An exceedingly humble scholar whose legal and personal advice was sought day and night
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem in New York and a leading halachic authority in North America, passed away on Friday, November 6. He was 91 years old.
Rabbi Feinstein was born in 1929 to the illustrious Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rebbetzin Sima Feinstein in the city of Lyuban in the Soviet Union (currently Belarus). When Dovid was eight years old, the family immigrated to the United States and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he was to live for the rest of his life.
A few years after arriving in the United States, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was named Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem (known as MTJ). It was then a small yeshivah that gained renown under his leadership. Over the years, he became world-famous as one of the foremost halachic authorities of his generation.
Upon his father’s passing in 5746 (1986), Rabbi Dovid took charge of the Manhattan branch of the yeshivah, while his brother, Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, directed the Staten Island branch of MTJ. Despite the changing tide of neighborhoods in New York City, Rabbi Feinstein remained a stalwart presence in the historically Jewish neighborhood of the Lower East Side.
Like his father before him, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein soon became a leading halachic authority. He was known to have his phone busy at all hours of the day and night, with calls from around the world seeking his advice on all areas of halachah.
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein was also a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America and authored many works and commentaries on the Torah, Talmud, and halachah. For example, in the classic Stone Edition of the Torah printed by Artscroll, there appears an explanation from Rabbi Feinstein as to the significance of the Masoretic note that appears at the end of every parashah.
A Humble and Engaging Leader and Teacher
Despite his illustrious background and prominent position, Rabbi Feinstein was known to be exceedingly humble and easy to relate to. He would often say that “I am much more comfortable in the back of the room with the students,” than in the front of the study hall, traditionally reserved for respected figures and teachers. Over the course of his many years of leadership, he was always approachable, shying away from the spotlight and fanfare usually afforded a man of his stature.
When Rabbi Dovid Feinstein celebrated his bar mitzvah, he took on a practice which would change his entire life. He felt that since he was born during the week of Parshat Korach, he had come to the world to fix the sin of lashon hara (evil talk). From this time on he took upon himself to speak sparsely and he would often shorten his discussions on general topics and would remain silent. The Satmar Rebbe, who came to console him after the death of his sister, said that “from Rabbi Dovid’s silence I can learn more than any mussar speech I heard in my life.”
“Rabbi Feinstein was so unassuming that if you did not who he was, you would never guess that he was a world-class Torah scholar,” said Rabbi Yisroel Stone, co-director of Chabad of the Lower East Side with his wife, Chani. “At public events or weddings, he would never rise to speak, always shunning honor. What’s more, though he would willingly offer his opinion on any halachic matter, he would never push it on anyone.”
Indeed, wherever he was needed, he would be there. His son, Rabbi Mordechai, relates how despite his father’s tremendous responsibilities, if he heard that someone needed a rabbi to officiate at a wedding, he would make it a point to personally tend to it.
Rabbi Feinstein is survived by two sons and a daughter, and by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A third son died in his youth.
The funeral took place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and then in Jerusalem.