Serving for most of his career as the rabbi of the ḥasidic congregation of the first Russian, later Latvian, city of Dvinsk (modern-day Daugavpils), Joseph Rozin (1858-1936) was widely considered the foremost rabbinic mind of his day. Rozin, known as the “Rogachover Gaon” (the talmudic genius from Rogachov), was frequently consulted by other rabbis for his opinions on halakhic matters, which he approached with sometimes stunning unconventionality. In 1933, M. Gurtz, a correspondent from the New York-based Yiddish paper Der Morgen-Zshurnal, conducted a rare interview with the Rogachover, reproduced in translation at the link below. In his introduction to the text, Marc Shapiro describes the sage’s “complete originality and independence as a legal scholar”:
Take the question of the halakhic standing of civil marriage, which is [the subject of] one of the major rabbinic disputes of the 20th century (a dispute that was later extended to the status of marriages performed by Reform and Conservative clergy). Does a non-halakhic marriage create a marital bond that requires a halakhic divorce (get) to dissolve the union? While halakhic authorities lined up on opposites sides of the dispute, the Rogachover charted a unique path. . . . In brief, he argued that . . . the origin of the non-halakhic marital bond is in the [pre-Mosaic] Noahide code [i.e., the seven universal commandments given, according to rabbinic tradition, to mankind via Noah], and for Jews this status can be ended only with a [special] get, which is written differently from a typical get. . . .
The Rogachover’s special love for Moses Maimonides, who in his eyes stood above all other medieval [sages], is not only seen in his halakhic writings or in his volumes of commentary on Maimonides’ [code of Jewish law]. Unusual among his contemporaries, the Rogachover also intensively studied Maimonides’ [philosophical magnum opus] the Guide of the Perplexed, and [some] of his notes on it survive. . . . A number of philosophical expressions found in the Guide were applied by him in an original fashion to halakhic texts.