Rupture and Reconstruction

This week's review examines developments in Orthodox Judaism in the latter half of the 20th century

Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy

Soloveitchik, Haym. Liverpool University Press, 2021
144p bibl index, 9781906764388 $37.95, 9781800857865

Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy book cover. Brown background with two suitcases on the floor in the bottom right corner. The front of one suitcase reads, "THE LANDMARK ESSAY REVISITED" in red text.

Rabbi Soloveitchik (Yeshiva Univ.) is a central figure in the study and practice of Modern Orthodox Judaism. This volume republishes his classic 1994 essay of the same name, which reflects on the dramatic changes that occurred in Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) and Modern Orthodox Judaism in the second half of the 20th century. In this period, acceptance of the religious practices found organically in traditional Jewish homes gave way to an approach that insisted on more stringent requirements that emerge from the study of Jewish texts. The yeshiva, particularly the yeshiva’s head rabbi, thus replaced the home and mimetic tradition in defining what is required under Jewish law. This trend and the valorization of yeshiva Judaism, Soloveitchik makes clear, has now entirely displaced the moderate approach that once defined the Modern Orthodox community. This reprint contains a new afterward and Soloveitchik’s two responses, one from 1994, the other new, to the essay’s critics. Enhanced by these clarifying statements, Soloveitchik’s essay remains as insightful and important as it was when originally published. This is required reading for those who wish to understand the current state of Orthodox Judaism and, more generally, for anyone interested in the social and environmental factors that contribute to religious change, even within traditional communities.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers, advanced undergraduates through faculty, and professionals.
Reviewer: A. J. Avery-Peck, College of the Holy Cross
Subject: Humanities – Religion
Choice Issue: Dec 2022

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