Rav Yechiel Michel Feinstein zt”l, On His Ninth Yahrtzeit, Today, 16 Iyar

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rav-michel-feinsteinA tremendous gaon with mastery in all fields of Torah knowledge, Rav Yechiel Michel Feinstein’s home, at the time of his petirah, held over forty volumes filled with his chiddushim on Shas and still more volumes on Chumash, as well as a booklet ready for print entitled Chai Dovor on seder Taharos. For over seventy years and into the last week of his life, he delivered regular shiurim and sichos that touched the depths of the soul, paving the way to beis Hashem. His very being and carriage lit the way for his talmidim.

One of the leading marbitzei Torah and mussar greats of the last generation, Rav Yechiel Michel Feinstein zt’l, was rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Beis Yehuda and a son-in-law of the Brisker Rov, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik.

His talmidim note that even recently when they came to his home they would find him standing and learning intensely. When one of them asked why he did not sit he replied, “Choliloh! Sitting at the table one might fall asleep.”

His Torah and yir’oh made a deep impression on thousands of talmidim who benefited from his words of advice and resourcefulness, acquiring lifelong kinyonim in Torah, halochoh and yiras Shomayim, and who saw him as an exemplar of the complete oved Hashem. HaRav Feinstein’s entire life was singularly devoted to the task of serving Hashem with all his heart and soul and elevating kovod Shomayim.

His home was a beacon for those seeking Torah and mussar. Everyone received a warm welcome there, greeted by HaRav Feinstein’s radiance and distinguished manners. His simple ways and pleasant countenance spread their light on all who entered his home and brought him the admiration of thousands of talmidim.

HaRav Yechiel Michel Feinstein, zt’l, was born to HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok on 4 Tammuz 5666 (1906) in the town of Uzda, Lithuania. At the age of seven Yechiel Michel lost his father and went to live with his grandfather, HaRav Dovid Feinstein zt’l, the rov of Stravin, Byelorussia. There he learned with his grandfather and uncles, HaRav Moshe zt’l and HaRav Mordechai Hy’d.

Yechiel Michel’s prodigious character and the cornerstones of his inner spirit–innate aptitude, hasmodoh, purity and refinement, noble conduct and kindness–took shape in his grandfather’s home.

At the age of ten he was tested orally by his uncles on various parts of Nezikin–gemora with Rashi and Tosafos. While he was still at a tender age, during the course of a din Torah conducted at his grandfather’s house, his grandfather asked him to bring a proof from the Tosafos on Bovo Kama relevant to the matter, and he indeed brought a proof that was to form the basis for the psak din. All of the gedolei hador who came to his grandfather’s house said he was a vessel waiting to take in Torah, and noted his industriousness in Torah study.

After his bar mitzvah he traveled to Slutsk to learn under HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt’l, who tested him on the Tosafos on maseches Bovo Basra. After the examination he said, “This boy says sevoras like HaRav Naftoli Trop zt’l.” From the time of his arrival in Slutsk, HaRav Meltzer watched over him and cherished him like his own son.

When the Bolsheviks arrived, the yeshiva was forced to flee Lithuania. Before setting out for Kletsk, Poland, HaRav Meltzer went to the boy’s mother to ask permission to take him along, promising to take care of his every need. She gave her consent and they crossed the border illegally, heading for Kletsk. Upon arrival the young Yechiel Michel resumed his learning with fabulous hasmodoh, attending shiurim given by his rabbonim, HaRav Meltzer and HaRav Aharon Kotler zt’l.

For three years he imbibed their Torah knowledge at Yeshivas Kletsk, after which he transferred to Yeshivas Mir where he clung tightly to his esteemed rav muvhok, HaRav Yeruchom Leibovitz zt’l. Eventually he became one of his leading talmidim. At Mir, Yechiel Michel shared sleeping quarters with HaRav Dovid Povarsky zt’l.

Upon Yechiel Michel’s arrival, the Mashgiach arranged for him to learn with another Yechiel, HaRav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger, rosh yeshivas Kol Torah zt’l. He was also paired with HaRav Yonah Minsker Hy’d, author of Yonas Ileim, and HaRav Shlomo Chomsker Hy’d. Within a short time he was considered one of the leading bochurim at Mir.

During this period the lions of the Torah world were studying at Mir, including HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz and HaRav Leib Malin zt’l. Yechiel Michel was thought of as the genius of the yeshiva and all of the members of the yeshiva gathered around him to hear his chiddushim. Soon he came to be known as one of the yeshiva’s top talmidim.

On one occasion he traveled with his rebbe, the Mashgiach, to the chanukas habayis in Kletsk, where he met his rebbe, HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, who had come specially from Eretz Yisroel. He suggested that he go to study under the Brisker Rov. “Go learn by him because Rav Velvel has a clear head” [“Rav Velvel hot a reina kop“]. HaRav Meltzer gave Yechiel Michel a letter of recommendation full of extraordinary praise, requesting that he be accepted as a talmid. Yechiel Michel traveled straight to Brisk where he soon became one of the leading talmidim.

Upon his arrival the Brisker Rav began to speak with him on his learning. At the end of the conversation he told his wife, “Did you hear the bochur who was here today? Did you hear how he speaks on divrei Torah? We have to start taking him into consideration.”

Shortly thereafter the threat of army induction lurked and he traveled to Grodno to visit a doctor who would fabricate medical forms certifying the candidate was unfit for military service. On his way he passed through Radin to see the Chofetz Chaim. When one of the people on hand told him the young man was learning Kodshim, the Chofetz Chaim asked him, “Noshim and Nezikim you’ve already learned?” He replying in the affirmative. The Chofetz Chaim gave him a blessing: “May he know how to learn.” Later HaRav Yechiel Michel Feinstein said that when he had stood before the Chofetz Chaim he already knew Taharos as well, but he did not say so because it is forbidden to boast.

He remained in Grodno for about six months, where he attended shiurim given by HaRav Shimon Shkop zt’l, and soon afterwards returned to Brisk. The Brisker Rov was very fond of him and even showed him letters written by his great father. Once Rav Yechiel Michel showed the Brisker Rav his chiddushim on appointed appointing and inaugurating a Kohen Godol. Upon looking them over the Brisker Rov said to those surrounding him, “This shtikel Torah does not have a single extra word or a single missing word.”

During his tutelage in Torah and yir’oh under the Brisker Rov, he would spend the summer months and Elul at Yeshivas Mir. When World War II broke out he went to Vilna together with the other talmidim from Mir and immediately upon the Brisker Rov’s arrival in Vilna he organized a group to attend shiurim given by the Brisker Rov.

During his time in Vilna he went to speak about his learning with HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt’l, presenting him with his chiddushim. HaRav Grodzensky spent 45 minutes perusing them and then lavished Yechiel Michel with praise for his gadlus in Torah and his splendid amkus.

From Vilna he joined the yeshiva in exile on its long journey to Japan, working for the yeshiva and even meeting with an ambassador to ask him to assist the refugees arriving in Japan. After obtaining an exit visa to leave for the US, in 5701 (1941) he traveled together with HaRav Aharon Kotler and HaRav Yeruchom’s son. Upon his arrival he opened a yeshiva in Boston for the talmidim of Yeshivas Mir.

Some six months later his uncle, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, summoned Rav Yechiel Michel to serve at his side as head of Yeshivas Tiferes Yerushalayim in New York. He was to spend the next sixty years continuously engaged in harbotzas Torah.

His shiurim gained acclaim. With scrutinizing analysis and great clarity he paved a path in each and every sugya, straightening out all the bumps along the way. Often he would continue for hours on end without noticing, his entire being absorbed in Torah, laboring to plumb its depths.

He was appointed a member of the Agudas HaRabbonim and was asked by the Vaad Hatzoloh to help in rescue. As part of his efforts he traveled to France to assist war refugees.

In 5706 (1946) he arrived in Eretz Hakodesh. Immediately upon his arrival he went to Jerusalem to see his rebbe, the Brisker Rov. “It’s good you came. Now I’ll have somebody to talk to in learning.” On the 17th of Av 5706 he married the Brisker Rov’s daughter Lifsha. His rebbe, HaRav Meltzer, was mesader kiddushin.

Following the wedding he returned to the US to continue serving as rosh yeshiva at Yeshivas Tiferes Yerushalayim, remaining until 5712 (1952). Back Eretz Hakodesh once again he set up Yeshivas Beis Yehuda in Tel Aviv, where he gave shiurim on every maseches as well as mussar talks based on the teachings of Rav Yeruchom. He often went to see the Chazon Ish and to discuss divrei Torah with him. On one occasion, when his wife stepped into the house the Chazon Ish stood up, saying that, as an eishes chover and the daughter of a talmid chochom, he was obligated to rise before her.

During this period HaRav Kotler summoned him to serve as a member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, but this never came to fruition. Yet he did take an active leadership role in many of the battles then waged for Yiddishkeit in Eretz Hakodesh.

After his daughter’s petiroh in 5736 he moved to Bnei Brak, transferring the yeshiva to Beis Medrash Antania. In 5744 (1984) he inaugurated the new yeshiva building, where he gave more than 17 shiurim per week, both shiurim klolim and shiurim for hundreds of avreichim who drank in his words of Torah. Late at night he would give shiurim in his home on Taharos.

He taught with tremendous enthusiasm, making it apparent to all that he drew his life-breath from teaching Torah and severing himself from all other matters. His zerizus and dikduk in performing mitzvos were a marvel for his entire generation, up until his last day when he returned his pure soul to his Maker.


Nine years ago, Harav Feinstein he returned his pure soul to his Maker on motzei Shabbos.

The bitter news of his passing spread quickly, striking hearts with grief over the loss of one of the luminaries of the previous generation.

That night the aron was brought to his home on HaRav Kahaneman Street in Bnei Brak, the home that had been such a citadel for his innumerable talmidim. The home that had shone forth so much Torah light now emitted the sounds of weeping over the departure of a gaon and tzaddik.

Before the immense levaya set out from his home on HaRav Kahaneman Street in Bnei Brak, HaRav Menachem Tzvi Berlin, rosh yeshivas Rabbenu Chaim Ozer recited several chapters of Tehillim. From there the levaya continued down Ezra Street to the Yeshivas Beis Yehuda building, which HaRav Feinstein built and where he dedicated several decades of his life to harbotzas Torah.

The first of the eulogizers was the moro d’asro of Zichron Meir and rosh yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner.

“According to Toras Kohanim, HaKodosh Boruch Hu yearns to see Yisroel toiling in Torah, and HaKodosh Boruch Hu knows that this is the only way to defeat the yetzer hora. All goodness and happiness is derived from toiling in Torah. Who among us is greater than R’ Michel, one of the greatest and most well-born figures in our generation, who plumbed the depths and strained himself despite all of his trials and suffering, and throughout his lifetime killed himself in the tents of Torah?”

HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira followed him saying, “First of all I want to say that when HaRav Michel, zichro livrocho, became the son-in-law of the Brisker Rov, someone sat there and praised R’ Michel. Said the Brisker Rov to him, ‘You want to tell me who R’ Michel is?’ It seems to me that these words by the Brisker Rav are a sufficient indication of who R’ Michel was and that we do not have the power to add a thing.

“As I said we do not have the power to eulogize, but I’d just like to recount a bit about HaGaon R’ Michel more than 60 years ago at Yeshivas Mir. While he was at Mir there were four hundred talmidim of whom about 50 were worthy of being great roshei yeshivos and R’ Michel was distinct among all of the yeshiva’s talmidim. There were always bochurim standing around Rav Michel to talk over their learning with him. Because of his Torah knowledge and his pleasant countenance and the way he received the bochurim to talk about their learning.

“I cannot forget the period when R’ Michel was the center of the yeshiva and everyone gathered around him to receive Torah from him and they would go out happy and glad for the clarification they got from him in learning and from the closeness he extended to each and every one of them…”

His son Rav Chaim, rosh yeshivas Beis Yehuda, cited the saying by Chazal that the departure of tzaddikim is like the burning of Beis Hamikdosh. “We have no concept of his gadlus in Torah. Were a man to give all of his wealth for the love Abba had for the Torah, he would do it a dishonor. All of his vitality was in Torah. He gave shiurim for four consecutive hours, two hours followed by another two hours, all with the same joy. Every day Torah was new to him. The complete man in Torah and mitzvos and midos,” he said, trailing off in tears.

His son Rav Dovid, one of the roshei yeshivos at Yeshivas Beis Yehuda, said, “There is nobody who can eulogize Abba, zt’l. There are those who are great in quantity. Any quantity can be assessed. This is something that can be grasped. But nobody knows how to assess depth, for no matter how much you think you are deep and have reached the maximum, he was much deeper than everybody else.”

“Once he made a siyum on maseches Bovo Kama,” recounted his son-in-law HaRav Tzvi Kaplan. “I asked him [why] and he said, ‘This is a special siyum. This is a siyum on Bovo Kama with Rashbo.’ Then I asked him, ‘But when you learn you always learn with all of the meforshim?’ ‘True,’ he said, ‘but this time I learned Bovo Kama the way the Rashbo learned it, from start to finish.’ Now we are parting from a complete man, who passed through all of the stumbling blocks of This World exerting himself in immeasurable, boundless Torah.”

Once the hespeidim and his’orerus were completed, the funeral procession left for the holy city of Jerusalem, where the levaya was to continue from Yeshivas Eitz Chaim.

A large crowd of distinguished bnei Torah, headed by Maran HaRav Sholom Yosef Eliashiv, shlita, gathered at Yeshivas Eitz Chaim in the Machaneh Yehuda neighborhood. Jaffa Street was closed and the thousands of accompaniers packed the street during the eulogizing.

HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein, one of the roshei yeshivos at Yeshivas Chevron in Geula, opened with chapters of Tehillim, one verse at a time, the Thirteen Attributes and Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel.

The first of the eulogizers was HaRav Meshulom Dovid Soloveitchik, rosh yeshivas Brisk, who said for HaRav Feinstein the Torah was of primary importance and was above all else. “He was a marbitz Torah and his main principle was a lifetime of hasmodoh with great toil. And through this he reached high levels. All of his life was toil in Torah . . . ”

HaRav Meir Soloveitchik said, “The death of tzaddikim is equivalent to the burning of Beis Hamikdosh,” and cited the verse, “Moh ohavti Sorasecho, kol hayom hi sichosi.” “He had nothing in his world besides kushio, terutz, sevoro. He had a true love of Torah.”

HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky, one of the roshei yeshivos at Yeshivas Ponevezh, opened, “‘Torah, Torah, don sackcloth, wallow in the dirt, . . . ‘ When Moshe Rabbenu departed everybody did his own crying. For thousands of talmidim, for each of them this is his own private mourner, his own connection. This is his father and he is an only son. This is the true way of harbotzas Torah. Every talmid is an only son and thus it becomes a single mourner.”

Rav Yeruchom Kaplan cited Chazal’s saying, “There is no aged man except for he who acquires wisdom.” “Rav Yechiel Michel Feinstein’s conduct was always, when he would prepare a shiur, to set before his eyes an image of his rebbe standing before him and saying the chiddush, and if he felt he accepted the chiddush he would say it to the talmidim. But if not, he would store the chiddush away in his heart.”

Immediately upon the completion of the hespeidim the crowd of thousands accompanied the aron of HaRav Yechiel Michel Feinstein zt’l to Har Hamenuchos where he was buried in the afternoon, near the grave of his father- in-law, the Brisker Rov. Thousands of his talmidim were overcome with bitter tears as the grave was covered over.

He is survived by sons and a son-in-law who are Torah and mussar greats in their own right: his sons, Rav Chaim and Rav Dovid, both roshei yeshivos at Beis Yehuda, and Rav Avrohom, and his son-in-law Rav Tzvi Kaplan, a rosh yeshiva in Jerusalem. Other survivors include the Rebbetzin and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who perpetuate his spiritual legacy.

{Deiah veDibur/Casrie Bauman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. He openly declared that if a young man is not sitting in Beis Medrash and learning Torah, he must join the Israeli Defense Forces and help protect the Jews living in Eretz Yisroel. Tihei Zichro Mevurach!!


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