Petirah of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

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  • #615527
    nishtdayngesheft
    Participant

    Bd”e.

    A huge Talmud chachom who had an insatiable love for Torah.

    #1133005
    mw13
    Participant

    Baruch Dayan Ha’Emes.

    His passing is a loss not just to his students and his community, but to all of Klal Yisroel.

    #1133006
    The Frumguy
    Participant

    mw13: I find the phrase “all of Klal Yisroel” to be redundant. “Klal” means “all.”

    #1133007
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant

    Baruch Dayan Ha’emes. Yasher Koach to YWN for realizing that the loss of R’ Lichtenstein zt”l is a loss for the entire torah world.

    #1133009
    writersoul
    Member

    I found it sad that when I told my friend that I went to the levaya, she was all “Rav Aharon who?”

    He was a really amazing gadol baTorah and it was a zechut to be able to attend the levaya and hear all of the hespedim.

    #1133010
    golfer
    Participant

    Perhaps, writersoul, you might have said the same thing as your friend when hearing of our great loss on the petira of Rav Wosner recently?

    Or when Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg (the Tzitz Eliezer) was niftar in E”Y a few years ago?

    Or Rav Michel Feinstein, a great but not so “famous” Tzaddik who was niftar a few years before that? Or his wife, Rebbetzin Lifsha, the daughter of the Brisker Rav, related to Rav Aharon Lichtenstein by marriage?

    Think of it not as sad, but as an opportunity to tell others about what you learned from the niftar, and how his life and teachings were an inspiration to you.

    #1133011
    Patur Aval Assur
    Participant

    Here are some descriptions of R’ Lichtenstein by R’ Aaron Rakeffet which I have culled over the years from R’ Rakeffet’s shiurim (all are direct quotes transcribed):

    To be exposed to R’ Aharon is to be exposed to yesteryear, which I’ll come back to very shortly this morning. To be exposed to R’ Aharon is to see a gaon, a real gaon, and a real tzaddik up close, and it’s worth every effort in the world – if you came to Gruss, with all due respect to myself, and some of the other rebbeim I think will agree with me, to know R’ Aharon is a unique moment in time.

    If I can quote one of the Gross boys, he says “Rebbe, even if they don’t understand him, just to look at R’ Aharon, to see a gaon v’tzadik up close, is worth everything.”

    When I was a kid in the Rav’s class, he was our, our, our idol; everyone looked up to him; he was baki in shas already; it was unbelievable.

    I know (from? of?) students of mine who studied in Ponevezh; they told me there’s no one in Ponevezh that comes to R’ Aharon’s bekius (in? of?) Shas and Rishonim.

    R’ Aharon Lichtenstein who I knew intimately, we sat in the Rav’s shiur together; I mean you knew Aharon at the age of… in his twenties already he was the gadol hador, there are no two ways about it.

    And you gotta remember, we still have R’ Aharon Lichtenstein with us. No one understood the Rav better. They had chutzpa calling R’ Hershel “prize talmid”, “prize of Halachic Man”. The prize talmid is R’ Aharon Lichtenstein. “Great talmid” R’ Hershel, fine, that I’ll agree with, but the prize is R’ Aharon. Al zeh leit man d’palig. Everyone asks me who were the Rav’s greatest talmidim, I’ll tell you from each generation. Every ten years I’ll give you a different name, who I think, arguably… [skip tangential discussion about the greatest centerfielders -PAA] so you can argue from today to tomorrow, but the greatest student was R’ Aharon. He’s the prize.

    Gentleman, I need not tell you who R’ Aharon Lichtenstein is. We already knew he was a gadol shebegedolim when we first met him in 1951.

    They live in Brooklyn and R’ Aharon goes to Chaim Berlin, he graduates high school at the age of fourteen. Next two years he sits in the Chaim Berlin Beit Medrash and he goes through all of shas. I do not believe R’ Aharon has gone through shas al haseder since then but already at the age of 16 he knew all of shas by heart. He could find you any gemara anywhere.

    The Rav remembered gemaras by heart but Moshe, he couldn’t remember the exact daf, and he said nu nu Aharon [skip Yiddish -PAA] where is the gemara in in… R’ Aharon would shoot back Bava Kamma tzadi bet amud aleph. In four years of watching this interplay, R’ Aharon was only wrong once. It was a gemara in Arvei Pesachim, I remember the sugya, and R’ Aharon said kuf aleph amud bet, and the quote the Rav was quoting was kuf bet amud aleph. It was the continuation. He was off by about two lines.

    He was very close to R’ Hutner. He was very close to R’ Aharon Soloveitchik. Those two people in Chaim Berlin, extremely close. [skip tangent -PAA] He was very close to the Lomzha Rav and of course he later becomes Mori V’rebbe’s son-in-law, and I don’t like to say that because cynics say Oh yeah, he achieved what he did because he’s the chatan d’vei nassi is the talmudic expression, and it’s absolutely not true. R’ Aharon would have been R’ Aharon, R’ Aharon without without being the Rav’s son-in-law. But if anyone was more… [skip foreign languages -PAA] There was no one [more foreign language -PAA] more fitting in my time to be the Rav’s son-in-law than R’ Aharon. And we loved him. He was, R’ Aharon was R’ Aharon and we knew, we knew he was unique, he was different.

    #1133012
    DaMoshe
    Participant

    Thank you PAA.

    I only saw R’ Aharon in person once, and even then, I didn’t hear a shiur from him. I saw him walking out of a shul in Teaneck, NJ. Someone told me who he was, and I was shocked. So unassuming, without a large escort, wearing a black hat with the brim down. How many Roshei Yeshiva are like that now? His anivus was outstanding. When R’ Amital zt”l asked him to become Rosh Yeshiva of Gush Etzion (as R’ Amital felt that he himself wasn’t worthy of the position), he initially refused. He only agreed on the condition that R’ Amital be co-Rosh Yeshiva with him. R’ Amital agreed to stay as Rosh Yeshiva along with R’ Lichtenstein zt”l.

    #1133013
    writersoul
    Member

    Wow, golfer, way to assume things!

    Fact is, for most of my life I probably would’ve been closer to the “Rav Aharon who?” camp. I’m not happy I was ever like that. Appreciation for gedolei Torah of all different hashkafot should not be something radical.

    I totally agree with your second point, though.

    #1133014
    birdson
    Participant

    I only had the zechusof meeting him once. It was about two years ago and it was quite difficult to hear and understand him. However, just watching him walk, daven, and smile was something special. There was a certain pashtus, temimus, and kedusha to his whole being that you could see in an instant.

    #1133015
    golfer
    Participant

    Wow, writersoul, I think I offended you!

    Completely unintentionally!

    My apologies.

    I was so not trying to assume anything about you or your friend or me or anybody else belonging to any “camp”. The Gedolim I mentioned were solidly planted in daled amos shel Halacha and did not have huge crowds of followers outside their own corners of the world. Rebbetzin Lifsha, who had a fascinating life imbued with Ahavas Torah and Yiras Shamayim, was not a famous celebrity that throngs flocked to for Brachos. I was not saying that you or anybody else would have been remiss in possibly not making their acquaintance while walking the earth at the same time that they lived. I was trying to suggest that while I did indeed know who Rav Aharon Lichtenstein was, I would not look askance at someone who did not.

    #1133016
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant
    #1133017
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant

    When Rav Aharon was still in YU (before he moved to E”Y), he once visited Rav Soloveitchik zt”l’s apartment in the Morgenstern dormitory. It was late at night, around 12:00, when suddenly everyone in the dorm was woken and urgently sent out by security – there was a bomb scare. My rebbe was there, and everyone including Rav Aharon was waiting on the street. Suddenly, a “kol korei” went around: Rav Aharon was going to give a shiur. Everyone was woken up, kicked out of the dorm, worried about what would be, but Rav Aharon’s first priority was to pass the time properly with a shiur.

    Once, there was a three-day Purim in Eretz Yisrael. This talmid would be spending shabbos with a chevra, and for some reason was convinced by someone to invite Rav Aharon and his family for shabbos lunch. Rav Aharon said he had to check with his wife. As it turned out, that week was not a good time to come because he had a lot of guests. However, he offered to come and schmooze on shabbos afternoon. In shocked awe, the talmid accepted. Rav Aharon came and answered the questions of the chevra, which had somehow expanded from four or five guys to about 15.

    #1133018
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant

    Another time, Rav Aharon had a “press conference” – basically, a chance for the talmidim to ask their questions, halachic and hashkafic. One wanted to be very careful in the phrasing of the question, because Rav Aharon would take the questions very seriously and took every word into account. A talmid wanted to ask a question about learning tanach, and how to balance it with other sedarim. Because of his fear and awe of Rav Aharon, however, he lost his composure and it mistakenly came out as simply, “Why do we learn?” Rav Aharon reacted instantly. “Why do we learn?!” he thundered. “Why do we breath?!?! ‘Ki haim chayeinu v’orech yameinu!'”

    Rav Aharon had hip surgery and was absent from yeshiva for a short while. Soon after his return, he gave a two hour long shiur klali, as we would normally do during the year. By the end, he was visibly exhausted. A talmid asked him, “Would the Rosh Yeshiva like a glass of water?” Rav Aharon responded with thanks, but said he tries not to drink water in the Beis Medrash. He also would try not to answer his phone in the Beis Medrash.

    Another Rav told over how once when Rav Aharon was still in YU there was some sort of rally at Washington D.C., and Rav Aharon was in attendance. After the bus returned to Washington Heights very late at around 1:00 AM, this then-talmid was to take Rav Aharon home, a few blocks away. He exited the bus, but couldn’t find Rav Aharon. Bewildered, he wondered if Rav Aharon had left on his own. He went back into the bus to double-check, and there was Rav Aharon: on his hands and knees picking up the garbage the boys had left on the bus so the driver wouldn’t have to.

    #1133019
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant
    #1133020
    ubiquitin
    Participant

    I have a beautiful picture of R’ Aaron Lichtenstein Z”l talking in learning with his nephew and my Rebbi R’ Moshe Twersky Z”L H”YD at the latter’s son’s chasuna.

    It is painful to have lost both within a year

    Yehi zichro baruch

    #1133021
    Patur Aval Assur
    Participant

    Part of what I quoted above from R’ Rakeffet is confirmed by R’ Shlomo Riskin, in the Jerusalem Post:

    During lectures, when Soloveitchik would be at a loss to remember where a particular reference could be found in the Talmud, it was Lichtenstein who would step in and inform him of the correct place to look, Riskin recalled.

    #1133022
    Sam2
    Participant

    Of course, no one has mentioned the most famous and inspiring story of them all.

    When the Yom Kippur War broke out, every reserve in the country was called up. R’ Aharon knew that he couldn’t help in the war (being a solider takes training and such) so he went to the reserves office to find out whatever he could do to help the country. He was told that there was an extreme shortage of milkmen. Too many reservists were milkmen and there was a serious concern that many people would not be able to receive their milk. So R’ Aharon volunteered and became a milkman for the duration of the war.

    R’ Gustman ZT”L had just made Aliyah. On a particular day, B’siyata Dishmaya he was on his doorstep talking over a difficult Sugya with a Talmid. (Stories diverge here as to exactly what the Sugya was and why R’ Gustman was having trouble with it, but they all agreed he had some Kashyas he couldn’t answer.) R’ Aharon walked up and delivered the milk. Overhearing the conversation, he answered R’ Gustman’s Kashyas and explained the Sugya clearly according to R’ Gustman’s Mehalach. And then R’ Aharon proceeded to give an entirely different Mehalach that was better anyway.

    After R’ Aharon left, R’ Gustman exclaimed to his Talmid, “Baruch Hashem! In this country even the milkmen are Bekiyim in Kol Hatorah Kullah!”

    #1133023
    old man
    Participant

    I knew Rav Lichtenstein zt”l well, and heard hundreds of shiurim from him. Others heard thousands, I only hundreds.

    One short story. Almost half a century ago, A talmid of his, now a renowned Rosh Yeshiva, was astounded at how much Torah Rav Lichtenstein knew at such a young age, and asked him how he managed to know so much so early in life. Rav Lichtenstein answered, ” When I was younger,I slept only every other night. One night I slept, next night I learned all night, etc…”

    Combine intellectual genius with unreal hasmadah, an unparalleled power of concentration, tzidkus and anavah, and you have the godol hador. Baruch shezachinu.

    #1133025
    writersoul
    Member

    Golfer- sorry, it just came across as a bit accusatory. Your point was well made, though, as I said

    I personally had no affiliation or connection with R Aharon (though people I know did) besides for being machshiv his Torah and appreciating his gadlus. Likewise with the gedolim you mentioned, whose passings were also tragic (and of which I was aware).

    My point in the beginning was merely that chashivus haTorah should be without barriers.

    (Joe will be pleased to note that I’m Ashkenazis again… 🙂 )

    #1133026
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant

    Another story: When Rav Aharon became ill and as a result gave less shiurim, he went to the hanhala of the Yeshivas Har Etzion and asked them to reduce his salary because of it. This made me think: how many of us, in a similar position, would act with such a love for emes?

    #1133027
    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    Posting for the first time in a while because I learned at Gush, though only for one year after college and it was just after Reb Aharon stopped giving shiur regularly. Everyone who ever learned at Gush considered themselves Reb Aharon’s talmid. Even though he valued independent thinking and was proud when his some of his closest talmidim disagreed with him on various important issues, they followed his methods and values, which defined the yeshiva to the point that you felt them when you walked through the door.

    One thing I noticed at the hespedim was that people who had learned under him didn’t talk as much about his phenomenal bekius as people from other yeshivos. I suspect this is because we took it for granted. At Har Etzion there were lots of brilliant masmidim with good memories who could quote from the rambam you were reading as you read it from the book. That’s my Reb Aharon story. He built a yeshiva where those people were normal and yet the first year am ha’aretz who needed the book was still welcome and 100% part of everything.

    writersoul: You’re in good company. Reb Aharon also used to switch back and forth between Israeli and Litvish accents. “Aval tzrichim lir’ot mah b’emet katuv b’teysfiss.”

    Sam2: I don’t know how famous that story is outside of a very specific circle. The stories I find most inspiring are all the times that he was mistaken for Rav Amital’s gabbai and didn’t mind.

    #1133028
    birdson
    Participant

    in that vein, there is a story about him visiting talmidim at the battlefront, and he was driven by the yeshiva’s cook who had a long white beard etc. The army commander was shocked when he found out that the younger, clean shaven man was the rosh yeshiva.

    #1133029
    bears
    Participant

    @ubiquitin, any where can we find that pic? Thanks!

    #1133030
    Jewish Thinker
    Participant

    I can’t believe Rav Aharon Lichtenstein tzvk”l was niftar. What a gadol he was.

    #1133031
    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    Birdson: For a long time Rav Amital didn’t have a car and Rav Aharon did because he commuted from Yerushalayim, so whenever the two of them went to visit talmidim in the army, Rav Aharon would drive. Since he was clean-shaven and driving and Rav Amital had a long white beard, he often got mistaken for the driver and told “The Rav can pass but you have to wait outside.”

    #1133032
    Joseph
    Participant

    Sam: About the Legend of the Milkman, from R. Ari Kahn:

    R. Lichtenstein never volunteered as a milkman and R. Lichtenstein and R. Gustman were very acquainted long before this story supposedly happened. They lived near each other in Crown Heights, R. Lichtenstein was well known, R. Gustman was a close friend of R. Lichtenstein’s Rosh Yeshiva Rav Hutner and R. Gustman was at the bar mitzvah of the son of R. Lichtenstein.

    #1133033
    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Maybe Rav Aharon Kotler met Rav Lichtenstein and was calling him the milkman because he could milk kedusha from the outside world?

    #1133034
    Patur Aval Assur
    Participant

    Joseph:

    Why does the fact that they were previously acquainted affect the story? In fact, when I first read the story I assumed that R’ Gustman knew who R’ Aharon was. And the theory about R” Aharon Kotler seems like grasping at straws. First of all who was the milkman? Second of all, there is no particular reason why a story about R’ Aharon Kotler talking about a milkman who knew Shas would somehow evolve into R’ Aharon Lichtenstein volunteering as a milkman, and even more so with the whole rest of the story.

    Now I’m not saying the story is true; in fact, there are people who claim that R’ Lichtenstein himself denied it. But the specific points raised by R’ Kahn do not seem particularly compelling.

    #1133035
    Sam2
    Participant

    I was about to mention that post from R’ Kahn. It’s so sad the story isn’t true. It’s such an amazing story.

    #1133036
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant

    I heard another story today: Someone was walking in the halls and saw his friend, whose name happened to be aharon. He called out “Aharon, can I borrow a pencil?” Rav Aharon Lichtenstein was in the hallway also, and turned around and said, “Sorry, I don’t have one with me.” He wasn’t trying to be funny; he was such an anav that he thought people would call him by his first name. I can only imagine the bachur’s mortification!

    #1133037
    DaMoshe
    Participant

    Joseph: Thanks for letting me know. I’ll file that story next to the one about R’ Moshe throwing up after drinking chalav stam.

    #1133038
    Joseph
    Participant

    DM: There are sources to the veracity of the story with Reb Moshe. See DY’s comment, for example:

    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/coffeeroom/topic/rav-moshe-feinstein-chalav-stam-vomiting#post-563255

    #1133039
    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Why does the fact that they were previously acquainted affect the story? In fact, when I first read the story I assumed that R’ Gustman knew who R’ Aharon was. And the theory about R” Aharon Kotler seems like grasping at straws. First of all who was the milkman? Second of all, there is no particular reason why a story about R’ Aharon Kotler talking about a milkman who knew Shas would somehow evolve into R’ Aharon Lichtenstein volunteering as a milkman, and even more so with the whole rest of the story.

    Good points.

    Considering it again, I actually think the story makes more sense in the world where they did know one another.

    It explains how Rav Aharon got involved in the discussion. I don’t imagine that the time it takes to drop off milk is long enough to overhear their entire question, and more, don’t you think Rav Gustman and his chavrusah would have said “hello how do you do” to the milkman instead of ignoring him and continuing their conversation? But if Rav Gustman knew Rav Aharon, he would have deliberately called him over and brought him into the conversation.

    And then the comment that “the milkmen here are bekiim” would have been in jest, since he would have known that Rav Aharon wasn’t an ordinary milkman.

    So if that’s the only kasha, I’m still believing the story.

    #1133040
    ☕ DaasYochid ☕
    Participant

    So if that’s the only kasha, I’m still believing the story.

    No, you’re not. You’re just inventing a third story, which happens to be more similar to Sam’s story than to R’ Kahn’s story.

    #1133041
    Joseph
    Participant

    PAA: Ah kasha oif ah maaisa. All I know is what R. Kahn said. But one of R. Kahn’s pointers was that he asked the family at the shiva about it and they, effectively, told him it was a bubbe maaisa.

    P.S. Why did your post appear much later than later posts than yours? When that happens it is easy to miss the earlier comments.

    #1133042
    Patur Aval Assur
    Participant

    Joseph:

    As I pointed out, I have no evidence that the story is true. All I’m saying is that the story is eminently believable and the kashya of R’ Kahn doesn’t affect that. In fact as I alluded to, and as Popa elaborated on, R’ Kahn’s point makes the story MORE believable. Again, that doesn’t make it true. My point is that if R’ Lichtenstein said it never happened than we don’t need to try to poke holes in the story – it didn’t happen. If he didn’t say it didn’t happen then it might have actually happened, being that the “holes” are not holes. And regardless of whether it happened or not, I still think the suggestion about R’ Aharon Kotler is a bad pshat.

    P.S. Probably because the moderators have to take extra long with my posts, going over them with a fine-toothed comb to see if there is any hidden controversiality/heresy/insult.

    We have a special committee for your posts.

    #1133043
    Jewish Thinker
    Participant

    Joseph-I knew you would be pro the story, since you are such an Anti-Chalav Stamist yourself.

    #1133044
    IvduEsHashemBsimcha
    Participant

    Another story: It was Motzei Tisha B’av, and Rav Lichtenstein was learning (he hadn’t broken his fast yet). Someone was sent to get him, but he said he wanted to finish the sugya and would be there in a few minutes. The boy asked, “Rebbi, but aren’t you hungry?” Rav Aharon said, “I missed more than just food today.” (because we can’t learn torah regularly on tisha b’av)

    #1133045
    Jewish Thinker
    Participant

    Joseph-The remark I made to you was disrespectful. I apoligize

    #1133046
    Joseph
    Participant

    But it’s true – I’m an Anti-Chalav Stamist. 🙂

    #1133047
    ayingle
    Participant

    you seem like somebody i know very well…hm.

    joseph…j..j..joe?

    #1133048
    Jewish Thinker
    Participant
    #1133049
    pcoz
    Member

    I was listening to a recording of a talmid of Reb Aharon Lichtenstien be’shem his rebbe. He was discussing the liphnei iver shaalah of inviting non-frum people around for Shabbos. He discussed a machlokess between Reb Aharon Lichtenstien, Reb Shlomo Zalman and the Ohr Sameach about the geder of liphnei iver.

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