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A Pivotal 15-Minute Encounter 

One brief encounter with one of the great poskim of our generation


fter Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ztz”l passed away, I began bringing all my sh’eilos (both personal and communal) to Rav Dovid Feinstein. Anyone who asked Rav Dovid a sh’eilah could expect a concise but comprehensive answer, delivered with humility and sensitivity.

On one occasion, I had an important, timely question for Rav Dovid. My brother Reb Yesocher arranged for me to come to MTJ at 1 p.m., but advised me I would only have 15 minutes, as Rav Dovid had to leave for a doctor’s appointment at exactly 1:15.

I made sure to arrive before 1 so I would have the full 15 minutes to ask my question, and as soon as Rav Dovid exited the small room where he had just finished giving shiur, I quickly walked toward him. Just then, however, another man who had a parent on life support approached him, with a life-and-death question that needed Rav Dovid’s resolution. I quickly stepped aside to let him present his query.

Before the two of us reached the Rosh Yeshivah, a young elementary-school-age boy walked over to him, holding out his tzitzis.

“My rebbi said that I should show the Rosh Yeshivah my tzitzis so he can check if they are kosher,” he said.

Rav Dovid stopped, bent down, took the tzitzis in his hands, and gently pulled on each string. He counted them together with the boy and pulled some of the knots a little tighter. Then, with a pinch on the boy’s cheek, he assured him that the tzitzis were indeed kosher.

After that, he turned to the other man waiting nervously, who immediately began to explain his mother’s situation and the decision they had to make right away. Rav Dovid asked him two or three simple questions that required only a one- or two-word answer, told him what to do, and sent him on his way, though not before offering a brachah for a refuah. (The details of that sh’eilah are presented in my sefer, Sh’eilos U’teshuvos Divrei Chachamim to be released next month).

Finally, the Rosh Yeshivah turned to me. With his signature warm smile and the demeanor that put everyone at ease in his presence, he asked how he could be of help. As there were only five minutes left before he would be leaving to the doctor, and my question was particularly sensitive, I asked if perhaps I should return when the Rosh Yeshivah had more time. But Rav Dovid told me we should at least begin discussing the question.

I explained that I had come on behalf of a family whose young child had passed away several years earlier and was buried in a local cemetery. Subsequently, though, the family had bought burial plots in Eretz Yisrael for the whole family. Now the parents wanted to move the aron to Eretz Yisrael, both to give the boy the zechus of kevurah in Eretz Yisrael, and also so he would be buried with the family members.

Rav Dovid understood full well the delicate nature of that sh’eilah, but within seconds, he paskened not to move the child. With just a few words, he sent a message to the family that would provide much needed comfort and peace of mind.

And then he wished me well, put on his coat, and at exactly 1:15 p.m., he exited the yeshivah for his appointment.

I remember standing in the same spot for a while, simply absorbing all that I had just heard and seen. In exactly 15 minutes, Rav Dovid made a young child feel like a million dollars, took an incredible burden off the shoulders of a family struggling to deal with a loved one in a precarious state, and in a split-second decision, paskened a sh’eilah dealing with departed neshamos and the necessity of providing kavod hameis and kavod hachai at the same time. And all of this happened in just 15 minutes.

I walked away inspired, having witnessed the Rosh Yeshivah’s humility, clarity, and sensitivity in one brief encounter with one of the great poskim of our generation.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1006)

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