R. Lichtenstein: Hesder Students As Good as Others

Prospective Israel Prize winner Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein said that Hesder yeshiva students were just as studious and serious as any.

David Lev ,

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

In an interview with IDF Radio, Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, who was named this year's winner of the Israel Prize in Jewish Religious Literature and is a prominent religious Zionist figure, discussed the status of the Hesder yeshivas. The Hesder system, he said, was a fine example of religious Zionism at work, producing scholars and tough leaders who who were the top officers in the IDF. 

Asked about the reputation of the religious Zionist community as right-wing, Rabbi Lichtenstein said that the community had expanded sufficiently in recent years to have a wide variety of political opinions.

Some went right and some went left,” he said. “I hope and believe that all of us are attached to the world of Torah, both in faith and actions, and to the connection between the House of Study and the Jewish nation.”

In recent years, hareidi community activists have criticized the Hesder yeshivas as being less “serious,” because the students interrupt their studies to serve in the army. But, said Rabbi Lichtenstein, the Hesder yeshiva student “has no less concentration and love for Torah than students from any other stream in the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Lichtenstein is the rosh yeshiva or dean of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion, and the author of numerous works on Jewish philosophy and Talmud. Several of his major works have been translated into English, most notably Leaves of Faith.

The award was announced Sunday by Education Minister Shai Piron. In his announcement, Piron said that Rabbi Lichtenstein received the award in recognition of the depth and breadth of his work. “Rabbi Lichtenstein's works encompass a wide range of Torah subjects, including the Tanach, Mishna, Talmud, and Jewish law, midrash and halachic guidebooks.

“Rabbi Lichtenstein's works are a wonderful combination of deep, fluid familiarity with all aspects of Jewish scholarship, with an ability to take deep Torah concepts and make them palatable to the average Israeli,” Piron added.

Rabbi Lichtenstein is a descendant of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soltoveitchik (also known as the Bais Halevi) and is a son in law of Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. (Yosef Dov) Soltoveitchik, also known as “the Rav.” Rabbi Lichtenstein is considered one of the leaders of the Modern Orthodox movement in the world today. He has the reputation of being a political dove, having opposed the idea of disobeying IDF orders to remove Jews from their homes in Gush Katif before the 2005 Disengagement.