When he arrived he found the rabbi sitting all alone in his study hall at a broad table covered with books. When he approached the rabbi to ask his question, the brilliant yet humble Rabbi Feinstein unexpectedly got up and pulled the young Moshe Zuriel by the arm in order for him to sit in his upholstered office chair. Although embarrassed to sit in the great rabbi’s seat, it was clear at the time to the teenage Moshe Zuriel that the venerable rabbi didn’t want to have someone standing while he sat and that he also didn’t want to have a young student exert himself by walking around the table in order to sit in the simple wooden school chair that was on the other side of the rabbi. Thus he had the young inquirer sit in his comfortable chair while he pulled up the wooden school chair for himself.
When he presented his question to Rabbi Feinstein, the great rabbi calmly asked a few questions: “Do you eat toothpaste? Do you smear it on a piece of bread and make a sandwich of it?” The young Moshe Zuriel answered “no.” The rabbi then asked “Do you feed toothpaste to a dog? Will he eat it?” Once again the young Moshe Zuriel replied “no.” After ascertaining that toothpaste is not edible, the great Torah sage calmly said “It’s fine. You don’t need special toothpaste for Passover.”
While Rabbi Zuriel’s life story demonstrates that where there is a strong will and determination a person can accomplish an incredible amount, I decided to include the brief encounter with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein because I believe his straightforward and clear thinking (especially in the increasingly convoluted Torah world), as well as his incredible humility and respect for other people, is a lesson for all of us.