Volume 7 Number 79

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

On the Rav Zt"L from YU Alumnai Review
         [Steve Edell]
Rav and Rav Alfandri
         [Shlomo H. Pick]
Torah and secular knowledge
         [Anthony Fiorino]


From: <edell@...> (Steve Edell)
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 93 06:51:27 -0400
Subject: On the Rav Zt"L from YU Alumnai Review

The following article about the Rav, ZT"L, shows not only his philosphy,
but that YU as an Institution is dedicated to 'Torah U'Mada' as well.

In the latest issue of YU's _Alumni Review_, there is an article
listed as "In the Shadow of the Lonely Man of Faith" - "As the
Orthodox Union honors 50 years of intellectual and spiritual
contributions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Alumni review
marks the occasion with an essay tribute on his remarkable life."

I have retyped the article for anyone interested in reading it.
-Steven Edell, (YC '73,  WSSW '76)

(There is a little side comment in the issue that, "Material
contained in this issue is as of February 19, 1993."  I am not
certain, however, if this essay was written before, or after
ZT"L.  There is no mention of the phrase ZT"L in the article -
however, most remarks about him are in past tense. -SE)

PREFACE - Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik alone among his generation
bears the title of, simply, the Rav, an appellation that brings
respectful nods of admiration from every circle of Jewish and
academic scholarship.  He always shunned the spotlight,
preferring the classroom to the pulpit; he rarely gave interviews
and, with a few notable exceptions, avoided committing his works
to publication.  But his ideas, opinions, and analyses are avidly
sought out by the high and mighty of all spheres - academic,
political, social.  He was the only rabbi who could enthrall an
audience with equal power, whether discoursing on Talmud,
science, or philosophy.       The Rav's best-known work is THE
LONELY MAN OF FAITH, an exploration that blends raw emotionalism
with searing analysis in exploring the dual nature of religious

(Here appears a quote -SE):  "What can a man of faith like
myself", wrote the Rav, "say to a functional, utilitarian society
which is _saeculum_-oriented and whose practical reasons of the
mind have long ago supplanted the sensitive reasons of the
heart?"  A Boston Globe critic commented about the book, "You can
listen with rapture and it tears you apart."

(Now the article starts-SE):

At YU, the loneliness of faith is heightened sometimes by another
loneliness now that the Rav no longer makes the weekly Boston-YU
commutes which he maintained virtually throughout his lifetime of
teaching.  During that time, the Rav was actively the spiritual,
intellectual, and ideological center of YU; symbolically, he
still remains so.  In the process, he has exerted an incalculable
influence upon a community that has sought to maintain religious
integrity while contributing to the progress of contemporary
society here in the United States and to the strength of the
State of Israel.
     The Rav was, of course, the preeminent talmudist at the
University's affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological
Seminary; the occupant of the Leib Merkin Chair in Talmud and
Jewish Philosophy, he ordained some 2,000 students, perhaps more
than any other sage in Jewish history.  These students themselves
now pass the mantle to another generation, which will hold
prestigious pulpits on all continents and will champion the
causes of education, communal service, and Jewish scholarship.
     But the numbers are like hollow tubes, barely capable of
containing the rich legacy they are meant to hold.
     For Rabbi Soloveitchik's presence was felt beyond the
crowded classroom on the fourth floor of Furst Hall where his
dazzling _shiurim_ (lectures) would, according to those who were
present, mesmerize listeners with references from sources as
diverse as _tanakh_, Maimonides, and the neo-Kantians, on whom he
wrote his dissertation at the University of Berlin.
     To get a sense of what he is, one had, at the very least, to
attend one of his _yahrzeit_ lectures - which he delivered in
honor of the memory of his father, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik; for
his wife, Tonya, who died in 1967, and other family members. 
These drew the entire YU community as well as thousands of others
for whom the opportunity to hear the Rav speak in person was an
exceedingly rare and treasured event.  Young _Semikhah_ students
respectfully occupied the first rows; some of them had in tow
their younger siblings, their parents, fiancees, and friends.
     On the occasions of these lectures, the Nathan Lamport
Auditorium filled to capacity sending the overflow crowds into
the adjacent Beit Midrash and lobby space of Tanenbaum Hall.  "An
Evening of Study," reads one ticket stub from 1975; along with
date and time, the card carries the verse, "Let my heart be
undivided in thy statutes in order that I may not be put to

     Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchik, was born in Poland in 1903,
the scion of an unusually vibrant and enduring rabbinic dynasty. 
His grandfather, the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, was
credited with developing a keenly intellectual, some even said
scientifically analytical, approach to the study of Talmud.  It
was this method, learned by the Rav from his own father, the
Talmudic master Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, that led him to pursue
a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Berlin in the late
1920s.  The purpose of the Halakhic method and analysis, he wrote
in _The Halakhic Mind_, "is not to eliminate non-Jewish elements. 
Far from it...by tracing the Jewish trends and comparing them to
the non-Jewish, we shall enrich our outlook and knowledge.  Out
of the sources of Halakhah, a new world view awaits formulation."
     The Rav was appointed _Rosh Yeshiva_ at YU in 1941, upon the
death of his father who had held the post since being recruited
by Dr. Revel in 1929
     The son of Reb Moshe proved himself a dazzling and
insightful lecturer from the start, and it soon became evident
that "he would exceed the expectations of even his strongest
early supporters and make his initial detractors look most
unnecessarily troubled," as Dr. Jeffrey Gurock wryly noted in his
book, _The Men and Women of Yeshiva_.  He was, in fact, later
asked to be the Chief Rabbi of Israel.  He declined; by then, his
role as the light of Modern Jewish Orthodoxy had become clear, 
and he willingly and tirelessly shouldered the immense
responsibility.  Soon, he developed his thesis of duality, a
variation of which is the credo that is nestled in the YU shield: 
Torah U-Madda.
     In _The Lonely Man of Faith_, which was first published as a
series of articles in _Tradition_ magazine, the Rav mined the
story of Genesis and emerged with a powerful theory about the
essence of religious man's struggle.  There were two Adams in
_Bereishit_, he observed.  Adam the first, Majestic Adam, was a
dynamic persona, "aggressive, bold-minded," whose creativity is
an attempt to emulate his Maker; he responds to the Commandments,
"Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue
it."  the second Adam withdraws from this outward existence; he
inhabits the Garden of Eden, "confronted and defeated by [the]
Higher and truer being" with whom he seeks a relationship.
     There was nothing facile about the Lonely Man of Faith's
struggle to straddle his dual nature; in his quest there was no
dilution of spirituality in favor of materialism, but rather an
effort to balance the two.  That balance influenced the Rav's
practical thinking as well; when a _Ma'ariv_ reporter suggested
to him that even some of his own students saw him as too
ideologically flexible, the Rav sharply responded, "You must
understand that moderation isn't compromise."  He remained
influential in all circles because he was able to combine icy
intellect with effusive charisma.
     The Rav was active in other areas of Jewish life as well. 
He served as chairman of the Halakha Commission of the Rabbinical
Council of American as was honorary president of Mizrachi, the
Religious Zionists of America.  Last December, his 50 years of
teaching and leadership were honored by the Orthodox Union at its
national convention held in Philadelphia.  Featured at the event
were President Lamm, a prize student of the Rav's, and the Rav's
sons-in-law, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, who is educational
directory of YU's Gruss Institute in Jerusalem and Rosh Yeshiva
at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel, and Dr. Isadore Twersky, who is
Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy,
Harvard University.
     Though it has been many years since he has made that once
familiar commute from his home in Boston, it is the Rav's words,
his smile, and the lessons from his heart which permeate the
_Batei Midrash_, classrooms, and even laboratories of YU, fueling
the aspirations of Yeshiva University students.  "To find
fulfillment," the Rav wrote in _The Halakhic Mind_, "one must
partake of the human endeavor."  With unstinting devotion to
Halakha, his life is a study in endeavor and fulfillment.

[Two quotes then appear (SE)]:
"[The religious mind] views God from the aspect of His creation;
and the first response to such an idea is a purified desire to
penetrate the mystery of phenomenal reality.  The cognition of
this world is of the innermost essence of the religious
experience."  - Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik

"The words of the Rav, one of the spiritual and intellectual
giants of Yeshiva University, and indeed of our generation, voice
a principled ideal for the unity of all human knowledge.  There
is sacred learning and there is learning which is sacred, and at
Yeshiva University, while we recognize the distinction between
the two, we also affirm their affinities, and mutual enrichment.
     The University commits itself to the principle that every
advance of knowledge is an advance for humanity and service to
life.  We have the conviction, as the Rav said, that every
enterprise of true learning has its part in religious experience
and deserves honor and respect."  
     -President [of YU -SE] Norman Lamm

Steven Edell, Computer Manager    Internet:  <edell@...>
United Israel Appeal, Inc
(United Israel Office)            Voice:  972-2-255513
Jerusalem, Israel                 Fax  :  972-2-247261


From: Shlomo H. Pick <F12013@...>
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 93 03:42:45 -0400
Subject: Rav and Rav Alfandri

In the summary of R. Bernstein's talk on the rav, mention was made
of why the rav was not elected to the tel - aviv rabbinate. The
reasons that were mentioned were:
1. the rav said that rav alfondri did not know how to learn rambam.
2. that rav alfondri's shul did not how to observe minhag sefarad
3. a third version which i admit to have forgotten but once again Rav
Alfondri was insulted
The point is that in the hatzofe of 2 shabbatot ago, david tamar
pointed out that people should get their facts together before
writing history:  R. Alfandri passed away in 1930 and so he could
not be involved with all those insults.
Some one who was quite young in the thirties and heard the rav then
said that he had heard that R. Fishman (Maimon) of the Mizrachi had
in effect nixed the Rav because R. Fishman thought that someone more
European was appropriate and thereby would be able to work with the
English who had the mandate.
If true, for those who are into pyscho history, did that have any-
thing to do with the Rav's dicision to join the Aguda?
shlomo pick


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 93 15:26:21 -0400
Subject: Torah and secular knowledge

Morris Podolak and Ben Svetitsky argued against the two gemarot which I
presented as evidence that the idea that studying secular knowledge is
forbidden.  Morris and Ben presented essentially two similar arguments:

1.  The first gemara (brachot 35b--dispute between R. Yishmael and R.
    Shimon b. Yochai if it permissable to work to earn a living) deals
    with work, not study, and is thus irrelevant to the issue.

2.  The second gemara (menachot 99b--R. Yishmael tells his nephew to   
    find a time which is neither day not night to study Greek wisdom)
    deals with Greek wisdom, and we don't know what that is.

I disaggree with their interpretations.  The gemara in brachot is not
about work; it is about bitul Torah.  R. Shimon b. Yochai holds that
_even_ to work for a living is bitul Torah.  I argue that he would hold
that if one isn't permitted to work, then certainly one would not be
permitted to study secular knowledge.  Such study would also be bitul
Torah.  R. Yishmael, on the other hand, is asserting that it is _not_ bitul
Torah to earn a living.  Here he is silent, however, on the issue of
non-Torah learning.

In menachot, we learn R. Yishmael's position on non-Torah knowledge.  His
statement that one must find a time which is neither day nor night to
study Greek wisdom is based on Joshua 1:8 -- "This book of the law shall
not leave from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night." 
Thus, he forbids studying Greek wisdom because he holds that the
obligation to study Torah applies "day and night."  This is independent of
the specific content of Greek wisdom; his opposition is not about heresy,
but is also about bitul Torah.  Thus, it doesn't really matter what Greek
wisdom is, as long as it isn't Torah.

The question was asked, "And didn't you notice, Eitan, that you placed R.
Yishmael squarely on both sides of the question?"  Well, I noticed no such
thing because I did no such thing.  As we have seen, R. Yishmael holds
that it is not bitul Torah to earn a living, but other than this heter
for livelyhood, the obligation to study Torah applies day and night, and
non-Torah studies are _not_ exempted.  R. Shimon b. Yochai, on the other
hand, holds that even earning a living is bitul Torah.

My point was not to debate whether secular studies are permitted.  There
are plenty of sources to illustrate that they are permitted, and perhaps
even required.  I personally find this set of sources quite compelling.  My
point was simply that there are sources as well for the Torah-only
approach, and that such an approach is not a simply a recent innovation,
but in fact represents one of several legitimate Jewish approaches to
secular studies.  I may not agree with that approach for myself, but it is
real and legitimate and thus I must respect it.

Eitan Fiorino


End of Volume 7 Issue 79