I’m almost finished reading Sparks of Repentance by Rav Kook Z”TL. It’s a revolutionary work that espouses the central ideas of repentance (on the idividual, national, and global level). I’m extremely grateful to Gabe and Nehemia of Yeshivat Ha’mivtar in Efrat for helping and inspiring me to continue my in-depth study of Sparks.

Rav Kook uses fundametally socialist ideas (H/T Nehemia) in his approach to repentance. He traces both the progress and the premenitions of tshuva to a global approach, one in which the Jewish nation needs to be united in mission and purpose in order to achieve its calling. Whereas socialism was destined to failure and misery from the go, Rav Kook’s teachings have inspired an entire generation of followers. A majority of these have taken it upon themselves to spread the light of Torah in Israel and abroad.

R’ Kook stresses the connection of living in Israel with an individual’s ability to repent–in the broadest sense of the term. “Repentance” for R’ Kook isn’t limited to feeling sorry for stealing an apple or paying the owner for his loss. The highest level of repentance is when stealing that apple is construed as the thief’s merit. He has, in essense, not only repented for his sin, but in effect carried out an act of kindness towards himself and the entire world. The process of turning a petty theft, for example, into an act of selfless kindness, may occupy a lifetime to accomplish. It’s not an easy one and one is likely to feel the “pangs of repentance” along the way. He has the innate ability to turn bad into good however.

R’ Kook views the return of the Jewish People to their historic homeland as the beginning of a universal Redemption. While we’re responsible for this process, we’re also held accountable for being a “Holy People, a Nation of Priests.” Based on Parshat Dvarim, Rav Yitzchok Snyder of Baka has conveyed the message that “Those of us living in Israel are undoubtedly held to a higher standard.”

He’s absolutely right: on a personal level, I know what the results of moral depravity in the Holy Land are capable of leading to. The fact that there are a few million Israelis who’ve settled in North America is telling when it comes to making this point. Who’s left the country? I’d like to stipulate that it’s been mostly those whom the land has “vomitted out.”

Universal redemtion and repentance may be construed as one and the same. A congregant at the Baka Chabbad told me yesterday that there’s an important reason I’ve come home and that those living abroad are simply “missing the point,” that it’s not about Moshiach being here (it’s widely believed he’s already here and hasn’t appeared due to a lack of unity amongst the Jewish people) or not, that the very essence of Judaism, what every mekubal in every century has tried to instill in our “heavy-necked” people, is the return to Israel. This return is tantamount to the “return” of tshuva, of “returning” to a Torah way of life and it’s the “return” my close friend and Rabbi, Shlomo Epshteyn was privileged to make a few weeks ago.

May we all merit to repent in the full sense of the word soon in our day. May we return to the land “Hashem sets His eyes upon from the beginning to the end of the year.”