Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kavod HaTorah

For Gedolei Yisrael, the main concern is doing the Creator’s will. There are many astonishing stories about the boundless devotion for doing ratzon Hashem exhibited by Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l.

One of Rav Moshe’s talmidim once recounted, “Rav Moshe saw as part of his responsibility as a Rosh Yeshiva that he ought to invite along a group of talmidim whenever the unusual mitzvah of chalitzah was performed. That way, we would have the opportunity to see how it is done properly.

“Rav Moshe would examine the shoe to be sure that it was valid. He would then crouch down on the floor to examine the foot of the yavam for any trace of dirt that could invalidate the procedure. He would have a receptacle of water nearby. If the Rosh Yeshiva found dirt, he himself would rinse the grime off of the yavam’s foot.”

Perhaps such behavior seems unbefitting for a great Rosh Yeshiva and poseik? The Rosh Yeshiva’s attitude was the exact opposite: What could be more respectable than fulfilling a mitzvah properly?”

On his way to America, Rav Moshe stopped in Latvia. His brother-in-law suggested that he take a position there, since he was afraid that if Rav Moshe came to America he would not be respected as a talmid chacham of his stature deserved. Rav Moshe decided not to remain in Latvia even though he was offered a very prestigious position. When he arrived in America, his brother-in-law asked, “Why didn’t you take my advice?”

Rav Moshe answered, “I left Russia not for my own comfort but for the sake of raising my children as Jews. It is not clear to me that Latvia will stay suitable for this aim. Since my whole purpose in leaving Russia is to raise my children as Jews, I would rather raise them in America which is free and likely to remain so. It is far better to come to the U.S. where I will be able to raise my children to do Hashem’s will even if it means working as a street cleaner than to take an honorable position in a place where the future of Yiddishkeit is insecure!”

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