Monday, September 19, 2016

The Lonely Man of Faith

Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993), called the Rav, taught at Yeshiva University, and was one of the founders of modern orthodoxy, with its emphasis on Torah Umadda, or Torah and Knowledge; that is, the study and practice of Torah from an orthodox perspective, along with that of secular knowledge. Soloveitchik was trained in science and philosophy as well as a diverse slice of Jewish topics.

This can be seen clearly in his book The Lonely Man of Faith. Published in 1965, it bears the stamp of existentialism, stressing the split between organizational, scientific, objective life, and that of faith --- here seen as opposing elements.  

The jumping off point is Torah, with its two stories of the creation of man.  For the Rav Adam One is the man of science, while Adam Two is the lonely man of faith.  Adam One is created along with the female Adam to subdue nature.  Adam Two is placed in the garden not to rule it, but to till it.  One objectifies nature while the other confronts reality on a subjective level, finding meaning in everyday tasks.

The Rav explores these kinds of themes more fully in the more fleshed out Halakhic Man, another venture wedding Judaism with existential thought. Both enriching works bear the imprint of a man wrestling for find meaning for Judaism in our age.

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