R. Aharon Kotler was a fiery advocate of his beliefs that would now be classified as Charedi. R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik was an equally passionate champion of an enlightened and moderately Zionist Orthodoxy. These two Talmudic geniuses maintained a complex relationship that included cooperation in important Orthodox communal causes.
In his ongoing serious of blog posts of reflections, Dr. Marvin Schick discusses the complex relationship between these two Torah leaders (link):
After more than a half hour of futile effort to get Rav Soloveitchik to publicly oppose giyus banos [female draft into the IDF], Rav Aharon [Kotler] came up with the following brilliancy, of course in Yiddish. He said, Bostoner Rav [R. Soloveitchik], imagine that instead of the three of us discussing this issue, there were another three who were judging the appropriateness of drafting girls into military service. Instead of the Bostoner Rav, there was your zeyde, Reb Chaim. Instead of the Radiner Rosh Yeshiva [R. Mendel Zaks], there was your father-in-law, the Chafetz Chaim. Instead of me, there was my father-in-law, Rav Iser Zalman Meltzer. Bostoner Rav, what would your zeyde have said?
This masterstroke did not result in a shift in Rav Soloveitchik’s position. He got up and said that he had to leave, “Kletsker Rosh Yeshiva and Radiner Rosh Yeshiva, a gutten tag” and left. He never opposed giyus banos or, for that matter, publicly the Mizrachi on any major hashkafic issue.
Yet, not long after this incident, in 1954 or 1955, Rav Aharon reached out again to him and enlisted him in efforts to raise funds for Chinuch Atzmai. The high point came at the first Chinuch Atzmai dinner where Rav Soloveitchik made the most remarkable speech I have ever heard…[R. Soloveitchik] then lavished praise on Rav Aharon, comparing him in elaborate language, first to the Vilna Gaon, then to Rav Akiva Eger and finally to his zeide, Rav Chaim. I was standing directly behind Rav Aharon as Rav Soloveitchik spoke and as each of these comparisons were made, Rav Aharon tugged at Rav Soloveitchik’s jacket with one hand and implored him to stop and with the other hand he pounded on the table and intoned repeatedly, “Das iz nisht emes, das iz nisht emes.” As I looked more closely at Rav Aharon, I saw that he was crying…
When Rav Soloveitchik passed away, Lakewood was not represented at the funeral in Boston, although I suggested that the Yeshiva be represented. For all of Rav Aharon’s misgivings about Yeshiva University and Mizrachi, he respected Rav Soloveitchik, not because of his lineage and not only because from time to time he assisted Chinuch Atzmai, but because he regarded Rav Soloveitchik as a man of stature as a Torah scholar.
Read the full essay here: link.