Q: Is it permissible to call
a child "Avram"?After all,
the Gemara in Berachot (13a) says: "Bar Kapara teaches: Anyone who calls
Avraham 'Avram' transgresses a positive Mitzvah.Rabbi Eliezer says: He transgresses a
negative Mitzvah", and this is brought in Magen Avraham (156:2).
A: There is no explicit
prohibition, but it is improper to do so (And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski answered
that the Gemara in Gittin 50a quotes "Avram Choza'ah", and that which
the Gemara says that "Anyone who calls Avraham 'Avram' transgresses a
positive Mitzvah" – only applies to Avraham Avinu.Derech Sichah Vol. 1 p. 32.And see Shut Minchat Yitzchak 4:30).
Q: I heard that there are
many Tzedakah organizations in which much of the money goes into the pockets of
the administrators.How can I know which
organization is trustworthy?
A: You should request oral
certification from a Rabbi, Rebbitzin or social worker.
Emunah of Women
Q: Is there a difference
between men and women regarding Emunah?
Soldier Davening during Guard
Q: If I Daven during guard
duty and an officer asks me how it's going, is it permissible to interrupt my
Davening to answer him?If I do not
answer he will discover I am Davening.
A: It is forbidden to Daven
during guard duty without explicit permission.If it is not possible to Daven before or after guard duty then you are
exempt: one who is involved with one Mitzvah is exempt from performing another
Mitzvah.Sukkah 26a.With all halachic questions, one should call
the 24-hour-a-day phone line of the military Rabbinate 052-9414414.
Mourner at a Wedding
Q: My Rabbi in Yeshiva is
supposed to be the Mesader Kiddushin at my wedding in a month, but he is a
mourner.Is it permissible for him?
A: Yes.But I don't understand why you don't ask him
Q: I heard that it is forbidden
to say to a mourner: "What can we do".Why?
A: It imples that if it were
possible to do something, we would, and it is impossible to do something
against a decree of Hashem.Baba Kamma
38a.The Meharshal says, however, that
this is only if one makes such a statement complaining against Hashem as if –
G-d Forbid – He did an injustice.But if
it is said to ease the mourner's pain, the halachah is that it is permissible
(Yam Shel Shlomo #10).
Weekly Parashah and Current
Q: Is there really a
conection between the weekly Parashah and current events or do Rabbis just give
creative give Divrei Torah?
A: There is a
connection.Magen Avraham, Chapter #580
(and so too the Tosafot on Megillah 31b).
Q: We have an elderly dog who
suffers a great deal.Is it permissible
to put her to sleep?
A: Yes.It is proper."His mercies are on all His works" (Tehillim 145:9.And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein would stand during
Pesuki De-Zimra, recite it outloud, and passionately say: "Hashem is good
to all, His mercies are on all His works".Meged Givot Olam p. 72).
Question: Why pray for the sick?
Surely, the moment G-d decides that that person has completed his purpose, he
will die anyway!
Answer: This is a question embedded with
an assumption: that when a person completes his purpose he dies.There is no source for that idea.
One time at an Israel Independence Day or
Jerusalem Day celebration at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, they celebrated Rabbenu
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s eightieth birthday. Everyone praised him and all that
he had accomplished during his life.
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Zevin rose to speak, and
said, “I do not agree with all of these accolades.” He then told how one time
some people had approached Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe,
with a sick child. The people described to the Rabbi how righteous, sweet and
wonderful the child was, and, enumerating all his virtues, asked the Rabbi to
pray for him. The Kotzker Rebbe replied, “He’s not so special.” The visitors
were puzzled. Instead of arousing merit, the Rabbi had spoken negatively. All
the same, the child was cured.
The Kotzker Rebbe explained that the Talmud
states that Rabbi Tarfon’s mother came
to the house of study and asked, “Pray for my
son, who is a great Tzadik.” They asked her, “How is he a great Tzadik?” and
she replied, “One time I lost a shoe and he put his hand under my feet for me
to walk all the way.” They then said, “That’s nothing. Even if he did a hundred
times that, he wouldn’t reach half the Mitzvah of honoring one's parents”
(Kiddushin 31b). The Kotzker Rebbe asked, “Why did the Rabbis so belittle Rabbi
Tarfon’s greatness?”He answered, “What
Rabbi Tarfon did was on a very high level, meaning that perhaps he completed
his purpose on earth, and his time had arrived to leave. The Rabbis therefore
minimized his virtues, saying, ‘Rabbi Tarfon really did do something great, but
it wasn’t perfect.’” And that is what the Kotzker Rebbe meant regarding the
Ha-Rav Zevin thus concluded, “Rav Tzvi Yehuda
hasn’t done a thing.” Rabbenu Ha- Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook smiled. Rav Zevin then
added, “He’s still got a great deal to
do,” and that’s how it was.
Yet this story has no source. True, the
Kotzker Rebbe was himself a source, but the story had no source in the Torah,
the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Rishonim or the Achronim. It doesn’t say anywhere
that when a person completes his purpose, he dies.
The fact is that there are evildoers who die,
and they certainly have not completed their purpose, for it cannot be said that
their purpose was to be evildoers.
Rather, a person dies when G-d decides that he
is going to die, whether or not he completed his purpose.From this we derive that a person must strive
to do as much as he can, for when his time arrives, he will pass away. As the
Talmud States: “When Rabbi Yochanan would complete the Book of Iyov, he would
say as follows: ‘It is man’s fate to die, and an animal’s fate to be slaughtered.
Everyone is fated for death.Fortunate
is he who becomes great in Torah and toils in Torah and brings contentment to
his Maker and earns a good name and leaves this world with a good name. Of him
King Shlomo said: ‘A good name is better than fragrant oil, and the day of
death [is better] than the day of birth' (Kohelet 7:1)” (Berachot 7a).
And here is what Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak
Ha-Cohain Kook writes in his “Olat Re’eiyah” prayer book, commenting on the end
of the Shemoneh Esreh: “Before I was formed, I was unworthy: There was no need
of me. I was created the moment there was a need of me. Yet now that I have
been created, I am still unworthy, for I have not fulfilled my purpose” (Vol. 2
So we see that a person’s fulfilling or not
fulfilling his purpose is a matter of free will.
And if someone thinks that as long as he does
not fulfill his purpose, he will not die, and he will live on forever he is
obviously mistaken. We see that it doesn’t work that way. People die when they
need to die, according to a divine decision, whether they are righteous or
One might ask: Isn’t there a proof from the
Midrashim about Moshe and Yehoshua that when a person fulfills his purpose he
dies? As our Sages said in the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:6): “It says
regarding Yehoshua, ‘As I was with Moshe, so shall I be with you’ (Yehoshua
Yehoshua should have lived 120 years like
Moshe.Why did he live ten years less?
G-d told Moshe (Bamidbar 31:2), ‘Take Israel’s revenge against the Midianites,
and then be gathered to your people.’ Although he had been informed of his
approaching death, Moshe did not dawdle in fulfilling his task. Rather, he
hastened with it, dispatching the forces (31:6). By contrast, when Yehoshua set
out to fight the thirty-one Canaanite kings, he said, ‘If I kill them, I will
immediately die, as occurred with Moshe.’ What did Yehoshua do? He began
delaying the battle, as it says, ‘Yehoshua made war with these kings for many
days’ (Yehoshua 11:18). G-d responded, ‘Since you did that, I will shorten your
life by ten years.’ And King Shlomo said, ‘Many are the thoughts in a man’s
heart, but G-d’s design shall endure’ (Mishlei 19:21)” (See also Em Ha-Banim
Semeichah 3:51, where this Midrash is quoted).
Yet what occurred there was quite out of the
ordinary. One cannot create a prototype from every example or pair of examples.
Were this a general rule, our Sages would have told us so.
The question thus remains, but has to be
worded differently: “Why pray for a sick person? After all, G-d has decided
that in any case he is going to die. As we say during the Days of Awe – ‘Who
shall live and who shall die’.”
Indeed the Talmud states (Yevamot 50a) that
G-d decides how long each person will live. There is a dispute between the Sages
of the Mishnah. According to one view, if someone has merit, his life is
lengthened. If he has sins, his life is shortened. According to a second view,
if someone has merit, his life span is completed. If he has sins, his life is shortened.
In other words, according to the first view, his life is not entirely budgeted.
Merits can lengthen his life and sins can shorten it. According to the second
view, one cannot add to the years that G-d has assigned a person, but sins can reduce
them. If time has been taken off due to sins, merit can restore that time, but
merit cannot add to what was originally budgeted.
The Tosafists ask: The Talmud (Moed Kattan
28a) states, “Progeny, life span and sustenance do not depend on merit but on
mazal [good fortune].” Does that not contradict the preceding? Yet they answer
that the Mishna in Yevamot is talking about very great merit, enormous merit.
And some ask: Does prayer add merit? Moreover,
how can the prayers of one person add merit to a second?
That is the principle of the unity of souls.
Souls are connected. Some souls are connected more, and some less. The Jewish
People, family, friends. If someone increases his own merit, that adds merit to
the entire human race, so prayer really does add merit.
If someone increases his merit, does that
necessarily mean he will live longer than G-d decreed that he would? Sefer
HaIkarim (4, 8-9) has a relevant comment: G-d can make one of three decisions:
1) He can decide you will find a treasure even if you make no effort to find it.
2) He can decide you will find a treasure on condition that you make an effort
to find it.3) He can decide you will
find a treasure if you make an effort, and that treasure will be commensurate
with your efforts.
Sometimes G-d decides that a person will die,
regardless of what he does. Nothing will help him. Sometimes G-d decides that
the person will live, regardless of what he does, even if he is a terrible
sinner. Sometimes G-d decides that it depends, and if he prays, or others pray
for him, he will live. It’s impossible to know what G-d will decide.
The fixed life span that G-d decides on can be
influenced by various factors such as great merit, as well as other factors
that we are unfamiliar with. We do not know if our prayers will help as far as receiving
what we ask for, but we pray. Prayer is never in vain, and never returns empty.
It may be that one’s prayers will bring a different blessing, or that they will
help the petitioner in the World-to-Come. We do not dictate to G-d what to do.
We just pray humbly and beseechingly, and G-d does His will.
From where do we
learn that one should not yell to his friend from a distance but rather
approach him and talk to him from close by, or call him to come?
The Torah says:
"He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him" (Vayikra 1:1).Although King David says: "The voice of
Hashem is in power" (Tehillim 29:4) and there is no problem for Hashem to
speak from a distance, He teaches us proper conduct here that one should speak
to another person close by.
This is basic etiquette.One should not bother others by speaking
loudly with his friend.One should also
not speak loudly on a cellphone, forcing everyone around him to hear his
traits must precede Torah learning.
Did the Baba Sali, Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeira who died in 5744, only perform
wonders or was he also a great Torah scholar?
Someone who is not a Torah scholar cannot perform wonders.The Baba Sali was also a great Torah scholar,
Dayan, Av Beit Din and Posek, but most of his halachic writings have disappeared.
Do dentures require Tevilat Kelim (immersion in a Mikveh) as do utensils?
No.Dentures are not a utensil, and
their use on Shabbat is not called "Grinding" (Tochen) but eating
(And this is also the ruling in the book "Tevilat Kelim" of Ha-Rav
Tzvi Cohain 11:20 in the name of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).
is no Messiah for Israel
How did the Tana (Rabbi of the Mishnah) Hillel say that there will not be a
Messiah for Israel?It lowers the
expectation for the Redmpetion and lessens hope.
There is a misunderstanding.1. This is
not Hillel the Elder but rather Rabbi Hillel. 2. The Gemara rules that the
Halachah does not follow him (Sanhedrin 99a).3. Rashi explains that he does not say that there will not be Redemption
but rather that Hashem will redeem us without the Messiah.It is always worthwhile to learn from the
original source and not to be sustained by partial, surface quotations.
and Non-Kosher Food
Is smoking as severe a prohibition as eating non-Kosher food?
There is an aspect to smoking that is more severe (And Ha-Rav Asher Weiss said
that smoking cigarettes is like eating Treif food, and we are stricter with
dangers than with prohibitions.Today
there is no doubt that smoking kills.From his class on Parashat Ki Tzetzei 5767).
What is unique about Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah among all the other Gedolei
Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah are special Divine messengers
for the appeareance of Torah during the revival of Am Yisrael in its Land.
Is it permissible to release terrorists in exchange for Jonthan Pollard?
It is certainly forbidden, and he himself opposes it.He is not a murderer like them but a national
hero.And see the Gemara regarding
redeeming captives in Gittin 43.But if
they are releasing murderers in any event, it is a great Mitzvah to take
advantage of this opportunity to free him.
of Tzadikim in the Restroom
Is it permissible to read stories of Tzadikim in the restroom?
No.They are full of fear of Heaven
(Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt was also asked about reading stories of Gedolei
Yisrael, such as Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein and Ha-Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, and he
responded that it is forbidden.Shut
Revivot Ephraim 8:504).
Name in Cement
I wrote my name in wet cement on the sidewalk and now people are stepping on
it.Will it bring me bad luck?
No.But you are obligated to donate
money to the city since you vandalized public property.
The true obstacle
to King David building the Temple - as Rav Sa’adia Gaon explains -was not an ethical-spiritual deficiency
connected to his participation in wars, but rather the need for him to dedicate
his life exclusively to the labor of war. Changing gears in his old age and
dedicating his life to a different labor altogether was not what Hashem had in
mind for him.This would be the
life-project not of King David, but of his young son, who would sanctify his
entire life to building a house for Hashem (Rasag, Targum Ha-Tanach Le-Arvavit
Le-Divrei Ha-Yamim 129:9).
understand that the building of the Temple is the final, climactic step and not
the beginning. There are three Mitzvot which we are commanded when we enter the
Land - building the Kingship of Israel, fighting the war with Amalek, and
building the Temple - and they must be performed in this order (Rambam, Hilchot
Melachim 1:1-2). Therefore, anyone who is involved in building the Kingship of
Israel is also involved in the waging of war, which is necessarily connected to
it, as in the words of the Rambam’s title: "Laws of Kings and their
Wars". And all of this precedes, and leads to, the building of the Temple.
Anyone who fights
the wars of Hashem is involved in the preparation of the Temple. And this is
what was said of King David: Although you were not involved in the actual
building of the Temple, you nevertheless prepared it by the great wars which
you waged, and now your son is able to build it. Our Master Ha-Rav Avraham
Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook similarly writes: "In building the Temple, as the
King said to the prophet Natan: ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the
Ark of God dwells within a curtain’ (Shmuel 2 7:2), the prophet responds to him
with the word of Hashem: ‘Did I speak a word with any of the rulers of Israel,
who I commanded as shepherds of my Nation saying, why do you not build me a
house of cedar?’ (ibid. verse 7). When the times comes, ‘I have appointed a place
for my Nation Israel, and planted them, that they may dwell on it, and be
troubled no more, nor will the children of wickedness torment them anymore, as
in the beginning’ (ibid. verse 10), then the time will have arrived to build
the Temple. Everything that King David, may peace be upon him, did, all the
wars that he waged with the enemies of Israel to break the nations of the world
from around our neck and to expand the borders of our Land, all of this was a
preparation and a readying for the ultimate goal of building the Temple"
(Ma’amrei Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 1, pp. 246-247).
Question: If you say that Hashem determines what occurs in the
world, then why do we exert effort? Hasn't Hashem has already decided what will
happen?If a sick person will be cured,
why should the doctor toil?And if you
say that people determine what occurs in the world, everything will be out of
control and a mess.What will happen to
the world?Oy vavoy!
Answer: Both Hashem and people determine what occurs.How do these work together?Many of our Sages discuss this subject and
provide various answers, but the most simple explanation is that Hashem causes
good to be brought about through the agency of righteous people and bad to be
brought about through the agency of evil people.This means that Hashem decides the outcome
and we decide the means.For example,
Hashem decides that a sick person will be healed and the doctor decides that it
will be through his agency because he works with self-sacrifice to save
him.The Gemara in Shabbat (32a)
discusses the Mitzvah of the "Maakeh", which says that a person must
build a guardrail around his roof.Why?The Torah literally says,
"Because a falling person may fall from it" (Devarim 22:8).The Gemara responds that of course a falling
person will fall off the roof, who else will fall off a roof – a person who is
not falling?Our Sages state that the
reason he is referred to as a "falling person" is that Hashem has
decreed that he will fall.But if it was
decreed that he will fall than why do we have to make a guardrail?If it was decreed that he will fall, he will
fall even with a guardrail, and if it was decreed that he will not fall even
without a guardrail he will not fall.Answer: Hashem decreed that he will fall with or without a guardrail,
but if he falls and you have a guardrail, you are not held responsible.If you did not make a guardrail and he falls,
however, you are responsible – woe to you - because bad occurred through the
agency of a person lacking merit.
Another example is brought by Rashi on the Torah (Shemot 21:12):
There are two men, one who killed inadvertently and should be exiled to one of
the cities of refuge and one who killed intentionally and should be
killed.There were no witnesses,
however, to either event.Thus, the
first was not exiled and the second was not killed.Hashem brings them together in one inn.The one who killed inadvertently climbs a
ladder, slips and falls onto the one who killed intentionally, and kills
him.As a result, the one who killed
intentionally is killed as he deserves and the one who killed inadvertently
killed inadvertently again.He is exiled
since there are many witnesses in the inn.This is called, "Wickedness comes forth from the wicked" -
Hashem causes bad to be brought about through the agency of evil people.
Obviously, good also comes through the agency of good people.Massechet Semachot (chapter 8) says: Do not think that the entire Redemption
was in the merit of Moshe Rabbenu, and if it were not for Moshe Rabbenu the
Nation of Israel would not have been redeemed.Good comes through the agency of righteous people.It occurred through Moshe Rabbenu because of
his righteousness.The Pesach Haggadah
says: "Me and not an angel, Me and not a seraf, Me and not an
agent."But was Moshe Rabbenu an
though Moshe Rabbenu was the national leader and divine messenger, do not think
that the Redemption was dependent upon him.If it was not Moshe Rabbenu who brought us
out, Hashem would have found somebody else.Our Sages also say that the Torah had to be given to the Nation
of Israel, and even without Moshe Rabbenu, Hashem would have found another
messenger (ibid.).The Temple would have
been built even without David and Shlomo.And the Jews would have been redeemed in the time of Haman, even without
Mordechai and Esther.It is written explicitly
in the Megillah, "For if you continue to remain silent at a time like
this, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from some other place"
(Esther 4:14).And so too, on the other
side: even without Pharaoh we would have been enslaved, and even without Nebuchadnezar
we would have been exiled.Good things
are brought about through the agency of righteous people and bad things are
brought about through the agency of evil people.Hashem has many agents, and many snakes and
many scorpions.Question: Why were the
Egyptians punished for oppressing the Jews when the Torah says (Bereshit 16:13):
"Your offspring will be strangers in a land not their own, they will serve
them, and they will oppress them four hundred years"?The Rambam explains
that the Egyptians did not oppress the Jews because Hashem forced them to do
so, but because they wanted to do so (Hilchot Teshuvah 6:5).What would have happened if none of the
Egyptians wanted to oppress us?Do not
worry, when there is a need to oppress the Nation of Israel or to perform evil
in general, there are always plenty of volunteers.So too, when good needs to be performed in
the world – there are plenty of volunteers."For Hashem will not cast off His Nation, nor will He forsake His
heritage" (Tehillim 94:14).
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.