Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rav Kook's Attitude towards Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal

Rav Kook's Attitude towards Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal
By Rav Eitam Henkin, Hy"d
 (Translated into English by Rachelle Emanuel)
This article originally appeared in Hebrew in HaMayan 51:4 (2011), pp. 75-90.
Today is the yahrzeit of the Rav Eitam and Naama Henkin, who were cruelly murdered one year ago. May Rav Eitam’s important writings, surely with us only thanks to Naama’s support, be an aliyat neshama for both. Hy”d.
·         "It is well known that the person who heads the above [body]" supports Keren Hayesod
·         What is the difference between Keren Kayemet Le-Yisrael – the Jewish National Fund – and Keren Hayesod — the United Israel Appeal?
·         The forgery in the 1926 public letter
·         The significance of supporting Keren Hayesod
·         The halakhic letter of 1928
·         The joint declaration with Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer
·         Conclusion

"It is well known that the person who heads the above [body]" supports Keren Hayesod

The philosophy of Rav Elĥanan Bunem Wasserman, follower of the Ĥafetz Chaim and Rosh Yeshiva of the Baranovich Yeshiva (Lithuania), and among the most extreme of eastern European Torah leaders between the world wars in his anti-Zionist approach, is still considered today as having significant influence on the ideology concerning Zionism and the State of Israel prevalent in the Hareidi community. In this respect he constitutes almost an antithesis to the Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, in whose philosophy religious Zionism found its main ideological support for its approach and outlook.[1]  

One rare statement made by Rav Wasserman, aimed apparently at Rav Kook, has found resonance with part of the Haredi public, and is used by them as justification for rejecting Rav Kook and his teachings. In fact, we are not talking of a direct reference, but of words that appear in a letter sent to Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinski, who took over Rav Yosef Ĥaim Zonnenfeld's position as head of the Eidah Ĥareidit, on June 25, 1924:

A proposal has been made to combine the Ĥareidi Beit Din with the Chief Rabbinate. It is well known that he who heads [the Chief Rabbinate] has written and signed on a declaration calling on Jews to contribute to Keren Hayesod. It is also known that the funds of Keren Hayesod go towards educating intentional heretics. If that is the case, he who encourages supporting this organization causes the public to sin on a most terrible level.  Rabbeinu Yona in Sha'arei Teshuva explains the verse "The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, and a man is tried by his praise" (Prov. 27:21)  as meaning that in order to examine a person one must look at what he praises. If we see that he praises the wicked, we know that he is an utterly wicked person, and it is clear that it is forbidden to associate with such a person.[2]

As far as Rav Wasserman was concerned, because the head of the Chief Rabbinate publicized statements in which he called to support Keren Hayesod, which among other activities, funded a secular-Zionist education system, he was causing the public to sin and it was forbidden to be associated with him.[3]

However, it seems that Rav Wasserman's sharp assertion is based on a factual error.[4] According to Rav Kook's son, Rav Z.Y. Kook, his father supported Keren Kayemet Le-Yisrael, and called on others to support them, but his attitude towards Keren Hayesod was completely different.

… as a result of the claims and complaints about their behavior concerning religion and Judaism, [Rav Kook] later delayed giving words of support to Keren Hayesod, and none of the entreaties and efforts of Keren Hayesod's activists could move him. In contrast, even though he continued to constantly protest concerning those claims and complaints, he never hesitated giving words of support to Keren Kayemet. None of the entreaties and efforts of those who opposed Keren Kayemet could change this. On the contrary, with his sacred fire, he increased his support and encouragement for Keren Kayemet, [considering its projects as] a mitzvah of redeeming and conquering the Land.[5]

If these words are correct, Rav Wasserman's protest loses ground. In light of the above we would have to say that Rav Wasserman's sharp statement about Rav Kook relies on the shaky basis ("It is well known…") of rumors that were widespread in certain localities in East Europe.[6] However, precise research shows that despite Rav Z. Y. Kook's clear testimony, for which we will bring below explicit references from Rav Kook himself, Rav Wasserman's words were not just based on vague rumors alone. It turns out that even while Rav Kook was alive, propaganda attempts were made to attribute to him support for Keren Hayesod. In one case, at least, it was intentional fraud, upon which it seems Rav Wasserman unwittingly based himself.

What is the difference between Keren Kayemet LeYisrael – the Jewish National Fund – and Keren Hayesod – the United Israel Appeal?

Whatever the case may be, the reader will ask: what is the difference between the Keren Kayemet and the Keren Hayesod? Perhaps in Rav Wasserman's opinion they both were "abominations," since both organizations were headed by "heretics"; and even though Keren Kayemet did not deal with education, nevertheless it enabled heretics to settle on its land. If that was the case even supporting Keren Kayemet falls into the category of lauding the wicked, etc.! However, one cannot ignore the fact that R. Wasserman was talking about Keren Hayesod in particular, on the grounds that its funds were "going towards raising intentional heretics" in the educational institutions – something not relevant to the activity of Keren Kayemet. The Keren Kayemet was a veteran institution, founded at the beginning of the century for very specific, accepted goals – redeeming land from the hands of gentiles, whereas Keren Hayesod was established at the beginning of the twenties in a very different political reality, and its fields of activity were much broader. Rav Kook himself, in a response from winter 1925 to the famous letter from four Hasidic rebbes (Ger, Sokolov, Ostrovtza, and Radzhin) who had heard that "your Honor is indignant over our opposition to giving aid to the Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod," and in which they explained their opposition, gave his reasons in full for supporting the Keren Kayemet, and only the Keren Kayemet.[7] In an earlier draft of his response, in his handwriting, preserved in his archive, he explicitly notes the difference in his approach to the two organizations:

I myself, in the past gave credentials for aid to Keren Kayemet alone […] which is busy transferring land from the hands of gentiles to Jewish possession, […] and for that I gave Keren Kayemet's activists a recommendation over the course of several years. This is not the case with Keren Hayesod, which does not deal in redeeming land, but rather in settling it and in matters of education. I have never yet given them a recommendation [and will not do so] until the matter will, please God, be put right, and at least a significant part of the funds will be assigned to settling Eretz Yisrael in the way of our holy Torah.[8]

There is indeed a large amount of information about the extensive relations that Rav Kook had with Keren Kayemet, most of which involved continuous support for its tremendous project of redeeming land, together with constantly keeping his eye on,  and immediately objecting to, any deviation from the way of the Torah that was perpetrated on its grounds.[9] On the other hand, in all the writings of Rav Kook published till now, there are only a few mentions of Keren Hayesod, and they show reservations in principle from the organization.[10] Whoever is fed by rumors and presents Rav Kook as one who "lends his hand to evil-doers" without reservations, will anyway assume, "as it is known," that he similarly called for support of Keren Hayesod. In contrast, for someone who knows about Rav Kook's life story, his work, and his letters, the idea that he would be capable of calling for support for an organization which directly causes ĥilul Shabbat, secular education, and so on, is utterly baseless. Even his support for Keren Kayemet was not complete, but with conditions, restrictions, and even warnings attached. The following are some salient examples that are sufficient to prove that if Keren Kayemet had been involved in projects opposed to the spirit of the Torah — as was the case with Keren Hayesod — Rav Kook would not have agreed to support it either:

In a letter to the chairman of Keren Kayemet, Menahem Ussishkin, from February 4, 1927, concerning violations of Shabbat in the Borokhov neighborhood located on Keren Kayemet land (by the residents, not by Keren Kayemet itself), Rav Kook warned them "that if they do not take the necessary steps to correct these wrongdoings that have gone beyond all limits, I will be forced to publicize the matter in an open letter, loud and clearly, to the whole Jewish People."[11]

In a letter to Tnuva from March 2, 1932, that was sent following a report concerning ĥilul Shabbat on Kibbutz Mizra, Rav Kook announced that so long as the kibbutz members did not mend their ways, their milk would be considered as ĥalav akum (milked by a non-Jew) and Tnuva would be forbidden from using it.[12]

In a letter to Ussishkin from April 3, 1929, Rav Kook complained about the fact that Keren Kayemet had started to publish literary pamphlets, "which are not its subject matter. Money dedicated to the redemption of the Land was not for literary purposes. Moreover, the essence of this literature damages its image in public, spreading false views in direct opposition to the sanctity of our pure faith […] I hope that these few words will have the correct effect, and that the obstacle will be removed without delay, so that we will all together, as one, be able to carry out the sacred work of redeeming the Land with the help of Keren Kayemet Le-Yisrael."[13]

The forgery in the 1926 public letter

 However, as has been said, because of the significant weight that Rav Kook's position bore, over the years many attempts were made by the supporters of Keren Hayesod to ascribe to him outright support of the fund. The most prominent case occurred in the winter of 1926 (about a year after the above-mentioned letter to the hasidic rebbes). Several months previously the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael entered a severe economic crisis which seriously hindered its development, causing unemployment of a third of the work force, a decrease in the number of immigrants, and a steady flow of emigrants from the country.[14] This crisis, considered the worst experienced by the yishuv during the British Mandate, was the first time that the impetus of the yishuv's development, which had been increasing since the end of the First World War, was brought to a standstill. Against the backdrop of this situation, the Zionist leadership initiated a "special aid project of Keren Hayesod for the benefit of the unemployed in Eretz Yisrael." Because of the severity of the situation, Rav Kook also volunteered to encourage contributions to improve the economic situation in Eretz Yisrael, and when R. Moshe Ostrovsky (Hameiri) left for Poland to help with the appeal, Rav Kook gave him a general letter of encouragement for the Jews in eastern Europe.[15] At the same time, on November 8, 1926, Rav Kook wrote a public letter calling for support of the Zionist leadership's initiative, in which he wrote, inter alia:

To our dear brothers, scattered throughout the Diaspora, whose hearts and souls yearn for the building of Zion and all its assemblies; beloved brethren! The hard times which our beloved yishuv in the Land of our fathers is experiencing, brings me to raise my voice with the call, "Help us, now." Our holy edifice, the national home for which the heart of every Jew holds great hopes, is now facing a temporary crisis which requires the help of brothers to their fellow sufferers in order to endure […] Therefore I am convinced that the great declaration which the Zionist leadership is proclaiming throughout the borders of Israel, to make every effort to come to the aid and relief of this crisis, will be heard with great attention; and that, besides all the frequent donations for all the general matters of holiness which our brothers wherever they live will give for the sake of Zion and Jerusalem, all the sacred institutions will raise their hands for the sake of God, His people, and His Land, to give willingly to the appeal to relieve the present crisis, until the required sum will be quickly collected.

Although the appeal was made through the organization of Keren Hayesod, Rav Kook avoided mentioning the name of the fund because of his principled refusal to publicize support for it (as he explained in the letter to the hasidic rebbes). The version quoted above is what was published in the newspapers of Eretz Yisrael, under the title "For the Relief of the Crisis."[16] However, amazingly, it becomes apparent that in the version published some weeks later in Warsaw's newspapers, the words "the Zionist leadership" were changed in favor of the words "the head office of Keren Hayesod," and accordingly, the words were presented as nothing less than "Rav Kook's public letter in favor of Keren Hayesod"![17]

Even if we didn't have any information other than the two versions of this public letter, there is no doubt that the authentic version is the one published by his acquaintances, the editors of Ha-Hed and Ha-Tor in Eretz Yisrael, close to, and seen by Rav Kook. In contrast, when members of Keren Hayesod circulated Rav Kook's public letter among Poland's newspapers, they were not concerned that the author would come across the version they had published in a remote location. They even had a clear interest to insert into Rav Kook's words a precedential reference to Keren Hayesod. Even if we only had before us the east-European version of the letter, we could determine that foreign hands had touched it. This is not only because of Rav Kook's words in his letter to the hasidic rebbes sent about a year earlier, but because of a letter that Rav Kook sent to the heads of Keren Hayesod a few weeks prior to writing the public letter. In this letter to Keren Hayesod he informs them in brief that he is prevented from cooperating with the management of the fund or even visiting its offices (!) until the list of demands that he presented them with, in the field of how they conduct religious affairs, would be met. The background to this letter is a request sent to Rav Kook on December 7, 1926, after the inauguration of Keren Hayesod's new building on the site of "the national institutions" in Jerusalem. The directors of the head office of Keren Hayesod wrote: "It would give us great joy, and would be a great honor if our master would be so good as to visit our office – the office of the global management of Keren Hayesod."[18] In reply to this request, Rav Kook wrote a letter – which is published here for the first time – to the heads of Keren Hayesod, (Arye) Leib Yaffe and Arthur Menaĥem Hentke:

8th Tevet 5687 [December 13, 1926]
To the honorable sirs, Dr. Yaffe and A. Hentke,
I received your invitation to visit your esteemed office. I hereby inform you that I will be able to cooperate for the benefit of Keren Hayesod, and I will, bli neder, also visit Keren Hayesod's main office, after Keren Hayesod's management and the Zionist leadership will fulfill my minimal demands concerning religious issues in the kibbutzim and in education.
Yours, with all due respect …[19]

During the course of the years there were, nevertheless, several opportunities when Rav Kook came into contact with members of Keren Hayesod, mainly in connection with matters of budgets for religious needs.[20] However, as this letter illustrates, even such limited cooperation was dependent, from Rav Kook's point of view, on the demand to change the way the fund conducted its matters with respect to religion.[21] What were Rav Kook's exact demands of Keren Hayesod, in order for it to be considered as having "put things right" (as he wrote in his letter to the hasidic rebbes), and to benefit from his support and cooperation? We can clarify this from a document which is also being published here for the first time. This document, whose heading is "Rav Kook's answers" to Keren Hayesod, was apparently written after the previous letter, in reply to a question addressed to him by Keren Hayesod concerning his attitude towards them. It was probably written against the backdrop of rumors that Rav Kook forbade (!) support of Keren Hayesod.[22] We only have a copy of the document in our possession, but it is written in first person, meaning that Rav Kook wrote it himself, and the person who copied it apparently chose to copy just the body of the letter without the opening and end signature:
1.      I have never expressed any prohibition, God forbid, against Keren Hayesod. On the contrary – I am very displeased with those who do so.
2.      Concerning my attitude towards the Zionist funds: my reply was that I willingly support Keren Kayemet at every opportunity without any reservations. However, concerning Keren Hayesod, at the moment I am withholding my letter in its benefit until the Zionist management corrects major shortcomings that I demand be put right, as follows:
a.       That nowhere in Eretz Yisrael will education be without religious instruction, not just as literature, but as the sacred basis of Jewish faith.
b.      That all the general religious needs be immediately taken care of in every moshav and kibbutz. For example, shoĥet, synagogue, ritual bath, and where a rabbi is necessary – also a rabbi.
c.       That there will be no public profanation of that which is sacred in any of the places supported by Keren Hayesod, such as ĥilul Shabbat and ĥag in public.
d.      That the kitchens, at least the general ones, will be particular about kashrut.
e.       That all the details here which concern the residents of Keren Hayesod's locations, will be listed in the contract as matters hindering use of the property by the resident, and which will give him benefit of the land only on condition that he fulfills these basic principles.
And because I strongly hope that the management will finally obey these demands, I therefore am postponing my support of Keren Hayesod until they are fulfilled. I hope that my endeavors for the benefit of settling and building our Holy Land will then be complete.
It should be noted that these conditions are similar in essence to those that Rav Kook set with Keren Kayemet. However, the latter's dealings were with redeeming the Land, in contrast to Keren Hayesod where the areas referred to in Rav Kook's demands were at the center of its activity. Therefore, as far as the Keren Kayemet was concerned, Rav Kook did not give the fulfillment of his demands as a basic condition for his cooperation and call for support; but he certainly did so with regard to Keren Hayesod.[23]

Whatever the case may be, if R. Wasserman did indeed see the public letter of 1926, without doubt he saw the falsified version published in the Polish newspapers, and therefore he held on to the opinion that: "It is well known that he who heads [the Chief Rabbinate] has written and signed on a declaration calling on Jews to contribute to Keren Hayesod."[24] However, as has been clarified, these words have no basis.

The significance of supporting Keren Hayesod

As has been said Rav Kook was not prepared to support Keren Hayesod, which dealt in education and such matters "until the matter will … be put right, and at least a significant part" of the funds activities will be directed to settling the Land according to the Torah. The words "at least a significant part …" seem to give the impression that if a significant part of the fund's activity were directed to activity in the spirit of the Torah, then Rav Kook would give his support even if another part were still directed to secular education. However, in practice, there is no doubt that Rav Kook's demand was much stricter. In Keren Hayesod's regulations it was determined that only about 20% of its resources would be directed to education[25] (and only a certain amount of that budget would be allocated to "problematic" education) — and despite this fact Rav Kook refused to call for its support. It must be emphasized that this policy in Keren Hayesod's regulations was strictly applied. An inclusive summary of the fund's activity between the years 1921-1930, indicates that 61.4% of its resources were invested in aliya and settlement (aliya training, aid for refugees, agricultural and urban settlement, housing, trade, and industry), 19.6% in public and national services (security, health, administration), and only 19.0% in education and culture – from which a certain part was allocated for religious needs: education; salaries for rabbis, shoĥtim, and kashrut supervisors; maintenance of ritual baths, eruvim, and religious articles; aid for the settlements of Bnei Brak, Kfar Ĥasidim, etc.[26] In light of this data, it seems that R. Wasserman's claim against those who call for support of Keren Hayesod, and his defining them as "utterly wicked" people, is not essentially different from the parallel claim against those who demand the paying of required taxes to the State – a claim heard today only by extreme marginal groups within the Ĥaredi sector.

Indeed, not surprisingly, it transpires that there were in fact some well-known rabbis of that generation who did call to contribute to Keren Hayesod, despite the problematic issues of some of its activity.[27] Just several months before the publication of Rav Kook's afore-mentioned public letter, another declaration was published, explicitly calling for support of Keren Hayesod, signed by more than eighty rabbis from Poland and Russia. Among them were well-known personalities such as R. Ĥanokh Henikh Eigash, author of Marĥeshet; R. Meshulam Rothe; R. Reuven Katz, and more.[28] Moreover, in several locations, particularly in America, support of Keren Hayesod was considered as consensus among the rabbis,[29] and even Rav Kook's colleague in the Chief Rabbinate, R. Ya'akov Meir, called for support of Keren Hayesod.[30] Would R. Wasserman have defined all of these scores of rabbis as evil ones "who cause the public to sin on the most terrible level"?[31] Whatever the case may be, it transpires that it was specifically Rav Kook who stands out as being the most stringent among them, and he consistently agreed to publicize support only for Keren Hakayemet. In the light of all the data detailed here, one wonders whether R. Wasserman's extreme words to R. Dushinski[32] were only written in order to deter him from cooperating with the Chief Rabbinate (which he strongly opposed), and perhaps this is the reason that he avoided mentioning Rav Kook explicitly by name.[33]

The halakhic letter of 1928

The public letter of 1926 was indeed the only one in which Rav Kook's words were falsified in order to create support for Keren Hayesod. However, in the following years, too, attempts were made to present what he had written as an expression of direct support of Keren Hayesod. The element the two cases have in common is that they were both published far from Rav Kook's location. In 1928, an announcement from the "Secretariat for Propaganda among the Ĥaredim" was published in the Torah monthly journal Degel Yisrael, published in New York and edited by R. Ya'akov Iskolsky. This secretariat published a special letter from Rav Kook in Degel Yisrael, emphasizing that the letter had not yet been publicized anywhere else. According to the secretariat, the context in which the words were written was the following:
An occurrence in a town in Europe, where the community demanded that all its members contribute towards Keren Hayesod, and the opponents disputed this before the government, and took the matter to court. The judges demanded that the community leaders prove to them that the matter was done in accordance to Jewish law, and on the basis of the above responsum (of Rav Kook) the members of the community were acquitted.[34]
In other words, according to those who publicized the Rav Kook's letter, it was written in order to help the heads of one European community to force all its members to donate to Keren Hayesod. The problem is that examination of the letter (see below) raises different conclusions. Similar to what appears above (note 27) concerning the letter written by R. Meir Simĥa Ha-Kohen of Dvinsk, here there is also no mention at all of Keren Hayesod. The explanations in the letter are not relevant to the majority of Keren Hayesod's projects, and the letter only deals with clarifying the general virtue of settling Eretz Yisrael and the obligation to support its inhabitants. Even the title prefacing the letter only talks about "one community that agreed to impose a tax on its members for the settlement and building of Eretz Yisrael," without mentioning that this was a tax specifically for Keren Hayesod. Towards the end of the letter it is mentioned only that "the Zionist leadership in Eretz Yisrael deals with many issues concerning settling the Land," without any specific reference to Keren Hayesod, even if the fund was the organization that managed the appeal for the Zionist Organization. Thus, we again find that whereas according to those that publicized the letter — the concerned parties — the letter constitutes declared support for Keren Hayesod, in Rav Kook's actual words there is no mention of that.

The letter, which as far as I know was never printed a second time, is brought here in full:

When I was asked whether a Jewish community can impose on an individual the obligation to give charity for maintaining the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, I hereby reply that there is no doubt in the matter, considering that the halakha is that one forces a person to give charity, and makes him pawn his property for that purpose even before Shabbat, as explained in Bava Batra 8b, and as Rambam wrote in Hilkhot Matnot Aniyim 7:10: concerning someone who does not want to give charity, or who gives less than what is fitting for him, the court forces him until he gives the amount they estimated he should give, and one makes him pawn his property for charity even before Shabbat. The same is written in Shulĥan Arukh, Yore Dei'a, 248:1-2. If this is the case in all charities, all the more so is it the case concerning charity for strengthening Eretz Yisrael, for this is explicit in Sifrei, and quoted in Beit Yosef, Yore Dei'a, §251, that the poor of Eretz Yisrael have priority over the poor outside the Land. And because one forces a person to give charity for the poor outside the Land, it is clearly even more the case concerning charity for strengthening the Land and its poor. The obligation to settle in Eretz Yisrael is very great, as it says in the Talmud Ketubot 110b, and is brought by Rambam as a halakhic ruling in Hilkhot Melakhim 5:12: A person should always live in Eretz Yisrael, and even in a town where the majority are idol worshippers, rather than live outside the Land, even in a town where the majority are Jews. In Sefer Ha-Mitzvot (mitzvah 4) Nachmanides wrote: that we were commanded to inhabit the Land; "and this is a positive mitzvah for all generations, and every one of us is obligated," and even during the period of exile, as is known from the Talmud in many places. A great Torah principle is that all Jews are responsible for one another. Therefore, those who are unable themselves to keep the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, are obligated to help and support those who live there, and it will be considered as though they themselves are living in Eretz Yisrael so long as they do not have the possibility of keeping this big mitzvah themselves. It is therefore obvious that any Jewish community can require an individual to give charity for the benefit of settling Eretz Yisrael and supporting its inhabitants; and G-d forbid that an individual will separate himself from the community. Someone who separates himself from the ways of the community is considered one of the worst types of sinners, as Rambam writes in Hilkhot Teshuva 3:11. Just as the community must guide the individuals towards all things good and beneficial, and any general mitzvah, thus must it ensure that no individual separates himself from the community concerning matters of charity in general, and all the more so concerning matters of charity relating to Eretz Yisrael and support of its inhabitants, as I have written. No one can deny that which is revealed to all, that the Zionist leadership in Eretz Yisrael deals with al lot of matters concerning settling Eretz Yisrael, hence it is clear that its income is included in the principle of charity for Eretz Yisrael.
And as a sign of truth and justice, I hereby sign … Avraham Yitzĥak HaKohen Kook

The joint declaration with Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer

Just as the public letter of 1926 (in the version published in Poland) quickly came to the notice of the zealots of Jerusalem, who rushed to claim that Rav Kook supports "a baseless fund," the same thing happened with the 1928 letter: following its publication under the above headline, the zealots rushed to upgrade their accusations and to claim that Rav Kook ruled that one may "force a person to give charity to Keren Hayesod" (see below).

This fact brings us to yet another claim, raised only recently, that Rav Kook did indeed sign on a declaration in support of Keren Hayesod. A few years ago, Professor Menaĥem Friedman wrote about an event that occurred in winter 1930, when the zealots of the Jerusalem faction of Agudath Israel, with Reb Amram Blau at their head, came out with a particularly sharp street poster against Rav Kook. The background to the attack was the joint declaration of Rav Kook, R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, and R. Abba Yaakov Borokhov, that was published before the convening of the 17th Zionist Congress in Basel, calling to the attendants of the convention and its supporters to exert their influence to prevent ĥilul Shabbat, etc; at the side of this request, writes Prof. Friedman, was a "call to donate to Keren Hayesod."[35]

However, in fact matters are not so clear at all. Prof. Friedman brings no support at all for his words, and the only source that he brings concerning the event is that same street poster that the zealots published. It seems that Prof. Friedman never actually saw the said declaration, but rather assumed its contents from the information that appears in parallel sources, such as the opposing street poster, in which there is the claim that Rav Kook ruled that one may "force people to give charity to Keren Hayesod," but of course that does not constitute an acceptable historical source.[36]

An addition to this affair appears in a manuscript of R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, which was published several years ago. This is a draft of a public announcement from 1921, which shows that indeed there were those who understood that the signature on the declaration meant support of Keren Hayesod (and other such organizations) — but R. Meltzer clarifies that this was not the case:

Being that I signed on a call to the donors of the Zionist funds, demanding that they do not support with their money those who profane the Shabbat, and those who eat non-kosher food, I therefore declare that my opinion is like it always has been: that so long as schools in Eretz Yisrael that instill heretical ideas are supported by these funds, it is forbidden to support them or give them aid in any way whatsoever. Those who support and help them are destroying our holy Torah, and are ruining the yishuv. I added my signature only to ask those who support those funds that at least they should make every effort to influence those funds not to feed Jewish people in kitchens that provide non-kosher food, and not to support those that profane the Shabbat, etc.[37]

This clarification was apparently written after reactions of amazement among some of the Jerusalem public were voiced in the wake of the publication of the joint declaration of R. Meltzer, Rav Kook, and R. Borokhov. From R. Meltzer's words it becomes clear that the joint declaration was not a call to support Keren Hayesod, but a call to the supporters of the fund and to the attendants of the Zionist Congress that they should anyway insist that their money should not be used for unfitting purposes.[38]

Conclusion

Rav Kook's path was falsified many times, both during his lifetime and after his death, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. In what we have written here, it is proven beyond all doubt that R. Elĥanan Wasserman's claim that Rav Kook called for the support of Keren Hayesod — a claim through which he explained his opposition to cooperation between the Eidah Ĥareidit and the Chief Rabbinate — is based on a mistake. The historical truth is that Rav Kook, in his dealings with the institutions of the yishuv, more than once took a more aggressive and stringent stand than did other rabbis of his generation, as is expressed in the issue at hand.



[1] In light of this contrast, it is interesting that Rabbi Wasserman, as a youth, was privileged to learn from Rav Kook for a while. In 1890 Rabbi Wasserman's family moved to Bauska (Boisk), and five years later Rav Kook was appointed as rabbi of the town. At the time Rabbi Wasserman was a student in the Telz Yeshiva, and when he returned home during vacation, he would participate in the classes given by Rav Kook (See R. Ze'ev Arye Rabbiner, "Shalosh Kehilot Kodesh," Yahadut Latvia: Sefer Zikaron [Tel Aviv, 1953], 268; Aharon Surasky, Ohr Elĥanan I [Jerusalem, 1978], 30).
[2] Kovetz Ma'amarim Ve-Igrot I (Jerusalem, 2001), 153; previously in Kuntres Be-Ein Ĥazon (Jerusalem, 1969), 92. Concerning R. Wasserman's dealings with the issues of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, we bring the words of R. Ĥaim Ozer Grodzensky, R. Wasserman's brother-in-law, which he wrote less than two months later in a reply to R. Reuven Katz's complaint regarding the open letter published by R. Wasserman to Poalei Agudath Israel in Eretz Yisrael, calling on them not to accept help from Zionist organizations: "I, too, am surprised at what [R. Wasserman] saw that he publicized his personal opinion without consulting us, and I did not know of it. He also exaggerated. The matters of the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael cannot be compared to private matters in the Diaspora for several reasons, and certainly it is impossible to give a ruling on such a serious matter from afar without knowing the details…" (Aĥiezer – Kovetz Igrot [Bnei Brak, 1970], 1:299; see ibid., 200-1, a letter to Histadrut Pagi, where the words are repeated. For R. Wasserman's open letter and more material on this subject, see Kovetz Ma'amarim Ve-Igrot I, 133-152).
[3] This statement is based on the words of Rabeinu Yonah Gerondi (Sha'arei Teshuva, 3:148), and R. Wasserman's interpretation of them elsewhere ("Ikvete De-Meshiĥa, § 36, translated into Hebrew from the Yiddish by R. Moshe Schonfeld and printed as a pamphlet in 1942, and in Kovetz Ma'amarim [Jerusalem 1963], 127-28). However, it seems that there is an essential difference between the actual words of Rabeinu Yona and R. Wasserman's interpretation (compare with a parallel commentary of Rabeinu Yona to m. Avot 4:6, and the way his words were interpreted by Rashbatz, "Magen Avot" 4:8, and R. Yisrael Elnekave, Menorat Ha-Ma'or, Enlau edition, 310-11), and let this suffice. For an example of a diametrically opposed position, see: R. Tzadok Ha-Kohen, Pri Tzadik, Vayikra (Lublin 1922), 221.
[4] See R. Yitzchak Dadon, Imrei Shefer (Jerusalem, 2008), 273.
[5] "Li-Shelosha be-Elul" (Jerusalem, 1938) §24 (p.22). See also Siĥot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda – Eretz Yisrael (Jerusalem, 2005), 84. On the other hand, R. Shmuel HaKohen Weingarten, who also heard from Rav Tzvi Yehuda about his father's refusal to call for support of Keren Hayesod, pointed out an item in the newspaper Dos Idishe Licht (May 23, 1924), according to which Rav Kook refused to support a proposal raised at the American Union of Rabbis to boycott Keren Hayesod (Halikhot 33 [Tel Aviv, Tishrei 1966], 27). Compare Rav Kook's reasons for not waging a public war against the Gymnasia Ha-Ivrit high school, despite his intense opposition to the school (Igrot Ha-Re'iya II, 160-61).
[6] The existence of false rumors concerning Rav Kook was mentioned already in 1921 by the Gerrer Rebbe, R. Avraham Mordechai Alter, in his well-known letter written on the boat: "Outside Eretz Yisrael what is thought and imagined is different from the reality. For according to the information heard, the Gaon Rav Kook was considered to be an enlightened rabbi who ran after bribes. He was attacked with excommunication and curses. Even the newspapers Yud and Ha-Derekh sometimes published these one-sided reports. But this is not the correct way of behavior – to listen to one side, no matter who it is..." (Osef Mikhtavim U-Devarim [Warsaw, 1937], 68). R. Moshe Tzvi Neriya's description is typical: "…these news items even made their way into sealed Russia. They said: "He's close to the high echelons, and he has an official position. This opinion excluded him from the usual description of a great Rav. And then again it was said, 'He's close to the Zionists,' and he was imagined to be an 'enlightened' rabbi […] however, all those description and imaginations completely melted away on seeing him." (Likutei Ha-Re'iya [Kefar Haro'eh, 1991], 1:13-14). An amazingly similar description was written by R. Yitzchak Gerstenkorn, founder of Bnei Brak: "I imagined Rav Kook, of blessed memory, as a modern rabbi […] and how amazed I was, on my first visit to Rav Kook, when I saw before me a sacred, pious person, few of whom live in our generation…" (Zikhronotai al Bnei Brak I [Jerusalem, 1942], 74).
[7] See Igrot la-Re'iya, 303-306. See also his 1923 declaration in support of Keren Kayemet in which he emphasizes that "it is intended only for redemption of the Land" (Raz, Malakhim ki-Venei Adam [Jerusalem, 1994], 238) — meaning, not for educational and other such purposes as those of Keren Hayesod. In this connection it should be noted that there was sometimes tension between Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod because of the impression created that the latter also dealt in redeeming lands (see Protokolim shel Yeshivot Ha-Keren Kayemet Le-Yisrael, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, 4:109, 498/33 — protocols from March 31 and July 7, 1922. See also the joint agreement of the two funds, Ha-Olam 10:14 [January 27, 1921], 16). In order to illustrate the Keren Kayemet's well-established status among substantial sections of the rabbinical world, we will refer to the 32nd annual convention of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, 1937. In the second section of the convention's resolutions it states: "The Union of Rabbis imposes a sacred debt on all Orthodox Jews who will lend generous support to Keren Kayemet Leyisrael." It should be noted that the majority of America's great rabbis of the time participated in this convention (see Ha-Yehudi 2:10 [New York, Iyar 1927], 195. A similar resolution was made in previous conventions; see, for example, HaPardes 5:3 [Sivan 1931], p. 31, § 7; HaPardes 6:3 [Sivan 1932], p. 25, § 5-8).
[8] This draft is quoted by R. Yaakov Filber, Kokhav Ohr (Jerusalem, 1993), 21-22 (Slight changes in style have been made according to a photocopy in my possession). Negatives statements about Keren Hayesod were omitted from the response that was actually sent, and only the positive statements about Keren Kayemet were included. R. Filber posits that, based on the letter that Rav Kook sent to his son, Rav Z. Y. Kook, about a week later (ibid.), the reason for the omission was Rav Kook's concern that the negative sentences might be used as a means to attack the Zionist funds in general. In my opinion, taking into account Rav Kook's style, it is unlikely that he had such a concern, but rather the omission is probably connected to his wish not to take part in a public boycott of Keren Hayesod (see above, note 5).
[9] See R. Neriya Goutel, "Hilkhot Ve-Halikhot Ha-Keren Ha-Kayemet Le-Yisrael Ve-Haĥug Ha-Hityashvuti Be-Ma'arekhet Hitkatvuyotav shel Ha-Rav Kook," Sinai 121 (1998), 103-115; Ĥaim Peles, "Teguvotav shel Ha-Rav A. Y. Kook al Ĥilulei Ha-Shabat al Admat Ha-Keren Ha-Kayemet Le-Yisrael," Sinai 115 (1995), 180-186; see also Rav Kook, Ĥazon Ha-Geula (Jerusalem, 1937), 220-230; ibid., 33-34, et seq. (I have expanded on the topic of Rav Kook's relationship with the Keren Kayemet elsewhere).
[10] In a letter from winter 1924 to R. Dov Arye Leventhal of the Union of Rabbis, about his trip to America, Rav Kook writes that one of the questions that his trip depends upon is "whether there will not be a tendency to confuse his support for this [the Union of Rabbis] with Keren Hayesod" (Igrot Ha-Re'iya IV (Jerusalem 1984), 177. In a letter from winter 1925 to R. Akiva Glasner of Klausenburg, he calls on him to make use of "the Zionist funds of Keren Hayesod" for purposes such as sheĥita and ritual baths in a settlement of Transylvanian immigrants in Eretz Yisrael. He comments that when all is said and done, in most places the donors are religious Jews; but of course he should ensure that everything is done according to the Torah (ibid., 216).
[11] Sinai 115 (1995), 181; the full letter was printed in Mikhtavim Ve-Igrot Kodesh (ed. R. David Avraham Mandelbaum, New York, 2003), 588. Here, as in the third example (see below), Rav Kook hints that if they do not take the necessary steps, he will stop supporting the Keren Kayemet, and will even publicize the matter.
[12] Sinai 115 (1995), 183
[13] R. Moshe Zuriel, Otzarot Ha-Re'iya I (Rishon Lezion, 2002), 487.
[14] See inter al.: Dan Giladi, Ha-Yishuv Bi-Tekufat Ha-Aliya Ha-Revi'it: Beĥina Kalkalit U-Politit (Tel Aviv, 1973), 171-192. The cause of the crisis was twofold: on the one hand, the especially large amount of new immigrants in the two years prior to the crisis, for which the economy was unprepared; on the other hand, the severe limitations that the Polish government enforced on taking money out of the country (in an attempt to fight the hyperinflation of the value of the zloty), which harmed both the donations to Eretz Yisrael, and the capability of the new immigrants to bring their possessions with them to Eretz Yisrael.
[15] For details of R. Ostrovsky's trip see Ha-Zefira 66:30 (February 4, 1927), 8. For the blessings for success that he received from R. Yeĥiel Moshe Segalovitz, head of the Mława rabbinical court, see ibid. 66:34 (February 9, 1927), 3. Rav Kook's letter to Polish Jewry was published in Ha-Olam on March 4, 1927, and again in Zuriel, Otzarot Ha-Re'iya II (1998 edition), 1075.
[16] See the monthly Ha-Hed, Kislev 1926, p.12, and the weekly Ha-Tor 7:16 (November 19, 1926), front page. This version was printed later in Ĥazon Ha-Geula, 180. The version quoted here is based on minor corrections of mistakes that appeared in one of the sources. In the description attached to the public letter in Ha-Hed the following was written: "In honor of Keren Hayesod's special aid program for the benefit of the unemployed in Eretz Yisrael, Rav Kook published a special public letter…."
[17] Ha-Zefira 65:50 (Warsaw, November 29, 1926), 3. In the description attached to the public letter it said: "On 2 Kislev [November 8, 1926), the Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, Rav A.Y. Ha-Kohen Kook sent the following public letter to the head office of Keren Hayesod…." A few days later the letter was also published in Ha-Olam 14:50 (London, December 3, 1926), 944, with the same headline and description as in Ha-Zefira, but without the insertion of "Keren Hayesod" in the body of the letter; see also Ha-Olam 14:48 (December 19), 906, where it was reported that "Rav Kook published a public letter to world Jewry to aid Keren Hayesod, thereby easing the crisis in Eretz Yisrael."
[18] Central Zionist Archives, KH4\21036. As is explained in this file, Rav Kook's colleague, R. Y. Meir, visited the offices of Keren Hayesod.
[19] From a copy of the letter in the possession of R. Ze'ev Neuman, to whom I am most grateful. It should be noted that Leib Yaffe was a relative of Rav Kook: his paternal grandfather, R. Mordechai Gimpel Yaffe, was Rav Kook's paternal grandmother's brother. Nevertheless, at the opening of the letter, Rav Kook does not show any family sentiment, but starts with a completely neutral tone.
[20] About two years before the above letter, in 1925, Rav Kook, together with other rabbis, participated in a meeting with Keren Hayesod where sums allocated for religious needs, and other allocation options, were decided upon (Yehoshua Radler-Feldman [R. Binyamin], Otzar Ha-aretz [Jerusalem, 1926], 72-73; see also note 10 above).
[21] The reader should note the letter of both the chief rabbis from March 27, 1927 – about two months after the above letter – which was sent, among others, to the secretary of Keren Hayesod, Mordechai Helfman, with the demand to prevent the profanation of Shabbat and kashrut in settlements located on the land of Keren Kayemet, or that are supported by Keren Hayesod. In his reply from March 30 (quoted in Motti Ze'ira, Keru'im Anu [Jerusalem, 2002], 172), Helfman justified himself saying: "The management of Keren Hayesod is only a mechanism for collecting money […] We are, of course, ready to help in [attempting to] have moral influence, and we hereby promise his honor, that we will use our influence at every opportunity to emphasize that which is wrong."
[22] The document can be found in the Central Zionist Archive KH1/220/2. I am grateful to Mr. Yitzĥak Dadon, who made me aware of the document's existence and gave me a photocopy. Most of the demands in this document were repeated, with different emphases, in a declaration publicized by Rav Kook in the spring of 1931 (see note 37 below).
[23] Even though Rav Kook repeated in this letter that he was not prohibiting support of Keren Hayesod, later, when in 1932 the Jewish Agency did not fulfill its promise to transfer an allocated sum for religious matters, Rav Kook protested the matter in a sharp letter in which he warned that if at least part of the promised sum was not transferred, he would be forced to turn to the rabbis in America and to members of Mizrachi in Poland, with the demand to prevent support of the Keren Hayesod appeal (letter from April 6, 1932, Central Zionist Archive S25\5894-419).
[24] Information about Rav Kook's supposed support of Keren Hayesod, based on the east-European version of the public letter, quickly reached Rav Kook's opponents in Eretz Yisrael and even in America. In a letter from December 29, 1926, Meir Heller-Semnitzer, one of the most extreme zealots in Jerusalem (around whom, that same summer, a major scandal erupted, concerning a harsh declaration that he published against the Gerrer Rebbe and Rav Kook), informed Reb Zvi Hirsch Friedman of New York (a distinguished zealot himself who, a year previously, had been expelled from the Union of Rabbis in America because of attacks against Rav Kook that he had published in one of his books), that Rav Kook issued a proclamation calling for support of "the baseless fund" [play on words: yesod means base]. See Friedman, Zvi ĤemedMishpati im Dayanei Medinat Yisrael (Brooklyn, 1960), 67.
[25] As R. Y. Y. Trunk pointed out already in 1921 (see note 27 below).
[26] A. Elitzur, "Keren Hayesod Be-mivĥan Ha-zeman" in Luaĥ Yerushalayim – 5706 (Jerusalem, 1945), 259-268; see also Otzar Ha-aretz, 70-76.
[27] In this connection it is customary to mention R. Meir Simĥa Ha-Kohen of Dvinsk, author of Ohr Same'aĥ, who acceded to the request of an emissary of the World Zionist Organization in preparation for the appeal of Keren Hayesod in Latvia, and wrote his famous letter calling for support of the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael (printed in Ha-Tor, 3, 1922, and also in R. Ze'ev Arye Rabiner, Rabeinu Meir Same'aĥ Kohen [Tel Aviv, 1967], 163-165, et al.). However, even though the historical context involves the Keren Hayesod, the letter itself deals with general support of settling Eretz Yisrael, and contains no explicit mention of Keren Hayesod or any other Zionist organization. Hence it is difficult to see in the letter a ruling concerning the fundamental question of whether to support Keren Hayesod despite the fact that part of its budget goes towards secular education. The same applies to a similar letter written in the same year and in the same connection by R. Eliezer Dan Yiĥye of Lucyn (See Otzar Ha-aretz, 84-86). In contrast, R. Yitzĥak Yehuda Trunk of Kotnya, the grandson of the author of Yeshu'ot Malko and one of the rabbis of the Mizrachi movement in Poland, wrote a detailed letter in the same year, explicitly calling for support of Keren Hayesod. He wrote at length rejecting the arguments against contributing to the fund (See Sinai 85 [Nisan-Elul 1979], 95-96). See also in the following footnotes.
[28] See Otzar Ha-aretz, 78-82. It should be added that the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv (later the Rishon le-Tziyon), R. Ben-Tziyon Ĥai Uziel, participated, himself, in the activity of Keren Hayesod (see his books, Mikhmanei Uziel IV (Jerusalem, 2007) 31-32, 283-284, and in vol. VI, 297-299, et al.), as did R. Ostrovsky (as mentioned above), and others.
[29] In an issue of Ha-Olam (18:46 [London, November 11, 1930], 911) in honor of Keren Hayesod's tenth anniversary, "the declaration of Eretz Yisrael's rabbis concerning Keren Hayesod" from September 1930, was published. Hundreds of rabbis signed the declaration, the majority from America, and others from Eretz Yisrael, Europe, and Eastern countries. The declaration included an explicit call to strengthen Keren Hayesod, "which for the last ten years has borne on its shoulders the elevated task of building our sacred inheritance, and faithfully supporting all projects that bring us close to that great aim." It seems that there is not one well-known rabbi who was active in the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada who did not sign this declaration: R. Yehuda Leib Graubart, R. Elazar Preil, R. Ĥaim Fischel Epstein, R. Yosef Kanowitz, R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, R. Eliezer Silver, R. Ze'ev Wolf Leiter, R. Ĥaim Yitzĥak Bloch, R. Yehuda Leib Salzer, etc., etc. (nevertheless, in light of the scope and rare variety of the signatories, one wonders whether this was a declaration approved by majority vote at the conference of the Union of Rabbis, such that the weight of the opponents was not reflected, and therefore the names of all the Union's members were given as signatories).
[30] See Otzar Ha-aretz, 77, his letter from December 8, 1925 calling for support of Keren Hayesod. See note 18, and more below.
[31] A most interesting fact in this connection is that R. Wasserman's relative by marriage from 1929 (the father-in-law of his son R. Elazar Simĥa), R. Meir Abowitz, head of the rabbinical court of Novardok and author of Pnei Meir on Talmud Yerushalmi, not only was an avowed member of the Mizrachi movement, and in 1923 even signed a call to join the movement (see Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism I [Jerusalem, 1958], columns 1-2), but also was one of the signatories on the aforementioned declaration in favor of Keren Hayesod! (Otzar Ha-aretz, 81). The fact that R. Wasserman was involved in R. Abowitz's younger daughter's marriage, is testimony to the good relationship between the families (see R. Wasserman's daughter-in-law's testimony in the photocopied edition of Pnei Meir on the tractate Shabbat [USA, 1944], at the end of the introduction. R. Abowitz's letters to his son-in-law are published at the end of R. Wasserman's Kovetz Shiurim II [Tel Aviv, 1989], 117-119).
[32] It is worthwhile comparing these words with R. Yosef Ĥaim Zonnenfeld's moderate language in a letter to his brother written in 1921, in which he gives the benefit of the doubt to the donors of Keren Hayesod: "Those naïve ones, who contribute to Keren Hayesod out of pure love in order to aid in the establishment of the settlement in our holy Land, certainly have a mitzvah. I do not know to what purpose they will actually put the money of Keren Hayesod, but if it is given into faithful hands, who will use it honestly for settling the Land, this is anyway a big mitzvah. However, as has been said, it must be in such hands that will use it for building and not for destruction […] 'and because of our sins we were exiled from our Land'" (translated from Yiddish, S.Z. Zonnenfeld, Ha-ish al Ha-ĥoma III [Jerusalem, 1975], 436).
[33] Although R. Ya'akov Meir, who explicitly supported Keren Hayesod, was also one " who heads the above [i.e. the Chief Rabbinate]," nevertheless, R. Wasserman's words are taken to be addressed specifically to Rav Kook. On the other hand, it is interesting that in a letter that R. Wasserman wrote to his brother on July 30, 1935, the following sentence appears: "What is Rav Kook's malady, and how is he feeling now?" (Kovetz Ma'amarim Ve-igrot II, 124).
[34] Degel Yisrael 2:11 (New York, December 1928), 12-13 (the emphasis is mine). The date of the secretariat's letter is April 26, 1928.
[35] Friedman, "Pashkevilim U-moda'ot kir Ba-ĥevra Ha-Ĥareidit," in Pashkevilim (Tel Aviv, 2005), 20. See also his book Ĥevra Va-dat (Jerusalem, 1978), 337.
[36] In the same year, October 1930, in an issue devoted to the tenth anniversary of Keren Hayesod, a declaration from Rav Kook was printed under the heading "Mi-ma'amakei Ha-kodesh," in which a process of awakening in the country among the people and the new yishuv is described, together with a call to base activities on sanctity and to unite (Ha-Olam 18:45 [November 2, 1930], 900). Here, too, there is no explicit mention of Keren Hayesod or any other organization, even though explicit calls by other personalities for support of the fund were published close to his declaration (See also an additional article by Rav Kook, (Ha-Olam 18:47 [November 18, 1930], 926).
[37] Mikhtavim Ve-Igrot Kodesh, 624. The date of R. Meltzer's signature on the declaration is February 18, 1921. He writes using the plural form: "schools … are supported by these funds," but in fact only Keren Hayesod referred funds to educational institutions, such that his main opposition was actually directed against it in particular, and not against Keren Hakayemet (see next note). For the moment I have been unable to locate the call mentioned in his words, which Prof. Friedman dealt with, however it is probably a very similar declaration to the one published in Ha-Hed, April 1931 (and again in Otzarot Ha-Re'iya II, 426), in which Rav Kook calls, in preparation for the "coming Zionist Congress" to present a series of demands in the field of religion, which have to come together with "material fundraising" and aid to build up the country. It is superfluous to note that there is no mention of Keren Hayesod in the declaration, as well as to no other official institution.
[38] For comparison, see a similar public letter that the three rabbis, Rav Kook, R. Meltzer, and R. Borokhov, together with R. Yaakov Meir, published in 1929, calling to the heads of the Zionist organizations "to immediately send a last warning to the kibbutzim and moshavot supported by you, that if they do not stop profaning our religion, and everything sacred, you will stop your support of them altogether. If our words are not obeyed by you, we will unfortunately be forced to wage a defensive war against these destroyers of our People and our Land […] even though this will harm the funds which support the new yishuv" (printed in Ha-Tor 9:37 [August 9, 1929], and again in Keruzei Ha-Re'iya [Jerusalem, 2000], 90) 

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