Monday, October 21, 2013

On Rav Soloveitchik's 'Confrontation'

Unfortunately, my adviser’s reaction to my desire to concentrate on Rav Soloveitchik was far from encouraging. “How can you possibly write about a person who opposes Jewish-Christian dialogue?” was his reaction, more or less. I had discussed my project with very few people, and the even fewer among them who had heard of Soloveitchik knew little more about him than his refusal to engage in dialogue, because the Rabbinical Council of America had publicized his essay “Confrontation.” The image of the Rav held by non-Jews did not bother me, because my interest in him had nothing to do with his views on Christianity or his attitude toward dialogue. 

Nevertheless, I was very pleased when, during the months of my stay in Jerusalem, I heard a shiur by David Hartman, a student of Soloveitchik, in which he refuted the too simplistic interpretation of “Confrontation.” Hartman showed that the Rav was not fundamentally opposed to dialogue, but insisted on certain conditions. Actually, for me the Rav represented exactly the type of qualified Orthodox figure who would be necessary for a serious interreligious dialogue. Later, subsequent to my own analysis of Soloveitchik’s writings, I could only agree with Hartman, especially after I realized that the Rav must have seriously studied Christian theology in connection with his encouraging selected educated people to take an interest in this field.

From Christian M. Rutishauser’s book, recently being published, The Human Condition in the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.


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