A tortured soul

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s efforts to reconcile religion and enlightenment, but his position on Halacha and state was alienating.

By
June 26, 2014 13:07
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook in Washington, DC, on the day of his White House visit, April 15, 1924. (photo credit: COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS)

 
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Few souls have been tortured so famously and to such a powerful effect as that of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. In his short but comprehensive biography, Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution, Yehuda Mirsky skillfully and majestically tells the tragic story of this moral and intellectual genius, who struggled – but failed – at the impossible task of reconciling an uncompromising commitment to an irrational Orthodox Judaism with modernity and enlightened ethics.

That Kook’s thought has been so widely misunderstood, and used to justify a potentially dangerous mix of irrational faith and politics, only compounds the tragedy.

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