“Lonely Man of Faith” by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik

This book recommendation comes from Ben Raker Ehrenfeld, who is a member of MJTI’s faculty and chairs MJRC’s Faith and Halakhic Standards Committee:

There is much to appreciate about the time and place in which I live. I am blessed with a life filled with love, connection, and work that is meaningful and aligned with my core values. That said, I often feel like I live in a world and time where I feel isolated. I sense disdain for covenantal commitments among some of the non-religious people I encounter (and in the wider culture), even those with whom I connect around many other important areas of life and work. Even more painful to me are the ways in which the culture within many contemporary religious environments has sacrificed the covenantal posture to God and fellow human beings on the altar of self-interest.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s Lonely Man of Faith both affirms this struggle and provides inspiration to use this experience to deepen my commitments to God and my fellow human beings. Rabbi Soloveitchik introduced me to acceptance of a dialectic within humanity as created in the image of God. On the one hand, we are powerful creators, capable of mastering the world and ourselves. On the other hand, we are servants and stewards of great gifts over which we are ultimately powerless. In a world where I am often told that I am powerful in ways I know I am not — and also told I am powerless in other ways, though I know I am — this short essay opens up a way of framing this struggle with clarity, vulnerability, and courage. By using a compelling existential approach which is simultaneously phenomenological and Sacred-text anchored, The Lonely Man of Faith has been a welcome companion for me on this journey, and I recommend it to others who find themselves in a similar place.

For more recommendations, read Rabbi Rich’s introduction to Pirke Avot, Rabbi Vered’s selection of Hanukkah songs, or an educational guide on blowing the shofar.


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