Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #282


Travel Agency

Q: Is it permissible to work in a travel agency since I may need to help someone plan a trip outside Eretz Yisrael?

A: It is permissible since it may be a trip permissible according to the Halachah.  And regarding "Do not place a stumbling block", if one is uncertain that the person will transgress the Halachah, we are "Tolim" (literally "hanging" on the assumption) that he will not violate it (Mishnah Gittin 5:9).

 

Living with One's Parents after Marriage

Q: After getting married, it is preferable to rent a small apartment or live with my parents in a bigger apartment and save money?

A: Rent an apartment in order to build an independent life (After all, the Torah says: "Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh".  Bereshit 2:24).

 

One's Rabbi's Rabbi

Q: Is a person obligated to honor his Rabbi's Rabbi?  Is it a dispute?

A: The Rama rules that one must do so (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 242:21.  But one honors his Rabbi more than his Rabbi's Rabbi.  Shach #40).

 

Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel

Q: I hold that the Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate is not Kosher.  How can they cause so many people to stumble by eating non-Kosher food?

A: It is Kosher like all other Kosher supervisions and actually even better than the others.  It is also forbidden (in Israel) to eat from another Kosher supervision without the restaurant or products having the Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate.  But there is a real doubt whether it is permissible to eat your food, since one who denigrates Torah scholars is a heretic.  You are therefore obligated to do Teshuvah (Sanhedrin 99b).

 

How Do I Get to the Temple Mount?

Q: If A Jew asks me in the Old City: How do I get to the Temple Mount?, is it permissible for me to tell him?

A: No.  It is forbidden on account of placing a stumbling block before the blind, and aiding and strengthening someone who is transgressing.  You should therefore say: I do not know, meaning, I do not know of a way to permit this act (It is told about Ha-Rav Eliyahu Lapian that he was invited to eat a few times and he did not want to embarrass the one inviting him.  He therefore said that the doctor forbade him from eating the particular food that would be served. And he explained to his students with a smile that he was not lying, G-d forbid, since the Rambam was a doctor!  Lev Eliyahu Volume 1, p. 18 in the introduction).

 

Question from Another Community

Q: What is the Halachah in our community...

A: You are obligated to ask the Rabbi there (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 asked 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 question of 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).

Arguments within One's Family


Question: Is it true that there is a unique relationship within one's family even if there are harsh disagreements?

Answer: Yes.  Family is unique.  Ha-Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriya related that Ha-Rav Moshe Leib Shachor was a regular visitor to the house of the Brisker Rav, Ha-Griz Soloveitchik, and also one of the great admirers of Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  Rav Shachor tried to explain to the Brisker Rav, how Maran Ha-Rav Kook brought those far from Torah closer and how he publicly led in this spirit.  But the Brisker Rav's way was diametrically opposed, and he did not accept his explanation.  Rav Shachor saw that the Brisker Rav harshly criticized the leaders of the Mizrachi in general and specific individuals in particular, but he never mentioned Ha-Rav Meir Bar Ilan, the Netziv's son in his old age and one of the Mizrachi leaders.  Furthermore, when Rav Bar Ilan would visit, the Brisker Rav would warmly greet him.  Rav Shachor asked about this behavior, and the Brisker Rav said: "R' Meir is my uncle"!  Rav Shachor took the opportunity again to explain Maran Ha-Rav Kook's leadership, which along with his fundamental philosophy, also included a deep love for every Jew, and he added: "To Rav Kook every Jew is considered an uncle..." (Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 306).    

We once heard Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter (Rosh Yeshiva at YU) relate in the name of Ha-Rav Zevulun Charlap (who served as Dean of RIETS Yeshiva at YU and as a Rav in the Bronx), grandson of Ha-Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap (Rav of Shaarei Chesed Neighborhood in Yerushalayim and one of Rav Kook's closest students), that this story with the Brisker Rav and Rav Shachor was known in his family.  Rav Charlap added, however, that the Brisker Rav said that while Rav Shachor's understanding of Rav Kook was sharp, it was not according to the Halachah.  After all, there is a concept of one's seven closest relatives for which there are special Halachot based on the verse: "From your flesh (relative) do not turn a blind eye" (Yeshayahu 58:7), and not everyone is considered a relative.

It is possible to answer the Brisker Rav's difficulty, however, based on the Gemara in Shabbat (105b) which says that when a Sage dies everyone is his relative, i.e. everyone tears his garment over a Torah scholar's passing (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 340:6).  And if everyone is considered a Torah scholar's relative in his death, it is all the more so true in his life.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #281


Birthday

Q: Is there a source for celebrating one's birthday?

A: There is no early source besides the Torah's mention of Pharoah's birthday.  There is no mention in the Mishnah, Gemara, Rambam or Shulchan Aruch.  The Aderet harshly opposed birthday celebrations.  The book "Nefesh David".  And some authorities opposed it on account of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" – non-Jewish customs.  But one may permit it since it is a custom based on a rational reason.  The Chazon Ish did not celebrate his birthday in any way (in the name of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski.  Segulot Raboteinu p. 350).  And Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said that there is some value in celebrating one's birthday on condition that one does a Cheshbon Nefesh (taking an account of one's spiritual state) on that day.

 

Non-Combat Soldier

Q: I was not accepted into an elite combat unit in Tzahal and I received a lowly position.  Why should I even go to the Army?

A: Every position in the army is incredibly important.  "For as the share of him who goes down into battle is the same share of one who stays with the equipment, they shall share alike" (Shmuel 1 30:24).

 

Free Choice for Animals

Q: What is the source that animals have free choice?

A: There is none.

 

Hallel over the Yom Kippur War

Q: we recite Hallel on Yom Yerushalayim for the miracle of our salvation during the Six-Day War.  Why then don't we do the same for the miracle of our salvation during the Yom Kippur War?

A:  It is included in the Hallel of Yom Ha-Atzmaut, just as all the miracles of the original conquest of the Eretz Yisrael are included in the Hallel of Pesach.  And Yom Yerushalayim is unique (See the book "Milchemet Yom Ha-Kippurim" of Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher).

 

Correcting Your Wife

Q: If my wife is saying a Dvar Torah at the Shabbat Table and she makes a mistake, should I correct her?

A: This is a good question, but don't ask me, ask your wife.

 

Choosing a Doctor

Q: I need a medical procedure.  Should I turn to a private doctor or use a doctor from my Kupat Cholim? [In Israel, there is socialized health care and each person belongs to one of the health-care providers]

A: If it is a routine medical procedure, a doctor from your Kupat Cholim.  If it is a more complex procedure, then a better doctor, if you have the money (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein once needed to have a pacemaker implanted, and his family said that he should wait for the world expert to do it rather than a regular doctor.  Reb Moshe listened to their advice.  After the procedure, he needed to return to the hospital because the procedure was not so successful and had to be fixed.  Reb Moshe once said: "I made a mistake in waiting for that special doctor, since I was shown from the Heavens that a doctor does not have to be the greatest expert, a regular doctor will suffice and the rest is dependent on Hashem".  Reshumei Aharon of Ha-Rav Aharon Felder Volume 1, p. 27). 

 

Cohanim in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah

Q: We are Cohanim and follow Maran Ha-Rav Kook and do not enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah.  But our son is distressed when all the kids in his class enter and he remains outside with me.  What should I do?

A: Compensate in another fashion (See Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:329.  Piskei Shlomo Volume #2 in section on Kedushat Cohanim).

It is Lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee Did Not Ask...


It is lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee did not ask politicians, because if he had they would have told him that one must consider the possible international pressure, and he would have sat and deliberated and deliberated.

It is lucky that he did not ask too many military strategists and experts, because they would have told him that there is no chance of delivering "the strong into the hands of the weak," and they would have broken his spirit.

It is lucky that he did not ask statisticians, because they would have revealed to him the secret that we are "the few against the many," and he would have been afraid of the demographic demon.

He also did not ask Roshei Yeshiva, because if he had, they would have ruled that it is forbidden for yeshiva students to interrupt their Torah learning, and then there would not have been a delivering of "the heretics into the hands of those involved in Your Torah".

He also did not ask too many Rabbis, because if he had, they would have told him that it is forbidden to challenge the nations of the world, and that we do not rely on a miracle, especially where there is a real potential for danger, etc., etc...

He also did not ask the humanists, because they would have confided to him that one soul of Israel is worth more than a few kilometers of land and is more costly for the Nation.

He certainly did not ask those who are pure-of-heart, because they would have depressed his spirit, and preached to him that it is not proper to kill or to be killed.

He did not ask deep thinkers, because – with their great depth - they would have confused him and stopped him with discussions of the order of priorities: Perhaps the Nation takes precedence, etc., etc...

He did not ask the pacifists, because they would have illuminated his eyes to the greatness of peace, and told him that one should never use violence, and that goodwill will resolve everything.

He did not ask too many questions, but he fulfilled his national and spiritual obligation.  He jumped into the lion’s den, with amazing self-sacrifice into the great battle which saved Israel. And then all of the politicians, all of the strategists, all of the statisticians, all of the Roshei Yeshiva, all of the Rabbis, all of the humanists, all of the pure-of-heart, all of the thinkers, and all of the pacifists became sages after the fact, and they lit Chanukah lights as a remembrance of the victory, and these lights illuminate our lives from those days until this time.

The Yeshiva World: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner: Yishai & Chetboun Can Bring Bracha to Am Yisrael

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #280


Changing One's Place, Changing One's Luck

Q: We do not have children.  Is it worthwhile to move, since changing one's place is one of the things which can change one's luck?

A: The Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah 2:4) cited the opinion of our Sages that one can change an evil decree by changing his location.  It is not, however, magic.  If a person changes his place he will not see miracles and wonders.  The Rambam explained that if he repents in a serious way, he changes his "location".  This means, "I seriously repented and I am no longer the same person in the same place."  This certainly changes the decree of a person.  This is also brought in the responsa attributed to the Ramban #285.  The essence is to repent, pray and give Tzedakah (And a Yeshiva student, who for a few years did not merit having children, asked Ha-Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman: Is it worthwhile to move?  Rav Shteinman responded harshly: There is no such thing!  Is the apartment guilty that you have not merited having children!?  There is no reason to move.  Segulot Raboteinu pp. 121-122). 

 

Science from the Torah

Q: Is it possible to learn physics from the Torah?

A: No. 

Q: But the Vilna Gaon did?

A: You are not the Vilna Gaon.

 

Sheva Berachot on Skype

Q: If we are having Sheva Berachot and we have 9 men, is it permissible to add someone via Skype?

A: No (And this is the ruling in the book "Derech Atarim" of Rav Avraham Maimon Ha-Levi #4).

 

Showering Before Immersion in Mikveh

Q: Is it permissible for a man to shower before immersing in the Mikveh?

A: Our Sages decreed that a woman should not bathe after immersion in the Mikveh.  Women used to bathe after immersing in a Mikveh since they did not immerse in clean Mikvaot as we have today.  They immersed in pits of water which were filled with mud and they emerged filthy, so they bathed afterwards.  As a result, people began to believe that both the Mikveh and the bathing were required for purification.  The Rabbis therefore decreed that it is forbidden to bathe after immersing in the Mikveh (Shabbat 14a and Rama to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 201:75).  We have similar problems in our time.  Although our Mikvaot are extremely clean, there are women who are sensitive and feel that they need to bathe after the Mikveh.  And a man's immersion in the Mikveh is less strict than a woman's immersion (since in the majority of cases he is not obligated to immerse), therefore a man is obligated to take a shower before immersion in order to not make the Mikveh dirty.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would bathe before and after immersion in the Mikveh.  The students asked why he acted this way.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman said: I shower beforehand to fulfill "love your fellow as yourself" - so I do not make the Mikveh dirty and I shower afterwards because of those who do not fulfill "love your fellow as yourself" (Ve-Aleihu Lo Yibol vol. 2, p. 286).

 

Davening on Har Ha-Bayit

Q: Which is preferable – to Daven Minchah on my own on the Har Ha-Bayit or with a Minyan elsewhere?

A: It is a severe prohibition to enter the Har Ha-Bayit, as the Chief Rabbinate of Israel rules.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah also ruled this way.

 

Standing during Ha-Tikvah

Q: Is one required to stand during the Israeli National Anthem, Ha-Tikvah?  What is the source?

A: Yes, just as everyone else, as Hillel says: Do not separate from the community (Pirkei Avot 2:5).

The Influence of One who "Only" Learns Torah


Question: Does a person who learns Torah but does not teach, answer questions, serve as a Rabbi, etc. have influence on a community?

Answer: Certainly.  The Gemara at the end of Ketubot (104a) relates that Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi was suffering terribly.  His maidservant saw and prayed that he should die but the Sages prayed that he should not die. In the book "Midbar Shur," in his eulogy for Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector (pp. 332-336), Maran Ha-Rav Kook asks: Why did the Sages pray that he should not die?  Their view is difficult to understand.  After all, Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi was bed-ridden, suffering, could not teach or give halachic rulings, and was seemingly of no benefit to this world.  If he would ascend on High, he would continue to teach Torah there.  So why didn't they pray for him to die?  Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains that the influence of a great Torah scholar is not only through his teaching, halachic rulings, etc., but also in the presence of his holy soul in this world.  The fact that his soul is located in this world brings blessing, even when he is unable to provide practical benefit, is closed in a room and cannot converse with others.  This is similar to the Vilna Gaon, who for many years was closed in a room learning Torah.   The world without Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi is not the same as a world with Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi.

And when Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught us this idea, he would say that Maran Ha-Rav Kook also suffered greatly, and he told him: Each and every moment that Abba is in this world, despite the suffering, he brings it light. And Rabbenu would relate this with tears in his eyes.

This insight also answers a difficulty in Rashi (see Klei Yakar).  At the beginning of Parashat Vayetze, the Torah says: "And Yaakov left Beer Sheva and went to Charan" (Bereshit 28:10).  Rashi makes the comment that when a Tzadik leaves a city it makes an impression.  The commentators ask: Why does Rashi comment on Yaakov leaving the city?   What about when Avraham left to go to Egypt?   What about when Yitzchak went to Gerar?   They were certainly Tzadikim!  Why doesn't Rashi point out that their departure made an impression?  The answer is that it is obvious that Avraham's departure made an impression.  He was a man of Chesed and welcomed everyone in!   His tent had openings on all sides.   And when Yitzchak left, it certainly made an impression.  He was well-known and planted all over Eretz Yisrael.  But Yaakov, at this point in his life, was always learning Torah in the Beit Midrash, "A simple man who learned in tents" (Bereshit 25:27).   He was closed off from everyone.  We might think that if someone who "just" learns Torah and doesn't interact with others leaves a city, it won't make an impression.  Rashi therefore mentions this idea in connection to Yaakov, as opposed to Avraham and Yitzchak, to teach us that the opposite is true: Someone who learns Torah has an incredible influence on his place even if he is simply learning Torah on his own.