Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rav Kook and The Satmar Rav: Common Denominators

This is the speech I prepared for my son's bris last week. Although there was some slight variation in the actual delivery, this is the crux of the message given over.

I apologize about the tardiness of posting the speech, but as can be imagined, there were many other things to deal with...

The rach hanimol is named after my mother-in-law’s father, Reb Elyakim ben Yaakov Yehoshua Roth.

I saw a very interesting medrash when I was looking into the sources of the name Elyakim in Tanach. According to the Sifri and others, the biblical Elyakim belongs to a unique group of individuals in Tanach: among the many personalities mentioned throughout the twenty four sifrei Tanach only a select few earn the kinui of eved HaShem. Elyakim is one of them, as can be seen in Isaiah, where the Navi explicitly mentions Elyakim as an eved HaShem (22:20).

So what qualities are needed to be considered an eved HaShem? According to the Radak, this special status indicates that the person in question has fully given himself over to the carrying out of God’s will, b’chol me’odo, until the last drop of his reserves. This leads us to the question of what traits one needs to begin on this path. Where is the starting point?

The rach hanimol was born on 26 Av, the yahrtzeit of the Satmar Rav, Reb Yoel Teitelbaum zatzal. Today, the day of the bris, is 3 Elul, the yahrtzeit of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zatzal. At first, this observation seems ironic considering the ideological differences between these two great tzaddikim, but soon I came to appreciate what this connection between the two symbolized. Despite their obvious differences, the truth is that they had more similarities than differences. To enumerate them all would take too much time, but we will focus on two main ideas:

The first is the unwavering commitment each had to their cause, their vision of what Torah Judaism could and should be. In a world where many caved to various pressures from all sides these two tzaddikim gave no quarter; they could not be swayed from what they felt was yashar. This iconoclasm was so much more than a tendency to be contrarian for its own sake; rather, it was a natural progression from their intense desire to fight for emes. It didn’t matter if it was the popular way, or the politically correct way – if it needed to be done, they did it in their inimitable fashion, often polarizing their surroundings. It may not have been the most popular way, or the most politically correct but that never stopped them.

The second is their boundless love for every single Jew, one of the driving forces behind all of their efforts. Despite the Satmar Rav’s many political stances which were often underscored by polemics, there is no question that the Rebbe loved every single Jew with a burning passion. The same is true for Rav Kook; his many writings expressed an outpouring of love for his fellow Jews that was unparalleled in any way that we have seen.

This second point is especially fitting in light of what I have learned about the rach hanimol’s namesake. I never had the pleasure of meeting my wife’s grandfather, but when I asked her to describe him, the first thing that came to mind – and indeed, to everyone’s mind when asked about him – was his tremendous resources of love for all, especially his family.

It is my hope that our son Elyakim will continue to exemplify these two traits as he develops into a true servant of God.

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