The concept of a Tzaddik (righteous) "decreeing" and God obeying, is in the Talmud & central to Hassidut, but very difficult to understand. There's nobody like Rav Kook to explain this in a rational, modern & spiritual way, how God interacts with Am Yisrael and our leadership, in the most beneficial way! Other important topics discussed here are the types of miracles that God suits to the needs of each generation; stringencies & leniencies. Rav Kook also deals here with his own take on "Rupture & Reconstruction" after modernism, the Haskala/Reform, the great European wars and wandering, the uprooting of Sefaradic Jews from their traditions, and how to patiently return the next generation to Torah, as well as faith in our rabbinic leadership.
"Get Back to Where You Once Belonged" and Then Continue…
Ein Aya, shabbat 2, 287
The first thing to ascertain in a Jew or a time period where many Jews are far from Judaism, is how far he really is? The number of how many generations of doubt, or how long a person or family has been estranged from Torah is important to know in order to address his/her spiritual needs properly. If one has seen religious practice in his home and is now rebelling, his needs are different than if he just saw his grandfather or neighbor doing mitzvot and himself is oblivious to the topic. In any event, Teshuva must be a gradual process & not be a quick jump to extremes.
As is the case regarding all strong powers in life, questioning and doubt are often called the "Key to knowledge", but as we know, they often can lead to confusion, as well. Rav Kook, explains how to reap the benefits of this topic without having it "boomerang" and be counterproductive. He also offers an innovative way of seeing "Yom Tov Sheini", the 2nd Day of Yom Tov outside of the Land of Israel.
Hoshana Rabba is one of the least understood days of the Jewish calendar. What is the source of her specialness, which isn't mentioned at all in the Torah? The class deals with the ancient sources for 3 different aspects of Hoshana Rabba which in fact, overlap and harmonize to give us a deeper understanding of this final day of Sukkot, as the "final appeal" sealing how our year is going to look!
Responsibility for Teshuva Within Our Family: "Does Father Know Best?"
Teshuva is usually seen from my personal point of view, but Rav Kook deals with the very common problem of taking responsibility to rebuke our children and even our wives/husbands, to purify the spiritual atmosphere of our homes. This issue is seldom dealt with, and the class deals with many practical suggestions and solutions how to politely rebuke without having it be counterproductive.
The Only Way to "Peace of Mind"- "The Strive for Perfection is Perfection"
How can we ever "quiet" our God-given conscience, if we do sincerely strive for improvement, but can never achieve moral & spiritual perfection?! Sounds frustrating, until Rav Kook teaches us in Orot HaTeshuva that the strive for perfection is (!) as perfect as man can be, and that's all God asks. Although it's hard to understand how we can actually erase mistakes that were already done, the sources teach that even when our sages say that in particular cases, Teshuva doesn't help, they're just saying so as part of the test, where if despite that, if one doesn't "despair" & does Teshuva, it's a sign that he's really sincere, his thought of improvement has no ulterior motives & is accepted! It's a lot easier & more natural than we think.
Shmitta- A Concise Review Of All the Practical Laws For Your Kitchen and Yard
With our recent return to the Land of Israel, Shmitta has once again returned to the agenda of being a practical mitzva! The many laws & practical applications practiced every 7th year, as well as the many different approaches, can be confusing, especially for those of us who did not grow up in Israel. This "crash course" comes to remind the forgotten & simplify an entire year of additional mitzvot and halachot regarding almost everything that we will eat, in an easy & understandable way, focusing on the consumer's guide to how to buy and run a Shmitta-kosher kitchen, and what is or isn't allowed in our backyard & flower-pots. Please pass this link on to your friends who may be in need of this neatly-packaged summary & review.
Being Social Helps My Spirituality!-Rav Kook on Win-Win Rather Than Competition
Ein Aya, shabbat 2, 285
There is a stereotype, that religious people don't mingle and aren't active socially nor participants in communal materialistic pursuits, but rather seclude themselves and just learn Torah. This is a carry-over from other religions that see the physical as contradicting the spiritual, but Judaism, to the contrary, learns from Ya'akov Avinu who, according to the respective opinions, minted a new coin, or built marketplaces and bath-houses. In addition to emotional and intellectual experiences, Rav Kook adds that the Jewish way of getting close to God, is to be similar (!) to Him, in our giving, altruism, activism and dedication to Israel and our communities. The more we are involved and help the broader society, the more Godly we are.
We are accustomed to the problem that when we dedicate time or effort to one issue or person, it inevitably comes at the expense of others. Rav Kook utilizes the hassidic/kabbalistic way of seeing the world, & the midrash on Ya'akov being complete in health, in money, and in Torah to analyze and suggest how to harmonize life, in a way that can save us great anxiety in our daily and life decisions.
Why Donate a Kiddush?! Life of Greatness With Israel or Life of Smallness Alone
Ein Aya, Shabbat 2, 283
Rav Kook explains why our sages teach us the custom to donate a Kiddush, contribution etc. to the shul, community or to Israel, to commemorate & celebrate an individual simcha, milestone or recuperation. Most people are preoccupied with their small and immature self-centered concerns, but a more worthwhile, mature, satisfying & idealistic option is to live a life of greatness as part of Am Yisrael, the Chosen Nation, adding depth and meaning to an otherwise, small life.
Can We Offer Today New Commentaries on the Tanach?
On the one hand, logic says that the true commentaries of the Tanach have already been revealed & taught for 3,300 years, and it even seems brazen to suggest that we can come up with new & true commentaries that Rashi & the sages didn't know or think of! On the other hand, it would be intellectually dishonest and disrespectful to the truth of Torah, if we were to ignore and not utilize the new vantage points which God has granted us through modern science, archeology, computers, Bible criticism & the return to the Land and State of Israel. The class gives many concise & practical examples and suggestions how to do so, and see the "Living Eternal Torah" as dynamic, exciting, personal, modern and as relevant as always.
Forego Humility to Let Our Children Know About Our Good Actions
Ein Aya Shabbat 2, 281
Parents, educators and rabbis often grapple with the question: "I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but if I don't tell my children/students about my volunteering, learning, tzedaka and the good deeds that I do, how can I educate them of their importance?!" It's not enough to speak theoretically about ideals, but the best is to show by personal example, and my kids aren't always around to see! Similarly, certain topics are uncomfortable to speak about, but if we shy away from them, our children won't learn of their importance.
9 Tips from Rav Kook on: How To Argue, Debate & "Do Kiruv" Successfully
Ein Aya Shabbat 2 279
Arguing is part of every marriage and relationship, and there must be a constructive way to do so. Similarly, so many Jews are far from Torah, that there must be some guidelines how to "Mekarev" them in the most beneficial way to return to Judaism. Rav Kook, as always, has some innovative tips.
As always, Rav Kook has an innovative take on the challenge of staying young and energetic, as well as the importance of the sense of smell and fragrance. The class also elaborates on the relationship between our lives and spirituality, and how to harmonize them properly.
Unfortunately, the Tanach, the most popular, most translated and most printed book in history, is not studied enough in the yeshiva world. Perhaps one of the reasons, is that it is clearly addressing religious Zionists, something which may "threaten" certain notions in those yeshivas. This class helps clarify different outlooks within orthodoxy regarding modernism and Zionism, and what the original Torah-True Judaism is really about.
Much has been written, especially in Hassidut, about the powers and influence of the "Tzaddik". As usual, Rav Kook has an innovative approach harmonizing the rational, the hassidic and the Lithuanian yeshiva approach.
Remembering the 6 Day War- Yom Yerushalayim & Declaring New Holidays
It sounds complicated to declare new holidays, but it's actually not at all. Similarly to allow haircuts and music during the Omer also is simple. Just declaring Hallel with a bracha is more complicated, but an historic return to the forgotten background of the "6 Day War" helps clarify that, as well.