New York - Rulings From Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l: A Review Of The Rishumei Aharon
New York - As a follow up to the previous reviews of both the Mesoras Moshe as well as volume nine of the Igros Moshe, a number of people (laymen, Poskim, and Rabbis) requested more information on the book entitled “Rishumei Aharon” mentioned in a previous review.
The Rishumei Aharon Volume II (on Orach Chaim), beautifully arranged and typeset by Machon Daas Z’keinim in Lakewood, NJ, was just published this year. Volume I (on Yore Deah, Even HaEzer and Choshen Mishpat) was published 18 months ago.
The Rishumei Aharon was written by Rav Aharon Felder, a Talmid Muvhak of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l.
Rav Felder is the Rav of Congregation Bnai Israel in Philadelphia, and is the son of Rabbi Gedaliah Felder z”l from Toronto, a renowned Posek as well. A responsa to Rav Aharon Felder, the author, appears in Igros Moshe YD Vol. IV #43.
Rav Felder spent 14 years with Rav Moshe Feinstein and spent much time with him during those years. Rav Felder is a renowned expert in the laws of Gittin, and is often consulted upon in matters relating to Gittin such as the spelling of specific English names. 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.
Rav Felder is also known for his “tells-it-like-it-is” style (perhaps because of his Galicianisher upbringing), which makes both volumes very interesting reads. There are also rulings that, in this author’s opinion are rather surprising.
VIGNETTES OF RAV MOSHE
The first volume begins with a number of vignettes of Rabbi Felder’s Rebbe. Rav Felder relates that Rav Moshe told him once that while in Luban, he was married on a Friday afternoon. His own father was his Mesader Kiddushin – not just for him but for a few other couples as well. Their sole Sheva Brachos was on Shabbos and no further Sheva Brachos, unlike the general custom prevalent today.
Once while raising money for the Yeshiva, Rav Moshe zt”l, Rav Felder and another individual visited a philanthropist. They were informed by this philanthropist that he studied once a week in the Jewish Theological Seminary (a Conservative institution). The other individual who accompanied them, made a pejorative reference to JTS by switching the last word in the acronym to a similar word that connoted that this institution was actually burying Judaism. Rav Moshe felt that he should not have spoken in that manner.
When Rav Moshe would daven Maariv byechidus (without a minyan) at home, he would always be careful to replace his slippers with shoes and wear a hat, jacket, and tie. When Rav Felderfirst encountered this, he erroneously thought Rav Moshe was leaving somewhere, and inquired as to where his Rebbe was going. Rav Moshe responded that he was not preparing to leave, but was, in fact, dressing for Maariv.
When Rav Felder wished to publish one of his Seforim he asked Rav Feinstein whether it was appropriate to use funding from the German Claims Conference funding. Rav Moshe responded that he personally did not use these funds to publish his own books, and that if it was possible to avoid it, it is preferable to do so.
A Rav once informed Rav Moshe that his future son-in-law’s Rosh Yeshiva refused to be mesader kiddushin at the wedding on account of the mixed seating that was planned. Rav Moshe called the Rosh Yeshiva and told him that he did not have to eat at that wedding, but that he must be Mesader Kiddushin. He then said to Rav Felder that the Rosh Yeshiva was doing things that people greater and better than he did not do (p. 20).
Once, Rav Moshe was asked by a bachur whether he could attend college. Rav Moshe asked the young man how his parents felt about it. The bachur explained that they actually wanted him to attend. Rav Moshe responded that he should listen to his parents. When questioned by Rav Felder, Rav Moshe responded that a] the bachur did not express that he did not want to go, and b] it is difficult to tell someone to do something against his parents’ wishes.. [es iz shver tzu zogen gain galten elter (parents)..]
Rabbi Felder had once brought up the difficult issue of the blessing that is recited on chocolate. Why is the blessing “shehakol” and not “Borei Pri Ha’Adama?” [The bean is grown specifically to be eaten and the flavor is certainly detected. Indeed, it was the practice of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach to recite a HaAdama RYH]. Rav Moshe responded, “It has already been the custom for many years for Klal Yisroel to recite the shehakol. Now, what is left for us to do is to find the rationale for the custom of the world, as it is impossible to say that all of Klal Yisroel is doing it improperly.”
One time, a religious Jew entered the Beis Midrash to speak with Rav Moshe. He began to relate how his son is sitting in jail on account of dealing drugs. This father requested that Rav Moshe write a letter to the judge on behalf of his son to have mercy upon him. Rav Moshe turned to him and said, “Your son makes people ill and damages them; Let him sit in jail.” Even though the father pleaded and persisted, he refused to budge. He added that his actions were against the laws of the state and he cannot simply do whatever he wants (p.22).
Once, the descendants of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Meir HaKohain Kagan, approached Rav Moshe and asked him whether they were permitted to re-inter the Chofetz Chaim to be buried in Eretz Yisroel. The motivation was that some members of the gentile population of the town of Radin where the Chofetz Chaim is buried were actually vandalizing the Jewish cemetery there.
Rav Moshe responded that while technically they would be permitted to re-inter the Chofetz Chaim in Israel on account of the principle of Kavod HaMais – respect for the deceased, he would not advise it. Why not? Because all of Polish Jewry that had passed away in Poland and are buried there as well- are carefully anticipating the opportunity to greet Mashiach along with the Chofetz Chaim at their side. “If you take him to Eretz Yisroel who knows what can happen if those souls would be against it!”
Volume II of the Rishumei Aharon has a number of fascinating vignettes as well.
A student in Rav Moshe’s high school wished to do away with his secular studies and study Torah all day long. 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 once that the Yeshiva register his son in Yeshiva 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, go 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 personally disagreed with the underlying principles that they were relying upon in his Teshuvos. They went and incorrectly publicized that Rav Moshe had actually agreed to the Eiruv, misconstruing Rav Moshe’s remarks. It was at that point, in order to clarify his own position, that he wrote a responsa forbidding the Flatbush Eiruv.
Many times people approached Rav Moshe for a leniency in regard to various business practices. Often, his response was, “Nu, Nu.. Vos ken mon ton?” They erroneously interpreted this response as permission.
Once, Rav Felder travelled with Rav Moshe to Lincoln Square Synagogue to perform a wedding ceremony. When they entered the sanctuary, he observed the partition and said, “This is a Mechitza?” Nonetheless, he did not refrain from performing the wedding ceremony.
Once a Chassid entered Rav Moshe’s home and asked to inspect Rav Moshe’s Mezuzos because his Rebbe the Admor commanded to 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 too invested with him and were successful as well. Ultimately, this wealthy man lost his money and went bankrupt (presumably on account of some fraudulent activity). Everyone 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.” [Looks like these things happened even back then..]
Rav Moshe’s opinion was that if firing an individual from an institution could cause such arguments that the entire institution could be placed in jeopardy, then it is not worthwhile to fire that person.
As a general rule, in yeshiva whenever Rav Moshe had Yartzeit, he davened the full Shmoneh Esreh, not the half one that is common in Yeshivos. One Yartzeit, however, his wife had called Rav Felder and requested that he not do the full Shmoneh Esreh on account of her husband’s weakness. Rav Felder whispered the Rebbitzen’s request into Rav Moshe’s ear before Shmoneh Esreh. Deferring to his wife’s request, Rav Moshe davened the shortened version.
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 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 Kedusha such as before Tefila or before a meal.
Hair implants are not considered a Chatzitza (interpolation) for Tefillin.
One is halachically permitted to attach the knot of the Tefillin to the box of Tefillin by tying it with a string. One may also blacken Tefillin at night.
Someone who pronounces words with an Ashkenazic pronunciation may switch to the Sefardic pronunciation when he acts as the Shliach Tzibbur and the same is true in reverse.
Alos HaShachar [Halachic dawn] is always 72 minutes before sunrise in New York City. Misheyakir [the halachic time determined by when there is enough light that one can recognize an acquaintance] 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 (35 minutes before sunrise) 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 consition should be presented before a Beis Din (p. 19 OC 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; 3 slices the blessing is haMotzi; 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 Mogain Avrohom 168:44 – a chiddush, since most Poskim do rule like the Mogain Avrohom].
Another huge chiddush that Rav Felder seems to be saying Rav Moshe held is that even when eating a shiur kvias seudah for most people – if it is done aray [occasionally] the blessing is still Mezonos [RYH See MB 168:23 for these halachos in general]. This is a remarkable position.
Rav Moshe held like the Aruch HaShulchan permitting conversation after Mayim Achronim and not like the Mishna Brurah (See Siman 181).
One should recited the blessing of “Oseh Maaseh B’reishis” when seeing Niagara Falls (see OC Siman 228)
One should refrain from doing a medical procedure on Friday [if it can be avoided RYH] because it could lead to chilul Shabbos (See OC Siman 248). In a clarifying conversation with this author, Rav Felder explained that Rav Moshe even avoided visiting teh dentist on a Friday out of this concern.
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 bracha levatala. This is not a problem for married women because the Takana was made for them (see OC 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 the walls were secured in 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.]
In regard to the laws of Bishul Akum, a gentile is not believed to forbid the food by saying that the pilot light was extinguished and he re-lit it. The food remains kosher and we assume that the fire kept burning – unless it is known otherwise in some other way (p.34).
Rav Feinstein further ruled that, ideally, one should not rely upon a Jew having previously lit the pilot light. This should only be relied upon for a short period of time (p. 35). [Rav Felder explained to this author that Rav Feinstein’s concern was that people might forget about teh laws of Bishul Akum, which has happened to some degree, unfortunately.]
In modern times, potatoes have the status of an important food and are subject to the strictures of Bishul Akum (ibid) [RYH: Historically, the Chayei Adam writes that potatoes were subject to these strictures. By the time of the Aruch haShulchan, potatoes became so ubiquitous in Europe that he ruled they were not. Now they have become olah al shulchan malachim again.]
Soy beans are not considered an important enough food to be subsumed under the prohibition of Bishul Akum (ibid).
There is no bitul in shishim (negation in sixty times the ratio) regarding that which is forbidden to eat because of danger, such as fish and meat (ibid). [This is actually a dispute between the Shach and TaZ in YD 95:3. Most Poskim (See Chsam Sofer YD 101, Yam Shel Shlomo Chulin #15, are lenient like the Shach. Rav Moshe’s position here is, therefore, somewhat novel.]
If someone had adopted a stringency because he believed that this was the opinion of his Rabbi, and subsequently was informed that this was not his opinion, there is no need for a hataras Nedarim, undoing the oath (p.60). At a separate time, Rav Feinstein zt”l explained that a handshake is like a Neder – an oath (ibid).
A person should never take his father or mother to a Din Torah (p. 61). [This is also a Sefer Chassidim #584. It would also seem that the same ruling would apply to taking one’s Rebbe to a Bais Din RYH].
It is forbidden to buy and sell non-kosher commodities (p.36). [Thus pork-belly trading is a no-no.]
If someone wishes to study in Israel and it is a time of perceived danger – he must ask his parents’ permission to study there. Someone in Kollel must also ask his in-laws, for even though there is no full obligation to accord them honor like parents – it is forbidden to cause them anguish (p. 61).
When there is a hachnasas Sefer Torah, and the Sofer really finishes the Sefer Torah, but the wealthy donors think that they are writing the letters – there is no deception involved here. The money they have donated is considered to be full Tzedakah.
Insurance money paid for a Sefer Torah that was destroyed does not have Kedusha to it, and may be used for other purposes. (p. 65).
It is denigrating to a Sefer Torah to take a photograph of it unless there is a good reason for it (p. 67).
In regard to Pidyon HaBen Halachos (the laws of redeeming a firstborn son), it seems that a typographical error has entered into Rabbi Felder’s text. On page 69, it states that the child of a Bas Kohain or Bas Levi with a gentile does not require a Pidyon HaBen. However, in Shulchan Aruch it states that if it is a Bas Levi it does not require a Pidyon, but the child of a Bas Kohain with a gentile does require a Pidyon HaBen. There is an obvious error here.
Rabbi Felder clarified the typo and stated that Rav Moshe was ruling on a case where both parents were Jewish, but the mother had become disqualified from marrying a Kohain prior to the birth of the child, but after the child was conceived. In that case, Rav Feinstein had ruled that child is still exempt from requiring a Pidyon HaBen.
Back in the laws of family purity, Rav Felder quotes Rav Moshe as forbidding a Kesem that was found on colored garments if it was the Yom Havest (p.48). [This author (RYH) believes that this is an extremely controversial ruling, as the Shiuri Shaivet HaLevi 190:10:3 “HaYom” writes that only Baalei Nefesh are stringent in this regard, and Rav Elyashiv permits it altogether.]
In a Kesuvah (marriage document), if the word “V’kaninah” was left out entirely, one may write the word in, but the witnesses must sign the Kesuvah again. If however the line of the kuf in the word v’kaninah was left out, it may be filled in with no need for the witnesses to sign again (p.77).
There is no need to separately rent the Yichud room, because this is already included in the hall rental. [The husband must take his wife into his own residence owned or rented by him in order to fulfill a Yichud required for marriage].
When there is a great need it is permissible to arrange a Get by means of a video – this is preferable to a telephone. This is only on condition, of course, that they are 100 percent certain that it is indeed the husband. [Although Rav Moshe zt”l passed away long before Skype – it would seem to this author (RYH) that this leniency would apply to Skype too].
When there is a great need, one may give a Get up until fifty minutes after Shkiya (presumably with the date on the previous day). [In this author’s view (RYH) this ruling seems to be extremely controversial].
If someone printed a book without the permission of the owners, it is permitted to purchase it from the publisher the entire while that an injunction has not been issued. The reason is that there is an assumption that the owner is not adamant (p.91).
If a car was sold with the specific mileage on it stated, and the odometer on a car was tampered with, even if the seller was unaware of it, the sale of the car is invalid. If the seller made no mention of the mileage and the seller was unaware that the odometer was tampered with, the sale is valid (p.86)
When a charitable institution conducts a raffle and they forgot to place one person’s ticket in it, they are not obligated to refund the money since his main intent is for charity (p.86). [It would be a good question as to whether this applies to Chinese Auctions as well. In this author’s experience, people’s main intent is the possibility of winning and at the very least it would seem likely that one should ask the person. By the same token if it is a high stakes raffle, such as a limited sales one and each ticket is $50 or $100, it would seem likely that keeping the money may constitute theft RYH].
When parents purchase a car for their child, they still have the right to place restrictions and conditions on its use after they gave it to him. The rationale is that it is not a matana gmurah, a complete gift (p.87). [Editor’s note: One has to wonder how the child could have asked such a question – were there so many takers back in the seventies when this was asked? Hopefully, it was the parents who posed it as a theoretical question].
Regarding the laws of Mekach Taus (erroneous sale), if someone sold a house with a faulty boiler and the purchaser was unaware of it, the sale is still valid. The reason is that there is no Onaah in regard to landed properties. It is, however, forbidden to knowingly mislead a buyer in such a situation (p.86).
It is permitted to call the police on a thief who is Jewish, and there is no halachic issue of Mesirah. For it is impossible to allow the state to become completely lawless (p. 91).
All in all, both volumes are extremely fascinating works. The reader will not regret having purchased it.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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