Yosef Avivi’s new book Kabbalat HaRa’aya (The Kabbalah of R. Kook, Yad Ben Tzvi, 4 volumes) shows in comprehensive detail how Kabbalah and especially the Kabbalah of the Ari, R. Yitzchak Luria, was woven into the very fabric and substratum of R. Kook’s thought. It may not lay to rest the ongoing controversy as to whether R. Kook was primarily a modern Western or traditional Jewish theologian, but it should make the discussion much more nuanced. Perhaps, it will also raise the question of the extent that the Western philosophical thinkers that R. Kook was in dialogue with such as Hegel were also influenced by (Christian) Kabbalah.
Are scandals of interest? They might be if they point to a general trend of spiritual exhaustion and decay. This year scandals beset the Neo-Hasidic movement which has been of such importance spiritually in the past 20 years. R. Shmuel Tal, the Head of Yeshivat Torat Haim, an important institution in this context, has been accused of having had an inappropriate relationship with a married woman and leading his followers on the basis of “heavenly voices.” This scandal joins the sex scandals of previous years involving R. Eliezer Berland and R. Sheinberger. Are we dealing here only with the foibles of fallible individuals or is there a more general trend?
This year is the 25th Anniversary of the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson. A number of new books on his thought and activity have been published in connection with this anniversary. Social Vison: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformaitve Paradigm for the World, by Philip Wexler together with Eli Rubin and Michael Wexler represent s an attempt to deal with the fact that basic sociological concepts derive from the Christian religious tradition. Wexler utilizes the late Rebbe’s social thought and activism to create universal sociological concepts from the Jewish religious tradition. Thus Wexler redefines the notions of mysticism and spirituality: As opposed to the common assumption that mysticism involves withdrawal from the world and community, Wexler shows, based upon the Jewish-Chabad tradition, that It can become a basis for community and the transformation of the world.