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The Lonely Woman of Faith.

THIS, OF COURSE, IS NOT QUITE WHAT RAV SOLOVEITCHIK had in mind. His essay, The Lonely Man of Faith, does not make gender its obvious topic of concern. Nevertheless, in its aspect as a commentary on the creation stories of Genesis, it oddly intersects with a variety of feminist discussions (and it is suggestive that the essay was written out of lectures in a program on "Marriage and Family"). (1) While the Rav's interests differ in important ways from much feminist analysis, his readings have surprising implications for feminist theory. Not least, the essay suggests ways in which feminism, rather than threatening traditional Jewish values and commitments, can be seen to accord with and illuminate them.

Rav Soloveitchik's Lonely Man of Faith (LM) proposes a typology of the creation stories that is startling and unexpected, especially in light of what have been the main trends in interpreting these biblical texts, including feminist ones. Feminist interpretations have been by no means unitary. Nevertheless, the first creation story is generally welcomed as essentially egalitarian, while the second creation story is seen as, at the very least, the basis for a tradition of readings which make women subordinate. Thus, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's audacious and in many ways groundbreaking Woman's Bible (1895) strongly prefers the first creation story over the second. The simultaneous creation of male and female in the first account projects an "equal position" that "must prove more satisfactory to both sexes; created alike in the image of God." The second creation story, however, introduces woman as a "mere afterthought" and has hence been read to make her position "one of "subjection." (2) It is, however, the second account, as Stanton points out, that has been preferred through centuries of biblical exegesis. This is one of her leading examples of how the Bible has been made into an instrument in the domination of men over women through the institutions of organized religion.

Suspicion against traditional male interpretations remains a common point through much feminist commentary, and does more or less accurately render what has been a consistent exegetical position from Paul through Augustine, Jerome, as well as Philo Judaeus, for example. Each of these, as R. Howard Bloch sums up, sees Eve's creation as "secondary, derivative, supervenient, and supplemental," rendering woman "inferior, debased, scandalous, and perverse." Even the Fall, "commonly conceived to be the origin and cause of medieval misogyny, is merely a fulfillment or logical conclusion of that which is implicit to the creation of Eve," (3) that is, according to her secondary status within the second account.

The second account may, however, be redeemed if suitably reread. Feminist biblical criticism can shift from critique to recasting the story by revising norms of interpretation. New premises or hermeneutical methods can yield new, more egalitarian readings even of the second account. (4) While the first creation story remains radically egalitarian, the second may be seen as its continuation rather than its betrayal, with Eve's emergence the final and crowning divine work for the creation process as a whole. (5) Or, both creations, and both creatures, may be viewed as equally constituting each other in a reciprocal dialectic. (6) In one recent collection called The Women's Bible Commentary, Eve, against the traditional views of her "as secondary and derivative" is recast instead as the "protagonist" of a story of human assertion and adventure, in which "Woman, the one who will house life within her, helps to generate the new, active, challenging life beyond Eden." (7)

These are not the approaches taken by Rav Soloveitchik. Nor is he interested in the way biblical critical scholarship tries to explain the divergences between the first and second biblical accounts through an appeal to diverse authorships. He approaches the texts as integrally and significantly related one to the other, and as offering together a general typology of man. Most unusually, with regard to issues of power and hierarchy he critiques the first Genesis account in light of the second one; seeing the first account, rather than the second, as introducing the problem of domination. For him, then, there is "Adam the first" and "Adam the second," who together project two aspects of every (hu)man, "two fathers of mankind, two types, two representatives of humanity" (LM 10). Rav Soloveitchik systematically lists a series of four differences between the two Genesis accounts. It is his second point that will be examined here: "Adam the first received the mandate from the Almighty to fill the earth and subdue it. Adam the second was charged with the duty to cultivate the garden and keep it" (LM 11).

Adam and Eve the First, Adam and Eve the Second

Rav Soloveitchik's categories are foremostly existential/religious. They have, however, resonant application through a variety of discourses: notably the ethical and the political. Adam the first emerges in Rav Soloveitchik's critique as the image of man as instrumental, man as technological, for whom the world becomes mere means to human ends. For Adam the first, the relationship to the created world is one of domination, whether through scientific, intellectual, or social-political and even religious organization. Commenting on the biblical verse: "And God blessed them and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the heaven, and over the beasts and all over the earth," Rav Soloveitchik explicates: "God, in imparting the blessing to Adam the first and giving him the mandate to subdue nature, directed Adam's attention to the functional and practical aspects of his intellect through which man is able to gain control of nature" (LM 12).

Intellect here is in fact narrowly defined. Neither metaphysical nor "axiological-qualitative" in interest, it is more or less exclusively devoted to questions involving function, mechanism, and practical uses. Adam the first is, in short, Heideggerean-Sartrean technical man, which Rav Soloveitchik derives from the quantitative-mathematical tradition as represented by, for example, Descartes. This reduces the world to human utility through mechanism and mastery: what Rav Soloveitchik calls "disposal" (LM 12).

Rav Soloveitchik, however, interweaves philosophical and religious languages with terms and structures from political theory and ethical psychology. What The Lonely Man of Faith offers, on one level, is in many ways a critique of liberal social theory and practice (although Rav Soloveitchik is, if anything, even more critical and indeed scathing against anti-liberal "theories of society which emphasize the primacy of society over the individual" and which have an even more "functional character" (LM 30) that "denies the unique transcendental worth of the human personality." (8) In the terms of political philosophy, the society of Adam the first embodies what Rav Soloveitchik refers to as "the whole theory of the social contract": "Helpless individuals, cognizant of the difficulties they encounter when they act separately, congregate, make arrangements, enter into treaties of mutual assistance, sign contracts, form partnerships etc." (LM 29).

According to Rav Soloveitchik's analysis, Adam the first's human relationships, his very relationship to himself, are shaped through his instrumental and pragmatic drive, which seeks dignity, majesty, achievement: "His motto is success" (LM 18). Society is itself an instrumental organization to ensure survival (LM 28), accomplish economic purposes, advance personal status, extend human mastery over nature. As in the social contract, Adam the first, rooted in self-interest, enters society for his own protection and extension. His drive for performance and production can only take form and prosper in a social setting: "man alone cannot succeed, a successful life is possible only within a communal framework" (LM 32). His very selfhood is invested and expressed through a "public image" which constitutes his dignity and measures his worth (LM 27). What he seeks and values is Kavod, honor, a social value that defines the self through how it appears in society. This is the sense of the first Genesis account, where "Adam the first was not created alone" (LM 26). This Adam's very selfhood is shaped through instrumental social relations, affording both the necessary means for accomplishing his functional purposes and the essential stage without which his accomplishments would go unnoticed.

The result is society as a "community of interests, forged by the indomitable desire for success and triumph" (LM 43); a "modern society which is technically minded, self-centered and self-loving" (LM 6); in which the self is a self of "accomplishments" (LM 66). Even religious community can be instrumental, where its "prime purpose is the successful furtherance of the interests, not the deepening and enhancing of the commitments" of its members (LM 93). (9) This instrumental, social constitution has, however, the paradoxical result of a deep sense of isolation and alienation. Community for Adam the first remains only a "social surface-relation which never exceeds the bounds of the utilitarian," and where "we may find collegiality, neighborliness, civility and courtesy--but not friendship" (LM 69, a term with long philosophical history, reaching back to classical Greece). Adam the first is thus "estranged from himself" (LM 4) "not at home in any community" (LM 87). He is "spiritually uprooted, emotionally disillusioned" (LM 103). His isolation registers trauma and disturbance within his instrumental identity and world--and indeed, his word as well. His very language and modes of communication are shaped and penetrated by his instrumental relation to himself and to others: "Communication lines are open between two surface personalities engaged in work, dedicated to success, and speaking in cliches and sterotypes" (LM 33).

There is, however, a second type of Adam, as disclosed in the second creation story. Like Adam the first, Adam the second is represented in largely religious/existential terms. He opposes instrumental man: as an interruption, a break, almost a negativity. Adam the second's questions are not utilitarian but metaphysical, teleological, axiological (LM 21). He asks of things not how they work and can be controlled but why they are, what their purpose is. And the answers he receives affirm not power and certainty but mystery and discontinuity, not the fullness of assertive selfhood but the awe of incompletion. His is a world of yearning for God "who trails me steadily, uninvited and unwanted, like an everlasting shadow and vanishes into the recesses of transcendence" (LM 22). His is a sense of mysterious presence and absence, of a divine revealed everywhere yet concealed and beyond. Adam the second is thus portrayed in terms of interiority, lonely through an "existential in-depth experience" (LM 31), in what is repeatedly called his "in-depth personality."

Yet, as with Adam the first, Adam the second projects not only a particular mode of individuality but also a particular kind of community and communication, that "between two souls bound together in an indissoluble relation, each one speaking in unique logoi" (LM 33). Radical loneliness takes its place within, and indeed constitutes, particular modes of social relationship. Like (but inversely to) Adam the first, Adam the second represents a paradoxical conjunction of the solitary and the communal, a "dual role as a lonely individual and as one committed to a peculiar idea of community" (LM 34). How this other community takes shape can be traced through the Adams's distinctive relationships with their respective Eves. Adam the first dwells in a community made in his own image: utilitarian, productive, instrumental, functional. "The natural community fashioned by Adam the first is a work community, committed to the successful production, distribution, and consumption of goods, material as well as cultural" (LM 32). And this too structures his relationship to Eve, who emerges as "a functional partner to whom it would be assigned to collaborate with and assist Adam the first in his undertakings, schemes, and projects ... dedicated to success" (LM 32-33).

One of the very original features of The Lonely Man of Faith is that, even though the first Genesis account gives Adam and Eve parity in creation, Rav Soloveitchik sees this as a ground for Adam's taking instrumental priority over Eve (and everyone else). His approach to her is "purely utilitarian and intrinsically egotistical" (LM 39). It is, instead, Adam the second's prior creation that becomes the ground for a "a new kind of companionship" with Eve. This companionship is, in the essay, described in religious terms as covenantal and redemptive. Yet, again, it has social, political, and ethical extensions. Rav Soloveitchik describes the constitutive relationship between Adam and Eve the second this way:
 Adam the second is still lonely. He separated himself from his
 environment which became the object of his intellectual gaze.
 "And the man gave names to all the beasts and to the fowl of the
 heaven and to every animal of the field." He is a citizen of a
 new world, the world of man, and he has no companion with whom
 to communicate and therefore he is existentially insecure ....
 This new companionship is not attained through conquest, but
 through surrender and retreat. "And the eternal God caused an
 overpowering sleep to fall upon the man." Adam was overpowered
 and defeated--and in defeat he found his companion. (LM 39)

Adam the first, in his selfhood and in his communal life, is a model of assertion, expansion, and domination. Adam the second, in contrast, emerges in his selfhood not through self-expansion, but through a sense of incompletion and retraction. His is a self constructed through its own retreat, what Rav Soleveitchik describes as sacrifice. "Adam the first was not called to sacrifice in order that his female companion come into being, while it was indispensable for Adam the second to give away part of himself in order to find a companion." (LM 39) Here we are at the heart of Rav Soloveitchik's covenant theology, a theology of limitation. For it is only the self-limitation of each that allows for covenant rather than for domination, with the divine covenant between God and Abraham the ultimate model. "The covenantal faith community" as against "the natural work community" is grounded in "redemptive sacrificial gestures" of retractive selfhood (LM 39-40).

Selfhood, Community, Feminism

It is these notions of selfhood and of community that bring Rav Soloveitchik's work into suggestive proximity with feminist ethical and political theory. Rav Soloveitchik's essay may be said to accord with communitarian discussion, where liberal society is criticized as the triumph of instrumental self-interest over civic commitments and devotion to the common good. (10) But this communitarian critique itself parallels and intersects with explicitly feminist writings. At issue are not arguments concerning women's nature(s) and men's nature(s), as these can be claimed to differ in some essential way or each to entail certain essential features. It is of first importance that Rav Soloveitchik, in his essay, does not make these sorts of gender distinctions. His typology is generic but not gendered. The types of Adam instead entail and correlate with types of Eve, "as unique and singular as he" (LM 39). Eve in fact emerges in the essay in two guises. In one sense, she is represented as a human, Adamic type, while in another, she appears as counterpart to Adam, with Adam's stance toward her archetypal and constitutive of human relationships in general. Thus, Eve the first no less than Adam the first is caught in instrumental relationships, while Eve the second no less than Adam the second represents a "change from a technical utilitarian relationship to a covenantal existential one" (LM 53). Outside of such covenental community, Eve with Adam both remain caught in that gap "separating two individuals ... unknown to and distant from each other" (LM 68).

Such interiority has rarely been ascribed or even permitted to women in the historical discourses of philosophy and religion. It is confirmed in Rav Soloveitchik's essay "Confrontation." This essay shares much common ground with The Lonely Man of Faith and like it revolves around interpretation of the Genesis creation story, although not as a typology between the first and second creations but rather as a typology within the second story only. Rav Soloveitchik writes there of Adam and Eve as "two equal subjects, both lonely in their otherness and uniqueness," granting to each existential depth and individuality, both opposed and rejected by an objective order, both craving for companionship. This confrontation is "reciprocal, not unilateral" (C 63). As in The Lonely Man of Faith, he distinguishes in "Confrontation" between a "subject-object relationship seeking to dominate and subordinate" as against one of "communication and communing," and indeed characterizes the first as a betrayal of the connection and parity between man and woman:
 Adam of today wants to appear as master-hero and to subject Eve
 to his rule and dominion, be it ideological, religious, economic,
 or political. As a matter of fact, the divine curse addressed to
 Eve after she sinned, "and he shall rule over thee," has found
 its fulfillment in our moder society. The warm personal
 relationship between two individuals has bee supplante by a
 formal subject-object relationship which manifests itself in a
 quest for power and supremacy. (11)

Before the Fall, Eve did not live under Adam's subjection. (12) It was the curse of punishment that placed Eve under Adam's "rule," creating relationship as "quest for power and supremacy." This is the image of man and woman in instrumental "modern society," and which Rav Soloveitchik sees not only as economic and political, but also as ideological and religious.

What is offered is not a given nature for each gender, but a typology of how the human can be situated in the world. As in most feminist analysis, gender is treated as an historical and social category for types of relationships and commitments rather than as an essentialist category. Such relationships may have been and may be historically, sociologically, and psychologically associated with women and men. But in the feminist criticism at issue what is central are moral, social, and political configurations. And these interestingly compare with certain features of Rav Soloveitchik's Adams and Eves. The danger here is to fall into gender-types which Rav Soloveitchik himself resists.

Yet it is hard not to discern a certain feminization in Adam the second: not essentially nor intrinsically, but descriptively, in granting him attributes which have traditionally been associated with the feminine. Adam the second is not a second sex, but an Other Adam: an Adam into whom otherness penetrates as a break within instrumental selfhood, and where otherness serves as ground for non-instrumental relationship. Gender is indeed not the issue, but rather, those existential and ethical constitutions and commitments which certain kinds of feminism have made their particular investigation, as have some discussions in philosophy and political theory. What makes an investigation specifically feminist is the insistence that men and women equally be treated as moral subjects, along with the historical recognition that women have, in most societies, been the ones "to give away part of [her]self in order to find a companion." It is women who have historically undertaken self-limitation as making-room for others, through a long sociology of nurturing, care, and indeed sacrifice, and without which human families, cultures, and societies could not be preserved, sustained, created, and promulgated. One is tempted in this sense to say that Rav Soloveitchik's lonely man of faith is in many ways a woman.

Indeed, in lectures by Rav Soloveitchik collected as Family Redeemed, he comes close to making this claim himself.
 The Bible sees the uniqueness of man expressed in passional
 experiences in his ability to withdraw from positions conquered,
 in his readiness to sacrifice and to make the movement of recoil,
 in his giving himself to others, in his craving, as a lonely
 being, for communion with God; therefore, there is hardly any
 cogent reason to place the worth of man above that of the female.
 On the contrary, sacrificial, passional action is more
 characteristic of the woman than of the man. (13)

Family Redeemed is explicitly addressed to questions of gender in ways that The Lonely Man of Faith is not. In it, there is far more tendency to apportion certain qualities as masculine or feminine--although Rav Soloveitchik still warns that he is speaking of 'types' and not concrete individuals: "The real father may have certain characteristics which belong to the mother-type, and the mother may act like a father" (FR 161). (14) And throughout Family Redeemed he insists on the axiological equality of man and woman (FR 72), on both as "endowed with equal dignity and worth," where the woman is "not the shadow of the man but an independent persona" (FR 22). The "assumption of covenantal obligations" is taken by both and is "based upon the principle of equality" (FR 42). Further, as in The Lonely Man of Faith, Family Redeemed reads the figures of Adam and Eve in terms of covenantal relationship that extends beyond self and family to ethics, politics, and theology. As in the earlier essay, covenant and indeed ethics itself is grounded not only in approach towards but in retraction from; not only in advance but in limitation. The prohibition in the garden commands "to refrain from advancing and to withdraw" (FR 11). It stands against "reaching out towards the nonself illegitimately, plundering and usurping something which is not his" (FR 13). "The urge for unlimited vastness and boundlessness must be overcome. The law of withdrawal was formulated in the first mitzvah" (FR 13).

It is out of this sense of loneliness, of incompletion, that longing for a "higher order" and the possibility of genuine community is made possible (FR 16). In this, the human is imitating God himself: first in the act of creation. Although Rav Soloveitchik characteristically distances himself from mysticism (FR 38), he draws here on Kabbalistic imagery of the creation as a "sacrificial divine action," a "movement of recoil" into transcendence that allows a world to exist at all "to care, sustain, and love" (FR 39). "God retreated and left a void for the universe to fill" (FR 39). (15) Just so, "two lonely human beings who are driven to creativity by their yearning for giving and bestowing love engage in sacrificial action" (FR 39). Marriage in this sense is "covenantal," a "sacrificial community" (R 49), even while it is also a "pleasure-oriented community" rooted in the life of the world and the body (FR 50, 78). If the demonic is the craving for "power and unlimited opportunities" (FR 103), covenantal redemption emerges through a "self-limitation and self-transformation" (FR 70) such as God Himself ventured in creation, in covenant, and in the whole sense of divine presence in the world--the Shekhinah, which Rav Soloveitchik, in language at once traditional and striking, emphasizes as the divine in its feminine aspect: "revealing Herself through the limited, determined, and restricted" (FR 26), "the Shekhinah Mother" is drawn by love "to Her child," the human world (FR 171, 176).

Covenantal Relationships

Ethical and political elements in Rav Soloveitchik's discourse find strong echo in specific trends in feminism. In ethical terms, there is, for example, Carol Gilligan's ethical psychology of care. Gilligan's exposure of dominant models of development as measuring growth according to a chart of increasing independence, autonomy, and assertion, accords with Rav Soloveitchik's descriptions of Adam the first as modern, instrumental, and alienated man. Her counter-model of developmental progress through deepening senses of responsibility that contract the self to make room for others recalls Rav Soloveitchik's Adam the second. Gilligan's observation that the developmental-moral model that charts and promotes self-defined autonomy has strong association with masculine values, while the senses of responsibility, attachment, and relational definitions (judged as an inferior lack of development according to the normative (male) chart) are often empirically associated with women, remains controversial and raises many perplexing questions regarding gender-typing.

What is relevant here is her sense of a psychological model that reaches beyond selfhood as a self-constituted autonomy, and toward an ethical psychology founded on mutual responsibility conceived as an incursion into instrumental relationship:
 Women not only define themselves in a context of human
 relationship but also judge themselves in terms of their ability
 to care. Women's place in man's life cycle has been that of
 nurturer, caretaker, and helpmate, the weaver of those networks
 of relationships on which she in turn relies. But while women
 have thus taken care of men, men have, in their theories of
 psychological development, as in their economic arrangements,
 tended to assume or devalue that care. When the focus on
 individuation and individual achievement extends into adulthood
 and maturity is equated with personal autonomy, concer with
 relationships appears as a weakness of women rather than as a
 human strength. (16)

Gilligan's writing has been criticized as assuming or reinforcing gender stereotypes which assign to women roles involving sacrifice, modesty, self-restraint and care for others. (17) What Rav Soloveitchik's essay suggests is how these attributes, without gender assignments, represent central moral commitments and are in fact existentially constitutive elements within each human being. It is not only the orientation toward others, but the break and interruption within the self as self-limitation and retraction that grounds ethical selfhood.

Rav Soloveitchik's ethical structures have, in turn, social and political extensions and implications. The social order of Adam (and Eve) the first he describes as a "community of interests, forged by the indomitable desire for success and triumph" (LM 43). Adam (and Eve) the second instead form a "community of commitments born in distress and defeat" (LM 43). This second social order is profoundly theological, not as a separate structure, but founding and penetrating social experience, making it covenantal. Covenantal community requires "three participants: "I, thou and He," where God specifically introduces Adam the second to Eve: "Adam the first met the female all by himself, while Adam the second was introduced to Eve by God, who summoned Adam to join Eve in an existential community molded by sacrificial action and suffering, and who Himself became a partner in this community" (LM 44).

What exactly is the role and necessity of the divine here? "When God joins the community of man [Adam and Eve] the miracle of revelation takes place in two dimensions: in the transcendental--Deus absconditus emerges suddenly as Deus revelatus--and in the human--homo absconditus sheds his mask and turns into homo revelatus" (LM 53). The entry of the divine signals entry into the dialectical selfhood Rav Soloveitchik envisions, of the person at once hidden and revealed, extensive and retractive. The moment of retraction essential to covenantal relationship between man and woman in community is grounded in, and discovered through, the radical experience of divine retraction of infinity into limitation, without which no world would exist.

Rav Soloveitchik's vision thus takes on concrete political construction. On the one hand, covenantal relationship assumes and shapes its participants as free, equal, and reciprocal beings:
 The very validity of the covenant rests upon the
 juridic-Halakhic principle of free negotiation, mutual
 assumption of duties, and full recognition of the equal rights
 of both parties concerned with the covenant. Both parties
 entering a covenantal relationship possess inalienable rights
 which may only be surrendered by mutual consent. The
 paradoxical experience of freedom, reciprocity, and "equality"
 in one's personal confrontation with God is basic for the
 understanding of the covenantal faith community. (LM 44)

As he pursues in Family Redeemed, covenantal commitment is "entered into voluntarily by two parties who act in freedom and by choice" (FR 42), requiring a "reciprocal act by both parties binding themselves under an agreement" (FR 43). On the other hand, the entry into covenant forges an "existential mutual relationship" (FR 43) beyond mere interest, one which ultimately not only penetrates each individual but founds common life as well. Even prayer emerges as communal, and not only as private meditation between self and God: "the inclusion of others is indispensable" (LM 59). Prophecy, similarly, is not foremostly a private, ecstatic experience but takes shape as an "ethico-moral message to be handed down to and realized by the members of the covenantal community which is mainly a community in action" (LM 62). Nor is it "acted out by a limited number of privileged individuals to the exclusion of the rest of the people" (LM 64). Here as elsewhere Rav Soloveitchik distances himself from classic mysticism's emphasis on inward "intuition, illumination, or union" (LM 61). (18) Instead he conceives the covenantal community as a "democratization of the God-man confrontation," one that is "made possible by the centrality of the normative element in prophecy" (LM 64).

This political-social model is, again, dialectical, between revelation and withdrawal, assertion and contraction. As God "abandons his transcendental numinous solitude, He wills man to do likewise and step out of his isolation and aloneness." And this transforms man from "the fenced-in egocentric and ego-oriented Adam" (LM 60) into Adam the second, who joins with Eve "to reveal themselves to each other in sympathy and love on the one hand and in common action on the other" (LM 68). As against the "majestic community" in which social relations never exceed "surface personalities" and "the bounds of the utilitarian" (LM 69), the covenantal community makes possible "in depth-relation between two individuals" in a community of "friendship" (LM 69)--not only between men and women but, crucially for Rav Soloveitchik, across generations (LM 72).

The inner structure of the self that Rav Soloveitchik projects shares many features with feminist constructions of selfhood such as Carol Gilligan's. Similarly, the structure of community he suggests accords in significant ways with certain feminist political theories. Rav Soloveitchik's critique of Adam the first's as a "credo of a utilitarian society," and his counter-model of Adam the second as opposing against this credo a message "of giving instead of conquering, of retreating instead of advancing" (LM 102) recalls, for example, a nineteenth-century community-oriented feminism, critical of the then-intensifying American commercial culture and instrumental individualism, in the name of community service and moral devotion. In the nineteenth century, such figures as Charlotte Gilman and Jane Addams come to mind. More recently, a communitarian feminism has been urged by, for example, Jean Bethke Elshtain and Seyla Benhabib. Elshtain critiques instrumental, atomistic, individualist culture as one that "reduces human motivation to a utilitarian calculus of self-interest"; (19) "where the individuals are "free" only insofar as each is the sole "proprietor" of self, [and] the only acceptable human relations are those calculated to yield maximum utility." Against it she poses a sense of community in which "the "I" of the self was ... located within a dense web of human ties," and which recognizes that commitment to others constitutes the "social foundations upon which individuals are nourished in the first place." (20) While acknowledging the importance of "individual rights," she yet wishes to make them a "central feature of a capacious vision of our responsibilities and obligations as parents, neighbors, workers, and citizens." (21) Seyla Benhabib's notion of the "situated" or "embedded" self critiques notions of a self-enclosed selfhood, insisting instead on a "relational-interactive theory of identity" which approaches the other through "the norms of friendship, love and care," confirming the concrete "individuality" of the other. "The moral categories that accompany such interactions are those of responsibility, bonding and sharing. The corresponding moral feelings are those of love, care and sympathy and solidarity." (22)

A good many of the attacks on "feminism" from within the Halakhic community, including some made in Rav Soloveitchik's name, associate "feminism" with the ethos of self-fulfillment and self-aggrandizement that the Rav outlines as Adam the first. (23) Feminism is then seen as a threat to Jewish community, as a call to abandon service to family in the pursuit of self-interest. Yet the sort of argument offered against feminism by, for example, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in "The Jewish Woman" runs counter to Rav Soloveitchik's typology of Adam. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch would split apart the Soloveitchean dialectic of personhood into male and female. In his own interpretation of the Genesis story, Rabbi Hirsch writes: "The man chooses a calling, creates a position for himself, the woman ... remains the nurse of all that is purely human in man." In this division, Rabbi Hirsch would ascribe to the woman the saving role. But in this, Rabbi Hirsch's Eve uncannily recalls Soloveitchik's Adam the second:
 There is a danger that he may completely lose himself in this
 struggle, that in striving to acquire the means he will lose
 sight of his real vocation and completely forget the great goal
 and his own task as a man, nay, that he will sacrifice and
 subordinate to these efforts what is genuinely human in
 himself. ... It is then woman who leads him back to what is
 truly human in him. The riddle of history is solved with the
 domination of woman, with the restriction of the man to the
 sphere of the genuinely human which has been placed under the
 care of the woman. (24)

But Rav Soloveitchik in The Lonely Man of Faith insists that these roles represent human, and not gender types. And his point is the need to integrate both into each unique and whole person. Rav Soloveitchik is scrupulous to insist that Adam the first is not rebellious against divine intention. Both Adam the first and Adam the second act "in accordance with God's scheme of creation," both represent "two kinds of creative and spontaneous activity, both willed and sanctioned by God" (LM 80). Man is called on "to retreat from hard won positions of vantage and power" but also "to advance from the covenantal center ... and recapture the positions he gave up" (LM 81). Indeed, the two modes in their dialectic take place not between "two different people locked in an external confrontation" but rather within each person, who is general and not gendered: "one person who is involved in self-confrontation ... the creative, majestic Adam the first and the submissive, humble Adam the second" (LM 85)

Both are legitmate aspects of the one, non-gendered human personality. And yet Rav Soloveitchik feels the need to defend Adam the second against the hegemony and almost utter triumph of Adam the first in modern man. Our century "has witnessed the greatest triumphs of majestic man in his drive for conquest," where man's will is to "dominate himself" without dialectic, and hence to absorb all other aspects of the human into his drive to dominate the world (LM 102-3). This is the Adam who cannot tolerate the interruption, break, and limitation which Adam the second represents. Its result is Majestic Adam who
 has developed a demonic quality: laying claim to unlimited
 power--alas, to infinity itself. His pride is almost boundless,
 his imagination arrogant, and he aspires to complete and absolute
 control over everything. ... He is intoxicated with his own
 adventures and victories and is bidding for unrestricted dominion.
 (LM 102)

Against the impulse to unlimited domination, Rav Soloveitchik speaks of the need to "accept the dialectical burden of humanity" (LM 103), one which encompasses--even if in oscillation rather than integration--the two Adams--and Eves--of the creation:
 God summoned Adam the first to advance steadily, Adam the second
 to retreat. Adam the first He told to exercise mastery and to
 "fill the earth and subdue it, "Adam the second, to serve ... "to
 cultivate it and to keep it." (LM 36)

It must be emphasized that Rav Soloveitchik does not here call on men to master and women to serve. Adam as general type is called to both stances. It is a dialectic to which Rav Soloveitchik summons both women and men, in a complex selfhood founding a community beyond dominating and exploitative utility, in its destructive potential. This model of the self and of society as dialectical tension, "torn asunder by the heightened contrast between self-appreciation and abnegation" (2) opens an avenue between feminist and Jewish discourses, pointing both in redemptive directions.


(1.) This is stated at the opening of the 1992 reprint (New York: Doubleday) of The Lonely Man of Faith, which first appeared in Tradition (Summer 1965). Hereafter cited as LM followed by page number.

(2.) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Woman's Bible (Boston: Northeaster University Press, 1993).

(3.) See R. Howard Bloch, "Medieval Misogyny," for a history of misogyny as rooted in biblical interpretation of Genesis. Representations 20 (Fall 1987): 1-24, pp. 9-11. Saint Paul powerfully represents this tradition: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve" (I Tim. 2: 11-14).

(4.) Ilana Pardes, Countertraditions in the Bible (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992) reviews and skillfully analyzes a variety of feminist readings of the creation.

(5.) Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), pp. 94-105.

(6.) Mieke Bal develops the reading of mutual constitution, Lethal Love (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987) p. 119.

(7.) The Women's Bible Commentary, edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (Westminster: John Knox Press, 1992), "Genesis" Susan Niditch, pp. 12-14.

(8.) This defense and commitment to the value of the individual is something the Rav insists upon, very fully and explicitly in, for example, "As a Bridegroom with His Bride," where he grounds the radical worth of the individual in the sacred and metaphysical dimension: "Democracy and human rights are rooted in the premise of the uniqueness of individual man. Only an identity derived from be-tzelem demut tavnito can entrust such dignity to man." Abraham Besdin, Man of Faith in the Modern World (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1989), p. 61.

(9.) As Rav Soloveitchik sardonically remarks, "The history of organized religion is replete with instances of desecration of the covenant" (LM 40).

(10.) Michael Sandel, Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1996).

(11.) Rav Soloveitchik, "Confrontation," Tradition (1964): 55-80, pp. 63, 65. Tamar Elor discusses the typology of "Confrontation" in anthropoligical terms in "The Creation Story of Woman as an Introduction to Anthropology" (Sipor Breat HaIsha KiMavoh LeAntropologia), in Women Reading Genesis: Korot MiBereshit, edited by Ruth Ravitzky (Israel: Sifrei Chamad, 1999), pp. 55-69, pp. 76-79.

(12.) Cf. Trible and Mieke Bal on Eve before Fall, see notes 5 and 6 above.

(13.) Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Family Redeemed: Essays on Family Relationships, edited by David Shatz and Joel B. Wolowelsky (New York: MeOtzar HoRav, 2000), p. 71. Hereafter cited as FR, followed by page number.

(14.) In a fascinating discussion I cannot pursue here, Rav Soloveitchik, while granting rather traditional qualities as male and female, warns that Adam's tendency to sin is in his "desire for power," whereas Eve, far from being "power-hungry," instead errs in too much "bondage," in her tendency to "forfeit her freedom in order to experience motherhood and restricts herself for the sake of finding happiness" (FR 24-25).

(15.) Compare the discussion of tzimzum, or divine contraction in Halakhic Man (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983), p. 49.

(16.) Carol GIlligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 17. Gilligan's thought has been widely discussed and developed: see, for example, Nel Noddings, Caring (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984): Of a (feminized) caring, she writes: "We are in the world of relation, having stepped out of the instrumental world; we have either not yet established goals or we have suspended striving for those already established. We are not attempting to transform the world, but we are allowing ourselves to be transformed," p. 34. See also Carol Gilligan, "Remapping the Moral Domain," in Mapping the Moral Domain, edited by Carol Gilligan, Jamie Victoria Ward, and Jill McLean Taylor, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 3-19.

(17.) See Susan Moller Okin for one such critique of Gilligan's "morality of care," contesting its association with women in some natural or essentialist way, and urging the need for a continued commitment of women to liberal values as the necessary safeguard of their chance for equality and justice. Justice, Gender, and the Family (New York: Basic Books, 1989), p. 15.

(18.) Rav Soloveitchik's stance toward mysticism is of course a complex topic that cannot be pursued here. A tendency to distinguish his own philosophy from classic mysticism similar to that expressed in The Lonely Man of Faith is evident, however, in for example Halakhic Mind where he warns against attempts by "phenomenological zealots" to "apprehend the religious experience through a hypersensible act of intuition" in order to "reach into the sphere of super-noesis" (p. 51). The halakhic mind is not directed "on high" but "to the immediate and phenomenal reality in all its variegated manifestation." Halakhic Mind (London: Seth Press, 1986). Such a distinction between Rav Soloveitchik's position and mysticism is emphasized in William Kolbrener, "No Elsewhere: Fish, Soloveitchik, and the Unavoidability of Interpretation," Literature and Theology, 10:2 (June 1996): 171-190. Aviezer Ravitsky, however, suggests some sites of rapprochement between Rav Soloveitchik and mystical tradition in "Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik on Human Knowledge," Modern Judaism 6:2 (May 1986): 157-188, p. 164.

(19.) Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Feminist Discourse and Its Discontents: Language, Power, and Meaning," in Feminist Theory: A Critique of Ideology, edited by Nannerl O. Keohane, Michelle Z. Rosaldo, and Barbara C. Gelpi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 127-145, p. 131.

(20.) Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Feminism, Family, and Community," Dissent29 (Fall 1982): 442-449, pp. 445-6.

(21.) Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Individual Rights and Social Obligation," Common Knowledge 7.3 (Winter 1998): 118-128, p. 119. Other discussions that point in this direction include Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989).

(22.) Seyla Benhabib, "The Generalized and the Concrete Other," in Feminism as Critique, edited by Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell (Oxford: Polity Press, 1987), pp. 77-95, pp. 194, 87. Cf. Seyla Benhabib, Situating the Self (New York: Routledge, 1992).

(23.) For an extremely thoughtful and comprehensive overview of discussion concerning feminist Judaism and Rav Solovetick's teachings see: Aryeh A. Fimer and Dov I. Frimer, "Women's Prayer Services--Theory and Practice," Tradition, Vol. 32, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 5-118.

(24.) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, "The Jewish Woman," Judaism Eternal, translated by Dr. I Grunfeld (London: Soncino Press, 1956), Vol. 2, pp. 49-96, p. 51-2.

SHIRA WOLOSKY is a Professor of English and American Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has published books and essays on poetry and poetics, religion and literature, and literary theory. Her cururent work is on modern Jewish thought and contemporary theory.
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Author:Wolosky, Shira
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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