Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #318

Birkat Ha-Mazon
Q: Should I forgo reciting Birkat Ha-Mazon in order not to miss a Torah class?
A: Certainly not!  You should recite Birkat Ha-Mazon.  After all, Torah learning is not out of intellectual curiosity but in order to fulfill its words, and it is written in the Torah to recite Birkat Ha-Mazon.

Honoring Parents and Medical Treatment
A: My father refuses to go to the doctor regarding an important issue and I am very concerned.  What should I do?
A: Find someone to convince him or pressure him.  Kiddushin 31a-b.

Q: How can I be happy when I have a severe stutter and I can't get ahead in life?
A: It is true that this limiting, but it is still possible to accomplishing amazing things.  It once happened that a person was badly injured in a car accident and was bound to a wheelchair.  He said: I used to be able to do 10,000 things, and now I can only do 9,000!  By the way, two of my professors in university had severe stutters.  I also know two officers in Tzahal who stutter.

Murder of Rabin
Q: How do I respond to someone who says: "Rabin, Yimach Shemo – may his name be blotted out"?
A: Do not waste your time responding to such statements from people who require psychological treatment.  And this is giving such a person the benefit of the doubt, because if we weren't giving him the benefit of the doubt we would have to conclude that what he is saying is a severe transgression (It is said in the name of the Sochachover Rebbe, the author of "Avnei Nezer", that making such a statement is forbidden.  His proof is that if a man dies childless, his wife must marry the brother of her deceased husband ["Yibum"]. The Torah says that the reason for "Yibum" is so that "his name is not erased from Israel" [Devarim 25:6]. But why should I care if an evil Jew's name is erased? What's wrong with saying "may his name and memory be blotted out"?  The proof is that there is no halachah which eliminates the need to perform "Yibum" for a sinning Jew [Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer 157:3]. This means that we must be concerned that his name not be erased from Israel.  Iturei Cohanim – Devarim 25:6).

Blessing for a Guest in Yeshiva
Q: When one learns in a Yeshiva, does he recite the blessings for a guest in Birkat Ha-Mazon?
A: Each Rosh Yeshiva should decide for his Yeshiva.  In our Yeshiva, we do not recite it since Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught that a Yeshiva student is not a guest in the Yeshiva but rather a member of the household (This was also the opinion of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef.  Shulchan Yosef p. 25.  Although he adds that if someone donated the food, it is proper to add: "May the Merciful One bless the hosts of this meal").

Jewish or Israeli State
Q: Which is preferable, a Jewish State or a Israeli State?
A: There is no contradiction.  Israeli-ness is hidden within Judaism, and now with Hashem's kindness, it is once again awakening.

Surrendering Parts of Eretz Yisrael
Q: Who is authorized to decide to give up parts of our Land – the Jews living in Israel or all the Jews around the world?
A: The Nation of Israel in the entire world and throughout all of the generations, those who already lived and those who have yet to live.  There is a need to ask all of them if they agree, including one's grandfather who already passed away and one's grandson who was not yet born (This was the response of Yitzchak Tabenkin to Ben Gurion as to why he opposed the Partition Plan.  Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said the same thing).

Throwing Parashah Sheets into the Garbage
Q: Is it permissible to throw away the weekly Parashah sheets?
A: No.  They contain Divrei Torah.  They must be placed in the Geniza.
Q: But only about 10% are Divrei Torah?  The rest is advertisements.

A: Cut out the Divrei Torah and place them in the Geniza.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #317

Children of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah
Q: How is it possible that Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah did not have children?
A: We do not know the secrets of the Creator.  Ha-Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh also did not have children, and it is told that he exerted all of his efforts, which he would have used for raising children, into his commentary on the Torah.  And Rabbi Meir of Lublin also did not have children, but considered his Yeshiva, Chachmei Lublin, and those who learn Daf Yomi to be his two "children".  So too, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah had two children: his Yeshiva, Mercaz Ha-Rav, and Klal Yisrael (the same can also be said of the Rebbe of Lubavitch who also did not have children).

Visiting Rabbi's Grave
Q: There is a Rav who I greatly admire.  Is it worthwhile to visit his grave?
A: It is better to learn his books.

Tissue on the Floor of the Yeshiva
Q: There is sometimes a tissue on the floor of our Beit Midrash.  Should I stop my learning in order to pick it up?
A: Yes, since proper respect of a Beit Midrash is a Mitzvah, and we temporarily stop our learning to perform a Mitzvah.  But you should ask your Rosh Yeshiva.

Rav Kook's Books
Q: I am in 12th grade and want to learn a book of Rav Kook.  Which should I start with?
A: Orot Ha-Teshuvah.  And if you don't understand something, skip it.

Wedding Ring for Men
Q: Is it permissible for a man to wear a wedding ring, or is it forbidden on account of "Lo Yilbash" (the prohibition of men dressing like women) and "Chukot Ha-Goyim" (following non-Jewish customs)?
A: .  There is no issue of "Lo Yilbash", as long it is not a woman's ring.  There is also no issue of "Chukot Ha-Goyim", since there is no such law among the non-Jews regarding wedding rings.  Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that there is no issue of "Chukot Ha-Goyim since the ring is ornamental and symbolizes that he is married.  He adds that perhaps it is an ugly custom for a G-d-fearing Jews, but it is not forbidden.  Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 4:32 #2.  The definition of an "ugly" custom is according to the time and place.  There are Sefardic men who wear a wedding ring, and some Ashkenazim as well (Ha-Rav Nissim Karelitz also permits it in his book "Peat Zekanecha" #102.  So too, Shut Or Le-Tzion 2:23 #11 and Shut Aseh Lecha Rav, Volume 5 p. 386).

Lost Ketubah
Q: We lost our Ketubah.  What should we do?
A: Write a replacement Ketubah called a "Ketubah De-Irketa".  Turn to a Rabbi.

Making Aliyah
Q: When we tell people to make Aliyah because of terror in Europe, they say that there is also terror here.  What should we respond?
A: That this is our Land.

Ascending onto the Temple Mount
Q: Is it permissible to ascend onto the Temple Mount?
A: No.  It is a transgression.  There are signs there that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel forbids it.
Q: But some say that the Chief Rabbinate does not decide for all of Am Yisrael and its decisions are political?
A: Now you have two transgressions.

Talmud or Gemara
Q: What is the true name – Talmud or Gemara?

A: Talmud.  For example, Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud, Talmud Torah.  Gemara is an expression forced upon us by the censor.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #316

Financial Advice from Rabbi
Q: Should one seek a Rabbi's advice in financial matters?
A: No.  He does not understand this area more than anyone else (unless he studied it).  See Sefer Ha-Tanya, letter #22.

Working in a Bakery
Q: Is it permissible to work in a bakery?  After all, cakes and cookies are not healthy!
A: It is permissible, since the buyer is free to eat a small amount, and this will not cause damage to his health (Mishnah Gittin 5:9). 

Fulfilling What The Holy One Blessed Be He Decrees
Q: How is it that we do not tell miracle stories about the truly great Rabbis but rather only about those who are not Gedolei Ha-Dor?
A: The greatest miracle is to possess proper character traits, fear of Hashem and Torah learning.  A story is told about a group of Chasidim and a simple Jew.  The Chasidim each related how great his Rebbe was, since whatever he decreed, Hashem fulfilled.  The first said: we arrived at a river and my Rebbe decreed, and Hashem split the river.  The second said: we arrived at a sea and my Rebbe decreed, and Hashem split the sea.  The third said: We arrived at a mountain and my Rebbe decreed, and Hashem divided it and we walked right through it.  The fourth said: it was pitch dark and my Rebbe decreed, and Hashem illuminated the entire darkness with a beam of light.  The simple Jews did not say a word.  They asked him about his Rebbe.  He said: My Rebbe does not decree and Hashem fulfills, rather he fulfills what Hashem decreed!  They all agreed that this is truly the best… (This principle is also found in the Divrei Yoel [Vayera p. 365], where the Satmar Rebbe explains that Avraham Avinu could have prayed to Hashem to nullfy His request to sacrifice his son, and he would certainly have been answered, as we find in the Gemara [Moed Katan 16b]: "A Tzadik decrees and The Holy One, Blessed be He, fulfills".  But Avraham Avinu did not do so, rather he went to fulfill Hashem's will.  Ha-Rav Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss, Gavaad of the Eidah Ha-Charedit in Yerushalayim, notes that this is similar to what the Chafetz Chaim once said: Although it is true that "A Tzadik decrees and The Holy One, Blessed be He, fulfills" is a high level, "The Holy One, Blessed be He, decrees and a Tzadik fulfills" is an even higher level.  In the book "Rabbenu Ha-Gadol Amaro" p. 159).

Shteinman = Kook
Q: I saw graffiti on a wall which said "Shteinman = Kook".  What does it mean?
A: It is meant as an insult to Ha-Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman since he doesn't oppose certain Charedim from serving in the Charedi units in Tzahal.  He is therefore compared to Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  By the way, Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv once walked past this graffiti and thought it was meant as a compliment and said: Ha-Rav Shteinman is certainly a great Gadol, but not on the same level as Ha-Rav Kook… (We heard this from Ha-Rav Refael Schnorr, who is a Ra"m in our Yeshiva and the Rav of the neighborhood Maale Zeitim).

Netilat Yadayim in the Morning
Q: If I am in a place with no water, how do I Daven in the morning?
A: Clean your hands off well, recite the blessing "Al Nekiut Yadayim" (for cleaning hands – instead of "Al Netilat Yadayim") and Daven.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 4:22.  When you arrive at a place with water, perform Netilat Yadayim.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan 4:19.

Moshe Rabbenu Receiving Torah
Q: When Moshe Rabbenu received the Torah on Mt. Sinai did it include the stories and events that had not yet happened?
A: No.  Gittin 60.

Guarding a Member of Knesset who Desecrates Shabbat
Q: It is permissible to guard a member of Knesset who desecrates Shabbat?
A: Yes.  It is a severe transgression that he violates Shabbat, but we are nonetheless obligated to protect his life (see Teshuvah of Ha-Rav on protecting youth in Poland on Shabbat in Piskei Shlomo Volume 1 - Shabbat - Forbidden Labors).      

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #315

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day.  Here's a sample:
Netilat Yadayim on One Hand
Q: If someone has only one hand, does he recite "Netilat Yadayim" (in the plural) or "Netilat Yad" (in the singular)?
A: "Netilat Yadayim".  The same is true if one is only able to do Netilat Yadayim on one hand because it is paralyzed or bandaged.  Piskei Teshuvot 158:3.

Person who Faked Kidnapping
Q: A person faked his kidnapping and caused a huge burden for Tzahal.  Can a claim be made against him for the expense?
A: Yes.  He should also be imprisoned for doing so, in order to prevent such future cases.

Student Ticket
Q: I am a student in Yeshiva.  When I travel on the light-rail, is it permissible for me to buy a student ticket?
A: Ask the information desk of the light-rail or your Rabbi in Yeshiva.

Nechama Leibowitz
Q: Is it proper to learn the books of Nechama Leibowitz?  Are the things she writes worthwhile?
A: Almost all of them.

Reciting Tehillim
Q: Is there value in reciting Tehillim quickly, without thinking about their content?
A: There is always a value in reciting holy words in any form, but the true value of reciting Tehillim is in acquiring the character trait of piety.  Mesilat Yesharim Capter 21 (Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was once asked about the custom which many women have taken on of reciting Perek Shira, and he responded: "I do not know about it.  Our mothers and grandmothers would recited Tehillim, and this is certainly good.  After all, Perek Shira is a Baraita, and if one does not understand what he is saying, it is nothing, which is not the case with Tehillim, which also benefits one even if he does not understand what he is saying".  And another time, Rav Elyashiv said about reciting Tehillim without understand the words: "This is okay, David Ha-Melech had enough Kavanah for all of us".  Eulogy for Rav Elyashiv by his son, Ha-Rav Avraham in the book "Reish"a De-Geluta" p. 12 and "Ha-Sod" p. 48).

Shaming a Torah Scholar
Q: If I hear a Torah scholar belittling my Rabbi, should I respond?
A: Flee from dispute (see Imrot Tehorot of Ha-Rav Yehoshua Tzvi Michal Shapira).

Q: Is it permissible to read talkbacks on the internet?

A: Certainly not.  They are filled with Lashon Ha-Ra, lies, insults and shaming Torah scholars.  They contain all of the transgressions of speaking, even worse than in the newspapers.  Do not read and do not respond.  

How is it possible that UNESCO Denies our Connection to the Temple Mount and the Kotel?

Question: How is it possible that UNESCO ratified a resolution that there is no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Kotel?  Why do the Nations of the World Deny our Connection to Yerushalayim?

Answer: In the year 5690, Ha-Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Ve-Da'at in Brooklyn, said: The leaders of the nations of the world are discussing to whom the Kotel belongs – to the Jews or to the Arabs.  This is shocking!  We have an entire tradition in the Torah, Gemara and Midrashim relating to the Temple Mount and the Kotel: The Akedah took place there, Yaakov Avinu slept and had his dream there, King David bought the land for full price, etc…, while  the Muslim have a "story" that Mohamed visited there and tied his horse to the Kotel.  How is it possible that all of our rights are denied based on a story?!  Rav Kamenetzky answered that it is measure-for-measure.  Since we ourselves are in doubt about the traditions of the Tanach and our Sages, Hashem shows us that even the nations of the world, the majority of whom believe in the Tanach, err in what even a nursery school child knows.  Divine Providence clearly shows us this fact (Emet Le-Yaakov on Pirkei Avot p. 136 #131). 

Laws of Dwelling in a Sukkah

1. During all seven days of Sukkot (eight days outside of Israel), one's house should serve as his temporary dwelling and his Sukkah as his permanent dwelling. He should eat, drink, sleep and live in the Sukkah, day and night, just as he does the rest of the year in his house (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 639:1).
2. There is an obligation to sleep in the Sukkah, even for a nap. The law of sleeping in the Sukkah – for men – has a greater foundation in Halachah than does eating in the Sukkah. The basic halachah is that except for the first night (and the second night outside of Israel), there is no obligation to eat in the Sukkah unless one is eating foods made from flour such as bread, cakes or noodles. In contrast, there is an obligation to sleep in the Sukkah, even for a nap. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, would remind his students of the importance of sleeping in the Sukkah. When he was in Switzerland in the cold and snow, he would not forgo even one night of sleeping in the Sukkah (Sefer Rabbenu - on the Life of Ha-Rav Zvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, p. 187).
3. Because of the great holiness of the Sukkah, it is proper to limit non-holy discussions and speak words of holiness and Torah in the Sukkah, and all the more so one must be cautious to refrain from speaking Lashon Ha-Ra (Mishnah Berurah ibid. #2).
4. At the beginning of the Laws of the Sukkah, the Bach explains that there are three Mitzvot which one does not fulfill in the proper manner if he does not elucidate the reason for performing them. They are: Tzitzit, Tefillin and Sukkah. During Sukkot, Maran Ha-Rav Kook would mention this idea and explain at the length the reason for dwelling in the Sukkah (Siddur Olat Re'eiyah vol. 1, p. 11 in the notes of our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah). 

Eating in the Sukkah:
5. The order of Kiddush on the first night is: The blessing on the wine, the Kiddush, the blessing of "Leshev Ba-Sukkah" and Shehechiyanu. On the second night outside of Israel, Shehechiyanu is recited before the blessing of "Leshev Ba-Sukkah" since the Shehechiyanu applies to the holiday and not the fulfillment on the mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkot which was performed the previous night for the first time (ibid. 661:1 and in the Rama and Mishnah Berurah #1). 
6. On the first night of the holiday (and the second night outside of Israel), one must eat an olive-size piece of bread in the Sukkah, just as one must eat an olive-size piece of Matzah on the first night of Pesach. And similar to eating Matzah, one should not eat on Erev Sukkot from noon onward in order to approach eating in the Sukkah with an appetite, one should not eat on the first night until it is definitely night-time and one should eat the bread before midnight (ibid. 639:3 and in the Rama).
7. It is forbidden to eat more than an egg-size piece of bread or foods made from flour such as cookies, cakes or noodles outside of the Sukkah. But if one eats meat, fruit or vegetables there is no obligation to eat in the Sukkah. One who glorifies the mitzvah to eat even snacks (not containing flour) in the Sukkah is praiseworthy (ibid. 2).

Those Exempt from Dwelling in the Sukkah:
8. Women and children are exempt from the Sukkah. A boy who reaches the age of education is obligated in the mitzvah of Sukkah so he can be educated about the Mitzvot (ibid. 640:1).
9. One who is distressed is exempt from the Sukkah whether he is sick, too cold or too hot, bothered by the wind, flies, bees or mosquitoes, etc. as long as the Sukkah was not constructed in a place where there would certainly be a hardship. Therefore, if it is raining to the extent that the rain would spoil a cooked dish – even if you do not currently have such a dish there – one may go into his house. This applies to all days of Sukkot, but on the first night (and on the second night outside of Israel) one is required to eat an olive-size piece of bread in the Sukkah even if it is raining (ibid. 639:5 and in the Rama). If it is raining on the first night (and on the second night outside of Israel), some authorities say that it is proper to wait until midnight to see if the rain will cease. Others explain that one should wait an hour or two in order not to impinge on the joy of the holiday (Mishnah Berurah ibid, #35). If the rain does not stop, one should recite Kiddush, eat an olive-size piece of bread in the Sukkah without the blessing of "Leshev Ba-Sukkah" and eat in his house. If the rain stops during the meal, he should go out to the Sukkah and finish it there (Shulchan Aruch and Rama ibid. and Mishnah Berurah #36).
During the remaining days of Sukkot, if one is eating in the Sukkah, and it begins raining so that he goes inside his house to eat, he may remain inside until the end of the meal, even if it stops raining (ibid. 6). If one is sleeping in the Sukkah, he need not wait until the extent that the rain would spoil a cooked dish in order to go inside his house since even a little rain is distressing when sleeping (ibid. 7 in the Rama). If he went to sleep at night in the house due to rain, he may remain in the house until the morning (ibid. 7).
10. It is permissible to take trips on Chol Ha-Moed Sukkot, and to sleep and eat outside the Sukkah, if a Sukkah cannot be easily found. One who is strict not to lose out on the mitzvah of Sukkah even once is praiseworthy (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:238 and 2:149).

Prayers in the Sukkah:
11. There is a custom to welcome in each night one of the seven spiritual guests called "Ushpizin." According to Ashkenazic tradition, the order of the Ushpizin is: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon and David. According to Nusach Sefard, the order is: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and David.

12. When departing from the Sukkah at the end of Sukkot, some say: May we merit to dwell in the Sukkah of the Leviathan" (ibid. 667:1 in the Rama). And the Aderet – Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz Te'omim – the Rav of Jerusalem and Maran Ha-Rav Kook's father-in-law, would say: May we also merit in the coming year, may it be good for us, to fulfill the mitzvot of Sukkah and the Four Species, the rejoicing on Holiday and all of its parts according their proper halachic prescriptions, and fulfill all of the Mitzvot from now until next year, may it be good to us and all Israel, amen (Tefillat David, p. 110 and Nefesh David, p. 197, 211).

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