Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Place in History

Gil Student in a post in Hirhurim takes issue with an article in “Jewish Action” whereby Hillel Goldberg claims that Rav Soloveitchik was not really a posek for Orthodoxy as has been claimed many times by many of his students. Gil goes on to refute every point made by Mr. Goldberg but, which is all well and good but frankly I'm tired of all the bashing of the Rav from the right. I don't know if Hillel Goldberg is a Right Winger or not but it doesn't matter. If he minimizes the Rav's greatness in any way he might as well be. RYBS was one of the ten biggest influences of the last millennium in my view. Listed in one of my early posts on this blog the ten were:

1. The Rambam, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon
2. Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki
3. The Beis Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Caro
4. The Rama, Rabbi Moses Isserles
5. The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Kramer
6. The Baal Shem Tov
7. Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner
8. Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik
9. Rabbi Aharon Kotler
10. Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik

One can debate if there were others. There probably are some I did not list who were as great as or greater than those I listed. Two immediately come to mind: the Ramban in his generation and R.Moshe Feinstein in mine. I had my reasons for choosing these ten, but even if one expands the list to include these two as well as others, the list isn’t going to be that long.

Was Rabbi Soloveitchik the greatest Posek of our time? I don't know but Psak alone is not what makes a person a Gadol (although it can be as it was with RMF). One has to look at the totality of the individual and what it is he contributed to the Torah world, the Jewish world, and even the entire of the world. There were few like him (if any) who were as brilliant, encompassed so much knowledge, both Torah and secular,and had so much influence. His knowledge of Torah had few peers. Even R Baruch Ber Leibowitz who was known to be the Talmid Muvhak of R. Chaim Brisker said that the Rav knew Meseches Gittin (his Mesechta of expertise) better than he did.

The fact that the Right Wing refuses to recognize this does not make this any less true. But it does prove how myopic and politicized the Right Wing is.