הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק ידע להעריך כיבושה של עיר. בעיקר אם מדובר בירושלים. בראשית שנות העשרים הוא חיבר תפילה מיוחדת "לחגיגת יום כבוש ירושלים ע"י צבאות בריטניה". את העם הבריטי התפילה מכנה "גוי איתן, אוהב משפט וצדק":
למעשה, הרב קוק אהד את השלטון הבריטי מספיק כדי לחבר גם תפילה מיוחדת לשלומו של מלך אנגליה דאז, ג'ורג' החמישי. מאי 1923:
על יחסו המיוחד של הרב קוק למלכות הוא קיבל גם את "אות הכבוד מפקד-הכבוד של אזרחי הקיסרות הבריטית הנעלה ביותר" מאת הנציב העליון של פלסטינה, הרברט סמואל, ביוני 1923, על פי פקודה מהמלך ג'ורג'. הרב קוק ענד את אות הכבוד הזה והצטלם עמו, אף שהיה בצורת צלב (ולכן כיסה את אחת מזרועותיו):
יום ירושלים שמח.
התמונות מהספר 'מלאכים כבני אדם', מאת שמחה רז, הוצאת קול המבשר, 1993
ככל הנראה לרב קוק גם היה דוקטוראט כבוד. הנה דברים שכתבתי בשנת 2007 על שני הכיבודים שהוענקו לרב קוק.
Chief Rabbi A. I. Rav Kook" is mentioned with the honorary title of C.B.E. in his obituary in the year 1935 in paragraph #54 of the "Report by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britשin and Northern Ireland to the council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-Joran for the Year 1935". The document is brought on the Internet on a UN site – domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF
A prestigious honor, the British Royal C.B.E. order of chivalry , was conferred by King George V. In a letter dated June 11, 1922, Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner, informed Rav Kook that His Majesty, King George V, had honored him with the award of the "Commander of the British Empire". The document is in the archives of Beit Harav Kook, and was printed by Simcha Raz with a picture of Rav Kook wearing the medallion.
The C.B.E. is the third level of the British Empire order of chivalry. This order of the British Empire was instituted shortly after the First World War, on June 4, 1917 by King George V who reigned 1910-1936. Its purpose was to honor thousands who had served Great Britain in non-combatant capacities.
On July 1, 1920, when British military rule in Palestine officially ended, Herbert Louis Samuel was appointed as the first British High Commissioner in Palestine. One of Samuel's initiatives was to establish the Chief Rabbinate. On February 22, 1921, Rav Kook is chosen together with Sephardi Chief Rabbi R. Ya'akov Meir. Samuel wished to establish more prestige to the religious leadership, and in July 1921 encouraged Harry Fischel to help build a suitable residence for the Chief Rabbi.
In November 1924, Lord Samuel asked Rav Kook to prepare to be received in London by the Royal Court. This was on Rav Kook's way back from America via London. Bernard Homa reports that he had received "a cable from Sir Herbert Samuel, then High Commissioner for Palestine, addressed to Rabbi Kook at the Machzike Hadath asking him to be prepared to be received officially by the King, perhaps to receive personally from His Majesty the award of the C.B.E. that had already been bestowed upon him."
The second honor is not really known. In the course of researching the archives in New York and Jerusalem, I came across two biographical descriptions of his contemporaries where they mention in passing that Rav Kook was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his scholarship. Rabbi Isadore Goodman wrote a biographical sketch for the "Jewish Forum" upon Rav Kook's March 1924 visit to New York, and notes that Rav Kook "was awarded an honorary doctor's degree from the University of Berne, Switzerland". This doctorate was given "for his contributions to the field of philosophy". If indeed the honorary doctorate report is accurate, it may well have been connected to Rav Kook's sojourn in Switzerland summer 1914 – January 1916.
Now Isadore Goodman had good reason to praise Rav Kook as his synagogue hosted him. Goodman was the associate Rabbi at the Institutional Synagogue in Harlem which had been built in 1917 thanks to the generosity of Harry Fischel. It provided a pulpit for his son-in-law, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, who was 27 at the time. Fischel was Rav Kook's main American financial supporter and Goldstein was his translator during his sojourn in America. These two figures may well have provided Goodman with reliable background and pertinent information about Rav Kook.
A second report can be found heralding Rav Kook's arrival in Detroit, Michigan, May 23, 1924. The local newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, stated: "For his achievements in this field the University of Bern, Switzerland awarded Rabbi Kook the degree of doctor of philosophy."
Why Bern? First, it should be noted that in the first decade of the 20th century many Jewish students chose to study for their advanced academic degrees in the Swiss capital. Perhaps, the attraction was connected to the possibility of studying in Switzerland for a PhD without needing to have completed first a BA and even without a high school diploma.
Rav Kook had encouraged two of his closest disciples to study for advanced degrees in Judaic Studies at the University of Bern. Moses Seidel received his doctorate from the University of Bern in 1913. The story of their interaction begins in 1903. Seidel (1886-1970) was 17, and studying at Yeshivat Telze. Rav Kook, at the time Rabbi of Bausk, had been invited to Telze by the Rosh Yeshiva, R. Eliezer Gordon. Rav Kook was so well liked there, that apparently he could have remained as the spiritual counselor (mashgiach ruhani). However, he decided to accept the alternative offer to move to Jaffa. Seidel thus became a close disciple as is evidenced in a long distance correspondence, which began August 22, 1904 and continued in twenty two extant letters. These include guidance on the limits of free thinking and on how to integrate secular and religious knowledge. Seidel, in 1908, with the encouragement of Rav Kook, began studying Semitic studies, eventually completing his PhD at the University of Bern in 1913, and then moving to America to teach Bible in Baltimore and New York. On October 15, 1917, Dr. Seidel is appointed instructor of Bible at the Rabbinical College of America (as Revel's College was then called).
Binyamin Menashe Lewin, began studying at the University of Bern in 1907 , and completed his PhD at Bern in 1911 with a dissertation on Rav Sherira Gaon. Lewin had first been exposed to the integration of religious and academic studies when at age 21 he studied with Rabbi Alexandrov. Subsequently he met Rav Kook and became his devoted student in Bausk (Bauska) for more than two years until Rav Kook moved to Jaffa. Under Rav Kook's guidance, Lewin developed a unique synthesis of academic and Torah studies. He was instrumental in setting up the religious students' organization at Bern which lasted five years, and together with Seidel edited the journal Takhemoni.
Rabbi Dr. Yosef Seliger (1872-1919) who completed his PhD at Bern in 1902 was an older contemporary of Seidel and Levin. On Nov. 15, 1906, Rav Kook addresses Seliger with great respect. Seliger had published articles describing an educational vision combining religious and secular studies. Rav Kook responds specifically to Seliger's proposal for a College of "Hokhmat Yisrael" in Eretz Yisrael. In a letter to the Mizrachi, Oct. 21, 1907, Rav Kook praises Dr. Seliger as honorable in three areas – Torah, awe of God and science. It seems that Rav Kook was involved in inviting Dr. Seliger to Jaffa to serve as director of the Ahva heder for the year of 1906/07. Seliger promptly changed the name to Takhemoni. Seliger lasted there for only a year, but established a precedent for a comprehensive religious Zionist educational curricula.
It would be quite incongruous to say "Rav Dr. Kook", and even stranger to refer to him as "Commander of the British Empire". Yet on the other hand, one wonders if these two honors were purposefully buried in the chronicles describing Rav Kook. This is perhaps indicative of how the debate over the legacy of Rav Kook continues even today .
התייחסתי לתפילה הזו באריכות במאמרי: "תפילות ארעיות לראי"ה קוק", אקדמות ט (תש"ס), עמ' 35-76.
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