Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A 273

Talit for Sick Person

Q: If a person is sick and does not have the strength to stand, can he put on his Talit while seated?

A: The blessing over the Tzitzit, as with all blessings over Mitzvot, including wrapping oneself in the Talit, should be done while standing.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 1.  But after the fact, one fulfills his obligation while seated.  Mishnah Berurah #8.  And for a sick person, it is permissible from the outset.


Treatment by a Female Nurse

 Q: Is it permissible for a man to receive a shot by a female nurse?

A: Yes, just as it is permissible to go to a female doctor.  But it is preferable to go to a male nurse and a male doctor (And once when a male nurse was not found, a female nurse gave a shot to the Chazon Ish.  Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 1, p. 255.  And similarly, Ha-Rav Avigdor Neventzal said that it is permissible to donate blood when a female nurse is taking the blood, but it is obviously preferable to have a male nurse.  Mishnah Berurah with Rav Neventzal's comments "Be-Yitzchak Yikarei" end of Volume 6, p. 5).


Red Baby Stroller

Q: Someone told me that using a red baby stroller will cause my baby to have a bad temper.  Is this true?

A: Stupidity.



Q: Where should one keep the Ketubah?

A: It belongs to the wife.  There are three Minhagim: 1. The wife keeps it.  2. It is kept in the couple's house.  3. It is hung on their wall (see Shut Igrot Moshe 3:26).


Act of Roi Klein ztz"l

Q: I was drafted into Tzahal and I constantly think of Roi Klein ztz"l, who jumped on a hand grenade in order to save his fellow soldiers.  If I am in the same situation, am I obligated to do so too?

A: He was not obligated to do so, but he displayed self-sacrifice, great self-sacrifice, and he is a supreme Tzadik (see Le-Netivot Yisrael Volume 1 p. 157). 


Big Bang Theory

Q: Does the big bang theory contradict the story of Creation?

A: No.  The story of Creation is not literal but a supreme secret.  Mishnah Chagigah Chapter 2.


Nature Reserve

Q: I entered a nature reserve through a broken fence during a time when it was not open.  What should I do?

A: Pay immediately.



Q: Is it worthwhile for me to take an Amulet in order to succeed in Torah learning?

A: One succeeds in Torah learning by toiling in Torah and one does not need an Amulet.  The Chida in the name of Rabbi Chaim Vital, student of the Arizal, warned that one should distance himself from such things.  This is also written in Sefer Chasidim (Chida in Zeroa Yemin Petach Anayim 1:13.  Sefer Chasidim #204-205.  Makor Chesed ibid. and at the end p. 586.  Ner Be-Ishon Laila pp. 286, 289.  And when Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski was asked this question, he responded: "Do not take Amulets".  Segulot Raboteinu p. 286). 


Bubbles in Coffee

Q: Do bubbles in coffee indicate that someone will win money?

A: Nonsense.

Rav Aviner Backs Rav Amar in Jerusalem Rabbinate Race

U.F.O.’s, Aliens and...Technology

Question: Does intelligent life exist on other planets?

Answer: In his letter to the Sages of Montpelier, Rambam writes that there are three available resources for examining any topic: prophecy, rational proofs and empirical evidence. In our case, the Torah and the prophets wrote nothing definitive in either direction. This is not surprising, for the Torah is not a science text but a book guiding us in what is good and what is bad. In order to become aware of reality, we possess scientific intellect, and that too is a divine gift. There is even a blessing for when one sees a scientist. We have nothing against the possibility of additional worlds, as Rabbi Chasdai Crescas mentions at the end of his book “Ohr Hashem,” yet we possess no decisive source in this regard. Neither do the theoretical research sciences offer any definitive proofs. So that leaves empirical evidence.

How remarkable it is, then, that for more than fifty years people have been talking about U.F.O.’s and aliens, and hundreds of thousands of people have testified that they saw them. Even so, their declarations have no scientific worth. Why? For in no museum on earth is there is any U.F.O. or any part of one that would enable a scientist to examine it. This is one of the elements characterizing the scientific approach, that one scientist cannot rely on the declaration of another. Rather, every experiment must be examinable. That is, it must be possible for any scientist on earth to repeat the experiment, and each is entitled to either accept the first scientist’s assumptions or to prove their inaccuracy. Numerous commissions have been established to examine the various testimonies of people, and the phenomena have been explained in various ways, such as saying that the "U.F.O.s" were actually airplanes, missiles, meteorological balloons, kites, jets, helicopters, the moon viewed through fog, secret military devices, astronomical phenomena, comets, the Northern Lights, low flying clouds, automobiles on distant, cloud covered peaks, and so forth.

Science is critical. It does not accept anything without proof, neither does it reject anything out of hand. The matter has been investigated for fifty years, and we have nothing to show for it. All the same, people continue to express interest in this topic, and there continue to be hundreds and thousands of sightings. Likewise, this literary genre remains current and continues to fascinate people.

It is true that there are bizarre phenomena that science has not succeeded in explaining, and that some of the phenomena become explainable by means of the U.F.O.s. All the same, this is not an acceptable approach. There will always be unexplainable phenomena, but here those who believe in U.F.O.s grab a foothold where Science has no answers. They dig into the crack in scientific explanations, expand it into wide depths and introduce all sorts of conjecture into the hole. Yet that conjecture is just as far from being provable as the original phenomenon.

I am therefore puzzled by this stubbornness regarding faith in U.F.O.s. What is at work, however, is a modern myth with a psychological dimension of profound anxiety. I shall explain:

Why, in the imaginings of witnesses and writers, do the aliens come here? With their advanced technologies, what do they have to look for here? The closest star outside of our solar system is 40,000 years' travel in the fastest spaceship. Why should they go to all of this trouble? It must be -- some will explain -- that they are looking for women here in order to renew their species which has reached stagnation. Moreover, the alien is a very intelligent and hedonistic creature, but he lacks emotions. He neither cries nor gets angry. Worse, he has no morality and suffers from no dilemmas or inner turmoil. He is inhuman. Therefore, the alien is sort of a kidnapper, seeking to give new life to his species...

What does all of this nonsense have to do with us?

What we really fear is ourselves, the man of tomorrow, lest he be alien to us, steeped in technology but lacking a human approach to social relations. People are in fear of science and technology. It is true that science and technology, per se, are good things, but they are liable to cause dehumanization and the end of mankind. It will not be man’s fault but such dehumanization will be caused by the deterioration of morality. You cannot talk to a computer.

Sometimes a computer eats an important file and the user pleads: “Please computer! Return the file to me!” But there is no one to talk to. The computer prints “error” and you really feel “Arur,” cursed -- “cursed in your comings and cursed in your goings” (Devarim 28:19). People fear that man will turn himself into a computer, a sort of techno­barbarian, more dangerous than the most primitive, barbaric man, since he will have in his hands powerful means of control which will serve his cruelty. Having no conscience, He is liable to send an atomic bomb by the push of a button. And all of this threatens society, namely, technology taking control of life. Hundreds and maybe thousands of books have been written about this in America, and all in vain. It is impossible to put a bridle on the insane gallop of the technological monster. People are afraid of a new mutation of the human race -- “computer-man,” lacking a conscience and armed with powerful means -- the beast within man attached to high technology.  That is the alien we fear.

Efficiency, talent and excellence are taking control of man instead of morality and gentleness. A sort of totalitarian technology is appearing, at the center of which is a machine lacking human emotion.

Indeed, there is what to fear. Yet let us not stop technology. Let us rather increase morality, justice, the Torah and its light.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #272

Ascending onto the Temple Mount

Q: Perhaps the time has arrived to permit going onto the Temple Mount!  Although the Chief Rabbinate of Israel prohibits it, a huge number of Jews goes up!

A: Not true.  This is a marginal phenomenon.  The number of Jews who have ascended over the last five years are: 5658, 5792, 7724, 8247 and 8528.  And this is out of the 300,000-400,000 tourists who visit there annually!


Baseless Hatred

Q: It has been said that the Chafetz Chaim appeared to one of the great Kabbalists and said that the Redemption is being delayed because of Lashon Ha-Ra.  Should I believe this?

A: It is true, but we do not need a revelation in a dream in order to know this (see Netziv, Ha-Emek Davar in the introduction to Sefer Bereshit).


SMS Questions

Q: Does Ha-Rav only answer halachic questions or also questions of Emunah?

A: All questions, time permitting.  If there is not time, halachic questions take precedence.  Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah, end of Chapter 4. 


Clothing in which One Sleeps

Q: Is it permissible to wear clothing in which one sleeps?

A: It is permissible.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 71:5 writes that one should not do so, but the Halachah does not follow his opinion (see Ha-Rav's commentary on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch ibid.).


Cross on Swiss Flag

Q: Is it permissible to buy a product on which the Swiss flag appears, such as a Swiss Army knife or back pack, since it has a cross on it?

A: According to the basic halachah, it is permissible, since although the cross was originally associated with idol worship, it is used here merely as a symbol.  No one worships the flag or treats it with special honor.  Furthermore, a person does not purchase the item because of the cross.  It just happens to be on it.  It is similar to the statue of Aphrodite which was placed by the Romans in the bathhouse.  It was permissible to enter the place despite the statue's presence (Avodah Zarah 44b).  For this reason, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein also permits using a stamp with a cross on it (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:69).  However, one should distance himself from the unseemly and anything similar to it, and one should therefore scratch out the cross. 


Prophet who was a Convert

Q: Was there ever a prophet who was a convert?

A: Ovadiah Ha-Navi.


Nuclear Bomb

Q: Is there any truth to what one Rabbi said that a nuclear bomb will fall on Israel in the next month?  What will happen to our children?

A: Nonsense.  By the way, even if – G-d forbid – a nuclear bomb fell on the most populated area in Israel, i.e. the holy city of Tel Aviv, there would be 10,000 deaths, which is equivalent to the number of people who die each year in Israel from smoking.  But in reality, this is all nonsense.



Q: Was Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah particular not to speak Yiddish?

A: He spoke Hebrew, unless there was someone who did not understand and only spoke Yiddish.  But this was rare.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #271

Yeshivat Ha-Gush

Q: It is correct to say today that we and Yeshivat Ha-Gush are two separate worlds, just as one would say about us and the Charedim?

A: I don't know who "we" is.  All the Zionist Yeshivot are the same, with minimal differences.  And the same with the Charedi world: that which we share is far beyond that which separates us.  It is forbidden to create sub-groups within the Nation "And who is like Your Nation Yisrael, one Nation in the Land" (see Maran Ha-Rav Kook's article "Masa Ha-Machanot" in Maamrei Ha-Re'eiyah).


Nazi Insult

Q: When people are arguing and someone calls the other a Nazi, how should he respond?

A: He should not respond.  By stooping to this level, the name-caller disqualified himself and lost the argument.  This is called "Reductio ad Hitlerum" or "argumentum ad Hitlerum", i.e. where someone compares his opponent's views with those of Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party (see Wikipedia for this expression).


Internet Fast

Q: Is it worthwhile to have a "Ta'anit Dibur" (a fast from speaking)?

A: It is preferable to have an internet fast.



Q: What is the blessing on papaya?

A: Adamah.  Shut Yechaveh Daat (4:52).


Woman Covering Hair during Davening

Q: If a married woman Davens at home on her own, is she obligated to cover her hair?

A: The basic Halachah is that she is not obligated, but in practice, the Minhag is for a married woman to cover her hair when Davening, even if she is alone.  Shut Yabia Omer (Vol. 6 Orach Chaim #15).  Sefer Tefillah Ke-Hilchata (Chap. 7 note #24 in the name of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).


Revelation of Eliyahu

Q: Why did Eliyahu Ha-Navi appear to the Arizal and the Vilna Gaon but not the Rambam?

A: The Rambam had a revelation of Eliyahu through his intellect.


Kashering and Toveling

Q: If one purchases a non-Kosher utensil from a non-Jew, which should be done first – Kashering it or immersing it in a Mikvah?

A: Kashering it.  Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:2 (And see a discussion of this issue in Ha-Rav's commentary on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 37:4).


Woman who is in Doubt about Birkat Ha-Mazon

Q: I am a woman and I am almost certain that I did not recite Birkat Ha-Mazon but I am not 100% sure.  What should I do?

A: There is a huge debate regarding whether a woman who is in doubt about whether she recited Birkat Ha-Mazon should recite it or not.  She therefore should not recite it (Piskei Teshuvot 186:2).  But if you are almost certain that you did not recite it, then you should recite it.


Writing on Fog

Q: It permissible on Shabbat to write on a window which is fogged up?

A: No (And so too Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 16:28).

The Minhag of Kapparot: With a Chicken or With Money?

Question: Regarding the custom of Kapparot (swinging a chicken around one's head before Yom Kippur, symbolically transferring one's sins to the chicken; the chicken is then slaughtered and given to the poor): large quantities of chickens are often held for hours, or even days, in tightly packed cages, where they wait without water or food. They are then removed from the cages and slaughtered.  In light of this fact, and the obvious suffering caused to the chickens, is it not preferable to perform Kapparot with money?

Answer: The custom of Kapparot has been rooted among the Nation of Israel for a long time, and no one has the power to prohibit it.  It is, however, written in the Shulchan Aruch: "The custom that people have of Kapparah on Erev Yom Kippur, of slaughtering a rooster for each male and saying verses over it, we should stop this custom" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 605:1 in the name of the Ramban and Rashba), and the Mishnah Berurah explains (ibid. #1): "because it resembles the ways of the Emorites" (Darkei Ha-Emori – black magic).  But the Rama writes: "But some of the Geonim mentioned this custom, many later authorities mentioned it, and people have this custom in all of these countries, and one may not change it, since it is an ancient custom" (ibid.).  The Rama testifies that people acted this way in all of the Ashkenazic countries, and the Sefardic Jews did as well.  Furthermore, there is no problem of "Darkei Ha-Emori" in this custom, as the Mishnah Berurah explains: "And he thinks that whatever they do to this chicken should have been done to him, but it is acted out on this chicken, and the early authorities (Rishonim) explained that it is similar to a sacrifice brought for an inadvertent sin" (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).  The Chayei Adam, however, already wrote: "And even though some of the Geonim mentioned this custom, what is ingrained in the heart of the masses is that all of the atonement of Yom Kippur depends on it, and it is almost as if Kapparot and eating Matzah are considered of equal weight by them.  They think that they will not attain atonement on Yom Kippur without a rooster, but by acting in this way, they encounter the prohibition of eating a Neveilah (an animal which died without proper slaughtering),   G-d forbid, since the chickens push each other in large groups and the slaughterers are awake all night with grimaced faces and are so tired they do not even feel the knife (to make certain it is sharp).  If people would listen to me…it is better for them to swing money around their heads.  This in fact was the custom of the earlier ones who would swing seeds (as the Magen Avraham 81:2 writes in the name of Rashi).  They consider the seeds to be Tzedakah, and did not stumble in the prohibition of eating Neveilah, G-d forbid” (Chayei Adam klal 144 #4 and brought in the Mishnah Berurah 605:2 and Kaf Ha-Chaim #11).

 The Chayei Adam thus teaches us that it is preferable to perform Kapparot with money when the chickens are in cramped conditions, and there is a question about the Kashrut of the slaughtering.  It is also possible to add the concern of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" (causing distress to animals), since the distress that the chickens experience during their upbringing is compounded by their great distress before Kapparot.  This is based on the insight of Ha-Gaon Rav Chaim David Ha-Levy: "And why particularly on the eve of the holy day do we need to be cruel to animals, without any need, and slaughter them without any mercy, at the time when we stand to request life for ourselves from the Living G-d" (Shut Aseh Lecha Rav vol 3, p. 67).  In truth, however, there is no prohibition of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" when a person uses an animal for a vital need, and a fixed custom of Israel is considered a vital need.  Nevertheless, since there is the possibility for us to use money instead, and such a substitute is, as the Chayei Adam wrote preferable when there is a huge quantity of chickens to slaughter, it can be argued that performing Kapparot with a chicken is not a vital necessity and there is an actual a problem of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim."


To summarize: It is better to fulfill the custom of Kapparot with money.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #270

Brief Torah Learning

Q: If I have half-a-minute free to learn Torah does it have worth?

A: Certainly.  Every word of Torah a person learns is the fulfillment of a Mitzvah.  Ha-Gra in Shenot Eliyahu on Peah Chapter 1.


Blessing on Chocolate

Q: What is the blessing on chocolate?

A: It would have been proper to recite Eitz, but the custom is to recite Shehakol since it contains various ingredients aside from cocoa, and its form is changed and unrecognizable.  Piskei Teshuvot (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein was once asked about the blessing on chocolate, and he responded that people have the long-standing custom to recite Shehakol, and we must clarify why this is so, since it is impossible for us to say that Klal Yisrael acts improperly.  Reshumei Aharon of Ha-Rav Aharon Felder, p. 24.  And this was Rav Feinstein's opinion in general.  Someone once told Reb Moshe that the Sanzer Rav, author of Shut Divrei Chaim, ruled that over a potato one recites Shehakol, because the potato does not really grow from the ground, rather it grows from air around the ground.  Reb Moshe said that even if such reasoning was correct, which it is not, didn't the Sanzer Rav know that the custom of the world is already to recite Adamah, and thus it does not make sense to rule otherwise.  See Chullin 136b.  Mesoret Moshe p. 50.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach also ruled that one should recite Eitz on chocolate, but since the world did not accept his ruling, he said that in practice one should recite Shehakol.  See Shut Minchat Shlomo 1:91.  And Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah p. 101, for a discussion of why the blessing is not "Borei Pri Ha-Eitz").


Netilat Yadayim after Donating Blood

Q: After donating blood should one wash Netilat Yadayim as one would after blood-letting?  What about after a blood test?

A: No.  Since these are spiritual matters, we only do what is written in the Halachah and do not add to it.  Halichot Shlomo 20:19.  Some authorities however do say that donating blood is similar to blood-letting, and that it is proper to be strict.  Piskei Teshuvot Vol. 1 p. 58.  But certainly not after a blood test (And this is also the ruling in the Halachic-Medical Encyclopedia of Rav Steinberg Vol. 2 pp. 525-527, Vol. 3 pp. 429-430.  It is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, since the amount of blood extracted when donating blood is equivalent to that in blood-letting while a blood test requires only a minimal amount of blood.  Be-Dama'ich Chayi - collection of Halachot regarding blood donation pp. 51-54).   


Military Discount

Q: I receive a 30% discount from various stores for being a soldier.  Is it permissible to use this discount to buy something for a friend?

A: You should ask the army.


Utensil in Right Hand when Immersing in Mikveh

Q: When immersing utensils in a Mikveh, should one hold the utensil in his right hand?

A: Yes, just as one holds the food or object in his right hand when reciting a blessing over it or for a Mitzvah.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 26:2.  Mishnah Berurah #17-18 (And this is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski in Kuntres Ish Iter #38).


Selling Transgressions

Q: I heard of a case where one person was willing to take on another person's transgressions for $500.  Is there such a thing?

A: Nonsense.  See Sefer Chasidim, edition of Ha-Rav Reuven Margoliyot, p. 591.