Transcript of the text of the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, speaking on the clip:
What does the almighty need prayer for? Why did he tell man to pray? Not the Almighty, but man changes through prayer. God hearkens to prayer because there is a change in the identity of man. By praying man attains another identity. And by attaining a new identity the verdict is not applicable anymore to him.Talmudic Comments:
This is a wholly elliptical passage. We assumed that is was because it had been taken out of context. In its present gnomic form, it provoked us to ask these obvious questions.
- Who ever said that the Almighty needs prayer?
- When did God ever tell us to pray?
- We do believe that prayer can change God's decisions and actions, don't we?
- What does "change in identity of man" mean?
- What does "attaining a new identity" mean? Same as the above or another cryptic idea? Does "new" imply "improved"?
- What is the "verdict"? What "verdict"? Why does it not apply? Is God fooled or confused by prayer? Or is he impressed? We just don't follow...
This random assemblage of sentences did not sound to us like a paragraph that the Rav would have spoken in a public lecture.
We asked Gil Student, managing editor of the OU Press, about this clip. First, we were told about the propriety of using the recording in an advertisement for a book, "It is appropriate to use a brief excerpt from the Rav to inform people about a forthcoming publication with more extensive treatment of the subject." And notice, he used the word "excerpt."
It just did not sound to us like the Rav. We pressed and asked if they spliced and edited this clip. We were told, "Yes, we spliced it to create a coherent thought faithful to the Rav's intent that could serve as a soundbite."
Talmudic bottom line:
Rabbi Soloveitchik was a great rabbi, a scholar and a teacher. We do not think it is proper to splice together a passage out of context and throw the puzzling incoherent result up there on YouTube to help the OU sell a few books.