Rav Avraham Itzhak Hacohen Kook

Between Rationalism and Mysticism

By Benjamin Ish-Shalom

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791413708, 357 pages, August 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413692, 357 pages, August 1993

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Table of contents


Part One: Introduction

1. In the Grip of Contradiction


Formative Influences and Sources
The "Old Yishuv" and the "New Yishuv"--Unbridgeable Distance
The Problem of Education--Tradition versus Innovation
From "Zion" to "Jerusalem"


Part Two: Elements of Reality and Preception

2. Reality and Truth--Epistemology and Ontology


Certainty and Doubt
The Ontological Status and Epistemological Value of Metaphysical Speculations
Types and Stages of Perception
Will and Wisdom--Elements of Reality and Perception


3. Revelation as a Principle


Will and the Concept of Revelation
Relativity of Views and Deeds
The Jewish People as a Revelation of Divine Will
The Perception of Torah and Status of the Commandments


Part Three: Religion and Freedom

4. The Concept of "Freedom" and the Category of "Self"


Freedom of Thought, Free Choice, and the Concept of "Self"
"Self-Awareness" and Intensification of Will
Individualism and Moral Relation to Society
The Concept of "Sin" and Idea of Repentance


5. Man and the Origin of the Religious Phenomenon

6. The Purpose of Man and Existence

7. The Way of the Holy

Part Four: Between Rationalism and Mysticism

8. The Dynamic of Rationalism and Mysticism in Rav Kook's Thought


Rationalism and Mysticism--A Definition of Terms
Domains of Rationalism and Mysticism
Mysticism and Reason--Experience and Interpretation


9. Mystical Language, Myth, and Symbol


Expression and Concealment
Myth and Symbol


10. Before the Secret of Existence


The Experience of Encompassing Unity
The Experience of Metaphysical Ability
Mystical Striving



Glossary of Selected Names and Terms


This is the first comprehensive philosophical-theological study of the mystical thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), the Chief Rabbi of Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, and the great representative of the most significant renewal of the Jewish mystical thought in modern times. Rav Kook was the spiritual and hallachic authority who laid the foundation of religious Zionism. Discontent with "Hamizrakhi" political pragmatism, he envisioned Zionism as a movement of return and all-encompassing Jewish renaissance.

This book dissolves the mist enveloping Rav Kook's writings and offers an understanding of his spiritual world. It presents and analyzes the systematic elements in his teaching and reveals the spiritual interests and fundamental approaches of his religious thought.

Benjamin Ish-Shalom is on the Faculty of Humanities in the Department of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also Rector at the Center for Advanced Jewish Studies, Beit Morasha of Jerusalem.