Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #337

Eye Color
Q: Are the color of one's eyes connected to his soul?
A: No.

Marriage Between People with the Same Name
Q: Is it permissible for a man and woman with the same first name to be married?
A: Yes (This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Neiman, who served as Av Beit Din of the Machzikei Ha-Dat of Belz in Montreal.  He states that although he had not heard such a ruling before, we should not add strictures that are not mentioned in Tzava'at Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Chasid.  Shut Agurah Be-Ohalecha Volume 3, Even Ha-Ezer #2).

Fashion Designer
Q: [Question from a woman]: I am a fashion designer for women's evening wear.  Is it permissible?  Are there limitations?
A: It is permissible on condition that the clothing is modest.

University Paper
Q: Is it permissible for me to write a university paper for someone else?
A: Ask the professor directly.

Translating the Kaddish
Q: Why don't we translate the Kaddish into Hebrew?
A: Because a translation cannot be precise.  In many Siddurim, however, there is a translation of the Kaddish, so that a person can quickly understand the Aramaic words of this prayer. 

Difficulty in Learning
Q: It is difficult for me to learn Gemara.  Is there hope for me?
A: Certainly.  It was also difficult for Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector to learn.  And also Maharam Shick.  And also Rabbi Akiva.

Passing Kiddush to My Mother or My Wife
Q: If I am eating a Shabbat meal with my mother and my wife, to whom should I first pass the Kiddush?  If I first give it to my wife, my mother will be insulted, and visa-versa.
A: The question is not formulated correctly.  You and your wife are one, and should decide together what to do (See the answers of Gedolei Yisrael on this question in Shut Ha-Shoel #37).

Shirt with the Verse "Hashem is the King"
Q: Is it permissible to wear a shirt which has the verse "Hashem is the King" printed on it?
A: 1. It must be covered when one enters the restroom.  2. Gedolei Yisrael and G-d-fearing Jews throughout the generations did not write verses of their clothing but upon their hearts and their actions.

Torah Classes on Cell Phone
Q: If one listens to Torah classes on his cell phone, computer or MP3, does he fulfill the obligation to set fix times for learning Torah?
A: Yes.  It is obviously preferable to learn from a Rabbi face-to-face.  

Divrei Torah at Meals
Q: On the one hand, the Gemara Ta'anit (5b) says not to speak during meals because there is a fear of choking on the food, while on the other hand, Pirkei Avot (3:3) says that a meal without Divrei Torah is like eating the sacrifices of the dead.  Isn't this a contradiction?

A: It means that one should not talk during the actually eating, but it is a Mitzvah to say Divrei Torah between the eating.  Mishnah Berurah (170:1-2). 

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #336

Q: Is it permissible to work for a website which involves casino gambling?
A: No.  1. Gambling is forbidden.  2. It is taking advantage of poor people and people who are addicted to gambling.

Time of Zecher Le-Churban
Q: Baruch Hashem, we built in a house in the community of Neriya!  When does one have to make the Zecher Le-Churban (part of the wall left undone as a remembrance of the destruction of the Beit Ha-Mikdash) when moving into a new house?
A: One is certainly obligated to make a Zecher Le-Churban.  The Halachah however does not say that it is forbidden to live in a house which does not have a Zecher Le-Churban, although the person is lacking the fulfillment of a Positive Mitzvah.  Regarding a Mezuzah, there is an opinion in the Rishonim that it is permissible to live in a house without a Mezuzah, but the basic Halachah is that it is forbidden to do so.  This is not the case, however, for a Zecher Le-Churban.  But obviously, we have a general principle: "The diligent fulfill Mitzvot as early as possible" (Zerizim Makdimim Le-Mitzvot). 

Musical Instruments during Davening
Q: Is it permissible to play instruments during Hallel?
A: It is forbidden on account of "Chukat Ha-Goyim - following the non-Jewish practices" (Shut Chatam Yoreh Deah #84-96, Choshen Mishpat #192.  Kaf Ha-Chaim, Orach Chaim 151:19.  Shut Minchat Yitzchak 5:96).

Jewish Star
Q: We were told that one should place a Jewish star (Magen David) in his house as protection.  Is this true?
A: No.  There is no source in Judaism for the Jewish star, though it is obviously a beloved symbol.

Mashiach's Kippa
Q: What type of Kippa will the Mashiach wear: knit, black velvet, etc.?
A: We do not know what will happen in times of Mashiach until they happen.  Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 12:2.

Demographic Problem in Yesha
Q: What does one answer to those who claim that we should leave Yesha on account of the Arab population's higher birthrate than that of the Jewish population?
A: 1. It is a Mitzvah to settle of the entire Land of Israel and Hashem already thought of this issue when He commanded us to do so.  2. If we were originally concerned about this issue, we would not have established the State of Israel.  3. It is a lie.  The birthrate among Arabs in Yesha is 2.8 children per family and is decreasing, while the Jewish birthrate is 5.1 children per family and is increasing.  It is true that 20 years ago the birthrate in Yesha was 6.0 for Arabs and 2.5 for Jews.  Baruch Hashem, the Mitzvah of "Be fruitful and multiply" is being fulfilled by us.  

Hashem is the King
Q: There is a sticker which says "Hashem is the King".  Is this a proper way to publicize the Kingship of Hashem?
A: 1. Throughout the generations, our great Rabbis did not use this method.  2. Faith is deep and not a sticker.  By the way, one must cover such a sticker when one enters a bathroom.

Bringing the Torah to People to Kiss
Q: Is it permissible to bring the Sefer Torah in the Shul towards people who want to kiss it?
A: No.  This is a disgrace to the Sefer Torah.  They should approach the Sefer Torah.  Piskei Teshuvot 134:6.

Q: Will Anti-Semitism ever end?
A: The Rambam explains in Igeret Teiman that the reason for Anti-Semitism is opposition to the word of Hashem.  Therefore, when humanity is in love with Hashem, Anti-Semitism will cease.

Talit Switching
Q: I accidentally switched my Talit with my friend's, and have been unable to get in touch with him.  It is permissible for me to use his Talit?
A: Yes.  Since he will also use yours.  Piskei Teshuvot 14:11.

Questions in Emunah
Q: If someone has questions in Emunah, does this mean that his faith is somehow lacking?

A: No.  His faith is simple, which is a very high level of faith.  If he has questions, however, he should learn books having to do with Emunah.  See Midot Re'eiyah, Emunah #18.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #335

Mother's Milk
Q: How is mother's milk permissible when we have a general principle that anything which comes from a non-Kosher animal is non-Kosher?
A: Since the Torah mentions that people nursed, it is a sign that it is Kosher.  And if it were only permissible in a life-threatening situation, the Torah would mention that it is permissible only in such a case.  By the way, the Torah does not explicitly mention that it is forbidden to eat a human being.  While it is obviously forbidden to do so, there is a discussion among the Poskim as to the source of the prohibition (See Rambam, Hilchot Machalot Asurot 2:3, 3:4.  Ra'avad ibid.  Rosh, Ketuvot 5:19.  Rama, Yoreh Deah 79:1).

Free Choice for Animals
Q: Do animals have free choice?
A: Not to any significant degree.  Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah Volume 1, p. 104.

Q: I am very shy and cannot give a Torah class.  What should I do?
A: Prepare the class in written form and read it.

Immersing a Utensil to be Given as a Gift
Q: Is it true that one may not immerse a utensil which is to be given as a gift?
A: Correct.  The majority of Poskim rule this way, since the utensil is not yet designated for a meal but rather for another person, i.e. a gift (Tevilat Kelim pp. 87-88).  There are those, however, who rule that it is permissible to immerse it without a blessing when one is giving the utensil to someone who will not immerse it (Taharat Kelim p. 120).  And some recommend that one grants ownership of the utensil to the receiver before giving it to him and then immerses it.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, however, does not agree with this recommendation (Tevilat Kelim pp. 239-242).  And others recommend immersing the utensil and then using it for a short time before giving it as a gift.  This, however, is not always possible.

Shidduch with One who Visits the Temple Mount
Q: Should I cancel a Shidduch with someone who visits the Temple Mount?
A: No.  A person is judged by the majority of his actions.  Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1).

Arabs from Jewish Descent
Q: How should we relate to a study that 65% of Arabs of the Galilee are from Jewish descent?
A: The study does not have a solid scientific basis.  Its purpose was political, in order to convince us to give up portions of Eretz Yisrael.  Scientific studies cannot, in any case, serve as halachic proofs. 

Gifts for a Teacher
Q: I am a teacher.  Parents sometimes bring me gifts.  Is it permissible to accept them?
A: It is not good.  The gift should be a joint one from all of the parents. 

Netilat Yadayim for First Responder
Q: If I am on call as a first responder, and receive a call in the middle of the night while I am sleeping, am I exempt from Netilat Yadayim, since every second is important?

A: It does not seem so, since you get dressed and do not go in your pajamas.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #334

Q: Is cremation permissible according to the Torah?
A: Certainly not.  There is a positive Torah Mitzvah to bury the deceased.  It is an honor for the deceased, an honor for the living and an honor for the soul (in the book Gesher Ha-Chaim [Volume 1 16:9], Ha-Rav Yechiel Michal Tukachinsky writes that it is a severe prohibition to cremate a body, since one nullifies a positive Torah Mitzvah with his hands, and causes a great calamity to the deceased.  Gedolei Yisrael therefore agree that the ashes of one who is cremated are not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.  Other Rabbis explain, however, that while cremation is absolutely forbidden, it is nonetheless permissible to bury the ashes in a Jewish cemetery.  Shut Seredei Aish 2:123-124.  Shut Melamed Le-Hoil 2:113-114.  And in Shut Chelkat [2:4], Ha- Rav Mordechai Yaakov Bereish, Av Beit Din of Zurich, writes that it is preferable to be buried in a non-Jewish cemetery than to be cremated!).    

"Ve-Hu Rachum"
Q: Many times at the beginning of Maariv, people who are there to Daven say "Ve-Hu Rachum" to encourage the Shalaich Tzibur to begin.  Is there a problem with this?
A: Yes, since it is the Shaliach Tzibur's role to begin (And Ha-Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, Av Beit Din of the Edah Ha-Charedit in Yerushalayim, once got up to serve as Shaliach Tzibur on Motzaei Shabbat, and one of the Daveners loudly began "Ve-Hu Rachum".  Ha-Rav Freund turned to him and said that the Shalaich Tzibur begins this line.  Mara De-Shematata p. 50).

Kidney Donation by a Cohain
Q: I am a Cohain and want to donate a kidney.  Is the lack of a kidney considered a blemish for which I would not be able to say Birkat Cohanim?
A: No, since it is hidden, i.e. internal.

Loving Your Fellow Jew as Yourself
Q: How can I reach the level of loving my fellow Jew as myself?
A: Through intellect, i.e. thinking about the positives of that person, despite his deficiencies.

Kashrut at a Wedding
Q: I am invited to a wedding under the Kashrut supervision of the Israeli Rabbinate.  The host told me that they could order us a Mehadrin meal, but the other guests sitting with us will see the difference in the meals.  What should we do?
A: Eat like everyone else, since the food is Kosher, and you should not separate yourself (And this how Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld and Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach acted.  They would eat foods at a Simcha that they were strict not to eat in their home, as it says in the Book of Tehillim [101:2], "I walk with wholeness of heart within the confines of my house" - in the confines of my house I am strict, with other people I am not.  Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol Volume 2, p. 66-67.  See Shut Pe'at Shadecha 1:66 which also mentions how Rav Zonnenfeld acted in this way).

Smoking Before Davening
Q: Is it forbidden to smoke before Davening just as it is forbidden to eat and drink?
A: Yes.  Piskei Teshuvot 89:17.  And, in any event, smoking is forbidden (See Piskei Shlomo Volume 4 on smoking). 

Gemera Fell on Floor
Q: While cleaning, my entire set of Gemara fell on the floor and my Kiddush cup broke.  What should I do?

A: Pick up the Gemara and kiss it.  If you are troubled about it, give Tzedakah. 

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #333

Stealing Food in a Yeshiva
Q: If I am hungry at Yeshiva, can I break into the kitchen and take food?  After all, my parents pay for it.
A: Ask the Rabbi there.

Text Message Q&A
Q: Does Ha-Rav answer every text message question?
A: No.  I receive about 300-400 a day.  I answer about a fourth of them.

Secular Studies
Q: Why is there a need for secular studies?  Isn't everything found in the Torah?
A: Secular studies are sciences which come to describe the world.  The Torah does not come to describe what is, but what should be (Maharal in Netivot Olam – Netiv Ha-Torah, Netiv 14).

Tefillin of Avraham Avinu
Q: Did Avraham Avinu put on Tefillin?
A: Yes.  He fulfilled the entire Torah, but his Tefillin were different from ours.  See Baal Ha-Tanya in his book "Torah Or".

40 Days before a Person Dies
Q: Is it true that 40 days before a person dies, he feels that something will occur?
A: No.

House Built on Shabbat
Q: A non-religious Jew built a house on Shabbat and then became religious.  Is it permissible for him to benefit from the house, or is it forbidden just as it is forbidden to benefit from something which one plants on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim #318)?
A: One can be lenient, since benefiting from something made on Shabbat is a Rabbinic prohibition, a fine for violating Shabbat which discourages one from doing so.  In a major extenuating circumstance such as this, one may be lenient on account of "Takanat Ha-Shavim" (literally "the enactment of the penitent".  This is a concept in the Gemara which is used to help facilitate the return of stolen property or to encourage transgressors to try and right whatever wrong they may have committed).  See Piskei Teshuvot 244:7-8.

Rabbi who Encourages Going onto the Temple Mount
Q: A Rabbi in our community encourages going onto the Temple Mount.  If he discusses this issue, should I point out that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel forbids it?
A: Remain silent on account of his honor.

Chabad Meshichistim Minyan
Q: Is it permissible to Daven in a Chabad Minyan which has: "May our master, our teacher, our Rabbi, King Messiah, live forever" written on the Torah Ark and a chair for the Rebbe?
A: Yes. They are G-d-fearing Jews.

Mitzvah of Tzahal
Q: If a soldier is engaged in military exercises or is resting, is he still fulfilling the Mitzvah of serving in Tzahal?
A: Yes.  Since it contributes to Tzahal's strength of deterrence (see Moreh Nevuchim 3:27).

Someone who Did Not Put on Tefillin
Q: Regarding someone who did not Daven Shacharit and put on Tefillin: should he put on Tefillin as soon as possible or at Mincha?

A: As soon as possible, to avoid to possibility of not putting them on later.  "Zirizim Makdimim Le-Mitzvot" - The punctilious perform Mitzvot as soon as possible.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #332

Cell Phone on Shabbat
Q: I have a relative who is a Holocaust survivor and on Shabbat she was telling me what she went through.  Suddenly, she pulled out a cell phone and showed me a picture.  Did I commit a transgression?
A: No.  This is considered a benefit that comes to a person against his will.  Pesachim 25b.

Exercising on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible for me to exercise on Shabbat if it saves me from depression and lying in bed the entire day?
A: Certainly.

Aliyah or More Religious
Q: Which is preferable - to make Aliyah or to be more religious outside of Israel?
A: Good question, but in the long run, the Exile is spiritually dangerous.

Comparing Jews to Nazis
Q: A high-ranking Tzahal officer compared Jews to Nazis.  How should we relate to this?
A: This is what is called "Godwin's Law". If a discussion goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone else to Hitler.  This obviously causes the entire value of the discussion to be lost (see "Godwin's Law" in Wikipedia).

Protection for a Mourner
Q: If a mourner needs to walk in the street, does he require an escort?
A: If there are other Jews in the street, he does not require an escort.  A bride and groom require an escort since they are similar to a queen and king.  A mourner, however, requires an escort so he will not be alone, and if others are in the street, he will not be alone.  See Piskei Teshuvot 239:11 (When Rav Aviner was sitting Shiva for his mother z"l, he came to the Yeshiva one morning so that the students could pay a Shiva call without having to travel far and thus missing Torah learning.  He told me that when he walked through the Kotel Plaza, he did not require an escort, but when he walked through the so-called Muslim Quarter he would need one).

Error in Number of Loops on Tzitzit
Q: Does an error in the number of loops on Tzitzit make them invalid?
A: No.

Babylonian Talmud
Q: Why do we learn the Babylonian Talmud which is from the Exile and not the Jerusalem Talmud, which is a product of Eretz Yisrael?
A: 1. The Babylonian Talmud is written extensively and there are many commentaries on it, while the Jerusalem Talmud is written briefly and has merited few commentaries.  2. The Babylonian Talmud is not exilic.  It is an expansion of the Mishnah, which is a product of Eretz Yisrael.

Army in the Time of Mashiach
Q: Will there be an army during the time of the Mashiach?
A: Yes.  The Mashiach will wage great wars.  See Rambam, Hilchot Melachim Chapters 11-12.
Q: But it is written: "Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears" (Yoel 3:10)?
A: That will occur much later.  See Rambam, ibid.

Dulling of the Heart to Save One's Life
Q: If someone is obligated to eat non-Kosher food because he is in a life-threatening situation, does the food cause him "dulling of the heart" (dulling of one's spiritual sense, "Timtum Ha-Lev")?

A: No. Maran Ha-Rav Kook writes in his book "Musar Avicha" (p. 19) that the dulling of one's heart comes from violating a prohibition and not from the food itself (Yoma 39a.  And see Meharsha on Shabbat 33a).  Therefore, someone who eats non-Kosher food which is permitted to him, does not experience a "dulling of the heart" (Ha-Griz Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav, also holds this way.  Uvdot Ve-Hanhagot Mei-Beit Brisk Volume 2, p. 50.  As well as Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski in his book "Orchot Yosher" #13).

Parashat Devarim: Video Dvar Torah by Rav Aviner - Come and Possess Eretz Yisrael - Promise and Command

The entire book of Devarim is one long speech given by Moshe Rabbenu before his death and before Israel enters the Promised Land. In his humility, he had protested to being appointed, saying: “I am not a man of many words” (Shemot 4:10). Forty years later, at the age of 120, he encompasses the whole history and geography of Israel in his final speech - addressing both the individual and the Nation as a whole.

Throughout the past century, a great debate has been going on regarding whether it is up to us to conquer and settle the land, or whether we should sit and wait for G-d’s promise to be fulfilled. This week’s parashah contains the promise: “See, I have presented you with the Land” (Devarim 1:8). Although this seems to imply that G-d will ensure that we get the Land, we are immediately commanded: “Come and possess the Land which Hashem swore to your fathers, to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, to give to them and to their descendants after them” (ibid.). “Hashem swore,” but it is up to us to ensure that His word be done. It is both a promise and a command. We must not rationalize that if Hashem swore, there is nothing for us to do but sit and wait. It is precisely because He swore that we know that our efforts are meaningful, and that they will bear fruit. We must conquer and settle the Land.