Feb 16, 2017

Neither of Them Understood

I read two stories this week having to do with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z"l and I thought they go well together.

One story, told by R' Simcha Bunim Cohen, who was a bachur at the time, took place in 1979 on a Shabbos afternoon at MTJ.  When R' Moshe, who usually said a dvar Torah shalosh seudos time, felt weak and unable to speak, someone volunteered to speak but said he did not Yiddish and could only say it in English. R' Moshe said he should say it in English.

As the man spoke, R' Moshe sat on the edge of his chair, fully focused, not taking his eyes off the speaker, smiling and nodding the entire time. But R' Cohen knew that R' Moshe barely understood English!

After Shabbos, in the car going home, R' Cohen asked R' Moshe whether he understood the dvar Torah. R' Moshe said: Only two words.  When R' Cohen asked why R' Moshe had looked so intently at the speaker, R' Moshe said, Chazal say: derech eretz kadma l'Torah (good manners precede Torah). If a person speaks publicly and I don't look at him and show that I'm listening, how will I be able to pasken and say shiurim?

The other story (in Torah Tavlin Tefilla and Haftorah) was about a man who came from out of town, every year, for the Aguda Convention, just so that he could hear Rabbi Moshe Feinstein speak. Then he would leave.  What most people, who saw him year after year, did not know was that the man did not speak Yiddish and yet, he sat through R' Moshe's speech which was delivered in Yiddish!

Someone who knew him finally asked him, "Why do you come here especially to hear R' Moshe when you don't even understand what he is saying?"

He answered, "Do you think I need to understand what R' Moshe is saying? And he cited Moshe Rabeinu at Har Sinai, "Moshe yidaber," that Moshe spoke but only Hashem could hear him. I just need to look at him and my neshama understands everything he says."

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