Yechiel Michel Feinstein
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|Rabbi Yechiel Michel Feinstein|
|Rosh Yeshiva, Beis Yehuda|
|Successor||Rabbi Chaim Feinstein|
|Birth name||Yechiel Michel Feinstein|
|Born||27 June 1906
|Died||15 May 2003
Bnei Brak, Israel
|Residence||Bnei Brak, Israel|
|Parents||Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Feinstein|
|Alma mater||Mir yeshiva (Poland)|
He was born to Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Feinstein in the town of Uzda, Lithuania, a town near Minsk, Belarus, then part of the Russian empire. He was orphaned of his father at the age of seven and went to live with and learn from his grandfather, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, the Rav of Stravin, Byelorussia. It was there that Yechiel Michel developed a close relationship with his uncles, Rabbi Mordechai Feinstein and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.
When the Bolsheviks revolted, the yeshiva was forced to flee from Lithuania to Kletsk, Poland. During his three years in Kletsk, Yechiel Michel attended the famed Talmudic lectures of Rabbi Meltzer and his son-in-law, Rabbi Aharon Kotler. Then he transferred to the Mir yeshiva, where he became a leading student of Rabbi Yeruchom Lebovitz and learned together with Rabbi Yechiel Michel Schlesinger, future rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kol Torah in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Yonah Karpilow of Minsk, who was killed in the Holocaust and whose Yonas Eilem was published posthumously. At this time, Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz and Rabbi Aryeh Leib Malin also studied in the Mir yeshiva. Despite being surrounding by such luminaries in Torah, R' Yechiel Michel was nonetheless thought of as "the genius of the yeshiva".
At the behest of his former teacher, Rabbi Meltzer, Rabbi Feinstein traveled to Brisk to study under the illustrious Brisker Rov. It did not take long for Rabbi Feinstein to earn his reputation as the genius in the Brisk yeshiva as well. However, during this time, he became eligible for conscription into the army, so he traveled to Grodno to obtain fake medical forms from a doctor and en route, consulted with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chofetz Chaim) in Radin about evading the army. Upon their meeting, the Chofetz Chaim was impressed by R' Yechiel Michel's broad knowledge of Nezikin, Nashim, and Kodoshim. Feinstein stayed in Grodno for half a year, where he learned from Rabbi Shimon Shkop. He afterwards returned to Brisk to continue studying under the Brisker Rov, spending the summer months and the month of Elul at the Mir yeshivas. When World War II broke out, he traveled to Vilna with other students from the Mir to hear lectures from the Brisker Rav. Whilist in Vilna, Rabbi Feinstein was lavishly praised by the leading posek of the generation, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky.
From Vilna he joined the Mir Yeshiva in exile in Japan, while helping other refugees escape the horrors of the Holocaust. Eventually, he arrived in the United States in 1941 with Rabbi Aharon Kotler. While the latter opened a yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey (Beth Medrash Govoha), Rabbi Feinstein served as Mashgiach at HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Heichal Rabbeinu Chayim Halevi in Boston. Less than a year later, his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, summoned him to serve at his side as the head of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem in the Lower East Side, Manhattan. During this time, he gained fame for his Talmudic lectures. He was appointed a member of the Agudas HaRabbonim and assisted the Vaad Hatzolah in rescuing Jews and aiding the war refugees in Europe.
In 1946, Rabbi Feinstein visited Palestine. He immediately reunited with his former teacher the Brisker Rav in Jerusalem, and married the Brisker Rav's daughter, Lifsha, in August of that year. Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer officiated at the wedding. Following his marriage, he continued serving in the capacity of rosh yeshiva in America until 1952, when he and his family immigrated to Israel and he established Yeshivas Beis Yehuda in Tel Aviv. He consulted regularly with the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak on important issues.
In 1973, the death of one of his daughters prompted Rabbi Feinstein to move to Bnei Brak. In 1984, he inaugurated a new yeshiva building where he lectured to unmarried and married students, as well as gave shiurim in his home.
He died on Saturday night, 17 May 2003 (16 Iyar 5763) and was eulogized in both Bnei Brak and Jerusalem before being buried at Har HaMenuchos near the grave of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik. He was survived by his wife, sons Rabbi Chaim Feinstein and Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, both rosh yeshivas at Beis Yehuda, and Rabbi Avrohom Feinstein, and a son-in-law, Rabbi Tzvi Kaplan, a rosh yeshiva in Jerusalem. His wife Lifsha died in October 2008.
His only written works to have been publicly published are his novellae to the Talmudic tractate Kerisos which are printed in the back of the new editions of his father-in-law's novallee to that tractate. Other works of his are retained privately. Recently his family has published his works on Kelim, Mikvaos, Baba Kama and other mesechtos.