Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav.
Photo Copyright © Robert J. Avrech. No reproductions
without express permission.
As a child and then as a young man, several times a year, I looked on as my father, Rabbi Abraham Avrech, slowly and very carefully threaded tape through the gears of a massive tape recorder. My father, a Rabbi at Yeshiva University, was not and is not one of those proudly self sufficient men with a prized collection of nifty tools.
So, it always amazed me that it was my father’s responsibility to set up the recording device when Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav, delivered one of his public shiurim, Torah lectures at Yeshiva University. It was a touching experience to watch my father—expression solemn and deeply pained—wrestle with the various temperamental machines. In the end, my father’s love of the Rav and his sense of responsibility always triumphed. Somehow, he got those finicky tape recorders to properly function.
When I was older, I accompanied my father to the Rav’s s public shiurim—which lasted four hours or more. I remember the sense of anticipation as the hall filled up with 2,000 Torah hungry people. There was an enormous buzz. And then, without introduction, The Rav, tall and dignified, stepped up to the stage. A great hush fell over the audience. I’m talking perfect silence. As a sign of respect, everyone rose to their feet. The Rav sat at a simple table, and sans preamble or clever opening remarks, The Rav dived into his shiur.
For the first ten minutes or so, I understood the Rav’s exegesis. But soon enough, the majestic depths of his teaching absolutely buried me. The references came fast and furious—The Rambam, Emanuel Kant, Rabbi Akiva, Hillel, Rashi, Talmud, Greek and German philosophers—and really, after half-an-hour, I had no idea what was going on.
I felt like the dumbest Jewish kid in the galaxy.
The Rav’s teachings are now being disseminated in written form by his various pupils. And dopey me finally has the chance to sit down, and at my own pace, and my own level—not so high—absorb the teachings of Judaism’s great teacher of modern times.
I’m particularly grateful that the OU just published The Seder Night, Exalted Evening: The Passover Haggadah with a commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, edited by Rabbi Menachem D. Genack, for twenty years, a student of The Rav.
The Haggadah is the best selling book in Jewish history. There are thousands of Passover Haggadah’s. Every year, as the holiday approaches, the front tables at my local Jewish bookstores groan under the weight of newly published Haggadahs.
Many are just publishing gimmicks with vulgar, politically correct nonsense shoe-horned into the eternal and holy text.
Some are quite excellent.
The Rav’s Haggadah is necessary, an invaluable and precious commentary. No Jewish home should be without a copy of this vibrant, profound, and deeply moving Haggadah.
For the past two weeks, I have set aside fifteen minutes every day to study a portion of the Rav’s Haggadah. Almost every page causes yours truly to mutter: “I didn’t know that.”
This Passover, when Karen and I and our entire family gather to meditate on our bondage and our deliverance from Egypt—yes, we always speak in the present tense for Jewish history is not in the past—I will finally have the opportunity to cease being the dumbest Jewish kid in the galaxy and deliver a few divrei Torah that are reasonably coherent.
To order the Rav’s Haggadah, click here.