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Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook #151

A Liberal Religious School – Better than the Alternative


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

SIvan 5783
Date and Place : 14 Menachem Av 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient : Rav Yisrael Porat. Rav Porat was at the time a brilliant young protégé of Rav Kook, who was part of the Old Yishuv in Yerushalayim. He went on to write an introduction to the Talmud and was an important rabbi in England and Cleveland. In a previous letter, we saw Rav Kook write positively about the Tachkemoni school (which had more secular studies than was customary in religious schools), and word went out that Rav Kook was a supporter of it. In this letter, Rav Kook was apologetic about his support of the school.

Body : I feel a responsibility to, as much as possible, calm the heart of all of my dear friends in regard to my formal support of the founders of the school for "members of the Mizrachi" in Yafo. The following were the major factors, which proper consideration showed, created a situation in which there was no alternative:
A. The gymnasium (Herzylia, which opened in Yafo at the same time) was founded, which was done in a brazen manner with absolute heresy, and it is attracting a great number of our children. Therefore, it is proper that we strengthen any force that will come on the scene that can save some number of children a year from that destructive well. Therefore, I was happy with their idea to start a school that at least will adhere to the basis of Judaism.
B. If I would remove my oversight of the school, it is possible that it would be led in a way that will be destructive to the way of the Torah. This would create new enemies in addition to the many struggles that have already cropped up around us.
C. In my opinion, it is now proper for us to accept supervision of any institution that wants our supervision, even if we are not happy with the institution. This will at least make it less problematic due to our influence.
D. Their curriculum indicates that they want to start with just lower grades, and there will be a few years in which they will study no foreign language. Therefore, there will not immediately be a problem of the known prohibition (foreign languages was formally banned in the schools by the rabbis of Yerushalayim decades before). When the time will come, in the coming years, and we will have to discuss the matter of foreign languages, then we will have to be wise about the matter and figure out how to do it in a matter that is permitted.
Despite all of this, I did not think that they would publicize that I was running the school. Nevertheless, now that they have done so, it can be for the good, with Hashem’s help. This will help us open our eyes to the need to know cognitively how to save our Holy Land from those who would destroy it, by arming our students with the power to succeed in the war of life. This cannot be done by approaches that bring weakness of the spirit, that darken the light of the soul and strengthen those who want to breach the fence of Judaism, who, in our iniquity, have become many. (This is a critique of school curriculums that do not prepare students for the world of activity, outside Torah study, as we have seen in past letters).
I hope that all who have true fear of Heaven will fulfill the mandate to judge their counterpart positively (i.e., not cast aspersions on Rav Kook) and not be shaken by imaginary fears, which might arise in the heart of those who do not consider carefully how to serve Hashem with a proper heart and healthy intellect. We are just continuing the work of the great rabbis of yesteryear. If they had encountered a situation in the Holy Land as exists now, they would definitely have joined forces to strengthen us. This is needed to make sure that the coming generations will not see those who fear Hashem in a lowly position in comparison with the wicked people who raise their stature (with broad knowledge) with conceit.

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