Rabbi Abraham Issac HaCohen Kook, who passed away exactly 80 years ago, was a powerful force in the beginning of modern Israel with an almost prophetic understanding of history that still guides his followers today. His writings are a matter of ongoing discussion and controversy, but what is clear is that he saw Jews and Christians as partners in moving Israel forward into the Messianic era.
The anniversary of Rabbi Kook’s death was commemorated this past Tuesday. The Torah giant served as the first Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel and founded the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, one of the major Torah institutions in Israel. A renowned scholar and Kabbalist, through his great intellect and understanding he managed to bring together many diverse and divergent aspects of Israeli and Jewish society.
His position regarding non-Jews, especially their role in the Messianic process, has not only been the focus of much controversy, but has been subject to claims of his works being censored so as to influence public opinion.
Aryeh Sklar, author of a scholarly work based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook’s book “Nevuchei Ha’Dor: The Perplexed of the Generation,” reveals certain censored passages obscuring Rabbi Kook’s intent. In the unabridged version, Rabbi Kook sees Jews and Christians uniting in a symbiotic effort to bring Messiah.
“All of history is guided by some divine Spirit that causes all historical movements to move toward a unified truth. With this, Rabbi Kook allows for truth within Christianity and Islam, a truth that Jews should not seek to tamper with,” Sklar wrote. “Indeed, there is tremendous value in encouraging Christians and Muslims to stay true to their beliefs, because they will be lost without this guiding movement they have become used to. The censorship of these passages robs modern Judaism of a beautiful framework in which to view other religions.”
“The relentless Christian persecution of Jews has scattered us and nearly destroyed us, still, the world is now a step closer to a messianic movement that allows for a messianic age to occur. God’s plans are inscrutable, (Rav Kook) writes, but it seems that through the widespread adoption of Christianity and Islam, the end-of-days state predicted by the prophets such as Zephaniah is that much easier to achieve.”
Additionally, Rabbi Kook was often criticized by the Orthodox movement for praising secular Zionism as the Messiah from the House of Joseph, and an essential part of the process of redemption. He even eulogized at length Theodore Herzl, the founder of secular Zionism.
In his Letters, Rabbi Kook explained that in a “subjective” manner, secular Zionists reject religion and aim for a specific goal. He explained further that someone whose eyes are “uncovered” see a different “objective” history in which the secular Zionist movement brings about an entirely different historic result, what he called “The voice of David cries out.” Rabbi Kook saw history as a revelation of God’s will in the world and the Zionist enterprise as the core of the historical development of the new era of salvation.