The Lonely Man of Faith, by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Last night marked the beginning of the Jewish festival of Passover, a celebration of liberation, but also of commitment freely undertaken. This coming Sunday, Christians celebrate resurrection and newness of life in the feast of Easter (in the West, that is; Orthodox Easter is one week later), a celebration of new life. In two weeks, Muslims will begin to observe Ramadan, attending especially to purification, forgiveness, and alms. For all three faiths, these observances situate the individual’s spiritual life within a communal covenant.
Rabbi Soloveitchik’s account of covenantal community puts Jewish life, but arguably human life, in three interrelated contexts. First, Soloveitchik places us in time. We are connected to those who have come before, and those who come after, as well as those who surround us. Second, he joins time with responsibility on a moral and spiritual continuum. We are not rootless (his mixed metaphor of the vehicle rushing to parts unknown is jarringly convincing). Instead, we are rooted in a colloquy with God and with generations past, present, and future. Third, the experience of being rooted in everlasting time expresses itself in a “soundless revelation”—it is something beyond speech or image. Membership in community liberates the “lonely man” to become the “man of faith”, and thus a person freed for the duties of love.
What communities (of faith or otherwise) are most meaningful to you? In what communities would you like to be more present? How do you think about the conversation you have with those who have come before, and those who come after? In this springtime convergence of religious observation, whether you consider yourself religious or not, what new course would you like to chart?
Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado