Abraham Isaac Kook
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- Main article Judaism and Other Religions
Rav Abraham Isaac Kook was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the Zionist return to the land of Israel. His writings embrace modernism by offering a vision of the restored land of Israel, at once evolutionary and Hegelian while at the same time mystical and messianic. His influence is widespread and influential as a Zionist dream of renewal of religious Judaism.
As for other religions, in my opinion, it is not the goal of Israel's light to uproot or destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destruction of the world and all its nations, but rather their correction and elevation, the removal of dross. Then, of themselves, they shall join the Source of Israel, from whence a dew of light will flow over them. "And I will take away the blood from his mouth and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he, too, shall remain for our God." (Zechariah 9:7) This applies even to idolatry -- all the more so to those religions that are partially based upon the light of Israel's Torah. (Iggrot ha-Rayah 112)
It is necessary to study all the wisdoms in the world, all ways of life, all different cultures, along with the ethical systems and religions of all nations and languages, so that, with greatness of soul, one will know how to purify them all. (Arpelei Tohar 33)
Rav Kook acknowledges that other nations have other religions, and that many of them are based on the Torah. He obviously does not mean Torah in the narrow sense, but recognition that religions bring God's presence into the world. Their existence is not an obstacle to messianic times, but rather a challenge: It is part of the Jewish messianic task to “elevate” and “purify” the religions along with the entire world. The precise meaning and method of purifying the other religions is left unanswered, shrouded behind the vision of renewal.
Rav Kook does not seem to assign special historical significance to Christianity and Islam for their status as “branches.” In a move that accepts the already-globalizing situation of the early 20th century, even the non-Abrahamic religions contain gold and holiness, which await elevation and unity with the Source of Israel. One can encounter and empirically study them. Yet, it is a Jewish task to purify these other religions. The actual process, however, of study, purification, and unification is left frustratingly vague. Nevertheless, what is clear, though, is that, personally, Rav Kook was able to look at other religions –and even atheism – and see the Truth of Torah within them.