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Archive for April 6th, 2008

Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) known more concisely as Rav Kook, was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine. He was quite a unique figure in the synthesis which he created between different streams of Jewish thought and the bridges that he built with the secular and particularly the Zionist world in his belief that the secular and anti-religious pioneers of the State-to-be of Israel were the forerunners of a coming messainic era.

Rav Kook was also a man of the arts although he probably would not have classified himself thus. He wrote poetry of which “The faith” and “Expanses, expanses” (scroll to the bottom of the file to read in English) are examples. He also deeply appreciated art and wrote in several places on the spiritual dimensions of the arts.

Rav Kook was caught on a trip in London when the First World War broke out and spent several years there. While he was there he visited the National Gallery and later used the following words to describe paintings there by Rembrandt:

When I lived in London I used to visit the National gallery and my favorite pictures were those of Rembrandt. I really think that Rembrandt was a Tzadik (a saint). Do you know that when I first saw Rembrandt’s works, they reminded me of the legend about the creation of light? We are told that when God created light it was so strong and pellucid, that one could see from one end of the world to the other, but God was afraid that the wicked might abuse it. What did He do? He reserved that light for the righteous when the Messiah should come. But now and then there are great men who are blessed and privileged to see it. I think that Rembrandt was one of them, and the light in his pictures is the very light that was originally created by God Almighty.

(Reported in Jewish Chronicle, London , September 13, 1935).

I think that’s the light I am looking for as well. The light that is more than light. The light that illuminates and shines out of a masterpiece and makes it more than just an impression of reality.

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