ome righteous people, like R. Shimon bar Yochai, already live as if they were in the world-to-come, with just minimal physical pleasure. Their priorities are so clear that they even have difficulty tolerating those who work & live in the "regular" world. The carob tree that miraculously grew for them in the cave, represents selflessness, where even one's planting is for their descendants, not for themselves. Similar to God, Who created this world out of altruism, for us, so too when one plants in Eretz Yisrael he's doing so for generations to come for Israel is our eternal home, as fruit-trees benefit coming generations. In Israel, when in Jewish hands, there's no ideal to separate from this physical world, for even the physical is holy.
We all know that Judaism stresses and even obligates us to marry and the importance of having a family life, but the question is, why was Moshe, the ideal Jew, davka told to separate from his wife? Rav Kook deals with the issue as he deals with R. Shimon Bar Yochai's similar separation from his wife and from his regular life. In addition to several other explanations, he compares Moshe Rabbenu with Adam and Mashiach..
"Hitkatnut haDorot", means the generations are going "downhill" as we get further from Sinai. On the other hand, Rav Kook & Ramchal often refer to the "Evolution" built into the world, that mankind is continuously improving through trial & error, better conditions & techniques, not to mention computers and technology. Accordingly, today we see unprecedented masses are learning Torah, including women, unique & innovative programs, the web etc. but the Gedolim are still descending. Rav Kook sees the benefit of this phenomenon, showing the advantages of the massive quest for truth, who davka feel today's rabbis approachable, as a "step-down" mechanism. Similarly, ideas must be revealed in the right time & we can't skip stages nor take shortcuts.
There always were different approaches as to how we should relate to gentiles. Obviously different approaches are suited for various periods, but Rav Kook helps clarify which to use & when? R. Yehuda praised the Romans' bridges, markets & bathhouses, R. Yossi chose not to comment, & R. Shimon Bar Yochai totally derided them, saying that even those contributions to the Land of Israel were for their own selfish pleasures. The first approach posits to accept the good from the gentiles, & this is the most advantageous & practical approach towards the gentiles themselves, especially during exile. Contrarily, when we can be independent, we must fight evil, for the sake of the weak, for society, & also for the sake of the evil themselves.
Chazal liken Esav, the Romans and Christians to the pig= externally kosher but internally not. Rav Kook stands on the difference between Israel & Christianity, which did away with the observance of mitzvot, claiming that all God wants is morality, to looks nice but Crusade. The Romans legitimize physical pleasure even when it's selfish, the Catholics see physical pleasure as problematic, and especially the social, political, military & economic as void of God and belonging to "Caesar". They simplistically divide the world as black-white, good-bad, physical-spiritual, setting unrealistic goals which infer that God made mistakes in creating physical pleasure. Judaism believes God is Perfect and there is good phys. pleasure vs. the selfish.
Adults know that in the complex world, things often aren't good or bad, but usually a combination of the two. Rav Kook directs us that this sorting & classification to take the good & leave the bad, must generally be done by the experienced and well-rounded righteous, whose right & wrong are so clear, they will not be blinded or deceived to confuse the two. The complex world has matured and doesn't enable censorship, leaving us no choice but to utilize the Godly gifts of technology & knowledge wisely, as part of the modern Messianic Torah which knows to judge the essence & not the external. Similarly, secular Zionism was partially problematic, but will we not let the non-religious give charity?! Don't be naive but also don't deny reality!
For we, who believe that God runs the world, even the smallest details of a sickness, like Corona, are significant and meant to be noticed and analyzed. Just as Hashem speaks to us through Torah, He also does so through how He runs the world and its challenges, as well. We must utilize each challenge to grow, but our soul-searching must be within ourselves and not, as Job's friends tried, suggesting that he sinned on this or that, to deserve his sickness and tragedies. The class discusses also some of the inevitable outcomes of the Corona Covid virus.
One of the major innovations of Rav Kook and his yeshiva is not only to learn the Talmud but to learn the broader Torah, including Aggada and Kabbala, as well. In many yeshivas they skip or learn the stories and aggadata in the gemara very superficially, and in doing so, are unfortunately missing out on one of the most beautiful, appealing and attractive parts of Torah. Similarly Kabbala and Hassidut are becoming more and more popular, and Rav Kook, already 100 years ago, writes that this "broad Torah" is what will keep Judaism's appeal in the modern and post-modern world, and can even help "return" those who left the derech, who are searching for something deep, emotional and intellectual.
From age 14 (!) & on, Rav Kook had a long going love-affair with the concept of Kerem B'Yavneh, & dreamt of starting a new universal, modern & Zionist yeshiva there. The beginning of this class mentions the various stages of the implemention of this dream, which was ironically realized after his, & his benefactor, R. Gutz's passing. But the main topic dealt with is Rav Kook's explanation why this is the only yeshiva, & only "stop" of the Sanhedrin, which was uniquely & consistently called: Kerem (vineyard)? Rav Kook thought that if the Torah left Jerusalem via Yavneh, than it should conversely, 1st return to Yavneh, with the dream of Yr-m coming later. He connects this to division which enables indiv. development, & exile/sparks gathering.
We all know that the Levi'im (Levites) have a special status & had unique roles in the Beit HaMikdash, but what is it? What's the common denominator between their singing, guarding, opening the gates & their role as the Torah teachers of Israel? Levi means "accompany" & they escort both the aristocratic Kohanim & the "lay" Israelite farmers. They are the visible & "hear-able" go-between at the entrance of the Temple, & the Torah educators who go around the country. They are not the super-stars, but rather represent the functional & necessary, which often go "unsung". A review of all of the details of the Levite laws beautifully show this point, & explain the Talmudic connection between them & Lashon Hara (negative speech).
Usually heavy topics with important ramifications are relatively difficult, & that's why it's surprisingly easy to speak, even though words can extremely help or harm (gossip, embarrassment). Rav Kook suggests that God made it relatively easy to speak so that the important benefit can be reaped without much effort, with many halachic ramifications, as well, e.g. oaths, vows, kidushin, hekdesh & making people feel good with compliments, encouragement, etc. Even a small scream without words, usually activates us to action. Rav Kook also writes about the order of proper speech, that begins with thought, which leads to words, which lead to actions, & the special power of words in Eretz Yisrael, L& of Hebrew (Lashon HaKodesh) & Prophecy
Most people would like to be wealthy, and even pray that God should grant it to them. Obviously wealth enables giving more tzedaka, but on the other hand, all of life is challenges, and money is a difficult one (although everyone wants it!). Judaism says that it's best to be middle-class, not too rich and not too poor, yet Torah is found mostly among the poor! The class deals with the importance in finding scholarships davka for those who need them will probably be the best students. There are many logical reasons for this, yet most ignore them. Aside from the problems of spoiling one's children, wealth often leads to arrogance and exaggerated self-worth, inflating one's ego and losing touch with reality, humility and more.
When we see one who has a physical deformity, challenge or sickness, it inevitably awakens pity & kindness, even for those who are total strangers & see from afar. This is the tikun or educational fixing of "Sinat Chinam", needless hate, towards the innocent or even the foreigner. Upon feeling this pity & kindness from others, even the cruel will taste the pleasantness & benefits of this unearned love - "Ahavat Chinam", & society will gradually improve. Rav Kook adds that all people have a Godly spark, a conscience & natural morality, where if they didn't "overcome" it through negative free-will, is just waiting to be realized. & even if one chooses to overcome his goodness, it can be re-awakened through incidents & positive experiences.
As a continuation of the class on "The Different Levels On Which G-d Runs the World", this class is on the different levels of sickness, whether ours or those around us. Just as fast-days are a self-induced weakness, which brings us to analyze our lives, priorities & actions, when God sends a sickness, it's not necessarily a punishment but rather a "wake-up call" to induce soul-searching. Life is comprised of such small incidents, some pleasant & others not, some direct & others less so, to keep us awake that we shouldn't live like robots, but rather utilize our Godly free-will to its utmost extent, keeping our lives meaningful & idealistic. Accordingly, even the "bad" messages are seen by Rav Kook as: The process of gradual good.
Anyone who believes that G-d runs the world knows that he does so via various ways & on many different levels. Rav Kook deals with these many venues how He transmits messages to us & analyzes the extent of the direct & indirect levels, including dreams (mine & those around me) sickness (mine & those around me), accidents, challenges etc. The question of "why bad things happen to good people" is based upon the mistaken & even childish thought that life is supposed to be smooth, as opposed to Judaism which sees life as challenges, some pleasant & others not, which are sent us as G-d's way of helping us grow, be independent & Godly. Many aspects of life have nothing to do with "reward & punishment", but are "wake-up calls" to analyze ourselves.
Most people don't realize the extent of self-sacrifice, both physical (financial, health, time, worry, etc.) & spiritual (e.g. their own learning, marriage, children) that rabbis, community leaders & general volunteers lose by serving their students & community. Rabbi's children especially suffer, resenting the high expectations from a very young age! Inevitably, some even rebel against religion or communal service, either consciously or sub-consciously holding "them" responsible for their lost time with their parent. Some rebel to gain their parent's attention. Rav Kook deals with these painful phenomena of literal Mesirut Nefesh (not just Mesirut "Guf"!) & the limits involved, explaining the importance of serving Am Yisrael= serving G-d.
We find various rabbis in rabbinic literature who built their spirituality through fasting and depriving themselves of physical pleasure. Rav Kook explains that this is like "shock treatment" or bitter medicine, which healthy people don't need. In Torat Eretz Yisrael, the Living Torah most applicable to the modern world, the approach of unity is to reveal the harmony between the physical and spiritual worlds. In Israel, where even the physical is spiritual and the atmosphere is Jewish, it's much more conducive to living a life of modern orthodoxy without the dangers of losing our proportions, priorities or getting influenced by western society. Accordingly Rav Kook explains the machloket between Rava & Abaye in Masechet Shabbat.
Rav Kook deals here with 3 common spiritual problems: over-indulging in physical pleasure; "under-indulging"- going to the opposite extreme & how fasting and ascetic life is counter-productive for the modern man; & superstition. Rav Kook's unique approach to superstition & the passages in the Talmud which seem as such stress that we must rise above the nature to fear and "quake" regarding topics beyond human control. Rather than imagining superstitious acts, which help us feel in control of the uncontrollable, we should connect with He Who is in total control and His Torah wisdom. HaRav doesn't contradict those rabbinic passages, but says they're secondary & better off not worrying about. Only he who worries about them has what to worry about.