Friday, August 28, 2009

Kefirah is Good For Jews.

כשחושבים על דעת אלוהים בלא השכלה ובלא תורה מתהוה ברעיון ציור אפל מלא תוהו ובוהו ואחר כך כשבאים להשתעבד לעבודת אלוהים על פי המושג הריקן הקדום האדם הולך ומאבד את זוהר עולמו על ידי מה שהוא מקשר את עצמו לדברי תוהו ובוהו נידף וכשהדבר הזה נמשך משך של איזה דורות מוכרחת הכפירה לצאת בצורה תרבותית לעקור את זכר אלוהים ואת כל המוסדים של עבודת אלוהים אבל מה היא עוקרת רק הבלים ודברי נואש שהם רק חוצצים בין האדם ובין אור אלהי אמת ועל משואות החורבות שהכפירה מחרבת בונה דעת אלהים הנשגבה את היכלה

(Free translation)

When one speculates about God without [secular] knowledge and without Torah, one develops in one’s mind a dark image, full of emptiness and confusion. When that person now turns to divine worship based on this previous empty concept, man slowly loses the splendor of his existence, because he becomes attached to empty and confused ideas. When this goes on for several generations, it is inevitable for Kefirah to show itself culturally[1] with the goal of eradicating the memory of God and all the trappings of God worship. But ultimately, what is it eradicating? It is eradicating nonsensical and hopeless ideas that truly interfere between man and the light of the true God. It is upon these destroyed ruins trampled by Kefirah, that God’s supreme wisdom builds its temple! (Shemona Kevatzim volume 1, page 31).

Rav Kook again amazes. Without the combination of the two, Torah and a good understanding of the environment, a person develops a distorted picture of God and in turn, a false concept of divine worship. One has to have a good understanding of reality and combining that knowledge with a correct understanding of the ontological teachings of Torah, one may develop a correct notion of God and His worship. Without that, religion descends into the dark ages losing its spark. Human thought cannot be suppressed. With time, people rebel against mind-numbing and irrational thought and rituals. They blame religion and the worship that it entails for this obscurantism. The reaction of the establishment is to ostracize and evict these miscreants. But what are these revolutionaries battling? They are not attacking truth, but nonsense and misunderstandings of the Divine. By cleansing society from this misdirection, a new sublime and true religion, based on Truth and a proper notion of the divine resurges. Rav Kook is describing the sociological process and internal upheavals of how true religion develops. He has an unbounded and optimistic view of human nature. What others see as a negative he has a broader and longer view and sees as constructive.

As I said in an earlier post, these are personal notes that Rav Kook used to jot down when ideas came to his mind. Reading this we can appreciate how he could love every Jew and accept all without exception. He was friendly and close with intellectuals and scholars of many different stripes and ideals, religious and non-religious even anti-religious. Just look at his correspondence.

Shabbat Shalom.

[1] I suspect he is referring to the Haskallah Movement.


  1. Wow! I never thought of things this way. From what I see, Rav Kook does not see the same World as the rest of us. His understanding of human nature is impeccable.

  2. From Tennyson, a few lines that I think touch on the idea you are discussing.

    You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

    I know not: one indeed I knew
    In many a subtle question versed,
    Who touch'd a jarring lyre at first,
    But ever strove to make it true:

    Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
    At last he beat his music out.
    There lives more faith in honest doubt,
    Believe me, than in half the creeds.

    He fought his doubts and gather'd strength,
    He would not make his judgment blind,
    He faced the spectres of the mind
    And laid them: thus he came at length

    To find a stronger faith his own;
    And Power was with him in the night,
    Which makes the darkness and the light,
    And dwells not in the light alone,

    But in the darkness and the cloud,

  3. I intended my comment to appear on the previous post, but it is relevant to this post as well. And although Tennyson was not an scholar of Orthodox Jewish hashkafa, his words are very beautiful and may contain a little truth as well.

  4. Barzilai, that is beautiful and apparently this need for authenticity is universal if not suppressed by fear. Which BTW is another theme of Rav Kook.