The Beginning of Wisdom p.158

Throughout the animal world, nature uses superficial looks (along with every other appeal that the senses can distinguish, from mating calls to aromas to pheromones) to bring the sexes together, in order to accomplish the great work of procreation. The love of the beautiful takes on still greater importance for human beings, especially as we become mindful of death and necessary decay. The beautiful lures us into regarding it as a bulwark against death, a haven from the ugliness of disintegration. The beautiful beckons, promising permanence and happiness: the beautiful seems to us to be the skin of the good. Yet appearances are often deceiving on the side of both viewer and viewed. Imagination, colored by human hopes, often distorts what we see…

Even apart from such distortions, the pursuit of the beautiful may be altogether a dead end. Appreciation of the beautiful may inspire the soul, but efforts to capture it leave one unfulfilled – even when seemingly successful. For what do we really have if and when we “possess” the beautiful? Can a beautiful wife really satisfy our soul’s longings for the eternal or the good? Does union with a beautiful woman make us any less ugly or any less perishable?

The visibly beautiful, through its harmonious and well-proportioned appearance, always seems to promise some underlying goodness. Were it able to deliver on its promise, the love of the beautiful might bring us to the good, and hence to our felicity. But as experience teaches, the promise is only infrequently fulfilled; what strikes us as beautiful is rarely yoked to the good. Nonetheless we persist, seduced by the next beauty into believing that this time we shall gain our heart’s desire. We willingly allow ourselves to be betrayed by the testimony of our eyes; we naturally and repeatedly mis-take the beautiful for the good.


Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.158


The Beginning of Wisdom p.154

How exactly men took this discovery of their own impending deaths we shall consider in a moment. But we note first the special place of Noah. Noah, born in 1056, is the first man born into the world after Adam dies. Noah is therefore the first man who could have no direct contact with the first man and, therefore, with a living memory of the Garden of Eden and its prospect of immortal life. More important, Noah is the first man who enters a world in which death is already present, the first man who grows up knowing about death, know that he must die. For Noah unlike for his predecessors, mortality is a received part of the human condition: thus, Noah (not Adam or Cain) is the prototype of self-consciously mortal man. Fittingly, the name that Noah carries, received from his father, Lamech, means both “comfort” and “lament,” a perfect name for new life seen in the light of inevitable death. These facts may explain, in part, why Noah would, uniquely, later find grace in the eyes of the Lord.


Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.154

The Beginning of Wisdom p.133

Sacrifice is of human origins. God neither commands nor requests it; we have reason to suspect – and will soon be given ample evidence to defend this suspicion – that the human impulse to sacrifice is, to say the least, highly problematic, and especially from God’s point of view. To be sure, God will eventually command sacrifices, though then only under the strictest rules. As in so many other matters, the problematic is permitted but only if regulated. Because He will not, or cannot, extirpate the dangerous impulses in men, God makes concessions to them, while at the same time containing them under explicit and precise commandments.


Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.133

The Beginning of Wisdom p.101

For one thing, the man’s origin was lower, from the dust; the woman begins from already living flesh and, moreover, from flesh taken close to the heart. Also, the man is, in the process, rendered less than hole; he suffers a permanent but invisible wound, signifying a deep and probably unfulfillable desire. Because he is incomplete and knows it, the man will always be looking for something he lacks; but as the image of a lost rib suggests, the man cannot really know what is missing or what the sought-for wholeness would really be. Male erotic desire is a conundrum: it wants and wants ardently, but it is unsure of what exactly would fully satisfy it.


Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.101

Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis p.310

After this first point has been established our psychiatric interest will become even livelier. If a delusion is not to be got rid of by a reference to reality, no doubt it did not originate from reality either. Where else did it originate? There are delusions of the most varied content: why in our case is the content of the delusion jealousy in particular? In what kind of people do delusions, and especially delusions of jealousy, come about? We should like to hear what the psychiatrist has to say about this; but at this point he leaves us in the lurch. He enters into only a single one of our enquiries. He will investigate the woman’s family history and will perhaps give us this reply: ‘Delusions come about in people in whose families similar and other psychical disorders have repeatedly occurred.” In other words, if this woman developed a delusion she was predisposed to it by hereditary transmission. No doubt this is something; but is it all we want to know? Was this the only thing that contributed to the causation of the illness? Must we be content to suppose that it is a matter of indifference or caprice or is inexplicable whether a delusion of jealousy arises rather than any other sort? And ought we to understand the assertions of the predominance of the hereditary influence in a negative sense as well – that no matter what experiences this woman’s mind encountered she was destined some time or other to produce a delusion? You will want to know why it is that scientific psychiatry will give us no further information. But my reply to you is ‘he is a rogue who gives more than he has.’ The psychiatrist knows no way of throwing more light on a case like this one. He must content himself with a diagnosis and a prognosis – uncertain in spite of a wealth of experience – of its future course.


Sigmund Freud – Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis p.310

The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways p.72

Then there is something else that is also important. The Torah continues, “And you shall become corrupt, and make an engraved image, a likeness of any thing” (Deut. 4:25). The Torah does not say that you will worship an idol, but that you will make an idol. This formulation reflects the fact that a Jew does not begin immediately, at once, to engage in idolatrous worship. He only get used to the idea little by little. At first he says “I will just have an idol in my house. When my gentile neighbor or business partner comes into my house and there is no idol there he will feel strange. Why must a Jewish home look different than a non-Jewish home? I can be a good Jew, but there is no reason for the interior of my home to look different than that of a gentile home.” This happens many times, this problem of good will, like participation in interfaith services or exchanging clergymen.

The Jew who acts this way does not want to worship idols. It is not a question of paganism. It is simply a matter of good-will, of human or social relations. After all, you cannot be completely closed, completely different in your home. So in the beginning it is “And make an engraved image, a likeness of any thing.” You will just make it, you will just display it, but you will have no faith in that engraved image or that likeness. So what is wrong with that? The problem is that his is just the beginning. First you make “an engraved image, a likeness of any thing,” and then what is the result? The Torah continues immediately, “And you shall do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke Him to anger.” One sin will lead to another sin. You will start out just with a display of an engraved image, not with the worship of it, but you will finally become totally ensnared in idol worship.


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways p.72

Halakhic Man p.57

A subjective religiosity cannot endure. And all those tendencies to transform the religious act into pure subjectivity negate all corporeality and all sensation in religious life and admit man into a pure and abstract world, where there is neither eating nor drinking, but religious individuals sitting with their crowns on their heads and enjoying their own inner experiences, their own tempestuous, heaven-storming spirits their own hidden longings and mysterious yearnings – will in the end prove null and void. The stychic power of religion that seizes hold of man, that subjects and dominates him, is in force only when the religion is a concrete religion, a religion of the life of the senses, in which there is sight, smell, and touch, a religion which conative man will encounter, in a very palpable way, wherever he may go. A subjective religiosity comprised of spiritual moods, of emotions and affections, of outlooks and desires, will never be blessed with success…

The Halakhah, which was given to us from Sinai, is the objectification of religion in clear and determinate forms, in precise and authoritative laws, and in definite principles. It translates subjectivity into objectivity, the amorphous flow of religious experience into a fixed pattern of lawfulness. To what may the matter be compared? To the physicist who transforms light and sound and all of the contents of our qualitative perceptions into quantitative relationships, mathematical functions, and objective fields of force. In the same manner as many philosophical schools accepted the position of Plato and Aristotle that existence means fixity, regularity, and orderliness, so the Halakhah declares that any religiosity which does not lead to determinate actions, firm and clear-cut measures, chiseled and delimited laws and statutes will prove sterile. The concept of nonbeing or of hylic matter also exists in the world of religion. Experience has shown that the whole religious ideology which bases itself on the subjective nature of religion – from Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard to Natorp – can have dangerous, destructive consequences that far outweigh any putative gains.

The Halakhah wishes to objectify religiosity not only through introducing the external act and the psychophysical deed into the world of religion but also through the structuring and ordering of the inner correlative in the realm of man’s spirit. The Halakhah sets down statues and erects markers that serve as a dam against the surging, subjective current coursing though the universal homo religiosus, which, from time to time, in its raging turbulence sweeps away his entire being to obscure and inchoate realms.


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – Halakhic Man p.57