Why are Women Obligated in all of the Mitzvot of the Seder

[From Rav Aviner's Commentary on the Haggadah]

Question: Why are women obligated in all of the Mitzvot of the Seder, when these Mitzvot are time-bound and women are exempt from time-bound Mitzvot? 
Answer: They also experienced this miracle (Pesachim 108a-b).  Here are two explanations for this answer.  According to Tosafot, women are obligated because they were also in Egyptian Exile and were redeemed.  According to Rashi, women are obligated because the Jewish People were redeemed on account of the righteous women of that generation.  The first soldier in the struggle against Egypt was Miriam.  "And I sent before You Moshe, Aharon and Miriam" (Michah 6:4).  "You have three great leaders" (Ta'anit 9a).  Miriam taught Torah to the women (Aramaic translation to Michah ibid.).  She was born during the most difficult time for the Nation of Israel.  She was therefore named "Miriam" based on the Hebrew word "Merirut" meaning "bitterness."  The Egyptians decreed that every baby boy was to be thrown into the river.  Amram, the leader of Israel, despaired and separated from his wife, Yocheved.  He said: "Why should we bring more children into the world to be killed by the Egyptians?"  The entire Jewish People followed his lead and separated from their wives.  This would have certainly destroyed the seed of Israel and we would have been defeated without a fight.  Everyone yielded except for one six year old girl – Miriam.  She said to her father: "Your decree is worse than Pharaoh's.  He only made a decree against the boys, but you made a decree against the boys and the girls!"  She succeeded in convincing her father; he remarried his wife, and all Israel followed his lead and did the same.  At the remarriage of her parents, Miriam danced with her little brother, Aharon, who was two years old.  When Moshe was born, Amram was again concerned and wondered if perhaps he acted imprudently.  Miriam, however, was confident that there would be a solution and, indeed, Moshe's salvation came in an unexpected way.  Even before this event, Miriam showed herself to be a warrior.  The Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Pu'ah, who saved the Jewish People, were Yocheved and Miriam.  Even though Miriam was young, she helped her mother.  Yocheved was called "Shifrah" because she made the child beautiful ("meshaperet" which is similar to "Shifrah") and cared for him.  Miriam was called "Pu'ah" because she spoke ("Po'ah" which is similar to "Pu'ah), sang songs, and hugged him.  When Pharaoh asked Yocheved why his decree to kill the baby boys was not followed, Yocheved evaded the question and said that the Jewish women are skilled at giving birth without a midwife.  Miriam, however, spoke brazenly to Pharaoh, "She stuck out her nose at him and said: Woe to the man from whom G-d comes to take retribution.  He was filled with anger against her and wanted to kill her.  Yocheved attempted to pacify Pharaoh: "Do not pay any attention to her.  She is a baby and does not know anything" (Shemot Rabbah 1:13).  Miriam obviously understood everything, and she began to organize a rebellion ("Meri" which is similar to "Miriam") among the Nation of Israel.  Our Sages relate how the women established a powerful underground in Egypt.  They would encourage their husbands, give birth in the fields under apple trees, "I roused your love under the apple tree" (Shir Ha-Shirim 8:5), and raise their children in secret.  They stubbornly continued to become pregnant and give birth, until they reached six hundred thousand.  Including the elderly, woman and children, they reached a few million.
At a much later time, during the donations to the Mishkan (desert sanctuary), the women brought copper mirrors as a donation.  At first, Moshe Rabbenu refused to accept them, since they were used to focus on the external beauty of women.  "Grace is false and beauty is vain, a woman who fears Hashem, she should be praised" (Mishlei 31:30).  Moshe was repulsed by the mirrors because they were used by the evil inclination.  The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to him: "Accept them, because these are the most precious to me.”  Through these, the women created legions of Jewish children in Egypt.  These mirrors were not objects of the evil inclination, but of the awe of Hashem.  The daughters of Israel beautified themselves with them in order to entice their husbands who were exhausted from the back-breaking work.  When Pharaoh decreed that the men would sleep in the field and the women in the city, the women heated up food and brought food and drink to their husbands.  They would comfort them and say: We will not be enslaved eternally. Hashem will redeem us in the end.  They took the mirrors, and each one would look in the mirrors with her husband and entice him with words…as it says, 'I roused your love under the apple tree,'" and this is how they had children.  These mirrors are therefore called "legions of mirrors" ("Marot Ha-Tzovot"), because in their merit, legions ("Tzeva'ot") of Israel were born (see Rashi to Shemot 38:8).

Therefore, do not be surprised that after the splitting of the Red Sea, after the Song at the Sea of Moshe Rabbenu, "Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand, and all of the women followed her with drums and dances" (Shemot 15:20).  They knew that the redemption was on account of their merit, the merit of the righteous women.  They danced, they overcame the laws of gravity, they floated in the air, and they were freed from the physical reality of the land.  When they left Egypt, they did not even bother to prepare leavened bread, yet they packed drums among their belongings out of the faith that a great salvation would occur and the chance would come to play music to the Master of the Universe, Redeemer of Israel.

How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day

Going away for Pesach
If you are going away for Pesach and will not be at home during the entire holiday, you can be lenient and not clean for Pesach.  You should sell all of the Chametz (leaven) in the house, including all of the crumbs -- but not just the crumbs on their own, because that would have no halachic value.  It is possible, however, to sell the food in the cabinets and closets including the "Chametz dirt."  If someone is staying in your house, you need to clean the rooms which will be used.  The remaining unused rooms must be closed off with tape, and you must sell any Chametz that is in them.

There is still the question of how to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bedikat Chametz (the search for leaven).  If you arrive at your Pesach destination by the fourteenth of Nisan, perform the search there.  If you arrive on the morning of the fourteenth, you should clean well and check a small room, i.e. the entrance way and not sell the Chametz in that room.  You must also perform the search for Chametz, with a blessing, in the rooms in which you will live during Pesach - if no one else has done so.

Chametz smaller than a "Kezayit" (the volume of an olive)
Chametz which is less than a "Kezayit" may obviously not be eaten, but it is not included in the Torah prohibition of "Bal Yeira'eh" and "Bal Yimatzeh" (Chametz may not be seen or found on Pesach – Shemot 12:19, 13:7) (Responsa Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:145).  Regarding the Mishnah Berurah's statement (Sha'ar Ha-Tziun 451:6) that Chametz which can be seen is included in the prohibition of "Chametz She-Avar Alav Ha-Pesach" (using Chametz that has spent Pesach in a Jew's possession) -- the fact is that if it was included in the sale of Chametz, there is no problem (see Mishnah Berurah 142:33 and Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 117:15).  A "Kezayit" is 27 cubic centimeters - 3 centimeter square or a little over a square inch.  Usually, only rooms in which children are allowed to bring sandwiches or cookies are likely to contain such big pieces of Chametz.  A room in which people do not walk around with food does not need to be cleaned at all.  Incidentally, you must take care not to hide pieces of Chametz which are larger than a "Kezayit" before "Bedikat Chametz," in case one of the pieces should get lost.  That way, you do not find them, you will not need to bother much to hunt for them, and you can rely on the "Bittul Chametz" (declaring Chametz ownerless) that you do after the search (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at 5:149).

Bedikat Chametz
Start "Bedikat Chametz" in a place where Chametz was used, so the blessing will apply to it.  Only search for Chametz in places in which there is a reasonable chance of finding it.  It is nearly impossible for Chametz which is a square inch to be hidden inside a book!  If there is a chance that the book has Chametz in it, then it must be thoroughly checked. Most books, however, do not need to be cleaned or checked. Cleaning and checking a sample is sufficient. It is customary not to place books that have not been checked for Chametz on the table during Pesach.  Everybody knows their kids' habits. Peek, and open here and there.  Regarding crumbs in the corners of the house: 1. They are not a "Kezayit."  2. They are inedible to a dog.  If there is bread behind a cabinet in an unreachable place, nobody will get to it on Pesach and it is as if it is buried -- just as you do not have to search under stones or under the house's foundations, since nobody will take Chametz from there.  

Educating Children
If you want to do a spring cleaning, this is certainly possible, but not before Pesach – this is not the appropriate time.  Pesach vacation is for taking trips, playing with the kids, being happy, dancing and preparing stories for the Seder.  A woman works hard all year long: "They enslaved the Jewish women with back-breaking work" (play on Shemot 1:13).  If the husband is on vacation too, this may be a good time to leave him with the kids, and give the wife a vacation!  That is what vacation is for – not for working like a donkey and scraping floors.  You can take trips, enjoy yourself, and arrive at the Seder rested in order to make a beautiful Seder and inspire the children.  If a woman wants to work like a donkey, and be a kind of slave, she is permitted to do so, but it is not good educationally.  She should be free in order to play with the kids.  We left the slavery of Egypt, and it was not to enter into our own slavery!  We do not have anything against house cleaning, but you should spread it out over the course of the year – each few months clean another room.  This is not the time for projects of cleaning and arranging.  In any event, when the Seder arrives there will still be disorder and cleaning that has not been completed.

If a woman is happy with suffering, she is allowed and it subtracts from the suffering of "Gehinom": Any suffering in this world is deducted from the suffering of "Gehinom."  If someone desires, this it is legitimate, but not before Pesach.  The month of Nissan is a happy month.

Husband's Help
Question: Does a husband have to help his wife?
Answer: A husband does not have to help his wife nor does a wife have to help her husband.  Rather, the two of them have to clean together since this is a shared home, and theirs is a shared life as well.

Children's Clothes
There may be cookies in your kids' pockets. Even the crumbs must be removed, since a child may put his hand into his pocket and then into his mouth.  You only have to check the clothes you will be wearing that season.  It is unnecessary to check any clothes that are put away and will not be worn now, such as winter clothes.

Question: Is it possible to simply wash them in a washing machine?
Answer: Running the clothes through a washing machine will not necessarily get rid of all of the crumbs.  The clothes must be checked.

Toys must also be checked.  However, you may put some or all of the toys away, and buy new toys as a present for the holiday!  This serves a double purpose of saving work and making the children happy.

Bathroom Cabinets
These may contain Chametz, such as wheat germ oil and alcohol derived from wheat.  What a waste to clean it.  Close and tape the cabinets and include it in the sale of Chametz.

You have to check between the pillows.  It is an interesting experience to find lost objects.

There is no need to clean them, just do not put them on the table on which you eat.  The custom is not to check books for the crumbs that remain in them, but to rely of the nullification (Haggadah Chazon Ovadiah of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, p. 21).  Clean the books which you will want to read at the table on Pesach, or clean a few books for Pesach.

Dining Room
You do not have to clean everything, just the place where people eat, i.e. the chairs and the table.
Chairs: If the chairs are clean, there is no need to clean them.  If the kids throw cereal or other things on them and they do not look clean, clean them with a wet rag.
Table: There are two options: 1. Kashering with boiling water.  2. Covering with several layers of plastic and cloth tablecloths.

High Chair
If it is plastic, it may be immersed in a tub with boiling water and cleaning agents. Clean the cracks with a stiff brush. It is unnecessary to take the chair apart, because whatever is in the cracks and holes is inedible to a dog.

This room must be thoroughly cleaned and not one crumb of Chametz left. A crumb is not nullified even in a thousand times its volume. 

It is preferable not to Kasher a dishwasher. You can do the dishes by hand as in previous generations.  It is also possible to use disposable dishes.  

Question: Is it at all possible to clean a dishwasher?
Answer: It is possible, but it is a lot of work; there are a lot of rubber parts and connections.

If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, it is best not to Kasher it. Seal the oven and buy baked goods or buy a "wonder-pot" which allows you to bake on a stove.

Grates: Clean and cover the grates with as much aluminum foil as possible.  Use aluminum foil that is thick enough not to tear, but thin enough to bend and shape.  What a waste of time and effort!  The best thing is to use special Pesach burners.
Burners: There is no need to clean them; they get burned up in the course of use. Bottom Pan (where everything falls): In general, if some food falls into it, we do not pick it up, and it is considered "treif;" nevertheless, put aluminum foil on it. 
Knobs: Wipe them clean.

Clean it, but it does not have to be a lot of work. Of course, defrost the freezer (if you have an older model which does not defrost automatically) and clean it. It is best to eat up all Chametz before Pesach, but if expensive Chametz food products are left over, i.e. frozen foods, they may be wrapped up well, labeled "Chametz," stored in the back of the freezer/refrigerator and included in the list of Chametz sold before Pesach.  

If you have an old refrigerator with cracks or crevices in the door which is difficult to clean, do not use its inner shelves, but cover them with plastic. Similarly, you must clean the door's rubber part well. If it is old, sometimes it is easier to replace it.

Food Pantry
Do not clean.  It is a waste of time.  Seal, put sign or sticker not to use and include it in sale of Chametz.

Cabinets of dishes, utensils, pots and pans
Dishes, shelves, and drawers that will not be used on Pesach may be sealed, and need not be cleaned.  There are those who are strict to clean even the things which are used for Chametz, but one can be lenient on account of three reasons, each of which would be enough:
1. We sell all the crumbs together with the sale of Chametz.
2. The dishes are clean -- nobody puts a dirty dish away in the cabinet.
3. Even if there is "Chametz dirt," it is definitely less than a "Kezayit."
By the way, sometimes it is easier to paint than to clean. You can paint the corner of the kitchen where food flies using a water-based paint and the gas grates using aluminum paint. 

It can be Kashered by not using it for twenty-four hours, cleaning it for five minutes and boiling water in it for half an hour. All food cooked or baked in it on Pesach should be placed in a covered utensil.

It is possible to cover them with thick aluminum foil, and then there is no need to Kasher them at all; just wipe them with a rag. Sometimes it is complicated to cover, and then one can Kasher it. Where there are holes, pour floor bleach in them and then pour water from an electric kettle which is still boiling.  It is good for two people to do this: One to pour and the other to unplug.

Regarding the kitchen sink, there are a few solutions:
1. Do not put anything into the sink on Pesach, and wash the dishes in the air.  This, however, is unrealistic.
2. Put a plastic bin inside. Just make sure there is still a direct flow down the drain.
3. Thoroughly clean and Kasher the sink like the counters.

It is impossible to clean a toaster, but there is no need. Put it in the cabinet of sold Chametz. 

You have to do "Hagalah" (Kashering by dropping into boiling water) for the bowl and blades. As for the body of the mixer, wrap it in plastic -- making sure not to block the air holes. The best thing is to buy a cheap hand-mixer for Pesach.

Kashering dishes
This is a tremendous amount of work. It is preferable to buy new dishes.  True, it is expensive, so buy a few things each year. As for pots, it is possible to buy cheap aluminum ones which are okay for just seven days. There are cheap plastic plates as well as cheap cutlery.

You have to clean it. Take out the mats and gather the "Chametz dirt" – there is no need for a vacuum cleaner -- and clean the compartments and containers. There is no need to pour water or dismantle the seats. In general, there is no need to dismantle anything with screws. Any way you look at it -- if the Chametz is accessible, you can take it out without a screwdriver, and if it is not accessible, it will not come out on Pesach either.

Chumrot - Being Strict
If you know that you are being stricter than Halachah requires, and you choose to be strict, you deserve a blessing.  And if you accepted a stricture on yourself and now you want to stop, the way to do that is to do "Hatarah" (getting the vow annulled). But if you thought that a particular act was the actual Halachah, and now you realize it is a stricture, you do not need a "Hatarah."  If you have a strong desire to clean a lot, you deserve a blessing, especially for Pesach, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing."  You should not, however, force a stricture on yourself, but accept it with love.  

In light of what is written above, it should take about an hour for the dining room, two-three hours to Kasher the kitchen, and another hour to clean the rest of the house. In short, about one day!

All the rest of the cleaning jobs are either strictures or just made up.  When we work hard, we use up our energy and get mad at the kids. You have to educate the kids -- but not to educate them to be aggravated: "I told you not to go into this room anymore! Why did you go in?! Eat on the porch! Eat standing up! Don't touch!" The whole kitchen looks like it was overturned by vandals; the husband and kids are trembling in fear in some corner and eating; the mother looks at them like a drill sergeant; there's anger between husband and wife. This is preparation for Pesach?! This is educating the kids?  This is definitely not setting a positive example!  Our memories of Pesach should not be of a reign of terror.

If you clean together with the kids, that is great, but it must be a happy adventure.  First of all, you have to clean what you must – taking half a day – and after that if you want to do other things, you can clean with happiness and joy.  Clean, sing, pour water and "you will clean with joy from the wellsprings of salvation" (based on Yeshayahu 12:3).

The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch: "Every person should sweep his room before Bedikat Chametz, and check his pockets for Chametz, and the pockets or cuffs where you sometimes put Chametz also need to be checked" (Orach Chaim 433:11) The Mishnah Berurah (#46) adds: "It is the custom to sweep the whole house on thirteenth of Nisan, so that it will be ready to check immediately after nightfall on the fourteenth."  This custom is enough. Beyond that, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing" -- as far as Pesach goes, but not as far as the kids go.

It is understood that I am not forcing my opinion on anyone.  I am simply stating my humble opinion with explanations.  Whoever accepts the explanations will listen and whoever does not accept them will not.  I heard most of the practical suggestions about how to shorten the cleaning from women themselves.  It is possible that a woman has a strong desire not to shorten this work, and just the opposite, she finds joy in it.  That is okay.  Even she will benefit from all of the above, because she will not feel pressured that she might violate the Halachah, but rather she will clean with satisfaction and tranquility.

The essential point is the distinction between Chametz, which there is an obligation to clean with all the severity of the Halachah, and dirt – which should obviously be removed, but not necessarily before Pesach.  You can spread out the work of removing dirt over the whole year, so that we and our families do not suffer before Pesach.  I am not advocating poor housekeeping.  We should stand before Chametz with awe and fear, but not all dirt is Chametz.  Do not treat Chametz cavalierly, G-d forbid, but at the same time, not everything that is accepted as Pesach cleaning is directed at Chametz.

Have a kosher and happy Pesach.  We should ensure that we have a HAPPY Pesach and a KOSHER Purim (!).  We should arrive at the Seder night neither tired nor aching but happy, so that this night will be a powerful experience for the kids, and a great source of faith in Hashem, the Redeemer of Israel.

"Dirt is not Chametz and children are not the Pesach sacrifice!"

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Meir Soloveitchik ztz"l: The Loyal Gaon of Beit Brisk

[Eulogy delivered in the Yeshiva]

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Meir Soloveitchik ztz"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in Yerushalayim, has ascended on high.  Ha-Rav Meir ben Ha-Griz – the "Brisker Rav" ben Reb Chaim Mi-Brisk ben Beit Ha-Levi.
In Brisk, they learn quietly, without publicity and noise.  Furthermore, their Rabbis fear publishing their Chiddushim and Piskei Halachah on account of their perfectionism.  Rav Meir was therefore not famous and was certainly not known by the media.  But in Torah he brought incredible blessing.    
Rav Meir was born in the year 5689 in the city of Brisk.  He was the youngest son of the Brisker Rav.  When he was 12 years old, he succeeded in escaping the Holocaust with his father and five brothers and sisters.  His mother and other siblings perished.  
In his youth, he was already extremely close to his father.  After learning in Talmud Torah Eitz Chaim in Yerushalayim, he learned for long hours with his father.  The Brisker Rav referred to him as "My Prodigy".
He then learned in his father's Yeshiva and learned the Brisker Method of learning Torah in depth and with great toil.
The Brisker Method already began with his great grandfather, the Beit Ha-Levi.  His grandfather, Reb Chaim, improved upon it.  Some say that at that time of the Enlightenment, Reb Chaim saved thousands and even tens of thousands from leaving the Yeshivot through his analytic method of learning Gemara.
This method is based on understanding the underpinnings of a Sugya, its foundations and precise definitions, thus allowing one to understand the different opinions, not just in the Sugya being discussed, but in many different Gemaras.  There are various ways to arrive at the root of a Sugya.  For example: "Tzvei Dinim" (two laws) – whereby a law can be shown to consist of two or more parts, only one of which might apply in a particular case.  Or, alternatively: "Cheftza Ve-Gavra" – wherein a particular law applies to a person or to the object which the person is using.
Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, related that when he learned Issur Ve-Heter with Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, "Suddenly, the pots and pans, the eggs and onions, disappeared from the laws of meat and milk, the salt, blood and spit disappeared from the laws of salting.  The laws of Kashrut were taken out of the kitchen and removed to an ideal halachic world… constructed out of the complexes of abstract concepts".
There were great Rabbis, however, who did not fully agree with this method.  For example Ha-Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg wrote in a letter that when he was in Berlin, he once asked Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, who was greater the Vilna Gaon or Reb Chaim Mi-Brisk?  He answered that regarding understanding, Reb Chaim is greater than the Vilna Gaon.  Rav Weinberg disagrees.  He says that the Gra searched for the Peshat, while Reb Chaim's logic and reasoning did not always mesh with the wording of the Gemara and Rambam.  Reb Chaim was in and of himself a new Rambam and not a commentator of the Rambam.  Rav Weinberg said the same to Ha-Rav Moshe, Rav Soloveitchik's father (see also Shut Seridei Aish 2:144).
Ha-Rav Weinberg's words, however, are not necessarily correct.  As is known, in our Yeshiva, Ha-Rav Yosef Solovetichik, son of Ha-Rav Aharon of Chicago, son of Ha-Rav Moshe, taught for many years.  He would deliver a lengthy daily Gemara Shiur which lasted three to four hours, in which he explained the Gemara, Rishonim and finally the words of Reb Chaim.  It then became clear to the listener that Reb Chaim's words were not an addition here or even a change, but rather were found within the words of the Sugya itself.  When Lamdanim in the Yeshiva raised difficulties, Rav Yosef would answer patiently and explain things properly.  This is like what people say in the name of Reb Chaim: I do not interrupt the Gemara, I learn the Gemara.
This method of learning in fact conquered the Yeshiva world.  And when Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik arrived in Israel as a candidate to be the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Maran Ha-Rav Kook directed Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah to attend all of his Shiurim in order to taste the Brisker Method. 
Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter writes that when he was married, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein attended the wedding and sent him three of his books as a gift (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim Volume 1, Yoreh Deah Volume 1 and Dibrot Moshe on Baba Metzia Volume 1).  Reb Moshe wrote the inscription in the Dibrot Moshe – his commentary on the Gemara, and not in Shut Igrot Moshe – his Teshuvot.  The books were brought to Rav Schachter by Ha-Rav Michal Shurkin, who learned in Reb Moshe's Metivta Tiferet Yerushalayim, and attended Rav Yosef Soloveitchik's Shiurim as well.  Rav Shurkin explained to him that Reb Moshe was particular to inscribe the Dibrot, because he held that Shiurim in the Dibrot were of much greater importance than the more famous and popular Teshuvot in the Igrot.  Reb Moshe exerted great effort and toil on the Shiurim and spent many hours preparing them, in contrast to the Teshuvot, which came easily to him (Divrei Ha-Rav p. 207).  The Dibrot Moshe however are not generally learned in Yeshivot.  Some explain that there are two reasons for this: 1. The explanations are extremely long.  2. Reb Moshe did not learn according to the Brisker Method, which is the accepted Method in Yeshivot.          
There is a saying "Before the Giving of the Torah and after the Giving of the Torah", i.e. Reb Chaim of Brisk is a sort of Giving of the Torah.  This is obviously an exaggeration, but the method expounded by Reb Chaim is the one used in Yeshivot today.  The same is true in many Zionist Yeshivot, since Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, who served as Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion, and who was the leading student of his father-in-law, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, planted the Brisker Method here.
This was the method of Ha-Rav Meir ztz"l.  After years of learning in Kollel, he began to serve as Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in the neighborhood Zichron Moshe in Yerushalayim, where he taught Torah to hundreds of students with pure Yirat Shamayim. 
The Mishnah in Kiddushin (41a) says that it is possible to perform certain Mitzvot through an agent.  But the Gemara there adds that it is greater for one to perform a Mitzvah on his own.  The Magen Avraham (251:2) brought in the Mishnah Berurah (250:3) says that this applies to all Mitzvot.  This was a fundamental principle of Ha-Rav Meir Soloveitchik.  He would strive to perform every Mitzvah on his own without relying on others.  Even when he was elderly, he would walk each year to a spring in Yerushalayim to take "Mayim Shelanu" to bake Matzot.  And the same was true for every Mitzvah and for teaching Torah.    
Ha-Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel writes that one needs greatness to serve as a sort of bridge which connects there and yet leads to here.  For example, Yaakov Avinu transferred everything he had from one side of the river to the other (See Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah 3, 48).  Only unique individuals were able to serve as a bridge to reestablish the Yeshivot from Europe in Israel.  And these Yeshivot are blossoming here to an even greater extent than they did there.  As a continuation of the Brisker dynasty, Ha-Rav Meir succeeded in receiving the Torah from his father, Ha-Griz, and bringing it here.

May the soul of Ha-Rav Meir ztz"l be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim and Geonim.

Killing a Terrorist When He has Stopped Murdering

Question: Is it ethical to kill a terrorist when it is logical to assume that he will no longer murder?
Answer: This question can be divided into two parts: 1. Can we really be certain that he has stopped murdering?  It is impossible to know.  2. Isn't this similar to the law of a "Rodef" (literally "pursuer" - a case in which one is permitted to kill a pursuer so that the pursued person is saved from harm)?  If the "Rodef" is in pursuit, we kill him, and if he is not in pursuit, we do not kill him. 
There are three answers given by halachic authorities:
a. A terrorist is never finished being a "Rodef".  He is not an "individual Rodef" who is angry with a particular person and wants to kill him.  He is a "communal Rodef" who wants to kill Jews and he does not care which Jews they are.  If we capture him, put him in jail, and later release him, as is the custom – to our great distress – he will continue to murder.  The organization of parents of those murdered by terrorists has exact records which state that more than 180 Jews have been murdered by released terrorists who have murdered again.  This means that when you free a terrorist - even with the goal of helping Jews - you endanger more Jews.  This person is therefore not a one-time "Rodef," but a perpetual "Rodef."
b. The halachic authorities also say that you should kill the terrorist in order that others will see and be frightened.  This "Rodef" is teaching other "Rodefim" through his actions.  If we have mercy on one who kills Jews and then gives up when the police approach, we encourage others to act like him, thus endangering other Jews.  In situations like these, we must indeed be extremely ethical.  The question is, ethical to whom – to the "Rodef" or to other Jews?  Answer: to both of them.  By killing him we are ethical to the Jews who have done nothing wrong, and we are being ethical to him, since we stop him from killing others and thus lessen his "Gehinom" (punishment in the World to Come).  The Mishnah in Sanhedrin (71b) says that the "Ben Sorer U-Moreh" (the rebellious son – see Devarim 21:18-21) is killed on account of his future.  While he has done many things wrong, he has not committed a sin for which he is liable for capital punishment, but he is killed so that he will die innocent and not guilty.  In our case the terrorist is already liable, but he will die less liable than if we let him live.  We do not use the concept "he should die innocent and not die guilty" to create new laws, but to explain them. 
c. There are halachot of war.  In war, we do not lock up an enemy who is shooting at us: we fire back at him.  This is similar to what King Shaul said to the "Keni" (Shmuel 1 15:6): "Go, depart, go down from among Amalek, lest I destroy you with them."  This means, even though you are my friend, if you are there, you could get hurt or killed.  In the halachot of war, we do not make such calculations, as it says, "The best of the non-Jews should be killed."  The Tosafot raised a major difficulty with this statement: how can we say such a thing when according to halachah it is forbidden to kill a non-Jew and all the more so the best of the non-Jews (Tosafot to Avodah Zarah 26b and see Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah 158)?  Tosafot explained that this statement refers to a time of war.  This non-Jew seems harmless or, in our case, he killed but he will become harmless.  No, we did not make such calculations in a time of war, even a harmless-seeming non-Jew is killed.

In sum: We therefore see that killing a terrorist is ethical.  However, this matter must be decided by the Chief of Staff and the officers of Tzahal and not by individual soldiers.  The State of Israel has signed international agreements which regulate warfare, and we must abide by them.  Although in specific instances we might suffer from these agreements, overall they are beneficial to us.

Purim in the Yerushalayim Neighborhood of Ramot – Who is the Mara De-Atra?!

Question: One of the Chief Rabbis of Yerushalayim, Ha-Rav Shlomo Amar, rules that in the neighborhood of Ramot, Purim should be celebrated on the 14th of Adar, since there is considerable distance between it and the other neighborhoods of Yerushalayim.  The other Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, rules to celebrate Purim in Ramot on the 15th, as in the other neighborhoods of Yerushalayim, since it is in fact connected to it.  Both of the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef and Ha-Rav David Lau also rule to celebrate it on the 15th.  Whom does the Halachah follow?  Who is the Mara De-Atra?!  I am totally confused!
Answer: I am not going to place my head between these giant mountains, lest my skull be crushed.  I therefore will not discuss the specific question, but rather the general question of who is the Mara De-Atra of that place.
The Gemara states (Shabbat 130a) that in Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos’ region, trees would be chopped down on Shabbat to provide coals needed to make the circumcision knife. This was the custom, even though Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos was the only one who ruled that this was permissible.  Similarly, in Rabbi Yossi Ha-Gelili’s sphere of influence, people would consume fowl and milk together, because he deemed it permissible. This, is despite the fact that he alone ruled this way, and the general principle that the law follows the majority. Conclusion: we follow the rulings of the local Rabbi, due to the principle of showing honor to Torah scholars, as explained in Shut Ha-Rashba (1:253), as well as Rama (Choshen Mishpat 25:2).
There is a general principle of Halachah: "The Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in a question for the Rabbi from Pinsk".  Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein related that he once received a letter from the Chinuch Atzma'ei in Eretz Yisrael regarding a dispute between Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky and Ha-Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and asking for his opinion on the matter.  He said that he does not interfere with matters relating to Eretz Yisrael, and the authorities there must answer the question.  He said that the Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in a question for the Rabbi from Pinsk.  It is known that Reb Moshe was an expert in Seder Zeraim and even had a manuscript of his commentary on Seder Zeraim in the Yerushalami, but he did not publish it since he did not want to interfere with rulings of Mitzvot relating to Eretz Yisrael (Meged Givot Olam Volume 1, p. 55.  Volume 2, pp. 31-32).  Similarly, when Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein would be asked questions relating to America, he would say: Ask the Rabbis of America (We heard this in the eulogy of Ha-Rav Mordechai Willig, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, for Ha-Rav Lichtenstein).
I, the humble one, therefore cannot rule on this matter, since there is a Mara De-Atra of Yerushalayim, and I do not fill this role.
But the question remains, who is the Mara De-Atra: The Chief Rabbis of Israel or the Chief Rabbis of Yerushalayim?  Simply, the Chief Rabbis of Israel are the Mara De-Atra relating to issues of Klal-Yisrael, such as conversion, Kashrut, the Kotel, the Temple Mount, etc.  And each local Rabbi is the Mara De-Atra of his locale.  Otherwise, the Chief Rabbis could contradict every ruling of the local Rabbis.
In this case, however, there is a dispute between the two Rabbis of Yerushalayim!
This dispute about Purim in Ramot is not a new one.  This currently discussion recalls that Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held that in Ramot, they should celebrate on the 15th.  Then Ha-Rav Yitzchal Yaakov Weiss, the head of the Edah Ha-Charedit of Yerushalayim, publicized his opinion that they should celebrate on the 14th (Shut Minchat Yitzchak 8:62).  Ha-Rav Auerbach then humbly refused to state his opinion out of honor for the Mara De-Atra of Yerushalayim.  But he once added that according to the Minchat Yitzchak, who ruled that they should celebrate on the 14th, Ramot is not part of Yerushalayim, so he could can state his opinion, since the Minchat Yitzchak is not the Mara De-Atra there.  But, since Rav Auerbach himself holds that they celebrate on the 15th, Ramot is part of Yerushalayim and the Minchat Yitzchak is the Mara De-Atra there, he therefore will refrain from ruling… (Chico Mamtakim Volume 1 pp. 326-327).
As a result, perhaps we can explain that since Rav Amar rules that Ramot celebrates Purim on the 14th, it is not Yerushalayim, and he is not the Mara De-Atra there.  The Halachah therefore would follow Rav Stern, who rules that Ramot is Yerushalayim (and he is the Mara De-Atra there).  But Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach already did not follow this Chiddush.
The Gemara rules in various places that if there is a Chief Rabbi of a city, area or country, all of the other Rabbis must follow his opinion.  It is forbidden to rule against his ruling, and it is even forbidden for Rabbis to give rulings, lest the Mara De-Atra rule otherwise.  This is true even if the Chief Rabbi's opinion is a singular one (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo Volume 4 pp. 272-276).  In our times, however, the Chief Rabbis of cities do not force their opinion on anyone, and people can do as they wish in their homes and ask which ever Rabbi they choose.  Their rulings are only obligatory in matters relating to the entire city. The same is true with the Chief Rabbis of Israel: their rulings are only obligatory in matters relating to all of Eretz Yisrael.  If they are asked questions relating to a city issue, they humbly refuse to answer and refer the questioner to the Rabbi of that city.  
Until this day, there is a dispute between the Rabbis about Purim in Ramot and there are different practices among the neighborhood residents.  There are some among both the Ashkenazim and Sefardim who celebrate on the 14th and some on the 15th, and some are strict to celebrate both days.

We therefore say that since there is more than one Mara De-Atra of Yerushalayim and within Ramot itself, each person should follow the major principle "Get yourself a Rabbi" (Pirkei Avot 1:6, 16).  And to someone who does not have a Rabbi, we say: Do what you did last year, since there was the same dispute last year and all of the Rabbis still hold the same positions.

Same Question to Various Rabbis

Question: Is it permissible to ask the same question to more than one Rabbi?
Answer: It depends on what you are asking.  The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (7a) says that one who asks a Rabbi a question and he (the Rabbi) declares it impure may not ask another Rabbi who will declare it pure, and one who asks a Rabbi a question and he declares it forbidden may not ask another Rabbi who will declare it permissible.  This ruling is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 242:31).  Why is it forbidden to ask the same question a second time to a different Rabbi?  Some explain that it is because of the honor of the first Rabbi (Rashi to Niddah 20b): You asked a question and don't like the answer so you go to a different Rabbi?!  You are shaming the first Rabbi!  Others explain that when the first Rabbi rules, the object on which he ruled now has the status which he placed upon it.  This means that if I ask a Rabbi if something is kosher or not and he rules that it is not Kosher, the ruling of another Rabbi cannot change it.  The Halachah follows the second explanation (This is the opinion of most Rishonim, including Ra'avad, Ramban, Rashba quoted in the Ran Avodah Zarah ibid. and Rosh, ibid. 1:3).  Therefore, when I ask a Rabbi a question about a piece of meat, the meat has the status of his ruling, but if I have another piece of meat and I have the same question, I can ask a different Rabbi. 
There are also questions regarding a person's activities: How should I act in a given situation?  A Rabbi's ruling fixes the status of an object, but not the status of a person's activities.  Regarding an object, you can only ask one Rabbi, but regarding a person's conduct, you can ask various Rabbis.  Even in the case of an object, if I fervently want to ask a second Rabbi, I can, as long as I tell him that I already asked the first Rabbi.  If the second Rabbi so desires, he can talk to the first Rabbi and try to convince him to change his mind (Rama ibid.). 
I remember that someone once asked me a question regarding the laws of Family Purity and I answered: she is impure.  The questioner went and asked Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu. Ha-Rav Eliyahu called me and said: "Rav, look at it from this perspective and that perspective."  I then understood that it was permissible to be lenient and I said: "I retract, she is pure."   Furthermore, it is obvious that someone who asks a theoretical question may ask as many Rabbis as he wants.  You may also ask questions to different Rabbis at different times, since all Rabbis are Torah.

By the way, if someone accidently asked the wrong Rabbi a question, it is permissible to re-ask the question.  If he intended to ask a Rabbi in general (and not a specific Rabbi), he must follow his answer.  And it once happened that a couple had a question on Shabbat night about the laws of Family Purity.  Since they lived near to Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the wife went to his apartment building, but accidentally 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).

The Satmar Rebbe is Visiting Israel!

[A talk given in the Yeshiva during lunch]

Question: The Satmar Rebbe arrived in Israel for a five-day visit.  Is it obligatory to go and greet him?
Answer: A person is not obligated to greet every single Torah scholar, especially since – Baruch Hashem – there are so many Torah scholars today.  A person is only obligated to greet his Rabbi, i.e. "Rav Muvhak" - the Rabbi from whom he has gained the majority of his knowledge.  Additionally, even if a Rabbi is not his main teacher, but is the "Gadol Ha-Dor", he is considered one's "Rav Muvhak."  Therefore, if the Satmar Rebbe is one's "Rav Muvhak," he is obligated to go and greet him, but if he is not, one is not obligated, although it is certainly permissible.

Regarding the question if the Satmar Rebbe is the "Gadol Ha-Dor" there is a dispute.  Who is the "Gadol Ha-Dor"?  The answer for us is simple: the "Gadol Ha-Dor" is Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  In fact, he is not only the leader of this generation, but the leader of generations.  But it is possible that there is a dispute.  One person says that this rabbi is the "Gadol Ha-Dor," while another says that another rabbi is the "Gadol Ha-Dor."  Surely some thought that the Rambam was the "Gadol Ha-Dor" and others thought that Rabbenu Tam was the "Gadol Ha-Dor."  It is even possible that each is the leading rabbi in a different sense.  The Gerrer Rebbe said that there is no need to find out which holiday is most important.  On Pesach, Pesach is the most important.  On Shavuot, Shavuot.  On Sukkot, Sukkot/  Each holiday, when it falls is the most important one.  So too here, it is possible that there are different types of leading Rabbis of the generation.   Nonetheless, the students of the Satmar Rebbe consider him the "Gadol Ha-Dor," and others do not agree.  Thus, one is not obligated to greet him as the "Gadol Ha-Dor."

Question: It is forbidden to greet him?
Answer: Why would it be forbidden?   Some say that if Yitzchak Rabin was a "Rodef" (literally a "pursuer" – who one is permitted to kill in order to save the pursued) then the Satmar Rebbe is all the more so a "Rodef" on account of his virulent anti-Zionist views.  We reject this position, since according to all halachic opinions, Rabin was not a "Rodef" and thus neither is the Satmar Rebbe.  It is certainly not forbidden to greet him.

The question of a rabbi who ridicules and insults the State of Israel, others Rabbis, etc. is a very sensitive topic.  On the one hand, the transgression of a Torah scholar who shames other Torah scholars is very severe.  On the other hand, we need to give the Rabbi as much benefit of the doubt as possible.  For example, there was a "Gadol Ha-Dor" of the previous generation who shamed all of the other Rabbis.  Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin said about him: He is insane – he is not normal.  This was giving him the benefit of the doubt.  There are also Torah scholars who have extremely harsh styles of speaking.  They refer to everyone as apostates, heretics, etc.  Explaining that this is someone's style of speaking is also a type of giving the benefit of the doubt.  We are not saying that this is proper, but are trying to see others in the best possible light.

In any event, quite simply, it is extremely important to honor all Torah scholars.  One should not shame them, even if there is a harsh communal dispute.  The Gemara in Sanhedrin (99a) explains that one great Rabbi, Rabbi Hillel (not Hillel the Elder who was a contemporary of Shammai), said that the Messiah would not come.  This is certainly a severe statement.  Everyone is waiting for and anticipating the Messiah, yet in his opinion: "No – there is no Messiah."  Rav Yosef said to him: "May Hashem pardon his error" (as explained by Rashi).  We clearly see that despite the severe nature of Rabbi Hillel's comments, Rav Yosef did not shame him.  Based on this, there is a Teshuvah of the Radvaz (4:187) that even a great Rabbi who has expressed himself heretically should not be ridiculed even though one should argue with all forcefulness against his ideas.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained this law based on the Jerusalem Talmud, which compares disgracing a Torah scholar to a structure of stones: that is, if one stone is shaken, the entire structure is shaken (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10:1). Thus, one who scorns a Torah scholar knocks over the entire building of the Torah in Israel (see "Perek Tzibbur" by Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook, Ma’amrei Ha-Re’eiyah 55).  Scorning Torah scholars is similar to sitting on a powder keg; we do not know when it will blow up and who will be injured.  Shaming Torah scholars cannot be controlled and we do not know where it will end.  If someone disgraces one Torah scholar, he disgraces them all.

We saw this with our own eyes: Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the first Satmar Rebbe, made extremely harsh statements.   Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, never scorned or denigrated him even though their stances were diametrically opposed.  Our Rabbi once heard a severe ruling in the name of the Satmar Rebbe, and all he said was: "This is not correct."  Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah also admonished students who expressed a lack of respect towards the Satmar Rebbe, and would not allow them to continue to speak.  Once Ha-Gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein issued a ruling that in pressing situations it is permissible to be lenient in a regarding the height of a mechitzah between men and women in a shul,.  The Satmar Rebbe came out against him. Our Rabbi said: "It is known that our paths are separate and different, but in this issue he (the Satmar Rebbe) is correct."  Even though they were polar opposites regarding the Redemption of Israel and Klal Yisrael, our Rabbi never said one negative word against him.