High priest of rebirth; the life, times, and thought of Abraham Isaac KuK

By Jacob B. Agus

Published by  Bloch Publishing Company

Extracts from book, with permission from publisher.

miraculously rebuilt at any hour.  He and Kuk, therefore, set apart regular periods for the joint study of the sections of the Talmud dealing with the laws of  sacrifices. The hour of redemption seemed to be close at hand and the bitter problems of the day remote indeed, whenever they were occupied with the intricacies of the hallowed ceremonies  that their ancestors performed during the days of Israel's ancient glory.  But the older man was a realist and he recalled his younger colleague soon enough to the burdens of leadership in the confused contemporary age.  Thru his persuasion, the twenty-four year old Abraham Isaac Kuk consented to accept the call to the rabbinate of the town of Zoimel.
      The time for quiet reflection had come to an end.  The time for action had arrived.
      However, in the town of Zoimel where he stayed for six uneventful years, Rabbi Kuk was still largely the student.  Pastoral and preaching obligations in Zoimel were few and unexacting. The young rabbi was able to continue his studies, with only minor interruptions.  Thus, his routine was not changed materially, though he was now faced with the problems of living men, not merely questions of abstract dialectics.  From time to time, he would go out on preaching tours to plead for a more conscientious observance of the mitzvah of Tefillin.  For this purpose, too, he composed a little book, Chabesh Pair.  Perhaps the outstanding event in his life during those years was his acquaintance with Rabbi Solomon Eliashev of Shavell the great Kabbalist, in whose company he stayed up many a night, poring over the books of Lurianic Kabbalah. As will be amply illustrated in the following chapters Kuk's philosophy was in the main an adaptation and interpretation of the basic  ideas of Kabbalah, which entered into he mainstream of his thought during the quiet years that he spent in Zoimel.
     At the age of 30, he became rabbi of the comparatively large city of Boisk, which is  situated in Lithuania, close to the border of the province of Kurland, at that time well within the sphere of influence of German culture.  In Boisk, Rabbi Kuk faced the challenge of the spirit of modernism at close quarters and there the originality of his thinking and his innate moral courage first found expression in word and deed.

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Copyright © 1999, Barry Mann