• May 27, 2020
  • 4 5780, Sivan
  • פרשת נשא

Halakhic Man

Halakhic Man

Explore the Rav’s magnum opus with Rabbi Jeffrey Saks. “Halakhic man reflects two opposing selves; two disparate images are embodied within his soul and spirit.” Who is this complex character and what does he tell us about the spirit and ideals of halakhic Judaism, and the philosophical worldview of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l?

January 14, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 1
Class description

INTRODUCTION: I’m looking forward to beginning our exploration of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man. While I will make scans of certain sections available, I strongly recommend purchasing the book – an important addition to any Jewish library, and a good bargain as we are liable to make much use of it in what will likely occupy us for many, many sessions. (In the meantime I have uploaded Part I chapters 1-4 to give you a head start.) I have attached an Index which I prepared a while back. You may find it handy. Also a copy of my essay “Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Brisker Derekh” which (as you’ll see) is relevant to Halakhic Man. For an introduction to the Rav’s life and thought, listen HERE.

January 28, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 2
Class description

MEETING COGNITIVE MAN AND HOMO RELIGIOSUS: After our introduction in week one we will get further in to the presentation of Cognitive Man and Homo Religiosus (before we can understand how Halakhic Man encompasses and surpasses them both). In light of some of the questions I received, we will also make a detour to lay some of the groundwork in general philosophy. Please attempt to read ahead – at least Part I:2 in Halakhic Man. Again, I strongly recommend you purchase the book.

February 4, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 3
Class description

REALITY POSSESSES TWO FACES: Please read on (from page 7). Explore Footnote 4 (attached), or listen to this discussion of it. Click here for Lawrence Kaplan’s essay about translating Halakhic Man with the Rav. See this video of the Milky Way – do you experience it as a Cognitive Man/Woman or as a Homo Religious?

Handouts
February 11, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 4
Class description

THE NEGATIVE COGNITION OF HOMO RELIGIOUS: Continue reading from page 10. The passages from the Guide for the Perplexed (I:59-60) referenced on page 11 can be accessed in English here.

February 18, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 5
Class description

HOMO RELIGIOSUS’ REALITY: Try to cover Section IV (pp. 13-16) on Homo Religiosus’ attitude toward reality.

February 25, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 6
Class description

COGNITIVE MAN’S REALITY: For next week, proceed through Part I chapter 5 (pp. 17-19) on how Cognitive Man perceives reality (as compared to the previous discussion on Homo Religiosus’ reality). The section is in attached PDF. Rabbi Lichtenstein’s Paper “Does the Jewish Tradition Recognize an Ethic Independent of the Halakhah” (as well as an excellent summary-analysis by R. Asher Meir and symposium papers) can be accessed HERE.

March 11, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 7
Class description

HALAKHIC MAN’S REALITY: Please read through next section on the Halakhic Man’s perception of reality (section VI on pp. 19-29). The film clip of Temple Grandin (the film is a good description of how seeing reality differently might be depicted on film; imagine a movie about the Halakhic Man!) is here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=l58MffRIJUQ

Handouts
March 18, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 8
Class description

HALAKHIC MAN’S REALITY (PART 2): Continuing from bottom of p. 22 on how halakhah serves as the “blueprint” for the world according to the Ish HaHalakhah. Attached is the essat I mention on the Rav’s description of the characteristics of the Brisker Method of Talmud study, which is an important supplement to his description of the personality of Halakhic Man. For those who want more on Euclidean vs. non-Euclidean geometry on the bottom of p. 29, see: http://youtu.be/Jvs_gTrP3wg AND in terms of correlating theory and reality in physics (the Big Bang evidence from today’s news) see THIS.

Handouts
March 25, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 9
Class description

TRANSCENDENT HALAKHIC MAN: Having completed the description of how each of the three characters approaches reality, the essay now turns to how Halakhic Man views the transcendent realm (section VII, from p. 30). Among the topics explored: How and why Halakhic Man’s worldview inherently leads him away from religious radicalism (or excesses in the name of religion). In the next session we will continue from PART I Chapter 8, on p. 39 – having contrasted Halakhic Man with Cognitive Man and Homo Religiosus, how does he resolve or overcome the tensions between them?

May 20, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 10
Class description

RESOLVING THE TENSIONS: Welcome back to our series on Rabbi Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man. We’ll begin with a quick review of what we did previously, and continue with a new topic starting in Part I Chapter 8, from p. 39 – having contrasted Halakhic Man with Cognitive Man and Homo Religiosus, how does he resolve or overcome the tensions between them? The next set of classes in this course is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Ezra Labaton z”l by Michael and Tiffany Beyda. Visit WebYeshiva.org/RabbiLabaton to learn more about sorely missed Jewish leader, teacher and thinker.

Handouts
May 27, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 11
Class description

THIS-WORLD HOLINESS: Next week we’ll conclude Part I chapter 8 (from bottom of p. 43 in attached). If you haven’t done so (or just need a review) take a look at the famous Footnote 4 (linked here) which was mentioned in the last session.

June 10, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 12
Class description

TZIMTZUM: When we continue after Shavuot we’ll begin get into the “kabbalistic” (TBD if so) components that are featured in Part I chapter 9 (from p. 49). Please take note of the chats and links below which our fellow student Aryeh posted during this shiur re the discussion of infinity as well as the mention of the Vilna Gaon and math (on p. 57): from Aryeh Baruch to Everyone: As an aspiring mathematician I have always found awe-inspiring that in the modern era, we have achieved the beginning understanding of the mathematics of the infinities – and now we can imagine, at least in the idealized world of pure thought, how an infinite can fit into a finite – and that there are recursively infinitely many infinities, each infinitely greater than the last. [Links to some online essays on the topic – for the non-professional math person] http://gizmodo.com/5809689/a-brief-introduction-to-infinity http://h2g2.com/edited_entry/A4080467 http://h2g2.com/edited_entry/A593552 what is learned over the course of grade school [in arithmetic] is comparable to learning the alphabet, and perhaps a few simple sentences. Most people are not given the opportunity to learn the language, nor its beauty nor its power [RE the Vilna Gaon’s book on geometry] the Ayil Meshulash (“A Ram in Three Parts”, a reference to Abraham’s “Covenant Between the Parts” in Genesis 15:9) is generally attributed to him. SEE: link here on GoogleBooks

Handouts
June 17, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 13
Class description

EMOTIONS AND HALAKHIC MAN: We will continue from the end of Chapter IX (page 60) on the place of emotion within Judaism.

July 1, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 14
Class description

HEAVEN TO EARTH: Having now described (countless times…) the movement Halakhic Man is making by bringing the world of the spirit down to the world of “reality” (think of our chart), chapter 10 (of Part I) attempts to explain how that is done – via the action of halakhah. Please read from pages 63-66.

Handouts
July 8, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 15
Class description

HALAKHAH AS THE 3RD VERSE:  Part I chapter 11 (pp. 66-72). Given the tension (dualism) previously mentioned – Homo Religiosus is torn between heaven and earth, how does the Halakhic Man resolve the tension? Test case: Yom Kippur with Halakhic Man vs Religious Man – how does it differ?

July 15, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 16
Class description

HALAKHIC MAN’S MINDSET: Given what we’ve established about Halakhah as THE source for molding Halakhic Man – what is the nature of his mindset? How does it impact his attitude to depression, death, or the Musar movement, e.g.? Part I: Chapter 12 (pp. 72-78). (The passage from William James referenced on p. 76 can be found here.) For more on the halakhah’s role in regulating emotion see archived shiurim on the Rav’s essay “Catharsis” – available at the July 15 2014 lesson here: https://www.webyeshiva.org/course/writings-of-rav-soloveitchik/

July 21, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 17
Class description

AUTONOMOUS INTELLECT: Please read ahead to Part I Chapter 13 (pp, 78-82).

July 28, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 18
Class description

ECSTASY VIA INTELLECT: Despite the emphasis in the previous two chapters, does Halakhic Man nevertheless experience “the peaks of enthusiasm” of the “majestic religious experience”? Chapter XIV (pp. 82-89)

July 31, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 19
Class description

HALAKHIC MAN’S TRUTH AND KINDNESS: Please read chapter 15 (pp. 89-95) for the conclusion to the description of Halakhic Man’s ” world view and life”. Given what we’ve come to know about him over the past number of weeks – how might we imagine Halakhic Man’s intellect impacts his morality? הדרן עלך איש ההלכה חלק ראשון

Handouts
September 2, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 20
Class description

HALAKHIC MAN’S CREATIVE CAPACITY: Having completed the first section of Halakhic Man (pp. 1-95) we will now turn our attention to the shorter and arguably more important second section “His Creative Capacity” (pp. 99-137). This file will be used throught the duration of the series. Click here for the archives of the first 19 episodes of the series. For background see also attached: R. Walter Wurzburger, “The Centrality of Creativity in the Thought of R. Soloveitchik,” Tradition 30:4 (1996). Those in need of an introduction to the Rav’s biography and thought should listen to this archived session.

September 9, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 21
Class description

PARTNER IN CREATION: Chapter 2 of Part II (pp. 105-109 in this file) continues the discussion of how man becomes God’s partner in creation, and begins the description of how “creation” is the mechanism through which the Halakhah descends from the ideal to the “real” world. Be sure to see Footnote 114 with the marvelous story by Y.L. Peretz.

Handouts
September 16, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 22
Class description

TESHUVAH AND CREATIVITY: Just in time for Rosh Hashana… The discussion of Teshuvah (repentance) as an act of self-cretaivity, so central to the character of Halakhic Man. Part II chapter 3 (pp. 110-117). For those interetsed in more on this topic see: Yitzhak Blau, “Creative Repentance,” Tradition 28:2 (1993).

Handouts
September 30, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 23
Class description

TIME AND CREATIVITY: Part II chapter 4 (pp. 117-123) – on how Halakhic Man views time and how it fits in with his creative capacity

October 28, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 24
Class description

THE INDIVIDUAL AND CREATIVITY: In this abbreviated semester starting after Sukkot we will finish up the remaining chapters of Halakhic Man, starting with Part II Chapter 5 (pp. 123-128) on “the old problem of the status of the individual.”

Handouts
November 4, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 25
Class description

PROPHECY AND CREATIVITY: n the final chapter 6 (of Part II, starting on p. 128) the Rav depicts the Biblical Prophet as the exemplar of the individual who perfects himself via creativity. We will need 2 sessions to finish this chapter (and the book), but try to read ahead to at least to middle of p. 134.

November 18, 2014 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Halakhic Man: Lesson 26
Class description

CONCLUSION: In our final session we will conclude Halakhic Man (from p. 134 to end on p. 137) and attempt to summarize the main lessons of this important work. I have attached chapter 30 from Reuven Ziegler’s Majesty and Humility: The Thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik – which summarizes the goals of Halakhic Man.

Handouts

Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see www.webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).