Skip To Content
Forverts in English

VIDEO: What Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik said about Jews who become observant

The beloved Orthodox rabbi explains why a “baal teshuvah” stands on a higher spiritual level than a completely righteous Jew

A new video recording in which the late Talmudic scholar Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik speaks about baaley teshuva (Jews who become observant) has been uploaded onto YouTube by Ohr Publishing, in time for the High Holidays.

Known by his former students and admirers as simply The Rav (the Rabbi), Soloveitchik gave the sermon, called The Secret of the Baal Teshuva, in 1969. The talk is in Yiddish, accompanied by English subtitles.

Although Soloveitchik spoke English, he preferred giving his sermons in Yiddish, as Eastern European rabbis had done for centuries.

Among the most intriguing topics he discusses in the 17-minute clip is why the baal teshuvah stands on a spiritual level that even the completely righteous cannot attain.

Rabbi Soloveitchik 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.

A message from Forverts editor Rukhl Schaechter

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, I wanted to ask you to support the Forverts' 127-year legacy — and its bright future.

In the past, the goal of the Forverts was to Americanize its readers, to encourage them to learn English well and to acculturate to American society. Today, our goal is the reverse: to acquaint readers — especially those with Eastern European roots — with their Jewish cultural heritage, through the Yiddish language, literature, recipes and songs.

Our daily Yiddish content brings you new and creative ways to engage with this vibrant, living language, including Yiddish Wordle, Word of the Day videos, Yiddish cooking demos, new music, poetry and so much more.

—  Rukhl Schaechter, Yiddish Editor

Support the Yiddish Forverts with a generous gift to the Forverts today!

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.