Rav Kook on the Net

Psalm 43  Print

Fight On My Behalf Against A Merciless Nation

Rav Avraham Isaac Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel

Psalm 43: Fight On My Behalf Against A Merciless Nation

[As related by Rabbi Shimon Glitzenstein, Rav Kook's personal secretary during his years in London:]

At the time of the aerial bombardments of London during the First World War, the Jews who lived in the neighborhood of Rav Kook (who was at that time living in London) took shelter in the cellar beneath the synagogue of the Machzikei Hadas congregation.

Rav Kook went there as well - against his will, but to keep his family from worrying. The cellar was claustrophobic and suffocating. Children wailed and mothers complained. Some of the men gathered around Rav Kook and began reciting Psalms. As the explosions increased, the recitation of Palms was interrupted. Those with good voices began to sing loudly in order to drown out the terrifying sounds. Some people protested, but Rav Kook encouraged the singers to sing even more loudly.

After several hours, most people had dozed off. But Rav Kook sat in his place, without a sign of fatigue or emotion. In his hand he held his small volume of Tanach, and he recited chapter 43 of Psalms, which begins:

"Judge me, God, and fight on my behalf against a merciless nation." 

I was accustomed to Rav Kook's recital of Psalms when he was alone in his room. He would say them in a loud voice, with bitter weeping and an outpouring of the soul. But how different was this recital of Psalms! I paid no attention to the words, but to the tune with which they were crowned: completely soulful and soaked with spiritual freshness.

From the depth of his soul, Rav Kook poured forth his murmurs before his Father in heaven. It was as though the entire Congregation of Israel was pleading for compassion: "Send Your light and Your truth, they will guide me. They will bring me to Your holy mountain and to Your dwelling place.

The Rav was totally focused on his recitation. Even when it was announced that the danger had passed, he remained oblivious to the tumult of those gathered there, and continued reciting the chapter to the end.

[R. Glitzenstein, "Mazkir Harav", quoted in "Shivchei Harayah". Based on translation from ShemaYisrael]