Shir Ha-Ma'alot #12

May it please You - addition for Shabbat

Shabbat is a day of pleasure on which we are saved from distress, grief and lament in three ways as mentioned by the prophet Yeshayahu: "On the day Hashem will give you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear, and from the hard work which you were made to perform" (Yeshayahu 14:3). Before anything, one needs a rest for his body because of difficult physical work. There are people however whose work is easy, but it takes a heavy burden on one’s soul, and it requires a psychological rest "from your fear." Furthermore, it is possible that the work is not a burden on a person either physically or emotionally, but it does not fill him with spiritual meaning, and he therefore feels alienation and deep frustration. The Shabbat therefore comes to liberate him "from your sorrow." Shabbat is an intimate day between a person and his Creator, "Between Me and the Children of Israel, it is an eternal sign" (Shemot 31:17).

"And His mercies extend to all of His works" - Part 3

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
Once at the beginning of our Rabbi's class, a small bug jumped on to his book. On account of his righteousness, he did not want to hurt it, did not begin the class and stared at it. He pointed out that it is interesting that something so small has a will and can decide whether to move forwards or backwards. We not only have the concept of "How great are Your works, Hashem" (Tehillim 104:24) but also "How minute are Your works, Hashem." And he mentioned how Rabbi Yochanan was amazed by an ant (Chullin 63a and see Kol Yehudah on Sefer Ha-Kuzari 1, 68b). The class was therefore delayed. One of our Rabbi's students, a Rabbi and Torah scholar, who was sitting next to him, seeing the continued delay, took the book and removed the bug by blowing on it. Our Rabbi did not respond or say anything, and began the class.

Shut SMS #26

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: I feel that there is no love between my parents, and it hurts me. If I point it out to my mother I think she will be angry. What should I do?
A: It is worthwhile to ask your mother and talk about it.
Q: When I was a kid I stole 20 shekels from a store and I now regret it. The store is long gone and I have no way of locating the owner. What should I do?
A: In a case such as this, you should give Tzedakah.
Q: I want to overcome my trait of anger. What should I do?
A: Read a lot of Mesillat Yesharim.
Q: I want to live in Eretz Yisrael in every sense. What should I do?
A: In a spiritual sense, you should learn the Torah. In a physical sense, you should live in the Land, help build and develop the Land, and guard the Land by serving in the army.
Q: How does one acquire a friend?
A: A friendship is created gradually building a connection, step-by-step.
Q: Is it permissible to enter a monastery or church during a trip?
A: Certainly not. It is idol worship.
Q: There are those who hold that Torah learning protects the State more than the army?
A: We need both. Not one without the other. See Niddah 70b.
Q: Is it permissible to daven on a plane in the aisle when it bothers others who need to pass?
A: One should not fulfill this mitzvah when as a result it bothers others. This is also the ruling on Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that we should not daven with a minyan on a plane if it bothers other.
Q: Is it permissible to learn Yoga?
A: The technique is permissible since it is like other types of relaxation, but not the faith behind it which is based on idol worship.
Q: If I am in the middle of davening and my Rabbi or father enters. Do I stand in his honor?
A: Yes. One should fulfill this mitzvah even in the middle of davening.
Q: Is it permissible for me to nurse my baby where there are people if I am covered?
A: Yes, you should be on the side as much as possible.
Q: Is there truth in telling the future through tarot cards?
A: Nonsense. It is forbidden because of "Do not engage in sorcery" (Vayikra 19:26).
Q: Does one have to wash "netilat yadayim" when leaving the bathroom?
A: No, it is an act of piety. It is enough to wash your hands.
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to ride a bike?
A: Yes, with a modest skirt.
Q: Is there a source for not buying anything before birth?
A: No, it is superstition.
Q: Is it permissible for a mourner during Shiva to take a shower?
A: Quickly and with lukewarm water if he is suffering.
Q: Is it permissible to carry a bus pass on Shabbat to use after Shabbat?
A: No, it is muktzeh and preparing on Shabbat for a weekday.

Response from Ha-Rav Aharon Ziegler

In one of the Text Message Responsa, Rav Aviner was asked: Is it preferable for a woman to daven in shul or at home? And he answered: It is a personal decision.

We received the following responsa from Ha-Rav Aharon Ziegler (author of "Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik" vol. 1, 2, 3 and 4): “My learning with Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik taught me that women who daven (pray Shemoneh Esrei) in the Ezrat Nashim (Women's Section) of a shul where there is a minyan of ten men are part of the "Tefila Betzibur" (communal prayer). So why shouldn't women strive to be part of that?”

Rav Aviner's reponse: It is a "ma'ala" (spiritual benefit) for a woman to daven in a shul where there is a minyan, but it is not an obligation. Therefore, it is a personal choice for a woman - based on all sorts of factors - whether she wants the "ma'ala" or not.

It's Difficult to Get Married

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Chukat 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

It's a mitzvah to get married. It brings great joy to get married. But it's hard to get married. In the state of Israel there are 600,000 single men and women. By the way, unmarried males slightly outnumber the females. A person's finding a match is as difficult as the splitting of the sea, but the sea can be split. Yet for that to happen, you've got to jump into it and not fear. True, there are obstacles along the way. Yet, they can all be solved. Napoleon said: "the word ‘impossible’ is not part of my lexicon." He was wrong. Yet we say that marriage is always possible, and you can overcome all the obstacles. Let us start with the hardest ones:
A. People with limitations, or other objective, unsolvable problems - All the same, the solution is to marry someone with the same limitations. Technically, this probably makes life hard, but psychologically it makes it easier for them, because two people with the same problem understand each other, listen to each other and help each other.
[The following are organizations that work with such problems]:
1. “Lama Lo” [Why Not?]: For people who suffer from psychological problems. Tel: 026446908. lamalo@walla.co.il
2. Machon Pu’ah. Problems involving genetics or fertility. david@puah.org.il
3. For people with disabilities or physical limitations: anvaris@sde.org.il
4. “Si HaKesher” [the Height of Contact]: For those who suffer from loneliness and social problems. Tel. 035490243. kesher@bezeqint.net
5. “Love Davke”. Physical limitations. www.lovedavka.co.il
6. “Pina Li”. For the disabled. www.pinali.co.il
7. “Moadon Hekerut LeNechim” [Meeting Place for the Disabled]. Nechim_date www.geocities.com
8. “Ahava Chiyuvit” [Positive Love]. AID’s carriers. www.plove.co.il
Heaven help us.

B. Cheapskates - Don’t go to professional matchmakers who take enormous sums up front. Ultimately however, you will have to pay a large sum, 5000 NIS by each side, which is about 10% of the cost of the wedding. And, you do have to pay a handling fee, for example, 100 shekels a month. After all, the matchmaker spends large sums on telephone calls, and he also devotes a lot of time to you. Why should you want people to work for you for free? That's reprehensible.

C. Good Matchmakers - Before you turn to a matchmaker, whether a professional or a volunteer, check out whether he is good or not. 1. Does he seek just only reasonable matches and not unreasonable ones doomed to failure? 2. Does he accompany the couple all along the way, hearing out their difficulties, striving to patch things up? Very often, people going out disqualify each other making quick judgments for no good reason, but if the matchmaker talks to them, he can iron things out.

D. Mystics - Sometimes people check out suitability by comparing the numerical values of their names or by comparing birthdates. All this is nonsense. Some go to fake mystics to “open up constellations that have closed up”, or to exorcise people from spells. That is nonsense as well. Some carry out the rectification of souls or the redemption of souls. Obviously, giving charity is always good, but it's better to give it the regular way, and directly to the poor. Going to the graves of the righteous has value too, but it's better to give your money to charity and your time to acts of kindness. Prayers and blessings from rabbis are certainly good, but the spiritual solutions that surpass all else are prayer, repentance and charity.

E. People obsessed with externals - These are boys who are looking only for beautiful girls, slim and not fat, light and not dark, blondes and not brunettes, blue eyes and not brown eyes, and all that other nonsense. "Favor is false and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears G-d is the one who shall be praised” (Mishlei 31:30). In the end, they remain single, without any slim girls or fat girls, light or dark. These are all meaningless externals, insignificant vanities and secondary. They come through the influence of the media rather than the Torah, which teaches us that the main thing is a good soul, integrity and faithfulness, a good heart and the fear of G-d. You certainly need that the girl should be pleasing, but you don’t have to look for stylish beauty.

F. Status Seekers - These people disqualify divorcees and widows. Nonsense. A person is not judged by his previous familial status, but by his worth.

G. Romantics - These people are looking for love at first sight. They want to be emotionally swept away. That is a mistake. You certainly need affection. But the main thing in marriage is contentment and that can always be built together through joint efforts. Always. Emotion can be built together as well.

H. The Testers - At the other extreme are fellows who make their dates undergo quizzes and tests which are the equivalent of KGB interrogations. This flood of details is neither here nor there, for you can never find total suitability. As we know, Heaven judges people according to the majority of their deeds.

I. The Spiritually Picky - A girl who learns in Seminary X will never marry a boy who learns in Yeshiva Y. She'd rather stay single all her life then come anywhere near a boy who actually is destined for a different girl, denies the 13 principles of faith, and much worse.

J. Excessive Self-Love - Here we come to the central problem, excessive self-love. Certainly it's good for a person to love himself, as it says, "Love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). If so, one should love oneself as well. However, individualism, selfishness and egocentrism are a terrible problem that destroys marriage and is creating hundreds of thousands of unmarried people in this country. As I said, even loving yourself has value, but it's only half the way. You have to transcend it and not look at your mate as someone who is meant to serve your egocentric needs. For what is true love? It's an effort to become one. In Hebrew, ahava [love] has the same numerical value as echad [one]. A couple has to build a new reality that includes them both. They must be an unmarried male and an unmarried female who live together as neighbors. Were that the case, they would be better off living alone. Rather each one's personal unit is dismantled and they become a new form. It's like water. Water is not oxygen and hydrogen coexisting next to each other, but a new synthesis. Quite the contrary, when oxygen and hydrogen are mixed together, one spark is enough to blow them up.
And how is that unity created? Through each spouse learning about the other, through the building up of a relationship. Obviously, such relationship building occurs not just in marriage, but in all the social life of man. Yet what goes for marriage, goes for all other relationships as well. True, a selfish man can have a very pleasant life, but he perceives himself as being separate from a shared existence. He has no sense of belonging. By contrast, love opens up a recognition of totality, of a family unit, the "all" that I am a part of. I therefore seek out how I can contribute to that "all" and to be at one with it. True love is not self-sacrifice, but an awareness of unity, of being one. The constant search for pleasure, pleasantness, momentary amusement through one's spouse diminishes the awareness of the "all", rather than magnifying it. It’s like our Jewish devotion to the “klal”, the good of the group. The point there is not to think about others all the time and to sacrifice oneself for them, but to expand one’s awareness in such a manner that the good of the group is totally relevant to my own welfare. When every individual finds comfort in being part of the group, he won’t want to benefit at the expense of any other individual.
By the same token, also inside a person, there has to be a marriage between the various psychological forces, such as intellect and emotion, will and imagination. That same inner balance assists in the balance between the couple. A person must certainly continue to love himself. Whoever does not truly love himself cannot love his fellow man. And whoever doesn't love his fellow man does not love himself. The self-resonance of each individual will remain, but those resonances will die out together. Developing love for the other is not simple and it doesn’t happen quickly, it’s an adventure. After the desire is sealed with the marriage, begins the prolonged process of unification. The physical unification happens quickly. Not so the lofty unification process, the process of unifying one’s intellect and emotion. That takes time. Perhaps without it a couple can have some fun together, but that fun is transient.
Our task is to concentrate our energies on building harmony as a couple. That harmony has enormous power. Through it, one can create and educate an infant and turn it into a person. I'm not just talking about practical harmony but about emotional, psychological, intellectual and spiritual harmony. It's not just a duty but a fantastic adventure, a marvelous communication challenge. If it isn't, the couple will be disappointed. One will say, "my spouse doesn't fill my needs and expectations." Yet that is a mistake. That's not why you get married. Rather you wed for the sake of that adventure, that full encounter with love and wisdom, with creating a new world from which a new life will be revealed. Altogether, a person must long to be swallowed up in the general good, to be absorbed by God, and marriage is the way that God gave us to follow that path. Some argue bitterly that marriage is a boring dead end. It's not so. Marriage is the most exciting experience of life. There is no reason why the marvelous romantic side of marriage should disappear after several months. That is a sign that one's marriage has involved only the external parts of the couple's personality.
Yes! Harmony! That's the word! Inner harmony within the person himself, between his various forces, body and soul, intellect and emotion. The harmony of unity between two different and sometimes opposite people.

Our Rabbi, Ha-Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, on Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Temple

[From Sefer Le-Mikdashech Tuv, pp. 11-14 unless noted otherwise]

A student related: When I asked our Rabbi the well-known question whether the content of the prayer "Nachem," which is recited on Tisha Be-Av [in the Shemoneh Esrei in the prayer for rebuilding Jerusalem,] is speaking falsely in our time because of the passages of the "bitterness of our situation," he responded: "Jerusalem is still scorned and desolate, since the essence of Jerusalem is the Temple. Furthermore, the Old City of Jerusalem is in a state of desolation without inhabitants. It is impossible to approach the Old City and see piles of stones of synagogues and not burst into weeping!" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, addendum at the end of the talk "U-le-minim al tehi tikvah - And for the slanderers let there be no hope").

When I came to request permission and a blessing from our Rabbi (see Sanhedrin 5b, Eruvin 63a and Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:3) in order to establish a yeshiva in the heart of the Jerusalem, he rejoiced with great joy and encouraged me.

In the twilight of his years, when I asked him - in the name of my colleagues - if we should request that the guarding of the gates of the Temple Mount be placed in the hands of Tzahal and not in the hands of non-Jews, he did not see this as a pressing matter; he responded: "Slowly, slowly [Redemption arrives]" (see Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 3:2).

When I continued and asked if should we request the presence of our army on the Temple Mount, he again cooled with his glance what he considered as an impure burning desire and said sternly: "Slowly, slowly [redemption arrives]."

At the same meeting, when I mustered the courage, I asked - in the name of my colleagues who greatly pressed me to do so - if should we request that the flag of the State of Israel be flown on the Temple Mount, he looked at me with a dreadful glance of pain and amazement that I had sunk so low to the point of asking such questions, and he said forcefully: "We will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d!" (Tehillim 20:6). Despite this, "It is Torah and I need to learn it" (Berachot 62a), I therefore asked again, "Certainly, we will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d, but won't it be by way of the flag of the State of Israel?" Our Rabbi patiently repeated: "I told you: we will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d," with his absolute rejection of all the comparisons between any infringement of the holiness of the Temple Mount and the building of the Land of Israel.

At the end of this meeting, I told our Rabbi how we are continuing with the acts of redeeming the heart of Jerusalem, house after house, and then the stern and dreadful facial expression disappeared, and a full smile of eternal kindness enlightened his face. When I detailed the names of the streets, he said that I need not bother, because all of these places were etched in his memory from his youth.

A student was one scheduled to give our Rabbi a ride but was late because all of the traffic and expressed to distress. Our Rabbi said: On the contrary, I am happy that Jerusalem is filled with people.

When a Torah scholar brought to our Rabbi researchers of the Temple Mount, whose purpose was to identify the boundaries of the Temple, (since in their view it was permissible to enter there without fear of harming the sanctity of the Temple), our Rabbi said to the scholar: "What is all this for?!" He compared this to a rabbi who gathered many proofs for the existence of G-d, and the Aderet ztz"l [Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim, former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and father-in-law of Maran Ha-Rav Kook], said about this rabbi’s book: "For what do we need proofs? (and he quoted the words of our Sages, "Any matter which is not clear, bring sources from the Talmud for it" - Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 2:3, Eruvin 10:1). We believe in Hashem above all proofs" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, sidra 2 Tazria, Parashat Ha-Chodesh 3-4; Emunah, sichah 15, 8). And so too in our matter: Behold, the Temple Mount’s boundary is surrounded by a wall. We do not traverse it, and we have no need for researchers.

After the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War, there were extensive excavations of the Kotel Tunnels, which extend under the Temple Mount. Ha-Rav Meir Yehudah Getz, Rav of the Kotel, asked our Rabbi, is it permissible to excavate under the Temple Mount to find the Temple implements? Our Rabbi answered, "No, do not dig." Our generation is still not ready to merit discovering the treasures of the Temple. (The book "Rav Ha-Kotel" p. 306)

When a Torah scholar mentioned to our Rabbi the custom of placing notes in the Kotel, our Rabbi said that one should not do this, and one should even refrain from putting one’s fingers into the Kotel [since it is forbidden for an impure person to enter the air of the Temple Mount in even the slightest way]. The Torah scholar said to him, but this is the custom of Israel [minhag Yisrael]. Our Rabbi responded, the word "minhag" [custom] contains the same letters as "gehinom" [purgatory].

When it became known to our Rabbi that archeological excavations were being performed under the Temple Mount, he responded with great distress: "What is all this for?! For what purpose should one fuss there?"

When they asked our Rabbi if there is a need to organize tours which encircle the Temple Mount in order to strengthen the fact that it belongs to us, he responded: "The Temple Mount is in our hands - there is no need for tours." They said to him that not everyone knows that the Temple Mount is ours. To this, he responded that if this is so, there is positive value in the tours in order to strengthen the proof of our ownership.

After the Six-Day War, when a Torah scholar and professor came to our Rabbi and asked him why he did not then begin to build the Temple, he responded, "The mitzvah of building the Kingdom of Israel takes precedence, according to the ruling of the Rambam at the beginning of the Laws of Kings" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, chapters of Messiah 4, Talmud Torah 1 addendum 2). Later, this was extensively explained by our Rabbi in the article "From Behind the Wall" (Mei-Achar Kotleinu) in which he said that only after great improvement in the building of the Nation, both physically and spiritually, can we enter into the holiness of rebuilding the Temple (see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, #23).

When a delegation of public figures came to our Rabbi with the request to work as forcefully as possible against the threatened agreement which the Government of Israel was prepared to sign with the Country of Jordan, which included surrendering the Temple Mount to their control, our Rabbi reacted: "What about the entire Land of Israel?" They repeated their words many times, as did he.

After the Six-Day War, students approached our Rabbi and quoted the words of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher in the introduction to his book "Derishat Tzion" which repeats a tradition recorded in the name of the Vilna Gaon that if we will only leap and sacrifice one lamb, then everything will be ready for Redemption. They asked: perhaps it is proper to sacrifice one Pesach sacrifice? When our Rabbi heard this he became enraged: "We need to strengthen the Kingdom of Israel and return the Torah to those who learn it in Israel; to bring great repentance, and we will then ascend to the Temple Mount from the midst of this prophecy." He said these words emphatically and forcefully. (Le-Mikdashech Tuv, p. 180)

Blowing up the Dome of the Rock
After the Six-Day War, the Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, evacuated the non-Jews from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. A few young men, who fought in the Jerusalem Brigade, felt that it was not enough, and they prepared explosives to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. They nonetheless went to take counsel with our Rabbi, who rejected the idea: This must come from the entire Nation, and not a part of it. They went to Reb Aryeh Levin, thinking that since he supported Etzel and Lechi before the establishment of the State, he would response positively; but he also rejected it for the same reason that there is a need for National agreement. He related a story, which our Rabbi would also relate, that a certain preacher would travel to different cities and encourage belief in false messianism, and he had a major influence. When Rav Chaim of Volozhin was informed that he was scheduled to speak on Shabbat in a particular community, he sent two messengers, who were to violate Shabbat to stop him, since it was a matter of life and death. They were successful. A rich non-Jew asked Rav Chaim if he had heard about the preacher and if, in his opinion, he was the Messiah. Rav Chaim responded: And what do you say? He answered: This has nothing to do with me. Rav Chaim said: You are wrong. When the Messiah comes even you will feel it.

The young men asked Reb Aryeh Levin, half in jest: If so, the building of the Temple also depends of the decision of the Knesset? He answered: It may be. (Iturei Cohanin #57 from Ha-Rav Avraham Remer)

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #11

Please, make us not in need - Hashem, our God, of the gifts of human hands...

Do not live on the account of others. Do not spend money in an uncontrolled fashion, and afterwards search for "Gemachim" – societies to help the needy. Fix your expenses based on your income, and not the other way around. "The mind does not tolerate four types of people...a poor man who is arrogant" (Pesachim 113b), because he lives at a high standard beyond his means. Rav said to Rav Kahana, "Deal in carcasses in the market, and do not say, ‘I am a great man, I am Kahana’" (Pesachim 113a). "At all times one should hire himself out to ‘avodah zarah’ than be in need of the help of other people. He thought that ‘avodah zarah’ meant ‘idol worship’ [which is the usual meaning], but it is not so, it means [literally], ‘work which is strange to him’" (Baba Batra 110a). Do not take unemployment payments with the claim that they are offering you work that is beneath your honor. Working - this is honor. Even regarding Shabbat they say, "Treat your Shabbat like a weekday rather than be dependent of man" (Pesachim 112-113), i.e. eat simple food and do not take loans. Nevertheless, our Sages teach that the Holy One, Blessed be He, says, "My children, borrow for Me, and I will repay," but this is with the condition that he plans that he will have the money to repay the loan."

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #10

Third blessing of the Birkat Ha-Mazon

"David and Shlomo established the blessing of building Jerusalem" (Berachot 48b). What is the connection between a meal and building Jerusalem? Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook, explained that the act of eating cannot be reduced to the physical existence of the individual, and even to the building up of strength in order to build his Nation and his Land and to wage war for their sake; rather the higher goal needs to be the spiritual building of the Nation of Israel, which is defined by one word: Jerusalem! "David established the blessing of ‘Israel your Nation and of Jerusalem your City,’ and Shlomo established ‘On this great and holy House’" (ibid. pp. 364-365).

Bar Mitzvah Layening

Question: My son is anxious about things but he really wants to read his Bar Mitzvah parashah. What should I have him do?
A: He can read part of the Torah portion as many young men do at their Bar Mitzvah. It should be according to his ability and without pressure.

Dwelling in the Land of Israel

Question: Is the fulfillment of the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel similar to the mitzvah of wearing Tzitzit and every second one lives in Israel, one is fulfilling a mitzvah?
Answer: Yes. It is similar to fulfilling the mitzvah of dwelling in a Sukkah. One begins fulfilling a positive mitzvah upon entering. There is a difference between one who is fulfilling a mitzvah and one who is engaged in a mitzvah: if one is engaged in a mitzvah (as opposed to simply fulfilling it) he is exempt from performing another mitzvah.

"And His mercies extend to all of His works" – Part 2

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

Our Rabbi once suddenly stared at a placemat on the table and intently watched an ant walking. He said in amazement and excitement: "Look, how wonderful! This is a little ant, who hardly has place for its brain to decide whether to turn right or left, frontwards or backwards." He was amazed with an innocence as if it was the first time he was seeing an ant. He did not want to clear the table in order not to disturb it, rather he related about the wisdom of Shlomo who taught about the ways of the ants (Mishlei 6:6 explained by Chullin 57b).

When our Rabbi saw ants on the stairs to the entrance to his house, he wanted the person escorting him to be careful not to step on them.

Is it permissible to kill a thief who breaks into your home?

[Opening words of Ha-Rav to his radio show]

Every child in nursery school should know that it is permissible to kill a thief if he is discovered while sneaking into one's home, since he may be willing to murder in order to carry out his plan (Shemot 22:1-2). It had already happened in the world. When the Torah says, "If the sun shone on him, there is blood-guilt," it means that if one is sure that the thief will not murder, then it is not permitted to kill him. It is not that you are permitted to kill him if you think he might murder, but the opposite – the presumption is that the thief will murder. After all, a thief is not the most righteous person of the generation. According to Halachah, it is therefore permissible to shoot a thief provided that there is not any contradictory evidence that he will not kill.

One can ask: Why don't we just give the thief the money and that is it? Will you kill someone to save money? The answer appears in Sefer Ha-Chinuch (mitzvah 338). The mitzvah being discussed there is not our issue of theft, but the issue of insults. If someone insults me, am I obligated to take it or can I respond in kind? Answer: It is permissible to respond in kind for two reasons: 1. In order to protect yourself. If he insults me and I remain quiet, he will continue to insult me. If I yell back, he will stop. 2. The Torah does not require a person to sit like a stone. He can respond. This is referred to as "his heart is hot." My heart is hot and I am permitted to insult or strike back. This is not revenge. Revenge is cold and calculated. This is in the heat of passion. It is true that the Gemara in Yoma (23a) says, "Those who are insulted but do not insult back, who hear themselves slandered but do not respond, who act with love and rejoice in suffering, of them the Tanach says, ‘Those who love Him are like the sun rising with all its might’ (Shoftim 5:31), and keep it in one’s heart." Everyone understands from the style of our Sages that this is an act of piety. One is not obligated to act in this way, it is a very high level and a personal decision. A student of the Chafetz Chaim stood trial, and the Chafetz Chaim testified as a character witness. The student's lawyer said: "Honored judges, do you know who has stood before you to provide testimony as a character witness? This Rabbi once heard noises in his courtyard. There were thieves! In order to save the thieves from committing a sin, he yelled: "Hefker – everything is ownerless!" The judge said to the lawyer: "My educated friend, do you believe this story?" He responded: "No." The judge said: "My educated friend, if you do not believe this story why are you telling it to relate this Rabbi's character?" The lawyer said: "They do not tell stories like this about the honorable judge." He meant that even if the story about the Chaftez Chaim is not true, based on the fact that they tell stories such as this about him, it shows how righteous he is and that you can rely on him. This is an act of piety, however, and one is not obligated to act in this manner. I am not obligation to be insulted just as I am not obligated to have my money stolen. Money does not grow on trees. It is therefore permitted to kill a thief. If it is possible to injure the thief without killing him, that is certainly good. A person does not have to give up his possessions. He works hard and it belongs to him. Yaakov Avinu forgot some small jars and went back to get them because the money of the righteous is dear to them. This is because they earn their money honestly through hard work (Rashi to Bereshit 32:25 based on Chullin 91a). It is therefore permissible for someone to protect himself and his property and to shoot an intruder.

Shut SMS #25

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 one allowed to burn copies of music disks?
A: Certainly not. It’s an infringement on copyrights. The artist invested in his work!
Q: Is one allowed to go to a comedy show during Sefirat HaOmer?
A: Certainly not. It’s forbidden all year long, because of the prohibition against “sitting with scoffers” (Tehillim 1), and all-the-more-so during Sefirat HaOmer.
Q: Is one allowed to give a Torah lecture on Gemara in a loud voice on the bus when the rest of the passengers complain?
A: Certainly not. The bus is for them as well.
Q: Is there a concrete halachic prohibition against using obscene language?
A: Certainly, and it is severe. See Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 11.
Q: Is one allowed to cheat on tests?
A: Certainly not. It’s a Torah prohibition against stealing ideas.
Q: We have experienced tragedies. What should we do?
A: Prayer, repentance and Tzedakah.
Q: Is it permissible to kill a lizard which is running around our house? We heard it is bad.
A: This is a superstition. It is permissible.
Q: Is it permissible to meet (for the purpose of marriage) a G-d-fearing and righteous young woman whose mother is Jewish and whose father is non-Jewish? After all, one should marry the daughter of a Torah scholar.
A: It is fine. According to your words, she herself is similar to a Torah scholar.
Q: Where did the custom of singing "Im Eshkachech" (If I Forget You, Jerusalem) under the chuppah come from?
A: It is the innovation of Ha-Rav Neriah ztz"l.
Q: Is it preferable for a woman to daven in shul or at home?
A: It is a personal decision.
Q: May one heat up mother's milk in a meat pot or it is dairy?
A: It is not dairy.
Q: I heard that there is no blessing on gum because we do not swallow it. Is this correct?
A: There is a problem if you do not swallow a little at the end, but the majority of authorities rules that we do say a blessing before chewing it.
Q: According to the Torah, it is possible that there are fossils from more than 5769 years ago?
A: It is possible. Hashem built worlds and destroyed them. See Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 1, p. 105.
Q: There was an article in the paper that a man claims to be the Messiah and the State of Israel will fall. Should I believe it?
A: It is nonsense.
Q: Is it true that if I take a piece of challah from Shabbat and put it under my pillow at night I will see the image of my future groom, and it will shorten life?
A: It is superstition.
Q: Is someone who does not sleep eight hours at night considered a sinner?
A: No. One should sleep according to their need, and this is personal.
Q: Does changing one's name change one's luck?
A: If one also greatly repents. Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah.
Q: Does a non-Jew have a soul?
A: Certainly. See commentators on Pirkei Avot chap. 3, a person is beloved since he is created in G-d's image.
Q: Is there a reason for the custom to place a cell phone on a righteous person's grave and have someone on the other line recite Tehillim?
A: It is nonsense and shaming a grave.

It's Not For Discussion

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Korach 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

It's not for discussion. We are all in favor of pleasant talks between friends, let alone between husband and wife. We are in favor of social contact. We are in favor of people sharing their inner world, but that's not what the cell phone is for. It's meant for pressing updates that can't wait, and for very brief conversations. There are many reasons for this: the risk of cancer, endangering others, disturbing others, traffic accidents, impoliteness, getting addicted to chatter, sexual impropriety, and the cost.

1. The Risk of Cancer.
A lot of research has been done by the World Health Organization and by the International Cancer Research Institute to find out if using cell phones increases the risk of cancer or of tumors in the brain, the secretion glands or the auditory nerve. Our health Ministry has publicized that despite the plethora of research, they cannot yet determine if it causes damage or not, since not enough years have gone by since the cell phone gained wide public use. Likewise, other sorts of damage have not been proven either: headaches, tiredness, sleep disruptions or impaired memory, vision or hearing. Since there is no proof one way or the other, the health Ministry has adopted a "principle of preventative caution", and its recommendations are as follows:
A. Avoidance of cell phone use by children, their being more vulnerable.
B. Decreased use of cell phones. Risks grow with heavy use.
C. Use of wired earphones (rather than a wireless Bluetooth, although that is better than pressing the cell phone against your ear). Or, using a loudspeaker or a speaker phone.
D. Keeping the cell phone away from your body while you talk, and not keeping it on your belt, in your pocket, or hanging around your neck. If the conversation takes place in an area with walls made of aluminum or steel that return radiation, that radiation will remain inside like a microwave, and exposure may surpass the maximum permitted level. Such is explained in the September 2007 leaflet of the Environmental Protection Agency's division for preventing noise in radiation. Examples of such places include trailer homes, jets, elevators, buses or cars. Therefore when traveling, it is recommended that one keep one's antenna outside.

2. Endangering Others
From here we derive that in the above mentioned closed areas, there is also a danger to others. For example, if two people are talking on a cell phone in an elevator, they expose the others present, against their will, to radiation above the permitted level. As stated above, in an elevator, the radiation does not dissipate but is returned. Likewise, the cell phone struggles to maintain contact with the nearest antenna, hence it broadcasts at top intensity. The same goes for intercity travel. Due to the sparseness of antennas, the cell phone increases the intensity of its broadcast (from that same leaflet of the EPA). Still, there is a difference between an elevator, where the exposure lasts for a few minutes, and public transportation in which it can be much longer. The solution will be prohibiting cell phone use in all of these places, or setting aside a special section of the train or bus where it will be permissible or forbidden to use a cell phone, akin to the ordinances of recent years regarding smoking. Obviously, if you are hitching a ride, you cannot use your cell phone, even if you have permission, because not every driver is aware of the danger. As far as sending SMS’s, if the phone is set on vibrate, then there is no radiation and no noise.

3. Disturbing Others
Likewise, the walls return the sound, such that the rest of the passengers are exposed to noise against their will. Generally, people talk on cell phones in a loud voice, for several reasons: they don't hear themselves, and they don't know how well the listener hears them; reception can be bad; you can't see the person you're talking to; there is noise around you. Because of the effort to hear and to make himself heard, the sound quality being much lower than that of land lines, the cell phone speaker is cut off from his surroundings, so much so that it is not rare to hear people yelling in the middle of the street, for all to hear, personal, and sometimes embarrassing, details. Rambam wrote, “A Torah scholar should not yell and shriek when he talks, like wild animals. Neither should he raise his voice. Rather, he should speak to everybody gently" (Hilchot De’ot 5:7). There are Charedi rabbis who forbid women from speaking on cell phones on the street, because women speaking very loudly is classed as immodest. The EPA’s division for noise and radiation prevention defines as “noise” any sound that is undesirable due to its content or volume. For example, two people speaking loudly in an elevator expose the others to 80 decibels of noise, which is classed as unreasonable noise. Likewise, speaking loudly on a train or bus constitutes coercive, unjustified exposure to noise and it severely impairs one’s enjoyment of life and one’s privacy. Privacy, inter alia, means not hearing the conversations of others. It is not rare to see passengers speaking incessantly on cell phones throughout the trip, as if they are the only people on earth.

4. Traffic Accidents
It has been proven that using a cell phone when traveling increases the risk of an accident, because it distracts the driver from the road. According to the Transportation Law, a driver is not allowed to hold a cell phone in his hand when his vehicle is moving. Rather, it must be laid in a stable place where it won’t fall. One is not allowed to send or to read an SMS while driving. It should be noted that using a speakerphone does not entirely decrease the risk of an accident, because there as well the driver is distracted.

5. Impoliteness
The cell phone, which is supposed to connect people together in pleasant friendship, often impairs that friendship, when in mid-conversation someone hangs up on the person he is speaking with in order to answer another call. That’s scandalous! There’s a sad joke about a couple that went out to spend some time in a coffee house, but they cannot have a conversation because the husband is sitting across from his wife, absorbed with cell phone conversations. The wife moves a bit away from her husband and calls him on her own cell phone, and explains to him that this is the only way left to her to talk to him. The same is the case when a person is talking to G-d at the synagogue. At almost every service you see people getting up in the middle and going out to talk, and they’re not army officers or doctors on call. Likewise, almost every service is disturbed by a phone ringing.

6. Chatter
As stated, we are all for pleasant socialization, but compulsive chatter is not necessarily social, but an addiction to nonsense. Frivolous chatter draws on an impoverished spirit and has repercussions, making that spirit even more impoverished. “What should a person’s profession be in this world? He should make himself as though mute” (Chulin 69a). Sometimes you’ve got to know how to be quiet as well. “Muteness is a fine preoccupation” (Rashi, ibid.). “One should always nurture silence” (Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 2:4). For modern man it is hard to concentrate, for reasons that cannot be analyzed here, and the telephone ringing constantly removes a person from the little concentration that remains to him. Likewise, amongst many young people, SMS’s serve to provide an incessant flow of nonsense. And, obviously, “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking” (Mishlei 10:19). One quickly moves from chatter to forbidden gossip. A sea of gossip!

7. Sexual Impropriety
If the cell phone is used only for short, essential phone calls, a simple phone will suffice. Yet with its use infinitely expanding, and its quality improving, with large screens, all this is a door to pornographic cell phone services. Many religious-Zionist youth make enormous use of such services… (“Rav Aviner, in my opinion it’s not worthwhile to go into details here, for it will just make it easier…”). They haven’t yet succeeded in creating a kosher cell phone with a kosher Sim card (that prevents one’s replacing the Sim card with another). Yet amongst the Charedim as well the situation is not perfect. True, there is an uncompromising demand for a kosher cellular without Internet and without a Sim card, a phone that can be identified by way of a special prefix to the number. Yet many have two cell phones, one kosher and another not kosher for use in watching pornography. Pornography is more accessible on the cell phone than on a computer with Internet, since one can look at the cellular Internet anywhere, in private.

8. Expense
The conversations run quickly, and heavy charges mount up. Some people are in dire financial straits, but they allow themselves to have a cell phone. Charitable organizations that teach people to save and not to spend more than they bring in, instruct them to avoid cell phones entirely.

Don’t be connected to a cell phone as if it were an I.V.! One really can live without it. It’s true that when someone announces that he has no cell phone, people look at him as though he were a primitive Indian. Yet apparently such people are really happier. A new being has been created, Homo Cellulo. We therefore recommend to you to revert to being a regular man and to use cell phones only for brief, essential updates.

Hiring Arabs to build houses

Q: The settlement where I live recently voted to allow Arabs to build houses. What is the Rav's opinion?
A: If you are concerned about safety, there is no problem. The Arabs who have jobs working for Jews generally want to ensure that they retain their livelihood and usually keep others Arabs quiet as well. The issue is that instead of hiring Arabs, we should give money to Jews. If we provide a livelihood for the Arabs, they will have a holding in the Land of Israel. If they do not have a livelihood, they will leave. We want to strengthen ourselves. At the same time, some of the settlements will not be able to build without Arabs. They will not be able to expand for growing families or accommodate new residents. The only calculation is whether the mitzvah of settling the Land benefits or not. The general principle is that we should hire Jews, but if settling the Land is encouraged by hiring Arabs, it is permissible to do so.

Embroidered verse of a Talit

Q: Is there any limitation or prohibition of embroidering the Bircat Cohanim on the "atara" (collar) of a Talit?
A: It is permissible to embroider the Bircat Cohanim of a Talit, and there are some Talises which have the blessing for the Talit embroidered on them. The problem arises when the Talit is sent to the laundry, since it is not proper for the holiness of the verse or blessing to be in the laundry. The best advice, therefore, is to embroider the "atara" in a manner that it may be removed when the Talit is washed, and you can clean the "atara" in an appropriate manner.

A cup with a picture of an animal

Q: Is it permissible to recite a blessing in front of a cup with a picture of an animal?
A: It is permissible. It is not idol worship and you are not reciting a blessing to the animal. It is a picture.

Sanctification of the new moon when the Temple is rebuilt

Q: Will they return to sanctifying the new moon by the testimony of witnesses when the Temple is rebuilt?
A: Yes, when the Sanhedrin is reconstituted. But when the Sanhedrin sanctifies the new moon, they also take the calendar into consideration. You can see this in the Laws of Sanctification of the New Moon of the Rambam. For example, if witnesses arrive, they examine them, and if they truly saw the new moon, the Sanhedrin fixes the new month. But if no witnesses arrive, there will not be a Rosh Chodesh?! Of course, there will be. How will they accomplish this? By the calendar. This means that the sanctification of the moon will be comprised of sightings and the calendar.

A Critical Wife

You cannot build a close connection, which is the foundational of marriage, in this manner. If you have a strong inclination to criticize and blame without seeing the outcome of what this does, it prevents him from speaking freely and opening up. He shuts down and contemplates every word as if being interviewed by a reporter or police investigator. It is true that a husband and a wife should be able to mutually and freely correct one another's behavior, but you are overly critical, your style is unpleasant and when you begin it opens the floodgates. Don't you notice that your husband prepares for the onslaught, closes the blinds and does not listen in order to save his soul. As a result, for an extended period, go to the opposite extreme: refrain completely from criticizing, even when it is justified, in order to gain his trust. This takes a long time and will be difficult for you, but you will both feel the benefit and build your friendship for your benefit and your children's benefit, even if it begins as artificial. An interesting challenge.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #10

Second blessing of the Birkat Ha-Mazon

"Yehoshua established the blessing for the Land when they entered the Land" (Berachot 48b). Why did Yehoshua bin Nun connect the Land of Israel to the act of eating? Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook, explained: Ostensibly a person eats for his own personal good, to benefit and strengthen his body. This is certainly proper, and nevertheless a person is called upon to exalt himself to a higher level than his personal existence, i.e. to be concerned about the entire Nation. Therefore, after one gives thanks to Hashem for the food which grants him natural existence, he is raised to an understanding that with this he is able to be a trustworthy member of his Nation, and to devote himself to building it in its Land (Olat Re’eiyah vol. 1, pp. 362-363). Our Rabbis, the Achronim (later authorities) considered why no blessing was established on the fulfillment of the mitzvah of settlement in the Land of Israel. The Vilna Gaon explained that in fact Yehoshua bin Nun, when he entered the Land of Israel, established this blessing in the prayer after eating for this very purpose.

Riding a scooter and bicycle on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible for children (ages 7 and 10) to use scooters or bicycles on Shabbat in Jerusalem (within an eruv)? There seem to be different customs in our area of Jerusalem (Katamon).
Answer: There is an established custom not to ride bicycles on Shabbat. Riding on a scooter and riding a bike with training wheels is considered different, however, and not including in the custom. It is forbidden to change the custom of a place, but since there are various customs in your neighborhood, it is permissible to ride a scooter or a bike with training wheels.

"And His mercies extend to all of His works" - Part 1

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

At the end of our Rabbi's class on Maran Ha-Rav Kook's commentary on the siddur, "Olat Re'eiyah," some students entered to talk to him about an important matter. He motioned to them not to say anything and that they should sit next to him on the couch. The students were surprised by the need for silence since nobody was in house. Our Rabbi also sat silently and left his book open. After a while, he said with a wonderful smile: "He has desired it for His dwelling" and he repeated: "He has desired it for His dwelling" (Tehillim 132:13). The students assumed that this was what out Rabbi was teaching from "Olat Re'eiyah." He smiled again and said: "He has desired it for His dwelling" and pointed at the book. The students looked closely and saw a moth on the book. Our Rabbi did not want the students to scare it, he therefore told them to enter quietly. After a few minutes, the moth flew away on its own. Our Rabbi closed the book and began to talk.

A student lived with our Rabbi to aid him, but our Rabbi would not allow the student to throw out the garbage, but he did it himself. The student once wanted to see why he acted this way. He saw that our Rabbi opened the garbage very gently, and he also heard him make all sorts of soft sounds. He explains that he opened the lid this way in order not to scare the cats, and he made the sounds to move them from there.

Our Rabbi was once walking and talking to a group of people in the street when he suddenly stopped and put his finger to his lips to tell them to be quiet. He stood quietly for a few minutes, and then continued on his way. When he was asked why he did this, he explained that a cat was eating from the garbage, and if they passed it would get scared, run away, lose the food and be upset.

Commentary on the Siddur

From Rav Aviner's new book in Hebrew –
Tefillat Amcha vol. 1 –
Commentary on the siddur from the beginning until "Hodu"
[To order: www.havabooks.co.il]

Shut SMS #24

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: Where is King Shlomo buried?
A: In the graves of the House of David. Their location is not known.
Q: What is the meaning and purpose of an "Amen Meal"?
A: It is a new invention.
Q: Should we imitate Hashem and forgive someone even if he caused great pain and did not ask for forgiveness?
A: Yes. This is not an obligation but an act of piety, and each person should act how he feels is
Q: If a pot was used to actually cook on Shabbat, can it be thereafter, or does it need to be kashered?
A: The Mishnah Berurah rules that it needs to be koshered before it can be used again, but one can rely on the lenient opinions. Yalkut Yosef.
Q: Why do we mourn for someone who has died? After all, it is for his spiritual repair and ascension.
A: For what we are lacking.
Q: Is it permissible to sleep for one night in a room without a mezuzah?
A: There are those who are lenient if there is no place else to sleep.
Q: I am not sure if I recited a blessing before eating. What should I do?
A: Reciting the blessing in thought, since you will fulfill your obligation according to some
authorities but will not take Hashem's Name in vain. Pri Megadim.
Q: I just had a difficult birth which resulted in my having many stitches, and I want to rest at my mother's house. My husband is opposed since he wants to have the Brit Milah at his parents' house. What should we do?
A: You take precedence. When he gives birth, the Brit Milah can be at his parents' house.
Q: It is permissible to use a brush which has bristles from a wild pig?
A: Yes. It is also permissible to wear clothing from its skin.
Q: How is it that Jews changed so much that Ethiopians are dark skinned and Ashkenazic Jews are
light skinned?
A: Many converts joined.
Q: Is it permissible to receive organs from a Jew who committed suicide?
A: Certainly. This is will be a spiritual rectification for him.
Q: Why is it forbidden to go to a bar?
A: It is a corrupt place. Rambam, Hilchot De'ot 1:1-2.
Q: Is there are obligation to remove one's watch when putting on Tefillin?
A: One should remove it, but some are lenient.
Q: I feel arrogance when I invite people to a completion of a tractate of the Gemara. What should I do?
A: It is possible to have a meal on your own.
Q: Is it permissible to read the New Testament? Can you provide the source?
A: It is forbidden. Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 2:2.
Q: Is it permissible to play poker?
A: It is obviously similar to all other nonsense. But if it is for small amounts of money - there is no problem of theft.

Has the Time Come to Learn Mysticism?

[from "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Shelach 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Many ask: Perhaps the time has come for us to delve into Jewish mysticism? The answer is not just “perhaps,” but “certainly.” In any event, this is the strongly held opinion of our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, that this is the only way to save our generation from heresy, which is our greatest threat, and to restore the generation to repentance (Orot Ha-Teshuva 4:9). Obviously, there is no slight intended here to all the other holy spheres of the Torah – Gemara and Halachah, ethics and faith. Yet none of these will succeed without the soul of the Torah, the mystical component of the Torah.

You might ask: Are we so much greater than previous generations? Does our studying mysticism not constitute arrogance? Shouldn’t the simpler parts of the Torah, so full of purity and holiness, suffice for us? The answer is that certainly, we are insignificant, but you cannot compare different generations, and now the time has come. Beforehand, it had not yet come. For example, Rav Kook explained at the end of a long treatise that over the course of the Exile, all the nationalistic ideas were stored away in Jewish mysticism, because they had no basis in “reality.”. Now, however, that the nation is being reborn, we have to reveal all of these concealed ideas that have to do with nationalism and having a state, so that we can revive the foundation of our rebirth. (Orot 117-118).

Obviously, that does not mean that the time has come regarding ALL the secrets. Rav Kook testified that it was hard for him to describe which secrets would cause damage if revealed, and which would bring a blessing. He discussed this in the context of renewing the path to repentance. In the Exile, the concept of repentance was linked to reverence and submission, but now that the light of salvation is shining forth, it should be linked to joy and courage. Yet we have to proceed with great caution to make certain that our education does not nullify the caution and reverence that was present down through the generations among fine, righteous Jews (Letter 378, printed at the beginning of Orot Ha-Teshuva). Indeed, this is a very important consideration; but in general, the time has certainly come for the secrets of the Torah, as Rav Kook testified about himself: “There is nothing from my own thoughts and opinions that does not have a source in the writings of the Arizal” (Li-Shlosha Be-Elul 1:46).

One might ask: Did our great master, Rav Kook, forget an explicit ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, that learning mysticism is just for people who are great in Torah, “once they have filled themselves with ‘meat and wine’, namely, the dietary laws and all the laws of the mitzvot?” (Rav Moshe Isserlis’s comment on Yoreh Deah 246:4). This ruling was supported by all the commentaries on Shulchan Aruch. Surely he did not forget.

Rav Kook wrote countless times that mystical knowledge is not for the masses who will not understand a thing. Rather, it is only for elite few (Orot Ha-Kodesh 1:46). The longing for mystical knowledge belongs to those elite individuals, not for those who throw around the terms without understanding their inner meaning (Letters vol. 1, p. 232). Rav Kook wrote: “There is a great shortcoming to the standard student of Kaballah, in that he does not first employ his intellect, delving into the Torah’s sources to become wise in Divine matters.” In other words, they don’t learn faith in depth. “Rather, they stuff themselves with the mysticism written in books. Through such study, their intellect is not elevated. All that happens is that sort of obscure emotion illuminates their being” (Orot Ha-Torah 10:7). “Sometimes, lack of intelligence can bring a student to mysticism” (ibid., ibid., 8). “When, in fact, is it good to study the Torah’s secrets? After one has exhausted all the other holy fields of study” (ibid, ibid. 1). Mysticism is not for “those who cling to it without the proper preparation” (Orot Ha-Teshuvah 4:9). Those people “take literally all of those holy secrets, which stand at the pinnacle of the universe, thereby increasing strife amongst Israel” by talking about the “mixed multitude” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 59).

If someone jumps ahead of himself, before he has learned conventional ethics, he will be harmed, and he will lose it all (see Rav Kook’s article on “Studying the Spirituality of the Torah” from Orot Ha-Torah, published by “Sifriyat Chava”, p. 193). “Unless the intellect is first refined, studying Kabalah brings mishap to the world” (ibid. p. 225). “Lofty research at the wrong time causes illusions, religious hallucinations or heresy” (ibid. 240). “Studying mysticism unprepared, jumping into it only out of weakness based on an inner yearning, coupled with laziness and idleness, causes the form of that mysticism to be blurred. This occurs when it is studied by people unconnected to reality, people who lack the capability to grasp the living world…” (Orot p. 93).

Rav Kook certainly knew that mysticism is only for the elite few; hence its study does not appear in the detailed curriculum he wrote for the Mercaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, p. 62).

If so, what is the meaning of his call for the uncovering of the Torah’s mysteries? It means rewriting them in a conventional style, as he, himself, did in his many books, or as the Maharal did before him. Those elite, down through the generations, who studied the Torah’s secrets, elevated the generation by their influence, and through their illuminating all the spheres of life with the light of these lofty lights, thereby bringing the world eternal blessing. (Orot Ha-Kodesh 1:86).

Hanging up a picture of a woman when she was single

Q: Is it permissible to hang in my house a picture of my wife without her hair covered from when she was single?
A: Yes, since she was not obligated to cover her hair at that time and the picture is modest. If a man begins to have impure thought on account of the picture, that is his problem. But I do not know why you need a picture of your wife hanging in your house. After all, you have your wife there. There is a story of a man who comes to a restaurant and asks: where is the kosher certification document? The owner says: we don't have a document but don't you see the pictures of the famous Rabbis hanging on the wall? There is a picture of the Ben Ish Chai and a picture of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef. The man responds: If they were in the kitchen and your picture was hanging on the wall, I would eat, but since you are in the kitchen and they are hanging on the wall, I am not eating.

Saying Havdalah on Thursday

Q: I remembered today (Thursday) that I forgot to say Havdalah, what should I do?
A: It is too late to recite Havdalah. One can say Havdalah up to three days after Shabbat - Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. You can repent: regret the mistake of the past, and accept not repeating it in the future. This means that one should establish means in order that it does not happen again.

Blessings in an undershirt

Q: Is it permissible to recite blessings over food while wearing pants and an undershirt?
A: One can recite blessings over food, but one cannot daven the Shemoneh Esrei.

The activities of "Price Tag"

[from Ha-Rav video blog]

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about the activities of the group called "Price Tag" comprised of some of the Settlers who create disturbances against Arabs and their possessions and who break the law in response to the uprooting of outposts?

A: Firstly, should we uproot illegal outposts? Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook was already asked this question by the British High Commissioner: How can his honor support illegal aliyah against the instructions of the British Mandate? Maran Ha-Rav Kook answered him: When there is a contradiction between the national law and the international law, international law is followed. The High Commissioner said: I am unaware of any international law which permits Jews to come to the Land of Israel. Maran Ha-Rav Kook said: The Tanach, which is international. It is written in the Tanach that the Land of Israel is ours. This was true for the British White Paper (which restricted Jewish entry into Israel during the Holocaust) and it is true in our case since Eretz Yisrael is ours. There is therefore no such thing as an illegal outpost. The Ramban explains that we are commanded to dwell in this Land, to settle it and to possess it, which means: "do not leave it in the hand of any other nation…and we are not to leave any part of it" (Positive mitzvah #4 in additions to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot).

The struggle over Eretz Yisrael is in our souls but it must be conducted in the correct manner. The activities of "Price Tag" against the Arabs in our case are improper, both to the Arabs and to Jews. Regarding Arabs, there are Arabs who are murderers, there are Arabs who aid murderers and there are Arabs who have not done anything wrong. But even if we decide to treat all Arabs as one group – as in war where we do not distinguish between a righteous person and an evil one – this must be done by the entire Nation of Israel and not by an individual Jew. What a person does within the confines of his own home and it does not affect other people, he does not need to coordinate with others. But a communal act which affects everyone must be coordinated with everyone. After all, he does not live in Israel alone but with other Jews who may think otherwise and may be offended.

I often quote the story of the courageous Jew who snuck into a church and killed Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, during the time of Fernando and Isabella. It was a brave act, but they killed thousands and thousands of Jews in pogroms following it. Other Jews could have said: why are you deciding for us without coordinating with us? This is the general principle: something that affects the entire Nation of Israel must be coordinated with the Nation.

When an activity is coordinated with the Nation of Israel, we must check if this act will bring the Nation closer to Eretz Yisrael or distance it. In order to ascertain this, you must know where the Nation stands. The Nation of Israel loves Tzahal, respects Tzahal, and understands that Tzahal is responsible for our existence. Someone who acts against the army or insults the army or clashes with the army causes the Nation to say about that group: It is not part of us.

The war over Eretz Yisrael is a major and lengthy war but it must be conducted in the proper way and we do not perform a mitzvah through inappropriate acts.
Be strong and courageous for our Nation and for the City of our G-d.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #9

In the days of Mordechai - addition for Purim

Why did Haman want "to destroy, kill, and wipe out" all of the Jews? It seems that for the same reason that following the Exodus from Egypt, their ancestors, Amalek, attacked the Nation of Israel - because the Children of Israel bring the light of morality into the world. In the Second Return to Zion, in the days of Ezra and Nechemiah, when the Nation of Israel began to build its Land, Haman the Agagite tried a second time, and he too failed. In the Third Return to Zion, when the Nation of Israel began to arouse itself out of the long Exile and to renew itself as in the days of old, a third Amalekite arose: Hitler, may his name be blotted out, and he too fell. After the "Black Shabbat," our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, wrote that the English are following in the path of the Nazi beast and are trying to prevent the establishment of the State in our Land (Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 #84 - Black Shabbat occurred on Shabbat night of Parashat Korach 5706 when 17,000 British soldiers performed raids throughout the Land of Israel, backed up by tanks and armored cars to crush the "Hebrew Movement of Rebellion" - which combined the activities of the Haganah [and their striking force - the Palmach], Etzel and Lechi – against the British who blocked immigration in large numbers even after the Holocaust. On that night, curfews were declared, some 2,700 Jews were imprisoned in prison camps and the Haganah’s largest cache of weapons was discovered.). This article was obviously not printed in the Israeli newspaper "Ha-Tzofeh" because of fear of the British censor (ibid. #86). And in the end, the English left here. Now too, the Arabs are trying to be a disturbance to our State. Do not worry, in all of these cases, the words of this prayer were fulfilled, "But You, in your great mercy, nullified his counsel and frustrated his intention and caused his design to return upon his own head and they hanged him and his sons on the gallows."

Wearing skirts

Q: My daughter is 8 years old and refuses to wear skirts. How and when is the best way and age to get her to start?
A: There is an obligation to wear a skirt at this age. It is similar to all other educational issues in which she should be encouraged including prizes if need be.

Waiting between meat and milk

Q: My grandfather waited 6 hours between meat and milk but my father changed it to 3 hours. Should I follow my grandfather or father?
A: The minhag follows the earlier generation. Therefore, you should follow your grandfather, unless his tradition was to wait for a shorter period of time and he was being strict by waiting longer.

Our Rabbi & The Struggle Against Missionaries - Part 2

A student related: "During one of the years when the production of Handel’s “Messiah” (a Christian creation) was playing in concert in 'Binyanei Ha-Umah' (a building in Yerushalayim which hosts gatherings, shows, conferences, etc...), our Rabbi tried to have the concert canceled [largely because it was being held in a public building]. Our Rabbi requested that I go with him to the house of Ha-Rav David Cohain – Ha-Nazir - since there was a telephone was there, and connect him to Chaim Moshe Shapira and Yosef Burg, who were members of the Knesset from the National-Religious Party. Our Rabbi asked them to work to cancel the concert, and their answer was that it is impossible to cancel this event. Our Rabbi was not satisfied and was concerned enough to send students who would disrupt the concert, and this is what indeed happened. After the concert-goers dispersed, however, the protesters from the Yeshiva and the police officers remained in the hall. The officers asked the protests to leave the hall: 'The show is over.' But one of the students arose and lectured them about the grave act which occurred in this building and they therefore would not leave the building. When the officers' patience ran out, they took three of the yeshiva students to prison, and this caused the rest of them to leave the place. The next day they turned to our Rabbi and asked him to work to free those who were incarcerated. The answer of our Rabbi was: 'I do not understand why they did not disperse according to the police's request after the concert ended, since we are not protesting against the police officers!'"

Our Rabbi praised the students who staged a protest at the time of the concert of "Messiah" and particularly the student who jumped onto the stage and told those attending how terrible this event was. He related that the police commander told him afterwards: "Your young men are gold, and the one who got up on the stage deserves a medal."

Shut SMS #23

Rabbi 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: How is it possible to establish Yom Ha-Atzmaut as a holiday without a Sanhedrin?
A: It is somewhat problematic but we do not need a Sanhedrin to give thanks to Hashem.
Q: Does one have to observe the mitzvot in space? Shabbat?
A: Yes. Shabbat is kept on the “seventh day” based on the time and place from which one left.
Q: What harsh statement can I say to the person next to me in shul who is talking?
A: He is showing that the Divine Presence does not rest there (Zohar brought in the Chayei Adam).
Q: Is it permissible to give birth at home?
A: No. If there are complications, you will have to travel to the hospital, and this occurs to approximately one-third of women who have home-births.
Q: If one's father hits his mother, is it permissible for a child to get in between them by force, such as by pushing his father?
A: He should get in the middle and take the hit in place of his mother.
Q: If the bus driver accidently punches my bus ticket in a spot which was already punched, do I have to throw out the ticket when there is one punch left?
A: Yes.
Q: Is it permissible to wear Tzitzit directly on the body?
A: Yes.
Q: Who is more important – one's wife or parents?
A: This is incorrectly phrased. The husband and wife are one.
Q: Should one also wear Tzitzit at night?
A: Yes, a day-time piece of clothing must also have Tzitzit when worn at night.
Q: A mirror broke – it is a bad sign?
A: This is superstition.
Q: I found a Tanach printed with the New Testament – should I separate them?
A: It all goes in the garbage like a Sefer Torah written by a heretic.
Q: Is there a problem to have a wedding on Erev Shabbat?
A: No. Poorer communities did so before Kabbalat Shabbat [and had the Shabbat meal be the wedding meal as well] to save costs.
Q: I have friends who copied on a test and received 100% while I studied really hard and got less. It is not fair!
A: We'll see who has the last laugh.
Q: Can a cohain who works for the Mossad and killed someone still recite the Bircat Cohanim?
A: Yes, like a soldier. Shut Yechaveh Daat (2:14).
Q: I want to donate a Sefer Torah, but is there something more important to give to?
A: Give to those who learn Torah, since the Torah was given in order for people to learn it (Chayei Adam – Hilchot Sefer Torah).
Q: Is it permissible for me to drink coffee and have a piece of cake before davening? If I do not, I do not feel well and cannot pray?
A: The minimum necessary.
Q: How do I fix having spoke Lashon Ha-Ra?
A: You must repair the damage among those who heard you speak it.

President Obama's Favor

[Opening words of Ha-Rav on his radio show]

President Obama has truly done us a great favor, despite what many think, because when people give us trouble, it unites us. The Nation which dwells in the Land is not panicked by threats and dictates. There is obviously a dispute within the Nation of Israel whether to evacuate settlements but when a demand comes from Obama it infuriates many Jews. They say: "This is an inner dispute between us. He is going to tell us what to do?! Furthermore, he doesn't want us to expand existing houses to allow for natural growth. Where should we put our children? – outside in boxes!" The Nation of Israel is therefore strengthened, and he is in fact doing us a big favor.

This obviously does not mean that we do not take into account what the Americans say. But we need to understand: we need them and they need us. Do not think that the Americans help us because of loving-kindness. Everything is based on cost-benefit analysis. They give aid to where it will benefit them. They give us military help because they profit from it. There was once the "Rogers’ Plan" – it is always the same plan to expel us from parts of Eretz Yisrael but they change the name. Rogers said to Prime Minister Golda Meir: If you do not accept the plan, we will not provide you with weapons. Mrs. Golda Meir replied: We will live and see. In the end, they provided weapons. We do not need to panic. They need us just as we need them.

Regarding the money which we receive from the Americans, this is truly a shame and embarrassment which cannot be describe. Have we become beggars? Being a beggar is shameful when it is an individual and all-the-more-so when it is a nation. Why does an American need to provide me with a livelihood? We are an extremely wealthy Nation – the fifteenth wealthiest Nation in the world. We receive a few billion which is a negligible part of our budget. After the establishment of the State we did not have any money to buy weapons and to develop means to provide jobs – it wasn't good then – but I understand why we took money. But now, taking money from America is an illness. This is similar to the people who collect money at the Kotel and they are extremely wealthy. They continue to beg for money there because it is a sickness. There was once a beggar there and his brother said to him: "Stop. I will give you money to establish a business." The beggar said: "Do not judge your fellow until you walk in his shoes. Come to ask for Tzedakah with me at the Kotel and then we will talk." The brother put on rags and stood at the Kotel all day with his brother asking for Tzedakah. The beggar said: "We leave at five." At five o'clock, the beggar said: "It's five, let's go." At that exact moment, wealthy tourists were coming. The normal brother said: "After them." The beggar said to his brother: "You see. One day of collecting Tzedakah and you are already addicted." It is a sickness! And now this sickness has become a national sickness, so that we are asking the Americans for a small percentage of our budget. This is a desecration of Hashem's Name. We should be doing the exact opposite: calculating how much we have received from the Americans and tell them that we are so grateful for their financial aid and we will pay it back little-by-little.

Some people think that if the Americans pressure we have to bow to the pressure. This is incorrect. Since the American see that we are willing to bow to the pressure, they exert pressure. This is a known saying: One who makes himself into a sheep, the wolf will eat him. We must say to the American that we do not interfere in their matters and please do not interfere in ours. We are ready to take advice and to discuss, but please do not dictate to us.

In conclusion: a true story. A President of the US once said: You Jews must stop dreaming of the whole Land of Israel. Two Rabbis wrote him: Honorable President, we are accustomed to you, the Americans, interfering in our affairs and giving us advice all of the time as to what we should do. But it is a huge innovation for you to interfere as to what we should dream.

Therefore, we are informing you that we began to dream about returning to the Land of Israel and building the Land, "When Hashem will bring the exiles back to Zion, we will be like dreamers" (Tehillim 126:1), before your country existed. And now – Baruch Hashem – our dream is beginning to come to fruition. Therefore, we will certainly take into consideration what you say but we are not afraid of all sorts of pressure.

The Good Eye and The Evil Eye

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Beha'alotecha 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

In 1848 a cholera epidemic struck Vilna. People began to dig up sins and to look for guilty parties. One person, a charter member of the “committee for looking for blemishes in others”, approached Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and told him that there was someone who was acting improperly. Rav Salanter responded, “The Torah didn’t punish the gossip because he spoke falsehood but because he criticized his fellow man. G-d says to such a person, “If you’re such an expert in looking for blemishes, sit outside the camp and look for your own.”

Indeed, take a look at any prayer book. The confessional “Vidui” prayer is always written in the first person. “We have been guilty. We have betrayed” – and not in the second or third person. G-d doesn’t like those who accuse their fellow man. In his letter, “Kiddush Hashem,” Rambam harshly castigates a Torah scholar who criticized Jews, and he reminds him that when Moses said of the Jewish People, “They will not believe me” (Exodus 4:1), G-d blamed him, saying, “They are believers and the sons of believers, but ultimately you will not believe,” and Moses was immediately punished. “His hand was leprous, as white as snow” (verse 6). The same thing happened to Elijah the Prophet, who accused Israel: “The People of Israel have abandoned Your covenant” (I Kings 19:10). G-d responded, “Before you make accusations against Israel, go make accusations against the nations.” Likewise, the Prophet Isaiah, who said, “I am living amidst a people with impure lips” (Isaiah 6:10), was punished, that his lips were burnt. Indeed, G-d hates those who accuse His children, even if the accuser is holy. The Vilna Gaon writes similarly in his commentary on Tikunei Zohar (57:) regarding the verse, “I hate Esau” (Malachi 1:3).

One time I met someone from that same sect of people who look for blemishes in others, and he spilled his endless bile of hackneyed claims against the State of Israel and against parts of the Jewish People. I answered him, “You see this. I see other things. I see so many good things that G-d does for us in this country, so many good-hearted, idealistic boys, so many Jews who keep Torah and mitzvoth, so many wonderful youths. Everyone sees something else. You see the bad and I see the good.” He cut me off: “All right! I see the good too, but you have to see the bad.” I responded, “Calm down! I am well aware of the reality, and I toil within my humble abilities to increase the light.” And then he smiled victoriously and said, “So! You do admit that this isn’t redemption!” (Until this day I don’t understand why he got such pleasure out of saying that this is not redemption…). I answered, “Indeed, everything you say just proves that the redemption is not complete. It isn’t all black and white. It isn’t either total exile or total redemption. There are way-stations as well.”

And in conclusion, the words of our master, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook: “Generalized accusations against the other side, even when made with sincere intent, are associated with the well-known trait of group egocentrism that tends to views oneself and one’s intimates as possessing all the good, truth and justice, and that tends to view one’s antagonist as harboring all the evil, falsehood and wickedness” (LiNetivot Olam 2:227). Let us therefore make an effort to see our own blemishes and our fellow man’s virtues, and let us all work, shoulder to shoulder, for the sake of G-d’s glory.

Sleeping in your kippah

Q: Is there an obligation to wear a kippah while sleeping?
A: No, there is no obligation. The Shelah – the book "Sheni Luchot Ha-Brit" by Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz – mentions this as a proper custom, but not as an obligation. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 2:6) wrote that we should not walk four amot (6 feet) without a kippah, so we do not even sit without a kippah. Sleeping with a kippah, however, is an act of piety mentioned by the Shelah.

Mezuzah on shoe store

Q: Does a shoe store need a mezuzah?
A: There is no obligation to have a mezuzah on a store. A mezuzah is a requirement on a place where people live. But if a person sometimes rests or eats in his store – which are acts performed in a place where people live – there is a requirement for mezuzah. In such a case, a store does need a mezuzah.

Someone who plays soccer on Shabbat serving as "sheliach tzibbur"

Q: There is someone who plays soccer on Shabbat on asphalt (not grass). Can he serve as the "sheliach tzibur" (the one who leads the davening) and read the Torah?
A: There are authorities who permit playing soccer on Shabbat on asphalt since the problem of playing on grass is filling in the holes, which is included in the forbidden labor of plowing. Some authorities say that it is forbidden to play soccer on asphalt so that people will not come to play on grass, but others say that there is no such overarching prohibition. This man therefore has authorities on whom to rely. While it may be acceptable for him to play soccer, a community should take a person of sterling character to serve as "sheliach tzibur." The major question is: what is the alternative? Thus, if this man's behavior is deviant, compared the rest of the community, it is not appropriate for him to serve as "sheliach tzibur," but if his behavior is more-or-less the norm in this regard, it is fine.

Renting an apartment to a secular Jew

Q: Is it permissible to rent an apartment to a non-observant couple or does it have to be a religious couple?
A: It is obviously good to rent an apartment to religious people, but there is no problem in renting to a non-religious couple since even though they are transgressing, they are not doing so with the apartment itself. They can be eating non-kosher food or desecrating Shabbat, but it is nonetheless permissible to rent an apartment to them.

Missionary Literature

Q: I received literature in my mailbox from Jews for Jesus. While I would like to throw it straight in the garbage, I saw that the booklet contains G-d's name. What should I do with it?
A: It should be thrown in the garbage. [MF – note: I have personally seen Rav Aviner act this way during a talk on the subject in the yeshiva!]

Our Rabbi & The Struggle Against Missionaries - Part 1

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
Our Rabbi waged war against the missionaries. He was a leader of the struggle and the headquarters was centered in his house. Everyone in the country knew that the most attentive ear was found with him, and he urged activity, obviously in conjunction with others.

A Christian missionary from Tiveria would come regularly, and our Rabbi would have him as a guest in his house. The students told him that they could not tolerate him, but our Rabbi sacrificed himself for this cause (by inviting him), because this missionary, out of friendship, would relate to him all of their information. Our Rabbi would pass this information on to "Chever Ha-Pe'ilim" (an organization to protect against missionaries), and as a result many people were saved.
A protest against the missionaries was organized by one of the prize students of the Yeshiva. The protest was illegal, and the protesters were arrested. The next morning our Rabbi's voice thundered against the organizer: "In my darkest dream, I never dreamed about violating the law." After the verdict, the students decided not to pay the fine and to be incarcerated. They were imprisoned in the Damon Jail on Mount Carmel. Our Rabbi went to visit them and upon entering the cafeteria – after everyone calmed down - he said: "One who sees houses of Israel in their inhabited state says: Blessed is the One who establishes the widow's boundary." He generally recited this blessing immediately upon arrival at a new community but when there was the possibility of "publicizing the miracle" [in a multitude of people] he delayed the blessing. This time, he said: “My visit to this place is not because of joyous circumstances, but we must remember that even a jail is an expression of the sovereignty of the Nation of Israel over its Land.” And he continued with the words of the Gemara in Berachot (58b): "One who sees houses of Israel in their inhabited state..." and recited the blessing with Hashem's Name and Kingship: "Blessed are you...who establishes the widow's boundary." (Gadol Shimushah p. 38 #1)

Shut SMS #22

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: What is the halachic problem with boys growing long hair?
A: There are three Torah prohibitions: 1. It is an impediment between one's head and Tefillin, and it causes a blessing recited in vain when putting on Tefillin. 2. Following the ways of the non-Jews (which includes acts of conceit and haughtiness). 3. "Lo Tilbash" (the prohibition of men dressing or appearing as women).
Q: I am 16 years old and I have begun a relationship with a boy and I am concerned that it will develop into something more serious. What is Ha-Rav's opinion about having a boyfriend at this age?
A: Since you are not at a marriageable age for a few years, it is certainly not appropriate. See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Ha-Rav Shlomo Ganzfried 152:8-9.
Q: Is it permissible to watch a movie which shows a woman wearing short sleeves? For example, if I watch a comedy because it is funny and not to see the woman.
A: Try not to look at her.
Q: I am taking a lot of exams now and feel great pressure that I will fail. I cry a lot and am in despair. Is this a lack of faith?
A: This is not a lack of faith since it is not against Hashem. But it is always good to recite Tehillim.
Q: Is it an obligation to keep on one's Tefillin during a Dvar Torah after davening? At yeshiva, is it respectful to remove my Tefillin when the Rosh Yeshiva is giving a Dvar Torah?
A: Is it not an obligation. You have to ask the Rosh Yeshiva since there are different opinions.
Q: Is it permissible to eat a sandwich in the street? How about an ice cream?
A: No, just as it is forbidden to eat in the market. Eat on the side.
Q: If a Tzahal soldier is killed by friendly fire, do we still say Hy"d (Hashem Yinkom Damo – May Hashem revenge his blood – as we do for Jews killed by non-Jews)?
A: We should say it, since it occurred because of our enemies.
Q: Is it permissible to have my two year old wear tzitzit even though he is still in diapers?
A: It is permissible. After all, an adult also wears tzitzit in the bathroom.
Q: Is there an obligation to give Tzedakah to anyone who asks?
A: Only if they prove that they are poor. 90% of them are charlatans.
Q: Is it permissible to charge a cell phone in shul?
A: It is permissible; the amount of money involved for the use of the electricity is negligible. Some authorities say it is forbidden because of respect for a shul.
Q: If I am given a counterfeit coin in a store, can I use it?
A: No, only in that store.
Q: My good friend is marrying a non-Jew, and if I do not attend the wedding, she will be offended.
A: It is certainly forbidden to attend. We do not strengthen those who are transgressing. Perhaps she may be hurt, but those transgressing do not have a monopoly on being offended.
Q: Is it preferable to daven with a minyan on a train or on my own afterwards?
A: With a minyan.
Q: If I am full, should I eat what is left in order to prevent "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destroying)?
A: No. "Bal Tashchit" of the body is more important.
Q: Do mitzvot between people, such as honoring mother and father, require "kavannah" (proper intention)?
A: They have great value even without proper intention.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #8

In the days of Mattityahu - addition for Chanukah
It is lucky that the Hasmoneans did not ask politicians, because if they had they would have told them that one must consider the possible international pressure in the overall plan, and they would have sat and deliberated and deliberated.
It is lucky that they did not ask too many military strategists and experts, because they would have told them that there is no chance of delivering "the strong into the hands of the weak," and they would have broken their spirit.
It is lucky that they did not ask statisticians, because they would have revealed to them the secret that we are "the few against the many," and they would have been afraid of the demographic demon.
They also did not ask too many heads of Yeshivot, because if they had, they would have ruled that it is forbidden to cause nullification of Torah learning by 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."
They also did not ask too many Rabbis, because if they had they would have told them, 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...
They also did not ask the humanists, because they would have revealed to them the secret that one soul of Israel is worth more than a few kilometers of land and is more costly for the Nation.
They certainly did not ask those who are pure-of-heart, because they would have depressed their spirit, and preached to them that it is not proper to kill or to be killed.
They did not ask deep thinkers, because – within the midst of great depth - they would have confused them and stopped them with discussions of the order of priorities: Perhaps the Nation takes precedence, etc..., etc...
They did not ask the pacifists, because they would have opened their eyes to the greatness of peace, and that one should never use violence, and that goodwill will resolve everything.
They did not ask too many questions, but they fulfilled their 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.


Mazel Tov on your engagement! There are three levels of engagement (based on Hoshea 2:21-22):
1. I will betroth you to me – forever: You are not marrying on condition, but forever. All of the difficulties and conflicts do not undermine this connection. Even if a friend sins, he still remains a friend. This is an eternal connection.
2. I will betroth you to me – with kindness, justice, kindness and mercy: Good character traits, good relations. A simple and sincere friendship. Gentleness. "Love your fellow as yourself."
3. I will betroth you to me – with fidelity: Mutual trust. Mutual openness. Not contradictory worlds, exploitation and egotism but a true partnership and in-depth communication. Not the quantity of discussion but the quality. Shared experiences, shared thoughts, opinions and outlooks. Partnership in joy. Two who are one.

Who is the Gadol Ha-Dor (leading Rabbi of the generation)?

[Opening words of Ha-Rav on his radio show]

People are always saying: This Rabbi is the Gadol Ha-Dor or that Rabbi is the Gadol Ha-Dor, etc… Who is the Gadol Ha-Dor? The problematic word is not the word "Gadol – great," we know who the great Torah scholars are. The problematic word is "Ha-Dor – the generation." What is the meaning of "the generation"? Would a great Rabbi of one generation be the leader of another generation? Our Sages explain that Hashem showed the leaders and sages of each and every generation to Moshe Rabbenu until the time of the Messiah, as it says in Shir Ha-Shirim (1:8), "Follow the footsteps of the sheep (ikvei ha-tzon)" (Yalkut Shimoni, Shir Ha-Shirim #982). We learn from this that each generation has leaders which are appropriate for it. The leader of the generation is the right man in the right place at the right time. Everything is therefore dependent on the generation. The Vilna Gaon wrote in his book "Even Sheleimah" (chap. 11) that each generation has its virtues and its limitations, as well as the repentance it must perform based on the way Hashem is directing the world during its time. Each generation is directed differently. There was the generation of leaving Egypt, the generation of wandering in the desert, the generation of entering the Land of Israel, the generation of the Tana'im (the Rabbis of the Mishnah), the generation of the Amora'im (the Rabbis of the Gemara), the generation of leaving the Land and the generation of returning to the Land. Each generation has its role, challenges, obligations, and trials. When we want to speak about who is the Gadol Ha-Dor, we must therefore define the generation.

What is unique about our generation? Anyone who asks this question displays a lack of understanding. Our generation is unique as it is the generation of revival. Haven't you noticed that the Land which was destroyed is now blooming like the garden of Hashem? Maybe it is happenstance? – It is not happenstance! It is the hand of Hashem. And haven't you notice that the Land which was empty is now filled with millions of Jews? By chance? - It is not by chance! And haven't you noticed that in the Exile we were enslaved to the non-Jews and now we are free? And haven't you noticed that in each and every generation the non-Jews rose up to destroy us and now we have an army? - And let us see what happens if our enemies rise up. And you haven't noticed that the economy is strong? And haven't you noticed that the Torah is flourishing in the Land of Israel? You therefore see that Hashem has decided to return his Divine Presence to Zion. Someone who does not see this does know this generation and cannot lead the generation. He may be able to lead another generation, but not this generation.

Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook wrote in his letters (#378 and this famous letter also appears at the beginning of his work Orot Ha-Teshuvah) that there is a need to write a book of repentance which is appropriate for this generation. Someone who wants to write an innovative work about repentance with holiness and awe of Hashem can do so, but if he does not see the Revealed Redemption and the light of salvation shining, he is not able to bring out the truth of the Torah. This means that someone may be a great Torah scholar and an extremely righteous person, but if he does not notice that Hashem is doing something with this generation, he does not know this generation. It is therefore not by coincidence that the first book that Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote when he made aliyah is called "Ikvei Ha-Tzon" (Footsteps of the Sheep). "If you do not know the beauty of the women" (Shir Ha-Shirim 1:8), i.e. if you do not know how to help this generation repent and how to lead them, "follow the footsteps of the sheep (ibid.)," i.e. you must understand the generation. The Torah – and any Torah ruling – must be based on two things: Knowledge of Torah, which is the essence, and knowledge of the reality around you. There is a story about a rabbi who was learning Torah with his father-in-law, who was great Torah scholar. They would learn, and if someone came with a question, the great Torah scholar would answer and they would return to learning. The great Torah scholar once went out for a bit and a woman entered with a question about her piece of meat. The son-in-law said: "Wait, wait, I am not the Rav, he will be back in an hour." The woman said: "I can't wait. My children are waiting to eat. I need an answer." He had mercy, looked at the meat, found a contradiction between two laws in the Shulchan Aruch, came up with a solution, compared it to another ruling and gave a ruling. Just then, the great Torah scholar entered. The rabbi said: "Father-in-law, this lady came in with a liver, I looked at this meat, found a contradiction between these two laws in the Shulchan Aruch, came up with this solution, compared it to this particular law and ruled this way." The father-in-law said: "Very good. There is only one problem: That is not a liver, it is a spleen." A Torah ruling has two parts: knowledge of Torah and knowledge of the reality. Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote in that letter that someone who does not see the light of salvation shining cannot reach the truth of the Torah.

Therefore, if we ask: who is the Gadol Ha-Dor? He is the great Rabbi of this generation, the one who knows and understand this generation, the generation of the most horrible catastrophe and the generation of the greatest revival. He is the unique Divine messenger to lead this generation. Baruch Hashem, there are many great Rabbis and we are happy about this fact, but Rav Kook is the Gadol Ha-Dor. The teachings of Maran Ha-Rav Kook comprise a system for building the generation which is reviving our Nation in our Land and teaching us how to insert a soul into this revival – a difficult task. One needs patience, as this revival progresses slowly and it can take generations. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, said that his father is not only the leader of this generation, but the leader of generations. And we hold on to the coattails of Maran Ha-Rav Kook and our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, and continue to toil in the work of the national revival in our Land until the Complete Redemption arrives.