Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kol Dodi Dofeq: A Tribute to Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, knows that Rav Soloveitchik zatzal was one of the most important people in my life. It was he, in the almost ten years that I was privileged to learn with him, who (aside from training me how to learn) also shaped my worldview and religious personna. Some of my most important life decisions were taken in consultation with him, and it was on those occasions that I learned how important it was for his disciples to become independent, autonomous individuals. He was the only rebbe I ever had, and frankly speaking, ever needed. (Obviously, I am using the word rebbe in the Lithuanian sense of 'Master Teacher' and not of mystical adept.) To this day I marvel at fact that I had the merit of being born in Boston so as to encounter him first on his home turf, and to come to know him in more congenial surroundings than most. There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel his absence.

One of the frustrations of a talmid is that it is literally impossible to begin to repay one's rebbe for all that he has given him. He cannot, however, avoid trying. While he was still alive, I co-edited (Together with Rabbi Dr. Moshe Sherman, now of Touro Graduate School) a Jubelschrift entitled Sefer Kevod HaRav, marking forty years of his teaching in RIETS. As we wrote in the introduction, by presenting the Rov with the first fruits of our Talmudic scholarship, we hoped to pay tribute to him as a teacher.

Since then, especially in Israel, I have tried to pay back my debt by disseminating his teachings. Normally, this has been in the context of my own teaching and writing. About eighteen years ago, David Gordon of Riverdale, undertook a new translation of the Rov's great Zionist manifesto, Kol Dodi Dofek. He decided on this project because he sensed the eclipse of Zionism in American Jewry and felt that the Rov's vision would reinspire Jews to renew their Zionist commitment. He asked me to edit (and fine tune) the translation. I readily agreed. It was a daunting task, but I was very proud and pleased with the results. The end product is not only clear, but it catches the Rov's cadences (much as the late Pinhas Peli did in his Hebrew edition of Al ha-Teshuvah).

For reasons that are not germane here, publication was delayed and I thought the project would be still born. Happily, I was wrong. Last month, KTAV and Yeshiva University Press announced the publication of Listen! My Beloved Knocks. It will be available at the YU Seforim Drive, which opens tonight. It should reach Israel by early March.

Since 1988, much has happened. However, especially in light of the crisis that Religious Zionism is currently undergoing, the timing of the book's publication could not be better. I will deal with that point on another occasion. In the interim, I hope that people will buy and learn the book (I receive no royalties, so this plug is le-shma). I hope that my beloved rebbe has nahas from this edition, and that it will contribute to strengthening our faith in difficult times.

[Note: Of course, I am fully aware that Professor Lawrence Kaplan also translated Kol Dodi Dofek, under the title Fate and Destiny. My feeling, as I told Professor Kaplan, is that just as the Moreh Nebuhim was translated twice (with different emphases) by Judah Ibn Tibbon and Judah Al-Harizi, so KDD could bear the same fate.]

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