Thursday, April 17th, 2014

From Our Archives: Prof. Michael Wyschogrod

October 28, 2009 by  
Filed under From Our Archives, Philosophy


First Things recently published a very positive review by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of the theology of Professor Michael Wyschogrod.  Prof. Wyschogrod currently teaches at Yeshiva University and is a longtime member of Tradition‘s editorial board.  Rabbi Soloveichik’s essay largely reflects on Wyschogrod’s most important book, The Body of Faith.   A different book by Wyschogrod, Abraham’s Promise:  Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations, drew a decidely more tempered response from Text & Texture regular contributor Rabbi Aryeh Klapper in his 2007 Tradition review, which is one of our two featured archive articles this week.   A much stronger critique of this latter book was written by Benjamin Balint in Azure 19.


Over the years, Prof. Wyschogrod has contributed several articles to Tradition, many of which entailed heated debates over matters ranging from the Vietnam (see herehere for his dialogue with Prof. Charles Liebman) to the theological implications of Auschwitz (see here for his harsh critique of Rabbi Irving Greenberg’s post-Holocaust theology). In our second featured article from our archives (Revelation and the Orthodox Intellectual:  A Reply to Rabbi Danziger, Spring/Summer 1967), Prof. Wyschograd responded to a strong criticism published in the Jewish Observer of his understanding of revelation at Sinai.  In his response, Wyschogrod highlights what he perceives to be the philosophical difficulties, particularly for a Jew, in understanding Sinai, and ultimately concludes:

“This miracle of revelation can be accepted in gratitude only when it is seen to hover over a philosophical impossibility. The philosophic impossibility remains an impossibility in its rational integrity even in the light of the divine power which conquers it by the divine word that breaks the limits of human speech and to which the believing community attaches itself, thereby to save itself from the impossibilities of this world.”

Prof. Wyschogrod also delivered a critique of  “Confrontation,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s famous position on Jewish-Christian dialogue, at a 1986 RCA convention.

Here is a list of Wyschogrod’s Tradition contributions, which we remind our readers can be easily found in the Excel index on our archives page.  

(Contributor) Symposium: Reflections on the Six-Day War After a Quarter Century
(Contributor) Symposium: The Religious Meaning of the Six Day War
Second Thoughts on America
The Jewish Interest in Vietnam
Revelation and the Orthodox Intellectuals: A Reply to Rabbi Danziger
Reform Reformed
Auschwitz: Beginning of a new Era? Reflections on the Holocaust
(Contributor) Symposium: The State of Orthodoxy
(Contributor) Symposium: The Sea Change in American Orthodox Judaism


- Shlomo Brody

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One Response to “From Our Archives: Prof. Michael Wyschogrod”
  1. Yaakov says:

    I just read his response to R. Danziger and find it astounding. [Comment edited by moderator.] First of all, not everyone does, or has to, agree with Rambam’s anti-anthropomorphism or via negativa. Secondly, even according to Rambam there is the “will and wisdom of G-d”, albeit categorically different from our use of these words as “Hu mamada vehu hayedu’a etc.”: with us wisdom is acquired, and will is motivated, by external factors, thus separate from us, while with G-d they are unified part and parcel of His very essence. This “will and wisdom”, manifest in Torah, He communicated to us at Sinai. How this occured is totally irrelevant, and dibra Torah belashon bnei adam. The fact is that all the people had the identical experience of that communication, whether by sound, telepathy or whatever, and this renders the experience objectively true (as much as any epistemological criteria can determine). Thus yes, G-d DID “speak” literally, reading “speak” as communicated.
    MW reduces everything to the absurd which would render all human knowledge and experience to relative meaninglesness and total skepticism – including, of course, his own premises. I am truly amazed how [Comment Edited by Moderator] MW, some of whose writings (esp. the book reviewed by Meir Soloveichik) really impressed me, could stoop to such mental acrobatics which would shock even logical positivists.

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