Reading Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Philosophy as Memoir

In The Last Rabbi, William Kolbrener, a scholar of Milton, uses literary criticism and psychoanalysis to understand the philosophical works of the great 20th-century luminary. (Interview by Alan Brill).

Soloveitchik writes in [his theological treatise] Halakhic Man of what he considers to be the primary Jewish imperative, for man to “create himself.” Seen from this perspective, Soloveitchik’s philosophical writings serve as a kind of spiritual memoir, the means by which he creates himself through writing. Halakhic Man, for example, is about his father, his uncle [both distinguished rabbis], but also about himself, as he at once declares allegiance to his ancestors but also asserts independence from some of the traditions they represent. Repentance or t’shuvah is critical for Soloveitchik—throughout his works—as a form of story-telling about the self, one which allows for constant self-critique and continued self-construction.

Recognition of failure plays an important role in Soloveitchik’s emotional journey, and in the stories he tells about himself. Where, in childhood memories, failure is embarrassing or even shameful, later in his life both failure and suffering are transformed, retroactively becoming marks of distinction, indeed of existential chosenness. . . .

Indeed, I call him the “last rabbi” because of [his] self-perceived (and self-represented) failure as a teacher, his ostensible inability to communicate [what he calls the] “Torah of the heart” [alongside the more cerebral teachings]. While engaging his students intellectually, he was not able, he confesses, to solicit “growth on the experiential plane,” or to bestow his “personal warmth on them.” That is, Soloveitchik may have emphasized creativity and self-creation to such an extent, may have become so much the individual, that he transformed himself into the last rabbi.

Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Repentance


As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas