Three Decades after His Death, Joseph Soloveitchik’s Writings Are a Reminder That Judaism Can Weather Any Intellectual Challenge

This year, April 9 was—on both the Hebrew and the Gregorian calendars—the 30th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one of the most outstanding thinkers, and Orthodox spiritual leaders, of postwar American Jewry. Jeffrey Saks reflects on the legacy of this great teacher, whom he refers to, as is convention, as “the Rav,” the rabbi par excellence.

Arriving at my own commitment to Jewish life and observance during those twilight years when he was no longer on the public stage yet omnipresent in American Modern Orthodoxy, much of who I became as a religious person was shaped by the Rav’s Torah and thought as filtered through his students and his writing. If, as C.S. Lewis was purported to have said, “we read to know we are not alone,” I read the Rav to know that I was not alone in my loneliness.

Among the most important lessons that I took away from those years was, first, the idea that we have nothing to fear. Torah (or perhaps in the Rav’s term, halakhah, broadly defined) would be more than capable of grappling with whatever challenge may arise in my adolescent (and later more mature) mind; and even when the answers are not always readily apparent, I could take comfort in the idea that others before me had thought about the problem, continued to think about it, and, in the paraphrase of some Yiddish expression I could not then have known, it would not prove fatal.

Second, and more significantly, the Rav’s model created a permission structure for faith. It offered the promise that motivated by love and not fear, my decisions leading in one direction did not mean severing ties with the world, family, and a version of my own self. The Rav’s message allowed me entrée to the covenantal community knowing that I could remain “at home,” and even be called back to the majestic realm; it bound the two sides and selves together with the “connective ivy” of the halakhah. It is my belief that the power and impact of the Rav’s teachings, in these ways and other future directions that we may scarcely be able to imagine today, will continue to vivify Jewish life and learning for many, many generations to come.

Read more at Tradition

More about: American Judaism, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security