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Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Rabbijn Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo (1946) werd geboren in Amsterdam en woont sinds 1977 in Israël. Als kind van een Portugees-Joodse vader en een niet-Joodse moeder heeft hij een lange weg afgelegd. Op zijn 16e is hij ‘uitgekomen’ (Joods geworden) bij Chacham Salomon Rodrigues Pereira. Jaren later haalde hij zijn rabbijnentitel aan de orthodoxe Gateshead Yeshiva. In Jeruzalem richtte hij de David Cardozo Academy op. Rabbijn Lopes Cardozo publiceert regelmatig en neemt daarbij geen blad voor de mond.

vrijdag 28 april 2017

Society is now one polished horde, Formed of two mighty tribes, The Bores and Bored
(Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto XIII)

Boredom is a multi-faceted phenomenon in our day, and we may well be justified in focusing on one dimension of this destructive force.

In the old days, it was a privilege to be mature. It was something people strived for. It meant maturity of attitude, well-considered opinions, and a great amount of experience and knowledge of how to deal with the problems of life. This is no longer the case. For the most part, it is not due to the fact that younger people have become more experienced or knowledgeable, but rather that the older generation (those who used to be considered mature) has suddenly shown signs of immaturity.

This is evident in the way our older generation deals with free time. While in earlier days people used their available time to engage in creative activities, which they couldn’t do when they were working, today we find that most “mature” people spend their available time by returning to their childhoods. They often watch television, see a movie, lie in bed, or have other similar pastimes. This is exactly what they did when they were very young: watch and sleep. Passive conduct.

Passivity, then, is no longer the “privilege” of the young. It has become the preferred norm for all ages. As a result, the distinction between young and old has been blurred.

There is an unmistakable difference between a father who is involved in a creative activity – even if it is only building a chicken house – and a father sitting for hours in front of a DVD screen. In the first example he shows maturity, whereas in the second case, he reveals signs of impending immaturity. Sadly, these are the types of activities that children witness. Their parents may be university professors, but at home they return to their childhoods. This is not to deny the value of watching television. Sometimes this medium offers excellent programs. But once parents are constantly seen by their children in these passive postures, instead of engaging in creativity, joie de vivre, study, and other such activities, the parents have sold their birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

That this results in the older generation’s loss of dignity in the eyes of the young is obvious. It doesn’t mean that the mature person admits her or his immaturity, but it does mean that the immature one, the child, considers him or herself to be mature. The children recognize that they do exactly what their parents do: nothing. And out of that negativity, they look to fill their lives with meaning. They clothe themselves with the garments of maturity that their parents have rejected.

One of the greatest contributions of the Jewish Tradition throughout the millennia is that the elderly learn, explore and interpret Torah, Mishnah, Talmud and other religious texts from their earliest childhood years. Once their experience of learning has been positive, passionate, and even fun, their love for learning increases to such a degree that when reaching retirement they can’t wait to get back to their studies, regardless of their physical circumstances. In this case, their return to “immaturity” is the greatest of blessings. Their bodies may show signs of old age but they discover unspent youth.

There is, however, another issue concerning young and old. It relates to the decline in religious consciousness. This time it is a loss of belief in an afterlife. Whatever one believes about afterlife is not the issue here. What is the issue is that in earlier days, the young had a degree of respect for the elderly, because they believed that older people were closer to Heaven and therefore to the truth. In some way, elderly people were “nearly there.” A few more years, months or days and they would enter the “real thing.” So, the elderly person sat close to the door, while the younger ones were still in the waiting room. Today, however, this is not the case. The elder is no longer seen as one “nearly there” but as one “nearly nowhere.” This has entered the communal consciousness of modern humanity. Older people have lost their grandeur, and younger people see them as having “served their time” and, therefore, as being superfluous and even a hindrance.

This is a tragedy.

  • This essay is inspired by the writings of the late Godfried Bomans, Holland.

I am happy to inform you that Yael Valier, co-coordinator of the David Cardozo Academy’s think tank, is directing Divine Right, an important play by Roy Doliner about the Disputation of the Ramban against the Catholic Church in 1263. The play will be showing at the Khan Theater, Jerusalem, on May 9, 10, 16, 17, and 23. Each performance will be followed by a discussion led by the playwright and one of several Jewish or Christian scholars. I will be leading the post-performance discussion on May 23rd and look forward to seeing many of you there! There is much to discuss! Tickets can be bought here.

Delen |

vrijdag 7 april 2017

The continuing absence of manifest Divine Providence in modern times is often seen as the cause for much secularism. Since the Renaissance era, people have become more and more skeptical about Divine intervention. No longer, it is argued, are there enough indications of God’s interference in the national and private affairs of humankind. This viewpoint ultimately led to the collapse of much of religious authority and, in many ways, undermined the role of religion in people’s lives.

Divine intervention was most visible when the Israelites left Egypt. The ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, and many other smaller and larger miracles provided evidence of God’s intervention in people’s affairs. Consequently, our general reading of those years leads us to believe that anyone living under such miraculous conditions would have had no option but to be a deeply religious person.

Rashi, however, in his commentary on the Torah, gives us a totally different version of the events:
“As a result of the sin of the spies in which they spoke evil about the Land of Israel, the speech of God no longer secluded itself with Moshe for thirty-eight years.” (Vayikra 1:1)

Whatever the deeper meaning of these words may be, it cannot be denied that this is a most remarkable and far-reaching observation. What we are told is that most of the time that the Israelites traveled through the desert, there was no special Divine Providence. God did not speak to Moshe or to the Israelites in His usual way. As a result, the Israelites had to deal with the question of God’s intervention not much differently from how we do in modern times. Although the manna (miraculous bread) fell, and other smaller miracles took place, it becomes clear that these events no longer had any real effect on the religious condition of the Israelites. Not for nothing did they say that this manna was lechem hakelokel, repulsive bread (Bamidbar 21:5). They saw these miracles as common events, not much different from the way we view the laws of nature. Indeed, on several occasions the Israelites asked whether God still lived among them. We are reminded of Rabbi Dessler’s well-known observation that the laws of nature are nothing less than the frequency of miracles, a notion that it is also reflected from a secular point of view by famous philosophers of science such as Karl Popper. (Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, Michtav Me-Eliyahu, ¨Nature as Hidden Miracles,¨ vol. 1; Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery [Hutchinson & Co. 1959] pp. 278-280; Conjectures and Refutations [Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963])

It is perhaps this fact that makes Pesach so relevant for our own times: The realization that even at the time of the greatest of miracles, many years passed without God revealing Himself openly.

Sitting at the Seder table, we often feel like we’re reading a story that has little in common with our lives today. We complain that God has become silent and that His spoken word is no longer available. How, then, can we believe in His existence, and why should we listen to His words uttered many thousands of years ago? We are today confronted with a Deus Absconditus (an “absent” God), and no story about God’s open intervention in history can reach us any longer. God’s silence has made us deaf. So we complain.

And even if we admit that God didn’t speak with Moshe and the Israelites for 38 years, we could still make the powerful point that we have not heard from Him in more than 2,000 years! So why ask us to reflect on an event of thousands of years ago, with which we have almost nothing in common?

But in hindsight, we may have to radically change our view. We need to realize that the silence of those 38 years must have been much more frightening than the entire period of Divine silence during our last two millennia. While we are, to a great extent, much more independent and able to take care of ourselves, this was not the case with our forefathers in the desert. They encountered the emptiness of barren land. There were no natural resources, no food or any basic items without which even the most elementary forms of life cannot survive. True, we are told that they miraculously had water and food. But once God stopped speaking with them in the middle of the desert, and with the realization that God’s thundering silence would continue day after day, and the frightening awareness that they would have nothing to fall back on if God were to stop providing them with water and food, this Godly silence must have been more dreadful than anything we can imagine. After being used to open miracles, suddenly finding themselves in the absence of any Divine voice, right in the middle of a desert, must have been too much to bear. God’s “indifference” no doubt created a devastating experience. (The absence of God’s word for all those 38 years throws a radically different light on much of the Israelites’ upheavals and complaints in the desert, as mentioned in the Torah.)

On the other hand, our parents’ and grandparents’ generations experienced the Holocaust, which was far more calamitous than our forefathers’ forty years in the desert. So why not argue that we are, after all, much worse off than the Israelites who had to feel God’s absence in the desert? Wouldn’t this make the Exodus story completely irrelevant and meaningless to us?

However, it was our generation that, despite God’s absence in the Holocaust, clearly saw God’s hand present in the establishment of the State of Israel only three years after the destruction of most of European Jewry. Without falling victim to the highly dangerous view that all this is certainly the beginning of the messianic age, it is impossible to deny that God’s miraculous intervention in the establishment of the Jewish State and the successes of its inhabitants, which are nothing less than sui generis and bordering on the impossible, remind us that despite the Divine silence during the Holocaust, God had re-entered history, and that is what makes the story of the Exodus and the holiday of Passover very relevant.

When we realize that the story of the Exodus was mainly one of Divine silence and that only occasionally a word of God entered the human condition, we become conscious of the fact that the story we read on the Seder night is most relevant. While the words of the Haggada relate the miracles, the “empty spaces” in between tell us of the frightening Divine silence of those 38 years. And just as our forefathers must have often wondered where God was all those years, so do we. But just as they made it through, so must we.

For reasons unknown to us, God disappears and suddenly re-emerges in this great drama called the history of humankind, making the Jewish people the ultimate symbol of this odd spectacle.

The art is to hear God in His silence and to see His miracles in His paradoxical ‘hide-and-seek’ with humankind. It is in the balance of these two acts that religious life takes place.

Delen |

vrijdag 31 maart 2017

Sponsored Le-ilui Nishmatah shel HaZekenah Miriam Robles Lopes Cardozo eshet HaRav Ha’Abir Neim Zemirot Yisrael Abraham Lopes Cardozo, by her daughters Judith Cardozo-Tenenbaum and Debbie Smith.

Does Judaism really need animal sacrifices? Would it not be better off without them? After all, the sacrificial cult seems to compromise Judaism. What does a highly ethical religion have to do with the collecting of blood in vessels and the burning of animal limbs on an altar?

No doubt Judaism should be sacrifice-free. Yet it is not.

So, is the offering of sacrifices Jewish, or not? The answer is an unequivocal yes. It is Jewish, but it doesn’t really belong to Judaism.

If Judaism had had the chance, it would have dropped the entire institution of sacrifices in the blink of an eye. Better yet, it would have had no part of it to begin with. How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices! How wonderful it would be if a good part of Sefer Vayikra were removed from the biblical text; or had never been there in the first place.

So what are these sacrifices doing there?

The Torah doesn’t really represent Judaism. Not in its ideal form. Not in all its glory.

There are actually two kinds of Judaism. There is the Judaism of today and the Judaism of tomorrow. There is realistic Judaism and idyllic Judaism. What fills the gap between them is the world of Halacha. Halacha is the balancing act between the doable and the ideal; between approximate means and absolute ends; between what is and what ought to be. It is a great mediator, and a call for hope.

The Judaism of today is a concession to human weakness, but at the same time a belief in the greatness and strength of man. It calls upon people to do whatever is in their power to climb as high as possible, but warns them not to overstep and fall into the abyss. Judaism asks of humans to be magnificent beings, but never angels – because to be too much is to be less than.

But Judaism also believes that people may one day reach the point where what was impossible might be possible. What ought to be may someday become reality. It is that gap that Halacha tries to fill. Indeed, a mediator.

Many people believe that concessions to human weaknesses are incompatible with the divine will, which should not be compromised by human shortcomings.

But Judaism thinks otherwise.

Judaism is amused by Baruch Spinoza’s ideal world in which passions and human desires have no place, since they upset the philosopher’s “good life” of amor intellectualis Dei (the intellectual love of God). Spinoza’s philosophy is so great that, with perhaps a few exceptions, it is not viable. He proved the shortcomings of his own philosophy when he became enraged at the political murders of the Dutch influential De Witt brothers in 1672. He told the great philosopher Gottfried Leibniz that he had planned to hang a large poster in the town square, reading ultimi barbarorum (extreme barbarians), but was prevented from doing so by his hostess who locked the door on him, as she feared that Spinoza himself would be murdered! (K.O. Meinsma, Spinoza En Zijn Kring: Historisch-kritische Studiën Over Hollandsche Vrijgeesten – in Dutch [Den Haag, 1896] p. 358, fn. 1)

Perhaps Spinoza’s Ethics is the ideal, but how immature to believe that it is attainable. How different his Ethics would have been had Spinoza married, fathered children, and understood the limitations of daily life.

Halacha is pragmatic. It has no patience for Spinoza’s Ethics and no illusions about human beings. Indeed, it expects people to extend themselves to the limit, but it acknowledges the long and difficult road between the is and the ought-to-be. And it understands all too well that the ought-to-be may never be reached in a person’s lifetime.

Judaism teaches that the Divine limits itself out of respect for the human being. It was God Who created this imperfect person. So He could not have given the Ethics of Spinoza at Sinai; only Divine, “imperfect” laws that deal with the here-and-now and offer just a taste of the ought-to-be. Judaism teaches that if the perfect is unattainable, one should at least try to reach the possible; the manageable; that which can be achieved. If we can’t do it all, let us attempt to make some improvement. If you must wage war, do it as ethically as possible. If universal vegetarianism is inconceivable, try to treat animals more humanely and slaughter them painlessly. That is doable Judaism.

True, this is not the ideal—indeed, the Torah is sometimes an embarrassment—but it’s all that God could command at Sinai. It’s not the ought-to-be Judaism, but it’s a better-than-nothing Judaism.

The great art is to make the doable Judaism, with all of its problems, as ethical as possible; and instead of despairing about its shortcomings, to live it as joyfully as we can. As Spinoza has taught us, “Joy is man’s passage from a lesser to a greater perfection” (Ethics, 3, definitions 2 & 3). Oh, Baruch, did you forget your own insights?

Sacrifices are not part of the ought-to-be Judaism. They are far removed from the Judaism that Spinoza dreamed of. But they are a realistic representation of the doable with an eye toward the ought-to-be.

In one of his most daring statements, Maimonides maintains that sacrifices are a compromise to human weakness. The ancient world of idol worship was deeply committed to animal sacrifices. It was so ingrained in the way of life of the Jews’ ancestors that it was “impossible to go suddenly from one extreme to the other,” and “the nature of man will not allow him to suddenly discontinue everything to which he is accustomed” (Guide for the Perplexed, 3:32). Therefore, God permitted the Jews to continue the sacrificial cult, but only for “His service,” and with many restrictions, the ultimate goal being that with time the Jews would be weaned from this trend of worship; from the is to the ought-to-be.

By making this and similar statements, Maimonides no doubt laid the foundations for Spinoza’s dream of an ultimate system of ethics, just as he planted the seeds of Spinoza’s pantheism. But Maimonides realized that the time had not yet come; that it was still a long road from the reality to the dream.

In contradiction to his statements in the Guide for the Perplexed, Maimonides, in his famous Mishneh Torah, speaks about the need for sacrifices even in the future Temple (Hilchot Melachim, 11:1). I believe he thus expresses his doubt that the ought-to-be Judaism will ever become a reality in this world.

Maimonides did not live in the Dutch town of Rijnsburg, in an iron tower far removed from the real world, as did Spinoza. Maimonides lived in a down-to-earth world full of human strife, problems and pain. He was a renowned halachist, and he knew that the halachic system is one that instructs man to keep both feet on the ground while simultaneously striving for what is realistically possible.

Still, perhaps the institution of sacrifice is grounded in deep symbolism, the meaning and urgency of which escapes our modern mentality. The fact that idol worshipers made use of it in their abominable rituals doesn’t mean that it can’t be of great spiritual value when practiced on a much higher plane, something deeply ingrained in a part of the human psyche to which modern man no longer has access. And yet, it doesn’t contradict the fact that it ought to be different, so that even the higher dimensions of sacrifices become irrelevant. When Judaism and Spinoza’s Ethics will one day prevail, there will indeed be no need for sacrifices.

But what happened in the meantime? The Temple was destroyed and sacrificial service came to an end. Is this a step forward, or backward? When religious Jews to this day pray for the reinstatement of sacrifices, are they asking to return to the road between the is and the ought-to-be; between the dream and its realization? Or, are they praying to reinstate sacrifices as a middle stage, only to eventually get rid of them forever?

We need to ask ourselves a pertinent question: Is our aversion to sacrifices the result of our supreme spiritual sophistication, which caused us to leave the world of sacrifices behind us? Or, have we sunk so low that we aren’t even able to reach the level of idol worshipers who, however primitive we believe them to have been, possessed a higher spiritual level than some of us who call ourselves monotheists?

This question is of great urgency in a modern world that slaughtered six million Jews and continues to slaughter millions of other people. Have we surpassed the state of is and are we on our way to the ought-to-be Judaism? Or, are we on the brink of a Judaism that is not even at the stage of is but rather in a state of regression, while we convince ourselves that it is in a state of progression? (1)

Indeed, a haunting question; one that we cannot escape.

(1) For a discussion about the various positions on sacrifices, see Rabbi Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk in his classic Meshech Chochma, Introduction to Vayikra. Concerning the contradictions in Maimonides’ understanding of the sacrifices, see my book Between Silence and Speech: Essays on Jewish Thought (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995) chap. 1. See also Rabbi Eliezer Ashkenazi’s explanation, in his Ma’asei Hashem, on the frequent expression that sacrifices must be brought “with a pleasant aroma to the Lord,” which is included, with my commentary, in my first volume of Thoughts to Ponder: Daring Observations about the Jewish Tradition (NY-Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2002) chap. 42.

Delen |

vrijdag 24 maart 2017

Sponsored Le-ilui Nishmatah shel HaZekenah Miriam Robles Lopes Cardozo, eshet HaRav Ha’Abir Neim Zemirot Yisrael Abraham Lopes Cardozo, by her daughters Judith Cardozo-Tenenbaum and Debbie Smith

Achilles: You mean, the composer was Bach, and these were the so-called “Goldberg Variations”?

Tortoise: Do I ever! Actually, the work was entitled “Aria with Diverse Variations,” of which there are thirty. Do you know how Bach structured these magnificent variations?

Achilles: Do tell.

Tortoise: All the pieces – except the final one – are based on a single theme, which he called an “aria”….every third variation is a canon. First, a canon in which the two canonizing voices enter on the same note. Second, a canon in which one of the canonizing voices enters one note higher than the first. Third, one voice enters two notes higher than the other. And so on …
Achilles: Wait a minute. Don’t I recall reading somewhere or other about fourteen recently discovered Goldberg canons …? A fellow named Wolff – a musicologist – heard about a special copy … in Strasbourg … and to his surprise, on the back page … he found these fourteen new canons, all based on the first eight notes of the theme of the Goldberg Variations. So now it is known that there are in reality forty-four Goldberg Variations, not thirty.
Tortoise: That is … unless some other musicologist discovers yet another batch of them … it might never stop!
Achilles: That is a peculiar idea … we shall start to expect this kind of thing. At that point, the name “Goldberg Variations” will start to shift slightly in meaning, to include not only the known ones, but also any others which might eventually turn up. Their number – call it ‘g’– is certain to be finite, wouldn’t you agree? But merely knowing that g is finite isn’t the same as knowing how big g is.

Since the Torah is normally very parsimonious with its words, nothing is more surprising in Parshat Pekudei (and Vayakhel) than the great amount of detail and repetition in the divine instructions relating to the building and the architecture of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Not even the smallest nuance is excluded, and nothing is left to human imagination. Preciseness stands out, and every pin and string is mentioned.

This seems to stand in total opposition to the spiritual condition and devotion that was required of every Israelite when busy building or helping to erect the Mishkan. It called for personal input, creativity and a great amount of inspiration, which could only come from the depths of the human heart. Yet the structure itself had to be built with ultimate precision, completely contradicting its purpose as a place that would cause a profound and spontaneous transformation in every human being.

How do we reconcile these contradictions: formality versus spontaneity; total commitment to the letter of the law versus unprecedented emotional outbursts of religious devotion? Are such notions not mutually exclusive and irreconcilable?

It is here that music becomes of vital interest, and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), probably the greatest musical genius ever to have lived, may provide an answer. In his music, we find a pattern in which distinct rules of composition had to be followed with great precision and detail, yet Bach simultaneously gave birth to a phenomenal outburst of creativity. With Bach, more than with any other composer, we find abundant repetition as well as a strict, almost mathematical, pattern combined with nearly limitless creativity. From the perspective of musical composition, we enter a world of unparalleled genius.

Dutch author and music critic Martin van Amerongen writes in his book His Lightning, His Thunder: About the St. Matthew Passion: "When one hears Bach's music, it feels as if he has been struck by an uppercut under the chin, remaining unconscious for the rest of the day." Van Amerongen also mentions, "Bach is the man of the iron fist, of controlled emotions, yet he shows great personal passion." When Bach played the clavecin (harpsichord), he was able to keep an eye on seven diverse musical patterns simultaneously, correct them, and write variations on them without ever violating the rules of the traditional music of his day.

It is the unyielding commitment to detail, accuracy and skill that stands out. True, there is the danger that one may fall into a routine and lose out on the real music behind every note when one simply plays it by rote. This is the major concern of every conductor. He has to draw his orchestra out of its confinement and move it beyond itself. The crucial question is: What does this music note want in this very moment?

But Bach did more. He went back to the original text and its score. He then discovered new perspectives, recreating the entire composition without changing one iota.

I would suggest that the reason for this wonderful talent is the mathematical preciseness, which does not allow for any expansion. The composer, or musician, is then forced to use his creative talents to deepen what he has already given. Instead of remaining on the surface and broadening only the musical spectrum, the composer is duty-bound to venture into the depths, search for all possibilities inherent to the grundnorm, and bring them to the surface. Like the archeologist, he searches for every little item; but unlike the former, he infuses new life into it.

This, I believe, was the approach to the building of the Mishkan, and this understanding solves the paradox of the need for architectural preciseness and repetition of detail on the one hand, and genuine religious passion on the other.

The Torah’s specifications of its architecture and emphasis on detail, in a way that left nothing to the imagination, are like Bach's "iron fist" that forced him to delve deeper and search for various approaches that otherwise would have remained unnoticed.

When listening to the nearly endless repetitions of musical patterns in Bach's compositions, his genius is revealed by his capacity to add one more note, or one more instrument, or even to make a small change in vibration causing the same musical patterns to sound totally different.

This is what was offered to the worshipper in the Mishkan. It was not the quantity of religious notes but their quality that was to be found in every pin and string in the Mishkan. And this is what would lift the spirits of the worshipper. As in the case of Bach, each repetition added another dimension, depending on the context in which it appeared and the slight variations that accompanied it. (2)

Just as every keen listener of Bach's compositions is indeed knocked unconscious, so every visitor to the Tabernacle would undergo a radical transformation when looking at the depths of its components and feeling their religious vibrations.

As Goethe would say, “In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister/Und das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben.” (3)

(1) Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1999) pp. 392-3.

(2) For a full understanding of the religious and inspirational meaning of all the items in the Mishkan, see the commentaries of Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) on Vayikra (Leviticus).

(3) Translation: The master proves himself first by limitations/And only law can give us freedom – from the sonnet “Natur und Kunst,” by J.W. von Goethe (1749-1832).

Delen |

vrijdag 17 maart 2017

Dear Rabbi Cardozo,

For many years, I have read your articles and publications with interest. I greatly admire the way in which you present the complexity of religion and existence and do not shy away from the burning issues of the moment, sometimes at the expense of long held dogmas that need reappraisal. I would however like to comment on the recent article you penned about Rav Soloveitchik. As you rightly said, Rav Soloveitchik was perhaps one of the greatest thinkers and Halachic authorities in the last century. It is for this reason, he became known by his students as simply ‘The Rav’.

The gist of your article, if I can brusquely summarise it, suggests that despite his standing, he was not a mechadesh in the important areas of Halacha and seems to implicitly suggest that even his philosophical thinking provided little by the way of novelty. I cannot claim to have studied Rav Soloveitchik’s Halachic responsa in depth, neither can I claim to have read every single one of his writings. However I can say that over the years I have been fortunate to have dissected elements of his thinking which has, on a personal level, profoundly affected the way I approach my faith, my life and my existential struggles. I have read many Jewish thinkers from Levinas to Cohen, Buber to Borowitz, Heschel to Greenberg. They have all added much to my Weltanschauung, but I think the book that both affected me the most and defined for so many the inner drama of a religious human being, must be Rav Soloveitchik’s The Lonely Man of Faith.

Furthermore, one could argue that some of the greatest thinkers and halachic innovators today stand basking in the light of the Rav’s thought. Surely Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits book Not in Heaven was influenced by the Rav’s Halachic Man and Halachic Mind. By their own admissions, Rabbi David Hartman, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rav Lichtenstein, to name just a few, were influenced and shaped by the innovative theological framework of their teacher and colleague. It is true, as you state, that there is a fight for his legacy, which has as you claim transformed him into a kind of cult leader. I would suggest that it is the very tension you explicate between the novelty in the philosophical realm and the conservatism in the Halachic realm that has created the multifaceted interpretations of the Rav’s positions. Furthermore, I would disagree that he has become so to speak idolised, but rather emulating his view of creative and autonomous thought, many of his greatest students are also his greatest critics, which is not something one finds in the charedi world.

Your article focused on one essay and one aspect of the Rav’s corpus of thinking and life works. Its narrow focus meant that it also lost the complexity in the development of his thought. Halachic Man was penned in 1944. Whilst writing the book, the very legacy to which the Rav owed his knowledge and foundations were being gassed to oblivion. The Rav felt an obligation to retain the Brisker tradition which as you describe ‘depicts an image of an ideal halachic human being who in many ways lives a mathematical and almost stony life’.

The dialectical struggle that we see at the start of the book between cognitive man, who is as you describe a cold, calculated individual almost bereft of any emotional attachment to reality, and Homo-religiosus who is a more traditional religious mystic interested in the transcendent elements of the religious experience, seems to quickly lose ground. By the end of the book there is no real dialectical swing between the two. Homo religiosus has no place in Halachic Man’s persona. This is in contrary to Lonely Man of Faith, which, if we compare and contrast to Halachic Man, retains throughout a deep dialectical tension between Adam 1 and Adam 2 typologies. Adam 1 the scientist can be compared to cognitive man man and Adam 2 the philosopher or religious man, can be compared to homo religiosus. What has changed? Why in Halachic Man is the ideal persona a Mitnagged Brisker, almost neo-Kantian personality that views the world only through the lens of halachic data, and in Lonely Man of Faith, the ideal religious personality oscillates between the two? The answer is the years in-between, and here I get to what I think you miss in your analysis of the Rav.

Halachic Man is written in 1944, The Lonely Man of Faith is written in 1965. There is no doubt that twenty years in the life of such a deep and reflective individual will change their Weltanschauung. In their now infamous article Singer and Sokol (1) make a claim about the Rav that I think is pertinent to your analysis. They claim that the differences between the two essays lies in chasm of the twenty years in between the two writings. In 1944 the Rav must remain loyal to his roots; the rabbinic academy of Brisk, from where the origin of his yahdut emerged, is being destroyed as he writes and thus as they claim, ’he is loyal to the tradition of his father and grandfather, which emphasised study, pure emotional detachment and stoic indifference’ (2). However, twenty years later he feels at greater ease to throw off the yolk of the Brisker tradition and immerse himself in a more hassidic existential aura that celebrates defeat, retreat and humility. He is able to accede to the conflictual and multi-dimensional aspects of a religious personality.

Halachic man has all the trappings of a neo-Kantian outlook. Absent is any existential allusions. The Lonely Man of Faith, written after the death of his wife and deep into the life of an individual who has lived and seen life through the lens of loss, loneliness and struggle, presents a far more complex face of the religious experience. Halacha is not seen solely as a monolithic system or normative framework, rather as the very tool used to create the constant tension and oscillation within the persona of every individual who lives an authentically religious life. This change is reflected not only in these two essays but can be seen as a developing trend throughout his lifetime, essays such as Majesty and Humility, Al Ahavat Ha-Torah u-Geulat Nefesh Hador, Kol Dodi Dofek, to name a few. This dialectic is seen most poignantly in 1977 through a eulogy the Rav delivers for his son in law’s mother, the Rebbetzin of Talne, where he describes the difference between the approach to Judaism of his mother and his father. He writes:

“The laws of Shabbat, for instance were passed on to me by my father; they are part of musar avikha. The Shabbat as a living entity, as a queen, was revealed to me by my mother; it is part of torat imekha. The father knew much about Shabbat, the mothers lived the Shabbat, experienced her presence, and perceived her beauty and splendour …most of all I learned that Judaism expresses itself not in formal compliance of the law but also a living experience…. I learnt from her (his mother) the most important things in life – to feel the presence of the Almighty and the gentle pressure of His hand resting on my frail shoulder’ (3).

In your article, you use Rabbi Heschel to critique Soloveitchik, but there is no doubt that here in this extract we hear echoes of Heschel’s ‘The Sabbath’. Perhaps only in his later years having gained the insight of a life lived to the full, does Rav Soloveitchik allow himself to let go of the Neo-Kantian epistemology of the Halachic Man and move towards the more existential, empiricist feel of The Lonely Man of Faith.

Though your criticism may be justified, one must not underestimate the impact his thought had on so many. His seamless interweaving of western philosophy with Jewish tradition spoke and continues to speak to so many who are struggling between the two worlds. His elevation of classic concepts such as inner defat, self-negation and self-sacrifice, from antiquated destructive values to the highest form of freedom, was antipathetic to the societal norms of autonomy, freedom, self-aggrandizement in the 1960’s, yet this was his accomplishment whose impact is still being felt today.
The Lonely Man of Faith has been an inspiration for so many spanning a plethora of cultural and religious divides. (Just yesterday I finished a book by American journalist David Brooks on the state of American society today. He uses the framework of adam 1 and adam 2 to build his innovative theory of individual and societal character building. Even the fact that your own autobiography is called Lonely but not Alone is reminiscent of Rav Soloveitchik Lonely Man of Faith).

How does this address the critique you levy at him in your article for his lack of innovation in the Halachic realm. The answer I believe is that for many reasons (4) the Rav was halachically strait jacketed, and his unwillingness, or inability to take a controversial and novel stance on important halachic issues is one that is both disappointing and surprising, considering his innovation in the philosophical realm. However just as we see in Halachic, the Rav felt a strong obligation to the tradition of his fathers. Perhaps he felt it was too early to depart from or radically reinterpret thousands of years of Halachic stringencies and inertia. However, he laid the path for those after him to do the work. His insistence on women’s learning especially of Gemara was an opening of doors for the developments we see today. As I have argued in an article to be printed in an upcoming book on Rabbi Greenberg, the Rav’s essay Confrontation was theologically ambiguous and thus paved the way for interpretation that could ultimately lead to interfaith dialogue.

Rav Soloveitchik, like any great individual, was human. He was working within the confines of political, religious and personal constraints. However perhaps if we focus on the development of his thought, if we see the movement from a neo-Kantian, strictly mitnagged outlook to a more existentially religious experience, we might argue that his thought as opposed to his halachic rulings define the man and his legacy. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg titles one of his essays ‘Two doors Rabbi Soloveitchik opened but did not walk through’ which points to the fact that it may be his greatness lay in positioning the ground work for doors his students and future generations would walk through.

Finally, I hope you do not mind me mentioning something that has bothered me over the years and that is particularly relevant in light of this essay. As I mentioned at the start I greatly admire your thinking, I believe you raise issues that deserve much attention and debate. Like Rav Soloveitchik, you are a bold and innovative thinker. However, your call for halachic innovation and change, is seldom followed by any action. I understand that unlike the Rav, you are not a posek in the same fashion, though you could by anyone’s standards be a respected rabbinical authority. Surely the only way to create change, as you correctly preach and advocate would be to take the action in the halachic realm that is needed. Thus my question is, are you so far removed from the critique you levy against the Rav? In your thought, you are bold, innovative and assertive, but in practical halachic terms, unless I am misinformed, I have not seen any great steps. You argue quite correctly that Halacha has become stagnant where it should be innovative and dynamic, but the flourishing of Halacha is happening again, perhaps more at the grass roots than at the helm, but for it to be truly successful we need people like yourself to take the wheel and steer in the right direction. We live in a time of great change, I pray our great, great grandchildren will look back on this period and proclaim we were the engineers of a new and bold religious reality, which as I have argued may have begun with the Rav. However, it will require not just the ideas but the practical halachic guidance and courageous decisions to allow it to happen and the question is who will be brave enough to actually walk through that door?

With best wishes,

Tanya White,

1. Singer and Sokol: Joseph Soloveitchik: The Lonely man of Faith, Modern Judaism 1982

2. David Hartman: Love and Terror in the God Encounter p98

3. A tribute to the Rebbetzin of Talne, Rabbi J.B Soloveitchik, Tradition 1977

4. It is beyond the scope of this letter to go into all the constraints, mainly during his days at Yeshiva university, the political constraints of his position.

Dear Mrs. White,

Shalom u-vracha.

Thank you for your very balanced reaction to my essay on Rav Soloveitchik z”l. I apologize for responding only now.

To begin with, it seems that you agree with most of what I wrote. However, I admit that perhaps I didn’t give enough attention to some remarkable works such as The Lonely Man of Faith. They are no doubt major breakthroughs in the world of religious philosophy, and that is no small accomplishment.

However, this only underscores my critique on Rav Soloveitchik’s Ish ha-Halakhah, (in English, Halakhic Man) and some of his piskei din. In fact, it makes it more complicated.

People reading Ish ha-Halakhah can sometimes get the impression that they are reading Emanuel Kant in a Jewish religious framework. I agree that there are major differences, especially with regard to the great Kantian thinker Herman Cohen who was the subject of the Rav’s Ph.D. dissertation (1); and without denying that writing Ish ha-Halakhah is itself a major accomplishment, I still doubt the originality of this work. Genius, yes; original, I’m not sure!

More important, though, is the fact that, as you and many others claim, it was in his later years that the Rav moved away from this almost stony life as expressed in Ish ha-Halakhah. This begs the question: Why didn’t the Rav take the time to write another work on Halacha, stating that his original one no longer reflects his ideas on the subject, and giving us a new perspective and interpretation? This was never done, and that’s why Halakhic Man is still seen as the authoritative interpretation of Halacha by the Rav. It could be argued that “U’bikashtem Mi-Sham” (2) was an attempt to soften the earlier harsh approach, but it still did not take the place of Halakhic Man. Doesn’t this mean that the Rav did not change his mind, at least as far as the major premise of this work is concerned? While I, as well as other Orthodox thinkers, still greatly admire this work – even with all its problems – Halakhic Man has done much harm outside the Orthodox community and has pushed many people away from Halacha. I know this from my personal interactions with non-Orthodox and even Orthodox readers.

A man of the Rav’s caliber could easily have written another major book on Halacha – warmer and reflecting his new ideas, which he so beautifully expressed in his hesped (eulogy) for the Talner Rebbetzin, when he also spoke about his mother’s Shabbat (3). While the Rav did bring some emotional dimension in Halakhic Man, it is minor compared to the stony “Brisker approach.” And I’m not even sure whether it’s fair to hold Brisk responsible for all of this.

When another of his essays, The Halakhic Mind – even more complex than Ish ha-Halakhah and originally written in 1944 – was republished in 1986, it was not even updated and clearly gave the impression that the Rav had not changed his mind. I say this with full recognition that it contains beautiful new insights!

Concerning Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits’ approach to Halacha, I don’t see any evidence that it was influenced by Rav Soloveitchik’s writings. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. These two great men fundamentally clashed and disagreed on the nature and workings of Halacha.

You are right about Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, and Rabbi David Hartman. They were indeed deeply influenced by him. But the latter two moved away from the Rav in striking ways. It is true that these giants did not idolize the Rav, but the vast majority of Modern Orthodox leaders were and are under the spell of Rav Soloveitchik in ways that I believe are unhealthy and that he would have strongly opposed. Rabbi Greenberg wrote me that this idolization began in his later years, but my impression is that during these later years the idolization only increased, for reasons I have explained in my original essay.

Your claim that the Rav’s halachic conservatism, caused by his Brisker background, paved the way for his students to go beyond him and find new ways that he encouraged, sounds untrue. Here is Rabbi Greenberg’s response to my essay: You are right about his halachic conservatism. This was compounded by his own lack in encouraging students to go beyond him. He cut them down (as he did Rackman when Rackman went beyond him). Where, then, did he pave the way for those after him? The reverse is true. He blocked such developments.

You state that “perhaps he felt it was too early to depart from or radically reinterpret…halachic stringencies and inertia.” I wonder when, in your opinion, would the time have been ripe to do so, if not in the days of the Rav? He lived during a time of radical shifts in the Jewish world and a growing crisis in religious belief and halachic commitment. There was no better time than those very days to make these changes, and there was no greater man than he to embark on these departures. Do not forget that he was seen as the leader, symbol and figure head of Modern Orthodoxy and not just as another posek or Talmudist. As such, there were high expectations of him to move Halacha forward.

While I agree that the Rav’s encouragement for women to begin learning Talmud was a breakthrough (4), I can’t see it as a major accomplishment in the way that you do. (I wonder how much of a say his wife, Mrs. Tonya Soloveitchik – a strong personality with a Ph.D. – had in this matter.) Yes, by doing so he may have revolutionized Jewish learning for women; but feminism was on the rise, and it would have come anyway. The Jewish world was ripe for it and, as has often been the case, it would have been halachically justified after the fact. Women were already learning Talmud before the Rav’s days. More important, they could decide this on their own. No one could stop them from doing so in their private lives; nobody needed to know.

But in cases such as the agunah, the mamzer, and the kohein/giyoret, there was no way to decide these matters on their own. They were and still are completely dependent on the poskim, if they wish to remain within the Orthodox community.

I can’t see any justification for the Rav openly rejecting Rabbi Rackman’s argument, which claims that there is historical contextualization in the world of Halacha. Acceptance of that fact could have helped many Jewish women in his days and today. To this day, women still pay the price for this rejection. Yes, some may argue that these matters are very complex and far beyond the scope of an essay like mine, but a total dismissal is unjustified. True, the Rav was concerned that halachic tradition not be undermined, but he could have achieved that without completely rejecting approaches such as that of Rabbi Rackman. It would not have been seen as surrendering to nontraditional forces but rather as a victory of halachic strength.

Even more astonishing is the fact that, as I mentioned in my original article, the Rav admitted to Rabbi Rackman that he may have been right. Surely the Rav knew that historical contextualization had often been applied throughout halachic history (5). Again, I wonder whether the Rav ever discussed this with his beloved wife, who must have had her own ideas about this, especially when it came to women’s issues.

As some of his students told me, and as is my impression as well, the Rav felt isolated because his own world of the old-fashioned yeshivot had rejected him once he took a different stand on some matters, such as Zionism; secular studies; and trying to establish a joint beit din, together with the famous Rabbi Saul Lieberman of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, to deal with all matters related to marriage and divorce – an attempt that unfortunately never succeeded (6).

We must no doubt admire him for this, but he was never able to overcome his fear of isolation and remained stuck. Compare this to Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, who was much more radical and much more isolated but never gave in to this situation, and he didn’t have a major rabbinical institution like Yeshiva University behind him. He simply moved on and fought a lonely, difficult battle that must have been extremely painful.

One more observation: While I greatly admire Rabbi Soloveitchik’s essays such as The Lonely Man of Faith, I wonder why he never dealt with some extremely important issues that keep many people away from Orthodoxy. Two examples suffice: 1) The issue of Torah Min HaShamayim and Bible criticism; and 2) the matter of belief in God (especially after the Holocaust) and the conflict between science and belief. It may be true – as Rabbi Walter Wurzburger suggests (7) – that the Rav avoided the issue of Bible criticism out of principle. But if it is true, then the Rav was out of touch with reality. At the time, Bible criticism was a major topic of discussion, as it still is. This subject is of utmost importance, and if anyone could have dealt with it head-on it was the Rav. Early in The Lonely Man of Faith, Rav Soloveitchik mentions that he wasn’t seriously bothered by this issue. But his readership certainly was!

The same is true about belief in God, and the conflict between science and belief. Sure, the Rav mentioned and discussed these matters, but never directly.

These issues, Bible Criticism and belief in God, are fully discussed in the prodigious works, by former British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Crisis and Covenant (8) and The Great Partnership (9). I remember how my friends and I, who were not religious at the time, waited for the Rav to discuss these matters. But there was total silence. True, in The Halakhic Mind, he does deal with science and faith/philosophy – and in the last chapter with Halacha – but it is far from satisfactory for many searching, secular people. This book, like some of the others, was written in an Orthodox religious context, which a priori was accepted but was not convincing to those of us who did not share this point of view.

It is my belief that these topics are more important than the Rav’s masterpiece The Lonely Man of Faith. I’m not arguing that he should not have written the book. I am only contending that he should have also written major essays or books on these two critical subjects.

Coming back to my main argument, here are a few quotations by the Rav (10):

Halakhic man received the Torah from Sinai not as a simple recipient but as a creator of worlds, as a partner with the Almighty in the act of creation. The power of creative interpretation (hiddush) is the very foundation of the received tradition. (p. 81)

He [halakhic man] takes up his stand in the midst of the concrete world, his feet planted firmly on the ground of reality, and he looks about and sees, listens and hears, and publicly protests against the oppression of the helpless, the defrauding of the poor, the plight of the orphan….The actualization of the ideals of justice and righteousness is the pillar of fire which halakhic man follows, when he, as a rabbi and teacher in Israel, serves his community….The anguish of the poor, the despair of the helpless and humiliated outweigh many many commandments. (p. 91)

Even the Holy One, blessed be He, has, as it were, handed over His imprimatur, His official seal in Torah matters, to man; it is as if the Creator of the world Himself abides by man’s decision ad instruction. (p. 80)

If so, why was it impossible to accept Rabbi Rackman’s opinion that one has to see certain rulings by our Sages, especially those concerning women, in the context of historical developments? If the Rav would have done so, then, in his own words, the Holy One, Blessed be He, would have abided by his decision and instruction. The obligation to shape and perfect Halacha increases over history, as human beings become more mature. That is the very foundation of Torah Sheba’al Peh. Why not make use of it and carry that responsibility with pride?

I cannot believe that any agunah or mamzer will find comfort in The Lonely Man of Faith when they are forced to live unbearable lives. What is more important? To write beautifully about Halacha’s deep concern for the poor, the helpless, and the humiliated, which outweighs “many many commandments,” but not to act on it? Or, to actually solve the problem of the agunah, the mamzer, and the kohein who can’t marry his loved one because she happens to be a convert?

As Eliezer Berkovits writes, “…the deed is the stuff of which history is made” (11). Deeds, not beautiful abstract ideas!

Due to lack of time, I must now conclude my response to you. The literature and opinions on Rav Soloveitchik’s halachic stand and philosophy are so numerous that one could write many more books on the subject. But I believe that it has already been overdone.

I close with the following. You are indeed misinformed about my personal involvement in practical Halacha. To mention only a few examples: Twice, I have personally married a kohein with a giyoret. In one case, the giyoret was also a gerusha. In these instances, on my own initiative but together with halachic authorities much greater then I, we proved that the kohein was actually not a kohein, and that even after a get was obtained by that specific woman, it became clear that in fact she was not a gerusha, because she was never halachically married. I never openly published our conclusions, because we didn’t want the couples involved to get hurt. I have had major clashes about these cases with European rabbinates that refused to marry these people.

I have done several conversions with a private beit din, when other batei din refused to do so. I have suggested (12) that we allow people to drive bicycles on Shabbat, based on a psak of the Ben Ish Chai, and have advocated a halachically permitted “Shabbat tram” in Yerushalayim, to enable people to see their parents who live far away. I have argued (13) in favor of opening restaurants on Shabbat for those Israelis who have nowhere to go, where they wouldn’t have to pay and where all the laws of Shabbat could be easily observed. An attempt to open such restaurants was blocked by the Rabbanut’s threats to remove its hechsher (certificate of kashrut) from these restaurants!

I have also advocated for relaxing the “chumra of Rabbi Zeira” (14) concerning the duration of abstinence, which prevents couples from having relations more frequently, and which also often leads to difficulty in conceiving. This would no doubt encourage many more couples to observe the laws of family purity (15).

I have suggested (16) that we build “Jewish” cemeteries for children from mixed marriages who are not halachically Jewish, so that they too can have a Jewish burial if they so wish. After all, they are of Zera Yisrael (of Jewish seed, that is, patrilineal descent). For all of these issues I have strong halachic arguments.

Together with Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm of Yeshiva University, I have refused to listen to a psak by the London Beit Din prohibiting participation in the famous Limmud Conference in England – which hosts close to 3000 attendants – because Reform and Conservative rabbis also teach there. I told the Beit Din that I believed this was a major mistake, since it gives the impression that we Orthodox rabbis are afraid of the Reform and Conservative movements; and that by not contributing we are actively handing over all Limmud participants to these denominations (17).

In my new book that will be published in June, Jewish law as Rebellion: A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage, I suggest many practical solutions, including for agunot and mamzerim.

I don’t see myself as a posek, although I know a lot about practical Halacha and believe that I’m well informed on the latest developments in the halachic world. I’m not a member of any official rabbinate, but I am very busy suggesting new possibilities, and I have acted and will continue to act on them, even if the rabbinical establishment does not agree with me. It is time to move forward and not be afraid…

Thanks again for you letter.

1. Rav Soloveitchik’s doctoral thesis was: Das reine Denken und die Seinskonstituierung bei Hermann Cohen (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1932); in English: “Pure Thought as the Constitution of Being in Hermann Cohen’s Philosophy.” See also: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Community, Covenant and Commitment: Selected Letters and Communications, ed. Nathaniel Helfgot (Jersey City, NJ: Ktav Publishing House, 2005), p. 272.

2. “U’bikashtem Mi-Sham” was first published in Ha-Darom, vol. 47, 1978, pp. 1-83, reprinted in Ish ha-Halacha: Galuy ve-Nistar (Jerusalem: Elinor Library, 1979), pp. 115-235. An English translation was published years later, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, And from There You Shall Seek, trans. Naomi Goldblum (NJ: Ktav Publishing House, 2009). See also Rav Soloveitchik's letter in Community, Covenant and Commitment: Selected Letters and Communications, ed. Netanel Helfgot (Jersey City, NJ: Ktav, 2005), 321-323, where he explicitly states that the essay that was later published as U’bikashtem Mi-Sham is a continuation of Halakhic Man.

3. “A Tribute to the Rebbetzin of Talne,” Tradition vol. 17, no. 2 (Spring 1978) pp. 76-77. See also: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Torah and Shekhinah,” in Family Redeemed: Essays on Family Relationships, eds. David Shatz and Joel B. Wolowelsky (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav Publishing House, 2000), pp. 158-180.

4. For Rabbi Soloveitchik’s views on women studying Torah and feminist issues, see Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Community, Covenant and Commitment, xxi, pp. 81-83; Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, The Rav: The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, ed. Joseph Epstein, Volume 2 (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1999), section 13.12 “Women Saying Kaddish,” p. 36; Moshe Meiselman, “The Rav, Feminism and Public Policy: An Insider’s Overview,” Tradition vol. 33, no. 1 (Fall 1998) pp. 5-30; Mayer Twersky, “Halakhic Values and Halakhic Decisions: Rav Soloveitchik’s Pesak Regarding Women’s Prayer Groups,” Tradition vol. 32, no. 3 (Spring 1998) pp. 5-18; Simcha Krauss, “The Rav: On Zionism, Universalism and Feminism,” Tradition vol. 34, no. 2 (2000) pp. 24-39; Seth Farber, “Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Co-Educational Jewish Education,” Conversations 7 (2010) pp. 103-112; Rachel Adler, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Rav J. B. Soloveitchik’s Perspective on Gender,” in Michael A. Meyer and David N. Myers eds. Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: Rethinking an Old Opposition/Essays in Honor of David Ellenson (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2014) pp. 209-220; Tomer Persico, “After Rabbi Soloveitchik: Rabbis Hartman and Lichtenstein on the Status of Women in Halacha,” (Hebrew) accessible online.

5. See Louis Jacobs’ A Tree of Life: Diversity, Flexibility, and Creativity in Jewish Law (London, & Portland, OR: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2000).

6. See Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, “A Note on R. Saul Lieberman and the Rav,” Tradition vol. 40, no. 4 (Winter 2007) pp. 68-74.

7. Walter S. Wurzburger, “Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik as Posek of Post-Modern Orthodoxy,” Tradition vol. 29, no. 1 (Fall 1994) pp. 5-20. See also Moshe Sokol, “Ger ve-Toshav Anokhi: Modernity and Traditionalism in the Life and Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik,” idem. pp. 32-47, republished in his book Judaism Examined: Essays in Jewish Philosophy and Ethics (New York: Touro College Press, 2013) pp. 434-450.

8. Crisis and Covenant: Jewish Thought After the Holocaust (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1992), chapters 7, 8, and 9.

9. The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (New York: Schocken Books, 2011).

10. The following extracts appear in Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983).

11. God, Man and History, ed. David Hazony (Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2004), p.138.

12. See Thoughts to Ponder 443, “Bold Ideas: Take the Bike or Tram, Get a Free Coffee, and Observe Shabbat!”

13. Ibid.

14. The Talmud (Bavli Niddah 66a, Brachot 31a, and Megillah 28b) states: “R. Zeira said: The daughters of Israel have undertaken to be so strict with themselves that if they see a drop of blood no bigger than a mustard seed they wait seven clean days after it.” This stringency lengthens the period of abstinence between husband and wife. The biblical law mandates seven days of separation from the onset of the woman’s menstrual period, whereas the stringency mentioned in the Talmud mandates a separation of seven clean days from the cessation of the menstrual flow. This was codified as law in Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Issurei Biah 11: 3-4, 9) and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 183:1.

15. See Dr. Daniel Rosenak, Lehachzir Tahara LeYoshna, in Hebrew (Tel Aviv: Yediot Achronot Books and Chemed Books, 2011).

16. See Thoughts to Ponder 215 – “Solving the Conversion Crisis – Part 1.”

17. See Thoughts to Ponder 283 – “Why I Love to Teach at Limmud.”

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Have We Gone Mad?
A Call to All Denominations and Other “Holy” Warriors
jun 2016Israel, the American Elections and the Turmoil in Our World
A Parable
jun 2016Shavuot
Would You Convert?
Like Yitro?
jun 2016Orthodox Rabbi Teaching Halakha Beyond the Shulkhan Arukh, Judaism Beyond the Commandments
mei 2016Parshat Bechukotai
The Miracle of Satisfaction
mei 2016Sefirat HaOmer: What Really Counts
mei 2016An Unyielding Marriage of 3500+ Years
Yom Ha’atzmauth
mei 2016Yom Hashoa
The Quest for Authenticity
Rembrandt and the Holocaust
apr 2016Blessed Are Those Who Eat Chametz!
apr 2016Plato’s Advice: Do Not Read The Haggada!
apr 2016The True Art of Sport: Game or Torture?
apr 2016Are You Really Eating Kosher?
On Camouflage, Hypocrisy and Hiding behind the Kashrut Laws
mrt 2016The Making of an Enemy
The Birth of Amalek
mrt 2016Purim, God’s Hidden Face,
and the Advantage of a Permanent Job
mrt 2016The Hazard of Fluency
mrt 2016Rabbinical Courage and the Frozen Text
feb 2016Have Some Pity on the Anti-Semite!
feb 2016Shut Down the Kotel!
feb 2016A Remorseless Judaism
feb 2016Milk and Meat: The Dangerous Mixture
jan 2016Halacha as the Art of Playing Chess
Divine Insanity
jan 2016Am I Still Orthodox?
Answer to a Jerusalem Rabbi
jan 2016The Desecration of Halacha
jan 2016The Threat of Freedom
dec 2015Amsterdam Spinoza Symposium
It Is Time to Lift the Ban
dec 2015Arguing Against Oneself: Joseph’s Self-Revenge
dec 2015Needed: Redemptive Halakha
How Halakha Must Transcend Itself
dec 2015Chanukah: Hypocrisy or Authenticity
nov 2015A Prophetic View: The Gentile Aliyah Epidemic
nov 2015Oh, that I Could Take Off My Kippah!
nov 2015Admitting A Mistake: Even God Does
nov 2015 How Old Would You Be If You Did Not Know How Old You Are?
okt 2015The Religious Scandal of Akeidat Yitzchak and the Tragic God
okt 2015Israel: The Blessing of Insecurity
okt 2015God, Where are You? An open letter
okt 2015Simchat Torah: Rush or Stagnation
sep 2015The Trouble with Kal Nidrei
We Are All Marranos
sep 2015Rosh Hashana
Is Judaism Your Supreme Passion? (1)
sep 2015Courage, Rabbis, Courage!
The Need For Mass Conversion
aug 2015Conversion and Annie Fischer’s Interpretation of Schumann’s Klavierkonzert in A Minor
aug 2015Conversion Is Not About Halacha
aug 2015The Immortal Highway
aug 2015Marriage: The Courage to Say ‘Li’
jul 2015Torah: Hearing the Divine Voice at Sinai Now
jul 2015The Temple Is of Little Importance, It Is the Eye of the Needle That Counts
jul 2015The Supreme Court of the United States, Same-Sex Marriage and Other Prohibitions
jul 2015Faith Means Joyful Uncertainty
jun 2015Religion is Dangerous; Plato, Halacha and Dreams
jun 2015The Dangling Bridges of Halacha
Making rules where rules should not exist
jun 2015Bold Ideas:

Take the Bike or Tram, Get a Free Coffee, and Observe Shabbat! (1)
jun 2015Halacha: The Disturbing Search for God
mei 2015Make Anti-Semitism a Source of Jewish Pride
mei 2015Shavuot, The Wonder and Glow of God’s Word
jul 2014De paradox van ‘Wie is een Jood’
mei 2014Joden, Sisyphus en Sport – (Met enige ironie!)
mei 2014God is aan het verhuizen
apr 2014Seideravond: karpas en de veelkleurige mantel
feb 2014Groots denken omtrent het jodendom
dec 2013The Abuse of Halacha
nov 2013Limmoed en het orthodoxe fiasco