Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph Ber

15 Jun 2006

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was born into a family already known for its great Torah learning. His grandfather and father, emphasized a thorough analysis of Talmud, and it is in this way that Rav Soloveitchik studied and taught his own students. He was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin, and then settled in Boston in the early 1930’s. He became Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva University, and gave weekly shiurim to senior students, while delivering philosophy lectures to graduate students. His accomplishments in both Halachic study and secular study made him a unique Torah personality to Torah scholars all over.

His limitless expertise in and appreciation of secular disciplines never lessened his total devotion to Torah study. Indeed Torah study was the central focus of his life and his teachings. His public historic shiurim in memory of his great father, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, and his public shiurim between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur organized by the Rabbinical Council of America known as Kinus T’Shuva, were attended by thousands of Torah students from all groupings in the Torah community. Thus he was one of the leaders of the generation.

He never engaged in pejorative or invectives when speaking of non-orthodox Jews. He was polite and respectful to others. Yet he was firm and inflexible in protecting and advocating the Mesorah of Torah tradition. His ruling, written by him, that one is not allowed to pray in a house of worship that violates Halachic standards even if it would result in not fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tekiath Shofar is an illustration of his strong stand on Torah and Mesorah.

This can also be seen from his opinion that while dialogue with non-Jewish faiths may be necessary, it may not deal with theological topics. This was a historic principle which guided his disciples in all their dealings with non-Jewish clergy, and continues to this very day.

His teachings and shiurim are responsible for literally thousands of men and women in the educational and academic community today.