Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook – educator of generations

Publication Date14 February 2022
Publication titleIsrael National News (Israel)
As we approach the fortieth anniversary of the passing of Moreinu ve'Rabbeinu Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook zt"l (14 Adar 5742 [1982] - this year the 15th of February) ), it is incumbent upon us to remember the illuminating figure of the Torah leader who was privileged to continue the path of his illustrious father and expound, clarify, and strengthen the base of the doctrine of ha'Torah ha'go'elet (the Redeeming Torah). As a result, the value of Torah study among the National-Religious public was elevated to the point where tens and hundreds of yeshivas, mechinot, midrashot, ulpanot, for men and women, arose due to his direct influence and that of his disciples

Rav Tzvi Yehuda zt"l turned the National-Religious public into an influential and central factor in Israeli society, and even altered the map of Eretz Yisrael in the expansion of settlement to Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights.

Moreinu ve'Rabbeinu Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook was born on Seder night 5651 (1891) to his father Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, who served at that time as rabbi in Zoimel. When he was thirteen, his family immigrated to Eretz Yisrael, and his father was appointed Rabbi of Jaffa and the Moshavot. Afterwards, Rav Tzvi Yehuda ascended to Jerusalem, and studied at the Torat Chaim Yeshiva.

From his early childhood, Rav Tzvi Yehuda grew up in the light of his illustrious father. Even when he studied and heard from other rabbis, his father was still his rabo ha'muvhak (primary teacher) in the full sense of the word. A Heavenly plan brought Rabbi Kook and his son Rav Tzvi Yehuda to Europe at the outbreak of World War I. They could not return to Israel, and consequently, remained in Switzerland for almost two years. During this period, Rav Tzvi Yehuda merited studying in a chevruta with his father. He later said that at that time, they managed to study "the entire Torah, twice."

This week I heard from Jerusalem Rabbi Isser Klonsky shlita, in a talk he gave at our yeshiva, a beautiful definition: Maran HaRav Kook illuminated Orot (spiritual lights, and the title of his seminal works), and Rav Tzvi Yehuda paved paths to Orot. In other words, Maran HaRav devoted himself to writing Torah works, and Rav Tzvi Yehuda devoted himself to educating people.

My Special Connection

I have a special connection to Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz"l – he is the rav muvhak of my father and teacher. I myself was also privileged to have seen him countless times during my childhood years. Ever since I was three, I recall events with Rav Tzvi Yehuda, when my father and I sat beside, or opposite him. Because the room was usually crowded, my father would hint to me to vacate my chair and sit on his knees. And so, as a small child on his father's knees, I heard Rav Tzvi Yehuda on Israel Independence days, in the new yeshiva and in the old one, in his house, and in his sukkah, on Chagim and on Tisha B'Av when he would teach the Gemara in Tractate Gittin, or Eicha Rabbah.

A number of times, we drove with him to various events, such as an event in Gush Etzion, and once on the night of 28th of Iyar when those gathered danced to the Kotel, and Rav Tzvi Yehuda was driven there, and we were in the car with him. I was also present at the famous speech from the nineteenth Independence Day before the Six Day War, in which he cried out, in sort of prophecy, just three weeks before they returned to Jewish hands: "Where is our Hebron?! Where is our Shechem?! Where is our Jericho?! Have we forgotten them?!"

As I recall, we drove to the event from the Givat Mordechai neighborhood with Rabbi Amital ztz"l. From the age of fourteen, I regularly attended his classes until he passed away, and more than once, I asked him questions about spiritual matters intriguing me. Once, when I came with my good friend, the chacham ha'collell (the all-encompassing Torah scholar) Rabbi Ze'ev Sultanovich, we heard Rav Tzvi Yehuda groan in pain, and his doctor, Dr. Schosseheim z"l, said yet again that he had no choice but to go to the hospital. His faithful young house companion, Rabbi Yossi Badichi, accompanied him, ever anxious about his well-being.

Chose My Name

Moreover, he was my sandak, and I was named after a dream he had when I was born – a dream about which he reminded me dozens of times - in fact, whenever I saw him. More than once, when he thought there was someone in the room who had not yet heard the story, he would recount it, even though the rest of those gathered had already heard it several times, and I was embarrassed. More than once, when there were new people present, I preferred to sit at a distance, so that he would not see me, and tell the story again.

For the first time, I myself will write the story he would tell.

While he was ill and lying in Shaare Zedek Hospital, one morning he was informed in a dream: "Eliezer is coming! You do not know? Eliezer is coming!" He awoke astonished and fully aware, and thought that perhaps it was Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, author of the Tzitz Eliezer responsa, who was about to come visit him, or perhaps Rabbi Eliezer Waldman ztz"l, his cherished student. At that moment, my father, a young student who was very close to him, entered his room, to tell him that he had just had his first-born son, born to him in another room in the hospital. Rav Tzvi Yehuda asked: "Have you thought about what to name him? Perhaps you have an Eliezer in your family?", for he had dreamt that Eliezer had come. When Rav Tzvi Yehuda would tell the story, he would end with a big smile, point at me, and show those present: "And here is Eliezer!"

My father said that between my birth and the brit, every day after he visited my mother (at that time, mothers stayed in the hospital for at least seven days), he would go visit the Rav. Rav Tzvi Yehuda would ask repeatedly if they had already decided what to name the boy, if they thought to call him Eliezer, and tell him about the dream. Since my parents had no thoughts of calling me Eliezer, my father went to consult with Rabbi Shalom Natan Raanan zt"l, the Rosh Yeshiva, and Rav Tzvi Yehuda's brother-in-law, and ask him...

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