From the Archives of Tradition

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by R. Yitzchak Blau

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks rose to prominence as the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1991 through 2013 and as the contemporary Jew most successful at conveying Judaism to the non-Jewish world.  When he was still in his mid-twenties, he published an article in the Spring-Summer 1973 issue of Tradition in which he set up a contrasting model to R. Soloveitchik’s Lonely Man of Faith (originally published in Tradition Summer 1965).  R. Soloveitchik famously wrote that the two biblical accounts of creation reflect two aspects of humanity, the majestic and the covenantal, in tension with each other.  Due to this creative tension, the Jew is divided, alienated, and lonely.  R. Sacks situates the discussion in the context of responding to modern man’s alienation.  We can aid another experiencing a problem through empathy or via redemption.   Applying the latter method to this issue entails a Judaism that does not identify with modern man’s alienation but rather provides an option beyond loneliness and despair.  R. Sacks contends that the two aspects of humanity integrate in a more harmonious fashion.   Based on a close reading of verses in Tehillim and the first two chapters of Bereishit, R. Sacks outlines a vision in which the secular and the holy as well as the universal and the particular together form a coherent whole.

R. Soloveitchik’s essay is here

R. Sacks’ essay is here (PDF)

About Yitzchak Blau

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Orayta and also teaches at Midreshet Lindenbaum. He is the author of Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada and an Associate Editor of Tradition.

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