"We will not recognize the authority of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as Chief Rabbi of Palestine," explained Rabbi Sonnenfeld to his followers. "Non-believers and sinners have elected him." A burst of applause greeted the sage's defiance. Sonnenfeld, a spiritual giant of the "old Yishuv" (Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael prior to the birth of Zionism), vigorously opposed the young halutzim-pioneers-who flocked to Eretz Yisrael with dreams of rebuilding the Jewish state. "Israel will not be redeemed through the efforts of atheists and nonobservant Jews," he told the crowd. "God exiled His people from their Land, and only God can redeem them."
If Rabbi Kook felt the sting of Rabbi Sonnenfeld's rejection, he never let it show; nor did he ever let the opposition alter his behavior. "These Jewish souls labor to reclaim our Holy Land," he explained patiently to Rabbi Sonnenfeld's disciple, who came to persuade the Chief Rabbi to mend his ways. Rav Kook spoke softly, but his gaze, as if filled with the light from the moment of Creation, overpowered his guest. The young man sat transfixed and listened. "The Holy Land has the strength to transform the spiritual life of everyone here," said Rav Kook, "including non-believers who now sacrifice to build it. Never doubt," he said, smiling, "that their labor is God's will, and one day they will acknowledge it."
Rav Kook served as the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi in Palestine. His poetry and essays inspire readers to live as if they're always in the presence of God.