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126 SHOFAR Summer1997 Vol.IS,No.4 Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and Jewish Spirituality, edited by Lawrence J. Kaplan and David Shatz. New York: NewYork University Press, 1995. 346 pp. $55.00 (c); $20.00 (p). More than sixty years after his death, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) remains one ofthe most interesting figures in modem Jewish history and thought. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to think of another Jewish leader of the present century whose life and work are worthy of study for so many reasons. For Rav Kook was at the same time a major formulator of Religious Zionism, a Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem, a poet, a Halakhic authority, and a visionary mystic of the highest order. However, beyond his varied accomplishments and talents, Rav Kook was a true original, and as is often the case with the sui generis, he remains controversial, enigmatic, and elusive. Virtually aIr areas of Rav Kook's life are intriguing as well as problematic. Although he was the product of the Lithuanian Yeshivah world, his critique ofthe disembodied sterility of Eastern European religiosity made him suspect in the eyes of the leaders of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem. His belief in the essential holiness of the activities of secular Zionists provoked the charge ofheresy. As exponent of Religious Zionism, Rav Kook held views that combined tolerant universalism and committed particularism and resulted in his being adopted as mentor by both left- and right-wing factions in Israel. As religious thinker, Rav Kook reveals both highly poetic and unsystematic elements in his writings. Many of his writings have never been published, and those that have betray the hand oftheir particular editors. Although the mystical elements in his thought are pronounced, his unique mode of expression obfuscates the precise relationship of his thought to classical kabbalistic sources. An inspired, monistic mystic, he was an equally ardent and committed messianist. While no cUrrent work can hope to solve the mystery of all of the apparent contradictions and perplexities surrounding Rav Kook, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and Jewish Spirituality, a collection ofpreviously unpublished essays, edited by Professors Kaplan and Shatz, sheds light on some of the most compelling issues. As the editors reveal in their introduction, the essays are meant to appeal to an intelligent general reader, rather than to specialists in Rav Kook's thought. The essays address three core areas of interest: "Rav Kook's relationship to the various streams of the Jewish tradition; his approach to faith, culture, and their interrelationship; and his political thought ... we move from the sources of Rav Kook's thought to its more major theoretical perspectives and principles to its more practical side." All three sections contain essays written by leading academic scholars in the United States and Israel. The first section situates Rav Kook's thought within four streams of Jewish tradition: mysticism, philosophy, poetry, and Halakhah. Lawrence Fine's essay on Rav Kook and Jewish mysticism calls appropriate attention to the "Hasidic" quality ofhis mysticism. Lawrence 1. Kaplan's essay on the philosophical stream is particularly Book Reviews 127 interesting in its analysis ofRav Kook's relationship to Maimonides. Also worthy of note is Michael Z. Nehorai's rare article on the little-understood nature ofRav Kook's rabbinic ,rulings. The second section is organized around the '~perspective of harrnonism," an issue addressed directly by Norman Lamm. Lamm's essay attempts to distinguish Rav Kook's conception of monism and its view of the secular from the . earlier Hasidic approach. Benjamin Ish-Shalom's essay deals effectively with important issues concerning RavKook's pluralism and policy of tolerance and their limitations within his generally monistic outlook. The third section is┬Ědevoted to Rav Kook's political views involving "Zionism, Messianism, and the State of Israel." While Ella Belfer's essay deals specifically with the place of the secular in Rav Kook's messianism, the iu1icles by Jerome I. Gellman, Warren Zev Harvey, and Tamar Ross attempt, each in its own way, to answer the question of how Rav Kook might view the State ofIsrael today. While none ofthese essays can really offer a defmitive answer to this interesting and hotly debated question, they will...

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