answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Can a woman wear a Talit?
No.The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is
"Yuhara – religious arrogance" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim
17:2).And if it is a men's Talit, there
is a problem of "Lo Yilbash" - the prohibition against cross-dressing
(Targum Yonatan on Devarim 22:5).
But Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in Shut Igrot Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:49) that
although she is not obligated a woman is permitted to fulfill the Mitzvah of
Tzitzit, with two conditions: 1. Her intention is not to rebel against Hashem
and His Torah, but for the sake of Heaven.2. The garment is different from a male garment, to avoid the
prohibition of "Lo Yilbash".
In order for this to be for the sake of Heaven and not "Yuhara", she
needs to wear the Talit in private and no one should know.And it needs to be a Talit specifically for
women (It is told that a woman once asked Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik if she
could wear a Talit during davening.He
responded to her: "Since this is a major change in traditional practice,
we must proceed gradually."He
suggested that she wear a four-cornered garment without Tzitzit for three
months and then come back.She returned
after three months and said that this was the most meaningful religious
experience of her life.Ha-Rav
Soloveitchik said: "For three months, you have been wearing a garment
without any religious or halachic value, it is thus clear that your feeling
comes from a source outside of the Mitzvah", and he did not grant her
permission to wear a Talit.Rav Aryeh
Frimer and Rav Dov Frimer.Tradition
Women and Tefillin
Q: Can a woman put on Tefillin, as did Michal bat Shaul (Eiruvin
96a.See Tosafot, Rosh Hashanah 33a d.h.
A: You are not Michal bat Shaul.In any event, it is written in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 38:1)
that if a woman puts on Tefillin, we should protest.Furthermore, Michal bat Shaul put on Tefillin
in private and not in public in a protesting manner.Besides all of this, there
is a problem of "Lo Yilbash" - the prohibition against cross-dressing
(Targum Yonatan on Devarim 22:5).Before
we add to our Mitzvot, we must fulfill the obligations we already have.See Mesilat Yesharim (see also an interesting
comment by the Kaf Ha-Chaim [ibid. #9], that based on the Kabbalah, one may not
use Michal bat Shaul as a proof, since she had a unique soul!).
I heard that Rashi's daughters put on Tefillin?
We have not seen a reliable source for this.Nonetheless, there is a long way to go before we reach their level.
Teacher or Doctor
Q: I have the ability to be a
doctor or a teacher.I am in doubt.Which is preferable?
A: Teacher.A teacher is for the soul while a doctor is for
Tax Evader as Witness
Q: If someone evades taxes is
he invalid as a witness at a wedding?
A: No, since he deceives
himself that it is permissible.See
Tosafot to Sanhedrin 25b d.h. Me-Ikra.But it is in fact theft.Shut
Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat #175.Shut
Yechaveh Daat (4:60, 5:45.Shut Aseh
Lecha Rav 1:70.And see Nefesh Ha-Rav,
Woman Delivering Dvar Torah
Q: Is it permissible for a
woman to deliver a Dvar Torah during Davening?
A: Certainly not.1. It is forbidden for men to gaze at a woman
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-9).2. It
is forbidden to change the accepted order of prayer (Shut Ha-Rashba 1:323.See Orach Mishpat #35.And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein forbids it even
not during Davening.Shut Igrot Moshe,
Orach Chaim 5:12.And Professor Nechama
Leibovitz strongly refused to deliver a talk in a Shul).
Teaching a Daughter a
Q: Is a father obligated to
ensure his daughter learn a profession?
A: Even regarding a son there
is no obligation, since it is not brought in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch,
rather it is a proper and important directive.And the same applies to a daughter.
Kiddush by a Woman
Q: Can a woman recite Kiddush
for her husband?
A: Yes.If he is sick and unable to recite it himself
(Mishnah Berurah 271:3).
Q: And if there are other men
A: Certainly not.1. It is forbidden to gaze at a woman.2.It
is forbidden to hear a woman sing.3. It
is forbidden to change the accepted order of prayer (see Mishnah Berurah ibid.
#4.Ha-Rav Yaakov Ariel also forbids
this and adds that doing so is in inappropriate form of social protest.Yeshivat Beit El website).
Kashrut of Toothpaste
Q: Does toothpaste require
A: No. 1. If there is
something not Kosher in it, the taste is spoiled and is within a mixture.Shut Har Tzvi Yoreh Deah #95.2. It is not eating, but rather tasting.3. This is not the manner of eating (It is
related that Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik was once asked if toothpaste requires Kosher
certification for Pesach.He responded:
No, it is inedible even to a dog.The
person said: But I gave it to my dog and he ate it!Rav Soloveitchik said: Who are you going to
believe, me or your dog?).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Naso 5773
– translated by R. Blumberg]
Question: In our
country, there are 300,000 immigrants who are non-Jews. It isn’t clear who was
responsible for this bizarre phenomenon, but it’s a fact that we cannot ignore.99% of them are uninterested in Mitzvah
observance, so perhaps we must enact a mass conversion of whoever is interested
in converting, rendering them part of the Jewish People, without Torah and
Mitzvot, and make do with that.
in our generation is like conversion throughout the generations, for the Torah
has not changed. Quite the contrary, according to the Torah, we have to be more
careful about accepting converts in our generation than in previous
generations, since the situation in our country is good, thank G-d. Hence we
have to consider the possibility that whoever sets out to convert is not doing
so out of love of the Torah of Israel, but for his own benefit. As Rambam said:
“The correct way of effecting conversion, is that when a prospective convert approaches
us, we investigate whether that candidate is seeking conversion for monetary
benefits, power or even out of fear. And we also investigate whether or not
that candidate has set his eyes on a Jewish person of the opposite sex… The Rabbinical courts rejected converts throughout
the entire time of King David and King Shlomo. During the time of the former,
converts were rejected lest they were coming out of fear, and during the latter
they were rejected lest they were attracted by the great monarchy and bounty
that Israel enjoyed. Whoever applies for conversion out of ulterior motives is
not considered a righteous convert” (Hilchot Isurei Bi'ah 13:14-15).
our own times, whoever sets out to convert is suspected of being insincere, making
us wonder, “Why are you coming now? Why didn’t you come during the Crusades,
during the Chelminski pogroms or during the Holocaust, but only to a fine,
wealthy country?!” (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 268:2). It may very well be
that the candidate is sincere, but he certainly should have to prove it.
discussions within Jewish law about whether or not Mitzvot have to be performed
with sincere intent (Orach Chaim 60), but with conversion it’s different. It’s
not enough to proclaim, “Your people are my people”. Rather, the candidate must
say, “Your people are my people and your G-d is my G-d,” as Rut did (Rut 1:16).
Otherwise, the candidate is referring to a different Jewish People, one that
has no G-d that revealed Himself to them at Sinai and gave them Torah and
Mitzvot. He is then not a “righteous convert” [Ger Tzedek], to use Rambam’s
term. He’s got the wrong address. He has converted to a different Jewish
People. Thus, changing the definition of a convert is tantamount to changing
the definition of the Jewish People.
did Hillel the Elder accept the candidate who said to him, “Convert me with the
intent of making me the High Priest” (Shabbat 31a). How could that be? Surely
that candidate was seeking power and privilege! Rather, the Tosafot explain
that Hillel knew that that convert was on his way towards being a total convert
(Yevamot 109b, s.v., “Ra’a”).It was
clear to Hillel that his insincerity would develop into sincerity.
In our day
as well, if a court is convinced and certain that the conversion candidate will
ultimately be G-d fearing, the Rabbinic court justice can accept him on his own
discretion (Beit Yosef 61, Yoreh Deah 268).
in our day the reality is the opposite. In many cases, when someone sets out to
convert, the court is convinced that he is not going to keep Torah and Mitzvot.
if people seek to convert under such circumstances, we have to wait and see
what is going to happen. As Rambam wrote: “And despite that [suspicion we
harbor regarding the attractiveness of King David’s era], many converts still
converted during the days of Kings David and Shlomo before laymen’s courts, and
the Sanhedrin suspected them. All the same, since they had immersed in the
ritual bath they wouldn’t reject them, but they would not accept them until
they saw what became of them.” (Hilchot Isurei Biah 13:15)
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira explained that it does not suffice for the convert
to say that he accepts the yoke of Mitzvot. Rather, as long as it is not yet
clear to us that he truly intends to keep Torah and Mitzvot fully, he is a “Safek
Ger” [a convert of doubtful status] (Menachem Avraham 1, pp. 69-70. And if
there is a clear assessment that he has not undertaken the yoke of Mitzvot,
then there is no value to his declaration, and his conversion does not take
hold (Shut Achiezer 3:26, at the start of paragraph 3. Shut Da’at Cohian 153, d.h.
that it says, “Love the convert” (Devarim 10:19). Certainly he must be loved,
brought near and accepted graciously. Yet that does not mean that we should lie
in the name of the Torah. Imagine someone telling his physician, “Please treat
me nicely. Love me. Make no demands of me. Go lightly with me. Let your
doctoring be friendly and indulgent.” If a physician conducted himself that
way, against what he was taught, he would be expelled from the medical
It is true
that the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Ben
Tzion Uziel wrote that in a great emergency, one can accept converts even if it
is clear that they will not keep Torah and Mitzvoth (Piskei Uziel Bi-She’elot
Hazman 65), and he was certainly a very illustrious rabbi. Yet his was a
solitary view, and all the other halachic authorities rejected it (Achiezer
ibid., Da’at Kohen, ibid. and 143, Igrot Moshe, Minchat Yitzchak, Shevet Levi,
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Auerbach, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Elyashiv, et al).
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Dichovsky expressed the novel idea that if the candidate
declared that he accepts the Mitzvot, his conversion is in force even if his
behavior afterwards contradicts this, because we have to accept the idea that
at the very moment he made the declaration, there was a spark within him of intent
to keep Torah and Mitzvot. Yet that, as well, is a solitary view, with which
the other halachic authorities do not agree.
It is true
that sometimes in an emergency we rely on solitary views, but here it’s the opposite.
A convert has to be accepted as a Jew according to most opinions, even
according to all opinions. Consider the following: Suppose I came to you
suggesting that you marry a wonderful girl, but the chance that she was Jewish
was only one percent? Would you agree to marry her? Even if there was a one
percent chance that she was not Jewish, you would not agree.
we don’t do mass conversions, but only individual conversions, based on investigating
each candidate about whether or not he/she wishes to join the fold. True, the history
books note that there were cases of mass conversions, but it is not certain
whether this involved pristine, genuine conversion, or adoption of a few Jewish
customs. Moreover, it is not made clear what came of that afterwards. Likewise,
there is no support for any of this in our Talmudic or halachic literature.
What is clear is that from a scientific perspective, the DNA of Jews from all
ethnic groups is almost identical, which points to a low percentage of conversions.
of thumb is this: If a non-Jew converts and does not undertake to keep Mitzvot,
his conversion is no conversion (Da’at Kohen 148, Minchat Yitzchak 6:107, et al).
even imagining that such a conversion would be considered valid, what benefit
would we be bringing to that person who is not going to be keeping Mitzvot? We are
no missionaries, and we do not say that the World-to-Come is only for Jews.
That non- Jew, prior to his conversion, is one of the righteous gentiles who
has a heavenly portion.
Now we are
transforming him into a Jewish sinner who has no share in the World-to-Come!
(Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 157. Minchat Shlomo 35:3).
If so, you
ask, what is the solution? There is no solution! It is an unsolvable problem!
we have other serious, unsolvable problems in our national lives: the
proliferation of our enemies from without and from within; large portions of
our people being estranged from the Torah; educational and legal systems that
do not conform with Jewish law; most of the Jewish People living in the Exile facing
terrible spiritual dangers. And all this without mentioning the unsolvable
problem of the Exile, which weighed heavily on us for two thousand years, and
even so, it didn’t break us, and didn’t force us to abandon our religion.
believed that this suffering would meet its end, and now our hope is being fulfilled.
the same way, the problem of large numbers of non-Jews in Israel will be
solved. How? We don’t know. Perhaps it will happen the way our sages envision
it, or perhaps in some other way: “In the future, idolaters will come and
convert. Will we accept them? Surely we learned, ‘We don’t accept converts in
the Messianic era,’ just as we did not accept them in the times of David or of
Shlomo. Rather, they will become self-made converts, i.e., ‘they will push
their way in, even though they are not accepted’ (Rashi on Avoda Zara 22a), and
they will put Tefillin on their heads and their arms, Tzitzit on their garments
and Mezuzot on their doorposts.
those converts see the War of Gog and Magog, they will ask Gog and Magog, ‘Why
have you come?’ and the answer will be, ‘To attack G-d and His anointed,’ as it
says, ‘Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples mutter in vain?’
(Tehillim 2:1). Every one of those converts will then pull off his Tefillin and
leave, as it says, ‘Let us break their bands’ (v. 3), and G-d sits and laughs:
‘He who sits in heaven laughs.’” (Avoda Zara 3b)
strengthen ourselves in the pathway of Torah. Let us not change or alter our Nation.
Your people are my people and your G-d is my G-d.
The Book of Bemidbar is the book of transitions - the “on the way”
book. As the People of Israel journey to the Promised Land, they encounter many
dangers and must undergo many tests. In the first Parshiyot of Bemidbar, the
Torah teaches us how they prepare for their journey: Each tribe is arranged in
military fashion in its own specified area. In the heart of the encampment
stands the Mishkan, where the Divine Presence rests. The question of those who,
for one reason or another, are physically or spiritually estranged from the
Camp (the physically impure, the thief, the Sotah, the Nazir) is dealt with in
Parashat Naso. The Birkat Cohanim is received, the Mishkan is dedicated, and we
arrive at Parashat Beha’alotcha.
We begin with man’s physical and spiritual work in this world as represented in
the spiritual world of the Mishkan: Lighting the Menorah symbolizes
enlightenment. The light kindled in the Mishkan brings a blessing to all
cultural achievements world-wide. The Lechem Ha-Panim, on the other hand,
symbolizes man’s economic achievements. “To become wise - go south, for the
Menorah stands in the southern area of the Mishkan. To become rich - go north,
for the Shulchan Lechem Panim is in the North” (Baba Batra 25b).
Care of the Mishkan and its utensils is entrusted to the Levi’im. This week’s
Parashah teach us more about their work. It then goes on to the unique
sacrifice brought by each Jew - the Korban Pesach.
The Nation is now ready to travel, led by the Pillar of Cloud in the daytime
and the Pillar of Fire at night. Yitro, Moshe’s Midianite father-in-law, is
invited to become a part of the Jewish People and to embark on the journey
together with the whole Nation.
“A book of its own” is how our Sages designate the two short verses separating
the above preparations from the onset of the actual journey. “And it came to
pass, when the Aron set forth” (Bemidbar10:35-36): This Parashah teaches that
the Divine Presence accompanies us “on the way.” The Aron contains the Torah
through which the Master of the Universe reveals Himself to us, as the Gemara
tells, “I gave myself in the written words” (Shabbat 105a). It is as if G-d
Himself were in the Torah. The Aron containing the Torah accompanies us
everywhere, whether we succeed or fail: “He who dwells in their midst in all
their impurity”- “Even when they are impure, the Divine Presence remains in
their midst” (Yoma 56b). This short passage is framed on both sides by an
upside-down letter “Nun”. Nun is the letter of “Nefilah” - of falling and
failing, and for that reason was left out of the “Ashrei” (Shabbat 116. Berachot
4b). Nevertheless, the Master of the World does not desert us. He is with us in
our exile (Megilla 29a). |This concept deserves a ‘book of its own.’
No sooner do we start out on the way than troubles begin. First, “and the
People were as if complaining; it displeased Hashem” (Bemidbar.11:1). Then they
“desired a desire” (ibid. 4), followed by the Lashon Hara against Moshe, the
sins of the spies, Korach, and so on - all internal crises. These are followed
by enemies from without - Edom, Sichon, Balak and Bil’am. The way is fraught
with danger and time after time we fall.
After the Six Day War, a conference of Muslim academics was held in the
El-Azhar University near Cairo on the theological implications of the State of
Israel. They agreed unanimously that the State must be wiped out. As to its
Jewish population, there were two opinions. One was that they could be
permitted to remain if they were faithful to the Palestinian State. The other
held that they were incorrigible and must be totally eradicated. One professor
wrote an article in which he attempted to prove the intrinsic corruption of the
Jewish Nation as reflected in the ‘Old Testament’ itself, by the sins we committed
in the desert.
There is no attempt here to hide our imperfections. However, mistakes are an
inherently human characteristic. “There is no one so righteous on earth who
does only good and never sins.” We stumbled, got up, and resumed our work.
“Seven times does a righteous man fall, and he rises” (Kohelet 24:16). Through
these failures, we learn to correct and perfect ourselves.
There are things that can only be comprehended through trial and failure. The
trial of “Kivrot HaTa’ava” (the graves of desire) teaches us how to relate to
materialism. Through the crisis with Miriam and Aharon we come to understand
the vast difference between Moshe Rabbenu and all other prophets. Of course, it
is unnecessary to fail purposely, there are sufficient opportunities without
that. When we do fail, however, we must use that experience as a springboard
for spiritual elevation. “No person can really comprehend the Torah’s teachings
unless he has failed first” (Gittin 43a). Failure can actually help us reach
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Gemara Learning in Korea
Q: In South Korea, there is
much interest in learning Gemara.Is
A: Certainly not.It is forbidden to teach Torah to non-Jews
and it is forbidden for a non-Jew to learn Torah.The Torah is betrothed to us and not to them.One does not learn Gemara for an intellectual
experience – which is their interest – but out of Yirat Shamayim – fear of
Heaven (Chagigah 13a).
Reform and Conservative
Q: Are Reform and
Conservative conversions valid?
A: Certainly not.An essential element of the conversion is
accepting the yoke of the Mitzvot, and this is lacking.Shut Achiezer 3:26.Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:128, Even
Ha-Ezer 3:3.Shut Shevet Ha-Levi
10:224.Shut Mishneh Halachot 12:193.
Q: Where is it written in the
Torah that Judaism follows matrilineal descent?
A: Devarim 7:3-4.Kiddushin 68b.
Q: I heard that some say that
it was a later decree?
A: Nonsense.It is explicitly mentioned in Ezra 7:3-4, and
he did not invent it.
Staring at Women
Q: Is it forbidden for men to
stare at women, or do women also have to be careful that men not stare at them?
A: Both."A woman needs to be modest and careful
that men not stare at her, aside from her husband".Rabbenu Yonah, Igeret Ha-Teshuvah 159.
Q: Is Coca Cola Kosher in all
A: Not necessarily.There are many ingredients.It requires certification (See the amazing
Teshuvah regarding the Kashrut of Coca Cola in Shut Karnei Ha-Hod, end of
Volume 2, of Ha-Rav Tuvia Gefen, who served as Rabbi in Atlanta, where Coke is
produced in America.He discusses the
secret ingredient in Coke).
Q: Is it true that Coca Cola
A: This is a medical
question.All soft drinks cause damage
on account of the sugar.And some claim
that Coke causes damage on account of the phosphoric
acid which causes continuing damage to one's kidneys.
Bill with Tchernichovski
Q: Is it appropriate for the
State of Israel to put out a bill with the face of the poet Shaul
Tchernichovski, who was married to a non-Jew?
A: It is not appropriate.
Tzedakah to a Criminal
Q: A person evaded taxes and
is now having a trial which could end up in jail-time.Is it possible to give him Tzedakah for an
expensive attorney who could save him?
A: This has nothing to do
with Tzedakah.But it is a
kindness.Kindness is according to the
need and ability.But it seems that
there are other persons who are more in need of a kindness (Ha-Rav Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach was once asked regarding a Jew who stole a significant amount
of money and was serving a jail sentence in America.Is it proper to collect large sums of money
to help free him because of the Mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim – Redeeming
Captives?Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman said:
"Pidyom Shevuyim?!What does this
have to do with Pidyon Shevuyim?Pidyom
Shevuyim is when non-Jews kidnap a Jew for no reason, and put him in jail.According to my understanding, they don't
kidnap Jews in America in order to extort money.After all, the Torah says 'Do not steal', and
he stole.On the contrary, it is good
for him to sit in jail a little and learn that it is forbidden to steal." Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman added that if they wanted
to collect money for his wife and children, however, it would obviously be a
Mitzvah.Ve-alehu Lo Yibol Volume 2, pp.
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Bemidbar
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook founded the Chief Rabbinate almost everyone –
religious and secular - was in favor. Even the secular understood that having a
country includes having religion, and that it was important for there to be a
Chief Rabbi for both internal and external purposes. There were only a handful
of religious Jews who did not want there to be a Chief Rabbi. People quote Ha-Rav
Chaim Zonnenfeld, the head of the opposition, as having said, “At first he will
be a traditional Orthodox Rabbi, then he will be a Rabbi-Doctor, and after that
he will be a reform Rabbi.” It was this he feared, and indeed, Rav Kook and the
rest of the Rabbis feared this too.
depends on who picks the Chief Rabbi.
said that the ones who would chose the Chief Rabbi should, themselves, be Rabbis.
The secular public refused, however, and said that the decision should be a
public one. Ostensibly the Rabbis were right. I have pointed out with regards
to Bezalel, the architect of the Mishkan, the Desert Tabernacle, that holiness
takes precedence over wisdom, and wisdom takes precedence over the public’s
opinion. Yet the secular said that throughout the generations it was the
community that chose the Rabbi, and that was what should happen now as well.
The Rabbis responded that there can be no comparison. At one time, the public
had all been G-d-fearing, whereas now, in Eretz Yisrael, there was nothing like
that. Why were they choosing a Rabbi? What did they need a Rabbi for? As stated
at the start, the Mara De-Atra, Rabbinic head of the community, is the one we
trust and whose word we obey, yet the secular have no intention of obeying him
anyway. If so, why should they have a say in deciding? As stated, they were in
favor of having a Chief Rabbi, but not in order to obey him, but to meet
end, a committee was set up, with the British, the Rabbis and the Jewish People
equally represented. That committee in turn decided that the make-up of the
voting body should be two-thirds Rabbis and one third representatives of the
communities. Two-thirds of Rabbis makes a majority, and some of the communal
representatives were G-d-fearing people as well. With this decision, all doubts
that could have arisen were quashed, and the Rabbis prevailed.
further be stressed that secular individuals who choose a Chief Rabbi do not
want him in order to heed his halachic rulings. They want a Chief Rabbi who
will heed what they say. We can understand this desire, but that is not what a Rabbi
does. That is what Ha-Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik called “the new idolatry,
idolatry to public opinion” (Divrei Ha-Rav, p. 52). In that system, public
opinion determines what you must think and what you must do. You are enslaved
to public opinion.
Socrates said, public opinion can be wrong. There is no need to have learned in
yeshiva to understand this. You need intelligence, just as Socrates had. What he said, however, did not curry favor
with public opinion, and he therefore was sentenced to death. He was given
three options: exile, silence or execution. He said, “If I am unable to say
what I think, or if I go into exile and can no longer have an influence, my
life is no life.” He drank poison, continued speaking, fell asleep and died.
His point was: public opinion should not be the deciding factor in moral/philosophical
certainly forbidden for public opinion to take precedence in the selection of a
Chief Rabbi. It is a tertiary factor that should come only after the primary
factor, which is holiness, and the secondary factor, which is wisdom, as Rav
Kook explained (Ein Aya, Berachot, Chapter 9, Letter 28).
first and foremost comes holiness. Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira, ztz"l,
related that one time there was uncertainty over who should be the Chief Rabbi
- Rav Herzog or Rav Charlap. In the end, Rav Herzog was chosen. Rav Shapira
said, “It was a shame, because Rav Charlop was on a supreme level of holiness.”
He immediately added, “Rav Herzog was holy too, but Rav Charlop was more so.”
Rav Shapira grieved over what occurred. We look back nostalgically to a time when the
choice was between Rav Herzog and Rav Charlop. In the end, because Rav Herzog
had been the Chief Rabbi of Ireland and was more accustomed to the Rabbinate,
he was chosen. That is the sort of selection process that there needs to be.
Parashat Naso teaches us that we must do everything possible to ensure good
marital relations - even to the point of actually “blotting out” G-d’s name.
One reason for this may be that the Torah places marital relations within the
context of loving one’s fellow man. This Mitzvah is not only a lofty ideal to
be carried out in principle, it is also an obligation to treat those around us with
love every day. “Love of Klal Israel” begins with a general love of Judaism and
Jews, but must also be expressed in simple acts of love for real people.
This is obviously a difficult task. It is not easy to rise to the
level of those great Tzadikkim who loved every member of Am Israel with all
their hearts and souls. Where does one start? At the very least, we should love
one member of Am Israel with all our heart. And who should that on person be?
Our husband or wife. The Gemarra teaches us that the main criterion for
choosing a mate should be whether we feel we can love him or her "as
yourself” (Kiddushin 41a).
Once you succeed in truly loving one other person on a day-to-day
basis, you have built yourself the foundation for establishing a loving relationship
with everyone else. “Love your neighbor” reaches its peak when you really love
your mate, despite the inevitable tensions that arise in every marriage. It’s
quite easy to love a Jew living in Japan without making any compromises; loving
someone you have to live with is much more difficult. There are differences of
opinion, and accidental - or purposeful - slights. One gets upset or angry at
the other. This may even be what the Torah means by prohibiting hatred “in our
hearts.” “Hate” need not be an emotion so extreme that it leads to murder or
violence; it may also be simply bearing a grudge.
But it is not only the most extreme hatred that is forbidden: even
a tiny crumb cannot be tolerated - just as a tiny portion of ham is just as
unkosher as a large plateful. If one mate bears a grudge against the other on
account of some unkind words or action, it is considered “hatred”. The Torah
teaches us that in such a case one must either speak softly but firmly and ask
the other why he did such a thing, or alternatively, completely forgive and
forget the incident. It is absolutely forbidden to bear a grudge (Rambam,
Hilchot De’ot 6:6).
Such incidents may happen every day, but it is not practical to
discuss each and every one of them. If we did, it might vey well be even more
harmful than the little hurts which provoked the discussions. As Shakespeare
put it, it causes a “tempest in a teapot.” A more practical solution is to
agree to simply erase such minor infractions from one’s mind.
Man suffers enough from society around him. We all live within a
social context from which we both benefit and suffer. Some people are so
sensitive that they suffer immensely. And some people are themselves to blame
for the insults they suffer, because of their own failings. In any case, by the
end of the day, we are all weary from the wear and tear of our social
interactions. We need a sanctuary where we are accepted unconditionally,
without having to answer for our failings or to make up for them. This is not,
of course, the be-all and end-all of the institution of marriage, but it is one
of its important components. A mate who accepts you and loves you as you are,
instead of throwing all the books at you, provides an immeasurable amount of
strength and support.
This is not to say that one should completely ignore all the
other’s failings or confuse good with evil. Amends must certainly be made. But
this only comes after the establishment of unconditional love, based on the
secret of mutual “blotting out.” Only after that, can we begin to correct the
Why should you be dissatisfied with your mate, or bear him a
grudge? Are you yourself perfect? Isn’t it better to ‘make a deal’ that you
will both ‘forgive and forget?’ Our sages declared: “He who forgives others has
all his own sins forgiven.” If you forgive your friends even when they don’t
deserve it, you will be treated the same way by the Heavenly Tribunal.
It is well known that Yom Kippur does not atone for sins committed
against one’s fellow man, unless that person has agreed to forgive (see end of
Mishna Yoma). This is the message of the Tefilla Zaka said before Kol Nidrei.
Of course, there is no need to wait until Yom Kippur. The Ari Ha-Kadosh
composed a prayer to be recited every night before retiring: “I forgive every
person who has sinned against me, whether accidentally or on purpose....” There
were other rabbis, including Rav Kook, who even added, “I forgive those who
will sin against me in the future.”
This is the kind of
relationship one should have with his spouse - complete readiness to forgive
and forget, even in advance. Such an attitude promotes consideration,
friendship, and happiness.
There is a famous story about the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples: They once
asked him whom to emulate in preparation for the High Holidays. He suggested
observing one particular man’s behavior, and they saw an amazing scene: The man
stood before his fireside holding two notebooks and said, “King of the World!
In this notebook I have written down all the sins I have committed.
Unfortunately, they are very numerous. I confess. In the second notebook I have
written down all my sufferings - and You, King of the World, allowed them. I
“forgive” You for all the troubles You caused me, and I ask You to please
forgive me for all my sins. See, I am throwing both notebooks into the fire.”
Husband and wife must also learn to throw both notebooks into the fire.
Sometimes we may think: Fine, I can forgive all the hurts I suffered myself,
but not the sins committed against Heaven. They are what make me angry. To this
we must reply: Don’t worry about God, and don’t hate your husband or wife in
His Name! In Parashat Naso, we learn that God commands that His Ineffable Name
be blotted out in the bitter waters in order to make peace between husband and
wife. No human is completely free of violence, be it verbal or physical; this
is one of the most difficult tendencies to overcome. It may sometimes appear
disguised as righteousness, or in the guise of admonishments and lectures on
morality (see Rav Kook, “Midot Re’eya, on Tochacha), or even in a mildly
antagonistic silence. Difficult as it may be to completely overcome this
tendency, we should at least try to leave G-d out of it. “God is good to all,
and His Mercy extends to all of His creatures” (Tehillim 145:9). He is willing
for His Name to be blotted out in order to restore marital bliss.
We always advise young couples: First of all, learn to live together, only
afterwards, try to attain Kedusha (a high spiritual level). Simple natural
married love takes priority. A couple who aspires to build a life of holiness
which is not based on simple honest love will end up with a dishonest
relationship. The first step is to stop all mutual “point giving,” and throw
all the lists in the fire, even if they involve matters of Heaven. There is no
better way to express this philosophy – that complete, mutual, unlimited
forgiveness, even regarding religious observance, must form the basis for
marital harmony - than in our sages’ concise comment on our Parashah: “The
Ineffable Name is blotted out for the sake of making peace between a husband
Q: Is there an obligation to
learn the entire night of Shavuot?
A: No.But it is a proper custom.Someone who is unable should try to learn
until midnight (Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 494).
Q: Which is preferable –
learning all night and falling asleep during Shacharit or going to sleep?
A: Going to sleep.Davening Shacharit without falling asleep is
a basic halachah, and learning all night is a worthwhile addition.
Q: Which is preferable –
learning during the night, or learning during the day, if I will learn more
during the day?
A: During the day, since
learning more Torah is a basic halachah, and learning Torah all night on
Shavuot is a worthwhile addition (This is unlike the ruling of Ha-Rav Chaim
Kanvieski that the custom is to learn all night, and it is preferable to learn
during the night even if one learns less than he would have during the
day.Piskei Shemuot, pp. 81-82.Although Ha-Rav
Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav, was surprised that people are so
particular to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot, which is a custom, while
on Pesach night, where there is a law to discuss the Exodus from Egypt until
one is overcome by sleep, people are not so careful.And in the city of Brisk, people were not
careful to follow the custom of staying awake the entire night of Shavuot,
since why is this night different from all other night?And also, learning on Shavuot night is not
more important than learning during the day. Uvdot Ve-Hanhagot Le-Beit Brisk
vol. 2, p. 79).
Q: I heard that
it is forbidden to engage in idle chatter on the night of Shavuot?
A: It is not a
prohibition, but it is proper, and one should try as much as possible to
refrain (Kaf Ha-Chaim 494:11).
Q: Is one obligated
to learn the Tikun Leil Shavuot?
A: No.A person should learn Torah in a subject that
his heart desires (Avodah Zarah 19a.And
Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that there are different customs, each of which is
acceptable.Piskei Shemuot, p. 81).
Q: If one's
father says the Tikun, should his son also say the Tikun, or is it permissible
to learn Gemara?
A: It is a
personal decision (Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said: "It is better for
him to learn Massechet Baba Metzia, Perek Ha-Socher Et Ha-Po'alim [One who
hires workers], and even if his father says the Tikun."And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said: "If his
father says the Tikun, he should also say the Tikun".Yadoon Moshe vol. 9 #59).
Q: Do women also
need to learn all night?
A: They are not
obligated, but it is certainly a good thing.
Q: Is there an
obligation to eat Milchigs on Shavuot?
A: It is the
Custom.Yemenite Jews do not do so
(Shulchan Aruch Ha-Mekutzar, p. 72).
Q: Does one have
to eat an entire Milchig meal?
A: It is enough
to have one dairy food.And it is then
possible to wash out one's mouth, wash one's hands and clean the table, and
have a Fleischig meal (Or Le-Tzion 3:196.And the Steipler Gaon would only have a Milchig meal at night.Orchot Rabbenu vol. 1, p. 98).
Early Davening on
Q: Can one daven
Maariv early on Shavuot, or is it a problem because one needs 7 complete weeks
of Sefirat Ha-Omer?
A: Ashkenazim – No, Sefardim are lenient (Mishneh Berurah 414:1.Shut Yechaveh Daat 6:30).
To Enrich the spiritual life of the English-speaking World through the Torah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. By offering English translations of Rav Aviner’s written and oral Torah, this division of the yeshiva aims to expose English speakers to a powerful, sensitive and poetic voice unparalleled in our time. His unfailing optimism, his tolerance and love all Jews, his guidance for harmony within the Jewish family and his dedication to Eretz Yisrael, the State of Israel and Tzahal will inspire and enrich the lives of all who may now have access to his words.