Rav Kook 10 – Summary of Influences

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.

Shiur 10

Rav Kook was speaking about the transition from paganism to monotheism. However he also applies this to thought and philosophy and not only paganism.

The only book published in Rav Kook’s lifetime was Orot, and there he writes (daf 122) in the section called zaronim. He writes there:

The souls of tohu are higher than the souls of tikun. They are very great. And they demand very much from the physical world. More than their vessels are able to contain.

Rav Kook understands that these soulĀ  of tohu are the thinkers of his generation who are misguided. The modern heresies represent the kabbalistic concept of breaking the vessels, precisely because the vessel which defines man in unable to contain the perfect light which is demanded by these thinkers.


Rav Kook learned with the Leshem and was influenced by him. Rav Kook also speaks about Ramchal and quotes from Da’at Tevunot and Kelach Pitchei Chochma.

However, another big influence on him particularly in the non-kabbalistic aspect of his thinking, not mentioned by the Nazir in his introduction, was the Netziv.

Recently they published that Rav Shimon Shkop wanted to apply for a position teaching in Rav Kook’s Yeshiva, but Rav Kook wrote back that Rav Shimon was a student of Rav Chaim, and Rav Kook was seeking a student of the Netziv. I elaborated a bit more on this at Abbyservices.com/.

One idea which the Netziv repeats several times in HaEmek Davar, and in the introduction to Bereishit, is that of Yashrut. Netziv understands yashrut to be a universal humanity. That is why Bereishit is called Sefer HaYashar.

Look at the introduction that Netziv writes to Chofetz Chaim’s Ahavat Chesed where he also mentions yashrut.

Humanity is elevated through the Torah.

Another influence on Rav Kook is the Leshem. What characterizes the Leshem’s interpretation of the kabbalah of the Ari, is that he sees the kabbalah of the Ari not as contradicting, but as adding on to the rationalistic philosophy of Rambam (which is based on Aristotle etc.). Kabbalah builds upon rationalism and brings it to a higher spiritual level.

This is predicated on understanding tzimtzum literally. This allows for the physical world to influence the spiritual and to be part of the perfection.

The third influence is the Ramchal, with his concept of the ascension of worlds.

By combining these influences Rav Kook arrives at a philosophy which brings modernity into the continuum of enlightenment.

The role model for Rav Kook is Ramchal, who writes kabbalah hidden within philosophy. For Ramchal that is the nimshal. Rav Kook also writes in a philosophical jargon which is based upon kabbalah.

Tohu and the breaking of the vessels are a necessary part of creation. Without the breaking there would be no creation. This is similar to Rashi on Bereishit. Creation turns the tohu into tikun.

Rav Kook writes this in section 4, but also in Orot and other places. The concept of partzuf represents the way in which the elements of false ideologies are necessarily incorporated into an organismic process through which the world achieves perfection.

Rav Kook understood that this is the Ari’s concept of partzuf.

The Ari came at the end of the rationalistic period. Even the Ramak’s kabbalah was built on rationalism. The Ari sees that this needs to be broken in order to bring the world to completion.

The kabbalah of the Ari is very much a historiography. It is a Torah viewpoint of where every generation stands in history.
The rational view of the world, the necessity of the lights to remain within their vessel, inevitably implodes. Then man is in need of an ethic which mediates between rationalism and the Divine Revelation.

This is what Rav Kook writes, “The confusion of philosophy in our generation has to be based on ethics.”

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