The Kosher Bookworm: “Rav Kook’s ‘Song of Teshuvah’”

By Alan Jay Gerber


It is with great personal pleasure to note the completion by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of his four volume English commentary on Rav Kook’s classic, “Song of Teshuvah” (Penina Press). This commentary makes available to the English speaking and learning public some of the most practical and understandable teachings concerning repentance as taught by one of the leading thinkers of our faith, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchal HaKohen Kook, zt’’l.

Rabbi Weinberger, of the Aish Kodesh Kehilah in Woodmere, and mashpia of Yeshiva University, has given to us an in-depth treasure house that will serve as an invaluable resource for this high holiday season and for many years to come.

I present to you just a sample of the concluding comments and sacred teachings from Rabbi Weinberger with the hope that this will encourage you to learn further from these teachings:

“As a result of our having sinned, we are removed from the root of our soul, from the One Whom we love. Therefore, our hearts are hurt, broken, disappointed, and angry.”

“Salvation will come only when we hear and respond to this song of teshuvah. We must therefore pray that teshuvah … will come into our lives.”

“A few years ago I went to Rav Kook’s burial site on Har HaZeisim, and I addressed him, ‘There are Jews outside of Eretz Israel who want to hear your song. May G-d help that you won’t abandon us.”

“There is a great thirst for these teachings, which can give life to many people. It is my prayer that more people will gain access to Rav Kook’s teachings and poetry and will, as a result, give pleasure to G-d and increase His honor. Hashem has given us the strength to come to this point, to complete this miraculous sefer.”

“All that Rav Kook wants to convey to us throughout this work is that the process of doing teshuvah should cause us to feel joy, excitement, exhilaration, wonder, and an immeasurable gratitude to G-d.”

For additional related study:

Recently an English translation of Rav Kook’s “Lights of Teshuvah” was published by Yaakov David Shulman, a direct translation of the Hebrew original of all 17 chapters from of this classic.

This simple and direct translation, without commentary, is clear in its presentment with a unique touch of both the prose and the poetry. This work will is a fine introduction to English-speakers of Rav Kook’s thinking.

Shulman’s work also contains his eloquent take on the real value and unique quality of Rav Kook’s theology on teshuvah:

“Rav Kook was a poet of the soul and a spokesperson for a complete human spirit that embraces contradiction, that reconciles the poles of this worldly and other worldly experience. His writings celebrate the union of legalism and poetry, particularism and universalism, faith hidden in atheism and atheism hidden in faith, the spirit revealed from the flesh, and beauty revealed through ugliness. …

“He championed the poetic and creative spirit within each individual. ‘Every time our heart beats with a true expression of spirituality,’ he wrote, ‘every time a new and exalted thought is born, we hear the likeness of a G-dly angel’s voice at the doors of our soul asking that we allow him entry so that he may appear to us in the totality of his beauty’.

“Ultimately, Rav Kook’s robust message is one of life and growth, hope and optimism. ‘Death is a false phenomenon,’ he taught, and ‘to the degree that quantity of movement toward wholesomeness grows, evil decreases and goodness is revealed’.”



Link to Rav Moshe Weinberger’s Commentary on Rav Kook’s ‘Song of Teshuva Vol. 4’

Article originally appeared in the Jewish Star on Sep. 3, 2017.

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