Honoring Rabbis at Weddings

Question: Should we honor our Rabbis by inviting them to weddings to recite blessings under the Chupah?
Answer: What honor is there in this? When I was a small child, I was taught to recite blessings. When guests came and saw that I knew how to do it, that brought me great honor. But a Rabbi knows how to recite blessings, so what honor are you bestowing on him when you ask him to recite a blessing? And not to mention the problem of the long pauses that develop between the blessings under the Chupah, which some sources say is a problematic interruption. In some communities, it is customary for the groom to recite all the blessings without pause.
Someone once told me that he wanted to honor me with a blessing. I told him that I don’t chase after honor, and in any case this doesn’t honor me. He then told me that he wanted me to bless him so that I would honor him. Now he was speaking the truth. He wanted me to come in order to honor him. Obviously, I want to honor everyone, but perhaps this indicates a bad trait in him, as he is pursuing honor.
As is well-known, Rabbis don’t play tiddly-winks all day. They barely have any spare time. They also have families. For some of them, their rabbinic salaries do not suffice, and they have to do other work as well. So why are you forcing them to come to a wedding, to waste two or three hours, just to say a half-minute blessing? Because you are chasing honor. You should consider well before inviting Rabbis and wasting a lot of their precious time. Especially considering that, for some unknown reason, weddings always start late.
When I got married, I said that the wedding should begin at such-and-such a minute, and it began at that minute. I appointed a friend to take a cab and have it arrive ten minutes before the Chupah at the home of Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, who officiated at the wedding. I also told him, “After the Chupah, stay with the Rabbi, get a cab and bring him home."
I told another friend: when you bring Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, be at his house a half hour before the appointed time, and bring him back as well.” Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Min-Hahar preferred to come on his own, and arrived five minutes early. The wedding started right on time. Why start late and waste people’s time? I told all the guests and friends that the Chupah would start on time. My wife, as well, told all her friends and family the same, and so it was.
You might ask: Aren’t people happy to have an evening out? It could be, but Torah scholars don’t have the time.
If you invite a Torah scholar to a wedding, you have to take care to transport him there and back. Many times I’ve been invited to weddings where they have forgotten to arrange to bring me home. You must take care of a Rabbi’s transportation and not waste his time. The further the wedding is from his home, the more you have to consider whether it is justified to make him miss time learning Torah. If you decide it is, take care of his transportation. Pick him up exactly on time and place someone in charge of taking him home directly after the Chupah. Many times I’ve looked around after the Chupah to find who is taking me home, and everyone refers me to someone else. It should not be that way! If you invite your Rabbi, arrange decent transportation for him: both ways.
One person invited his Rabbi and told another Rabbi to take the first Rabbi home. He turned that second Rabbi into a cab driver. Of course, being a cab driver in Eretz Yisrael is a wonderful thing, because with every four cubits of travel he merits the World-to-Come (Ketuvot 111a). All the same, however, don’t turn Rabbis into cab drivers. You must think all these things through. At stake is wasting a Rabbi’s Torah-learning time. One has to be very careful regarding a Torah scholar’s time.
Once time Ha-Rav Shimon Shkop was ill, and Rabbis contributed their Torah learning to his cure. One Rabbi contributed half-an-hour. Another contributed fifteen minutes and the Chafetz Chaim contributed one minute. People asked him, “Rabbi, is that all?!” and he answered, “Yes. You don’t understand the worth of Torah learning. If you understood it, you wouldn’t be puzzled.”
A major rule is that you don’t put pressure on Torah scholars. A Rabbi knows all the considerations. If he says he cannot come, then he cannot come. There’s no need to pressure him. You shouldn’t pressure anybody, let alone a Torah scholar. At my own wedding, I gave an invitation to Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Natan Ra’anan, and he didn’t come. I don’t know why he didn’t come, but I didn’t ask. Yet he sent me a letter with a blessing.
You’re allowed to invite your Rabbi to your wedding, but you don’t have to invite all the Rabbis of the yeshiva. Even as far as your own Rabbi, you should ask him if he wants to come in such a manner that it won’t be unpleasant for him to say no. “If you come, I’ll be very happy, but if you’re busy, that’s perfectly fine.” When you ask someone something, you have to ask in such a manner that it will be ok for him to turn you down. Don’t pressure anyone, let alone your Rabbi.
There are loftier ways to honor your Rabbi than giving him a blessing under the Chupah. There’s no law that a student has to follow his Rabbi’s path. He can follow another path, but if he thinks that this is the Rabbi who made him what he is, he has to find the avenues to increase his Rabbi’s honor. Ha-Rav Yoel Kahn, one of the closest disciples of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, admires his Rebbe and wants to increase his honor. He therefore works to spread his Torah, so that people read his ideas and learn from them. That’s called increasing one’s Rabbi’s honor. I don’t know if he ever kissed his Rebbe’s hand. Doing that doesn’t increase his honor. Dedicating his life to teaching his Rebbe’s Torah is what increases his honor
Likewise, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook is my Rabbi. That’s why I published his talks. Otherwise, people would forget what he said. This took hours, days, months, and a lot of money. Five volumes of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s talks on the Torah cost half a million Shekels. I took the money from my own book sales. In this way, I did my utmost to disseminate his Torah. Also, for years I collected all of his tapes. Having learned them, I wanted to honor him so that his words would spread. But I never kissed his hand. One day when he was eating, a crumb of bread fell on his trousers. I moved my hand to clean him off and he hit my hands. “How dare I…”.

If someone truly loves his Rabbi, honors him, and wants to increase his Rabbi’s honor, he must come up with ways to truly honor him, not via external gestures but via genuine paths to honor.

Short & Sweet - Test Message Q&A #313

Q: How do I know if I am performing a Mitzvah in order to serve Hashem or out of arrogance?
A: Learn Mesilat Yesharim Chapter 11 on arrogance.

Taking Items from the Garbage in the Army
Q: Is it permissible for me to take army equipment which was thrown in the garbage by those commissioned to do so?
A: Yes, it is abandoned.  But ask a military Rabbi, or the 24-hour phone line for soldiers of the Military Rabbinate 052-941-4414.  This does not include items which have been set aside to be thrown away but have not yet been thrown out.

Opposing Opinion
Q: When a Rabbi answers a question, does he have to present an opposing opinion if there is one?
A: No.  There is no such principle.  It is his decision.  See Moreh Nevuchim 2:15.  And Rashi on Niddah 7b.

Maaser Kesafim
Q: I am a youth group leader and one of the boys in my group is poor and unable to pay the youth group fee and cannot participate in the field trips.  Can I pay for him with my Maaser Kesafim?
A: Yes.  He is considered poor in this matter.

"Al Naharot Bavel"
Q: Should one say "Al Naharot Bavel" before the Birkat Ha-Mazon on weekdays?
A: It is proper to do so, but is not obligatory since it is not found in the Gemara, Rambam or Shulchan Aruch, but in the Shelah (Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would not recite "Al Naharot Bavel" but rather "Shir Ha-Ma'alot" at each meal, because of our return to our Land.  Iturei Yerushalayim #26.  "Al Naharot Bavel", and when it is to be recited, does appear, however, in Siddur Olat Ha-Re'eiyah (vol. 1, p. 360) – a siddur with Maran Ha-Rav Kook's commentary which our Rabbi himself arranged and annotated).

Opening Umbrella Inside
Q: Is it unlucky to open an umbrella inside?
A: Superstition but not to be done on Shabbat, as an umbrella is Muktzeh.

Kosher Phone
Q: Is it obligatory to use a Kosher phone (which does not contain texting or internet access)?
A: The essence is that a person does not stumble by using his phone for forbidden activities.  If he stumbles, he is obligated to use the Kosher phone.  If he doesn't, he is not.

Student without Tzitzit
Q: If a student in my class refuses to wear Tzitzit, should I wait patiently or demand that he put them on?
A: If he is negatively affecting others in this area, then demand it, like Shammai. If he is not, then wait patiently, like Hillel.  Ain Aya, Shabbat 31.

Q: What should be done with a young woman who is anorexic and refuses food and treatment?
A: There is no choice, she must eat and have treatment.  This is a life-threatening situation.  She must therefore be hospitalized.

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah and the Temple Mount
Q: Is it true that Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook strongly prohibited going on to the Temple Mount because he feared that people were doing so in order to build the Temple?  Since this fear does not exist today, it is now permissible?

A: Where is this written?!  He prohibited going up on account of the holiness of the spot!  This is also not his innovation.  This is the way people acted throughout the generations, and the Chief Rabbinate forbids it.

Short & Sweet - Test Message Q&A #312

Choosing a Nursery School
Q: How does one choose a nursery school?
A: Choose the one where the teacher is the most motherly (see Ha-Rav's book "Chinuch Be-Ahavah" Volume 1).

Wedding Present
Q: I am invited to my friend's wedding, but do not have money to buy a gift because I am a student and work to pay for my studies.  Is it permissible for me to eat at the wedding?
A: It is permissible.  Each person according to his ability (see Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 1:24 that one should bring a wedding gift which is worth at least as much as the meal being served.  But I have heard Rav Aviner say that it is understood that some of those invited are unable to bring a gift, and the bride and groom understand and are just happy that they come to the wedding). 

Stolen Bikes
Q: There are illegal immigrants in Tel Aviv who sell bikes which seem to be stolen.  Is it permissible to buy them?
A: Certainly not, as our Sages say: The mouse is not what steals, but rather its hole - i.e. without the hole, the mouse would not have reason to steal. Likewise, without a buyer, the thief would not have reason to steal (Gittin 45a).

Using Another's Sefer Without Permission
Q: Is it permissible to use someone's Sefer?
A: It is forbidden without his permission, since there is a fear that the pages might tear.  Rama, Orach Chaim 14:4.
Q: What about a Siddur or Machzor?
A: Same.  Mishnah Berurah #16.  But some permit it since people are not particular about them.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan #13.

Emunah through Intellect
Q: Does Emunah have to be through one's intellect?
A: No.  Emunah is intellect above normal intellect: it is cleaving to Hashem.  See Midot Ha-Re'eiyah, Emunah 18.

Ambush on Shabbat
Q: If a soldier goes out of an ambush on Shabbat or returns from an ambush on Shabbat, is it permissible for him to take personal items with him?

A: It is permissible to take food which will contribute to his alertness.  There is a dispute regarding non-essential items.  The Chafetz Chaim is lenient in his book "Machane Yisrael" (see Ke-Chitzin Be-Yad of Ha-Rav Avichai Ronski, former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, Volume 2 pp. 36-37.  And Kishrei Milchama of Colonel Ha-Rav Eyal Krim, head of the Halachah Department of Tzahal, Volume 4 pp. 86-90).

Does a Person Complete His Mission in Life and then Die?

Question: When a person dies does it mean that he has completed his mission in this world?
Answer: No.  There are also wicked people who do the exact opposite of their missions and they nonetheless die.  The essence is therefore for a person to utilize every moment of his life to do good.  See in the Siddur of Maran Ha-Rav Kook Volume 2, p. 364 on the Davening for Yom Kippur.

Once during the Yom Ha-Atzmaut or Yom Yerushalayim celebration in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, they also celebrated the 80th birthday of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah.  Everyone praised Rabbenu and all of his life's achievements.  Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin stood up and said: I do not agree with all of these praises.  He related that people once came to the Kotzker Rebbe with a sick child and requested that he prayer for their precious and wonderful child, and they recounted all of his sterling qualities.  The Kotzker responded that the child had not done a thing.  Everyone was shocked!  Instead of arousing merit for the child, he denounced him.  The child nonetheless recovered.  The Kotzker Rebbe said that the Gemara in Kiddushin (31b) tells that Rebbe Tarfon's mother came to the Beit Midrash and said: Pray for my son who is a great Tzadik.  The Rabbis asked: In what way is he a great Tzadik?  She said: I once lost my shoe and he placed his hand under my foot the entire way home.  They said to her: This is nothing!  Even if he did 100 times this, he still would not fulfill half of the Mitzvah of honoring one's parent.  The Kotzker asked: Why did the Rabbis belittle Rabbi Tarfon?  He explained that what Rabbi Tarfon did was indeed great, but they did not want to ascribe it too much importance for fear that it would mean that he had completed his role in the world.  Our Sages therefore acknowledged that what Rabbi Tarfon did was indeed positive, but it was incomplete, just as the Kotzker Rebbe suggested about the child.  In the same vein, Ha-Rav Zevin said about Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah: "He hasn't done anything".  Rabbenu smiled, and Rav Zevin said: "He still has lots and lots to do".  And he did!  This principle of the Kotzker Rebbe, however, does not have a source.  Although the Kotzker Rebbe himself is a source, there is no source for his idea in the Torah, Mishnah, Gemara, Rishonim and Acharonim.  It is not written in any place that when a person finishes his task in life, he dies.

Avrech who Sold Invalid Tefillin Straps

Question: Someone from Bnei Brak sold Tefillin straps, and it was discovered that he deceived people, since instead of the required black color (which is an oral tradition Moshe Rabbenu heard at Mt. Sinai – Menachot 35a), the straps had a thin plastic black covering, which makes them invalid.  An Avrech (married Yeshivah student), in his innocence, purchased the Tefillin straps from the manufacturer in Bnei Brak and sold them to others.  Now that the deception has come to light, thirty individuals are demanding that the Avrech either exchange their Tefillin straps for Kosher ones or return their money.  Is the Avrech obligated to return their money, or do we say "Ones Rachmana Patrei” – a person is relieved of guilt if there are circumstances beyond his control.  Based on this principle, can he claim that he is not at fault, and therefore tell the customers to make a claim in a Beit Din against the original seller, since everyone knows who it is?
Answer: The Badatz of Bnei Brak and the Badatz of the Edah Ha-Charedit in Yerushlayim publicized based on the Mishnah Berurah (32:185) that since one can completely peel the black strip off of the leather, leaving the leather with no black coloring, the straps are invalid.  Gedolei Yisrael said that anyone who purchased Tefillin straps from 5774 until now should put them in boiling water or acetone and see if the strip separates from the strap.
The simple Halachah is that the Avrech is obligated to return the customers' money, or replace the straps, since it is "Hona'ah" (the act of wronging another by selling him an article for more than its real worth) and "Mekach Taut" (transactions entered into with a flawed understanding).  The buyers were not negligent, since they purchased the Tefillin straps from a G-d-fearing person and were therefore not required to check for such a deficiency (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 232:18.  Rama ibid.  Gra ibid. #27.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan ibid. #27.  Dibei Mamonot of Ha-Rav Ezra Batzri Volume 2 p. 210.).  The Avrech can then make a claim in a Beit Din against the original seller.
The principle of "Ones Rachmana Patrei” - one is relieved of guilt if there are circumstances beyond one's control – does not apply in this case to the seller of the Tefillin but rather to the fear that all of buyers did not fulfill the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin, and recited blessings in vain over the Tefillin they assumed were Kosher.  These are severe transgressions (See Pri Megadim Orach Chaim 32 Eshel Avraham #69.  Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 10:1).  The Avrech, in this cinstance, is not considered guilty for his role in this.  And the same applies to the buyers themselves.  Because they purchased the Tefillin from a seemingly "G-d-fearing Sofer", it is impossible to blame them.  In such a case, we say "Ones Rachmana Patrei”, meaning that they are not guilty of the transgression of not putting on Tefillin and reciting blessings in vain. 
Did such a person fulfill the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin?  This is a dispute among Achronim.  In Shut Rav Pealim (Orach Chaim 4:2), it is written in the name of the Chida that if a person performs a Mitzvah and he intends it for the sake of Heaven, he will receive a reward, even if the object of the Mitzvah turns out to be invalid.  His proof is from the Gemara in Makkot (11a) that Rav saw that Rav Chiya's Tefillin were sewn with flax, and the Halachah is that such Tefillin are invalid.  Certainly the great Rav Chiya had the reward of putting on Tefillin like the other righteous Rabbis, even though his Tefillin were sewn with flax, since his intent was for the sake of Heaven.  Rabbi Meri Simchah of Dvinsk, however, writes in his book "Mesech Chochmah" (Shemot 11:1) that one whose Tefillin were invalid does not fulfill the Mitzvah, even if he is not to blame, since he should have been careful to have his Tefillin checked.  In Shut Har Tzvi (Orach Chaim 1:35), Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank distinguishes between the case of Rabbi Chiya, who ruled for himself and therefore followed his own ruling, and the objective reality of a situation.  If a person follows the ruling of his Rabbi, that person receives a reward for performing the Mitzvah, even if his Rabbi's opinion is not accepted by the majority of Poskim.  If, however, a given Mitzvah object is shown to be invalid, he does not fulfill the Mitzvah.  Rav Frank is therefore in doubt as to whether a person whose Tefillin were invalid fulfills the Mitzvah since he could have brought them to another expert to check them.  In Shut Shevut Yaakov (2:10), however, he writes that if one made an effort to fulfill a Mitzvah, such as the case of one who purchased Tefillin from a trustworthy Sofer and brought them to be checked, he still fulfills the Mitzvah even if they turned out to be invalid, based on the Gemara in Kiddush (40a): Rav Asi said: If one intended to perform a Mitzvah, but was unable to do so, the Torah considers it as if he did.
Someone once had his Tefillin checked after many years and they were found to be invalid.  He asked Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach what he should do to repent.  Rav Shlomo Zalman said that he should wear his Tefillin longer than usual, i.e. he should remain in his Tefillin after Davening and learn Torah with them on.  If he is not comfortable to do so in public, he should do this in his house (Halichot Shlomo Chapter 4, Orchot Halachah note #115).

In sum: The Avrech who purchased the invalid Tefillin straps from the manufacturer is obligated to return the buyers' money, or replace the straps.  He is relieved of any guilt in the event that all the buyers did not fulfill the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin, and recited blessings in vain over the Tefillin they assumed was Kosher.  And the same applies to the purchasers of the straps.

Short & Sweet- Text Message Q&A #311

Tefillin Not Sitting on One's Forehead
Q: If I see that an adult's Tefillin is not sitting in the correct place on his head, but rather on his forehead, should I point it out?  Perhaps he will be embarrassed?
A: You can either ask an older person to point it out to him, or point it out yourself by asking him a question such as: "I should put on my Tefillin this way or the way that I see you have them?"  Or you can put them on the way he is wearing them and have a friend point out to you in front of him that they are sitting in the wrong spot.

First Shot
Q: I am in Tzahal.  I just shot my gun for the first time and am extremely happy.  Can I recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu?
A: Yes.  A good tiding.  Performing a Mitzvah for the first time (Shut Orach Mishpat #268-269).

Drafting Yeshiva Students
Q: Serving in the army is a Mitzvah, but because it is a Mitzvah that can be performed by others doesn't learning Torah supersede it (Moed Katan 9)?
A: Tzahal is currently in need of an additional 8000 soldiers to fill all of its positions.  For example, it is lacking 1000 Kashrut supervisors.  This is a very important and holy job, and is perfect for students from Charedi Yeshivot.

Text Message or Oral Question
Q: Is it better to ask a Rabbi a question orally than in a text message?
A: Certainly.  But sometimes the question is urgent, or a person does not have a Rabbi, or the questioner is embarrassed and wants to remain anonymous.

Note to Refrain from Speaking Lashon Ha-Ra  
Q: Is it a good idea for me to prepare littles notes which remind me not to speak Lashon Ha-Ra?
A: Yes.  It is a good idea which helps some people.  See Zachor Le-Miriam 21:1.

Bar Mitzvah Meal
Q:  Can a Bar Mitzvah meal be dairy?
A: Yes.  Other meals for a Mitzvah may also be.  The essence is that the meal is respectable (see Piskei Teshuvot #194 in the notes.  Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:485, 3:294).  

Q: Will I get the evil eye if I write a will?
A: Certainly not.  Some authorities even hold that it is a Segulah for a long life.

Travel Expenses
Q: I receive reimbursement for travel for my job, but sometimes I get a ride.  Can I still receive the payment?

A: Ask your work directly, since it depends on the conditions of the job.

Religious Jews in the Israeli Security Apparatus

Question: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about the fact that the heads of the Israeli Police, the Shabak (Israeli internal security service) and the Mossad (foreign intelligence service) are all religious?  It's like a dream come true!
Answer: The question itself shows that we are still suffering from the terrible disease caused by our exile: sectarianism.  And in the words of our Sages: Sinat Chinam – baseless hatred.
The very cause of our national destruction was baseless hatred, i.e. the claim that only one group contains all of the truth, all of the righteousness and all of the integrity, while all other groups are rotten, wanting and wrong.  Or in the words of the philosopher Kant: There is "us" and there is "them".    Or in words of the philosopher Sartre: "The other is Gehinom".  It is a national obligation to wage war with all of our means against sectarianism and the idea of raising our group's flag over another's. 
Maran Ha-Rav Kook described this phenomenon with great pain in his article "Masa Ha-Machanot" (The Journey of the Camps), in relation to the religious and secular, and called for all to remember that we are one Nation (Maamrei Ha-Re'eiyah), "Who is like you, Israel, one Nation in the Land".
We must cease this cursed behavior of relating to a person not according to who he truly is but rather according to the group with which he is affliated.
Regarding the statement: "It is like a dream come true", what dream?  The dream that only the religious are in charge of everything?  This is a horrible dream.  The Messiah has not yet come.
But if the dream is that the religious become involved in all parts of the State and take on responsibility – this is truly a great dream.
We will therefore end on an optimistic and joyous note.  We will point out that the choice of these three individuals proves that two ideas are lies.
1. The First Lie: The religious do not take upon themselves national responsibility.  This is not true.  Many important appointments have been made, not based on any political pressure, but rather on personal abilities and great self-sacrifice.  Ben Gurion once said: "Where are you, the religious, in the military cemeteries?"  When he said it, it was not correct. And all the more so today.
2. The Second Lie: The religious are blocked from being promoted in the security apparatus.  This is not true.  After all, since these three individuals were deemed fit for the position, what they wear on their head did not bother anyone.

The message of the story: We are one Nation.  What binds us together is greater than what separates us.