Monday, September 12, 2005

Humble end for now

Dear All

A person must know his limitations and what he is capable of. I had a brave and noble idea to bring the thought of Rav Kook to the English speaking world. However, I am not qualified to the task. My lack of access to Seforim and my insufficent proficiency in the Hebrew language makes me an inappropriate person to take this project to its desired goal. Hopefully the idea will be further realised by a more appropriate candidate. I hope to be able to blog at a later stage on some other topics, but now I am calling it a day. I hoped you enjoyed my few blogs = until we meet again

- Rael Levinsohn

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Unfortunately I have quite a hectic schedule at the moment due primarilly to Uni. I am hoping to begin posting as soon as my work load clears up

Monday, May 16, 2005

Yom Ha'atzmaut

Rabbi Berel Wein in his famous audio lecture declares that Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day that has to elicit a response and reaction, it must be either be seen as victory or as a tragedy. In short one must either rejoice or mourn.

I prepose a middle ground, a day of reflection and contemplation. Aside from the halachic issues of whether saying Hallel or Not (see Rabbi Jachter's article "Saying Hallel on Yom Ha'atmaut") this should be a day of "Cheshbon ha-Nefesh". It should be a day one gathers stock of his personal sucesses and failures in one's service of Hashem and how one has contributed to Am Yisrael.

Yom Ha'atzmaut falls on the 5 of Iyar, which this is the 20th day of the Omer. The Sefira for this day is Yesod ShebTiferet. Here is what R' Simon Jacobson (1) in his daily Omer message has to say about this day:

Day 20 - Yesod of Tiferet: Bonding in Compassion

For compassion to be fully realized, it needs bonding. It requires creating a channel between giver and receiver; a mutuality that extends beyond the moment of need. A bond that continues to live on. That is the most gratifying result of true compassion.

Do you bond with the one you have compassion for, or do you remain apart? Does your interaction achieve anything beyond a single act of sympathy?

Exercise for the day: Ensure that something eternal is built as a result of your compassion.

In short I sincerely hope that Yom Ha'atzmaut for you this year was a meaningful experience and was the source of inspiration for more chesed and Ahavat Yisrael. Medinat Yisrael will only succeed ALPITORAH, let us make it a reality.

(1) - Rabbi Simon Jacobson is a brilliant thinker and was one of the oral scribes for Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L. Please subscribe to his Daily Omer count for some practical down to earth advice on how to make the Omer count more meaningful. His weekly emails are also highly insightful and definitely worth a read.

Torah links on WWW (part one)

Here are a few links to some fantastic resources that are availible on the internet

WZO: Section on Jewish Texts

There are many well researched articles on a variety of topics on this page. A few personal favourites of mine are the following

Jewish Law Applied: The State of Israel in Halachic Thought: by Gerald J. Blidstein

Torah and Religious Zionism: by Cyril Domb

The State Vs. Halachah: Who Speaks for Torah - And How?: by Shalom Carmy

A Quandary : Religious Zionism and the Non-Orthodox: by Marc D. Angel (under section Streams of Judaism)


An article about the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael today by Rabbi Hershel Schachter

Rav H. Schachter - Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael in Religious Zionism ed. Shubert Spero

More links will be added shortly

OROT chapter 1

OROT, published by RAYK is a complicated but spiritually enlightening book. Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore some issues that RAYK explores in this masterpiece. Here is the opening chapter (Kindly Translated by Rabbi David Samson) of OROT.

Chapter One:

Eretz Yisrael is not a peripheral matter, an external acquisition of the nation; it is not merely a means toward the goal of the general coalescing of the nation, nor of strengthening its material existence, nor even its spiritual. Eretz Yisrael is an independent unit, bound with a living attachment with the nation, bound with inner Segulot with the nation's existence.

As a result, it is impossible to comprehend the essence of the inner Segula of the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, and to reveal the depths of its love, through any form of human conceptualization;
but only through the Spirit of Hashem which acts on the nation as a whole.

This Ruach Hashem on the nation, the natural spiritual formulation of Israel's soul, sends its rays in natural colors in all paths of sensitivity. It shines its exalted rays in direct accordance with the exalted Ruach HaKodesh which fills with life and exalted joy the hearts of the holy thinkers and those who are involved in the deep contemplations of Israel.

The thought regarding Eretz Yisrael that it has merely a peripheral value to facilitate the subsistence of the unified nation; even when it comes to fortify the concept of Judaism in the
Diaspora, in order to preserve its form, and to strengthen the belief and fear of Hashem, and to strengthen the performance of the commandments in a proper fashion - this orientation toward
Eretz Yisrael is not worthy of lasting fruition, for its foundation is rickety in light of the towering, unshakable Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael.

The concept of Judaism in the Diaspora will only find true strength through the depth of its involvement in Eretz Yisrael. Only through its longing for Eretz Yisrael will Diaspora Judaism
consistently receive its inherent qualities. The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina whereas the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is the Salvation itself.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Introduction to Website

After much deliberation I decided to enter the world of the blogs. After being influenced by the success of Hirhurim by the always thoughtful R' Gil Student, I decided I would make an attempt to contribute to the world of thought and scholarship already prevalant on the WWW. I named the website Orot| Lights after a book by HaRav HaGaon Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ZT"L (here after known as RAYK). I consider RAYK to have had a powerful influence on my "machshava" and it is my desire to explore his thought and the thought of other Gaonim and Tzadikim on this blog. I appreciate any user comments and I look forward to some good hearted debate. It is my hope that this website will be a Kiddush Hashem and that myself and all readers will benefit from this endevour

Blog List

If any readers would like their website or blog listed on their page, please contact me. Also feel free to add my blog to your list and let me know that you have done so

Dispute in the Orthodox Community (Part I)

Dispute in the Orthodox Jewish is something that has always been a source of discomfort for those involved and for those reflecting back into history. Here is a couple of sources that I feel shed some positive light on the mechanism of dispute as being of a positive religious value.

"When an individual does not intend to scoff - rather only to state his belief - even if these positions stand against your belief and system, don’t say to him: “Don’t talk, seal your mouth!” For then the system will not be clarified. On the contrary, in such matters we should say: “Speak as much as you want, all that you want to say, so that you will not be able to say that were you granted permission to expand you would have spoken further [and convinced me with your beliefs].” If, however, you do close his [the questioner’s] mouth and prevent him from speaking, that points toward a weakness in the system. This [approach] is the converse of the general impression, which is that it is not permitted to discuss the system, and that thus the system is strengthened. On the contrary! That approach undermines the system! ... Thus [through the former approach] a person comes to the inner truth of matters... For [after all], any hero that comes to compete with another to demonstrate his might wants very much that his opponent muster as much strength as possible - then, if the hero overcomes his opponent, he proves that he is the mightier hero. What might, however, does the hero display if his opponent is not permitted to stand strong and wage war against him?"

- Maharal, Be’er Ha’Golah, end of Be’er 7 (free translation)

"You should not allow yourself to be disturbed by the various disputes between the Tzaddikim(as for example the differences of opinion between the Sages of the Mishnah, the Talmud and so on). If a person is troubled by these disputes and states raising all kinds of questions about them, it is a sign that he has allowed some impurity into his mind. It is this internal impurity that is the real source of his doubts. The danger is that his doubts could grow to the point where he becomes permanently separated from the Tzaddikim and their followers, who are the source of true and enduring life. A person should understand that if he finds himself troubled by doubts and questions about the Tzaddikim it is an indication that a flaw exists within himself. If he realizes this, it will help him return to the truth (5:4)."

(Par 1, Chapter on CONTROVERSY AND STRIFE, Likutey Eitzot by Reb Nachman of Breslov )

(1) A further elaboration of RAYK’s view on the matter of dispute will be elaborated on in a further post. For an interesting article on the matter of Reb Nachman of Breslov’s view on the matter see the article by Rav Itamar Eldar (

Links on the WWW about RAYK

It is unfortunate that the writings of RAYK are not well known in the English speaking world. However an attempt to rectify the situation has been made by some consciencous and brave men on the WWW. They are:

Rav Kook N3 . NET -

-Writings of RAYK drawn primarily from his commentaries on Talmudic Midrashim (Ein Aya) and the prayer book (Olat Riyyah) - according to the weekly Torah readings.

OROT. com -

-A website dedicated to the thought of RAYK as well as being a publisher of some Rav Kooks in English


-A overview of the thought of RAYK

If there are any other websites that I have not mentioned, please feel free to leave a
comment or email me regarding the details

RAYK on Education (Part 1)

Here is a beautiful quote from RAYK that I found in the volume "Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah" by Rabbi Shalom Carmy.

The Unblemished saints do not complain about evil, but increase righteousness; do not complain about hereresy but increase faith; do not complain about ignorance, but increase wisdom"

RAYK like Hillel his forbearer(1), held that when dealing with individuals who are not living up to the potential or who need guidance that one must approach them with loving kidness and outstretched arms. In todays generation this has been the only succesful approach in trying to reach out to others.

A relevant passage from RAYK's writings comes from a letter where RAYK comforts a father who is distraugh over the apostasy of this son:

Yes, my dear friend, I understand well the sadness of your heart. But if you should concur with the majority of scholars that it is seemly at this time to reject utterly those children who have swerved from the paths of Torah and faith because of the tumultuous current of the age, I must explicitly and emphatically declare that this not method which G-d desires. Just as the (Baalei) Tosafot in Tractate Sanhedrin (26b) mantain that it logical not to invalidate one suspected of sexual immorality from giving testimony because he is considered an onus - since his instincts overwhelhed him = and the (Baalei) Tosafot in Tractate Gittin (41b) mantain that since a maid servant enticed him to immorality he is considered as having acted against his will, in a similiar fashion (is to be judged) the "evil maid servant" of the current of the age ... who entices many of our youngsters with all of her wiles to commit adultery with her. They act completely against their will and far be it from us to judge a transgression which one is forced to commit (onus) in the same manner as we judge a premeditated, willful transgression. " (2)

To be continued...

(1) Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai, and said to him: "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot. Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it." (Shabbat 31 a) (source --

(2) RAYK, Igrot Ha Rayh, Vol I, Responsum 138 -- Taken from an interesting Article entitled "Orthodoxy and her alleged Heretics" by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Tradition Vol 15, No 4 Spring 1976)