16 February 2007

Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf Speaks to the Yeshiva on Pesak and Values

Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf came to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah today and spoke on Pesak and Values. It was the first of two such lectures on the topic.
An interesting piece from the lecture was on meta-halakha:
The word was coined by my late teacher, Professor Isadore Twersky, at Harvard. The function of the word "meta-halakha": the word "meta" means "beyond" or "behind".... He took it to mean beyond halakha - it is not something that is part and parcel of halakha...it is something outside thereof and critical therefore. In his parlance, Twersky is known for the extensive emphasis he placed on the interaction and necessary interaction between spirituality and law.
...It started in an essay which he published in a book called Religion in a Religious Age in 1974...the article is called "Religion and Law" and he (based on the Rambam) basically academized significant sections of Rabbi Soloveitchik's thinking. Because, if you take a look at what the Rav was bothered by in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and early 80s until retirement. This was exactly the point: he used to call himself a failure because he raised talmidei hakhamim but he felt that he failed in terms of instilling a sense of spirituality and the capacity to feel halakha and taste halakha and mitzvot in a sophisticated fashion among his students. Twersky said the two have got to live together. So, halakha has its own pristine, autonomous dynamic. ...
Twersky defines meta-halakha as those disciplines which serve the function of providing the spiritual element without which Judaism can't exist. If you halakha yourself to death, you will fossilize. If you just emphasize halakha, you will end up coming to ceremonialism, because the mitzvah becomes an end in itself.

He adds the following:
Thank you for the summary. However, I'd like to sharpen one point. Emphasis, and almost exclusive emphasis, on mitzvot is entirely legitimate, so long as these are performed out of obedience to God. Mitzvot become ceremonials when they are performed for reasons other than Avodas HaShem.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Jeffrey said...

Thank you for the summary. However, I'd like to sharpen one point. Emphasis, and almost exclusive emphasis, onmitzvot is entirely legitimate, so long as these are performed out of obedience to God. Mitzvot become ceremonials when they are performed for reasons other than Avodas HaShem.

Could you please adjust the formulation in the posting.

Thank you.
Jeffrey Woolf

Monday, February 19, 2007 8:55:00 AM  
Blogger thanbo said...

Are you going to post a recording of the second lecture? The first was fascinating, particularly the interaction with the students at the end.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 2:18:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Hi

Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news "smart and funny." Thus, your input is very welcome.

Best,
Alex
www.jewrusalem.net/en

Friday, May 04, 2007 5:57:00 AM  

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