Authors & Artists


Master tab

Poster Commentary
"Judaism brought to light a person’s obligation to create oneself. "Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
Poster design:Art Paul


by Rabbi Seth Farber

The very act of creation, according to Jewish tradition, is divine. God’s first act was to create, and in the spirit of imitatio dei (humans imitating God), humanity can only achieve its destiny through an act of creativity.

But the creative endeavor is a lonely one.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who opened his most powerful essay on religious existentialism with the words “I am lonely,” was the intellectual leader of American Orthodox Jewry in the twentieth century. His dialectical approach captured the hearts of a new generation of Jews who successfully synthesized observant Judaism with modern Western culture.

Unlike many religious philosophers, Soloveitchik taught that humanity lay at the center of God’s universe. Through the creative act, we not only actualize the divine spark within ourselves: we counter the abyss of death and celebrate life.

Soloveitchik insisted that for Jews the observance of mitzvot (commandments) was an act of creativity. Traditional Jewish law – halacha – was not only a set of rules but a blueprint meant to evoke something divine in humanity. Halacha was not only about the performance but also about the performer – ultimately, about self-creation.

In his mix of orthodoxy and modernity, academia and yeshiva, community and self, law and creativity, Rabbi Soloveitchik wasn’t just a contradiction. He was many contradictions. He was lonely, but through his loneliness, he inspired a generation.

Rabbi Seth Farber is the rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra’anana, Israel and founder of ITIM: the Jewish Advocacy Center. He is the author of An American Orthodox Dreamer: Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik and Boston’s Maimonides School.


Conversation Guide


  • Can you identify key steps you’ve taken in your life to “create yourself”? What are more steps you can take in the coming years?
  • How do mitzvot (Jewish commandments – ethical and ritual) play a role in your process of self-creation?
  • What ideas about self-creation does this poster spark for you?



Wall of Fame©2020, Art Paul, Quote: Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA