RAV KOOK TZ’L ON HITLER AND THE SHOA/HOLOCAUST
The Illuminations of HaRav Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook ZT”L by Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein.
“The shofar of the impure animal is transformed into the shofar of Messiach. Amalek…Hitler and their ilk are awakening redemption.” -Rav Kook-Rosh HaShana, 1934.
It is soon to be (Sunday night/Monday-April 23/4) Yom HaZicaron LaShoa ve’Gvurah- Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day.. The nation wide 11 a.m. siren to mark a moment of silence will blow in Israel.
This day-Nisan 27- was chosen by the Israeli Knesset in the early 1950’s because in 1943 it was the close to the day of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and a week before Yom HaAtzmaut-Israel’s Independence Day-Iyar 5. They were interested in making explicit the historical connection of these events. My personal research has convinced me that the Holocaust did not need to happen for Israel to come into being.
But the Holocaust did happen…it very certainly did. I knew of it from the womb.
My mother, Bluma -Zichrona LeBracha, arrived in Auschwitz from Cluj, Transylvania in June 1944 and saw her younger sister go directly to the crematoria upon their arrival. Most of my father’s family (he is the youngest of 12 children) were in the same transport and perished there. My father, Yosef, Shlita Ad 120, worked as slave labor for the Romanian-German army and thus survived as did my mother. They arrived in Israel in spring 1948 after a number of months incarceration in the British detainments camps in Cyprus.
It became obvious to me at a young age that they had experienced a very traumatic event. I wanted and needed to understand what actually happened there. At the too young age of 10 or 11, I began to read books containing eyewitness reports and testimonies. Not a great idea. I cut back somewhat after the night I saw a large illuminated face of Hitler shining outside my bedroom window.
My obsessive fascination with the Holocaust continued for many years. I was a tour guide at Yad Vashem for a while.
At one point in my late teens, I made the conscious choice that the only responsible response to such great darkness is to seek the greatest light and shine it in the world. A few years later, this brought me to study Torah in Israel in 1973 and that journey brought me to the Torah of Baal HaOrot-the Master of the Lights-Rav Kook, TZ’L in August 1980.
What would Rav Kook say about the holocaust? I can not know for sure, though I could speculate. What we do know for sure is what he did say about the Nazis and Germany before he died in 1935. Please allow me to share two remarkable statements that he made.
The first was on the first day of Rosh HaShana -October 22, 1933. Hitler had come to power in January 30th of that year and by this time was Chancellor and Fuhrer. Mein Kampf was a bestseller in Germany and it was obvious that this wasn’t good for the Jews (or anyone else.) These events were being followed closely and anxiously in the Jewish communities in Palestine. It was announced that on that day Rav Kook would doven at Beit Yaakov-also known as the Hurva-Destroyed- Synagogue in the Old City and would speak about ‘inyanei de’yoma’-matters of the day. The synagogue was packed Rav Kook arrived with his entourage and the prayers began. After the chanting of the haftarah, Rav Kook stepped forward to speak.
In a hushed voice he began: “We say in our prayers, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise the banner to bring our exiles together.” What is the significance of this ‘great shofar’?
There are three types of shofars that may be blown on Rosh Hashanah. Preferably, one should blow a ram’s horn. If this is impossible, one may use a shofar made from the horn of any kosher animal other than a cow.
But if neither of these types is available, we may blow the horn of an animal which is ritually unclean and do so without reciting a blessing.
These three shofars of Rosh Hashanah correspond to three ‘Shofars of Redemption,’ three Divine calls summoning the Jewish people to be redeemed and to redeem their land.
The preferred Shofar of Redemption is the Divine call that awakens and inspires the people with holy motivations, through faith in God and the unique mission of the people of Israel. This elevated awakening corresponds to the ram’s horn, a horn that recalls Abraham’s supreme love of God and dedication in Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. It was the call of this shofar, with its holy vision of heavenly Jerusalem united with earthly Jerusalem, that inspired Nachmanides, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, the students of the Vilna Gaon, and the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov to ascend to Eretz Yisrael. It is for this ‘great shofar,’an awakening of spiritual greatness and idealism, that we fervently pray.
There exists a second Shofar of Redemption, a less optimal form of awakening. This shofar calls out to the Jewish people to return to their homeland, to the land where our ancestors, our prophets and our kings, once lived. It beckons us to live as a free people, to raise our families in a Jewish country and a Jewish culture. This is a kosher shofar, albeit not a great shofar like the first type of awakening. We still recite a brachah over this shofar.
There is, however, a third type of shofar. (At this point Rav Kook burst out in tears.) The least desirable shofar comes from the horn of an unclean animal. This shofar corresponds to the wake-up call that comes from the persecutions of anti-Semitic nations, warning the Jews to escape while they still can and flee to their own land. Enemies force the Jewish people to be redeemed, blasting the trumpets of war, bombarding them with deafening threats of harassment and torment, giving them no respite in the Diaspora.
The shofar of an impure animal becomes the shofar of Mashiach. Amalek, Petilura [a Ukranian Jew killer-1879-1926], Hitler and their ilk- awaken us to redemption. The one who did not listen to the sound of the first shofar and the ones whose ears are closed up and do not want to listen to the sound of the second, ordinary shofar will listen to the sound of the impure, invalid shofar. They will listen against their will. Over this shofar, however, no blessing is recited. “One does not recite a blessing over a cup of affliction” (Berachot 51b).
We pray that the Holy One does not force us to listen to the invalid and impure shofar. We also do not long for the ordinary, medium sized-almost secular- shofar.
We pray, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom”, a shofar which comes from the very depths of the sanctity of the Jewish soul, from our Holy of Holies. We all await that great day of which it is written: ‘It shall come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be sounded, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria, and the oppressed in the land of Egypt will come and worship God at the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13)
Rav Kook explained that Hitler and Nazism was the call of the impure shofar calling upon the people to flee, to return home to the Land of Israel. This drasha had a deep impact on all who heard it and was repeated in the newspapers of the time.
Shortly before he died in Elul 1935, Rav Kook wrote his last words of Torah. They are contained in a short notebook entitled “Jerusalem, notebook 34″. After a number of pithy spiritual insights, Rav Kook wrote a short essay entitled-’The Land of Israel, The Land of the Tanach (Bible)’. He began by explaining the Biblical connection of Israel to the Land of Israel and the importance to encourage the return of the Jewish people to its land. He concluded the piece thusly:
“The events that are occurring recently are stirring spiritual and national recognitions within Am Israel-The Nation of Israel in relation to its return to its ancient land. This understanding is also penetrating into the hearts of the refined among the nations of the world… England and all people with a more developed sense of hearing have begun to understand this wondrous secret that will bring life to the world in the near future.
Germany has begun to stand against the spirit of pure prophecy of the Book of Books as it unveils its vicious hatred to the people of the Bible. It must return in complete penitence to save itself from absolute destruction.
And finally the Land of the Tanach must be rebuilt by the Nation of the Tanach in order to bring the Godly Biblical spirit of peace/wholeness [רוח השלום] in all its supernal refinement to the lives of all the nations on planet Earth.”
The reference to Germany was chilling then and continues to be in hindsight. This is basically the final teaching that Rav Kook left for us.
“The Land of the Bible must be rebuilt by the people of the Bible in order to bring universal Divine peace to the entire planet.”
Be’Meheira be’Yamenu-Speedily in our days.