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To dedicate this lesson
Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook #103 – part I

Connecting Disciplines in Torah Study


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Iyar 29 5782
Date and Place: 21 Tevet 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient: Rav Yitzchak Aizik Halevi, the author of a monumental history of rabbinic scholarship, Dorot Harishonim. See Rav Kook’s letter to him (#99).

Body: Today the light appeared in my house, as I received a package containing a hidden treasure, your wonderful books, the four volumes of Dorot Harishonim. The letter that I received from my dear friend Avigdor Rivlin, the rabbinic representative of the Sha’arei Torah institution in our holy city of Yafo, indicates that these pearls were an unblemished present from you. It was a holiday for me when this bundle of precious light was revealed in my house.

It is true that I have previously heard a lot of the lofty reputation of the work, but I did not have the privilege until now to possess it permanently, so that I can imbibe its sweet fragrance whenever I desire. In practice, time has not allowed me, with all of my preoccupations, [to take full advantage], and I have also not given it over yet to be bound in a manner that befits the honor of such a treasure of light. [Yet, I do look forward to] broadening the scope of my study in certain topics within the many disciplines of the Torah, which are plentiful in your wonderful books, that are built as a fortification with the characteristics of a wall of fire that protects it from enemies who plan to uproot the Torah. Especially, it [restores confidence] in the words of the Oral Law.

In order to express my feelings of thanks to you, great scholar, I will present you with a short and general comment. It relates to a topic that you dealt with at length from chap. 15 to chap. 23 in the third volume of your shining books, regarding the relationship between the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.

You are the first in our generation to open the locked door between chochmat Yisrael (an academic approach to Jewish studies), as it is understood in contemporary literature, and the depth of the wisdom of the Talmud (classical rabbinical analysis). Regarding the latter, we refer to the pure and straight understanding that is passed down as a heritage from generation to generation, based on the hard work done with dedication and love of the intellectual giants of all of the generations.

I think it is appropriate to present before someone of your stature that there is another fence that needs to be opened, so that people can "travel from one side to another." That is the distinction between the Torah disciplines of halacha (practical guidance on the actions a Jew should take and avoid) and aggada (the moral and philosophical elements of Torah). Just as the historical chochmat Yisrael in all of its elements draws its life from the deep and broad wisdom of the Torah, although the latter is also influenced by the former, so too, there is such a connection between the aggadic part of the Torah and the halachic part. The foundation of the aggada is the wisdom of the heart and the ideas, so that all the many halachot are connected to the ideas from which they emanate. Halacha is the wisdom of actions, and the two of them stem from the two roots from which the Torah comes, wisdom and prophecy. It has still not been explained well what the connection is between the analysis of the halacha and the Oral Law.

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