Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, renowned religious Zionist leader, dies at 81

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. Credit: Yeshivat Har Etzion.

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, a leading religious Zionist figure and the chief rabbi of the prestigious Har Etzion yeshiva in Judea, died on Monday at 81.

Lichtenstein, who lived in the community of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, received the Israel Prize for Jewish religious literature in 2014 as well as a number of additional prizes for his prolific written work in Hebrew and English.

The rabbi was born in Paris in 1933. His family fled Vichy France for the United States eight years later. Having settled in New York, Lichtenstein was ordained at Yeshiva University and studied under his father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. He received his doctorate in English literature from Harvard University. In 1971, he moved to Israel at the invitation of Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yehuda Amital to join him at the helm of Yeshivat Har Etzion. In 1960, Lichtenstein married Soloveitchik’s daughter Tova, and they had six children.

Lichtenstein was unique among his peers for his dovish political stance and his support of military service for yeshiva students. 

Israel’s Tzohar rabbinical organization said in a statement, “Rabbi Lichtenstein was among the rabbinical giants of religious Zionism and was a true genius in his mastery of both the worlds of Torah alongside culture and literature. The rabbi demonstrated an enormous sense of commitment and responsibility to both the worlds of halacha (Jewish law) alongside a remarkable sense of humanity and caring for the individual.”

Posted on April 20, 2015 .