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Letter from Rav Kook to Rav Messas

Letter from Rav Kook to Rav Messas

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[Letter of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook to Rav Yosef Messas (1892-1974),chief rabbi of Tlemcen, Algeria]13 Adar 5688 (1928)Peace and blessing from the Holy [Land] to the honorable rabbi, the great light of Torahand the fear [of God], our righteous and just teacher and rabbi, Yosef Massas,
, judge and rabbinical authority in the important Jewish community of Tlemcen, may hisRock and Redeemer watch over him.Greetings with great love.I received your holy letter of 27 Kislev, and discerned in it much of the sensitivityof your pure spirit. And I was very upset that that the slanderous publication called“Yarchon Beis Vaad LaChachamim” caused such anguish to a man as great as yourself.Do you not know that, for our many sins, heretics abound who cause anguish tothe sages? There are many who speak falsehood and who daub lies. But all those whosehearts are straight will ignore their words and will have nothing to do with their falsefabrications.However, that which [the Satmar publication] concludes, “Inform Jerusalem [of its abominations]” [Ezekiel
16:2], for our many sins – why should [the Jewish people] becompared to a fly that leaves a healthful place and lives on the site of a wound? Are therenot, thank G-d, amongst our brothers who are coming to live in the Holy Land, many precious souls who fear G-d and who are pure of heart, careful and enthusiastic in[performing] mitzvos, and who possess precious and holy character traits? Why does [the publication] seek to publicize the worst part, of which no generation is free, in our manysins, in most places of the Diaspora? And it exaggerates so much in these matters fromthe true picture, even with regard to the reprehensible and worst individuals.And if there are dregs in a certain measure, must we for that reason defame theentire community [in the land of Israel]?If a charitable person wants his money to go to the hands of those who observethe Torah, can he not support the Mizrahi and their workers, who are engaged in thesettling the Land in accord with the framework of the holy Torah, and other such peoplewho are G-d-fearing and pious? And certainly [these charitable people] can support themany yeshivas and great philanthropic institutions that exist in the holy city [Jerusalem]in particular and across the Holy Land in general, which are all filled with the light of Torah and the fear [of G-d]. And among them is our great Central Yeshiva [“MercazHaRav”] in our holy and beautiful city, from which will come forth, with G-d’s help,Torah for Israel with holiness and purity, with a true awe of Heaven, and a penetratingcomprehension in Halachah, and a holy knowledge of the Babylonian and JerusalemTalmuds, Mishnah and Talmud, and early and latter halachic authorities, the WrittenTorah and the Oral Torah, and the light of holy wisdom [Kabalistic studies], in theknowledge of G-d, and practical ethics with understanding and a pure wisdom of theheart.As for me, from the time that I came to the Holy Land, it has been my goal to the best of my ability to draw also those who are estranged and speak to their heart, so that
they will come close to Torah and mitzvos – including even those young people whowant to develop their physical health so that they will have the strength to protect our holy nation in times of violence, Heaven forbid, at a time when vicious enemies rise upagainst us.My way is to tell them that they can direct their actions for the sake of Heaven, toadd strength and might to
 Knesset Yisrael 
so that the holiness of G-d and the light of Hisholy Presence will appear with might in the world. Then their reward will be great andtheir portion will be the portion of the holy, supernal
– just as our forefatherswere men of might, the soldiers of the house of David, mighty warriors girded withstrength, with which they strengthened the light of holiness.Words such as these are fit to be spoken by all the sages of Israel, the
of the generation, to our generation; and [in this way] they will bring many hearts close toour Father in heaven. And what is wrong with that? Have we not learned (
63a)that “In all your ways know Him” is the basis “upon which all the fundamentals of Torahdepend”? If it is possible to bring a spirit of holiness even to those who excel in physical prowess, have we not extricated the precious from the degraded (cf. Jeremiah 15:19)?And with this [path], the influence of the
increases, and the power of holiness is elevated in its mighty beauty. For all of these things are only said on conditionand with the intention [that these youth] keep the holy Torah and intensify the holiness of [their] faith, and cling to Torah and mitzvos with love and fear of G-d. So how do peoplefalsely scorn matters of holiness that are the essentials of our holy Torah?Also, in regard to the [Hebrew] University, Heaven forbid that I should sayregarding secular [studies] that “From Zion will come forth Torah.”To the contrary, I told them explicitly that I am afraid lest there come forth,Heaven forbid, a stumbling block from their hands if they reject the Torah and the fear [of G-d] and “please themselves in the brood of aliens” [i.e., studies antithetical to Torahsuch as Biblical Criticism. Editor’s note: see Radak on Isaiah 2:6]. I brought themexamples of this from the past, from the incidents that took place due to people’s sins[during the Berlin Enlightenment], from which came forth groups that turned away fromG-d and abandoned the source of living waters. But they must guard the holiness of Israel, teachers and students alike, and not follow foreign ideas nor turn aside from theTorah and the mitzvos. And even then, it is not from secular subjects that Torah willcome forth, but rather when we support the holy yeshivas, which are dedicated solely tothe holiness of the Torah.Together with this, [I told them that] they should elevate the power of the
and Torah giants who fear G-d. And the Central Yeshiva in our holy and beautiful city, which we are toiling to establish and expand with G-d’s help, will stand inits great glory. Then, upon the foundation of the holy yeshivas, I said that the verse“From Zion will come forth Torah” will be fulfilled.These words are explicit in my speech that I spoke at that time before the people, before all of the important officials who came to the celebration, and to the entire greatcrowd of thousands who came from the far ends of the Holy Land and from the lands of the Diaspora. So how can malicious people come to distort the words of the living G-d ina way that is so filled with wickedness and folly?

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