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.
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.
Religious Zionists strive to gradually make Israel more religious. Rav Kook controversially explains why despite our aforementioned desire, it was davka beneficial that many of the early active Zionists, at the forefront: Herzl, were clearly non-religious & often even "anti". Rav Kook explains how the religious in exile tended to be passive not pragmatic. Also, in the heated debate: should we wait passively for God to redeem us, or should we hasten the redemption, the secular solved the issue by simply, not asking the rabbis! Similarly historically, most of the Jews were already beginning to assimilate, & the redemption is for all of Israel & mankind, not just for the religious. Secular Zionism was relevant even to the non-believing.
Rav Kook points out that just as most of the tree is roots, trunk, branches and leaves, despite the fact that the goal is the fruit, similarly most of life is preparations (e.g. eating, dress, work, cooking, raising children), and often one doesn't even achieve his goal. Does that mean that he wasted his life?! The basic question is, if most of life is "tree", and I want to have meaning in life, I have no choice but to find a way to have "taste" in the tree, not just in the fruit. This was the original plan in Eden, and is meant to be the ideal lifestyle, as expressed in the Etrog where the tree tastes like her fruit. Eretz Yisrael is likened to Sukkot, where even the secular/mundane/"tree" has meaning/taste/holiness, and it's all a mitzva.
Sukkot is the climax of agricultural success, but also brings with it the anxiety & nervousness regarding the upcoming season. The Sukkah represents the clouds which precede the rainy season, & are the time when God judges us regarding rain. Cherophobia is a common problem where happiness & accomplishment are accompanied by fear: After I've achieved my goals, there's a feeling of emptiness- What do I do now?!". Also, we ask like Kohelet, "Why am I still not happy?!". There's also the fear that I may lose or someone will take away what I've achieved. Also the fear "what if people reveal that I'm really not so talented?". Sukkot are termed in kabbala: "The Shade of Emuna", that only God has absolute success, & only He can provide security regarding past & future.
Rav Kook sees that the nature of Tshuva is among the most basic of ideas to understand life & the world. The sinner lives a life of self-centeredness, who inevitably will have difficulty finding love & lasting relationships, seeing the world as chaotic & pessimistic. Children eventually mature, learning to share & give. Kabbala refers to the pessimists who see our 3 dimensional world as Alma D'Piruda, "World of Division", rather than the believer in Unity & God, Who created a world of harmony. The Torah teaches how to find harmony in a complex world. One can see the violence in the animal world as chaotic, but if one steps back & views the entire picture he sees a harmonic orderly food-chain. All creation follows God's program, & man would be wise to choose so, as well, and "Join the Unity".
There's a common scenario, where someone becomes a Ba'al Teshuva, strengthening himself religiously, & indirectly, davka becomes less Zionist! Rav Kook ironically deals with this issue way before it was common, as part of his overall & innovative understanding of Teshuva, in this classic letter to his student, R. Charlap. Explaining that the concept of Evolution is the basis of Creation, & that constant improvement is the most natural process for the individual & mankind. This central drive is what's behind most of Torah, life and goals. Zionism is the easiest way to see God today, thru how He runs processes of advancement in history, fulfills prophecies, returns Altruism and Nationalism to their proper place, reviving the "Or LaGoyim" etc.
We all know that if you don't have a goal, you can't score! We all have many goals, but is there one which encompasses and is the common denominator of them all? Such a definition will prevent us from feeling torn between the many goals and roles we have. One theory is that the goal of life is pleasure, which is the common denominator of all people. On the other hand, all those people also have an ideal for which they are willing to forego all of their pleasure, inferring that ideals supersede pleasure! The class suggests that these 2 theories are 1 and the same, for we all want pleasure, but ideals are not 3rd class (short-term) pleasure, nor 2nd class (long-term) pleasure, but rather 1st class, eternal pleasure.