By: Ezra Baron  | 

RIETS Runs Event Commemorating Rabbi Joseph B. Solovetchik’s 30th Yahrzeit

Rabbi Issac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) held an event commemorating the life and legacy of Rabbi Joseph B. Solovetchik, the rosh yeshiva of RIETS from 1941–’85, on the occasion of his 30th yahrzeit on April 17. 

Held in the morning in Lamport Auditorium, where Rabbi Solovetchik, popularly known as the Rav, gave yearly drashos [sermons] the event allowed Yeshiva University students to hear from several speakers who were close to the Rav.

The program began with introductory remarks from Rabbi Penner and Rabbi Turk, a long-time shamash [assistant] of the Rav. Next, Yeshiva University President Ari Berman spoke about how Rabbi Solovetchik took the traditions of the Orthodox Jewish world in Europe and used them to build a new Torah community in America. 

Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Herschel Schachter, one of the Rav’s closest students, then spoke about how the Rav, contrary to people’s perception, meticulously followed the minhagim [traditions] he received.

Rav Schachter’s words were followed by Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Menachem Genack, also a student of the Rav, who gave several divrei Torah from The Rav regarding sefirat haOmer [counting from Passover to Shavuot].

Lastly, Rosh Yeshiva Rav Mayer Twersky, the grandson and close student of Rabbi Solovetchik, spoke about the need for students to feel like a part of the mesorah [tradition] through reading the Rav’s works and learning his chiddushei [new insights into] Torah.

Those in attendance also watched a video of the Rav’s 1976 Erev Yom Kippur teshuva drasha given in Lamport Auditorium, the location of the event, 47 years earlier. 

To encourage as much student participation as possible, the event was held during morning seder. 

“The student body was the most significant audience,” Rabbi Turk told The Commentator. “They are too young to have had any experience of the Rav personally and we wanted them to see the impact he had on YU and on the communities in which they were raised.” 

The commemoration was planned by Rabbi Neal Turk, Director of the RIETS-Ferkauf Joint Graduate Program in Pastoral Counseling, and Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of the RIETS, with input from other Roshei Yeshiva such as Rabbi Genack and Rabbi Michael Taubes. 

Although Yeshiva University previously co-hosted an event in Englewood, New Jersey commemorating the Rav’s yahrzeit, the Rebbeim told The Commentator that they felt it was important to host a bigger ceremony in Yeshiva for the 30th anniversary. 

Both Rabbi Turk and Rabbi Penner expressed that this event was more than just a memorial. 

“Remembering the Rav and studying his words is not looking backward, it is understanding our present and our future,” Penner told The Commentator. 

 “I hope those who attended will be inspired to learn the Rav’s chiddushei Torah and read his works,” added Turk. “YU students should be proud of the fact that Rav Soloveitchik taught here.”

A previous ceremony commemorating the Rav’s 20th Yahrzeit was conducted in 2013.

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Photo Caption: Rabbi Joseph B. Solovetchik, popularly known as the Rav, was Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbi Issac Elchanan Theological Seminary for close to half a century.

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University