Lichtenstein, Aaron

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LICHTENSTEIN, AARON

LICHTENSTEIN, AARON (1933- ), U.S.-Israeli rosh yeshivah. Born in France, Lichtenstein grew up in the United States. He studied at Yeshivah Rabbi Chaim Berlin under Rabbi Yitzchak Huntner, and thereafter at Yeshiva University under Rabbi Joseph B. *Soloveitchik, whose daughter, Tova, he would later marry. He received a B.A. and was ordained at Yeshiva University, followed by a Ph.D. in English Literature from Harvard University, where he studied under Douglas Bush.

He served as rosh yeshivah at Yeshiva University for some years. In 1971 he was invited by Rabbi Yehudah Amital to serve as joint rosh yeshivah with Rabbi Amital of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut, a settlement close to Jerusalem. The hesder yeshivah combines high-level talmudic studies with specified periods of time in the Israel Defense Forces (generally 15 months in the army over the five years of the total program).

Under the joint stewardship of Lichtenstein and Amital, Yeshivat Har Etzion has grown to be one of the leading yeshivot in Israel, whose graduates occupy many important positions both in Israel and abroad.

Lichtenstein is known as an outstanding talmudist, but is equally known for his exacting moral standards. He has no hesitation on speaking out on pressing issues, and at the time was involved in leading a student march on behalf of the starving children in Biafra.

Following in the footsteps of his illustrious father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – the undisputed leader of Modern Orthodoxy for decades – Lichtenstein, too, follows the "Brisker method" of talmudic study. (Rabbi Soloveitchik was a grandson of Rabbi Ḥayyim *Soloveichik, the "Brisker Rav"). This method, states Lichtenstein, is characterized by "incisive analysis, exact definition, precise classification, and critical independence."

Lichtenstein is the author of Leaves of Faith, vol. 1: The World of Jewish Learning, vol. 2: The World of Jewish Living; and By His Light: Character and Values in the Service of God. His students' notes on his shi'urim on Toharot, Zevaḥim, and the eighth chapter of Bava Meẓi'a, Pesaḥim, and Dina d'Garmi were published as Shi'urei ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein.

While stressing the absolute primacy and centrality of talmudic study, Lichtenstein nevertheless feels that there is a need for culture as well in one's education and life. To him, culture "can inform and irradiate our spiritual being by rounding out its cardinal Torah component." Thus, the natural sciences "manifestly decipher and describe a divinely ordained order whose knowledge both inspires praise and thanksgiving to [God] and stimulates our reverential response to Him"; and "far from constituting mere straying in alien fields, culture can become a vehicle for enhancing our Torah existence."

His passion for talmudic study is primarily religious, but is also intellectual. As he writes, in "Why Learn Gemara," with each new page of the Talmud "one feels the freshness of virgin birth, the angular edge of rough terrain plowed and unplowed, the beck of meandering paths charted and uncharted."

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