Sunday, February 26, 2017

Levado And Together With Others

Rav Soloveitchik gives two reasons why man was created singular: 

"1. The originality and creativity in man are rooted in his loneliness-experience, not in his social awareness ... Social man is superficial: he imitates, he emulates. Lonely man is profound: he creates, he is original.

"2. Lonely man is free; social man is bound by many rules and ordinances. God willed man to be free. Man is required, from time to time, to defy the world ... Only lonely man is capable of casting off the harness of bondage to society... The 'levado'-awareness (the awareness of standing alone) is the root of heroic defiance. Heroism is the central category in practical Judaism. The Torah wanted the Jew to live heroically, to rebuke, reproach, condemn, whenever society is wrong and unfair. The 'levado' gives the Jew the heroic arrogance which makes it possible for him to be different... Lonely man is a courageous man; he is a protester; he fears nobody; whereas social man is a compromiser, a peacemaker, and at times a coward. At first man had to be created 'levado,' alone; for otherwise he would have lacked the courage or the heroic quality to stand up and to protest, to act like Abraham, who took the axe and shattered the idols which his own father had manufactured." (Uvikashtem mi-shom pp. 13-14)

"It means a community of common pain, of common suffering. The Halakha has taught the individual to include his fellow man in his prayer... Halakha has [thus] formulated prayer in the plural...

"The individual prayer usually revolves about physical pain, mental anguish, or suffering which man cannot bear anymore. At the level of individual prayer, prayer does not represent the singularly human need. Even the mute creature in the field reacts to physical pain with a shriek or outcry... However, prayer in the plural is a unique human performance... I am aware, not only of my pain, but of the pain of the many, because I share in the suffering of the many. Again, it is not psychological; it is rather existential awareness of pain." (pp. 19, 21)

According to the Rav, the highest form of interpersonal communion is attained through the teaching community. The true teacher must merge his total experience with that of the student, and they thereby attain a closeness which exceeds the sympathy and mutual aid of the prayer/charity community. A teacher not only trains the mind, but fashions the personality of the student; he shares not only information, but experiences, visions, dreams - in short, his very essence. As the Rav explains in "U-vikkashtem Mi-sham" (pp. 228-229), the personality of the master teacher, like that of the prophet, spontaneously overflows toward the student in an act of self-revelation. This leaves an indelible impression upon the student's soul and binds the two together intimately.

In fact, the entire enterprise of the Masora is based on the unity of teacher and student:

"In this principle [i.e. unity of teacher and student] is enfolded the secret of the Torah She-be'al Peh (Oral Law), which by its very nature has never been objectified, even after being committed to writing. The meaof Torah She-be'al Peh is: a Torah which merges with one's personal uniqueness and turns into an inseparable part of him. When it is passed on, part of one's essence is transmitted along with it." ("U-vikkashtem Mi-sham," p. 229)

"Can the Oral Torah pass on kedusha (holiness) ... in the sense that the Written Torah sanctifies tefillin, mezuza, the Torah parchment, etc.? ... It would be folly to conclude that the Oral Torah is inferior in this respect. The answer is that the Oral Torah operates in a more subtle manner, transmitting sanctity through study and its relation to the mind of the student... The parchment of talmud Torah is the human mind, the human heart and personality... The old halakhic equation that every Jew is a sefer Torah is, in this light, fully understandable. The living Jew is the sefer Torah of the Torah she-be'al peh."

"The Jew who believes in Knesses Israel is the Jew who lives as part of it wherever it is and is willing to give his life for it, feels its pain, rejoices with it, fights in its wars, groans at its defeats and celebrates its victories. The Jew who believes in Knesses Israel is a Jew who binds himself with inseverable bonds not only to the People of Israel of his own generation, but to the community of Israel throughout the ages. How so? Through the Torah, which embodies the spirit and the destiny of Israel from generation to generation unto eternity." (On Repentance, p. 137)