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