Editor’s note: Rav Dovid Feinstein, son of Rav Moshe Feinstein, was the rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Tiferes Jerusalem on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was a renowned Torah scholar and halachic authority for Jews around the world. He passed away last week at the age of 91. What follows is personal reflections from one of his many talmidim.
I was a student in MTJ in 1960. After high school my father sent me there to learn because of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. There, I learned Talmud, but I also learned how to deal with people. I met Rav Moshe at my interview and was put into Rav Dovid’s shiur, who was first starting to teach classes in the beis midrash. I was in his shiur for two years.
There were 20 of us, and our interactions were that of a rebbe and talmid, but also like a friendship, with all the chavrutot and learning together.
When I went to college I continued at MTJ in between classes. Sometimes I would drive Rav Moshe home for lunch because I was the only one with a car.
I formed Just One Life in 1988, an organization that supports pregnant women in Israel who are in crisis, such as single mothers, women getting divorced while pregnant or who got pregnant while in the army. There are many halachic questions that come up when dealing with these issues, and I would call Rav Dovid when I had a question. He became the rabbinical authority for Just One Life, along with Rav Pam.
I would bring photos of the babies and their mothers to show Rav Dovid when I would visit the yeshiva and he would smile and ask questions about the mother’s situation. He would ask me to show the photos to Rebbetzin Malka and would tell me later that she enjoyed seeing them.
Ten years ago, Rav Dovid asked me to join the MTJ board. I asked him, “Rebbe, it’s 50 years later! Why are you asking me now?” He answered me, “You’re family and family should stick together.” So I joined, and sometimes at board meetings, when I would contribute an idea, he would say, “I like that.”
The main lesson I learned from Rav Moshe and Rav Dovid was chesed. The way they would greet everyone at the yeshiva—there was an open door. People came from all walks of life, every type of Jew—and even non-Jews! Rabbis from the OU, Agudah, Young Israel, Torah uMesorah, all came to the yeshiva to ask questions to Rav Moshe and later to Rav Dovid. He was always humble, inviting and interested in other people.
A lot of poor Jews would come to collect tzedakah from the students in the beis midrash, and one day when Rav Moshe was giving shiur a lady came in collecting and was chased out by a bachur. Rav Moshe stopped the shiur, excused himself and went out to give the woman tzedakah from his own pocket. Then he went over to the bachur and gave him tzedakah to give her as well.
We used to go across the street to Sam’s Deli for lunch, and Rav Dovid would come in, sit and eat with us. He was my posek, my rebbe and my friend. I looked up to him tremendously.
The Feinstein family, Rav Moshe and Rav Dovid, emulated the avos in the way they built up Jewish values and the Jewish way of life to where it was before the Holocaust.
Like Avraham, their chesed was unbelievable. Like Yitzchak, they had gevurah. Rav Dovid had the strength to carry on his father’s mission and together they carried the world Jewish community on their backs. They weren’t just roshei yeshiva, but roshei klal Yisrael.
And like Yaakov, their Torah was known throughout the world and it uplifted the Jewish poeple after the Holocaust and continues to this day. [Artscroll, the household name that disseminates Torah throughout the world, was born in MTJ, with Rav Dovid encouraging his great friend, Artscroll founder Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, and giving his haskama on many sefarim.]
After watching the funeral on Zoom on Sunday, I went to the airport to say goodbye to Rav Dovid: my rebbe, my adviser, my friend.
By Jack Forgash,
as told to Michal Rosenberg