New volume of Igros Moshe

Akiva Miller (kgmiller@datacorinc.com)
Mon, 2 Dec 1996 10:54:47 -0500

In TF 2:98, Akiva Atwood wrote: <<< Rav Moshe was kown to have said (on
many occasions) that if it wasn't in Igros Moshe, or if someone didn't hear
it from him in person, then NOT to believe ANY psak Halachah quoted in his
name. >>>

Let me remind everyone of the rule that when I ask a rabbi a question on
halacha, the answer he gives is for me only. No one else can rely on it.
Whoever else wants to rely on it must ask the rabbi himself. Only when a
ruling is given to the public (such as in a speech or in a book) is the
public entitled to rely on it. Mr. Atwood is pointing out here that
although in *theory* there is nothing wrong with quoting something in the
name of any Rabbi, the fact was that Rav Moshe Feinstein was very often
misquoted, and he did not want to be responsible for other people's mistakes.

I would like to question the authoritativeness of the most recent volumes
of the Igros Moshe, which were published after Rav Moshe passed away. Rav
Moshe himself exercised editorial control over the six volumes published in
his lifetime, deciding which responsa were fit to share with the public and
which should not be. Volumes 7 and 8 were published in the first few years
after his passing, so he may have worked on them as well. But this newest
volume was released only in the past few weeks, ten years after we lost him.

As I understand the halachic process, every rabbi is obligated to research
each question carefully, and come up with the answer which appears correct
to him. Part of that process is analyzing the opinions of his predecessors.
He might say, for example, "To me, the answer should be X, but it is very
clear from the Igros Moshe that Rav Moshe felt the answer to be Y, and that
does carry a certain amount of weight." How much weight should be attached
to responsa of this volume, vis a vis the responsa which appeared in the
first volumes?

I have not yet purchased the new volume, but I saw it in the store, and
noticed a very lengthy foreword which was co-signed by Rav Tendler (Rav
Moshe's son-in-law) and by both of Rav Moshe's sons, Rav Reuven and Rav
Dovid Feinstein. I would like to think that this issue was addressed in
that foreword. If it was *not* addressed there, then I would have to
presume that although it could be said that Rav Moshe Feinstein is the
authority to learn from (i.e., l'halacha), the three co-publishers are the
authorities who we would be relying on in practice (l'maaseh).

If anyone has actually read the foreword to the new volume, or has any
other comments on these lines, please write in.

Akiva Miller
(now at both Keeves@aol.com and at KGMiller@DatacorInc.com)