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    MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

 

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 02

    Worship of the Heart

    Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Shalom Carmy

    "Prayer, indeed, is the symbolic portrayal of a range of experiences that form the ecstatic state of mind. Is such an exalted experience something in which every human being may share; or is it confined to the religious genius - a curious and unique type of personality who is capable of attaining this ecstatic state of mind, of rapture and unification, a personality who rejects what seems clearly, logically and tangibly to be the natural order, for the sake of tending a reality which is beyond one's grasp? Is prayer only for the mystic? We, in contrast to the mystic, are all physically and mentally children of this external concrete world and therefore, if this be true, cannot make the leap from the sensuous and real into the transcendent and absolute....

    "What then does avodah she-ba-lev mean for us, with our unmystical bent of mind that tends toward the real and practical? Can we achieve the kavvanah of tefillah in our ordinary modest way though we are not able to embark upon the great and strange adventure of the spirit? Of course the answer must be formulated in the affirmative, for otherwise tefillah would be the exclusive privilege of the imaginative genius, the mystic, and, as such, would be denied to ordinary man.Such an assertion would contradict the very essence of the Halakhah, which is an exoteric discipline to be practiced by the philosopher and simpleton, the poet and the dull person alike."

    ~ Excerpted from Worship of the Heart

    The biblical command to serve God "with all your heart" is interpreted by Jewish tradition to refer to prayer. The Rav here explores the crucial interface between living religious experience and halakhic norms --the hallmark of his work. He analyzes the Amidah, the Shema, and other biblical and liturgical texts, and also considers the tension between human dependence and exaltation, the ethical and the aesthetic, the presence and absence of God, and the yearning for stability and the desire for change.

    ~ Excerpted from Worship of the Heart

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 03

    Out of the Whirlwind

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler

    1 Review(s)

    The topics of mourning and suffering are among the most salient in the writings of Rabbi Soloveitchik, both when he describes personal experiences and when he articulates his philosophy.

    The essays in this volume powerfully illustrate the Rav's peerless ability to derive a Jewish understanding of both God and the human condition from Biblical and Halakhic sources. The Rav explores such topics as the stages of mourning, the relationship between mourning practices and the mourner's inner experience, the contrasts between individual and communal mourning, the significance of suffering, and the importance of emotions in the Jewish world view.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 05

    The Emergence of Ethical Man

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Michael S. Berger

    "Should we inquire of a modern historian of philosophy or of any educated person well acquainted with the history of ideas what he understands by the word 'man,' he would immediately advise us about a basic controversy concerning the destiny or essence of this being. By the sheer force of associative thinking, he would at once refer to three disparate anthropological-philosophical viewpoints: the Biblical (referred to by many as the Judeo-Christian view), the classical Greek, and the modern empirico-scientific. Pressed further, he would probably say that the discrepancy between the concepts of man dating back to antiquity - the Biblical and the classical Greek - is by far not as wide as the gap separating those two from the empirico-scientific one. As a matter of fact, he would say, we may speak of some degree of affinity, of commensurability between the Biblical and classical anthropologies. Both are united in opposition to the scientific approach to man: they set man apart from other forms of organic life."

    ~ Excerpted from The Emergence of Ethical Man

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 06

    Festival of Freedom

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler

    Festival of Freedom, the sixth volume in the series MeOtzar HoRav, consists of ten essays on Passover and the Haggadah drawn from the treasure trove left by the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, widely known as "the Rav." For Rabbi Soloveitchik, the Passover Seder is not simply a formal ritual or ceremonial catechism. Rather, the Seder night is "endowed with a unique and fascinating quality, exalted in its holiness and shining with a dazzling beauty." It possesses profound experiential and intellectual dimensions, both of them woven into the fabric of Halakhic performance. Its central mitzvah, recounting the exodus, is extraordinarily multifaceted, entailing study and teaching, storytelling and symbolic performance, thanksgiving and praise.
    In these essays, the Rav explains how the resonances of the Seder extend far beyond the confines of one night. As he sets forth, the Seder teaches us about the Jewish approach to the meal, Torah study, peoplehood, and the nature of freedom. Yetzi'at Mitzrayim is not just the story of an event lying in the distant past. It is the doctrine of the Jewish people, the philosophy of our history.
    In exploring the various themes in this volume, the Rav explicates in new and creative ways nuances in the biblical and rabbinic texts associated with Passover. He presents a philosophical analysis of the nature of Jewish community and its religious experiences. In the process, he opens vistas not just on the Jewish people's past, but on its present and future.
    The editors of Festival of Freedom are Joel B. Wolowelsky, Dean of the Faculty at the Yeshivah of Flatbush and Associate Editor of the MeOtzar HoRav series; and Reuven Ziegler, Editor-in-Chief of the Virtual Beit Midrash at Yeshivat Har Etzion and Director of Research at the Toras HoRav Foundation.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 08

    Days of Deliverance

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Eli D. Clark, Joel B. Wolowelsky and Reuven Ziegler

    "The Megillah contains two stories: the story of human happiness and fulfillment, as well as the story of human misery and distress. The reading of the Megillah is a dialectical performance. We pray to the Almighty while we read the Megillah, because we are in distress; we thank God and relate His wonders while we read the Megillah, for we have found refuge in Him; He has saved us."

    ~ Excerpted from "The Duality of Purim" Days of Deliverance

    "Hanukkah is a holiday that has general human underpinnings; it is a holiday of political victories, a holiday of the smashing of political might. Matityahu and his sons had the strength and the courage to confront the Syrian-Greek legions, to liberate the city of Jerusalem and its Temple, and to re-establish an independent Jewish kingdom. This history of dramatic bravery appeals to all, Jew and non-Jew, especially when the revolutionaries compose a small group, unorganized and poorly armed, yet unafraid of declaring war on an enemy."

    ~ "The Everlasting Hanukkah," Days of Deliverance


    Purim and Hanukkah share a rabbinic origin, a festive character, and a generally informal nature. In the essays collected here, the eighth in the series MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, both holidays serve as subtext for Rabbi Soloveitchik's classic search for religious meaning in a seemingly cold and arbitrary universe. For him, Purim and Hanukkah stand at the nexus of faith and history, of human effort and divine intervention, of solemnity and joyous celebration.

    In the Purim essays, the Rav offers not only commentary and textual interpretation, but, primarily, a rich blend of religious existentialism and Jewish historiosophy. He transforms the verses of Megillat Esther, and the Purim story as a whole, into a text about man in general and the Jew in particular. Employing classical midrash, historical analogy, a deep understanding of human nature, and a fine ear for textual nuance, he breathes vivid life into the characters and events of the Megillah, and demonstrates the story's universal and contemporaneous messages.

    In the Hanukkah essays, too, the Rav draws universal lessons from the story of the Hasmonean rebellion and victory. He applies his exegetic and homiletic skills to the account of Hanukkah in Maimonides' Code and in liturgical texts, such as Al ha-nissim and Ha-nerot hallalu. For the Rav, the spiritual core of the Hanukkah story also provides the key to explaining distinctive Halakhic features of the holiday. He views the spiritual struggle waged by Matityahu and his sons as symbolic of the battle for Jewish self-realization carried on by generations of Jews, from Jacob and Joseph in the Bible to our own day.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 09

    Abraham’s Journey

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Reuven Ziegler

    "To write about Abraham today would appear to be a peculiar, if not absurd, undertaking. How can an ancient figure, enveloped in the fog of mystery and (in the opinion of today's cynical man) myth, fascinate the imagination and vision of modern scholars and preachers? They confront innumerable problems of enormous magnitude and force, and face situations which captivate their fantasy with both greatness and perplexing tragedy. Why should they investigate and probe a person who emerges from the unknown historic twilight, whose contours and features are blurred and almost imperceptible to the onlooker, while there is a world full of marvels, light, and charm that wink at and tantalize us? Why watch a bubble riding on the crest of a wave disappearing at the distant horizon, while a mighty tide rolls on toward us and breaks at our feet"

    - Excerpt from Abraham's Journey .

    Abraham's Journey: Reflections on the Life of the Founding Patriarch focuses on the life of Avraham Avinu, founding patriarch of the Jewish People. Abraham was not only the first Jew, but also a historical prototype, his experiences and actions foreshadowing critical patterns in the history of his people. In addition, Abraham serves as a spiritual and ethical model to his descendants. He is a teacher, a paragon of kindness, a lonely iconoclast, a master of sacrifice, and a knight of faith. Through careful exegesis of verses, illuminating analyses of character, and insightful readings of classical commentators, the essays in this book seek both the eternal and the contemporary messages of the Abraham story.

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 11

    Vision and Leadership

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky, and Reuven Ziegler

    2 Review(s)

    Vision and Leadership, the eleventh in the series MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, presents Rabbi Soloveitchik's reflections on Biblical narratives and characters, beginning with the Joseph stories and the Jewish people's sojourn in Egypt and ending with the story of Moses' death on the brink of return to the Promised Land. Through careful exegesis of the verses, illuminating analyses of character, and insightful readings of midrashim and classic medieval commentators, the reflections in this book seek the underlying messages of biblical stories and an understanding of what they teach us about past and present events in the life of the Jewish people. They also shed light on broader concepts, such as the nature of justice, idolatry, spiritual authority, and Halakhic thought. 

     

    Soon after the revelation at Sinai, the Jews committed the sin of the Golden Calf. We should note that prima facie this sin was more abominable, more horrible, than the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. If we translate it into Halakhic terms, the sin of the Tree of Knowledge consisted in eating forbidden foods, while the sin of the Golden Calf touched the very essence of Judaism, namely, the prohibition against idolatry. Yet, when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, all future generations were struck by disaster. Adam alienated himself from his Creator and was driven out of Paradise. According to Hazal, God had intended for man to live forever, but the original sin brought about death and man became mortal. When the community alienated itself from the Creator by worshipping the Golden Calf, the consequences of the sin were not as tragic.

    ~ excerpted from Vision and Leadership

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 01

    Family Redeemed

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    The essays in this volume focus on family relationships--between husbands and wives, parents and children. The analyses are rooted in a theory of personality which emerges from the Rav's brilliant interpretations of biblical, talmudic, midrashic, kabbalistic and halakhic texts, as well as from his command of Western philosophy and literature.

    "The lonely person yearns on the one hand to join another real person, to fill his life with the essence of another real life which has been summoned by God into his service, and, on the other hand, to create a new life to whose growth and development the lonely individual commits himself a priori fully and unreservedly.
    "Two lonely individuals with their urge to love commit themselves to creativity in order to love someone who will emerge in the course of time as a new member of the small community they founded together. This someone, as yet hidden in the recesses of the anonymity of non-being, gives purpose and meaning to the community and helps father and mother to find themselves and their exact position in the creation." ~ excerpted from Family Redeemed

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 04

    Community, Covenant and Commitment

    Joseph B. Soloveitchik

    Nathaniel Helfgot

    Community, Covenant and Commitment includes more than seventy private and public letters written by the Rav, where he reveals his private opinions on contemporary issues such as religious Zionism, women studying Torah, interfaith issues, and topics close to his heart in areas of communal, theological, philosophical and personal concerns, as well as a number of detailed interviews conducted with him over the span of some forty years. These correspondences, epistles, and addresses, give us a glimpse into the Rav's thought.
    The topics addressed in this volume reflect the entire panoply of concerns that confronted the Orthodox and general Jewish community as its matured and grew in the hospitable setting of the American scene. Together with that, the rise of the modern State of Israel and the challenges that this posed became a focal point of the American Jewish community as well as of the thinking of the Rav. Topics include communal policy for Jewish adoption agencies, interfaith discussions with the Catholic Church, religious and theological attitudes to the State of Israel, interdenominational activities within the Jewish community, advanced Jewish education for young women, the training of learned and professional rabbis, as well as personal issues such as why Rabbi Soloveitchik never settled in Israel.
    Each letter or communication is prefaced by a short introduction giving its historical context. The entire volume is preceded by a lengthy introduction that discusses many of the background issues addressed in the letters. 

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  • MeOtzar HoRav: Selected Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik # 07

    The Lord is Righteous in All his Ways

    Joseph B. Solovetichik

    Jacob J. Schacter

    The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways is Rabbi Soloveitchik's answers to many questions relating to this most important day in the Jewish calendar. What is the role of Tishah be-Av at the beginning of the twenty-first century, close to two thousand years after the destruction of the second Temple? What is the halakhic character of Tishah be-Av? What themes in the Kinot (liturgical poetry) recited on that day resonate in modern times? How should the Jew respond to personal and national catastrophe? What is the relationship between the Holocaust and Tishah be-Av?
    For more than a decade Rabbi Soloveitchik spent virtually the entire day of Tishah be-Av expounding upon its major themes and reading and closely analyzing the Kinot, drawing upon on a whole range of sources including the Bible, rabbinic literature (Talmud and Midrash), medieval halakhic and philosophical works, Hebrew poetry, and Jewish history. He would begin with a shiur or lecture on general issues relevant to Tishah be-Av for about an hour and, after a short break, would begin the recital of the Kinot. After reading a few words or phrases, he would stop and comment, sometimes for a moment or two and sometimes for a more extended period of time. Also, those assembled would regularly interrupt with questions and insights and Rabbi Soloveitchik would stop and address their points. This mixture of reciting and learning, the traditional plaintive sweet sing-song of the Kinot and the traditional robust sounds of Torah teaching, analyzing the words of Rabbi Elazar ha-Kalir and the concepts of the Maimonides, would continue for many hours. Very often this mixture of a religious and intellectual experience would last until the end of the day.
    The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways presents a transcript of those presentations and unlocks entire areas of Jewish liturgy and Jewish thought that had previously been closed.

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