Monday, March 19, 2007

Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik

Rav Meir Yaakov Soloveichick is a friend of mine. I saw him grow from a brilliant student in Yeshivas Brisk to a brilliant student in Yeshiva University, to a brilliant thinker in his own right. He is truly a man for the future. And although he is my Rebbe’s grandson in body, he is his is great uncle’s grandson in spirit. His brilliance in Torah knowledge speaks for itself. But as a PhD candidate in philosophy he clearly comes closer in thought to his great uncle than to his grandfather.

Of course I do not mean to compare his greatness to that of his illustrious uncle or even his grandfather. Nor would I even compare him to his own father, Rav Eliyahu Soloveichik, who is one of the great Talmidei Chachamim of our generation. I am absolutely convinced Rav Meir would agree with me about that. But that just speaks of the magnitudes of order of greatness that Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik and his brother Rav Aaron Soloveichik stood out in comparrison to the great Torah figures of the present time. Though not yet reaching their level, Rav Meir is still a giant… a budding one to be sure but a giant still among men, none the less.

He has written an article in commentary magazine that is
discussed by Rabbi Adlerstein which speaks to an issue touched upon here, most recently yesterday… the issue of interfaith dialogue.

Rav Meir Soloveichik writes in Commentary Magazine a critique of a book written by Oxford-trained Catholic theologian, Maria Johnson, Strangers and Neighbors: What I Have Learned About Christianity by Living Among Orthodox Jews .

As Rav Adlersaten describes it, he basically uses her book to lambaste those Jewish theologians like A.J. Heshel, David Hartman, and Irving Greenberg who have advocated dialogue and claim that the specificities of Judaism’s rituals are not as important as the universal truths that all faiths have in common. Dr. Johnson’s book refutes this notion. She claims the opposite to be the case. She “has learned to appreciate how the constant focus on G-d’s Will does bring people closer to Him.”

This, says Rav Addlerstien, harkens back to the Rav’s own views:

“In a 1964 talk that remains the position paper of Orthodoxy regarding interfaith theological dialogue, Rav Soloveichik opined that “Standardization of practices, equalization of dogmatic certitudes, and the waiving of eschatological claims spell the end of the vibrant and great faith experience of any religious community.” Attempting to bring faith communities closer together by diluting the strength of their beliefs would be destructive to the faiths of both.”

I recall my time spent with Rav Meir on those occasions when he was a student at Yeshiva University. He was a dear friend to my daughter and son in law who was also a student at YU at the time and he would often come by on a Shabbos when I was there and we would have some great discussions. So also when he would visit his parents in Chicago for the Yomim Tovim. Our views were pretty close then as I recall. And it seems, they still are.