Abraham Isaac Kook’s Doctrine of Science and Kabbalah

Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen Kook (1865-1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, sought in his writings to develop a theological vision of Jewish spiritual and national renewal through the return to Zion. Drawing on one of Kook’s recently published manuscripts, Bezalel Naor explains his suggestion that a synthesis of kabbalah and science (or secular knowledge more generally) could be put into the service of this vision. As a model of that synthesis, Naor writes, Kook looked to the work of the 17th-century Rabbi Abraham Cohen Herrera:

Herrera (d. 1635) studied in Ragusa (today Dubrovnik, Croatia) under Rabbi Israel Sarug, a peripatetic teacher who transmitted a form of kabbalah based on the teachings of Isaac Luria [1534-1572] to several distinguished students in Italy. . . .

Herrera’s Spanish work of kabbalah, Puerta del Cielo (“Gate of Heaven”), remained until recently an unpublished manuscript. Luckily, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca (1605-1693), who would become the rabbi of the Portuguese community of Amsterdam, translated portions of the work into Hebrew at Herrera’s behest. The [translation] was printed in Amsterdam in 1655 under the title Sha’ar ha-Shamayim.

What strikes the reader of Sha’ar ha-Shamayim is the ease with which Herrera juxtaposes arcane Lurianic kabbalah and Neoplatonic philosophy. . . . Herrera shuttles between Israel Sarug and [the 15th-century Italian Catholic Platonist] Marsilio Ficino without batting an eyelash. . . .

Kook asserts that in Sha’ar ha-Shamayim we have a rapprochement between kabbalah and the science of the day. In this, Kook may be barking up the wrong tree. In the 17th century, in the Netherlands as well as in Italy, there was a demarcation (however blurred) between philosophy and science. . . . Be that as it may, however, Kook advocates the marriage of kabbalah and science.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion & Holidays, Renaissance, Science and Religion

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem