Aharon Lichtenstein’s Zealous Commitment to the Principle of Moderation

Aharon Lichtenstein, who passed away on Monday, was the American-educated head of a prominent Israeli yeshiva and a leading figure in Modern Orthodoxy and religious Zionism. Chaim Saiman reflects on Lichtenstein’s zealous commitment to the principle of moderation:

The term “moderate” . . . is often applied to a person of few convictions. In this sense, moderation is the opposite of passion. If one does not have core values, it is easy to compromise. Moderation can be a symptom of flexible values.

Not so Lichtenstein. For him, moderation is born of a burning and lifelong desire to reconcile conflicting truths. He was renowned for speaking passionately and at length of his ideals and convictions. His belief and faith in God was like few others I have witnessed. And compromise, in the sense of a concession where one’s values are concerned, was simply not in his otherwise prodigious vocabulary. In many ways he was extreme: in his love of the Torah, the Talmud, and their study. His religious zeal was awesome—in the original sense of the term. Further, there simply was no gap between the high ideals he taught and how he lived them out. His faith in and observance of Judaism, his work ethic, the passion and intensity he brought to every field of endeavor—these are hard to describe in terms that do not sound extreme.

Yet he was a moderate in this sense: he taught . . . that, whether in Talmud study or life, we are often confronted with opposing [but lofty] goals, values, and ideals. But rather than assume that one is correct, and the other is false, we should hold them both in what he called a “dialectical tension,” that is, see each value as positive in its own right and then explore how competing values may work together.

Of course, values inevitably clash, and in conflict we must choose. However, we pick Value A over Value B not because Value B has been proved false or unimportant, but because life requires a decision to be made. Foundationally, however, both values remain intact, and we should do the utmost to uphold the rejected value, even as the counter-value wins out in practice. In fact, Lichtenstein would argue that precisely because we have given up on a value in one context, we must redouble our efforts to reinforce it elsewhere.

Read more at Jewish Week

More about: Aharon Lichtenstein, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, Religious Zionism, Yeshiva

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria