The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (1933-2015) zt”l, who recently passed away, Rosh Yeshivat Har Etzion, was a leading figure in the Modern Orthodox world – as a teacher of Torah, a thinker and philosopher, and as an exemplary servant of God and human being. This course with Rabbi Jeffrey Saks will survey highlights of his writings in the field of Jewish Thought. His writings in English have been anthologized in a variety of volumes and on the website of his yeshiva.
The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l: Lesson 1
THE SOURCE OF FAITH IS FAITH ITSELF: This series will explore the hashkafic writings of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l. With his recent and lamented passing much material has been collected HERE and the interested student will find plenty of background information, as well as links to the many hespedim and tributes. We will be exploring some of the shorter philosophical essays – principally those found HERE or in the published collections: By His Light and the two volumes of Leaves of Faith. For this first session we will have a brief introduction and then read his classic essay, “The Source of Faith Is Faith Itself” (attached or HERE).
The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l: Lesson 2
BEING FRUM AND BEING GOOD: On the relationship between religion and morality: “Being Frum and Being Good” in By His Light, pp. 101-133. Click HERE for audio recording of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l delivering the talk on which this essay is based.
The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l: Lesson 3
FRUM W/O GOOD; GOOD W/O FRUM: Having defined the realms of “good” and “frum” in the first part of the essay “Being Frum and Being Good” Rav Lichtenstein now explores the merits and viabilities of each on their own, in an attempt to show how they must fit together. Please read from Part II (on p. 112) until the conclusion. Click here for recording of Rav Lichtenstein’s 1986 talk on which this essay is based.
The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l: Lesson 6
LITERATURE & RELIGIOUS LIFE: Rav Lichtenstein long and heroically championed the primacy of place and purpose of Talmud Torah as normative mitzva, ennobled lifestyle, and device to forge the Divine encounter – “our life and longevity.” At the same time, for over fifty years, he served as the most articulate spokesman and role model for the value of the humanities in general, and literature in particular, to achieve and advance a variety of goals advantageous to the religious personality. This week we will look at my bibliographic essay at Tradition, Winter 2015, surveying R. Lichtenstein’s writings on this topic and map out his long-standing articulation of the potential benefits to religious life by engaging with the “best that has been thought and said” (to quote R. Lichtenstein quoting Matthew Arnold).
The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l: Lesson 7
IDEOLOGY OF HESER: Rav Lichtenstein’s important essay “the Ideology of Hesder” is another “test case” showing how he applies his halakhic reasoning to both a practical policy situation, as well as makign a statement about the meta-halakhic ethics that stand behind the case. In this instace: the “Hesder” system in which young men combine army service in the IDF with yeshiva study.
The Thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l: Lesson 8
REPENTANCE AND RETURN: As we return for two more sessions about the thought of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l before Rosh Hashana, we will exmaine his essay “Teshuva: Repentance and Return in his collection of writings By His Light.
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).