From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud Harabbonim
November 19, 20

Last week and continued in this week’s article with thoughts , stories and chizuk of Hagaon, Harav David Feinstein ztkl.

From Matzav Yartzites on the 28th day of Cheshvan Rabbeinu Yonah (ben Avraham) of Gerondi, France(1200 [or 1180]-1263). The Ramban’s mother and Rabbeinu Yonah’s father were siblings. Many years later, the Ramban’s son, Rav Shlomo, married the daughter of Rabbeinu Yonah. Thus, the two great rishonim were mechutanim as well as first cousins. He was a student of Rav Shlomo ben Avraham Min Ha’Har. When King Louis XIV of France, “Saint” Louis,” burnt all the copies of the Talmud in Paris in the Square of the Louvre, Rabbeinu Yonah, one of the Rambam’s main detractors, felt that the events in Paris were a sign that he and the other opponents of the Rambam were seriously wrong. He then composed his work Shaarei Teshuvah, in which he outlined the methods of doing Teshuvah, and he traveled from place to place preaching about the need to back away from matters which cause division among the Jewish People. Among his talmidim are the Rashba and Ra’ah. [Others cite his yahrtzeit as 1, 8, or 11 Cheshvan)
One of the aspects of Hagaon Harav David Feinstein ztkl the Mashgiach of MTJ Harav Chaim Ganzweig touched upon at the hespeidim held at the yeshiva was Rav David’s derech not to get involved in machlokes . We can see the tremendous hurt and consequences caused in France as mentioned by Rabbeinu Yonah . Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for even well meaning individuals to take sides in heated discussions, or about certain situations which turn from lashon hara to sinas chinum. Rav David was makpid on speaking only what and when he felt appropriate. More than that,he was like Aharon HaKohein who sought every opportunity and in many situations to bring shalom bein adam lechaveira .

For all of us on the Lower East Side who grew up in the daled amos of Rav Moshe, Rav David and Rav Reuven sol zein gzundt and the Feinstein mishpacha has been a special zchus. We all knew of Rav David’s greatness ,but he was so much part of our lives, participating in our simchos, events and unfortunate circumstances. For me and my own family we felt such an attachment to him and his mishpacha. My own mother A”H grew up right across the street from the yeshiva. Yes, he left thousands of yesomin, each with a personal story and special memories whether it was someone who spoke and or met him on a one time basis, those who had consulted with him on many occasions, attended his shirum, davened in the yeshiva and those who had an on going relationship with him. So humble, so unassuming, so majestic as a human being, but such an Adom Gadol in so many ways. The stories being shared at the many on going hespeidim, articles after articles from across the globe. There must be thousands of pictures through the years he posed with people, but the remarkable things he did for so many people- there is so much to learn from him in every aspect of life. Even the way he gave his Rebbitzen sol zein gzundt much kavod and derech eretz was magnificent. There were often times when entering the bais medrash at a special event or tefilos he would often first wait for his Rebbitzen to come in before beginning. Or how he would make sure she was comfortable sitting in a car in the front passenger seat, closing the door for her, and he himself would sit in the rear passenger seat. His love for his family knew no bounds. Perhaps you heard or saw Rav Moshe kissing his grandchildren and other young children, often putting them on his lap and he would give the same tenderness to any other young child who came to him. Rav Dovid was the same way showing his tenderness his own and to all the other young children who came his way. Yes, there is much to learn from his ways. Any bachur growing up who has grandiose thoughts of how he should be in gadlus, should come down to earth, be a mensch, be humble, love the Ribono Shel Olom and know the essence of chavairm kol yisrael, the true meaning of why one should do gemilus chasadim, the true meaning of being sincere- to be an erlicha Yid and to be as humble as Rav David was. I would like to share at least one of the stories which one of my dear nephews Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein who is a rebbe in the yeshiva, a resident of the Lower East Side whose mishpacha was very close to Rav Dovid and an author of childrens books wrote in last weeks edition of the Lakewood Shopper. “ Many years ago, when I was in the Rosh Yeshiva’s shiur, there was a disturbed young man, who decided to join the Yeshiva. He began to follow the Rosh Hayeshiva around. He joined the shiur as well. He sat down next to Rav Dovid, who began to explain the gemara. The young man put his head down, and rested it, on the Rosh HaYeshiva’s arm. Rav Dovid was not fazed at all. He kept giving shiur, as if nothing unusual was happening. After a few minutes, the man lifted his head, and began to speak loudly. The Rosh Hayeshiva pressed the pause button on the tape recorder, and turned to the young man. “ You cannot disturb the shiur” he said gently. “ If you want to stay here, you must be quiet.” The man nodded his head nervously, and stopped making noise. Then he put his head back down on the Rosh Hayeshiva’s arm, where it stayed, quietly, until the shiur was over.”

Learning in the beis medrash was a humble and meaningful experience and being in the daled amos of Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Michael Barenbaum (Mashgiach) Rav David Feinstein, Rav Moshe Shisgal, Rav Chaim Swatystki, and other illustrious rabbonim such as Rav Elimelech Bluth, Rav Aharon Felder, Rav Gershon Lopian and the present Mashgiach sol zein gzundt Rav Chaim Ganzweig was truly special. I would like to share one special event I had. Outside in the lobby of the beis medrash were two wooden phone booths with seats and doors. If the phone rang and considered important enough to inform the person who the call is for, whoever answered it would inform that person. One day, as I was passing the phone booth, the phone rang. I answered and asked who is calling, the response was in Yiddish, “this is Moshe Feinstein, I would like to speak to my son David”. Of course, I made sure to get up from the seat and stand up. I gave the message to Rav David. Those of us who saw Rav David through the recent year noticed there was a change in the way he was walking and his energy. But his koach strong as ever in his learning, shiurim, gemilus chasadim and activities. However, last year already, on Yom Kippur was the first time he was unable to daven Mincha as the baal tefilah. When we completed the entire cycle of Mishneh Berurah and had a siyum, or concluded another mesechta and had a siyum he was so full of joy and simcha and his relationship with everyone in the shiurim very close. Yet, he did not want to commit and tell his intentions about future shiurim. However, he started to give over a number of his shiurim to his eldest son Berel. Rav Berel began to give the mishnayos shiur after davening, the afternoon gemaras shiur and then the morning gemaras shiur and then the next cycle of the Mishneh Berurah. Rav Berel spent many years learning with his zaida Rav Moshe and his father. Many when unable to reach Rav David for a shaila would be asking Rav Berel and now Rav Berel became the Rosh Hayeshiva. Rav Mordechai, the youngest son, a talmid chacham in his own right still gives shiurim for the yeshiva mesivtha and oversees the Shabbos/Yom Tovim davening in the beis medrash ever since Rav David was no longer in the yeshiva for the Shabbosim and Yom Tovim.

As the Mashgiach mentioned ,we all thought Rav David will once again pull through, return home from the hospital and hopefully would have a refuah and return back to the yeshiva But it was not to be. The Aibershta had other plans.

The yeshiva annual dinner was scheduled to take place November 15th, but of course was postponed until maybe December. For me and my family the dinner would be a lot different this year. The Rebbitzen Shima Feinstein Memorial Award is being bestowed in memory of my wife Keila Lutza bas Shalom HaKohein A”H.No sit down dinner of maybe a thousand attendees due to the COVID 19 restrictions, I would not be attending with my wife, the Mashgiach of Staten Island Yeshiva Rav Gershon Weiss, would not be there as well as one of the wonderful rabbeim of the same yeshiva Rav Shimon Mandel, both who were nifter some months ago. Most of all everyone looked forward to the final part of the dinner when Rav Dovid would convey his special brachos to one and all. Yes, there will be a dinner, and the format will be announced, the new Rosh Hayeshiva Rav Berel, will be acknowledged and we will be looking forward to his devrei Torah and inspiration.

In my heart, missing Rav Dovid who was so much of my life growing up, so many shailos, so many inspirational chizuk, for me, my wife A”H and all the family sol zein gzundt. We will still go to Rebbitzen Malka for her brachos and her continued chizuk as she gave us through the years. But we all come to the realization that life must go on. We take all the mussar haskeil, all the chizuk and Torah leshmaw from our mentors, our poskim whoever they may be and continue to inspire ourselves, our families, and all that we do making each day a special and meaningful day throughout our lives. I join the thousands of yesomin throughout the world, many who are first learning about who Rav Dovid was. One of the many famous stories I read how a driver going down one of the streets on the Lower East Side stopped a Jewish man for directions how to get to the FDR Dr. The man said he would be willing to get into the car giving directions. He did and before he got out of the car he was asked what is his name. His response, David Feinstein. The driver and passengers did not realize until he gave them his name who he was. No Rabbi Feinstein, no Rosh Hayeshiva Feinstein, just plain David Feinstein was his response. Returning to the story of my answering the phone booth call from Rav Moshe, he didn’t ask for Rav Feinstein or Rav David, he asked to speak to his son David. That is how learning has been over the decades, no shtenders as Rav Moshe objected to them, no fancy buildings, lobby, beis medrash. In fact for many years there were no tables and chairs- just benches with the lift up book rest with the exception of tables and benches in the rear of the beis medrash where Rav David often gave his shiurim. Even Rav David’s office his original office in the rear of the lobby in front of the beis medrash which was the original main office of the yeshiva has two desks. One on one side for Rabbi Krinsky who was in charge of the Kollel, and towards the front was Rav David’s desk. Surrounded by soda cans for the soda machine in the lobby still only 50 cents a can and seforim. Before Sukkos, there were also boxes of Esrogim he used to sell and like the soda, the money went to the Kollel. For those who don’t know, it was Rav David who insisted on filling the soda machine himself until finally after many years, he gave that responsibility to someone else. Yes, we all have memories of Rav David and many were zoche to be able to say, to your children, grandchildren ,future daros of what you remember being in his daled amos.

There are countless historical articles about Rav David in the Jewish media. The following is from the Jewish Press by Shmuel Landesman {25 Cheshvan 5781 November 11, 2020)” I spoke at some length with three prominent individuals who were close to Rav David about the life, character, and accomplishment of this special man. All of them preferred not being quoted in a newspaper article, but the following information derives from my conversations with them: Rav David was born in 1929 in Luban, then part of the Soviet Union (now Belarus) to Rav Moshe and Rebbitzen Shima Feinstein. Rav Moshe was the rav of the town, a position the Soviets eventually eliminated. The Feinsteins endured intense poverty and terrible persecution from the ​Yevsektsiya ​(the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist party). Young Dovid wasn’t even taught by his father how to read Hebrew lest the Communists find out and send Rav Moshe to Siberia. Due to pressure from the U.S. government, the Feinsteins were allowed to leave Stalin’s dictatorship at the end of 1936. After a brief stay in Latvia, they immigrated to New York, settling on the Lower East Side, where Rav David Feinstein resided for the next 83 years. Young Dovid was enrolled in Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem (MTJ), where his father became the rosh yeshiva, and with which he was affiliated for the rest of his life. Rav Feinstein attended MTJ for elementary school, high school, and beis midrash, and his primary rebbe was his father, the most authoritative posek in the post-Holocaust period. After many years of learning, Rav Dovid began teaching senior students at MTJ and became the institution’s rosh yeshiva upon the passing of his father in 1986.Rav Dovid’s Gemara shiur was always well-prepared and thought out. He also taught a weekly parshah and halacha shiur that was open to the public. Decades ago, Rav Moshe said about his son, “​Er ken Shas – He knows Shas.” Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said that Rav Dovid einstein was the greatest posek in America. He was also viewed as the greatest living ​talmid of his father, possessing the most authentic ​mesorah of his psakim. Rav David received phone calls day and night asking for his ​opinion ​on issues spanning the entire gamut of halacha. He was universally respected, revered, and beloved in the rabbinic world due to his personal piety, pleasant temperament, commanding Torah knowledge, kind heart, tolerance, sincerity, simplicity, ruthfulness, avoidance of politics, and extreme humility. Rav David’s greatest joy in life was learrning Torah, and he was a big ​masmid. Nevertheless, he also possessed a tremendous sense of responsibility for the Jewish community. Locally, he was actively involved in supporting the Jewish institutions of the Lower East Side and helping individuals – assisting people who needed mployment, helping those with shalom bayis difficulties, and giving tzedakah to those in need. Rav David had endless patience in listening to people’s problems. Rav David also helped the broader Jewish community and increased his involvement in his old age. He was a leader of Torah mesorah, an active fundraiser for the Chinuch Atzmai school system in Israel, and a member of he Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Agudath Israel of America. He also fundraised for his cousin’s yeshiva in Bnei Brak (Beis Yehuda – Rav Michel Feinstein’s yeshiva). Rav David served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mesorah Foundation, which sponsors all research projects for ArtScroll Publications. More importantly, he served as the rabbinic authority and personal rabbinic advisor for decades to the founding publishers of ArtScroll, Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz and Rabbi Nosson Scherman. Rav David was dedicated to their goal of translating primary Jewish texts into English. Rav Dovid Feinstein published a seminal Hebrew work on the halachos of the Pesach Seder back in 1970. He subsequently wrote eight English-language​ sefarim on a wide range of topics – from the laws of the Jewish calendar to a commentary on the haftaros. Rav David also wrote commentaries on the weekly parshah, Megillas Ruth, Megillas Esther, and the Haggadah. Rav David Feinstein is survived by his widow, Rebbetzin Malka Feinstein; his brother, Rav Reuven Feinstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island; his daughter, Rebbitzen Gittel Fishelis; his sons, Rav Berel Feinstein, rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Tiferes Jerusalem, and Rav Mordechai Feinstein; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son, Rav Moshe Shmuel Yaakov Feinstein.”

The world will never be the same without Rav David and that is how we feel when a gadol, a rav, a loved one, a relative, leaves us with a void until techias hameisim. We continue our lives and try to live it to the fullest with Kedusha, Maysim Tovim together with much joy, happiness, simchas hachaim and good health. May we be zoche to continue Rav David’s mesorah, his legacy in our own lives. May we also continue to uphold his values of emunah, faith and love in the Ribono Shel Olom, May we all be zoche the coming of Moshiach and the geula sheleim bekarov amain sela. Let us remember my wife’s quote, “ When things look blue it helps to remember that tomorrow is another day and will be a brighter day.”
Thank you. Sincerely, Yehuda Blank