I was having an argument with someone about Modern Orthodoxy, me being pro him being against, he said that even The Rav said in his foundational essay on Modern Orthodoxy that the reason for Modern Orthodoxy is because nowadays we need madah to survive as a nation in the Modern World, making it a bidyeved movement according to The Rav.

Does anyone know what he might be talking about? I've been searching for this essay and I can't find anything.

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Sruly and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 13:16
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    In any event I wouldn't put much trust in this guy's claims. RJBS is selectively misquoted even by right wing modrn Orthodox Jews. His writing is too deep & broad for most people looking for cheap shots to really grasp. Chabad especially in my experience loves to quote the few times he referenced the Tanya but can't tell you anything else about him or what those quotes mean in context. And Yeshivish people love quoting his Tav LeMeitav speech without ever having read Family Redeemed where he makes the opposite point.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 14:05
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    – msh210
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  • @DoubleAA Tav LeMeitav as in vahamak'chish magideha? (Where the Teimani girsa avoids the whole issue ...)
    – Shalom
    Commented Mar 30, 2023 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


Perhaps your interlocutor was referring to "Joseph and his Brothers", printed in The Rav Speaks, where R. Soloveitchik says (my emphasis):

The Biblical Joseph relates: "and behold the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bow down to me" (Gen. 37:9) — there is secular culture, great and powerful technology creating wonders and changing the foundations of our life. Even if it is true that in Canaan we can get along without it — this secular culture entails destructive elements, many negative and perverse aspects; it may be a blessing and a curse simultaneously, and thus as long as one can live without it, so much the better for the spirit — finally we will have to relate to it. The confrontation will not take place in Canaan, however, where life flows serenely, but in a new and alien land where the tempo of life is greatly accelerated and fundamental changes occur daily.

I don't know that this would be termed R. Soloveitchik's "foundational essay on Modern Orthodoxy", though.

  • I don't think this is what he was referring to, but this is also a good mekor, thank you.
    – sruly
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 9:15

For what little it is worth, two of my rebbeim were close talmidim of "the Rav" for many years and I've had many conversations with them about modern orthodoxy. They have never said that the Rav thought modern orthodoxy was some kind of necessary evil or b'dieved concession. (I will add, however, that both those same rebbeim have told me that the Rav thought properly integrating torah u'madah can be a difficult task that many people are not suited for. But that's not the same thing.)

To the contrary, the Rav's first-hand writings show he thought secular knowledge had intrinsic value and could enhance our understanding of Torah. I myself am not a close scholar of his works, but if you read Halakhic Mind I think that's pretty clear. (I don't know what "his foundational essay on Modern Orthodoxy" would be, but Halakhic Mind is a pretty important statement of his views on the subject). In addition, integration of secular thought has been a critical part of many Jewish traditions, most notably during the golden age of Spain. See, for example, this article about the Baal Akedat Yitzchak. https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1705-arama-isaac-ben-moses. Halakhic Mind explicitly references these traditions, all of which makes clear (to me at least) that the Rav saw "Torah u'Mada" as the traditional, authentic Jewish way and not a modern, b'dieved invention.

Perhaps your interlocutor was mixing up the Hafetz Haim's rationale for teaching women Torah with Rav Soloveitchik? It's a stretch but the closest I can think of.

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