Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #270

Brief Torah Learning

Q: If I have half-a-minute free to learn Torah does it have worth?

A: Certainly.  Every word of Torah a person learns is the fulfillment of a Mitzvah.  Ha-Gra in Shenot Eliyahu on Peah Chapter 1.


Blessing on Chocolate

Q: What is the blessing on chocolate?

A: It would have been proper to recite Eitz, but the custom is to recite Shehakol since it contains various ingredients aside from cocoa, and its form is changed and unrecognizable.  Piskei Teshuvot (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein was once asked about the blessing on chocolate, and he responded that people have the long-standing custom to recite Shehakol, and we must clarify why this is so, since it is impossible for us to say that Klal Yisrael acts improperly.  Reshumei Aharon of Ha-Rav Aharon Felder, p. 24.  And this was Rav Feinstein's opinion in general.  Someone once told Reb Moshe that the Sanzer Rav, author of Shut Divrei Chaim, ruled that over a potato one recites Shehakol, because the potato does not really grow from the ground, rather it grows from air around the ground.  Reb Moshe said that even if such reasoning was correct, which it is not, didn't the Sanzer Rav know that the custom of the world is already to recite Adamah, and thus it does not make sense to rule otherwise.  See Chullin 136b.  Mesoret Moshe p. 50.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach also ruled that one should recite Eitz on chocolate, but since the world did not accept his ruling, he said that in practice one should recite Shehakol.  See Shut Minchat Shlomo 1:91.  And Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah p. 101, for a discussion of why the blessing is not "Borei Pri Ha-Eitz").


Netilat Yadayim after Donating Blood

Q: After donating blood should one wash Netilat Yadayim as one would after blood-letting?  What about after a blood test?

A: No.  Since these are spiritual matters, we only do what is written in the Halachah and do not add to it.  Halichot Shlomo 20:19.  Some authorities however do say that donating blood is similar to blood-letting, and that it is proper to be strict.  Piskei Teshuvot Vol. 1 p. 58.  But certainly not after a blood test (And this is also the ruling in the Halachic-Medical Encyclopedia of Rav Steinberg Vol. 2 pp. 525-527, Vol. 3 pp. 429-430.  It is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, since the amount of blood extracted when donating blood is equivalent to that in blood-letting while a blood test requires only a minimal amount of blood.  Be-Dama'ich Chayi - collection of Halachot regarding blood donation pp. 51-54).   


Military Discount

Q: I receive a 30% discount from various stores for being a soldier.  Is it permissible to use this discount to buy something for a friend?

A: You should ask the army.


Utensil in Right Hand when Immersing in Mikveh

Q: When immersing utensils in a Mikveh, should one hold the utensil in his right hand?

A: Yes, just as one holds the food or object in his right hand when reciting a blessing over it or for a Mitzvah.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 26:2.  Mishnah Berurah #17-18 (And this is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski in Kuntres Ish Iter #38).


Selling Transgressions

Q: I heard of a case where one person was willing to take on another person's transgressions for $500.  Is there such a thing?

A: Nonsense.  See Sefer Chasidim, edition of Ha-Rav Reuven Margoliyot, p. 591.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #269

Teacher with Bad Odor

Q: What should I do if one of my teachers has bad body odor?

A: Either leave him an anonymous note written politely, or inform the principal.  The same applies to bad breath.


Sister's Clothing

Q: Is it permissible for me to take my sister's clothing, since they were bought with our parent's money?

A: Certainly not.  They belong to her.


Cohain as Combat Soldier in Tzahal

Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain to serve as a combat soldier in Tzahal?

A: Certainly.  In circumstances when there are corpses, he will receive special directives as how to act (And regarding the question as to whether a Cohain serving in Tzahal who kills someone in war can still recite the Birkat Cohanim, see Shut Yechaveh Daat 2:14, where Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef rules that such a Cohain is exactly the right person to bestow a blessing upon us since he killed defending the Nation and Land of Israel.  See also Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:61. This is unlike Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik who held that just as King David was unable to build the Temple on account of his participation in war, so too a Cohain who kills in war is no longer able to recite the Birkat Cohanim. Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 132).


12-Step Program

Q: It is worthwhile to use the 12-Step Program to fix my behavior?

A: Certainly not.  This program is only for someone with an addiction.  It is like a drug which cures but has side effects.  One can therefore not use it except in the case of an addiction which cannot be cured otherwise.


Question to the Wrong Rabbi

Q: I accidently sent a text message question to a different Rabbi and he sent me an answer.  Am I obligated to follow his ruling or can I ask Ha-Rav?

A: If you intended specifically to ask me, the lowly one, it is permissible to re-ask the question.  If you intended to ask a Rabbi in general, you must follow his answer (Similarly, it once happened that a couple had a question about the laws of Family Purity on Shabbat Night.  Since they lived nearby to Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the wife went to his apartment building, but accidentally she went to the floor above Rav Ovadiah, where Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul lived, and he ruled that it was forbidden.  When she returned home, the husband understood that his wife had made a mistake.  He went on his own to Rav Ovadiah, who permitted it, and related that his wife had accidentally asked Rav Ben Tzion Abba who prohibited it.  Rav Ovadiah said: Rebbe Ben Tzion is a Gaon in Halachah, but my opinion in this case is that it is permissible.  Therefore, if you originally intended to ask me, it is permissible, but if you intended to ask any Rabbi, it is forbidden, especially since you asked Chacham Ben Tzion, and I cannot permit what he did not.  Maran by Ha-Rav Michal Shtern pp. 247-248).


Biblical Criticism

Q: How should we relate to Biblical Criticism?

A: It is nonsense which is not worth relating to.  This was explained by Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah (See also Ha-Rav's book "Torat Emet").


Kippah during Military Exercises at Sea

Q: During military exercises at sea is a soldier obligated to wear a Kippah?

A: No.  And it is a pious act to only remove it right before heading out to sea.  Piskei Teshuvot 3:12.

Can there be a Third Destruction?

Question: When the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, stood at the gates of Eretz Yisrael, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog said: there will not be a Third Destruction.  What is the source for this?

Answer: Rabbi Abba said: You have no more clear sign of the end of days than that of the verse: "But you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near" (Yechezkel 36:8).  Rashi explains: “When the Land of Israel yields its fruit bountifully, then the end of days will be near. You have no clearer sign of the end of days than that."  Sanhedrin 98a.  If Chazal says that there is no clearer sign, there is none!  When Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was asked what should be said to the Charedi community, which was unconvinced regarding the Redemption, he said: "We are not Karaites!  We are Talmud-faithful Jews, and the Talmud itself teaches us about the revealed Final Redemption.  It says that there is no more clear sign of the Final Redemption than the Land of Israel’s offering its fruit generously to the ingathering Jews!

Ha-Rav Dr. Yaakov Herzog related about his father, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog: "…his great Emunah was that the Return to Zion in our time is the beginning of the blossoming of the Redemption of Israel.  In the year 1941, when Rommel was at the gates of Eretz Yisrael, and my Father ztz"l was then visiting Washington D.C., President Roosevelt warned him not to return to Eretz Yisrael, because it was about to be conquered by the Germans.  My Father responded that the prophets prophesized regarding two destructions, and not on a Third".  Am Le-Badad Yishkon p. 16.  Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter writes that at the time of the Israeli War of Independence. Ha-Griz Soloveitchik of Brisk wanted to leave Yerushalayim and move to Switzerland.  Rav Herzog came to him and argued that he should not leave Eretz Yisrael, and that there was no need to fear the war since we have an accepted tradition that there will not be a Third Destruction.  The Brisker Rav answered that he has an accepted tradition from his father that when there is shooting one flees.  This seems to mean that although there is a tradition that there will not be another destruction, this principle does not apply to individuals being killed and therefore one must flee.  Ikei Ha-Tzon pp. 115-116 (Rav Herzog's opinion is also brought in Kim'a Kim'a of Ha-Rav Chaim Druckman p. 144 and Ti'um Kavanot of Ha-Rav Chaim Sabato p. 98).

This principle was also cited, however, right before the Six-Day War.  At that time, Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren - who then served as the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal - traveled to Australia to help raise money for the United Jewish Appeal.  With the closing of the Straits of Tiran, he understood that there would be a war and hurried to return to Eretz Yisrael.  The only route home was from Australia to Los Angeles, then to New York, and from there to Israel.  Rav Goren spent Shabbat in Far Rockaway, New York, which is close to the airport, in order to fly out right after Shabbat.  He spoke in the White Shul on Shabbat.  Rav Goren's autobiography "Be-Oz Ve-Ta'atzumot" pp. 264-265.  It is related elsewhere that Rav Goren said that a war with the Arabs was about to begin.  The entire community started to cry and feared a second Holocaust, but Rav Goren said that there was nothing to fear since the Torah promises that there will not be a Third Destruction (Ha-Rav Chaim Jachter in the name of Ha-Rav Shaul Chill, quoted in the parashah sheet "Kol Torah" of the Torah Academy of Bergen County).               

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #268

Another Child

Q: I want another child but my husband does not.  This causes me great distress.

A: You are right.  But this is too complicated for a text message.  Talk to my wife.


Running to Shul

Q: It is a Mitzvah to run to Shul from my house?

A: No.  Only when you are close to the Shul, so it is clear why you are running.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 90:12.  Mishnah Berurah ibid.


Israeli Flag

Q: Is it permissible to throw away a worn Israeli flag or must it be placed in the Geniza?

A: It may be thrown away, but not in a disrespectful manner (In the book Nefesh Ha-Rav pp. 99-100, it is related that one year the Agudat Yisrael Conference was held in a hotel in Yerushalayim and there was an Israeli flag flying on the roof.  Some of the participants, who were opposed to the State of Israel, were unhappy about this, but instead of requesting that the flag be removed they asked if all of the flags of the participants' countries be flown as well.  After this was publicized, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik stated at the Mizrachi Conference that while the Jewish People had flags in the desert, they were temporary and not for all generations.  But the flag of Israel has a different significance.  There is a Minhag in the name of the Rishonim brought in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 366:4: "If a Jew is found murdered, he is to be buried as he was found [i.e. in his bloody clothes] without any shrouds."  The Shach #11 explains that the reason for this Minhag: to kindle Hashem's wrath when He sees how this person was buried without shrouds.  Hashem's compassion will thus be aroused to avenge him.  And the same applies to the Israeli flag.  Towards the end of the War of Independence, the UN set a specific time by which the Jews and Arabs could seize land.  They established that all the territory in the hands of the Jews, as signified by raising the Israeli flag on that spot, would become part of the State of Israel, and all territory in Arab hands, would remain outside the State of Israel.  And this is indeed what occurred.  During this period, much Jewish blood was spilled in order to raise the Israeli flag over as much territory as possible.  Many Jewish fighters were killed, displaying self-sacrifice for the sole purpose of raising the Jewish flag, the flag of Israel.  Therefore, Rav Soloveitchik said, the flag of the State of Israel has the status of a murdered Jew's clothing, a symbol of the spilled blood of the Jews.  As a result, when the flag of Israel flies, it arouses Hashem's compassion for Am Yisrael).


Glue and Knot at End of Tzitzit

Q: Is it permissible to put glue or tie a knot on the end of Tzitzit so they do not unravel?

A: Some authorities permit it and others forbid it.  Piskei Teshuvot 11:14.


Wig and Sofer Stam

Q: Which is preferable – a Sofer Stam with more beautiful script but whose wife wears a wig or a Sofer Stam with less beautiful script whose wife covers her hair with a scarf?

A: The former.  1. The Sofer Stam is the deciding factor and not his wife.  2. Wearing a wig is permissible for both Ashkenazi and Sefardi women (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:442, 3:416.  And there is a story told about a couple who moved from Hungary to America, and the wife wanted to cover her with a wig like others in America instead of shaving her hair and wearing a scarf as had been the custom of her foremothers in Hungary.  The husband, however, did not agree and went to Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein to ask about this issue.  Ha-Rav Feinstein saw that the husband did not have a beard.  He asked: Did your father and grandfather have beards?  He said: Of course, everyone had a beard.  He asked: So why are you clean-shaven?  He said: This is America!  Ha-Rav Feinstein said: If so, there is no problem for your wife to wear a wig.  See also Shut Igrot Moshe Yoreh De'ah 1:81 on wearing modern clothing). 


Large Kippah in Tzahal

Q: The main officer of my base told me that my Kippah is too large.  What should I do?

A: A large Kippah is praiseworthy.  Ask a military Rabbi or call the hotline for soldiers of the Military Rabbinate: 052-941-4414.

Where was Rachel Imenu during Operation Protective Edge?

Question: Why did Rachel Imenu save our soldiers during Operation Cast Lead but did not during Operation Protective Edge?

Answer: A fool will believe anything.   There are two types of extremism: one is to deny miracles, and the other is to believe someone who tells you there was one.  We need to check.  It is possible that the person imagined seeing something or someone.  Sometimes even a sane person imagines things, especially one who is under pressure, tired or hungry.  He thinks he sees something that isn't there, and later fosters it in his memory.   This is called FMS - False Memory Syndrome.  It may have been a non-Jewish woman who was seen and mistaken for Rachel Imenu.  There are also good Arab women.  Or maybe someone dreamed up this idea to strengthen faith, and to say: "You see?   There are people who go to war and there are people who don't go to war but they pray, and Rachel Imenu came to save us on account of their merit."  But we need proof for such matters.  There were soldiers who fell in battle and Rachel was not there.  There were also soldiers who won battles due to their great dedication and wisdom and courageousness to fight, and Rachel was not there.  This means that Rachel was not there in the image of a woman guiding them and telling them go this way or that way, shoot here or shoot there.  But Rachel was certainly there - in both Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Shield - in the sense in which we explained: the inner power which sustains the Nation of Israel and returns us to our Land. 


Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #267

Donation to a Yeshiva

Q: Which is preferable – a few wealthy donors supporting a Yeshiva, or many poor donors?

A: Many poor donors, so that all Klal-Yisrael will have a part in the Yeshiva (It once happened that a wealthy individual wanted to donate the entire sum needed to build the Chafetz Chaim's Yeshiva in Radin.  The Chafetz Chaim refused.  He explained that he wanted all of Klal-Yisrael to have a part in the Yeshiva and asked that a Tzedakah box be placed in each house.  The wealthy person had a Din Torah against the Chafetz Chaim in the Beit Din of Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer Grozinski so that he would have to accept the entire donation.  Rav Chaim Ozer ruled that they should compromise).


Chilul Hashem

Q: How is it possible that there are people who are Torah observant but act in a repulsive manner?

A: This is the definition of Chilul Hashem.  Yoma 85.  Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei Ha-Torah Chapter 5.


Eretz Yisrael

Q: Is living in Eretz Yisrael a goal in and of itself or a means to learning Torah and performing Mitzvot in completeness and contentment?

A: It is a goal in and of itself, which also brings completeness and contentment, as does performance of every Mitzvah in the Torah.  See Orot Eretz Yisrael #1 (see Ha-Rav's book "Am Ha-Artzo" which discusses this question in the first chapter).


Lying Child

Q: What can I, as a mother, do if my 4-year old is lying?

A: I apologize: this is too complicated of an issue for a text message.  You can call my wife (or look in Ha-Rav's book on educating children: Chinuch Be-Ahavah).


Saying Verses By-Heart

Q: I teach Torah and quote many verses, but I saw that the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (1:6) writes that it is forbidden to recite verses by-heart.  Do I have to open up a Tanach each time I quote a verse?

A: You are not obligated to do so.  1. It is permissible to recite a verse which you know well.  2. According to Tosafot, one is only obligated to recite a verse from a Tanach if he is fulfilling a Mitzvah for others by doing so.  3. It is permissible to do so if it is a burden on the community (Piskei Teshuvot 49:9.  See there for further permissible manners of doing so).


Ruach Ha-Kodesh

Q: How does one merit Ruach Ha-Kodesh?

A: Following the path laid out in Mesilat Yesharim, from beginning to end.


Reading Books in a Store

Q: Is it permissible for me to read books in a store if I do not intend to buy them but am careful not to ruin them?

A: This is theft.  The books belong to the store and it is forbidden for you to use them without their permission.



Q: Is it forbidden to use WhatsApp?

A: If it contains Lashon Ha-Rav, insults and idle talk.


Spitting in Front of Avodah Zarah

Q: What is the source for spitting when seeing a Preist?

A: There is no source.


Shaming the Kotel

Q: I sometimes Daven at the Kotel and see great Torah scholars there.  Two of my classmates told me that we are obligated to Daven on the Har Ha-Bayit and not at the Kotel, and say "You enjoy talking to a wall"?!  I am confused.  What should I do?

A: Don't listen to the mockers of the generation but rather to its great Rabbis.



Q: I heard that the Arizal said not to say Yigdal?

A: Correct.  Mishnah Berurah 68:2.  But the Shelah did say it, and this is the custom (And Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik said that reciting Yigdal, which includes the foundations of Emunah, is forbidden because of "Chukot Akum" - imitating non-Jewish practice.  This is because it is seen as similar to the Catholic practice of reciting the Catechism – an oral review of their articles of faith.  Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 231).

Question: I heard that Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren permitted using the Heter Mechirah and then later forbade it?

Answer: Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Shlomo Goren's opinion is that after the establishment of the State of Israel we can no longer utilize the Heter Mechirah since even though an individual can sell his field to a non-Jew, there still remains a sort of "super-ownership" by the entire State.  As a result, there is still Jewish ownership by the State of Israel.  When Rav Goren served as the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Halachah nonetheless followed the majority of the Rabbis on the Rabbinical Council of the Chief Rabbinate and the Heter Mechirah was indeed utilized.  His personal opinion, however, was that it cannot be used (article in the magazine "Be-Machanayim" of the Military Rabbinate in the year 5619.  Torat Ha-Medinah p. 445.  Torat Ha-Moadim p. 624).

And there is another great Rabbi who agrees: The Satmar Rebbe.  Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum had many arguments against the Heter Mechirah.  He argued that even according to the opinion that the Heter Mechirah is halachically acceptable (which he did not uphold), it no longer applies after the establishment of the State of Israel on account of the "super-ownership" of the State (Shut Divrei Yoel #96-98 and printed in a separate booklet entitled "Shalosh Teshuvot").

The difference, however, is that Rav Goren held this opinion because the State of Israel is a great and holy Mitzvah, while the Satmar Rebbe reasoned as he did because he saw the State as impure, and a rebellion against Hashem.

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah however rejected the proofs of Rav Goren, and argued that the sale of land sold by an individual is considered a valid sale regardless if there is Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael or not.  Therefore, the Heter Mechirah still applies even after the establishment of the State of Israel (Techumin Volume 7, p. 23).