by R. Gidon Rothstein
7 Nisan: R. Moshe Feinstein Defining Residence in Israel and Signs of Redemption
I did not find any responsa lengthy enough to fill our space for 7 Nisan, but R. Moshe Feinstein registered several brief ideas. Shu”t Iggerot Moshe Orach Chayyim 3;72, 7 Nisan 5727 (1967), responds to a man who has moved to Israel but came to the United States for his son’s wedding and now plans to stay through Pesach. How many days of Yom Tov should he keep?
R. Feinstein notes that the man owns a home in Israel, has lived there the past few years, is only here for a visit, and originally intended to return immediately. Unspecified events have led him to stay, but he firmly plans to return after Pesach. Why might he have to keep two days?
A Couple Ready to Move for the Right Possibility
Because his wife is with him. Radvaz, quoted in Magen Avraham 496;7, ruled that when a man travels with his wife, halachah treats that as if he’s moved to the new location. Here, that seems to mean this man has to keep two days [R. Feinstein never discusses it, but at face value, that should mean any time a couple spends a holiday in Israel, they can keep one day. We’ll see that Radvaz did not mean this so broadly].
Were this man to find a good way to make a living in the new place, he would stay, since his wife is already with him. More, Radvaz refers to oker dirato im ishto, who has uprooted his old residence (R. Feinstein thinks they did not own property, or have rented it out to others). Once nothing holds them to the old place, the right opportunity would lead them to stay. That’s enough to count them as residents, according to Radvaz, in terms of how many holiday days to observe.
None of that is true of this man. He owns back in Israel; he’s in the US for an event where people commonly return whence they came once it’s over (a wedding), and thus gives no reason to suspect he has severed his roots to his current residence.
More, the man does not lack for livelihood such that he might grab any opportunity that comes his way; the opposite, in fact. He retired from (or gave up) businesses he had had when he lived in the States so that he could move to Israel.
Israelis in the US for a Yom Tov, Keeping Up Appearances
This man still has a complicated road ahead of him, as R. Feinstein reminds us that Israelis in the US are not allowed to show others in any way that they are not keeping that second day (a truth that contrasts with the conduct of many Israelis today). He also assumed the man’s son and new wife count as “public,” in terms of what this man and his wife could do.
His wife, for example, has to light candles on the second day (without a bracha), the two of them must join the second Seder and say the Haggadah, although they should ask their son to recite any berachot on mitzvot. We might think that shows it’s not Yom Tov for him, but R. Feinstein disagrees. Whenever a Jew develops a doubt about whether s/he must recite a berachah, halachah prefers hearing it from someone definitely obligated, since the system assiduously avoids unnecessary berachot.
This couple does have to eat matzah (without a berachah) and maror, although not necessarily the requisite amount of the latter, since no one watches exactly how much maror others eat. They may recite the berachah on the first and third cups of wine (Kiddush and the third comes after Grace After Meals), but the son should recite the berachah for the second and fourth, since those are only drunk for mitzvah reasons, which this couple might not need to fulfill.
On the eighth day of Pesach, the man should put on tefillin in private, before prayers, and then go to shul. In his silent prayers, he says the Amidah for an ordinary weekday, and should include havdallah in his silent ma’ariv at the beginning of the second and eighth days. He can wait to say havdallah with a cup of wine until after the second day Yom Tov, with all the Americans.
Anyone who watched this man’s actions would see him keeping the holiday, in other words, for all that he still counts fully as a resident of Israel.
First Steps in Torah Study
The second responsum, Iggerot Moshe Orach Chayyim 5;33 collects a few short replies, copies of which he kept on one page (that’s why the editor included them as one. It gives an image of R. Feinstein: he kept copies for later publication, and cared/needed to save paper so much that he would combine them on one sheet). I’m taking two I found most interesting.
The first is dated the second day of Parshat Mishpatim 5727 (which happens to have been 19 Shevat, Jan. 30, 1967, but reminds us that even those who dated responsa sometimes did it in ways that it would have been invisible to my current selection process), R. Feinstein offered advice to a student just starting out.
He encourages the young man to feel comfortable having a chavruta only in the mornings, since one has to learn how to learn on one’s own as well (I’m not sure we always remember that while early students in Torah study work in pairs, many who continue onward eventually come to learn on their own). This is all with the assumption that the young man can already learn attentively and with full effort when on his own, and has people with whom to consult should he need.
He urges him to focus on Rashi and Tosafot, and to consult other rishonim mostly as a way to better understand Rashi and Tosafot. Beyond Gemara, Rashi, and Tosafot, he should study the Rosh and Nimmukei Yosef (a commentary on the Rif, who cites the essentials of the discussions of earlier authorities) and Rambam with his commentators.
That’s the best strategy for developing beki’ut and charifut, breadth of knowledge and depth of understanding and insight, which R. Feinstein takes for granted as the goal of study.
When Mashiach’s On His Way
The responsum dated 7 Nisan 5740 (1980) seems to have been cut off, since it starts by saying “and in addition.” That addition captures my interest, though, since R. Feinstein offers best wishes for the full redemption, a hope he sees as especially relevant right then, because the Jewish people is losing its ability to endure suffering. They see the powerlessness of those who believe in Hashem and the Torah, leaving Hashem as the only option for salvation.
Sotah 49a-b has three different versions of thought processes that lead us to realize we can rely only on our Father in Heaven. R. Feinstein thinks that seeing either the mistreatment of Torah scholars or the diminishing respect for Torah itself can spur Jews to turn to Hashem, the only source of salvation.
If neither of those do the trick, he understands the Gemara to be saying, Hashem will bring physical suffering, which will bring them to that crucial point, that they know to turn to Hashem.
Since all who believe in Hashem and Torah in his time also know Hashem is the source of any possible salvation or help, we can hope that will suffice for the Divine Will to bring the full redemption, including the ability to offer the Pesach sacrifice be-taharah, with ritual purity (7 Nisan is the last date one could start the seven days of purification from tum’at met, contact with the deceased, and still offer a Peach sacrifice on the 14th in a ritually pure state).
Sadly, his wishes did not come true that year, but he shows us one way to bring that desired outcome closer, by remembering that we can only fully rely on our Father in Heaven.