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The Halakah, sacred events, and time consciousness in Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik.


This essay compares the perspectives of Franz Rosenzweig and Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the sacred events generated by the halakah on the Yamim Nora'im (high holidays). It treats the halakah as a medium that begets "events" in the structure of human experience, rather than as the product of legal reasoning or historical circumstances. Both Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik bear witness to an experience of circular time--wherein the community senses a simultaneity of present, past, and future--and anticipates the return of the events they have experienced even as they pass away. Soloveitchik's phenomenology of sacred time, however, allows not only for a sense of simultaneity by way of circularity--as with Rosenzweig. For him, simultaneity can also be attained through an experience of reversibility, as with the penitent who actually changes her past in the present, and her present in light of hew newly envisioned future.


Many modern Jews might have difficulty regarding traditional Jewish life, life according to the halakah, as an intense drama. The life of halakic observance can often seem--for both insiders and outsiders--repetitive, monotonous, and distinctively uneventful. Research in the area of the philosophy of halakah has similarly not focused on the ostensibly eventful character of halakic life. It has rather tended to understand halakic decision making and practice as generated by a particular kind of legal reasoning, or as originating from discrete historical conditions. This article proposes to consider the phenomenon of halakic observance not only from the outside, as the product of a legal or historical process, but also from the inside, as a kind of "event," or set of events, undergone and reported by those who participate in the rhythms and cadences of halakic life.

For our purposes, an event will be regarded as an occurrence judged by human beings (individually or collectively) to represent a significant, qualitative modification of experience. Events will be understood as resulting from meaningful movements or changes that take place within the dimension of humanly experienced time. On the basis of this characterization, an event is to be distinguished from a fixed state. A religious event, as distinct from other events, is experienced as taking place in relation to the divine, or the eternal--even though, like all events, it too takes place within the dimension of humanly experienced time. Further on, when I discuss the reflections of Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik on the eventfulness of halakic observance, I will remark on their attempts to understand the interaction between time and eternity as a central feature of religious experience. According to Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik, it is this relationship between time and eternity that gives the one who observes the halakah a sense that he or she is participating in a sacred event. Fulfilling the prescriptions of the halakah, or responding to a divine commandment, entails not only an experience of restriction or obedience; rather, enacting a mitzvah introduces one into a special "quality time," one wherein the prosaic and the transcendent are encountered simultaneously.

As regards religious events in particular, it is often asked whether such events should be considered objective, that is, they really happen or happened, or subjective, that is, they are mere constructions (at best) and figments (at worst) of an avid religious imagination. Following Buber, we will not construe religious events as either wholly objective (occurring, as it were, outside of human consciousness and independent of the experiencing subject) or as wholly subjective (occurring, as it were, inside the consciousness of the experiencing subject independent of what may or may not take place in the outside world). We will take the testimony of many great religious spirits seriously and refer to religious events as occurrences that are witnessed as taking place between human beings and God, between human beings and the world, or between human beings and other human beings. (1)

An "event" perspective on the halakah can be gained by accessing a variety of disciplines such as psychology, phenomenology, or anthropology. The issue of the "eventfulness" of halakic life can be profitably viewed through the prisms of many different theories such as performance theory or group dynamics. My modest contribution to this discussion derives from the discipline of modern Jewish thought. I choose to engage in the question of the halakah as "eventful" by way of the testimony of two modern Jewish thinkers. Neither Franz Rosenzweig nor Joseph B. Soloveitchik conceived of their thought systems as disembodied disquisitions on the ultimate "essence" or "tenets" of Judaism. They rather saw their religious philosophy as a distillation and structural articulation of the experienced "events" of Jewish life. It is only natural, then, that we should turn to them for guidance concerning the characterization of the halakah as generating events.


In order that we may speak of discrete halakic structures or patterns as generating or reflecting religiously significant events, a certain overall orientation to the halakah is required. Certain conceptions of the halakic enterprise are more congenial to interpreting specific halakic structures as begetting or representing events, while others are less so. For example, the Maimonidean understanding of the telos of the halakah cannot readily serve as a resource for the event perspective. Although Maimonides does on occasion offer an experiential interpretation of this or that mitzvah, he tends to downplay the ultimate significance of halakic details and to prefer a teleological approach to the halakah as a total system. (2) For Maimonides, the halakic regime as a whole is designed to create the kind of psychological and sociological stability that would allow philosophically oriented Jews to pursue religious fulfillment in a decidedly extrahalakic realm, the realm of the intellect. (3) The overall stabilization of psychological and sociological conditions afforded by the comprehensive implementation of the halakah liberates highly developed individuals from constant preoccupation with the changing circumstances of temporal life, allowing them to redirect their focus from fleeting "events" to fixed "essences." The goal of the halakah, then, according to Maimonides and his followers, is not to draw the divine or the eternal into the realm of temporal events in order to qualitatively change the fabric of our time-bound experience, but rather to make those overall alterations in earthbound, temporal conditions that would allow those with the proper training to pursue transtemporal truths without undue disturbance.

Yeshayahu Liebowitz, a modern Jewish thinker who considered himself a disciple of Maimonides, nonetheless articulated a rationale for the halakic project that was very different from that of Maimonides. Like Maimonides, Liebowitz downplayed the temporal significance of particular halakic structures. Following Kant, he believed that the realms of nature and history are devoid of spiritual meaning. Genuinely religious acts carry no meaning that is translatable into natural or historical categories. In performing genuinely religious acts, human beings strive to transcend the temporal by embodying the transnatural and transhistorical posture of "service of God" for its own sake. (4) For Liebowitz, however, unlike Maimonides, embodied practice was not seen as a means to disembodied contemplation. The embodied observance of heteronomously imposed commands was, for him, the only genuinely religious activity. All enactments of the mitzvot were to be equally regarded as representations of the theocentric posture. No specific embodiment of the service of God could be considered essentially different from any other. Specific constellations of halakic details were regarded by Liebowitz as arbitrary and devoid of meaning. The fact that all halakic patterns lack human significance is what makes them genuinely religious for him. (5) He therefore did not really concern himself with the qualitative uniqueness that might attend the performance of this or that mitzvah. For him, it was the overall ubiquity of the halakic project, the command to orient all of human life equally to the service of God that was religiously significant--rather than the discrete "experience" or "event" that could be undergone by observing this mitzvah or that.

A perspective on the halakah that could provide the background for an event-oriented approach to specific halakic patterns can be found in the thought of Yehuda Halevi. It is this perspective that is ultimately adopted by both Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik. Under the aegis of such a conception, particular halakic patterns and structures create the conditions for discrete events of encounter between human beings and the holiness of the divine presence. Following Halevi's famous parable of the doctor and the medicines, particular structures of halakah are artfully blended in order to beget specific religious effects. (6) The ingredients of halakic "medicaments," prescribed, weighed, and balanced as they are by the wise and all-knowing "doctor," do not magically conjure up the presence of God. They do, however, create the indispensable conditions and surroundings for possible encounters with God, or the godly, within the parameters of space and time. If we confine ourselves to the temporal rather than the spatial dimension (the dimension that exercised Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik most of all), an example that comes to mind is Yehuda Halevi's characterization of prayer time as the "seed" and "fruit" of the day and Shabbat as the "fruit" of the week. Specific, delineated "spaces in time" color parts of the day and the week and lend them a particular quality. Profane time can be said to be experienced, according to Yehuda Halevi, as a pathway leading to the hour of prayer. (7) It is the time that one senses oneself as "moving towards" sacred time rather than "being in it." The time that we spend in the house of prayer, away from the tensions and preoccupations of labor, focused on the abiding rather than the ephemeral, rejuvenates our souls and purges them of the vexations of pedestrian life. Metaphorically, then, we can say that there are hours in the day and days in the week when we experience ourselves as "being on the way" to spirituality. There are, on the other hand, sanctified hours and days when we sense ourselves as fertilizing and cultivating our spiritual sixth sense such that it might not be overcome by the trials of the coming day or the coming week. At those same times, we also "taste" the "fruit" of our lives; in spiritual discourse with God our lives are fulfilled and we sense ourselves as most fully alive and flourishing. The bipartite division of the day into work time and prayer time, and the dedication of the seventh day to spiritual replenishment, makes for qualitative distinctions in the temporal realm itself, allowing the "eternal" to enter the "here and now."


The notion most briefly outlined above, one that attributes discrete religious effects to given halakic structures, is predicated on a distinct experience of the dimension of time, an experience conceptualized and articulated, in the footsteps of Yehuda Halevi, by Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik, respectively, in ways both similar and different. In a most concentrated and freighted passage at the beginning of the third book of Star of Redemption, Rosenzweig strives to make sense of the experience of sacred time. He insists that sacred events represent a meeting point of the temporal and the eternal. For him, the end of religious experience is not, as certain philosophers and mystics would have it, the assimilation of the temporal to the eternal. Neither is it the wholesale absorption of the absolute into the dimensions of time and space. For Rosenzweig, the temporal cannot absolutize itself and overcome death from within its own resources. Rosenzweig's religious experience is neither a spiritualized mysticism nor an aesthetically oriented paganism. It testifies to a genuine meeting of the eternal and the temporal, one wherein both are transformed but do not thereby lose their identity. How is this possible? Rosenzweig is not content to call this religious phenomenon "paradoxical," "dialectical," or "polar" and leave it at that. As a religious philosopher who takes human reason seriously, he strives to make the structure of the religious encounter intelligible. In order to understand how he does this, let us carefully examine this crucial passage from the third part of the Star of Redemption in full. It is here that Rosenzweig sets forth a systematic account of both the qualitative and quantitative structure of Jewish religious time consciousness: (8)
   to quicken the future, to have it be "today." Such anticipation of
   the future into the moment must involve a genuine (richtige,
   rightful, bona fide) recreation of eternity such that it has being
   in a today. How would such a today look? First of all, it could not
   well be allowed to pass away. For even if we know nothing of
   eternity, we do know this: that it is that which does not pass
   away. A today recreated into eternity must therefore, in the first
   place, correspond to this determination by (becoming) an unending
   Now. A "today" that does not pass away ... is not every "today"
   gone with the wind like every moment? How is it now to be
   "unpassing?" There remains only one way out: the moment that we
   seek must, in its very ending, in that selfsame moment, begin
   again; in its very disappearing (versinken, sinking) it must then
   and there appear (anheben, rise up) again. Its passing away must
   be, at the same time, its "going-on-again." In order to serve this
   purpose, it is not enough that it ever come anew. It must come
   back. It must really be the same moment ... this moment must have
   more of a content than the mere moment. The moment reveals
   something new to the eye with every batting of an eye. The novelty
   that we seek must be ... not a vanishing moment thus, but a
   "standing" (stehender, stationary) one. Such a "standing now" is
   called, in contradistinction to the moment--(the) "hour (stunde)."
   Because it is "standing" (stehend), the hour can already contain
   within itself the multifacetedness of the old and the new, the
   fullness of the moments. Its end can return and be "poured" back
   into its beginning because it has a middle, indeed many middle
   moments, between its beginning and its end. With beginning, middle,
   and end it can become that which the mere sequence of individual
   and ever new moments never can: a circle returning in upon itself.
   It itself can now be full of moments and yet ever like to itself
   again. When an hour is up, there begins not only "a new" hour, much
   as a new moment replaces the old one. Rather there begins "again
   an" hour. This re-commencement however, would not be possible for
   the hour if it were merely a sequence of moments, as it indeed is
   in its middle. It is possible only because the hour has beginning
   and end. Only the stroke of the bells, not the ticking of the
   pendulum, establishes the hour (makes the hour [stunde] stand
   [stehen]). For the hour is a wholly human institution. Creation
   knows nothing of it and the bells begin to ring the hour only in
   the world of redemption....

By sheer logical deduction, Rosenzweig shows, in this remarkable passage, how the encounter of eternity and temporality must mediate itself to human experience as a circular structure. On the one hand, eternity that is beyond time or at the end of time cannot be experienced by humans, since humans are incorrigibly enmeshed in time. On the other hand, temporality that remains untouched by eternity cannot overcome death. A solution to this quandary would have to involve the entry of the eternal into the dimension of time somehow, without its thereby ceasing to be eternal. Likewise, time could not lose its temporal character as both moving and marked by moments. Still, it must somehow make room within its measured motion for that which abides and is not superseded or replaced. This can only be accomplished through a gesture of anticipation, whereby that which is normally reserved for the end of time is somehow injected into the present. A vision of redemption is made possible within the parameters of time, without time thereby exploding or losing its temporal character.

Linear time, however, is not equipped to receive such anticipations. Viewed from purely formal, quantitative perspective, the units of linear time occur, pass away, and are no more. Each unit is, qua unit, distinguished from those that have already passed away and from those that are still to come. Yet they are all the same as markers on the pathway of motion. True, from a qualitative point of view they need not be all the same: each "blinking of the eye" (9) brings with it a new configuration of experience. Human beings may choose, and they do indeed choose, to construct and connect these ever-new configurations, thereby forming a continuous, meaningful narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. However, the beginnings and ends of these narratives cannot be finally defined, since a linear structure extends indefinitely into the past and indefinitely into the future. In addition, since they are inexorably rooted in their linear, temporal context they must necessarily pass away. Narratives that appear along a linear path replace and supersede one another (however gradually) leaving no room for eternity or redemption. Some thinkers and historical movements have attempted to solve this problem by constructing the future as the present--by false anticipation. History is envisaged as being at an end, with the fulfillment once reserved for the end telescoped into the present. Such mirages, however, always disappoint, since temporality and finitude are always with us. As long as our perspective is linear, the future simply cannot be remade into the present, or vice versa. As Steven Kepnes so aptly puts it, on a linear scale, the distinction between past, present, and future might be variously demarcated but it will always be "elemental." (10)

A circular structure, on the other hand, allows for a narrative wherein that which passes away can recur and recommence. Within a circle, a beginning and an end can be determined and fixed. "Events" which, in a linear structure, pass away, can somehow take place again and thereby abide. Meaningful "hours" or "tides" (as in yuletide) are regenerated at the very moment of their passing away. Their passing away (their temporality) becomes the very condition of their reanticipation, regeneration, and recommencement (their eternity) and their eternal continuity is realized precisely within the dimension of time. Eternity is not reduced to temporal passing away, and the marked motion of temporality is not dissipated into some undifferentiated timelessness. In true dialogical fashion, both the temporal and the eternal are re-created without losing their categorical integrity.

Circularity, then, for Rosenzweig, is the quantitative, or formal-mathematical, condition and correlate of the qualitative experience of encountering divinity within time. Circular time, the carrier of the possibility of eternal recurrence, becomes the necessary matrix for the "standing," or continuous, "now." Within the framework of the Jewish calendar (one of the media by way of which Rosenzweig experienced what Scholem called the "sheer indestructible vitality" (11) of the Jewish people) the experience of the "standing now," of recurrence in the very wake of passing, can be undergone most intensely and directly by way of the changing portions of the week read out during the course of the unchanging Shabbatot of the year, and also by way of the recommencement of the Torah cycle at the end (and the beginning) of every year. (12) Shabbatot do indeed come and go. But as soon as they "sink," they "rise again," remembered and anticipated by the Jew who counts the days of the week with reference to the coming Shabbat. The discrete Torah readings heard on each Shabbat make each Shabbat unique. They also lend a particular color and flavor to the days of the previous week. The passing away of each individual Shabbat, however, is not absolute, since the next Shabbat is nigh, and each Shabbat joins all the other Shabbatot of the year to form a continuous, circular chain. In like fashion, as soon as the whole cycle of the Shabbatot "sinks," it also "rises" again. The reading of the Torah recommences as the calendrical year both ends and begins.

With access to cyclical time, one can also experience the past or the future as simultaneous with the present. Although none of us can avoid being situated in the present, we can have the past pass through us as the "root experiences" (13) of our people reappear and are reenacted when the circle of the calendar reaches the right point. We can experience ourselves as actually going out of Egypt, as this founding event is represented at the seder. At the very same seder, or on the following morning in the synagogue, we can actually behold not only the past deliverance, but also the future redemption when we recite the Hallel prayer, as all present sing the praises of God in unison, together with the heavens, the earth, and all the creatures thereof. (14) This is impossible within the framework of linear time alone. As Rosenzweig writes above, linear time is tied to the dimension of creation. Creation means the creation of the temporal. The created world presents itself to us in its thus-ness, in its past-ness--in its determined causality. Along a linear scale, every present inexorably becomes past and, as such, is incapable of being genuinely relived. The future is also inaccessible until it arrives and cannot be projected back into the present. Circular time, on the other hand, allows the past and the future to eternally recur. It allows us to relive pasts that keep on coming and futures that keep on returning. Circular time "redeems" the dimension of time from radical temporality. Whatever "present" we happen to find ourselves in along the circle, the pasts and futures of the calendar continue to pass through us as the sacred year goes by. The potential simultaneity of present, past and future afforded by sacred time, then, is, for Rosenzweig, inextricably tied to its circular character.

True, for Rosenzweig, God's initial love initiative, his self-revelation, and the spontaneous imperative that we love him in return, is experienced by the human beloved as pure present. (15) This love, however, is what gives human beings the power to go out into the world and bestow this very love on their fellow human beings. The "being in the present moment" of the early love experience must be translated into a future-oriented life of loyal service. (16) Courtship must give way to marriage. We are charged not to remain within the protective confines of the "eternal present" of divine love. We are to become partners in the work of redemption by bringing God's love to others in an ever-widening radius. Jews are to do this by visually representing redemption in their midst as a live possibility. This project must be translated into time-space categories that relate to both the past and the present. The amorphous present of young love, if it is to be constantly rekindled and represented to the world as a real possibility, must be translated into regularized gestures that take place at fixed times and places.

An important illustration of Rosenzweig's temporal perspective can be found in that section of the Star of Redemption wherein he recounts his experience of the high holiday prayers. (17) When we consider Soloveitchik's understanding of the uniqueness of Jewish sacred time, we will also examine some of his reflections on the experience of the Yamim Nora'im. We hope to show that there are some surprising similarities in the writings of Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik concerning the kinds of events that occur on the Yamim Nora'im in particular, and within the matrix of sacred time in general. As we shall see, Soloveitchik both adopts and goes beyond Rosenzweig's understanding of simultaneity mediated by circularity--suggesting an additional, parallel structure of simultaneity mediated by reversibility.

When the Star of Redemption was written, Rosenzweig was a relative newcomer to traditional Judaism, and it is natural that he would be arrested by the visual and dramatic aspects of the synagogue service. From a systematic point of view as well, Rosenzweig believed that while the language of creation is mathematical and the language of revelation is grammatical, the language of redemption is visual. One of the main purposes of prayer for Rosenzweig is to "entreat the kingdom" (18) and to "telescope" redemption from the future to the present. This is why he pays particular (though not exclusive) attention to those liturgical phenomena by way of which redemption can be "seen" to have been anticipated and made "present." Among the phenomena he chose for special mention and extended description in the Star are the full prostration of all the congregants during the Alenu prayer (uniquely placed within the Amidah of Musaf for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), the sounding of the shofar and the appearance of the congregants in white robes (the kittel).

We begin with Rosenzweig's phenomenology of the prostration of the congregation during the repetition of the Amidah during the high holiday Musaf service. (19) According to Rosenzweig, the Jew is not a "prostrating" type. The refusal of Mordechai to bow before Haman, even at the risk of his life, symbolizes the Jew's refusal to submit to any human power. Most of the time, the Jew is not even supposed to prostrate himself before God. Unlike the Muslim, for example, who prostrates himself fully before Allah every time he prays, the Jew merely bows at the requisite times during the Amidah, and during the Alenu prayer at the end of the service. What is it, then, about the unique "event" that takes place during the Musaf service on the Yamim Nora'im that engenders the reaction of full prostration? One might expect that genuine prostration would take place during the viduy, or confession, when we ask atonement for our sins, that element of the service that constitutes, even according to Rosenzweig himself, the central content of Yom Kippur. The human being, sensing himself lowly and unworthy before God, would then correspondingly prostrate himself as an indication of his inner sense of lowliness. However, while some Jews bow somewhat when reciting the viduy, it is not at that point that the Jew's head touches the ground. Prostration, says Rosenzweig, takes place in a dimension that is removed from any human need. Even the need for atonement, which is so essential to Yom Kippur, is not enough to beget the gesture of prostration. Only when the Jew feels that he is actually experiencing redemption, experiencing the very presence of

God in a dimension wherein no needs remain, does he respond by prostrating himself fully. Significantly for Rosenzweig, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come in the same month as the third of the three festivals--Sukkot--the holiday of redemption. By then, the people of Israel have already been created and founded as a people (Pesach), have already stood at Sinai and experienced the revelation of the Torah (Shavuot), and are fast approaching the season when they can enjoy the fruits of its summer labors in the Land of Israel (Sukkot). The days of judgment are holidays of redemption par excellence: not the redemption of a people in history (represented by Sukkot), but the redemption of the individual, qua "everyman," from temporality through forgiveness.

The experience of prostration on the Yamim Nora'im represents, for Rosenzweig, a realization of the time consciousness we spoke of earlier: simultaneity engendered by circularity. The anticipation of the future redemption is mediated by way of the occasion wherein each member of the House of Israel experienced this sense of redemption in the past. When did this happen? It happened when the high priest invoked the proper name of God--once a year during the atonement service held in the sanctuary--indicating that God himself was actually present. At that point, all the priests and the people who were within the confines of the sanctuary would prostrate themselves. It is that past prostration that is reenacted on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the synagogue, in anticipation of a future time when all human beings will prostrate themselves before God and even the wicked will accept his kingship.

This experience of the actuality of future redemption in the "present" of the worshipper is reinforced, for Rosenzweig, by another dramatic aspect of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur service. On regular days, the Jew cries out for the future redemption when he entreats God, during the second section of the Alenu prayer that concludes every service. He beseeches God to bring that day when all creatures will bow down before him. At that time, the kingdoms of idolatry and wickedness will pass away and all creatures will accept his kingship. During the Musaf service of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, however, the Alenu prayer, which is normally a parting cry, becomes a centerpiece. It is joined, within the framework of the same Amidah, with the lines that express the most fervent hope that all people become as one in doing the will of God with a full heart and that all creatures will prostrate themselves before him. Normally, the Alenu prayer is not part of a silent prayer--it is an expressive entreaty, a final crying out that concludes the service. On the Yamim Nora'im, however, it becomes a central part of the silent prayer of the Amidah, indicating that redemption need not be cried out for--it is actually occurring in our very midst. What appears all year round as an oral entreaty becomes, on the Yamin Nora'im, a dramatic enactment. The community, representing humankind as a whole, first silently bears witness to the redemptive presence of God. Then, during the repetition of the Alenu prayer embedded in the Amidah, the community gives evidence of this witness by prostration.

Many explanations have been given for the sounding of the shofar during the Musaf service of Rosh Hashanah. (20) The shofar is a ram's horn, representing the ram that was sacrificed in place of Isaac. The shofar, then, is meant to "remind" God of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice everything for him, to reactivate the mercy He showed Abraham so that our sins might also be forgiven through his mercy. (21) According to Maimonides, the shofar is a kind of alarum, meant to raise human consciousness rather than to arouse divine emotions. It is meant to awaken us from the "slumber" that envelops us when we are preoccupied with the petty concerns of everyday life. The sudden, piercing sound startles us into reflection and repentance. (22) Neither of these well-known interpretations of the "event" of the sounding of the shofar was adopted by Rosenzweig. For Rosenzweig, the sounding of the shofar, like the prostration of the congregation, bears witness to the "event" that the future redemption is actually taking place in the present. The festival actually becomes the day of judgment, normally reserved for the future. The passage in the high holiday service underlying Rosenzweig's interpretation here comes from the famous U'Netaneh Tokef prayer. It is the one that describes the judgment day as a time when a great shofar will be sounded, and a still small voice will announce "here is the judgment day." It is no coincidence that this anticipation of the future judgment takes place on the day that marks the beginning of the year. For Rosenzweig, the first day of the year symbolizes the "fabric" of the year as a whole, as
   the year becomes the genuine representative of eternity. In the
   annual return of this judgment, eternity is stripped of every trace
   of the beyond, of every vestige of remoteness; it is actually here,
   within the grasp of every individual and holding every individual
   close in its strong grasp.... There is no more waiting, no more
   hiding behind history. The individual confronts judgment without
   any intermediary factor. (23)

Once again we see how, for Rosenzweig, the circularity represented by the yearly calendar becomes the matrix wherein eternity can enter time. The calendrical recurrence of the judgment day makes it, on the one hand, a time-bound, concrete, event. It is accessible to human temporality--humans can grasp it and it can hold humans in its grasp. Like any temporal event it comes and goes. Unlike historical events, however, this "standing hour" (or stimde) actually comes back year after year. As such, in its very passing away it creates the conditions for its recurrence and newly founded anticipation. It goes away, but not ultimately, thereby engendering a genuine experience of the overcoming of time within time, or redemption.

The third dramatic element in the high holiday service singled out by Rosenzweig for special attention in the Star of Redemption, together with the prostration of the congregation and the sounding of the shofar, is the very garment that the congregants wear--the white robe, or kittel. (24) Like the other elements of the liturgy referred to by Rosenzweig, it illustrates and exemplifies his unique understanding of sacred events as constituting a meeting between temporality and eternity. As we saw, the act of prostration is understood by Rosenzweig against the background of the liturgical texts that surround it--the relocation of the Alenu prayer and the dramatic description of actual appearance of God in the temple on Yom Kippur. The sounding of the shofar is interpreted in light of the passages that place it together with the coming of the day of judgment. So, too, Rosenzweig's experience of the symbolic significance of the kittel must be understood in consonance with his reading of the text of the viduy and the proclamation permitting the congregants to pray with the "transgressors." For Rosenzweig, it is very significant that the texts of the viduy do not mention any sins that would differentiate a Jew from a non-Jew. We do not beat our breasts because we have been delinquent in our observance of the Shabbat or of the laws of kashrut. In Rosenzweig's words, the sins we confess to on Yom Kippur illuminate all the secret corners of the soul. From all the concealed crevices of the human heart the viduy draws forth what Rosenzweig calls "the one sin in the unchanging human heart." (25) In light of what he has written earlier in the Star of Redemption, we may say that Rosenzweig refers here to the ultimate sin of human self-enclosure, of human insensitivity to others, and of the inability of humans to love and affirm one another. (26)

In Rosenzweig's drama of revelation and redemption, it is first and foremost the individual who is self-enclosed, and it is the individual who must be released from his self-enclosure by divine love and forgiveness. This existential confirmation then gives the individual the wherewithal to go out into the world and take part in the work of redemption by loving and confirming others. (27) It is as individuals, then, that we recite the litany of sins that comprise the alphabetic Al Chet prayer. Our personal self-enclosure is exposed and laid bare from every possible angle. True, says Rosenzweig, we use the plural and stand together with the congregation when we recite the viduy. But the others, the "transgressors" with whom we pray, do not form a "collective." We do not stand before God on Yom Kippur as "the Jewish people" per se. The sins we delineate in the viduy have nothing to do with being a Jew. The "others" with whom we stand are all humans, for all humans are "transgressors."

From Rosenzweig's existentialist perspective, there is no essence of humanity that would render mankind into a collective as this word is commonly understood. (28) There is, however, a human condition, namely, self-enclosure and the need for forgiveness and confirmation. But each of us must confront this condition as a "naked" individual, without the false protection of a group identity. Just as the year, seemingly closed in upon itself, can represent eternity--time without limit--by way of the circularity of the calendar, so too, the Jewish people, seemingly possessed of definable borders, is called upon to represent not so much "humanity," as all people in their humanity. It is for this reason that we appear before God in a white robe (kittel), a garment that is experienced by Rosenzweig as nothing less than a shroud. Each "naked" individual, who senses his or her sin as personal in the extreme, is judged on judgment day only as an individual, with no consideration given to the positive or negative influence of the collective upon him or her. Each individual appears as if dead while still alive, between life and death, as he or she stands in the limbo of eternity between the end of one year and the beginning of the next. We confront God from a position of ultimate modesty. Clothed as the dead who take none of their worldly possessions or attainments with them, we also disrobe ourselves of the conceit that we can, by the force of our own resolve and good intentions, galvanize and realize our will. We recognize, in radical humility, that we were overproud when we thought we could understand the implications of our resolutions and have the wherewithal to carry them out. (29) Our sins are regarded as unpremeditated, not because we are innocent like children, but because we have gained the wisdom to recognize the limits of all resolution, like the aged at the brink of death.


A comparison of Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik on the experience of sacred events within the matrix of halakically structured time would, at first glance, seem to hold no promise. Rosenzweig approached Judaism from without, after having undertaken a religious search that brought him almost to the brink of Christianity. (30) Soloveitchik's early life, on the other hand, was typified by both strict halakic observance and the intense study of traditional Jewish sources, as would befit the scion of a distinguished Lithuanian rabbinic family. During his stay in Germany in the early thirties, however, a period in which he acquired a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Berlin, Soloveitchik became extraordinarily well-versed in the whole range of Western philosophy. He also became deeply familiar with the works of great heterodox Jewish thinkers like Hermann Cohen and Martin Buber. We have no direct knowledge concerning the extent to which Soloveitchik studied the writings of Franz Rosenzweig. We know, however, that he saw him as a paramount example of the ba'al teshuvah (a Jew who strays and then returns to tradition), and that he regarded him as a great Jew. (31) It also seems unlikely that a young man of Soloveitchik's acute theological interests and wide-ranging erudition could have passed over the work of a figure so well-known to German Jewry as Rosenzweig.

In fact, there are passages in the writings of Soloveitchik that could reasonably be interpreted as bespeaking the direct influence of Rosenzweig. In The Lonely Man of Faith, for example, Soloveitchik movingly describes how the mutual self-revelation of the hidden God and the concealed human depth personality brings about the parallel mutual disclosure of human beings to one another: "the miracle of revelation takes place in two dimensions: in the transcendental--Dens absconditus emerges suddenly as Dens revelatus, and in the human--homo absconditus sheds his mask and turns into homo revelatus." (32) This passage, and other passages that surround it, recall key portions of the second part of Rosenzweig's Star of Redemption, wherein Rosenzweig describes how God's loving gift of existential confirmation gives us the resources to offer the same gift of love to others. (33) Similarly, Soloveitchik's insistence that mature religiosity must involve the translation of religious subjectivity into measurable time-space categories recalls the end of that same section of Star of Redemption. It is there that Rosenzweig enjoins the human beloved to grow out of the immediate, enveloping security of divine love and mediate this love to the world by way of celebrations and anniversaries--visible to all because they have been commuted to the dimensions of time and space. (34)

It is the following selection from the writings of Soloveitchik, however, that perhaps bears greatest witness to the influence of the perspective inscribed in Rosenzweig's Star of Redemption. This selection comes from one of Soloveitchik's earlier writings, The Halakhic Mind, and deals precisely with the issue that has occupied us in this essay, namely, the cyclical structure of the calendar as the mediator of the "intrusion" of eternity upon temporality, an issue that Soloveitchik insists is of "the utmost importance to an analysis of the idea of revelation." (35) In The Halakhic Mind, Soloveitchik writes: (36)
   In this connection, the problem of the calendar bears some
   investigation. The division of time into days, weeks, months, and
   years is quite incongruous with the time concept of the scientist
   for whom time is a continuum with no milestone.... The religious
   type, in his experience of this category, identifies the incessant
   flux of the chronos with the artificial form of the calendar.... He
   sees God not only in eternity but also in time quantified and
   measured by the calendar.... The specific religious apprehension of
   time as cyclic motion or as eternal repetition (Kierkegaard) is
   likewise utterly unintelligible to the scientist who measures
   spatialized time or to the metaphysician who views time as a
   directed flow. The experience of time as repetition is rooted in
   the specifically religious time awareness and is closely associated
   with the concept of the calendar that is indeed pure repetition.
   The day, the month and the year recur again and again.

Elsewhere, in his other early work: Halakhic Man, Soloveitchik, like Rosenzweig, presents us with an example of how specific calendrical hours, structured by the requisite environment and liturgy, create religious events that influence the quality of our self-understanding. Writing also of the Yom Kippur service, Soloveitchik turns our attention to the waning moments of the holy day, and to the text of the Ne'ila (closing) service. (37) Before turning to the prayer itself Soloveitchik first describes the scenery surrounding the worshipper at this momentous time. The sun is setting; it is gradually disappearing on the horizon, but the brilliant and colorful reflections of its light are still visible in the clouds. The drama of Ne'ila, then, for Soloveitchik, derives not only from what is going on inside the synagogue but also from what is going on outside it, in the world of nature. Metaphorically, the worshipper senses not only that the sun is setting, but that the day itself, that particular time that has been Yom Kippur, is setting. As we saw, Rosenzweig describes the worshipper on Yom Kippur as being poised between life and death on a day that is itself positioned in a kind of limbo between one year and the next. Here, too, Soloveitchik paints a scene wherein eternity and time touch one another, as "the great and holy day sinks into the fiery sea of glory and eternity." (38) The sinking of the sun into the endless sea becomes symbolic of the assimilation of the day itself into eternity. During Yom Kippur, the eternal was drawn into our midst. At the time of the Ne'ila service, the holy day is drawn back into the folds of eternity.

Such a meeting of time and eternity is an ideal place for a consciousness-raising event. It is appropriate that precisely at this time human beings should be led, by the liturgy, to reflect on what it is that makes them both fleeting and yet of infinite worth.

It should be noted at this point that according to Soloveitchik, all sensitive religious people are beset by a contradictory self-awareness. On the one hand, they feel powerless and of little account in the face of the awesome God and the infinite cosmos. On the other hand, they are drawn to him and wish to penetrate the depths of his mystery. Further, the human quest for wisdom and human progress in the taming of nature beget feelings of legitimate pride and self-worth. It is this dual consciousness that Soloveitchik believes is reflected in the passage from Psalms: (39) "What is man that Thou thinkest of him? ... Yet Thou hast made him just a little lower than the angels, and hath crowned him with glory and honor. Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands. Thou hast put all things under his feet." The general homo religious, however, suffers under the weight of this dual self-understanding. He cannot resolve it into an integrated self-awareness. The Jewish halakic tradition, however, offers the religious person a path that can lead to self-integration. Soloveitchik believes that this kind of self-integrative awareness is precisely what is engendered by the experience of the Ne'ila service.

In beginning the viduy of Ne'ila, the worshipper says: (40) "What are we? What is our life? What is our goodness? What is our virtue? What our help? ... What our strength? What our might? ... Most of their actions (of the supposedly courageous or wise) are worthless, the days of their lives are vanity in Thy presence." If one were, at this point, merely to balance this consciousness with the other pole of the classic contradiction--a sense of pride in human capabilities and accomplishments--integration could not be achieved. The pendulum would continue to swing between self-denigration and self-congratulation.

At this point, however, the liturgy leads the worshipper to a sense of renewed and ultimate worth. The Jew realizes that the whole Yom Kippur service that he or she has been experiencing, this day that is about to end, could not have been meaningless. The whole fabric of the day has communicated the message that human beings are addressed, commanded, and called to repentance. In the Amidah of Ne'ila, we read: (41) "Thou hast chosen man at the very inception and Thou hast recognized him as worthy of standing before Thee." Infinite dignity has been conferred upon us, since we have been called to give an accounting, and to renounce our acts of oppression and exploitation. (42) The existential worth of the human being cannot be guaranteed by a sense of his own accomplishments in the realm of civilization. Those will always have to be stacked up against the no less powerful awareness of human transience, insignificance, and sinfulness. However, the insight that we have been called by God to renounce exploitation and oppression, that we have been bidden to give an account of our actions, repent of them and change them, causes us to realize of what great concern we really are to him. From within the uniqueness of the calendrical hour, we experience an event of illumination that transforms our self-understanding. Our sense of commandedness brings existential confirmation in its train. This new awareness gives birth to a new sense of integrity and meaning, one that both incorporates and transcends what seemed earlier to be a polarized sense of capability and limitation.

In addition, however, to the cyclical-calendrical perspective that he shared with Rosenzweig, Soloveitchik also introduced a new insight into his phenomenology of sacred time. Religious experience, as we have seen from both Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik, testifies to the possibility of a circular, calendrical time as distinct from linear historical time. It is this time consciousness that is so crucial for the foundation and maintenance of a religious community. Individuals, however, generally imagine their personal biographies as a linear flow, and do not ordinarily construct their personal narratives as a circular set of eternal recurrences. Religious traditions, therefore, and Judaism in particular, offer their adherents another option even within the framework of a linear, individual biographical structure--the option of reversible time. It is such a perception of time that makes religious events like conversion and repentance possible.

Soloveitchik discusses repentance as representing the reversibility of time in conjunction with a commentary on the halakot of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, just as Rosenzweig saw the high holidays--poised as they are between the old and new years on the circular calendar--as enacting an actual anticipation of redemption. As we saw, Rosenzweig reacted directly to the visual phenomena present to the congregant in the drama of the synagogue service. Unlike Rosenzweig, Soloveitchik's discussion of the experience of repentance is mediated by legal-halakic categories drawn from the Talmud and particularly from Maimonides. His most penetrating treatment of the relationship between the event of repentance and the experience of reversible time can also be found in his early essay Halakhic Man. (43)

For Soloveitchik, the idea of creation not only refers to an event that takes place between God and the world. It can signify an event that takes place between a human being and himself or herself. The human being is also capable of creation, or self-creation. Just as the world did not come into being as the result of an endless causal chain, but was willed into being as genuine novum, so, too, the human personality should not be seen as the inexorable result of a past causality, but as possessed of the freedom to create and remake itself. Life under the aspect of linear causality entails an atomistic and deterministic experience of time. One the one hand, deeds that have been done in the past, in past units of time, become locked in the past and are irretrievable for undoing or redoing. On the other hand, these "done deeds" have had a definite effect on subsequent deeds and on the personality as a whole. The present self is a product of one's past self. Similarly, the future is locked away and cannot be present to us. It is distant and indeterminate, and therefore cannot influence present conditions.

What kind of experience of repentance, or event of repentance, is conceivable within the framework of such a time consciousness? For Soloveitchik, this understanding of time begets the experience of repentance, and the halakic category known as atonement (kapara). The human being cannot really recreate himself or herself, in being determined by past causes and events. He or she therefore offers something to God in order to obtain a reprieve from the punishment that is due. In the most severe of cases, one must give up one's life as kapara. In less serious cases, one offers a sacrifice in kapara for one's own life. Since the destruction of the temple, and within the framework of the prayer community, one offers a contrite confession of one's deeds--a viduy--hoping that it will be accepted by God as a sacrifice. If indeed God responds by granting atonement, this is considered a miraculous act of grace. God mercifully pardons the human being who, in light of all his irretrievably past deeds, stands guilty before him.

An experience of time informed by creation, however, engenders a different event of repentance. In the light of this conception of time, events that have taken place in the past are not buried away in some time unit that has disappeared forever. They can live again in one's present life, and are thereby subject to change and revision. One can seize upon past deeds, or upon aspects of one's personality that have been molded by past deeds, and reshape them, to the point that they are transformed into their opposite--good deeds, or good personality traits. One's present decisions can reinterpret and redetermine the ultimate character of one's past actions. Similarly, one's living vision of the future, a vision one resolves to realize with all one's vital energy, can have a crucial effect on the present and likewise serve as a basis for interpreting the meaning and significance of that present, halakically, this mode of repentance does not require the viduy, an external sacrifice offered to God for purposes of atonement. It involves only two central internal events that must take place within the consciousness and will of the individual: genuine regret over one's past actions (harata), and a firm resolution never to return to that sin again (kabbala lehaba). If the past cannot be represented and reconstituted, then harata becomes an empty exercise with no real potency. But if it can, one's very past deeds can take on a new significance. Similarly, if the future cannot be made vital in one's present, then kabbala lehaba is also sterile, for one's new resolve cannot really "touch" it. But if it can, then one's future can also be reinterpreted and reshaped under the aspect of one's new vision and resolve.

Unlike Rosenzweig, when discussing the personal aspects of repentance Soloveitchik does not make simultaneity in time dependent only on the circularity of a calendar. Simultaneity can also be tied to the principle of reversibility, a principle that can be activated on a linear scale as well. As we have seen, from the calendrical perspective, eternity is drawn into temporality by way of circular time. With regard to repentance, however, our experience of encounter with eternity is mediated by way of reversible time. True, for Soloveitchik, repentance on Yom Kippur also has an aspect of "atonement," wherein one offers something in place of irreversible deeds. The core of repentance, however, for Soloveitchik, is the human being's reinterpretation and even reinvention of his or her own identity. Past deeds live in his or her mind and life, and can therefore be reconceived and rechanneled. One's new future aspirations are also alive, and can have a profound effect on the quality of one's self-conception as well as on one's deeds in the present. From a legal-halakic point of view, the person who has done "internal" teshuva--by renouncing past deeds and resolving never to return to them in the future--is divested of his or her status as a sinful person (rasha) without having to offer kapara. The viduy, which is an act of atonement, can no longer condition his or her status and identity, which have been changed by a creative act that transcends the causality of the past.

The legal categories of the halakah, then, at least for Soloveitchik, do not stand alone. They actually record and formalize an "event." The individual subject, in interaction with features of the objectified halakah, undergoes a personal transformation, which is then in turn inscribed in the legal categories of the halakah concerning that person. Sacred events, then, take place between the subject and the external environment, and are not reducible to either.

In my brief study of the way in which Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik recount the drama of the Yamim Nora'im, I have found that they are both primarily concerned not with the history of the halakah or with the legal categories that inform it and structure it. Even Soloveitchik, at least in his theological works, and certainly Rosenzweig, invest most of their creative energies in describing the changes that take place in the lives of human beings who take part in "events" that the halakah makes available. In order to more fully understand how each thinker conceives of the halakah as generating "events," I undertook a discussion of the manner in which Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik articulate their experience of sacred time, experience characterized by both simultaneity mediated by circularity or simultaneity mediated by reversibility. For Rosenzweig and Soloveitchik, then, the observance of the halakah is accompanied not only by a sense of "commandedness," or a sense of satisfaction at having fulfilled a halakic requirement. The framework of the halakah engenders a unique time awareness: the intimation of eternity within temporality itself. What Buber called the dialogue between heaven and earth allows temporality to be transformed by eternity without losing its identity, just as eternity suffuses the fullness of the hour without reduction or dissipation.

I hope that this essay might stimulate further inquiries as to how other Jewish thinkers have experienced and understood the spiritual "events" that accompany the observance of the halakah. The halakah should be seen not only as a product of its history, or as a species of legal reasoning, but also as a matrix that generates and structures unique experiences--experiences that must be understood from within, on the basis of the testimony of those who have been most deeply affected by them.


This essay began as a paper given at a conference on "The Halakah as Event," held at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem in December, 2010. I would like to thank my colleague, Dr. Avinoam Rosenak, for inviting me to speak at the conference, and for encouraging me to expand my lecture into a full-length article.


(1.) Buber, I and Thou, 39. The thinker whose works are most identified with this orientation is, of course, Martin Buber. He writes: "Spirit is not the I, but between the I and Thou. It is not like the blood that circulates in you, but like the air in which you breathe. Man lives in the spirit, if he is able to respond to his Thou" (emphasis added).

(2.) Perhaps the most pointed and concise formulation of Maimonides's orientation in this regard may be found in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:26, 508-09. He writes, "the generalities of the commandments necessarily have a cause and have been given because of a certain utility; their details are that in regard to which it was said of the commandments that they were given mainly for the sake of commanding something ... The offering of sacrifices has in itself a great and manifest utility, as I shall make clear. But no cause will ever be found for the fact that one particular sacrifice consists in a lamb and another in a ram and that the number of victims should be one particular number.... Those who imagine that a cause may be found for suchlike things are as far from the truth as those who imagine that the generalities of a commandment are not designed with a view to some utility." See also 3:29, ,517 where he says: "You know from texts of the Torah ... that the first intention of the law as a whole is to put an end to idolatry."

(3.) Weiss and Butterworth, Ethical Writings of Maimonides, 67-78, 80-83. See in particular Maimonides's Eight Chapters in this volume.

(4.) Liebowitz,Judaism, Human Values and the Jewish State, 3-29, 61-78. See "Religious Praxis: The Meaning of Halaklia," and "Lishmah and Not-Lishmah."

(5.) Ibid., 17-21.

(6.) Halevi, The Kuzari, 56-57.

(7.) Ibid., 39-140.

(8.) Rosenzweig, Der Stern Der Erlosung, 3:38-39. This English rendering of the passage from Rosenzweig quoted in the text has been influenced by William Hallo's translation and by Yehoshua Amir's felicitous Hebrew translation. 1 have, however, modified these translations on occasion through direct reference to the German original. See Braiterman, "Cyclical Motions," 215-38, for an account of how Rosenzweig accesses the circle as a figure for the experience of eternity within time. In what follows, I propose a detailed logical analysis of precisely how eternity, when it enters temporality, must necessarily yield a circular structure and a circular mode of experience. I do not agree with Braiterman's contention that Rosenzweig's circle not only repeats itself, but also moves forward within linear, "historical" time. Braiterman is interested in this possibility in order to portray Rosenzweig's thought as allowing for "historical development" in Judaism. True, Rosenzweig speaks of a "pull" towards the future that drives the circuit of the year. This, however, can be interpreted as the pull of the telos of redemption, namely, the ever-growing scope of interhuman love, and not as a framework for the introduction of "historical change" in halakic observance. Elliot Wolfson, in "Light Does Not Talk But Shines," 87-148, presents a most illuminating account of the interaction between time, eternity, and hermeneutics in Rosenzweig's thought. There he shows that the notion of the integration of eternity and temporality was noted directly by Rosenzweig as bearing an affinity with the kabbalistic tradition, and indeed does reveal such an affinity. I find it difficult, however, to acccpt Wolfson's conflation of linearity and circularity as simultaneous features of Rosenzweig's conception of sacred time. Wolfson maintains that Rosenzweig follows the rabbinic hermeneutic tradition that "champions a notion of time that is circular in its linearity and linear in its circularity" (96). While I cannot undertake a full explanation of this here, 1 believe that, at least in the Star of Redemption, the simultaneity of past, present, and future is elaborated by Rosenzweig most definitively by way of a circular model. It is Soloveitchik, as I hope to show below, who points to the possibility of simultaneity even within a linear framework in his unique conception of individual repentance.

(9.) Interestingly, the German word for "moment" is augenblick, which means "eyeblink." Each moment (that is, each time we open our eyes after blinking) brings with it a new "gestalt."

(10.) Kepnes, Jewish Liturgical Reasoning, 105. I wish to acknowledge my debt to Kepnes's penetrating analysis of Rosenzweig's conception of time in chapter 3 of the book, 70-129.

(11.) Scholem, "Revelation and Tradition," 283.

(12.) Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption (Hallo trans.), 310-11, 321.

(13.) Fackenheim, God's Presence in History, 8-14.

(14.) Star of Redemption (Hallo trans.), 317-18. For Rosenzweig's insight into the Hallel, see Galli's translation, 271. See also Kepnes, Jewish Liturgical Reasoning, 100.

(15.) Star of Redemption (Hallo trans.), 163-64.

(16.) Ibid., 203-04.

(17.) Ibid., 323-27. When Rosenzweig's Star of Redemption first appeared in Hebrew translation, one of his great followers, Samuel Hugo Bergman, wrote a brief account of Rosenzweig's hymn to the high holidays in part 3, with special emphasis on the relation between time and eternity. While clear and concise, the short essay is more of a synopsis than an analysis. Within it, Bergman, the humanist, pays special attention to the universalistic and individualistic strains in Rosenzweig's thought, namely, that the Jew on Yom Kippur stands before God in his or her naked individuality, and that the prayerful Jewish congregation represents the universal human condition. No mention is made there of the more particularistic elements in Rosenzweig's thought, such as the importance of Jewish blood continuity as an icon of eternity within history. See Bergman, "Rosenzweig A1 HaYamim Ha Nora'im," 661-62.

(18.) Ibid., 265.

(19.) Ibid., 323-24.

(20.) Ibid. Rosenzweig's understanding of the sounding of the shofar.

(21.) Abudraham, 270. The sixth reason given for the sounding of the shofar.

(22.) Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuva, 3:4 in Mishneh Torah, Sefer HaMada, 218-19.

(23.) Star of Redemption (Hallo trans.), 324-25.

(24.) Ibid., 325-27.

(25.) Ibid., 325.

(26.) Ibid., 78: "The self lacks all bridges and connections; it's turned in upon itself exclusively."

(27.) Ibid., 204: "as he loves you, so shall you love."

(28.) See Sartre, Existentialism is Humanism, 22-23, for an existentialist insight.

(29.) This insight is expressed in the Kol Nidre prayer, which is a form of hatarat nedarim, or dissolution of vows. Our vows are dissolved on the assumption that, with our limited knowledge, we could not have known the implications of our commitments (and of our deeds in general). Therefore, as the prayer says, lechol ha'am beshegagah, the deeds of all the people are regarded as the result of error, not wickedness.

(30.) Glatzer, Franz Rosenzweig, xvi-xvii, 23-29.

(31.) Solovetichik wrote his doctoral thesis on the thought of Hermann Cohen, reacted directly to the thought of Marin Buber and, as we mentioned in the text, was an admirer of Franz Rosenzweig. For the influence of Cohen on Soloveitchik, see Meir, "HaRav Soloveitchik," 85-96. For Soloveitchik's response to Buber, see Berger, "U-Vikashtem MiSham." For his praise of Rosenzweig, see Soloveitchik's On Repentance, 341. I am grateful to Lawrence Kaplan of McGill University for bringing this mention of Rosenzweig by Soloveitchik to my attention. For an appreciation of the importance of lived experience, and particularly of time awareness, as a concomitant of halakic observance in Soloveitchik's thought, see Woolf, "Time Awareness." Woolf distinguishes between "qualitative" and "quantitative" time in Soloveitchik, while emphasizing the simultaneity of past, present, and future as pointing to eternity within temporality. There is, however, no extended discussion there of the structure of circularity or reversibility as mediating eternity for Soloveitchik, themes that will be feature prominently in what follows. Woolf emphasizes how, for Soloveitchik, the experience of simultaneity make possible a reliving of the past, without, however, any comment on how the future might also be reshaped within the process of teshuva. While Woolf mentions Bergson as an important source for Soloveitchik's notion of "qualitative time," it is Eliezer Goldman who offers a more in-depth study of the sources of Soloveitchik's thought on this issue with special reference to Max Scheler. See Goldman, "Teshuva Ve'Zeman BeHaguto Shel HaRav Soloveitchik." Goldman shows how Soloveitchik appropriated Scheler's phenomenological account of the unmediated time consciousness as incorporating past, present, and future--awareness, memory, and anticipation--in one organic whole. He also shows, however, how Soloveitchik added another dimension to Scheler's analysis, by emphasizing the role of a newly anticipated future, as well as regret over the past, in the reconstitution of the personality of the penitent. He also expands on the place of free will in determining what parts of the past are to be seen as "dead" and what parts as "living." I concur fully with Goldman's analysis of Soloveitchik's sources as well as of his original contribution. My own presentation is based more on a comparison of the "finished product" of Soloveitchik's reflections on this issue with the insights set forth by Rosenzweig. A most convincing argument for the influence of mystical categories, as mediated by Habad Chasidism, on Soloveitchik's conception of temporal simultaneity and reversibility is made by Elliot Wolfson in "Eternal Duration and Temporal Compresence." While Wolfson asserts there that some of Solovetichik's formulations are "reminiscent of Rosenzweig," he does not undertake a detailed analysis of their respective articulations of the sacred time experience, as 1 hope to do here.

(32.) Soloveitchik, "The Lonely Man of Faith," 34.

(33.) Star of Redemption (Hallo trans.), 204.

(34.) Soloveitchik, The Halakhic Mind, 78-85. See also Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, 59.

(35.) Soloveitchik, The Halakhic Mind, 47.

(36.) Ibid., 47-48.

(37.) Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, 69-72.

(38.) Ibid., 69.

(39.) Psalms 8:4-7. Quoted in Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, 68.

(40.) Ibid., 69.

(41.) Ibid., 70.

(42.) Ibid., 71.

(43.) Ibid., 110-23.


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Title Annotation:Franz Rosenzweig and Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Author:Cohen, Jonathan
Article Type:Essay
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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