Revisiting a “Rupture and Reconstruction” Response

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As part of Tradition’s upcoming symposium on the 25th anniversary of Prof. Haym Soloveitchik’s “Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy” we will be featuring new and archived materials related to that now-classic essay. In our Winter 1997 issue, Hillel Goldberg penned the first substantive response to “Rupture and Reconstruction.” In revisiting his thoughts, now over two decades later, Goldberg observes:

At the time of the publication of Prof. Haym Soloveitchik’s widely discussed article, “Rupture and Reconstruction,” I laid out why I found its thesis to be based on a fundamental misreading of both asceticism and yirat shamayim (itself stemming in part on insufficient acquaintance with texts and personalities in the Musar movement), on a reversal of the actual cause-and-effect in the contemporary proliferation of Jewish texts, and on his personal historiography rather than on a longstanding pattern in Jewish history. Without revisiting at length either Soloveitchik’s piece or my own, I mention only one point out of a possible many that serves to reconfirm my perspective. I refer to emotion in prayer. One of Soloveitchik’s points of evidence for the supposed supplanting of texts for received (“mimetic”) tradition was an alleged dryness that has crept into contemporary prayer, a negative reality that he saw as at odds with the more organic behavior of even non-observant Jews whom he remembered from his youth. They wept. We don’t weep. They pray, but we read. Such was Soloveitchik’s example. As for myself, I now see, even more than when “Rupture and Reconstruction” first appeared, intense emotion in prayer (including tears). I saw it then; I see it even more now. I might add that virtually all of the minyanim I pray in are termed Modern Orthodox. Text and emotion are not mutually exclusive logically or sociologically. 

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, is the editor and publisher of the Intermountain Jewish News, and a long-time associate editor of Tradition. Read his “Responding to ‘Rupture and Reconstruction’,” Tradition 31:2 (Winter 1997):

[Published on October 29, 2019]

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