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The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook - A Book Review

The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook – The Writings of a Jewish Mystic
By Rabbi Ari Ze'ev Schwartz
265 pp. 2017. Gefen Publishing, 2018
Available from Steimatzky
Reviewd by Pnina Moed Kass 

We human beings seek to know and understand. Whether it is the principles of scientific theory or religious teachings, we seek meaning in the knowledge we acquire. Meaning is dependent on words and the interpretation of those words – ideas, thoughts, communication are transformed, transmitted, and transcribed with language. Even what is left unsaid can have the power of coherent thought.

Very often a book-reviewer reads and comments on a book whose subject is familiar to him, and so the review will resound with depth and perceptive insight.

It's not very often that a reviewer will admit, in print to reviewing a book while having scant knowledge of the book's subject. But I will admit– though familiar with Rav Kook's name as the first modern-day chief rabbi of Israel and his support of secular Zionism – I was ignorant of his philosophical writings and spiritual teachings. And because of that I consider this book a true gift. It is, to borrow a famous title, a guide for the perplexed.

Rabbi Ari Ze'ev Schwartz presents with superb clarity some complex ideas that have a multitude of spiritual and moral dimensions; it is not easy to impart religious knowledge the way secular modes of thought are presented. The author states that his goal has been to present the reader with an opportunity to read and become familiar with Rav Kook's writings, and to help the reader to understand the Rav's difficult ideas. It clarifies the ideas of a great religious thinker, leading us to step outside the mundane ideas with which we may have regarded the themes of prayer and biblical interpretation.

The physical presentation, that is the print format of the book, allows the reader to choose topics as he wishes, without being hampered by a rigid framework.

Highly recommended. 

 

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Sunday, 24 October 2021

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