Zvi Yehuda Kook

Zvi Yehuda Kook

Zvi Yehuda Kook (Hebrew: צבי יהודה קוק‎, born 23 April 1891, died 9 March 1982) was a rabbi, leader of Religious Zionism and Rosh Yeshiva of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. He was the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and named in honor of his maternal grandfather's brother, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Rabinowitch Teomim.[1][2]

His teachings are partially responsible for the modern religious settlement movement in the West Bank. Many of his ideological followers in the Religious Zionist movement settled there.

Under the leadership of Kook, with its center in the yeshiva founded by his father, Jerusalem's Mercaz HaRav, thousands of religious Jews campaigned actively against territorial compromise, and established numerous settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many of these settlements were subsequently granted official recognition by Israeli governments, both right and left.


  • Biography 1
  • Ideology 2
    • Settlement movement 2.1
    • Teaching Emunah 2.2
    • Attitude toward earlier rabbinic authorities 2.3
  • Students 3
  • Writings 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Rav Kook was born in Zaumel in the Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Žeimelis in Northern Lithuania), where his father was a rabbi. His mother is his father's second wife Reiza Rivka, niece of Eliyahu David Rabinovich-Teomim, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem along with Shmuel Salant. In 1896 his father with his entire family moved to Bauska, Latvia to be the rabbi there.

In 1904 he moved to Jaffa when his father was appointed Chief Rabbi of the city, then part of Ottoman-controlled Palestine. He studied Gemara under the guidance of Rabbi Reuven Gotfreud, the son-in-law of Rabbi Yoel Moshe Salomon, the founder of Petakh Tiqva, then under R. Moshe Zeidel and Benjamin Levin, however his main teacher remained his father throughout his life. In 1906 he went to one of the most prominent yeshivas in Jerusalem of that time Toras Chaim, in the future building of Ateret Kohanim. There he befriended R. Zerakh Epstein. His studies there did not last long. By 1910 he was already preoccupied with publication of his father's writings in Jaffa. There he published three of his books: Tzvi laTzadik, Shevet Haaretz and in 1913 Hatarbut haYisraelit (The Israeli Culture). One of his main collaborators in that activity was R.Yaakov Moshe Charlap, a future head of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva together with R. Zvi Yehuda.

Seeing his lack of time to truly study Torah as most of people his age, he decided to remove himself from public activity for some time. At first he went to Porat Yoseph, the main Sephardic yeshiva of Jerusalem and then he left to Halberstadt, Germany and studied there in the local yeshiva. He also attended the local university philosophy lectures.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he was arrested as a citizen of the Russian Empire, the enemy country, but was soon released and joined his father in Switzerland, where he was stuck due to the war. In 1920 he returned to the then British Palestine and began teaching at Netzakh Israel school. A year later, he went to Europe to promote his father's new movement "Degel Yerushalayim" among the leading rabbis of Europe.

In 1922 he married Chava Leah Hutner in Warsaw. Chava Leah died childless in 1944, and R. Tzvi Yehuda remained a widower until his death nearly 40 years later. From 1923 he served as the administrative director of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. After R. Charlap died in 1952, he became Rosh Yeshiva until his own death. After the Six Day War in 1967, he induced the Israeli government to approve the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and sent his students to that mission. He tried to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, which he saw as the precursor of the future Sanhedrin. He passed away in 1982 in Jerusalem.[3]


Settlement movement

Prominent Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook was the leader of the now defunct[4] settler movement, Gush Emunim. Their beliefs are based heavily on the teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda's father, Rabbi Abraham Kook. The two rabbis taught that secular Zionists, through their conquests of the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), had unwittingly brought about the beginning of the "final redemption", which would end in the coming of the Jewish messiah.[5] Gush Emunim supporters believe that building Jewish settlement on land God has allotted to the Jewish people as outlined in the Hebrew Bible, is an important step in the process of redemption. Like his father, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Kook did not advocate aggressive conquest.[6]

Teaching Emunah

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook rarely gave lectures in the traditional yeshiva subjects of Halakha and Gemarah. This was not due to lack of knowledge, as his writings readily prove his halakhic genius. The reason is that he felt his target is to teach Emunah (Jewish philosophy). Once a student asked him to teach a Gemarah lesson and he refused, explaining that his life project is to teach Emunah. His attitude to Emunah was influenced by his father, Rabbi Abraham Kook.

In many yeshivot, there is no or little study of Emunah texts. In Yeshivat Mercaz haRav, where Rabbi Zvi Yehuda was the yeshiva's head many years, there are Emunah lessons and the students devote around one hour a day learning Emunah.

Rabbi Abraham Kook, the father of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, wrote about the need of Emunah study, especially in our generation, in numerous places in his books. A notable example is the essay titled Me'at Tzori in the book Eder Haykar.

Attitude toward earlier rabbinic authorities

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda held the previous generations of rabbis in the highest regard. He would quote the Talmudic proverb: "If the earlier generations are like angels, we are like people. And if the earlier generations are like people, then we are like donkeys". He explained that if we view the scholars of earlier generations like angels, then we are people; but if we view them as normal people, then we are like donkeys.

In his writings, there are references to many of the major rabbis of earlier generations. For example, in the book Mitoch Hatorah Hagoelet, he wrote that the first Rebbe of Chabad, the author of the Tanya, was a "great man" but the Vilna Gaon was even greater.


The most well known among his students are rabbis Moshe Levinger, Shlomo Aviner, Zvi Thau, Avihu Schwartz, Zalman Melamed, Dov Lior, Zephaniah Drori, Issar Klonsky, Haim Steiner, Yoel Bin-Nun, Eliezer Melamed, David Samson, Moshe Ganz Nachum Romm, Haim Drukman and Yaakov Ariel. Numerous Yeshivas in Israel claim to be following his teachings.


Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook did not write any books, but he wrote articles and letters which are printed in a book format. Additionally, there are collections of his lectures.

  • Articles books: "Or Lenetivati", "Lenetivot Israel", two volumes.
  • Letters books: "Tzemach Tzvi", "Dodi Litzvi", and some of his letters printed in the book "Igrot HaRaaya".
  • Lectures book: "Sichot Harav Tzvi Yehuda" in torah (5 volumes), Mesilat Yesharim, Moadim (festivals) etc. by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.


  1. ^  
  2. ^ David Weisburd (1985). Jewish Settler Violence: Deviance as Social Reaction. Penn State Press.  
  3. ^ obituaryThe New York Times
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica: Volume 8, p. 145
  5. ^ Samson, David; Tzvi Fishman (1991). Torat Eretz Yisrael. Jerusalem: Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications. 
  6. ^ Judaism and the ethics of war, Norman Solomon. International Review of the Red Cross. Volume 87 Number 858 June 2005

External links

  • HaAretz: The 10 who Made Israel What It Is – Haaretz
  • The Culture of Israel – Full text