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The Somewhat Litvshe Yid

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Rav Kook and the Briskers

I mentioned a bit earlier a how I was a somewhat peeved about how Rav Kook is portrayed in certain right-wing circles. One of the commenters pointed out the comments over on this post on Hirhurim. I must say, I was shocked.

Anyway...this comment showed up in the list:
In any case, here's today's Rav Kook quote/story from a Brisker heard from RAY Soloveitchik.
"RE Wasserman asked RC Soloveitchik how is it that Rav Kook (who he knew) could go so far off the derech when everyone knows that he Davens with such Kavana & fasts most of the week! RCS answered him "Dayge Nisht, Der Chabadske Apikoyrus is a Baal Gayve, Un Er Est Gants Gut!"

I was...to put it mildly...shocked, as well as a bit incredulous. So, I figured I'd do a bit of research. There is a book called Iggros L'Rayah (איגרות לראי"ה) which is a collection of letters to Rav Kook that were found in his possesions after he passed away. There are letters from R' Chaim, R' Velvel, R' Shimon Shkop, R' Yerucham, The Chafetz Chaim, as well as the Rabbonim in Israel such as R' Isser Zalman, R' Moshe Mordechai Epstein and many others. Just so the people who declare things are fake just because they don't agree with them, facsimiles of some of the letters are also included in the sefer.

I'm going to make an assumption here. If R' Chaim had a problem with R' Kook, I don't think he'd refer to him in such glowing terms, nor write to him to request help for someone.
Letter 35 - Dated תרס"ח
כבוד הרה הגאון המפורסם, סוע"ה, צדיק בדרכיו, כק"ש מו"ה אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק שליט"א, אב"ד דק"ק יפו יצ"ו
Letter written in conjuction with the Chafetz Chaim.

Letter 45 dated תרס"ט
ברכה מרובה לכבוד הרב הגאון המפורסם, מ' ר' אברהם יצחק הכהן נ"י קוק הגאבד"ק יפו תובב"א, וכ"ט לכ"ג הרמה שי
The body of the letter also includes more comments of respect for R' Kook.

I'm also working under the assumption that if R' Chaim had any animosity towards R' Kook, R' Velvel would be aware of it and would also not be to positively inclined towards R' Kook.

There are 5 letters from R' Velvel (some reproduced in facsimile). In one he says:
ואחתום בברכת כל טוב להדר"ג הרמה, הנני מוקירו ומכבדו
This from תרצ"ה which, if I'm not mistaken is the year R' Kook was niftar. So, it can't be that R' Velvel changed his mind. R' Velvel actually finishes of several letters to R' Kook in the same vein. Some more so then this, by the way.

So, since there is an actual paper trail that the Soleveitchiks respected Rav Kook and held he was at the very least a kosher yid, if not a gaon adir and tzaddik, so I'd have to go with that.

This doesn't include the letters where R' Avraham Dov Ber Kahana Shapira (Rav of Kovno) refers to Rav Kook as ידיד ד' ידיד כל בני ישראל וידיד נפשי. Or where the Sridei Aish, in a matter of p'sak, where he already got an opinion backing up his stance from R' Chaim Ozer, says what ever R' Kook holds, he'll accept as the final word.
Etc. Etc.
Also not mentioned is how the various Chassidic Rebbes held of him. R' Shaul Yedidyah Taub of Modjitz, The Imrei Emes, R' Menachum Nachum Twersky of Rachmestroika/Chernobyl and on and on.

So, please. There were a few hot headed youths in Jerusalem who put up signs against Rav Kook with forged signatures* of R' Zonnenfeld and R' Diskin (both of whom had great love and respect for R' Kook). It spiraled from there. I stand by my statement, that with perhaps the exception of certain Hungarishe Rebbes, who called everyone else Apikorsim as well, Rav Kook was roundly loved and respected by ever Gadol B'Torah in his generation.

*Yes, forged signatures. Why am I claiming this after I went out at some lengths to naysay people who make such claims about the Tzionim? I'm not making the claim. Take a look in Malki B'Kodesh Chelek Dalet, Chilufai Michtavim. There is a letter from R' Tzvi Pesach Frank to the author, his mechutan, where he(RTPF) states categorically that R' Zonnenfeld and R' Diskin's signatures were used without their permission and they didn't hold of what was written in the various signs against R' Kook.


  • i'm shocked that you are surprised at their behavior.

    By Blogger AMSHINOVER, at Tuesday, June 21, 2005 8:37:00 PM  

  • Well...what can I say. All I can hope for is that R' Avraham Yehoshua didn't actually say such narshkeit.

    By Blogger Litvshe, at Tuesday, June 21, 2005 11:11:00 PM  

  • The bottom line is that these yeshivaleit really think it's a distinct possibility not just that they disapproved of R Kook, but literally thought he was a kofer.
    and when one points out that RYCSonnenfeld refrained from any disrespect to rav kook, well big deal
    RSZA? Well, he probably didnt know all Rav Kook's positions (riiiiiight). Etc.
    It's scary.
    I'm not sure btw that RYCSonnenfeld felt great love for R Kook (beyond the fact that he seems to have loved all Jews) But he was certainly respectful of him.

    I notice they all call him Rav of Yoffo, not Rav Haroshi, but that is just politics.

    The story that R Chaim wanted to go to R Reines' levaya is true.

    By Blogger anonymous, at Wednesday, June 22, 2005 12:07:00 AM  

  • As a matter of fact, R' Kook and R' Zonnenfeld were very close. See the reports of the Ma'asa Tshuvah they went on to all the small non-religious moshavim.
    The letters R' Chaim wrote, referring to R' Kook as the Rav of Yafo were written while R' Kook was the Rav of Yaffo and not yet the Rav HaRashi.
    As far as excuses for disrespecting R' Kook go, what do they say about R' Bengis? Who was asked several times to be the head of the Eidah Chareidis after R' Zonnenfeld was niftar, but refused on account of R' Kook still being alive and not wanting to take the position if it would in anyway impunge the respect due R' Kook. Even Yated Ne'eman in a memorial article for R' Bengis mentioned this fact. So it's kind of hard to dispute.

    By Blogger Litvshe, at Wednesday, June 22, 2005 12:18:00 AM  

  • "See the reports of the Ma'asa Tshuvah they went on to all the small non-religious moshavim."

    That trip was relatively early; the relationship chilled a bit later. But R Sonnenfeld was always very respectful to R Kook.

    I seem to remember that R Sonnenfeld made a point of calling him Yaffo rav (and was just extrapolating) but that is just b/c he didn't recognize the institution of the rav haroshis, it wasn't personal.

    I don't know how they dispute this - they just claim that R Chaim "must" have held he was a kofer, and etc. I was as surprised at the thread as you are. As someone commented in your original thread, the Brisker are taking over the charedi world. Thinking back even ten-twenty years ago, there was much more awareness of R kook's stature. The charedi world is changing, and not for the good.

    By Blogger anonymous, at Wednesday, June 22, 2005 12:44:00 AM  

  • "Thinking back even ten-twenty years ago, there was much more awareness of R kook's stature. The charedi world is changing, and not for the good."

    That may be because many of them have not been significantly exposed to his Torah or don't know much about him, so they can believe outrageous things about him since they know nothing else.

    By Blogger OJ, at Friday, June 24, 2005 11:33:00 AM  

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