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36
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The Universalism of Particularity
Meir Y. Soloveichik 
JUDAH-ISM AND UNIVERSALISM
n the 1960s, Rabbi avid Luchins, then a student o Rav AhronSoloveichik, mentioned to Rav Mordechai Giter that Rav Ahron,known or his interest in current events and public aairs, was atthat point very concerned about the suering in the Arican regiono iara. Rav Giter remarked in admiration, “t is not just that Rav Ahron is the only Rosh eshiva that speaks about iara, it’s that he isthe only Rosh eshiva who ever heard o iara.”
1
he universalistic streak in Rav Ahron Soloveichik’s
 yahadut 
isa well-known aspect o his legacy, and it has always been a dear one tome. et equally dear is an insight o his that  repeat oten: the act thatmembers o 
kelal Yisrael 
are now called
Yehudim,
which is rie withhashkafc signifcance.
2
, he suggested, we have come to be knownnot as Abrahamites but rather as
Yehudim
, i we are named or Judah
 
The Universalism of Particularity 
3
whether or not we directly descend rom him, it is because o Judah’sgreat moment o repentance, his proud proclamation to his atherregarding enjamin:
anokhi e’ervenu! 
Judah-ism, by its very name,proclaims that a Jew is bound to every other member o the Jewishpeople in a way that is more proound than the ethical obligationsbinding us to the rest o humanity. We are members o mankind—butwe are also frst and oremost members o a nation that is a amily, inwhich every other Jew is our brother and sister.hese two aspects o my grandather’s worldview—particularand universal, or, in the Rav’s ormulation,
ger 
and
toshav— 
are otendescribed as coexisting in a dialectical, or contradictory, manner.t is true, o course, that there is a
 practical 
tension between one’sobligations to one’s people and to humanity, just as there is a practicaltension between
talmud Torah
,
tellah,
esed 
, and many other
mitzvot 
;ater all, every one o us has a limited amount o time and resources.Nevertheless,  believe that there is no
 philosophical 
or
theological 
tension between these two themes. ndeed, i the Abrahamic identity comprises both
ger 
and
toshav,
it is because these two acets are, romthe perspective o Jewish ethics, not contradictory, but
ha be-ha talya,
and that the hierarchy o obligations inherent in Judaism is part-and-parcel o Judaism’s message to the world. n this essay,  will outlinewhy  believe this to be so, and why the communication o this messageto the next generation is so vital to the uture o Modern Orthodoxy.
YEHUDAH,
YAHADUT 
, AND MODERNITY
, as my grandather insisted, the term
Yehudi 
embodies the amilialobligations o Judaism, then we must appreciate the ull signifcanceo the name, and o Judah’s story to our own appellation. Followinghis participation in the kidnapping and sale o Joseph, Judah, weare inormed, let his brothers, “went down rom them” and weddeda woman; that is, separated himsel rom his amily and ounded anew one. Coming immediately, and jarringly, ater the tale o Joseph’skidnapping, this sentence’s placement is signifcant. Why Judah wishedto leave his brothers is unclear, though we can guess. Perhaps, burdenedby the guilt o what he himsel had done, he was desperate to escape
 
3
 
Meir Y. Soloveichik 
the daily amilial and atherly reminder o his crime; or perhaps, aghastat the even more murderous intent o his brethren, he wished to nolonger live among them. Whatever his motivations, the text makes hisintentions obvious: Judah wished to no longer be associated with hisamily; he sought to start a new lie and a new identity.n Judah’s attempt to abandon his amily we fnd a most modernidea: the notion that anyone can be anything one wishes to be, thatno identity is predetermined, and that one’s background can be shedlike a suit and replaced with another. Judaism, however, insists thattaken to an extreme, this denies something undamental about humannature.
Ki ha-Adam e 
 ẓ
ha-sadeh,
we are inormed in
 
eut. 20:19, andthe explanation o this seemingly strange comparison, or the Rav, isthat man, much like a tree,
has roots,
a past, and is defned by themand connected to them. When one is born a Jew, one is immediately considered a member o the Jewish nation
,
and nothing can undo thisJewishness.
 
hus one who sees his ather, or brother, the way he wouldsee a stranger—one who assumes that he has no greater connectionto his mother than to someone he just met—is adopting a perspectivethat is unnatural and wrong. Nevertheless, it is just this perspectivethat is an essential aspect o modernity. Here it bears quoting MichaelWyschogrod:he Enlightenment’s understanding o human identity,while not ocused on aith in Jesus, shares with theChristian view the ocus on human autonomy. Eachrational human being chooses her own identity. Aspectso one’s identity not o one’s own choosing, such as sex,nationality, and age, are deemphasized. nstead, a personis depicted as largely responsible or her identity as aresult o choices made. he major dierence between theChristian and Enlightenment views is that in the Christianview, God’s grace plays a controlling role in the decisionshuman beings make. ut i we can bracket the doctrineo grace, both the Christian and Enlightenment viewsdepict a human being defned by the choices made andthe lie led. t is not the condition a person is born into

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