Beit Midrash

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The Kipa Caper

A boy got hit by a car next to Rav Moshe Fienstien's house. What was Rav Moshe's surprising response...


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Adar 7 5781
Rabbi Dushinsky walked down Henry Street, the words of the gemara that he had just been learning still running through his mind. His thoughts were interrupted suddenly, as he saw two young men run right into the street! Rabbi Dushinsky stood, frozen in horror, watching the scene play out. One boy made it safely to the sidewalk, while the boy following behind him was hit directly by an oncoming car, and knocked onto the ground! Rabbi Dushinsky’s heart pounded, as he walked toward the prone figure. His breath caught in his throat as he noticed a yarmulka lying not far from the accident victim. He heard a bystander on the payphone nearby, calling 911.
Trembling, Rabbi Dushinsky ran to get help of a different nature. Given that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein lived only a few buildings away, it was only natural that Rabbi Dushinsky ask him to pray for the boy. Rabbi Dushinsky entered Rabbi Feinstein’s apartment, and immediately began describing the terrible scene that he had just witnessed, minutes before. "Can Rabbi Feinstein please pray for the young man who was just hit, and is lying, unconscious, on the street?" Rabbi Dushinsky inquired.
Rabbi Dushinsky was shocked to hear Rabbi Feinstein say "I cannot pray for him."
Rabbi Dushinsky repeated his request, elaborating on the seriousness of the situation, yet Rabbi Feinstein merely repeated his assertion that he could not pray for the accident victim.
"Why can’t Rabbi Feinstein pray for a Jewish boy who was just hit by a car?" Rabbi Dushinsky asked.
"He’s not a Jewish boy" Rabbi Feinstein asserted.
"But… but there was a kipa lying next to him!" Rabbi Dushinsky explained.
Rabbi Feinstein shook his head again, and insisted that he couldn’t pray for the boy. Rabbi Dushinsky headed back outside, to see if there was any change in the situation. After speaking to other bystanders who had witnessed the event, he learned more about what had just happened. Apparently, the Jewish boy who had successfully crossed the street was being chased by the second boy, who was intent on harming him. The Jewish boy had run across the street in an attempt to get away from his pursuer. As he ran, his yarmulka fell to the ground. The pursuer followed his intended victim into the street, at which point the pursuer was hit by a car, and fell not far from the fallen yarmulka.
Astounded, Rabbi Dushinsky returned to Rabbi Feinstein’s house, and asked how the rabbi could possibly have known the identity of the accident victim. Rabbi Feinstein explained that it was impossible that a Jew would be hit by a car so close to where Rabbi Feinstein assiduously learned Torah.
(Based on Darchei Moshe, part B.)
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