[Avodah] R Moshe Feinstein as posek hador
bdbradley70 at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 7 11:13:09 PDT 2019
I've come across a event described in a couple of medical halacha books which I find intriguing for reasons unrelated to medical halacha. In 1948 there was an outbreak of meningitis in Jerusalem with a limited supply of penicillin, less than the amount needed to treat all the present cases. Rav Herzog, the chief rabbi, called Rav Moshe Feinstein in New York to ask how to prioritise the use of life saving penicillin. This is recorded by Dr Fred Rosner and subsequently by R Tatz. Interestingly, neither quote any source for the story.
What intrigued me was the year. In Israel in 1948 the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rav, R SZ Auerbach, R Tz P Frank and a number of other prominent poskim were resident in Israel. Ok, R Shlomo Zalman was only 38 and clearly junior to a number of other at the time. But R Moshe, at 53, I would have thought, was also junior to, for example, the chazon ish.
Yet the Chief rabbi of EY decided that the shoulders he wanted to lean on for a situation of immediate life and death were those of R Moshe all the way over in New York, even as early as 1948. Even with transatlantic phone calls as they were then.
Does this surprise anyone else or is it just me?
The questions it raises are:
Why did R Herzog not ask the chazon ish or other posek in EY? Was this to do with personal relationships, pure perception of worldwide seniority in psak, an early example of hashkafic tensions, or something else?
And, if it was a pure question of pure seniority/shoulders in psak, when exactly, or on the death of whom, did R Moshe become the highest address for issues of life and death?
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