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It is only twenty-five years, but it feels like a different era. It now seems astonishing that we were zocheh to live in their midst, as they radiated holiness and wisdom, humility and humanity upon an entire generation. Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, the acknowledged chakima d’Yehudai, “wisest of the Jews” (Shabbos 129a), and Rav Moshe Feinstein, the posek hador, decisor of the generation. For nearly a joint century, all Klal Yisrael rested on their physically frail, but spiritually indomitable, shoulders.
On a recent Motzaei Shabbos, Mishpacha’s Eytan Kobre, a talmid of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Yeshiva of Staten Island, joined some longtime friends for a Melaveh Malkah. It was a rare opportunity for chaverim to share precious memories of Reb Moshe, and the years they spent accompanying a true melech through the byways of his Torah kingdom. Invited for a meal, by evening’s end they had experienced something truly magical.
There are many things about Rabbi Avrohom Kamenetsky’s relationship with his father that made it unique. He was Reb Yaakov’s ben zkunim, privy to a sacred Wednesday ritual when he would spend the day learning with his father. He was also the only Zevulun in a family of Yissachars — and he was the one entrusted with his father’s last wishes. A special glimpse into the gadol who carried American Jewry on his shoulders, yet who tried to conceal himself, hoping more than anything else to be forgotten.
It was the Steipler Gaon who crowned Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky as the “chakima d’Yehudai,” the wise man of the Jewish People. And, indeed, the individuals, institutions and communities that benefited from Reb Yaakov’s sage counsel for nearly half a century were legion. But it wasn’t only his insight and foresight that made Reb Yaakov the address for Klal Yisrael, but equally his ability to advise others on the most difficult issues without an iota of self-interest coloring his advice.
Rav Doniel Neustadt, a grandson of Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, ztz”l, talks with Mishpacha about editing and publishing his zeideh’s writings, the famous series known as Emes L’Yaakov.
Rav Michel Shurkin does not consider himself worthy of eulogizing Reb Moshe, nor of praising him. But he does have mesorahs from Reb Moshe to relay to the public, culled from more than a quarter century in Reb Moshe’s shadow. While Rav Shurkin shares insight into Reb Moshe’s approach to the public and to psak halachah, he reveals an insider’s view of Reb Moshe’s passionate effort to defend and cling to mesorah, and his efforts to validate the way Klal Yisrael has done things in the past.
Among the many burdens shouldered by Rav Moshe Feinstein was his role as halachic arbiter in the rapidly-developing field of medicine. An astounding number of innovations spawned an equal number of questions. No matter what that subject — be it hearing aids, cancer drugs, reproductive medicine, or end-of-life issues — Rav Moshe ruled with clarity and authority. Three physicians who merited personal access to Rav Moshe recall the giant who served as the era’s halachic beacon.