My Favorite Talmud Teacher Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein wins the Israel Prize for a Lifetime of Teaching

The Israel Prize is awarded on Yom Haatzmaut. There is a great profile by Professor Alan Jotkowitz of my favorite Talmud teacher: Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, "Talmud scholar Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein wins Israel Prize: Lichtenstein's work reflects an exceptional combination of knowledge of all aspects of the Torah and a depth of theoretical Talmudic thinking, incorporating original and creative thought, says award committee."

Jotkowitz quotes Rav Lichtenstein regarding the value of humanistic learning, "Above all, culture instills in us a sense of the moral, psychological and metaphysical complexity of human life."

Jotkowitz sums up Rav Lichtenstein's greatness and the premises on which it is built, "In addition to an obvious mastery of the sources, both Jewish and secular, relevant to the topic at hand, what distinguishes these essays is their ability to grasp the complexity of the issue and present both sides of an argument. This skill is sorely missing in the highly politicized and polarized modern Israel society. This skill was ingrained into Lichtenstein by the Brisker method, which highly values the ability to conceptualize and rigorously analyze two sides of an issue, and recognizes that two disparate values can coexist simultaneously."

My view is that it's not the Brisker Method that produced Rav Aharon. His pure and penetrating Talmudic analytical intellect cannot be reduced to any single methodology. He transcends categorization and labelling. I am grateful that I had the honor of studying in his shiur for two of my most formative years when I was a student at Yeshiva College.

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