Ethical Man 08 – Avraham Avinu

In last week’s shiur Rabbi Triebitz explained that Rav Yosher Ber understands Adam and Eve as aesthetic beings.
Rabbi Soloveitchik continues with a discussion of Abraham, and shows that he is the correction for the sin of Adam and Eve.
“The charismatic personality must free himself from the place where he was born…”
In this Rabbi Soloveitchik echoes Bergson’s concept of radical religion, where man leaves his home and seeks his own path.
We also find the concept of loneliness – “A lonely man finds a lonely G-d”. This is the first prerequisite for prophecy.
What is the ethics of charismatic man?
How can freedom loving and anti-authoritarianism be a source for ethics?

The charismatic person revolts against a non-moral legalistic society, whose ends and objectives often collide with the basic tenets of a natural, living morality. He refuses to obey an external authority and to accept the dicta of a society that is guided by a highly technical, though magical, civilization. He prefers spontaneity to artificiality, improvisation to the routine. The moral law is revealed to him by his God, who is at once friend, comrade and master, and who speaks from beyond and within his own personality. The source of the law is the mahazeh, the prophetic vision, not the royal decree. The charismatic person discovers the ethos himself.

Rabbi Triebitz skips chapter 9, and goes to discuss chapter 10 – the next charismatic man – Moshe Rabbeinu. There are many parallels between Avraham and Moshe. The major difference between them is that Moshe has both freedom, and submission/determinsim. “Angelic role”.

What is the source for Rav Soloveithik’s distinction between freedom and determinism, such that the synthesis of both leads to ethics. This is not from Bergson. It seems to be the Rav’s innovation.

However the source of these ideas is (according to Rabbi Triebitz) kabbalah, which is Jewish philosophy.

In the lecture notes he explains that “radical naturalistic” interpretations are kabbalistically motivated.

I want to thank Elijah very much for his efforts in recording this entire series of shiurim, and particularly this shiur (because I couldn’t make it). He has also spent weeks trying to work out the best lighting system for the shiurim. If you notice the improvement in this shiur please let me kn0w (and i’ll pass it on to Elijah). Thank you.

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One thought on “Ethical Man 08 – Avraham Avinu

  1. micha

    I’m thrown by something.

    R’ Triebitz, in the opening shiurim you emphasized how this was probably RYBS’s project, mentioned elsewhere, of establishing a new Jewish Philosophy from scratch, based on halakhah rather than building further from Medieval Philosophy.

    But now you’re finding the roots of one of the central themes of the book to be from Qabbalah.

    Are you suggesting that:

    1- Qabbalah has not been as influenced by being framed in terms of Plato and Plotinus as the “Rationalists” (I don’t like the term for its implication that all Qabbalah is non-reationalist and mystical) were by Aristotle (and via parts of the Enniads that got included in the Arabic version of Metaphysics, Plotinus)?


    2- That his objection is more like Rabbi Yehudah haLevi’s, who objects in the first cheileq of the Kuzari to the use of philosophy, but is willing to invoke philosophy in the other chalaqim once the first principles are established in other ways?



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