Friday, November 30, 2007

Rav Soloveitchik's Two Dreams

In this week's parashah shi'ur (audio link, at minute 25), R. Hershel Schachter discusses the kiddush that R. Aharon Lichtenstein made at Yeshiva when he became engaged to R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's daughter. R. Ahron Soloveichik, the bride-to-be's uncle, was in the neighborhood for Shabbos and said the following devar Torah at the kiddush (in my own words):

Yosef had two dreams, one about the sheaves bowing down and another about the sun, moon and stars bowing. The first dream about the sheaves (Gen. 37:7) is interpreted by many as referring to Yosef's physical dominion and the second about the celestial beings (Gen. 37:9) as referring to spiritual leadership. Ya'akov, however, had only one dream about a ladder going up to the heavens (Gen. 28:10). The brothers objected to Yosef's two dreams because they were a deviation from their father's single dream.

So, too, R. Yosef Soloveitchik. Some of his contemporaries objected to his two dreams of Torah and philosophy as being a deviation from his grandfather Reb Chaim's single dream of Torah.

The truth is, though, that Ya'akov's single dream had two parts to it--the ladder had its base on the earth and its top reached up to the heavens. The base on the earth (mutzav artzah) refers to the physical and the top reaching the heavens (rosho magi'a ha-shamaymah) refers to the spiritual. Yosef's two dreams were only a more explicit manifestation of Ya'akov's single dream. So, too, R. Yosef Soloveitchik. Reb Chaim was not only a devoted Torah scholar but also spent a great deal of time studying philosophy, particularly Rambam's Moreh Nevukhim. The grandson Soloveitchik was only being more explicit of the grandfather Soloveitchik's vision.
I would expand this a bit and say that many Torah sages throughout the centuries have engaged in secular studies (not just philosophy) and included that in their vision of a Torah personality (while many have not). Even if Yeshiva University or other Modern Orthodox institutions and Jews might be more explicit than others were in the past, this is not a deviation but simply a more explicit manifestation of prior views.

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