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The Lonely Man of Faith

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  640 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the rabbi known as “The Rav” by his followers worldwide, was a leading authority on the meaning of Jewish law and prominent force in building bridges between traditional Orthodox Judaism and the modern world. In The Lonely Man of Faith, a soaring, eloquent essay first published in Tradition magazine in 1965, Soloveitchik investigates the essential l ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by Image (first published 1992)
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4.29  · 
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 ·  640 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This profound, challenging theological argument is going to stay with me for a while. At some point in the past humanity didn't keep records, created no "creature comforts" in the way that we enjoy them today; agriculture, medicine, and warfare existed only in its primitive forms; all in all we appear to have had very little self-consciousness as a species. Then everything changed: we became aware of some larger purpose on this earth. We started organizing ourselves better for the greater good o ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short but dense book was, I'm not afraid to admit, way over my head. There were fleeting moments that provided complete clarity for me but mostly I felt like I was just reading sentences that I couldn't connect together in my head. Had I chosen to study the book I'm sure I would have been able to get at some of the meat but in my cursory reading I'm not sure I took anything the author intended. However, upon stepping back, I realized (I think) that I'd read a fascinating meditation on what ...more
Robin Friedman
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First published in 1965 in the Orthodox Jewish Journal, "Tradition", Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's essay, "The Lonely Man of Faith" has become a much-studied exploration of the nature of religious life. Soloveitchick (1903 -- 1993) is widely regarded as the intellectual leader of Jewish Orthodoxy in the United States. He was born into a family of rabbis and in 1931 received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Berlin. In 1932, he moved to Boston where he lived for the remainder of his life ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw a TED talk by David Brooks on living for your resume or your eulogy, and he mentioned this work by Soloveitchik. This is a pretty good essay on the difference between two sides of us: Adam 1 and Adam 2. Adam 1 is described in Genesis 1:
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them. And God blessed them and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, ove
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is my first ever reading experience with the Rav, which is actually surprising to me. Nonetheless, the experience was enriching. While I don't necessarily agree with a fine heap of his finer points, the educated clarity is refreshing. I always say that books should make me reach for a dictionary. This one certainly did, especially for fascinating latin phrases.

The book opens with an eloquent d'var torah, which serves as the basis for the entire book's message, which is: we must be engaged i
Brett Williams
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Remarkable impressions

Rabbi Soloveitchik, known as the Rav, presents interesting ideas concerning the dual nature of humans and the status of this nature in modernity. That status, says the Rav, is bleak because the practical self, recognized and valued in today’s world, is alienated from its spiritual self with little apparent utility.

Where the Rav does best is a reinterpretation of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Their different order of creation separated by barely a page stymies the modern fact-ch
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaica
A beautiful account on the lonely night of the soul for the seeker. Recommended for anyone of any denomination. Five points mainly for the point that his basic notion of two adams is, as far as I'm concerned, a crucially important and in the best way "true" take on reality.
Ben McFarland
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Oh me of little faith ... I was mildly embarrassed to be checking this book out (never mind that I had no idea who the person at the desk even was!) because it was kind of like saying "I'm lonely." When in a way that's exactly what the author, Joseph Soloveitchik, intended. He writes about the two different creation stories in Genesis, how they describe the creation of two different Adams: the first Adam and the second Adam, both of which are contained in each of us. Deftly moving from the Scrip ...more
David Goldman
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This profound, slender volume deals with a core conflict of modern life - between an active live based on material success vs. an internal contemplative life. Solivechick puts this in religious terms (as the name implies) but most of the concepts will apply to anyone.
- The two different stories in Genesis about Adam display two archetypes. Adam one - the utilitarian, social, material person motived by success and fame. The second Adam is the “lonely” Adam is focused on his relationship to the di
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Rabbi Soloveitchik's The Lonely Man of Faith is awe-inspiring and inspirational. I don't believe that Soloveitchik intended it as inspiration - he frames his essay as a discussion of a feeling that he himself has, and that he believes others may have as well: the loneliness experienced as a person engaged in a covenantal lifestyle rather than a utilitarian one.

He lays out the difference between a covenantal approach to God and a religious one - that is to say that the former is ineffable while t
Camilla Sofia
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
when i read this book, i was blown away by Soloveitchik's insight into the nature of man and woman and our relationship to God. his concept of Adam One and Adam Two was profound and made clear many of my own frustrations and confusions regarding my faith. a must-read for anyone struggling with faith, with God, with loneliness.
Feb 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Very powerful and thought provoking.
Kressel Housman
I should probably re-read this. I barely remember anything about it, other than I found the style dry at the time.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Soloveitchik, in his book The Lonely Man Of Faith and following the yahwist; describing in detail 'Adam the first' and 'Adam the second', helpfully roots the existential crisis of meaning as a primary concern of The Scriptures. Similar to Rabbi Sacks in chronicling the story of man, the meaning-seeking animal, by the metaphor of the left and right parts of the brain and Kolakowski in cataloguing the technological and mythic cores, he focuses our attention on life's purpose and The call in its ac ...more
Sharad Pandian
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, ethics
Rabbi Soloveitchik claims that the two accounts of the creation of Adam in Genesis symbolize two ways man has to be man, two contrasting ways of being - one that seeks mastery over nature and himself through science, moral norms, and art that Soloveitchik labels "majesty", and the second a "covenantal" mode of being where he submits to God and rejoices in the qualities of things that are.

"[God] wants man to engage in the pursuit of majesty-dignity as well as redemptiveness. He
summoned man to ret
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I became interested in Soloveitchik's concept of Adam I and Adam II when it was used as a major theme in David Brooks' The Road to Character (my favorite book of the past few years). I've found the theory invaluable and even life-changing: a concrete Adam I (Brooks' man of "resumé virtues") and Adam II (Brooks' man of "eulogy virtues", and Soloveitchik's lonely man of faith) have been essential in helping me bring into focus my own internal duality and struggle, and allowed me to define how I ho ...more
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Lonely Man of Faith is a philosophical essay based on Genesis 2-3 that posits that the two creation stories described in the text indicate the creation of two separate aspects of Adam, which R. Soloveitchik terms Adam I and Adam II. Adam I represents the desire to dominate the world and gain fame and glory. Adam II represents the desire to connect with the Divine and resolve the unsettling questions about life. Just as Adam I seeks to master the world, Adam II seeks to master himself. The te ...more
Sarah King
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most difficult reads I've encountered: the Rav's writing is very dense and each sentence requires several readings to understand his true meaning. The vocabulary is advanced as are the ideas teeming within this small, innocent-looking volume. Worth the read, and definitely worth a re-read (as I will inevitably have to do, since there's no way I got everything I can from this essay!). Rabbi Soloveitchik (called affectionately "The Rav") is one of the preeminent rabbinical minds of the ...more
Rick Wilson
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read. I am not particularly religious and as such I feel like I only grasped a fraction of what the Rabbi was saying on my first read through.

But nevertheless, this is a very soulful portrayal of issues I have personally been wrestling with around purpose, work, and a connection to the world. Rabbi Soloveitchik describes the self as fragmented parts of the same whole. Each with different desires. Two Adams. Neither to be shamed by the other, but opposed forces nonetheless. I deeply feel
Marvellous, dense analysis of the 2 accounts of the creation of man in Genesis. Anyone with a philosophical mind and an interest in the relationship between the human ego, his existence, spirituality and materialism should read this book.
The best part is that one may find the first Adam more relatable in a phase of one's life, and the second Adam more so in another phase of one's life. Moreover, it is comforting that one's existential loneliness may be more forgivable than one allows one to feel
Dani Jones
I read this book for class. It was very dense at times (for me), but helped me to think through the Adam I vs Adam II distinction. I found my attention wandering a lot, and the article my prof handed out was a lot more helpful.
Melvin Marsh, M.S.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had to read this twice before I had even a basic understanding of what he was talking about. If you can get through the book in the first run, you are a better person than I am. It is remarkably dense, but is a very important book in Jewish philosophy.
Paul Womack
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will be returning to this book to better grasp the central conccepts of his cultural and religious and spiritual analysis, and to more fully relate this to the primary theologians in my Christian life who seem, on the surface, to offer similar pespectives.
Elliot Kaufman
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Useful framing.
Jon Beadle
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
This was more of a 3.5
Marcus Goncalves
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author was able to fuse the existential acuity of Kierkegaard with the wisdom of the Old Testament in this book, which resulted in a timeless spiritual guide for people of all religions.
Simcha Wood
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost 50 years after its appearance in the Summer 1965 issue of Tradition, Rabbi Soloveitchik's The Lonely Man of Faith remains a timely meditation on the dueling natures of man as agent of dominance, driven to knowledge and mastery of the world, and man as subservient and surrendering to the covenantal relationship with G-d (a concept which dovetails nicely with Rabbi Eliezer Berkovitz's thoughts on the distinction between what he calls faith history and power history, the implications of whic ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading for serious students of Judaism. In fact, it is in many circles.

I've read Soloveichik's Halachic Man which I actually liked a bit more, but this is an amazing essay. The Rav begins with a textual conundrum which many notice, few inquire after. For many modern Jews, the mystery of the two stories of Adam's creation found in Genesis is solved by the Critical Theory to Biblical Scholarship: there are two stories because they're written by different authors.

The Rav no
Adam Jacobson
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm curious what a mainline Christian interested in theology would think of this book. As I write my review, prompted as Goodreads recommended this for me, I realize that my reactions to the book seem to be more a reflection of my own religious journey that the worth of the book itself or of its argument.

That said, when I first read this 20+ years ago in my newly religious stage, I thought it quite impressive and would have probably given it five stars. At the time I was in a nominally "modern"
Justin Karp
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish
This book was not the same reading the second time as it was the first time. I knew what this book was telling me in theory when I read it years ago, but I could not emotionally understand until now. I’ve felt different and out of place no matter what community I daven at and this book has helped me realize why. Undergoing a metamorphoses from Majestic Adam to a man of faith is a painful but at the same time a rewarding endeavor because it is through our process of achieving and living this lone ...more
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Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (1903-1993)

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was born into a family already known for its great Torah learning. His grandfather and father, emphasized a thorough analysis of Talmud, and it is in this way that Rav Soloveitchik studied and taught his own students. He was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin, and then settled in Boston in the early 1930’s. He became
“I will speak that I may find relief”; for there is a redemptive quality for an agitated mind in the spoken word, and a tormented soul finds peace in confessing.” 6 likes
“Who knows what kind of loneliness is more agonizing: the one which befalls man when he casts his glance at the mute cosmos, at its dark spaces and monotonous drama, or the one that besets man exchanging glances with his fellow man in silence?” 1 likes
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