Kosher Cheeseburger?!

Question: I heard that the OU gave Kosher certification to a "Cheeseburger", which contains no dairy and no meat, but rather is made from water, wheat protein, potato protein and coconut oil.  Isn't there a problem of "Ma'arit Ayin" (the appearance of violating the prohibition) of eating meat and dairy together?

Answer: It is permissible for two reasons:
1.    It is true that our Sages decreed that one may not eat almond milk with meat unless one leaves the almonds out for everyone to see (Rama, Yoreh Deah 87:3).  Today, in many health circles, almond milk is common. It's in most supermarkets these days (but one wouldn't notice if not looking for it).  Also, there are people who routinely use almond (or rice or soya) milk as a Parve milk substitute or because they are allergic or sensitive to milk. 
Similarly, today everyone has seen and knows about veggie burgers. There is therefore no problem of "Ma'arit Ayin" of eating a veggie burger with cheese.
2. We do not make new decrees. That which our Sages decreed is decreed, and that which our Sages did not decree is not decreed. They did not make a decree against eating Parve burgers with Parve cheese. Perhaps you will say that they did not make a decree because such a thing did not did not exist at their time, but it is included in the original decrees of "Ma'arit Ayin." The halachic authorities explain that we do not make such an argument and it is not included.
I remember when I was a little kid and they invented Parve margarine. People ate the margarine with meat and other people did not know what it was. Many people were strict and put the wrapper on the table. There is also non-dairy creamer which looks like milk. There is a responsum of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Shut Yechaveh Da'at (3:59) which permits these items because they are well publicized and everyone knows about them.
Perhaps because this Parve "cheeseburger" new, one such make a clear sign that it is completely Parve.

Short & Sweet- Text Message Q&A #355

Living in the Heart of the Old City of Yerushalayim
Q: Is it forbidden to live in the Old City of Yerushalayim on account of "You shall surely safeguard your soul" (Devarim 4:15, 23:11)?
A: No.  It is a Mitzvah.  1. Settling Eretz Yisrael requires Mesirut Nefesh.  2. It is not more dangerous than living elsewhere (I heard that when Ha-Rav Yitzchak Shlomo Zilberman decided to move to the Old City and live on Ma'alot David Street, his brothers-in-law, who were important Torah scholars, brought him to a Din Torah before Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, for endangering their sister and nieces and nephews.  Rav Zilberman said that he is not obligated to appear before Rav Elyashiv since he is not his Rav but rather his father is his Rav.  Nonetheless, he agreed to go.  During the Din Torah, the brothers-in-law talked at great length about the danger involved in moving there.  Rav Elyashiv stopped them in the middle and said: Until you bring a letter from the Police Chief on the Yerushalayim District saying that it is dangerous and forbidden to live there, what you are saying is Lashon Ha-Rav against Yerushalayim!
I also heard that in Shevet 5778, a couple wanted to move into a newly-redeemed house in the Old City next to the Lion's Gate, where no Jews lived, and when Jews move into a new area, Arabs often awaken and riot.  They asked Ha-Rav Amiel Sternberg, Rosh Yeshivat Har Ha-Mor, if it is permissible to move there.  He answered: It is a personal decision.  One who does not move there is not considered a coward, and one who does move there is not considered irrational.  It depends on 1. The feelings of the couple.  2. The future plans, i.e. for more families to move into the area when possible).

Olam Ha-Ba for Animals
Q: We had a dog who was loyal and dedicated, and he died.  Does he go to Olam Ha-Ba?
A: No.  He does not have a soul.
Q: He only existed in this world?
A: Correct.  By the way, on a completely different level, there are many Atheists who do not believe in Olam Ha-Ba, and nonetheless display great self-sacrifice to be good and upright in this world, and see it as a value in and of itself.

Religious Zionist Torah Scholars
Q: Why does the Religious Zionist community have fewer Torah scholars than the Charedi community?
A: The Charedi community has existed for 2000 years, while the Religious Zionist community was born, or more precisely, revived, together with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Postpartum Depression
Q: I am depressed after giving birth.  I have always been strong.
A: It is natural.  It occurs to one in six women.  But you should seek professional help.  There is a free support program at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

Ritalin on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to take Ritalin on Shabbat in order to Daven and learn properly, or is it forbidden based on the prohibition of taking medicine for an illness on Shabbat?
A: Yes. 1.  It is not certain that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is considered an illness.  2. One suffers greatly without Ritalin.  3. In our day, medicines are not made at home.  4. In our day, medicines are not made by a grinding process.  5. It is proper to be strict and to hide the Ritalin in food on Friday before Shabbat and then eat it on Shabbat.

Kashering and Immersing Utensils
Q: Which does one do first, Kasher a utensil or immerse it in the Mikveh?
A: Kasher it.  Otherwise, it is like a person immersing in a Mikveh holding an impure creature (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 121:2 in the name of the Rashbam).

Sleeping Guard
Q: The guard at the entrance to the school fell asleep.  Should I wake him up or is it Gezel Sheina (stealing one's sleep)?
A: You certainly wake him up.  He is stealing from those paying him and he is endangering people.  Waking him is also for his own good.

Cutting the Line in the Bank
Q: Can a person who is waiting in line at the bank have his friend join him when it is his turn, and let the friend also perform a transaction?
A: No.  He helps his friend but at the expense of others (Baba Metzia 8a). 

Finding Money on Shabbat
Q: I found money on Shabbat, gave into temptation and took it.  I deeply regret it.  What can I do?
A: Accept upon yourself not to do it again and give the money to Tzedakah.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #354

Denigrating Gedolei Yisrael
Q: My friend said disparaging things about the Lubavichter Rebbe.  I told him he was transgressing the prohibition against denigrating a Torah scholar.  He showed me quotes from Ha-Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach against the Lubavichter Rebbe.  Is he correct?
A: No.  He is not Rav Shach.

Charvona, Remembered for the Good
Q: Why do we say that Charvona should be remembered for the good?
A: Our Sages teach that Charvona was wicked, and part of Haman's plan against Mordechai.  When he saw that the plan was not going to work, he fled.  Megillah 16a.  In the song "Shoshanat Yaakov", we say "Charvona, remembered for the good", because he told King Achasverosh that Haman had arranged gallows for the hanging of Mordechai (In the book "Divrei Chana Ha-Shalem" [p. 282], it is related that Ha-Rav Chana Halberstam, Av Beit Din of Kalashitz, once related on Purim that he dreamt that Eliyahu Ha-Navi appeared to him as the Belzer Rebbe, R' Yehoshua, and that R' Chana asked the Belzer Rebbe: why is this non-Jewish servant of the king remembered for good?  After all, we only use this phrase for Eliyahu Ha-Navi who did good for the Jews.  The Belzer Rebbe answered: since Charvona merited Eliyahu Ha-Navi appearing in his likeness, this is enough to remember him for the good.  We find this idea among our Sages that Eliyahu Ha-Navi once appeared to Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi in the guise of Rebbe Chiya and helped in healing a problem with his teeth.  From then on, Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi gave great honor to Rebbe Chiya since Eliyahu Ha-Navi appeared in his likeness [Yerushalami, Kilayim 9:3.  Bereshit Rabba 33:3, and at the end of Parashat Tzav].  Rebbe Chana concluded that it was extremely dear to him that we merited to see Eliyahu Ha-Navi in his dream in the guise of the Belzer Rebbe).  

Davening in Front of a Picture of the Even Sheteiya
Q: Is it permissible to Daven in front of a picture of the Even Sheteiya (The Foundation Stone, which is on the Temple Mount and was in the Holy of Holies) on my cell phone, in order to help me imagine that I was in the Beit Ha-Mikdash, as mentioned in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 95:2?
A: No.  One should not Daven in front of a picture since it distracts one from having proper intention when saying the words.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 90:22.  See Piskei Teshuvah ibid.  By the way, it is not clear whether the rock in the Dome of the Rock is the Even Sheteiya or not.

Chevruta with Someone Who Goes onto the Temple Mount
Q: I have a friend who has Midot Tovot and is a Torah scholar, but goes onto the Temple Mount.  Is it permissible for me to learn in Chevruta with him?
A: No.  1. This is a very severe error.  To our great distress, we have become used to it and it does not shock us.  But all we need is two lines from Maran Ha-Rav Kook to know that one infringement on the holiness of the Temple Mount undoes all of the merit of building millions of Yishuvim in Eretz Yisrael (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah Volume 2, p. 285).  2. You can certainly be his friend and fulfill Mitzvot with him, but one should not learn in Chevruta with him, since Torah learning is the foundation of having a proper Torah philosophy, and something clearly went wrong with his understanding.  Pri Tzadik (end of Vayikra, end of the article "Amala Shel Torah").
Q: But Ha-Rav was asked if one should cancel a Shiduch with someone who ascends on the Temple Mount, and he responded: No, since a person is judged according to the majority of his actions.  Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1 (Piskei Shlomo Volume 6, p. 183)?
A: A person is human, and every person has virtues and deficiencies, and therefore he is judged by the majority of his actions.  This is true for friends, fellow soldiers in Tzahal, etc.  But the Torah is Divine.  It therefore must be exact and we cannot put blurred or confused ideas into it.
Q: We should therefore invalidate such a person?
A: G-d forbid!  Differences of agreement: Yes - division of hearts: No!  We have great love for all of Am Yisrael, but this does not mean we always agree with them.  We love and respect all Rabbanim in Am Yisrael, but this does not mean we always agree with them (See Eruvin 14a-b).  We follow our Rabbis.
Q: Is there a list of books and people from which\whom we should not learn?
A: G-d forbid!  This is what the Vatican has: Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of forbidden books, and there is also a list of excommunicated people.  1. We are not discussing specifics but rather the principle of the matter.  2. One needs to use his intellect.  3.  It all depends on whether an alternative exists.  If there is a better alternative, he should learn with someone else.  If a better alternative does not exist, he should be satisfied in the meantime with what he has, i.e. learning with him.

Many Massechtot or One Massechet
Q: What is preferable – learning many Massechtot of Gemara or learning one Massechet really well?
A: One Massechet.

Religious Yishuv
Q: I live in a small Yishuv where everyone is religious.  What is the advantage and what is the disadvantage?
A: The advantage is that together you exist with fear of Hashem (Yirat Shamayim) and radiate a pure life to the entire Nation which lives in Eretz Yisrael.  The disadvantage is that all of Klal Yisrael should live together.

Lost Kippah
Q: My Kippah blew away and I can't find it.  Can I walk with my head uncovered or should I cover my head with my hand?
A: You should cover your head with something.  Your hand does not help since you cannot cover your head with a part of your own body.

Yerushalayim - The Highest Place in the World!

The Gemara says that the Land of Israel is higher than any other place in the world (Zevachim 54b).  In Parashat Shoftim, the Torah says that if you have a difficult halachic question or court case and need to go to the Sanhedrin, which is located in the Temple in Jerusalem, "you should arise and ascend to the place" (Devarim 17:8).  Regardless of where one is located, he has to ascend to get there.  Based on this, the Gemara says that the Temple is higher than any place in the Land of Israel (ibid.). 
How can the Gemara make such a claim?  Mt. Everest and the Himalayas are higher than Mt. Chermon – the highest spot in Israel?!  Ironically, Israel has the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea, not the highest!
The Radvaz, who lived about 500 years ago in Tzefat, explains how the Temple Mount lost its crown as the highest spot in Israel.  He writes that the non-Jews lowered its height as it says, "Raze it, raze it, to its foundation" (Tehillim 137:7).  The non-Jewish kings dug up the Temple Mount in order to build their houses, temples and churches higher than it.  Furthermore, the rains flowed down the incline of the Temple Mount and instead of preventing the razing, they encouraged it.  An earthquake also caused much destruction in Jerusalem and people built houses on the rubble.  There is one archeological layer on top of another in Jerusalem.  Archeological digs do not reveal virgin earth, but the remnants of earlier periods.  Thus, while Jerusalem became higher, the Temple Mount was lowered, but it once was the highest spot (Shut Ha-Radvaz vol. 2 #639)
The Chatam Sofer – Rav Moshe Sofer, who lived in Pressberg, Hungary about 200 years ago and was never in Israel, says that reality does not substantiate the Radvaz's claim that the Temple Mount was once the highest spot in Israel.  He provides an answer from a completely difference perspective by focusing on the statement that the Land of Israel is the highest spot in the world.  The Chatam Sofer explains that the earth is a sphere and it is therefore impossible to definitively say which is the highest point.  Everything is dependent on how one holds the sphere. If you hold the earth in a proper way than Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are the highest places.  If you hold the sphere in a different way, someplace else will be on top. 
The essential job of a Jew is to have a proper perspective in life to ensure that Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are always at the pinnacle (Chatam Sofer to Devarim 17:8).

Shu"t Ha-Shoel Volume 2

New HEBREW Book:
Shu"t Ha-Shoel Volume 2
By Mordechai Tzion
Q&A of Gedolei Yisrael including Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanevski, Ha-Rav Avigdor Neventzal, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Ha-Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg and tens of others
Includes commentary of Rav Aviner on the Will of Ha-Rav Shteinman ztz"l

"Hopeless Students"

“He doesn’t understand a thing, and he never will understand a thing in Mathematics.” That’s what his teacher commented on his Sixth Grade report card. Likewise, regarding all his other subjects he was called “weak, lazy,” and other such names. His average monthly grade was 4 or 4.5 out of 10. And now, this childhood friend of mine, a member of the same Bnei Akiva group, Chaim Brazis, is an internationally known professor of Mathematics and a member of the Academy of Science of America and of France.

My friend, Rabbi Moshe Hagar, the head of the pre-military yeshiva in Yatir, was the worst soldier in his platoon during basic training. When he dismantled his rifle, his officers would have to go looking for parts he lost, and he was in total shock, and slept with his army boots on. His commander called him “Kuni Lemel”. At the end of basic training, when he was accepted into the squad commander course, his own commander said to him, “Hagar, YOU’re going to be a squad commander? You’re a nothing!” Now he’s a colonel, and a deputy division commander.

Dr. Orit Alpi, an instructor in psychology at Ben Gurion University, hands out to her students a copy of a bad elementary school report card, with no name, as an exercise for them, and asks them to predict the future of that student, and indeed, they all paint a morose picture. Then she reveals to them that it is her own report card.

Stories such as these can be found in abundance. Albert Einstein did not speak until age four, and did not know how to read until age seven. He was described by his teachers a slow thinker, with weak intelligence, and prone to foolish dreams. He was rejected by the Zurich Polytechnic.

Charles Darwin, father of the Theory of Evolution, was considered by his teachers and his father to be a simple boy with a below-average IQ. They thought he was wasting his time with hobbies like collecting animal species and observing nature instead of studying. Even at university he did not excel. Rather, he loved to collect insects and to read nature books.

Louis Pasteur was an average pupil, and chemistry he came out fifteenth out of twenty-two students. In university as well he did not achieve impressive results. Yet there have been very few researchers who produced as much of benefit for all mankind as he did.

The famous sculptor Auguste Rodin, was called an idiot by his father. His uncle called him “uneducable”. His teachers called him “a bad pupil”, and he three times failed the entrance exams to Art School.

Lev Tolstoy, the great Russian author, was declared by his teacher to be lazy and lacking talent. At the University, studying the humanities, he failed his exams and was described as being incapable of and uninterested in learning.

Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor and physicist was described by his teachers as too stupid to learn.

Walt Disney was fired by the newspaper where he worked due to his lack of ideas.

Beethoven, the brilliant composer, did not play the violin well, and his teacher called him “hopeless as a composer”.

Henry Ford, who suffered from dyslexia, was a failing student, and went bankrupt five times before he succeeded in becoming a millionaire.

Winston Churchill was both dyslexic and psychologically depressed. After a whole career of failures, starting in sixth grade, he was made prime minister of England at age sixty-two.

There are many many more such people who after discovering in childhood that they suffered from learning disabilities, later succeeded: The author Hans Christian Andersen, the physicist Alexander Graham Bell, the artist Leonardo Da Vinci, American General George Patton, the millionaire Nelson Rockefeller, and American President Woodrow Wilson.

Ascending in holiness, the Netziv of Volozhin, Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, did not reap blessing as an elementary school “Cheider” pupil. It was decided to send him to learn a trade, yet he broke out in bitter weeping and asked for one more year to try (from the book “Gedolei HaDorot”, by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Stern II:801). HaGaon HaRav Yosef of Lutzk was a mischievous boy who did not want to learn at all, and he was removed from all Torah learning (“She’al Avicha Veyagedcha”, Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Shvadron I:127; and see my work, “Ani Lo Shaveh”, page 125). The Chassidic Admor Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch of Rimenov was a very weak student as a boy, until he slowly pulled himself up through enormous toil (“Sarei HaMe’ah”, by Rav Maimon IV:113-129; “Ani Lo Shaveh”, page 225).

Ha-Gaon Maharam Shik in his childhood had a weak ability to understand. He couldn’t understand even one page of Talmud. Yet he didn’t let it bother him. Instead, he toiled a great deal until he slowly achieved wisdom. (Gedolei HaDorot II:718). Rabbi Nachumke of Grodno, spiritual mentor of the Chafetz Chaim, following a move by his family to a new town and a new school when he was ten years old, could not succeed in Torah learning. He lost his love for learning and fell into a depression, deciding that he was incapable of it. He then joined up with a gang of wild boys and would wander around the town. It was decided to send him away so that he would not have a deleterious influence on other boys. He left the house of study, returned home, ceased studying, started collecting edible nuts from the forest and selling them to assist in supporting the family, and only a long time later slowly got back on track.

“The Rambam had a great deal of trouble understanding, and he had little desire to learn” (Seder HaDorot, 527, Entry: Rambam). Ascending further in holiness, Rabbi Akiva had trouble learning and remained an ignoramus until age forty. Then he went to learn Torah with his son (Avot DeRabbi Natan 6) and became the light of Israel.

Likewise, the son of Rabbi Eliezer and grandson of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai strayed totally off the track into a life of abominable sin and corruptness. Rebbe [Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi] approached him, ordained him as a rabbi, and assigned a Torah scholar to him to teach him. Yet he did not succeed in learning, and daily expressed his desire to return to his where he had been. All the same, the Torah scholar encouraged him, saying, “We’ve made a rabbi out of you, and you want to go back there?! That doesn’t suit you!” In the end he abandoned his bad ways, decided to learn, great in Torah and became a scholar (Bava Metzia 85a). It should be noted that Rebbe, in awarding him the title of “rabbi” was relying on his judgment that ultimately he would return to the proper path.

**Dear readers, if you have any other such stories, please send them to me.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #353

Sleeping with Closet Door Open
Q: I heard that one should not sleep with the closet door open.  Is this true?
A: Nonsense (Ha-Rav often says with distress: Who invents all of these types of nonsense?!).

First Mitzvah of Baal Teshuvah
Q: If a person is starting to become a Baal Teshuvah, which Mitzvah should he begin with?
A: Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said: Emunah, since it is the basis for fulfilling the Mitzvot (Ha-Rav Meir Mazuz, Rosh Yeshiva of Kisei Rachamim, once mentioned that a Rav said that Yitzchak Avinu wanted to help Esav repent by teaching him Hilchot Shechitah based on Ba'al Ha-Turim on Berehit 27:3.  But why would he teach Esav, who was wicked, this of all things?  Rav Mazuz answers based on what is told about Ha-Rav Eleizer Man Shach, Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevitz.  He was once asked by a group helping Ba'alei Teshuvah: Which Mitzvah should we begin with – Shabbat, Tefillin, etc.?  Rav Shach said: Begin with Kashrut!  If someone eats non-Kosher food it causes him "dulling of the heart" ["Timtum Ha-Lev"], i.e. dulling of one's spiritual sense.  Vayikra 11:43.  Yoma 31a.  It is therefore clear why Yitzchak taught Esav the laws of Shechitah, so that he would eat Kosher, get back his proper spiritual sense, and repent.  In the Parashah Sheet "Beit Ne'eman" #42.  To the same question, Ha-Rav Yehudah Amital, Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion, said we should follow Hashem's actions!  After the Jews left Egypt and began to complain, Hashem gave them 3 Mitzvot at Marah: Shabbat, understandable laws [Dinim] and Parah Adumah.  Rashi on Shemot 15:25.  Ha-Rav Amital therefore said that a Baal Teshuvah should begin with observing Shabbat, one Mitzvah which is dear to him [Dinim] and a Mitzvah which he does not understand, similar to Parah Adumah!  Told to me by R' Dov Shachor from Yishuv Neriya).

Gemara or Halachah Books
Q: Is it preferable to buy a Gemara, which I will not learn from, or Halachah books which I will learn?
A: Books you will learn.  Just as the reason for the Mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah is in order to learn from it (See Sefer Ha-Chinch, Mitzvah #613 and Shut Sha'agat Aryeh).

Apartment where 3 Couples Got Divorced
Q: Is it a problem to rent an apartment where 3 couples who lived there got divorced?
A: There is absolutely no problem.  The apartment is not to blame.

Witness of Honor
Q: I was at a wedding and they honored a person to be a "witness of honor".  What is that?  I have never heard of it.
A: It is someone who is not suitable to be a witness but they want to honor him (When Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef performed the wedding for the son of the Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, the latter wanted someone who was not Shomer Shabbat to serve as a witness.  Rav Ovadiah suggested that he (Rav Ovadiah) serve as a witness along with Ha-Rav Shalom Messas, Rav of Yerushalayim, and that the other person be honored as a "witness of honor".  Rav Ovadiah added in extremely large letters: Witness of honor.  And another time, when Shimon Peres was at a wedding, Rav Ovadiah had him serve as a "witness of honor".  Minhagei Harashal Volume 2, pp. 327-328 and in note #33).

Mourning for Yerushalaym
Q: Why are we still mourning over Yerushalayim?  We have a wonderful city full of life?
A: Baruch Hashem.  We thank Hashem for this on Yom Ha-Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim.  But we need to add much holiness before we arrive at the Beit Ha-Mikdash.

Relating to Non-Jews
Q: Does our love of Am Yisrael mean that we do not need to relate to the other nations of the world?
A: We love all of humanity, and mention this in the prayer "Aleinu". But our love for Am Yisrael is deeper.

Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate
Q: Can I rely on the Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel?
A: 1. Yes.  2. I am moved that you respect me, the lowly, more than the Chief Rabbis.  3. You need to ask forgiveness from the Chief Rabbis for raising the possibly that they facilitate people eating Treif food.

Died in the Middle of His Life
Q: It bothers me that when a person dies relatively young, people say: He died in the middle of his life.  After all, it was not in the middle of his life but at the end of his life!  What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
A: Correct.  It is forbidden to say such a thing.  We are not abandoned.  If a person dies, it is not because someone threw a rock at him, shot him or he was sick with cancer, but rather because Hashem decreed that his time had ended.  The Gemara in Yevamot (50a) says that every person has a specific amount of time to live.  When Hashem decrees that a person's time has ended, he cannot live for even another moment.