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Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook #99-101

Potential Partners in Building a Yeshiva in Yafo


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Iyar 16 5782
Date and Place: Chanuka 5668 (1907), Yafo

Recipients: In the previous letter, we saw Rav Kook’s view of the state of education in Eretz Yisrael at the time. In it, he spoke about the New Yishuv being the proper setting for creating a more integrative type of yeshiva, which, along with producing greatness in Torah, would serve as a base for producing fine religious people to tackle the challenges of a vibrant, emerging nationalism. A couple of months later, Rav Kook sent short letters to several Zionistic Rabbinic leaders in Europe on the matter, apparently "scouting the field" to see who could turn into a major ally in this project. We will focus on letter (#99), which Rav Kook wrote to Rav Yitzchak Aizik Halevi, the author of a monumental history of rabbinic scholarship, Dorot Harishonim. The recipient of letter #100 is Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reiness, rabbi of Lida and the founder of the Mizrachi Zionist movement. The recipient of letter #101 is Rabbi Zvi Hersh Masliansky, a popular, rabbinical inspirational speaker on behalf of the Zionist movement. The yeshiva did open, in 1909, and closed in approximately 1915, due to World War I.

Body: … I wanted to write a somewhat long letter, to explain my request. I had hoped that someone who has such a broad mind and is as righteous as you are might be one of the most prominent people who will stand by my right side to take action on behalf of Hashem and His lot. When I saw it would be difficult to find an opportunity to write at length, I decided to make due with something brief. When I will merit to receive a response from you, then we can revert to our practice of exchanging letters to clarify the matter.

I am calling upon you, my brilliant friend, along with all of the scholars of the Jewish People, who know the maladies of our nation and want to quickly heal it, to help with the following matter. Specifically, I ask that you lend a hand in establishing an advanced yeshiva here in the holy city of Yafo, at the center of the New Yishuv, which is increasingly taking shape and developing. This development is being done by powers that are totally foreign to the true soul of Israel, i.e., the light of Hashem and His Torah. The painful outcomes of such a phenomenon are potentially inestimable if we do not quickly remedy the situation, by helping rebuild the nation in the Holy Land based on the foundation of Torah and responsibility toward Hashem. This must be done within an effort to progress along with practical life in its truly good paths.

Such a yeshiva must be built here, in order to give spiritual life to the New Yishuv as a whole. Such an institution can then give fruit in the Old Yishuv and to the sanctity of Yerushalayim, the Holy City, and all the old, established holy cities. When the two parts of the Yishuv will be connected, it will spread light over the entire Jewish Nation, including throughout the Diaspora. In that way, Hashem’s spirit will elevate His nation and connect many souls to the love of Eretz Yisrael in sanctity and strength.

Such a yeshiva must be founded specifically with riches and honor and with attractive flourishes along with the sanctity of truth reigning supreme. This is appropriate for the "air of Eretz Yisrael," which makes people wise and resurrects the dead.

My honorable friend, you have begun to save the Jewish People with your wonderful book (on rabbinic history). From the Heavens, they have given you the merit to thereby elevate His Name and establish in its proper place the honor of our rabbis, from whose words we live.

I hope that you will desire to extend your great hand toward my weak hand to strive together toward this work of Hashem. May Hashem, the Rock of Israel, enable us to complete the job properly.
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