The Lonely Man of Faith p.66

The community of the committed became, ipso facto, a community of friends – not of neighbors or acquaintances. Friendship – not as a social surface-relation but as an existential in-depth-relation between two individuals – is realizable only within the framework of the covenantal community, where in-depth personalities relate themselves to each other ontologically and total commitment to God and fellow man is the order of the day. In the majestic community, in which surface personalities meet and commitment never exceeds the bounds of the utilitarian, we may find collegiality, neighborliness, civility, or courtesy – but not friendship, which is the exclusive experience awarded by God to covenantal man, who is thus redeemed from his agonizing solitude.


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – The Lonely Man of Faith p.66

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

Halakhic Man p.4

Halakhic man is not some illegitimate, unstable hybrid. On the contrary, out of the contradictions and antimonies there emerges a radiant, holy personality whose soul has been purified in the furnace of struggle and opposition and redeemed in the fires of the torments of spiritual disharmony to a degree unmatched by the universal homo religiosus. The deep split of the soul prior to its being united may, at times, raise a man to a rank of perfection, which for sheer brilliance and beauty is unequaled by any level attained by the simple, whole personality who has never been tried by the pangs of spiritual discord. “In accordance with the suffering is the reward” [Avot 5:23] and in accordance with the split the union! This spiritual fusion that characterized halakhic man is distinguished by its consummate splendor, for did not the split touch the very depths, the innermost core, of his being?


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – Halakhic Man p.4

The Lonely Man of Faith p.66

Let us go further. The existential insecurity of Adam the second stems, to a great extent, also from his tragic role as a temporal being. He simply cannot pinpoint his position within the rushing stream of time. He knows of an endless past which rolled on without him. He is aware also of an endless future which will rush on with no less force long after he will cease to exist. The link between the “before” in which he was not involved and the “after” from which he will be excluded is the present moment, which vanishes before it is experienced. In fact, the whole accidental character of his being is tied up with this frightening time-consciousness. He began to exist at a certain point – the significance of which he cannot grasp – and his existence will end at another equally arbitrary point. Adam the second experiences the transience and evanescence of a “now” existence which is not warranted either by the “before” or the “after.”

Majestic man is not confronted with this time dilemma. The time with which he works and which he knows is quantified, spatialized, and measured, belonging to a cosmic coordinate system. Past and future are not two experiential realities. They just represent two horizontal directions. “Before” and “after” are understandable only within the framework of the causal sequence of events. Majestic man lives in micro-units of clock time, moving with ease from “now” to “now,” completely unaware of a “before” or an “after.” Only Adam the second, to whom time is an all-enveloping personal experience, has to cope with the tragic and paradoxical implied in it.

In the covenantal community man of faith finds deliverance from his isolation in the “now,” for the latter contains both the “before” and the “after.” Every covenantal time experience is both retrospective, reconstructing and reliving the bygone, as well as prospective, anticipating the “about to be.” In retrospect, covenantal man re-experiences the rendezvous with God in which the covenant, as a promise, hope, and vision, originated. In prospect, he beholds the full eschatological realization of this covenant, its promise, hope, and vision. Let us not forget that the covenantal community includes the “He” who addresses Himself to man not only from the “now” dimensions but also from the supposedly already vanished past, from the ashes of a dead “before” facticity as well as from the as yet unborn future, for all boundaries establishing “before,” “now,” and “after” disappear when God the Eternal speaks. Within the covenantal community not only contemporary individuals but generations are engaged in a colloquy, and each single experience of time is three-dimensional, manifesting itself in memory, actuality, and anticipatory tension. This experiential triad, translated into moral categories, results in an awesome awareness of responsibility to a great past which handed down the divine imperative to the present generation in trust and confidence and to a mute future expecting this generation to discharge its covenantal duty conscientiously and honorably. The best illustration of such a paradoxical time awareness, which involves the individual in the historic performances of the past and makes him also participate in the dramatic action of an unknown future, can be found in the Judaic masorah community. The latter represents not only a formal succession within the framework of calendaric time but the union of the three grammatical tenses in an all-embracing time experience. The masorah community cuts across the centuries, indeed millennia, of calendaric time and unites those who already played their part, delivered their message, acquired fame, and withdrew from the covenantal stage quietly and humbly with those who have not yet been given the opportunity to appear on the covenantal stage and who wait for their turn in the anonymity of the “about to be.”

Thus, the individual member of the covenantal faith community feels rooted in the past and related to the future. The “before” and the “after” are interwoven in his time experience. He is not a hitchhiker suddenly invited to get into a swiftly traveling vehicle which emerged from nowhere and from which he will be dropped into the abyss of timelessness while the vehicle will rush on into parts unknown, continually taking on new passengers and dropping the old ones. Covenantal man begins to find redemption from insecurity and to feel at home in the continuum of time and responsibility which is experienced by him in its endless totality. Me’olam ve’ad olam, from everlasting even to everlasting. He is no longer an evanescent being. He is rooted in everlasting time, in eternity itself. And so covenantal man confronts not only a transient contemporary “thou” but countless “thou” generations which advance toward him from all sides and engage him in the great colloquy in which God Himself participates with love and joy.


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – The Lonely Man of Faith p.66

The Lonely Man of Faith p.8

Knowledge in general and self-knowledge in particular are gained not only from discovering logical answers but also from formulating logical, even though unanswerable, questions. The human logos is as concerned with an honest inquiry into an insoluble antinomy which leads to intellectual despair and humility as it is with an unprejudiced true solution of a complex problem arousing joy and enhancing one’s intellectual determination and boldness.


Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – The Lonely Man of Faith p.8