5 Minutes of Rav Kook at the Conservative Yeshiva (Part 3)

In Paragraph 1 of Zironim (in part 1 and part 2 we addressed paragraphs 3 and 4), Rav Kooks says as follows:

paragraph 1

אי אפשר למצא מעמד מבוסס לרוח כי אם באויר האלהי. הידיעה, ההרגשה, הדמיון והחפץ והתנועות הפנימיות והחיצוניות שלהם, כולם מזקיקים את בני האדם שיהיו אלהיים דוקא. אז ימצאו את מלואם, את יחושם השוה והמניח את הדעת. אם מעט פחות מגדולה זו יבקש לו האדם הרי הוא מיד טרוף כספינה המטורפת בים, גלים סוערים מתנגדים זה לזה ידריכוהו תמיד מנוחה, מגל אל גל יוטל ולא ידע שלו. אם יוכל לשקע באיזה רפש עבה של גסות הרוח ועביות ההרגשה, יצלח לו למעט את אור חייו לאיזה משך זמן, עד שבקרבו ידמה שכבר מצא מנוח. אבל לא יארכו הימים, הרוח יחלץ ממסגרותיו והטירוף הקלעי יחל את פעלו בכל תוקף.

מקום מנוחתנו הוא רק באלהים!

Rabbi Bokser translates Rav Kook as saying that we must live lives “oriented towards God”. Literally, Rav Kook wrote that we must live in “divine air”. What is this “divine air” that we must live in, if we are to find balance and peace in life?

In paragraph 3, we saw that all the things that we know are ultimately good, like love and beauty, are “revealed divinity”. In paragraph 4, we talked about how these things appear to us as bigger and more important than we are. They are bigger in that we feel how they transcend our understanding. And they are more important in that we feel (and judge) that being faithful to them is more important even than our own lives.

The way that things like love and  beauty transcend us and our understanding creates a sort of halo around them. It’s like we can see what they are, but we can also see that there’s something mysterious and enthralling and unattainable about them. I think that this “halo” is part of what Heschel means by radical amazement in the face of the sublime. Revealed divinity is concrete and real, but when we encounter it, we see that is framed by a glory and mystery that draws us close but which we cannot grasp.


I think that that halo of the mysterious sublime, in the face of which we feel radical amazement, is part of what Rav Kook means here by “divine air”. And he says that our desire to cleave to revealed divinity, and to be swallowed up in the divine air, is basic to what we are as people. He says that in our most basic functioning as human beings – knowing, feeling, imagining, wanting – we seek revealed divinity and its transcendent halo. When we turn our face away from these, we loose connection with the ultimate source of the meaning of our lives, and become “like a ship tossed about at sea”, without an anchor in the revealed divinity which gives direction to our lives.


1 thought on “5 Minutes of Rav Kook at the Conservative Yeshiva (Part 3)

  1. Pingback: 5 Minutes of Rav Kook at the Conservative Yeshiva (Part 4) | Thoughts on Torah Theology (and other assorted things)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s