Monday, March 21, 2005

Rav Aharon Kotler And Rav Soloveitchik

I am writing to protest in the strongest terms the falsehood directed against the great Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood and Rav Soloveitchik. The falsehood is directed against both of them because it is equally wrongful to write that Rav Aharon Kotler said something that he never said and that Rav Soloveitchik was denigrated by him. It is known that Rav Aharon gave a shiur at Yeshiva in the mid-1930's and that for whatever reasons, the experience left him with a negative feeling about the institution. It is also obvious that he did not accept the notion that at the Beth Medrash level, limudei kodesh should be combined with secular studies. But to claim that he spoke so negatively about Rav Soloveitchik is to distort the truth. While such terms as apikursos and minus were often used by him, to my knowledge he did not refer to aspects of American Jewish life that he did not accept by using the term tumah. There are now four volumes of his discourses and much other material and one will not find a single negative word about Rav Soloveitchik in any of this.

Indeed, throughout much of the last ten years of his life, the great Rosh Yeshiva endeavored to maintain contact with Rav Soloveitchik who was quite helpful in the early years of Chinuch Atzmai. As I noted last week in a Cross-Currents posting, Rav Soloveitchik was the featured speaker at the first Chinuch Atzmai dinner and I believe that he spoke at a subsequent dinner. If Rav Aharon felt about him as described by an anonymous blogger, do you think that he would have asked him to be the guest speaker?

There is more to say about this matter, but I will limit my words in the hope that the falsehood that has been spread will be withdrawn. I will conclude with a poignant incident that I was witness to toward the end of Rav Soloveitchik's life. On a hot and humid night - I think it was a Tuesday - during the shiva for Rav Shneuer Kotler, I was at his home in Lakewood when at around 8 pm in the evening a car pulled up in front of the house. Several men got out and virtually carried Rav Soloveitchik who was quite frail by then into Rav Shneuer's home. He sat next to Rav Malkiel Kotler and said the following: "I was a friend of your grandfather, I was a friend of your father and I will be your friend." When Rav Soloveitchik died, I called Rav Malkiel Kotler and asked that he go to the funeral in Boston as an expression of hakoras hatov. He responded that I was right that he should go and then told me why he could not do so.