Ha-Rav 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-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Everyone agrees that Rebbe Nachman was a Tzadik and Torah scholar. Why then are so many opposed to Chasidut Breslov?
A: Those who are opposed are greater Tzadikim and Torah scholars and Rabbi Nachman does not have a monopoly on either.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that Rebbe Nachman does not have a monopoly. Does Rav Kook?
A: No, Maran Ha-Rav Kook also does not have a monopoly. Only Moshe Rabbenu has a monopoly, in contrast to what Korach thought.
Q: But there is a spark of Moshe Rabbenu in every generation?
A: Yes, but in all of the Torah scholars, and they therefore have a monopoly together.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that those opposed to Rebbe Nachman were greater Tzadikim and Torah scholars. Is it possible to compare Tzadikim and Torah scholars?
A: Yes. See Baba Metzia 84b and Shut Mahari Brona #190.
Q: How do we know that they were greater than him?
A: Because Rebbe Nachman wanted everyone to follow his way and that "All of the world be Breslov" (Chayei Mohara"n 339), but the reality is that the great Rabbis of Israel, including the great Chasidic Rabbis, did not become Breslov, and all of them together were certainly greater than him.
Q: Perhaps those who argued with him did not understand the true depth of his teachings?
A: It is also possible to say that he did not understand the true depth of those who argued with him.
Q: From where do we know that there were disputes with Rebbe Nachman?
A: It is mentioned numerous times in the books of his students. It reached the point that he was forced to wander around. His students also mention that he was excommunicated in various places.
Q: How can we say that people argued with him when today there are many Breslovers?
A: There were very few during his time. During the year of his death, there were only sixty visitors to his grave on Rosh Hashanah, and it was the same for many generations. Only recently have the numbers increased, especially among Ba'alei Teshuvah (the newly observant).
Q: Ha-Rav wrote about the greatness of those who argued with Rebbe Nachman, but they were not Torah scholars, such as the "Shpoler Zeide" (Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Shpola) who Rebbe Nachman called the Zeide of impurity and the Zeide of Satan.
A: This does not make sense to me since Rabbi Aryeh of Shpola was a Torah scholar and a Tzadik. He performed acts of kindness his entire life for the Nation of Israel and gave all of his money to Tzedakah.
Q: Rebbe Nachman said that this Tzedakah given by the father of impurity was to nullify the Tzedakah given by the Nation of Israel.
A: I also do not understand this.
Q: Rebbe Nachman was certainly the greatest of all the Torah scholars, and he said that he wanted to write a book about how to act according to each halachah, but after he wrote Likutei Mohara"n there was no need since everyone would understand how to rule in every halachah.
A: Likutei Mohara"n is certainly very important but I do not understand how anyone could rule from it and I have never seen anyone do so.
Q: Only dry rationalists do not follow the path of Rebbe Nachman.
A: Not all of the other great Rabbis of his generation were dry rationalists.
Q: I am sure that Ha-Rav is saying these things because you learned "Moreh Nevuchim" and Rebbe Nachman warned against learning this book.
A: The Rama who appears in the Shulchan Aruch begins with a quote from "Moreh Nevuchim."
Q: Isn't saying that there were greater Torah scholars and Tzadikim in his generation shaming him?
A: No, just as your statement that he was the greatest Tzadik and Torah scholar in his generation is not meant to shame others.
Q: But Rebbe Nachman said that all of the other Rabbis are like garlic skins compared to him (Chayei Mohara"n 190)?
A: It is not understandable.
Q: Why does Ha-Rav say that he does not have a monopoly when Rebbe Nachman himself said: "Today, when my book is already know and widespread, everyone is obligated to only learn my book" (Chayei Mohara"n 391)?
A: All of the other Torah scholars did not agree. For example, Chabad.
Q: Which great Rabbis opposed Rebbe Nachman besides the "Shpoler Zeide"?
A: Rebbe Nachman wanted everyone wanted to be Breslov but none of the great Rabbis followed his path.
Q: Based on the opposition, shouldn't we wage war on Breslov?
A: Even someone who is not Breslov should respect Rebbe Nachman since he was a great and holy person, and Hashem, in general, does not like wars.
Q: I learn in a Hesder Yeshiva and every night I learn Likutei Moharan for a half hour. Should I stop? I also say the Tikun Klali and it gives me a good feeling.
A: You should ask your Rosh Yeshiva. Each yeshiva has its own path and we should respect it. If you learn in a Yeshiva, you should trust the Rosh Yeshiva.
Q: Why does Ha-Rav say that he does not understand when Rebbe Nachman says something difficult?
A: Because Rebbe Nachman was a great and holy person and we must guard his honor and humbly admit that we do not understand. Even someone else who is not Breslov must respect him.
Q: I have much difficulty with Rebbe Nachman. What should I think?
A: He was a great Torah scholar but others do not agree with him.
Q: If he was a great Torah scholar how could he rule not to learn Moreh Nevuchim? And how could he say: "I am the only leader and there is no leader like me"?
A: I do not understand. We don't understand everything.
Q: I heard that Rav Kook greatly respected Rebbe Nachman. Is this correct?
A: It is correct. He learned much of his Torah but was not Breslover Chasid. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, also greatly respected him (Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, pp. 214-215), but was also not a Breslover Chasid.
Q: I heard that our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, wanted to learn Rebbe Nachman's Torah in his youth, but Maran Ha-Rav stopped him. Is this correct?
A: Correct. He said that one first needs a healthy heart and soul before learning Rebbe Nachman, i.e. he much learn other works first (Likutei Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 2, p. 262 and in my book Tzvi Kodesh p. 20).

Placing stones on graves

Q: Why do we places stones on graves when we visit?
A: To honor the deceased. When a person visits and places a stone, and then visits again and places another stone, and does so again and again, he shows that he is honoring the deceased. It is permissible to clean the grave and remove the stones if one so wishes.

Parashat Vayechi: Why Efraim and Menashe?

[Tal Chermon based on Me'eina Shel Torah p. 208 in the name of Igra De-Kallah]

Yaakov Avinu blessed his grandsons: "He blessed them on that day, saying: Israel will be blessed through you, saying: May G-d make you like Efraim and Menashe" (Bereshit 48:20). When we bless girls on Shabbat evening, we say: "May G-d make you like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah," but we do not blessed our boys: May G-d make you like Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov." Instead we quote Yaakov: "May G-d make you like Efraim and Menashe." Why is Israel specially blessed through Efraim and Menashe?

A fundamental principle of the Torah is that a person should not be arrogant and should not be envious of others. When Yaakov Avinu saw that even though he maneuvered his hands to place the younger Efraim before Menashe, the first born, Efraim was not overtaken by arrogance, nor was Menashe stricken with envy. Yaakov Avinu therefore said: All of Israel should be this way, without arrogance and without envy. Unfortunately, we see that this was not the case among the other brothers: "And his brothers were jealous of him [Yosef]" (Bereshit 37:11). Yaakov Avinu therefore blessed them and we follow in their footsteps: "May G-d make you like Efraim and Menashe."

The Price of Marriage

Conversation between a father and son:
- "Abba, how much did Imma cost you?"
- "I don't remember! But I am still paying every day…
This is correct. Marriage requires constant effort from both members of the couple. They therefore begin with a down payment: Behold you are betrothed to me with this ring – which must be worth a "perutah" (a minimal amount of money). And one must fulfill, throughout life, what is written in the Ketubah: to feed, cherish, love, etc…
To what is this similar? To an advertisement which boasts of an inexpensive product, but with major payments written in small letters. Similarly, the betrothal is just a "perutah" but the Ketubah contains lengthy payments.
Perhaps you will say that an ongoing payment can be cumbersome. Just the opposite is true! If you exert effort for someone, you will love him or her even more. A general rule of the world is nothing really good is free, and all the more so for the deep connection of marriage.

The Religious-Zionist Community

[Ma'ayanei Yeshua – Parashat Vayeshev 5770]

Question: How can we internally strengthen the Religious-Zionist community and increase its influence?

Answer: When we speak about a movement, i.e. a powerful historical process, we must identify the fundamentals of the movement which nurture and increase its strength. This movement was born a little over one hundred years ago and its purpose was to insert a spiritual soul into a powerful movement which then appeared and was growing: The national revival of the Nation in its Land. The Religious-Zionist movement therefore nurtures into strength from these two entities, the body and soul. Its beginning was quite modest but it grew stronger, both internally and in influence.
Regarding its quantity, it has reached ten percent of the Nation which dwells in Zion, and regarding its quality, it contains a much high percentage of those active in the government, army, economy, science, and more Bnei Torah, Torah scholars, yeshivot, women's high schools and seminaries.
Its influence on the Nation is incredible, and much greater than the ten percent it represents. One must obviously point out that the Religious-Zionist community has many shades and includes different streams: yeshivish, university types, those who are punctilious about the mitzvot, liberals, right-wingers, left wingers, etc. The common denominator between all of them is the belief in the revival of the Nation in its Land according to the Torah.
Besides the fact that this community is becoming stronger both quantitatively and qualitatively, it also has a major impact on the other two communities between which it mediates: the Non-Zionist Charedim and the Secular-Zionists. This influence is not a direct one but a natural one of absorption. The Secular-Zionists are coming closer to Torah, and are much closer than they were before the establishment of the State. This is from being in contact with the Religious-Zionist community, in which it sees many sterling qualities in the area of education, family life, and in our relationship to the State and the army. Similarly, the Charedi community is coming closer to the State and the entire enterprise of the national revival, in that it unwittingly absorbs Torat Eretz Yisrael of the Religious-Zionists.
There is obviously much more work to be done, and there are certainly many deficiencies in our community, but this is not on account of a faulty foundation, but because we are still at the beginning of our path. It is the correct path and we must continue on it. The strengthening of the physical national revival is a natural process which feeds itself, and does not require addition action.
But regarding the national spiritual revival, we must exert much more effort, i.e. to increase Torah learning in our community. The more we learn Torah, the greater blessing will come to us and others.
This conclusion is not surprising. We know that the Torah is the Divine cure for everything, both communally and individually, as the Maharal wrote at the beginning of his work Netivot Olam, Netiv Ha-Torah, that the Torah provides the order of the world. The Netziv of Volozhin similarly wrote in his teshuvah "Yamin U-Semol" (Right and Left) regarding the different streams among the Nation of Israel, in which the solution is not separate communities but increasing Torah among the Nation, producing Torah scholars, and Torah learning among the masses (Shut Meishiv Dvar 1:44). Maran Ha-Rav Kook similarly wrote that the various spiritual ailments are a result of something disturbing the pure Israeli nature, which retains its purity by learning Torah, whether learning Torah in order to produce Torah scholars or Torah learning for the masses (Orot Ha-Teshuvah).
The main medicine is therefore to increase Torah among the Religious-Zionist community, from head-to-toe, in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and yeshivot for both men and women.
And we must also strengthen what must precede Torah, i.e. proper character traits of integrity, honesty, helping other, gentility, with guarding one's tongue at the center. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, did not want to force the yeshiva's schedule on the students, except for demanding that every day between 12:45-1:15 the students learn the book "Chafetz Chaim".
The general principle is that we must increase proper character traits and Torah learning among both individuals and the community as a whole.

Saying "Happy New Year" on the Christian New Year

Q: Is it permissible to say "Happy New Year" on the Christian New Year?
A: No, because the Christian year is connected to idol worship. It is forbidden to give respect to idol worship in any form. A person who says "Happy New Year" is not worshipping idols but he is acknowledging it in a positive way. It is similar to the Halachah that it is forbidden for a person to say to his friend: "Let's meet by this church," since he is acknowledging idol worship. One should therefore say: "Good morning," "Good day" or something else.

Leaving Israel to visit "Kivrei Tzadikim" (the graves of the righteous)

Q: Is it permissible to leave Eretz Yisrael to visit "Kivrei Tzadikim"?
A: Although the Rambam (Hilchot Melachim 5:9) ruled that it is forbidden to leave Israel except temporarily to learn Torah, to find a wife or to be saved from non-Jews, the Sedei Chemed (Ma'arechet Eretz Yisrael #1) quotes various authorities who allow leaving Israel to visit "Kivrei Tzadikim". Maran Ha-Rav Kook ruled that we do not leave Israel to visit the graves of Tzadikim and he wrote "are we without graves in the Land of Israel that you travel to the Exile?!" Isn't it enough to visit our Forefathers and Forefathers in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah in Hevron (Shut Mishpat Cohain #147)?
Tosafot (Avodah Zarah 13a) ruled that one may leave Israel for any mitzvah, but we must clarify if visiting "Kivrei Tzadikim" is defined as a mitzvah or not.
There was once a community in Europe who wanted to hire a particular Rabbi and in order to attract him, they told him that the Shach, the Taz and the Semah (three famous Rabbis) were buried in their town. After he became the Rabbi there, he said to them: What you told me is not true. The Shach is buried in this city, the Taz in that city and the Semah somewhere else. They answered: “What we said is true. They are not buried there, because the people there learn their words, and these Torah scholars are therefore still alive. But in our city – to our great distress – we do not learn their words. As a result, they are buried here and we therefore need you as our Rabbi.” We learn from here that it is more important to learn the words of Torah scholars than visit their graves. Visiting "Kivrei Tzadikim" does have value, as we know Calev ben Yefuneh left the spies to daven at Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah (Sotah 34b and Rashi on Bamidbar 13:22), but learning the Torah scholars works which spiritually elevate a person is certainly more important.
Furthermore, if a person lives close to the cemetery that is one thing but to fly great distances costs thousands of Shekels. Giving Tzedakah is a much clearer mitzvah than visiting "Kivrei Tzadikim." If one is looking for "segulot" (spiritual remedies), the greatest "segulah" is giving tzedakah. "Tzedakah saves one from death" (Mishlei 10:2, 11:4). This is true not only for the one who receives but also for the one who gives. The Gemara in Shabbat (156b) says that astrologers told Rabbi Akiva that the day his daughter gets married, she will be bitten by a snake and die. He was obviously very worried. On the day of her Chupah, she took a decorative pin out of her hair and inserted it in to the wall, and it struck a snake in its eye. In the morning, she when she removed it, the dead snake came out after it. Rabbi Akiva asked her: what good thing did you do? She said: On the day of the wedding, a poor person came to the door and because everyone else was busy with the meal, no one heard him. I took the portion you gave me, and gave it to him. Rabbi Akiva said: "Tzedakah saves one from death." Therefore, instead of traveling great distances to visit "Kivrei Tzadikim," one should use the money to help the poor.
Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would travel from his house to Yeshivat Kol Torah in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Ve-Gan, and he would pass the national cemetery on Mt. Herzl. He would pray there, saying: "These are the graves of the righteous who died sanctifying Hashem's Name. Why should I travel far distances?"
Visiting "Kivrei Tzadikim" certainly has value but one must always weigh it against other considerations.

Parashat Vayigash: The Job of Mashiach ben Yosef

[Tal Chermon p. 98]

Yosef himself had no equal in his ability to build the material world. This talent of the Mashiach ben Yosef has continued to unfold throughout history. It did not begin with Yosef and it did not cease with his passing. Avraham Avinu had already displayed this ability in his victorious war against the four kings (Bereshit, chap. 14), in his successful discovery of fresh water in a well he had dug (Bereshit 21:25) and in his great economic prosperity with his flock, silver and gold (ibid. 13:2). This talent also became apparent in Yitzchak when he dug wells, and was blessed with an unexpectedly prolific crop, a hundred-fold more than others (ibid. 26:12). It reached its peak with Yosef as the viceroy of Egypt. Yosef's descendants demonstrated the same expertise. Two hundred thousand of his resourceful offspring from the tribe of Efraim broke out of slavery and left Egypt earlier than the rest of the Nation (Shemot Rabbah 20:11). Later, Hashem chose Yehoshua of the tribe of Efraim to perform the miracle of halting the sun in its tracks (Yehoshua 10:12). Yehoshua became famous for this act. Shaul established both the army and the kingdom as a forerunner of the permanent kingdom of the Davidic line (Shmuel 1 14:47-52). Yoravam, an offspring of Yosef, was appointed as chief tax-collector of all the House of Yosef during King Shlomo's rule and finally became the King of Israel after the splitting of the Kingdom (Melachim 1 11:28-31). Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote that in these times of our national re-awakening, Herzl was a spark of the Mashiach ben Yosef and he was therefore a driving force for the rebuilding of our national entity (In his eulogy for Herzl called "The Eulogy in Yerushalayim," published in Ma'amrei Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 98).

Violence Begins in Thought

Physical abuse of husbands against their wives begins in thought: “Men are smarter and more capable than women, and women must do as we say and answer to our every demand.” Men also judge women by their outer appearances when choosing a spouse.
It continues with "light" verbal abuse: Degrading comments and jokes about women in their presence, or even among men alone.
Then there is more severe verbal abuse: A husband commanding his wife like an army officer, and a husband raising his voice to his wife who did not carry out his order.
The door is then open to physical violence to clearly demonstrate that the husband is the decision-maker.
The remedy: Repent, relate humbly to your wife, as a friend. A deep, inner remedy.

Kosher Internet

[Be-Ahava U-Be-Emuna – Parashat Vayeshev 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Everybody knows that the Internet is a great source of woe for mankind. This is the case not only for G-d-fearing Jews and not just for the holy Jewish People but for all people everywhere. True, it has good things in it, information and service sites, and we have our various Torah sites, and it could have been a wonderful tool, but in actual fact it does more harm than good.
It leads to people wasting enormous amounts of time surfing the net for nonsense. It broadcasts cheap, shallow culture. For example, 60% of National Religious youth regularly enter pornographic sites. This being the case, better that it had never been invented, for the fear of G-d is more important to us than information and services, and even more important than Torah learning.
Therefore, if someone asks us whether or not they should bring the Internet into their home, our answer is: No! Don’t do it folks! But if one has no choice due to work, or if someone just doesn’t ask us, there is a partial solution through the various filtering programs: In Israel there are Rimon, Etrog, Iconito, Moreshet and Netiv. All of them are good, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages regarding efficiency and ability to filter. Everyone should choose according to what suits him personally, but a filter program is an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT according to Halachah. Such indeed is the ruling that has been handed down: If someone has to go somewhere and he has two possible routes, the involving a river where women role up their sleeves to do their washing, and a more modest route, he is obligated to take the more modest route (Bava Batra 57b).
A second solution is to have password without which it is impossible to open the Internet, with two or three people each possessing part of the password, such that the Internet cannot be used without all of them being present. The illustrious Rav Wosner ruled that the laws of “Yichud” [seclusion with a female behind closed doors] apply here. Obviously, the optimal solution is for a person to become so purified, elevated and sanctified as to view all this filth with scorn. Yet that is not enough. The evil impulse can attack a person from within or from without, as Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yizchak Ha-Cohain Kook explained (regarding the Talmudic debate over whether the evil impulse is more a fly, which comes from without, or like a wheat kernel, resembling a heart split in two (Ein Aya). Rambam likewise writes: “It is a person’s nature to imitate his friends and acquaintances and to develop behavior and attributes like theirs. Therefore, a person must befriend righteous people and always frequent the wise, so as to learn from their deeds, and he should distance himself from the wicked who walk in darkness, so as not to learn from their deeds. As King Shlomo said, ‘He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will be broken’” (Rambam, Hilchot Deot 6:1). Thus one should distance himself from the darkness, wickedness and foolishness of the Internet.
There is another fine solution in America which can be used here as well, and it has approbations from the rabbis of America and of Israel. By the way, there is a Kollel director here who accepts kollelniks into his program on condition that they have subscribed to this program. It is called "webchaver", and it transmits a weekly report on all the sites visited by the user, placing at the top, in bold, all the problematic sites entered, that reaches the friend chosen by the user. That friend can be the person’s wife who uses the same computer, but with a different email address. It costs four dollars a month.

A Spiritual and Halachic Guide to Making Aliyah

Oleh Chadash
The New Immigrant to Israel

A Spiritual and Halachic Guide to Making Aliyah

Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig – former Rabbi of Kehillat Ohr Tzion in Buffalo, NY, and now spreading Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner's Torah for Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim and living in Ma'ale Adumim - has authored a new book on halachot, customs and insights relating to all stages of making aliyah. "Oleh Chadash" – A Spiritual and Halachic Guide to Making Aliyah is a single, 2-sided volume (175 pages) with the full text in both English and Hebrew. Many of the halachot and insights are based upon the teachings of Ha-Rav Aviner.

"Oleh Chadash" is the perfect handbook for anyone who is contemplating, making or surviving aliyah, any Oleh Vatik, or anyone who simply loves Eretz Yisrael.

The cost of the book is 50 shekels in Israel and $15 outside of Israel (shipping included).
Special Deal – Anyone who purchases "Oleh Chadash" can receive for an additional 30 shekels or $10 another book by the author, "Kum Hithalekh Ba-Aretz" – a guide to the halachot of traveling in the Land of Israel (389 pages). This book is in Hebrew.

e-mail: mororly@bezeqint.net
phone: from States – 847-929-4780 or from Israel – 054-840-4747

Shut SMS #49

Ha-Rav 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-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Should I stay in a job which is not good for me?
A: Until you find another.
Q: What blessing did they recite on the manna?
A: "Ha-Motzi Lechem Min Ha-Shamayim" (Who brings forth bread from the heavens).
Q: Is "Maaser Kesafim" an obligation?
A: Each person according to his ability.
Q: Is reciting "Perek Shira" a segula (spiritual remedy) for finding a match?
A: Like all other mitzvot.
Q: Is it worthwhile to take a trip to Petra in Jordan?
A: No. 1. It is dangerous. 2. It is Eretz Yisrael but it is not under Israeli sovereignty and visiting there is descending in holiness.
Q: Why did Hashem create creatures which have no benefit like flies and ants?
A: Every creature has a benefit based on the wisdom of the Creator, and that which has not been revealed now will be revealed in the future. Rambam in his introduction to the Mishnah.
Q: If I began reciting the Shemoneh Esrei facing the wrong direction, is it permissible to turn around?
A: Yes, walking without talking is not considered a break.
Q: A miracle occurred to me and I want to thank Hashem. What should I do?
A: Tzedakah.
Q: Is it permissible to enter a bathroom with a siddur or Mishnah in my pocket?
A: If it is in a bag, i.e. two coverings.
Q: Is it permissible to borrow money from the Tzedakah box?
A: For a short time and return a little extra.
Q: It is difficult for me to honor my parents. What can help?
A: A feeling of gratitude.
Q: I work with youth groups and realized that my Tzitzit are invalid. Should I have taken them off and the kids would see me without Tzitzit or continued wearing them even though they are invalid?
A: Take them off in front of them and explain why you are removing them. This is great education.
Q: Is it permissible to kill or catch a fly that is bothering me on Shabbat?
A: Certainly not.
Q: Is it forbid for a man or women to wear red?
A: Yes, because of "Chukat Ha-Goyim" (following non-Jewish practices). See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 3. And it also draws attention in our days.
Q: Do I have to tell a potential Shidduch of my past transgressions from before I was religious?
A: No, repentance erases them.
Q: Does a broken mirror mean anything?
A: It is a superstition.
Q: Is it permissible to say "Yah Allah" (Oh G-d!) in Arabic?
A: It is forbidden because of the prohibition of saying Hashem's Name in vain, which applies in other languages as well.
Q: Is one obligated by the Halachah to follow the laws of the State of Israel?
A: Yes. 1. Dina De-Malchuta Dina - The laws of the country must be followed, even in another country. 2. "Shivat Tuvei Ha-Ir" - The seven leaders of a city must be followed. 3. The Government has the authority of a king in this realm.
Q: Should I accept a "Shidduch" with a woman who has non-religious parents?
A: Yes, the most important thing is the woman. Rivka also had non-religious parents, as did Rachel and Leah.

Repenting for speaking Lashon Ha-Ra

Q: If another person is unaware that one spoke Lashon Ha-Ra about him and he wants to repent, should he tell him?
A: The Chafetz Chaim in Hilchot Lashon Ha-Ra (4:12) wrote that if one wants truly repents he should tell him even though he will causes him further pain. It is taught in the name of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, however, that one has no right to cause another pain so that he can do Teshuvah.

Group Torah learning on a train

Q: Is it permissible to learn Torah in a group on the train if it may bother others?
A: It is certainly forbidden. When one travels on the train, he cannot bother others. The train is not a shul or yeshiva. If a person wants to learn, he should learn quietly. By the way, some people talk so loudly or scream on their cell phone in public and this is a severe transgression. It penetrates the private areas of another. People need proper respect for other people on a train, bus, street, etc. And this is true all the more so for one who learns Torah since "derech eretz" (proper ethical behavior) precedes Torah. The same applies to organizing a minyan on an airplane when it bothers others. The great halachic authorities ruled that it is forbidden to daven in a way which will bother others, and one should therefore daven in his own seat. They include: Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:20), Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichot Shlomo – Tefillah p. 95) and Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef. And this is how they themselves acted. El Al published a small booklet called "An Information Guide for the Religious Passenger" which includes the opinions of these great Rabbis. Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv also recently ruled: plane travel supersedes a minyan. There are buses in the United States rented by religious Jews where they learn Torah and daven but the main principle in our case in that it is forbidden to bother others.

Parashat Miketz: Wisdom and Vigor

[Tal Chermon p. 92]

Pharaoh publicly installed Yosef as ruler of Egypt: "He had him [Yosef] ride in his second royal chariot and they proclaimed before him 'Avrech'" (Bereshit 41:43). What is the meaning of this title? The Targum Onkelos interprets it as "father (i.e. counselor to the king)." Yosef is the spiritual father, the source of the Divine ideals and culture of the king. He is above the king. Once the king is affiliated with and guided by holy principles, he can then set about organizing and arranging the practical aspects of existence virtuously and properly. Rabbi Yehudah explained the word as a combination of two words "Av" meaning that he is a "father" of wisdom despite being only "Rach" – "tender" and "young" in age. Older people generally have the advantage of wisdom and experience, but they lack the dynamic energy of youth. With the youth, the situation is reversed. There is a popular saying: "If only the elderly 'could' and the young 'understood.'" The ideal situation is when these two forces, wisdom and capability, are present in one person. Yosef was a "young-elder": as wise as an older person and full of youthful vigor.

A Non-Angel Married to a Non-Angel

My dear friend, you are good and your wife is good. Or, if you prefer, you are not completely good and neither is your wife. You both therefore forgive each other. You are not perfect and neither is she, you are therefore a perfect match from heaven. When you demand that she be perfect and focus on her deficiencies, and also demand that she understand that you are not perfect – you are mistaken. Finding deficiencies in another is simple. It does not require intelligence, talent, love, or effort. But this was not the reason you married. If you forgive her with all of your heart for her mistakes and ask her to do the same for you – you have understood marriage and you will be happy. If you expected to marry an angel, you were mistaken, such a thing does not exist. If it did exist, she would not have married you, since you are not an angel. A perfect match from heaven: a non-angel married to a non-angel.

But what is going to be?...

Question: What is the mitzvah of the lights of Chanukah – lighting them or placing them in the correct place?
Answer: It is well-known that this is a dispute in the Gemara (Shabbat 22-23) as to whether the mitzvah is the lighting of the Chanukah lights, or whether the mitzvah is that the lights be placed in the proper spot, i.e. lit for a certain period of time. What is the difference? One example is in a case where someone who is not obligated in the mitzvah, like a non-Jew, kindles the lights and then a Jew, who is obligated, picks them up and puts them down. If the mitzvah is the actual lighting, since the lights were kindled by someone who is not obligated, the Jew cannot not fulfill his obligation with them. If, however, the mitzvah is placing the lights, even though the lights were kindled by someone who is not obligated, since they were put down by the Jew, he does fulfill his obligation. The Halachah is that the actual lighting is the mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 675:1). This is also verified by the blessing itself: "Who has made us holy with His mitzvot and commands us to light…"
Based on this discussion, we can ask: What exactly was the miracle of Chanukah? Was the miracle the actual lighting of the Menorah in the Temple or was the miracle that they were lit for a certain period of time? The miracle seems to be that they were lit for a certain period of time, since there was no problem lighting the Menorah – there was enough oil for one day! If we say that the miracle was the actual lighting of the Menorah, what was the miracle? Answer: The miracle was that it took great strength to be bold enough to even light the Menorah in the first place. They could have said: "Why should we light it? It needs to be lit for eight days before new oil will be ready. It isn't worth it to light it for one day." But they did not say this. They said: "Hashem commanded us to light. We will light. What will be tomorrow? We don't know. Hashem will decide." The same is true of the revolt. "You are going to rebel against the Greeks?! You think you can win?! Sure you can begin a battle, but how are you going to win? Why even start then?" "We were commanded by Hashem, so we will begin. After that Hashem will decide." There was a great miracle, but they didn't know that this was going to occur when they began. This is "Mesirat Nefesh" – true self-sacrifice. There are many example of great self-sacrifice in our tradition, but the miracle of Chanukah is unique. Up to this point, there were always prophets. Here, however, there were no prophets to give direction. They acted because they understood what Hashem commanded them to do.
This is similar to the question of why Yom Ha-Atzmaut was established on the 5th of Iyar in particular, since on that day no miracle occurred. The Jewish State was declared, and with it a life-threatening situation began (Chanukah and Purim were established on the day after the "war" ended). Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, explained that the courage to declare the State is the miracle of miracles, the soul and root of all of the miracles and wonders (Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, p. 179). The Talmud discusses a shepherd who abandoned his flock, leaving it prey to either a wolf or a lion who came and tore it to pieces. The Rabbis established that his responsibility for the slaughter depends on whether or not he would have been able to save the animals. If he would not have been able to overcome the attacking animal, he is exempt from all payment. The Talmud asks: Why is this so? Perhaps it would have happened as for David: "Your servant slew both the lion and the bear" (Shmuel 1 17:36)? Perhaps a minor miracle would have occurred (Baba Metzia 106a)? The Tosafot described the miracle: "A spirit of courage and the knowledge to wage war" (Tosafot ibid.). So too in the matter of the declaration of the State: "The awakening, the exerting of effort, the philosophizing and the strengthening for the drive to rescue and revive," is a miracle from the Heavens, "with a supreme and inner stimulus of power." The fact that the Nation of Israel was filled with the spirit to fight and the knowledge to wage war is the foundation of all miracles (Le-Netivot Yisrael ibid.). From this act flowed all of the miracles which led to establishment and strengthening of the State of Israel.

Shut SMS #48

Rabbi 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-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to hire a builder who does not pay taxes to expand our caravan in an outpost?
A: No, we do not perform a mitzvah through a transgression.
Q: Is it permissible to write Lashon Ha-Ra in my personal diary?
A: Yes, but you must be careful to judge people favorably.
Q: How does one immerse an electrical appliance in the mikveh when it can be ruined?
A: Immerse it and dry it with a hair-dryer.
Q: Is it permissible to visit the Temple Mount?
A: No, there are signs from the Chief Rabbinate which forbid it.
Q: I am renting an apartment and am not sure the mezuzot are kosher. Do I have to replace them?
A: Put up your own mezuzot and then put the others back when you move out.
Q: Is there are importance to davening with a minyan?
A: Certainly. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 12:7.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that "Amen Meals" are a new creation. Is it permissible or is it reciting blessings in vain?
A: There are some who forbid it for this reason, but you may rely on those who permit it. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 6:4. Sha'arei Teshuvah #6. Mishnah Berurah #13.
Q: Is it forbidden to touch one's grandmother?
A: No, she is like one's mother.
Q: Does one who overcomes his inclination and does not commit a sin receive a reward?
A: Certainly, sit and do not sin.
Q: Does one who eats and vomits recite Bircat Ha-Mazon?
A: No, it requires digestion.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that the idea of someone who does not want to wear a seatbelt with the claim that he will rely on Hashem is nonsense. Why?
A: Hashem also protects us through our intellect. Mesillat Yesharim, chap. 9.

Chanukah Sameach!

From Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim
and Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a

A seven-branched candelabrum

Q: When it is not Chanukah, it is permissible to light a seven-branched candelabrum?
A: It is forbidden to make any item in the form of one of the objects in the Temple (Avodah Zarah 43a). It is possible that this candelabrum does not have the same form as the menorah in the Temple, but it does not matter since any seven-branched candelabrum would have been kosher for use in the Temple. When the Hasmoneans entered the Temple after defeating the Assyrian-Greeks, they did not have enough materials to create a beautiful menorah, so they did what they could and made a simply one. If you look into the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah (Menachot 3:7), he has a picture with the menorah with rounds branches and not straight ones. There is a dispute whether the picture drawn by the Rambam is correct or not. Either way, it is forbidden to have a seven-branched candelabrum of any shape. There are a few solutions: 1. There is a novel ruling of our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, to which Ha-Rav Yitzchak Herzog (former Chief Rabbi of Israel) agreed: you should take screws and connect the candelabrum to a table or shelf, and it is thus not no longer an object. An object is something which is carried, and this is no longer something which can be carried around. 2. Add a branch. There is a famous question for Chanukah which has one hundred answers (see the book "Ner Le-Meah"): if there was enough oil for one day, then the miracle of Chanukah only occurred for seven days. Why then is Chanukah celebrated for eight days? This is called "Kushiyat Ha-Beit Yosef" (the difficulty of the Beit Yosef), since he quoted this question (Orach Chaim 670). One of the answers of Maran Ha-Rav Kook is that since it is forbidden to make an item in the form of one of the objects in the Temple, the Rabbis added a day to Chanukah or it would have been forbidden to use a chanukiyah (Mitzvah Re'eiyah, p. 84). Thus, you can add a branch. 3. You can remove a branch and you will have six.

"Erev Rav" today

Q: Who is the "Erev Rav" today? (The "mixed multitude" is a group of corrupt individuals who came out of Egypt with the Jewish People – Shemot 12:38)?
A: In his book "Heichal Yitzchak", Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac of Komarna says that whenever the Rabbis used the term "Erev Rav" it is not in order to say to others: "You are part of the 'Erev Rav'!" but in order for each of us to search within ourselves to see if we have a taint of the "Erev Rav." This means that a person can have traces of the "Erev Rav" within him, which is referred to by the mystics as "Resurrected Sparks." The Vilna Gaon wrote in Even Shelemah (chap. 11) that one who is involved with communal disputes or shames Torah scholars possesses traces of the "Erev Rav." There is no obligation to follow every Torah scholar, and it is impossible to do so, but it is forbidden to shame a Torah scholar, even if you do not accept his opinion. One must respect every Torah scholar. One who has the qualities of communal disputes and shaming Torah scholar must be wary about his "Erev Rav"-ness.

Repentance for someone who lost his memory

Q: How does a person who lost his memory repent for sins which he has forgotten?
A: He repents in general terms.

Parashat Vayeshev: Yosef as Leader

[Tal Chermon p. 86-87]

Question: Why wasn't Yosef's authority accepted?
Answer: A true leader is one who contains within him all the qualities, thoughts, and aspirations of the people he leads. For example, the "leader of ten" (Shemot 18:21-23) has all the qualities of the souls of the ten people under him. That is why these people accept his rule over them. They know that he feels and understands them and will thus faithfully represent their aspirations. If this is not the case, the people under his tutelage will not accept his rule. The brothers did not accept Yosef's kingship because he did not represent or express their special makeup and task in the world. Yosef capably organized the physical world to function honestly and properly, but he was unable to perform their task of building up the spiritual content of the world. Yosef did not embody their world and thus could not lead them.

Our Rabbi & The Chasidic Movement - Part 2

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

When our Rabbi was asked how to draw people closer to Torah [which was the intent of Chasidut], he responded that we must increase yeshivot and Torah classes at various levels which are appropriate for each person.

When our Rabbi was asked about learning "Tanya," he responded positively, but that one should first learn "Nefesh Ha-Chaim."

When a great Torah scholar, said to our Rabbi: "It seems that the Vilna Gaon erred in his opposition to Chasidut," he responded: "I do not possess the ability to say that the Gra erred."

Our Rabbi related that the three heretical fathers which came from Chasidic family are: "Achad Ha-Am," Berdichevesky and Brenner. The Gra saw in his holy spirit this destruction which would come from Chasidut.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #36

On Sheva Berachot -
It once happened that a newly-married young man came to our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, and told him that it was difficult for him, since only half of a month is "a time to hug," while half of a month is "a time to distance from hugging" (when a woman is a niddah - menstruating and counting the clean days before she is able to immerse in a mikvah - a husband and wife are not allowed to have any physical contact). Our Rabbi said to him: Look what is written [in the Sheva Berachot]: "Who created joy and happiness, a groom and a bride etc." - You see, marriage is not just hugging and kissing, but before all else a soulful connection of love, brotherhood, peace and friendship, which apply equally at all times. The essence is friendship, to be good friends.
It once happened that a Chasid inherited the tefillin of the Baal Shem Tov. He was a great Torah scholar and rabbi, but was terribly poor. His family suffered from a lack of everything including food. But these tefillin were the diamond in the house and they brought out the light of holiness in it. The day arrived and there was no choice, the Chasid decided to sell the tefillin in order to buy an etrog for the holiday of Sukkot. When his wife returned to the house, she was filled with great pain: When the children were hunger for bread, we didn’t sell the tefillin, and now you sold them for an etrog which in a week’s time will worthless! Greatly distressed, she threw the etrog on the ground and the pitom (tip) broke off and it became invalid for use. What the Chasid felt at that moment is beyond description. What his wife felt is also beyond description. What type of things were about to be said – we can only guess. But the Chasid said this: At first we had the tefillin, but we did not have an etrog. Then we had an etrog, but we did not have the tefillin. Now we have neither the tefillin nor the etrog. But we do have one thing: I have you and you have me, and I love you. Come, I love you.

Be-Ezrat Hashem – we have now completed translating Rav Aviner's commentary on Birkat Ha-Mazon!

Vaccinating Against Swine Flu

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayishlach 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Do you oppose vaccinating against swine flu?
Answer: That is not a question for rabbis. Rabbis are not physicians. Obviously, you can have a Rabbi who is a physician, because he studied medicine in university, but he didn’t study medicine in yeshiva. There, he learned Torah. We greatly admire physicians, for they do holy work, as Rambam said in his Shemoneh Perakim. All the same, however, rabbis are not physicians, but engage in a different holy work. They don’t deal with curing the body, but with curing the soul, which is more lofty than the body. Therefore, regarding medical matters, please turn to physicians. As the Torah states, “He must provide for his complete cure” (Shemot 21:19), regarding which our Sages commented, “Here we derive the permission that physicians have to cure people.” The Ba’al Ha-Tanya wrote that “only the prophets had additional knowledge regarding various matters such as [medicine and economics]… but now there are no more prophets, and even great Torah scholars like the scholars of the Mishnah and Talmud do not understand medical or economic matters, or the like” (Igeret Ha-Kodesh 22).

The rule is this: Rabbis don’t deal with medicine or economics or the army. Yet they do deal with medical ethics, business ethics and death in battle. Therefore, there is a place for responding to five medical arguments from the sphere of halachah.

Argument 1: There are, indeed, physicians who are in favor of the vaccination, but others are against. So how can we know what to do? Perhaps everyone should choose based on what seems best to him? And if so, it would be better not to be vaccinated, because a “shev ve’al ta’aseh”, sitting and doing nothing when faced with an uncertain risk, is best.
Answer: Just as in a disagreement between rabbis we follow the majority, so, too, in a disagreement between physicians. For example, if there are physicians who say a patient should violate the Sabbath or should eat on Yom Kippur, and others say he should not, the Shulchan Aruch rules that we must follow the majority. In our own case, it is not a majority against a minority, but almost all of them against a few individuals, a hundred to one in favor of the vaccine. Moreover, it is not just physicians in Israel, but also in Europe, America and in the World Health Organization.

Argument 2: I heard that the vaccinations against flu are dangerous, and that in the past, dozens of people were hurt by severe side effects.
Answer: That is true, but on the other hand tens of millions have been vaccinated and nothing happened to them, and they were saved from danger of death. Here as well, according to Halachah, we follow the majority. Here, it’s no longer a majority of a thousand to one, but of a million to one. Moreover, since then more than thirty years have passed, and the medical field has amassed much experience as far as vaccinating against flu. As far as the swine flu vaccination, no problem has been identified so far. By contrast, many people have died from this flu, including here in Israel, where several dozen have died. In any event, we follow the majority and don’t lead our lives based on the exceptions.

Argument 3: If someone is healthy right now, why should he, by his own actions, place himself in danger – however remote – just to save himself from a danger that does not exist at this moment, and perhaps will not exist in the future?
Answer: First of all, we said that this vaccination does not pose a remote danger but a danger that is considered halachically negligible. Yet the crux of the matter is that Argument 3 does not relate specifically to the vaccination against swine flu, but to any vaccination. For that matter, arguments 1 and 2 relate as well to all vaccinations. Thus, Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz, the author of Tiferet Yisrael on the Mishnah, has already dealt with this as it refers to Mishnah Yoma chap. 8 #3, regarding the vaccination against the Black Plague. He proved from several Talmudic sources that a person is allowed, by his own actions, to place himself in low-level danger of 1/1000 in order to save himself, in the future, from a high danger. As noted above, swine flu poses a serious danger. Therefore, those groups marked by the physicians as meant to receive the vaccination should not relate to it lightly.

Argument 4: G-d made man’s body healthy and strong, and man has the strength to overcome all sorts of illnesses alone, on condition that he is healthy and does not have to introduce all sorts of artificial substances into his body from the outside. Man has surprising vibrancy and he can overcome anything.
Answer: Obviously, this claim already goes beyond any complaint against swine flu vaccinations, or vaccinations in general, and confronts modern medicine. It brings us back to “Vitalistic Medicine”, which built its foundations on faith in an omnipotent, vital force found in the body. In effect, it turns us back to Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician. We owe him a lot, and he is considered, in some sense, the father of medicine, because until his time, physicians tried to heal patients by way of witchcraft, imprecations and other pagan nonsense. Unfortunately, many similar superstitions still survive in our day. Hippocrates said that we have to cure the body from within the body itself, by way of the processes taking place within it. Indeed, he deserves our kudos, but since then, a lot has happened. Much has been discovered. Especially, a hundred years ago, it was discovered that bacteria are responsible for illness, and against them we use vaccinations and antibiotics. Obviously, he also spoke about the need, in general, to strengthen the body, and in our own case, to be as hygienic as possible, washing one’s hands, etc., but sometimes, specific treatment is required.

In any event, we are presently faced with choosing between new medicine and old medicine. According to Halachah, we have to follow the physician of our own day, just as we do the Torah luminary of our day, as it says, “You shall approach the judge who will be there in your own time” (Devarim 17:9). You shouldn’t say that the sages of yesteryear were greater. Certainly they were greater, and “if the early ones were like angels, then we are like people, and if the early ones were like people, then we are like donkeys” (Avot) – and we are not like the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair [which refused to work on the Sabbath]. All the same, the Halachah follows the more recent sages, because they knew what other early Sages said, and they saw other arguments, and in their intense reverence they decided what they decided.
All the more so that this applies regarding medicine, for medicine develops. Many things in medicine have been proven and many others have been disproven. There are additional means of research. There are statistical tools that allow one to distinguish between anecdotal phenomena and more full-proof phenomena, etc., etc. The Post-Talmudic Gaonim commented on Tractate Gittin, which contains full pages of medical advice, that one should make no mistake – rabbis are not physicians, this medical advice is not from Mount Sinai, but from medical sources. Hence in effect, all of that advice is null and void, except for one piece of advice, which earned the approbation of physicians from our own times.

Argument 5: Surely we have to believe in G-d and in divine providence. If G-d has decreed that I should be well, then I don’t need all the physicians. And if G-d has decreed that I will be sick, then all the physicians won’t help. We need faith and trust in G-d, and that is what will cure us, not going to a physician.
Answer: That’s a fine question, but Rambam has already answered it in his commentary on Mishnayot Pesachim. There he argued that based on the same logic we could say, “Don’t eat. If G-d has decreed that one must die, he will die even if he eats. And if G-d has decreed that one must live, he will live even if he does not eat. So don’t eat!
Obviously, that’s nonsense. Certainly G-d does all, but He does it by way of His emissaries, both His destructive angels, like bacteria, and His ministering angels, like the physicians. And if you refuse to let G-d’s benign emissaries help you, you deserve a punishment. The punishment can be that the ministering angels will abandon you and the destructive angels will harm you (see Mesillat Yesharim, chap. 9 at length).
In conclusion, my friend, do what the doctors tell you and don’t try to doctor yourself. We greatly value independent, critical thinking, but you also need a bit of common sense and humility. It’s very nice that we take an interest in medicine, but it’s not a normal situation for our country to have five million physicians and five million economists, five million prime ministers and five million rabbis and five million psychologists. No. we don’t know everything. It’s not enough to read a popular article or to hear a scientific radio program to understand a particular topic. You’ve got to study for many years, with great toil.

So, my dear friends, go to the mainstream physicians who live in your age and may you live a long life as a result.

Shut SMS #47

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-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to travel outside of Israel to visit my grandfather who is ill.
A: Yes, for a mitzvah such as this it is permissible.
Q: My health provider recommends vaccinations against Swine Flu, but I heard some doctors are opposed because there is not enough information about the side effects. What should I do?
A: Nonsense. Besides a tiny minority, doctors in Israel as well as in Europe and America recommend it as does the World Health Organization. Follow the majority.
Q: Is it permissible to buy from Arabs if items are much cheaper?
A: It is permissible with the condition that they pay taxes.
Q: Must one wash "Netilat Yadayim" after using the bathroom or is washing one's hands sufficient?
A: Some are strict, but it is sufficient to wash one's hands.
Q: What is the source for "Amen Meals"?
A: It is a new creation.
Q: My mom asked me to do something and my dad told me not to help. Who should I listen to?
A: Help your mom, since you do not listen to a parent who tells you to violate a mitzvah.
Q: Why is it forbidden for women to be drafted into the army?
A: It is immodest. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
Q: Can a woman daven in pants?
A: No, but even worse is not to daven at all. We do not tell a person transgressing to perform another transgression. Rambam's letter "Kiddush Hashem".
Q: What do I do with my father who drinks alcohol every day?
A: Ask him if he wants help to stop.
Q: Is it permissible to be a lawyer? These are not the Torah's laws.
A: Yes, it is a way to help the oppressed.
Q: Is it permissible to recite Shehechiyanu for new shoes?
A: Yes, but not "May you wear them out and get new ones" if they are leather, since it will require killing another animal.

How does one response to hardship?

Q: We have experienced all types of hardships lately. Our house was broken into twice, and everything was stolen. I fell and broke my hand; our grandchild is in the hospital, etc. What should I do?
A: There are two answers: 1. If someone has hardships he should repent, pray and give Tzedakah (Musaf of the High Holidays). 2. A story: There was once a man who discovered that his Rabbi, in addition to all of his wisdom, also knew secrets such as understanding the conversations of birds, just like King Shlomo. He said to his Rabbi: Teach me how to understand the conversations of birds. The Rabbi said: It is impossible, it is a secret. The man pressured him and pressured him and pressured him, and the Rabbi wanted to free himself, so he said: You need to fast for a year. The man fasted for a year and said: Teach me how to understand the conversations of the birds. The rabbi was perplexed and said: You have to immerse yourself in freezing cold water every day for a year. The student did it and said: Teach me how to understand the conversations of the birds. The Rabbi trying to avoid him said: You have to immerse in boiling water for a year. The student did it and said: Teach me. The Rabbi saw that he had no choice and taught him to understand the conversations of birds.
One day the man overheard two birds talking above his head. One said: You see this guy below, robbers will break into his house in a half an hour and steal all of his belongings. He immediately called the police. They arrived and caught the robbers red-handed. The police rejoiced as did he. It is good to know what the birds are saying. Two weeks later, he overheard another conversation: You see this guy below, a fire will break in his house in a half an hour and will destroy all of his belongings. He immediately called the fire department. They arrived and extinguished the fire right when it broke out. The firemen rejoiced as did he. It is good to know what birds are saying. Another two weeks passed, and he again overheard the birds: You see this guy below, he is going to die in an hour. There was nothing he could do. There is no police or fire department which can stop the angel of death as it says: "There is no power on the day of death" (Kohelet 8:8). He walked broken-hearted in the street and he met his Rabbi. The Rabbi asked: What happened? He told him the entire story. The Rabbi said: You now see why I didn't want to teach you how to understand the conversations of birds. Heaven decreed that you would die but they had mercy on you, and instead of death all of your possessions would be stolen, but you stopped it. They still had mercy and instead of death all of your possessions would be destroyed by fire, but you also stopped it. Now the angel of death is coming and there is no way to stop it…
We therefore bless you and all of your family that you will have no more hardship and that these hardships will save you from death. May you live long and happy lives. Amen.

The Rambam and the Mitzvah of Conquering and Dwelling in Eretz Israel

Question: If there is a mitzvah of conquering and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael throughout all generations, why doesn't the Rambam count it in his enumeration of the mitzvot?
Answer: Maran Ha-Rav Kook answered this question: It is not because conquering and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is less of a mitzvah that he does not count it but, on the contrary, because it is greater than the other mitzvot. The Rambam explained in his principles for which mitzvot are included among the 613 mitzvot that he does not include general mitzvot which apply to the entire Torah (fourth principle). The mitzvah of conquering and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is a general mitzvah since the essence of observing the entire Torah and all of its mitzvot is in Eretz Yisrael in particular. As a result, "Dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is equal to all of the other mitzvot in the Torah" (Sifri Devarim 11:17). One who looks in the Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, in the mitzvah of sanctifying the new month, can see how the Rambam understood the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael as the root of all of the mitzvot (mitzvah 153). The Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh similarly wrote: "For dwelling in the Land is a mitzvah which encompasses the entire Torah" (Devarim 30:20). This mitzvah is the root and foundation which stands above all of the mitzvot, the Rambam therefore does not enumerate it.
[Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael p. 100, Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 p. 121 [161], Ha-Rav David Cohain Ha-Nazir in the booklet "Hitnotzetzut Or Ha-Geulah p. 17, Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren in Torat Ha-Moadim p. 36 and Torat Ha-Shabbat Ve-Ha-Moed p. 150 and Shut Tzitz Eliezer 7:48 in Kuntres Orchot Ha-Mishpatim chap. 12 - in the name of Maran Ha-Rav Kook]

Parashat Vayishlach: Molding our National Character

[Tal Chermon p. 80]

During Yaakov's struggle with the angel, Yaakov's hip was dislocated, and based on this, it is forbidden to eat this displaced sinew, i.e. the sciatic nerve and its branches (Bereshit 32:35). Strange! Because once upon a time Yaakov's thigh was dislocated, we are forbidden to eat this part of the animal for all generation? Are the mitzvot milestones of our family's medical history?
The obligation to observe mitzvot began when we were commanded at Mt. Sinai through Moshe Rabbenu and not from the days of our Forefathers. [This fact has halachic implications, whether a person who eats the sciatic nerve of a non-kosher animal has violated one or two prohibitions (Chullin 100b-101b).] "It was taught at Sinai but written 'in its place,' i.e. it was mentioned in conjunction with the historical event to indicate the reason for the subsequent prohibition (Chullin 7:6). The Gemara proves this fact from the verse that states, "therefore the Children of Israel and not the Children of Yaakov refrain from eating the sciatic nerve" (Bereshit 32:32). We were only called "the Children of Israel" beginning at Sinai. The Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah (ibid.) wrote: "Take note of a fundamental principle which is contained in this mishnah which states that: 'it [the sciatic nerve] was forbidden to be eaten from Sinai onwards.' This proves that all the prohibitions from which we refrain and all the commands which we observe are kept because G-d commanded us through Moshe Rabbenu at Mt. Sinai, and not on account of a Divine command to any earlier prophet….So we refrain from eating the sciatic nerve not because it was prohibited from the time of Yaakov Avinu, but because we were so commanded through Moshe Rabbenu."
It is true that we learn the mitzvot from Moshe Rabbenu, but we received our character traits from the Forefathers (Pirkei Avot 5:23). Our National traits come from our Forefathers. Hashem chose us from all the nations. What this means is that He created us as a special Nation with the qualities needed for us to perform our historic task. "I have formed this Nation for Myself so they might declare My praise" (Yeshayahu 43:21). These qualities, however, were only potential and needed to be actualized through national historical events. This process began with Avraham, who is described as one of Hashem's five special possessions which, each in its own way, advance the goals of Creation (Pirkei Avot 6:9). It continued through Yitzchak, Yaakov and finally in the iron furnace of Egypt where the molding of the Jewish national character was completed. The Torah given on Mt. Sinai explicitly revealed the hidden character that existed in the Jewish soul which has its source in our Forefathers.

Our Rabbi & The Chasidic Movement

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

A Chasidic Rabbi wanted to influence a young student to become part of the Chasidic movement. The student came to speak with our Rabbi, who dedicated eight personal discussions to him, the conclusion of which is that one should learn Chasidic books, but not become a Chasid. This is on account of four reasons:
1. Torah takes precedence over prayer, and in the Chasidic movement there is a tendency to reverse the proper order.
2. They teach the secrets of Torah in public even to one who is not worthy.
3. Spiritual leaders must be Torah scholars, and it is impossible – for example – for the young son of a Chasidic Rebbe to be transformed easily into the Rebbe, and subsequently ask an elderly Torah scholar who comes to be blessed by him: What about your fear of heaven? [This statement is based on an incident of the writer Micha Yosef Berdichevsky. He learned at the Volozhin Yeshiva with Maran Ha-Rav Kook, and Maran Ha-Rav had doubts whether his outward religious appearance were matched by his inner religious conviction. When he asked about it, Berdichevesky answered that in his youth, he accompanied his grandfather, who was a Torah scholar, to a young Chasidic Rebbe, who asked his grandfather in Yiddish about his level of fear of heaven.]
4. There are different types of joy. There is one kind of joy based upon purity and holiness, and another which derives from "frolicking" and drinking a "L'Chaim".