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Rabbi Kook on Death

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

A Teaching on the Vision of Death

by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook[1]

from Lights of Holiness, Volume 2, Section 380

Translated by Chuck Axelrod, Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein and Rabbi Pam Frydman

Death is a false vision. Its impurity is in its falsehood. That which human beings call death is actually the reinforcing of life and its power. Because of our deep absorption in smallness, in which the human heart is inclined to immerse itself, we imagine this strengthening of life in a sorrowful and dark form called death.

The Kohanim-Priests[2] were able to rise in holiness from this mistaken understanding from which it is impossible to escape while the rule of falsity holds so much sway in the world, except by averting one’s eyes from this vision that brings these mistaken impressions to the soul. Death does not enter the soul.[3] No soul will be rendered impure by it.[4]

[1]. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, known in Hebrew as HaRav Avraham Itzchak haCohen Kook, was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate Palestine. He lived from 1865 to 1935.

[2]. The Torah says of the Kohanim (Priests) of ancient Israel: “And the Lord said to Moses, Speak to the Kohanim (priests), the sons of Aaron, and say to them, ‘None (of you) shall be defiled for the dead among his people, except for his kin, who is near to him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother, and for his sister--a virgin, who is near to him, who has had no husband; for her may he be defiled.’” (Leviticus 21:1-3) “He (the High Priest) shall not go to any dead body, nor defile himself (even) for his father or his mother.”

[3]. Leviticus 21:11

[4]. Leviticus 21:1


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