Monday, May 31, 2010

R' Aviner: DON'T Read This Unpublished R' Kook Book

R' Aviner announces on his video blog that a new, previously unpublished manuscript from R' Avraham HaCohen Kook is about to be published, and he will not be reading it.

The book, "For the Perplexed of the Generation" has recently been transcribed and is available in very limited quantities. A PDF of the entire book is available here and a book review of it on the Kavannah blog.

R' Aviner says that from a peripheral reading of the book, it is indeed from R' Kook, and appears to have been written in the period when R' Kook was outside of Israel.

[Jameel: In 1914 Kook traveled to Europe to participate in the planned conference of the recently organized ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel, which he hoped to influence towards Zionism. With the outbreak of World War I, Kook was stranded in Europe, making his home first in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and in 1916 becoming the rabbi of London's Maḥzikei ha-Dat synagogue.]

R' Aviner says the very long book (285 pages) was written "while R' Kook was very troubled in Chutz La'Aretz, as opposed to his clear and concise thinking when he was in Israel and wrote much shorter books." He continues and says the book "flip-flops" while the books R' Kook wrote in Israel were definitive and concise.

R' Aviner's video-blogged 3 reasons to avoid reading the book are:

1. It was not "edited" by R' Kook's son, R' Tzvi Yehuda or the "Nazir". [Jameel; R' Tzvi Yehuda Kook purists will only read the works of R' Kook after they were edited by R' Tzvi Yehuda or the Nazir]. You will misunderstand R' Kook if you read an unedited version of it. R' Kook's unedited works are like "unripe fruit". "It is like a rooftop without a guard rail, and one could fall..."

2. The book is written inconclusively, without decisive analysis and a final decision. Jewish Law must be conclusive and not wavering.

3. R' Kook did not want this book published. It would have been published had R' Kook wanted it to be.

R' Aviner: Therefore, we must respect R' Kook's wishes, and refuse to read the book.

What is so scary about this book?

Wolf2191 describes it:
Following is my inexact translation of the first part Chapter 22 of the recently leaked ms. of R' Kook לנבוכי הדור. See here for the background of this book

The most alarming matter of all, that which causes the great confusion of ideas in this world, and dominates with great commotion - even today the time of the explosion of ideas, is the tendency to limit ones outlook on life within the confines of ones own group.
The Kavannah Blog States:
We also have two recent articles in Kipa [in Hebrew]. One used the aforementioned Udi Avramovitch as its expert source. Udi finds the volume more radical than the printed version and he finds a greater identity of God’s will and the will of the people. He also claims that in this work Rav Kook claims a value for other religions and that they worship the one true God. The second article quotes the army and settlement Rabbi Yosef Kellner that the book is essential to read but they are confining distribution, and here is a letter by Rav Kellner about the book.
Chapter 1, page 1 of the book.

Personally, the best way to get me to want to read a book, specifically if written about expanding one's horizons, is for someone to actively encourage me not to read it.

Again, you can read the entire book (at your own risk, of course), here.

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Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Outside of Israel may also refer to before Rav Kook made aliyah to Yafo. It has been suggested that this book was written during his rabbanut in Boisk. (sp?) In fact, until seeing your post I thought that was the accepted idea.

Also, Rav Kook himself placed great trust and importance in the editing done by Rav David Cohen or Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook. In Igrot (no, I don't remember exactly where) he notes that only three people deeply understand his thought: Rav Y.M. Charlop, Rav David Cohen the Nazir, and Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook. In his lifetime, he entrusted editing and publishing to the Nazir and Rav Tzvi Yehudah. Could be Rav Charlop was too busy, or... Certainly, Rav Charlop's writings were learned in the yeshiva, and often seen as a way to gain insight into Rav Kook's thinking.

I have no opinion on the book itself. I'm certainly not baki in the Rav ztz'l's writings. Just sharing some info here to help round out the picture.

Nachum said...

Can you clear something up? When they say "more radical than the printed version," do they mean the online version?

Lurker said...

Nachum: When they say "more radical than the printed version," do they mean the online version?

That statement by Udi Avramovitch means that he finds certain ideas as expressed by R. Kook in this newly publicized book (L'Nevukhei HaDor) to be more radical in their formulation than similar statements in R. Kook's previously known published works. (Avramovitch is referring to such things as R. Kook's identification of the will of the Jewish people with the will of God.) He is not referring to a different version of L'Nevukhei HaDor, of which there is only one edition (i.e., the one in the linked PDF file), to the best of my knowledge.

Shimon said...

And in unsurprising related news Rav Cherlow comes out much in favor of reading it:

Nachum said...

Thanks, Lurker! I've downloaded it.

Anonymous said...

When is the book being translated?

Spirit Master said...

Re: Halacha being crisp and concise, I want to mention that I've heard from reputable sources that the Great Gadol R. Moshe Feinstein, who most people in Chutz La'aretz consider to have been the Posek Hador) said that there are 2 sources that one can use to paskin from after the Shulchan Aruch. They are the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (the Altar Rebbe's Sefer) and the Aruch HaShulchan (written by R. Michel Epstein, circa 1928 I think). What both seforim have in common is that the authors guide you through their thought process and how they come to their conclusions. What this also means is that one can therefore come to different conclusions because one can see explicitly how many variables go into the halachic process.

Additionally, it is interesting to note the difference between R. Moshe's piskei halacha in Europe versus the piskei halacha once he came to the U.S., where his decisions are much more conservative. To me, it's clear that one's outlook depends on the strength of the social fabric. So I would say that Chardal is merely the knitted "wrapper" (an IT developer's term) around the basic Chareidi attitude.

Certainly, the Chasidic world, especially the world of Izhbitz, would disagree about the "concise and clear" nature of halacha, understanding how much one's individual nature and soul affect the halacha.

Very, very sad.

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