We really cannot complain about this past winter, for it was a winter of abundant rain, nevertheless, winter is winter, and the short days and long nights can be depressing, especially since this winter brought with it two severe lockdowns occasioned by the continuing ravages of the Coronavirus pandemic.
All religious (or potentially religious) Jews have difficulty with mitzvot which seem to be outdated. How can a thinking Jew understand & identify with a Torah which allows slavery, bigamy or taking enemy women during war? This class also deals with many questions raised by women or feminists regarding the role of women in Judaism, laws of Aguna, divorce, the brachot of "Shelo Asani Isha" or "SheAsani KiRtzono", etc. Rav Kook, one of the most innovative & brave Gedolei HaDor, writes a lot on this issue of "updating", explaining & identifying with the Torah in a totally Orthodox way (on which no one can disagree), to bring the Torah closer to all. [It is the 1st part of the class on "Mitzvot Which Seem Immoral", also highly recommended!].
Every moral & thinking Jew has asked questions about certain mitzvot which don't seem to "jive" with the morality of God & the Torah itself! Rav Kook, as usual, bravely deals with these issues, & explains that "eternity" means that the Torah also had to be relevant to the primitive world in which it was given 3,300 yrs. ago. He differentiates between some actions, like slavery & bigamy, that had to be "allowed" temporarily in the ancient reality, but were never obligated. Nevertheless, 2 obligations (!) which seem "immoral" are regarding Amalek (killing & remembering-Zachor), & conquering the Land of Israel. But upon a closer look, they aren't immoral at all! When we lack prophets & Sanhedrin, the God Who runs History solves many problems!
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..
A business owner demands that his employees be vaccinated against Corona due to the type of work done and makes them sign a waiver of claims for damages stemming from the vaccine. Can an employer make such a demand and transfer risk to a reluctant employee?
Over the last century, mankind is less religious. Rav Kook suggests it's time to raise Torah to a higher level, that of "Being Godly". Ironically, both the rational Rambam & the Kabbalists summarize the goal of Judaism as Imitateo Dei, to copy God. The real "me" isn't my body but my Godly soul. When He finished creating the world, he told us to have children= to also create worlds. Similarly, when we observe Shabbat, it's not just because God said so, but bc He rests on Shabbat & our spark of God should naturally do the same! The Torah is not just commands, but God's ideals & advice how we can emulate His altruism. This eye-opening direction has proven very appealing today for those looking for something "higher" than ceremonious "religion".
"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.
My neighborhood is filled with outdoor Covid 19 minyanim. I was walking down the street on Shabbat and a minyan across the street was in the middle of Kedusha. In such cases, do I need to stop, keep my feet together, and respond to Kedusha until they are done, or may I continue walking?
I am certain that all of us have become knowledgeable regarding the subject of mutations. In my opinion, mutations are not strictly limited to viruses. The truth is that all societies continually mutate.
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.