Elul: Unity and Repentance

This piece by Rav Kook z"ya is, I feel, most important for every single one of us - not just especially at this time of year, but even more so specifically at this point in our history, when old, archaic concepts, bubbles and sectarian divisions that should have been left behind in the galut still sadly remain with us...

[Rav Kook wrote the following article in 1933 for the journal HaYasod.]

As we stand before the beginning of a new year, it is incumbent upon us to draw near to the path of teshuvah (repentance), which brings redemption and healing to the world.

The Jewish people have become divided into two camps, through the categorization of Jews as Charedi (religious) and Chofshi (secular). These are new terms, which were not used in the past. Of course, not everyone is identical, especially in spiritual matters; but there was never a specific term to describe each faction and group. In this respect, we can certainly say that previous generations were superior to ours.

Emphasizing this categorization obstructs the way towards improvement for both camps. One who feels that he belongs to the Charedi camp looks down upon the secular camp. If he thinks about teshuvah and improvement, he immediately casts his eyes in the direction of the Chofshi camp, devoid of Torah and mitzvot. He is confident that full repentance is required by the irreligious, not by him.

The secular Jew, on the other hand, is convinced that any notion of penitence is a Charedi concept, completely irrelevant to him.

It would be better if each person would concentrate on discerning his own defects, and judge others generously. It could very well be that others have treasure-troves of merits, hidden from sight. We must recognize that there exists in all of the camps a latent force leading towards goodness. Each camp has much to improve upon, and is capable of learning much from the light and goodness of the other camp.

Let us be known to each other by one name - "Klal Yisrael". And let our prayer be fulfilled:

"May they all become one group, to perform Your Will whole- heartedly" [from the High Holiday prayers].

[adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah, p. 58]

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