Rav Kook 07 – Improving the World

In this series of shiurim, Rabbi Triebitz learns through a book of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook entitled Ketzavim mi-Ktzav Yad Kodsho: vol. 2 – Pinkas HaDapim 1
This is published notebooks of Rav Kook’s that he probably never intended to publish or prepared for publication. However, they contain some profound (and extremely interesting) ideas.

Pinkas HaDapim 2: Rav Kook gives reasons for mitzvot. There are different reasons for mitzvot.
There are six reasons for mitzvot (a six dimensional teleological space)
1. There is a basic personal “lowest” reason which is how the performance of the mitzva effects the person and his internal well-being.
2. Man relates to G-d as creator
3. Universal ethical dimension
4. Man through mitzvot affects the spiritual worlds
5. Man through effecting the spiritual worlds affects the entire body of klal Yisrael.
6. Upper lever, is most intellectual
There are two foundations to Rav Kook’s thought. He explains that mitzvot change due to culture, geography, sociology etc. The concept of these factors effecting halakha is based in Jewish philosophy.
E.g. Guide for the Perplexed section III discusses reasons for mitzvot. He explains that most of the chukim are a way in which a pagan culture which existed at that time was directed towards monotheism. Ramban argues with Rambam in Parshat Ki Tetzei (sending away the mother bird) and Vayikra (sacrifices). Nevertheless, he also sometimes explains mitzvot based on sociological factors (prohibition of blood etc.) See Ramban in Parshat Re’eh where Rabbi Chavel points out that Ramban contradicts what he wrote in Ki Tetzei and Vayikra. Both Rambam and Ramban agree that mitzvot bring the physical world to a higher level. Either sociologically or kabbalistically.

Rav Kook in other places mentions the concept of evolution in ethical, scientific and sociological areas. He rejects the concept of yeridat hadorot.

See Orot HaKodesh vol. 2 p. 539-542
There is an evolutionary ascension. Rav Kook identifies three changes for the better:
1. Social evolution: Openness to other cultures was increasing ethics in the world.
2. Advances in cosmology: which point to secrets of Torah
3. Thought:

These changes are part of the ascension of the world in general and lead to an increase of ethics in the physical world. Like Ramchal, Rav Kook claims that there is an ascension in the physical world, not only in Atzilut, but also in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiya.

In earlier times man’s intellect was less developed, man was barbarian. The Divine influence was to bring the world out of barbarianism to a higher, sophisticated level in terms of thought, society and science.

In Pinkas ha-Dapim 19 Rav Kook notes that the eating habits of the Jews in Egypt were barbaric until Moshe came to improve them.

Rav Kook within the context of kabbalah (continuation and explanation of last shiur):
The four middle dimensions of the “sandwich” are:
a. Creation of the world is the metaphysical aspect of cosmology (science in general)
b. Ethics is the metaphysical aspect of social
c. Ritual does not necessarily have an aspect in the physical world.
d. Jewish people as a whole.

In Etz Chaim the Ari writes about what happens when a person performs a mitzva.

Within the physical world there are different parts (social, ethical etc.) which are in need of rectification. These result from the “breaking of the vessels” which accounts for the existence of evil in the world. When a person performs a mitzva or engages in prayer, they bring up the broken vessels to a higher metaphysical level. These levels are ethical levels (partzuf) which is composed of the sefirot which are ethical (kindness, justice etc.)
If we make a correspondence between Rav Kook’s 4 middle levels in his “six-dimensional reason for mitzvot” and kabbalistic thought we find that:

Creation==Ima (gives birth to lower Sefirot)
Ethics==Ze’ir Anpin
Ritual/mitzvot==Mochin/ Nukva
Kenesset Yisrael==Abba (neshama of the neshama)

This is the chidush of Rav Kook.
“Yisrael, G-d and Torah are one.” Nefesh HaChaim emphasized (sha’ar 4) that Torah and G-d are one. Yisrael are the people who effect this.
Rav Kook focusses more on the aspect that Yisrael and G-d are one. This represents the highest level. Through this unity man effects spiritual changes.
Rav Kook replaces “Torah” with “Yisrael”. (Torah now becomes the method of connecting with Yisrael across the ages.)

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