The Rav Lives – A Reply to Dr. William Kolbrener

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16 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Analyzing what is the ikar and the tafel of RYBS is an ongoing discussion that is difficult enough when such issues as what materials are part of the legacy as well as where RYBS primary accomplishments took place or imposing limitations such as only the materials published in RYBS lifetime which can be fairly described ad moving back the goalposts. Viewing the legacy of RYBS thru Dr Kolbrenners thesis is another way of looking at the legacy of RYBS without actually looking at the legacy itself.

    • Mycroft says:

      All information that one can learn about the Rav is worthwhile. However, there is no doubt what the Rav published in his lifetime is most authoritative. It is no secret the Rav edited draft after draft of that hat he published in his lifetime which he. Obviously did not do with the other great works eg Mipninei Harav, Toras Harav Foundations, Neoros Harav etc.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        We agree to disagree on this issue and we have been through this issue and its ramifications ad nauseum so I will merely state that our prior pisrings on this issue should suffice for this thread.

      • Mycroft says:

        i have written that secondary sources are helpful and writings based on shiurim are also. Are you disputing tha items written and edited by the Rav are entitled to the highest deference, higher than secondary sources which are themselves useful?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        No-just the notion that secondary sources are not entitled to any deference.

  2. dr. bill says:

    i was listening to last Shabbat’s sermon by Rabbi E. Cosgrove while by the miracle of multi-tasking, this article was being read simultaneously.  those who choose to listen might note the serendipity.

    Prof. Kolbrener’s quote of  ‘the tragedy of the teacher who is too great for his disciples.’ struck me as the heart of the problem.  i believe that less than a handful of individuals, may be seen as possible counter-examples, though each would probably see themselves as inadequate. in that role.  Students for whom The Halakhic Mind or Ethical Man are as well understood as his Brisker Torah/innovations, are about to vanish from this earth.

    In their stead we have at one extreme those who mine the Rav ztl’s words for what can be construed as a comment on a contemporary situation half a century later.  at the other extreme are those who fault him for not addressing what at his time had not yet crystallized as issues.

    both approaches are more convenient than simply stating that how he would have approached various contemporary issue is often / on occasion neither clear nor obvious nor definitive.

  3. Mycroft says:

    Dr Bill’s last paragraph is IMO one of the most important to remember when discussing the Rav. When the Neeman Commission was being considered a couple of decades ago I asked a close talmid of the Ravs what he believed the Ravs position would have been. His response who knows.  He the listed to me factors why the Rav would have been in favor of the commission and factors why the Rav would have been opposed. A cople of weeks later I showed the person an open letter to Rabbi Berman in the Jewish PRess by RAL who basically without claiming he was following the Rav gave a balanced pluses and minuses. I do not have a copy of that open letter, worth reading I its entirety . It is more balanced than Jewish Press description may imply.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr.Bill – I agree that one must look at RYBS full legacy before even discussing what is ikar and tafel. That’s why anything that represents the Halachic and hashkafic legacy of RYBS is of interest to me. There are many of us who own both the works that you mentioned who have tapes and works such as Noraos HaRav the machzorim Harei Kedem and have read many of the articles etc on Dr turkels bibliography. It all comes with the territory


    • dr. bill says:

      owning books and reading shiurim is necessary but far from sufficient.  when the Rav ztl taught his aim was to transmit a derech halimmud in addition to actual yediot.  it was the former where his uniqueness as a melamaid could often be found.  his written shiurim, conforming to the methodology of brisk, almost always veered from that format, stressing only the latter.

      in any case, terms like ikkar and tafel are simplistic wrt the Rav ztl.  he could insert an Aristotalien reference into a shiur with only those aware even noticing.

      one of my fondest recollection is the Rav asking a question, a dozen hands going up and then down, when he quickly added “and don’t tell me something stupid like….”  What offends me are those who, as Mycroft observed, are sure what he would say on a particular complex issue.


      • Steve Brizel says:

        Look at one of RALs essays in which RAL also stated that time will tell what is the legacy of RYBS as opposed to assuming that everything said or written by RYBS is of lasting value and duration

      • Mycroft says:

        That statement is true of everything except for Torah. Shas scientific, medical advice is not true for all generations.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr. Bill wrote in relevant part:

        “owning books and reading shiurim is necessary but far from sufficient.  when the Rav ztl taught his aim was to transmit a derech halimmud in addition to actual yediot”

        Since the only way that the legacy of RYBS can be preserved is via what is available in print , on line and on tape, the Dor Asher Lo Yada Es Yosef should delve into anything and everything that has been disseminated as representing the legacy of RYBS, and to listen to what RYBS’s talmidm muvhakim have to say about what is his legacy. That is part and parcel of the process of  the transmission of Torah from one generation to the next. Recollections about what transpired in shiur are wonderful, but for the next generation, they are tantamount to Sippurei Chasidim.

      • Mycroft says:


        Essentially agree- one can spend a lifetime reading what has been written about the Rav, read as much as possible by him and about him.


  5. Bob Miller says:

    People can get frustrated when their conventional categories don’t really fit someone else.   They’ll accept that everyone is unique, but not take that to heart.  Into that void of incomplete understanding, we often project our own thoughts.

  6. joel rich says:

    While innovative in some areas, the Rav was highly conservative with respect to the text and context of tefillah as traditionally constituted in its classical corpus and in the fabric of a shul. He was unstintingly tenacious in insisting upon the autonomy of Halacha and the rejection of historicism;


    Meaning that much like Briskers are not interested in what the “historical Rambam” thought but rather what the intervening chochmei hamesorah undderstood him to mean, so to the “historical Rav”?(i.e. who gets the final word and what methods will be employed?)

  7. Mycroft says:

    Who gets the final word? I wish you arichus yamim but final word will be decided after we have both reached 120. There ma be a different answer in Israel than in the US.

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