Rav Kook on the Net

Psalm 24  Print

Climbing and Standing

Rav Avraham Isaac Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel

Psalm 24: Climbing and Standing

"Who shall climb God's mountain? Who shall stand in His holy place?"  [Ps 24:3]

What is the spiritual significance of these two activities: climbing and standing?

Moving (walking, climbing, etc) and standing are the two principle functions of legs. Each is a metaphor for a type of divine service.

Movement indicates spiritual ascent, both in terms of intellectual enlightenment and refinement of character. Torah study in particular is associated with spiritual progress, and is called 'the path'. "One who does not constantly increase [his knowledge] - decreases it.[Avot I:13]

When we move, our legs are separate. But when we stand, our legs are joined together. To stand is to internalize that which has been acquired, to reinforce those spiritual acquisitions deeply in the soul, so that these gains will not be lost in some change in situation or trial of life.

This retention and internalization of spiritual accomplishments is the function of prayer. For this reason we pray standing, legs united, like the angels. The prophet describes the angels as having legs united and straight [Ez 1]. Angels do not grow in holiness. Their very essence is one of maintaining a certain level of spiritual perfection. When we pray, we are emulating this angelic stance, being at one with our spiritual state.

In addition, standing indicates an effortless, natural position. This is the level of the angels, effortless in their holiness. In prayer, we aim to establish our spiritual attainments as natural to our level. In Torah study, on the other hand, we attempt to gain higher levels, to ascend God's mountain, by virtue of our free will and effort.

[Ayn Aya I:61]