Renowned Scholar and Former RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Dies at 81
Yeshiva University mourns the passing of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ’53YC, ’59R. A renowned author and scholar, Rabbi Lichtenstein was the senior Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion. At Yeshiva University, he served as the Rabbi Henoch and Sarah D. Berman Professor of Talmud and was the inaugural Rosh Kollel and director of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Lichtenstein was born in France in 1933 and, along with his family, fled to the United States in 1940. He studied in Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin under Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner before earning a bachelor’s degree at Yeshiva College and semicha [rabbinic ordination] at RIETS, followed by a PhD in English literature at Harvard University.
In l971, after serving as RIETS Rosh Yeshiva for several years, he immigrated to Israel, joining Rabbi Yehuda Amital as co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut. In 2014, he was awarded the Israel Prize in Jewish religious literature for his contributions to rabbinic scholarship.
“Rav Lichteinstein served as Rosh Kollel, Rosh Yeshiva and professor of Talmud at RIETS, but that doesn’t begin to capture his essence or his influence,” said YU President Richard M. Joel. “He was one in a generation and his unique Torah perspective and worldview has shaped us all, but his towering goodness stands first and foremost.”
Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, RIETS Rosh Yeshiva and a student of Rabbi Lichtenstein, called him “a giant in Torah scholarship, one of the first-tier Torah scholars of our generation.”
He added: “Rav Lichtenstein represented the best of the products of RIETS and identified with its mission all his life. He was a loyal student of Rav Soloveitchik, his father-in-law, and identified fully with his approach and furthered its applications by applying his knowledge and scope. Rav Lichtenstein expanded Brisker scholarship in a range of topics in halacha and hashkafa leaving a legacy for the broader Torah and yeshiva world.”
“Beyond Rav Aharon’s sophistication and intellectual prowess what stands out is his humility and modesty,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life. “He was always there to help the community rabbi and educator, assisting us in coming to conclusions on community policy with halachik integrity, masterful sensitivity, and great clarity of vision.”
Rabbi Lichtenstein is survived by his wife, Dr. Tovah, his children Yitzchak, Moshe, Meir, Shai, Esti and Tonya and by two sisters Hadassah Kleiman and Shoshana Lichtenstein and thousands of talmidim [students] across the Jewish world.
The funeral will take place Tuesday, April 21, at Yeshivat Har Etzion at 10 a.m., followed by burial on Har HaMenuchot at approximately 2 p.m. Shiva will take place at Maginei HaGush 48, Alon Shevut.