Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook, On His 78th Yahrtzeit, Today, 3 Elul

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rav-avrohom-yitzchok-kook[Click here to view historic letters written to and by Rav Kook.] 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.

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Nice of Matzav to print.

    Rav Kook wrote the following 3 lines which may be among the most beautiful words ever written:

    Tzaddikim hatehorim einam kovlim al harisha–ella mosifim tzedek.

    Tzaddikim hatehorim einam kovlim al hakefira–ella mosifim emuna.

    Tzaddikim hatehorim einam kovlim al habaarus- ella mosifin chochma.

    Pure tzaddikim do not complain about wickedness, but instead increase righteousness.

    Pure tzaddikim do not complain about kefirah, but instead increase emunah.

    Pure tzaddikim do not complain about foolishness, but instead increase wisdom.

  2. Yasher Koach and thanks for the link.

    Rav Kook ztz’l was a true Gadol ableit a maverick on certain issues. Nonetheless, even Gedolim such as Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ztzl who had a strong different approach held of Rav Kook as Gadol and Gaon.

    Interstingly , Rav Chaim Ozer ztzl’s letter re the Chazon Ish ztzl moving to Eretz Yisroel was written to Rav Kook.

  3. http://www.rabbileff.net/shiurim/answers/0750-0999/0808.mp3

    “If HaRav kook zt”l was acknowledged as a Torah giant and a Torah genius, why is it that many people see that his followers (not the ones who claim to follow him and put land before Torah etc)are following a “krum” path and I have even heard that Mizrachi/ Da’ati is considered Avodah Zorah in some circles. A Torah giant would not create a derech that is not in accordance to the Torah, as I have seen that he brings sources for what he says and backs up his hashkafa. So why is there so much of an unacceptance? Thank You. Anonymous, London”

  4. I guess the Chazon Ish, Brisker Rov, Chofetz Chaim, Rav Avigdor Miller, etc etc etc were not Tzaddikim Tehorim becaused they complained about Kefira. As it says in Tehillim, Ohavei Hashem Sinu Ra–you judge your Ahavas Hashem specifically by how much you hate evil, and if you hate something, you complain about it!

  5. Many other facts of Rav Kook zt”l can be included. He was meseder kiddushim at the weddings of Rav Eliyashuv and Reb Shlomo Zalman, and his son Reb Tzvi Yehuda was the shadchan between the daughter of Reb Aryeh Levine and Rav Eliyashuv. Rav Kook learned together with the fathers of Rav Eliyashuv and Reb Shlomo Zalman as a threesome.

  6. To #8:

    There’s a difference between complaining and protesting. Check this out:


    “Recently I came across some interesting statements from R’ Avraham Yitchak HaCohen kook Z”L: 1. “Hatzadikkim hatehorim ainam kovlim al harisha – elah mosifim tzedek, ainam kovlim al hakefira – elah mosifim emunah” (Igros HaGRAI”H 79- Arpilei Tohar: pages 27–28). 2. In the time of Moshiach we will be vegetarians and there won’t be animal sacrifices. (Commentary to the siddur, Olat ha-Reiyah, vol. 1, p. 292.) Are these acceptable Torah statements? —Anonymous, NY”


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