Rabbi Kook and the Modernization of Judaism
Rabbi Abraham-Yitzhak ha-Cohen Kook (1865-1935) is, without doubt, one of the most celebrated rabbis of the twentieth century. He is known to most people, however, only as the founder of Religious Zionism. We frequently overlook the fact that the foundations of his teachings reflect a deep modernization of the Jewish faith itself and of its approach to an array of contemporary problems.
Rav Kook’s uniqueness lay in his ability to deal with different groups of Jews, including the nonreligious, and to build bridges between them. This ability was symbolized by two portraits that hung in his study: one of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe), founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch trend within the Chassidic Movement, and one of the Vilna Gaon, who strongly opposed Chassidism. This is what made him such a controversial person and at the same time such a great man.