The Upright & Proper Gaon: Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Aharon Lichtenstein

A great Gaon has ascended on high.  He enlightened traditional Judaism for close to 60 years and directed those who were confused by the many evil winds which whirl around in our times.  He accomplished this in two ways.
1.    By the sheer force of his pure and courageous personality.  He was a man of truth, and everyone knew that what he said was what he thought.  He was a man who was not afraid to give his opinion and respected the opinions of others.  He was a man with a sensitive soul.  Anyone who gazed at him desired to be like him.  He was a true G-d-fearing person.  A person who learned Torah day and night.  He was in love with Torah learning.  He was humble and modest, without a drop of arrogance.  This Gaon did not want to be honored as a Torah scholar.  He dressed like everyone else and was clean-shaven like others.  It was once happened that he was on an airplane and received a pastry, but was in doubt as to its proper blessing.  The stewardess asked: Why aren't you eating?  He simply said: I do not know the blessing.  Sitting behind him was a new Baal Teshuvah with a long beard and Payot.  The stewardess said to Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Aharon Lichtenstein: Ask him, he will tell you…
He was a man who fulfilled what he thought, who left everything in order to make Aliyah because he felt that his place was here (even though his Rav and father-in-law, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik held that it was perhaps better to remain there and teach American Jews.  See Nefesh Ha-Rav pp. 98-99.  But Ha-Rav Soloveitchik did not force his opinion on him since he never forced his opinion on anyone.  And Ha-Rav Lichtenstein followed this path and also did not force his opinion on others.  And so Rav Soloveitchik held that one should stay in America and spread Torah there but Ha-Rav Lichtenstein reached the decision that his place was here and he therefore made Aliyah).   And we can say about him that which was said about Chizkiyahu, King of Yehudah: A Sefer Torah was placed on his grave and they said: This one fulfilled that which is written in this (Baba Kama 17b).  In one word: A Tzadik.  A Tzadik in our times.  A Tzadik in our generation.
2. By adopting a philosophy with the foundation: "May the beauty of Yefet (the best of general culture) adorn the tents of Shem (Torah)" (Bereshit 9:27) (Megillah 9b) – which is close to what is called Modern Orthodox philosophy.  He totally understood the new world and its thought and strove to take from it the finest flour which could find its place within the tents of Torah.  And the meaning of "Torah" is the entire Torah, especially the method of his teacher, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, and the refined Talmudic methodology of Reb Chaim Brisker.  And the meaning of the "finest flour" is the approach of humanism: the value of man, the thoughts of man, the feelings of man, the purity of man – as was said, in the tents of Shem.
He guided a person to be a person, and above this to be a Jew: loyal to the Land and State of Israel, and with devotion to the army - obviously within the proper proportion.
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I – the lowly – did not merit to meet this great Gaon very often, but during the few times I sat near him during a gathering, I was struck by his gentleness, his integrity, the measured manner of his speech which flowed from his measured thought and his flight from superlatives and partisan outbursts.
I once merited receiving a phone call from him, at his initiative, and he told me that I should not be afraid to give my opinion even if others will insult and besmirch me.  I should stand firm and say what I think.  And it is proper to point out that the discussion was one in which his opinion was not exactly identical to mine.   
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He stood on guard to protect true Judaism from the evil winds which whirl in every direction, from a lack of fear of Hashem, from empty religious fervor, from dangerous right-wing extremism and from excessive left-wing thought, etc.  He served as a stop sign and as a lighthouse.
This great man has been extinguished but his light has not, and will continue to enlighten traditional Judaism.


May his soul be bound up in the bonds of the living with all of the great Tzadikim and Geonim.