Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hidden gems

A recent comment on an essay by R. Yitzchak Adlerstein over at Cross-Currents mentioned anecdotally that Eliezer Ben-Yehuda use to walk down the block to consult with his neighbor Rav Kook regarding his work developing modern Hebrew. While that tidbit of information is very interesting, it brought to mind something else that I heard recently:

The word "history" is Hebraicized as Historia; traditionally, the word is spelled with the letter tet, as in היסטוריה. 

Rav Kook, however, made a point of spelling historia with a tav, so that the word was spelled היסתוריה.

His son Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook explained his father's particularity as follows: spelled with a tav, the word historia has the root letters samech-tav-reish, the same root if the word seter or hester, both words that allude to something hidden. In referring to history, Rav Kook didn't see any event that didn't have a measure of hester Panim an element of Divine Providence that may have been obscured by the actual events occurring.

The way a Jew learns history is informed by his awareness of God and the recognition that there is so much going on beneath the surface. Being able to perceive what is hidden, or not readily observable is something that takes work; it involves increasing our sensitivity to the spiritual and being mindful of why we are here in this Earth.

A very good lesson for this time of year, with Purim (sort of) right around the corner.

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