Posted on February 4, 2012 by Andrea Wiese
One quote from my Rav Kook book this week that I really liked is, “What is the essence of prophecy? This unique gift is the ability to look at God’s works and recognize in them His greatness.” I’m sure there is more to being a prophet then just that, but I like to think that with practice and a good eye I could be a prophetess. =)
On a tad more serious note. In Beshalach (this weeks Torah portion), we finally leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds!!!!!!!!!! Then Miriam sings a song, and at the end there is a line, (Ex. 15:16):
Until Your people have crossed, O God;
Until the people that You acquired have crossed over.
The Rabbis ask why this is repeated, the “crossing”. Some say that it is referring to the Jews crossing the Jordan River, and Jews have had to do this twice in our history. Once with Joshua after 40 years in the desert and G-d giving us the land of Israel at the beginning of the First Temple Period. G-d was very visible at this time, there were prophets and miracles. This is why the first line says, “Your people,” because G-d was so present. We were His whether we wanted it or not, G-d was with us. The other is with Ezra and returning to start the Second Temple Period. This time, it was our choice to return. G-d wasn’t visible, prophecies had ended, the Torah had been written, we couldn’t see G-d’s miracles. But the Jewish people were very active and were reaching out to G-d and grappling with Jewish law and Jewish way of life. The Mishnah was written at this time and the rabbis were very active in the discussion of Jewish law. This is why the Jews are referred to as the people who G-d had acquired, because now we are seeking him.
This is compared to Kook’s theory of innate holiness, and willed-holiness. Innate holiness is naturally in our souls. We are born with it, it was passed down through the generations. Willed-holiness on the other hand is based on our merits, efforts, actions, and choices. Kook said that innate holiness is actually greater than willed-holiness. Just as G-d was with us crossing the Jordan River, G-d is innately with us all the time and we are holy because we are holy. But I feel that without willed-holiness, innate holiness seems empty. If we aren’t striving to be good people, if we haven’t trying to help others, if we aren’t living in a way that is making the world a better place, what does innate holiness matter? Maybe that it is always there and it’s never to late to cultivate?
This is something that I struggle with in Judaism, the concept of a chosen people. Because I believe that all people have the ability to be holy. G-d created all of us, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, etc. But maybe Kook was referring to all people. And that we can all search for G-d and our actions can be for G-d. I’m not sure which he means exactly.
I do know that he was very liberal for his time and he was criticized by other Rabbis for being so open to secular Jews and Kibbutzniks.
I would love to hear your opinions or some other sources to help me gain some clarity on these thoughts!