QOTD Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Turn to the Right in Orthodoxy

QOTD = Quote of the Day
The Rav, Joseph Dov Soloveitchik ZTz"L

The Rav, Joseph Dov Soloveitchik ZTz”L

The Rav, Joseph Dov Soloveitchik is quoted by

Rabbi Simcha Krauss

on Mesorah.org as part of his larger article, “Orthodoxy’s Retreat from Modernity.”

While Rabbi Soloveitchik claimed to have successfully transmitted the intellectual
heritage of Judaism to his students, he admitted to failure in transmitting the Jewish religious experience. This, he felt, was because
the students,

Act like children and experience religion like children. This is why they accept all types of fanaticism and superstition. Sometimes they are even ready to do things that border on the immoral. They lack the experiential component of religion, and
simply substitute obscurantism for it. After all, I come from the ghetto.
Yet I have never seen so much naive and uncritical commitment to
people and to ideas as I see in America. All extremism, fanaticism and
obscurantism come from a lack of security. A person who is secure
cannot be an extremist.


14 thoughts on “QOTD Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Turn to the Right in Orthodoxy

  1. What is even more egregious, it that is some of the Rav’s very own students who have caused the demise of sensible mainstream Orthodoxy to move in the direction of the more fanatical, childish and extremist directions. And then they try to write books to claim the Rav would have approved of what they are doing.

    • You seem to be implying the following:
      Those of his students that unfortunately committed those despicable acts, as well as those who protected them -whether consciously or unwittingly (meaning that they had prior knowledge of abusive history)- how many of his students are there like that? Can one then assume that only a few student of the Rav z”l are not child abusers or wife beaters and the rest are? There are thousands of musmachim of the Rav….

  2. This, he felt, was because the students act like children and experience religion like children.

    When a Rebbe blames his failures to teach, on the deficiencies of his Talmidim, it is a cop-out. It is the duty of the Rebbe to understand his Talmidim and use the appropriate methods to transmit חכמה בינה ודעת. If they didn’t learn it, that is the same as saying he didn’t teach it. The definition of ‘teach’ is to successfully give over the subject matter. That is why Chinuch is ע”פ דרכו.

    The challenges in teaching, which the Rebbe must overcome, are many. Sometimes it is the inability for a person to explain himself. I don’t think Rabbi Soloveitchik suffered from this. Sometimes it is the fact that he can’t successfully answer the קושיות which the Talmidim present. That is true whether they present it in direct spoken questions or in attitude or actions. In any case when the Rebbe sees that they haven’t yet learnt and internalized the information, he knows that this is an indication that the information is flawed in their eyes. He must detect what is bothering them and answer it. Sometimes he only then, through his students, becomes aware of certain קושיות, which he must then go back to his own studies to gain clarity for himself, in order to pass on the teaching. This is ומתלמידי יותר מכולם.

    When a Rebbe says he couldn’t teach because his students wouldn’t accept, he is, in fact, saying that he is not a Rebbe in this subject.

  3. Just to additionally clarify.

    Sometimes the inability to give over a doctrine is an indication that the doctrine is flawed. After all, the Rebbe himself can’t successfully answer the קושיות of the Talmidim.

  4. Please come out on Tues, Oct.29,2013,at 3:00 PM to support the Many abused victims of YU/MTA. 500 Pearl St.,NYC, Judge Koeltl, Courtroom 12B. Watch as YU rapes their victims one more time!!! Stop the INSANITY! Protect our children

  5. I am a former Talmud of the Rav zt’l. Many years ago I communicated with Rabbi Kraus about his article which appeared in the Jewish Week at that time. While his article made some good points, it also in my humble opinion made some poor ones. The reader may judge for himself. The only point that I wish to make at this time is to note that the Rav’s words about “extremism, fanaticism and obscurantism” are found in Rabbi Rakefet’s book “The Rav” volume two at page 240 in his piece entitled “Religiuos Immaturity.” Interestingly, in the paragraph preceding the one regarding “extremism…” the Rav talks about “American modern Orthodoxy.” For the full context, here is the entire paragraph: “The so called American modern Orthodoxy consists of middle-aged people by now and their children. We do not have old people, but only middle-aged and children. As far as religious experience is concerned they are very immature. Sometimes they act so clumsily and so awkwardly and possess a tendency to accept extremist views.” Thus, it would seem to me that the Rav was bemoaning “extremism” not only by the so- called “right” but also by the so called “American modern Orthodoxy” too which accepted extremist views. Unfortunately, neither the “right” nor modern Orthodoxy is immune from the malady of extremism.

  6. The title of the above post is misleading (Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Turn to the Right…) to the point of revisionism. Here is a more complete quote from the Rav from Al Ahavat HaTorah Ugeulat Nefesh Hador which places his thoughts in better context:
    “There is an educational-philosophical problem that has weighed heavily upon me. To contemporary Orthodox Jews the Torah is revealed in intellectual categories, in cold thought and logic. However, it has not merited being revealed in a living “sensory” mode, which causes both trembling and gladdening of the heart. They recognize the Torah as an idea, but they do not encounter it as an unmediated reality that on can taste, see and feel. Through this absence of genuine Torah feeling, their outlook on Judaism becomes sterile. American young people therefore gravitate towards an exaggerated fanaticism that is frightening in its arrogance, and then move to the opposite extreme and agree to excessive compromise. In one word, they are wandering aimlessly in the paths of Judaism, and this wandering is the result of a defective world-view.”
    it is clear that the “lack of the experiential component” leads to both fanaticism as well as excessive compromise. He is directly criticizing the turn to the right as well as to the left. In light of both Chareidi fanaticism and the rise of YCT, the Rav’s words border on the prophetic.

    • Many of Rov’s (he was not known as the RAV in Boston or at Y.U.) comments can not be understood outside of the context in which he stated them. Also true is that the Rov might have stated all of the above at different times,

      • @Former “Talmud”
        “The Rov might have stated all of the above at different times”. Indeed. Did he every posit, address, the sociological, psychological aberrant behavioral phenomena (OCD, etc.) rampant amongst the right?). The rectification (no pun intended) might very well come from compulsory Luvox (probably the SSRI most suitable for OCD psychosis) in the water supply of all Charedi enclaves. Might even be efficacious on the UWS for all of the MO’s who are frantically obsessing over microscopic imaginary objects in their lettuce as they out-frum the Goldbergs.
        The Ultra “rebbes” continue to ascribe to the “chumra a day” keeping the flock under control. Pashkevalim with new creative bans reversing those of eshtaked. This insanity is more glaring in Israel. Today Woody Allen plastic eyeglasses are banned (too Goyische) three years ago, it was the metal frames asur. And different cults tend to follow the others. Sometimes, davka in reverse fashion. Bobov recently outlawed Woody Allen plastic eyeglasses. My favorite, A few weeks ago, one cult forbade men from carrying their small children on their shoulders on Simchat Torah, LEST THEY GET AROUSED. NOW that reveals the sick mindset of these cultist ‘rabbis”, who are almost by profession “pedophile enablers”. Curious.
        Apologies for straying from the philosophical, theological discussion.

        • From Siggy: You know the answer to your question. In context the Rov’s comments were prophetic. He was predicting what would likely happen, .

  7. To Chasdan – Don’t get me wrong. The extremism that you have noted is wrong and polarizing (to say the least) in my opinion. My post simply was to point out a source for, and the context of, the Rav’s words, namely that he was (also) calling out “American modern Orthodoxy ” — something that Rabbi Kraus’ article failed to mention. I believe that Arnie Lustiger’s comment supports what I wrote and well articulates the Rav’s philosophy to be critical of both the “right” and the “left” each under particular cases and circumstances that the Rav would find to be “extremist.”

  8. Perfect examples of extrtemism on the right and the left:
    On the right: “Chareidi world continues to self-destruct” —
    see – http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2013/10/chareidi-world-continues-to-self.html
    And on the left: “End the Chief Rabbinate’s Monopoly” (“For this reason, Israel as a state should give equal opportunities to the Conservative and Reform movements. Their rabbis should be able to conduct weddings and conversions”) .
    see – http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/10/28/non-orthodox-orthodoxy-playing-with-fire/ ; related post – “Crossing Hard Lines” at “http://haemtza.blogspot.com/

    • @Former Talmid:
      Yes, all of those “developments” are also daily reported by FailedMessiah, which I painfully read also every day. Israel has it’s challenges as you quoted above, and we have ours. Moving onward in our Brave New World, The Jewish Week carried two articles this year, as originally reported by the JTA.
      1) On March 15, it was reported that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) elected an openly gay man, Rabbi Jason Klein, to lead the national Rabbinic Association. It was reported that “it is the first national rabbinic organization of one of the major Jewish denominations in the US to be led by a gay man.”
      2) and then on October 10, the JW (per JTA) reported that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College had selected Deborah Waxman, a rabbi as it’s new president. “She is believed to be the first woman and the first lesbian to lead a congregational union and seminary affiliated with one of the Jewish denominations.”
      Rabbi Deborah Waxman’s partner is a Christine Ager, a convert.
      I cannot help but muse about the effects of such progress on the statistics which will be obtained by the next Pew Survey. What additional percent of our impressionable youth will move one aisle over and sit in the pew? I also muse over the possibility of the head of a “major” Jewish denomination being married to a converted Moslem. The last barrier????

See Commenting policy ( http://wp.me/pFbfD-Kk )

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s