Halpern, Stuart W., Meir Y. Soloveichik and Shlomo Zucker, editors. “Torah and Western Thought: Intellectual Portraits of Orthodoxy and Modernity”, Maggid,2016.
Deepening Our Education
“Torah and Western Thought” comes to us via the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. It is the center’s mission to help develop Jewish thinkers and it does this by “exposing them to the richness of human knowledge and insight from across the ages, and by confronting them with the great moral, philosophical, and theological questions of our age”. That is a very impressive mission statement and really makes me wish that would be such a center where I live. I find that one of the greatest joys that I have now is the hour a day I devote to studying the great Jewish texts and while I truly enjoy that time, I am sure I would enjoy it that much more if I shared that time with other studiers.
During the twentieth century as much of the western world turned from faith, Orthodox Judaism had a very bright period because of the number of leaders and teachers who looked to how to bring together Torah and the world. These leaders came from academia were philosophers and literary scholars. Then there were others who worked to develop a perspective based on Torah that dealt with some of the new developments in western culture including
Zionism, democracy, or biotechnology. There were others who looked at the nature of religious knowledge. The Straus Center invited twenty-first century thinkers to give intellectual portraits of these leaders showing how each has brought the Torah and the West together.
Upon opening the book, we are given a timeline with the names and the dates of those figures that we read about in the book. I understand that the goal of this book is to inspire us to learn from those who came before and have influenced Torah through the ages. The people, the great thinkers, we read about include Rabbi Yehuda Amital, Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog, Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Prof. Nechama Leibowitz, Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky. The essays are by contemporary scholars Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Rabbi Dr. Carmi Horowitz, Dr. Alan Jotkowitz, Dr. Yehudah Mirsky, Dr. Daniel Rynhold, Rabbi Dr. David Shatz, Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik, Yael Unterman, Rabbi Dr. Itamar Warhaftig, Rabbi Reuven Ziegler, and Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier. Dare I mention that one of these thinkers is a woman? Professor Nechama Leibowitz has been on the respected Torah commentators of the modern age.
This is a volume that is filled with food for thought and is totally readable.