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Defusing the Rav’s Bomb

 

R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik was the dominant intellectual force in mid-twentieth century American Orthodoxy. In reviewing The Emergence of Ethical Man in the latest issue of Commentary, Yoram Hazony claims to discover un-Orthodox ideas in R. Soloveitchik’s posthumously published book that breach, or expand, the bounds of Orthodox Judaism. I believe that this “bombshell” is all a misunderstanding, as I will attempt to show below.

Hazony is a serious thinker and I am merely an amateur enthusiast. While this all seems to me to be a straightforward matter of Hazony’s misreading and overreading, I wonder whether I have misunderstood his claims. I therefore offer this tentatively and encourage readers to see his article in the original rather than judging it based on my summary and response. That said, my inexpert reading of Emergence finds many original ideas but nothing remotely un-Orthodox, particularly when seen in conjunction with R. Soloveitchik’s other writings.

In the following response, I have divided Hazony’s challenges into two comments about the book in general and four fundamental beliefs that he claims R. Soloveitchik rejects in this book (the existence of a soul, the afterlife, prophecy and miracles). I contend that all six are incorrect.

I. Should the Book Have Been Published?

Hazony writes that the posthumous publication of books like this, based on recorded lectures, notes and unfinished manuscripts, is “problematic, morally and intellectually” (p. 48). His initial concerns are absolutely valid. However, his subsequent discussion seems to acknowledge that refraining from publication is also problematic because it condemns to oblivion a great man’s lifework, denying him the privilege of teaching from the grave and preventing many students from learning his original thoughts. R. Soloveitchik’s disciples grapple with this and reach different conclusions.

In my experience, the Toras HoRav foundation puts in more effort than anyone else to edit the material as R. Soloveitchik would have wanted and carefully consider the pros and cons of publication, enlisting R. Soloveitchik’s family, confidantes and leading students. From my discussion with people involved, I see the agonizing debate and soul-searching that enters these decisions. They make no claims to perfection and attempt to be clear about the sources of material and editorial process. Every decision can be challenged, and I don’t necessarily agree with every one they have made, but they are hardly acting irresponsibly.

After reading Emergence the first time, I reached the conclusion that this book is among the most original and important of the Toras HoRav series. While I have been challenged on that, nothing has been able to change my mind. This book breaks new ground and offers many surprising textual and philosophical interpretations. I have since seen notes from one of R. Soloveitchik’s graduate courses in the 1950′s where he taught similar ideas. To my mind, this book had to be published.

II. Halakhic Philosophy

Hazony points out that R. Soloveitchik concludes his Halakhic Mind with a call for a new kind of Jewish philosophy, one that emerges from halakhah: “Out of the sources of halakha a new worldview awaits formulation” (p. 102). Yet, Emergence is based largely on the narratives in Genesis and Exodus rather than halakhah. What, Hazony asks, is up with that?

Hazony is correct but overstates his case. You would not know from this review that, in Emergence, R. Soloveitchik analyzes the complex laws of zera’im and tumah. More importantly, this same challenge can be posed to many of R. Soloveitchik’s other writings. Isn’t The Lonely Man of Faith based on the two Creation narratives and Kol Dodi Dofek on Shir Ha-Shirim? We can similarly point to Confrontation and And From There You Shall Seek. Where is this proposed new worldview that supposedly emerges from halakhah?

Scholars debate whether R. Soloveitchik fully succeeded in realizing his ambitious call at the end of Halakhic Mind. Prof. Shubert Spero, in chapter 4 of his recent Aspects of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Philosophy of Judaism: An Analytic Approach, argues, against Prof. Marvin Fox, that he did not. Be that as it may, my point is that Emergence fits right in with R. Soloveitchik’s other writings.

III. Body and Soul

Hazony rightly emphasizes R. Soloveitchik’s bold claim that he is rejecting the view of Christian and Medieval Jewish scholars on body and soul (Emergence, p. 6). However, Hazony misreads this as a rejection of the concept of a soul. Rather, R. Soloveitchik rejected the dualism of separating the soul from the body and instead posited an inherent connection between the two.

Consider the following from Family Redeemed (p. 73):

The sanctity of the soul, of the spiritual personality, can be realized only via the sanctification of the body. The Romans knew of the interdependence between mental sanity and physical health. Judaism added a new dimension to the body-soul relationship. There is not only functional but metaphysical unity as well. A sacred soul can only reside in a sacred body. Or, to be more exact, sacredness of the personality is born of the naturalness of man, not of his transcendence. Only the body’s participation in and commitment to sacrificial action sanctifies the personality.

R. Soloveitchik objects to the separation of soul from body, particularly by moralists who preach ascetism. Instead, he believes that the body must be sanctified in unification with the soul and the physical pleasures elevated rather than rejected. (Cf. And From There You Shall Seek, ch. 15, p. 110ff.)

IV. Prophecy

Hazony quotes R. Soloveitchik saying that man “can never reach a transcendent God” (Emergence, p. 61). He combines this with R. Soloveitchik’s description of Avraham’s prophecy, which Avraham discovered within himself (Emergence, p. 154). Hazony contends that, taken together, these passages imply that R. Soloveitchik denies the concept of prophecy.

However, the idea that man can never fully comprehend God is unoriginal, serving as a basic concept in Maimonidean philosophy. And Hazony overreads the the passage on Avraham’s initial prophecy as a general description of the phenomenon rather than the specific case of the first great monotheistic discovery.

R. Soloveitchik explains this at greater length in his Abraham’s Journey (p. 41):

We have already established that there are two kinds of prophecy. There is external prophecy, when the prophet beholds a vision or hears a voice coming from the outside. The identity of the speaker is disclosed to the prophet. There is, however, another kind of revelation; it is anonymous. The prophet is unaware of speech coming from beyond; he is not conscious that he is being addressed. The revelation transpires in silence.

This kind of revelation occurred within the great personality of Abraham. God spoke from within. That is why Maimonides emphasizes the fact that Abraham was not instructed by anyone…

These are hardly the words of someone who denies the concept of prophecy and they fully explain the passage from which Hazony attempts to deduce R. Soloveitchik’s rejection of the concept of prophecy.

V. Afterlife

Hazony infers from a lengthy passage on the unity of a historical community (Emergence, pp. 174-177) that R. Soloveitchik denies the concept of the afterlife, metaphysical immortality. However, it seems to me that he simply misreads the passage. R. Soloveitchik states that historical immortality (e.g. being part of the Jewish people) is a prerequisite for metaphysical immortality. By positing the former, he is not denying the latter. Now read the passage that Hazony partially quotes (Emergence, p. 176):

The first concept of immortality as coined by Judaism is the continuation of a historical existence throughout the ages. It differs from transcendental immortality insofar as the deceased person does not lead an isolated, separate existence in a transcendental world. The identity persists on a level of concrete reality disguised as a people. It asserts itself in the consciousness of the many, who trace their roots to the one. Yet metaphysical immortality is based upon historical immortality. Whoever does not identify himself with the historical ego and remains on the natural level cannot attain immortality. The first conquest of death takes places in the realm of history.

I see this as evidence that R. Soloveitchik accepts the afterlife and not the opposite. It is a philosophical explanation of the ruling that one who separates from the community has no place in the World-to-Come (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Teshuvah 3:11). While R. Soloveitchik, as an Existentialist, tends to focus on this-worldly activities, he refers in passing to the World-to-Come in other works (e.g. And From There You Shall Seek, pp. 82, 178n14).

VI. Miracles

Hazony points to R. Soloveitchik’s naturalization of miracles, including the splitting of the Red Sea (Emergence, p. 187ff.). When I quoted this passage a few years ago to defend R. Natan Slifkin, a friend of mine from yeshiva also expressed astonishment at this position. Not long after, we both found ourselves in the company of R. Mayer Twersky (at a rally at the UN) and we asked him about these words published in the name of his illustrious grandfather. R. Twersky answered that he had not yet read Emergence but found the view entirely unsurprising.

Indeed, naturalizing miracles is an explicit Maimonidean goal and the claim that the splitting of the Red Sea was a miraculously timed strong wind is a possible interpretation of the Sefer Ha-Chinukh‘s words (no. 132). This is not a denial of miracles but an assertion that miracles occur within nature, a position with ample historical support within traditional Jewish sources. In R. Soloveitchik’s words, God either “planned that history adjust itself to natural catastrophes” or “commands nature to cooperate with the historical forces” (Emergence, p. 188). That is hardly a denial of miracles and entirely unremarkable.

As I understand R. Soloveitchik’s words, they provide no basis to suggest that he breached any theological boundaries in Emergence, certainly not any of the Rambam’s 13 Principles. He remains an innovative thinker within Orthodox Judaism as traditionally understood.

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

79 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    I read the same article last week and posted the following critique in last week’s news links:

    “R Gil-FWIW, I am a huge fan of Hazony’s work on post Zionism and Azure.When I use “fascinating”, that means that I found a book or or article to be quite interesting, although hardly convincing in its tenor and and conclusions. I also agree that while the article is fascinating, it is flawed.Having read the article in question, I thought that Hazony’s article significantly overlooked the following facts:

    1)The book in question describes the first eleven chapters of Sefer Breishis as HaShem’s very frustrating search for anyone who would implement His Plan for mankind, which was thereafter realized via the Bris Avos and Bris Sinai.

    2) It is hardly uncommon for posthumous works of Talmidei Chachamim to be published which have been edited in a manner to alleviate concerns of an author’s intentions.Hazony’s objection would seem to imply that he is against the editing of Rishonim and Acharonim that is a mainstay of rabbinical scholarship.

    3) Hazony’s analysis of RYBS’s understanding of the command given to Avraham Avinu in Breishis 12:1 ,man being a partner not just in creation, but carrying out historical tasks as a means of redemption, is correct, but it IMO patently wrong to state the approach therein is akin to saying that there is nothing that a Jew must believe in. Such a contention IMO illustates Hazony’s lack of familiarity with other shiurim, drashos, etc where RYBS spent much of his time on such themes as Malchiyos, Zicronos and Shofaros, Nusach HaTefilah, the Haggadah, Megilas Esther and Chanukah, wherein RYBS clearly discussed issues relating to Ikarei Emunah.

    4)The above article should have had references to pages in the works cited therein, as opposed to assuming that the reader had the same at his or her fingertips. The quoted language from The Halachic Mind appears at Page 100 thereof, where RYBS raises questions as to the vitality of relying on the Kuzari, and the MN, without distinguishing between the Halachic and Greek elements therein-However-if one looks at the endnotes, endnote # 108 ( Page 131), which discusses a famous dispute between Rambam and Ramban about the reason and rationale underlying Karbanos, RYBS noted that:

    “Whatever the merit of Nacmanides’ interpretation, one thing is clear. Philosophically, it is far superior to Maimonides’ explanation. While Maimonides’ causalistic aspect in the Guide is pure instrumentalism, Nachmanides’ interpretation penetrates the complex concept of sacrifice itself. He has elaorated an idea which may have some modern philosophical merit. v Guide III, 45-46. See, also Nachmanides Commentary on Leviticus I,9; v quotation above in Meilah VIII,8.”

    The above quoted language mirrors RYBS’s view in a shiur circa 1968 that is set forth in Thinking Aloud ( Breishis)( Holzer, R D) at Pages 3-4, as why RYBS viewed Ramban as having “contributed far more to the philosophy of religion, to Jewish world formula, to hashkafas olam, than the Moreh Nevuchim.” Claiming that RYBS was jettisoning the MN and the Kuzari for a POV rooted in Tanach cannot be reconciled with RYBS’s consistent championing of the views of the Ramban on Chumash as a source of authentic Hashkafa.

    5) When RYBS discusses the meaning of miracles at PP 187-192 of The Emergence of Ethical Man, Hazony seems to be unaware that RYBS is merely emphasizing that the plagues were all described in HaShem’s acting through natural phenomena that were known to ancient Egypt, but in terms of their “intensity and force ( Pages 187-188), which RYBS viewed , as did many Midrashim, as a one time unique event designed to effectuate God’s plan to liberate the Jewish People so that they could accept the Torah.

    As I stated, while the article in question is fascinating, I can only conclude that the same is flawed”.

  2. IH says:

    Regardless of whether Hazony is right or wrong, it is goodness that he is reinvigorating the philosophical aspects of RYBS from a new perspective.  Small “o” orthodoxies become staid and boring; and the rabbinic arguments among his progeny, invoked in his name, are a disgrace to my eyes.

    The post intrigues me enough to go out and buy a copy of Commentary which I have not done since my neo-con days 25+ years ago.

    In the meantime, I noticed this online which may provide some clues as to where Hazony is coming from:  http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/yoram-hazony-kierkegaard-and-judaism/ (note the references to RYBS in the comments).

  3. Anonymous says:

    well done–it seems Commentary should not have published this article without having it reviewed by someone in the know, e.g., David Shatz

  4. MJ says:

    I’m not going to bother reading the article because as much as Hazony is a thinker who takes himself seriously, I don’t particularly see him as a serious thinker. I also agree with Gil’s readings – I would just point out two things: The idea that prophecy can be a kind of silent inspiration itself is a fairly radical idea – albeit maimonidean (if not actually explicit in Rambam). Second, although I read EoEM somewhat casually and this is really not my area, it seems to be appropriating and synthesizing Hermann Cohen at many points – including the idea of immortality where you see him taking Cohen’s idea of historical immortality and integrating it with standard dogma (as well as going back to Kant). In any event, I agree with your assessment that Hazony has both over and under read the book as part of the Rav”s oeuvre.

  5. mycroft says:

    “Hazony writes that the posthumous publication of books like this, based on recorded lectures, notes and unfinished manuscripts, is “problematic, morally and intellectually” (p. 48). His initial concerns are absolutely valid. However, his subsequent discussion seems to acknowledge that refraining from publication is also problematic because it condemns to oblivion a great man’s lifework, denying him the privilege of teaching from the grave and preventing many students from learning his original thoughts. R. Soloveitchik’s disciples grapple with this and reach different conclusions.”

    One can of course believe that the Ravs writings that the Rav published in his lifetime are by far the most important of his works in that the Rav edited the works and intended to have these published and still be thankful for “the Toras HoRav foundation puts in more effort than anyone else to edit the material as R. Soloveitchik would have wanted “

  6. moshe shoshan says:

    I think that it is a fundamental methdological error, to attempt to disprove Hazony’s claims from other writtings of the Rav. The question is not what did the rav think? but what did he say in this most atypical peice. One we have a reading of EM we can go on to compare it to other things the rav wrote. The Rav changed his mind all the time, and wrote and said different things in different contexts, so there is no partiular need to reconcile his writings.

  7. joel rich says:

    FWIW I thought Emergence was the hardest read of all the Toras Harav works to date and when I read it I was thinking much along the lines of R’MS above- that we tend to look at baalei mesorah (especially those long dead) as having fixed lifelong opinions on everything whose job was to present us with the final meal whereas reading (and listening to the audios) of all the R’ YBS legacy , to me at least, invites us into the kitchen over a long period of time, not so much to remember the final meal (if we ever got it) but rather to teach us how a chef thinks and learns his craft.
    KT

  8. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Hazony’s point about prophecy is simply wrong and based on serious misreadings of EEM. The Rav clearly affirms the reality of prophecy in multiple passages throughout EEM. The passage on p. 61, cited by Hazony, after asserting that “man can never reach the transcendent God” goes on to say “In order to meet man God descends from transcendental infinitude into concrete finitude.” On p. 154 Abraham’s discovering God within himself does NOT refer to Abraham’s prophecy but, as the passage clearly indicates, to his earlier discovery of God on the basis of his own reason (MT Avodah Zarah 1:3). The Rav goes on to say in that very passage “At a still later date he [Abraham] becomes acquainted with this unique being.” This refers to God’s revealing Himself to Abraham and saying “Lekh lekha.”

    OTOH, Hazony has a point about the issue of the role of soul in EEM. As Moshe Shoshan correctly notes, quoting Family Redeemed is not to the point. Obviously, the Rav does not deny the concept of the soul, absurd to contemplate, but there is very little mention of it in EEM (as David Shatz once pointed out to me). The point of EEM is to show how man beginning as a naturalistic being emerges as an ethical personality. The concept of the soul here appears to play no role in this process.

    Also, while as R. Student correctly states, the Rav does affirm metaphysical immortality in EEM, it is striking that the main emphasis is on the Cohennian notion of historical immortality.

    On a seaprate note, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the Rav’s extensive citations from and reliance Buber’s Moses in EEM is worthy of note.

  9. Shlomo says:

    Hazony’s point about prophecy is simply wrong and based on serious misreadings of EEM. The Rav clearly affirms the reality of prophecy in multiple passages throughout EEM.

    Having not read EEM, I must ask: Did RYBS write it as a single work, or is a collection of fragmentary compositions which were combined after his death? If the latter, do statements about prophecy in one part of the book have a bearing on RYBS’ intent when writing other parts?

  10. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Shlomo: The Rav wrote it EEM as a single work with a very clear and coherent line of argument, each chapter building on the previous one and a summation of the whole book at the end. Moreover, as I indicated, it is not just that the Rav affirms in many passages in EEM the reality of prophecy, but that the two passages Hazony cites supposedly proving the contrary not only do not prove his point, but if read as a whole DISPROVE it.

  11. chardal says:

    >Also, while as R. Student correctly states, the Rav does affirm metaphysical immortality in EEM, it is striking that the main emphasis is on the Cohennian notion of historical immortality.

    On a seaprate note, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the Rav’s extensive citations from and reliance Buber’s Moses in EEM is worthy of note.

    Dr. Kaplan,

    In your opinion, would it be correct to say that EEM reflects the influence of Berlin on the Rav in a more explicit manner than any of his other works?

  12. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Chardal: I’m not sure what you mean by “Berlin.” Halakhic Mind is the most philosophical and technical of the Rav’s works. The method of reconstruction there, as the Rav notes, is based on the philosophy of Paul Natorp, Cohen’s disciple. The view of halakhah in Halakhic Man and Mah Dodekh mi-Dod as an a priori and ideal system reflects Cohen’s view of the autonomy of the sciences, particularly mathematical-physics. As I have argued elsewhere, the Rav’s view of teshuvh is influnced, despite some important differences, by Cohen (and Max Scheler).

    Despite the reference to historical immortality, EEM is not neo-Kantian work. EEM is the work most influenced by the BIOLOGICAL sciences (as opposed to physics). It seems that the Rav read Gardner Murphy’s book, Personality: A Bio-Social Approach to Origins and Structure (published in 1947) and was inspired by it to attempt to show how man starting as a naturalistic creature can emerge as an ethical personality. I think it one of the Rav’s boldest and most important works.

    Speaking of posthumous publication, I often wonder whether had the Rav prepared EEM for publication, he would have toned it down somewhat. But that is idle counter-factual speculation.

  13. shaul shapira says:

    “The Rav changed his mind all the time, and wrote and said different things in different contexts, so there is no partiular need to reconcile his writings.”

    Can you give a few examples?

  14. Shlomo says:

    “Cohennian notion of historical immortality”

    What is so specifically Cohennian about the idea of living on after your death through your nation? That would seem to be a quite basic idea that has been thought of by pretty much anyone ever, and recorded in literature countless times over the past few thousand years.

  15. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Shlmo: You are right, of course. It’s just that Cohen emphasized historical immortality in Religion of Reason as the true meaning of immortality in Judaism.

  16. Y. Aharon says:

    While the title of this post is eye-catching, the reference to a ‘bomb’ is misplaced. If anything, the only ‘bomb’ is Hazony’s article and viewpoint. One wonders what this man was thinking.

  17. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Hazony is a great admirer of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, has writen about him, and republished and edited his writings. He is to be highly commended of this. I only hope it is not a case of tearing down one great figure to build up another.

  18. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    I confused Yoram Hazony with his younger brother David Hazony– like sometimes bloggers have confused my bother and me? It is David Hazony who is the expert on Berkovits. My apologies.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan and others-please see the annexed link. http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=223. David Hazony is an expert on R E Berkovitz ZL, as opposed to Yoram Hazony who wrote an influential work on post Zionism.

  20. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: As you can see, I already corrected myself. We must have overlapped.

  21. Arnie Lustiger says:

    The Commentary link does not show the Hazony article (I even subscribed to the digital version in anticipation of reading it). Is it in the March or (coming) April issue?

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote in part:

    “One can of course believe that the Ravs writings that the Rav published in his lifetime are by far the most important of his works in that the Rav edited the works and intended to have these published and still be thankful for “the Toras HoRav foundation puts in more effort than anyone else to edit the material as R. Soloveitchik would have wanted”

    Why would we necessarily assume that the works of any Gadol that were published in his luifetime are necesarily more indicative of his “true intent”, as opposed to manuscripts of any nature that were posthumously published, and to which noone has challenged their veracity? That POV would necessarily deem the revised edition of any Rishon or Acharon based on a well edited and researched ksav yad as suspect, if taken to its logical extreme.
    Two prominent cases in point would be the Biur HaGra on SA, which was fact authored by the sons of the Gra IIRC,as per the introduction to the Biru HaGra, or the Chidushei R Chaim HaLevi on the Rambam, which was published years after the Petirah of RCS. By such a standard, such works are of dubious value. However, in fact, both of these works and many others are not viewed in this manner at all.

    In the case of RYBS, one can argue that other Talmidei Chachamim who are not necessarily part of the Toras HaRav orbit, and whose works are verbatim presentations of RYBS’s shiurim , drashos, as well as hanhagos, as opposed to the excellent work by the Toras Harav Foundation on the purely hashkafic works, should also be entitled to such a vote of confidence.

  23. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: This is a complex issue. However, many of the works of Torah ha-Rov are based on manuscripts that the Rav did not prepare for publication and are, to varying degrees, in somewhat of a rough and unpolished form. Limiting myself to EEM, while it is, in my view, a very important work, it clealy needed at least one more thorough revision to be ready for publication.

    The value to be ascribed to unpublished and oftentimes incomplete manuscripts is an old question. Virgil’s Aeneid was unfinished at the time of his death, and he asked that it be burned. Thankfully, Augustus denied his request. Thankfully, as well, Max Brod refused Kafka’s request that all his unpublished and incomplete works (The Trial, The Castle!) be burned. Many scholars think that if Pascal had lived to prepare his Pensees for publication, it would be less interesting than it is now in its fragmentary form. OTOH, for years many philosophers, Heidegger, for example, thought that Nietzche’s deepest ideas were to be found in his unpublished notebooks; the current and, I believe, correct view (not that I am an expert) is that his published writings have priority.

  24. mycroft says:

    “but it IMO patently wrong to state the approach therein is akin to saying that there is nothing that a Jew must believe in”
    AGREED!!!!

  25. mycroft says:

    “Why would we necessarily assume that the works of any Gadol that were published in his luifetime are necesarily more indicative of his “true intent”, as opposed to manuscripts of any nature that were posthumously published, and to which noone has challenged their veracity?”

    What the Rav chose to publish he did-the Rav went through many drafts and editing of his published works -his published works would often be changed somewhat from his original drafts.
    I don’t recall the exact quote but I believe Dr. Atarah Twersky was quoted by a Forward article dealing with some legal action about missing tapes etc something similar to the following.-the Rav published what he considered important in his lifetime

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-your link was to a lawsuit that was settled years ago.

    Re Larry Kaplan’s response to my query-all of us are ( or should be aware) that there is a fairly substantial bibliogrpahy of taped shiurim available for purchase, shiurim and drashos of RYBS translated verbatim, and sefarim of the same which are of excellent quality-and which have been done so by many Talmidei Chachamim, some of whom learned in RYBS’s shiur, and others who did not. They key IMO is using all of these works in understanding RYBS’s legacy, as opposed to claiming that only element is dispositive in doing so.

    I disagree strenuously with the claim that only the works that were published in any Talmid Chacham’s lifetime represent his chief legacy-because such a claim would result in us being left with the equivalent of a Sefer Torah Sheino Mugah-on the work of any Rishon or Acharon.

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan wrote in part:

    “The value to be ascribed to unpublished and oftentimes incomplete manuscripts is an old question. Virgil’s Aeneid was unfinished at the time of his death, and he asked that it be burned. Thankfully, Augustus denied his request. Thankfully, as well, Max Brod refused Kafka’s request that all his unpublished and incomplete works (The Trial, The Castle!) be burned. Many scholars think that if Pascal had lived to prepare his Pensees for publication, it would be less interesting than it is now in its fragmentary form. OTOH, for years many philosophers, Heidegger, for example, thought that Nietzche’s deepest ideas were to be found in his unpublished notebooks; the current and, I believe, correct view (not that I am an expert) is that his published writings have priority”

    How about the Biru HaGra and the Chiddushei R Chaim HaLevi-bothy published posthumously?

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    For a small ironic comment on the issue and value of posthumously written works, R R Ziegler’s Majesty and Humility , which is authored by the Director Research and Archives for the Toras HaRav Foundation,refers the reader to both Harei Kedem ( shiurim on Moadim edited by R M Shurkin, P.50) as well as Noraos HaRav ( verbatim transcription of shiurim on Yamim Noraim and Moadim of RYBS, Pp50,86, 247). The author refers the interested reader to these two excellent entrees into RYBS’s shiurim. Both of the same were published posthumously, and , in the case of Noraos HaRav, by an author, who never learned in RYBS’s shiru, and who merely transcribed the shiurim in an excellent manner and which were incorporated as one of the main sources in the OU’s Machzorim Mesoras HaRav for RH and YK.

  29. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: I was speaking about the Toras Ha-Rov series, the volumes of which, as I indicated, were in varying states of readiness. But I am surprised you speak so highly of Harerei Kedem. See R. Pick’s critical review and R. Krumbein’s critical comments in his essay in the Orthodox Forum Lomdus volume. True, R. Ziegler refers to Harerei Kedem, but he expresses no opinion as to its quality or value.

    I agree with you that Mycroft’s link wes completely irrelevant.

  30. Steve Brizel says:

    Harei Kedem appears to be an accurate rendition of the shiurim therein, without any references to RYBS’s hashkafa, except in the excellent notes on the Seder Leil Pesach and Kinos LTsiaha B’Av. The Noraos HaRav works are an excellent supplement to the obvious attempt by the author of Hareei Kedem to “kasher” RYBS for the yeshivishe velt.

  31. mycroft says:

    “I disagree strenuously with the claim that only the works that were published in any Talmid Chacham’s lifetime represent his chief legacy-because such a claim would result in us being left with the equivalent of a Sefer Torah Sheino Mugah-on the work of any Rishon or Acharon.”

    That is not my position I wrote “One can of course believe that the Ravs writings that the Rav published in his lifetime are by far the most important of his works in that the Rav edited the works and intended to have these published and still be thankful for “the Toras HoRav foundation puts in more effort than anyone else to edit the material as R. Soloveitchik would have wanted “-but certainly it should be obvious that what one edited for publication in ones lifetime is of greater import than whatone did not decide to publish-I have read most of what the Toras HoRav has put out and they are to be thanked for whatthey have done.

  32. mycroft says:

    “mycroft on March 30, 2012 at 12:02 am
    While googling didn’t find Forward article but re Rav and tapes see

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/22/arts/modern-orthodox-jews-have-a-hero-but-not-all-his-words.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    Steve Brizel on March 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm
    Mycroft-your link was to a lawsuit that was settled years ago. ”

    Information relevant to the public is still important irrespective of what theresult of the lawsuit-thus info from the Barry Graryv Lubavitch trial from more than 25 years ago would be very relevant to understanding Chabad-similarly statements from parties are relevant to whatthey believed what is important-if my recollection of what a daughter of the Rav felt about what is important is correct it is relevant irrespective of any lawsuits being settled.
    My link to the NYT is simply to show that there was machlokes about the Ravs literary estate. I tried the Forwardss website and put Soloveitchik as a search term and received many hits unfortunately none before 2000-I suspect they haven’t put on line the pre 2000 material-if someone has a copy or link to that article it would be useful.

  33. Jonathan S says:

    I worry that you are misunderstanding Hazony’s assessment of the Rav’s views on matters such as prophecy and miracles. It is not that he is denying the existence of prophecy/miracles/the afterlife/the soul, only that they can be understood in transcendental terms divorced from that which is observable in the world. While certainly this is a strong claim, and as Hazony points out, not in line with mainstream Orthodoxy, Christianity or medieval Jewish philosophy, it is not the same as saying that the Rav does not recognize prophecy or miracles for example in EEM. Only that the meaning of these terms is grounded in the perceivable world. “Or, to be more exact, sacredness of the personality is born of the naturalness of man, not of his transcendence” (RYBS, EEM).

    For instance, I think lines like these misrepresent the debate: “these are hardly the words of someone who denies the concept of prophecy” or “The Rav clearly affirms the reality of prophecy in multiple passages throughout EEM.” The question is not whether prophecy exists or not (nobody is arguing that), but rather what we are referring to when we talk about prophecy.

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote:

    “Information relevant to the public is still important irrespective of what theresult of the lawsuit-thus info from the Barry Graryv Lubavitch trial from more than 25 years ago would be very relevant to understanding Chabad-similarly statements from parties are relevant to whatthey believed what is important-if my recollection of what a daughter of the Rav felt about what is important is correct it is relevant irrespective of any lawsuits being settled”

    I see no connection or relevance between the parties in a long settled case with a recent statement by a daughter of RYBS, Can you identify or point to one work published posthumously by the protagonist in the long ago settled action, with respect to or which would more than remotely support the claims that he advanced in the linked article ?

  35. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Jonathan S.: Thank you for your important comment. I certainly agree,and said so explictly that EEM is in many ways a radical work. However, you ignore my contention that Hazony’s analysis of the passages from EEM on pp. 61 and 154 re prophecy ignore the passages’ full context and in the case of p. 154 is a simple misreading.

  36. Yoram Hazony says:

    I am very grateful to Torah Musings for devoting so much attention to my article on the Rav’s bombshell in Commentary. Thanks R. Gil for taking time to respond so carefully and draw attention to it.

    But I do think much of the discussion so far has been based on a misinterpretation of what I wrote. Nowhere in my article do I say that R. Soloveitchik’s book “denies” the existence of prophecy, miracles, immortality, or redemption. The Rav does not deny any of these things. On the contrary, he argues for the existence of all of them quite clearly.

    The point lies elsewhere. R. Soloveitchik’s “Emergence of Ethical Man” is a defense of a philosophical position sometimes referred to as “religious naturalism”: It is a view that suggests that the phenomena of religion aren’t principally about the violation of the laws of nature. Look carefully through this book, and you’ll see that this is in fact one of the Rav’s central theses: Not the denial of the existence of prophecy or miracles, but the claim that these concepts describe aspects of the natural order.

    To make this view work, the Rav does some important re-configuring of what the natural order is really like–for example, arguing that nature isn’t properly understood if it’s seen as a clockwork of necessary movements of matter. (He follows Bergson on this point.) So if you try to keep an open mind, you can come away from this astonishing book with a very different view of what nature is, and consequently also of what Orthodox Judaism might be.

    Commentary doesn’t have footnotes (sorry about that), but I will send out a footnoted version of my article on my blog ‘Jerusalem Letters’ shortly to make continued discussion easier for those who are interested.

  37. Yoram Hazony says:

    Jonathan S., thanks for your point, with which I am in agreement. The passages Lawrence Kaplan cites only reinforce the view that R. Soloveitchik believes in the existence of God and prophecy. They do not in any way contradict the Rav’s belief that anything whatsoever that man can know about God is known through nature and without a violation of its laws.

  38. mycroft says:

    “Steve Brizel on April 1, 2012 at 10:19 am
    Mycroft wrote:

    “Information relevant to the public is still important irrespective of what theresult of the lawsuit-thus info from the Barry Graryv Lubavitch trial from more than 25 years ago would be very relevant to understanding Chabad-similarly statements from parties are relevant to whatthey believed what is important-if my recollection of what a daughter of the Rav felt about what is important is correct it is relevant irrespective of any lawsuits being settled”

    I see no connection or relevance between the parties in a long settled case with a recent statement by a daughter of RYBS, Can you identify or point to one work published posthumously by the protagonist in the long ago settled action, with respect to or which would more than remotely support the claims that he advanced in the linked article ?”

    I believe the following to be true:

    The Toras Harav Foundation is doing an important job increasing knowledge of the Rav by publishing manuscripts of the Rav.
    As important as that function is -publishiong a manuscript of someone not intended for publication does not reach quite the same level of importance as manuscripts which were written for publication and edited through various drafts, galleys, page proofs etc by the Rav.
    If I recall correctly and if I am not correct someone can correct me-the Ravs daughter was quoted I believe in the Forward in the 90s for the proposition that although sadly many of the Ravs writings got destroyed accidentally what was really important to the Rav he published in his lifetime-certainly a likely believable proposition.
    That a lawsuit was settled years ago has no relevance to what I am stating that the most important works of the Rav are those that he published during his lifetime-that does not in one iota take away from the thanks due to the Torass Harav Foundation and their various editors for the work that they have done.

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote in part:

    “The Toras Harav Foundation is doing an important job increasing knowledge of the Rav by publishing manuscripts of the Rav.
    As important as that function is -publishiong a manuscript of someone not intended for publication does not reach quite the same level of importance as manuscripts which were written for publication and edited through various drafts, galleys, page proofs etc by the Rav”

    Such an answer IMO ignores the fact that some of the most influential seforim in the Torah world were posthumously published by family members-and are considered to be very important, if not monumental works, regardless of the same not being published in the author’s lifetime.It also fails to deal with the fact that such an approach leaves any student who is remotely aware of the fact that the texts either are incomplete and in need of revision and very careful editing that he or she is working with the equivalent of a Sefer Torah Sheino Mugah.

  40. mycroft says:

    “It also fails to deal with the fact that such an approach leaves any student who is remotely aware of the fact that the texts either are incomplete and in need of revision”

    The Ravs published works in his lifetime were edited by him. He was known to be very excting in the lqnguage and punctuation that he used.

  41. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: Sometimes, you sound like a broken record. The issue here is not Hiddushei Rabbeynu Hayyim Halevi. The point here, as mycroft and I have mentioned time and again, is that the works edited by Toras HoRav for publication, for all their importance which neither of us denied, did not receive the same final careful editing by the Rav as did Halakhic Man, LMF, U-Vikashtem, etc.

    Yoram Hazony: You are right that the general approach of EEM is religious naturalism, as I admitted. And, you are further right the Rav interprets miracles naturalistically, as I already noted in 2006 at length in an essay posted on hirhurim. It is concerning the Rav’s view on prophecy in EEM that cannot agree with you for the reasons I indicated.

  42. IH says:

    Might I suggest a phone call between the two of you to clarify the scope of the disagreement. We will all benefit from the result.

  43. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    IH: Between me and Steve Brizel?

    Seriously, let me read Hazony’s footnoted version first.

  44. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan-We disagree. I think that the POV that views only woks published in the lifetime of an author simply cannot be applied to the works of a Rishon or Acharon that were published and edited posthumously. Why should proofs from Virgil, Kafka, etc to the contrary have a lot of relevance to some of the greatest works of Torah-which we know from many cases have been published and edited posthumously?

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote in part:

    “If I recall correctly and if I am not correct someone can correct me-the Ravs daughter was quoted I believe in the Forward in the 90s for the proposition that although sadly many of the Ravs writings got destroyed accidentally what was really important to the Rav he published in his lifetime-certainly a likely believable proposition”

    Actually, this was one of the allegations that was mentioned in the linked article-but since the case was settled, one can hardly view such a statement as being proven in a court of law.

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-Larry Kaplan and I have disagreed on this thread solely on one issue-how should one view the posthumously edited and published works of RYBS in comparison to the works published in RYBS’s lifetime. No one needs to prove to me that RYBS was an extremely rigorous thinker and writer and equally careful editor of his own writings, to which he subjected the same to a standard that Larry Kaplan can provide first hand testimony.

    My objection is rooted in the very simple fact that we know of many of the Torah world’s greatest works that were published posthumously, and that the “in the lifetime only” standard inherently and unfairly limits the scope of any Rishon or Acharon’s work, and the dissemination of the same. Such a standard may be what dictates an author’s “true intent” in the secular academic world. However, I think that the publication of a work of Torah, such as the works published by Toras HaRav, should not governed by such rules, and, in fact, has never been governed by such a standard. I would argue that anything published that sets forth RYBS’s shiurim, drashos,hashkafa posthumously,regardless of the author or editor, fits within the rubric of what is called MiPi HaShemuah.

  47. Joseph Kaplan says:

    I think Steve’s example of Hiddushei Rabbeynu Hayyim Halevi makes an interesting point. AIUI, Reb Chaim didn’t publish during his lifetime. So we have what we have and there’s nothing else from his pen to compare it to. And looking at it independently, it’s wonderful that we have it; the world of Torah would be poorer had it not been published.

    But with the Rav, we have two groups of writings; those he published and those others published after he died. We know the meticulous care he gave to what he published. In fact, my mother worked for the RCA when either LMF or Confrontation was published by Tradition (Lawrence?) and I vividly remember her telling us how he drove the people at Tradition crazy with calls every day making the most minor corrections so it could be perfect. Therefore, we know that what he published during his lifetime was as close to perfection as a human being can get. The same is, of course, not true about that which was published posthumously. Not that such works have no value; they have immense value and much — though not all — of that material has added a great deal to the Rav’s legacy and the Torah he has left to us. It is only in comparison to the work he personally edited and gave his final imprimatur that it takes second place. IOW, it’s very very good and very very important; just not as good and as important as the other.

  48. IH says:

    I understand the logic, but what does one make then of this excerpt from Samuel Freedman’s NYT piece that Mycroft linked above:

    Despite all the activity, he left a relatively small body of written work, partly because of his perfectionist bent. For example, his seminal essay ”Halakhic Man,” published in Hebrew in 1944, was not translated into English for 39 years.

    With his lectures, though, Rabbi Soloveitchik was mindful of posterity. He had his Talmud classes at Yeshiva and elsewhere taped, beginning in 1954, storing hundreds of cassettes and reels in his campus apartment and Brookline residence. As Parkinson’s disease was forcing him from the classroom in 1984, he instructed Mr. Berman in a letter to ”take custody of the tapes and lectures” to ”arrange for their preservation and reproduction.”

    On the surface, this would indicate a pecking order of: 1) his own “perfectionist” written work, 2) a recorded voice session in its entirety (or a transcript thereof), 3) other’s work to synthesize recorded voice into written form.

  49. mycroft says:

    “The point here, as mycroft and I have mentioned time and again, is that the works edited by Toras HoRav for publication, for all their importance which neither of us denied, did not receive the same final careful editing by the Rav as did Halakhic Man, LMF, U-Vikashtem, etc.”
    I agree 100% with Prof Kaplan

    “But with the Rav, we have two groups of writings; those he published and those others published after he died. We know the meticulous care he gave to what he published. In fact, my mother worked for the RCA when either LMF or Confrontation was published by Tradition (Lawrence?) and I vividly remember her telling us how he drove the people at Tradition crazy with calls every day making the most minor corrections so it could be perfect. Therefore, we know that what he published during his lifetime was as close to perfection as a human being can get. The same is, of course, not true about that which was published posthumously. Not that such works have no value; they have immense value and much — though not all — of that material has added a great deal to the Rav’s legacy and the Torah he has left to us. It is only in comparison to the work he personally edited and gave his final imprimatur that it takes second place. IOW, it’s very very good and very very important; just not as good and as important as the other.”
    Except for making it clear that both LMF and Confrontation were published in Tradition and sadly to the best of my knowledge I never met the Kaplan’s mother but certainly have no reason to doubt the story-except for driving people atTradition crazy-there may be a more diplomatic way to express the Ravs constant editing and changes of articles that he wrote in his lifetime. I believe Prof Kaplan has referredto how much time he spent with the Rav on his translation of Ish Hahalacha-a translation that officially ifI recall does not even thank the Rav for his assistance-a fortiori what one could expect with the detail of his own works.

  50. mycroft says:

    “what was really important to the Rav he published in his lifetime-certainly a likely believable proposition”

    Actually, this was one of the allegations that was mentioned in the linked article-but since the case was settled, one can hardly view such a statement as being proven in a court of law.”

    What does proven in a court of law have to do with peoples opinions that are discussed? Hirhurim and scholarship for example don’t follow rules of evidence for example.

  51. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan and IH-I agree that the “gold standard” remains that which RYBS edited and published in his lifetime. Yet, I think that intellectual honesty dictates that any previously unpublished shiur, drasha, Siddur, Siddur, article, essay and letters are Min Pi HaShemuah or “Neerach Al Yidei HaTalmidim” in the parlance that is used to demarcate such works from anything published in an author’s lifetime. IMO, Mi Pi HaShemuah is the unifying factor between such disparate works as RHS’s Seforim, Hareri Kedem, Noraos HaRav, the works published by the Toras HaRav Foundation, the Machzoim, Siddur, Kinos, and the volumes by R Genack,R Avishai David and R D Holzer.

  52. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote:

    “What does proven in a court of law have to do with peoples opinions that are discussed? Hirhurim and scholarship for example don’t follow rules of evidence for example”

    Such allegations are no more than opinions or portions of the human anatomy that are known to both genders, and shed liitle, if any light, on the isssue at hand. They are not necessarily representative of truth, either in the sense of Amitah Shel Torah or proven as a matter of law under the rules of evidence.

  53. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote, and cited this portion of a NYT article:

    “With his lectures, though, Rabbi Soloveitchik was mindful of posterity. He had his Talmud classes at Yeshiva and elsewhere taped, beginning in 1954, storing hundreds of cassettes and reels in his campus apartment and Brookline residence. As Parkinson’s disease was forcing him from the classroom in 1984, he instructed Mr. Berman in a letter to ”take custody of the tapes and lectures” to ”arrange for their preservation and reproduction.”

    I think that the above quote is inaccurate as well as historically moot for the following reasons. Anyone who knows that taped shiurim of RYBS’s shiurim have been available for sale and distribution for many years, and that many of the same can be easily accessed via the Web. Many talmidim of RYBS had their own libraries of their own tapes, including many on video, as well tapes of Divrei Torah given when RYBS spoke at family simchas. RYBS gave shiurim in many locales, at which were tapes initially without and in later years, with RYBS’s permission.

  54. IH says:

    I have never been an acolyte so I don’t know, but is there a difference in “pecking order” (for lack of a better term) between the shiurim taped at the explicit request of RYBS (for posterity) and those taped by acolytes not at his direct request?

    Incidentally, I did not see a follow up article in the NYT archive about this case. Is there a public record of its settlement that sheds light on the key allegations that Samuel Freedman reported?

  55. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-the various tapes for sale and downloading do not contain any such pecking order. Yet, I know of no one who refrains from purchasing the same based on such a “pecking order.”

  56. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry and Joseph Kaplan-I think that all of the works that I classified as MiPi HaShemuah since RYBS’s petirah fall in the same rubric as the excellent Halicos Shelomoh volumes of Psak, etc from RSZA which were also published posthumously. In Minchas Shlomoh, one reads the ShuT and other Chiddushim, etc,what RSZA wrote and published in his lifetime. Halicos Shelomoh is an excellent guide to the same as well as to what RSZA mentioned in shiurim and how RSZa was quoted in seforim such as SSK.

  57. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, one can easily find numerous works of the Mi Pi HaShemuah category that were posthumously published and “Neerach Al Yidei HaTalmidim” for many Acharonim and Gdolei Torah worthy of that overused term.

  58. IH says:

    Steve — Just to be clear, my question about pecking order was regarding scholarship of RYBS?

  59. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-I would certainly agree with Larry Kaplan that the gold standard is that of works published in RYBS’s lifetime, and that shiruim, drashos, articles, essays, seforim published thereafter are all Mi Pi HaShemuah.

  60. Y. Aharon says:

    This debate about the relative importance of the post-humous releases of RYBS’ shiurim and writings brings to mind another issue. I have been told by someone who has read RYBS’ published shiurim and lectures, and is fully capable of understanding them in depth, that there is a clear distinction between the published regular shiurim and the yahrzeit lectures. The latter are polished and logically developed, whereas the former can be characterized as works in progress. Is there a general consensus on the relative quality of these works?

  61. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Mycroft: In the Introduction to my translation of Halakhic Man, I TWICE thank the Rav for “the time and effort and, indeed, profound intellectual energy and creativity he expended into reviewing my translation.”

    The story that my brother related about our mother is in connection with LMF. Readers of the original Tradition issue may remember that inserted into the issue was a slip of paper with corrigenda. My mother, who at the time was working in the RCA office, told us that the week or so before the issue went to press all the RCA rabbis involved in the issue stayed away from the office so that the Rav could not reach them and phone in yet more changes. (This was, younger bloggers need to recall, in the pre-historic days when there were no cell phones, faxes, and e-mails.) The Rav somehow managed to track down one of the RCA rabbis in the office of the cemetery where he was officiating at a funeral and gave him the last minute changes found in the coriggenda!

    As for posthumous works: As I indicated, contrary to Steve’s insinuations I value greatly such posthumous and incomplete works Virgil’s Aeneid, Montaigne’s Pensees and Kafka’s Trial and Castle. These works do pose serious problems for editors, however.

    Works like Hiddushei Rabbeynu Hayyim Halevi on the Rambam and the Biurei ha-Gra on the SA, though published posthumously, were carefully written and edited and were certainly ready for publication, in addition to represesnting the most substantial halakhic works of those luminaries.

    With respect to the posthumously published works of the Rav, one canot place them all in the same basket. Certainly EEM, which was intended as a book and was carefully writen by the Rav, though it required more editing to be publishable, carries more weight than a student’s lecture notes.

  62. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Y Aharon: The question as to whether the Shiurim le-Zekher Abba Mari are representative of the Rav’s shiurim in general is the subject of an interesting debate between R. Elyakim Krumbein and R. Avi Walfish in the Orthodox Forum volume on Lomdus.

  63. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan-would you consider Noroas HaRav (verbatim transcriptions of taped shiurim) and Hareri Kedem , as opposed to the works of RHS, R A David and R D Holzer merely “a student’s lecture notes”?

  64. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan-I reread the debate between R Krumbein and R Walfish in the Orthodox Forum volume on Lomdus. Their respectively differing views of Harerei Kedem as either an unsuccessful attempt to render RYBS’s shiurim into yeshivishe friendly categories or a sefer of Chiddushim consistent with Chidushei HaGraM ve HaGrid are important.

    I would note that R M Shurkin, who is a RaM at Yeshivas Toras Moshe, who had previously learned in Beis HaTalmud and MTJ, before he learned in RIETS, was noted in Mentor of Generations at Page 236, as one of the “most dedicated students in the shiur” along with RHS, RAL, R HJ Reichman, R M Genack,R H Billet , R A Kahn and R M Willig.

  65. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan and others-FWIW, when I purchased Harei Kedem, I “emended” the Shaar Blatt and inserted the phrase “RY of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzhcak Elchanan.”

  66. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, the discussion and debate between R Krumbein and R Walfish can be downloaded at YUTorah.

  67. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: These two views of Harerei Kedem are not necesarily inconsistent. Hidushei Ha-Gram ve-ha-Grid itself represents an earlier earlier stage of Rav’s Torah and may thus be more “Yeshivishe” friendly.

    Rav Shurkin, whom I remember well, was certainly one the most dedicated students in the Rav’s shiur. That he then could have, in effect, slapped the Rav in the face on a personal level by not referring to him as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzkah Elchanan, but rather referred to him as Gaon Av bet-Din of Boston, is alas all too possible to understand as it is impossible to forgive.

    To evaluate all the varying projects which seek to make the Torah of the Rav available is a long and difficult job, and I do not believe this is the place for it.

  68. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: Our last comments crossed. I hope all here will agree that your “emendation” was fully warranted.

  69. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan-I agree that the Shaar Blatt on Harerei Kedem was wrong.

  70. Joseph Kaplan says:

    As I think about this, there’s a difference between things a person says during his lifetime, and not only between lifetime and posthumously. What the Rav said in a yahrtzeit shiur is different, and must be given different weight, from what he said in his daily shiur which is different from what he said at a Sinday morning presentation at Maimonides, which is different from what he said to someone who asked him a question between mincha and ma’ariv or after a shiur at YU. And it’s not only the Rav; it’s true about all of us. If our boss gives an an assignment which he says he’s going to present to the Board of Directors and we have 2 weeks to reasearch and write it, what we say in response to such an assignment should be taken differently than what we say if he sticks his nose into our office and asks us our opinion about something. Everything we say and write is not the same and does not have the same weight; it’s true about us and, al achat kama vecama, about the Rav.

  71. mycroft says:

    “R. Soloveitchik’s naturalization of miracles, including the splitting of the Red Sea (Emergence, p. 187ff.). When I quoted this passage a few years ago to defend R. Natan Slifkin, a friend of mine from yeshiva also expressed astonishment at this position. Not long after, we both found ourselves in the company of R. Mayer Twersky (at a rally at the UN) and we asked him about these words published in the name of his illustrious grandfather. R. Twersky answered that he had not yet read Emergence but found the view entirely unsurprising”
    The Rav certainly did not have problems from a theological grounds to one believing like Saadiah and the Rambam that Bilaam’s donkey never spoke.

  72. mycroft says:

    “Joseph Kaplan on April 2, 2012 at 6:30 pm
    As I think about this, there’s a difference between things a person says during his lifetime, and not only between lifetime and posthumously. What the Rav said in a yahrtzeit shiur is different, and must be given different weight, from what he said in his daily shiur which is different from what he said at a Sinday morning presentation at Maimonides, which is different from what he said to someone who asked him a question between mincha and ma’ariv or after a shiur at YU. And it’s not only the Rav; it’s true about all of us. If our boss gives an an assignment which he says he’s going to present to the Board of Directors and we have 2 weeks to reasearch and write it, what we say in response to such an assignment should be taken differently than what we say if he sticks his nose into our office and asks us our opinion about something. Everything we say and write is not the same and does not have the same weight; it’s true about us and, al achat kama vecama, about the Rav.”

    Very well put-I would a minor point contrast the ravs shiurim in Yu with his Saturday night shiurim at Maimonides-his Sunday morning classes were more traditional shiurim.

  73. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Yoram Hazony: Thank you for making your very interesting and challenging essay available. After reading it, I wish to say that I do not think that R. Student quite caught the nuanced nature of your analysis, much of which I agree with. That said, I still believe that you have not represented the Rav’s view on prophecy correctly. I touched on this briefly in my earlier comments.

    You might wish to read my essay in the hirhurim archives July 9, 2006 on Nature and Miracles in EEM. I am busy with other matters now, but I hope, when I have the time, to write an extended response to your essay, where I will further elaborate on the Rav’s view of miracles. For the meanwhile, let me note that the Rav’s comment on p. 187 of EEM “A turning point in history is always a miracle, for it commands attention as an event which intervened fatefuly in the formation of that group or individual,” and his futher comment on p. 188 “The miracle does not destroy the objective scientific nexus in itself” are both adaptations of very similar statements made by Buber in his book Moses, which is cited fairly frequently in EEM.

  74. tzvee says:

    The Rav that I knew did not drive people crazy. I reject the notion that such an unsubstantiated recalled story about the Rav is meaningful. Many writers great and small obsess over detailed corrections at the end of a project before its publication, none of which gets them “close to perfection” whatever that may mean.

    Also I don’t follow this whole dichotomy: “But with the Rav, we have two groups of writings; those he published and those others published after he died. We know the meticulous care he gave to what he published…” Excuse me. Other people gave great care to the publication of the posthumous works. Let us not diminish their efforts. And it is clear to me that nobody misrepresents the works published by others after the Rav’s death as anything other than what they are. Shouldn’t all the publications stand, as ideas and insights into the meaning of Judaism, on their own merits, regardless of when and where they were issued? Of course one set of writings may be “more authentic” because of the circumstances of its publication. But who is to say without looking at the contents and all of the other variables?

    Yoram, thank you for coming and commenting. I noticed and appreciated your visit.

  75. Yaacov Krausz says:

    I only saw Prof. Hazony’s article when he posted it on Jerusalem Letters and posted my comments as a response on that site before coming across this website. My response is copied below. My opinions essentially mirror those posted on this website by R. Student so there is nothing drastically new for those who read R. Student’s remarks.

    However, I was wondering, did anyone else find the Rav’s characterization of Mother Nature in EOEM a bit over the top? He seems to say that the physical Earth’s response to sin is built into the system and does not require any hashgacha pratis by God to react to Man’s misdeeds. He takes God’s continued involvement with the world completely out of the picture. Almost as if to say that God created the world but then had nothing to do with it after that. An interesting theological view, certainly not original, but hardly Jewish.

    My original post:
    In The Emergence of Ethical Man, the Rav was not shy about disagreeing with Rishonim. On page 6 he explicitly disagrees with their view on the seperateness of man from nature (the topic of the book). On page 41 he explicitly disagrees regarding anthropomorphis m. On page 150 he explicitly disagrees regarding the inherent kedusha of dead matter.

    To make any further inferences that there are additional bombshells in the book, if only it is read carefully, is going out on a limb. The topics that Prof. Hazony claims the Rav had bombshell ideas about (the existence of a soul, its immortality, prophecy and miracles) and argued with the Rishonim about are arugably of much greater significance than those topics that the Rav explicitly states that he disagrees with the Rishonim about. If the Rav would have held those views he would have explicitly said so.

    Prof Hazony says, “Is man not endowed with a potentially immortal (that is, supernatural) soul? Can man not attain miraculous (that is, supernatural) knowledge by means of prophecy? Is man’s hope of salvation not in the miraculous (that is, supernatural) deeds of the God of Israel? In reducing the transcendent aspiration in man to a mere “modifying attribute,” all of this is thrown into question.”

    Prof. Hazony wants to convince us that the Rav did not believe that man has a soul.

    The Rav’s purpose in writing the book was to restore the proper balance between man as part of nature and his transcendance. As the Rav states (page 9) “both ideas were considered inseperable by the Bible”. The Rav does claim that man’s personality is part of nature (that is the extent of the bombshell). Nowhere does the Rav deny that man has a transcendental soul.

    Regarding prophecy, Prof Hazony says “Revelation is thus presented not as an overpowering, alien force, acting from outside Abraham’s own soul. The revelation is from God, but it is not so much received as something that Abraham “discovers,” that he “goes out to meet,” that he “chances to find… within himself,” that he “consciously adopts.” All this emphasizes the divine command as something that arises in the context of an active human personality that is searching and consequently makes discoveries. ”

    Prof. Hazony wants to convince us that the Rav did not believe that God speaks to man in direct prophecy.

    The Rav’s description of how Abraham’s relationship with God developed needs to take into account all the Midrashim of how Abraham, by himself, came to the realization that there is only one God. The Rav also wants to stress that Abraham was not coerced into the relationship. This description of prophecy is unique to Abraham. Nowhere does the Rav claim that he disagrees with how prophecy is understood by the Rishonim or by contemporary Orthodoxy.

    The quote that Prof. Hazony uses to prove his point states “As a natural being, man is arrested within concreteness and, as such, can never reach a transcendent God…. Man discovers God within finitude, within man’s own realm…. When man frees himself from such natural bonds [of concrete time and place], he loses contact with God.”.
    But that does not preclude God from coming down into the realm of man and initiating a conversation with man. In fact that is exactly what the Rav says happens when prophecy takes place on page 61. “Man, in his confinement, and God, in his voluntary exile , meet at certain crossroads. God chances upon and surprises man”. Perhaps, Moses meets God “on top of the rock” as opposed to in heaven but that is a minor detail, not a bombshell.

    Regarding miracles, Prof Hazony says that the Rav is trying to make the point that “what is celebrated in the biblical account of the Israelite’s departure from Egypt is not the fact that the laws of nature can be violated, and that God did indeed violate them in this or that plague. Rather, the biblical narrative celebrates something entirely different: The fact that the dead matter of the physical world is capable of displaying moral qualities—that it is capable of movement in a direction that the human mind can recognize as being ethically valenced and positive. What we see in the exodus from Egypt is not the failure of the natural world to function according to physical law, but rather the remarkable possibility that the natural world can, at times, act in accordance with the dictates of the moral law.”

    If this was indeed the Rav’s point it would truly be a bombshell. To give “dead matter” the independant ability to decide when to intervene in the course of history is indeed revolutionary for Jewish thought.

    Again, the Rav is trying to reinstate a balance between the natural and the transcendental. The Rav feels that we fail to appreciate the natural elements of certain miracles. He therefore points these out and shows that the Torah wanted us to appreciate these aspects. Nowhere does the Rav take God out of the equation. It is God who performs miracles. It is God who tells dead matter what to do and when to do it. All the Rav is saying is that when a miracle does take place it is more “natural” than we are used to believing.

    I must say though that I am very ill at ease with the Rav’s characterizatio n of “Mother Nature”. To the extent that the Rav is to be taken literally, it is very disturbing. It is obvious, based on everything else we know about the Rav’s belief in one God, that the Rav was speaking metaphorically. I have to believe that if the Rav would have prepared this manuscript for publication he would have edited that chapter more carefully.

    Regarding immortality, Prof. Hazony wants to convince us that the Rav did not believe that there is a life after death. Instead, “the biblical concept of man offers immortality only through the merger of one’s living consciousness with the unending life of one’s people”.

    He quotes the Rav: “[The] concept of immortality as coined by Judaism is the continuation of a historical existence throughout the ages.”

    However here Prof. Hazony is being deliberately misleading. The quote actually says ” The first concept of immortality as coined by Judaism is the continuation of a historical existence throughout the ages.” The word “first” is crucial.

    Again, the Rav is trying to reinstate a balance between the natural and the transcendental. Living on in historical memory is a sense of immortality, and it may even be the first sense of that term according to the Bible, but nowhere does the Rav say it is the only form of immortality. The Rav states “the first conquest of death takes place in the realm of history”. What the second or third conquests of death are, the Rav does not tell us in this manuscript.

    That this manuscript was not ready for publication is very evident from pages 176-177. The text confuses resurrection of the dead with the idea of a historical immortality. The Talmud proves that there is a Biblical basis for the belief in the resurrection of the dead. If Aaron is alive again, he can eat terumah. There is no need to postulate that historical immortality is the vehicle through which the promise that he will be given terumah is fulfilled. But this brings us back to the debate about how Maimonides understood the concept of the resurrection of the dead. Clearly, the Rav’s line of reasoning needed further refinement and elaboration.

    In any case, I think Prof. Hazony is entitled to look for support for his views on these very important concepts wherever he can. I just think that if the Rav wanted to say the things Prof. Hazony thinks he is saying, the Rav would have said them clearly and unambiguously.

  76. [...] immortality, a claim that drew swift and sharp rejoinders from Orthodox writers. Rabbi Gil Student argued in the popular Hirhurim blog that Hazony “simply misreads” R. Soloveitchik, which is right: [...]

  77. [...] immortality, a claim that drew swift and sharp rejoinders from Orthodox writers. Rabbi Gil Student argued [4] in the popular Hirhurim blog that Hazony “simply misreads” R. Soloveitchik, which is right: [...]

 
 

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