Who Rejects Who?

Rabbi Zvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook was the son of the illustrious Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael. Rav Zvi Yehudah, as I knew him, was the Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav here in Jerusalem until he passed away during the ‘eighties. I had the honour of studying under him for a number of years.

Some months ago appeared a book dedicated to him, in which former students (many now well-known rabbis within the Religious Zionist movement) recounted their experiences while studying in Mercaz HaRav.

The book is named “Mashmia Yeshua” which translates roughly as “Proclaimer of Salvation”, an apt description of the legacy of Rav Zvi Yehudah’s father, which expounded his attributing the 20th century Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel to the swift approach of the Final Days of Redemption. Rav Zvi Yehuda was a very original thinker, but he subjugated his entire life to publication of the astounding number of books – in the spheres of both Halacha and Jewish Philosophy – written by his father.

I once innocently asked Rav Zvi Yehudah if we are now at “the start of the Redemption” (itchalta d’geula), and he replied “Start? We are in the actual days of the Mashiach”. (Etzem yemot HaMashiach).

The book contains 600 pages, and I am in the habit of taking it to shul and reading from it between Mincha and Maariv each day.

Yesterday night, Leil Shabat, on pages 237-238 I read the following story (which originally appeared in a book named “Angels as Men”), which immediately brought to mind the handful of Israel-haters which the JC is so happy to host and accommodate on its blog pages. I’m telling the story here because I doubt if the book will ever be translated into English (owing to lack of demand), and because I deem the story relevant to those blog pages.

One comment, and my apologies in advance to our lady readers for this sentence: they say that a translation is like a woman – either attractive or faithful, but never both. For that reason I am not translating word for word, but re-telling the story as I read it, in English.

The story was told by Rav Zvi Yehuda once at a shabat meal in his house. It was told after Rav Zvi Yehudah heard that some Jewish tourists had returned to their country of origin and foul-mouthed the Land of Israel. The story was originally told by Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, a 19th century founder of Religious Zionism and of the Mizrachi movement.

In a certain village there lived a young man who was very rich – and was as uncouth as he was rich. In the same village lived a very poor family, one of whose daughters was a very beautiful girl, who was also possessed of exceptionally good personality traits.

The young man was very attracted to the young lady, but despite his sending a few shadchanim (match-makers) to arrange a meeting between them, the lady was not interested and refused every suggestion. One day her father asked to for his sake to meet with the young man just once, so that he would stop pestering her and the family. She agreed, and he was invited for shabat lunch.

When he arrived, the young lady appeared in an old, not-too-clean dress, no make-up, her hair disheveled, and in general showed him no affection whatsoever.

The young man left, telling everyone he knew that the stories about her beauty and character were a lie, that she was in fact ugly and ill-mannered.

This, said Rav Zvi Yehudah, is Eretz Yisrael. This is a holy land with special qualities, which will not accept people who’s spiritual qualities are not suited for it. In such cases it makes itself appear to them in an unappealing fashion, so while they are going around saying how much the Land of Israel is not worthy of them, in fact it is they who are not worthy of living in the Land of Israel, which has in effect rejected them.

This is how one should react to Israel-haters; they are in fact rejects.

November 13, 2010


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