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Israel's National Rejuvenation, Holy or Secular?

Israel's national rejuvenation, expressed practically by the existence of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, encompasses many different levels, which we can divide into two categories: Bringing the secular to life and bringing the holy to life. Rejuvenation of the secular includes returning to all the realms we could not develop during the bitter days of exile. It has political, economic, and military existence, our culture, and arts.
In the early days of Zionism, religious people objected to having the Zionist Congress concern itself with culture and religion, fearing that this might inhibit cooperation between different sectors of the nation and interfere with achieving the desired political goal of establishing a viable country. Rav Kook opposed this approach and felt it was only possible to have an authentic national awakening with a corresponding cultural rejuvenation. It is necessary to become involved in culture despite the danger that this might force us to struggle to form its proper characteristics (Igrot Re'iyah, 158).

And what constitutes holy rejuvenation?

We might have thought that it would consist of returning to traditional religious behavior, which is concerned only with each individual's spiritual fate and happiness and not with political rejuvenation – that is, that the nonreligious sector would repent and begin to observe the mitzvot (commandments). However, while it is undoubtedly essential for every Jew to keep all of the mitzvot (commandments), that is not the main focus of the "Holy" rejuvenation!

The holy without the secular is weak and does not have the power to lift up the lives of the community and all humanity. Secular living contains a power of holiness that could not break through during the exile, including the "sanctity of nature." This will be revealed by the redemption process (see Orot, page 45, and Orot HaKodesh Section 2, 23). This leads us to conclude that secular rejuvenation is a form of renewal of sanctity and not merely a preliminary step toward the goal.

The denial by religious people of the value of the rebirth of the secular and the view of participation in the Zionist enterprise as a dangerous adventure that is liable to exact too high a price while at the same time raising the banner of religious isolation – all this will lead holiness to become weaker since it cannot stand alone without the vitality of the secular life.

Rav Kook writes:
"In religious circles on the other hand (that is: as opposed to the drying up of the holy sources by the academic secular sector), this can lead to a weakening of force, because of a lack of the secular influence… We must therefore reveal the program of unified spiritual force, since this is our unique secret which will never be revealed to any other nation." [Igrot Har’iyah, 748].

Religious holiness, which Rav Kook describes as "regular holiness," is no more than one aspect of true exalted holiness. Exposing the holy form of holiness, which operates in all realms of life and appears in all its perfection through the combination of the various identities that make up the public face of Israel – religion, nationalistic feeling, and a cosmopolitan outlook (see Orot, pages 70-72) – is the mission of the generation of rejuvenation.

For more insight into this concept, let us invite you to read Rabbi Cherki's book: "Holiness and Neture," an E-book that got a recommendation from Israel President Isak Hertzog. Be aware that it will be sold at a total price in a week after fully uploading to the site!

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