lundi, janvier 09, 2006


this is s hiur by rav yitchak blau... i'm curious to know what if anything other people think of these ideas...

The Material, the Spiritual and the National Revival

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook offers a different reading of this aggada in his eulogy for Theodor Herzl (Ma'amarei Ha-ra'aya, pp. 94-99). He sees Yeravam as representing Malkhut Yisra'el, and therefore, the gemara refers to the relationship between Malkhut Yehuda (David) and Malkhut Yisra'el (Yeravam). To understand the relationship between these two monarchies, Rav Kook outlines his perspective on the goals of Am Yisra'el.

In Rabbi Kook's view, the Jewish nation must strive to achieve both material and spiritual success. While the former works primarily on the universal plane which we share with non–Jews, the latter touches more on our particularistic vision. Of course, it remains clear that the material success is the means and the spiritual success the ultimate goal; just as each individual tries to stay healthy in order to accomplish spiritual aspirations, so too the nation requires robustness in order to realize its own spiritual vision.

Why do we need the material component? On both individual and communal levels, material poverty often gets in the way of spiritual achievement. The individual who cannot find a steady job may find it difficult to concentrate on study and prayer. A national collective suffering the torments of persecution and exile may have analogous problems.

Perhaps there is a second factor as well. In Orot (p. 104), Rav Kook argues that the full flourishing of Torah depends upon a national political entity because Torah is not restricted to hermits and ascetics; rather, it relates to every political, economic and social issue in a polity. Note how the modern state of Israel has spawned a host of halakhic discussions regarding questions about military issues, national economics, the rights of minorities and so on. Thus, the material success not only allows us the breathing space for the spiritual; it also expands the playing field for the spiritual.

Yehuda and Yosef, the two leaders among Ya'akov's children, already embody these twin themes in the end of Sefer Bereishit. Yosef provides material comfort in Egypt, and he excels on the universal plane in his interaction with the broader environment. Yehuda provides the unique spiritual message of Torah.

The Davidic dynasty initially united the material and spiritual. However, a rupture occurred and the kingdom divided into two. For Rabbi Kook, this split is not just a political argument but also a divide between our two themes: Yeravam, a descendant of Yosef from the tribe of Efrayim, stood for the material success of the Jewish people; the descendents of David, on the other hand, passed on an ideal vision of our spiritual heritage.

While Rabbi Kook views the split as problematic, he argues that the two kingdoms could still have engaged in mutually beneficial interaction if not for the fact that Yeravam's pride interfered. In our aggada from Sanhedrin, God’s offer means that each kingdom can provide what it is able to, and the joint effort will enable these partners to walk with God.

When Yeravam asks who will be first, God answers that the material flourishing represented by Yeravam must take a backseat to the essential goal of spiritual striving represented by David. Yeravam refuses to accept such a hierarchy, and the partnership crumbles. The rest of Jewish history thus reflects the problems of a split between the two realms.

Finally, Rav Kook sees these two themes emerging from the idea of a Mashiach ben Yosef and a Mashiach ben David: the former reflects the material efforts of Yosef while the latter represents the spiritual ideals of Yehuda. According to Chazal, Mashiach ben Yosef dies because ultimately, it becomes clear that the spiritual goal is paramount.

Clearly, Rav Kook talks here not only about Herzl the man; he speaks in broader terms about secular Zionism in general. In keeping with his fundamental orientation, Rabbi Kook grants it significant value, but he sees it as lacking something crucial: one must respect its desire to grant the Jewish people a state and a homeland as crucial elements of our vision; at the same time, when not animated by a spiritual perspective, such nationalism misses out on the most significant element of our worldview.


Blogger Josh said...

From a purely biblical perspective, R. Kook is obivously correct. The Jewish Nation as a political body is probably best described as a constitutional monarchy with the Torah being the constitution and being the ultimate check on the executive.

However, religion in Biblical times seem much simpler than they it is today. Without an objective authority virtually any social or political agenda could easily be read into the Torah and portrayed as the true will of God.

mercredi, janvier 11, 2006 9:38:00 AM  

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