Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 128: Seeing the Goodness of Jerusalem


“יְבָרֶכְךָ ה’ מִצִּיּוֹן ;
וּרְאֵה בְּטוּב יְרוּשָׁלִָם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.” (תהילים קכ"ח:ה)

“May God bless you from Zion; and see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.” (Psalms 128:5)

Shortly after the end of World War II, at a Shabbat table in Jerusalem, the discussion turned to the deplorable phenomenon of visitors who tour the land of Israel and then return home disparaging the country. ‘These tourists complain about the heat, the poverty, the backwardness, the political situation — and discourage other Jews from moving here,’ lamented one of those present.

The room became quiet. Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, son of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, the first chief rabbi, responded by relating the following parable.

The Failed Match

There was once a wealthy man who desired to marry a certain young lady. She was the most beautiful girl in town, and was blessed with many talents and a truly refined character. Since her family was not well-off, they were eager about the possible match with the wealthy man.

The young woman, however, was not interested in the match. Rich or not, the young man was coarse and ill-mannered. She refused to meet with him.

The father, anxious that his daughter should get married, pressured her to meet with the young man. ‘After all, one meeting doesn’t obligate you to marry him!’ To please her father, the young woman agreed.

The following Shabbat, the fellow arrived at the house as arranged. Shortly afterwards, the girl made her entrance: her hair uncombed, wearing a crumpled, worn dress and shabby house slippers. Appalled at her disheveled appearance, it did not take long before the young man excused himself and made a hurried exit.

‘What everyone says about this girl — it’s not true,’ exclaimed the astonished young man to his friends. ‘She’s a hideous old hag!’

Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah then explained his parable. Superficially, it would appear that the young fellow had rejected the young woman. But in truth, she who had rejected him.

So too, the Land of Israel does not reveal her beauty to all who visit. Not everyone is worthy enough to merit seeing the unique qualities and special holiness of Eretz Yisrael. It may appear as if the dissatisfied visitors are the ones who reject the Land of Israel. But in fact, it is the Land that rejects them.

Seeing the Goodness of Jerusalem

Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah’s response was most appropriate for the son of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. When visitors from outside of Israel would come to the chief rabbi for a blessing, Rav Kook (the father) would quote from Psalms 128:5, “May God bless you from Zion.” And what exactly is this “blessing from Zion”? The blessing is described in the continuation of the verse: “And may you see the goodness of Jerusalem.”

Rav Kook would then note: it does not say that one should merit seeing Jerusalem, but that one should merit seeing the goodness of Jerusalem. Many people visit Jerusalem, but not all merit seeing the goodness hidden in the holy city...

(Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam by R. Simcha Raz, pp. 227-278, 230)