Foundation of Faith by Rabbi Norman Lamm
A Tapestry of Insights and Illuminations on Pirkei Avot Based on the Thought and Writings of Rabbi Norman Lamm
Editor: Rabbi Mark Dratch
Foundation of Faith, a commentary on Pirkei Avot based on Rabbi Norman Lamm’s thought and writings, is an outstanding compilation of selections from Rabbi Lamm’s oeuvre, all related to the ethical, philosophical, and theological themes of Pirkei Avot. Inspiring and profound, the commentary is a scintillating demonstration of Rabbi Lamm’s invaluable message for contemporary Jewry. From Foundation of Faith… Torah is not only God-given; it is also Godly. The divine word is not only uttered by God, it is also an aspect of God Himself. All of the Torah―its ideas, its laws, its narratives, its aspirations for the human community―lives and breathes godliness.
Hillel Zeitlin described the Hasidic interpretation of revelation (actually it was even more true of their opponents, the Mitnagdim, and ultimately derived from a common Kabbalistic source) as not only Torah min hashamayim (Torah from Heaven) but Torah shehi shamayim (Torah that is Heaven). It is in Torah that God is most immediately immanent and accessible, and the study of Torah is therefore not only a religious commandment per se, but the most exquisite and the most characteristically Jewish form of religious experience and communion. For the same reason, Torah is not only legislation, Halachah, but in broadest meaning, Torah―teaching, a term that includes the full spectrum of spiritual edification: theological and ethical, mystical, and rhapsodic.
A GIFTED ORATOR, TEACHER, scholar, talmid chacham, and rabbinic leader, Rabbi Norman Lamm was renowned for a distinguished career that included the presidency of Yeshiva University, authorship of numerous books and articles on Jewish philosophy and other aspects of Jewish thought and studies, and a leadership role in the Jewish community which has left a lasting impact. As the spiritual leader of The Jewish Center in New York City for decades, Rabbi Lamm mesmerized his congregants with sermons legendary for their profound intellectual substance and soaring eloquence. Foundation of Faith consists of Rabbi Lamm’s penetrating reflections on Pirkei Avot.
Published posthumously in memory of Rabbi Lamm and his wife Mindella, who passed away last year, as well as in memory of the untimely passing of their late daughter Sara, it was edited with loving care by Rabbi Lamm’s son-in-law Rabbi Mark Dratch. The “insights and illuminations” contained in this volume resonate with the themes that run through Rabbi Lamm’s sermons and other writings as he gently but firmly guides his audience in confronting the corrosive influence of contemporary secular culture and choosing instead steadfast loyalty to Orthodox tradition. Love of Torah and Torah study, veneration of tradition, positive engagement with the modern world and contemporary culture, exploration of the relationship of faith and doubt, concern for practical mitzvot beyond abstract Torah learning, stressing the importance of a life built on overarching Jewish values, are just a few of the themes that animate this volume, all expressed with Rabbi Lamm’s characteristic mastery.
Year first published: 2022