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To dedicate this lesson
Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook #140 Part I

Our National Sleep


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Shvat 5783
Date and Place : 27 Iyar 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient : Rabbi Shmuel Alexandrov. Alexandrov was a yeshiva-trained scholar, who was an autodidact in languages, philosophy, and science. He was a very independent thinker who at times angered the Maskilim and at times angered traditional rabbis. He was a member of the Mizrachi movement and tried, over the years, to recruit Rav Kook to take a leadership role within that movement. This is one of many correspondences between the two on matters of Jewish philosophy.

Body : About the yeiush (despair; apparently, Alexandrov complained that the Jewish people’s outlook was overly gloomy), you have exaggerated the matter. It is true that our stature is diminished by a large measure, whether it be regarding the masses or the elite in the nation. However, when we look well at the matter, we will see that the solution to the diminishment is in the renewal of the loftiest life that our nation can look forward to.
The state of sleep in a living organism, especially in humans, causes the powers of the body to focus on the inside. In that state, logic and the senses do not work. What does work, and in a diligent manner, is the lower physical functions, and imagination works unimpeded. Wise and righteous people are exposed to spiritually elevated dreams, with visions of great importance, which excite the heart. This is on a level that is beyond what a person can sense awake. When a person starts to awaken, the imagination diminishes as does the more spiritual attainments, and powers of lower physicality weaken before the abilities of logic and full control of his senses and body return to function. At this time a person is groggy and is full of emotions that are similar to being burdened and in despair. One who is diligent will awaken like a lion when it is still very early, but even a brave man will not be able to escape from moments of weakness.
[These matters are parallel to the] stages in national history. We slept a deep sleep in exile, at which time the national senses were almost fully dormant. The "utensils" of activity and work, logic and knowledge, in relation to national matters, were not in use. On the other hand, the powers of lower life were fully active. This includes a strong feeling of connection to the nation, which is a leftover from the divine light that was put in hiding, which was able to work powerfully even though it was on a reduced level.
Among the masses, the imagination played tricks, providing both pleasant and bitter dreams. Uniquely wonderful people saw lofty visions, based on eternal truths that lead in all matters. This is the way hundreds of years of slumber have transpired, and now the approaching of the end of days has but begun the process of reawakening. The eyes have opened, and we have begun to see clearly the world that surrounds us. The power of the "lower life," which is represented by sleep, has for the most part stopped. The period of widespread imagination has passed, as have the lofty, holy people. At this moment in history, we are in a state of weakness.
However, everyone should be able to see that this situation will not last for too long, but rather there will be a process of increasing light. Other nations did not require a period of sleep because they did not have such a long national life, which would weigh them down to that extent. Rather, when they became tired, they slept forever.
In contrast, about us it says: "I have lied down and slept; I have woken up because Hashem has supported me" (Tehillim 3:6). After a lot of toil, in the war of a life of materialism and spirituality, we slept, and it was an unpleasant sleep. However, on the inside, the storehouse of great life, which is the source of our national life, unique and of importance, remains.

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