AJL Review of Song of Teshuvah

by Chaim Seymour

Weinberger, Moshe. Song of Teshuvah: A Commentary on Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kooks Oros HaTeshuvah. Adapted by Yaacov Dovid Shulman; text of Oros HaTeshuvah translated by Yaakov Dovid Shulman. Jerusalem: Penina Press, 2011. 351 pp. (9781936068241).

This is the first of two volumes, which include the text of Rav Kook’s Orot ha-Teshuva, together with an English translation and a commentary in English. Rav Kook was chief rabbi in Palestine during the British Mandate and his work was first published in Hebrew in 1925. The commentary is based on a series of lectures delivered by Rabbi Weinberger to members of his congregation.

The standard Hebrew edition of the work, which includes a critical apparatus, is complete in 155 pages. Rabbi Weinberger’s first volume (covering half of the text) is more than twice as long and it is immediately obvious that this is an ambitious commentary to a work which is far from easy.

The word teshuva is translated as repentance. However, Rabbi Kook had a wider view of repentance. If we believe that the world is improving and progressing towards a specific goal, then the world is going through a process of repentance. “The universe is all a single integrated reality.”

Of especial interest is the section on “Holy Insolence.” The Talmud describes the days preceding the coming of the Messiah, which envisions a corrupt society where the young have no respect for their elders, etc. However, Rabbi Weinberger explains that Rav Kook sees this insolence as positive, since the aggression is the manifestation of a deep need to understand.

I was impressed by the English translation, for example: “Teshuvah is the elixir that brings us back to Hashem.” I have studied Rav Kook’s work in the past and found it difficult. Rabbi Weinberger helps the reader understand the text; however, a reader will still be required to make a real effort to understand this work.

from AJL Reviews (February/March 2012)


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