Our Rabbi & Tzahal - Part 1

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi related: "A student of our Yeshiva approached me. I said to him: 'At first I did not recognize you.' He was wearing the army uniform. You know that I relate to this uniform in holiness. A lovely and precious man, full of G-d-fearing and holiness was approaching, and he was wearing an army uniform. At that occurrence I mentioned what I said at one wedding [of Ha-Rav She’ar Yashuv Cohain], when the groom came dressed in an army uniform. There were some who were pointing one that it is inappropriate for a groom to stand under the chuppah with an army uniform. In Yerushalayim, the Holy City, it was customary that they came with Shabbat clothing, holy clothing, like a streimel. I will tell you the truth. The holiness of the streimel - I do not know if it is one-hundred percent clear. It was made holy after the fact. Many righteous and holy Geonim (great rabbis) certainly wore it. There is certainly so much trembling of holiness before them, and we are dirt under the souls of their feet, and on account of this fact, the streimel was made holy. Also Yiddish, the language of Exile, was made holy because of its great use in words of holiness. But from the outset - it is not so certain. In comparison, the holiness of the army uniform in Israel is fundamental, essentially holiness. This is the holiness of accessories of a mitzvah, from every perspective, of all of the tanks, the holiness of our tanks will appear tomorrow [in the military parade of Yom Ha-Atzmaut]." (Sichot Rabbenu, Yom Ha-Atzmaut 5727, Mizmor 19 of Medinat Yisrael, pg. 76 #11).

It once happened that our Rabbi sat next to a taxi driver who was wearing a Tzahal uniform, and our Rabbi was tapping on his leg during the entire trip. Before he got out the driver turned in surprise to the student who was escorting Ha-Rav and asked why the Rabbi was acting this way. The student responded that this was on account of our Rabbi's great love of the holy Tzahal uniform.

Our Rabbi was teaching a class and a student, who was on leave from the army, was standing next to him. During the entire time, our Rabbi rested his hand on the student's arm. At the end of the class, another student asked about this. Our Rabbi explained: "It is simple. He was wearing a Tzahal uniform and I was touching holiness the entire time." (Ha-Rav Yehoshua Zuckerman – Iturei Yeryshalayim #6)

Hilchot Tzava - Halachot of the Army

A soldier/cohain who killed an enemy
Question: Can a soldier/cohain who kills an enemy still say the "Birkat Cohain" (In the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 128:35, Rav Yosef Karo rules that a cohain who killed another person may not recite this blessing)?
Answer: Certainly. He is not a murderer but, on the contrary, a rescuer of Jews (see Shut Yechaveh Da'at 2:14).

A soldier who did not daven
Question: If a soldier did not daven because of a military operation or guard duty, should he do "tashlumim" (one who misses davening the Shemoneh Esrei due to circumstances beyond his control can compensate for the missed Shemoneh Esrei by davening a second Shemoneh Esrei during the next davening)?
Answer: There is no need. One who is involved in a mitzvah is exempt from another mitzvah.

A soldier mistakenly killed
Question: Is a soldier who is mistakenly killed by another soldier who thought he was a terrorist considered to have been killed "al Kiddush Hashem" (sanctifying Hashem's Name)?
Answer: Yes, since there are errors within the framework of Tzahal's activities and this is taken into consideration by the military. This is also the ruling for someone who is killed in training exercises, since the exercises also contain a level of deterrence.

Freezing semen before being drafted
Question: Is it permissible to freeze semen before being drafted into the army or is it wantonly destroying one's seed?
Answer: It is not wantonly destroying seed since the purpose is to produce offspring. However, we do not act in this way since if a child is born from a soldier who is killed, he will be fatherless. This would also cause a weakened sense of military courage.

"Get Milchama" – A wartime divorce
Question: We learn in the Book of Shmuel (2 11) that anyone who went to war in King David's army wrote a divorce for his wife to avoid her becoming an "Agunah" (a wife unable to remarry) in case he went missing in battle. Why don't we act this way during our time?
Answer: The truth is that Rabbis did do this various times, including when Jews served in non-Jewish armies, but they ceased doing so when they saw that it broke the soldiers' spirit. By the way, the Ba'al Ha-Turim says that Moshe Rabbenu already acted this way, and King David learned it from him (See Ba'al Ha-Turim to Bamidbar 31:21).

An order to evacuate
Question: I understand the need to obey military orders in order to prevent a breakdown in the army and a crisis, but I simply am unable to evacuate my brothers. I have served in the reserves for over a year and am loyal to the State and army, but I am unable to fulfill this command. I can refrain for participating with any excuse, but I see an importance in my commanders knowing that in my view it is impossible to be involved in this sin. What should I do?
Answer: If you are unable, then you are unable, Baruch Hashem. Although they say in the army: "There is no such thing as unable, there is only 'I don't want to,'" this is not always true. Occasionally, a soldier is truly unable. A soldier is sometimes unable to shoot, because he simply does not have a weapon, and sometimes a soldier is unable because he does not have motivation. Motivation is essentially built upon the soldiers’ world of ideals. Napoleon said: motivation is three times greater than a weapon. If I had to evacuate my brothers, I would either faint on the spot or feel sick, lacking any ability to perform it. I have seen nurses faint in a hospital from what they saw. But waving the flag of refusal as an instrument to influence the political process is a very distant path. It is not possible that soldiers, with all their value and importance, can alone decide the political process. It must be decided by the entire Nation.

An aliyah to the Torah on a fast day for a soldier who ate
Question: Can a soldier who must eat in order to perform his duty on a fast day receive an aliyah to the Torah?
Answer: There are arguments either way, and everyone should act in a manner which seems proper to him.

Prayers and Tehillim for Tzahal

Question: Which prayers or Tehillim would be best to say for our soldiers at this time?
Answer: All Tehillim are appropriate.


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Killing a terrorist when he has stopped murdering

Q: Is it ethical to kill a terrorist when it is logical to assume that he will no longer murder?
A: This question can be divided into two parts: 1. From the perspective of reality, how is it possible to be certain that he has stopped murdering? It is impossible to know. 2. Even if we know that he will no longer murder, we must still kill him. But why – isn't this the law of a "rodef" (literally "pursuer" - a case in which one is permitted to kill a pursuer so that the pursued person is saved from harm)? If he is in pursuit, we kill him and if he is not in pursuit, we do not kill him. There are three answers given by halachic authorities: a. The terrorist is not finished being a "rodef". He is not an "individual rodef" who is angry with a particular person and wants to kill him, he is a "communal rodef" who wants to kill Jews and he does not care which Jews they are. If we capture him, put him in jail and he is later release as is the custom – to our great distress – he will continue to murder. The organization of parents of those murdered by terrorists has exact records which state that more than 180 Jews have been murdered by released terrorists who have murdered again. This means that when you free a terrorist with the proper goal of helping Jews, you endanger more Jews. This person is therefore not a one-time "rodef," but a perpetual "rodef." b. The halachic authorities also say that you should kill him in order that others will see and be frightened. This "rodef" is teaching other "rodefim" through his action. If he kills Jews and when the police approach, he gives up and we have mercy on him, we encourage others to act like him, thus endangering other Jews. Therefore, in situations like these, we must be extremely ethical. The question is, ethical to whom – the "rodef" or others Jews? Answer: to both of them. We must be ethical to the Jews who have done nothing wrong and to him, since if we kill him, we stop him from killing others and lessen his "Gehinom" (punishment in the World to Come). The Mishnah in Sanhedrin (71b) says that the "ben sorer u-moreh" (the rebellious son – see Devarim 21:18-21) is killed over his future. While he has done many things wrong, he has not committed a sin for which he is liable for capital punishment, but he is killed so that he will die innocent and not guilty. In our case the terrorist is already liable, but he should die liable and not even more liable. We do not use the concept "he should die innocent and not die guilty" to create new laws, but to explain them. C. These are halachot of war, and in war, we do not lock up an enemy who is shooting at us, but we fire back at him. This is similar to what King Shaul said to the "Keni" (Shmuel 1 15:6): "Go, depart, go down from among Amalek, let I destroy you with them." This means, even though you are my friend, if you are there, you could get hurt or killed. In the halachot of war, we do not make such calculations as it says, "The best of the non-Jews should be killed." The Tosafot raise a major difficulty with this statement: how can we say such a thing when according to Halachah it is forbidden to kill a non-Jew and all the more so the best of the non-Jews (Tosafot to Avodah Zarah 26b and see Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah 158)? Tosafot explains that this statement refers to a time of war. This non-Jew seems pleasant or, in our case, he killed but he will be pleasant. No, we did not make such calculations in a time of war; even a pleasant-seeming non-Jew is killed.
In sum: we therefore see that killing a terrorist is ethical.

Reciting Kaddish for a non-relative

On the Air with Rav Aviner - Shut Radio

Q: Is it permissible to recite Kaddish for someone who is not a relative.
A: There is no obligation but it is permissible and certainly a great mitzvah. If your parents are still living, you must ask permission from them to recite Mourner's Kaddish for someone else. You do not need to ask permission to recite Kaddish De-Rabbanan, since it is not a Kaddish for the deceased but over Torah learning.

Shemoneh Esrei with eyes closed or from a siddur

On the Air with Rav Aviner - Shut Radio

Q: Is it preferable to daven Shemoneh Esrei with my eyes closed or from a siddur?
A: This is no ruling regarding this. There are different paths to serving Hashem and each person should find the best way to daven which gives him the most proper intention.

A male lifeguard at a women's pool or beach

On the Air with Rav Aviner - Shut Radio

Q: Is it permissible to have a male lifeguard at a women's pool or beach?
A: It is very difficult to find a female lifeguard since there are not exclusive courses for female lifeguards in Israel. It is sometimes possible to find a female lifeguard who is a "Baalat Teshuvah"- a woman who became religious. If it is not possible to find a female lifeguard, it is permissible to have a male one since it is a potentially life-threatening situation to swim without a lifeguard, people can drown. I am constantly warning people not to swim or immerse in a place without a lifeguard. I know people who drowned in places without a lifeguard even though they were excellent swimmers. Based on the fact that it is a life-threatening situation and that the lifeguard is involved in his job by making sure everyone is alright and is therefore not staring at women, it is permissible. My advice for women is to wear a robe until you reach the water and put it on when you leave the water.

"Amen Meals"

On the Air with Rav Aviner - Shut Radio
Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about "Amen Meals" (participants take different types of food, recite a blessing before eating and those who hear the blessings answer "Amen")?
A: This is a new creation. It is permissible to participate since they are not doing anything inappropriate; they are reciting blessings and saying "amen." Why do women do this? In order to increase merits for themselves, for the sick, for young women to find mates, etc… But if people want to increase merits they do not have to invent new venues. The problem of increasing merit has always existed, and we have already been told what to do: repent, pray and give tzedakah (prayers of the High Holidays). One should pray, give the money one would spend on the "Amen meal" to tzedakah and repent for things he is not doing well. Is it worthwhile to participate in an "Amen meal"? It is preferable to increase merits not through newly created paths but through well-established and clear ones. There is, however, another aspect to these meals: they are a social gathering. Some women are being constricted at home by running the home and taking care of the children and they need to get together with friends. Without friends they will die, as it says in the Gemara: "friendship or death" (Ta'anit 23a). Instead of bumping into friends at the supermarket and chatting, they recite blessings and answer amen. This is fine, but if it is to increase merits, Hashem already thought of this and gave us 613 mitzvot and we do not have to create new things.
Q: What about women gathering to separate challah?
A: This is also a new creation. If one bakes and uses a certain amount of flour there is a mitzvah to separate challah, but nowhere is it written that people should gather together to do so. It is possible to take that time and use it to fulfill other mitzvot - ancient creations.

Our Rabbi and Neturei Karta

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

It once happened that a student did not daven Maariv at the conclusion of Shabbat. He therefore went to find a minyan in Meah Shearim, and he met up with our Rabbi who also had not davened Maariv. Our Rabbi spoke with the student for an hour and three-quarters about the Neturei Karta, who are against the State of Israel and against Tzahal at a time when the Master of the Universe shows us all of the signs of the Redemption and when everything written in Yechezkel chapter 36 is materializing before our eyes. After all of this, our Rabbi brought him to the shul of the Chasidim of Reb Arele Roth (a group known as Toldos Ahron who are intensely anti-Zionist), not by way of the main road but by way of the courtyard. When they entered the large hall, all eyes turned toward him, they finished the blessing after eating and they davened Maariv as if completely on fire. They then stood in line to say "shalom" to our Rabbi. After they left, the student asked, "Before we arrived I heard an hour and three-quarters against the Neturei Karta, and now they stand in line to say "shalom" to the Rav?" Our Rabbi responded, "One can learn from everyone. How to pray - this is here. You should know that when father, Ha-Rav ztz"l, desired prayer of 'all my bones would speak' (Tehillim 35:10), he would come here." Two weeks later, the student was walking in Meah Shearim, a Jew of the Chasidim of Reb Arele ran after him, "Send regards to Rav Tzvi Yehudah from so-and-so." When he related this to our Rabbi, he responded to him, "He is an expert in the writings of my father, Ha-Rav, but he learns them in secret, because if this was discovered he would be in danger, as he was born into Neturei Karta." In fundamental and principled matters, our Rabbi did not differentiate between this stream and that stream. For example, in protests against autopsies, our Rabbi would always participate with different Orthodox streams. (Iturei Cohanim #248 - in the name of Ha-Rav Binyamin Eisner)

True Love

True Love
[From the parashah sheet "Rosh Yehudi"]

My friend told me a children's story about an 80 year old man who came to a doctor's office for a treatment. He requested that they perform the treatment as quickly as possible because he is in a hurry.
During the treatment the nurse asked: "Where are you hurrying off to? Do you have an important doctor's appointment?"
"No, I am eating with my wife in the hospital?"
"What is wrong with her?"
"She has had Alzheimer's for a few years already."
"And if you are a little late, will she worry?"
"No, she does not understand what is happening to her. For the last five years she does not recognize anyone, not even me."
"And you visit her every morning even though she does not know who you are?" – the nurse said surprisingly.
"She does not know who I am," the man said smiling, "But I know who she is and who she was."

Deli roll with a milchig spatula

Question: After we finished cooking a deli roll, I mistakenly took it out of the pan (while no longer in the oven but still hot) with a dairy spatula which had not been used for over two months ago. Is it permitted to eat the deli roll, and what is the status of the spatula?
Answer: The deli roll is kosher but the spatula must be kashered.

Stories of Rabbenu - Our Rabbi

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Birchat Ha-Mazon
Our Rabbi did not recite "Al Naharot Bavel" (By the Rivers of Babylon – Tehillim 137 – usually recited on weekdays) before the blessing after eating, but "Shir Ha-Ma'alot" (A Song of Ascents – Tehillim 126 – usually recited on holidays and happy occasions) at every meal since the Nation of Israel is returning to its Land.

Goy shel Shabbat
Our Rabbi said that we should not be embarrassed about the leniency of the "Goy shel Shabbat" (using a non-Jew in specific situations on Shabbat), and in general we should not question the leniencies of our Sages of the Gemara.

Chanukah Jerusalem Holiday
Our Rabbi once said to the yeshiva students on Chanukah that one must remember that the holiday of Chanukah is a Jerusalem holiday (Gadol Shimusha p. 120).

Maoz Tzur
When Our Rabbi would sing Maoz Tzur, he would cry during the sad stanzas and would be full of excitement during the joyous stanzas. (Ha-Rav Yehoshua Wiezman)

Our Rabbi would light his Chanukiyah inside. (Ha-Rav Aviner)

Shut SMS #1

Text Message Responsa

Q: Is it permissible to go camping on Chanukah if I am unable to daven with a minyan?
A: The Halachah is that a person must make a strong effort to daven with a minyan, but if he is unable on account of making a livelihood or another reason, he is not obligated. Sometimes taking a trip into nature is an emotional necessity. If so, it is permissible to be lenient.
Q: Is it an obligation to have a silver chanukiyah?
A: The basic mitzvah is that any material is suitable for a chanukiyah, but like all mitzvot, one can embellish the mitzvah (hiddur mitzvah). Therefore, a silver chanukiyah is proper. But the Pele Yoetz writes that even better than what is "proper" is what is "preferable": such as giving the extra money to the poor.
Q: Were the Hasmoneans Ultra-Orthodox or Zionists?
A: It is known that they were God-fearing and also took weapons with self-sacrifice for the sake of the Land of Israel. If so, they were Religious-Zionists…
Q: Can we place a parve dish that was on a dairy table on the table when we are eating meat?
A: Yes, with the condition that you are sure that the dish did not touch the dairy.
Q: Which is preferable – davening with a minyan or davening alone at "Vatikin" (at sunrise)?
A: In a minyan. By the way, if one davens "Vatikin" alone, he must go to a minyan to hear Kaddish, Kedushah, Barechu and the Torah reading.
Q: Is it permissible to bring a Hindu, Indian housekeeper into my house?
A: Yes, just do not bring idol worship in it.
Q: Should a bar mitzvah boy who puts on Tefillin for the first time recite "Shehechiyanu"?
A: Yes, according to Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook.
Q: Is putting bars on the windows of a building part of the obligation of "Ma'akeh" (putting a railing around a flat roof so no one falls off – Devarim 22:8)?
A: It is an obligation of not allowing blood in your home (ibid.) if there are small children.
Q: Do we have an obligation to wipe out idol worship in the Land of Israel in our time?
A: Yes, but it is impossible. Shut Ha-Rav Menachem Kasher in the book "Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah."
Q: What is the Torah's approach regarding eating meat?
A: It is permissible to eat kosher meat. Vegetarianism is a future vision. We should now focus on mitzvot between people.
Q: Should I recite "Shehechiyanu" on being drafted into Tzahal? When?
A: Yes, when you wear your uniform for the first time.
Q: If I bought a CD can I put it on my MP3?
A: Yes, since you bought it and this is the way you wish to use it.
Q: Is it permissible to play poker on weekdays? On Shabbat?
A: On weekdays for minimal amounts of money and on Shabbat for no money. But it is always a waste of time.

Chanukah: Chareidi or Secular?

Chanukah: Chareidi or Secular?
[Be-Ahavah U-B-Emunah – Parashat Miketz 5769 - Translated by Rafael Blumberg]

-- Daddy, how did we beat the Greeks?
-- With the help of G-d, obviously.
-- And who was G-d helping?
-- The Hasmoneans, as is well known.
-- Who were they?
-- Al HaNissim calls them “Holy priests”. They were great saints.
-- Weren’t they soldiers?
-- Yes… They were soldiers…. Yes.
-- And they fought with weapons?
-- Yes…. With weapons.
-- So they were secular or National Religious?
-- Who says! They were Chareidim!
-- Chareidim went to the army?
-- So they went.
-- Why’d they go?
-- To save the Jewish People, obviously.
-- So why don’t we go?
-- No need. The Torah we learn protects us.
-- So we don’t need an army?
-- No! The Torah protects us.
-- And back then, the Torah DIDN’T protect us?
-- Certainly it protected us. That’s how they won – thanks to the Torah.
-- So why did they fight with weapons?
-- Because… thanks to the Torah… they won with weapons.
-- So why shouldn’t we go to the army and win thanks to the Torah?
-- No need. The secular and the National Religious go and they win thanks to our Torah.
-- So why didn’t the Hasmoneans sit and learn Torah, so that the secular and National Religious of those times could win, thanks to the Torah?
-- There were none. Back then, everyone was Chareidi.
-- The Hasmoneans weren’t National Religious?!
-- G-d forbid! Adding nationalism to Torah is a new invention.
-- What is nationalism?
-- A country, an army – things like that.
-- And the Hasmoneans didn’t fight in an army and didn’t establish a country?
-- Actually they did… Maybe they didn’t really want it… but there was no choice.
-- And now there is a choice? Now we don’t need an army? We’ve got enemies!
-- I told you. If we learn Torah, G-d will perform a miracle and destroy all our enemies.
-- So why didn’t G-d destroy all the enemies in the days of Chanukah? Maybe they didn’t learn Torah?
-- G-d forbid! It’s a fact that “the wicked Hellenic regime rose up against Your People Israel, to make them forget Your Torah and violate the laws of Your will” (Al HaNisim).
-- So if the Hasmoneans fought, they must have been National-Religious?
-- G-d forbid! G-d forbid! They were Chareidim… Entirely Chareidim….

-- Daddy, how did we beat the Greeks?
-- With the army, obviously.
-- We had an army back then?
-- No... The Hasmoneans organized one…
-- But why didn’t they organize it before? What happened?
-- The Greeks didn’t let the Jews keep the mitzvot – Shabbat and things like that.
-- Things the religious do?
-- Yes.
-- And over that we went to war?
-- Yes. The religious make an issue of everything. Demonstrations, wars…
-- So the Hasmoneans who fought the Greeks were religious?
-- No way! You know the religious don’t go to the army.
-- So maybe the Hasmoneans were National-Religious?
-- No way! Adding religion to nationalism is a new invention.
-- What’s wrong with that?
-- It’s wrong. It’s wrong. Religious confuses and weakens nationalism and militarism, which are good and healthy things.
-- But you said that the rebellion broke out because the Hasmoneans wanted to keep mitzvot?
-- Yeah, so?
-- So if they went with religion, how did they win?
-- How should I know? G-d helped them…
-- Is there such a thing?
-- Of course not. I meant they THOUGHT G-d helped them, so they won…
-- But precisely those assimilated to Greek culture didn’t fight?
-- Obviously. They were in favor of the Greeks!
-- So they weren’t nationalists? And precisely the religious were the nationalists?
-- So what?
-- So why shouldn’t we be religious? Then we’d be more nationalist!
-- Now things are different. You’ve got to be a secular nationalist. That’s the healthiest.
-- But I understand that the Hasmoneans were National-Religious, right?
-- No way! They were secular… Maybe secularists of a different type… but still secular.

(based on an anonymous source sent me by a friend)

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Halachot of the Army for Chanukah

Halachot of the Army for Chanukah

Chanukiyah in a field
Question: Should we light the Chanukiyah if we are sleeping in an open field?
Answer: The Meharsham rules that one has to be in a house, even a temporary one, to be obligated to light (Shut Meharsham vol. 4 #146). Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Eliezer Waldenberg gave a "chiddush" (innovative ruling) that it is permissible to light in a field (Shut Tzitz Eliezer 15:29), but this is a big "chiddush." Therefore, one should not light in a field.

Chanukah lights at a party
Question: Should we kindle Chanukah lights with a blessing at a Chanukah party in the army?
Answer: If the party is in the mess hall, it is like the residence of the soldiers and it is permissible to light with a blessing. But if it is just a hall, one should not recite the blessing. We also light with a blessing in a shul in order to publicize the miracle of Chanukah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 671:7), and this would seemingly also to apply to a hall, but the custom is that we only do so in a shul and we do not add to this custom. Thus, if the soldiers are davening minchah or maariv in the hall, it can be considered a shul and it would be permissible to light with a blessing (Yalkut Yosef – Moadim p. 204 note #43 and Hilchot Chanukah of RavHarari p. 98 note #23).

Chanukah lights in a tent
Question: Is there an obligation to light Chanukah lights in an army tent?
Answer: Chanukah lights require a house. A tent is a house. A house does not have to be made of wood and stones; it can also be made of fabric, and a temporary house is also considered a house (Yalkut Yosef – Moadim p. 208). A tent for shelter, however, is not considered a house since it does not have the minimum size of 4 amah by 4 amah (6 feet x 6 feet). It is too small and it cannot function as a house. Therefore, if a soldier is sleeping in a tent for shelter, he is exempt from lighting for Chanukah and he has three options: 1. His family can light for him at home. 2. He can light in the army mess hall. 3. He can light in the army shul.

Chanukah lights with an electric flashlight
Question: When there is no choice, it is permissible to use an electric flashlight for Chanukah lights? For example, in a tent when there is a fear of it lighting on fire.
Answer: Regarding Chanukah lights, an electric flashlight is not considered a light because it does not possess oil or a wick, and it is possible that it does not contain the minimum amount of power that it must be lit (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1, p. 199). Therefore, if there is a question, do not light at all.

Chanukah lights in a guard house
Question: Should someone on guard duty light in his guard house?
Answer: Yes. It is his temporary residence (Yalkut Yosef – Moadim p. 208). It is also a nice way of publicizing of the miracle.

Free Pollard Now

Rav Aviner has made the following annoucement on every one of his weekly radio shows over the last month:

Free Pollard Now

After 23 years in federal prison, it is time for Jonathan Pollard to go home to Israel. Your phone calls and letters can help make that happen.

Yes, Jonathan Pollard committed a crime. However, in light of his 23 years of incarceration (seven of which were spent in solitary confinement), the disproportionate sentence that he received, his repeated expressions of remorse for his actions, and his deteriorating health, it is time for Jonathan Pollard to be set free.

We need your help now more than ever. With President Bush set to leave office on January 20, 2009, time is of the essence. It is customary for Presidents to pardon many people at the end of their term. It is critical that the White House hear from as many people as possible in the next several weeks. They count up the calls and report them to the President.

Just a few moments of your time daily can help Jonathan Pollard regain his freedom. He needs your help now.
- Call the President at the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414
- Send a fax to the President at the White House at (202) 456-2461

With respect, say to President Bush: "Please free Jonathan Pollard now."

For more information: http://www.freepollardnow.com/

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

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

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

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

He also did not ask too many heads of Yeshivot, because if he had they would have ruled that it is forbidden to cause nullification of Torah learning from yeshiva students who engage in Torah study, and then there would have not be a delivering of "the heretics into the hands of those involved in Your Torah."

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 8 #35 and Sefer Am Ve-Artzo vol. 2 #182. Originally published in the Israeli newspaper "Ma’ariv"]

Rav Shlomo Aviner's Biography

Ha-Rav Shlomo Chaim Ha-Cohain Aviner was born in 5703 in German-occupied Lyon, France. As a youth, he was active there in the religious Zionist youth movement, Bnei Akiva, eventually becoming its National Director. He attended university, where he studied mathematics, physics and electrical engineering. At the age of 23, infused with the ideal of working the Land of Israel, Rav Aviner made aliyah to Kibbutz Sedei Eliyahu, in the Beit She’an Valley of the Galil. He then went to learn at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Yerushalayim, where he met Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, Rosh Yeshiva and son of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah became his foremost teacher, and he became one of his “Talmdei Muvhak - leading students.” During this time he also served as a soldier in Tzahal - the Israel Defense Force, participating in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, earning the rank of Lieutenant. At the direction of his Rabbi, he joined a group that was settling Chevron and learned Torah there. In the year 5731, Rav Aviner became the Rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi in the lower Galil, where he spent half of his day working in the farm. In 5737, he left Lavi to serve as the Rabbi of Moshav Keshet in the Golan Heights. In 5741, he accepted the position of Rav of Beit El (Aleph), in the Binyamin region of the Shomron. Two years later, he also became the Rosh Yeshiva of the new-established Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim (formerly known as Ateret Cohanim). Located in the Old City of Yerushalayim, Rav Aviner’s yeshiva is the closest yeshiva to the Har Ha-Bayit - the Temple Mount, the holiest spot in the world. In its more than twenty year history, Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim has produced rabbis, teachers, educators and officers in Tzahal, while also promoting the building and settling of the city of Yerushalayim.

Rav Aviner has become a ubiquitous presence in Israel. He has published hundreds of books and articles, including Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah (talks by Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah), Tal Hermon on the weekly Torah portion and holidays and his multi-volume responsa Shu”t She'eilat Shlomo. His talks and responsa appear monthly in the Yeshiva’s journal, Iturei Cohanim. While his opinions are frequently printed in Israeli newspapers, Rav Aviner also contributes weekly to four parashah sheets, “Ma’aynei Ha-Yeshu’ah,” “Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah” of Machon Meir, "Rosh Yehudi" and "Olam Katan" which are distributed every Shabbat in shuls throughout Israel. He hosts two weekly radio programs, has a video Q&A blog, teaches weekly classes and gives talks in many different venues. In addition to these scheduled events, Rav Aviner also makes himself available to hundreds of people from all walks of life who come to him with questions via the telephone, e-mail and text messages.