Short and Sweet - Text Message Q&A #402

Q: Given the fact that a person's soul was endowed over time in a number of bodies, to which one will it be returned?

A: The soul will be returned to the body that performed the most Mitzvot and good deeds. The Arizal teaches that the existence of the soul in a number of different bodies is a parable not to be understood literally.


Naming a Girl

Q: Should we refrain from giving a three-letter Hebrew name to a girl?

A: No. Note these three-letter Hebrew names from the Torah: Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Chanah, Yael and more.

Irreligious Upbringing

Q: My family isn't religious and I feel inferior to my friends who were raised in religious homes.

A: Throughout our history there are plenty of examples of great Torah scholars from irreligious backgrounds. We all have free choice.

Tikun Chatzot in the Morning

Q: Is there an alternative hour to recite Tikun Chatzot (the midnight prayers over the destruction of the Temple)?  I'm too tired to get up that early.

A: You may recite these prayers early in the morning.

Military Service and Yeshiva Study

Q: Is shortened military service morally acceptable even though I do not intend to return to Yeshiva after the army?

A: Definitely. Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Ha-Cohain Kook explains that military service is compulsory and that each student may decide what suits him. Our Nation has a wide range of essential needs in the spiritual realm and in the work force. The calculations are personal.

Immodest Reading Material

Q: May I discard my friend's immodest book?

A: No. It belongs to him. Only a Beit Din may do so, as it says in the Gemara Berachot (20a) that Rav Ada bar Ahava, as an official member of the Beit Din, applied a measure to eradicate public immodesty.

Talmudic Volumes to Facilitate Study

Q: May we study from the Schottenstein volumes (named for the philanthropist who funded the publication) or the Rav Shteinsaltz volumes to facilitate our understanding of the complicated texts or are we expected to apply intense thought without taking shortcuts?
A: It's a personal decision. The preferred goal is to avoid dependence on them and to use them only occasionally to check the explanations. We need an honest assessment of our limitations. Ongoing study improves our abilities.  Ha-Rav Ephraim Fishel Hershkovitz, an illustrious Torah scholar and member of the Rabbinical Council of the Tzanz-Kloizenberg Chasidim in North America was asked a question similar to yours and responded as follows: ''Are you unable to understand without those explanations?'' (This is recorded in the book ''HaBen Yakir Li Ephraim", p. 127).  Generally our power of concentration and comprehension improves when we are determined to reach our goals.

Snakes as Pets

Q: Are we permitted to have a snake as a pet?

A: Yes, on condition that no harm is caused to others.


Investigating Religions

Q: Is it problematic to look into other religions in order to be convinced that the truth of Judaism prevails?

A: The thorough research of Rav Yehuda HaLevi in Sefer Ha-Kuzari, 1,000 years ago, negates the need for further investigation. See Rambam, Hilchot Avoda Zara Chapter 2:2-3.


Mashiach and Army

Q: When Mashiach comes will the Israel Defense Forces be in operation?  I'm a young boy who wants to serve in the army.

A: The Israel Defense Forces will be in full operation. Mashiach himself is a warrior. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim Chapter 11.

Short and Sweet - Text Message Q&A #401


Throwing Stones at Arabs

Q: Considering the many cases in which Arabs threw stones at Jews, may individual Jews stone Arab villages?

A: No. We are not Arabs.


Prenatal Test

Q: I'm 40 years old and pregnant. Most of the prenatal tests are very expensive. Which ones are absolutely mandatory?

A: The health insurance plans completely or partially cover the costs of the recommended tests. You can trust their experienced judgment.

Humble Behavior

Q: I don't understand the principle that whoever strives to avoid honor is honorable,

 whereas whoever seeks personal honor is scorned.

A: The Maharal explains that chasing honor is a negative trait, whereas striving to avoid honor is praiseworthy.


Q: On Shabbat may we assemble a Playmobile toy?

A: Yes, on condition that it's temporary, and that it's disassembled before Shabbat is over. The same applies to Lego and puzzles.

Winning Lottery

Q: Does winning the lottery deplete one's merits?

A: Perhaps.


Part of Divinity

Q: According to my understanding, my soul is finite.  I don't comprehend how it's connected to Hashem.

A: 1. Mathematically speaking, finite numbers belong to infinity. 2. The soul isn't actually a part of the essence of Divinity per say but is illuminated by Divine light that transcends all of the worldly spheres.

Necklaces for Men

Q: May a male wear a necklace?

A: It's permissible on condition that the jewelry is obviously masculine. However, according to the teaching of Sefer Orchot Tzaddikim in the chapter outlining the importance of humble and modest behavior, it's unadvisable.


Divine Presence

Q: How do we know that Hashem is present? Please include sources above and beyond the regular teachings.

A: Your down-to-earth question requires serious ongoing study. A response in a short text message isn't enough to quench your healthy curiosity, as we're talking about a basic fundamental tenet of Judaism. Hashem governs and reigns over every single aspect of nature and creation. Rav Kook delves into these matters in his book ''Be-Eekvai Ha-Tzon'' in two separate articles: ''Da'at HaElokim'' and ''Avodat Ha-Elokim''.  He explains there that Hashem is the Unique One and Only Creator and Master of the entire universe. Our Eternal Father and Merciful King is the Almighty Power and Provider, Regal Judge, Legislator, Single Orchestrator, Redeemer, Provider, All Encompassing Epitome of Perfection and Purity.

Child's Money

Q: When a very young child, unfamiliar with monetary dealings, receives a gift of money, may members of his family spend it or should they save it for him?

A: The money belongs to him. It should be set aside for his future use. The family may open a bank account in his name or keep an accurate record of the spending on his behalf.

Lost and Found

Q: Are we permitted to take abandoned articles of clothing and other items left on the beach?

A: No. The owners may return to claim them.


Ha-Rav Yechezkel Roth ztz"l, Av Beit Din of Karlsburg, in Boro Park, New York has ascended on high.  Although his name is not well-known throughout all of the Nation of Israel, he was among the great Poskim in America.

He was born in Romania, moved to Israel and learned in the Satmar Yeshiva in Yerushalayim under the leadership of Ha-Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, head of the Edah Ha-Charedit.  He was the son of a tailor without Yichus, and he was an incredible Matmid in the Yeshiva.  In his youth, he was a Posek in Yerushalayim and learned to do so from Ha-Rav Mi-Tiplik, Ha-Rav Shimshon Aharon Polonsky.  Ha-Rav Mi-Tiplik was an amazing Gaon and Posek, and the great Rabbis of Yerushalayim learned from him how to become a Posek.  Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank did not answer serious questions without receiveing Rav Polonsky's opinion on the matter.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook said about him: "He is the number one Lamdan in Yerushalayim", and Ha-Rav Mi-Tiplik said about the Divrei Torah of Maran Ha-Rav Kook that they are "Torat Knesset Yisrael".  Ha-Rav Mi-Tplik succeeded in raising an entire generation of great Poskim, including Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Ha-Rav Shmuel Ha-Levi Wozner, Ha-Rav Yechezkel Roth and others.  Ha-Rav Roth served as the Rav of the Satmar Shul in the Neighborhood of Katamon in Yerushalayim.

In the year 5722, the Satmar Rebbe looked for a major Posek and one which shared his philosophy to serve on the Satmar Beit Din in Boro Park.  The Satmar Rebbe immediately agreed upon Rav Roth and sent messengers to ask him to move there, and he also agreed.  He was extremely close to the Satmar Rebbe, and he even begins his Reponsa, Shut Emek Ha-Teshuvah, with a Dvar Torah which he said at the dinner on 21 Kislev – the day celebrated each year to commemorate the Satmar Rebbe being saved during the Holocaust.

Rav Roth related what he once said to the Satmar Rebbe.  We say each year at the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur: "Next Year in Yerushalayim"!  It seems that we can explain its meaning based on what our Sages say that in the Gemara in Megillah (29a) relates that in the future all of the Shuls and Yeshivot that are in the Exile will be established in Eretz Yisrael.  Similarly the Satmar Rebbe said (and it is published in his commentary on the Haggadah) that when it says in the Haggadah "This year we are here, next year may we be in the Land of Israel", it means that we are now in this place outside of Israel, but because of our Divine service here, in the future in will be established in Eretz Yisrael.  Based on this idea, when Rav Roth visited the Satmar Rebbe in Kiryat Yoel (a Satmar town in New York) in the summer of 5740, he said that since Eretz Yisrael has different levels of holiness, and Yerushalayim is at the highest level, as noted at the beginning of Mishnah Kelim, the places where people as most punctilious in fulfilling the Mitzvot, such as Kiryat Yoel, where they properly fulfill the laws of modesty and providing a proper Jewish eduction without any changes, will be established in the future in Yerushalayim.  The Satmar Rebbe shook his head in agreement (Shut Emek Ha-Teshuvah Volume 8 pp. 48-49).

Rav Roth however was not Satmar in every way and he was an extremely moderate individual.  He also established a Beit Din and taught many Dayanim, and there are already three generations of Dayanim which have sprouted from his Beit Din.       

The Karlsburger Dayan, as he was known, received the most complicated question in all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch from all around the world, as evidenced in his 9 volumes of Teshuvot and many other halachic works.  He was famous for his ability to find leniences, particular relating to family matters and establishing an Eruv in Boro Park.  He did not fear using the Heter Meah Rabbanim when necessary.  He even visited the site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center with other Rabbis to determine if Cohanim are permitted to visit the memorial and museum, and he ruled that it is indeed permissible.  When people would add all sorts of Chumrot, he would say: What do you want to write a new Shulchan Aruch?!  But when he needed to be strict, he did not fear.  For example, when the Satmar Rebbe, the Berach Moshe, permited a school for children with special needs, under the auspices of the US government, to forego a Mezuzah, since it was under non-Jewish ownership, he prohibited learning there.  He did everything with quickness and without delay including ruling on monetary matters.  He was upright and level-headed.  People say about him – just as they say about Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach: May the name of the normal be a blessing.    

But although Ha-Rav Roth was in the west, his heart was in the east.  He was located in Boro Park but his heart resided in Meron.

Three times a year – during the month of Elul, during the time of Shovavim in month of Shevet and on Lag Ba-Omer, he would leave his Dayanim and students and come to Israel.  He would spend his time at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.  He would leave this place in only rare instances.  He spent most of the day Davening and learning Torah.  Many of his Chiddushim and Teshvuot were written there, as he notes at the beginning of his Sefarim.  He was a true Mekubal, since it is only possible to reach this level after a person has had his fill of Gemara and Poskim (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 246:4), which he did with incredible success.  He would sit there in his Shabbat clothing and with his Shtreimel on his head, since to be with the Rashbi is in the category of celebrating Shabbat.  He also welcomed many guests to the grave, especially on Lag Ba-Omer. 

Most of his day, however, was spent learning the Torah of the Rashbi.  He once explained that the Rashbi was the Rabbi of every single Jew.  He accepted every Jew regardless of his spiritual level, even the simplest of the simple Jew.  His grave is a place of salvation, since the Rashbi is an agent for Am Yisrael and relates its merits before the Divine throne.  The Zohar tells that the Rashbi died while saying Divrei Torah, and his soul departed while saying the verse: "For Hashem commanded the blessing there" (Tehillim 133:3), i.e. he is the messenger to bring our blessings before Hashem.

And the same is true with Rav Roth.  Although his heart was always in our Holy Land in Meron at the grave of the Torah and in the hidden Torah, he displayed incredible self-sacrifice to serve the Nation of Israel in the Exile with the revealed Torah.  Instead of hiding himself in the secrets of Torah, he involved himself with the most complex halachic questions.

Although his head reached the Heavens in Meron, his feet were implanted on the earth in Boro Park.


May his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim and Geonim.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #400


Q: I purchased a $300 item and the overseas company notified me that the cost recorded was less than $100 (apparently to expedite delivery and avoid tax). How can I reimburse the parties involved?

A: Donate money to the Israel Defense Forces.


Q: Is Sefer Ha-Razim (a book containing cryptic mystical content) considered authentic Jewish literature?

A: No. It's nonsense and heresy.

Q: Is every tea essence Kosher, for example 'Combochia'?

A: If it's pure tea essence without additional ingredients it's Kosher.


Q: The Rambam states that the middle path in life is preferable. This being the case, are stringencies in lifestyle recommended?

A: Stringencies are recommended for very few individuals as we learn in the Guide for the Perplexed (Moreh Nevuchim, written by the Rambam). Everyone may carefully and gradually add stringencies to his lifestyle (see the first chapter of Hilchot Deot).

Netilat Yadayim Vessel

Q: Is Netilat Yadayim permitted with a vessel manufactured from non-Kosher materials?

A: Yes, but preferably not.


Different interpretations of Jewish Law

Q: How can I distinguish between authentic differences of opinion within Jewish Law and what is extraneous to Judaism?

A: Check the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Messilat Yesharim or any book of Halacha.

Eating Chumus

Q: Is dipping pita, crackers etc. into a plate of Chumus acceptable?

A: No. It's respectable to use cutlery.


Beit Knesset

Q: Is it permissible to pray in a Shul where the Mechitza not in accordance with Jewish Law?

A: No. The Shul is an official place of prayer, supplication and service of the Creator.

Q: When a grandson has been delegated the responsibility of reciting Kaddish (according to the Rama), should he, in addition to saying it during the first eleven months, also recite Kaddish on the Yahrtzeit?

A: Out of reverence he should recite Kaddish on the Yahrtzeit as well (based on Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah and Sefer Mateh Ephraim)

Parents and Children

Q: What is the appropriate reaction of a parent whose devout and learned son apparently abandoned his religious lifestyle? In such a case would one say that the child's decision is Hashem's will?

A: Hashem wants us to perform the Mitzvot. Beseech Hashem with all your might and sincerely pray that your son will repent. 

Short and Sweet - Text Message Q&A #399


Heavenly Mate

Q: Is it true that there are 7 soulmates for each and every individual and that based on

one's spiritual level the most appropriate is the designated spouse?

A: No.

Studying English

Q: Studying English in high school is a complete waste of my time. What should I do?

A: 1. Switch to a high school without English studies on the curriculum.
2. If that's not a viable option, change your attitude and invest serious effort. Life is full of challenges. By overcoming obstacles we reinforce positive character traits such as courage.

Q: How should I react after someone insulted me? Should I discuss the matter with him or should I forget about it completely?

A: Sincere forgiveness is best but only on condition that you won't hold a dormant grudge. If the matter lingers on in your heart, you should tactfully speak to him.

Medication Containing Non-Kosher Ingredient

Q: Is it permissible to administer a medication that contains enzymes derived from the pancreas of a pig to a patient whose life is not endangered?

A: Yes. The medication underwent a process that transformed its nature. It's not consumed as a food.

Disrespectful student

Q: How should an educator contend with an extremely audacious and disrespectful student?
A: Initiate a heart-to-heart discussion and encourage him to disclose his troubles and concerns.

Duplicating Discs

Q: Is it permissible to duplicate computer discs?

A: No. The artist or musician invests time and money, therefore only after permission is granted may one duplicate the disc. Otherwise it's theft.

Sleeping in Shelter

Q: We live in the South. Should the parents or the children sleep in the shelter?
A: The children, because they are more vulnerable.

Power of an Individual

Q: Given the fact that I am a single individual, how much influence can I possibly have on the world?

A: There's no limit to the tremendous influence on the world of the seemingly unimportant, single individual. The effort one invests counts far more than the outcome, as we learn in the book Nefesh Ha-Chaim, as well as in the Pirkei Avot chapter 5 at the end of the last Mishnah.

Jewelry during Pregnancy

Q: Is it true that during pregnancy a woman should refrain from wearing gold jewelry, for example, a gold ring?

A: No.

Difficult Challenges

Q: When I'm in Yeshiva everything runs smoothly but when I'm at home I can't deal with the difficult challenges!

A: You have the wherewithal to emulate the righteous Yosef Ha-Tzadik, who courageously overcame extremely difficult challenges during his entire time in Egypt, when he was surrounded by immorality!

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #398



Q: After a dialysis treatment is one required to say Asher Yatzar (the blessing recited after using the restroom)?

A:  No. May you have a speedy recovery.


Charedim and Religious Zionists in Corona Hotel

Q: There is a Corona hotel which houses students from Charedi Yeshivot and Religious Zionist Yeshivot.  A Charedi Yeshiva student wrote that he discovered a truth which was hidden from him, that the Religious-Zionist Yeshiva students are serious and dedicated Torah learners just like them.  Is there any joy greater than this?

A: It is certainly always good to meet, but we need humility and to be truthful.  We still have much that we need to improve and to learn from the Charedim.  Yeshiva students such as this are rare.  We believe that all Klal Yisrael will be uplifted.



Q: Does exposure to the sun's rays promote good health?

A: Definitely, because the sun is a Divine creation. Overexposure is detrimental just as an overdose of anything else that is good. A few minutes a day is enough to provide vitamin D, to strengthen brainpower, to uplift one's spirit and to improve sleep. Caution is required to avoid sunstroke, damage vision and skin cancer. The Divine creation is praiseworthy.


Military Stories

Q: I saw a response in the Mishnah Berurah stating that we should not read stories about wars. Does this include wars of the Israel Defense Forces?

A: No. The Mishnah Berurah refers to wars that are a waste of time, whereas the Israel Defense Forces fulfill a positive commandment.


Netilat Yadayim with Automatic Tap

Q: In the event that one doesn't have access to a vessel used for the specific purpose of Netilat Yadayim, is washing at an automatic tap permissible?

A: No. The tap is operated by an internal mechanism and this doesn't comply with the requirement.


Education for Modesty

Q: What is the most successful way to educate people to be modest?

A: 1. Teach them to be humble and not to strive to draw attention to themselves.  2. Teach by example: your own modest manner influences those around you.


Rubber Bracelets

Q: Are the colorful rubber bracelets considered feminine jewelry (and thus prohibited for males)?

A: This is not a female accessory. It is meant for males and females alike.


Donning a Kerchief as Opposed to a Wig

Q: I prefer that my wife cover her hair with a kerchief but she insists on covering her hair with a wig.  Which one of us is right?

A: Your wife has the right to dress in whichever manner suits her.  And you may choose whatever style of Kippa that suits you (Ha-Rav Meir Ha-Levi Soloveitchik, who served as the head of the Brisk Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, told the following interesting story related by his father, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik: When Rav Itchele Peterburger came on Aliya, he lived in Yerushalayim. A while after his arrival, representatives of the local community approached him and requested that he switch his garb and dress in the same fashion as the residents among him.  In addition, they requested that his wife wear a kerchief instead of a wig.  To this he immediately replied that he's definitely prepared to oblige, but that he won't suggest that his wife change anything, albeit a serious matter. Rav Itchele added that had he known in advance, he wouldn't have come to join their community and that perhaps since he's already there maybe they could reconsider. Rav Itchele staunchly refused to raise the issue with his wife for the simple reason that he clearly understood that she alone has the right to dress however she pleases (In the book "De-Chazitei Le-Rebbe Meir" Volume 1, p. 196).


Mother's Role

Q: Where in the Torah and in the Oral Law is there a teaching that the education of the children is incumbent upon the mother?

A: 1. It's simply logical and there's no need to elaborate.  2. We are taught to heed and not forsake the Torah of our mothers.  3. The fathers are also bound to educate their children.


Kissing iPhone used for Davening

Q: After praying, people customarily kiss the Siddur.  Should one kiss an iPhone used in place of a Siddur?

A: No.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #397


Davening with Earplugs

Q: Is it permissible to Daven the Shemoneh Esrei with earplugs in order to block out people who are Davening Shemoneh Esrei loudly?

A: Yes.


Ahavat Yisrael

Q: I have a friend who is filled with hatred of Yisrael, and says all the time: Resha'im (evil ones) and Erev Rav.  What should I suggest for him to learn?

A: Mesilat Yesharim, especially Chapter 11 and the end of Chapter 19.


Yehoshua as Military Chief of Staff

Q: How was it that Yehoshua did not know what the noise was in the camp during the incident of the Golden Calf, and he thought it was the sound of war (Shemot 32:17-18)?  After all, he was the military Chief of Staff!

A: Quite simply, he was far away and it was hard to hear.  But the Meshech Chochma explains that it was Moshe Rabbenu's role to stop Am Yisrael from the sin of the Golden Calf and not Yehoshua's.  Yehoshua therefore heard incorrectly.  This is similar to the Gemara in Taanit (21a) about Rabbi Yochanan and Ilfa who left the Yeshiva to work because they had no money, and only Rabbi Yochanan heard a Divine voice to return to the Yeshiva.  Since it was only meant for Rabbi Yochanan, Ilfa did not hear it.


Deceitful Declaration at Hotel

Q: We are ordering a hotel room, and although we have 4 children, we only need 3 beds for them.  Is it permissible to say that we are only coming with 3 children?

A: Ask the hotel directly.


Paintball with the Rav

Q: May students play paintball with the Rav of their class?

A: No. It's disrespectful.


Prehistoric Man

Q: Is it true that prehistoric man existed before Adam?

A: Maran Ha-Rav Kook writes an affirmative response based on the Zohar.


Greeting a Non-Jew on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to greet a Non-Jew with Shabbat Shalom?

A: It's irrelevant. Shalom is sufficient.


Traveling Outside of Israel

Q: When my wife and I got married we were not religious and I promised to travel overseas with her. When we became religious we learned that leaving Israel is forbidden. Now I have work abroad but I don't agree to travel for leisure. My wife claims that my work takes priority and this causes a rift between us. Is there any loophole to permit sightseeing?

A: Your wife may accompany you to help you somewhat with your work. You won't be alone and you may also sightsee for a few days.


Neighbor's air-conditioner

Q: My neighbor regularly places the drainpipe of his air-conditioner in my garden. I approached him on a number of occasions, to no avail. What should I do?

A: Summon him to a Din Torah (Rabbinical court). If he refuses to appear, consult the municipal authorities.


Serving Non-Kosher Food

Q: May I serve non-Kosher food and beverages for people to taste at a supermarket?

A: Absolutely not.