Donate

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Herrera’s Spanish work of kabbalah, Puerta del Cielo (“Gate of Heaven”), remained until recently an unpublished manuscript.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.

Read more at Lehrhaus

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

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy