For Aharon Lichtenstein, Modern Orthodoxy Was Not about Compromise

Aharon Lichtenstein, the famed talmudic scholar and yeshiva head who passed away last week, was the leading proponent of a Modern Orthodoxy that, as Shalom Carmy writes, was not a “tepid compromise” between religious observance and Western culture. Rather, in his life and in his thought Lichtenstein propounded a vision of living Judaism to its fullest:

Rabbi Lichtenstein’s advocacy of liberal-arts study as an ancilla to religious study and devotion should speak to traditional believers whether Jewish or Christian. Though revelation stands at the center and the proper study for the Jew is not simply man, but man confronted by God, we encounter the image of God when we encounter the Arnoldian best that has been thought and said, and we understand ourselves and others better when we confront the voice of the other. To think otherwise is “mere chauvinism.”

He was a Zionist who treated Jewish sovereignty in Israel as a means rather than an end. He adopted Rabbi [Joseph B.] Soloveitchik’s view that territorial compromise, however painful—he compared it to amputating a limb to save a life—is permissible in the land of Israel for the sake of peace. It mattered little to him that this position was anathema to the religious maximalists who often dominated discourse.

Despite an aversion to publicity, Lichtenstein spoke up, when necessary, on urgent public issues. His sense of complexity did not stifle moral clarity. On the contrary, he was impelled to witness to that complexity in the face of one-sided, simplistic positions.

Read more at First Things

More about: Aharon Lichtenstein, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Matthew Arnold, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, Religious Zionism


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy