Yaakov (Jack) Bieler ● Jewish Book Council
This collection of academic papers on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph P. Soloveitchik developed from a joint conference that took place in 2012 at Yeshiva University in New York and Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv. (A companion volume of Hebrew-language papers from the conference is forthcoming.) Reflecting the Torah U’madda (Torahand secular knowledge) polymath that R. Soloveitchik himself embodied, the papers represent many disciplines, all viewed from both a Jewish and secular perspective, including philosophy, hermeneutics, history, and literature.
In a wide-ranging essay, Dr. David Shatz notes that while it is commonly believed that R. Soloveitchik published relatively little during his lifetime, this view is erroneous; in fact, the Toras HoRav Foundation has been systematically issuing volumes of R. Soloveitchik’s talks, developed from audio tapes and manuscripts, that have enabled scholars and laypersons alike to delve deeply into and comment on his ideas. Many of the papers in this volume draw upon these writings. Shatz also speculates as to why R. Soloveichik has attracted much greater interest since his passing in 1993, particularly among non-Orthodox and even non-Jewish scholars. Shatz’s encyclopedic summary of the many articles that have been published concerning R. Soloveitchik’s writings provide a wonderful resource for those who wish to study these matters further. Other notable essays include Ephraim Kanarfogel’s discussion of R. Soloveitchik’s uncanny knowledge of lost German Tosafist Halachic material, and Shira Weiss’s paper appraising the influence on R. Soloveichik of the medieval thinker Judah HaLevi.
Academic papers are not written for the casual reader, and some of the terminology and citations in this volume can prove daunting. However, readers seeking to seriously engage with these thoughtful presentations of R. Soloveitchik’s vast and erudite contributions to modern Jewish thought are sure to benefit.