May 17, 2012 | 1 comment
The Kosher Bookworm Yom Yerushalayim: Rav Kook and the Hebrew University Speech Controversy
In a recent presentation at the Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst, Brooklyn College professor and famed historian Dr. Shnayer Leiman discussed the controversy surrounding the speech and invocation given by Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook at the inauguration of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on April 1, 1925.
According to Dr. Leiman, “His very presence was an act of courage; indeed, many of his rabbinic colleagues viewed his presence as an act of treachery. Even more courageous was the message he delivered that afternoon, which minced no words about his true feelings regarding the Hebrew University and its place in the life of a revitalized Jewish yishuv in Jerusalem.”
Rav Kook was to be unfairly blasted by many from the so-called chareidi wing of Orthodoxy who saw in Rav Kook’s very presence as a chief rabbi and spiritual leader a challenge to their self-assuming roles as the sole legitimate spiritual leaders of the yishuv, bar none.
However, a close reading of the Rav’s remarks will reveal absolutely nothing to be found wrong with its ideological, as well as spiritual, content from a traditional Jewish perspective.
While Rav Kook’s leadership signature was an openness to all Jews, and that “ahavat Yisrael” was to be the hallmark to all his activities, he, nevertheless, based everything on firm spiritual grounding, as to be demonstrated in a translation of the heart of his remarks below, provided by Dr. Leiman.
Consider the following:
“It must be understood that the Hebrew University by itself cannot fulfill all the educational requirements necessary for the success of our national life. We must realize that, first and foremost, it is the great Torah yeshivot, those that now exist and those to be constructed, that are worthy of the name--including the Central Yeshivah which we are establishing in Jerusalem, which shall be a light onto Israel in all areas of Torah, whether halachah, aggadah, Jewish action, or Jewish thought--that uphold the spirit of the nation and provide for its security. Moreover, the Hebrew University must maintain standards so that the name of Heaven, Israel, and the land of Israel are sanctified, and never desecrated, by it.”