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VIDEO: Rabbi Soloveitchik describes the emotional experience before Yom Kippur

In this introduction to his 1976 pre-Yom Kippur sermon, he describes how much easier it is to transmit knowledge than to inspire religious awe.

This week, a video of the late renowned figure, Rabbi Dov Ber Soloveitchik, speaking about the emotional experience of the days leading up to Yom Kippur, was uploaded onto YouTube.

The short clip, which is in Yiddish with English subtitles, is his introduction to the 1976 sermon he gave between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the themes of repentence and atonement – an annual tradition practiced by all Orthodox rabbis, known as the “Shabbos Shuva Drasha”.

Rabbi Soloveitchik, called “The Rav” by his students, is considered one of the most influential leaders of Modern Orthodoxy in 20th century America. Born into an illustrious rabbinical family in 1903 in Pruzhan, Poland, he immigrated to the United States in 1932, later to become Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox community of Boston, where he established the Maimonides School, the first Jewish day school in New England and one of the first institutions in which girls studied Talmud.

Although Soloveitchik spoke perfect English, he always insisted on giving his annual pre-Yom Kippur sermon in Yiddish.

In the video, he compares two kinds of Jewish religious traditions: one of Torah study and one of emotional religious experience, pointing out how easy it is to transmit Jewish law to others than it is to inspire them to experience the passion and longing for God’s presence that previous generations used to express in the days leading up to Yom Kippur.

The warm rapport that Rabbi Soloveitchik had with his listeners is easy to discern in this clip, as he speaks sensitively, and occasionally with a touch of humor.

The short video is an introduction to the sermon he gave in 1976, which can be read in its entirety, in English, in the book, “Before Hashem You Shall Be Purified: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Days of Awe.


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