A few years ago I drove with HaRav Aharon and his wife Tovah to the Bat Mitzvah of their granddaughter in Beit Shemesh. Before we left from Alon Shvut, as we were about to get into the car in which Tovah was going to be driving, the Rav approached the door to the seat which was BEHIND the driver. I was very confused that the Rav thought he was going to sit where I should sit. Tovah gently stopped him and told him that he should sit next to her in the front, and the extra passenger (me) will not mind at all to sit in the back. He really thought that he should give his seat to the guest. It was really quite amazing. - Donna (and Joel '80) Zeff
HAMAKOM IENAJEM ETJEM BE TOJ SHAREI AVEILEI TZION BIRUSHALAIM VE LO TOSIFU LE DAVA OD.ZJUT TORATO IAGUEN ALEINU VE AL KOL ISRAEL AMEN - Tzvi Litmanowicz
I attended The Gruss Kollel during 2005-2006 year, and was fortunate to attend Rav Aharon's Gemara and Machshava shiurim (that year we learned Masechet Kiddushin and the Ramban Al HaTorah). Rav Aharon, k'darko bakodesh, would deliver the Gemara shiur in Lashon HaKodesh, and the Machshav/Q &A shiurim in English. More than a few of the members of the Kollel, regular attendees of Rav Aharon's shiurim, proposed a switch to English for the Gemara shiur. (Our representative was Shmuel Segal, a grandson of Rav Ahron Soloveitchik, who was close with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein from their familial connection). We though the proposed change was a minor detail. Rav Aharon, however, felt otherwise, and requested to meet with us [seven or so Gruss Kollel members]. After submitting our thoughts and opinions, Rav Aharon looked troubled, crestfallen. He then said something that stuck me, and in a manner I will never forget. He mentioned that his opposition to giving the shiur in English was not merely halachic or cultural, but also 'psychological.' It was clear that it pained Rav Aharon to deliver shiurim in Artzeinu HaKodesh in any tongue other than Lashon HaKodesh. We ended our conversation without a clear resolution. The next week Rav Aharon began to deliver the Gemara shiur in English. That, to me, was another sign of his gadlus. Talmidim has asked for a change, a change which caused Rav Aharon 'psychological' pain, yet he conceded. Looking back I realize our faulty inexperience as much as I recognize Rav Aharon's anivus. - Zvi Schindel
Rav Michoel Rosensweig once related in shiur (at YU) that he travelled to Yeshivat Har Etzion with his son (while his son was still young), to meet Rav Aharon. His son was tagging behind and Rav Rosensweig said to Rav Aharon, "This is my son." Rav Aharon remarked [humorously], "I know. It's a Gemara in Kiddushin." - Zvi Schindel
I am one of many American students blessed to learn in yeshiva while R Lichtenstein was full of vigor. Although I was not in his shiur, his impact on me through sichot, shiur klali, and personal interaction left an imprint that has shaped my life since. I am terribly grateful. His motto of "hishtadel" wakes me in the morning and is often what I think of while going to sleep. The loss reverberates across the ocean. May his memory be a blessing. - Ben-Zion Radinsky '96
I want to extend my condolences to the family of Harav Aharon, ZT"L. My parents, of blessed memory, were Holocaust Survivors, which sparked many questions for me. A wonderful teacher introduced me to the Rav's essays on Faith, and Torah U'Mada, and it inspired and comforted me, helped me become much more religiously observant and helped me find the strength to pursue a career in the sciences, while trying to build a בית נאמן בישראל. My life and my choices were heavily influenced by my understanding and attempting to internalize the Rav's writings. I pray that learning of all the many lives the Rav influenced will in some way provide comfort for the profound loss of the Rav for his family and for klal Yisrael. - Rachel Teitelbaum Ph.D.
I first met Rav Aharon, zt"l, when I was a student in the Rov zt"l's shiur in the late 1950s. Rav Aharon had then returned from Boston, and was attending the Rov's shiurim. He was, to put it mildly, the Rov's wikipedia. I recall the Rov would mention a gemara, and ask "Aharon, what daf is that?" and the right citation came back without a moment's hesitation. But we all knew that R. Aharon was even as a young man a "baki beShas." And it is not for me, who cannot rank gedolim, to try to rank R. Aharon's place in the panoply of gedolim of our nation. I'd rather mention an incident that happened amongst us that demonstrated the other aspect of R. Aharon's gadlut -- a gadol bemidot.
Some decades ago, among the many occasions that R. Aharon was invited to give a shiur in the Young Israel of Hillcrest, he was in the library of the shul looking for certain seforim that he wished to refer to in his shiur. He asked me for their location, and I was glad to point them out. By the time he was finished, R. Aharon had quite a pile of seforim to bring upstairs to the shul. When I proceeded to carry them up for him, he insisted that he carry them himself so as not to trouble me. Now, I was then (and still am 5 years) younger than he, and clearly capable of carrying them. Moreover, he was a gadol baTorah, and to be "meshamaysh" a gadol was certainly my intent. But he was adamant. Fortunately, I, too, was stubborn, and we ended up sharing the burden.
May his many outstanding midot be a continued zekhut to Tova and the family and for klal Yisrael.Yehi zikhro barukh. - Jonas Prager
His teachings was a blessing for me in the search for more insight into Torah and Judaism. May G-d comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. - Hubert Pauletta
I'm so sorry to hear of the passing of such a big Tzadik and Gadol BeYisrael-- Baruch Dayan HaEmes. - Yaakov Blustein
A true Anov. After giving a sicha at YU, I rode with him in a group to Monsey, NY, where he was staying. It was 20 degrees outside. After we dropped him off, we found there was hole under his foot that let a cold draft onto his feet. The whole 40+ minute ride he didn't mention it. He talked throughout the ride, but never mentioned the draft. A terrible loss. Baruch Dayan HaEmet. - Phillip Vedol
I was once shown a letter that my father, a"h, sent to a friend of his who was living in another city. Inter-alia, my father mentioned in the letter that he had recently attended the funeral of Rav Aharon Kotler. "There were 25,000 people there, and I cried there like a baby." I sat this morning in a still-sleeping house, with tears streaming down my face, and was grateful for the ability to read online, words and reflections from those with the presence of mind and eloquence that render them capable of beginning the work of being maspid Rav Aharon (it's as though the rosh yeshiva, a quintessential Ish HaHalacha, waited until after Nissan so we would be able to engage in that important work). And, I am terrified by the burden Rav Aharon's death places upon the shoulders of those who knew him and those who were inspired by him. - David Wolkenfeld '07
Gadol Heitza V'Rav Ha'alilah...The Rosh Yeshiva Zatzal had much impact on all of his talmidim- and I can truly say that every day I hear his voice both when analyzing a gemara- and I owe him for the fact that every single day I attempt to analyze a gemara- as well as when contemplating most other pursuits that I engage in.
But I would like to share one incident that occurred on Monday morning, 16 Kislev 5758, at 9:15 in the morning, and the phrase that he uttered has left a brand on me forever, as Dov Daniel and I were preparing for shiur on Takfa Kohein, on 6b in Bava Metzia. I needed the Rosh Yeshiva to sign a form to certify that I was in Yeshiva to defer a loan. My seat was near his desk, and I was waiting for him to arrive so that I could catch him right as he sat down. As he approached his desk, I stood up and said to him, "I did not want to interrupt the Rosh Yeshiva, but I was hoping that he could sign this form before he starts learning this morning". Rav Lichtenstein zatzal looked at me with genuine puzzle and confusion, and said, "But we are always learning, aren't we?"
He read my form carefully and signed it. The next morning in shiur, when discussing the Rambam on Takfa Cohein, and looking for a "Safeik Rachok", one of the examples he gave was a situation where someone had agreed to defer a loan based on the assumption that the debtor was engaged in study, but there was a question of certification.
He was always always learning, and we will always be learning from him. - Betzalel Posy
So much has been said by persons/talmidim much closer than me. We all feel such a tremendous void in our life. One particular midah that I would add is the unbelievable Kibbud Av that he expressed towards his father. I often remember sitting in the Cheder Ochel in 1986 on Friday night and the display of Kavod that Rav Lichternstein showed towards his father was nothing short of remarkable, but obviously totally consistent with whom he was as a Gadol. - Yehuda (Jeff) Muehlgay
In his drashot in Yeshiva, I was surprised to hear Rav Aharon say that he was not a tzadik - this was only for yechidei segula.
As we danced to "Uvechen Tzadikim" on Rosh Hashana, it hit me that in Rav Aharon's view he and most (if not all) of us were not the "Tzadikim" we were singing about.
So after some time, I plucked up the courage to ask him about it. I said that I understood from the Rosh Yeshiva that we were not tzadikim, chassidim or yesharim . If so, when we sang "Uvechen Tzadikim", weren't we singing about a party that we will never be part of, never feel the joy of, that will maybe even cause us the pain of knowing that we weren't invited?
Rav Aharon began his answer "I do think that you and I are not tzadikim" and then comforted me, saying that us non-tzadikim will still feel the "Simcha le-artzecha" mentioned in the same prayer.
Even though Rav Aharon ruled for me that I am not a tzadik and I have no reason to doubt it, to this day if I say that I am not a tzadik it feels like false modesty (try it yourself). But for Rav Aharon it was the most natural thing in the world to assume that he was not a tzaddik.
In the hespedim he was called a tzadik and we are all naturally saying "zecher tzadik livracha" or zt"l after his name as we try to digest the new world without him. I guess we never accepted his view of himself.
But the message he gave me and others that "you and I are not tzadikim" is a powerful one - may we all merit to be "non-tzadikim" like Moreinu veRabbeinu Rosh HaYeshiva Harav Aharon Lichtenstein zt"l. - Shmuel Jackman
Different Facets of a Gadol : Harav Aharon Lichtenstein zt"l
Sharing the Pain of his Talmidim:
Ophir Shaer- father of Gilad HY"D, one of the 3 kidnapped boys - is a Gush almunus
Scene : Summer 2014- Plaza of the central shul in the Talmon settlement--The funeral for Gilad Shaar (Z"l)
The funeral ceremony in memory of Gilad had finished, and the many people who had attended moved through the plaza to at least manage to greet and hug Gilad's family.
Government and military officials and other important people squeezed through to meet the family, but the huge crowd led to a lot of commotion. The family didn't want to wait, and they asked to leave quickly to head towards the cemetery.
To my left I could see amidst the crowd R' Aharon supported by his wife and his daughter (Rabanit Esti), and suddenly Gilad's father, Ophir Shaar, looked behind him. And just as if the Red Sea had split, he crossed through between all the government and military officials, and he fell upon R' Lichtenstein's shoulder. They embraced one another and the floodgates of tears were opened, the two of them weeping and weeping on one another's shoulders for a few, endless seconds.
Ophir left R' Lichtenstein, and again crossed through the crowd in the direction of the exit. Even after Ophir had left, the elderly Rav could hardly move as he wept bitterly, as though he were standing before the body of his own child. English Translation of an eyewitness account to this story [posted by Rav Moshe Taragin]
Barukh Dayan Ha-Emet: So upset to hear of the passing of my rebbe, Mv"R Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt"l. It is hard to contemplate the amount of wisdom that Rav Aharon possessed. Not just the infinite amount of Torah, or his mastery of the Western canon. But also his ability to analyze any question from different perspectives, whether it related to something in gemara, Jewish thought, public policy, or personal advice. It was very rare to get a simple yes or no answer from Rav Aharon - he was too complex for that and he demanded the same from his students. He was a role model in so many different ways and there simply was and is no one like him.
As I heard the news on the radio in the car, my mind was racing with the various questions that I discussed with him over the years and the many more things that I wish I had asked him. The last time I saw Rav Aharon was around Purim, when I had the privilege to give him a copy of my sefer. I knew he was too weak at the time to actually examine it, but I wanted to give it to him anyway simply as a token of gratitude and to have the privilege of bringing a smile to his face. He was very gracious and gave me a brakha to publish more books, and I had hoped that the next time I'd see him I could discuss with him something that was on my mind. How I wish I had taken more opportunities to discuss with him so many more questions...
נפלה עטרת ראשינו - Shlomo Brody
Goodnight Moon in R. Aharon Lichtenstein’s writings, Minalan?
After attending HaGaon Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's funeral, all I can think of is "now what." Where to turn? Who to ask? Where to look. I know of no other religious figure to look towards for guidance. When my dear father was lying in the hospital, I called the Rosh Yeshiva for Pesak. He answered the phone and asked me how I was. I explained that I was. Or doing so well. I was calling from the US on Yom Tov Sheni. I had urgent questions touching on literal pikiuach Nefesh. He answered my questions and in his most humble way suggested that I need not follow his Pesak but that he could give me the contact information for others. I declined. There were and are no others.
My heart goes out the family. And my tears go out for us. - Todd Berman
Rav Lichtenstein's response to some rabbis' letter prohibiting the sale or rental of homes in Israel to gentiles. Tremendous erudition and respect even for those he vociferously disagrees with. A moderation that stems from seeing a big, complex picture.
This is the piece that chased Jeff Goldberg to refer to him as a "great dude of halakha." - Elli Fischer
Baruch Dayan haEmet.
HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein was my teachers' teacher. The impact this one man made on the world of Torah, and the world of Torah for women specifically, is beyond words. And yet every memory people are sharing about him is not about the amazing Torah insights and shiurim he taught, but rather about his tremendous care and respect for each and every person he interacted with.
I cannot imagine what this world would be like without him and his Torah, but I don't think I'd want to live in that world.
Below I am sharing one of his many shiurim that has greatly influenced me and shaped my values. - Debbie Zimmerman
In "The Source of Faith is Faith Itself", Rav Lichtenstein writes about those who, beyond simply shaping his ideology, were the living embodiments of the faith experience for him, indelibly influencing and shaping his own faith experience by their mere presence and intrinsic essence.
For me, that person was HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein. - Mali Adler Brofsky
I deeply mourn the loss of my revered teacher and Rabbi, Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein zt"l.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man.” - Adam Block
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein was my rav muvhak, my spiritual guide, my inspiration. He transformed my religious life and led me towards leading a life of Torah, teaching and serving the Jewish community. I consulted him throughout my life and sought his guidance at critical junctures. I learned his Torah and his methodology, but moreover I learned from his humility, his yirat shamayim, his prayer and his attitude towards the world at large and the Jewish world in particular. There is a large hole in our world today. We will mourn for a long time. - Rav Avi Baumol
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein passed away this morning. His greatness was immeasurable. He stood taller than everyone. His open mind, immense knowledge, and immaculate analytical thinking were to a degree unseen in the religious world. And on top of all that - he was a person, a human being, a mensch. An impossible loss to replace. - Yoni Rosensweig
A remembrance of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt"l
"On Wednesday night, I attended the annual Mizrachi Toronto celebration of Yom Haatzmaut. It was a meaningful program with a beautiful tefilah chagigit at its conclusion. Yet, for me, this Yom Haatzmaut was different. My rebbi, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, with whom I had first truly celebrated this day, was gone.
It reminded me of another day, almost twenty years ago. On taanit esther, March 4 1996, the Dizengoff Center terrorist attack culminated a period of 8 days in which 4 terrorist attacks killed 60 people and wounded 284. Immediately after news of the attack spread through the beit midrash, the learning stopped and we recited tehillim for those injured in the attack. Amid our tears, Rav Lichtenstein rose to address us. He spoke about Jewish history and how we could not despair - how the trials of a sovereign Jewish people in their own land were categorically different from the terror we faced in a stateless exile. He then addressed the question that was on all of our minds - "How could we celebrate Purim that evening, with the unbridled joy that had always typified this day in Yeshiva?" Rav Lichtenstein demanded that we immerse ourselves in our celebration despite our tears. He used the categories of halacha to speak of how aveilut is pushed away by a communal yom tov - and the categories of the heart to speak of how terror's true aim is to cause us to lose our sense of who we really are.
That evening he led us in dancing like a man half his age. With remarkable strength, he literally held up his students who would embrace him amid the singing and the tears. In the middle of the dancing, Rav Yaakov Meidan handed the microphone to Rav Lichtenstein. The entire Yeshiva sat around them both, as Rav Lichtenstein responded to Rav Meidan's questions about God and faith.
Celebrating the 67th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel without Rav Lichtenstein reminded me of that day. My only comfort was the memory of that evening and Rav Lichtenstein's example of spiritual strength and faith." - Rabbi Chaim Strauchler
Baruch Dayan Ha'Emes. This is very sad news. My wife and I had tears in our eyes. Although we never had the opportunity to meet the great Rav in person, we did see his pictures and videos. Rav Lichentenstein came alive for my wife and me, with the personal love of Gush and the Rav as Elisha "gushes" about Gush on a consistent basis. The light of Rav Lichtenstein's Torah with his physical presence has dimmed, but with Hashem's Blessing it will increase with his full spiritual manifestation in Shamayim. May the Rav's great legacy continue as a Makom Torah to disseminate Hashem's Torah throughout Zion and the entire world. HaMakom Yenachem Eschem B'Soch Sha'arei Avelei Zion V'Yesrushalyim. With utmost respect and gratitude to the Rav, his Family, and the Gush Administration and Staff. - Shmuel Pearl
With the passing of Rav Lichtenstein zt"l, I have felt some remorse over never having developed a stronger kesher with him. I was terrified to approach him both because I was in awe of him and because I found myself having difficulty understanding him. However, though I didn't have the strongest personal kesher with him, I still believe I have been profoundly impacted by him. I still remember parts of some of the few personal conversations we had and learning in Yeshiva in the same room as a true Gadol also no doubt had an impact on my growth. Additionally, so many of the other Rabbeim who I have also been influenced by have been profoundly impacted themselves by Rav Lichtenstein.
Even with his passing, Rav Lichtenstein has had a profound impact on me. Listening to many of the hespeidim and reflecting on the life of Rav Lichtenstein have been reminding me what it means to be a true Eved Hashem and have inspired me to improve my own Avodah. The loss of Rav Lichtenstein has been a tremendous loss for all of Klal Yisroail. I would like to wish condolences to all the family members and also all of his talmidim who have no doubt been very impacted by his passing. May we merit to share in only joyous occasions going forward. - Michael Gottesman
After my ride dropped me off in the yeshiva parking lot, I saw the Rav approaching the door with his usual stack of shas, rambam and a few others. I ran ahead to open the door for him but he beat me to it. Balancing the pile in one hand, he then held the door open for me! Rebbi Yochanan at his best. - Chanina Brinn
Dear Tovah and children (all grown up, of course)
My husband Alex Bell often spoke of knowing Rabbi Lichtenstein when they were both boys in Brooklyn. He always had a tremendous affection for him and pride in knowing him.Even in those years he recognized the unique qualities that propelled his life. He was thrilled when our son Reuven became a student in Yeshiva Har Etzion for the opportunity to be with your husband and father. Rav Lichtenstein called twice when it was,sadly, time to pay a shiva call because of my husband's death. We were all comforted by those calls. Now I want to attempt to offer the same comfort at your loss. We can feel grateful to H' for the good years we had and keep our wonderful memories. H" yinachem etchem b'shaar avlei tzion v'yerushalyim and you should continue to have only wonderful occasions and memories. - Renah Bell
This past Shabbos I presented two of Rav Aharon's shiurim to our shul (the maimonides minyan, founded by Rebbetzin Lichtenstein's father in the summer of 1963), as a way to illustrate Rav Aharon's gadlus through his Torah.
We studied a shiur given on August 1st, 2000 about the philosophic approaches to Shevuos and Nedarim:
[Where one sees Rav Aharon integrating Lomdus (Gavra/Cheftza), Tanach, and Hashkafa; Torah and Madda (Sophecles, Dostoyevsky, and the Orestia); and his keen sense of contemporary human nature (are we too rational today? Do we need to re-craft our religion in our own form? Is it arrogant to use G-d's name to support our own human selves). The shiur was given in late summer, at the request of the talmidim, which also illustrates Rav Aharon's Hasmada, and dedication to accessibility to his talmidim.]
We also studied the shiur of June 23, 1999 about Garmi and kilei hakerem (later published by the yeshivah) [Where one sees Rav Aharon integrating conventional/traditional topics (nezikin), with his commitment to the integration of kol hatorah (even inyanei zeraim), and his use of a conceptual chidush, to solve a centuries old-problem that the rishonim addressed only with practical solutions, along with his connection to the wider brisker mesorah (touching on atzitz she-eno nakuv, which as we know was a topic of recurring interest for the Rav Zal and Rav Moshe Soloveitchik). The shiur was given in kayitz zman while the yeshiva was learning Beitza, which also illustrates Rav Aharon's Hasmada, and dedication to giving countless shiurim each week.] - Yaakov Jaffe
I was not a Talmid of Yeshivat Har Etzion or Rav Lichtenstien but my rabbanim were, including his son Rav Meir. They were very good teachers and would always take the time to answer my questions. I consider Rav Aharon as well as Rav Amital to be the Rebbe's Rebbe. For that I am eternally grateful. - Simcha Atik
Though I never merited to sit at Rav Aharon's feet for a prolonged period, I have been influenced by him and by all that he represented and built in numerous ways, not the least of which is the education of my son at the Gush. I hope that my words [see Geshem v'Tal] bring only solace to those who knew him so much better than I. - Moshe Rosenberg
I attended Rav Lichtenstein's shiur in the mid-1980's at the Gruss Center in Yerushalayim. At one point, the Rav's shiur was held immediately after that of Nechama Liebowitz. What a cherished sight it was to see the two, Rav Lichtenstein and Nechama, meeting and chatting. Both of them would break out in HUGE smiles as they conversed - sichat chullin- for a few minutes between their shiurim. - Hillel Lichtman
Whenever I came to Har Etzion to examine the talmidim, I would converse with Rav Aharon. I myself did not study in Har Etzion, but I still consider Rav Aharon a Rebbe. He offered me guidance both in my personal and professional life and in the proper way to balance the two. He was extremely sensitive to the personalities at RIETS and was perhaps the only person who could offer me guidance in this regard. - Ezra Schwartz
It is no secret that Rav Aharon ZT”L performed kibud horim at the highest level.
One yom Kippur I was in the bathroom and then I heard shouting coming closer & closer. I realized that it was the rosh yeshiva & froze in my tracks. I didn’t want to embarrass him or maybe not to embarrass myself. He was bringing his father to the bathroom & as his father was hard of hearing, the rosh yeshiva was communicating with him at high volumes without any embarrassment. I personally heard how he carefully cared for all the minute details of Halacha when dealing with a parent in this situation. It seemed that he had no more important things to do than act as his father’s helper. This was very inspiring. Subconsciously, this could have impacted on how I behaved when a similar situation presented itself to me a few months ago. We can all learn from this that caring for one’s parents is not a burden, but rather a privilege.
We see that the mitzvah of kibud horim is on the side of the luchot containing mitvot bein adam laMakom. It seems to me that this is trully a mitvah bein adam laMakom, rather than bein adam lachaveiro. Why ? Because Hashem Yitbarach wants us to mevatel ourselves to Him. But how can we really relate to this if we can’t see Hashem Yitbarach. Therfore HKB”H gave us the mitzvah of kibud horim, to give us the chance to mevatel our needs in favor of our parent’s needs. In this way we practice how to mevatel ourselves to our parents, which is a stepping stone in knowing how to be mevatel our will in favor of Hashem Yitbarach (our other parent). Rav Aharon ZT”L excelled at performing kibud Hashem Yitbarach as well as kibud Horim.
May Rav Aharon ZT”L have an aliya neshama and be a meilitz yosher for all of Klal Yisrael. - Uri Sher
16 some years ago [July 98',] the day I became Gabbai at Yeshivat Har Etzion, I went to notify my revered Rebbe and Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Lichtenstein z"l. Amongst other things, he told me [in Yiddish], in the name of Rav Solovetchik z"l, what highly motivated me to write Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein, Author of "Daven your Age"," years later, [quoted in the book on page XV of the Introduction:] "Many a Jew does not like to daven, but would love to have davened," and thus the Gabbai's job is to insure that the will be inspired by the "davening" as well. This past Shabbat, [at a class reunion] at the Yeshiva, I stood in davening, looking at his empty seat in profound sadness, of not being able to watch, just once more, a true "DAVENER"/Servant of G-d stand before his Master....DAVENING, as he always did, and yet promising myself to continue to aspire daily to live up to his charge of then. - Yehoshua Grunstein
My father, Morris N. Robinson, told the story of Avi's decision to change his choice of which college to attend in New York. Morris was at the shiva (he had arranged the trip to the yeshiva months in advance) and told me that the story made a visible impression on Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein. - Yale Yechiel N. Robinson
I studied in Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's shiur in the 5763 (2002 - 2003) academic year as a shana bet chutznik (overseas student). I was joined by two chavrutas - Rabbi Elichai Bitter from Elul until January 2003, when he left for Yeshiva University, and Stephen Kaye until shortly before the Pesach (Passover) recess. I reviewed my handwritten notes from Rav Lichtenstein's twice-weekly shiur every Tuesday and Friday (thankfully, I never missed a shiur meeting) totaling about 260 pages. I reviewed the gemara and Rishonim (medieval commentators) to prepare for a test that Rav Lichtenstein had promised us for the last full day of the zman horef (winter session).
About six or seven students arrived to take the test in the room where we normally held shiur. Rav Lichtenstein did not appear at the appointed time (about 10:00 AM) and we did not have a test. Cautiously, we sent one of our group to Rav Lichtenstein's office. The student returned a few minutes later and reported that Rav Lichtenstein had forgotten to prepare a test but was preparing a test now and would deliver it to us in about one hour. Rav Lichtenstein kept to his word and delivered to us a difficult set of six essay questions, including a complicated fact pattern involving gerut (conversion to Judaism) as discussed in our materials in the first chapter of Masekhet Ketubot.
My colleagues and I handwrote answers for several hours, taking a lunch break in between. I finished at about 4:00 PM and rested to prepare for the all-night learning coming up that evening. I enjoyed the all-night learning and received word in the middle of the night that Rav Lichtenstein would review the test answers with usbefore the morning. All but two of the test takers gathered in Rav Lichtenstein's office and sat around a small table as Rav Lichtenstein recited his ideas for issues to consider in the complicated "gerut" question and the five other questions. He covered the issues in depth and spent about twenty minutes with us -- perhaps three minutes for each question. The test review session focused our attention on some issues we may have missed when we wrote our answers. Rav Lichtenstein did not otherwise grade our tests. These were optional tests and were simply taken to incentivize us to review the gemara and rishonim so that we could answer questions about the material.
I have since attained degrees in science (B.A. Chemistry, 2007) and law (J.D. 2014) from Yeshiva University. I have never again taken an "optional" test, nor have I ever seen a teacher in his office at 4:00 AM. Rav Lichtenstein motivated us, as our teacher, to work hard and learn Torah "lishmah": not for a grade point average or class rank that didn't exist in this context, but because we loved to do it.
I hope that, as the yeshiva continues to fulfill its important mission, the students and teachers will learn in the spirit of "Torah lishmah", and where necessary, "mitokh shelo lishmah ba lishmah." I will try to increase the amount and quality of time I spend learning Torah in memory of Rav Lichtenstein's "Torah lishmah." - Yale Yechiel N. Robinson
I attended yeshiva for a year and a half 78-79 and then post-college from 1982 to 1984. I recall going to ask Rav Aharon zt'l a question on tzom gedalia and his voice being so hoarse it was barely audible - the result of having spent the last two days shouting davening into his blind father's nearly deaf ears. This and the way he treated his father in every interaction I saw, was seered in my mind as the gold standard for treating a parent. Even when I fell from this standard, my mental model on personal behavior was always: "What would Rav Aharon do".
While I learned a lot by listening in shiur, I learned even more by watching. - Steve Ehrenhalt
In the mid-90's I was teaching at an institution that paid salary partly in shekels and partly in dollars. Several staff members at that institution assured me that the dollars need not be reported to mas hachnasah. I turned to an accountant and to a tax lawyer, who both insisted that the dollars needed, by law, to be reported to mas hachnasah. I then went to several prominent rabbinic personages, who, likewise, taught at institutions that had this practice. Each explained to me that the dollars need not be reported, and explained to me their logic. I returned to the accountant and tax lawyer, both of whom assured me that the explanations I had heard were pure sophistry.
And then I turned to R. Aharon. "My understanding," he said, "are that the dollars are taxable, and so I report such earnings. And then on top of that, you also have to pay Social Security in the US."
And then he added, in a touch of empathy, "Believe me, it's hard!" - Name known to yeshiva
There are many others who were much closer with R. Aharon Lichtenstein than I was , but the few personal interactions I had with him were memorable.
I first encountered R. Aharon in 1995, at which time he was still personally giving the behinot / entrance exams to perspective students. There were only two students from my HS class applying to Yeshivat Har Etziyon so we interviewed as a pair. I remember my classmate, who in all respects was a much stronger student, not performing well. There were at least 6 times R. Aharon told my classmate, "Nu? You hear what Yuter said?" despite me not saying anything particularly insightful (at least in my opinion).
The reason I believe was simply my own ignorance; I had no idea who R. Aharon was. By this I mean I recognized the name, but not his significance. While normal knowledgeable people, presumably including my classmate, knew to feel a degree of awe and reverence I simply had no idea I was supposed to be intimidated. I figured out over time that any feelings of awe and reverence was not due to an imposed force of R. Aharon's personality - indeed, he was rightly well known for having superlative middot towards others - but because of the respect one earns through substantive experience.
I cannot pretend to intuit how R. Aharon processed the kavod bestowed upon him, but years later I came to appreciate a recurring component of his pedagogic personality. R. Aharon would frequently hold what people called "press conferences," essentially an "ask the Rabbi" session. R. Aharon's answers ranged from the succinct answers to off the cuff treatises. But the nature of R. Aharon's answers were in direct response to the question asked, assuming a precision of diction with which few people speak.
For example, one of the most common types of questions would begin with, "What does the Rosh Yeshiva think about X." These types of questions would usually receive the longest and most complicated answers as R. Aharon would systematically extrapolate all his relevant thoughts on the matter (or at least as much as time allowed). Sometimes questions would be phrased in the form, "Doesn't the Rosh Yeshiva think X?" in which case R. Aharon would resist the attempts of others to vicariously validate their own beliefs through his affirmation, though I cannot recall him ever giving explicit mussar for doing so, which would have embarrassed someone in public.
At the same time, when asked as straight/direct question, I found R. Aharon would respond similarly. I realized this around 2002 when I was a student in Gruss (YU's satellite in Israel where R. Aharon also held a position), and I asked what he liked and disliked about the field of "academic Talmud" and R. Aharon provided an equally direct response, with unmistakable clarity as to his opinion on the subject.
The last time I spoke with R. Aharon was around the hagim of this past year. We met at a special minha minyan for R. Binyamin Tabory. As always he was polite, cordial, even friendly. For as much as people will rightly recount the heftza of his genius, let us also not forget the greatness of the gavra. - Joshua Yuter
For the first few months of the MTA programme of 2013, Rav Aharon zt'l was a figure who seemed shrouded in mystery to me. I knew little more than what I had been told about him from more senior talmidim and rabbeim, that he was not only a torah scholar of the highest order, but also a man possessed of tremendous humility and modesty.
I did not fully comprehend to what extent this was true until I had a personal encounter of my own with the Rav.
While browsing the shelves of the makolet on an otherwise ordinary weekday afternoon, I suddenly became aware of the Rav's presence, noticing that we were separated by less than a metre's distance. This man of incomprehensible stature, selecting groceries alongside his talmidim and ordinary people such as myself? I was desperate to exchange words with him, yet I found myself at an utter loss for words.
When next I looked, the Rav had already paid for his purchases and left the store. I inwardly berated myself for missing an opportunity which I doubted would arise again. After paying for my own purchases, I began my return to the dormitory. I had not walked far, however, before I came upon the Rav once again, walking slowly with his shopping parcels in hand. It was then that I resolved to speak with the Rav and offer to carry his shopping.
The manner in which the Rav responded to my offer remains embedded in my memory to this day. "No, thank you", he said, politely but firmly. " I must carry my parcel like everyone else", he went on, an almost imperceptible smile creasing the corners of his mouth.
I insisted that he allow me to assist him, and although he relented and permitted me to take from him his parcels, he wouldn't hear of my taking them any further than the foyer door. Despite my protests, the Rav gently took the parcels from me, offered me his thanks, and resumed his walk into the building.
I gazed after him in incredulity. It was only now that I gained perhaps an inkling of the values which Rav Aharon embodied. Here was a giant who, despite his unparalleled Torah knowledge, stature in the Jewish world and worldwide renown, was not disconnected from everyday life. Although he occupied a higher spiritual dimension, his interaction with the world was not unlike my own.
Here was a portrait of a true gadol ha'dor, one whom I will continue to admire for years to come. - Jordan Moshe
I was privileged enough to be a part of the Yeshiva for the year 2014 for the MTA program. One of my most treasure Yeshiva memories involved HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein z"tzl.
It was Simchat Torah and it was proving to be a very special experience. The dancing and energy from the talmidim did not disappoint and it felt like we were really experiencing something special. HaRav Aharon was in the middle of the dancing, suddenly he motioned for one of my fellow MTAniks that was also in the middle to dance with him. This was unbelievable seeing this Gadol dance with one of my friends. What happened next was even more incredible (for me). HaRav Aharon looked past a few other talmidim to me, who was standing behind them. HaRav looked me in the eyes and then raised his hand and motioned for me, a simple talmid from South Africa to come and dance with him. I danced with HaRav for a couple of minutes. I really treasured and tried to hang on to every second.
This experience was a truly inspiring one for me and bears testament to HaRav Aharon's incredible humility and ability to make others feel special. - Brandon Davis
Rav Lichtenstein z'l had many favorite words, and one was sheifot, longings, desires, aspritations. He taught us to aspire to more torah and more mitzvot and more ahavat habriot, and more chibat haaretz. - Rabbi Joel Finkelstein
The last time I spoke to Rav Aharon was 2 years ago - after our second son was born. Rav Aharon couldn't really understand me over the phone and I couldn't understand him - at that point I realized that I wouldn't be able to call him anymore to his dysarthria and hearing. But I feel like my world is shaking.
Additionally, this has been such a roller coaster of a week with yom hazikaron followed by yom ha'atzmaut - I am sure Rav Aharon and Rav Amital would have an inspirational explanation but alas we are orphaned.
I don't actually remember my first Tomar, which does bothers me. But I remember how sensitive he was to everybody's personal needs - how if he heard your problems he really felt them. How he called my parents to re-assure them about the security situation - WITHOUT mentioning his name once - and then went to America to field parents asking him 30 x "are the roads safe," and patiently answering them each time. How when I started medical school a 5th year student, boger yeshiva - came up to me and told me R' Lichtenstein asked him to watch out for me (and he checked up on me). How any time anyone came to him with a problem - he felt their pain and then you felt better - and in retrospect my problems were relatively insignificant - but he was unbelievably caring.
How when asking advice he always laid things out and put our life choices in perspective. Multiple times over the past 3 years I have yearend for his advice - maybe I should have called - but now who do we have to ask.
It seemed so natural that he knew Shas cold - at least to me - you could ask him a question anywhere in all of the olam hatorah and he would answer them - at least that was what Artscroll says about gedolim. His shiurim were 3 dimensional they had extreme breadth on one hand - quoting all of shas, tanach and midrash as well as rishonim and achronim - but at the same time his analysis would get to the bedrock of a sugya.
I remember the energy he put into his sichot and how during the subsequent tefillah you were able to communicate with the Ribbono Shel Olam in a way you didn't think you could do before. His intensity was contagious. We were so awed by him - we had to prepare for a while and then bring up the courage to ask him a question - even though he was so welcoming to even the most trivial question.
I have so much more to say but I don't know how to express it.
אבי אבי רכב ישראל ופרשיו
Yehi Zichro Baruch. - Aryeh Dienstag
I never had the opportunity to meet Rav Lichtenstein, though I always had a secret ambition to do so. The hespedim and shiurim on his thought which I have heard since his passing have given me a hightened awareness of the meaning of Avodas Hashem and the primacy of Torah study at it's most demanding and challenging level. I feel that Rav Lichtenstein's influence will live on through his students and will continue to impact all who study his holy words for many years to come. - Shmuel Frankel
I never met your father, but a few years ago I began reading his essays and listening to his shiurim, and they impacted me in a powerful way. I appreciated his brilliance in torah, his appreciation for literature, and his nuanced of the world. As a graduate of an highly academic high school and seminary, I learned to value and enjoy torah learning, yet I was taught to feel guilty when “wasting time” reading secular literature. Now I no longer feel guilty when a poem by Tennyson moves me to tears.
It was with great anguish/pain that I heard of Rav Aharon's passing. A few nights ago I wrote the enclosed poem, which is a humble attempt to describe your father's greatness. I do not presume to think it does him justice, but nevertheless... - Yocheved Friedman
While I never was enrolled in his shiur at YU, he was my Rebbi through his presence on campus and the personal relationship that I developed with him in the Yeshiva. His concerns for human rights in general, particularly impressed me. He was Rosh Kollel of the RIETS Kollel when I applied and was accepted, and his “hadrachah” and learning suggestions were invaluable.
One specific area of contact with him actually was somewhat disconcerting to me.
I was the only Shatnes tester then at YU, and Rav Aharon came to me with the suits that he purchased.
After he made Aliyah, and would return to the US, if needed, he would purchase a new suit. While I would see him at maariv that night at YU, he never mentioned that he had a suit for me to check, knowing that I’d have to climb 3 flights up the stairs to the RIETS Dorm where I resided to get my testing equipment. Rather, later in the night, I would hear a knock on my door, and there was Rav Aharon standing with a new suit that had to be tested. When I asked him why he didn’t tell me earlier in the evening, he said that he didn’t want to bother me. This happened a second time, too, during his next trip.
I then learned when I saw Rav Aharon in YU, visiting from Israel, to make sure to ask him if he has a suit to be tested so that I could go to him.
That was just a simple example of his selflessness. Yehi zichro baruch. - Doniel Zvi Kramer
I was on MTA and there was a member of the Yeshiva who was saying Kaddish and was the Chazan for shacharit some mornings. Rav Lichtenstein got up one morning and said that he heard that some people were making this student uncomfortable for taking so long for davening and that he was going elsewhere to daven shacharit.
I remember how upset Rav Aharon was that a talmid in the Yeshiva was made to feel so uncomfortable. I also remember how he acknowledged those who valued those extra five minutes for learning in the morning.
I was inspired by his sensitivity to the Talmid's embarrassment and I was inspired by the fact that he really understood the loss of the extra learning time that others felt that they were missing out on.
I have so many '5 minutes' in the day that I waste. Rav Aharon knew how to make them count and he knew not to make them get in the way of being a 'mensch' - Dean Lutrin
I studied at the Gush in 1987 as part of the MTA from Australia. Our group arrived in January with a nominal background in talmud studies as compared to the other students from USA & UK. We all enjoyed the relative freedom and framework offered by the MTA program. Towards the end of the year I had decided that a 2nd year of Yeshiva would be of benefit and went to discuss my dilemma with Harav Aharon. He took much interest in my personal circumstances being that my father was Israeli, my status did not allow me to stay in Israel for longer than the 12 month program and a 2nd year at the Gush became impossible. I figured the next best option would be to head to New York and enroll in YU and that this idea would be wholly endorsed by Rav Aharon. When Rav Aharon heard that I wanted to learn Torah only and not combine my studies with a degree (as I was enrolled for business studies back in Australia) he immediately suggested I go and learn at Ner Israel In Baltimore. He wrote for me a glowing hand written recomendation and arranged a bechina with Harav Feldman in Bayit VeGan and I was accepted. The fact that Rav Lichtenstein understood and recommended what was best for me and that the Yeshiva he recommended was not entirely in allignment with Gush hashkafa is a further testament to his greatnesss. What he never knew or found out later was the impact that Ner Israel had on my development and in turn what had come as a result of being exposed to Ner Israel and its sister yeshiva in the Old City Aish Hatorah. In a nutshell my wife and I started the first Aish branch in Australia and it impacted many students on campus who in turn visited Israel on the Jerusalem Fellowship Program and many adopted a Jewish life. My family made Aliya in 2008 and today I'm involved in the kosher travel and tourism industry. Through our business we meet many Jews from around the world and get to see a broad spectrum of klal yisrael. I appreciate Rav Aharon's insight and gift to me. יהי זכרו ברוך - David Walles
Sitting in the Bais Medrash for several years on Yom Kippur watching Rav Lichtenstein ZT"l care for his aging, blind and deaf father made an everlasting impression on me defining what the Mitzvah of Kibud Av is all about. In addition his ethical conduct standards were the highest imaginable. The world is a much sadder place without this unique Gadol in it. - A. George Saks