Halachic Man

R. Ira Bedzow’s recent book: Halakhic Man, Authentic Jew: Modern Expressions of Orthodox Thought from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits.

Shmuel posts on Hirhurim: Halachic Man is not the Rav’s attempt to formulate a systematic all encompasing Jewish philosophy. Instead its the Rav’s attempt to describe what one throughly immersed in nigleh is doing as he learns. It is really a polemic piece meant to demonstrate that the Jew of the Beit Midrash includes many traits that are appealing to modern man such as autonomy and creativity. Futhermore, the in Halachic Mind the Rav does not attempt to built a philosophy solely out of halacha instead he explicity states that a Jewish philosophy must be culled from both aggadah and halacha. The Rav is critical of the fact that most Jewish philosophy has been based on aggadah and believed that an authentic Jewish philosophy must be based on both aggadah and halacha.
As far as R. Berkovits is concerned the discussion about the inherent uniqueness of the Jewish people is obviously an old one, with many mystical thinkers believing the Jewish people had an inherent choseness, while most rationalist believed the Jews choseness derived solely from the the mission that Hashem charged us with. Also Berkovits does not conflate ethics and religion what he does argue is that Judaism is better at teaching and encouraging ethical behavior than competing philosophies and religion.
Finally, the Rav never tried to craft a systematic philosophy of Judaism instead he spoke and wrote about Judaism was for him so it hard to see how one could accuse him of "misstating traditional Judaism".

NUDNIK POSTS: Is there really a philosophy of Judaism? Does it really matter? Even the 13 ikorim are just made up dogmas to model the Christian approach (Abarbanel). To quote the Radvaz there are 613 ikorim.

The Torah was given to bind ma to G-d. The Zohar attempted to make every mitzvah have mystical meaning. Chasidus wants to influence G-d with our mitzvos.

The ikor is the maaseh and the rest is bitul zeman. philosphy is just playing with words. The Rov’s greatness was his lomdus. If it makes you happier thinking there is a philosophy then study it. I can leave it.

A CAREFUL READER POSTS: Your question of whether Judaism has a philosophy is itself a deep philosophical question. So, in posing it, you a paradoxically highlighting the importance of Jewish philosophy.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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