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Rosh HaShana: Kabbalat Ole Malchut Shamayim / Accepting God’s Kingship

Lesson 22 Sept 20/Elul 29

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865 – 1935) was born in Griva, Latvia. His father was a student of the Volozhin Yeshiva, and he himself entered that Yeshiva in 1884, where he became close to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netziv). Acknowledged as a prodigy, at the age of 23, he took his first rabbinical position. In 1904, he came to the Land of Israel to assume the rabbinical post in Jaffa, which also included responsibility for the new secular Zionist agricultural settlements nearby. The outbreak of the First World War caught him in Europe, and he was forced to remain in London and Switzerland for the remainder of the war. Upon returning, he was appointed the Rav of Jerusalem and soon after, as first Chief Rabbi of Israel. Rav Kook was a man of strict halakhah (Jewish law), while at the same time being open to new ideas. He wrote on religion and politics, as well as spirituality and poetry. He is known for having a distinctly unique approach in his many writings where he weaves a tapestry of Mussar, philosophy and halakhah. This drew many religious and non-religious people to him, and his books and personality continue to be influential to this day.
The prohibition [of enjoying the world without saying blessings] comes from the lacking to bless the good, which is the foundation of the service of God, may He be blessed. Therefore, it is forbidden for a person to derive pleasure/benefit without blessing. However, there is something else to know, that all worldly pleasures do not achieve their potential except when being used for morally sanctioned enjoyment through a Mussar perspective, which is the [intimate] knowledge of God on earth. Thus, enjoyment without blessing and experiencing pleasures only for their potential material enjoyment alters their actual/real potential and is therefore comparable to [the prohibition of] enjoying that which is sanctified to heaven, whose purpose is to complete a person in his/her elevated and exalted spiritual wholeness, yet [when indulging for purely materialistic benefit/pleasure] one lowers their value to use them for their material benefits. And [the prohibition of] meilah (misusing something consecrated to the temple for one’s own benefit) exists through changing [the intended usage of something to another usage], as the rabbis say about meilah and as proven by the halachik (Torah law) authorities. From this comes the extreme watchfulness demanded not to alter consecrated items, especially not to change something from a stricter level of consecration to lighter levels of consecration. [Olat Reiya “Berachot”]
How do you understand Rav Kook’s comparison between experiencing worldly pleasure without first blessing God and the prohibition of using sanctified items for one’s personal benefit ("meilah")? In what way does this lesson impact your concept of "Kabbalat ole malchut Shamayim"?
Your practice for this week is to focus on prayer using Psalm 27 as your guide. As you recite L'David today, concentrate with special intensity on the meaning of the following verse and how it applies to you. Allow the words of the Psalm to guide you to an acceptance of God’s sovereignty. Feel free to express your thoughts and feelings in your own words:
Verse 4:
“One [thing] I ask of the Lord, [it is one thing] that I seek — that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit in God’s sanctuary.
אַחַ֚ת שָׁאַ֣לְתִּי מֵֽאֵת יְהֹוָה֘ אוֹתָ֪הּ אֲבַ֫קֵּ֥שׁ שִׁבְתִּ֣י בְּבֵֽית יְ֖הֹוָה כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיַּ֑י לַֽחֲז֥וֹת בְּנֹֽעַם יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה וּלְבַקֵּ֥ר בְּהֵיכָלֽוֹ.
Why would we ask to visit God’s sanctuary after seeking to dwell in the house of the Lord? Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik explained that one who dwells in a home will, over time, lose the excitement. The myriad details of the home will be forgotten. In contrast, a visitor notices each detail and is excited by each aspect of the home. We ask to live in God’s home but to maintain the freshness and excitement of a visitor.
Allow the words of the Psalm to remind you to be a “visitor in God’s sanctuary,” however you understand that to mean. Once again, bring a heightened sense of awareness to the myriad goodness and kindness that God surrounds you with in your life. Feel free to express your thoughts and feelings in your own words.

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Today’s learning is sponsored by Bonnie Pastor, in memory of her beloved grandmother “Nanny” Fay Gelfound, who exemplified lovingkindess (chesed), for her and her brother and sister.

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