Rav Soloveitchik zt”l on Love and Attachment to Torah

This clip has been making the rounds, and Cross-Currents readers will surely appreciate it:

Let us take its words to heart and disseminate this important lesson.

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13 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    In watching this video of Rav Soloveitchik, I am reminded of one of Isaac Newton’s most famous observations, namely that “The only reason why I can see so far, is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” Rav Soloveitchik is so right in reminding us that none of us Jews ever need to feel alone, depressed, or worthless. All we have to do is remind ourselves that we are inheritors of an incredible Torah tradition, with its great names far too numerous to mention here.

    Now, of course I realize that he is Rav Soloveitchik, perhaps the greatest Torah thinker of the last century. So perhaps far be it for me to offer any criticism of him. And yet something he said on this video does bother me. He seems to put a higher premium on the Torah, than he does on his own family. I remember hearing about a certain great Chassidic Rabbi, who had a chance to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust, but instead saved some Sefer Torahs. That does not sit with me well at all. New copies of the Torah can easily be made, while human beings are irreplaceable.

    I am also reminded of the story of the greatest Talmudic personality of them all, namely Rabbi Akiva. Everybody reading my words here already knows his story, so no need for me to repeat it here, even if I had enough space for it here, which I do not anyway. But recall the moment when Rabbi Akiva had already learned in a yeshiva for a dozen years, and was just about to return to his home when he overheard his wife Rachel expressing the idea that even if he were gone another dozen years occupying himself with studying the Torah, that she would not object to it at all. And so without so much as saying hello to her after twelve years, Rabbi Akiva turned around, heading back to the yeshiva where he studied another twelve years. True, that that enabled him to become the greatest Talmudic scholar who ever lived, but to do it at the expense of abandoning his family for 24 solid years, without even saying as much as a Hello to his extraordinarily devoted wife, strikes me as just plain wrong. Our Jewish homes are supposed to be the center of our Jewish lives. It should take precedence over everything, even Torah learning. And of course, a healthy balance between the two should be the ideal solution to this dilemma.

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      While I always appreciate Raymond’s comments, I must disagree with some of the points made in this one. I also am sure that the Sefer Torah story is a fabrication, as human life comes first.

      • Raymond says:

        What Sefer Torah story? About the Rabbi from the Holocaust? While I do not remember the exact source, it was from a reputable one, or I would not have mentioned it. Also, notice how I did not mention his name. That is because I am willing to admit the possibility that there are nuances to that story that may help explain his actions.

        As for disagreements about other things I said on here, really my only point that I tried to make is that as paramount as Torah study is to our Jewish people, our Jewish families are even more important. I recall reading in more than one Torah commentary that the interior of Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple resembled the inside of a Jewish home. To me, that goes a long way toward providing support for my contention.

    • emet le'amito says:

      the Rav ztl was not making a practical / priority decision like rav eliyashiv ZTl, for example who by legend had to be commanded by RSZA ztl to stay at a child’s wedding rather than return to his learning. The Rav engaged in talmud torah as a mourner claiming he was similar to an itztanut. Surrounded by his children, consolation came only from immersion in the world of Torah. It gave him comfort that neither his wife, who he adored or his children could provide.

      Such people exist; there are even non-jews whose attachment to Torah study is extraordinary; al ahat kamma ve’kammah with someone whose love of Torah was apparent in every fiber of his being.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Pre 1967 RYBs was best described in the hesped of RN Lamm .Perhaps RYBS in this video wa describing his own view of what Limud HaTorah demands pure and simple without the need for any clarification whatsoever .which IMO WADR borders on unwarranted psychobabble The story about RYSA and RSZA IIRC had been verified by family members

  2. Mark says:

    Saw this last night – what an amazing expression of Ahavas Torah.
    Exposed me to a side of the Rav that I did not fully appreciate until I heard this.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer-Yasher Koach-In one phrase-mesmerizing inspiring and riveting – we need more such videos !!

  4. Shades of Gray says:

    Similar to this inspiring video, R. Reuven Ziegler(“His Life and Thought, Part 2”)describes how R. Soloveitchik’s Torah study enabled him to deal with adversity:

    “1967 was an extraordinarily trying year for the Rav; within the space of three months, his wife, mother and brother all passed away. Although he did manage to return to a productive career of teaching after this period of crisis (and in fact said that it was the study and teaching of Torah which had helped him overcome his crisis), echoes of it reverberate throughout his later writing.”

    Does anyone know where in Rav Soloveitchik’s writings or speeches(other than this undated video) he said that “study and teaching of Torah…helped him overcome his crisis” in 1967 ?

    R. Ziegler also writes that R. Soloveitchik’s more demanding pedagogic approach he originally used in the YU shiurim might have changed because he “came to terms with human limitations and vulnerability” in the 1960s when both he and his wife were coping with illness. See link to the article:


  5. Bob Miller says:

    The Rav’s comments about passion for Torah need to be taken seriously in our educational institutions. After his petirah years ago, I went to a gathering in Metro Detroit that played an audio simulcast of hespedim for him. To me, the speakers on the audio seemed to be striving to sound highly academic and unemotional, which took away from the event. I hope their everyday mien wasn’t this way.

    • Raymond says:

      I actually thought that Rav Soloveitchik sounded too emotional in this video. I associate him so much with pure intellect, that it is difficult for me to think of him as such a deeply emotional man.

      • dr. bill says:

        In an essay by Rav Dr. Walter Wurzberger ztl, he describes being at the seder table in Boston when Rav ztl recited Hallel with deep feeling.

  6. Reuven Ungar says:

    I can only agree with Mr. Brizel’s totally on the mark comment- thank you Rav Gordimer for sharing this. It lights up this world.

  7. Shades of Gray says:

    In  the video( 6:40), Rav Soloveitchik zt’l describes being in conversation with Torah personalities of past generations similar to his  description elsewhere(“And From Their You Shall Seek”, p. 145, and audio on YU Torah “The Rav’s famous description (from 1974) of how he experienced the Mesorah as he gave shiur as an old man”).  

    R. Soloveitchik describes the above situation  of feeling “a soothing, a motherly hand”,  yet who  twice called him a “shoteh”, for thinking that he was alone!  While  the essence of the message is not dated, this seems to show that R. Soloveitchik used  strong language not only towards others in certain periods, but for himself as well(as R. Ziegler wrote in the above article, ” he held himself to the same high standard, devoting long and intense hours to preparation of his classes”).  

    R. Shlomo Riskin  describes an  incident he witnessed when he was in the Rav’s shiur in the years 1957-1959, where the Rav strongly criticized a new student whom R. Riskin brought into the shiur for asking a foolish question, telling him, “You’re here because Riskin brought you in” . The story ends that the Rav went to the restaurant where the student was eating to apologize, saying, “Your question was a very good question. It undermines my complete thesis. I have to give a whole different interpretation next week. Thank you, Cohen.”

    R. Riskin writes that this story “completely captivated” him, and explains that, “the mesorah, the tradition the Rav was giving over to our hands, must be treated with the same precision necessary in medicine. A mistake in a mesorah was as dangerous as a medical mistake”.  See link to R. Riskin’s article:


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