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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brilliance of R' Soloveitchik
This work, translated from the Hebrew, "Ish Ha-Halakha" is a masterpiece. It draws from many different wellsprings of knowledge, including everything from the Torah and scriptures to the Talmud. It is presented beautifully; each word is specifically and carefully chosen. For some, this book may be difficult to read, as the prose waxes philisophical and very descriptive,...
Published on May 17, 2005 by Crystal Edwardson

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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Humble Critique
It is with great humility and a fair amount of reluctance that I write a critique of Rav Soloveitchik's classic "Halachik Man", as I can never profess to possess the kind of mind that he had and I have utmost respect for the accomplishments of the Rav. In fact, having heard so much about the Rav's genius, I was initially very excited and eager to hear words of brilliance...
Published on May 28, 2012 by Coach K


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brilliance of R' Soloveitchik, May 17, 2005
This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
This work, translated from the Hebrew, "Ish Ha-Halakha" is a masterpiece. It draws from many different wellsprings of knowledge, including everything from the Torah and scriptures to the Talmud. It is presented beautifully; each word is specifically and carefully chosen. For some, this book may be difficult to read, as the prose waxes philisophical and very descriptive, and oftentimes one needs to make connections within one's own mind.

The basic premise of this work, in its simplest form, is to discover and delineate the differences between "homo religiousus" and the "Halakhic man." Whereas homo religiousus, for instance, may be thrown about the tempestuous waves of emotion and transcendental religiousity, Halakhic man is one who discovers the meaning of religion through the laws, the balances, the critiques. Halakhic man seems more analytical, whereas homo religiosus is expressive and emotional. While both serve God, and serve Him properly, they serve Him in different ways. Halakhic man desires to bring God down to this world, the world considered, "Olam Hazeh," whereas homo religiousus desires to transcend the world, so that he may reach up to God in, "Olam Haba" or beyond, the next world.

However, this work also includes specific examples of man's guidelines/purpose/understanding. One of the most fascinating ideas is that of man as a Creator, also echoed, in some ways, in books like The Fountainhead. Even as God is the Creator, we humans emulate Him, and therefore, we, too, are creators. This is a very uplifting view of life and Judaism, for if one makes mistakes, we may self-create. Teshuva, repentance, is regarded as the idea of self-creation.

All in all, R' Soloveitchik expresses himself in ways that cling to the mind and make us thirst for more. This is a fascinating world. If you wish to enter, there is perhaps no better place to begin.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The central statement of a giant of Jewish thought, November 11, 2004
This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
This is from the book- jacket."A profound excursion into religious psychology and phenomenology; a pioneering attempt at a philosophy of Halkhah ; a stringent critique of mysticism and romantic religion-allheld together by the force of the author's highly personal vision. Exuding intellectual sophistication and touching upon issues fundamental to religious life, Rabbi Soloveitchik's exploration, in sum, seeks to explain the inner world of the Talmudist-or as he is referred to typologically,halakhic man in terms drawn from Western culture"

This is as I understand it Rabbi Soloveitchik's defense of the ideal Jew, the Jewish way of life, the kind of Jewish life his family and he himself stood for for generations. I myself reading the work found it quite difficult to understand and its philosophical complexity often beyond me.

But it is the central statement of one of the greatest of all modern Jewish thinkers. And I believe all those interested in the deepest Jewish thought should know this work.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An awesome work., March 20, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
This book is one of the most ambitious works of Jewish theology written in the past few hundred years. It is in many ways a rewrite of "Nefesh HaChayim" which has never been translated into English. The Halakhic Man is a complete coherent vision of Judaism and the world.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a warning, April 15, 2001
This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
This book (basically a comparison of mainstream Talmudic scholarship and mysticism, and an endorsement of the former) struck me as the kind of book I might get more out of in a few years, when I know a lot more and have read a lot more -- and maybe when I am a grownup I will reread it. But it is not a book for people just beginning to learn about Judaism (unless they happen to have a Ph.D in philosophy). The allusions (to other thinkers), the concepts, and even the vocabulary were often over my head and are probably over the head of most people who do not have an enormous background in philosophical matters. I learned something from it, but not as much as a more learned person would.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Less Complex Discussion of a More Complex Topic....., May 3, 2008
By 
Lyone Fein "dr lyone" (Columbus, OH United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
As other reviewers have stated, this is not a simple text. Nonetheless, for anyone who cares about understanding Judaism, it is an essential text--and I mean that in all of its implications. This book is especially a must-read for those who consider themselves serious-minded about being Jewish, and yet have decided (without really understanding a thing about the subject) that it is advisable to advocate a Judaism devoid of Halakhic thought and practice--devoid of the hundreds of rituals and obligatory prayers that the Torah asks us to perform on a daily basis. I am speaking of Rabbis, teachers, heads of congregations, etc.

In this book Soloveitchik painstakingly draws out three crucial distinctions in his effort to communicate the fundamental ingredient of that unique spirituality that is Judaism: 1. the distinction between Christian religiosity ("homo religiosis") and Jewish religiosity; 2. the distinction between between the Jewish ecstatic movements of 17th-19th centuries and Jewish religiosity; and 3. the distinction between an over-rationalized, de-spiritualized gutted Judaism ("cognitive man") and Jewish religiosity. (This latter, in particular, has been the perennial accusation flung at the Jews and their Rabbis from the Church for millenia.)

In making these distinctions clear, what "the Rov" weaves for his reader is a picture of the ideal Jew--a person in whom the cognitive parts are fully operative at all times, a person who thinks and considers continuously the riddles that the Torah has constructed by establishing its complex web of personal and communal commandments, yet whose cognition leads to a surrender and wonderment and awe. Far from the rote performance of myriad minutia of senseless rituals, the halakha Soloveitchik shares with us is what amounts to a meditative discipline, intentionally constructed by the Divine mind in order to accomplish several critical aspects of the creation.

On the one hand, entering the web of halakha enables the individual person to establish a deeper connection to the Divine, a connection that that person can experience palpably everytime s/he performs halakha in a halakhic manner. Secondly, every time an individual says a Blessing over food, over an activity, or performs any other halakhic ritual that involves part of the material universe, that person is helping to elevate that aspect of the material creation, to infuse it with Divine intentionality--thus helping to complete the creation. Thirdly, an individual who submits to the Law and performs halakha fulfills the covenant that was established between God and the Jews at Sinai--and this has numerous cosmic implications, for the Jews and for the world as a whole.

Many of these themes are covertly referenced by Soloveitchik.....and even for the aspects of the text that are more overt, I recommend reading this book with a friend or in a study group, and I recommend reading it slowly. There is no McWisdom here. Only the real kind.

I think this book should definitely be a part of every synagogue library, Introduction to Judaism college course, and part of the seminary education of every Rabbinical student in every branch of Judaism in North America.
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5.0 out of 5 stars “When his soul yearns for G-d, he immerses himself in reality." (p.45), April 6, 2014
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This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
The name Halakha is derived from the Hebrew word halakh (הָלַךְ), which means, “to go.” Ultimately, it functions as a guide to every aspect of the life of a Jew based on religious laws that have been derived from the Torah. These laws, known as mitzvah (מִצְוָה), were given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai as commandments directly from G-d. These laws, and their modern additions, define what living means for a Jew. Therefor, every mitzvah is a demonstration of the Halakhic man’s commitment as a Jew and his relationship with G-d, which leads to the best possible version of life as Jew, or beyond that, a human being.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly outstanding!, November 14, 2006
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This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
Get ready to be challenged to a strata of thinking rarely encountered. Rabbi Soloveitchik inspired me to live a better life, as well as to quit smoking. However, unless you are extremely well versed in metaphysics as well as wordly and religous philosophy get out your dictionary and keep it close by, you will need it. The frustration of having to look up and determine "what he means by that choice of word" is worth every effort.

It is difficult for me to express how deeply moved at times I was while finding myself lost in his thoughts. The man was a master among us. The book takes a determined effort to read and even though it is rather short by most standards, 137 pages, I found it to be very concise and effective, like a flash of lightening! I believe that this is the type of book that one would profoundly benefit from reading a second time since it is so grand in scope and substance.

It is no wonder to me that this man was so highly regarded by his peers and students. Rarely does a person have the opportunity to encounter such a brilliant mind. The book is a treasure house of uplifting intellectual concepts on how we can better serve God's purpose and actualize ourselves in this world, right here and now.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blaze of Light, June 30, 2009
By 
James D. Long (Springdale, AR, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
It may be a tough go at first but if the reader works his way through the elegant and highly intelligent prose of HALAKHIC MAN, the book ultimately yields a starkly simple but profound truth--that the Torah was brought down from heaven and given to the Jewish People here on earth, so that this nation of priests can reshape the physical realm into something holy. That is the awesome task of Halakhic Man. In the words of this sage we can see, with breathtaking clarity, that the 613 mitzvoth or commandments are not collection of dusty, restrictive rituals. On the contrary, those holy precepts embody a timeless and priceless formula that changes lives and reshapes worlds.

The brilliance of Rav Soloveitchik should speak to the heart and mind of any reader who genuinely wants to comprehend the central tenets of Torah. Highly recommended.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Humble Critique, May 28, 2012
This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
It is with great humility and a fair amount of reluctance that I write a critique of Rav Soloveitchik's classic "Halachik Man", as I can never profess to possess the kind of mind that he had and I have utmost respect for the accomplishments of the Rav. In fact, having heard so much about the Rav's genius, I was initially very excited and eager to hear words of brilliance from one of the paragons of modern orthodoxy. Unfortunately, the book did not resonate with me and I humbly share my thoughts on its shortcomings.

Other reviewers have written of the theme of Rav Soloveitchik's work and how he distinguishes between homo-religiousus and cognitive man. In brief, he spares no criticism in his analysis of the mystic, who yearns for spiritual transcendence, seeking to move past a banal Earthly existence for the heavenly realms. Far better, he argues, is Halachik man, who brings heaven to Earth via the code of law given to Moses at Sinai. Halacha thus becomes the lens through which Halachik man sees all, applying his intellect to understand it in as complete a fashion as possible.

The Rav's philosophy might have much merit were it not to lie with premises that are dubious at best. It seemed downright strange to apply so much rigor and analysis to system of law whose study makes for the ideal Jew, yet not use that same intellect to question the very premise that this law is indeed divine. I can understand this coming from Maimonedes, for example, who possessed a great mind, but during whose time Bible criticism had not yet come to bear. But in a post-Spinoza, post-Wellhausen era, I earnestly wondered where such faith can come from for such a great philosopher. (Perhaps readers of this review can offer some insight.)

Thus, it seems to me that the mystic has the upper hand. For the mystic, it is the heart, not the head, that guides his or her spiritual path. Halacha is a means to an ends, that ends being the shedding of one's ego and the merging of one's soul with the creator. One can get past the mystic believing that the Koran, or the New Testament, or Old Testament is divine, because it is not a path of intellect that guides them, it is the path of love and devotion, and that devotion needs a means of manifestation.
(Note: there is an intellectual type of mystic as well - the "jnani" to use a Sanskrit term - but monotheistic religions are typically less attractive to such a mystic, as their god is a more panentheistic one)

After reading "Halachik Man", I remained confounded as to how a person whose path to God lay so clearly with the mind, would find Halacha a satisfying means, comparing it no less, as he does, to the a priori world view of a mathematician or physicist (which, I think, even the Rav would have to admit, is a far more universally accepted truth than that of halacha). It seems, to me anyway, that applying such analytical rigor within the system, without questioning the very foundation, is intellectually dishonest.

So I submit to readers, perhaps those who learned from him, did the Rav ever grapple with matters of faith? How did he resolve them? What led him to conclude as he did, that Moses received the law from God at Sinai?
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soloveitchik's words are a must-read!, October 12, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Halakhic Man (Paperback)
Soloveitchik was a modern master of religious thought, not just to the traditional and the Orthodox, but to all Jews. His words, insightful and inspiring, should be read by all.
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Halakhic Man
Halakhic Man by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Paperback - December 1, 1984)
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