Rav Lichtenstein was the living and breathing example we could look at to see Modern Orthodoxy at its best. Rav Lichtenstein taught us that one could produce Torah scholarship of enduring value, teach students and involve oneself in the concerns of the community, and appreciate “the best that has been thought and said” by intelligent men and women of all faiths and nationalities.
But, even beyond the example that he represented for Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Lichtenstein demonstrated that traditional Judaism – a life anchored in Torah and mitzvot – could support a life of ethical excellence, of spiritual creativity and vitality, and of sensitivity to the complex and various needs of humanity.
Torah study and mitzvah observance is necessary but not sufficient, as Ramban noted. But Torah study and mitzvah observance can enhance and strengthen and deepen our ethical commitments. Rav Lichtenstein was a man who lived those values to a degree that is hard to fathom. His death places a massive burden on the rest of us to pick up the mantle enriched by halakhah.
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, “Does Judaism Recognize an Ethic Independent of Halakhah” (Given at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, Lakeview, IL, 2 May 2015) [https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1xGwp0vdYtgZ2NWTTVIY1FVZ0k/view?pli=1]