Rabbi Soloveitchik

A teacher, writer, and community leader who helped to shape modern Orthodoxy in America.

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But here too Soloveitchik is operating within the framework of modern philosophy. The idea that faith is inherently paradoxical and loneliness inevitable, together with obvious parallels with thinkers such as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, give the work a clear flavor of 20th century existentialism. If Halachic Man supplies traditionalist answers to modern, rationalist questions, The Lonely Man of Faith begins from the point of view of faith, but reaches far more ambivalent conclusions.

So was Soloveitchik primarily a traditionalist rabbi or a modern philosopher? The question is not only academic. The Rav's legacy continues to be an important influence as modern Orthodox Jews debate the future of their movement. Should modern Orthodoxy' use up-to-date language and concepts to make traditional Judaism more appealing, or should the movement grapple with the real challenges that modernity poses to the tradition?

Eulogizing Soloveitchik shortly after his death in 1993, Rabbi Norman Lamm, President of Yeshiva University, warned against one-sided approaches to this question, arguing that "the Rav was not a lamdan [a learned Jew] who happened to have and use a smattering of general culture, and he was certainly not a philosopher who happened to be a talmid hakham, a Torah scholar?. We must accept him on his terms as a highly complicated, profound, and broadminded personality."

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Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.