Zvi Yehuda Kook

Zvi Yehuda Kook (Hebrew: צבי יהודה קוק‎, 23 April 1891 – 9 March 1982) was an Orthodox rabbi, a prominent leader of Religious Zionism, and Rosh Yeshiva of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. He was the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine.[1][2]


Zvi Yehuda Kook
הרב צבי יהודה קוק
הרצי"ה והרב שפירא בכניסה לספרית מרכז הרב.png
Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook (right) with Rabbi Abraham Shapira
Born23 April 1891
Died9 March 1982(1982-03-09) (aged 90)
SpouseChava Leah Hutner
ParentsRabbi Abraham Isaac and Reiza Rivka Kook
PositionRosh Yeshiva
YeshivaMercaz HaRav
BuriedMount of Olives Jewish Cemetery, Jerusalem

His teachings are partially responsible for the modern religious settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, largely through the Gush Emunim movement, which was founded by his students. Many of his ideological followers established such settlements, and he has been credited with the dissemination of his father's ideas, helping to form the basis of Religious Zionism.[3]

Under the leadership of Kook, with its center in the yeshiva founded by his father, Jerusalem's Mercaz HaRav, thousands of Orthodox Jews campaigned actively against territorial compromise, and established numerous settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many of these settlements were subsequently granted official recognition by Israeli governments, both right and left.


Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook (left) with Rabbi Shlomo Goren (middle) and Rabbi Abraham Shapira (right) at Mercaz HaRav, 1981

Zvi Yehuda Kook was born in 1891 in Zaumel in the Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Žeimelis in Northern Lithuania), where his father served as rabbi. His mother was his father's second wife, Reiza Rivka, the niece of Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem together with Shmuel Salant. Kook was named after his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Rabinowitz-Teomim.[4]

In 1896, his father, with his entire family, moved to Bauska, Latvia, to serve as rabbi there. There Zvi Yehuda Kook studied Talmud under the guidance of Rabbi Reuven Gotfreud, the son-in-law of Rabbi Yoel Moshe Salomon, the founder of Petah Tikva. Later, he studied under R. Moshe Zeidel and Benjamin Levin. His principal teacher, however, remained his father throughout his life. His father also hired a private tutor to teach him Russian.[5]

In 1904, at age 13, he moved to Jaffa, when his father was appointed Chief Rabbi of the city, then part of Ottoman-controlled Palestine. Like his father, he would celebrate on each year the date of his ascent to Land of Israel, on the 28th day of Iyyar.[6]

In 1906, Zvi Yehuda Kook went to study at one of the most prominent yeshivas in Jerusalem at that time, Torat Chaim, in the future building of Ateret Cohanim. There, he became close to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Zerakh Epstein, despite being relatively young (around 15).

His studies there, however, did not last long. He soon returned to Jaffa, where he assisted his father in an attempt establish a yeshiva in Jaffa. During this time, he began his close relationship with Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap, a disciple of his father and future dean of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, and assisted Charlap in publishing Tzvi laTzadik.

In 1910, at age 19, he assisted his father in publishing Shabbat Haaretz on the sale permit for the Sabbatical year, even writing some of the Halachic preface.[7]

Seeing he lacked time to truly study Torah like most people his age, he decided to remove himself from public activity for some time. First, he went to Porat Yoseph, the leading Sephardic yeshiva of Jerusalem. Then, he left to Halberstadt, Germany, and studied there in the local yeshiva. He also attended lectures at the local university. In addition to his own studies, Kook taught Talmud, Halacha, and Bible to young men in the area.[8]

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he was arrested as a citizen of the Russian Empire, the enemy country. After several weeks under difficult conditions in a detention camp in Hamburg, he was released and allowed to return to Halberstadt, where he needed to report once every two days in the local office. Only the following year, at the end of 1915, was he granted permission to leave Germany and join his father in Switzerland, where he was stuck due to the war. There he learned with his father, until his father left in 1916 to fill a rabbinic position in London.[9]

In 1920, he returned to Palestine (then under the British Mandate) and began teaching at Netzakh Israel school. A year later, he went to Europe to promote his father's new movement, "Degel Yerushalayim", among the leading rabbis of Europe.

In 1922, he married Chava Leah Hutner in Warsaw. Chava Leah died childless in 1944, and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda remained a widower until his death nearly 40 years later.[10] From 1923, he served as the administrative director of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. After Rabbi Charlap died in 1952, he became Rosh Yeshiva until his own death. After the Six-Day War in 1967, he induced the Israeli government to approve the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and sent his students to that mission. He tried to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, which he saw as the precursor of the future Sanhedrin.

He passed away in Jerusalem on Purim of 1982, and was buried in the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery.[11][12]


The process of redemptionEdit

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook saw in the establishment of the modern State of Israel a major step in the redemption of the Jewish people. Many Torah scholars rejected the Zionist movement because they envisioned redemption as a future era that arrives complete from the very start, and not an ongoing process. But Talmudic Sages taught[13] that the redemption will take place "little by little", like the spreading light of dawn in the morning sky. This indicates that the redemption of Israel is a process that advances in stages. Furthermore, Rabbi Kook would note that the various stages of redemption are clearly described in the order of Ezekiel's prophecy (Ezekiel 36:24–28). Ezekiel first spoke of an initial stage of redemption, the ingathering of the exiles; only after that initial stage does the prophet describe the spiritual return of the people.[14][15]

Political viewsEdit

Rabbi Kook disapproved of religious coercion in Israel and even gave his support to the 'League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion.' In a newspaper interview, he explained, "I said at the time to the members of the 'League' that they were absolutely right: I hate religious coercion. With what sort of justice, and with what kind of integrity can one impose religion on a person?"[16]

He greatly respected Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach for his love for every Jew. When his students were surprised to see him meet with Carlebach - the "Singing Rabbi" known for his efforts to reach out to young men and women on the margins of Jewish society, he told them, "You should know, [Carlebach] goes to places that none of you ever go."[17]

He staunchly opposed any political moves to relinquish parts of the Land of Israel. "We are not a nation of conquerors. We are returning to the land of our fathers. No one, no prime minister, has the authority to renounce any part of the country. It belongs to the entire people of Israel, to the Jews of Pakistan, the United States and the Soviet Union."[11]

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda greatly admired Rabbi Meir Kahane and his activism on behalf of Jewry.[18] When Rabbi Kahane formed a political party, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda endorsed his bid for a Knesset seat. Though he had originally been a staunch supporter of the National Religious Party, he broke with them in 1974 after they entered the Rabin government over his opposition. In his letter of support to Kahane, he stated: "The presence of Rabbi Meir Kahane and his uncompromising words from the Knesset platform will undoubtedly add strength and value to the obligatory struggle on behalf of the entire Land of Israel." The announcement of his support of Rabbi Kahane and his letter were made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.[19]

According to his student Rabbi Uzi Kalheim, however, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook's support of Rabbi Kahane was more nuanced. The rabbi approved of Kahane's activities in the U.S. to protect Jews and bolster Jewish pride. But in Israel, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda did not agree with Kahane's positions. He felt that Rabbi Kahane should be able to serve in the Knesset and express his opinions there, but he himself did not agree with his views. He explicitly wrote that his support for Kahane was "without any identification with or connection to the specifics of his words and aims".[20]

Rabbi Kook's view was that Israel's struggle with the Arabs over the Land of Israel is a national one. The rights of individual minorities, however, must be respected. Thus, when the Israeli High Court ruled that the Elon Moreh group of settlers had to evacuate lands of the Rujeib village, which was under Palestinian ownership, the rabbi told his followers to abide by the court's verdict, even though his ideological view was that "there is no such thing as Arab land in Eretz Israel." Benny Katzover recalled: "The rabbi told us several times, 'We cannot damage land belonging to Ahmad and Mustafa', that we couldn't touch lands that had belonged to Arabs for generations."[21]

Rabbi Kook's approach is also apparent in a letter he wrote in 1947. The rabbi lodged a complaint with the principal and teachers at a Jewish school in Jerusalem after he witnessed a group of students physically and verbally harassing two Arab street vendors. "I was deeply pained and ashamed at what I saw", Rabbi Kook wrote. "This incident, which pained and embarrassed me, requires me to inform you of the need for particular attention to educate against such actions. Students must be taught that such behavior is prohibited - both due to the essential teachings of Torah, Judaism, and morality, and also due to the practical value for the Jewish community and maintaining peaceful relations with neighbors."[22]

Settlement movementEdit

Sometimes called the "prophet of Greater Israel,"[23] Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook was the leader of the now defunct[24] settler movement, Gush Emunim. Their beliefs are based heavily on the teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda's father, Rabbi Abraham Kook. The two rabbis taught that secular Zionists, through their conquests of the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), had unwittingly brought about the beginning of the "final redemption", which would end in the coming of the Jewish messiah.[25] Gush Emunim supporters believe that building Jewish settlement on land God has allotted to the Jewish people as outlined in the Hebrew Bible, is an important step in the process of redemption. Like his father, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Kook (whom some called "the Father of the Return to Judea and Samaria")[12] did not advocate aggressive conquest.[26]

Teaching emunahEdit

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook rarely gave lectures in the traditional yeshiva subjects of Halakha and Gemarah. This was not due to lack of knowledge, as his writings readily prove his expertise in these topics. Rather, he felt that his goal is to teach Emunah (Jewish thought). Once, a student asked him to deliver a Gemarah lecture, and the rabbi refused, explaining that his life project is to teach Emunah. His attitude to Emunah was influenced by his father, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Rabbi Kook (the father) wrote frequently about the need to study Emunah, especially in our generation. One notable example is the essay titled, "Me'at Tzori" in his book Eder Haykar.

In many yeshivot, there is little or no study of Emunah texts. In the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, where Rabbi Zvi Yehuda served as the yeshiva's dean for many years, there are many lectures on this topic, and students devote around one hour a day studying Emunah.

Attitude toward earlier rabbinic authoritiesEdit

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda held the previous generations of rabbis in the highest regard. He would quote the Talmudic proverb: "If the earlier generations were like angels, then we are like people. And if the earlier generations were like human beings, then we are like donkeys."[27]

In his writings, there are references to many of the major rabbis of earlier generations. For example, in the book Mitoch Hatorah Hagoelet, he wrote that the first Rebbe of Chabad, the author of the Tanya, was a "great man", but the Vilna Gaon was even greater.


The most well known among his students are rabbis Shlomo Aviner, Zvi Thau, Zalman Melamed, Yitzchak Sheilat, Avihu Schwartz, Dov Lior, Zephaniah Drori, Issar Klonsky, Haim Steiner, Yoel Bin-Nun, Eliezer Melamed, David Samson, Moshe Ganz, Nachum Romm, Haim Drukman, Aharon Shear-Yashuv, Moshe Levinger, and Yaakov Ariel. Several of these students are among those who he encouraged to establish settlements and moshavim.[28] Numerous yeshivas in Israel follow his teachings, primarily Mercaz HaRav.


Most of the younger Kook's published works were editions and collections of his father's work, but many of his original articles and letters were later collected and published in book form. [29]

  • Collections of articles: Or Lenetivati, Lenetivot Israel, two volumes.
  • Collections of letters: Tzemach Tzvi, Dodi Litzvi. Some of his letters are printed in Igrot HaRa'aya.
  • Lectures: Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda on the Torah (5 volumes), Mesilat Yesharim, Moadim (festivals), etc., by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Alan Dowty (1997). The Jewish State: A Century Later. University of CaliforniaPress. ISBN 0-520-22911-8.
  2. ^ David Weisburd (1985). Jewish Settler Violence: Deviance as Social Reaction. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-02673-1.
  3. ^ Hoch, Richard (1994). "Sovereignty, Sanctity, and Salvation: The Theology of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Ha-Kohen Kook and the Actions of Gush Emunim". Shofar. 13 (1): 90–118. doi:10.1353/sho.1994.0047. S2CID 170258662. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  4. ^ Volbershtein, Hilah (2010). Mashmia Yeshu'ah. Mercaz Shapiro, Israel: Machon Ohr Eztion. p. 4. ISBN 978-965-7277-18-8.
  5. ^ Volbershtein, Hilah (2010). Mashmia Yeshu'ah. Mercaz Shapiro, Israel: Machon Ohr Eztion. pp. 5–6. ISBN 9789657277188.
  6. ^ Volbershtein. Mashmia Yeshu'ah. p. 10.
  7. ^ Volbershtein. Mashmia Yeshu'ah. pp. 13–15.
  8. ^ Volbershtein. Mashmia Yeshu'ah. p. 18.
  9. ^ Volbershtein. Mashmia Yeshu'ah. pp. 20–21.
  10. ^ Inbari, Motti (2012). "Zionist Perceptions in the Thought of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and the Roots of Gush Emunim". Messianic Religious Zionism Confronts Israeli Territorial Compromises. Cambridge University Press. p. 17. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511920530.002. ISBN 9780511920530.
  11. ^ a b The New York Times obituary
  12. ^ a b Tzvi Fishman (12 March 2017). "In Memoriam: the teachings of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook". Israel National News. Arutz Sheva.
  13. ^ Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot 1:1
  14. ^ Kook, Zvi Yehuda. LeNetivot Yisrael vol. I. pp. 181–184, 192–200.
  15. ^ Morrison, Chanan (2010). Silver from the Land of Israel: A new light on the Sabbath and Holidays from the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook. Urim Publications. pp. 187–189. ISBN 978-9655240429.
  16. ^ Eliezer, Melamed. "The truth about Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ Volbershtein. Mashmia Yeshu'ah. pp. 155–156.
  18. ^ Kahane, Libby (2008). Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought Volume One: 1932-1975. Israel: Urim Publications. p. 225. ISBN 978-965-524008-5. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda invited Meir to accompany him to the Western Wall. Before they went, the rabbi asked another student, Rabbi Yaakov Filber, to bring his camera, and they were photographed together in the sukka and again at the Western Wall. Rabbi Yosef Bramson pointed out that Rabbi Kook did not like to be photographed, but he admired Meir so much that he actually requested it!
  19. ^ "Kook Supports Kahane". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Jerusalem. 31 January 1977.
  20. ^ Volbershtein, Hilah (2010). Mashmia Yeshu'ah. Mercaz Shapiro, Israel: Machon Ohr Eztion. p. 325. ISBN 978-965-7277-18-8.
  21. ^ Levinson, Chaim (11 March 2012). "Rabbi Kook's Followers Are Still Debating His Legacy". Haaretz. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  22. ^ Miskin, Maayana (7 March 2013). "Orbach: Rabbi Kook Against 'Price Tag'". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  23. ^ Rebecca Joyce Frey (2010). Fundamentalism. ISBN 978-1438108995.
  24. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica: Volume 8, p. 145
  25. ^ Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1991). Torat Eretz Yisrael. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications.
  26. ^ Judaism and the ethics of war, Norman Solomon. International Review of the Red Cross. Volume 87, Number 858, June 2005
  27. ^ Shabbat (Talmud) 112b
  28. ^ Samson, David (21 March 2019). "'We Must Persuade Them… With Our Tanks': The Worldview of Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook – On His 37th Yahrzeit". The Jewish Press (Interview). Interviewed by Tzvi Fishman. The Jewish Press. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  29. ^ Lustick, Ian (1988). "V. The Range of Disagreement within Jewish Fundamentalism". For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. ISBN 0-231-10608-4.

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