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Watch: Har Etzion Yeshiva Loses its Leader

Staff and students at yeshiva of Rabbi Lichtenstein mourn, noting he 'dramatically revolutionized Torah study worldwide.'

Yoni Kempinski, Ari Yashar ,

Rabbi Lichtenstein
Rabbi Lichtenstein
Gershon Elinson/Flash 90

Arutz Sheva traveled to Har Etzion Yeshiva in Judea's Gush Etzion on Monday, after the yeshiva's dean and renowned religious Zionist leader Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein passed away hours earlier at the age of 81.

The rabbi "shaped Orthodoxy around the globe for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people," Rabbi Moshe Taragin, an educator at the yeshiva, told Arutz Sheva.

Rabbi Taragin added that the rabbi was an "icon" representing certain central ideas in religious Zionism, remarking "when a figurehead like that departs you wake up to a different world, a different reality."

Rabbi Lichtenstein "underwent the Holocaust and studied from the great European teachers and helped fashion yeshivas across the world, particularly this yeshiva, in the classic Lithuanian model," noted Rabbi Taragin, speaking about the legacy of the former dean.

"He dramatically revolutionized Torah study across the world," said Rabbi Taragin, pointing out that after the Paris-born rabbi who fled the Holocaust to the US as a child came to Israel and arrived at Har Etzion, "it jettisoned the yeshiva into an international arena."

Speaking about Rabbi Lichtenstein's unique approach, he described how the rabbi integrated erudite Torah scholarship with the "world around him" from a place of openness and confidence, but was never lenient in terms of his serious commitment to Jewish law. The rabbi last year won a prestigious Israel Prize in Torah Literature.

Students of the yeshiva who spoke with Arutz Sheva shared Rabbi Taragin's sense of mourning, and described feelings of shock, confusion and emptiness.