Good-bye to you old Halakhic-Man

In its blurb, Halakhic Man by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is described as, "A profound excursion into religious psychology and phenomenology; a pioneering attempt at a philosophy of halakhah; and a stringent critique of mysticism and romantic religion. Exuding intellectual sophistication and touching upon issues fundamental to religious life, Rabbi Soloveitchik's exploration seeks to explain the inner world of the talmudist - or, as he is referred to here, halakhic man -- in terms drawn from Western culture."

The book starts with a discussion of cognitive man contrasted with religious man (Homo Religiosus). Neither of these should be confused with Halakhic man who is called, “the master of talmudic dialectics” (p. 5). Sadly, a search via Amazon's Look Inside tells us that the Rav never comes back in this book to use either the term “talmudic” or “dialectics”.

So we recall a passage from Melville's Billy Budd (p. 7), where we are told of the protagonist, "Then making a salutation as to the ship herself, 'And good-bye to you too, old Rights-of-Man.'”

We say, good-bye to you old Halakhic-Man. And why? Because in the end the Rav does not, "explain the inner world of the Talmudist." He certainly knew the talmud, but surely does not talk about the corpus in any comprehensive or representative manner. He selects things talmudic to paint a picture of a "highly personal vision."

The Rav commits a succession of mis-steps in this book, seeking to be "profound" and in "exuding... sophistication" and in claiming to address the "issues fundamental to religious life."

In fact, we have eschewed the Rav's category formation in this blog from day one. What we do here is to apply the categorical conceptual model of what we might have called "Talmudic-Man" on a wide range of data from our contemporary world.

But we seek never to be profound, sophisticated or fundamental because those are not the underpinnings of talmudic living - as we see it. And dear readers, feel free to disagree -- for that is the prime directive of talmudic discourse.

Talmudic-Man does apply dialectics and does roam for his content across the broad spectrum of human experience, far and near. At least that is what we found in the talmud that we studied.

And that is what we try to do here.

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