The following is the opening of a tribute to Rav Lichtenstein that was published in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent on April 28, 2015.
The Jewish world lost a giant last week. From humble beginnings as a refugee child in New York seeking asylum from Vichy France to last year’s induction into the pantheon of Israel Prize recipients, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein’s life was a most extraordinary journey. His ascent began in the hallowed Talmudic study halls of Yeshivas Chaim Berlin and Yeshiva University, and from there to the study carols of Harvard University.
Armed with a Ph.D. in English Literature, he returned to New York to teach at Y.U. and to apprentice under his teacher, mentor, and father-in-law, the famed Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick. Then, in 1971, Rabbi Lichtenstein made the fateful decision to leave his extended family and a promising career at the helm of American Modern Orthodox Jewry in order to join Rabbi Yehuda Amital as rosh yeshiva of what was then a fledgling institution in Gush Etzion that combined advanced Torah study with full-fledged military service.
It was, to him, nothing less than the fulfillment of a Divine mandate to live and to learn in the Land of Israel. In the years that followed, his reputation as a man of unimpeachable ethics and unfathomable erudition grew by leaps and bounds. His lectures grew in size. His writings were increasingly prized. His guidance was widely sought. He was, in short, a man of incomparable words and yet, in the wake of his passing on April 20, I find myself fixated on his silence.
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Head of School, Kohelet Yeshiva. Chief Academic Officer, Kohelet Foundation. Fascinated with the Jewish future.