Either directly or indirectly, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein had a pervasive moral influence on my life. He was the arbiter, he was the guide, he was the model of what an ethical existence was meant to be. He saw through the confusion of loud and conflicting ideologies, pressures, influences and distractions. He saw to the heart of matters in a rational, wise, experienced insight.
I have known and interacted with many great Rabbis in my life, but to me, Rav Aharon was … the holiest. He was modest and approachable. He was constantly accessible. He dressed simply. He did not have any intermediaries. He sat in his place in the Beit Midrash (the study hall of the Yeshiva) surrounded by hundreds of his students.
Nonetheless, I always approached him with trepidation. When I walked to his small desk, I felt perhaps the awe of the High Priest on Yom Kippur entering the Holy of Holies. I was sparse and efficient with my words, not wanting to waste a second of this great man’s time. I listened carefully to each nugget of wisdom, of insight, of guidance that he shared with me.
And then there were his students. To live in Alon Shvut, in the shadow of Yeshiva Har Etzion, is to live in the shadow of Rav Aharon. One cannot walk two steps without running into a student of Rav Aharon. These students have become my lifelong friends, companions, guides and instructors. They are my community. They are my family. We are all orphaned today.