|Died||March 23, 1986 (aged 91)|
|Resting place||Har HaMenuchot, Jerusalem|
|Other names||Rav Moshe, Reb Moshe|
|Employer||Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem|
|Known for||Igros Moshe, various rulings in Jewish law|
|Children||Pesach Chaim Feinstein|
Moshe Feinstein or Moses Feinstein (Hebrew: Moshe Faynshteyn; March 3, 1895 - March 23, 1986) was an American Orthodox rabbi, scholar, and posek (authority on halakha—Jewish law). His rulings are often referenced in contemporary rabbinic literature. Feinstein served as president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, Chairman of the Council of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the Agudath Israel of America, and head of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem in New York.
Moshe Feinstein was born, according to the Hebrew calendar, on the 7th day of Adar, 5655 (traditionally the date of birth and death of the biblical Moshe) in Uzda, near Minsk, Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. His father, Rabbi David Feinstein, was the rabbi of Uzdan and a great-grandson of the Vilna Gaon's brother. His mother was a descendant of talmudist Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller, the Shlah HaKadosh, and Rashi. He studied with his father, and also in yeshivas located in Slutsk, under Pesach Pruskin, and Shklov. He also had a close relationship with his uncle, Yaakov Kantrowitz, rabbi of Timkovichi, whom he greatly revered and considered his mentor. For the rest of his life, Feinstein considered Pruskin his rebbe.
Feinstein was appointed rabbi of Luba?, where he served for sixteen years. He married Shima Kustanovich in 1920, and had four children (Pesach Chaim, Fay Gittel, Shifra, and David), before leaving Europe. Pesach Chaim died in Europe, and another son, Reuven, was born in the United States. Under increasing pressure from the Soviet regime, he moved with his family to New York City in January 1937, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Settling on the Lower East Side, he became the rosh yeshiva of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem. He later established a branch of the yeshiva in Staten Island, New York, now headed by his son Reuven Feinstein. His son Dovid Feinstein headed the Manhattan branch.
He was president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, and chaired the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America from the 1960s until his death. Feinstein also took an active leadership role in Israel's Chinuch Atzmai.
Feinstein was revered by many as the Gadol Hador (greatest Torah sage of the generation), including by Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, Yonasan Steif, Elyah Lopian, Aharon Kotler, Yaakov Kamenetsky, and Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, even though several of them were far older than he. Feinstein was also recognized by many as the preeminent Torah sage and posek of his generation, and people from around the world called upon him to answer their most complicated halachic questions.
Owing to his prominence as an adjudicator of Jewish law, Feinstein was asked the most difficult questions, in which he issued a number of innovative and controversial decisions. Soon after arriving in the United States, he established a reputation for handling business and labor disputes. For instance, he wrote about strikes, seniority, and fair competition. Later, he served as the chief Halakhic authority for the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, indicative of his expertise in Jewish medical ethics. In the medical arena, he opposed the early, unsuccessful heart transplants, although it is orally reported that in his later years, he allowed a person to receive a heart transplant (after the medical technique of preventing rejection was improved). On such matters, he often consulted with various scientific experts, including his son-in-law Moshe David Tendler, who is a professor of biology and serves as a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University.
As one of the prominent leaders of American Orthodoxy, Feinstein issued opinions that clearly distanced his community from Conservative and Reform Judaism. He faced intense opposition from Hasidic Orthodoxy on several controversial decisions, such as rulings on artificial insemination and mechitza. In the case of his position not to prohibit cigarette smoking, though he recommended against it and prohibited second-hand smoke, other Orthodox rabbinic authorities disagreed. Even his detractors, while disagreeing with specific rulings, still considered him to be a leading decisor of Jewish law. The first volume of his Igrot Moshe, a voluminous collection of his halachic decisions, was published in 1959.
Feinstein died on March 23, 1986 (13th of Adar II, 5746). It has been pointed out that the 5746th verse in the Torah reads, "And it came to pass after Moshe had finished writing down the words of this Torah in a book to the very end." (Deuteronomy 31:24). This is taken by some as a fitting epitaph for him.
His funeral in Israel was delayed by a day due to mechanical problems with the plane carrying his coffin, which then had to return to New York. His funeral in Israel was said to be the largest among Jews since the Mishnaic era, with an estimated attendance of 300,000 people (though others since then may have been bigger. Some sources put harav Ovadia Yosef's funeral attendance at over 850,000). Among the eulogizers in America were Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, Dovid Lifshitz, Shraga Moshe Kalmanowitz, Nisson Alpert, Moshe David Tendler, Michel Barenbaum, and Mordecai Tendler, and the Satmar Rebbe. The son of the deceased, Reuven Feinstein, also spoke.
Feinstein was held in such great esteem that Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who was himself regarded as a Torah giant, Talmid Chacham, and posek, refused to eulogize him, saying, "Who am I to eulogize him? I studied his sefarim; I was his talmid (student)."
Feinstein was buried on Har HaMenuchot in proximity to his teacher, Isser Zalman Meltzer; his friend, Aharon Kotler; his son-in-law, Moshe Shisgal; the Brisker Rav, Rav Avraham Yoffen, and next to the Belzer Rebbe.
Feinstein invested much time molding select students to become leaders in Rabbinics and Halacha. Most are considered authorities in many areas of practical Halacha and Rabbinic and Talmudic academics. Some of those students are:
Feinstein's greatest renown came from a lifetime of responding to halachic queries posed by Jews in America and worldwide. He authored approximately 2,000 responsa on a wide range of issues affecting Jewish practice in the modern era. Some responsa can also be found in his Talmudic commentary (Dibrot Moshe), some circulate informally, and 1,883 responsa were published in Igrot Moshe. Among Feinstein's works:
Some of Feinstein's early works, including a commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi, were lost in Communist Russia, though his first writings are being prepared for publication by the Feinstein Foundation.
Feinstein is known for writing, in a number of places, that certain statements by prominent rishonim which Feinstein found theologically objectionably were not in fact written by those rishonim, but rather inserted into the text by erring students. According to Rav Dovid Cohen of Brooklyn, Feinstein attributed such comments to students as a way of politely rejecting statements by rishonim while still retaining full reverence for them as religious leaders of earlier generations.
Reb Moshe .. body .. to Jerusalem, .. funeral at ... Har Ha-Menuchot
Rabbi Feinstein - known affectionately in the Orthodox world as "Rav Moshe"...
As soon as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ... turned to Rav Moshe and ...