Monday, May 25, 2009

Man of halacha - R' Moshe Soloveitchik


Rav Shurkin tells the following story in Megged Givos Olam,

Rav Moshe Soloveitchik first learned of the petira of his father Rav Chaim from the newspapers. Rav Moshe poskened that one should not believe anying published in a newspaper and thus it was not considered notification. As a result he did not sit shiva but rather took the dangerous journey [during World War I] to Warsaw where Rav Chaim had died. After 10 days he returned suddenly to his house with a pale face and a terrible appearance and said he had received reliable testimony that his father in fact was niftar and he started observing aveilus. After a number of days he received a letter of condolence from Rav Hirsch the son in law of the Chofetz Chaim who was a very close friend. He wanted to know why Rav Moshe had not believed the newspapers to sit shiva - since it was a matter which was readily verifiable? Rav Moshe wrote back the following. Concerning the verses describing the death of Eliyahu and the response of Elisha and the bnei neviim - despite Elisha seeing his rebbe going into Heaven and the bnei neviim reporting Eliyahu's death - they wanted to search after Eliyahu as if he were alive? Rav Moshe said you learn from this that one is prohibited to believe that one's rebbe had died. When Rav Hirsch received this letter he showed it to his father-in-law, the Chofetz Chaim and he agreed with it and praised it.

2 comments :

  1. Quote #1:
    "Rav Moshe poskened that one should not believe anying published in a newspaper and thus it was not considered notification."

    Quote #2:
    "Rav Moshe said you learn from [the account of Elisha and the bnei neviim regarding Eliyahu's death] that one is prohibited to believe that one's rebbe had died."

    If one were to only see the first quote, one would think that R' Moshe Solovetchik holds that newspapers are, under all circumstances involving one's decision-making, considered unreliable sources of information. However, the second quote seems to strongly qualify the seemingly far-reaching implications of the first quote. It seems that R' M. Soloveitchik's refusal to believe the newspaper's report in this particular case was predicated on the existence of a halachic requirement for an extremely high level of proof that applies specifically when dealing with news regarding the petira of one's rebbe.

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  2. my thoughts on this, here:
    http://parsha.blogspot.com/2009/05/believing-that-ones-rebbe-is-dead.html

    kt,
    josh

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