By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
A Review of Reshumei Aharon, Part 2. In the July 5 issue, we began to review Reshumei Aharon (Vol. I, 92 pages and Vol. II, 45 pages, beautifully arranged and typeset by Machon Daas Z’keinim in Lakewood, NJ), written by Rav Aharon Felder, a talmid muvhak of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l. Aside from the rulings and halachic opinions found in the sefer, there are some remarkable vignettes of Rav Feinstein, zt’l, that are not found elsewhere (some of which appeared in the previous article).
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A student in Rav Moshe’s mesivta wished to stop his secular studies and study Torah all day. The principal sent him to speak with Rav Moshe. Rav Moshe responded, “I am not telling you that you are obligated in studying secular studies, but if it is your desire to remain in this yeshiva, then you must, as it is part of the order of the yeshiva.”
A father requested that the yeshiva register his son as a student so that he could get a deferment for the draft [for the Vietnam War]. The father explained that his son loves Torah and studies it whenever he has free time. It is just that in the daytime he is studying in college. Rav Moshe did not agree to the request and asked, “How is it possible that a person who loves learning Torah goes away from learning Torah?”
Two important rabbis from Flatbush came to Rav Moshe and asked that he approve the eiruv they wished to construct in Flatbush. Rav Moshe responded that if they did go ahead and construct the eiruv, he would not come out against them, even though he disagreed with the underlying principles of it in his teshuvos. They went and publicized that Rav Moshe agreed to the eiruv. It was at that point that he wrote a responsum forbidding the Flatbush eiruv.
Many times, people approached Rav Moshe for a leniency in regard to various business practices. His response was, “Nu, Nu. Vos ken men ton?” They erroneously interpreted this response as permission.
Once Rav Felder traveled with Rav Moshe to Lincoln Square Synagogue to perform a wedding ceremony. When they entered he observed the partition and said, “This is a mechitzah?” Nonetheless, he did not refrain from performing the wedding ceremony.
A chassid once entered Rav Moshe’s home and asked to inspect Rav Moshe’s mezuzos because his rebbe commanded all his chassidim to do so. When Rav Moshe heard this, he said, “The Admor can demand of his chassidim to inspect their mezuzos, but he cannot demand to inspect my mezuzos!”
There was once a wealthy individual who was so successful in his investments that others invested with him and were successful as well. Ultimately, he lost his money and went bankrupt (presumably on account of some fraudulent activity) and all who invested with him lost all their money too. One person even committed suicide on account of the losses. When Rav Moshe heard what had transpired, he responded, “That individual, in this world, can no longer do teshuvah on account of the devastation that he had wrought.”
Rav Moshe’s opinion was that if firing an individual from an institution could cause such arguments that the entire institution might be placed in jeopardy, then it is not worthwhile to fire that person.
As a general rule, in yeshiva, whenever Rav Moshe had yahrzeit, he davened the full Shemoneh Esreih at the amud, not the half one that is common in yeshivos. One yahrzeit, however, his wife had called Rav Felder and requested that he not do the full Shemoneh Esreih on account of her husband’s weakness. Rav Felder whispered the rebbetzin’s request into Rav Moshe’s ear before Shemoneh Esreih and he davened the shortened version.
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Now that we have seen a glimpse of Rav Moshe’s personality, let’s get to some of the interesting rulings in the sefer.
The questions in this section are found only in the second, newer volume, just published this year.
It is permitted to wash hands in our modern bathrooms in order to recite Asher Yatzar, but not to do so for any matter of kedushah such as before tefillah or before a meal.
Hair implants are not considered a chatzitzah (interpolation) for tefillin.
One can attach the tefillin knot next to the box of tefillin by tying it with a string. [The knot of the tefillin strap must lie flush to the box of the tefillin compartment.] One may blacken tefillin at night.
Someone who pronounces words in an Ashkenazic pronunciation may switch to Sephardic when he acts as the shaliach tzibbur and the same is true in reverse.
Alos ha’shachar is always 72 minutes before sunrise in New York City. Misheyakir is about 35 minutes before sunrise. It is better to daven without a minyan after sunrise than to do so with a minyan at dawn. If, however, the minyan is davening after misheyakir, then doing that is preferable to davening alone.
When one builds a shul on a condition (such as allowing food to be eaten there), the condition should be presented before a beis din (p. 19, O.C. volume).
If gentiles came and abused the sefer Torah of a synagogue, the members of the synagogue should fast a half day.
Rav Felder relates that even if a person was eating pizza as a meal, if he was eating one slice, the blessing is mezonos; three slices the blessing is ha’motzi; and two slices are a doubt. [RYH: According to this, Rav Moshe is holding like the TaZ 168:20 that this would not be considered pashtida and not like the Magen Avraham 168:44–a chiddush since most poskim rule like the Magen Avraham.]
Another huge chiddush that Rav Felder seems to be saying Rav Moshe held is that even when eating a shiur keviyus seudah for most people, if it is done aray [occasionally] the blessing is still mezonos [RYH: See M.B. 168:23 for these halachos in general]. This is a remarkable position.
Rav Moshe held like the Aruch HaShulchan, permitting conversation after mayim acharonim and not like the Mishnah Berurah (see siman 181).
One should recite the blessing of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis” when seeing Niagara Falls (see O.C. siman 228).
One should refrain from having a medical procedure done on Friday [RYH: if it can be avoided] because it could lead to chillul Shabbos (see O.C. siman 248).
Single girls should not light Shabbos candles with a blessing, because the essential custom was only enacted for married women. There is the further issue of our current electric lights making it a possible berachah levatalah. This is not a problem for married women because the takanah was made for them (see O.C. siman 263).
On Sukkos one should not use a sukkah with fabric walls (p. 45) [RYH: Most people presume that this is because they flap in the middle more than three tefachim. They further suggest that if the walls were secured in the middle with an additional string, Rav Moshe would have permitted it. However, Rav Felder explained that Rav Moshe was against it because in Shulchan Aruch 630:10 it states that it is good to place wooden slats across it.] v
We will, iy’H, continue with the halachos regarding other parts of the Shulchan Aruch in an upcoming issue.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.