asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Meir Soloveichik on Jewish ideas in America.

Just finished this magnificent series of lectures by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik (co-presented by Jonathan Silver) from The Tikvah Fund, surveying the legacy of Jonas Phillips and his family, as well as Benjamin Rush, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and other key figures of the American founding.

One memorable section for me was lecture 4, where he revisits the Phillips wedding witnessed by Benjamin Rush, and delves into the distinct and complementary concepts of "contract" and "covenant". (It is to none other than the late Rabbi Sacks that we owe the insight that the American Constitution is a contract, while the Declaration of Independence is an covenant.)

Perhaps the most startling discovery for me was the contrast between Jefferson's antipathy towards the Jews and Adams' profound admiration of the Jewish people and the Torah - and yet it was Jefferson, not Adams, who rigorously applied his doctrine of religious equality with practical, tangible benefits for the Jews.

And that's what I mean when I say, "I don't care if you think my religion is stupid." (And the part of me that's still Unitarian chimes in, "Sometimes I think my religion is stupid too.")

Anyway, it's a fascinating exploration of great ideas, ancient and modern, and their lasting impact in America.
Tags: america, hebraica
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