Read this document on Scribd: Joseph B Soloveitchik - Surrendering to the Almighty (and reaction)What is the proper way in which to approach our texts? How does one serve God, and how does one find Him? Most of those within the Modern Orthodox world would approve of any method being utilized, any method which would seem to bring us closer to God, whether it be historical analysis, psychological readings or any sort of outside tool which will aid us in our understanding of Tanakh and the Torah. Yet it is not necessarily so simple. Our assumption is that those in the Haredi world who do not make use of the most innovative and creative outside tools are doing so out of either ignorance or a stubborn decision to cling to old, outdated and otherwise outmoded methods. Why do they not apply theory to the Torah, read it as literature and extract everything useful from it via that method? Why not read the Torah through using the methods which have become prevalent in our society- why refrain? It can only be out of a stubborn persistence to cling to what they know, to what is unthreatening and otherwise established, a refusal to see anything in a different way. They are afraid; they are foolish; they are blinkered, and this is the reason they do not make use of other methodologies and introduce them as ways in which to study the texts.
And yet this is not so. And what is more surprising, this is not so, not only in the opinion of the Rabbis who openly affiliate themselves with the sector of our society that we might call Haredi, but in the opinion of our very own "father of Modern Orthodoxy," Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Yes, Rabbi Soloveitchik writes in no uncertain terms, in extremely harsh terms, even, of the divide between what is true and what is false, what comes from within and what comes from without. What you see above is an article published in Light Magazine in Kislev 5736-1976 entitled "Surrendering to the Almighty" that includes his consolidated and concentrated remarks on the topic, but I am going to quote from a text which claims to be a transcript of his exact speech:
- What does kabalas ol malchus shamayim require of the lomeid hatorah,person who studies Torah? First, we must pursue the truth, nothing else but the truth; however, the truth in talmud torah can only be achieved through singular halachic Torah thinking, and Torah understanding. The truth is attained from within, in accord with the methodology given to Moses and passed on from generation to generation. The truth can be discovered only by joining the ranks of the chachmei hamesorah . Itis ridiculous to say "I have discovered something of which the Rashba didn't know, the Ktzos didn't know, the Vilna Gaon had no knowledge, Ihave discovered an approach to the interpretation of Torah which iscompletely new." One must join the ranks of the chachmei hamesorah --chazal, rishonim, gedolei achronim -- and must not try to rationalize from without the chukei hatorah  and must not judge the chukei mishpatim in terms of the secular system of things. Such an attempt, be it historicism, be it psychologism, be it utilitarianism, undermines the very foundations of torah umesorah, and it leads eventually to the most tragic consequences of assimilationism and nihilism, no matter how good the original intentions.
"The truth is attained from within, in accord to the methodology given to Moses and passed from generation to generation."
How does one learn Torah? One learns Torah from those who have been taught Torah, in a chain that began with Moses and has been tempered by tradition, in the way that Torah was always taught, and not through the use of secular methods applied to the text. As the Rav states later on in his speech:
- Kabalas ol malchus shamayim -- which is an identical act withtalmud torah -- requires of us to revere and to love and to admire thewords of the chachmei hamesorah, be they tannaim, be they amoraim, be theyrishonim. This is our prime duty. They are the final authorities, and an irresponsible statement about chazal borders on, I don't like to use theword but according to Maimonides, the heretic.
- Why did he add v'hamach'chish magideha --whoever denies the authority of the scholars, the chachmei hamesorah? Apparently the Rambam says that under the category of kofrim batorah are classified not only those who deny for instance that nisuch hamayim or avodas beis hamikdash  is required, or those who deny the torah she b'al peh -- there is no doubt about it in those cases. Butmoreover, even those who admit the truthfulness of the torah she b'al pehbut who are critical of chachmei chazal as personalities, who find fault with chachmei chazal, fault in their character, their behavior, or their conduct, who say that chachmei chazal were prejudiced, which actually has no impact upon the halachah; nevertheless, he is to be considered as a kofer.
So now you will question. But why? Why can I not question these men, men who lived in certain societies and who were doubtless influenced by their times? Why cannot I believe that they would have been prejudiced to think of women as chattel due to their time period? Because to do so is to limit these men, to limit them to men like ourselves, to the people that we have become. It is the highest form of apologetics, to claim that others must be like ourselves because those are the sort of people whom we are able to understand. And it is also because we do not realize that these men were more than human; they were vessels for the Torah. What we respect in them is not necessarily the man himself, but what he represents, a vessel for the Torah, the man who transmits tradition. It is what the man exists for that we honor, even more than his own personality.
But why cannot we use our modern methods to understand the Torah? Why the strict statement that Torah is to be learned from within, and not from without? Because Torah is a discipline, taught by the masters, and as any discipline, it must be studied in a certain way. Suppose that a certain indecipherable code were in existence, and there was an alphabet which provided the key to that code. This is the alphabet that one would use to study that code, to study everything written in that code, this and no other! It is not a question of excluding other forms of knowledge, of being willfully ignorant, of desiring to blind oneself and close one's eyes to the ideas of others. It is simply a question of how to learn, the correct way to learn. And there is a correct or an incorrect way. For assume that one day a different man, from the outside, suggests attempting to crack this code with a different alphabet, a different language. What, is he mad? the masters will laugh, completely incredulous. It makes no sense! And yet this man will pursue his slow, torturous attempt at cracking the code, and perhaps he will even have some legitimate sentences to string together to show for it. But what of the rest of his code, which will be incredibly garbled? And what use will he make of that?
What people cannot understand, because this has not been taught to them correctly, is that this isn't a question of selectivity, of a people selectively choosing to use these tools and not others when all will yield the same results. On the contrary! The tools used yield different results, and the amount of effort placed into attempting to determine these results is immaterial. The man with the different language may put a tremendous amount of effort into attempting to decipher the code, and yet he will fail! And why? Because he is not using the correct alphabet, the alphabet that has been transmitted since the beginning of time in order to understand how to crack the code, how to decipher the text. In our example, he is not using the Mesorah.
And what of the philosophy that so many dislike, the philosophy of yeridas hadoros? There are so many of us who assume that this was an evil ploy on the part of Chazal to maintain power for themselves, to allow themselves to appear as Masters while all others suffered. We assume that there is some personal grudge or hatred here, that man in his desire to seize power ruled, and that is the reason they have instituted an idea and a philosophy of our knowledge and ability to grasp certain ideas has waned over time. We assume it is a question of blame; we believe it is a question of our own mental prowess and we are offended, incredibly insulted. And yet, this is the furthest thing from the truth! Rather, think of this as a guild, a society. One joined a guild in order to learn a craft. There are those who would join the glasswright's guild, the goldsmith's guild, the blacksmith, the carpenter- whomever it was from whom one desired to learn. So let us consider this the Scholars Guild, if you like. And when one joins a guild, how does that guild operate? There are levels of learning! First one is an Apprentice, a rank novice, learning at the feet of one's betters, trying to grasp every scrap of knowledge. After a time, when one has mastered a certain amount of information and completed certain tasks, one is appointed to Journeyman. Only after a great deal of effort has been expended, can one be awarded the rank of Master. And so each person progresses through the ranks, mastering the lore of others, being taught humbly and guided by them, before he himself can attain the rank of Master.
And let us assume that the lore was lost. For whatever reason, whether it be the fact that these Masters died before having been able to appropriately train their successors, because wisdom departed from the world, because the manuscripts upon which this lore was written were themselves mysteriously stolen or taken away. If the lore is lost, then no matter the efforts of the man who attempts the rank of Master, he will never be as great as the one who came before! Different, yes, he may certain be innovative; he may create; he may certainly create different works. But he will not have the same mastery as the one who knew the lore, the ancient lore which was transmitted from mouth to mouth and person to person in this ongoing process. This new goldsmith would be an inventive goldsmith, a creative goldsmith, but he would not know the ancient patterns and could not master the ancient ways. And even should he one day discover a treasure trove of manuscripts, rediscovering the ancient lore, who is there to interpret for him? Perhaps this lore was transmitted in a foreign language, or perhaps there are indecipherable abbreviations. Is it his fault? No! Can he still be creative, a deeply creative and innovative individual? Yes! But can he compare to the greats, the ancients, the ones who created and mastered their craft in every way, before that knowledge was lost, before that knowledge even had to be written down in order to be transmitted accurately; can he compare to those who were smiths of the sort that knew every material by the eye, by its touch and smell and feel, who lived their craft, artisans of such a rank? Of course he cannot! And it is not a question of blame, of assigning or apportioning blame, or a matter of intelligence, of mental prowess, of feeling offended that we are lesser and others greater. For it is not a matter of greater and lesser. It is a matter of who is the true Master, who knew the ancient lore and ancient secrets. And in this case, it is precisely those men of whom we speak, the Chachmei HaMesorah, who were the true Masters, and we humble pretenders must realize what it is we do, and how small are our efforts in comparison to theirs. Valiant, yes! Intrepid, yes! But nevertheless, the goldsmiths of today do not compare to the goldsmiths of yesteryore...
Much of the problem lies in our inability to see a man as a whole person, to see him altogether and not to see him as a mere part of what lies within him, a portion of his knowledge. It is our wont to try to classify people and tear them down, to find whatever it is in the man of which we know more or an area in which we have more experience. We look at the scholar and claim that we have come further than him, we have intuited more, we live in a more progressive society and therefore our thought has advanced; our ideas are more charming. Yet this is not so. Our ideas are important, and they are creative and could very well be true, but that does not negate the greatness of the man of the past, nor of the incredibly impressive status he had, as a Vessel of God. He was the Mage, commander of all magics, and his students gleaned what they could from him, but are merely poor imitations, magicians who cannot command the winds and the sky as he could. It is not their fault. It is simply what has occurred.
And so, to open our mouths and to dare to critique they whom we cannot even understand, they whose power is impossible for us to fathom, whose very position sets them apart as members of the elect, of a society which is currently no longer in existence because it disbanded, and there are none who currently qualify to be part of it- pity us, and pity what has become of our nation! Look with joy to the future and to the creativity that resides in our hearts but pity us for the lore that was lost, the men who carried that lore inscribed upon their hearts who have perished. And look with love on those who were Masters, to learn from them and to glean from them, and not with the desire to disprove or deride them.
There are those who learn in order to discover the truth, to engage in a romance with the Creator and to meet Him fully, to determine what it is He desires of them and to offer themselves to Him as a sacrifice unto God. And there are those who fall into traps of pettiness, where their own stature matters more than what He desires, until they twist His will so that they assume he wishes them to attempt the impossible, to attempt to be men whom they cannot be. In the same way that God did not desire the Congregation of Korach, for men to serve as Priests who were not called to that duty, so does he not desire men to pretend to be Masters when they are not. He merely wishes each man to fulfill his function, each man to do his duty as best he knows how. And there is no need to tear down the other in order to fulfill my own duty, no need to claim that the former Masters were flawed so that I can go about my inventive or creative process. The two ought to work in tandem with each other; they need not be at odds with one another. We follow in the tradition of these masters; we work from within the tradition, not from outside of it. We try to recover the lost lore, where we can, to rediscover it or perhaps to come up with new and inventive ideas within the confines of that tradition. But to look from the outside in, to introduce a new language in order to break the code, to deride vessels of God in order to justify our own self-worth; no, this is something that we have only created today, out of our own misguided understanding. For no man desires to feel that he is small in the eyes of God, and no man wishes to be told that he is less than those who came before him. It requires proper understanding to realize that this is not his fault and it is not a question of lesser in worth; it is only that we have lost the lore we once possessed, and therefore we cannot use the secrets and mysteries that were once ours.
It is in this way that we learn to understand that one must learn from within, and not from without, that one must reverence and respect the words of the Chachmei HaMesorah, and may not look at these men as mere people of their times. For these men went beyond their times, for they were vessels for the truth, vessels of God, to whom God imparted his word and his desire. To deride such men or to mock their words is to demonstrate a lack of understanding and of comprehension in oneself, for who these men were and the power they possessed, power with which they were entrusted by God. Even today, to deride such a man is to demonstrate that one does not understand; it is embarrassing for he who mocks, but not for he who is insulted. For the man who mocks such a person, in doing so demonstrates that he does not understand who the person was, how he lived, the way in which he dedicated his life and the relationship he had with God. If he understood these things, he would not dare to mock. He would tremble in fear and awe before such a person, tremble before God, as the very word haredi means, to tremble with that understanding. To realize that simply because one desires the ability to voice an opinion does not mean one has that right, has earned that right, has understood enough of this world or of the times that came before to have such a right. One has the right to speak only when he realizes whom he is speaking to, and whom he is speaking of, and this is something that alas very few within the Modern Orthodox world understand- because it is not something they have been taught. The idea that everyone is subject to censure is rooted in our modern understanding, and it is wrong. For there are men who are more than merely men; there are men who are men of God, devoted to Him entirely and everlastingly. And to censure such men is to set oneself above them- and that is a very arrogant endeavor indeed.