Moshe Feinstein
Moshe Feinstein at his desk in the bais medrash of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem.
Born(1895-03-03)March 3, 1895
DiedMarch 23, 1986(1986-03-23) (aged 91)
New York City, United States
Resting placeHar HaMenuchot, West Jerusalem
31°48′00″N 35°11′00″E / 31.8°N 35.183333°E / 31.8; 35.183333
Other namesRav Moshe, Reb Moshe
Occupation(s)Rabbi, Posek
EmployerMesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem
Known forIgros Moshe, various rulings in Jewish law
SpouseShima Kustanovitch
ChildrenPesach Chaim Feinstein
Dovid Feinstein
Reuven Feinstein
Shifra Tendler
Faye Shisgal
Moshe Feinstein (center), together with Yona Shtencel (left)
הגאון רבי משה Moshe Feinstein Manuscript

Moshe Feinstein (Hebrew: משה פײַנשטיין; Lithuanian pronunciation: Moshe Faynshteyn; English: Moses Feinstein;[1] March 3, 1895 – March 23, 1986) was a Russia born American Orthodox Jewish rabbi, scholar, and posek (authority on halakha—Jewish law). He has been called the most famous Orthodox Jewish legal authority of the twentieth century[2] and his rulings are often referenced in contemporary rabbinic literature. Feinstein served as president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, Chairman of the Council of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the Agudath Israel of America, and head of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem in New York.

Feinstein is commonly referred to simply as "Reb Moshe"[3][4] (or "Rav Moshe").[5][6]


Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was born, according to the Hebrew calendar, on Adar 7, 5655 (traditionally the date of birth and death of the biblical Moshe, the reason that he was given his name), in Uzda, near Minsk, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire). His father, Rabbi David Feinstein, was the rabbi of Uzda and a great-grandson of the Vilna Gaon's brother. David Feinstein's father, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Feinstein, was a Koidanover Chassid.[7] His mother was a descendant of talmudist Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller, the Shlah HaKadosh, and Rashi. He studied with his father and in yeshivas located in Slutsk, under Pesach Pruskin, and Shklov. He also had a close relationship with his uncle, Yaakov Kantrowitz, rabbi of Timkovichi, whom he greatly revered and considered his mentor. For the rest of his life, Feinstein considered Pruskin as his rebbe.[8]

Feinstein was appointed rabbi of Lyuban, where he served for sixteen years. He married Shima Kustanovich in 1920 and had four children (Pesach Chaim, Fay Gittel, Shifra, and David) before leaving Europe.[9] Pesach Chaim died in Europe, and another son, Reuven, was born in the United States. Under increasing pressure from the Soviet regime, he moved with his family to New York City in January 1937,[10] where he lived for the rest of his life.

Settling on the Lower East Side, he became the rosh yeshiva of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem. He later established a branch of the yeshiva in Staten Island, New York, now headed by his son Reuven Feinstein. His son Dovid Feinstein headed the Manhattan branch.

He was president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, and chaired the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America from the 1960s until his death. Feinstein also took an active leadership role in Israel's Chinuch Atzmai.

Feinstein was recognized by many as the preeminent halachic authority (posek) of his generation; ruling on issues of Jewish law as they pertain to modern times.[11] People from around the world called upon him to answer their most complicated halachic questions.[12]

Halachic authority

See also: List of rulings by Moshe Feinstein

Owing to his prominence as an adjudicator of Jewish law, Feinstein was often asked to rule on very difficult questions, whereupon he often employed a number of innovative and controversial theories in arriving at his decisions. Soon after arriving in the United States, he established a reputation for handling business and labor disputes. For instance, he wrote about strikes, seniority, and fair competition. He later served as the chief Halakhic authority for the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, indicative of his expertise in Jewish medical ethics. In the medical arena, he opposed the early, unsuccessful heart transplants, although it is orally reported that in his later years, he allowed a person to receive a heart transplant (after the medical technique of preventing rejection was improved). On such matters, he often consulted with various scientific experts, including his son-in-law Moshe David Tendler, who was a professor of biology and served as a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University.[13]

As one of the prominent leaders of American Orthodoxy, Feinstein issued opinions that clearly distanced his community from Conservative and Reform Judaism.[14] He faced intense opposition from Hasidic Orthodoxy on several controversial decisions, such as rulings on artificial insemination and mechitza. In the case of his position not to prohibit cigarette smoking, though he recommended against it and prohibited second-hand smoke, other Orthodox rabbinic authorities disagreed. Even his detractors, while disagreeing with specific rulings, still considered him to be a leading decisor of Jewish law. The first volume of his Igrot Moshe, a voluminous collection of his halachic decisions, was published in 1959.[15]


Moshe Feinstein's grave

Feinstein died on March 23, 1986 (13th of Adar II, 5746). Over 20,000 people gathered to hear him eulogized in New York before he was flown to Israel for burial.[16] His funeral in Israel was delayed by a day due to mechanical problems with the plane carrying his coffin, which then had to return to New York. His funeral in Israel was said to be attended by between 200,000 and 250,000 people.[17]

Feinstein was buried on Har HaMenuchot near his teacher, Isser Zalman Meltzer.[4]

Prominent students

Feinstein's students included:


Feinstein wrote approximately 2,000 responsa on a wide range of issues affecting Jewish practice in the modern era. Some responsa can also be found in his Talmudic commentary (Dibrot Moshe), some circulate informally, and 1,883 responsa were published in Igrot Moshe. Among Feinstein's works:

Some of Feinstein's early works, including a commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud, were lost in Communist Russia, though his first writings are being prepared for publication by the Feinstein Foundation.

Feinstein is known for writing, in a number of places, that certain statements by prominent rishonim which Feinstein found theologically objectionable were not in fact written by those rishonim, but rather inserted into the text by erring students.[20] According to Rav Dovid Cohen of Brooklyn, Feinstein attributed such comments to students as a way of politely rejecting statements by rishonim while still retaining full reverence for them as religious leaders of earlier generations.[21]


  1. ^ "The Water's Fine, but Is It Kosher?". The New York Times. November 7, 2004.
  2. ^ "A year of loss: Orthodox Jewry reels as rabbis die during COVID-19 pandemic". February 3, 2021.
  3. ^ Reb Moshe: The Life and Ideals of HaGaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. ArtScroll. 1986. ISBN 97-81422610848.
  4. ^ a b Marek Cejka; Roman Koran (2015). Rabbis of our Time: Authorities of Judaism. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317605447. Reb Moshe .. body .. to Jerusalem, .. funeral at ... Har Ha-Menuchot
  5. ^ "This Day in Jewish history". Haaretz. March 3, 2013. Rabbi Feinstein – known affectionately in the Orthodox world as "Rav Moshe"...
  6. ^ "Story template 5769". Ascent Of Safed. As soon as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ... turned to Rav Moshe and ...
  7. ^ Feinstein, Moshe (1996). Igros Moshe, Volume XIII (in Hebrew). New York: Judaica Press. p. 6.
  8. ^ Finkelman, Shimon; The Story of Reb Moshe.
  9. ^ "Great Leaders of Our People – Rav Moshe Feinstein". Retrieved December 13, 2009.
  10. ^ "FamilySearch.org". FamilySearch.
  11. ^ "Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Funeral Draws 20,000". Chicago Tribune. March 26, 1986.
  12. ^ "Rabbi Moshe Feinstein", hevratpinto.org. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Halakhic Definition of Life in a Bioethical Context". Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  14. ^ For example, see Roth, Joel. The Halakhic Process: A Systematic Analysis, JTS: 1986, pp.71ff. Robinson (2001).
  15. ^ Codex Judaica Mattis Kantor, Zichron Press, NY 2005, p.299
  16. ^ "Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Funeral Draws 50,000". Chicago Tribune. March 26, 1986.
  17. ^ "Thousands attend American rabbi's funeral".
  18. ^ Scutts, Joseph (July 26, 2021). "Jewish comedian Jackie Mason reflects on his legendary career". The Jerusalem Post. The Jerusalem Report. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  19. ^ Shalom C. Spira, "A Combination of Two Halakhically Kosher Prenuptial Agreements to Benefit the Jewish Wife," footnote 100 [1]
  20. ^ For example, R' Yehudah haHasid's statement that certain verses of the Torah were written by an author other than Moses; and Nachmanides' statement that Abraham sinned by leaving Canaan and endangering his wife in Egypt (Darash Moshe Vayera 18:13: וטעות גדול ברמב"ן שכתב שאברהם חטא בזה, ותלמיד טועה טעה לדבר ח"ו סרה על אברהם)
  21. ^ Development, PodBean. "5/28/16 - Show 69 - Zika Virus and Halacha | Halacha Headlines". podcast.headlinesbook.com.