On May 31, 2020, American Jewry lost a giant: Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, the longtime president of Yeshiva University, and one of the nation’s foremost defenders of Orthodox Judaism as well as an exponent 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 his remarkable career as a turnaround artist. (He inherited the leadership of Yeshiva University, the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy, when it was on unstable foundations and saved it from failure.)
Writing in Commentary, the rabbi (and Mosaic regular) Meir Soloveichik focused his remembrance on something else: Lamm’s career as a congregational rabbi before his leadership at YU. It was a career he found even more distinguished than he expected. As Soloveichik reviewed 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, Soloveichik joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the basis of that judgment, and how Lamm’s legacy of rabbinic oratory can serve as a model 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.”
This conversation is an episode of the Tikvah Podcast.
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