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Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik: The Rupture and Reconstruction of Halacha



In this episode of 18Forty Podcast, we had the privilege of speaking with Professor Haym Soloveitchik, University Professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University.

Professor Soloveitchik is a world-renowned scholar whose research has focused on the development of halacha—including martyrdom, pawn-broking and usery, as well as the laws of gentile wine. Much of his popular renown can be attributed to the publication of his article “Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy” in Tradition (Summer 1994 28:4). The essay explores how halacha developed following the rupture of the Holocaust and moved from a mimetic tradition into a text based tradition. Following the article’s publication, there have been several critical exchanges, collections of reflections, and conversations—a testimony to its enduring impact. The article and many of the critical exchanges have been collected into a new volume that has recently been published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. It was a unique privilege to have Professor Solovetichik as a guest on 18Forty. In this episode, we discuss:

  • How has the shift from a mimetic tradition to a text based tradition affected Jewish life?
  • How does the approach of Professor Soloveitchik differ from the notion found within the Conservative movement of Catholic Israel?
  • Where can the sense of yirat shamayim—awe of heaven—found instinctively in previous generations, be discovered today?

Tune in to hear a conversation about the implications of the development of halacha from a world renowned scholar and how these changes can affect our lives.

Interview starts at 30:40.


Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy, Haym Soloveitchik (Tradition, Summer 1994, 28:4)

Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik graduated from the Maimonides School which his father founded in Brookline, Massachusetts and then received his B.A. degree from Harvard College in 1958 with a major in history. After two years of postgraduate study at Harvard, he moved to Israel and began his studies toward an M.A. and PhD at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, under the historian Professor Jacob Katz. He wrote his Master’s thesis on the halacha of gentile wine in medieval Germany. His doctorate, which he received in 1972, concentrated on laws of pawnbroking and usury. He is considered a pioneer and leader in the study of the history of Jewish law.