Review of Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

MoadeiHaRav web1

By Rabbi Johnny Solomon

Over the past decade there has been an explosion of both Hebrew and English language books containing and explaining the teachings of the great Jewish thinker and Talmudist Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. However, while many of these books faithfully convey the wide range of creative and insightful ideas of Rav Soloveitchik, far fewer explore his unique talmudic methodology or attempt to present many of the ideas that he taught in his talmudic lectures. The reason for this apparent omission is due to the fact that any (authentic) attempt to explain how the Rav extrapolated his ideas from the Talmud requires a deep knowledge of the talmudic passages which inspired and informed him.

Rabbi Dr Shlomo Pick, himself a former student of Rav Soloveitchik and currently a teacher of Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, wishes to redress this imbalance through presenting some of the more accessible Talmudic lectures by the Rav that explore themes relating to the festivals.

In 2004 Rabbi Pick published a Hebrew volume titled Moadei HaRav (literally, ‘The Festivals of the Rav’) containing seventeen extended summaries of public lectures delivered by the Rav based on the notes that both he and others took while attending these lectures, in addition to incorporating an introductory chapter on ‘The Rav’s Methodology of Torah Study’. In so doing Rabbi Pick provided a unique window that shed light on the Rav’s methodology that could be understood by both Talmudic experts and laypeople alike.
Continue reading “Review of Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik 

Review of Moadei HaRav

MoadeiHaRav web1By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s “Moadei Harav” is a welcome and refreshing window into the thought, style, and rulings of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This may very well be the clearest and most readable book on the Rav that offers readers of all levels a glimpse into the world of Rav Soloveitchik’s halachic teachings. Most other books on Rav Soloveitchik empathize his philosophy, and they are not always the most reader-friendly volumes.

I found almost all the essays to be practical and of great interest. Except for the entry on the status of Eretz Yisrael (“shem eretz yisrael” vs. “kedushat eretz yisrael”) all essays revolve around the holidays (hence the name of the book). Some of the essays I enjoyed most are the status of Kriat Shema on Yom Kippur (a davar shebekedusha?), Pirsumei Nissa of Chanuka (the difference between “revealing” and “demonstrating” the miracles of Chanuka) , the Status of  “Simcha” of the two days of Purim, the status of Purim eve (a detailed discussion on ata kadosh, kaddish titkabel, and shehecheyanu), the Mitzva of Charoset (Rav Soloveitchik’s interpretation of the Rambam), and the setting of the date of Shavuot (a look at several rishonim).

There is an extensive introduction of essays on the Rav and his style of Torah study and Talmudic analysis. This is a quality publication suitable for all.

This review originally appeared on Torah Book Reviews.

Book Review: Majesty and Humility by Rav Reuven Ziegler

By Chana Vishnitzer

It’s taken me nearly three years to read a book.Majesty and Humility

I typically read five books a week, so this is pretty unusual. The book in question is special. It’s like fine wine. One is meant to sip at it, consider the flavor, delicately swish it from side to side in one’s mouth. It’s not like soda, where you swig it back and chug it down. No, it’s something that’s meant to be considered, enjoyed, absorbed. 

The book is entitled Majesty and Humility: The Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and is written by Rabbi Reuven Ziegler.

Those of you who are used to the TAC/SOY Seforim Sale may be thinking: “Do we really  need another Rav book?” The subject of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is exhaustively covered from all angles within the Modern Orthodox world. We know about important moments in his life, have copies of his shiurim, written works published during his lifetime and afterwards, and even have insights provided by his shamashim. So what can this book provide that the others don’t?

The answer is: a lot.

That’s because Majesty and Humility is a different kind of Rav book. It’s a book that aims to make sense of the Rav’s overarching philosophy and to trace his thought and its development across all of his works. It seeks to either resolve contradictions or assert that the Rav’s thinking changed over time when it seems like certain ideas may not mesh with one another. While those of us who read the Rav in school are generally familiar with Halakhic Man and The Lonely Man of Faith, unless one has put in a great deal of effort and research, one is probably not aware of the scope and breadth of all the Rav’s works and the thought that binds them together. Unlike the layperson, Ziegler is eminently aware of the scope and breadth of the Rav’s works. His extremely well-researched book is filled with footnotes and references to other works, and each segment ends with a helpful section called “For Further Reference” that elaborates upon ideas mentioned in that section. Continue reading “Book Review: Majesty and Humility by Rav Reuven Ziegler”