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

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy