Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, also Rabbi Moses Feinstein

Lithuanian Orthodox Rabbi, Scholar and Posek (Authoritative Adjudicator of Questions Related to Jewish Law or Halakha)

"Influencing someone for a short time is valuable in itself and never feel discouraged because the influence does not last as long as you would wish."

"it is obvious and clear that [a non-Jew who did not accept the mitzvot] is not a convert at all, even after the fact [of his conversion ceremony]… because kabbalat hamitzvot for a convert is essential [“me’akev”]. And even if he pronounces that he is accepting the mitzvot, if it is clear to us [“anan sa’hadi”] that he is not in truth accepting them, it is nothing... I altogether do not understand the reasoning of rabbis who err in this. Even according to [their mistaken notion], what gain are they bringing to the Jewish People by accepting such ‘converts’? It is certainly not pleasing to G-d or to the Jewish people that such ‘converts’ should become mixed into [the Congregation of] Israel. As to the halacha, it is clear that they are not converts at all."

"A rabbi who replies to people's questions works harder than a doctor dealing with a case of life and death. The doctor is responsible only to the patient, but the rabbi is responsible to God."

"You can't wake up in the morning and decide you're an expert on answers. If people see that one answer is good, and another answer is good, gradually you will be accepted."

" There are people who maintain that talmidei chachom are not qualified to decide political matters that gedolei Yisroel should limit themselves to Torah and Halacha. Such people cannot be considered within the Torah camp. One might well say disregarding the advice of a talmid chachom is far worse than violating a commandment. One who violates a commandment because he is too weak to resist temptation at least knows that his action is wrong. By contrast, one who ignores the advice of a talmid chachom denies that a Torah scholar’s wisdom is superior. This is a far more serious breach."

"This that you apologize for disagreeing with me in a halachic issue – this is totally unnecessary. That is because this is the way of Torah that it is necessary to establish the truth. Chas v’shalom to silence one who disagrees with you – whether he is being more lenient or more strict. [While there is a discussion about disagreeing in a formal court session Sanhedrin 36 where the court is deciding on the guilt or innocence…] it is not a problem to disagree with the gadol (greatest scholar) when he is saying something in the course of teaching the material or even if he is making a practical halachic ruling but he is not part of a formal court. We see this in many places in the gemora where students question their teacher’s view. … It is obvious in these cases the rulings were not part of a formal court session. Furthermore it is apparent that there is no one today who has the status of gadol for this law that no one can disagree with him… Therefore even if you consider me to be a gadol – it is permitted to disagree with me and consequently it is required that you express your opinion and there is no need to apologize. Nevertheless regarding the halachic question that was raised, my view -that I wrote that it is prohibited - is the correct one."

"One of the fundamental rules of halachah is that one life is not to be sacrificed for another. An exception to this rule is the sacrifice of a fetus in order to save the life of the mother during delivery. The Mishnah in Ohalos [7:61 records: "If a woman is in difficulty during childbirth, it is permissible to destroy the fetus surgically because her life comes first. If, however, the head of the fetus has already been delivered, then it is forbidden to intercede even though it may cost the life of the mother. The fetus is now an infant with the ability for independent life. Therefore, we do not sacrifice one life to save another." The Talmud in Sanhedrin elaborates on this mishnah by posing the question: "Why should you not sacrifice the infant even though the head has already been presented, since this infant is endangering the life of the mother? Is not the infant, then, a rodef [pursuer]? The law of the pursuer should apply, which is to kill the pursuer in order to save the life of the victim." The Talmud answers: "No, Heaven is the pursuer." In other words, this is an act of Hashem, and therefore it is not correct to assume that the fetus is the attacker. We cannot decide to favor either the child or the mother in this terrible dilemma. While the child is in the uterine environment, totally dependent on the mother's life yet threatening it, we classify the fetus as a pursuer. The logic is, as Maimonides says, "simple." While in the uterine environment, the child is totally dependent on the mother's life forces. Thus, either the mother's death or the fetus's death would result in a fetus that was not viable. This complete dependency on the mother, so that if the mother dies the fetus will also die, is the reason for giving the mother priority over the fetus, because she is the source of fetal life. Once the head appears, however, and the child is able to breathe independently, he is treated as an entity separate from the mother. He is now independent of the mother's circulatory and respiratory systems. We grant him the full rights and privileges of an adult. The most important of these privileges is the right to life. "

"The Rema concludes [that the rule that "we do not sacrifice one life even to save many lives" applies] only because the fetus has a chance to live. If the fetus did not have a chance to live, there would be no problem about killing it to save the mother, because the absence of any hope that the fetus could survive, and not the mother, makes it as if this individual were designated for death. According to Rema's analysis, then, in an early pregnancy, where the child still does not have viability, it is tantamount to being designated for death."

"Even though I usually only write response on topics related to Torah that are proving difficult for a person and he thinks that I can answer, with the mercy of God, in these cases I am obligated to respond what I think, and to clarify this to the questioner. But in matters of prayer and blessings for a sick person, there are many God-fearing people in the Land of Israel whose prayers are surely more accept able to God, and how can I compare [to them]? But on account of your great pain I am responding [to you], because I think that, as is clear from your letter, you are unable to behave properly with [your daughter], for you always need to relate to her in a manner that she will feel a mother’s affection and love and to speak calmly without demands and criticism until she has trust in you. Then you will know what is troubling her, and you won’t see her in tears and pain, but rather in joy. On my behalf I bless your daughter that God should make her well, heal her, give her strength and send her an appropriate mate. I also bless you and your entire family that you should have pride and joy from her and her sisters. The most important thing is that you trust in God and accept in love; on the merit of this he will send to you all of the good and peace forever . . . One who blesses you from the depths of [his] heart and prays to God."

"One time, a religious Jew entered the Beis Midrash to speak with Rav Moshe [Feinstein]. He began to relate how his son is sitting in jail on account of dealing drugs. This father requested that Rav Moshe write a letter to the judge on behalf of his son to have mercy upon him. Rav Moshe turned to him and said, “Your son makes people ill and damages them; Let him sit in jail.” Even though the father pleaded and persisted, he refused to budge. He added that his actions were against the laws of the state and he cannot simply do whatever he wants."

"Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach have ruled that a dying patient should not be kept alive by artificial means where the treatment does not cure the illness but merely prolongs the patient's life temporarily and the patient is suffering great pain. Pain relief medicine can be given even though it may hasten death, as long as the dose is not certain to kill, and the intention is not to kill but to relieve pain."