Recalling Rabbi Lichtenstein’s ‘humanism’

May 9, 2016  

Monday marks a full year since noted religious Zionist leader Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein passed away in April 2015 at the age of 81, and in his honor a special booklet has been published by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI).

Rabbi Lichtenstein was the dean of Har Etzion Yeshiva in Judea’s Gush Etzion, a doctor of English literature and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize in Torah Literature.

IDI in introducing its booklet, which can be viewed in Hebrew here, praised the rabbi for his approach to Torah that combined tradition with modern humanism and a liberal approach.

The rabbi spoke on public issues on numerous occasions, such as when he strongly condemned Baruch Goldstein who in 1994 shot dead 29 Muslims at prayer in Hevron. He likewise called for Israel to take responsibility for not preventing the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which Christian Phalangists murdered Muslims in 1982 during the Lebanon War.

“Lichtenstein aspired to integrate Halakha (Jewish law) with humanism, democracy and human rights, and even spoke against extremism among religious Zionism and the use of religion as a tool to goad human rights,” wrote IDI.

The institute chose to mark a year to the rabbi’s death by publishing a booklet entitled “Humanism, Democracy and Human Rights in the Thought of Rabbi Lichtenstien,” which was put together by Prof. Aviad Hacohen and Dr. Eli Hadar at the initiative of Prof. Yedidya Stern, deputy president of the IDI.

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