Rabbi Kook recorded powerful words of hunger for God in his book, “The Lights of Holiness.”
Rabbi Kook was the first chief rabbi of modern Israel and lived from 1865 to 1935. He was one of the first religious Zionists, as well as a judge regarding Jewish practice, a poet, and a philosopher. He served as a rabbi in Latvia and “ascended” (made Aliyah i.e. immigrated) to Israel in 1904 in the early days of the Second Aliyah. Rabbi Kook developed a sympathetic philosophical perspective toward modern (socialist/secular) Zionism and toward the new Jewish settlement that was forming in the Land of Israel, unlike many ultra-orthodox rabbis of his time (and even ours). At first he was the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa and the new Jewish villages, and then he was appointed the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Jerusalem. He founded and led the religious training school called Merkaz Harav Yeshiva.
In the song Wings of Spirit, Kook desires for mankind, indeed commands them, to ascend – in other words, to seek to connect with the Creator. First, a person needs to know that he was created with this capacity which Rabbi Kook describes as “wings of spirit.” [In Hebrew the word for wind is the same word for spirit (Ruach)]. Once a person realizes and does not deny that he was created with the capacity, he can intentionally seek to use the wings of the spirit. This is an appeal to all mankind.
Although the text is written in a biblical style, it is simple and accessible. The main message is: lifting the spirit of man. In 2015, the poem was recorded musically as a song, seven years after the murder of eight students from Kook’s school – Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Since then the song has become well-known. The wonderful melody opens the heart and encourages us to draw near to God.
Wings of Spirit
Lyrics: Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook.
Son of Adam, ascend towards the heights, ascend!
For you have great strength.
You have wings of spirit,
Wings of mighty eagles.
Do not deny them, or they will deny you.
Seek them and you will find them straight away.
“Those who hope in the LORD will exchange their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)