Soloveitchik, Rabbi Aharon

15 Jun 2006

Rav Aharon Soloveitchik taught Torah for nearly three score years, thirty-four in Chicago. He headed the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie from 1966 until 1974, when he left to found Yeshivas Brisk in Chicago, all while teaching a much sought-after “shiur,” or lecture, in Talmud at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He commuted weekly from Chicago to New York, planting seeds of Torah in two great cities in the United States, even as his brother, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, known as the “Rav,” did for Boston and New York.

Aside from his scholarship in Torah, Rav Aharon was known as a person of great humility and of profound love for his fellow human beings. Those personal qualities came to the fore most during his famous “Hashkafah” shiurim, classes in which he discussed the weekly Parshah, its characters and their motivations, from the perspectives of Jewish ethics and morality.

He was born in Russia in 1917 into a rabbinic dynasty that went back nine generations, and included Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, the “founder” of the “Brisker derech,” a methodology of learning Torah that involved rigorous definition and precise categorization of Torah Laws in many cases into “Two-Halachah” dichotomies. His teacher in this “derech” was his father, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik.

Rav Aharon was one of the three great Soloveitchik brothers, sons of Rav Moshe (who had also taught there with great distinction): the “Rav,” Rav Aharon and Dr. Samuel Soloveitchik, who made his mark on the “Mada” side of Torah U-Mada, specifically in chemistry, who graced the halls of Yeshiva University during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Rav Aharon gained considerable fame as a “posek,” or decisor, on modern applications of Jewish Law. As a single example of many, he disagreed with many of his peers and espoused the view that brain stem death is not sufficient to certify that a person is dead.

Together with his wife, Ella Shurin Soloveitchik, he produced six children, the four sons all rabbis and the two daughters wives of rabbis. Rav Aharon had survived a debilitating stroke, and had gone on teaching Torah for eighteen years. But only two months after his beloved wife passed away, he suffered a heart attack, and his holy neshamah was called to appear before the Heavenly Court. This unassuming righteous individual, who combined compassion with great Torah scholarship, was buried on the Mountain of Olives in Jerusalem.