A Review Of Reshumei Aharon
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Part 1. As a follow-up to the previous reviews of Mesoras Moshe as well as volume nine of the Igros Moshe, a number of people (laymen, poskim, and rabbis) requested more information on Reshumei Aharon. The Reshumei Aharon (Vol. I 92 pages and Vol. II 45 pages, beautifully arranged and typeset by Machon Daas Z’keinim in Lakewood, NJ) was written by Rav Aharon Felder, a talmid muvhak of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l.
Rav Felder is the rav of Congregation Bnai Israel in Philadelphia and is the son of Rabbi Gedaliah Felder, z’l, from Toronto. A responsum to Rav Felder appears in Igros Moshe YD Vol. IV #43.
Over a course of 14 years, Rav Felder spent much time with Rav Moshe. Rav Felder is a renowned expert in the laws of gittin and is often consulted upon in matters relating to gittin such as the spelling of specific English names. Aside from the rulings and halachic opinions found in the sefer, there are some remarkable vignettes of Rav Feinstein, zt’l, that are not found elsewhere. Rav Felder is also known for his “tells it like it is” style (perhaps because of his Galicianisher upbringing), which makes both volumes very interesting reads. There are also rulings that, in this author’s opinion, are rather surprising.
Of Rav Moshe
The first volume begins with a number of vignettes of Rabbi Felder’s rebbe. Rav Felder relates that Rav Moshe told him once that he was married on a Friday afternoon and his father was mesader kiddushin—not just for him but for a few other couples as well. They only had sheva berachos on Shabbos and no further sheva berachos, unlike the general custom today.
Once, while raising money for the yeshiva, Rav Moshe, Rav Felder, and another individual visited a philanthropist. They were informed by the philanthropist that he studied once a week in the Jewish Theological Seminary (a Conservative institution). The other individual who accompanied them made a pejorative reference to JTS by switching the last word in the acronym to a similar word that connoted that this institution was actually burying Judaism. Rav Moshe felt that he should not have spoken in that manner.
When Rav Moshe would daven Ma’ariv byechidus (without a minyan) at home, he would always be careful to replace his slippers with shoes and wear a hat, jacket, and tie. When Rav Felder erroneously thought he was leaving, Rav Moshe responded that he was not preparing to leave, but was, in fact, dressing for Ma’ariv.
When Rav Felder wished to publish one of his sefarim, he asked Rav Feinstein whether it was appropriate to use funding from the German Claims Conference. Rav Moshe responded that he personally did not use these funds to publish his own books, and that if it was possible to avoid it, it is preferable to do so.
A rav once informed Rav Moshe that his future son-in-law’s rosh yeshiva refused to be mesader kiddushin on account of the mixed seating that would be at the wedding. Rav Moshe called the rosh yeshiva and told him that he did not have to eat at that wedding, but he must be mesader kiddushin. He then said to Rav Felder that the rosh yeshiva was doing things that people greater and better than he did not do (p. 20).
Once Rav Moshe was asked by a bachur whether he could attend college. Rav Moshe asked what his parents felt. The bachur explained that they wanted him to attend. Rav Moshe responded that he should listen to his parents. When questioned by Rav Felder, Rav Moshe responded that (a) the bachur did not express that he did not want to go, and (b) it is difficult to tell someone to do something against his parents’ wishes. (Es iz shver tzu zogen gain galten elter.)
Rabbi Felder had once brought up the difficult issue of the blessing that is recited on chocolate. Why is the blessing “shehakol” and not “Borei pri ha’adamah?” (Author’s note: The bean is grown specifically to be eaten and the flavor is certainly detected. Indeed, it was the practice of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach to recite ha’adamah). Rav Moshe responded, “It has already been the custom for many years for Klal Yisrael to recite the shehakol. Now, what is left for us to do is to find the rationale for the custom of the world, as it is impossible to say that all of Klal Yisrael is doing it improperly.”
One time, a religious Jew entered the beis midrash to speak with Rav Moshe. He began to relate how his son was sitting in jail for dealing drugs. He requested that Rav Moshe write a letter to the judge on behalf of his son to have mercy upon him. Rav Moshe turned to him and said, “Your son makes people ill and damages them; let him sit in jail.” Even though the father pleaded and persisted, he refused to budge. He added that his actions were against the laws of the state and he cannot just do whatever he wants (p. 22).
Once, descendants of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan, approached Rav Moshe and asked him whether they were permitted to reinter the Chofetz Chaim to Eretz Yisrael. The motivation was that some members of the gentile population in the town of Radin where the Chofetz Chaim is buried were vandalizing the Jewish cemetery there. Rav Moshe responded that while technically they would be permitted to reinter the Chofetz Chaim in Israel because of the principle of kavod ha’meis, respect for the deceased, he would not advise it. Why? Because all of Polish Jewry that had passed away in Poland are carefully anticipating the opportunity to greet Mashiach along with the Chofetz Chaim at their side. If you take him to Eretz Yisrael, who knows what can happen if those souls would be against it! v
We will iy’H continue this review with vignettes from Volume 2, as well as halachos from both sefarim, in an upcoming issue. The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.