Living Legacy: Haga’on Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l

Living Legacy: Haga’on Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l

A year has passed since the petriah of Rav Dovid, zt”l, on 19 Cheshvan of last year.

In this time, Klal Yisroel—especially in America—has begun to scratch the surface of the magnitude of the greatness of this gadol who was an iluy in every respect, but most of all in hiding himself on the Lower East Side, even as his light shone forth from there with such brightness.  

Rav Dovid was a master of simplicity and straightness—the epitome of fleeing from honor, an endeavor which he also executed with simplicity— and so, on the rare occasions where he allowed glimpses into his gadlus, it was simply a matter of being truthful and humble.

He was born in the Russian town of Lyuban, in 1929, to his great father, Rav Moshe, zt”l, who served as its rov. He once remarked to a talmid driving him, “I don’t know what they want from me; I was born an iluy. When I was five, I know the entire seder Nezikin.”

Once, his brother, ybl”ch, Rav Reuven Shlit”a –with whom Rav Dovid shared a legendary brotherly bond of awe, love, and reverence— was asked by a talmid whether it is true what they say that Rav Dovid completed shas one hundred times. A master of simplicity himself, he approached his older brother and asked him. Rav Dovid responded softly, “yes,” and walked away. Truthful, straight, and simple. 

Rabbi Yisroel Besser, the prolific writer, biographer, and columnist, is currently getting to work on a biography on this gadol who so illuminated the way for American Torah Jewry in the 21st century, and shared the foremost thoughts in his mind as he sets about this special endeavor:

“There are so many facets to Rav Dovid’s personality,” he says. “But I had to choose a feature that defined him, it was ‘Toras chessed,’ a Torah that brings about love and kindness for your fellow Yid. Rav Dovid had a mantra; ‘When Yidden get up after learning a sugya they should be more compassionate, kinder, with more room in their heart for others, and if that doesn’t happen, then they didn’t really learn it, and they should sit down and learn it again.’

“And so, he made his business to know the individual needs of every person who made their way into his orbit.... whether they were gedolei Torah—all of whom looked to him as the final authority—or emotionally-disturbed individuals whom no one else gave a second glance.”

When Rav Dovid would speak about Toras chessed, one must understand that his prowess in Torah was extraordinary—and his brilliance in chessed was commensurate with this very greatness.

He was a posek extraordinaire who is quoted often by his own father in Igros Moshe, and Rav Moshe would refer shei’los to him, and has himself authored numerous volumes on psak, and other areas of Torah. And this same person seamlessly transitioned to according his rebbetzin the honor and reverence reserved for queens, opening and closing the front door of the car for her, and helping her around the kitchen.

Observers of the Rosh Yeshiva explain that he saw the mofsim that he affected in the last few decades of his life as simply another way to do chessed for those people...

Leaders of Agudas Yisroel recall how the Rosh Yeshiva would arrive at the Moetzes meetings and take in every single word, not uttering a syllable of his own. When asked for his opinion, all eyes would turn to him as he gave his da’as Torah with softness and humility, and this is usually how things came down in the end.

His emes and his middos defined him, there was absolutely no change in his demeanor from delivering his mishnayos shiur on the Lower East Side to a handful of individuals, to attending mass gatherings of tens of thousands—it was all one lifetime of Torah, a holy aura of chessed and love for his fellow Yid.



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