Maggid Books has Published "Halakhic Morality: Essays on Ethics and Masorah" by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Maggid books published "Halakhic Morality: Essays on Ethics and Masorah" by my teacher of blessed memory, the Rav.

It is a thoughtful book and one that is as timely today as it was in the 1950s when the Rav first propounded his insights in a series of public lectures and courses on the subject of morality, ethics and Jewish law.

The Rav's newly published collection of essays, presents for example a major distinction, making the point that halakhah applies to the collective people of Israel. But ethics and morality derive from within each individual person. In my view every communal "policy of discrimination" that is justified by people on halachic grounds can engender profound quandaries for an individual on ethical and moral grounds.

The Rav in the title chapter, pp. 181ff., makes it clear that (1) there is no psak halakhah in matters of morality and (2) the mesorah for morality is a personal one transmitted by a sort of cultural osmosis, not via public proclamations, rulings or edicts.

Here is the problem in a nutshell when applying such principles to our lives. There is a moral imperative to fight gender discrimination and eliminate it. And there is a halakhic imperative to perpetuate the ritual and social practices of the past. Resolving this clash is the monumental challenge of our generation. This book will help bring clarity to such discussions, though the Rav does not address them in his presentation of themes and theories of philosophy.

The publisher notes that in this volume’s opening essay, Rabbi Soloveitchik writes:

"Nowadays a basic investigation of morality and ethos would be of great importance. There is a crying need for clarification of many practical problems, both in the individual-private and in the social-ethical realms. There are too many uncertainties in which we live today, uncertainties about what we ought to do. We should try to infer from our ethical tradition certain standards that should govern our conduct. In particular, I notice confusion among rabbis as regards basic problems whose solution cannot be found in the Shulhan Arukh and must rather be inferred by way of deduction from ancient principles and axioms."
He approaches this task through an in-depth examination of the beginning of Pirkei Avot, raising topics such as: the sources of ethics, power and persuasion, elitism and democracy, educational philosophy, study and action, freedom and coercion, and more.

There follow essays on a variety of related themes, including charity and fellowship, law and ethics, styles of religious observance, and the centrality of humility in Jewish life. Maggid Books is honored to bring these hitherto unpublished essays to a long-awaiting public.

1 comment:

Yehudit S. said...

What a beautiful article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this book!