web analytics
December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



The Religious Zionism Of Rav Soloveitchik

Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

The third factor that influenced the formulation of the Rav’s Agudist position was the role models he encountered in America. The Rav came to the United States in 1932, brought over by the Chicago Hebrew Theological College. When the Depression hit, the community was unable to honor the contract, so the Rav moved to Boston.

Religious life in Boston was a challenge and the person Rav Soloveitchik respected most was Rabbi Eliezer Silver, a student of Rav Chaim Ozer who had come to America and worked in the insurance business before serving as a community rabbi in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1937 Rabbi Silver led the American delegation to the last European Agudah conference and received a mandate to establish Agudah in the United States. Rav Soloveitchik was one of the founding members.

In the late 1930s, when the rabbinic leaders of Agudah refused to support a boycott of Germany and Hitler, the Rav sided with them. This decision seems perverse in hindsight, but we must recall that the Agudah of that era was still stuck in the mindset of the ghetto. Agudah leaders maintained an inherent aversion to confronting government authority and felt a boycott would only anger Hitler and make the situation worse for European Jews.

The initial catalyst for the Rav’s switch from committed Agudist to powerful and eloquent advocate for Religious Zionism came in 1943, when the horrific nature of the ongoing destruction of European Jewry became evident. American Jewry woke up to Hitler’s crimes and many members of the Agudah leadership who had rejected a boycott in the 1930s announced the time had come to take action.

Two days before Yom Kippur, Agudah leaders, the Rav among them, marched to Congress to request a meeting with the president. The greatest rabbinic delegation America could muster was denied an audience. Their protest went unanswered and they returned home, defeated and dejected.

When the full extent of the destruction of European Jewry was revealed, it caused the Rav to make a frank and full reevaluation of his philosophy. He came to the decision that he had been wrong – wrong about the primacy of rabbinic edict in the realm of hashkafa and wrong about the relevance of Jewish activism.

* * * * *

In his addresses to the American Mizrachi Association, which were subsequently transcribed as the Chamesh Derashot, the Rav explained the first aspect of his change of heart. He noted that in the realm of halacha the rabbinic majority reigns supreme. God gave the Torah to man, and our capacity for halachic creativity and decision-making is axiomatic to a vibrant relationship with God.

In hashkafa, however, the rules are different. For questions that are outside the four volumes of the Shulchan Aruch, the focus is not on man’s insight and deduction; rather, we have to constantly evaluate what it is that God wants of us. We have to continually reevaluate our decisions to ensure they align with ratzon Hashem (the will of God), and we have to adapt to the world around us.

In hashkafa there is no edict that is infallible and no rebbe who is exempt from this obligation for constant reappraisal and review. Once halacha is fixed by man it becomes law and even God cannot alter it – as the heavenly voice affirms, lo bashamayim hi, it is not in heaven. Hashkafa, however, must be in a constant state of flux and adaptation.

The Rav connected this message to the conflict between Yosef and his brothers. All the children of Yaakov knew there would be an exile, as had been revealed to Avraham. Yosef wanted to question the comfortable life of the family and challenge them to rethink the status quo of life in Canaan in preparation for the inevitable trials ahead. The brothers rejected this. They judged Yosef guilty of treason for even suggesting it; they were happy with life in Canaan, comfortable, settled and secure. The Divine Voice rang out that Yosef was right. Yosef’s visions proved true and he eventually ended up as viceroy over all of Egypt, able to guide his family safely to Egypt and soften the blow of exile.

The Rav explained that the Mizrachi of 1902 represented Yosef HaTzaddik and Agudah represented the other brothers. Mizrachi wanted to reevaluate Jewish life in Europe, to prepare for the Jewish future and ensure Jewish continuity, whereas Agudah was content with the status quo. Mizrachi fought and dreamed, and without it there would have been no place for refugees to go following the war. Without the yishuv, Hitler would have killed Judaism. The Rav saw this as a full retroactive justification of Mizrachi philosophy.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff is professor of rabbinic literature at Yeshiva University’s Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “The Religious Zionism Of Rav Soloveitchik”

  1. I once met Rabbi Soloveitchik his basic philosophy was that Halacha always had to followed no matter what.

  2. I once met Rabbi Soloveitchik his basic philosophy was that Halacha always had to followed no matter what.

  3. Dvorah Bee says:

    A good man with an open mind and a small ego.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israel Lebanon Peace Project Flag
UN Demands Israel Pay Lebanon $850 Million
Latest Indepth Stories
UN Flags

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

More Articles from Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff
YU-040414

Today we have more than six million halachic Jews living in the Holy Land.

Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

There are two key questions to consider when examining Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s relationship with Religious Zionism. The first is why the Rav was so firmly anti-Zionist when he arrived in America. The second is how the impact of the Holocaust and birth of Israel caused the Rav to fundamentally change his perspective.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-religious-zionism-of-rav-soloveitchik/2013/05/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: