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This presentation by Dr. Yehudah Mirsky continues the Torah in Motion series "The Thought and Worldview of Influential Jewish Thinkers."
Rav Yehuda Amital, zt"l, predicted that the phenomenon of Yeshiva students being exempted from army service would increase the friction between the religious and secular community, on the one hand, and would lead to emotional and ideological distance between the Yeshiva students and the State of Israel, on the other. He also felt that the Religious Zionist community needed to have its own institutions of high level Torah study. He therefore helped formulate the idea of Yeshivot Hesder, and took an active role developing the first hesder group at Yeshivat HaDarom.
In 1968, he opened Yeshivat Har Etzion in Kfar Etzion, not far from the settlement of Alon Shevut of today, with 30 students. It has since grown into an institution with hundreds of students from Israel and abroad, a women’s division in Migdal Oz, and a renowned teacher’s college.
At the yeshiva’s inception, Harav Amital turned to Harav Aharon Lichtenstein with the request that he join him as Rosh Yeshiva, and in 1971 Harav Lichtenstein agreed. Their joint leadership resulted in the unique development of the Yeshiva and to its profound spiritual influence in Israel and abroad. As exemplified by its leaders, the yeshiva is open to a variety of opinions and approaches. Harav Amital insisted that the yeshiva, while maintaining a staunch commitment to Torah study and mitzvah observance, be “built with windows,” sensitive to the needs of the outside world, listening to “hear the baby’s cry.”
A prominent public figure in Israel, with abroad impact on matters of religious and national concern, Harav Amital founded the Meimad movement in the 1980’s in order to give voice to the moderate camp within Religious Zionism and to preserve avenues of communication with the broader public. After the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin z”l in 1995, he was asked by Prime Minister Shimon Peres to join the government as Minister without Portfolio in order to bridge the growing divide between the religious and secular populations in Israel.
Harav Amital passed away at the age of 85 on the 27th of Tamuz, 5770 (2010), and was mourned by thousands of students and admirers. Yeshivat Har Etzion, the institution he founded and guided for over four decades, will always remain his great legacy to Am Yisrael.
Upcoming in this series:
- Saturday, December 14 - Rav Ovadiah Yosef and the Revival of Sephardic Halakhah, with Dr. Marc Shapiro
- Thursday, January 16 - Shadal: Modern Biblical Scholar and Traditionalist, with Rabbi Dr. Marty Lockshin
- Thursday, February 13 - Self-Revelation in Rav Soloveitchik's Writings, with Rabbi Reuven Ziegler