Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, On His 75th Yahrtzeit, Today, 3 Elul


rav-avrohom-yitzchok-kook[Video below.] Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, who lived from 1865 to 1935, was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, and a brilliant man and respected talmid chochom.

Rav Kook was born in Grīva, Latvia (now part of Daugavpils, then a town in Courland Governorate of Imperial Russia) in 1865, the oldest of eight children. His father, Rav Shlomo Zalman Hacohen Kook, was a talmid of the Volozhiner Yeshiva, while his maternal zaida was a member of the Kapuster chassidus.

As a child, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok gained a reputation of being an illui. He entered the Volozhiner Yeshiva in 1884 at the age of 18, where he became close to the rosh yeshiva, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, the Netziv. Although he stayed at the yeshiva for only a year and a half, the Netziv was quoted as saying that if the Volozhiner Yeshiva had been founded just to educate Rav Kook, it would have been worthwhile. During his time in the yeshiva, he learned some 18 hours a day.

In 1886, Rav Kook married Batsheva, the daughter of Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teumim, better known as the Aderes, the rov of Ponevezh and later Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Yerushalayim.

In 1887, at the age of 23, Rav Kook entered his first position as rov of Zaumel, Lithuania. In 1888, his wife passed away and his father-in-law convinced him to marry her cousin, Raize-Rivka, the daughter of the Aderes‘ twin brother. In 1895, Rav Kook became the rov of Bausk.

Between 1901 and 1904, he published three articles which anticipated the fully-developed philosophy which he developed in Eretz Yisroel. During these years he wrote a number of works, most published posthumously, most notably a lengthy commentary on the aggados of mesechtos Brachot and Shabbos, titled ‘Eyn Ayah,’ and a brief sefer on morality and spirituality titled ‘Mussar Avichah’.

In 1904, Rav Kook moved to Ottoman Palestine to assume the post of rov in Yaffo, which also included responsibility for the new mostly secular Zionist agricultural settlements nearby. His influence on people in different walks of life was already noticeable, as he engaged in kiruv, thereby creating a greater role for Torah and halacha in the life of the city and the nearby settlements.

The outbreak of the First World War caught Rav Kook in Europe, and he was forced to remain in London and Switzerland for the remainder of the war.

In 1916, he became rov of the Spitalfields Great Synagogue, Machzike Hadas, an immigrant frum community located in Brick Lane, Whitechapel. Upon returning, he was appointed the Ashkenazi Rabbi of Yerushalayim, and soon after, as first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1921. Rav Kook founded a yeshiva, Mercaz HaRav Kook, in Yerushalayim in 1924. He was a master of halacha. His unusual openness to new ideas drew many religious and non­religious people to him. He wrote prolifically on both halacha and machshava, and his seforim and personality continued to influence many even after his petirah in Yerushalayim in 1935.

Rav Kook built bridges of communication and political alliances between the various Jewish sectors, including the secular Jewish Zionist leadership, the Religious Zionists, and more traditional non-Zionist Orthodox Jews. He believed that the modern movement to reestablish a Jewish state in Eretz Yisroel had profound theological significance and that the Zionists were agents in a Heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era. Per this ideology, the youthful, secular and even anti-religious Labor Zionist pioneers, chalutzim, were a part of a grand Divine process whereby the land and people of Israel were finally being redeemed from the 2,000-year golus by all manner of Jews who sacrificed themselves for the cause of building up the physical land, as laying the groundwork for the ultimate spiritual messianic redemption of world Jewry. He once commented that the establishment of the Chief Rabbinate was the first step towards the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin.

Many gedolim disagreed with Rav Kook’s ideology. While building bridges with mainly anti-religious elements, his ties with the traditional original frum kehillos were largely severed.

Rav  Kook was critical of the secularists on certain occasions when they went “too far” in desecrating the Torah, for instance, by not observing Shabbos or kashrus. Rav Kook also opposed the secular spirit of the Hatikvah anthem, and penned another anthem with a more religious theme entitled HaEmunah.

Rav Kook had three children through his two wives: two daughters and a son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook.

Click below to view a video about Rav Kook’s life:

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{Note: Views expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of this site.}

 {Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Thank you Matzav for publishing this.

    Ashreichem Yisrael that we had a personality like Maran Harav Kook in this world at such a critical juncture of world history. While it would be foolish to pretend that Rav Kook, zt”l had no controversy associated with him or some of his views, the proper historical appreciation is of a man who was a Gaon in Torah: nigleh and nistar who was revered (truly) by the gedolie yisrael of the generation (Chafetz Chaim, R’ Chaim Ozer, etc.).

    Part of what we desperately need as a people and during these y’mei Elul is mutual respect – even for those we might have (strong) disagreement with.

    May we emulate his ahavas hatorah, his ahavas yisrael and his ahavas eretz yisrael. Zechuso Yagen Aleynu.

  2. This article describes Rav Kook’s greatness very well while confidently and clearly stating the reasons for the opposition of the gedolim of his time to him. Kol HaKavod.

  3. Rav Kook’s relationship with the rabbinim of the Yishuv Hayashen was slightly severed YET his closest chaverim were R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rav Aryeh Levine (who was baal tefillah at the yeshiva on the Yomim Noraim), Rav Charlop, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank etc.

    Even at that time there were a moderate group of gedolim particularly those mentioned above. Yehi Zichron Baruch.

    As one of the first gedolim involved in Kiruv, many of our projects of today involving the non frum/secular originated from his thinking of the HOLINESS of EVERY YID.