An encounter with the great Rabbi Moshe Feinstein

The Torah instructs us to find judges that are of flawless sterling character.  One great trait is humility, gained as a result of compassionate human insight, as the
following true story, told by Dr. Isaac Steven Herschkopf, an attending psychiatrist at the NYU Medical Center, illustrates:

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the gadol hador, the greatest sage of his generation, was so renowned he was referred to simply as “Reb Moshe.”  Every Rabbi would speak of Reb
Moshe in awe-stricken tones usually reserved for biblical forefathers.

One summer I was spending a week with my aunt and uncle in upstate Ellenville. Uncle David and Aunt Saba, survivors themselves, as the doctor and nurse in charge of the  concentration camp infirmary, had managed to save the lives of innumerable inmates, including my mother and sister. After “the War” they had set up a medical practice in this
small Catskill village, where, I discovered, to my amazement, they had one celebrity patient – Reb Moshe.

My aunt mentioned casually that Reb Moshe had an appointment the next day. Would I like to meet him?  Would I?  It was like asking me, would I like to meet Moses.

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Free trip to his holy grave on Har HaZeitim (Mount of Olives)

I’m actually not sure which rebbe’s grave this pilgrimage is supposed to be going to (there are a lot buried up there). It was back in Elul so I think it was supposed to part of your pre-Rosh Hashanah spiritual preparation. Kever-gadding always freaked me out a bit though. I know you are supposed to be using the spiritual energy of the place to encourage you, and to ask God to help you in the zchus of the tzaddik, but let’s face it - plenty of people are just praying to the tzaddik.

Also, it is so clearly a Catholic idea imported into Judaism. Catholics also are supposed to be asking saints to intercede on their behalf with God, rather than asking the saint themselves for the miracle or whatever. But the rest of us think that’s a pretty shaky distinction. It’s the sort of thing that Orthodox people talk about with scorn at the Shabbos table, but when it comes to our own shaky distinctions suddenly it’s all just that the critic doesn’t understand the theology well enough. Such hypocrisy. 

Taken on Yehezkel, Elul 2013.

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Ba’al Shem Tov Story.

Tzaddik צדיק is a form of the Hebrew verb צדק [TzDK], which carries the meaning of doing what is correct and just.

The personality of the tzaddik is calibrated to the Manufacturer’s original specifications, so that everything about him is just as his Creator meant it should be, and all he desires is what his Creator desires. A tzaddik is one who embodies the Creator’s primal conception of the human being.

The tzaddik is a human being like all of us. Because, essentially, all of us are divine.

Which means that the tzaddik is a human being like all of us. The tzaddik feels pain and pleasure. He grins, he smiles, he cries and he laughs. He suffers bitterness of the spirit, and he dances with joy. At times his heart palpitates with love, and at others his veins burn with outrage. He is frustrated by failure, exhilarated by success; he revels in the celebrations of life, and mourns when those he loves depart from it. Because all these things are included in the character of the human being as G‑d made him, and so they too are divine.