An interruption during Bircat Ha-Mazon

Q: I work in a mini-market by myself. I am occasionally in the middle of the Bircat Ha-Mazon when a customer comes in. Is it permissible for me to put the items in a bag and take the money without speaking? When I signal to wait, some people get upset, throw down the items and leave.
A: If there is no choice, it is permissible to stop reciting the Bircat Ha-Mazon without speaking, take the money, print a receipt, give him the item and nod your head politely, and then continue reciting the Bircat Ha-Mazon. If you are after "Ve-Al Yechasrenu," it is permissible to speak since it is after the fourth blessing and what comes after are later additions.

Minchah after candle lighting on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible for a woman to daven Minchah after lighting Shabbat candles?
A: The Mishnah Berurah (263:43) rules that she may not since when she lights the candles she has accepted Shabbat. How then can she daven the weekday Minchah? The majority of halachic authorities, however, say that even though she accepted Shabbat, it is still possible to daven the weekday Minchah. We see in the Mishnah in Shabbat (2:7) that it is permissible to perform certain acts after sundown on Shabbat since we accept "Tosefet Shabbat" (adding to Shabbat) but not Shabbat itself. Others write that one may not daven weekday Minchah after the community accepts Shabbat, but an individual may daven it after accepting Shabbat on his/her own. Therefore even though this appears as "Tartei De-Satrei" (two contradictory acts – lighting Shabbat candles and then davening weekday Minchah), various authorities permit it. See Piskei Teshuvah (Hilchot Shabbat vol. 3, p. 40-41) for the authorities who allow it. This is not only a question for a woman but for a man who arrives at shul late after sundown. It is permissible for him to daven the weekday Minchah.

Four Years Later

A collection of "Text Message Responsa" before, during and after the Expulsion from Gush Katif which highlight the emotions, difficulties, and stresses which were experiences and many still experience (From Aturei Cohanim #254)

Q: Is it permissible to damage army vehicles and similar things in order to prevent the expulsion?
A: God forbid. It is not a personal vehicle. It is needed for protection. This also distances the Nation from the Land of Israel.
Q: Is there reason to head in the direction of the Gush?
A: It is a great mitzvah, but without confrontation with security forces.
Q: Is a son obligated to help his parents pack in Gush Katif because of honoring father and mother, or is he allowed to refuse?
A: He is required to help, even if he thinks this is a mistake, on account on the law of helping parents. He is at least obligated to go beyond the letter of the law.
Q: I have seen horrible scenes. How do I strengthen myself?
A: The Land of Israel is acquired through suffering, but this is true acquisition.
Q: I completely despair of trying to stop the disengagement. I am in the Gush a week, I am trying, but it seems lost, how do I strengthen and encourage myself?
A: Take an example from the residents of the Gush who have been there for twenty years and hold their ground. Even if a sharp sword rests on one’s neck he should not despair from mercy. If The Holy One, Blessed Be He, decides to perform a miracle, we are obligated to be here, in order that someone will be able to receive it. And there is hope even within the ways of nature.
Q: What about refusing an order?
A: Do not refuse an order, but do not take initiative.
Q: Is it permissible to begin packing?
A: Yes, in order not to lose possessions. Righteous people’s money is dear to them.
Q: What should we do when the Army comes to the settlement? What is our goal? To stop by force? Protest?
A: Protest by force will not work. Only light will win.
Q: The spiritual situation is declining and I am beginning to fall apart since the struggle is not progressing.
A: We must perform our obligation and Hashem will do what is proper in His eyes.
Q: My strength is totally leaving me. This living from night to night; perhaps it is better for me to sit at home and learn Torah.
A: Yes, since the essence of the struggle is spiritual and it is a long one.
Q: What is the benefit of heading south at this stage? Especially since the struggle is much deeper and lengthier.
A: It is best to learn Torah. Second best is to engage in face-to-face meetings, since at its foundation, this is a spiritual struggle.
Q: A person who evacuates, does his wine turn to forbidden wine (yayin nesech - wine touched by an idol-worshipper or a heretical Jew) since the Land of Israel is more strict than Shabbat (Orach Chaim 306:11), and this is also a public act?
A: It does not turn [to forbidden wine] for various reasons.
Q: If they arrest me, should I identify myself and cooperate with the investigators, or should I reserve the right to remain silent?
A: Cooperate. They are not enemies. This is our police.
Q: Is it permissible to sleep in an orchard which belongs to someone else?
A: If you can definitely assume that he would agree.
Q: How many prohibitions does a person violate who lights a garbage can on fire?
A: He definitely violates various ones.
Q: Should we try to block the evacuation with physical force or already leave from the Gush today?
A: Remain as long as possible without using physical force.
Q: I am twenty years old. Should I listen to my parents, or prevent the evacuation of the Land of Israel which is equal to all of the other mitzvot.
A: Work for the sake of the Land of Israel but without confrontation.
Q: Should we march to Kisufim (border crossing into Gush Katif), when there is a good chance of being arrested?
A: Do not do things for which you will be arrested.
Q: A group is organizing to go to Kisufim to block the access road. I am a young woman. Is it modest for me to go?
A: The essential thing is not to provoke confrontation with the security forces.
Q: I am not able to go to Kisufim. What should I do?
A: Stand in any place in the Land on the side of the road in a legal manner and protest.
Q: Should young women lie down on the road in order to block the access road?
A: This is definitely self-sacrifice, but for a young woman it is immodest.
Q: If my parents do not want me to go to the Gush?
A: Promise that you will not do anything illegal and report to them about everything.
Q: If I remain in the Gush I will have a terrible broken soul. Should I remain?
A: If there is danger to one’s soul, leave.
Q: How should we act at this moment?
A: We should do what we are commanded, and Hashem will do what is proper in His eyes.
Q: There are those who want to puncture the tires of the vehicles to block the expulsion. Is this good?
A: This is not good. Explain to your friends, but without arguing.
Q: Should we remove the mezuzot?
A: Yes, so that they do not fall into the hands of the murderers.
Q: Should we remove the children from the Gush?
A: From the beginning, they should remain as long as possible, since they are partners, unless we are discussing overly difficult scenes.
Q: Is it permissible to damage the army equipment or civilian equipment which they brought?
A: It is forbidden to damage the possession of another! This also will not help.
Q: As young women performing National Service (performed by religious in place of Army service), can we aid the expelled families in hotels, on behalf of "Sela" – the Disengagement Authority?
A: It is a great mitzvah, but do not say that you are on behalf of "Sela," so that they will trust you.
Q: Where are the results of all of the prayers, Tehillim and self-sacrifice?
A: Do not make your prayers demands (From Mishnah Berachot) – to say that The Holy One, Blessed Be He, is obligated to grant your request - rather they should be supplications. And do not engage in self-sacrifice for a miracle to occur (Rashi on the verse "I will be sanctified amongst the children of Israel").
Q: If I am not there, am I required to tear my garment (as a sign of mourning)?
A: Yes. Recite the blessing "Dayan Ha-Emet" (Blessed is the True Judge) as on bad tidings.
Q: I am not a resident. Is it preferable to leave willingly and without a criminal record?
A: Without a record, because this disturbs the worship of Hashem.
Q: Should one tear his garment upon seeing the sights on television?
A: Yes, as on bad tidings. And recite the blessing "Dayan Ha-Emet" with Hashem’s Name and Kingdom.
Q: Is it permissible to throw sand in the eyes of the soldiers who are trying to climb on the roof?
A: God forbid!! How did you think of this!!
Q: Is it permissible to leave with the soldiers without protesting?
A: It is permissible. This is not called willingly.
Q: I am a young woman. If a policewoman or female soldier comes to evacuate me, should I leave or protest?
A: It is possible to leave or allow them to escort you but without struggle.
Q: Should one tear his garment and bless "Dayan Ha-Emet" on a Jewish settlement which has been destroyed? On every settlement?
A: One time on all of them, since everything is one destruction. Perhaps one is not required to tear one’s garment, but this is the ruling of the Rabbis of the Gush. One is obligated to recite the blessing "Dayan Ha-Emet" as on bad tidings.
Q: Is a soldier who comes to evacuate also required to tear his garment?
A: Yes. It is permissible to tear one’s Tzahal uniform since they gave it to him for his own use, and acting according to the Halachah is included in this use, as Ha-Gaon Rav Shlomo Goren ruled.
Q: I am 17 years old. Which book should I learn in light of the situation?
A: Mesillat Yesharim (Path of the Just) and Chovot Levavot (Duties of the Heart) - Sha’ar Ha-Bitachon (Gate of Trust) and Sha’ar Ha-Keni’ah (Gate of Humility).
Q: Should we protest the evacuation by the Army with forceful means, such as throwing stones at soldiers, so that they will thus remember that there was self-sacrifice?
A: God forbid that one should injure soldiers! And self-sacrifice – those who live there have years upon years of self-sacrifice.
Q: Is it permissible to join a minyan of "Yasamnikim" (Police unit trained to evacuate the Jews)?
A: Certainly. What a question!
Q: Is it permissible to help disperse a "hot" situation (between protesters and soldiers)?
A: It is a great mitzvah to help save.
Q: A great Rabbi said in the last few weeks that the Disengagement will not come to pass. It is somewhat difficult for me to understand how this fits with the reality.
A: I did not hear this. I also do not understand. But if he said this, perhaps his intention was to strengthen the struggle.
Q: The public needs to hear the words of the Rabbis, since people feel terrible and that they have been betrayed, and they only hear the words of the media all day.
A: Correct. But since the Rabbis are not given a place in the media, you must turn to them.
Q: Is it permissible to pray that Ariel Sharon dies?
A: Don’t ask questions of this type which will be answered that it is forbidden.
Q: This is Torah and this is its reward?! The beginning of the sprouting of our Redemption?!
A: There is justice and there is a Judge but not so quickly.
Q: Is it permissible to listen to music during these days of expulsion?
A: Each according to his feelings.
Q: How should we relate to the Prime Minister?
A: As an Evil one. But do not hate.
Q: Is it permissible to use part of Ma’asar Kesafim (tzedakah money) for the purchase of candy and activities for the expelled children of the Gush?
A: Definitely.
Q: Is a soldier or officer an evil person? A member of Knesset?
A: Not a soldier or officer - he is torn between ethics and an order. A member of Knesset is free, and if he voted to throw people into the street, he is an evil person.
Q: Should one join the convoy on foot which is leaving in the direction of Chomesh and Sa-Nur (in the Shomron which were also slated for expulsion)?
A: Yes, but do not endanger yourself by entering Arab villages, because this is actual danger to life.
Q: Is it proper for a person during these days of expulsion to refrain from marital relations?
A: It is a personal decision of both members of a couple together.
Q: I suggest changing the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel, and in place of "And send Your light and Your truth to its leaders, its ministers and its counselors," to say: "Remove the Government of malice and establish a Government of faith" and similar things.
A: Do not change the version. It is therefore preferable to add this version at the end. It is, however, better not to change anything because now this is our Government, and we should therefore pray that Hashem sends His light and truth, in order that it not perform nonsense. This automatically includes the transformation from a Government of malice to a Government of truth.
Q: I tore my clothes over the destruction of Gush Katif, am I obligated to leave this shirt on for a few days?
A: We are not obligated, as for other relatives. For one’s father and mother, one tears on the left side, and is required to leave it on for the whole week, and if he changes clothes, he tears again because the mitzvah is to see the tear. For other relatives, one tears on the right side, and it is permissible to change the clothes, because the mitzvah is to tear.
Q: When they expel us should we uproot fruit trees because of "Do not show them favor" ("Lo techanem" - Devarim 7:2), so they do not fall into the hands of the murderers?
A: There is a prohibition of wanton destruction (bal tashchit). And there is also a spiritual danger (in destroying fruit trees). And who is the one who violates "Do not show them favor" - this is the Government. We leave trees out of the complete faith that we will return.
Q: Should we burn the flag of the State?
A: God forbid. The flag is completely fine, the Prime Minister is not fine.
Q: I do not believe in the Supreme Court, the Government or the Police. How can I send my son to the Army?
A: The Prime Minister expelled us from Gush Katif and from Northern Shomron. Don’t allow him to expel us from the Army. On the contrary, we will show him that this is the Army of all of us.
Q: Is it permissible for a soldier to protect those that engage in destroying houses in Gush Katif?
A: Yes, to our distress, he must always protect a Jew in any situation.
Q: From where does the encouragement flow during broken times?
A: From what remains and not what is broken.
Q: I am not succeeding in focusing in learning Torah.
A: This is because you are mourning.
Q: The expulsion has opened within me a deep wound. Is it permissible for me to engage in something extreme which will injure me?
A: Increase extreme Torah learning.
Q: For a few months, I joined a community in Gush Katif with my family. We lived in a house of the Office of Housing Development, and we used water and electricity. Are we obligated to pay?
A: You are not the one who should be asking these questions, rather the secretaries of the settlement, since they invited you. If you want, however, donate to a fund for the sake of the expelled.
Q: Why isn't there an issue of forgiveness in the statement: "We will not forget and we will not forgive"?
A: If they repent, repair, atone, and request forgiveness, then we will forgive (see Yoma 22b-23a).
Q: Does this mean that we should not love them?
A: We should love everyone, including the wicked.
Q: I heard in the name of the Kabbalists that there is a need for "breaking" before the appearance of light. Perhaps Divine Providence is preparing a great light for us - the appearance of our righteous Messiah?
A: One should be very cautious about all types of prophecy, which brings disillusionment in its wake. Nonetheless, this depends on our efforts.

"Mehadrin" Bus Lines

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about "Mehadrin" bus lines where men and women sit in different sections?
A: It is a personal choice. "Mehadrin" buses where men and women are separate is obviously more modest. This is particularly true since sometimes women on the bus are not dressed modestly. Also buses are sometimes crowded, people are standing on one another, pushing against one another, etc. On the verse "And close your eyes from seeing evil" (Yeshayahu 33:15), the Gemara in Baba Batra (57b) discusses a man walking by the river where women do laundry. The women rolled up their shelves to their elbows and hiked up their skirts above their knees. It is therefore not modest. It is permissible to pass there? The Gemara says that if he could have chosen a different path, he is wicked. Why did you go there? Choose a more modest path. But if there is no other path, he is "anoos" (forced). He has no choice and he must exert himself not to look. Therefore, if there is the option of a separate bus, it is preferable. If it is not possible, however, it is permissible to ride on a regular bus just as it is permissible to walk in the street and one must exert effort not to look at immodest things.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #16

Fourth Blessing of the Bircat Ha-Mazon – Part 2

And one could ask further: what is the connection between the heroes of Beitar and the blessing after eating? We already mentioned in the name of Maran Ha-Rav Kook that "it is appropriate for a member of [the Nation of] Israel to realize the value of his personal food, because with it he places one stone in the building of the more communal and more exalted world" of the Nation of Israel, and with this, of the entire world, and through it he will realize "that he is sitting at the table before Hashem." This is in contrast to the wretched state of the Nation of Israel in Exile where one is capable of being seized by despair and fear lest he labor for naught. Our Sages' establishment of "Who is Good and Who Does Good" for the slain of Beitar therefore serves as a sign for all generations not to despair. Since the slain preserved their form, and "we are like those who are devoid of the power of life...but preserved within us is an amazing power of life," i.e. we are certain that we will arrive at our goal, "if it is very distant, it will surely come at its time" (Olat Re’eiyah vol. 1, pp. 365-367).

Our Rabbi & Humility - Part 3

Young students were once sitting around our Rabbi's table and they were discussing ideas that he had been presented. When one student mentioned a particular idea, our Rabbi started beaming and said: "Did you hear what he said," and he repeated the idea as if he was not the one who came up with the idea but the student. (Gadol Shimusha of Ha-Rav Avraham Remer, p. 87 #36)

Our Rabbi did not have personal demands. He was modest in every realm of life. He did not leave his four amot (cubits) and hardly ever left Jerusalem. He made do very little. He greeted important and famous people at his humble home. They sat at his old table and on old benches and chairs.

When our Rabbi was called up to recite a blessing under the Chupah as: "Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon (lit. The genius, meaning a great Torah scholar) Tzvi Yehudah," he said: "The Vilna Gaon is called a 'Gaon.'"

Our Rabbi related: "I was once walking in the street here, nearby, to go to daven. On the way, I met the Gerrer Rebbe ['Beit Yisrael']. He was walking as per the doctor's orders. He was accompanied by attendants and gaba'im. When we met, obviously in friendship, he asked those around him to clear away, and he asked me, why I am walking alone in the street. I responded: 'There are those who require attendants and gaba'im, but I do not.' He said to me: 'But you had a father who was so great!'"
(From "Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet" of Ha-Rav Chaim Schwartz, vol. 4, p. 206).

When people suggested that our Rabbi travel in a taxi, he would refuse and would ride on the bus or walk, even if it took considerable time.

Our Rabbi did not agree to travel from his house to the yeshiva, when it was housed in the old building on Rav Kook Street, even though it was a lengthy walk of fifty minutes. He said: "'The Torah spares the money of Israel' (Chulin 49b), and Israel must spare the money of the Torah" (i.e. the money of the yeshiva).

Exercising in a pool during the Nine Days

Q: Is one permitted to swim in a pool as part of a health exercise program during the Nine Days
A: Yes, only pleasure bathing is forbidden

Non-Jewish methods for perfecting character traits

Q: Is it permissible to use methods from non-Jews for perfecting our character traits?
A: On the face of it, it is permissible to learn wisdom from non-Jews, such as physics and mathematics but not ethical matters or those relating to serving Hashem. We see, however, that our great Rabbis did not stop from taking good ideas from non-Jews in the area of perfecting character traits after verifying that they fit within the Torah's view. In the Gemara in Berachot (8b), Rabban Gamliel says: I admire the Persians for three things -- their modesty in eating, the bathroom (they had latrines in which the excrement falls along an incline, away from the person) and in relations. And in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (39b), Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi points out a contradiction between two verses from the prophet Yechezkel. He says in one place (5:7): "And you did not perform the laws of the non-Jews who surround you" while he says in another place (11:12): "And you performed the laws of the non-Jews who surround you." He resolves the contradiction that we did not perform the good things they did, but you did perform the bad things they did. The book "Chovot Ha-Levavot" takes from Arab philosophers. The book "Cheshbon Ha-Nefesh" by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lapin of Satnov – to whom Rabbi Yisrael Salanter wrote a glowing recommendation and which was learned in Lithunian Yeshivot – was based on a book by Benjamin Franklin. There were obviously changes, purifications and "conversion" of the ideas. The Rambam in Shemoneh Perakim (introduction to Pirkei Avot) takes from Aristotle and says: Accept truth from one who says it. We obviously do not say about Aristotle: Get yourself a Rav (Pirkei Avot 1:6, 16). But if he says something correct, it is permissible to take it from him. Based on this idea of the Rambam, the author of the "Torah Temimah," in his Torah commentary "Tosefet Beracha," collects twenty-four examples in the Torah, among our Sages and great Rabbis where we learn from non-Jews (Bemidbar 24:5). We therefore see that it is permissible to learn good things from non-Jews in this area. After all, Yitro taught Moshe Rabbenu how to organize the court system. But we need to check very carefully if these ideas fit with the Torah. People say that the Rambam "converted" Aristotle. He took part of Aristotle's teaching and threw some in the garbage. He upset everyone. The followers of Aristotle were angry because he threw some in the garbage and he upset the Jews because he took some. Therefore, not everyone can decide what is acceptable and what is not, but in theory it is possible.

Monopoly on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to play monopoly on Shabbat?
A: It is permissible, since they are not real transactions, it is not real money and people do not usually record scores during the game.

Birthday party on night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz – Part 2

Last week we posted that Rav Aviner was asked if it is permissible to celebrate a birthday party for a girl on the night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz. Based on a Teshuvah of Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:168), he answered that while it is not preferable, it is not forbidden.

We received the following response from Ha-Rav Aharon Ziegler (author of "Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik" vol. 1, 2, 3 and 4):
Regarding the question of a party on the night of Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz, my Rebbe, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt"l. felt that every Ta'anit (fast) has an element of Aveilut (mourning) (except Yom Kippur), with it. Therefore, although the actual "fasting" begins in the morning, the Aveilut part begins the night before. He cited the Gemara Ta'anit that discusses reciting "Aneinu" (a prayer recited on fast days) for Ma'ariv, although we are still permitted to eat. He therefore felt that the Aveilut of the "Bein Ha-Metzarim" (The Three Weeks) begins at night and a party would not be appropriate.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #15

Fourth blessing of the Bircat Ha-Mazon – Part 1

"The Blessing of ‘Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv - Who is good and who does good’ was established by the Sages in Yavneh, in memory of the slain Jews of Beitar, as Rav Matna said: The day on which the slain Jews of Beitar were afforded burial, the Sages in Yavneh established the Blessing of ‘Who is good and who does good.’ ‘Who is good’ because the bodies did not decay and ‘Who does good’ because they were afforded burial" (Berachot 48b). After the Romans crushed the Bar Kochba revolt, the evil emperor Hadrian denied burial to all of the hundreds of thousand slaughtered sacrifices in order to break the Nation’s spirit, and to cause a desecration of Hashem’s Name. After the passage of years, the decree was rescinded and there was a double miracle: the bodies of the fighters were afforded burial and it was also retroactively clarified that they did not decay. This was on Tu Bishvat - the fifteenth of Shvat (Ta’anit 31a). One who sacrifices his life for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name, the soul overpowers the body and holds it in place. The same applies in our days: two righteous individuals, Eliyahu Chakim and Eliyahu Beit-Tzuri, sacrificed their lives in Egypt to kill an evil Englishman named Lord Mavin who caused us much distress. After many years, the Egyptians returned the bodies to us, and it became clear that they remained in perfect form, and someone who had earlier known them, was amazed by the fact that their facial features were preserved (see Sichot Rabbenu 49, pg. 15). But one can question the longer version of this blessing. The accepted shorter version is: "Who is good and who does good." What did our Sages see to establish such great length here: "the Almighty, our Father, our King, our Sovereign, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Maker, our Holy One, Holy One of Yaakov, our Shepherd, the Shepherd of Israel, the King who is good and who does good for all. For every single day He did good..."?
Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, explained that this was in order to mislead the enemy. The Romans looked with an evil eye on this blessing of "Who is good and who does good" which magnified the heroism of Beitar, and they trailed after the Jews in order to ensure that they did not recite it, our Sages therefore hid it amongst a sea of words, in order that the Romans would not sense it. A similar phenomenon exists in relation to the recitation of the Shema which was forbidden to us. We therefore hid the verse "Shema Yisrael - Hear Israel" in the Kedushah of the reader’s repetition of the Musaf Shemoneh Esrei on Shabbat.

Facing the Moon during Kiddush Levana

Q: Is one supposed to turn away from the moon during the entire Kiddush Levana (Blessing of the New Moon) and face east (away from the moon) or may one face the moon and turn aside during actual blessing?
A: It is only necessary to turn away during the blessing so that it does not appear as if we are reciting it towards the moon.

Our Rabbi & Humility - Part 2

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

A student related: Our Rabbi was once invited to a Brit Milah and I came to pick him up in a taxi. When he entered the taxi, someone accidentally closed the door on his fingers. His face flinched for a moment but no sound came out of his mouth. When the young man noticed, he quickly opened the door, apologizing and asking forgiveness. Our Rabbi said to him: "No problem, nothing happened." But blood dripped from his fingers.

When he received his check from work, he did not send a messenger to cash it, but went to the bank himself and stood in line. He generally took a bus and not a taxi. At first, when he was called to the Torah with the title "Rav," he would begin to cry.

A student asked our Rabbi for the source of a Gemara he mentioned in class. He opened the Gemara but did not find it. He closed the Gemara and said that sometimes when a person feels arrogant because he knows something which someone else does not, heaven hints to him that he should repent for this. After he finished explaining, he opened the Gemara and found the source. (Gadol Shimusha of Ha-Rav Avraham Remer, p. 97 #35)

During a class, a young student fainted, and when our Rabbi saw that he was being taken care of, he continued with his class as usual in order that the student not be embarrassed by the attention of those around him.

Shut SMS #29

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: Should we be strict not to buy baby food made with powder which is not Chalav Yisrael or a product of Germany?
A: Do not be strict with the baby but buy what is most healthy for him.
Q: If I am davening the Shemoneh Esrei and I see someone's wallet fall out of his pocket and he is walking away, can I stop in order to return it?
A: In an extenuating circumstance, it is permissible to stop and walk without talking (Mishnah Berurah 104:2).
Q: When do I recite Shehechiyanu when buying a new piece of clothing?
A: When you wear it for the first time.
Q: Is it permissible to use "maaser" to buy a backpack for traveling around Israel, since traveling in Israel is a mitzvah?
A: No, "masser" is for the poor and, in any event, there is no mitzvah that one must travel with a backpack.
Q: I have medicine without kosher supervision. Is it permissible to take it?
A: All medicine which lacks flavor is kosher. If it has flavor, wrap it in a very thin piece of paper and swallow it.
Q: My father curses me and embarrasses me in front of others. Am I obligated to honor him?
A: According to your ability.
Q: Is it permissible to daven Shemoneh Esrei in bare feet or in socks?
A: No, we must stand as we would before a king.
Q: Is it permissible to wear a red string as a "segulah"
A: It is "Darkei Emori" (the way of the Emorites). Tosefta.
Q: Does a beautiful head scarf draws attention more than a woman's hair?
A: It needs to be a modest scarf like all other clothing.
Q: What is the source for holy water given out by a "Tzadik" (righteous individual)?
A: There is no source.
Q: Is it permissible to visit the "Body Works" exhibition in Haifa?
A: No. Shaming the deceased also applies to non-Jewish corpse.
Q: Why is cheating on a test forbidden?
A: "Genevat Da'at" (deception).
Q: Is smoking against the Torah?
A: Definitely. Rambam, Hilchot De'ot, chap. 4.
Q: Should we initiate a large prayer gathering for Ariel Sharon, since he is a Jew, contributed much to the Nation of Israel and thus we should forgive and detach ourselves from negative feelings (about his expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and Northern Shomron)? In the end, Hashem did it and he was his agent.
A: In principle – yes. But this does not appear to be for his benefit since if he wakes up, he will be severely mentally challenged.
Q: Must we ask a Rabbi about choosing a name for a baby?
A: No. It is sufficient not to choose the name of a wicked person and not a boy's name for a girl and vice-versa.

Were there Dinosaurs?

This is not a Torah question at all. What is the difference whether there were dinosaurs or not? The halachic question is whether dinosaurs were kosher or not. There is a discussion is the Gemara regarding a mermaid and whether it is kosher. The conclusion is that it is not kosher. The discussion focuses on why it is not kosher and its impact on other types of fish (see Bechorot 8a with Rashi). The Gemara focuses on reasoning. Whether it is existed or not is not the point.

The Torah does not mention dinosaurs. This question is interesting from a scientific perspective but not a Torah perspective. In the book "Netivot Olam" (Netiv Ha-Torah, netiv 14), the Maharal says that the purpose of science is to describe reality, while the Torah describes what reality should be, i.e. what is good and what is bad. What exists is interesting, but it is not Torah, which discusses halachic questions.

When people ask how old is the world, if we came from apes, what happened in the distance past, I generally answer: I don't know. I wasn't born and I didn't see. But in the case of dinosaurs, I saw the skeleton of the largest dinosaur in Europe – 20 meters, so you can't tell me stories. Some say that the Atheists made dinosaurs from plastic in order to challenge us and claim that they were from long ago. This is nonsense. I saw it. There were dinosaurs. If so, why doesn't the Torah write about it? The Torah does not say that there were dinosaurs and it does not say that there were not. Some say that the large creatures mentioned during Creation (Bereshit 1:21) are the dinosaurs.

How old are the dinosaurs? A few million years old. Why then according to the Torah is the world 5769 years old? This has already been asked and answered: Hashem created worlds and destroyed them before creating our current world (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, 9:2 and Kohelet Rabbah 3:11). The worlds were destroyed but certain remnants remained. This is explained by Maran Rav Kook in one of his letters (vol. 1 #91). The author of "Tiferet Yisrael" (a commentary on the Mishnah by Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz) also explained this at length in "Derush Or Ha-Chaim," found in Mishnayot Nezikin after Massechet Sanhedrin). He said that the mystics claim that Hashem created four worlds before creating our world. Where are these worlds? Scientists say that this idea is made up. The Tiferet Yisrael says: "This is not correct. Our Sages know what they are talking about. And after they started excavations and found bones, we see that our Sages spoke the truth!" Although we do not need proofs that our Sages spoke the truth, it is still nice to hear it. He wrote: "The pondering spirit of man, who desires to discover all of the worlds, probing, excavating and delving like a weasel into the recesses of the earth, and the highest mountains in the world, in the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, the Cardillan Mountains in America, and the Himalayas, has found them to be formed of mighty layers of rock lying on one another as if thrown chaotically… Probing still further, within the depths of the earth, they found four distinct layers of rock, and between the layers fossilized remains of creatures. Those in the lower layers are much larger in size and structure, while those in the higher layers are progressively smaller in size but more refined in structure and form… And they also found in Siberia in 1807, in the northern most part of the world, under the constant incredible ice which is there, a monstrous type of elephant, some three or four times larger than those found today…the bones of which are now housed in a museum in St. Petersburg… We also know of the remains of an enormous creature found deep in the earth near Baltimore, seventeen feet long and eleven feet high… From all this it is clear that everything that the Kabbalists have told us for hundreds of years, that the world had already once existed and was then destroyed, and then it was reestablished four more times, and that each time the world appeared in a more perfect state than before – now in our time it has all become clear in truth and righteousness."

Nonetheless, there is no difference whether there were dinosaurs or not. Maran Ha-Rav Kook said that our subject is not if man came from an animal, our subject is how not to be an animal. The Torah’s purpose is to teach us how to have a gentle soul, and to be a holy and righteous person.

Beautiful 30 Years Booklet!

It is with great excitement that the Yeshiva
recently celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of
its founding under the leadership of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shilt"a

Hundreds of graduates and supporters gathered to celebrate at the beautiful
Southern Wall Excavations (Davidson Center) adjacent to the Kotel Plaza

We have transcribed and translated the speeches in a beautiful booklet.
Speakers included:
Ha-Rav Shlomo Amar, Chief Sefardic Rabbi of Israel
Ha-Rav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, Former Chief Sefardic Rabbi
Ha-Rav She'ar Yashuv Cohain, Chief Rabbi of Haifa
Ha-Rav Avichai Ronski, Chief Rabbi of Tzahal
Ha-Rav Tzefanya Drori, Rav of Kiryat Shemoneh
Ha-Rav Simchah Ha-Cohain Kook, Rav of Rechovot
Ha-Rav Yaakov Ariel, Rav of Ramat Gan
Ha-Rav Yehoshua Zuckerman, Rabbi at the Yeshiva and Har Ha-Mor
Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem

And, of course,
Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner

If you are interested in receiving a booklet,
please send along your mailing address (regular mail).
If you are interested in multiple copies for your shul or school,
please let us know how many to send.

Music on Erev Shabbat during the Three Weeks

Q: Is it permissible to listen to music on Erev Shabbat during the Three Weeks?
A: No, there is no difference between Erev Shabbat, Motzaei Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh – it is forbidden. It is true that it is difficult for us but this is part of mourning.

Practicing a musical instrument during the Three Weeks

Q: Is it permissible to practice music instruments during the Three Weeks?
A: Many authorities permit it since when a person practices he does not benefit from the music because his attention is focused on the precision of the actions involved. Some also explain that if someone does not practice for three weeks, he will begin to forget. It is therefore permissible to practice until Rosh Chodesh Av (see Pitchei Teshuvot 493:4 and 551:13).

Israeli dancing during the Three Weeks

Q: Is it permissible to go Israel dancing during the Three Weeks?
A: Both the dancing and the music are forbidden. Some authorities allow listening to A cappella music during the Three Weeks since it is not music but people singing. Nonetheless, dancing is forbidden (see Mishnah Berurah 551:16). It is permissible, however, to perform aerobic exercise during the Three Weeks and the music is even permissible since the purpose is not to listen to music but to keep the tempo of the exercising.

Crocs on Tisha Be-Av

Q: Is it permissible to wear Crocs on Tisha Be-Av?
A: It is a dispute. Some rule that it is permissible since one must not wear leather shoes and they are not leather. Others rule that it is forbidden since even if one wears non-leather shoes, they cannot be comfortable and Crocs are comfortable. May a blessing come to one who is strict. One who is lenient has on whom to rely.

Immersing in a mikveh during the Nine Days

Q: Is it permissible to immerse in a mikveh during the Nine Days?
A: It is certainly permissible for a woman since immersing in a mikveh is not for pleasure but for the sake of a mitzvah. A man may also immerse in a mikveh if he does so on a regular basis since it is also not for pleasure.

Birthday party on night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz

Q: Is it permissible to celebrate a birthday party for a seven year old girl on the night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz (a fast day commemorating the beginning of the Babylonian siege which led to the Destruction of Temple)?
A: It is preferable to have it earlier. This is obviously not a time of success. Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein does not discuss birthday parties on the night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz but having a wedding on that night. His conclusion is that he is not thrilled with the idea but he does not forbid it (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:168). We therefore as not thrilled with having a birthday party on the night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz, but if you really want to, what can we do? I seriously ask: it is really not possible to have it earlier?

Shut She’eilat Shlomo 2:163

Question: We are building a house and want to know what is the law regarding not plastering or painting "an amah by amah" (half-meter by half-meter) in the house, as a remembrance that the main house - our Temple – is still not built, based on the verse "If I forget You, Jerusalem, may my right hand loss its cunning" (see Tehillim 137:5). In which place and at what height should the amah by amah be left, and should it not be painted at all so that one can see the concrete blocks or can the whitewash or color just not be added or removed?
Insofar as I am a former resident of Yamit (a town in the Sinai Desert which was destroyed when the Sinai was returned to Egypt), it is possible to hang a picture of Yamit inside the "amah by amah" as a remembrance of the destruction?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch says (Orach Chaim 460:1): "When the Temple was destroyed, the Sages of that generation established that we should never build a plastered and molded building like a building of the kings; rather one should plaster his house with clay and with plaster and leave an un-plastered spot of an amah by amah facing the door" (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 460:1). The halachic authorities are surprised why people do not follow this practice, and they defend people's action in various ways. For example, in the past, their houses were extremely beautiful and there was therefore a need for the amah by amah, but in our times, the houses are simple and there is no need. And there are those who are lenient when building a house in order to sell it (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:11), but there are those who reject this idea (Shut Mishneh Halachot 5:71). The Mishnah Berurah however rejects all of these explanations and rules that we are obligated to fulfill the law (Mishnah Berurah ibid. #2). There is no requirement however to remove the plaster or the clay down to the concrete blocks, and it is sufficient to remove the plaster, the paint or the wallpaper. It is possible to leave the clay, since it is somewhat white and gray and certainly not similar to plaster or paint, and it is a recognizable remembrance of the destruction. The essence is that the amah by amah is recognizable.
The remnant should be across from the door, at the height that when a person enters he will see it (ibid. #3). It is not sufficient, however, to hang a picture of destruction. While there are those who are lenient regarding painting a black square, and the Mishnah Berurah even rules that we should not protest against one who does this (Sha’ar Ha-Tzion #8), there are those who prohibit it because they hold that it is like a picture and one should not hang a picture, which is a beautiful object. This even applies if one writes "a remembrance of the destruction" within it (Chayei Adam 137:1) or if the picture's contents are sad (Mishnah Berurah ibid.). And the Levush (chapter 560) similarly wrote that one does not fulfill his obligation with an image of the Western Wall. One therefore certainly does not fulfill his obligation with a picture of Yamit. While the destruction of Yamit is truly a tragedy, one should not compare it to the destruction of the Temple, the source of all of our distress and persecutions. In contrast, the destruction of Yamit is only a minor and passing eclipse in the midst of the rising sun of Zion in all its strength, and this broken piece of Yamit will also be healed speedily.

Shut SMS #28

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: If I am set up on a date and it does not work out, is it Lashon Ha-Ra for me to tell the person
who set us up what bothered me in order to find a more suitable match in the future?
A: No. It is also a kindness to the person who suggested it in order for him or her to know.
Q: Should I recite Shehechiyanu on new eyeglasses?
A: If you are happy.
Q: My husband's parents are pressuring us about something and threatening to cut relations.
What should we do?
A: A man therefore leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.
Q: Is a shirt with "Hashem is the King" holy?
A: Yes. It requires two coverings in the bathroom.
Q: I am a Religious-Zionist. Is it permissible for me to belittle Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis?
A: G-d forbidden. You should certainly honor them but follow your Rabbis.
Q: Is it permissible for me to give out food samples at a store when people may not recite a blessing because of "Do not put a stumbling block before the blind"?
A: It is permissible, since maybe they will recite a blessing and it is for a livelihood.
Q: My uncle married a non-Jew and they are having a circumcision by a doctor for their son. Is it permissible to attend? If I do not attend they will be insulted.
A: Do not go. It gives legitimacy. They do not have a monopoly on being insulted – we are also insulted by his action.
Q: Is it permissible to listen to songs with Torah verses while I daven?
A: No. One must daven with a trembling of holiness.
Q: Do I have to give ma'aser from money from babysitting?
A: Yes, from all income.
Q: I have gone out with a young man a few times but it is always on my initiative. Should I continue?
A: Yes. While it is a shortcoming on his part that he does not take the initiative, a person is judged by the majority of his actions. It is worthwhile to talk to him about it.
Q: Is there value in visiting "Kivrei Tzadikim"(the graves of the righteous)?
A: Yes, but Torah learning and acts of kindness are preferable.
Q: How can we hide our heads in the sand and say that everything is fine in the State and army?!
A: You are correct, everything is not fine, but everything is also not bad. We rejoice and strengthen that which is good and are hurt over that which is not good and try to fix it.

Our Rabbi & Humility

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

Our Rabbi emphasized that humility is the most important of all traits (Avodah Zarah 20b), and it is related to Moshe Rabbenu (Bemidbar 12:3) and cleaving to the Land of Israel, as it says: "And the humble will inherit the Land" (Tehillim 37:11).

Out of his great humility, our Rabbi hid his greatness from most people, even from the yeshiva students who did not participate in his classes. His external appearance was not exceptional and his talks lacked the polish of an orator. Only one who was close to him was able to recognize the greatness of his character traits and Torah learning.

The municipality of Jerusalem decided to honor Rabbi Aryeh Levin with the title "Cherished Citizen of Jerusalem," but he refused on account of his great humility. He said that he was not worthy. They next turned to our Rabbi to honor his with this title, but he also refused on account of his great humility. They next turned to Rabbi Shalom Natan Ra'anan Kook, son-in-law of Rav Kook and our Rabbi's brother-in-law, and to everyone's great surprised he accepted. His close relatives were so surprised because of his great humility and they asked him: "Why did you decide to accept this honor when our Rabbi and Reb Aryeh declined?" The great Rav humbly responded: "If I would have refused, they would have placed me on the same level as our Rabbis, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah and Reb Aryeh, and they would think that I am as humble as them. I know that I have not reached that level. I therefore acted this way, so they would not be mistaken. (Ha-Rav Yitzchak Dadon, "Nishkafa Kemo Shachar" p. 135)

A student asked our Rabbi a halachic question relating to a custom of Jerusalem. Our Rabbi turned to Reb Shimon, the yeshiva's secretary and said to him: It seems to me that Jerusalem's custom is such-and-such. Is that not so? (Ha-Rav Aharon Gelik)

One of our Rabbi's students wanted to know the parameters of the mitzvah of serving Torah scholars. When he brought our Rabbi a cup of tea, he asked: Is this considered serving a Torah scholar? Our Rabbi responded to him: A doubtful Torah scholar (referring to himself), [therefore] a doubtful serving.

Similarly, a student once saw a tiny piece of dust on our Rabbi's hat and he pointed it out to our Rabbi, since it is known that it is not proper for a Torah scholar to have a stain on his clothing (Shabbat 114a). Our Rabbi responded: A doubtful Torah scholar, a doubtful speck, a doubtful (obligation to wear a) hat…

Crossing legs during davening

Q: Is there an issue crossing one’s legs during davening?
A: It is forbidden according to the Zohar but we do not make rulings based on the Zohar. The issue is that one needs to sit in "cherdat kodesh" - a trembling of holiness and it is certainly preferable not to sit with crossed legs. If a person must sit that way, it must be with the condition that it is modest, not prominent and not as if one is sitting on a sofa or in a cafe.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #14

And build Jerusalem, the Holy City, speedily in our days

"Speedily in our days." And yet we know that redemption comes "slowly, slowly"? The expression "speedily" points to the powerful inner desire to build Jerusalem. Even if ages and epochs pass until the building of the Temple, there is a huge difference between a person who lives with anticipation for its building and a person who is apathetic. The essence of this burning thirst is the worship of Hashem. Our Sages say that we do not know when the Messiah will come, and one must await his arrival every day, as it is written: "Though he tarries, await him." They ask: Perhaps we anticipate his coming, but Hashem has no plan in this area? The verse therefore says: "And therefore Hashem will wait to be gracious to you and therefore He will be exalted to have mercy on you" (Yeshayahu 30:18). Rashi explains: "Hashem will wait, He Himself waits and desires for the Messiah to come." If so, our Sages ask: If we are waiting and He is waiting, what delays his coming? - The attribute of justice delays it (because we are not yet worthy of it). This is the concept of reward and punishment. But since the attribute of justice delays it, then for what purpose are we waiting? To receive a reward, as it says: Praiseworthy are those who wait for him (ibid.). Praiseworthy are those who await the coming of the Messiah, praiseworthy are those who await the building of Jerusalem (Sanhedrin 97b).
The truth is, however, that the Redemption did not arrive slowly but with considerable speed. Relating to the verse, "And you shall speedily perish completely from off the Land" after sinning, our Sages did an accounting that "speedily" was 850 years (Sanhedrin 38a and Rashi to Devarim 4:25). Since the beginning of the return to Zion, just over one hundred years ago, we have already traversed an extremely long path. Wonder of wonders! This is called speedily! Were our mouths as full of song as the sea we still could not sufficiently thank Hashem.

Everything by Mutual Agreement

We are surprised: how did the great man Rabbi Akiva disappeared from his house for 12 years to go learn in yeshiva and leave his wife alone? The answer is simple: she wanted him to do so. Furthermore: she sent him there. She married him based on this condition. The proof: when he returned after 12 years, she said that if he asked her opinion, she would be happy if he went for another 12 years (Ketubot 62b-63a). We thus see that everything was based on mutual agreement.
In those days, the yeshivot were very far away, and the average student disappeared for six years, the weak ones for three years and the strong ones - like Rabbi Akiva – for 12 years. And everything was decided upon by mutual agreement.
It once happened that one student was deep in learning and forgot to go home at the agreed upon time. His wife waited and waited and cried. He then fell from the roof of the yeshiva and died. A tragic ending which puts things into perspective: one should devote their soul to learning Torah, but only through mutual agreement. And one should commit himself to Torah at the expense of many other important things, but only through mutual agreement. You are not the only decision maker, you need to decide together.

Parashat Masei: A Collection of Quotes about the Love of the Land of Israel

[Tal Chermon – Torah, p. 451]

Parashat Masei includes the verse: "You shall possess the Land and dwell in it, for I have given the Land to you to possess it" (Bamidbar 33:53) from which we learn the obligation to conquer and dwell in the Land of Israel (Ramban, positive mitzvah #4 in additions to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot). Rav Aviner collected quotes which express the love of our Land (Tal Chermon – Torah, p. 451):

“And this is the land which you shall inherit (by lot)” (Numbers 34:2), “The Holy One Blessed Be He said: ‘The Land of Israel is Mine and the Nation of Israel is Mine, it is fitting that I give what is Mine to those who are Mine’” (Midrash Tanchuma ibid.).

“There is no Jew who does not own four amot of the Land of Israel. But you will say: the Ishmaelites took possession of it, while we are in Exile? We have the right of possession: land cannot be stolen and it is still belongs to us” (Rabbi Nachshon Gaon).
“We have not taken control of a foreign land and we have not taken away property which is not ours. This is the inheritance of our forefathers, which had once been unlawfully conquered by our enemies” (Hasmoneans 1:15).

“It is fitting that this Nation, which is the embodiment of the world, dwells in the Land, which is the cornerstone of world, since the Land of Israel is holy and it is fitting that it is inhabited by the Holy Nation. When the Children of Israel dwell in it, this is what gives life to the Land of Israel (Maharal of Prague).

"May Hashem give me the merit of planting fruit trees near Jerusalem with my own hands, in order to fulfill the mitzvah (Vayikra 19:23): ‘When you come to the Land, you shall plant’” (The Vilna Gaon).

“I am from the Land of Israel, but because of our sins we were exiled from there, and I must live in Ostrovtza. Any man who is asked where he is from must answer, ‘I am from the Land of Israel, but at the moment I am temporarily in the Exile’” (The Admor of Ostrovtza).

“Anyone who lives in the Land of Israel should always be happy” (Rabbi Elazar Azkari).

Giving human food to animals

Q: Is it permissible to give leftover challah to cows?
A: In general, we do not give human food to animals, but in this case I understand that you are going to throw the leftover challah out (wrapped in two plastic bags). It is certainly better to give the food to animals than throw it out.

Hugging and kissing a step-granddaughter

Q: When my grandchildren come over and give me hugs and kisses, my step-granddaughter also does. Is it permissible to give a hug and kiss to a step-granddaughter?
A: If she became your step-daughter when she was very young and was accustomed to giving a hug and kiss, it is permissible. She is like an actual granddaughter. But if she came into the family when she was older – it is forbidden. We do not follow the biological connection but the regular connection of life and how she feels. There are some who are strict.

Accidental radio on Shabbat

Q: The radio was accidentally connected to the Shabbat timer, and it turned on. What should one do in such a case?
A: There are three options: 1. Put a blanket over it. 2. Turn the dial on the timer to turn off in 5-10 minutes and the radio will turn off indirectly (gerama). 3. If the volume is controlled by a knob (not an electric button), you can turn the volume down with a "shinui" (an unusual way, i.e. with your thumb, back-handed, etc.).

Askenazi in non-Ashkenaz minyan

Q: Should an Ashkenazi Jew davening with a Sefardic or Nusach Sefard minyan say Tachanun when they are saying the Vidui or when they also put their heads down?
A: It does not matter. When he is the only one in the minyan who is Ashkenazi he should also say the Vidui because of "Lo Titgodedu – do not make different groups," but today most minyanim in Israel are mixed. By the way, it is explicitly written that when the community is saying Aleinu one should also at least bow when others do, since it is said at different times in the davening.

Direction of Davening at the Kotel

Q: Should one turn slightly to the left when davening at the Kotel to face the spot of the Temple?
A: There is no need since we do not know the exact spot of the Temple. We therefore face forward. I once asked Rav Simchah Ha-Cohain Kook – who grew up in Jerusalem -- when he was visiting the yeshiva, and he said that the custom is not to turn left (See Rav Aviner's book "Le-Mikdashech Tuv" p. 241 for a short responsum on this question).

The First Wedding

The marriage of Adam and Chava is the model for all of us. This is the blessing for the groom and bride under the chuppah: "Gladden the beloved friends as You gladdened Your creature in the Garden of Eden in the earlier times." And how do we know that they were happy? Because they were alone and there was no way to compare. The same should be with you: do not compare your spouse to others. S/he is in the only one in the world for you. Furthermore, without the sin, Adam and Chava would have lived forever. You are also married for eternity. When there are difficulties, do not even think about the possibility of separating, rather solve the problem. After all, do you know who matched you up? The same one who matched up Adam and Chava: The Master of the Universe. You are therefore certainly a good match. This means the Master of the Universe did a good job and don't try to change your spouse according to your character traits. You are good the way you are, and now build a shared existence together.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #13

Rise up and come - addition for festivals

On the festivals, our remembrances especially arise: remembrance of the Temple and the Messiah son of David. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato explained that if a spiritual deficiency was corrected in the world, when that time of the year arrives, a light - like the original - shines on us and the effect of the repair will be renewed in one who accepts it. The Netziv similarly wrote that anything that was created in the world, one of its fundamental features is the time in which it was created. Even after many generations, when this time of the year arrives, it strengthens and enhances the power of that creation (Ha-Emek Davar, Shemot 2:2).

What do you want to do?

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

Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner once asked our Rabbi what he should do with his life. Our Rabbi asked him: "What do you want to do?" His dedicated student responded: "I want to do what the Rav wants me to do." Our Rabbi repeated: "But what do you want to do?" Once again, Rav Aviner answered that he wanted to do whatever the Rosh Yeshiva advised. Patiently, our Rabbi asked him a third time, with a tone that demanded a more introspective response. Finally, the student revealed his heart's true desire. "Then do it!" Rav Tzvi Yehudah said. This was our Rabbi's way: to educate each student according to his natural direction, according to his individual talent and leaning, to encourage creativity and the free healthy development of each person's potential (see Mishlei 22:6). (Torat Eretz Yisrael – The Teachings of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohen Kook, pp. 205-206)

Shut SMS #27

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it forbidden to take a baby out of the house until he is forty days old?
A: There is no such Halachah. You can take out a baby whenever you want.
Q: Is there a problem of theft to download songs of non-Jews from the internet?
A: Yes. Stealing from a non-Jew is also forbidden and the laws of copyright also apply to him.
Q: Someone told me that my name "Miriam" is not good and I should change it in order to succeed in getting married. Is this correct?
A: It is a very good name and there is no connection.
Q: Is there a concern about learning the laws of mourning or Massechet Moed Katan (part of
which discusses the laws of mourning)?
A: There is no concern. See Sefer Chasidim #271.
Q: Is it worthwhile to visit the Kivrei Tzaddikim (the graves of righteous people)?
A: It is preferable to give Tzedakah to the poor.
Q: If I do not know what Hashem wants me to do, is it permissible for me to look for a sign?
A: Even if the sign occurs, it does not mean that it is true. You may also violate the prohibition of
Q: Is it permissible to daven in a shul where people sleep?
A: Yes, but obviously only if there is no bad smell.
Q: I stole something and want to return it. Can I return it without anyone knowing?
A: Yes. May Hashem bless you.
Q: Is it permissible to swim in a pool on Shabbat?
A: No based on an ancient custom which is based on various concerns.
Q: Is it permissible to make change from the Tzedakah box?
A: Yes. It is the same money.
Q: Is it permissible to borrow money from the Tzedakah box?
A: Yes, for a short time and you have to give back more.
Q: What should we do with a Tzedakah box if it is impossible to identify to whom it belongs?
A: Give the proceeds to to a similar cause.
Q: What is the Halachah regarding an engagement ring? Does it need to be from silver? From gold?
A: There is no Halachah because there is no obligation to give an engagement ring. On the contrary, you must be careful not to become betrothed by mistake.
Q: A soldier claims that he remembers seeing during the War in Gaza – Operation Cast Lead – Rachel Imenu reveal herself without arms and legs. How should we relate to this?
A: F.M.S. (False Memory Syndrome).
Q: My finance does not want me to cover my hair when we get married. It is off-putting to him. What should I do?
A: A marriage must contain compromises. Sometime you give in to him and sometime he give in to you. In this case, he must give in to you. If he does not understand, you should go together to a marriage counselor.

Parashat Pinchas: Fix Yourself and Then Fix Others

[Tal Chermon, p. 448 based on the book "Nivi Zahav" of Ha-Rav Zev Gold]

When Maran Ha-Rav Kook visited America to raise money for the yeshivot in Eretz Yisrael and Europe, one of the Rabbis asked during a reception: Why doesn't Ha-Rav follow the path of zealousness? Maran Ha-Rav Kook answered at length and told a story about a great Torah scholar and ethical person: "He once came to his Rabbi and said to him that he wants to perfect the world through the Almighty's kingdom. His Rabbi said to him: Go, my son and may Hashem help you. He went and tried, but was unsuccessful. The world remained as it was. He came to his Rabbi a second time to lament the lack of blessing in his actions. His Rabbi asked him: My son, have you already spiritually repaired your country and homeland that you are concerning about repairing the entire world? He took the hint and attempted to fix his country. But he also failed; no one listened to his voice. He returned to his Rabbi and related his new failure. His Rabbi said to him: My son, have you spiritually repaired your city? Why should you begin with a whole country? This wise man listened to him and turned to repairing his city, but the residents of his city also do not obey him. His Rabbi said to him: My son, have you already fixed your household? He realized that he was correct, and so he attempted to repair the members of his household. But they also did not listen to him. When he returned to lament before his Rabbi, the Rabbi said: My son, perhaps you did not fix yourself. Go and worry – first and foremost – about your soul, and after you are certain that you repaired everything that you could and you have no blemish – then the members of your household will see and learn from your ways, and they will be an example for the city, and the city for the country and the country for the entire world. This needs to be the path of a person who desires to spiritually repair others."

When is the Messiah Coming?

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

If someone tells me that the Messiah is coming on a particular day, I won't believe him. Rather, today, like every other day, I will wait for him, because, "I firmly believe in the coming of the Messiah, and although he may tarry, I daily wait for his coming” (Number 12 of Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith).

And if today passes without his coming, I will then know that this was not the day, and I will wait for him tomorrow, and every other day. The Rabbis said, “Come and listen: If someone says, ‘I hereby declare myself a Nazarite on the day that the son of David arrives,’ he is then allowed to drink wine on Shabbat and festivals, and he is forbidden to drink wine on weekdays” (Eruvin 43a-b; Rambam, Hilchot Nezirut 4:11).

If by ten years from now, the Messiah has not yet arrived, I will continue to put on tefillin, to eat kosher food and to keep the Sabbath. I will continue to wait for his arrival, and I won't engage in calculations. “Believing in the Messiah means believing and saying that he is going to come, and not thinking that he is going to delay. ‘If he delays, wait for him’ (Habakuk 2:3). One should not set a time for him to arrive nor seek logical Biblical proofs of when that will occur. The Rabbis said, ‘blast the spirit of those who calculate the end.’” (Sanhedrin 92b, Rambam’s introduction to Perek Chelek, 12th foundation).

And if in thirty years he has not yet arrived, I will continue to send my children to religious elementary schools, and I will still go to services and learn Torah. I will continue to wait, with absolute faith, for “Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmeni said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Blast the bones of those who calculate the end, for they would say: ‘Since that deadline has passed without the Messiah coming, he is not going to come any more.’ Rather, we must wait for him, as it says, ‘If he tarries, wait for him.’ Now one might ask, ‘We are waiting for him, but is G-d not waiting for him?’ It therefore says, ‘And therefore will the L-rd wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have compassion upon you’ (Yeshayahu 30:18). Now, since we are waiting and He is waiting, what is holding it up? Strict Justice is holding it up. Yet since it is being held up, why should we wait? To receive reward, as it says, ‘Happy are all those who wait for him’ (ibid.).” (Sanhedrin 97b).

And if by eighty years from now the Messiah is not yet here, I will continue to build Eretz Yisrael, the State of Israel, the army of Israel, and I will know that there is much more I must do for all these, and then the Messiah will come. “A king once got angry at his sheep, and he dismantled the pen and removed the sheep and the shepherd. Sometime later he restored the sheep and rebuilt the pen, but he did nothing regarding the shepherd. The shepherd said, ‘The sheep are restored and the pen is rebuilt, but I have not been recalled.’ The same applies in our case. It says, ‘For G-d will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, and they shall abide there and have it in possession. The seed also of His servants shall inherit it, and they that love His name shall dwell therein’ (Tehillim 69:36-37). Surely the pen is rebuilt and the flocks are back, but the shepherd (David) has not been recalled. Tehillim therefore continues, ‘[A Psalm] of David; to make memorial. O G-d, to deliver me’ (70:1).” (Rashi, ad. loc.). The Messiah comes at the end.

And if in 130 years he has not yet arrived, I will continue to arouse the Jews to move quickly to Israel. And if they say, “We are waiting for the Messiah, and then we will move to Jerusalem,” I will answer, “You sin and make others sin out of malice, and you do enormous damage, for in the meantime Jews assimilate or are murdered. For ‘it won’t be time for the Messiah’s arrival until the Jews pine for him and say, ‘He’s near!’ or ‘he’s far!’ (Rambam’s Igerot Kiddush Hashem, Mossad HaRav Kook 66-67). We wait for the Messiah every day, so come today!”

And if he has not yet arrived by 230 years from now (the Hebrew year 5999), they will say to me, “Be ready for the Messiah’s arrival, for he will come in the year 6000, as our Sages said, ‘The world shall last for six thousand years, consisting of two thousand years of chaos, two thousand years of Torah and two thousand years of the Messiah’ (Sanhedrin 97a-b), and unfortunately the results were what they were.” Then I will answer them, ‘I am preparing myself for the Messiah’s arrival now, and not in the year 6000. I recall what happened in the Hebrew date of 5600 (called “tav resh”, i.e., 1840) when rumors spread throughout the Jewish People that the Messiah was coming, based on the verse, “The sound of the dove [tor – tav-vav-resh] is heard in our land” (Shir Ha-Shirim 2:12). At that time, the rabbi of the Warsaw Jewish Community, Rabbi Yaakov Gezundheit, ascended the dais on Rosh Hashanah with a sefer Torah in his hands, and he swore that the Messiah would not come that year. Apparently he feared that people would once more go crazy as they had in 1648 when it was prophesied that the Messiah would come. What followed instead were the pogroms of the wicked Bogdan Chmielnicki in 1648 and 1649, and the episode of Shabtai Zvi, who filled the breach and gained many adherents. You will certainly ask, “And what would the rabbi have done had the Messiah indeed arrived that year?” Have no fear! Questions of that sort our Rabbis know how to answer… If the Messiah does not come by 6001, I will not despair. I will remember that Rambam did not rule that 6000 is the deadline for the Messiah’s arrival (Hilchot Melachim 12:2). Perhaps he holds that that source is just a parable or the opinion of only one rabbi, and not the majority view, and I will continue to wait for the Messiah every day.

And if the Messiah has not yet arrived by 6100, that will not wear me down. Rather, I will devote all my physical and mental energies to serving G-d, and that is what is most important. Rambam wrote, “One should not dwell too much on midrashim dealing with the Messiah. One should not treat them as the essence, for they lead neither to increased love or fear of G-d. Neither should one calculate the end of days. Our Sages said, ‘Blast the minds of those who calculate the end.’ Rather, one should wait and believe in the principle of there being a Messiah” (Rambam, Melachim 12:2). “I daily wait for his coming.”

And if by 6200 the Messiah has not yet arrived, I will continue to keep Torah and mitzvoth, to love the people of Israel and the State of Israel, to build a family and to go to the army. If I have waited so long for the Messiah, I will continue to wait daily for his arrival.

And when he finally comes, in the year 6999… I will greet him with tears, and I will recite a blessing, “Blessed be G-d, who bestowed His glory on flesh and blood. Blessed be He who bestowed His glory on those who fear Him, blessed is the Wise Knower of Secrets, blessed be He who has sustained us and brought us to this time.” And I will immediately set out for my army unit, without waiting for the orders (see Rambam, ibid., 11:4).

At last! The Messiah’s arrival! We waited so long! Yet it actually feels like a short time. So much do I crave his coming that the wait feels like just a few days. I can hear the sound of the great Shofar. I see Elijah the Prophet. He will say, “Thank you for the generations you waited daily. His arrival is thanks to you.” “Happy are all those who wait for him.”

Listening to music

Q: What types of songs are permissible to listen to?
A: There are three conditions which must be met in order to listen to music: kosher words, a kosher tune and a kosher singer:
1. Kosher Words – The Rambam explains in his commentary on the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 1:17) that the words of a song need to be kosher. Anything which is forbidden to say is also forbidden to sing. If something is Lashon Ha-Ra, corrupt or immodest it does not become kosher because it is sung. It may even be worse when sung since when we speak, we say something and it is over, but when we sing, the song repeats and repeats. He says that the language of the song is unimportant: Hebrew or Arabic, or even English, the essence is that the words be kosher.
2. Kosher Tune – The Rambam mentions this factor in his letter to the Sages of Aram Zova (edition of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Shilat, p. 428). He says that some tunes act upon one's soul, others stir up violence, others awaken all types of inclinations, etc. If the tune entices negative inclinations it is forbidden, but if it spiritual repairs a person it is permissible. In order to know if the tune is kosher you can look at how the body moves when one listens to it.
3. Kosher Singer – Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses this idea in Shut Igrot Moshe (Even Ha-Ezer #96) that when people listen to songs or sing someone's songs, they give honor and respect to the singer. If the singer is a sinner, we do not want to provide him with honor and respect. A singer is like an educator – it is not just a technical skill but a spiritual one. I am not discussing what "Sefer Ha-Kuzari" says that a singer is like a Levi in the Temple. We do not have the Temple or Levi'im (with certain genealogy). What is a kosher singer? A Jew who keeps the 613 mitzvot or a non-Jew who keeps the seven mitzvot incumbent upon non-Jews.

Cell phone ring during the Three Weeks

Q: When I hear music as the ring from someone's cell phone during the Three Weeks, should I tell him to change it to a regular ring?
A: You cannot give someone else orders. You should certainly change your ring to a regular ring if you have a musical ring. His musical ring is not so bad since it is short and you hear it, but you are not listening to it. In Halachah, this is not called listening to music, but a benefit that comes to a person against his will (Pesachim 25). It is therefore no problem.

Tzitzit directly on the body

Q: Is it permissible to wear Tzitzit directly on the body or is it necessary to wear an undershirt under the Tzitzit?
A: There is no prohibition which forbids wearing the Tzitzit directly or the body. One must only be careful for the Tzitzit not to be stuck in filthy place.

Shehechiyanu on Being Drafted into Tzahal

[Sefer Al Diglo pp. 162-164 and Sefer Me-Chayil El Chayil vol. 1, pp. 320-322]

Question: When a person is drafted to serve in Tzahal, and is exceedingly joyful, is he obligated or permitted to recite the blessing Shehechiyanu (which is recited at a joyous occasion)?
Answer: The Gemara in Berachot (37b) and Menachot (75b) states that if one is standing in Jerusalem in the Temple and offers menachot (meal-offerings), he recites Shehechiyanu. Rashi explained that this refers to an experienced cohain who has not offered this sacrifice for a substantial period of time. Tosafot wrote that this refers to a cohain who serves in the Temple only twice a year, and therefore performs this mitzvah at specific times. The Rambam (Hilkhot Temidim U-Musafim 7:18), however, is convinced that the same passage is talking about a cohain who has yet to offer such a sacrifice in the Temple and Shehechiyanu is thus recited on a mitzvah that is performed for the first time. Similarly, the Rokeach (#371) maintained that any mitzvah performed for the first time is accompanied with a Shehechiyanu. While there are some who disagree with the Rambam and Rokeach, the Rama in the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah 28:2) ruled that one recites Shehechiyanu when one fulfills the mitzvah of covering the blood of a sacrifice for the first time, and the Yavetz (in his siddur) ruled that it should be said when lighting the Chanukah menorah for the first time.

When the Gerrer Rebbe (Ha-Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter known as the Imrei Emet) visited Israel, he purchased wheat for Pesach for Shemurah Matzah, and merited fulfilling the mitzvah of separating Terumah and Ma’aser (different types of tithes). Maran Ha-Rav Kook, who at the time was Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, pointed out to him that since this was the first time he was fulfilling this mitzvah, he should recite Shehechiyanu. He further reasoned that the joy of coming to Eretz Yisrael adds to the joy of fulfilling this mitzvah for the first time, making it certain that he can recite Shehechiyanu. After a discussion, the Gerrer Rebbe followed Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s instruction and recited Shehechiyanu, since Ha-Rav Kook was the "the Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim" and the leading authority on the Laws regarding the Land of Israel ("Chayei Ha-Re'eiyah" pp. 117-119, "Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah" pp.215-217 and "Likutei Ha-Re'eiyah" vol. 2, p. 140). In Shut Orach Mishpat (pp. 268-269), our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, discussed his father’s ruling, and enumerated the many authorities who hold that Shehechiyanu is recited the first time a mitzvah is performed. Thus, the great mitzvah of being draft into Tzahal, which protects the Land of Israel and the People of Israel, is certainly worthy of a Shehechiyanu.

Furthermore, the Tosafot (Sukkah 46a) wrote that when a person fulfills a mitzvah which has an aspect of "simcha - joy," he recites Shechehiyanu (the Tur, Orach Chaim 223, also brings this ruling). The Rambam (Hilkhot Berachot 11:9) limited this to dwelling in the sukkah, lifting the lulav, reading the megillah and lighting the Chanukhah menorah since these are mitzvot which are performed periodically. But Rav David Abudraham (Hilchot Berachot, sha’ar 3) disagreed with the Rambam and wrote, in the name of the Geonim, that one recites Shehechiyanu for any mitzvah that contains both joy and a physical benefit. And we see this idea in the Tosefta that Shehechiyanu is recited by one who separates Terumot and Ma’asrot (different types of tithes) since he is joyful over gathering the fruits (Berachot, chap.7 and see Talmudic Encyclopedia vol. 4, p. 442 note 131), as does one who celebrates on Purim and Chanukah since there is the joy of salvation, one who lifts up the Lulav since there is joy and a physical benefit from its pleasant smell, and one who blows the shofar since our remembrance ascends before Hashem. Similarly, in our case, there is great joy since we have a country, independence and an army to protect our people and our Land.

Rav Chaim Palagi (19th-20th c., Izmir, Shut Lev Chaim vol. 3, #33) was asked whether one should recite Shehechiyanu upon making aliyah, and he concluded that one should not recite the blessing for two reasons: we do not recite a blessing over a mitzvah which is not performed at specific times and one only recites this blessing when there is joy. However Jews in the Land of Israel are overcome with grief even more so than outside of Israel. For example, when they pray musaf [on holidays] at the Kotel and say, "Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land," they burst out weeping. But this reason no longer applies in a rebuilt and flourishing Israel, a reunited city of Yerushalayim, and with the Kotel and Temple Mount under Jewish sovereignty. Moreover, the first reason (as we saw) is a dispute. Therefore, Rav Mordechai Fogelman, former Rav in Kiryat Motzkin, Haifa (Shut Beit Mordechai, siman #28) ruled that one should recite Shehechiyanu upon making aliyah, and similarly (ibid. siman 23), the first time one visits the Kotel after its liberation. This is also true in our case of being drafted into Tzahal.

Further proof can be brought from the fact that Shehechiyanu is recited over new clothes, and the soldiers, after being drafted, receive their Tzahal uniforms. While most of the clothing is lent to the soldier, there are some which are given permanently, such as towels, shoes and, sometimes, extra uniforms. While these are given solely for military use, they are under the ownership of the soldier. Even though towels and shoes are not especially important (and would therefore not merit the blessing of Shehechiyanu for new clothing), one could say that the fact that they are part of a Tzahal uniform gives them importance. Also, perhaps they are considered important since they are given to the soldier for a lengthy period of time. A similar idea is seen in the halachah that one who rents are apartment in the Land of Israel is required to affix a mezuzah immediately because of the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael - settling the Land of Israel (Menachot 44a - unlike in exile where one has thirty days to affix it when renting) (this does not follow Rashi’s explanation). Similarly, in the Pesachim (105a), the students of Rav were eating a meal on Friday afternoon and they asked Rav Hamnuna Saba to check whether nightfall had come. If it had, they would recite Bircat Ha-Mazon, remove the tables (to indicate the change from the weekday to Shabbat), and recite Kiddush in order to start the Shabbat meal. Rav Hamnuna Saba replied that there was no need to check if nightfall had come, because the very onset of Shabbat makes the meal designated for Shabbat (and nothing need be done). The Rashbam explained that because of delight of eating on Shabbat, even a light meal is designated for Shabbat (See Beitzah 34b in which this same idea is used in designating foods for tithing on Shabbat). Thus, the importance of Shabbat can transform the temporary nature to something of permanence, i.e. a snack being considered a full meal. The importance of serving in Tzahal can therefore transform the temporary lending of a Tzahal uniform into a more permanent possession.

Finally, the Bach (Orach Chaim #29) wrote that there is a major difference between the blessing of Shehechiyanu and all others blessings: since the Shehechiyanu is recited over joy, one does not violate taking Hashem's name in vain by reciting it, even in a case where it is not certain that it should be recited. And even though there are those who disagree (Pri Megadim, chap. 225), it is possible to rely on the Bach’s opinion.

Therefore, a soldier who is drafted into Tzahal, and receives a uniform, and is exceedingly joyful is permitted to recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu.