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How pleasant are the footsteps on the mountain
The footsteps of the messenger,
Calling out peace,
Announcing goodness,
Calling out salvation,
Saying to Zion:
“Your God is King!”

The voice of your watchmen
Shout out together, for joy,
Each eye will see
God’s return to Zion.

Break out, shout together,
Ruins of Jerusalem.
God will comfort His nation:
He will redeem Jerusalem.

Isiah 52:7-9


13 August in History

In 1872, birthdate of German born chemist, Richard Willstätter. Willstatter won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1915 for his study of the structure of chlorophyll and other plant pigments. He resigned his position on the faculty at a university in Munich over the issue of anti-Semitism. After Hitler’s rise to power, he fled to Switzerland where he died in 1942.

3 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Chief Rabbi of Israel for 19 years of his life (1865-1935). The first chief rabbi of what was then Palestine, Rav Kook was perhaps the most misunderstood figure of his time. Born in Latvia of staunch Chassidic and Misnagid stock, he retained throughout his life a unique blend of the mystical and the rational. He was a thorough master of the entire Halachic, Midrashic, philosophic, ethical, and Kabbalistic literature.

He saw the return to Eretz Yisrael as not merely a political phenomenon to save Jews from persecution, but an event of extraordinary historical and theological significance. Rabbi Hutner once said that Rav Kook peered down on our world from great heights and hence his perspective was unique. Above all, Rav Kook pulsated with a sense of the Divine.

Though keenly aware of the huge numbers of non-observant Jews, he had a vision of the repentance of the nation. His concept of repentance envisioned in addition to the repentance of the individual, a repentance of the nation as a whole; a repentance which would be joyous and healing. He refused to reject Jews as long as they identified themselves as Jews. He called for and envisioned a spiritual renaissance where “the ancient would be renewed and the new would be sanctified.”

14 August in History

In 1447, following a fire in Posen (Poland) where the original charter granting the Jews “privileges” was written, (by Casimir the Great), Casimir IV renewed all of their rights, making his charter one of the most liberal in Europe. This charter lasted less than a decade before it was revoked.

4 Elul in History

Today is the fourth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk, the Ohr Someach and Meshech Chochma (1843-1926). In a famous near prophetic passage written before 1926, he presents a brilliant theory of Jewish history in exile and refers to those who forget their origins and think “Berlin is Jerusalem”, and are doomed to destruction (B’chukosai). R’ Meir Simcha served as Rabbi of Dvinsk for nearly 40 years. R’ Meir Simcha was a strong supporter of the settlement of Eretz Yisrael and greeted the Balfour Declaration with enthusiasm. In 1906 he was offered the position of rabbi of Jerusalem but bowed to the entreaties of his congregants to remain in Dvinsk.

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August 2010