Concepts in Halakha as Elaborated Upon by the Aggada and Kabbala

Tradition Online | January 2, 2023

Download our special e-book publication of lecture notes, transcribed by R. Yaakov Homnick, on a course Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik taught at the Bernard Revel Graduate School in 1946–1947. These lectures, “Concepts in Halakha as Elaborated Upon by the Aggada and Kabbala,” present a sustained argument for the preeminence of Halakha within Jewish tradition, over and above the realms of Aggada and Kabbala. The Rav argues that the centrality of Halakha served to shift the balance of Judaism away from other modes of practice: “The greatest contribution of the Halakha was its purging Judaism of all magical, mythical and ceremonial elements. . . . The mitzvot are all intellectualized, thereby severing them from all mystical rites.” Like math or science, Halakha is about the relationship between items or agents, and it does not seek to interpret but rather to model the relevant data and determine how they are to interact with one another. As in science, “Halakha does away with essences and substances. It formalizes and abstracts them.” 

Co-published by TRADITION with the Bernard Revel Graduate School, and with contributions by Daniel Rynhold, Jeffrey Saks, and Shlomo Zuckier. We are pleased to offer this special e-book timed with this year’s 120th birthday of the Rav (12 Adar) and in commemoration of his 30th yahrzeit (18 Nissan). The coincidence of these dates will be further marked in a forthcoming special volume of TRADITION (Spring 2023) examining topics in the Rav’s thought and its ongoing relevance and legacy. Subscribe now to receive that issue and all the offerings of our quarterly journal of Orthodox Jewish thought.

Leave a Reply