Returning To The Rav’s Teshuvah Lectures

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by R. Gil Student

Book review of: Before Hashem You Shall Be Purified: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Days of Awe (Expanded Edition)
Edited by Dr. Arnold Lustiger
OU Press, 205 pages

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (henceforth, the Rav) spoke in a majestic manner that captivated listeners for hours at a time. He dissected complicated halachic subjects in an exciting and dramatic way, offering personally meaningful rationales to familiar concepts while explaining textual difficulties. In particular, the Rav’s annual teshuvah lectures to the Rabbinical Council of America, which he gave for over 20 years, unraveled the complex themes of the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe, in mesmerizing ways. He continually explored the complex psychological and halachic depths of teshuvah.

In 1974, R. Pinchas Peli published Al Ha’Teshuvah, in which he summarized many of the Rav’s teshuvah lectures through 1972 (translated into English in 1984 as On Repentance). Al Ha’Teshuvah enthralls its readers. It is a combination of lomdus and hashkafah, analytical Talmudic study and Jewish thought. Peli, a poet, wrote soaring essays in an attempt to capture the Rav’s style. I cannot say whether he succeeded in that but he definitely succeeded in conveying the beauty and the depth of the Rav’s teachings on the all-important topic of teshuvah. However, the Rav continued saying teshuvah lectures until 1980. Al Ha’Teshuvah is missing important material.

Dr. Arnold Lustiger is a veteran editor and anthologizer of the Rav’s Torah. He published the five volume Mesoras HaRav commentary on the Torah as well as the Rav’s commentary on the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur machzorim and on the daily siddur.

Continued at The Jewish Press: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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