Mystic, Messianist, and Modernizer: The Legacy of Rav Kook

Oct. 15 2014

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who served as the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine, is generally regarded as the intellectual progenitor of religious Zionism. Born in Russia in 1865, Kook developed a theosophy that combined various strands of Jewish mysticism with ideas plucked from modern and secular currents, most importantly from secular Zionism. While strictly Orthodox, he rejected Orthodoxy’s view of Judaism as unchanging and called for a religious renewal made possible by Zionism; this, as Yehudah Mirsky points out in his recent biography, would lead to reconciliation between religious and secular Jews and hasten the coming of the messiah. Samuel Thrope writes:

In his own way, Kook was no less radical than the young [secular Zionist] pioneers. Unlike other representatives of traditional Judaism in Palestine, he did not dismiss the anti-religious Zionists as heretics and sinners. His Kook’s response to Zionism’s revolutionary, secular challenge to tradition—its claim to have wrested the mantle of Jewishness from Judaism—was to transform it into theology. Even as the pioneers sought to sacralize their secular undertaking, Kook intended to re-appropriate Jewish nationalism as a religious movement springing from the deepest wells of the faith. The pioneers might have seen themselves as socialists and enlightened rebels; in Kook’s admiring eyes, they were unwitting saints.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Mandate Palestine, Messianism, Mysticism, Religious Zionism

 

To Today’s Cosmopolitan and “Oikophobic” Left, Israel Can Never Be Acceptable

Aug. 23 2019

On the day the Knesset passed its nation-state law last year, Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “This is our state—the Jewish state. . . . This is our nation, language, and flag.” This declaration, argues Wiliam Voegeli, points precisely to what the American left finds so unpalatable about Israel:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Claremont Review of Books

More about: Anti-Zionism, Leftism, Nation-State Law, Nationalism