Podcast: Meir Soloveichik on the Genius of Rabbi Norman Lamm

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On May 31, 2020, American Jewry lost a giant. Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, the longtime president of Yeshiva University (YU), was one of the nation’s foremost defenders Orthodox Judaism and exponents of the Torah U’Madda—Torah and secular knowledge—philosophy that animates Modern Orthodoxy.

His passing was followed with an outpouring of remembrances from friends, family, students, and admirers. Most of them, appropriately, shined light on Rabbi Lamm’s remarkable career as a turnaround artist. He inherited the leadership of Yeshiva University on unstable foundations and saved the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy.

But writing in Commentary, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik focused his remembrance on something else: Rabbi Lamm’s career as a congregational rabbi before his leadership at YU. As Soloveichik reviewed Rabbi Lamm’s many speeches and sermons, he concluded that Lamm was “the greatest composer of sermons in the English-speaking rabbinic world.” In this podcast, Rabbi Soloveichik joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the basis of that judgment, and what Rabbi Lamm’s legacy of rabbinic oratory models for today’s pulpit rabbis. They focus especially on two of his most impressive sermons: “The Fountain of Life” and “Confessions of a Confused Rabbi.”

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

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