Lichtenstein, Rabbi Aharon

February 16, 2014

Back in the late 60’s, a newly independent nation in Africa, called Biafra, was suffering from a very destructive famine, that was claiming victims by the thousands per month. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein thought that it would be a very appropriate gesture, if Yeshiva students staged a demonstration to alert the world to the crisis, in a manner that the world was not alerted during the Holocaust of World War II. Unfortunately, attendance at the demonstration was very light, and discouraging to Rav Aharon.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein was born in France in 1933, and came with his parents to the States. He became a student at Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin, and studied under Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, who quickly realized the great potential of his student. Rav Aharon became attracted to the Brisker method of learning and became a prized student of Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, and also became his son-in-law, marrying the Rav’s daughter, Tovah.

Rav Lichtenstein is a graduate of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, where he eventually became a rebbe of the top shiur for incoming students, successfully instilling in many of his students a “derech,” an approach to the study of Talmud, that would be incorporated into their intellectual and spiritual personalities. He also became the head of the YU Kollel.

He received a PhD from Harvard University in English Literature, and drew upon this experience to provide the “Mada” well-springs of a Tora-U-Mada perspective. He once wrote, “Who can fail to be inspired by the ethical idealism of Plato, the passionate fervor of Augustine or the visionary grandeur of Milton? Who can remain unenlightened by the lucidity of Aristotle, the profundity of Shakespeare or the incisiveness of Newton… there is nothing in our modern literature to compare with Kant, and we would do well to admit it.”

In 1971, he immigrated to Israel, joining Rav Yehuda Amital as co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut. Students from Israel and throughout the world have come to Alon Shevut for the opportunity to study with Rav Lichtenstein. Many of the graduates of the Yeshiva can be found in the world of Jewish education and Jewish leadership in Israel and elsewhere in the world.

Most recently, he authored, among many other works dealing with Jewish Philosophy, Education and Talmudic Scholarship, Leaves of Faith, Volume I – The World of Jewish Learning (Ktav; 2003) and By His Light: Character and Values in the Service of G-d (Ktav; 2003).

Married to Dr. Tovah nee Soloveitchik, he is the father of six children, all involved in Torah education.