— 2.J.1 Christian Response by Piotr Sikora

(Response to 2.J.1 Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, The Lights of Penitence, Chapter 2, Sudden and Gradual Penitence, presented by Alon Goshen-Gottstein)


Had I not known the name of the author of the above [two] text[s], it was only the word “Torah”, used twice in the second piece, that could make me a little bit wary in ascribing these texts to some unknown Christian author. The question is why it is so. Is it due to an universal character of Rav Kook’s insight expressed in his texts? Or maybe it is because the close affinity that exist between my Christian tradition and the Jewish one? I am not able to give any answer.

Having acknowledged such affinity with the Rav Kook’s insight, I want, however, to pose some questions.

Is it necessary, from the Jewish point of view, to conceive entering the spiritual life in the terms of repentance, i.e. is the beginning of spiritual life necessarily connected with the sense of one’s own sinfulness? Or, can a person enter spiritual life just because of realization of insufficiency of all finite, this-worldly goals and achievements? Can the spiritual flash from which spiritual life of a certain person arises reveal only the beauty (kabod, doxa) of the Divine, without any reference to the sinfulness of the human person? Is it possible that the clear awareness of one’s sinfulness comes (at least in some cases) later on?

Is it necessary, in Jewish perspective, to hold that there is a sharp dichotomy between divine inspiration and human efforts? In Christian tradition one can observe a long lasting and unfinished struggle with that problem: some thinkers want to maintain such a sharp division, others are inclined to blur it (claiming that all that is, or all that is good, including all good human efforts springs from divine source).

What is the relationship between the two distinctions: that between sudden and gradual and that between particularized and general penitence?

All the questions posed above may be understood as addressed to the Jewish disciples of Rav Kook. However, they are also legitimate questions within the Christian tradition. The broad Christian conceptual framework enables to formulate them, while the answer for each one is – in this tradition – not settled yet.