Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Essential Unity of Israel

The reason R' Kook's writings (those of them that I can understand) are so beautiful is because of his extreme positivity. He sees everything in a positive light; indeed, he sees everything as emanating from light. Every individual, every person, has his purpose and his way of serving God, even those whom we might initially dismiss. In Orot, Rabbi Kook writes about the importance of Israel's remaining an undivided and whole community, explaining that even the wicked have their purpose and contribute to the goodness of the nation:
    The difference of opinion concerning the communal direction—whether at this time, because of the proliferation of rebels who hold high the banner of anarchy, it is correct to divide the nation, so that the pious who raise the banner of God will disassociate themselves from the rebellious sinners, or whether the power of overall peace outweighs all- this entire controversy comes about because of the overall lowliness, for purity has not been fully completed in the basic character of the nation as regards the exterior of its soul,119 and it is being progressively purified. Both these parties are on the level of the two harlots who came to Solomon. The fiat, “Bring a sword,” is a probing on the part of the divine wisdom of Israelite kingdom: the one who is to be spurned is the one who says, “Cut!” In her murmuring she pronounces the real gripe in her heart. Her only interest is, “It shall be to neither me nor you. Cut!” And the merciful mother, the real mother, says: “Give her the living child, only do not slay it!” And the divine spirit screams: “Give her the living child, she is its mother!” There is no end to the physical and spiritual evils of dividing the nation into sectors, even though total separation as imagined by those who cruelly operate is impossible and will never be. This is really a thought of general idolatry, which we are promised will not be fulfilled. That which you say, We shall be as the nations, as the families of the land to serve wood and stone- as I live, says the Lord, if not by a strong hand and an outstretched arm and outpouring rage I shall rule over you. As every idolatrous thought, it destroys and worries- even though it has not, and will not, come to deed. The foundation of the righteousness of the just in every generation is supported by the wicked as well, who, with all their wickedness, as long as they cling with their heart’s desire to the collectivity of the nation, are referred to (by the verse), Your people are all righteous. Their outer wickedness serves to anneal the strength of the righteous, “as dregs to wine.” The imagined division undermines the foundation of all holiness, as the deed of Amalek who attacked the stragglers disgorged by the Cloud (of Glory.) He stretched his hand against his peace, he profaned his covenant.
    ~Orot Ha-Tehiyah, XX, page 179
    (If you want to see the footnoted version of this piece, with the sources for all the quotes, I'd be happy to email it to you.)
Is this not utterly beautiful? One cannot and ought not divide the nation into sectors; to do so is a selfish action, similar to the desire of the woman who cried "Cut!" It is not a desire for the sake of Heaven. It is not even truly possible, should people attempt it. Rather, one must and should accept the presence of the wicked, for the wicked anneal the righteous; just as the "dregs serve to preserve the wine, so the coarse will of the wicked strengthens the existence of the flows of life." (Orot XLV) Everything has its purpose.

This reminds me of Gandalf's words, "Even Gollum may have something yet to do." There is nothing so evil that it cannot serve its purpose, whether it will or no, for the benefit of a greater good at a future time. And that is an uplifting thought.


Anonymous said...

Reading through a selection of R' Kook's writings, what struck me even more than his writings on the importance of unity and love in the abstract is his willingness to put it into practice. Too many who preach such ideas do not carry them out, but his letters are overflowing with a genuine love for the entirity of Am Yisrael, every individual. Even when he feels he has to correct someone, he wraps his chastisement with praise for the person's positive accomplishments, so that the criticism is a correction, not an attempt to destroy even the positive parts of the person's outlook.

Anonymous said...

But the question now is, if there is something we can do to limit or stop the evil ones from doing evil things (is there? is that ever possible, really?) should we not do that, because perhaps the evil will have possibly helped us contribute to the greater good sometime in the future?
The concept R' Kook brings down is beautiful, but lema'aseh,what can we be doing about it...?