The Torah is the blueprint of creation, the plans, so to speak, that God reviewed before creating this world, this universe that we live in and explore. Torah is in us and part of who we are. But also for fascinating and interesting reason it can also be distant with an effect that allows people to zoom out, if you will, and See Torah as there and we, the people, somewhere else.
Rav Simcha HaKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot and Rav of the Churva Shul on the Old City of Jerusalem was in New York last week and we had the opportunity to meet and discuss some of the issues that are on his mind and fgor that matter the minds of many who care deeply about Eretz Yisrael and the future of the Jewish people.
Our conversation turned immediately in the direction of the idea that new legislation in Israel will call for Yeshiva students to serve the country in some volunteer capacity. Rav Kook says that he does not feel comfortable with the way in which the government in Israel is dealing with the current situation.
“Yeshivas are our life,” Rav Kook says. “If Yeshivas stop to function, Israel could not exist,” he says and then adding, “Klal Yisrael exists because of Torah.” The Rav expounds further by saying that there are simply not enough Yeshivas in the world and that indeed on a global level there is much less learning of Torah than there used to be. He explains that outside of Israel and the US there are very few, almost no Yeshivas that are staples or bastions of communities around the world the way in which Yeshivas existed and even dominated cities throughout Europe before World War II. He adds that aside from Gateshead in England Europe has been emptied of consistent Yeshiva focused study.
On the current matter, Rav Kook, 82, says, “Every Prime Minister since the founding of the state has attempted to bring or incorporate Yeshiva students into the IDF.” The Rav explains that all the Prime Ministers that he has known have studied the issue and have always come to the conclusion that the Yeshivas are holy and that they need to be left untouched.
He says that prior to his arrival in New York he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He suggested in the letter that if the Prime Minister wanted to make major changes in the countries universities he would certainly convene a conference of all university presidents. The Rav says that if the PM wanted to make changes in movie theaters around Israel he would organize a conclave of theater managers to help him institute changes.
And then he says that he asked Mr. Netanyahu in his letter: “How can you attempt to preside over such dramatic changes in the relationship between Torah, Yeshivas and the country without consulting or meeting with the Roshei Yeshivos?” Rav Kook is awaiting a response. More in next weeks 5TJT and at 5TJT.COM.