The Kosher Bookworm: Some Post-Purim Literary Notes in Tribute to Reb Moshe

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This past week marked the yahrtzeit of HaRav HaGaon Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. As noted in my last essay, Art Scroll published last year a revised and expanded edition of their biography of Rav Fein-

stein entitled, “Reb Moshe” by Rabbi Shi-

mon Finkelman.

Among the many personalities who came to inhabit the pages of this excellent work are numerous rabbis from our community who, in my opinion, deserve some mention. So, with your indulgence, here are some of the more memorable.

“One afternoon, Reb Moshe and Rav Shlomo Heiman sat for a while ‘talking in learning.’ When their discussion concluded and Reb Moshe left, Reb Shlomo turned to Rav Dovid Bender and said, ‘Do you know why Reb Moshe is becoming a gadol hador? Because his back never touches the back of his chair while he learns.’

“Decades later, Rav Binyomin Kamenetsky accompanied his father Reb Yaakov to a meeting of senior roshei yeshivah. During the discussions Reb Yaakov repeatedly referred to Reb Moshe not by name but exclusively with the title Rosh Yeshiva.

“When asked on the way home by his son Binyomin to explain why he directed his remarks in this manner, Reb Yaakov’s answer was direct, ‘Have you ever seen Reb Moshe lean back in a chair?’

“When Rabbi Dovid Weinberger became engaged to the Alperts’ daughter, Adina, the chasan and kallah were not certain where to make their first home. Rabbi Weinberger planned to continue learning at Yeshivah Chofetz Chaim in Forest Hills. The Alperts, however, resided on the Lower East Side in the same apartment complex as Reb Moshe, where rentals were comparatively inexpensive, certainly a consideration for a young couple.

“During the engagement, Rav Nisson Alpert brought his future son-in-law to Reb Moshe for a berachah. When the topic of apartments came up, the chasan explained their dilemma. After he enumerated the reasons for living on the Lower East Side, Reb Moshe said, ‘And [another reason to live here is because] I live here.’”

Among Reb Moshe’s greatest and closest talmidim was Far Rockaway’s legen-

dary Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkrantz, of blessed memory.

“When he was in his early 20s, Rabbi Blumenkrantz was appointed to his first position as rav. Soon after, Reb Moshe taught him a lesson which he carried with him for the rest of his life. A reputable kashrus organization called Rabbi Blumenkrantz and asked that he announce in shul that a particular food establishment which bore kashrus certification of an orthodox rabbi was, in fact, not kosher. Reb Moshe told his talmid that he was not permitted to make such an announcement without first contacting the certifying rabbi to hear his side of the story. Otherwise, he would be guilty of kabbalas lashon hara, accepting an evil report as fact without first determining its veracity.”

Given Rabbi Blumenkrantz’ life long commitment to quality kashrus this was to be a lesson well learned.

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel, the rav of the Agudas Yisrael in Cedarhurst and a long time talmid and interpreter of Reb Moshe’s teachings, is quoted recalling the following:

“He was totally involved in whatever he was learning to the exclusion of all else. And when he began a sugya, he approached it as if he had never learned it before.

“Once, when I was already attending shiurim of Reb Moshe, I asked Rav Eliyahu Moshe Shisgal, zt”l, his son-in-law, to explain a difficult Rashi in Masechta Shabbos. I was shocked when he responded, ‘But I haven’t learned it!’ A year later, he was delivering shiurim in that perek. He called me over and said. ‘Regarding that Rashi that you asked me about last year…..’

“His was a close relationship with Reb Moshe that lives with and within him to this very day.”

Rabbi Yisrael Belsky related several incidents involving Reb Moshe that, in his opinion, indicate special siyata di Shmaya [divine assistance] for someone whose every word, deed, and thought were for the sake of Heaven. Here is one of these.

“Rabbi Belsky attended a function for the benefit of Tifereth Jerusalem. When Reb Moshe entered the room, he noticed Rabbi Belsky, took him by the hand, led him to a table reserved for rabbis, and indicated which seat he should take. During the course of the evening, Rabbi Belsky made the acquaintance of the rav sitting next to him, whom he had never met before.

“A few days later, Rabbi Belsky received a phone call from a talmid. The young man’s mother, a divorcee, was seeking to remarry, and someone had suggested a rav who also was seeking to remarry. Would Rabbi Belsky by any chance know this rav well enough to provide information about him? This rav was none other than the one who had sat next to him on that evening!

Rabbi Belsky provided very positive information, and the two married.”

Before his wedding, Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg, now the rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center in Cedarhurst. asked Reb Moshe what a chasan and kallah should have in mind as they stand under the chupah. According to Rabbi Ginzberg, the following was his reply:

“People make a mistake when they seek blessing from Hashem. They think that it is sufficient to ask of Hashem in a general way that everything should be good. However, if this was sufficient, the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah would not have composed a Shemonah Esrei with so many specific requests.

“Each aspect of life requires its own berachah and therefore its own tefillah that one should merit this berachah. When a chasan and kallah stand under the chupah at this special moment in their lives, they should beseech G-d for all that is most important in a Jewish home.”

All the above is but a sample of what we find in this biography of Reb Moshe as witnessed by some of the rabbis from our community. I leave it to you, the reader, to sample the rest.

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