17 Nov REMINISCING MY INTERACTIONS WITH THE ROSH YESHIVA ZT”L
I met Rav Dovid Feinstein zt’l for the first time when my grandmother, Joyce Hirsch, told me that her good friend Gloria Goldman was set up with her husband Rabbi Stanley Braunfeld, the principal of MTJ, by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Feinstein. They were having a siyum in memory of Gloria’s first husband, Jack Goldman a”h, and they invited me to be a part of the siyum. Rav Dovid Feinstein zt’l and his Rebbetzin came up to the apartment on Ocean Avenue every year for this occasion and it was there that I was able to meet the Rosh Yeshiva for the first time about 5 years ago. The first time I saw the Rosh Yeshiva face to face, I could tell I was in the presence of gadlus and in the presence of a tremendous talmud chacham. My entire life I had heard so much about his father, the Gadol & Posek Hador Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l, and upon seeing Rav Dovid’s mannerisms and hearing him talk in his quiet ways, the aura of gadlus both in his knowledge and his chesed was readily apparent. The siyum consisted of a very nice dinner in a warm environment and people would speak about R’ Jack Goldman a’h, give Divrei Torah, and ask Rav Dovid informal shailos. After the dinner and siyum, we would daven Ma’ariv in a back bedroom and I had the opportunity after Ma’ariv to ask Rav Dovid numerous questions. This same thing happened for the next four years. Though not a formal interview, each year I had a few more questions for the Rav. One of the first fun questions I asked Rav Dovid was my famous three dinner guests question: If you could have anyone from the beginning of time come to your Shabbos table, who would you invite? By now, I’ve asked this question to hundreds of people, but Rav Dovid had been one of the first people I asked, so it was a relatively new topic. Rav Dovid’s answer was three aniyim. He didn’t say anyone specific, just three aniyim. During the next month I ended up asking this question to another fifteen chashuva people and I composed a page of the sixteen different answers. After this page was published, I happened to see Rabbi Paysach Krohn shlita, who I’ve interviewed numerous times, at a bris in the Catskills. He asked me how our most recent interview had been received; I told him that I had asked others the same fun question I had asked him and Rav Dovid’s had been the best answer by far. All the other people on the page, including Rabbi Krohn, had answered specific people either from Tanach, from history, or relatives, but Rav Dovid’s answer was not specific to anyone in particular. Rabbi Krohn was amazed by Rav Dovid’s answer because it showed the absolute chesed and gadlus of Rav Dovid. He wasn’t thinking about what meeting these three people would do for him, rather what he could do for others. Rabbi Krohn felt that Rav Dovid’s answer was so powerful and fascinating that he dedicated one of his “Chesed a Day” podcast to Rav Dovid’s answer. Three years ago, I asked Rav Dovid the fun question: What is the most difficult mitzvah to perform? I’d like to preface his answer with a short Dvar Torah that will add even more meaning to his answer. In last week’s parsha, Parshas Vayera, at the end of the parsha the Torah goes through the ten tests of Avraham Avinu. The last test was the most difficult of the tests, which was the akeidah. The question is asked: Why was this a test for Avraham Avinua and not Yitzchak Avinu? After all, Yitzchak was the one that was being killed! On another note, after the Akeidah, Yitzchak Avinu disappeared for sixty years. He did not show up to his mother’s lavaya nor do we hear anything about Yitzchak until Parsha Vayechi. The medrash says that when someone in Sefer Beraishis is unaccounted for they are usually learning in Yeshivas Shem V’Ever (the original freezer). If Yitzchak Avinu was on such a high level that he was willing to die al kiddush Hashem, why did he need to go and learn all those years in Yeshivas Shem V’Ever? What was left for him to learn? Rabbi Bernard Weinberger in his sefer “Shemen HaTov” answers both questions by saying that Avraham Avinu was on a much higher level than Yitzchak Avinu. It was a test for Avraham Avinu because he was a living kiddush Hashem. Avraham Avinu had to potentially continue living his life knowing that he had made the decision to kill his son Yitzchak in service to Hashem. Yitzchak Avinu was willing to die al kiddush Hashem, which is on a lower level than living al kiddush Hashem. There are many times throughout Jewish history where people have died al kiddush Hashem. That is why Yitzchak Avinu needed to go to Yeshivas Shem V’Ever. He needed to learn so that he could get to his father’s level of being able to live al kiddush Hashem. Fun question: What is the most difficult mitzvah to perform? The most popular answers have been kibbud av v’em, simchas Yom Tov, Shmitah/Yovel, and actually feeling as though we left Mitzraim on Pesach night. Rav Dovid’s answer was unique and remains so until this day: to live al kiddush Hashem. Indeed Rav Dovid embodied this mitzvah of living al kiddush Hashem. This past summer I had the opportunity to interview the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Reuven Feinstein, Shlita, at Camp Yeshiva of Staten Island up in Kerhonkson, NY. During our interview, I was fortunate to be able to ask the Rosh Yeshiva a few questions about Rav Dovid. One question that I asked was: What middah do you feel you have learned the most from your brother? He said that though he has learned so much from his brother Rav Dovid, the middah that came to mind was Rav Dovid’s kochas hanefesh to say no. Rav Reuven said there are times in life you should say yes and times where you need to say no. Rav Reuven said that he himself typically says yes, but Rav Dovid also knew when to say no. Rav Reuven felt that knowing when to say no is a tremendous middah because sometimes you help a person more by saying no. I have been fortunate to have not only met Rav Dovid Feinstein, but to also have had the opportunity to sit with him and learn from him, as well. I’d like to thank Gloria Goldman and Rabbi Stanley Bronfeld for the opportunity they gave me to experience Rav Dovid’s greatness firsthand. May Rav Dovid Feinstein’s neshama have an aliyah. The greatness of Klal Yisrael’s loss is truly heavy. Yehi zichro baruch.