Review of Moadei HaRav

MoadeiHaRav web1By David B. Levy

Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s edition of Moadei HaRav succeeds in offering the English-speaking, observant reader a better understanding and appreciation of some of Rav Soloveitchik’s ideas, analysis, and methodology relating to halachic (legal) teachings, regarding the chagim (holidays). Many of these shiurim (lessons) were originally delivered in English or Yiddish. Rabbi Pick provides a clear overview of the topics and offers explanations using the Brisker method of interpretation.

The book comprises an introduction and 17 chapters from the Rav’s lectures organized into three distinct parts. The first section includes an excellent essay describing the Rav’s position on the peshat (simple meaning) of talmudic passages, the role of minhagim (customs) within Jewish law, the Rav’s understanding of the teacher/student dynamic, and the relationship between philosophy and law. The second part contains shiurim on the holidays; for example, setting the date of Shavuot (based on a number of Rishonim). Some of these shiurim include an appendix to elucidate particular issues raised by the Rav.

Rabbi Pick also provides helpful footnotes that contain references to additional oral remarks or discourses by the Rav and/or other primary and secondary sources by and about him. The third section includes five studies on Jewish law and customs such as the mitzvah of Charoset (the Rav on the Rambam).

Rabbi Pick and his helpers (including Rabbi Shimon Altshul) have made a most positive contribution by sharing many of the Rav’s insights, innovative approaches, and intellectual brilliance in a very clear manner.

Highly recommended.

This review originally appeared in AJL reviews.


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

MoadeiHaRav web1
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The Rav On The Holidays

By: Ben Rothke

Title: Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Author: Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick
Publisher: Urim Publications

There is no need to state in these pages that Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was one of the greatest Talmudists of the past few hundred years. But for English readers, there has long been a dearth of books in English that captured the depth and breadth of R’ Soloveitchik’s Talmudic genius.

In Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick has written a fabulous work, based on his notes from the Rav’s shiurim. Rabbi Pick is a former student of the Rav, who now teaches Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and brilliantly captures the Rav’s ideas in these lectures.

The book begins with an introduction to Rav Soloveitchik’s methodology of Torah study. Rabbi Pick then writes 17 chapters on various Talmudic issues. For me, the most startling point in the introduction is that while the Rav, who studied in Berlin and was familiar with the methodologies of academic Talmud research, was fundamentally opposed to it. Rabbi Pick writes that the Rav felt that way as he thought academic Talmud both focuses on insignificant matters, and puts too much significance on the consequence of socio-historical or psychological processes.

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

Review of Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

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by Ben Rothke

Maimonides is one of the most influential scholars in all of Jewish history. His seminal work The Guide for the Perplexed is perhaps the greatest work of Jewish philosophy ever written. Not only is it one of the greatest, it is also one of the most enigmatic of works.

The impetus of The Guide was in part to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy with Jewish philosophy. The Guide was written for the philosophical elite of Maimonides’ time, which adds to its difficulty. Combined with that it was written in Arabic and that most readers must rely on a translation, adds to its elusiveness.

In Maimonides – Between Philosophy and Halakhah: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Lectures on the Guide of the Perplexed (Urim Publications ISBN 965524203X), the lectures notes from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (henceforth, “the Rav”) provide the reader with a better understanding of the Guide. Continue reading “Review of Maimonides: Between Philosophy and Halakhah

Review of Moadei HaRav

MoadeiHaRav web1by Dov Peretz Elkins of the Jewish Media Review

Moadei HaRav presents a collection of shiurim and lectures (based upon student notes) by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Jewish festivals, including the High Holidays, Chanukah, Purim, and Passover. Rav Soloveitchik was not only one of the outstanding Talmudists of the 20th century, but was also one of its most creative and seminal Jewish thinkers. Through these shiurim and lectures, along with his own original essays on Jewish laws and rituals, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo H. Pick provides the Rav’s insights and thoughts on the Jewish holidays. An introductory essay analyzes the Rav’s methodology of Talmud analysis.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick teaches Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University’s Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies in Israel.

A Review of Majesty and Humility: The Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by Charles M. RaffelMajesty and Humility

R. Reuven Ziegler’s examination of the Rav’s religious philosophy in this new book is an invaluable resource to perpetuate a meaningful appreciation of the Rav’s legacy. He provides a clear overview of the major essays and significant themes, with patient attention to fleshing out the underlying philosophic ideas of the Rav’s writings….

One may reasonably conclude that a cadre of students, educated and enlightened by this comprehensive and accessible book, will emerge with sufficient fluency in the Rav’s writings to meaningfully engage the original texts on their own. For offering such a luminous entry into the heart of the Rav’s philosophy, we are all in R. Ziegler’s debt.

This review first appeared in the Torah U’Madda Journal

Christian M. Rutishauser on Being Drawn to the Rav

From the Seforim blog:the human condition

Christian M. Rutishauser’s The Human Condition in the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik has just been published by Ktav (having earlier appeared in German). Quite apart from Rutishauser’s scholarship, the book is noteworthy in that Rutishauser is a prominent Jesuit priest (see here; for those who don’t know, the University of Scranton is also Jesuit). The Seforim Blog is happy to present the introduction to the book where Rutishauser explains what led him to the Rav.

A Catholic Glimpse of Rav Soloveitchik

I never met Rav Soloveitchik personally. The reason is not only that I was born in the second half of the twentieth century and live in Europe. Actually, apart from a few scholars, Soloveitchik was hardly known in the German speaking world of the 1980s and 1990s. As a student of Catholic theology with a deep interest in philosophy, I neither met him nor came across his work, even though I moved around the academic world of Germany and France with an open and interested mind. As a Jesuit and a chaplain at Bern University, I organized study tours to Israel almost every year, but even there I never heard of him. Neither my involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue in Switzerland nor my deep interest in Judaism altered any of this, at least for some time.

 Then a lucky coincidence changed everything. In July 1997, I was attending an Ulpan at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. During a break one day, I walked over to the Hecht Synagogue on the Mount Scopus campus. I decided look around, more to kill time than out of any particular interest. I wandered about the room, enjoying its coolness on this hot summer day, browsing aimlessly among the books displayed on the shelves along the wall. By chance I picked up a copy of Halakhic Man by the Rav naturally in the English translation, as my Ivrit would not have allowed me to read the original. The name Soloveitchik did not ring a bell. Opening the book at random, I read a few chapters and became so fascinated by its outline of the Orthodox life ideal that I ‘œkidnapped’ the book from the synagogue. Naturally the books were not supposed to be removed, but as everyone knows, students find ways to get around rules of this kind. Actually, I returned the book four days later, after I finished reading it. I would have liked to know more about Soloveitchik, but I didn’t follow up on my interest at that time. Nevertheless, I was deeply impressed by the original way he presented, and above all differentiated, the homo religiosus; the modern scientist and the halakhic man stayed with me.

 One and a half years later, when Continue reading “Christian M. Rutishauser on Being Drawn to the Rav”

A Review of Vision and Leadership: Reflections on Joseph and Moses

Visions and Leadership

by Marion M. Stein

This volume is the latest in MeOtzar HoRav Series. As with all other texts by the Rav, this one was not written by him, but rather it is taken from transcriptions and edited by his students and associates. The text in this volume is very rich and deserves to be studied along with all other commentaries on Torah. The Rav’s thoughts on Joseph and Moses go far beyond what the title might suggest, bringing new and rare insights into the familiar stories that he discusses. These insights are both practical and philosophical and thus greatly enhance one’s reading of the Torah.

One example will illustrate what happens when even a single word is analyzed by this great teacher. Take the word “justice.” In his chapter entitled “Justice, Peace and Charity: Moses as Judge” we are given a thorough explanation of the difference between justitia civilis and the Jewish idea of mishpat shalom. In the former, there is a winner and a loser; one who is “right” and one who is “wrong.” In the latter, justice and charity and peace go hand in hand. There is no winner and no loser. There is a give and take on both sides. The Rav expands on these principles and lays the groundwork for Continue reading “A Review of Vision and Leadership: Reflections on Joseph and Moses

Majesty and Humility: A Review

by Alex OzarMajesty and Humility

Soloveitchik aimed to provide his students with a window into the soul of a genuinely religious individual, to open their hearts to the depth and breadth of a full-blooded experience of faith. For modern man in search of authentic religion, both the intellectual brilliance and the spiritual resonance of Soloveitchik’s thought can, with due investment of energy and care, provide invaluable direction, illumination, and inspiration. Reuven Ziegler’s Majesty and Humility is a good place to start.

This review originally appeared in First Things.

Joseph on Joseph: The Rav’s take on the Tzaddik

by Alan Jay GerberVisions and Leadership

The subject of the life’s journey of Joseph, Yosef Hatzaddik, is the subject of weekly Torah readings till the end of December, which includes the festival of Chanukah.

This week’s essay focuses on the work Vision and Leadership: Reflections on Joseph and Moses [Ktav Publishing House, 2013] by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, edited by Rabbi Reuven Ziegler, Dr. David Shatz, and Dr. Joel Wolowelsky for the Toras HaRav Foundation.

This review deals with the Rav’s take on Joseph.

According to Rabbi Reuven Ziegler, the Rav identified with Joseph, not just because they both had the same name and because Joseph was misunderstood by his siblings. Rabbi Soloveitchik identified with Joseph mainly because he was a dreamer and Joseph demonstrated, throughout his life’s experience in Egypt, that one can remain a loyal Jew even while living in the most advanced society of that era. Further, both were to spend their life’s work interacting within their respective societies at the highest levels.

Much in this work points to the Rav’s highlighting Joseph’s activities as parallel to the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people.

In the Rav’s essay, “Joseph The Dreamer” he observes: “As Jews, we have a living memory which spans centuries and millennia. We also have an awareness of a common destiny. The past is real to us; the future is also real – as real as the past. Basically, this memory of the past, together with anticipation of the future, are two experiences of brothers. And since Jews are brothers, that is what unites us: the common past and the common future.”

This common bond, when joined with trust, has forged for Jews, throughout history, the binding force that assured for us that collective strength that has guaranteed our existence through the ages.

The relationship between Joseph and Pharaoh was predicated upon the wise advice that Joseph gave the monarch that led to the continued economic integrity of the Egyptian governance. Consider the following interpretation of Joseph’s words by the Rav:“However, there is a way to avoid the distress and disaster which will be caused by the seven cows, and that is the Continue reading “Joseph on Joseph: The Rav’s take on the Tzaddik”

Family Redeemed: A Review

by Israel Drazinfamilyredeemed

This is one of about a half dozen volumes published after Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik death (1903-1993) based on writings he never published. This one, the first of the posthumous volumes, contains six essays that focus on family relationships. It is the second of his posthumous book that I read – see my review of The Emergence of Ethical Man, which is the most recently published volume. In both, contrary to the current thinking of many religious Jews, the rabbi frequently uses biblical sources that show that Judaism expects its adherents to live a full, enjoyable, and natural life. These ideas, although opposed by many in Judaism’s right wing, are not contrary to the halakhah. However, as we will see, his views about women, based on halakhah, do not reflect this open spirit.

In his essay “Adam and Eve,” he states that “man is part of nature” and must act according to its laws. “Indeed, the naturalistic formula of man – the conception of the human being as a part of nature – was a truism among Hazal (the ancient sages).” Both humans and animals “belong to nature; both sprang forth from the soil.” The difference is that humans are created in “the image of God.” This is “not a gratuitous grant…but rather a challenge.” Man “is encouraged (to use his distinctiveness) to build, to plant, to beautify his life, to enjoy his life as much as he can (within reason).” His earthly role is to create “change, improvement and progress.”

Man, Rabbi Soloveitchik writes, needs a wife. He describes a woman as Continue reading Family Redeemed: A Review”