Cleaning for Pesach

Questions sent to Rabbi Aviner:

Question: If a person thoroughly cleaned a room (vacuumed, moved furniture etc.) a week or a few days before Pesach so they are certain that there is no chametz, do they have to perform "Bedikat Chametz"?
Answer: The custom is to check a room quickly if one has thoroughly cleaned it on the off chance he missed something.

Question: How far before Pesach does one NOT have to bring chametz into a room for it to be considered chametz-free?
Answer: Thirty days.

Shut SMS #13

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to throw away tapes with Divrei Torah on them?
A: Yes, nothing is written there.
Q: Does a non-Jew who cooks kosher food make a pot unkosher?
A: Yes.
Q: What about a Jew who violates Shabbat?
A: No. Yalkut Yosef.
Q: A person picked fruit from a non-Jew's orchard without his permission and he gave it to me. It is permissible to eat it?
A: This is stealing and you should not be a party to it.
Q: Is it permissible to use sunflower seeds in an art project in nursery school?
A: Yes, there is no problem of "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destruction) since this is also using it.
Q: Is it permissible to make a plus sign in math which looks like a cross or should one write it as an upside down capital "T" because of a concern of Christian idolatry?
A: There is no problem, since this is not the use of idol worship at all. See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 141:1 and Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 5:21 of Ha-Rav Chaim David Halevy.
Q: At what age should we have our son start wearing a kippah?
A: At the earliest possible age, but without forcing him.
Q: Is it theft if I meet someone in the lobby of a hotel?
A: Yes. You should order a drink.
Q: Do séances have some truth to them or that they complete nonsense?
A: Complete nonsense, and completely forbidden.
Q: Is it permissible to print a verse from the Tanach on an invitation?
A: No. They are generally thrown in the garbage.
Q: What should one do on his birthday to make it holy?
A: "Cheshbon Ha-Nefesh" – a spiritual accounting of his life.
Q: Is it permissible to blow up a balloon on Shabbat?
A: It is permissible, but you must tie it with a rubber band.
Q: Is there a segulah (usually understood as a mystical action which will bring about a particular consequence) to find a spouse?
A: Prayer, repentance and tzedakah.

"Next Year in the Rebuilt Jerusalem"

Question: I saw in the Haggadah "Mi-Bet Levi (p. 233) and the Haggadah "Shai La-Torah" (p. 411) that the Griz – Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, Av Bet Din of Brisk – was particular that one should not add the word "Rebuilt" since there is no source for adding this word and it was included by those who claim that the Redemption has begun. Is this a Zionist expression?
Answer: Maran Ha-Rav Kook brings this phrase as the custom of Jerusalem (see Melachim Kivnei Adam p. 221). Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher included the phrase "Next Year in a Rebuilt Jerusalem" in his Haggadah Shelemah in smaller letters and he writes in his "Eretz Yisrael" Haggadah: "They say in the Land of Israel…" Ha-Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap in Haggadah "Mei Marom" writes "Rebuilt" in brackets. And this phrase is included in the Haggadah of Tzahal, and Rav Shlomo Goren writes in his notes which appear in the back: "The formula of the Land of Israel." It is clear that this is an expression used in the Land of Israel. Outside of Israel, people say: "Next year in Jerusalem." But in Eretz Yisrael or, most precisely, in Jerusalem, we add "Rebuilt" since we are already here. The Griz is correct that this is a new phrase, but it is not necessarily a Zionist expression. It is not connected to the State of Israel but to the fact that we are in the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. Who was the first to say: "Next Year in the Rebuilt Jerusalem"? This is a question for a researcher in the university.

A Domineering Husband

Question: Even before we were married, I noticed that my husband had a domineering personality: instructions regarding the style of my dress, limits on relations with my friends, directives regarding my studies, demanding that I be available, constantly blaming me for a lack of respect and love. But he was so smart and amazing that I became captivated by his love. We have been married ten years and the situation in getting worse: verbal abuse and occasionally physical abuse. Every time I decide to leave, he quickly asks my forgiveness and the greater the offense the greater the appeasement: gifts, entertainment and hugs. Furthermore, I blame myself to some extent for the situation since if I was okay, none of this would be happening. I therefore search for ways to please him, but to no avail.
Answer: You are in good company. Close to one in four women suffer from some form of violence. This phenomenon crosses all nations, all cultures and all strands of society. Many atheists also fulfill the verse: "And he will lord over you" (Bereshit 3:16) – but it is obviously not a mitzvah rather a curse. Therefore, please go to a counselor to help you in leaving this distressing situation. Do not fool yourself that the problem will be solved with patience. And if you are willing to suffer for the children, you are mistaken: it is to their detriment to see their father causing pain to their mother. It rips them apart. Please go to a counselor. And one more thing: do not ask me if I know you or a woman exactly like you in this country. To our distress, there are hundreds of thousands and the question was just a model.

Establishing a yeshiva on Mt. Sinai

Q: I saw in the media that the President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, suggested establishing a yeshiva on Mt. Sinai. I do not know if it was serious or not. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
A: I did not hear this, but it is possible to establish a yeshiva anywhere. We obviously do not know where Mt. Sinai is located. They are many suggestions, but we do not know. Nonetheless, there is nothing holy about Mt. Sinai. And if Mt. Sinai is in the Sinai Desert, there are no Jews there and it is not under the control of the State of Israel. One needs to live within Eretz Yisrael and within the State of Israel. Before the establishment of the State of Israel, we lived everywhere in the Land of Israel. After the establishment of the State, we need to live within the State of Israel and it is forbidden to leave it. The proof is from King David who said (Shmuel 1 26:19): "they drove me away today from being connected to the inheritance of Hashem, saying: Go serve other gods." Our Sages explain in the Gemara in Ketubot (110b): Did anyone tell David to serve idolatry? Rather this teaches that anyone who lives outside of Israel is like one who serves idolatry. But King David did not leave Israel, he was in Gat. But it was not under the control of Israel and one should did leave it. We do not know where Mt. Sinai is but it is logical to assume that it is in the Sinai Desert. Sinai. If so, there is no need to leave Israel to establish yeshivot, we need to establish them here in Eretz Yisrael.

Daily immersion in a mikveh

Q: Is it a daily obligation to immerse in a mikveh before davening?
A: There is no obligation. Ezra decreed that there is an obligation to immerse if one has a seminal emission, but as is known, our Sages ruled that we do not follow this as is written in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 88. In our time, it is a stringency if one wants to do so and it is a double stringency for one who is pure and wants to do so. A person is not obligated to immerse before davening and not on Shabbat, but there is an established custom to do so on Erev Yom Kippur (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 606:4). Chasidim do have the daily custom to immerse since they say: sadness is not a transgression but it is the worst thing and immersion is not a mitzvah but it is the best thing. "Mitnagdim" (non-Chasidim Jews) do not have the custom to immerse on a daily basis. One important "Mitnaged" Rabbi was asked: why don't you immerse? He answered: I immerse in the waters of knowledge. I immerse in the Torah which is a purifying fire. In sum: there is no obligation to immerse. If a person sees that immersion increases his holiness and awe of Heaven, he should immerse. If someone sees Torah or something else increases his holiness and awe of Heaven, then each person should follow his own path.

"Get Yourself a Rav"

Q: Does the concept of "Get Yourself a Rav" (Pirkei Avot 1:6, 16) mean that you must have one Rabbi for everything?
A: "Get Yourself a Rav" is not an obligation. It is not stated in the Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch that one is obligated to have a Rav but it is exalted advice. If a man has a Rabbi, the Rabbi can direct and guide him. He helps to exalt him in a spiritual sense. But it is not an obligation. A person can therefore have more than one Rabbi. He can also have a Rabbi for all questions and issues except for one. For example, the Gemara in Shabbat (22a) writes that Rava followed his Rabbi - who was called "Rav" - in everything except three cases. There is also a concept called "Rabo Muvhak," i.e. a Rabbi from whom one has acquired the majority of his wisdom (see Bava Metzia 33a). Nonetheless, there is a halachah in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 242:4) that it is forbidden for a person to give a halachic ruling or to establish a yeshiva without permission of "Rabo Muvhak." The exact wording is that one needs permission from one's foremost teachers – "Rabotav Ha-Muvhakim." But how can one have more than one "Rabo Muvhak" - after all a "Rabo Muvhak" is a Rabbi from whom one has acquired the majority of his wisdom?! The Shach explains there (#12) he has "Rabo Muvhak" in Torah, "Rabo Muvhak" in Gemara, "Rabo Muvhak" in Halachah, etc… We see from here that a person can have various Rabbis, each in a different area. The ideal is obviously for a person to have one Rabbi for everything so that he can have a unified system of thought and practice.

A woman who does not want to immerse in a Mikveh

Q: What should a newly observant man do if his unobservant wife adamantly refuses to immerse in a mikveh? After all, he cannot even touch her if she does not immerse in the mikveh after her menstruation. Can he have marital relations since he is "anus" (in a situation beyond his control) or must he divorce her?
A: It is truly a tragedy that she will not immerse. However, he is not considered "anus," but he also does not have to divorce her. He needs to speak to her heart since all couples have issues on which one concedes to the other. He sometimes concedes to her and she sometimes concedes to him when something is extremely important to the other. He needs to say to her: I concede on certain things for you, please do so for me since this is extremely important to me. In such a situation, we should not to be strict with her on all of the stringencies in the laws of immersing in the mikveh; he has to be as lenient as the Halachah allows. If they do not succeed in solving this issue, they should go to a marriage counselor and we hope that he will succeed in bringing peace.

The tenth man

Q: If someone is one of the first ten men of the minyan, but then leaves, does he still get the merit for being one of the first ten?
A: The merit remains his if there is a reason forcing him to leave. After all, he exerted the effort to arrive early.

Bedikat Chametz in a Tank

Q: Do soldiers have to check for chametz in a tank?
A: Yes, since they eat there.
Q: Should they recite a blessing?
A: No, a tank is not a house. They are inside for long periods of time but this does not transform it into a house.
Q: Should they check the tank with a candle?
A: No or else you will perform Bedikat Chametz and Biur Chametz (destroying the chametz) at the same time. The same applies in checking a car. The basic Halachah is that it is possible to use any source of light to check but the custom is to use a candle.

Shut SMS #12

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion regarding alternative medicine?
A: The majority is nonsense, the minority is true.
Q: If I forgot to recite "Asher Yatzar" after using the restroom and I used it a second time, do I recite the blessing twice?
A: No, one time.
Q: If I buy something, should I ask for a receipt or should I trust the seller that he is paying taxes?
A: It is proper to ask.
Q: A friend told me that she loves a guy, and someone suggested that I meet him for the purpose of marriage. If I agree, is it theft?
A: It is preferable that you first suggest your friend to the young man.
Q: Does Amalek exist in our time?
A: Yes, but they are unknown - in the halachic sense.
Q: What is the source for spitting when you see a priest?
A: There is no such law.
Q: Does a person being set up on a date for the purpose of marriage need to inform the other person that his parents are divorced?
A: No. This is unimportant. See Yevamot 45 with Kehillat Yaakov.
Q: What can I do to bring my wife closer to Torah?
A: You should ask her.
Q: Is there a particular order to cut one's nails?
A: One need not be particular. Arizal.
Q: It is true that if a woman drinks the wine from Havdalah, she will grow a beard?
A: It is nonsense, but they customarily do not do so. If there is no man, she obviously recites Havdalah and drinks.
Q: If I am sick with a contagious illness, should I refrain from davening with a minyan?
A: Ask a doctor for his opinion.
Q: Is it true that if one says Shir Ha-Shirim forty times for something, it will be answered?
A: No, it has the same value as any other mitzvah.
Q: Should I recite "Shehechiyanu" on the day I am drafted into Tzahal?
A: Yes, also for receiving your uniform.
Q: I prayed so much for something specific and it did not come about. Where did the prayer go?
A: It aided you in a different direction according to the Divine wisdom.
Q: If a Jew smokes does he commit a transgression?
A: If he disturbs others – it is definitely a transgression. If he does not disturb others and he smokes – he is endangering his life and violates "Safeguard your souls" (Devarim 4:15, 23:11).
Q: Is it a Jewish practice to propose marriage while down on one knee?
A: This is not a Jewish practice at all.
Q: Baruch Hashem, my wife is pregnant. But since she became pregnant, her life has been more difficult from every perspective. How should I relate to her?
A: You need to display much love and patience. This is your current worship of Hashem, and find ways of spiritual elevation while performing it. See Shemoneh Kevatzim vol. 1, 838.
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to show some of her hair?
A: Two fingers worth.

Book Dedication Opportunity

Rav Aviner is preparing to publish his Hebrew commentary of the book "Orot Ha-Kodesh" (vol. 1) of Maran Ha-Rav Kook. "Orot Ha-Kodesh" is a pillar of Rav Kook's philosophy and essential for understanding his thought. It is a dictionary of words and phrases of Jewish philosophy with Rav Kook's explanations. This work is extremely difficult to understand and Rav Aviner's commentary will open it up to everyone.

You can be a partner in this project by dedicating part of a book in memory or in honor of someone (any amount is appreciated and payment can be made over time). The total cost of the project is $15,000. Please be in touch with Rav Aviner or me if you are interested.

Rabbis with Different Opinions and Styles

Question: Why haven't the students of Maran (our Master) Ha-Rav Kook excommunicated Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef? How is it possible for this Rabbi to speak in such a degrading and base manner, speaking ill about the secular, disparaging the soldiers of Tzahal and cursing other Jews (i.e. – Yossi Sarid, may his name be blotted out)? Is this how a Rabbi speaks? And his honorable, Ha-Rav Aviner, quotes him in his books?!
Answer: If one does not accept the fundamental principle that human beings are occasionally complex, we would have to distinguish between good and bad individuals, between light and darkness. But this is not so. People are complex. Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef is a great Torah scholar? How do we know? Read his books and see his Torah scholarship in his incredible breadth of knowledge, in the depth of his understanding and in his power to decide Halachah. He is a great Torah scholar. At the same time, we are students of other Torah scholars in relation to the Land of Israel and in relation to the love of Israel. One must also notice that that every Torah scholar has his own style. There are Torah scholars with harsh styles and Torah scholars with gentle styles, but they are often saying the same thing in different ways. Therefore, even if we do not agree with a specific idea, we do not need to excommunicate anyone. Pirkei Avot (6:6) says that the Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities, and one of them is "sharing his fellow's yoke," i.e. Torah scholar "A" must carry the yoke with Torah scholar "B" even though he has serious disagreement, even severe criticism, with part of the other's opinions or words. But there is agreement on 90% or 95%. One does not have to focus on the things which separate, but on what connects, which is greater – beyond measure – than what separates. In the future, Torah scholars will sit together in the main hall and decide the Halachah together. In the meantime, we are in the entrance way, and therefore we respect one another even though we do not agree. If a Torah scholar says something which is correct: accept the truth from the one who says it (Rambam, Shemoneh Perakim – Introduction to Pirkei Avot). Just because he says something incorrect in one area, I won't accept his opinion in another area when he speaks the truth?! In sum: We must increase love of all Torah scholars from all streams.

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Our Rabbi & Weddings

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed related: In our Rabbi's view, it was important that the students of the Yeshiva have their "Aufruf" (the Shabbat before the wedding) in the Yeshiva, since he said that this joy is for the young man and his friends in the Yeshiva. My father’s "Aufruf," therefore, was in the Yeshiva, even though the family preferred that it would be where they lived in Tel Aviv. (Rav Eliezer Melamed in newspaper "Be-Sheva")

Our Rabbi would make a great effort to attend his students’ weddings. When he was unable to attend, he was careful to send a telegram with a blessing. (Rav Eliezer Melamed in newspaper "Be-Sheva")

Our Rabbi was particular that one should not write the Christian date, and when he was invited to a wedding and the Christian date appeared on the invitation, he would not attend the wedding. (Gadol Shimushah p. 91 #31)

It once happened that our Rabbi was called up to recite one of the blessings at a wedding and they referred to him as "Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon." He did not move. When he was told that he had been called up, he explained that he is not a "Gaon" and that it is only proper to use this description for the Vilna Gaon. (Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald)

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 time 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. I do not know if the holiness of the streimel is one-hundred percent clear. It was made holy after the fact. Many righteous and holy Geonim (great rabbis) 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 and essential. (Sichot Rabbenu, Yom Ha-Atzmaut 5727, Mizmor 19 of Medinat Yisrael, pg. 76 #11).

Spouses during the Resurrection of the Dead

Q: If a woman was married to two different men during her lifetime who will she be with after the Resurrection of the Dead?
A: There is an answer to this question in the book "Piskei Teshuvah" of Ha-Rav Avraham Pitrakovsky (#124). He quotes the book "Shut Matzav Ha-Yashar" on the Zohar that there was a young woman who was married a wonderful man and he died at a relatively young age. The young women did not want to marry again. She said, "Why should I get married to someone else? During the Resurrection of the Dead I will be married to my second husband, and my first husband is dearer to me than anything. I prefer to remain a widow all of my life and then be married to my true soul-mate." There is a similar question in the book "Ha-Techiya Ve-Ha-Pedut" (question #6) of Ha-Rav Sa'adia Gaon: how will I find my wife during the Resurrection of the Dead? Ha-Rav Sa'adia did not want to answer since it is forbidden to answer a halachic question before someone who is greater than him in wisdom. Since this is a question of the Resurrection of the Dead, Moshe Rabbenu will be there and it is therefore forbidden for me to answer. If there are questions that arise now - what can we do? We have to answer them. Questions that have to do with the future, however, we leave for Moshe Rabbenu and the other prophets. It therefore seems that the question in "Shut Matzav Ha-Yashar" cannot be answered, but this is before the Zohar was revealed. After the Zohar was revealed, it contains the answer to our question. Regarding a Jewish servant, the verse says, "If he arrives by himself, he leaves by himself; if he is the husband of a woman, his wife leaves with him" (Shemot 21:3). This means that he enters the Resurrection of the Dead with his wife – his first wife. There are commentators who explain that the meaning of the Zohar is that she will return to her true spouse, i.e. the most successful marriage (see note in Piskei Teshuvah). Thus, she will return to the marriage which was filled with the most love, fraternity, peace and friendship.

Clothing for a Baal Teshuvah (a newly-repentant person)

Q: What type of clothing should a Baal Teshuvah wear – a black suit like the Charedim or clothing like the Religious-Zionists?
A: There are no laws in the Torah regarding the type of clothing to wear, besides that it is forbidden to wear "Sha'atnez" (a mixture or wool and linen) and that one must wear Tzitzit. Furthermore, not all Charedim dress alike and not all Religious-Zionists dress alike. Clothing is a personal choice. Many men, however, are inclined to wear a uniform, since their clothing broadcast his societal affiliation. If so, the question is not what clothing to wear but one's societal affiliation. If you are Charedi, you can dress like them although there are different types of dress. If you are a Religious-Zionist, you can dress like them although there are different types of dress. A general principle for the newly-repentant: "Get yourself a Rav." This is not an obligation but exalted advice for every Jew and all the more so for a Baal Teshuvah. He will have a personal connection with the Rav who can guide him on all of his paths.


Q: Does a person have only one Beshert or are there various possibilities and he/she needs to decide who is the right partner?
A: There is one person chosen by Heaven as it says in the Gemara in Sotah (2a) that forty days before one is born, a Divine voice says that the daughter of this person is to be marry to that person. How do we know - after all we do not have prophets? If we act properly, we will have Divine direction, i.e. we choose a spouse first based on intellect and then emotion. There are occasions that one's partner is not here because he was killed in a war or died for another reason but it is still possible to marry. This is what is called: "G-d makes the lonely ones dwell in a house" (Tehillim 68:7 according to Sotah ibid.), i.e. Hashem places the lonely who are not exactly matched into one house and they are a good match in the end. It is possible that it is difficult at first – "It is as difficult to find a match as it was to split the Red Sea (Sotah ibid.) – but they will work it out and live in love, fraternity and friendship. There is therefore no difference in actuality whether one marries his beshert or not. Either way, you must marry with respect and love and then invest energy.

National Geographic

Q: Is it permissible to keep a National Geographic in my house when there is the possibility that it will have immodest pictures?
A: It is impossible to invalidate an entire book or magazine on account of one picture. What you should do is to color over the picture or put a sticker over it. After all, this is a rare occurrence. Destroying a picture on a wall in the street is a communal question, but you can do what you want if it is your own book or magazine.

Learning Torah while laying in bed

Q: Is it permissible to learn Torah while laying in bed or on a couch?
A: One must learn Torah in awe, fear and trembling (Berachot 22a). This idea is also found in the Mishnah Sotah (9:15) that we should learn while standing for the honor of Torah (see Megillah 21a). In truth, it is proper to learn Torah only while standing but we do not have the strength and we therefore learn while seated. But even while seated, we must learn in an upright position and with an awe of holiness. One should certainly not learn while lying down. But if someone is sick or tried and needs to lie down, it is permissible to learn while doing so. In other words, when we learn, we do not need to lie down but when we lie down, we certainly need to learn.

Matching up a couple whose fathers have identical names

Q: Is it permissible for a groom and bride to marry when their fathers have the same name?
A: Certainly. This is mentioned in the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid (#23 and brought in Pitchei Teshuvah, Even Ha-Ezer 2:107 and Yoreh Deah 116:6). There is a dispute whether the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid only obligates his offspring or everyone. The Noda Bi-Yehudah (Second Edition, Even Ha-Ezer #79) wrote that this "prohibition" is not mentioned in the Gemara and it is not possible to add prohibitions which are not found in the Gemara. The Rebbe of Sanz did not agree and he said that everything in the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid applies to everyone (Shut Divrei Chaim, Even Ha-Ezer #8). Authorities give the advice that one of the fathers can add a name and there is then no issue. Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote three responsum on this subject at the beginning of Shut Ezrat Cohain (#5-7). He says that being particular about this issue is only when someone suggests a match since it is possible to suggest many other people. If the couple meets on their own, however, this is different since it is not easy to meet someone to marry. Maran Ha-Rav Kook also said that this does not apply in Israel, since the merit of Eretz Yisrael protects one from such spiritual matters. He mentioned the Gemara in Berachot (44a) that there was one city in Eretz Yisrael called Gufnit and it had eighty pairs of brothers who were cohanim married to sisters, the daughters of cohanim. We see that they were not worried about "pairs" (a spiritual concern) since they were in Eretz Yisrael. In general, one who is not concerned about such matters is not affected by them. Furthermore, if a couple has an inclination and desire to marry, there is no concern. In sum: There is nothing to worry about, and if you add a name then there is no problem according to all opinions.

Our Rabbi & Pidyon Ha-Ben

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Pidyon Ha-Ben (Redeeming a First-born Son)

Our Rabbi always accepted an invitation to attend a Pidyon Ha-Nen since it is a mitzvah for a cohain to redeem a first-born [and our Rabbi was a cohain] (Gadol Shimusha p. 95 #26).

We heard many times from the mouth of our Rabbi that the money he received as a cohain during the Pidyon Ha-Ben was the most kosher money for him, because it is a Torah requirement. And in two of his letters, from the year 5697, our Rabbi wrote that he used this money to fix the binding of books. And it says in the book "Shivchei Ha-Re’iyah" (p.288) that Maran Ha-Rav Kook would buy books with the money he received at the Pidyon Ha-Ben.

When he was asked to receive the money of the Pidyon Ha-Ben, our Rabbi said: "This is finally an opportunity to make a little money." And after the surprise over his words, he explained that this money is the most kosher, since the Torah granted it to the cohain and one should therefore be happy with it.

At the redemption, he would read the Hebrew formula of the cohain’s questions as is found in the siddur "Olat Re’eiyah."

A student had his son redeemed by our Rabbi with the famous coins of Ha-Rav Aryeh Levin, the Tzadik of Jerusalem. After a few weeks, the student approached our Rabbi in order to buy them back. Our Rabbi waited until everyone left. When they discussed their value, our Rabbi removed the coins from his coat pocket, because he had kept them there the entire time on account of their importance.

Before a Pidyon Ha-Ben, a student once came to our Rabbi, and he told him that Maran Ha-Rav Kook would use the coins of Ha-Rav Aryeh Levin, the Tzadik of Jerusalem. Our Rabbi was particular not to return the coins immediately in order to strengthen the recognition that we are discussing an actual payment to the cohain and not a temporary giving which automatically returns. A student once came to pay the true value of the redemption to our Rabbi. Our Rabbi did not agree, but specified a much smaller amount. Even though the student emphasized that he clarified what the correct value should be, our Rabbi remained firm, and mentioned that in the past they paid him a smaller amount.

Shut SMS #11

Q: Should one recite the "Shehechiyanu" on buying a pistol?
A: Yes, it is for protection.
Q: If someone hears a blessing on the radio, should he respond amen?
A: A rebroadcast – no, a live broadcast – it is permissible but not obligatory.
Q: Is it permissible to carry a gun on Shabbat?
A: Yes, there is sometimes a need for it and it is also preventative.
Q: Even when I overcome sinning, the desire still remains. How can I change the desire?
A: Read Mesillat Yesharim a lot.
Q: Is it permissible to read parashah sheets in shul?
A: It is preferable to take them home.
Q: If someone planted vegetables during the Shemitah year, which is forbidden, and they are picked after the Shemitah year, when are they permissible?
A: They are forbidden.
Q: Is it permissible for a man to wear a wedding ring?
A: Yes. He remembers his love of his wife.
Q: The bank mistakenly put money in my account. Must I report it?
A: Yes, it is returning a lost item.
Q: Is it permissible to pray for a certain soccer team to win if their loss will really upset me?
A: We do not pray for nonsense.
Q: If I ask a certain Rabbi questions about daily life, do I have to listen to his ruling on whom to vote for?
A: No. It all depends on what a person takes upon himself.
Q: Is it permissible to take a computer which contains holy texts into the bathroom?
A: It is permissible. If the text currently appears on the scene, it must have a double covering.
Q: Is it permissible for a couple to be married if the groom has the same name as the bride's father?
A: It is permissible. Some are strict to add a name.
Q: If I see an immodest picture on the street, am I obligated to pick it up so others will not see it?
A: It is commendable.
Q: Is it permissible to give "ma'aser" money to an organization which helps us?
A: It is simpler to accept less help.
Q: Is it true that King Shlomo invented Chess?
A: This is only a story. See the book "Otzar Yisrael" of Rav Eizenstein. Entry on chess.
Q: Can I daven the "Shemoneh Esrei" out loud if it helps my prayers?
A: It is permissible if you are alone. In public – you must daven quietly so that others will not hear.
Q: Is it permissible to buy holy books from someone if they are less expensive but he does not pay taxes?
A: It is certainly forbidden if it is against the law, and all the more so for holy books.
Q: Is it permissible to make wedding plans during Sefirat Ha-Omer?
A: It is permissible.
Q: Is there a proper amount of time between the engagement and wedding?
A: I am not familiar which such discussions on this issue, but it is proper to minimize the time as much as possible.
Q: My husband and I have been married three years. His father never accepted the marriage and he totally disappeared from our lives for a year. My husband tries to honor him, but it is difficult. We are expecting a baby boy and we are sure that my father-in-law will expect and demand to be the sandek at the Brit Milah. How does the sandek influence the personality of the child? Will my husband transgress the obligation to honor him if he does not choose him, since as a result my father-in-law will not speak to us for years?
A: It is permissible to let him be the sandek. It will not influence the child and it is a mitzvah towards his father. Don't worry.

Early davening

Question: I am a resident physician working in a hospital. I drive to work after "Alot Ha-Shachar" (when the rays of the sun shine over the horizon) and arrive at work before "Ha-Netz Ha-Chamah" (when one can see the ball of the sun). I never have time to daven at work. How should I daven Shacharit?
Answer: You should daven before you go to work. This is what is called "minyan poalim" (a worker's minyan) in Halachah (although you won't have a minyan). In an extreme circumstance, it is permissible.

Tearing One’s Garment upon seeing the Temple Mount After the Six-Day War

The Halachah rules that one must tear his garment when seeing the spot of the Temple in ruins (Moed Katan 26a and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim #561). Rav Yosef Karo, in the Beit Yosef, in discussing the obligation to rip one’s garment upon seeing the cities of Yehudah and Jerusalem in ruins, explained that we hold that "in ruins" means "under non-Jewish control." The Magen Avraham (#1) and Mishnah Berurah (#2) accepted this view. This means that even if there is a Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel but it is under non-Jewish control, it is still considered in ruins, and one must tear his garment upon seeing it. Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, explained that the same applies for seeing the spot of the Temple in ruins, and just as "in ruins" means "under non-Jewish control" for the cities of Yehudah and Jerusalem, so too does "in ruins" mean "under non-Jewish control" for the Temple Mount. Therefore after the famous call of "Har Ha-Bayit Be-Yadenu - the Temple Mount is in our hands" during the Six-Day War, he ruled that there is no longer an obligation to tear one’s garment when seeing the Temple Mount, even though the Temple is still destroyed. Our Rabbi explained that it is possible to claim that since there is no Temple, one must tear their garment. One must understand, however, why we are prevented from fulfilling the Divine Commandment of "Make for me a Temple" (Shemot 25:8). The Temple Mount is in our hands and our inability to build the Temple is not due to "exile." We are in control, but are prevented from building the Temple due to halachic and political reasons. These are our reasons, not those of the non-Jews (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Yom Ha-Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, talk for Yom Yerushalayim p. 90 and Tal Chermon - Moadim, p. 218). Our Rabbi also wrote that we should also be concerned about ripping our garments when not obligated and violating "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destruction of items) when the whole prohibition for tearing when seeing the Temple in a destroyed state is a Rabbinic prohibition.

In the book, "Mekor Chaim" (2:95 #1), Ha-Rav Chaim David Halevy – former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo for 25 years – wrote that he agrees with our Rabbi's opinion. He explained that when a close relative dies, we tear our garments when the "dead is before us." After the mourning, we observe an annual Yahrtzeit. Similarly, when our "dead was before us" – the Temple Mount was under non-Jewish control – we had the obligation to tear our garments. Now that we have control, the dead is no longer before us, and we observe an annual Yahrtzeit: Tisha Be-Av. Despite Ha-Rav Halevy's agreement, he concluded that in order to exempt us from this obligation, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel must make this decision.
Rav Aviner's book "Rabbenu" - On the Life of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah (p. 211) - relates how our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, acted on the day when the Temple Mount was liberated: "On the day of the liberation of Jerusalem, our Rabbi and "The Nazir," Rav David Cohain, were together at the Kotel, and the next day our Rabbi went to him to bring him his book "Le-Netivot Yisrael" volume 1 which was published on that very 28th of Iyar 5727. Our Rabbi said that while standing facing the Kotel, he did not tear his garment upon his seeing the place of the Temple since "it is only considered in a destroyed state when the non-Jews rule over it" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 561 and Mishnah Berurah #2), and this fundamental principle which was stated regarding the cities of Yehudah also applies to the spot of the Temple. "The Nazir" responded in agreement and added: "Is it not also true that his honor saw that our Master the Rav was there in his Shabbat clothing and he did not tear" (He saw a vision of Maran Rav Kook). All were astounded and all eyes turned to our Rabbi, he also nodded his head approvingly: "Yes, certainly."

In the book "Penini Halachah" (end of vol. 1 in the second edition), Ha-Rav Eliezer Melamed – Rav of Har Berachah – writes that our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would agree today that one should tear his garment upon seeing the spot of the Temple, after the horrible desecration of Hashem's Name which have occurred there. I asked Ha-Rav Aviner his opinion regarding our Rabbi's opinion today and he responded: "Baruch Hashem, the Temple Mount is still in our hands, and with Hashem's help it will remain so," i.e. our Rabbi's ruling still stands that we are exempt from tearing our garments upon seeing the spot of the Temple.

From Uman to Jerusalem

Rabbi Aviner in the News:
Rabbi Aviner supports importation of Breslov graveBy Kobi Nahshoni – from 17 Adar 5769 –

The Breslov Hasidic camp is currently promoting the importation of the bones of their founding leader, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and one of the senior rabbis of the Religious-Zionist movement has joined the struggle.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who has previously opposed the Jewish New Year's Eve trend of massive prostration on the Rebbe's grave in the Ukrainian town of Breslov, has expressed his support for a petition being circulated by the Hasidic community, which calls on the government to bring the holy site to Israel.

In an article published by the 'Maayanei Hayeshua' organization Aviner writes: "Is Rabbi Nachman a lesser (man) than many leaders of Israel whose bones have been transferred to Israel? Of course not! He is more so, because many times he said that his true place was in Israel."

The Rabbi claimed that Nachman had desired to be buried in Israel, "and if the will of Rabbi Nachman was that people would come to visit his grave, of course his will could be carried out with more enthusiasm in the Land of Israel."

Regarding the issue of the transfer of graves, which carries many halachic limitations, the rabbi determined that if the graves are transferred to Israel the move is considered a mitzvah. He explains that according to Rabbi Moses Maimonides, burial in Israel accomplishes atonement for the sins of the deceased, and thus "Rabbi Nachman will benefit from this."

In conclusion, [Rav] Aviner recommends that the reader sign the Hasidic petition, and explains that the move "will also save one from leaving Israel for an impure land, which is known as a halachic problem."

He adds, "It will also save the wealth of Israel, which can be given to charity, which saves lives. It is therefore a doubled mitzvah to bring Rabbi Nachman's bones to Israel, as was the process with many great and holy (people)."

The "Petition of Millions" calls on the government to import the grave to Jerusalem as part of the "fulfillment of the prophecy of world peace and to assist the arrival of salvation."

According to the petition, the importation of the grave will bring salvation to the world in the fields of security and economics, and will prevent the occurrence of a third world war.

Bat Mitzvah

Q: My wife wants to have an event for women only, and I want to have an event for the whole family. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
A: There are no general principles for a Bat Mitzvah, just as there are also no general principles for a Bar Mitzvah. The Bar Mitzvah boy is called to the Torah nowadays, but not in the past. After the davening, they would give out some schnapps and cakes. They now have big affairs. We are not against such things, but we need to know that it is not obligatory. It is therefore a personal decision to have women only or to have men as well. If you have it with men it must obviously be modest. In any event, this is the Bat Mitzvah girl's celebration and it needs to be what she wants and not what we want. It needs to be something that she enjoys and something that brings her the most spiritual benefit.

Baal Teshuvah and a Kippah

Q: How should a "Baal Teshuvah" (a newly-repentant Jew) begin to wear a kipah? I have a lot of non-observant friends and I fear that they will make fun of me.
A: There are four approaches: 1. The In-Stages Approach – to occasionally wear a kippah: for 15 minutes a day, then a half an hour, an hour, etc… By beginning slowly, you will become accustomed to wearing it as will your friends. 2. The Attack Approach – to start wearing the kippah. If someone asks you about it, you can say: "I changed direction." 3. The Hidden Approach – Don't wear a kippah, wear a hat. 4. The Explanatory Approach – These are your friends. Say: "My friends, I have changed direction. I have become religious and I am wearing a kippah, but we will remain friends. I am not eradicating our world of values and there are many ideals which we share. I found my way and if you are interested, I will explain how this happened to me." Which course to choose is a personal decision.

Sperm Donation

Q: Is it permissible to donate to a sperm bank?
A: The problem with this is that the child will not know who his father is and he may then marry one of his relatives. Our Sages in the Gemara obviously did not discuss this issue but they spoke about something similar: It is forbidden for a man to marry different women in different countries (after divorces) out of a fear that his children may marry one another. It is therefore forbidden to donate to a sperm bank. When a couple wants to have an artificial insemination – which the majority of authorities permit – the solution is that the sperm come from a non-Jew, since then the relation is only through the mother and not the father.

Microphone for Havdalah

Q: I am a singer and I sometimes perform a musical Havdalah with a microphone and band. Someone pointed out that I cannot use the microphone for Havdalah. A few days ago, I was at an event with a Chasidic Rebbe and he used a microphone for the Sheva Berachot. Was the person correct that I cannot use the microphone?
A: According to the majority of authorities, a person cannot fulfill his obligation by hearing through a microphone, since he is obligated to hear the sound of a person's voice and not the sound of an instrument. As is known, sound waves enter the microphone and go through a process of electronic changes, etc… As a result, a person does not hear the person voice through the microphone and cannot fulfill his obligation. Regarding Sheva Berachot, there is no personal obligation to hear them. It is sufficient for ten men to hear them and even without a microphone this would occur and it is thus permissible for Sheva Berachot. But every person must hear Havdalah. The difference is whether there is a personal obligation or not. For example, it is forbidden to use a microphone for reading the Megillah since everyone has an obligation to hear it. You should therefore not use the microphone for Havdalah.

Gathering a minyan

Q: My husband passed away and we were at the cemetery. We only had nine men and my son did not say Kaddish. I told him that there were many people at the cemetery and there was no obligation to have them together and there was a minyan. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
A: You are right and he is right. He is right: you need ten men. If the tenth person does not know what you are doing and is not joining you then he is not considered part of the minyan. But you are right that if there is a tenth man even though he is not right next to you, but he hears and answers the prayers and you signal to him, he is considered part of the minyan.

Remember Our Brother Jonathan Pollard

[from "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshua" – Parashat Tetzave 5769]

Our brother, Jonathan Pollard,
We are extremely distressed that we did not succeed in freeing you.
You are surely also extremely distressed. We are distressed for you.
We are distressed for the Nation of Israel. We are distressed for truth and justice.

But nothing has changed. We continue to fight for you.
The United States did not reject the request. It is still open.

Nothing has changed, it is just more difficult.
But this is our obligation, our eternal ethical obligation,
Our eternal national obligation and our eternal communal obligation.
Pollard is not just a person. He is also a banner and an ideal,
And we will struggle until we are victorious.
All of our efforts were not for naught.
We are grateful for all of the toil, all of the prayers and all of the phone calls.
The senior American officials support a pardon based on humanitarian reasons.
If so, why didn't we succeed? It has been clarified that we lacked one thing:
The support of the Israeli Government, a request from the Israeli Government.
The President therefore did not see why he should free him.

We are now working on various fronts:
We continue to pray for our brother who is in distress and captivity.
We talk about Jonathan at every opportunity to galvanize the Nation and the Government will follow the Nation. We demand that the Government definitively and clearly work for his release: by including his name among those in captivity and making an official request to the US that he is an Israeli citizen and was an Israeli spy.
The current Government contains many high-ranking officials who support his release.

Please turn to the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
His fax in the Knesset: 02-649-6659. His office in the Likud: 03-538-7165.
Please write to Jonathan with encouragement, support and love.
It is physically and emotionally difficult for him after he saw his freedom before his eyes.
Our letters give him oxygen.
When he sees that the Nation is with him, this is what gives him strength to hold fast.
Yes, we the Nation of Israel has not forgotten him.

Shut SMS #11

Q: Is it permissible to shoot off fireworks on Purim?
A: It is certainly forbidden. They cause all sorts of injuries during year and very severe ones. This is not including the fear they cause. Purim is a day of the love of Israel and not a day to cause pain to Israel.
Q: Is it permissible for me to give my "ma'aser" money to my parents who are experiencing financial difficulties?
A: Certainly, and even more than this.
Q: If I do not have Tefillin, which is preferable – davening at the right time without Tefillin or after the right time with Tefillin?
A: At the correct time.
Q: There is a bird of my windowsill. Should I shoo it away to fulfill the mitzvah of "Shiluach Ha-Ken" (one must send away the mother bird before taking her young or her eggs)?
A: No, it must be in an abandoned place and not your own property.
Q: Can you tell if a match will be successful based on the names of the couple?
A: The names do not matter; it is based on compatibility, out of respect and love.
Q: Is it permissible to help a blind Arab cross the street?
A: Certainly, one should be kind to all.
Q: Which is preferable – a friend's engagement or a family wedding?
A: Family comes first, it is natural.
Q: I took money from my brother without him noticing. How can I return it without embarrassment?
A: Return it secretly.
Q: Hashem is the source of goodness, why then did he create non-Jews?
A: Non-Jews are also created in the image of G-d, and everyone will repent in the end as we say in "Aleinu."
Q: Is it permissible to recite a blessing on separating challah when the dough was made by two women together?
A: Yes, they should have the dough attached to one another.
Q: Why don't Torah scholars wear Tefillin all day long?
A: It is very difficult not to take one's mind off wearing Tefillin, i.e. from thoughts which are not so serious (Shulchan Aruch). And the Arizal says that the essential mitzvah is during Shacharit (Kaf Ha-Chaim).
Q: A person collecting for Tzedakah cursed me that I should be sick when I refused to give her. What should I do?
A: Nothing. It has no effect. Hashem should have mercy on her. In general, 90% of Tzedakah collectors are swindlers.
Q: What is "The Days of the Messiah"?
A: The return of kingship. Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah, end of chap. 9.
Q: We are married for a year and my husband wants to be drafted into a combat unit in Tzahal. I agree with all of my heart. It will be difficult for me to be alone, but I want this. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
A: You are a great righteous person. May those like you increase. You are fortunate.

Water Conservation

Question: Can the water from "Netilat Yadayim" be saved and used for watering the garden? If so, could it be saved on Shabbat for later use?
Answer: It is permissible to use it to water a garden. The Halachah does mention not stepping on the water after "Netilat Yadayim," but here the water is absorbed into the ground. It seems that saving the water from "Netilat Yadayim" on Shabbat is insignificant and there is no need.

Our Rabbi & Purim

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
Control over the intellect
On one Purim, the students brought all types of alcoholic drinks to our Rabbi and he drank them all, but it did not affect him and he did not say a word. At the end of the meal, they davened maariv and it was as if he had not had anything to drink and he was as usual. (Ha-Rav Yosef Kelner)

On another Purim, the students gave our Rabbi two bottle of Vodka to drink, but it did not affect him at all, and he continued his class in "Olat Ha-Re'eiyah" (thoughts of Maran Ha-Rav Kook on the siddur). (Ha-Rav Mordechai Sadeh)

On Purim, a drunken student asked our Rabbi: "Where is the shtreimel of Maran Ha-Rav? We also want a Rebbe with a shtreimel!" Our Rabbi smiled and responded: "One for whom it is proper to wear a shtreimel has a shtreimel."

A blessing
On Purim, a drunken student asked our Rabbi to give him a blessing that he should merit the trait of truth. Our Rabbi smiled, but did not bless him.

The Jew who imitated Rav Shlomo Goren on Purim
On Purim, a tall Jew entered dressed in the uniform of a general of Tzahal: "Shalom, my master, Ha-Rav, I am Rav Goren," and he began imitating Rav Goren, and stating all kinds of halachic rulings. Suddenly, our Rabbi, burst out in awful screaming regarding shaming Torah scholars, and harshly scolded him.

Stupidity on Purim
It once happened that our Rabbi left in the middle on the Purim party. The students ran after him and asked him why he left. He said: "You also need to have awe of Hashem on Purim." (Ha-Rav Binyamin Eisner – Iturei Cohanim #196)

It once occurred on Purim that a student began to say "Purim Torah" and said "Rashi is a woman and Tosafot is a man because it says 'The entire glory of the princess is on the inside' (Tehillim 45:14) and Rashi's commentary always appears on the inside of a page!" Our Rabbi scolded him.

You are One Person

Question: My wife wants to travel to her parents after giving birth and have the Brit Milah there. But my family is opposed because of the far distant. My wife says that I need to support her, but what about me honoring my parents?
Answer: This question is not phrased correctly. You do not support your wife. You and your wife are one person, as the Torah says that you are "One flesh" (Bereshit 2:24). You must obviously respect your parents, but you were first a part of your parents and you are now a part of a new being which is made up of you and your wife. "A man therefore leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (ibid.). This is not an impingement on the honor of your parents. Honoring one's parents does not include the obligation to hold a Brit Milah where they want it. It is true that it is a burden for them to travel a far way for the Brit Milah, but may it be Hashem's will that all grandparents have many such burdens. Even though you are one being with your wife, your wife is the one who is giving birth and she needs to rest. It is certainly not easy for you to understand what it is like to be pregnant, give birth and care for a baby. You should therefore give in to your wife's in this area – after all, you are one.

Ta'anit Esther for a Mailman

Q: Is a mailman who is walking all day in the sun exempt from fasting on Ta'anit Esther since there is a risk of dehydration? What about the other fasts?
A: He is obligated to fast on Ta'anit Esther. Although it is not as strict as the other fasts and the Halachah therefore says that there is a leniency on Ta'anit Esther that someone who has eye pains is exempt, all others who are healthy should not separate from the community (Rama, Orach Chaim 686:2). The Magen Avraham (#4) comments that even someone who is traveling and it is difficult for him to fast is obligated to do so. A mailman is similar to someone who is traveling. He is therefore obligated in all of the fasts. Obviously, if during the fast he feels in danger of dehydration, he has to drink a lot of water. But if he knows from the outset that if he works on a fast day he will need to drink, this is as if he made a condition that he would not fast. He cannot enter this situation and he needs to work it out such as switching shifts, taking a day off or distributing the mail slowly.

Sending Mishloach Manot to Soldiers of Tzahal: Two Teshuvot

I am suggesting that the community greatly limit sending mishloach manot to friends, and to concentrate on sending them to the soldiers in the area, whose lives are difficult. According to Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the reason for sending mishloach manot is to increase love between Jews, and according to the author of "Terumat Ha-Deshen," to provide someone with food for the festive meal of Purim. Regarding soldiers, both reasons apply. Therefore, no one should be offended if he does not receive a mishloach manot from his friend, and all of us will be aware that our gifts are lovingly going to the guardians of our security. [Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 5 #49 in the original edition]

A year ago we began a tradition of greatly limiting sending mishloach manot from one person to his friend and to give mishloach manot to soldiers who safeguard our security and it is appropriate for us to do so. This year there is also an organized trip to an army base. Everyone should therefore donate to Tzahal, and do not be offended if you do not receive a mishloach manot from a friend. I guarantee that he is your friend with all of his heart. [Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 1 #234 in the original edition]
Note: For example, you can send mishloach manot to Tzahal soldiers through the website: www.pizzaidf.org/

Boys in women's clothing on Purim

Q: Is it permissible for a boy to wear a woman's wig on Purim?
A: In general, it is forbidden for a boy to wear women's clothing. On Purim, there is a dispute regarding this question (see Rama, Orach Chaim 696:8 with the commentators of the Shulchan Aruch). Some permit it since it is for enjoyment, while others forbid it. It is therefore better not to wear it, but someone who wants to wear it has on whom to rely.
Q: What about a boy wearing a skirt?
A: Same answer.

Canceling a date

Q: It is permissible for me to cancel a first date with a young man after I heard information which makes him inappropriate for me?
A: If you are not interested, there is no reason to meet. It is clear that there was an error in not checking thoroughly enough before the first meeting but just because there was one error does not mean that there needs to be a second error. Meeting with him when you are not interested will simply cause him distress and it is "ona'ah" (allowing someone to believe something which is not true and will cause distress). It is similar to a person entering a store when he has no intention of buying. If he is unsure and he is looking around, it is permissible, as there is no obligation to buy. But if he knows that he is not going to buy, it is forbidden to enter since the seller will have his hopes raised and then it will cause him distress when you do not buy. This applies all the more so here when the young man might be interested and he will have hopes, and he will be hurt when you tell him "no." Therefore, it is permissible to cancel the meeting. But you need to put the blame on yourself. Do you say that you do not want to meet because you checked and found something that you do not like. He will be hurt. You should rather say: I am sorry. I thought I could meet but I am currently in a sensitive state which is not good for meeting or some responsibility suddenly came up at home or at work. You take the blame and ask his forgiveness that you are canceling the meeting so that he will not be hurt. And we pray that he will find someone and you will find someone and you will each build a faithful house among the Jewish People.

Lashon Ha-Ra on Chaim Nachman Bialik

Q: Is it permissible to speak Lashon Ha-Rav about Chaim Nachman Bialik?
A: No, it is forbidden to speak Lashon Ha-Ra about a Jew. It is true that this Jew learned in the Volozhin Yeshiva and later did not observe the mitzvot, but he did believe in Hashem. In Tel Aviv, he battled to give the city a Shabbat atmosphere. He said that it is not enough to excommunicate others and throw stones, so he organized Shabbat get-togethers and he would not smoke there. His "Sefer Aggadah," in which he collects and organizes the midrashim, is very good. He also felt a great responsibility for the Nation of Israel to the extent that people refer to him as the "National Poet." He did not write to make a name for himself or for the mere pleasure of writing, but he worked to be a mouthpiece for the serious national problems with the aid of his writing and poems. He was a complex person and included both lights and shadows, and why should we speak Lashon Ha-Ra about him?

Shut SMS #10

Q: Is it permissible for a girl to touch a brother-in-law or cousin?
A: No. There are laws of modesty which apply to all relatives except for parents and grandparents. There are also leniencies for siblings.
Q: Should one stand for an elderly or an important woman?
A: For a woman over 70, a woman who is a Torah scholar, or the wife of a Torah scholar.
Q: Is it permissible to give directions to a Jew who is driving on Shabbat?
A: No, it is aiding one who is transgressing, unless there is potential danger. You should politely avoid answering by saying that you do not know.
Q: But isn't there a concern that if he does not know the way, he will drive more and thus increase his transgression?
A: But we do not perform a mitzvah through of a transgression.
Q: What is the minimum price for an engagement ring?
A: There are no rules since there is no obligation to give one. It is a new practice. On the contrary, one must be careful that it is not the betrothal itself.
Q: What is the Halachic source for the prohibition of leaving the Land of Israel?
A: Rambam, Melachim 5:9. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 531:5.
Q: Is it permissible for a man to groom his eyebrows or remove hair from between them?
A: It is forbidden because of "Lo Yibash" (men may not wear women's clothing or accessories or perform cosmetic acts of women), since this is the custom of women.
Q: I had a cut on my finger and when I was kneading dough a little blood was absorbed into it. What is the status of the dough?
A: Human blood is only forbidden when recognizable. Since it is absorbed and unrecognizable, there is no prohibition.
Q: I have heard that the Redemption is going to occur this year. It is true?
A: No one knows the future in this area. But the Redemption began more than one hundred years ago with the building of the Land, the ingathering of the exiles, the establishment of the State, the military victories, and the return of the Torah to the Land of Israel.
Q: I live on a settlement in the Shomron and leaving involves driving through a dangerous area. Is it permissible to recite "Tefillat Ha-Derech" on a short distance?
A: Yes, even for a very short distance.

Each Drop is a Mitzvah

[From "Ma'anayei Ha-Yeshua" – Parashat Mishpatim 5769]

If global warming continues, we can expect difficult years of a lack of water ahead. Although water covers two-thirds of the earth's surface, it does not help us since it is mostly salt water. Only 2.5% is not salt water. Of this amount, two-thirds is found in icebergs and frozen rivers and one-fifth is found in desolate areas. And even the water found in settled areas, the majority comes at the wrong time or in the wrong way, i.e. monsoons or floods. In sum: mankind only uses 0.09% of the earth's water.

As a result, 20% of humanity does not have access to clean water. 50% of them live without minimal hygiene – on account of a lack of water. A lack of water also hurts agriculture which requires huge quantities of water. For example, in order to grow a ton of wheat in China, they need 1000 tons of water. As a result, there are 850 million hungry people on the face of the earth. 30,000 children under the age of five die every day, i.e. almost a million a month on account of hunger or sicknesses which is easily preventable with the help of hygiene. Three million people die every year from drinking contaminated water. Three million babies die during childbirth because their mothers drink contaminated water during pregnancy. If we continue in the same direction, the situation will become even more severe. During the next 20 years, the need will rise by 20%. In the next 10 years, there will be 20% less water for agriculture. Millions more will be hungry and thirsty.

Blessed is the One who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time that we are in our Land. But even here the situation is not simple. Because of the small amount of rain, the Kinneret – the central reservoir of the country – not only does not reach the lower red line which warns of danger, but does not reach the black line in which it is no longer possible to draw water for the national pipeline, the life-giving artery of the country. The wells are also become more salty because of the penetration of ground water. Baruch Hashem, there are various solutions: desalination of sea water. This is an expensive solution, but we hope it will develop. So too, reusing purified sewage water for agricultural needs, which is less expensive than new water or desalinated water.

How to solve the national and - all the more so - the global problem of water is not our issue. But we as Jews must conserve water. It is possible to conserve water in our daily activities. We can obviously fill mikvaot and wash "netilat yadayim" with a full cup. But do not waste water. Here are a few general principles:

The Kitchen (20% of household needs - 30 liters a day per person): Close the tap when between rinsing the dishes. Lessening the quantity of water without effecting comfort can save a third of the water. Also, do not run the dishwasher until it is full.

The bathroom (35% of household needs – 55 liters a day per person): Flush with the smaller flush capacity (most toilets in Israel have two options for flushing). This saves 18 liters a day per person. When possible, change from a 9 liter water tank to a 6 liter tank.

Washing and showering (35% of household needs – 55 liters per day): Close the tap when soaping your hands or brushing your teeth. Do not take long showers.

Washing machine (5% of household needs – 8 liters a day person): Only run it when it is full.
Do not water your garden in a wasteful manner. Furthermore, design a water-conserving garden.

Washing a car: Only with a pail of water and not with a hose (it is forbidden according to law and there is a fine).

Leaky faucets: this is a huge waste of water without realizing it. In order to verify it, shut off the taps in the house and the lawn and see if there is a difference in the water meter. Leaking can be fixed by changing the washer. A leaky toilet can be checked by placing toilet paper under it. If it is wet, change the sealant.

Reuse the water which drips from the air conditioner for watering plants.
Dear children, do not have water fights. This is not the time.
Reporting: If you see water being wasted by government authorities or institutions, please report it.

The water level is getting lower and lower, and each drop we save adds up to be a huge amount. We love the mitzvot, we rejoice in fulfilling them and we search for ways to fulfill them. And now, we have an available mitzvah at every moment – the mitzvah of settling the Land is equivalent to all of the other mitzvot in the Torah. Each drop is a mitzvah.

And as in everything, we must combine action and pray. We should therefore pray for rain in our Land: both as individuals and publicly. Bless us with a year of goodness and give us dew and rain as a blessing.

Our Rabbi & Advice

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi did not force his opinion on his students, rather he would suggest, explain and attempt to convince. During the period of major settlement activity, he never instructed anyone to participate, but sent a note which emphasized its importance and added: "One who feels a need," it is proper for him to work for the sake of Eretz Yisrael. Even those who requested his personal advice, our Rabbi would not force his opinion on them, but explain the essential principles according to the Torah so that they could decide on their own. (Ha-Rav Elisha Aviner)

Our Rabbi would not respond to those who turned to him for advice with specifics, but would discuss the general issues to help them to decide. He did not want to create Chasidim who hung on his every word, but that each person should create his own individuality. (Ha-Rav Tzefaniyah Derori)

A student asked him if he should accept a rabbinic position in a certain place. He did not answer positively or negatively, but counseled him to travel there to see the reality. The student returned and reported to our Rabbi that people told him that there is nothing to do there. Our Rabbi responded: If that is so, you must go there. (Ha-Rav Tzefaniyah Derori)

A student asked our Rabbi which political party he should vote for. Our Rabbi did not answer him but explained at length the different perspectives. The student repeated his question, but our Rabbi explained the different advantages of each party. The student did not receive an answer, and our Rabbi asked the student to decide on his own. (Ha-Rav Mordechai Sadeh)

Blessing when seeing a non-Jewsish scholar

Question: Has Ha-Rav ever recited the blessing of "Blessed is He who gave from His wisdom to flesh and blood when seeing a non-Jewish scholar? (Berachot 58a and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:7)?
Answer: I was going to recite it once when I was studying in university. Prof. Louis De Broglie, who won the Nobel Prize for postulating the wave nature of electrons, one of the bases of quantum physics, was coming to give a lecture. I was unable to attend and therefore did not recite it.

Blessing when seeing one of the great Rabbis of our generation

Question: Has Ha-Rav ever recited the blessing of "Blessed is He who apportioned from His wisdom to those who fear Him" when seeing a Torah scholar (Berachot 58a and Shulchan Aruch 224:6)?
Answer: There is a dispute whether this blessing should be recited. Some refrain from reciting the blessing over Torah scholars because no one reaches the level of a Torah scholar as defined by our Sages (see Aruch Ha-Shulchan ibid. #6), but the Chayei Adam (63:8) ruled that it should be recited over the leading Torah scholars of each generation. The Piskei Teshuvah (vol. 2, siman 224 ,note 17) quoted many sources which indicate that this blessing was indeed recited by our great Rabbis: Ha-Rav Shimon Menashe – the Rav of Hevron - recited it for Maharil Diskin when he came to visit Ma'arat Ha-Macheplah (beginning of the book "Melo Ha-Omer). Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld recited it upon seeing Ha-Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein, Rosh Yeshivat Hevron, when he visited Yerushalayim (Marbitzei Torah U-Musar vol. 1, p. 325). In Shut Shevet Ha-Levi (10:13 #3), Ha-Rav Shmuel Wosner said that he remembers that it was recited for the Rogachover when he came to Vienna. In Halichot Shlomo (Tefillah – chap. 23 note 157), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related that he saw it recited for the Chazon Ish and the Chazon Ish smiled and did not say anything. In Orchot Rabbenu (vol. 1, p. 227), the Steipler Gaon told his son, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, that the blessing should be recited for the Griz (Rav Velvele Soloveitchik - Rosh Yeshivat Brisk). And in Tal Re'eiyah (p. 87), our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said in the name of Maran Ha-Rav Kook that the Netziv recited it for the Aderet (Rav Kook's father-in-law) when they visited in Warsaw. Rav Aviner said that he remembers hearing this blessing recited twice: for Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira (Rosh Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav) and for Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef when he visited Moshav Keshet in the Golan (where Rav Aviner served as Rabbi).
It is also worthwhile to mention what Rav Aviner adds in Shut Sheilat Shlomo (vol. 1 #117) regarding the visit of Rav Ovadiah to Moshav Keshet: Someone asked me: "Why does Rav Ovadiah Yosef wear clothing with silver embroidery?" I answered: "This is the traditional dress of the Sefardic Chief Rabbi throughout the generation, as we see in pictures, and why should he change the custom of those who preceded him?" I saw that he was not satisfied. I said: "Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef's humility is well-known," but he was still not satisfied! I told him a story, and even though it is not exactly the same, it is similar: "Before Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk made aliyah with his student in order to establish a Chasidic settlement in the Land of Israel, he went to visit Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonne, a great student of the Baal Shem Tov. He arrived in Polonne with a coach harnessed with three horses, which was considered glorious. This act greatly upset the Chasidim of Polonne, since their Rebbe was accustomed to a modest and frugal lifestyle. This was even more so when they saw Rabbi Menachem Mendel enter the house of their Rebbe dressed in bejeweled clothing with a long incense in his mouth. Everyone expected Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, who was known as to be stern, to expel the visitor from his house. But the Rebbe went out to greet his guest, received him at the entrance to his house with great love, kissed and hugged him, and spoke with him in private for several hours. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel departed, the students asked their Rebbe: 'What did our Rabbi see in this man who was brazen enough to come to the Rebbe's house in a coach harnessed by three horses, with a long incense in his mouth and with shoes bejeweled with silver inlays?' The Rebbe said: 'It once happened that a king went out to war and hid all of his treasures in a safe place, and he buried the most precious jewels of his fortune in a pile of dirt, being certain that no one would look for them there. So too, Rabbi Menachem Mendel hides his humility under a pile of dirt of arrogance so that the forces of evil will not touch it.'" He was satisfied.

The Power of Uninterrupted Torah Learning

There are many sources which highlight the importance of Torah learning without interruption. Torah learning should be lengthy and in depth.

1. The Gemara in Shabbat (11a) says that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his colleagues did not daven. They constantly learned Torah without any breaks. Since they never stopped, they were exempt from praying. We take all sorts of breaks to do this and that, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 106:2) therefore rules that we also stop to daven. Nonetheless, we see the ideal of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his colleagues.

2. The Gemara in Berachot (8a) relates that Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi davened in the place where they learned Torah, even if there was no minyan. The Rama in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 90:18) rules that we do not act this way so that the unknowledgeable do not follow this practice. They did not go to shul so that they would not take up the time to go back and forth. They could immediately return to learning after praying.

3. The Midrash (Ketubot 62b-63a) explains how Rabbi Akiva went to learn in yeshiva for 12 years. When he returned, he overheard someone saying to his wife, "How long will you be like a widow waiting for him?" She replied that she would prefer that he learn for another 12 years! Rabbi Akiva turned around and went back to the yeshiva for another 12 years. Ha-Rav Chaim Shmulevitz in "Sichot Musar" asks, why didn't Rabbi Akiva come in to say shalom or have a cup of coffee with his wife? Answer: Because 12 years plus 12 years of Torah learning is not the same as 24 continuous years.

4. There was a secret society established in the Volozhin Yeshiva called "Nes Tziona," with the purpose of spreading the idea of settling the Land of Israel among the Nation. A group of students signed a document describing its activities. Maran Ha-Rav Kook's signature did not appear on it even though he was learning there at the time. Someone once asked our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, why Maran Ha-Rav Kook was not part of it? He asked, "He was learning Torah" (see Tal Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 68).