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Abraham Isaac Kook’s Doctrine of Science and Kabbalah

Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen Kook (1865-1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, sought in his writings to develop a theological vision of Jewish spiritual and national renewal through the return to Zion. Drawing on one of Kook’s recently published manuscripts, Bezalel Naor explains his suggestion that a synthesis of kabbalah and science (or secular knowledge more generally) could be put into the service of this vision. As a model of that synthesis, Naor writes, Kook looked to the work of the 17th-century Rabbi Abraham Cohen Herrera:

Herrera (d. 1635) studied in Ragusa (today Dubrovnik, Croatia) under Rabbi Israel Sarug, a peripatetic teacher who transmitted a form of kabbalah based on the teachings of Isaac Luria [1534-1572] to several distinguished students in Italy. . . .

Herrera’s Spanish work of kabbalah, Puerta del Cielo (“Gate of Heaven”), remained until recently an unpublished manuscript. Luckily, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca (1605-1693), who would become the rabbi of the Portuguese community of Amsterdam, translated portions of the work into Hebrew at Herrera’s behest. The [translation] was printed in Amsterdam in 1655 under the title Sha’ar ha-Shamayim.

What strikes the reader of Sha’ar ha-Shamayim is the ease with which Herrera juxtaposes arcane Lurianic kabbalah and Neoplatonic philosophy. . . . Herrera shuttles between Israel Sarug and [the 15th-century Italian Catholic Platonist] Marsilio Ficino without batting an eyelash. . . .

Kook asserts that in Sha’ar ha-Shamayim we have a rapprochement between kabbalah and the science of the day. In this, Kook may be barking up the wrong tree. In the 17th century, in the Netherlands as well as in Italy, there was a demarcation (however blurred) between philosophy and science. . . . Be that as it may, however, Kook advocates the marriage of kabbalah and science.

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More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Judaism, Kabbalah, Religion & Holidays, Renaissance, Science and Religion

 

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations