Category Archives: Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Rav Kook on Animal Sacrifices

[Rav Kook’s views on the Temple service are sometimes misconstrued. A superficial reading of a passage in Olat Re’iyah(vol. I, p. 292) indicates that only grain offerings will be offered in the reinstated Temple service. To properly understand Rav Kook’s approach, it is necessary to read a related essay from Otzarot HaRe’iyah.]

What will the rebuilt Temple be like? Will we really offer animal sacrifices once again?

Protecting Animals

Some people object to the idea of sacrifices out of concern for the welfare of animals. However, this objection contains a measure of hypocrisy. Why should compassion for animals only be expressed with regard to humanity’s spiritual needs? If our opposition to animal slaughter is based not on weakness of character, but on recognition of the issue’s fundamental morality, then our first step should be to outlaw the killing of animals for food, clothing, and other material benefits.

In the world’s present state, the human race is weak, both physically and morally. The hour to protect animal life has not yet arrived. We still need to slaughter animals for our physical needs, and human morality requires that we maintain clear boundaries to distinguish between the relative value of human and animal life.

At this point in time, to advocate the protection of animals in our service of God is disingenuous. Is it moral to permit cruelty towards animals for our physical needs, yet forbid their use for our spiritual service, in sincere recognition and gratitude for God’s kindness? If our dedication and love for God can be expressed – at its highest level — with our willingness to surrender our own lives and die “al kiddush Hashem,” sanctifying God’s name, then certainly we should be willing to forgo the life of animals for this sublime goal.

The Return of Prophecy

Currently, however, we are not ready for an immediate restoration of the sacrificial service. Only with the return of prophecy will it be possible to restore the Temple order. In a letter penned in 1919, Rav Kook explained:

“With regard to sacrifices, it is more correct to believe that all aspects will be restored to their place. … We should not be overly troubled by the views of European culture. In the future, God’s word to His people will elevate all the foundations of culture to a level above that attainable by human reason.
“It is inappropriate to think that sacrifices only reflect the primitive idea of a worship of flesh. This service possesses a holy inner nature that cannot be revealed in its beauty without the illumination of God’s light to His people [the return of prophecy] and a renewal of holiness to Israel. And this will be recognized by all peoples. But I agree with your honor that we should not approach the practical aspects of sacrifices without the advent of revealed divine inspiration in Israel.” (Igrot HaRe’iyah vol. IV p. 24)

The Future World

In the writings of the Kabbalists, we find a remarkable description of how the universe will look in the future, a world vastly changed from our current reality. All aspects of the universe will be elevated. Even the animals in that future era will be different; they will advance to the level of people nowadays (Sha’ar Hamitzvot of the Ari z”l). Obviously, no sacrifice could be offered from such humanlike animals. At that time, there will no longer be strife and conflict between the species. Human beings will no longer need to take the lives of animals for their physical, moral, and spiritual needs.

It is about this distant time that the Midrash makes the startling prediction, “All sacrifices will be annulled in the future”  (Tanchuma Emor 19, Vayikra Rabbah 9:7). The prophet Malachi similarly foretold of a lofty world in which the Temple service will only consist of grain offerings, in place of the animal sacrifices of old:

“Then the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.”  (Malachi 3:4)

Hints to the Future

Even in the current reality, we may feel uncomfortable about killing animals. This does not mean that the time for full animal rights has already arrived. Rather, these feelings come from a hidden anticipation of the future that is already ingrained in our souls, like many other spiritual aspirations.

Hints of these future changes may be found in the text of the Torah itself. Thus, it says that offerings are slaughtered on the northern side of the altar. Why this side? The north traditionally represents that which is incomplete and lacking, as it is written, “Out of the north, the evil shall break forth” (Jeremiah 1:14). In other words, the need to slaughter animals is a temporary concession to life in an incomplete world.

Furthermore, the Torah stipulates that sacrifices must be slaughtered lirtzonchem — ‘willingly’ (Lev. 19:5). The Temple service must correspond to our needs and wants. As the Talmud in Erchin 21a explains, one must be able to say, ‘I want to bring this offering.’ When the slaughter of animals is no longer generally acceptable to society, this condition will not be fulfilled.

Finally, the Torah describes a person offering an animal sacrifice asadam (Lev. 1:2). This word indicates our current state of moral decline, a result of the unresolved sin of Adam, the first man. An individual offering a grain offering, on the other hand, is callednefesh, or ‘soul’ (Lev. 2:1). The word nefesh implies a deeper, more essential level of humanity, independent of any temporary failings.

(Gold from the Land of Israel pp. 173-176. Adapted from Otzarot HaRe’iyah, vol. II, pp. 101-103; Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 292)

Also see:

From the Well of Kindness: Teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Translated by R’ Yaakov David Shulman

Encouragement | Silence | Song | Poetry and Beauty | Souls | Teshuvah (Repentance) | Imagination | Visualization |Intent | Intelligence | Feeling | Kindness | Ethics |Character Traits | Faith | Prayer |Spiritual Thirst | Joy | Love of God | Fear of God | Sexuality | Spirituality and Physicality | Good and Evil | Death | Redemption | Universalism | Love of Israel | Land of Israel | Young People | Torah | Tzaddik (Holy Person) | Rabbi Kook | Holidays | Letters of the Alphabet | Animal Kingdom | Jew and Gentile | Historical Forces | Jewish Literature | Science | Additional, As Yet Unclassified Translations |

Download the writings here:

Also see some more teachings here:

Sublime Heights

If you desire, human being, look at the light of God’s Presence in everything.
Look at the Eden of spiritual life, at how it blazes into each corner and crevice of life, spiritual and of this world, right before your eyes of flesh and your eyes of soul….
Gaze at the wonders of creation, at their divine life—not like some dim phenomenon that is placed before your eyes from afar.
But know the reality in which you live.
Know yourself and your world.
Know the thoughts of your heart, and of all who speak and think.
Find the source of life inside you, higher than you, around you. [Find] the beautiful ones alive in this generation in whose midst you are immersed.
The love within you: lift it up to its mighty root, to its beauty of Eden.
Send it spreading out to the entire flood of the soul of the Life of worlds, Whose light is reduced only by incapable human expression.
Gaze at the lights, at what they contain.
Do not let the Names, phrases and letters swallow up your soul.
They have been given over to you.
You have not been given over to them.
Rise up.
Rise up, for you have the power.
You have wings of the spirit, wings of powerful eagles.
Do not deny them, or they will deny you.
Seek them, and you will find them instantly.
Orot Hakodesh I, pp. 83-84


Rav Kooks relationship with giants of his time

Rav Kook, a brilliant mind was always unique and often stood alone among the other giants of his day. There is a perception in certain quarters that the other leaders among Orthodoxy had no respect for him. The following sources paint a different pespective.

10 Relationships between Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Various Gedolei Yisrael that the Yeshiva World Should Know

* Also interesting to read is this interview with Rav Moshe Zuriel, a great exponent of Rav Kooks writings

Vayikra: The Inner Light of Destruction

Vayikra: The Inner Light of Destruction

Flooding, wars, earthquakes – every day we are bombarded with news of catastrophe and disaster. Is this how God envisioned His world? How can we relate to the many destructive forces in the world?

The offering of a korban in the Temple culminated in the ritual of zerikat ha-dam, as the kohen sprinkled the animal’s blood – its life-force – around the altar.

“He will slaughter [the offering] near the altar’s base, on the north side before God. The kohanim, descendants of Aaron, will then dash its blood all around the altar.” (Lev. 1:11)

What is the significance of the offering being slaughtered on the northern side of the Temple compound?

Why does the verse note that the kohanim are ‘descendants of Aaron’ – is that not well-known?

And why does it say the blood was dashed all around the altar, when in fact it was just sprinkled twice, on the two opposite (diagonal) corners of the altar?

Concealed Before God

Slaughter is an act of punishment and judgment. When performed on an offering, it serves to connect all of the terrible judgments, calamitous havoc and destruction in the world, to the hidden Divine rule of the universe. Everything emanates from the secret ways of the merciful God. All is ultimately for good, for blessing, and for kindness.

From our limited perspective, the slaughter has a lowly standing. It is thus performed near the base of the altar. But a hidden light of kindness is concealed in this act. The offering was slaughtered “tzafonah lifnei Hashem.” Literally, this means “on the northern side, before God.” But it may also be translated as “concealed – before God alone.”

The task of revealing the inner light in the forces of destruction was given to the kohanim, the descendants of Aaron. Why the emphasis on Aaronic lineage? Aaron was renowned for his compassion and kindness. “Be a disciple of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace; love people, and draw them to Torah” (Avot I:12). Aaron’s descendants inherited the special qualities necessary to uncover this hidden light.

The Temple service teaches us that destruction of life has a place even in the holiest service. It is precisely in terms of the highest level – the most all-encompassing perspective of reality – that phenomena which appear inexplicable and destructive from our limited outlook, may be seen as contributing to the world. Our physical perception can discern only a sliver of reality; it is severely limited in terms of time, space, and true understanding of events. We lack knowledge of the overall context, and are unable to see the entire picture.

The method of dashing the blood is a fitting metaphor for our superficial perception. The physical eye can only see a partial reality, broken and disconnected. It sees the kohen dashing blood on two opposite corners. But on a higher level, the vision is continuous and complete. The sprinkling encompasses the entire altar.

Thus, the compassionate children of Aaron, as they performed this inner sprinkling all around the altar, provided a glimpse of the hidden source of good and kindness in the universe.

(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 134)


Batel Be’Shishim

Shai Agnon wrote in MeAtzmi El Atzmi:

Rav Kook once asked me to give him [copies of] my books. I replied that I had indeed thought about giving him one or two of them. He said, “I want all of your books, and you intended to give me only some of them?!” I replied, “Your desire is my honor”…

A while later, he saw me and said “I read your works.” All of them?” I asked. “All of them;” he replied, and I want to tell you something. The author of Pri Megadim wrote a small worked entitled Mattan S’charan Shel Mitzvot (‘Reward for Mitzvot’), in which he writes: If a drop of forbidden food falls into sixty times its volume of permissible food, the forbidden drop is nullified in sixty (batel be’shishim). In that case, the permissible food gains from the forbidden one, for there are now sixty-one parts of permissible food [instead of just sixty]. The same is true of your works. Even if some forbidden material ‘falls’ into your books, it is nullified in sixty and becomes permissible. Thus, the permissible material gains from the forbidden.”

[An Angel Among Men – Rav Avraham Yitzcahk Hakohen Kook pg 399 – 400]


– This idea is elucidated in the audio series “Exploring the Role of Art and Creativity. Through the Teachings of Rav Kook – Art and Eros”. 

– I believe I have read a similar quote attributed to the Lubavitcher Rebbe (although I cannot find a source, if anyone knows please leave a comment).

– Although seemingly a radical idea, it might perhaps provide guidance in terms of our exposure to art, literature and secular culture in dealing with those "grey" areas where the lines of inappropriateness are sometimes crossed. 



Rav Kook and the Chofetz Chaim Part 3

 Please see parts one and two here:

"Y. Mirsky in his dissertation on R' Kook notes that – Rav Kook wrote an approbation to the Liqutei Halakhot, a volume by the celebrated sage and saint Israel Meir Kagan (a.k.a. Hafetz Hayim) on the laws of Temple sacrifices, understandably, a less-visited precinct of Talmudic study.

I noticed a first-hand report (based on a conversation with R' Kook) in HaHed (7:6) that states that the Chafetz Chaim has initially asked R' Kook to help him write the sefer:"

Click on the image below to expand it:

(Source: Ishim V'Shitot Blog )

Rav Kook on the end of hatred

All matters of hatred, and all of the letters of the law
which apply to them, these were only stated in cases where we already knew that
the precept of reproof had been administered to someone. And since we don’t
have in this generation, nor have we had for several previous generations, as
Rabbi Akiva testifies, someone who knows how to deliver reproof, therefore,
they are not longer applicable, all of the laws referring to ill feelings and
the hatred of brothers have become like the case of the rebellious son, a
banished city, and a contaminated house, according to the one who says there
were never such case, and never be in the future…”

Letters of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCoheen Kook Part 1, 305 (Torat Eretz Yisrael pg 82)

Rav Kook: A Torn Soul

A Torn Soul

Whoever has said that my soul is torn spoke well. It is certainly torn. I cannot imagine a person whose soul is not torn. Only a lifeless object is whole, but a human being is filled with conflicting desires, and an inner war rages within him continuously. The purpose of all my work is to mend the rents within my spirit by means of an all-inclusive viewpoint in whose greatnessand exaltedness everything is embraced and comes to complete harmony.

Malachim Kivnei Adam

The View Of The Chazon Ish On Rav Kook: Another Perspective

It is taken as a fact that the Chazon Ish was highly critical of Rav Kook, going so far as to declare him a heretic with no share in the World to Come. Marc Shapiro, in his essay "Of Books and Bans" has a footnote (14) regarding this topic that presents textual and eye witness accounts that dispel this notion. This is not to say that the Chazon Ish did not disagree with Rav Kook on many issues, I am certain that he did. However, it appears that these disagreements took place within the realm of civility and respect that is due a Torah scholar.

I take issue with what Rapoport writes on p. 92, that when R. Kook passed away, R. Abraham Isaiah Karelitz, the Hazon Ish, declared that he would have no portion in the World to Come. The source for this is Aharon Rosenberg, Mishkenot ha-Ro’im (New York, 1997), vol. 3, pp. 1120-1121, who cites a well-known London anti-Zionist. This is hardly an unimpeachable reference. (This same source also claims that the Hazon Ish insisted that R. Ben Zion Uziel’s Mishpetei Uziel be left on the floor, since it is muktseh mei-hamat mi’us. See ibid., p. 1198; Elyakim Schlesinger’s haskamah to Aharon Rosenberg, Torat Emet [Monsey, 1992]). The truth is that while the Hazon Ish asserted that R. Kook’s philosophical works should not be read, he saw nothing objectionable about his halakhic writings and certainly did not regard as R. Kook as a heretic. See Shelomo Kohen, Pe’er ha-Dor (Jerusalem, 1969), vol. 2, p. 34.  Indeed, one of the first things the Hazon Ish did when he arrived in the Land of Israel was to write R. Kook a letter, asking him to decide a halakhic problem he was confronted with. See R. Ben Zion Shapiro, ed., Iggerot ha-Reiyah (Jerusalem, 1990), pp. 448-449. Furthermore, it is known that when R. Kook came to deliver a talk in Benei Berak, the Hazon Ish remained standing throughout the former’s address. See Kohen, Pe’er ha-Dor, vol. 2, p. 32; R. Mosheh Zvi Neriyah, Bi-Sedeh ha-Reiyah (Kefar ha-Ro’eh, 1987), p. 247. Even with regard to R. Kook’s philosophical writings, the Hazon Ish sometimes expressed a more positive view, depending on whom he was speaking to. See Binyamin Efrati, "Shenei Bikurim Etsel ha-Hazon Ish ZT"L," Morashah 6 (1974): 62-63.