The Flashes of Holiness in the World

  • Rav Hillel Rachmani
            In last week's introduction to Rav Kook, we described R. Kook's vision of the relationship between man's experience as he strives to achieve his goals and the goals in and of themselves.  As we saw, each layer of the text revealed a deeper understanding not only of the topic under discussion, but also of other pivotal concepts in Rav Kook's philosophy.  By carefully examining each topic in this manner, we hope to arrive at a full picture of R. Kook's thought.
            In this lecture, as we examine another mystical and philosophical insight, we will attempt to take a step closer toward understanding R. Kook's philosophy.  This time, we will explore the nature of light and darkness.
            In Orot HaKodesh (2/303) the Rav writes:
"The holy lights which burst forth at specific points in time and space, must be appraised at their true value, with the knowledge that they are secretly spread across all of existing space, that they travel through concealed passageways and secluded streams, until finally surfacing at one luminous spot."
            In this paragraph, Rav Kook delineates his concept of the nature of light and darkness, which he will later apply to three distinct manifestations of holiness.  Rav Kook posits that wherever a concentration of "light" (or holiness) exists, holiness also exists in the surrounding area of "darkness," even though it cannot be perceived.  This "invisible" holiness flows toward the central point of "light", and there it is revealed.  This can be compared to a black disk with a central concentrated point of light at the center.  R. Kook maintains that mixed within the black around the central light are sparks of light which we cannot see, and each one is connected to and reveals itself in the central concentrated point of light. 
            After establishing this fundamental principle, Rav Kook now applies it.
"The holiness of man, revealed through the Jewish nation, lies hidden within Everyman, within the whole of humanity, in the depths of inviolate chambers, and it continually flows through a hidden labyrinth, until finally coming to light through the glow of the Jewish soul."
            R. Kook first applies this principle to mankind as a whole.  He describes the Jewish people as the central concentration of holiness, while the other nations exist in the "surrounding" area.  According to Rav Kook, the holiness that is revealed in the Jewish nation exists in the other nations as well.  This dispersed holiness flows towards and reveals itself in the Jewish People.  Holiness exists among all the nations of the world, but reveals itself through the history and collective spirit of the Jewish people.  (Here we have only touched lightly upon this topic.  In future shiurim we will explain R. Kook's complex understanding of the nature of the Jewish people.)
            Rav Kook continues:
"The holiness of space fills the entire world, yet it remains hidden and invisible, and the secret waves of holiness push endlessly forth towards their destined revelation, until they find expression through the Land of Israel, the pinnacle of all the dust of the universe, and from there to the holy spot, the holy Temple, and the Rock of Foundation, 'Out of Zion, the epitome of beauty, God has appeared.'"
            R. Kook now applies this principle to the realm of "space."  Holiness exists concealed in the whole world.  This holiness flows towards Eretz Yisrael, where it manifests itself and finds its focus at the Holy Temple, the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The Land of Israel, therefore, is the expression of the holiness of all the countries of the world; within the Land of Israel the point of concentration of holiness is the Temple.
            The third area to which Rav Kook applies this principle is the realm of "time."  He writes:
"The holiness of time spreads across eternity, daily expressing benediction, and the rays of holy light are drawn along a secret path, until they are revealed at the holy times, through the holiness of Shabbat, which is the origin of all the holy times and emanates with holiness toward the entire world and toward Israel; and through the holiness of the holidays, which serve as receptacles of holy emanation; and through the Jewish people, who sanctify the holidays."
            R. Kook explains that all periods of time are holy, yet usually this holiness is concealed.  This holiness expresses and concentrates itself in time periods that have been designated as holy.  These include the Shabbat, which reflects the concealed holiness of the other days of the week, and the Jewish festivals.  One can now imagine the incredible concentration of holiness and spiritual energy created when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies in the Temple on Yom Kippur.  The holiness of man, place and time converge to give expression to the holiness of the entire world, and, in turn, infuse the holiness into the surrounding world.
            After illustrating his original concept with the above examples, Rav Kook provides another insight which expands and deepens our understanding of his idea.
"This is similar to the relationship of the soul to the senses, the seeing eye and hearing ear, whose light is not indigenous but rather stems from the light of life which floods the soul and grants life to the entire body, and which in turn gives man quality of life through the gifts of sight and of hearing; this burst of potential, when it reaches the point most ripe for its revelation, finds expression through sight and hearing."
            While this isn't the place to explain in-depth and elaborate upon this citation, allow me to make one point.  The form of the human body is not random.  We may learn many things from the structure of the human body.  For example, most of the surface area of the body is closed, while in certain areas - the organs of the senses - there are openings.  R. Kook views those locations as points of "light" within an area of darkness.  Yet, these points are not self-contained.  They are connected to and respond to the entire body.  They are expressions of the life of the soul which infuses the entire organism.  Let us move on.
"Thus it is with all the various revelations in our world, throughout the annals of history, revelations both natural and supernatural; whatever is revealed at a designated time is but a concentrated expression of a multitude of forces which lay dormant, whose action was delayed until the appropriate hour had arrived.
The only true change lies in the naming [of the spark of holiness], in public expression and revelation.  The essence is not new, 'since the creation, I (God) have existed.'"
            The phenomenon of concentration and outpouring of spiritual energy can also be seen in the historical process.  No events in history are spontaneous or coincidental.  Rather, such events are the result of a concentration of forces that have been slowly gaining strength, until they burst forth and reveal themselves in such an event.
            Having gained insight into Rav Kook's understanding of the interaction of the secular and the holy, we can understand the idea discerned in the last lecture on a deeper level.  We described two levels - the tree and the fruit (see the previous lecture).  Originally the two were meant to be connected, but were later separated.  If we understand the fruit as the point of convergence of holiness, and the tree as the surrounding area, we can re-explain the idea of the tree losing its taste.  The tree did not necessarily lose its taste altogether, but rather the taste was concealed within the tree and could only find expression in the fruit!
            While the concepts discussed by Rav Kook are beautiful, lofty and inspiring, they do not remain in the philosophical realm alone, but can have direct ramifications on our lives as well.  Accepting these ideas may profoundly affect our outlook on and relationship to the secular realm.  The Secular (in terms of man, place and time) is not to be viewed as totally devoid of holiness.  Rather, the holy serves as the focal point to bring out holiness which can also be found in the secular.  This may affect our interaction with secular Jews or our concept of secular Zionism.  Rav Kook did not view them as alien and as foreign to holiness, but rather as the base, or the tree, which must strive for the taste of the fruit.  Not only must the holy serve as an expression for the secular, but it must also fulfill its responsibility to the secular to bring out its concealed holiness.
            Rav Kook ends on a note of prophetic hope:
"For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still, until her righteousness is as clear as light, and her salvation burns as a torch, and nations will see Your righteousness and kings will see Your glory and You will be granted a new name, uttered by the mouth of God."
(This lecture was adapted by:  Moshe Fish)