"It is wonderful that Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Israel and Yeshiva University (YU) bring together academics and rabbis to discuss the impact of the thoughts of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, which reflects the unique character of these two institutions,"
said Prof. Dov Schwartz, chairman of the Department of Philosophy and the Graduate Program for the Study of Contemporary Judaism at BIU and its Natali and Isidor Friedman Chair on Teaching the Writings of Joseph Dov Soloveitchik.
Prof. Schwartz was referring to Rabbi Soloveitchik's being a major proponent of Torah Umadda, combining the best of Torah scholarship with the best of secular wisdom. Both universities have followed in his footsteps to make Torah Umadda a key element to their teaching philosophies.
Schwartz was one of eight speakers at this summer's conference held at YU in New York City and co-sponsored by its Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and BIU. He spoke on "New Perspectives on Prayer in the Thought of the Rav." Prof. Schwartz said that the Rav was so inspired by the power of prayer that it changed his way of thinking. In his writing, the Rav said,
"the prayer book is not only the statutory articulation of our relationship with God but our training in that relationship as well… There is, in prayer, an experience of emotions which can only be produced by direct contact with God."
This was the second conference this year that both universities co-sponsored on "the Rav." Schwartz organized it with Avi Sagi, professor of philosophy and founder and director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies at BIU, and YU professors Ephraim Kanarfogel and David Shatz. The first conference, held at BIU earlier in the summer, featured lectures on the Rav's thought, methods of biblical and halakhic interpretation, and the implications of his teachings for educational settings. Presentations at both conferences have been collected for an upcoming volume of scholarship on the Rav.
During the session on Prayer, Science and Cognition, YU Prof. Daniel Rynhold spoke about "revisiting Rav Soloveitchik's scientific method" to examine how he grappled with the need to reconstruct Jewish knowledge out of objective data. Prof. Rynhold pointed out that in his book Halakhic Man Rav Solveitchik wrote,
"Religion should ally itself with the forces of clear, logical cognition, as uniquely exemplified in the scientific method, even though at times the two might clash with one another."