Thursday, August 07, 2008

R. Soloveitchik's Vision of Modern Orthodoxy

R. Micha Berger attempts to elucidate R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik's vision of "Torah U-Madda" and asks whether it something that can be implemented on a community-wide basis (link). I generally agree with his presentation although I take issue with one point. R. Berger suggests that, according to R. Soloveitchik, man relates to Torah by creating it, i.e. by creatively evaluating and developing the application of Jewish law. This is obviously only applicable to the greatest scholars of a generation.

However, I would suggest that people can create Torah in realms other than halakhah. They can express their creative abilities in many different elements of Torah -- even just a clever thought about the weekly Torah portion. This is something that is within reach of most people who spend extensive amounts of time studying.

Overall, I don't think that contemporary Modern Orthodox communities even try to implement R. Soloveitchik's vision. Rather, they adopt the Torah Im Derekh Eretz of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch (finding value in secular culture when approached from a Jewish perspective), without his view of Austritt (separation from non-Orthodox Jews) and anti-Zionism. You can probably describe it as a non-mystical Kookian Torah Im Derekh Eretz.

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