Monday, March 19, 2018

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l

In what is now regarded as a 20th-century highly disproved prophecy of doom, the iconic LOOK Magazine predicted in the 1950s that Orthodox Jewry in America would soon disappear. Within a short period of time after this prediction, LOOK magazine folded and American Jewry went on to thrive throughout the USA. In no small part, this vitality and expansion is a direct result of the extraordinary leadership of the incomparable Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, respectfully referred to as the Rav.

Former student and devotee of the Rav, Rabbi Menachem Genack, rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah of Englewood, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kashruth division and rosh yeshiva at RIETS, explained, “The Rav was without doubt the greatest mind of our times. Inspired by his grandfather, Rav Chaim, and father, Rav Moshe, he was an extraordinary Torah scholar and teacher. His intensity of study and pedagogy were unmatched in this century. Having earned doctorates in both philosophy and mathematics at the universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, he was a model for American Jewry of the ability to live in two worlds without compromise.”

Rabbi Yosef Adler, rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael, himself a privileged former student of the Rav, commented, “The Rav had the rare combination of being an exceptional orator, combined with penetrating analytical skills and being fully cognizant of the modern world in which we live.”

While the Rav’s yahrzeit is not until April 3, Nissan 18, Yeshiva University/RIETS has put together a number of meaningful programs to highlight the Rav’s ongoing impact on our community.

The first program will take place in the Teaneck/Bergenfield community this coming Shabbat, Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei. At shuls throughout our area, many local rabbanim and guest lecturers will be presenting shiurim and lectures based on the teachings and the life of the Rav.

The presenters will be rabbinic leaders who either learned directly from the Rav firsthand while they were students at Yeshiva University, or younger rabbis who have been taught Torah from the students of the Rav. As an example, Rabbi Haim Jachter, of Congregation Shaarei Orah of Teaneck, will speak on the topic of “The Stunning Humility of Rav Soloveitchik—The Experience of Serving as a Shamash of the Rav zt”l.” During the lecture, Rabbi Jachter will draw upon his personal interactions with his rebbe. Rabbi Jachter shared with The Jewish Link, “An overlooked aspect of Rav Soloveitchik is his extraordinary modesty. Although he was YU’s ‘franchise player,’ his apartment at YU was very simple. He answered his own calls, waited on line at the YU cafeteria, and happily traveled in any dilapidated car that his students (including myself) would drive him to and from the airport. He sat in coach on plane rides and chatted in a friendly manner with the flight attendants who knew him well. Rav Soloveitchik’s modesty is a mark of his authenticity. He was purely interested in contributing to Torah and Am Yisrael and was not in the least self-serving. Moreover, it is a hallmark of the authenticity of Torah in general, delivered by Moshe Rabbeinu, who is characterized in both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic liturgy as the anav, the humble one.”

For the wider community, Yeshiva University will be hosting a pre-Pesach yom iyun to commemorate the yahrzeit of the Rav. The program will take place on the Wilf Campus on Sunday morning, March 11. Three of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s illustrious students will present Pesach-related Torah from their rebbe. Rabbi Menachem Genack, rosh yeshiva RIETS; Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet-Rothkoff, rosh mesivta Yeshiva University Israel Kollel, RIETS; and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva and rosh kollel RIETS, will offer insights into the Haggadah gleaned from their rebbe.

RIETS has also organized a special program taking place in Passaic on Sunday, morning, March 18, at Agudas Yisroel of Passaic. Rabbi Yonason Sacks, rabbi of Agudas Yisroel of Passaic and rosh yeshiva at Lander College, as well as Rabbi Meir Twersky, rosh yeshiva at RIETS and Leib Merkin Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud and Philosophy, will be giving shiurim.

For information regarding the venues and times of the many tributes to be presented during the upcoming Shabbat, March 9-10, in Teaneck/Bergenfield as well as the Sunday program at Yeshiva University, please consult the advertisements in The Jewish Link.

By Pearl Markovitz