Dec 12, 2013

Contemporary Litvishe Views on Birthdays

In the Artscroll biography The Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, about R' Yehuda Zev Segal, it says (p. 189), "He would say that a birthday is a day to express gratitude to Hashem for the years granted to carry out one's mission in life.  It was a common practice for talmidim to approach the rosh yeshiva on their birthday and request his blessing that they grow in Torah knowledge and yiras shomayim.  On at least one occasion, it was the rosh yeshiva who approached an outstanding talmid and said, 'Today is my birthday.  I wish to undertake to develop further in Torah and yiras shomayim.  Please bless me that I should succeed.'"

from the new edition of the Artscroll Reb Moshe book, p. 311
"All the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were called by Reb Moshe [Feinstein] and the Rebbetzin on their birthdays.  The family would reciprocate by calling Reb Moshe every 7 Adar to wish him well on his birthday.  Those who lived in the NY area would come to the Lower East Side to do this in person.  This was so accepted a practice in the Feinstein family that when one grandchild was once unable to get through on the phone, she received a call that night from Reb Moshe, who was concerned that something was amiss.
"The family emphasizes, however, that these were not simply "Happy Birthday" calls, but opportunities for them to express their fervent hopes and blessings that their father and grandfather merit another year of life in good health, and receive his blessing in return."
footnote: for a number of years, a group of students from Yeshiva of Staten Island would travel to the East Side on 7 Adar to present R' Moshe with a loose-leaf containing chidushei Torah written by the yeshiva's talmidim.  R' Moshe would glowingly accept this unique gift and leaf through the entire collection in the presence of the talmidim.

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