and well-mannered, and this applies to the building, the attire, and the interaction with others.

Secular knowledge needs to have a formal place in the curriculum to be studied in Hebrew, and the students should learn foreign languages, both Western and Eastern. The students should be taught by good instructors and with good books, not including the time of learning in yeshiva, which should not be more than eight hours a day. In this way, after six to eight years of study in such a yeshiva, the [finished products] will be well-rounded people, who will truly be a tribute to the Jewish People and to Eretz Yisrael.
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