Friday, June 11, 2004

Why People Worship the Rav

What was the best-selling book at YU's Seforim Sale?

The safe bet is usually anyone by or about the Rav, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik. Now the obvious question that should be asked is why do people worship Rabbi Soloveitchik?

I am not asking why do people find his thought or his lomdus appealing. I can understand why some people might find his ideas compelling. And I understand why those who here in his Shiur would continue to dedicate their energy to understanding him. But why do standard Modern Orthodox Jews treat him like a totemic figure? Why do people in Englewood and Teaneck buy his books just to line their shelves like Sefer Raziel ha-Malakh (maybe to protect their children from, Chas ve-Shalom, donning a black hat or not having a TV).

As I mentioned earlier, people want to be part of something important or significant in their lives. Chareidi Society can provide this, even for simple Baal Ha-Baatim through the Gedolim & the awe and veneration that goes with them. Chassidic society (both mainstream & Chabad) can provide it through the Rebbes. Even Zionism provides such a source of meaning for people. However, for the Modern Orthodox in America, religious life tends to lack a sense of being part of something important & great. By attaching themselves to Rabbi Soloveitchik, they are provided with an opportunity to be part of something more significant than themselves.

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