Home

"… if the State of Israel will become a secular kingdom without Torah, without sanctity, without the Sabbath, without Jewish education, without family purity, a State in which Jewish uniqueness will be erased, then the price we are paying for her in blood and tears is too heavy." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Speaks, pp. 138-9.)


Question by student: "What do you do with the Ramban in Devarim which says the kiyum miztvos in chutz l'aretz is not on the same level as in Eretz Yisrael" ?

Soloveitchik: "I knew that Ramban before you were born! [audience laughter] Kook comes out with the Ramban as if he is the only one to whom the Ramban has entrusted the text. I knew about it, and I sweated out the Ramban. I sweated out the Ramban, and the Ramban never said it. This is a Sifri, a difficult Sifri in limadatem osem ess binachem, v'ha'aretz yitan ess yevula, and we don't know exactly the text of the Sifri. And no matter who says it, I don't care. The three words כי לי כל הארץ settles everything. Ramban, Kuzari -- כי לי כל הארץ . It means chovos ha'mitzvos in chutz l'aretz is not to be considered a prologue or introduction to kiyum ha'mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael. They are the same importance. A Jew who takes an esrog in chutz l'aretz has the same reward, the same schar, as the Jew who take an esrog in Eretz Yisrael. It's a difficult Ramban, it's a difficult Rashi - but don't frighten me with it."

Student: Can't we say instead כי מציון תצה תורה, that davka b'Yerushalayim you'll accomplish more, even from galus?

Soloveitchik: I'll tell you frankly, I believe that I interpret a shitckl gemara besser fun asach in Eretz Yisraei [Yiddish: a piece of Gemara better than many in א'י]. [audience laughter]. When I don't have to go into temporary structures. Ay, avira d'Eretz Yisrael machkim? Ay, ain Torah k'Toras Eretz Yisrael? I know all those ma'amarim, which are used by the Mizrachi uprights. (The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 229-231)

"It is ridiculous to tell a young man, who does a good job, or has prepared or trained himself to do a good job [here in the U.S., that he must instead go to ארצ ישראל]. "Good job" means to spread Torah, or to lead an exemplary life which serves as an example to others through personal contact - there are many ways to convert and educate Jews. I am not giving up on American Jews. If I feel that in my town, or in my village, I will accomplish a lot, and when I come to Eretz Yisrael so I or my influence will be reduced to zero, my place is here, not there. Some who went to Eretz Yisrael achieved the same objectives they would have in the Diaspora. But only some! I know of many who fail. They don't admit it. It's nice on their part not to admit it." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 242-3).

"Now there is an official public opinion which is molded not by religious, but by secular, Jews. People used to accuse us Orthodox Jews that we are intolerant. We are very tolerant, in comparison to Zionists. Let somebody try to say anything not in agreement with Begin -- אחת דתו להמית. You can say a lot not in agreement with Moshe Rabbeinu, but you must not deny Begin's theories. I am not joking. I can't yield to that. I am not a politician." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 239-40)

"The aftermath of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the attack on the Palestinian refugee camps by Lebanese Christians, left a moral stain on Israel. In the Knesset there was a demand for a thorough inquiry into the massacres and a clarification if Israel was in any way responsible. The left wing political parties were in favor of the inquiry. The right wing parties were opposed to it. Mizrachi joined them in opposing any inquiry. Rav Soloveitchik was informed of the position taken by Mizrachi. A vote was scheduled for a Sunday. The Rav called Rabbi Friedman at the Jewish Agency and instructed him to call Israel in his name and to demand that Mizrachi vote for the resolution. The Rav said that it is not a political issue but a moral one and Mizrachi had to act morally. So insistent was the Rav that he told Rabbi Friedman to call Israel on Shabbat to convey his message! The call was an halachic order by the Rav to Rabbi Friedman. The call was made on Shabbat. Mizrachi voted for the inquiry." (Orthodoxy Awakens, The Belkin Era and Yeshiva University, Victor Geller, p. 258)

Student: Is there any place for Yom Ha'Shoah commemoration?

Rabbi Soloveitchik: I am very bad as far as aveilus is concerned. That's one of the reason why I have not been elected a pulpit rabbi. Tisha b'Av...Rashi in Shmuel Bais says all yimay aveilus, pertaining to all disastrous events which took place in our history, all expressions of aveilus should take place on Tisha b'Av, not a separate Yom Ha'Shoah. Rashi says it.

Not in Shmuel Bais, excuse me, it's in Divrei HaYamim.

(Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 244.)