A Foray into Theology

The Lonely Man of Faith by Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
Finished on December 17, 2023.
Rating: ★★★★☆
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The Lonely Man of Faith was a birthday present from a dear friend. It is written from a perspective that challenges my own, running quite contrary in some aspects from the way in which I have chosen to live. Indeed, this is what made it a fascinating book to read: the interaction of differing opinions and views is where there is perhaps the most room for growth. Furthermore, The Lonely Man of Faith is written at quite an abstract level, and as such there are many things within its pages that Rabbi Soloveitchik and I agree on and indeed within which we can find shared meaning.

Now, assorted quotes and commentary:

The Halakhah believes that there is only one world—not divisible into secular and hallowed sectors…

Page 79

This aligns with how I think of Jewishness. I am a Jew in every context, not just those that may be considered “religious” by those on the outside.

The dual-nature image of man proposed by Rabbi Soloveitchik is this book’s central focus. At times I find this description becomes fairly romantic:

However, [the discovery of a companion], since it is part of the redemptive gesture, must also be sacrificial. The medium of attaining full redemption is, again, defeat. This new companionship is not attained through conquest, but through surrender and retreat. “And the eternal God caused an overpowering sleep to fall upon the man.” Adam was overpowered and defeated—and in defeat he found his companion.

Page 38

The emphasis above is mine. There is something I enjoy about the framing of deep human relationships being formed through mutual surrender.

If the Rabbi were to appraise my life, I am certain he would say that I spend far too much time in the conquesting mode of his “Adam the first,” and it may be beneficial for me to explore other ways of existing. Perhaps there is value in this. I am certainly sympathetic to, and involved myself with, the individual search for meaning. However: I do think there is a vast chasm between that and not touching light switches on Shabbat.

The Lonely Man of Faith is a book of philosophy—it is difficult to draw from it hard conclusions. Much of the worth of these things comes from the reading itself, and clashing with the ideas on the page. The journey, not the destination, as it is said. The book is not long. I enjoyed it.