How does the thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik speak to the problems
of modern Jews? This essay surveys various intersections between
the Ravís thought and modernity. Rabbi Soloveitchik broke down the
perceived barrier between our detailed halakhah and inwardness by
arguing that many halakhic actions must be accompanied by a
kiyyum she-balev, a corresponding inward emotion. His
thought emphasizes personal creativity as an essential component
of learning Torah, achieving personal providence and repentance.
Rabbi Soloveitchik affirmed the halakhic sanctification of ordinary,
physical existence while seeing this aspect of life as an arena of
moral crisis rather than reducing it to a mindless sanctification of
everything. Although particularism often bothers moderns, Rabbi
Soloveitchikís essays help wrestle with the challenge: In
"Confrontation" he argues profoundly for the uniqueness
of each faith community, and in U-Vikashtem mi-Sham
he worked out an anthropology grounded in revelation that still
takes manís reason and intuition seriously.
Some maintain that Rabbi Soloveitchik offers a path too strenuous
for the modern Jew, but Rabbi Carmy argues that we cannot escape
the challenges posed by the Rav. Judaism will not thrive without
a strong intellectual element and without an outlook that incorporates
the complexity of real people rather than facile images. Nor can we
simply watch the Rav, and other great individuals, do the hard work
for us while we cheer them on from the sidelines because we will
not truly appreciate their greatness without our own serious efforts
toward personal growth.
to read the essay (PDF 950KB).