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Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook #113

Advice for a Father whose Son is No Longer Religious

After time, I realized that silence is not nice, especially because I do not believe we should give up hope at all. For a Jew, “When I sit in darkness, Hashem is light for me” (Micha 7:8).


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Elul 10 5782
Date and Place: 11 Adar I, 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient: Rabbi Dov Ber Milstein

Body: Some weeks and even months passed since I received your cherished letter. Believe me, my dear friend, that I have been very late in responding because your words of pain caused me great distress as well, and I was shocked and did not know what to answer. After time, I realized that silence is not nice, especially because I do not believe we should give up hope at all. For a Jew, "When I sit in darkness, Hashem is light for me" )Micha 7:8).

I must tell you that if your sons were at least connected to the Jewish nation in their philosophy, e.g., if they were Zionists, it would be easier to help them return to the strong path of Hashem. That is because there is a major connection between Jewish nationalism and the root of sanctity of belief in Hashem and keeping Torah and mitzvot.

Even though they have strayed further than that, there is still no reason to give up hope at all. In the final analysis, the light of Hashem, which was shared with the world thousands of years ago, is so impactful that nowadays we do not have the type of heresy that makes people helpless, as there once was. However, nowadays, even the worst philosophies stand on the basis of seeking rectitude and justice, values which are the way of Hashem, which Avraham Avinu commanded his children and household to follow (see Bereishit 18:19). The generation’s mistake is that they do not realize that to reach these desired values, the Jewish People must respect the Torah and cling to belief in Hashem, which is the light and life of the world.

Therefore, for people [like your sons] who have failed in this regard, you must approach them as follows. Tell them that the foundation of their goals is desirable, but they must not go about it like a blind man hoping to find his way by chance, following philosophies of the masses.

Because every new idea comes into the world with flaws and impurities, people must be careful to remove the impurities. Jews espousing new philosophies must not distance themselves from Judaism, so that Hashem’s eternal light will shine light on them. Then they can stand on their natural base with complete souls, with their spiritual strength intact. Then their internal cognizance can set out their path, and every inclination will have its proper measure. One must not be obsessively connected to the time’s new ideas, accepting them with all of their shortcomings.

I humbly believe that such words will soften their hearts slightly. If you are wise about treating them with love and mercy, you may raise them many levels from the lowest spiritual abyss. That which is not accomplished at once will have an effect over time. Time will unveil their blindness, as they will see the falsehood of the new philosophies. In the process, they will not totally disregard their good side, namely, the desire to pursue general rectitude and justice.

My friend, we must fulfill the words of the navi (Yeshayahu 29:4) about the future days ­– the voice will come from the earth mysteriously. We must significantly suppress our holy feelings so we can speak to our children in the way they need, while believing fully that Hashem’s light dwells on every Jew and that all of his spiritual stumbles are only great unintentional mistakes. They are like mistakes one makes while attempting to fulfill mitzvot, as they think they are doing that which is morally necessary, which Hashem, who loves kindness and justice, desires.

Definitely do not disown your sons, but draw them close as best you can. In the end they will certainly repent. If they only start the process, their children will complete the good they did, and Hashem’s mercy is great in every generation.

I have not yet published Ein Ayah due to lack of funds. May Hashem help us serve Him, bring close those who are far away, and bring liberation to Zion.
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