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Rav Soloveitchik was arguably the greatest exponent of Religious Zionism in the latter half of the 20th century and he traveled a long path to reach that position. He constructed a majestic Religious Zionism built on activism and the passionate desire to seek out God’s guiding hand in the world. He became an ardent Zionist and a member of Mizrachi yet always maintained his independent view. Each decision he made was subjected to rigorous analysis, and halacha was never subjugated in favor of Zionist sentiment.
His switch from Agudah to Mizrachi was a testament to his intellectual honesty and personal conviction. It was hard for the Rav to differ from his family, change his associations and uproot his worldview, yet he came to see this as a fulfillment of two fundamental religious obligations – the drive to attune with the will of God and the mandate to emulate God’s creativity – to be an activist and make an impact in the wider world.
Both the content and context of his Zionist philosophy have beautiful and powerful messages for us all.
Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff is professor of rabbinic literature at Yeshiva University’s Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem. This essay, a version of which originally appeared in Yeshiva University’s Torah To-Go series, is based on the shiurim of Rabbi Rothkoff and was compiled by Sam Fromson, a rabbinic student in the YU Israel Kollel.
Rav Soloveitchik passed away on 18 Nissan (April 9), 1993.