Rabbi yeshiva seminar (black and white) 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik was the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva University’s
rabbinical seminary from 1941 until 1986, during which time he ordained close to
Born in 1903 in Pruzhan, Russia, into the great rabbinic
Soloveitchik dynasty, he received his PhD in 1932 in Berlin, moving that year
with his wife, Dr. Tonya Lewitt, to Boston. In 1937, the Soloveitchiks founded
the Maimonides School in Boston, one of the earliest Jewish day schools in
Succeeding his father as rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University in
1941, the Rav, as he was both affectionately and deferentially known, traveled
from Boston to New York weekly for the next 45 years.
The Rav was a
towering intellect, brilliant in analysis and a masterful teacher and orator. He
was recognized for his profound mastery of Talmud and Jewish classics,
delivering a daily Talmud class in Yeshiva University that was attended by his
students as well as rabbinical leaders from across New York. In addition, he
taught a broader audience in Manhattan’s Moriah Synagogue, as well as on
Saturday evenings in Boston, focusing on the Torah portion or upcoming holidays.
He combined all the intellectual disciplines in presenting Jewish thought that
was conceptual and compelling.
Thousands of people attended the yahrzeit
(memorial) lectures on the anniversary of his father’s death, and his sermons on
the subject of repentance during the High Holy Days season. His yearly addresses
to the convention of the Rabbinical Council of America and Mizrachi shaped the
rabbinate, inspiring and uplifting the listeners and in turn influencing,
through its leaders, the modern Orthodox world of North America. He served as
the chairman of the RCA’s Halacha Commission and was the halachic authority to
thousands of its rabbis.
THE RAV’S own published works were few in light
of the thousands of public lectures he delivered. He put out the halachic work
Shiurim L’zecher Aba Mari, as well as conceptual works The Lonely Man of Faith,
Halachic Man and Halachic Mind.
Since his death on 18 Nisan, 1993, dozens
of books of his thought and of his halachic works have been published. Boxes of
his handwritten manuscripts have been edited and published through the Toras
HoRav Foundation, as have dozens of works on Talmud and Halacha from the
handwritten notes of students or transcribed tapes of lectures. As such, in the
absence of his presence, his influence endures through his words.
changed the Orthodox world of North America. Thousands of Jews, struggling with
the faith of their fathers and the seductive power of the open culture of the
founding fathers, found their thoughts and struggles reflected in the Rav. Upon
him they could lean, an articulate voice of their desire to be loyal to the
richness of traditional Judaism while being citizens of this new world. He was
the rebbe to those not seeking a rebbe – the modern rabbinical figure to those
for whom following a spiritual leader did not fit into their
The ascendancy and power of the modern Orthodox world of North
America, as well as its many emigrants to Israel, is a direct result of the
power and singular persona of Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik.
to his profound influence that these articles are presented on this, his 20th
The writer is the director of the RCA, the Rabbinical Council
of America in Israel. He served as a rabbi for 23 years prior to his aliya from