by Joel Rich
Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter Teaches
MAJESTY AND HUMILITY:
THE LIFE, LEGACY, AND THOUGHT
OF JOSEPH B. SOLOVEITCHIK
Setting the Stage: Life Story
A brief biography of the Rav through the eyes of R’JJ Schacter to help us better understand his thought. His father’s lineage was Torah only with a focus on the Rambam, his mother was Torah plus. On to University in Berlin, marriage and move to Boston.
R’JJS feels the Rav picked philosophy to study so as to have an ability to have the most influence, so too moving to US/Boston (me – IIRC The Rav said he prayed not to have to leave Europe?)
Centrality of Torah Study and Halakhah: Act and Emotion
Halacha was The Rav’s core yet the experiential element of Judaism played a major role as well. R’JJS wrestles with The Rav’s take on theodicy (me – as I used to say at work, “OK, you have a better solution?”) Also was uncomfortable with The Rav always using term “man”. (Me-I hope he didn’t have any slavesJ)
“Man” Interacts with the World: Education and Action
While halachic to the core, knowledge of, and interacting with, the outside world were important to The Rav. He never fully described this paradigm (me – he defined it by example) Was it built out of fear that we would lose the masses without it? (me – did the Rambam write sefer mada because he was getting paid by the word?)
Relating to God: Prayer and Repentance
How can an individual ask for anything from HKB”H? How isn’t one lost when standing in front of HKB”H? How does repentance interact with prayer? The act is important but the goal is the effect.
Individual, Family, and Community
There’s always a delicate balance between the individual and the community (me – see individuals ignoring communal Covid restrictions. We are a prayerful, charitable teaching (intellectual and experiential) community. We are both a community of fate and destiny. Detail provided.
Zionism and the State of Israel
The Rav’s Zionism was a complex, active, diaspora, non-messianic Zionism. Kol dodi dofek and other sources discussed.
Dr. T. Lichtenstein reported that The Rav never visited Israel after 1935 because he was too busy. He agreed to come with his wife but she took ill and died. After that he couldn’t come and enjoy what he denied her.
Separate point – Given The Rav’s opposition to changing texts/establishing new tfilot, I doubt he’d have said the prayer for the state even without the messianic text issues.
In response to Vatican 2 and issues of interfaith relationships, The Rav wrote “Confrontation” which became the basis of the RCA’s policy. No theological discussions allowed but we can discuss ways to make the world a better place.
Communal Leader: Taking a Stand
The Rav was nuanced (me – so is life, but I sometimes envy those who see it as monochrome). On mixed pews he held the line against the popular tide, on women’s education he led the way. He was self-revelatory in order to transmit the experiential elements of orthodoxy and public about his perceived self-failures. What is the nature of his ongoing influence today?
This really resonated with me. I’ve spent some time trying in my own small way to try to communicate (and live) his content and approach (so parallel to what I received from Avi Mori and Imi Morati ZLL”HH) but feel that I’ve been unable to carve out even a small island in time and space.