The uniqueness of the People of Israel does not begin with the appearance of the people of Israel, but well before that. As R. Yehuda HaLevy says in his classic work HaKuzari, we already see differences between people starting from the days of Adam HaRishon – the first human being to live on the face of the earth – and we comprehend that not everyone is equal.
Soon, the Nation of Israel will be greatly raised up, it will become clear why the Jewish Nation suffered more than the other nations, and why it became a wretched symbol of degradation among the Gentiles.
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.
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 opposed to other types of nationalism/patriotism, which are relatively external, shallow and sometimes even racist, the Religious Zionism of Rav Kook plays an essential universal role in the moral maturation of humanity. Avraham Avinu was told to leave his land and set up a "Great Nation" in Israel who's goal is, even today & forever, to spread monotheism & morality and influence mankind. Am Yisrael as a nation, with a moral and idealistic state, economy, army & culture, plays a universal role. Rav Kook reveals his ingenious connection between monotheism & morality, & convincingly proves rationally how the Biblical "Light to the Nations" is coming true. He explains the central role of utilizing Jewish creativity for cultural influence.
Anyone who has opened a page in the Talmud or entered a Beit Midrash, is puzzled with the question of why are there so many differences of opinions among rabbis, and why they're always arguing? If the Torah comes from 1 God, shouldn't there be 1 absolute truth? Why are there so many commentaries on just about every pasuk in Tanach? This concise class summarize this large topic, addressing halachic, logical, technological and technical reasons, analyzing & summarizing in 10 clear categories, what stands behind all those machlokot?
How can the Torah command us to love every single Jew? How can the Torah command us to feel an emotion? Apparently we're referring to a mindset that is achievable, but how? Rav Kook was famous for his love of each and every Jew, even those far from Torah. This approach was very controversial in his time, but has since been almost unanimously accepted, even within haredi circles. What is the halachic and philosophic explanation and basis, and how can we practically acquire this difficult trait?
These oft-debated issues of "hasbara", demand good answers. Rav Shvat suggests 4 replies to the accusation of Israel occupying arab "territories" based upon the difficulty western & rational man has in understanding why the arabs could be the aggressors if they always suffer more casualties? The world doesn't understand the Jihad mindset which doesn't mind losing wars and being suicide bombers which in fact, defies logic and prevents deterrance. History, both old and new also bolster the Jewish claims. Anti-semitism is an additional unfortunate clouding factor. Among several approaches to why the moral mitzvot are geared particularly to Jews: is simply that the Torah addresses Jewish life, among Jews, in the Jewish Land for the Jewish People, and more.
Should Orthodox Jewry relate to the Reform movement as a threat or as Jewish partners and brothers? Understanding the roots of the Reform movement and its evolution will help us understand the proper approach today.
What is the definition of "Kedusha" in general, and in particular, how should we understand the holiness of the Jewish Nation and the Land of Israel? Is kedusha (translated: holiness) essentially inherent, or is it acquired through Torah and mitzvot? Rav Kook's harmonic approach, based upon Tanachic and rabbinic sources, helps us make sense of these most basic issues.
The State of Israel with her Jewish army, is clearly the national answer to the Holocaust, but Rav Kook sees it also as the moral answer, to bring morality not only to individuals, but also to the masses and the nations, as the Or LaGoyim, Light for the Nations. In short, Yom HaAtzma'ut should be the answer to Yom haShoah, in both security and ethics.
Much has been written on the cause of Anti-Semitism, but, as usual, Rav Kook has an innovative take on the issue. The she'ur deals with this unique historic phenomenon of hate, but also sees the light, regarding the optimistic, but inevitable solution. Am Yisrael, as the conscience of mankind, inevitably is going to be hated until the world matures, but maturation is just an issue of time.
Rav Kook's classic "Ma'amar HaDor" is summarized here in one lecture, explaining the animosity between the factions in Israel. We return to the roots of the rebellious Zionist youth movements and the conservative reaction of the religious leadership in Europe. Rav Kook suggests that the rebellious sons in their idealism and Zionist revival, are even more religious than their parents on these issues. Their rebellion isn't against religion but against galut, and that's a revolution whose time has come: the redemption. The solution is to return to the original Torah which 1) is religious-Zionist and 2) includes learning the entire & broad Torah, including Tanach, Emuna, philosophy, hassidut, mussar, and Zionism, and not exclusively Talmud. We also deal with the question why these appealing aspects of Torah, were neglected for so long.