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Herrera’s Spanish work of kabbalah, Puerta del Cielo (“Gate of Heaven”), remained until recently an unpublished manuscript.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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More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion & Holidays, Renaissance, Science and Religion

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey