Minchah had already finished, and I didn’t see anyone who looked like a rosh yeshivah
Although I was never officially enrolled as a talmid at MTJ, nevertheless, when critical sh’eilos came my way, I, like so many other rabbanim, knew that 145 East Broadway was the correct address. I also had the privilege of attending Rav Dovid Feinstein’s Chumash shiur on Friday mornings. And after Minchah on Erev Shabbos, anyone could approach Rav Dovid and ask him any questions. He always answered in his sweet, soft-spoken, humble manner.
However, I am getting ahead of myself. I must back up ten years to the first time I met this giant of humility.
In the 1970s, the go-to place to purchase anything Jewish was the Lower East Side.
You could eat at Schmulka Bernstein’s, which was an eating experience never duplicated. It was the first kosher Chinese restaurant in New York. The Asian waiters wore a sort of Chinese yarmulke with tassels running down the little hat’s side. You could order such Chinese dishes such as Moo Goo Gai Pan or Lo Mein Bernstein.
One unique aspect of Schmulka Bernstein’s was that they always found you a seat. Meaning, if you were two people and a couple was already seated at a table that could accommodate four, the next thing you knew, you were eating your Moo Goo Gai Pan next to a fellow eating a pastrami on rye.
One fine day, after eating my Lo Mein Bernstein, I decided to daven Minchah at MTJ, and I began the trek to East Broadway. Besides davening Minchah, I also had what I considered an important question and hoped that perhaps Rav Moshe ztz”l would be at the yeshivah.
Alas, by this time, Rav Moshe was davening in his home, and access to him was limited. People in the know informed me that his son, Rav Dovid, was the correct address if you could not get to Rav Moshe, as Rav Dovid was handling all sh’eilos.
By the time I arrived at the yeshivah, however, Minchah had already finished, and I didn’t see anyone who looked like a rosh yeshivah.
I decided to call home and let my mother know I was leaving the city. There were two phone booths outside the beis medrash. One was open, and in the other one, a man with a bent-down hat and a regular suit was on the phone, the door to his booth ajar.
I put by hand in my pocket, and all I had was a quarter. I figured if the man next to me had the door open, he wouldn’t mind an interruption.
“Do you have change for a quarter?”
While continuing his conversation, he fished through his pockets and gave me three nickels and a dime.
I called home and then went into the beis medrash to look for Rav Dovid. There were only a few people left in the beis medrash, so I asked one of them, “Do you know where Rav Dovid is?”
“Right after Minchah,” he told me, “someone yelled out, ‘Rav Dovid, you have a phone call!’ Maybe he’s still on the phone?”
I went to the hallway and saw that the phone booth’s inconspicuous inhabitant had just hung up.
“Excuse me, but do you have any idea where Rav Dovid is?”
Without missing a beat and without the slightest hint of hubris, he answered, “I’m not sure which Rav Dovid you are referring to. However, my name is Dovid, and perhaps I could help you.”
Suddenly, it became crystal clear.
The face, the smile, the humility!
How could I have been so slow?
I was face to face with Rav Dovid himself!
As I attempted to mumble an apology, he said, “You did nothing wrong. You allowed me to help you by giving you change for the quarter. No apology is needed. How can I help you?”
I stood there, amazed and in awe as I realized I was in the presence of greatness. —
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 837)
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