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Volume 07 : Number 059

Sunday, June 10 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 19:32:39 +0100
From: Chana/Heather Luntz <Chana/Heather@luntz.demon.co.uk>
Re: Yiud

In message <200106080618.f586IxJ25050@lmail.actcom.co.il>, Carl Sherer
<sherer@actcom.co.il> writes
>> If we acknowledge that socio-economic situations change, then if anything
>> would we not logically expect a Torah that caters for all situations to
>> have halachas that were necessary in one time and place but which will
>> naturally and of necessity fall into disuse in other socio-economic
>> situations - kiddushei ketana being a classic ...

>I'm not sure I would attribute the status of Kedushei Ktana today to 
>socio-economics. I think that, like Yibum, it's more a question of 
>purity of intentions. I don't think we can rely on a father today 
>having only his daughter's best interests in mind...

The problem with your approach (ie yeridas ha'doros) vis a vis kedushei
ketana is that you have to posit:

a) the doros of the tosphosim and Rema (who allowed kedushei ketana) as
being on a higher level than that of chazal (who came out against it); and

b) that the Ashkenazim living at the time of the tosphosim and Rema were
on a higher level than of the Sephardim who lived at the same time and
who accepted the position of chazal.

Note also that the Ashkenazim who do allow kedushei ketana give as the
reason for allowing it (given that they are going against the position
of chazal) the uncertain socio-economic situation in their lands (so
that by positing yeridas ha'doros over socio-economic reasons you are
in fact rejecting the reasons given by the Ashkenazi rishonim themselves
and their position vis a vis chazal).

That is not to say that today we are not on a lower level than all of
the above, but that I think it difficult, to look at the issue as purely
related to yeridas ha'doros in light of the above.


Go to top.

Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 16:55:49 -0400
From: Isaac A Zlochower <zlochoia@bellatlantic.net>
kedushei ketana

I have no desire to belabor or prolong the discussion on kedushei
ketana.  However, Micha's addendum to my post in 7:56, which ostensibly
cites my response to another poster, is erroneous.   Micha cited the

> [A 2nd email, in reply to one of mine: -mi]
>> The Torah is right because the Torah defines right? ...
>> Also, you leave no room with which to define "kadeish es atzmecha bema

>> shemutar lach" (Ramban) or "neveilus bireshus haTorah". Clearly the
>> definition of "neveilus" is not identical to "assur".

>> So replace "right" with "conforming to tachlis", mai nafka mina?

>> The bottom line is that the question lies not with kiddushei ketana,
>> but with a worldview that finds it untenable.

None of the above is anything that I wrote.  In fact, I disagree with
its thesis, and do not want my name associated with it.

Yitzchok Zlochower

Go to top.

Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 02:00:48 +0300
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@bezeqint.net>
Re: Copyright (was Re: kedushei ketana)

> However, as RZR noted, hasagas gevul only applies to unfair competition,
> not to give copies away as a tzadakah or a fundraiser.

> This is also the conclusion of R' Moshe. R' Bleich, back when he was a talmid
> at Torah Vadaas found a rare publication of a notebook of R' Chaim and had
> it published as a TvD fundraiser. The original publisher found out about
> it and cried "hasagas gevul". They went to R' Moshe who ruled in favor
> of R' Bleich.

Rabbi Mordechai Tendler told me that Rav Moshe's prohibited copying
when it caused a financial loss. It would follow that if the publisher
intended to republish - that Rav Moshe would have prohibited someone
else from publishing and causing loss which would obviously occurred
if copies were given away or used as a fundraiser. On the other hand
if there was no intent to republish than there would apparently be no
problem. There are a number of cases were publishers or family members
were not reprinting standard seforim - and permission was obtained from
halachic authorities to publish. [see Rackover's book on copyright law]

The Breuer Tanach was republished as a "service" by some printer who
felt by producing a low cost pirated copy he was doing a mitzva. He
stopped after he was sued.

                            Daniel Eidensohn

Go to top.

Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 20:15:07 +1000
From: "SBA" <sba@blaze.net.au>
Chasam Sofer quoting the Tanya

To those who are interested in these things:

The Chasam Sofer al Hatorah (RYN Stern 5-v edition), last week
(B'haalos'cho) quotes the Tanya (Likutei Amorim) page 44, dh 'Vehoasafsuf
asher bekirbo'.

I am told that although the CS rarely quotes later mechabrim (except
for his rebbes), the Tanya gets 2 mentions.


Go to top.

Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 12:28:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Ain Simcha Elah B'Basar... A Vegetarian's Dilema.

(With apologies to R. Matis Blum...)

In last week's Parsha, we find Bnei Israel complaining about not having
any meat to eat. G-d then accomodates them. The question arises: Is
there any value to eating meat? It would seem so as Vesamchta BeChagecha
requires us to eat meat on Yom Tov because one cannot have Simcha without
wine or beef. But is beef trully mandated now-a-days?

Well, let's start at the begining. G-d said to Adam: Hineh Nasati
Lachem Es Kol Esev etc.(Genesis 1:29) The Ramban writes that Mankind
was not given the right to kill anmals and eat meat. Having a higher
order of life in that they have some thinkig ability, animals were off
limits for mankind to kill. (If eating was in anyway allowed it was
only as "roadkill.) Meat was not permitted to Mankind until Noah's era,
apparently the reward for his saving the species. From this we can see
that there is a value to vegitarianism. Many Mekubalim say that it is of
higher value to not eat meat. This seems to counter the popular notion
that there is no value to vegitarianism.Appaerntly, there is.

The Rambam clearly states (Hilchos Yom Tov 6: 17 and 18) that because
of the commandment of Vesamachtah BeChagecha one has to eat meat (and
drink wine) because Ain Simcha Elah B'Basar (VeYayin). The Bais Yosef
strongly questions the Rambam in thatt the Simcha that the Gemmarah talks
about is the simcha of Karbanos Shelamim. It is the eating of that Basar
which is reffered to. Without the Bais Hamikdash, there is no Basar
Shelamim, hence there is no chiuv to eat Basar. And that is clearly
stated in a Braisa mentioned by the Bais Yosef (Tur Shulchan Aruch,
AC 529) which states that now-a-days (post BM) Ain Simcha Ela BiYayin.
This strongly implys that there is no Chiyuv to eat meat. The Minchas
Chinuch seems to indicate the same as there is no Pasuk that indicates to
us that there is any Simcha to be found in meat that is not Shelamim. The
Darcei Moshe (YD:342) says that R. Yona at the begining of Mi Shemesu
that on Shabbos and Yom Tov eating meat is strictly vountary. The SA
HaRav... same thing.. The Biur Halacha at the end of Hilchos Yom Tov
(529) "We are not Yotze Simchas Yom Tov except with wine, but there is
no requirement for meat since we no longer have Shelamim.

It therefore appears to me that many early Achronim have strongly
indicated that, while a nice minhag, there is certainly no requiremnet
toeat meat on Yom tov.

So what's all the fuss about eating Basar on Yom Tov.

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2001 18:10:47 EDT
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: RAV -20a: "The Lonely Man of Faith" (continuation)

                   YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
                  by Rav Ronnie Ziegler
 LECTURE #20a: "The Lonely Man of Faith" (Continuation)
             Part 6 - The Autonomy of Faith

Why is the contemporary man of faith "lonely in a special way" (p.6)? Let
us briefly recapitulate the Rav's argument thus far. Although faith
(Adam II) and culture (Adam I) represent two independent sides of a
dialectic eternally implanted within man, modern man identifies only with
the latter. Intoxicated by his success in the scientific-technological
realm, he has constricted his inner world to include only those values and
emotional responses which reflect and enhance his majesty. The humility
and the gnawing sense of incompleteness which characterize Adam II are
completely foreign to him. However, this does not mean that modern
man discards religion entirely. He adopts some of its outer forms,
but empties them of their covenantal- redemptive content, substituting
majestic values instead.

Thus, the contemporary man of faith confronts a bold and assertive
secularity which has infiltrated even into the religious realm.
Speaking the "foreign" language of redemption, which frequently entails
sacrifice and surrender, the man of faith seems to have lost the ability
to communicate with his surrounding society. He experiences not an
invigorating sense of uniqueness and a fruitful dialogue between the
disparate forces within himself, but rather social isolation and agonizing
loneliness. He is misunderstood and ridiculed, regarded by society as
"superfluous and obsolete."

In lecture #19, we explored one aspect of this problem: the religious
posture adopted by Adam I. Today, we shall deal with the second component:
the autonomy of Adam II's faith. After setting forth the theoretical
foundations of this issue in the first half of today's lecture (#20a),
we will examine some of its consequences, both in the intellectual realm
(#20b) and in the practical realm (#21). Thus, the second half of today's
lecture will analyze Rav Soloveitchik's response to various intellectual
attacks on Orthodoxy, and the following lecture will consider, in light
of ideas presented today, a number of the Rav's influential halakhic
responsa and public policy decisions.


What is the process by which religion becomes secularized? In the
previous lecture, we saw that although Adam I and Adam II speak different
languages and hold different values, Adam I needs to borrow numerous
concepts from Adam II in order to support his own cultural edifice. This
translation of some of Adam II's redemptive categories into Adam I's
cultural terms is entirely legitimate. However, modern man is not
satisfied with PARTIAL translation; rather, he evaluates religion ENTIRELY
in terms of its compatibility with his majestic goals. He thereby makes
religion subservient to his own majestic-cultural ends, not acknowledging
that the religious domain of Adam II has its own independent demands
of man. In truth, the faith experience issues a call to man which far
exceeds his limited comprehension and his pragmatic goals. It is, as
cited previously, "meta-logical and non-hedonic" (p.98), i.e. beyond
reason and not designed to bring about simple pleasure.

Why is this so? Faith is rooted not just in reason but in one's
whole personality, affecting every level of his being (such as the
aesthetic, emotional and moral dimensions, as we saw in the essay
"Catharsis"). Therefore, the faith commitment cannot ultimately have
a pragmatic or utilitarian basis, since these are only functional
categories, stemming from one narrow (albeit significant) component of
man's being, namely, the intellectual. In Rav Soloveitchik's powerful

   "There are simply no cognitive categories in which the total commitment
   of the man of faith could be spelled out. This commitment is rooted
   not in one dimension, such as the rational one, but in the whole
   personality of the man of faith. The whole of the human being,
   the rational as well as the non-rational aspects, is committed to
   God. Hence, the magnitude of the commitment is beyond the comprehension
   of the logos and the ethos. The act of faith is aboriginal, exploding
   with elemental force... The intellect does not chart the course of the
   man of faith; its role is an a posteriori one. It attempts, ex post
   facto, to retrace the footsteps of the man of faith, and even in this
   modest attempt the intellect is not completely successful... The man of
   faith animated by his great experience is able to reach the point at
   which not only his logic of the mind but even his logic of the heart
   ... has to give in to an 'absurd' commitment. The man of faith is
   'insanely' committed to and 'madly' in love with God." (pp.99-100)

When applied to the man of faith's commitment, the epithets "absurd,"
"insane" and "mad" denote merely that it is not based on considerations
of cold logic or practical benefit. His commitment is non-rational or
meta-rational, but not irrational; in other words, it is unrelated to
reason or above reason, but it is not opposed to reason. (For elaboration
of this important point, see the footnote on pp.107-108.)

Here we encounter in full force the Rav's radical break with the
medieval rationalist tradition of Jewish philosophy (which we shall
examine further when studying "U-vikkashtem Mi-sham," especially chapter
2). According to the Rav, the man of faith's God-awareness, or his God-
experience, lies at the core of his perception of the world and his
sense of self. This means that he cannot conceive of either himself
or the world without sensing the presence of God. For him, faith is a
basic awareness, an a priori axiom, and not a conclusion which can be
explained on the basis of certain premises. This leads precisely to
the problem of communicating faith to others, which we shall explore in
lecture #21. What is crucial for us at this stage of the argument is to
recognize that faith is not a function or an outgrowth of man's other
pursuits, but rather an "aboriginal" force, a basic calling in its own
right. Therefore, it is not subservient to other goals or values, and,
in the modern era especially, it must fiercely guard its independence.


The Rav's assertion of the autonomy of the religious realm, and of
Halakha in particular, is central to his thought. Before examining its
ramifications as regards "The Lonely Man of Faith," let us explore some
other contexts in which this issue arises. (In future lectures, we will
examine all the works mentioned below; therefore I will treat them here
only briefly.)

Halakhic Man (e.g. pp.17-29) and "Ma Dodekh Mi-Dod" (pp.70-85) deal
specifically with the autonomy of the halakhic system. Rav Soloveitchik
asserts that Halakha constitutes an independent cognitive realm,
and should be studied and applied according to the tenets of its own
internal logic, not according to the foreign categories of historical,
economic, or sociological causation. For the Rav, of course, the Brisker
method best reveals the "internal logic" of Halakha. In his sharp and
succinct formulation:

   "Kant, in his day, proclaimed the autonomy of pure reason, of
   scientific-mathematic cognition. [Similarly, my grandfather]
   Rav Chayyim fought a war of independence on behalf of halakhic
   reason and demanded for it complete autonomy. Any psychologization
   or sociologization of the Halakha strangles its soul, as such an
   attempt must also destroy mathematical thinking. If halakhic thought
   is dependent on emotional factors, it loses all its objectivity and
   degenerates to the level of subjectivity with no substance..." ("Ma
   Dodekh Mi- dod," p.78)

While Rav Chayyim and the Rav had their own reasons for developing this
"a priori" and autonomous conception of Halakha, it can also serve as
a response to the relativizing historicist orientation espoused by both
northodox movements and the academe. [See also Reference #1 below.]


Rav Soloveitchik's book, The Halakhic Mind, establishes the philosophical
basis for his assertion of the cognitive and methodological autonomy
of Halakha. Actually, like "The Lonely Man of Faith," The Halakhic
Mind focuses not just on Halakha, but more broadly, on the religious
realm in general. (The Rav did not choose the book's misleadingly
particularistic title.) In this very technical work, the Rav claims that
the "epistemological pluralism" of twentieth-century science allows
us for the first time to develop a genuine and autonomous philosophy
of religion. (Epistemology is the science of knowledge, dealing with
the question of how we know things.) Just as contemporary science,
especially quantum physics (as opposed to Aristotelian and Newtonian
physics), admits a variety of ways of viewing the world and a variety of
sources of knowledge, so too must philosophy. Therefore, the elements
of religion - in our terms, the details of Halakha - can serve as the
basis for formulating a worldview which is no less valid (but also no
more valid!) than any other. Since science and philosophy no longer claim
to describe everything knowable, there is now room to turn to religion
as a source of knowledge - and religion is now free to explain itself
in its own terms. [For more on the idea of epistemological pluralism,
see Reference #2 below.]

"The Lonely Man of Faith" is based upon the same assumption of a plurality
of worldviews (Adam I and Adam II), and upon the same assertion of
the autonomy of religion. However, instead of treating the cognitive
facet of this issue - religion as a source of knowledge - it addresses
instead the existential and experiential dimensions. While recognition
of the autonomy of religion opens up exciting theoretical possibilities,
it can also lead to a sense of alienation from those who do not share
this recognition (treating religion instead as just another facet of
culture). Thus, in place of the optimism characterizing The Halakhic Mind,
which looks forward to a new era in religious philosophy, our essay adopts
a more sober and ultimately tragic tone in depicting the man of faith's
isolation and his frustrating inability to break through the communication
barrier separating him from his contemporaries. In an eloquent analysis,
Rav Jonathan Sacks draws a connection between the two essays, written
twenty years apart (Halakhic Mind in 1945 and "Lonely Man" in 1965):

   "The pluralism of contemporary culture, which [Rav Soloveitchik]
   was the first to recognize, was both a liberation and a privation.
   It liberated tradition from having to vindicate itself in alien
   terms. But it prised tradition from its moorings in the collective
   order and made it seem as just one system among many, either
   consciously chosen (the ba'al teshuva phenomenon) or validated by an
   act of faith which is 'aboriginal, exploding with elemental force' and
   eluding cognitive analysis. Soloveitchik's genius and the poignancy
   of his intellectual development are both evidenced in this: that he
   was the first to explore the positive possibilities of the liberation
   [in The Halakhic Mind], and the first to chart the tragic dimensions
   of the privation [in 'The Lonely Man of Faith']." (Tradition in aN
   Untraditional Age, p.299)


1) INNER LOGIC OF HALAKHA: See also Rav Abraham Besdin's adaptation of a
lecture by the Rav, "The Common-Sense Rebellion Against Torah Authority,"
in Reflections of the Rav, vol. 1 (Ktav, 1993), pp.139-149.

2) THE HALAKHIC MIND: For centuries, science and philosophy had walked
hand-in-hand, with philosophy following science's lead in adopting a
single way of viewing the world. Medieval and early modern philosophy
had been beholden to Aristotelian and Newtonian science, respectively,
in determining the questions to be asked and the methods of answering
them. This forced religious philosophy either to justify religion in
rationalist- instrumentalist terms or to reject rationality altogether.

However, twentieth-century science (particularly quantum physics) no
longer posits a unified or intuitive view of the world. For example,
light is regarded as both a wave and a particle, which would seem to
countervene the tenets of Aristotelian logic. Since science has adopted a
stance of epistemological pluralism, admitting a multiplicity of models
and sources of knowledge, philosophy must follow suit. The quantitative
scientific model must no longer be regarded as the sole cognitive method
of viewing the universe. This opens the way for establishing religion
as an autonomous domain of knowledge and truth. Because the philosophy
of religion has now been liberated from naturalistic presuppositions,
Rav Soloveitchik opens his book with the bold and optimistic claim, "It
would be difficult to distinguish any epoch in the history of philosophy
more amenable to the meditating homo religiosus than that of today."

For clarification of the major arguments of The Halakhic Mind, see Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks, "Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's Early Epistemology," in
his book Tradition in an Untraditional Age (London, 1990), pp.287-301,
and William Kolbrener, "Towards a Genuine Jewish Philosophy," Tradition
30:3 (Spring 1996), pp.21-43. Both of these essays also appear in the
collection, Exploring the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik,
ed. Rabbi Marc Angel (Ktav, 1997).



Having arrived at this stage of our analysis, we are now in a position
to return to a striking statement at the beginning of "The Lonely Man
of Faith" which has puzzled many readers.

   "It would be worthwhile to add the following in order to place the
   dilemma in the proper focus. I have never been seriously troubled
   by the problem of the Biblical doctrine of creation vis-a-vis
   the scientific story of evolution at both the cosmic and the
   organic levels, nor have I been perturbed by the confrontation
   of the mechanistic interpretation of the human mind with the
   Biblical spiritual concept of man. I have not been perplexed by the
   impossibility of fitting the mystery of revelation into the framework
   of historical empiricism. Moreover, I have not even been troubled
   by the theories of Biblical criticism which contradict the very
   foundations upon which the sanctity and integrity of the Scriptures
   rest. However, while theoretical oppositions and dichotomies have
   never tormented my thoughts, I could not shake off the disquieting
   feeling that the practical role of the man of faith within modern
   society is a very difficult, indeed, a paradoxical one." (p.7)

How is it possible that these issues did not trouble the Rav? Surely it
is not due to ignorance or obscurantism on his part. Anyone who attended
the Rav's lectures, especially his philosophy classes, can testify to
the Rav's familiarity with all these issues. Why, then, did they not
disturb him?

The answer flows directly from our discussion of the autonomy of faith.
Halakha possesses its own frame of reference and its own methodological
integrity. Therefore, it has no need to justify itself before challengers
approaching it with outside assumptions. Additionally, since faith is
a basic awareness and not a reasoned conclusion, it cannot fundamentally
be shaken by cognitive dilemmas. This does not mean that the challenges
mentioned above should not be addressed at all. But it does mean, I
believe, that these questions should be kept in perspective - true faith
will not rise or fall on them. The living sense of the divine is primary;
matters of criticism are secondary.

In Rav Soloveitchik's words, the man of faith is "animated by his great
experience" (p.100), and only subsequently does his intellectual faculty
come into play. This point is closely related to two issues touched
upon briefly in previous lectures, which we can now comprehend within
a broader perspective.


In lecture #16, we saw that the cosmic experience of God renders
the cosmological proof of God superfluous. There are two reasons for
this. First, faith based on rational proof leads at best to intellectual
assent to the existence of an abstraction termed "God." Faith stemming
from experience, on the other hand, can lead to an intimate personal
relationship with the Creator. (This resembles the distinction posited
by Rav Yehuda Halevi between the God of Aristotle and the God of Abraham
- the First Cause vs. the God of the Covenant. Rihal, however, bases
his faith more on the fact of historical revelation than on personal

Second, if a person experiences God in a direct and unmediated manner,
what need does he have for abstract proofs? Both in "The Lonely Man of
Faith" (p.52) and "U- vikkashtem Mi-sham" (p.133), the Rav approvingly
quotes Kierkegaard's pointed remark on this subject:

   "Does the loving bride in the embrace of her beloved ask for proof that
   he is alive and real? Must the prayerful soul clinging in passionate
   love and ecstasy to her Beloved demonstrate that He exists? So asked
   Soren Kierkegaard sarcastically when told that Anselm of Canterbury,
   the father of the very abstract and complex ontological proof, spent
   many days in prayer and supplication that he be presented with rational
   evidence of the existence of God."


In lecture #10, we discussed the dialectic of gadlut ha-mochin and katnut
ha-mochin which characterizes gedolei Yisrael (and, in a more moderate
form, all Jews). Beside their "depth, scope and sharpness" of thought,
beside their bold creative powers and intellectual maturity, the truly
great scholars also possess the playfulness and innocence of a child,
full of curiosity, enthusiasm and limitless faith. In his eulogy for
Rav Chayyim Heller, the Rav painted a very evocative portrait of the
"halakhic man-child," which can also describe the Rav himself:

   "The adult is too clever. Utility is his guiding light. The experience
   of God is unavailable to those approaching it with a businesslike
   attitude. Only the child can breach the boundaries that segregate
   the finite from the infinite. Only the child with his simple faith
   and fiery enthusiasm can make the miraculous leap into the bosom
   of God... When it came to faith, the giants of Torah, the geniuses
   of Israel, became little children, with all their ingenuousness,
   gracefulness, simplicity, their tremors of fear, their vivid
   experiences and their devotion to them... Whenever [Moshe] fell before
   God, he cried like a child. Who can fall before his father, raise
   his eyes to him alone, to seek consolation and salvation, if not the
   child! ... The mature, the adult, are not capable of the all- embracing
   and all-penetrating outpouring of the soul. The most sublime crown
   we can give a great man sparkles with the gems of childhood." (Divrei
   Hagut Ve-ha'arakha, pp.159-160; in English: Shiurei Harav, pp.63-64)


In short, Rav Soloveitchik was not perturbed by the intellectual assaults
on Judaism because of a) the intensity of his faith experience, and b)
the methodological autonomy of Halakha. This can account partially for
why Rav Soloveitchik, despite his being the intellectual leader of Modern
Orthodoxy, did not directly address in print these conceptual assaults
on faith. "He wrote," according to Dr. Moshe Sokol, "about matters
(a) that touched to the core of his own personal struggles with Jewish
self-definition in the modern era; and (b) about which he believed that
with his unique blend of Brisk and Berlin he had much to contribute"
(Exploring the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, p.133).

It is undoubtedly true that the Rav wrote out of a sense of deep
intellectual and emotional engagement with a topic. This is what lends
his writings a great deal of their power. However, I believe that several
additional factors may account for why he wrote about certain issues
and not about others. [See also Reference #3.]

Let us take, for example, the question of biblical criticism. True,
the Rav did not write a treatise on this topic because it held no great
interest for him personally and because he felt that others, like Rav
Chayyim Heller, had more specialized knowledge on the subject. However,
he also makes a significant observation in "The Lonely Man of Faith"
(p.10) which would suggest that biblical criticism does not pose as
great a challenge as one initially would assume. The critics make their
case for multiple authorship based on certain anomalies in the biblical
text. Rav Soloveitchik points out in response that the Sages and the
Rishonim were also sensitive to these textual anomalies, but they
offered different explanations for these phenomena because they were
working with different assumptions than the critics. In other words,
taking note of textual phenomena is one thing, but interpreting the
phenomena is something else entirely.

For example, the fact that different names of God are recorded in Chapter
1 and Chapter 2 of Bereishit does not necessarily lead to the conclusion
that these chapters were penned by different authors. This fact can also
indicate that the two chapters discuss distinct typologies of man (as Rav
Soloveitchik believes), ordifferent aspects of God (as the Kabbalists
interpret), or a host of other explanations. The textual phenomena in
themselves do not "prove" anything; they acquire significance only in
light of one's preconceived notions about what the text can or should say.

Furthermore, Rav Shalom Carmy points out that two approaches are possible
when confronting critics:

A) One can respond to them point-by-point, but then one is playing in
their arena and is constantly on the defensive.

B) One can offer a compelling alternate understanding. This is precisely
what the Rav does in "The Lonely Man of Faith." Instead of undertaking a
detailed critique of the critics' interpretation of the first two chapters
of Bereishit, he undercuts their arguments entirely by presenting a cogent
alternative. Thus, he DOES actually confront the critics - in an indirect
yet constructive manner, rather than in a direct but defensive manner.


Related to this last claim is the oft-repeated assertion that the Rav
never engaged in apologetics. Apologetics results when a person accepts
an external frame of reference and explains tradition in its light. When
viewed this way, tradition becomes "problematic." By forcing tradition
to fit into a preconceived and alien framework, one effectively places
it into the proverbial "mitat Sedom" (Procrustean bed). This inevitably
leads to distortion of the tradition, either by assigning it unlikely
meanings or by ignoring that which does not cohere with one's theory.

In contrast, Rav Soloveitchik had utter confidence in Jewish tradition
and asserted its conceptual autonomy. He did not seek to "synthesize" or
"harmonize" it with any other system of thought. Rather, he accepted
Jewish tradition itself as his frame of reference, mining his vast
erudition in fields of general knowledge for ideas which could
shed new light on Judaism or enhance his understanding of man. This
non-apologetic approach characterizes the Rav's entire relationship to
secular knowledge. Imbued with strong faith and a secure sense of self,
he was unafraid to expose himself to new ideas, nor did he place limits
on his children's reading. The fact of divine revelation, entailing both
belief in God and a system of norms, could not be changed by whatever he
studied. But his understanding of tradition and his ability to communicate
it could be enhanced through the study of "the best that had been thought
and said in the world."

We have just seen that the Rav's acceptance of Jewish tradition
as his conceptual frame of reference justifies his selective use
of concepts derived from Western thought. There are also, in fact,
internal philosophical reasons (elaborated in The Halakhic Mind) which
justify this selectivity. Unlike the "theories of everything" propounded
by philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel, contemporary philosophy no
longer trusts overarching and all-encompassing systems. As a good
student of twentieth-century philosophy, Rav Soloveitchik realized
that - philosophically speaking! - he was not beholden to any one
school of thought. Therefore, he had the freedom to utilize insights
from different philosophical schools without being enslaved to any one
system. This freedom afforded him much greater room for creativity than
if the parameters and assumptions of a particular system had confined him.

[Interestingly, the Rav made the same point when comparing the Rambam to
the Ramban (see Reference #4). While the former was largely beholden to
a somewhat stifling Aristotelian framework, and had to express his ideas
in its limiting jargon, the latter was more free to exercise creativity.]

This consideration somewhat renders moot all the discussions about whether
the Rav's thought is existentialist or neo-Kantian, etc. He was far
from being an orthodox Aristotelian or Kantian who struggled to justify
Judaism in light of his externally-conceived philosophy. Rather, he was
a man of the Massora who creatively and critically utilized the most
appropriate ideas he could find in order to understand and explain the
Jewish tradition (as well as the human condition).


Let us return to the question of why the Rav did not set out to address
biblical criticism (and a host of other "burning" topics). We saw that
a) these issues did not trouble him personally; b) Rishonim had already
addressed the "troublesome" phenomena, thereby demonstrating that the
force of a question depends largely on one's presuppositions; and c)
by proposing a compelling alternative, he addressed the critics in a
roundabout way.

Beyond all this, I believe that the Rav's primary reason for not writing
about these subjects was that he simply did not regard them as the
most important issues or the main problems facing Judaism in the modern
world. The main arena of combat, in his opinion, was the soul, not the
mind. We saw that the Rav believed that the God- experience lies at the
core of faith, and the role of the intellect is only a posteriori - it
is both ancillary and subsequent to the faith-experience. Therefore,
there is no point in addressing questions of the intellect before one
establishes within himself an experiential basis of faith. Conversely,
once one has established this basis, then questions of the intellect
become less urgent.

Thus, the Rav chose to address primarily issues related to the
human existential situation: the possibility of experiencing faith
within contemporary society, the relationship between the fundamental
attitudes of modernity and religiosity, and the experiential crisis of
the contemporary believer. [See also Reference #5.] He states clearly
at the outset of "The Lonely Man of Faith" that he does not want to deal
with the abstract, intellectual side of the problem of faith and reason,
but rather with its existential dimension:

   "Theory is not my concern at the moment. I want instead to focus
   attention on a human life situation in which the man of faith as an
   individual concrete being, with his cares and hopes, concerns and
   needs, joys and sad moments, is entangled." (p.1)

I wish to stress that when the Rav says that he is "not troubled" by
the phalanx of problems mentioned previously, this is not equivalent to
saying that he is uninterested in them. He took science and philosophy
far too seriously to be able to adopt such an approach. Rather, saying
that these questions do not trouble him means that they do not shake
his faith. Nevertheless, they are worthy of serious consideration. The
epistemic autonomy of religion provides an avenue in which to search for
answers to these cognitive problems (without recourse to apologetics);
and even if this avenue of inquiry fails to provide an adequate solution,
the experiential foundation of faith provides us with the assurance that
the questions need not be immediately answerable. If one has fundamental
faith in the Halakhic system and an inner experience of the truth of
Torah, then he will relate differently to intellectual challenges and
will even be able to live more comfortably with unanswered questions.

Rav Soloveitchik saw his task mainly as helping the modern Jew to
understand his tradition, grasp its relevance and appreciate its desired
effect upon his attitudes and lifestyle. The Rav's concern, thus, was far
more with the crucial question of inner commitment to God rather than the
secondary issues of intellectual critique. He had absolute intellectual
confidence in Judaism, and was convinced that it could ward off all
challengers. However, he had less confidence in man's soul, in his depth
and strength of character, in his ability to transcend himself and his
willingness to sacrifice. In Rav Sacks' penetrating formulation (p.49),

   "It was not secular KNOWLEDGE, encountered in the University of Berlin,
   that caused Soloveitchik such searing distress, but secular MAN,
   encountered in suburban-Jewish America."

In the next (and final) lecture on "The Lonely Man of Faith," we will
confront the results of the Rav's encounter with secular man.


3) BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ISSUES: At this point, it is worth mentioning
sevebibliographical points which are crucial to gaining a comprehensive
understanding of Rav Soloveitchik's literary output. First, he had no
preconceived publication plan. His major medium was the spoken word,
and only occasionally would he consent to render in print one of his
lectures. Many of his lectures/writings were connected to particular
occasions and were not part of an aforethought project: eulogies, holiday
sermons, kinus teshuva lectures, addresses to various organizations,
etc. Additionally, chance occurrences often determined which of his
lectures were published and which not; sometimes he would publish a
lecture in response to someone's repeated entreaties, or working off a
draft someone else prepared for him. If there was no one to prod him,
a particular lecture might never be printed.

Furthermore, he was a thematic writer, not a system- builder. He wrote
about individual topics which interested him, and would often return to
and rethink these issues. In contrast to thinkers such as Aristotle or
Kant, who set out systematically to address all the major philosophic
issues of their generations, Rav Soloveitchik was neither systematic
in his approach nor comprehensive in his scope. Partially, this was
due to the aversion of twentieth-century philosophy to all- inclusive
systems (as indicated in the lecture above). For other reasons, see the
continuation of this lecture. I will have more to say on the problems
of systematizing the Rav's thought when we examine the relationship
between Halakhic Man and "U-vikkashtem Mi-sham."

4) RAMBAM VS. RAMBAN: I heard this point in a tape of a 1968 lecture by
the Rav on the Ramban's comments on Parashat Lekh Lekha. Subsequently,
I saw it mentioned in Prof. Twersky's masterful portrait of Rav
Soloveitchik, "The Rov," Tradition 30:4 (Summer 1996), p.43, footnote 17;
reprinted in Rav M. Genack, ed., Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik: Man of Halacha,
Man of Faith (Ktav, 1998). (See also sections 13 and 14 of Prof. Twersky's
article regarding the Rav's attitude towards secular studies.)

Acceptance of a preconceived philosophical system affects not only
creativity but also authenticity. In the taped lecture mentioned above,
the Rav humorously calls the Rambam "overeducated;" therefore, the
Rambam was prone to speak in philosophical cliches instead of letting
the sources speak for themselves. The Ramban, on the other hand, was
not beholden to Aristotelian categories and therefore could formulate
a more authentic Jewish philosophy.

5) FAITH AND REASON: We stated above that faith is prior to reason, and
therefore the Rav felt that it was more crucial to address the former
than the latter. Another way to view this issue is from within the
perspective of reason itself. All reasoning must be conducted within
a certain framework of presuppositions, or what in mathematics are
called axioms. As we saw, the admissibility of a question depends on
the validity of the assumptions behind it. The Rav, instead of dealing
with the details of the questions, is addressing instead the far more
crucial issue of what your governing assumptions are. As he puts it in
"The Lonely Man of Faith," one must choose the framework from within
which he will ask questions:

   "Before beginning the analysis, we must determine within which frame
   of reference, psychological and empirical or theological and Biblical,
   our dilemma should be described. I believe you will agree with me that
   we do not have much choice in the matter; for, to the man of faith,
   self-knowledge has one connotation only - to understand one's place
   and role within the scheme of events and things willed and approved
   by God..." (p.8)

If one asks from the outside, using a different set of assumptions,
then this leads an unsatisfying, apologetical answer. If one asks from
the inside - "I believe, but how am I to understand the following..." -
then we can address the question. The Rav therefore devotes himself to
elaborating the fundamental assumptions of the Halakha - its views of God,
man and the world, and the interaction between them.

Go to top.


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