Introduction - Jewish Values in a Changing World

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

[Please note: this is the original introduction to this series, dating back to 5765, prior to the petira of our Roshei Yeshiva, Harav Yehuda Amital zt"l and Harav Aharon Lichtenstein zt"l. Yehi zikhram barukh.]



In memory of Rebbetzin Ruth Schonfeld, a"h



The story of this book begins in the summer of 2002. A group of instructors in Yeshivat Har Etzion were asked to compose a document that would summarize and reflect some of the principal messages of the Yeshiva. After many meetings, the document, comprised of five central points, was revised and edited, and presented to the Roshei Yeshiva. It was immediately evident that the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Yehuda Amital, was not pleased with the work. "Are these the only messages of the Yeshiva?" he asked. The next day, Rav Amital came to us with a list of twenty points, which he thought were especially important to emphasize in our day. We, veteran disciples of Rav Amital, were very excited by the list, which concisely summarized a well-defined educational philosophy which we had received from Rav Amital over the course of many years, in talks delivered in the Yeshiva, in "tischim," and in private meetings.


We proposed to Rav Amital that during the following year, he regularly meet with the senior students of the Yeshiva, and each week speak to them about one of the points on his list. To our joy, Rav Amital agreed. These discussions were taped, transcribed and edited, and we are pleased to present them here in this book. Converting the oral discussions into written form was obviously no simple matter, and we hope that this book accurately reflects, to the extent possible, the substance of what had been said.


The original Hebrew version of this book is titled, But He has Given the Earth Man (taken from the verse in Tehillim 115:16). This name reflects, in our opinion, one of the central themes of Rav Amital's thought – man's position in the world, with all his virtues and failings. The reader will find, among other things, the primary emphasis that Rav Amital places on natural morality, the personal dimension in ones service of God, and the need for honesty and naturalness when standing before God. The great importance that Rav Amital attaches to the mitzvot between man and his fellow will also be evident. Rav Amital emphasizes the importance of derekh eretz which preceded the Torah, a person's responsibility to the society of which he is a member, and the humane sensitivity that must be shown to everyone created in the image of God.


I wish to thank the many people who helped me in the editing of this book. First and foremost, Rav Amital, shlita, who allowed us a free hand to make structural and stylistic changes, in order to simplify the presentation of his ideas. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues on the editorial board and educational staff of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rav Shlomo Brin and Rav Beni Lehmann, who were of great assistance in editing this book. I wish also to thank our colleagues Rav Hillel Rachmani and Rav Yoel Amital for their help and advice. Our sincere gratitude also extends to Amos Safrai, Devora Rachmani, Michal Kutner, and Itamar Nitzan, who provided help in the various stages of the production of this book.


The English edition of this book was skillfully translated by Rav David Strauss. Rav Reuven Ziegler edited the English volume and oversaw all aspects of its production. In this he was ably assisted by Debra Berkowitz and the staff of the Virtual Beit Midrash.  Rachael Gelfman proofread the book and prepared the index.


The publication of this book was undertaken by Tevunot Press of Yaacov Herzog College. Our thanks to all who participated in the project, especially Meir Munitz and Yitzchak Benvenisti.


Above all, we thank God who has set our portions among those who sit in the Beit Midrash and allowed us to study with and learn from our Roshei Yeshiva, HaRav Yehuda Amital and HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein, shelita.


We are especially happy to publish this book at this time, upon HaRav Amital's reaching gevurot - his eightieth birthday. May it be God's will, that the verse, "They shall yield fruit even in old age; vigorous and fresh shall they be," be fulfilled in Rav Amital. May he merit to continue to learn and teach, to observe, do, and fulfill until one hundred and twenty.


Amnon Bazak, Adar Aleph 5765 


The series Jewish Values in a Changing World was published in hardcopy by Ktav Publishing in 2005.  To order...