Davening in sandals

Q: Is it permissible to daven in sandals without socks?
A: One is required to daven dressed in a way in which he would stand before a king. How one stands before a king is dependent on the place and time in which one lives. The Beit Yosef says that one is obligated to daven barefoot (Orach Chaim 91:5). Not only is it permissible but one is obligated to daven barefoot. Obviously, today if someone shows up barefoot to daven, he would be thrown out of the shul. Therefore, it is dependent on reality. Wearing sandals nowadays is respectable (this applies in Israel, other locations may differ). Wearing flipflops, however, is not considered respectable since a person wears them when getting out of the shower or at the pool or on the beach.

Contradictory Midrashim

Q: How do we understand midrashim that contradict one another?
A: There are three possibilities: 1. There are contradictory midrashim because certain facts were forgotten because they occurred a long time ago. For example, there is a dispute regarding the height of the altar in the Temple as to whether it is three amah or ten amah (see Zevachim 58b-59a). The Rambam in the Laws of Shofar (3:2) asked: how could the Jews have forgotten the correct sounds to blow on the Shofar – they blew the shofar every year? It is not a secret – every Jew heard it?! The Rambam answered that it was because of the Exiles and suffering. We experienced so many hardships that we forgot. Someone once asked me: how is it possible to forget because of Exiles and suffering? I said: You are fortunate that you were not in the Holocaust; you therefore do not know how a person can forget on account on what is happening to him. 2. There are midrashim which are not to be understood according to their literal meaning as is explained in Rambam’s introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah. There are midrashim which appear contradictory, but they are to be understood as parables. The Maharal spends much effort explaining them in his works, especially in "Be'er Ha-Golah." 3. It is also possible that there is a dispute if there is an ethical or spiritual value to these facts for the Nation of Israel and for sanctifying Hashem's Name. One midrash says that the fact is unimportant and another midrash says that it is important.

Voting in the Israeli elections

Q: What should we say to the Ultra-Orthodox who say that since the Satmar Rebbe wrote in the book "Va-Yoel Moshe" that it is forbidden to vote in elections in the State of Israel – "it is preferable to sit and not act"?
A: The Chazon Ish already spoke about this issue and said that it is a mitzvah to vote. His students asked him: a mitzvah like matzah? He said: ‘No, a mitzvah like maror.’ It is possible to say that it is a mitzvah like matzah. It is correct that if we do not vote it is a case of "sit and do not act" since other people do go and vote. We are always crying and staging all types of protests in order to influence the Government. This is an opportunity to influence the Government without the need to protest. The Chatam Sofer says in his responsa that there were local elections and someone later complained. The Chatam Sofer asked him: then why didn’t you vote? It is true that the Government of Israel is not the ideal Government we want but we do not say: it is all or nothing. There are many discussions in the Gemara that even if it is impossible to fix everything, we should fix what we can. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (16a) says that Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi paid money in order to delay the sacrifice of idol worship to another day. The Gemara explains that he wanted to uproot the sacrifice altogether but he was doing it gradually, step-by-step. The Gemara in Sotah (48a) says that if men sing and women answer, it is lewd. If women lead and men answer then lust flares like burning chips of flax, since men have to listen carefully to the women's voice. The Gemara asks: What difference does it make - both are forbidden?! Answer: If one cannot stop both, he should prevent the latter, since it is more severe (Rashi). The Rashba (vol. 5 #238) wrote that if you cannot fix everything, fix what you can. It is true that we will not elect King David by going to vote, but we should influence the Government to follow Torah law as much as possible. We have an obligation to do this. I have learned the book "Va-Yoel Moshe" and it is difficult to understand his proofs in relation to the State of Israel. I have a relative who is a Satmar Chasid. I once visited him when I was on "shelichut" in America and he told me: The Satmar Rebbe once showed his book to a Dayan (Judge) on the Beit Din of Satmar. After some time, he asked: "Did his honor look in my book?" He did not and he said: "It is not enough to just look in his honor’s book, it requires study." The Satmar Rebbe waited some time. He then asks: "Did his honor study my book?" The Dayan saw that he could not avoid the question so he said: "If this book is based on sources from the Gemara, I do not understand what is written there. If it is based on the 'Ruach Ha-Kodesh – Divine Spirit' of his honor the Rebbe – then what can I say?" This it is how a Dayan on the Beit Din of Satmar responded. He also said that there were things which are not understandable. The Satmar Rebbe wrote in the book that it is forbidden to speak Hebrew; one must speak Yiddish and before that Aramaic was spoken. King David and King Shlomo spoke Aramaic?! The whole Nation spoke Aramaic then? It is possible to prove otherwise. It is difficult to understand many things in this book. Therefore, even if we are not completely happy with many things that are happening in the State of Israel – and there are many things about which we are not thrilled – we influence what we can. This is called by the halachic authorities: "To save what can be saved."

Early Davening

Question: I need to be at work early, requiring me to daven before the earliest time to put on Talit and Tefillin. Which is preferable – to put them on without a blessing and before Barechu move them and recite the blessing or put them on before Barechu?
Answer: Either way is acceptable. This exact question is discussed by Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Shut Yechaveh Da'at vol. 2 #8.

Our Rabbi and the Hebrew Date

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

"I received your letter with a date which I do not know or understand, since I am unfamiliar with the counting of time from the year of the birth of 'that sinner of Israel whom the non-Jews made into idol worship' [the words of my father, my teacher and my Rabbi, Ha-Rav Kook ztz"l in 'Igrot'], who practiced sorcery, enticed and led Israel astray (Sanhedrin 107), who caused Israel to be destroyed by the sword and its remnants scattered in humiliation, who exchanged the Torah and deceived the majority of the world to serve a god other than Hashem (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim chap. 11)." (Igrot Rabbenu from 24 Adar Rishon 5727)

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

A rabbi of a community outside of Israel visited our Rabbi, and during the conversation our Rabbi asked about the date of a particular event. The guest answered with the date according to their count. Our Rabbi said: "Excuse me, I did not hear." He raised his voice and repeated his words. Our Rabbi again said to him: "I did not hear," and again a third time. On the fourth time the guest understood what our Rabbi did not hear, and he told him the Hebrew date. Our Rabbi heard and smiled, and the guest apologized.

Our Rabbi agreed to participate in an important ceremony on behalf of the Municipality of Jerusalem, but when he saw that only the Christian date and not the Hebrew date, was on the announcement, he refused to attend, and all of the attempts at persuasion did not help.

When the ruling of Rav Ovadiah Yosef was publicized that there is no prohibition in using the Christian date and those who use it have what to rely on (Shut Yabia Omer vol. 3 Yoreh Deah #9), our Rabbi expressed deep pain. (see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 2 p. 239. From Shut Sheilat Shlomo 3:14)
He was amazed every time he saw a stamp on a letter in Israel which was marked with the date from the Creation of the World. (Gadol Shimushah pg. 93 #34)
A student once read a printed sentence "the seventeenth century" and added: "May they be blotted out," and it got good laugh from our Rabbi. (Iturei Coahnim #242 in the name of Ha-Rav Menachem Ha-Cohain)

First Be a Person

[From "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Vaera – translated by R. Blumberg]

I have to improve in many realms, and I can’t fight on all fronts at the same time. If you try for too much, you end up with nothing. So every year I pick an area to concentrate on. This year I’ve decided not to add Shabbat, Kashrut or proper concentration in prayer, but in order to be a person, you must be more ethical. Each morning we recite the words, “Always be a person who fears G-d in private and in public.” First comes, “Always be a person” - this takes precedence. Only then, “Fear G-d in private and in public.” And there as well, fearing G-d in private comes before fearing Him in public. We shouldn’t just be putting on a show. Both morality and holiness are Divine, but morality comes first. You enter the lobby before you enter the palace.
I want very much to draw closer to G-d. I want very much to draw close to the verse, “Hashem, who will stay in Your tent, who will dwell upon Your holy mountain?” (Tehillim 15:1). The answer follows: “He who walks uprightly and creates justice, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue. He does no harm to his neighbor; neither does he take up reproach upon his kinsman. A base person is despised in his eyes, and he honors the G-d-fearing; he takes an oath to his own detriment and does not retract. He does not give his money with interest, nor does he accept a bribe against the innocent; he who does these shall not falter forever” (15:2-5) I once heard a great rabbi from America say, “Before glatt kosher [perfect kashrut], one has to have glatt yosher [perfect integrity].” When I hear about religious people who cheated on income tax and were involved in all sorts of other dark monetary episodes, I am so embarrassed. When I hear about G-d-fearing people who are sunken in gossip, hatred, falsehood, base controversies, hypocrisy, insult, I just want to hide under the floor boards. I cannot say, “Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is One,” before I first mention G-d who “loves His people Israel,” or who “lovingly chooses His people Israel.”
And in fact, the Arizal ruled that one should not start praying until he says, “I undertake to fulfill, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
There’s a story about a Jew who ran to catch a prayer service. Afterwards Rabbi Yisrael Salanter told him, “While you were running, perhaps you stepped on somebody’s toes? Was it worth it?
I know of a very respectable settlement in which the greatest number of traffic accidents occur during the minutes before minchah. That’s worse!
There’s another story about Rav Yisrael Salanter. It was his father’s yahrzeit, but he passed on leading the prayers in favor of a Jew who was having a yahrzeit for his daughter. They asked him, “What about honoring your father?” and he answered, “Doing what I did is the greatest honor I could show him!”
I have therefore decided, “People come first.” By such means, I shall reach holiness.

Shiduchim

Question: I believe Rav Aviner has two shidduchim websites. Can you please forward them to me?
Answer: There are the two Israeli websites which Rav Aviner often recommends:
1. Kulanu Shadchanim (We are all match-makers) - www.kulanu4you.org
2. Shoshvinim (Groom's Men/Bride's Maids) - www.shoshvinim.org
(On this website, one's friends or family register them)

Shut SMS #6

Q: I received a Shabbat challah cover with Hashem's Name (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey) on it. Is it permissible to use it?
A: Yes, in a respectful manner. And wash it gently on its own by hand.
Q: Many bad things have recently happened to me and my wife: our baby is sick, we were both fired from our jobs and we fight a lot. As a result, our faith is weakening. How can we improve ourselves?
A: The essence is that you should be good friends. You will then have the strength to overcome anything.
Q: I have been observant for two years and I have been dating a man who has been observant for four years, and we are discussing getting married. My parents say that I need more time, and it is also often difficult for me to make decisions. I know that are they right, but I also know that a future with him looks good. How do I take into consideration what my family is saying without destroying what I have with him?
A: Four months is enough time. If you have doubts, go to a marriage counselor who is objective and he will help.
Q: Why does the younger child have a preference in the Tanach? For example, Kayin and Hevel, Yishmael and Yitzchak, Esav and Yaakov, Leah and Rachel, Menashe and Ephraim, David and his brothers, etc…
A: One needs to acquire preference through his efforts.
Q: Is it permissible occasionally or always to daven alone if I have greater concentration doing so?
A: You should always daven with a minyan. The advantage of davening with a minyan is greater than all other advantages.
Q: If someone break one of my things and I bought it for a certain price but it now costs more, how much does he have to pay?
A: It is a dispute. According to the Rambam – the price at the time of the damage, and according to the Raavad - the price at which it was bought.
Q: I sometimes see religious people who desecrate Hashem's name in public with their behavior, such as at the supermarket, on buses, etc… Can I point it out to them?
A: You should first gently ask them if they are interested in listening.
Q: Is it permissible to be a lawyer?
A: Yes. This is one way to help the downtrodden. Everything must obviously be done with uprightness and truth.
Q: If I see a cat attacking a bird, should I stop it?
A: You can but there is no obligation, it is the nature of the world.

More on Rachel Imenu

Did Rachel Imenu really reveal herself in the war or not? In other words, who is obligated to prove it – the one who claims that she did appear or the one who claims that she did not appear? The simple answer is based upon the halachic principle: "Ha-motzi me-chavero alav ha-ra'ayah - The burden of proof rests upon the one who demands the money," i.e. the burden of proof rests upon one who makes a claim which veers from the usual. The usual is that Rachel Imenu does not appear in war. Rachel Imenu was not in our first war when Yehoshua bin Nun waged war against Amalek. She was not in the war of Moshe Rabbenu against Sichon and Og. She was not in the war of Yehoshua bin Nun to conquer the Land of Israel. She was not in any of the wars of the Judges. She was not in the wars of King Shaul and of King David. She was not in the wars of any of the Kings of Israel. She was not in the war of the Hasmoneans. She was not in the war of Bar Kochba. She was not in the War of Independence, the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War. She was not in any war. The presumption is that she does not go out to war. Now, there are those claiming that she was there. It is possible, but it must be proven. How? We need to hear from the soldier who claimed that it happened. We need to question him before a Beit Din according to the Halachah: Do you really see her? Maybe it was an Arab woman? Maybe it was a Jewish woman captured by the Arabs and she was reminded that she was a Jew? Maybe you imagined it? As long as it has not been investigated, it has not been proven. Up until now, I have not heard anything.

I was therefore happy when a friend told me what he saw with his own eyes. During the war, a bunch of reservists were sitting around a fire on a freezing-cold night with warm jackets which they brought from home. A few regular soldiers arrived and they were frozen to the bone. The reservists did not hesitate to take off their jackets which were almost more precious to them than their weapons and gave them to the other soldiers. This is Rachel Imenu! Rachel Imenu gave up Yaakov - who was the most precious thing to her – for her sister. I am not saying that a jacket and a spouse are comparable, but this act at its source comes from Rachel Imenu.

In David's lament for Yonatan, he says: "Your love was more wonderful to me than the love of women" (Shmuel 2 1:26). The Targum (the Aramaic translation) says: "the love of two women." A Chasidic Rebbe once asked: Who are these two women? His answer: Rachel and Leah. David was saying: "Yonatan, your love for me in which you were willing to forego the kingship flows from the love of two women - when Rachel was willing to forego for Leah." Giving up a jacket is obviously not like giving up the kingship, but it is still flows from Rachel Imenu.

And Rashi explains at the beginning of Parashat Va-Yechi (Bereshit 48:7): Why wasn't Rachel buried in the Cave of Machpelah or even in Beit Lechem, but by the side of the road? So that when we were on our way to Exile she would be an aid for her children, as it says: "A voice is heard in Ramah. Rachel cries for her children…there is a reward for your actions and your children will return to their border" (Yirmiyahu 31:14-16). But couldn't she be an aid from Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah – it is only a little farther away?! I heard one Rav explain that for the sake of her children Rachel gave up being buried in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. We see that Rachel Imenu was willing to forego and we must do the same. The Exile was on account of "Sinat Chinam – Baseless Hatred" and the Redemption will be on account of "Ahavat Chinam – Baseless Love." In this way, Rachel is an aid for her children. She teaches us "Ahavat Chinam – Baseless Love." Every soldier who entered the Gaza Strip did so with self-sacrifice to save other Jews. This is not a jacket, a spouse, the kingship or a spot in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, it is risking one's life. Therefore, Rachel was there. She was with every soldier who entered with self-sacrifice for the sake of his brothers. It truly was Rachel!
For more on this issue see:
Past Post by Rav Aviner:
Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu:
Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef:

Family Matters

A great Rav said: Jews have a tendency to take upon themselves all sorts of stringencies, but the essence is to be strict about loving your spouse. In fact, the Arizal said that the main fulfillment of the verse "Love your fellow as yourself" is between husband and wife. This verse is brought numerous times in the Gemara, and the majority of them are in connection to a husband and wife. Certainly "the friend of a person" - with the definitive - is one's spouse. Before a person does kindnesses for the rest of the world, he is obligated to do good for his spouse. Everyone knows the halachic principle in the laws of Tzedakah: the poor of your city take precedence over the poor of another city. And the members of your family take precedence over the members of other families. And above all, one's spouse takes precedence over everyone else. This is the fundamental ethical obligation of a person. The fulfillment of this requirement should appear naturally and not in the category of a give and take, because the two of you have turned into one. Therefore, when a person gives to his spouse, he feels as if he is giving to himself. But on account of people's egos, this natural characteristic becomes distorted or is lacking, we must therefore support it with the aid of a deep, ethical recognition: your spouse takes precedence over the rest of humanity, and being strict in this mitzvah takes precedence over all other strictures.

Encouraging the non-observant Jews to make Aliyah

[Q&A from Ha-Rav's radio call-in show]

Question: The book "Lev Eliyahu" of Rav Eliyahu Lopian (vol. 3, pp. 38-39) mentions a story which he heard from a trustworthy source about Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook ztz"l, who he does not mention by name but as the Rav of Yafo. When Rav Yitzchak Blazer visited Rav Kook, Rav Kook explained the verse from Yirmiyahu (2:7), "You came and defiled My Land" as meaning "If only My children would come and defiled My Land." Rav Blazer responded that there is a verse in Parashat Acharei Mot (18:28) which says "Let not the Land vomit you out when you defile it," if this is so than what is the benefit of coming and defiling the Land – they will be exiled again?! What then does Rav Kook mean when he said "If only My children would come and defiled My Land"?

Answer: The statement "If only My children would come and defiled My Land" was not invented by Rav Kook, it is the words of our Sages in the midrash in Yalkut Shimoni (Eichah #1038) when Hashem says: If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure. Our Rabbis mean that the essence is for the Nation of Israel to return to the Land of Israel, even though they are not observant. The question is: should a non-observant Jew make aliyah or not? According to this midrash, a non-observant Jew should certainly make aliyah. But won't he transgress and defile the Land? The logic is that even though the Land will suffer, Be-Ezrat Hashem – with the help of Hashem, he will repent over time. This means that when there is a meeting between the hidden holiness of the Nation of Israel and the hidden holiness of the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel will repent. We in fact see in our times that the Jews in Exile are assimilating and disappearing, while the Jews in Israel are repenting and strengthening themselves.

There is a story that after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews from North Africa and Yemen made aliyah and were abandoning traditional observance. The person who headed the Department of Aliyah at the Jewish Agency was a Torah scholar named Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Shragai, and he was being eaten up inside by this fact. He did not know whether it was proper to continue to bring Jews to Israel under such circumstances and he turned to the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Tzvi Pesach Frank, and asked him what to do. Rav Frank said to him: Can you do me a favor and hand me the Yalkut Shimoni? He opened it and showed him the words of the Yalkut Shimoni on Megillat Eichah: "Hashem says: If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure." And he continued: What do you want from me - to transgress the words of our Sages?! You are not guilty for what is occurring. You must bring Jews to Israel and make every effort to connect them to Torah. Rav Shragai continued to bring Jews to Israel and he mentioned this story various times. I printed a letter which Rav Shragai sent me in my book "Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael" (p. 57, 221-222) describing exactly what happened. It is even more severe in this case since we are not discussing unobservant Jews outside of Israel, but observant Jews who made aliyah and then were no longer observant. If this is so, what was Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank's calculation? Rav Shragai once visited France in a place where many North Africa Jews, who did not make aliyah, settled and he saw their situation. They did not only abandon traditional observance, but abandoned Judaism altogether – complete assimilation. He then understood that Ha-Rav Frank was correct that we should bring the Nation of Israel to the Land of Israel and we should know that everything will work out in the end.

We can also recall that a certain Rav once explained the line in the Haggadah, "If we received the Torah, but did not enter the Land of Israel – it would have been enough," that it would have been better for the non-religious pioneers to have remained outside of Israel rather than to commit sins in the Land of Israel. These words caused much consternation and when the students came to class, they told our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, what they had heard. They thought he would discuss this issue at length, but he responded briefly: "See Yalkut Shimoni #1038" and taught the class as usual (Iturei Cohanim #181).

Satmar Chasidim and Neturei Karta

Q: How should we relate to Satmar Chasidim and Neturei Karta who pray for the downfall of Israel when we are at war?
A: First of all, it is not certain that it is all Satmar Chasidim and all Neturei Karta. We need to be very careful about making generalizations, which is something which Anti-Semites do. I am sure that there are many Satmar Chasidim who do not think this way and many Neturei Karta who do not think this way. And if you ask them, they will respond that those who act this way are "meshugena – crazy" and they do not represent anyone. Regarding those who do pray for the downfall of Israel, who protest against Israel and who meet with the President of Iran, they are "meshugena." They are confused. In the language of Halachah, they are "Tinokot She-nishbu" (literally Jewish children captured and raise among non-Jews). The Rambam explains in Hilchot Mamrim (3:3) that a "tinok she-nishba" is a Jew who did not receive a proper Jewish upbringing and education. Even though he sees other people acting differently, he is captive to his education. I do not understand how someone can be so confused but people are sometimes filled with distorted views. He lives in a closed society and everyone sustains one other. As a result, it is a situation in which one cannot liberate himself. They are truly confused. We therefore need to pray that Hashem illuminates their eyes and they repent.

Donation for a wedding

Q: If someone does not have money for Shabbat or a wedding, should he collect donations?
A: He certainly should not collect donations. Collecting donations is only legitimate for necessary needs like food or medicine, but not for non-essential things. This is written at the end of the Mishnah in Pe'ah (8:9): “Anyone who does not need (to take tzedakah) and does so anyway will not leave this world before being in need of other people (because he is poor); and anyone who needs to take (tzedakah) and does not do so will not die from old age before supporting others from what he has acquired.” This means that a person should not ask for donations for extras. The Gemara says: "Make your Shabbat like a weekday and do not require [the help] of others" (Shabbat 118a, Pesachim 112-113), i.e. it is better to eat simple food such as bread and salt than to receive tzedakah. But if he does not have anything to eat, he should ask for tzedakah. The same applies for a wedding: a person needs to get married but he does not have to make a fancy wedding if he does not have the money to do so. I have friends who do not have a lot of money: one made a wedding in a nice outside area and brought sandwiches and the entire wedding cost 50 shekels. Another friend invited ten of us to the building of the Rabbinate which has a small hall. We drank coke and ate some cake and the entire wedding cost 20 shekels. Getting married is a mitzvah, but there is no obligation to have a fancy wedding. In Jerusalem in the Old Settlement as well as in Poland, people were poor and they made a wedding an hour before Shabbat, then davened ma'ariv and ate their Shabbat meal which was also the wedding meal. If a person wants to live with extras it is a personal decision, but living with extras with other people's money is unheard of.

Setting the Yahrtzeit

Q: When is the first yahrtzeit: on the day of death or the day of the burial?
A: In Israel, the maximum time between the death and burial is a day. Therefore, the first Yahrtzeit should also be on the day on the death. Outside of Israel, there is sometimes a delay of three days for various reasons. If this is the case, the first Yahrtzeit should be observed on the day of the burial. If there was only a day or two between the death and burial, it is considered close to the death and the Yahrtzeit should be on the day of the death.

"One who is fearful and fainthearted"

Q: What does a soldier do if he is afraid to go into war?
A: Although in an optional war "one who is fearful and fainthearted" may remain at home, we are now in an obligatory war and "one who is fearful and fainthearted" also goes to battle. But why would we want "one who is fearful and fainthearted" in battle? Answer: When the Land of Israel is in danger and the Nation of Israel is in danger, a person who is weak also says: "I have courage!" It is true that a soldier is sometimes scared, but this is until he shoots the first bullet and then he is filled with strength and courage. He has no time to be scared. He is constantly active. A person once caused some mayhem on the Temple Mount and there were a multitude of Arabs on the street. At that exact time, I was driving by the Old City with other people in the back. The Arabs attacked the car, broke the windows and started to hit me inside the car. I continued driving in a zigzag between the Arabs. I arrived at the Dung Gate, turned off the car, took out the key and promptly fainted. I woke up in the hospital with a pleasant doctor with a kippah and a short, pointy beard stitching my head. I said: "What a miracle that I passed out after I stopped the car. If I would have fainted before that, they would have slaughtered me and the others." He said: "It is not a miracle. When a person is exerting effort, he will not pass out. When he finishes exerting effort, he passes out." A person in the midst of a war is therefore not emotionally free to be scared. He is trembling will fear when he is waiting to go into battle because he is not doing anything. When he is active, he is not worried because he is doing something.

The obligation of "Sheva Berachot"

Q: Is there an obligation to make "Sheva Berachot"?
A: There is no mitzvah to make "Sheva Berachot." "The purpose of the "Sheva Berachot" is to bring joy to the groom and bride and there is no obligation to make "Sheva Berachot" at every meal and twice a day. Sometimes a couple wants to have one "Sheva Berachot" with family, another with the groom's friends, another with the bride's friends, etc… In earlier times, as written by the Chatam Sofer in his responsa (Even Ha-Ezer #123) people would only make one "Sheva Berachot" at the wedding meal. A groom once had "Sheva Berachot" on Shabbat and everyone mocked him. In other words, there is no obligation to organize "Sheva Berachot" rather if there are ten men who gather together to bring joy to a groom and bride then they say "Sheva Berachot." The deciding principle is how to bring joy to the bride and groom.

Our Rabbi & Pictures

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi did not like when people took pictures of him. The majority of the pictures in which he appears were without his knowledge. Occasionally, when he noticed that some was taking his picture, he would turn his head in the other direction. (see Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald and see Shut Da'at Cohain, p. 162)

At one of the Tzahal Parades, someone photgraphed our Rabbi. Our Rabbi took offense and asked if he had permission. At that time, our Rabbi related that Ha-Rav Kook only had his pictures taken at the beginning of new periods in his life, such as making aliyah or moving to Jerusalem. He would hire a photographer and would be particular not to fill the entire picture, i.e. from head-to-toe. (Ha-Rav Yitzchak Steiner and see Shut Da'at Cohain, p. 166)

Our Rabbi was not particular if someone took a picture of him from afar or he happened to be in the picture, but he was not happy if someone took a picture right on from a close distance. (Ha-Rav Daniel El Chai)

Rachel Imenu (Our foremother Rachel) in the Gaza War Against Hamas

[Q&A from Rav Aviner's video blog]

Question: Rumors have spread about a woman presenting herself as our foremother Rachel appearing to Tzahal soldiers and warning them of explosives, booby-trapped houses and terrorist ambushes within the Gaza Strip during the war. Is this true?
Answer: In truth, Rachel Imenu was certainly with us during our long Exile as the Maharal explained in his book "Netzach Yisrael" (end of chap. 1 and beginning of chap. 34). He wrote that Rachel is the power that sustained the Nation of Israel during the course of the Exile and returned us to our Land as it says: "Withhold your voice from crying…and your children will return to their border" (Yirmiyahu 31:15-16). And Rashi explained at the beginning of Parashat Va-Yechi (Bereshit 48:7): Why wasn't Rachel buried in the Cave of Machpelah or even in Beit Lechem, but by the side of the road? In order for her to protect the Nation of Israel while we were on the way. This is the inner power which binds the Nation together. After all, it is a miracle and wonder that we were able to remain steadfast for two thousand years in the Exile. We were a lamb among seventy wolves and we are now returning to our Land. But regarding the idea that Rachel personally revealed herself to this person or that person, on such matters it is said: "A fool will believe anything." There are two types of extremism: one type of extremism is to deny miracles, and another type of extremism is to believe that when someone tells you about a miracle that there really was one. We need to check. It is possible that they may have been imagining. Sometimes a person imagines things, even a sane person. Sometimes one is under pressure, tired, hungry, and thinks he sees something that isn't there, and later fosters it in his memory. This is called FMS – false memory syndrome. It may have been a non-Jewish woman. There are also good Arab women – not all of them are, but there are some. And maybe someone dreamed up this idea to strengthen faith, and to say: "You see? There are people that go to war and there are people that don't go to war but they pray, and Rachel came to save us on account of their merit." Therefore, we need proof for such matters. There were soldiers who fell in battle and Rachel was not there. There were also soldiers who won battles due to their great dedication and wisdom and courageousness to fight, and Rachel was not there. This means that Rachel was not there in the image of a woman guiding them and telling them go this way or that way, shoot here or shoot there. But Rachel was certainly there in the sense in which we explained: the inner power which sustains the Nation of Israel and returns us to our Land.
See www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3659308,00.html for a news story about Rav Aviner's answer and that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu prayed for Rachel Imenu to help. Rav Aviner gave this answer before this story has spread about Rav Eliyahu.

The Term "Occupied Territories

[from the book "Responsa of the Intifada" - p. 43]

We do not recoil from the term "occupied," since the Rambam explained based on various verses in the Torah that we are commanded to conquer the entire breath of our Land and not to leave even a part of it (Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of Rambam, Positive mitzvah #4 according to the Ramban). It is certainly preferable to enter into our Land in a peaceful manner, with the agreement of the non-Jews who are temporarily located there and with their recognition that this Land is ours. But if this is not the way it occurs, we are obligated to conquer our Land. This is the War of Liberation or Independence, which is an honored concept among all the nations of the world. The Ramban emphasized that this mitzvah also applies during the Exile, but to our distress, we were unable to fulfill it on account of our lack of ability for two thousand years, and now that the ability has returned to us, this mitzvah has also returned to us. We are not going to conquer foreign lands like Yemen or Algeria, only our Land which belongs to us. There is therefore no difference between the occupied territories that are located on one side of the "Green Line," which were conquered during the War of Liberation, and the occupied territories on the other side of the "Green Line," which were conquered during the Six-Day War. This "Green Line" has absolutely no spiritual, ethical, halachic or national meaning. We certainly do not have just any "territories," but territories of the Land of Israel, territories of the Holy Land, which Hashem gave us and which we now occupy because of the loving-kindness of Hashem.

Israeli Elections

Question: I was wondering if Rav Aviner has endorsed a political party in the Israeli elections?
Answer: Not yet. Rav Aviner is still clarifying the issues.

Shut SMS #5

Q: We were in a serious car accident and we were saved by a miracle. How do we thank Hashem?
A: "Birchat Ha-Gomel" and tzedakah.
Q: I love to blast Chasidic music with the windows rolled down when I drive. Is this a desecration of Hashem's name?
A: Definitely, we should not bother others. By the way, it will also hurt your ears.
Q: Can I send a text message when it is free for me but the person who responds will have to pay?
A: You should inform them.
Q: I am 17 years ago and I have had a recurring dream for many years now. I can fly in the dream and each time the story is somewhat different. Another recurring dream is that I can shoot spider webs like Spiderman, people are chasing me but I cannot shoot the spider web. What does it mean?
A: It does not mean anything. It happens to everyone and there is no reason to worry. If you are concerned recite the "Hatavat Chalom" (improvement of a dream) which is printed in the siddur before three friends. You do not have to relate the dream.
Q: Is it permissible to have a scheduled Cesarean Section on a Wednesday, three days before Shabbat? I know that for elective surgery we should take its proximity to Shabbat into consideration.
A: There is no problem to schedule it on a Wednesday. Schedule it for a day that is comfortable for the mother. Mazel Tov!
Q: I was stopped by the Police for speeding and received a ticket. Is it preferable to plead guilty or deny the charge?
A: It is best to tell the truth, to regret the past, and take upon yourself to act better in the future.
Q: It is permissible to guarantee someone else's bank loan?
A: If you are willing to take the risk that you would have to pay, or you are certain that there is no risk.
Q: Should I buy a lottery ticket with the hope of winning and spending my time learning Torah?
A: It is nonsense. The chances are lower than the chances of getting run over by a car on the sidewalk.
Q: If someone's father is secular, should he recite kaddish for him for 11 or 12 months?
A: 11 months. He is not considered wicked, he is a "tinok she-nishba"(literally, "captured infant" – it refers to some who sins inadvertently as a result of having been raised without a proper Torah education). Nonetheless, it is proper to recite it more than 11 months but not 12.
Q: Is it permissible to buy "Peticha" (opening the ark in shul) from "ma'aser kesafim," since my wife is in her ninth month of pregnancy (and it is said that opening the ark will help open the womb)?
A: No. "Ma'aser kesafim" is for the poor, and it is better to give it to tzedakah.
Q: Is it permissible to buy cookies with kosher supervision for Arabs?
A: You should buy from Jews.
Q: Is it permissible to read the Koran, since it is not idol worship?
A: It is not idol worship, but it is filled with heresy. See Rambam, Avodah Zarah 2:2.
Q: Is it permissible to throw out missionary literature which contains verses with Hashem's Name?
A: Yes, it has no holiness.

I Have Seen Heroes

[Like Rav Aviner's popular song "A Slow Line Enters Gaza: A Song for Israeli Soldiers" – this article has also been made into a song by Elyon Shemesh. We are also hoping to record it professionally. If you are interested in supporting the studio time, the cost is $550. Please let me know if you are interested.]

I Have Seen Heros
[From the parashah sheet "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshua" – Parashat Shemot]

I have seen heroes.
I have seen a war break out on Chanukah, and the spirit of the Hasmoneans reawakened in young men now determined to wage war with amazing strength and faith. They do not make personal calculations; they are willing to sacrifice themselves.

I have seen soldiers committed to the mission, waging war with true courage; and even when their friends fall in battle, they do not stop for a moment, but say: "We are in the middle of the battle, and we must continue on and finish it."

I have seen a soldier say: "There is nothing to fear; we do what needs to be done. The individual is not important, only the national goal.

I have seen a unit of 120 soldiers, in which 116 were called and another 5 volunteered – including three newlyweds who did not want to forgo their responsibility. And including someone expelled from Gush Katif who had a heavy heart and they said to him: "You are not obligated to go," but he said: "Of course I am obligated."

I have seen soldiers fight with great effectiveness in a war in crowded, built-up areas, knowing that in a situation like this on a darkened night, it is impossible to be completely immune from the dangers of friendly fire, yet they understand that war is war and they march on.

I have seen a high-ranking officer says: "What was once done by an elite combat unit is now accomplished by a regular unit." I have seen an overwhelming response of 115% from those called up and even those who have not been called up, including deserters who begged to be forgiven, and then rejoin their units.

I have seen a soldier in the hospital who was wounded from head-to-toe and wanted to return to the battle and when they told him: "The next war." He stood firm and said: "Now!"

I have seen a mother whose son was killed in the last war who did not hesitate for an instant to consent that her other sons could join combat units.

I have seen soldiers volunteer for dangerous units. I have seen an officer sign up for the standing army, since this army is his supreme ideal. He believes in what he is doing, and his soldiers follow him.

I have seen an officer who was wounded in the face but continued to fight. He refused medical treatment, and he only agreed to go to the hospital after a few hours. He immediately returned to his unit, and said to the reporter: "Please do not turn this battle into a story of heroism. We are just doing what we have to do." I have seen a soldier who waged war like a lion, and when he was asked where he gets this strength, he responded: "From the Nation of Israel! Don't you know? This is a great generation!"

I have seen officers with great spirits who says: "The needs of the Nation are above our needs. We have received so much from the State, we are happy to give a little back. We are happy to worry about the national honor, to worry about our friends."

I have seen officers full of integrity, morality and gentleness.
There is no doubt, I have seen new souls.
There is no doubt, I have seen the Divine Presence returning within us.

Letter to a Soldier's Wife

[From "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Shemot – translated by R. Blumberg]

This letter is addressed to the soldier’s wife, the officer’s wife, to the woman who guards the home, who educates the children, who misses her husband.
Your husband is facing the fire of battle. He is not mentally free to worry. He has no time to fear. So you fear enough for the two of you together! But you have to realize that G-d will not abandon His people. He never did in the past, and He never will in the future, especially in these times, when He has decided to bring salvation to His people, through the rebuilding of the Land, the return to Zion, the establishment of the state and the wars of Israel. “Listen, Israel, today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them. Hashem your G-d is the One who is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will deliver you” (Devarim 20:3-4). We are not alone. This is not a war of conquest of a foreign power, but a war of defense, a war that is a mitzvah, a war of G-d. Whoever does a mitzvah enjoys G-d’s protection. And what greater mitzvah is there than to save the Jewish People, to save the Land and to sanctify G-d’s great Name? Performing such a mitzvah is a recipe for a long life.
We believe in Divine providence. The Master-of-the-Universe is the One who decides on every detail of a person’s life, let alone his very existence. We therefore go off to war with joy, strength and valor. And the same lot of him who goes off to war is shared by his wife who sits at home (see I Shmuel 30:24). That spiritual strength leads to national fortitude, and that national fortitude to military valor. Military valor is for men, but spiritual strength and national fortitude belong to women as well, such as the Prophetess Devorah, who imbued the Nation with strength and valor.

The military front defends the rear and draws strength from it. We are a stiff-necked people, chiefly in a positive sense of unswerving devotion to the truth, as the Maharal writes in Netzach Yisrael. Our army is strong and mighty, it must claim victory, and it will. In every home there is a little Prophetess Devorah, whose husband tells her, [as the General Barak said to Devorah], “If you go with me I will go, and if you don’t, I won’t” (Shoftim 4:8). And you accompany your husband all along the way.

An American soldier wears a steel helmet, with a soft scarf under it, containing his wife’s perfume. You don’t need that. Your gentle fragrance accompanies your husband everywhere. You say to him, “This is the day on which G-d has place Sisera in your hand” (ibid., verse 14). Regarding the words, “When breaches are made in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly, bless Hashem” (5:2), Metzudat David comments that it is due to this combination, the wickedness of our enemies’ making breaches in Israel, coupled with our soldiers’ volunteering, that we enjoy G-d’s blessing. “Hashem dominated the strong for me” (5:13). It is G-d who grants strength. And you, the soldier’s wife, “come to G-d’s aid” (ibid., verse 23). You are a partner in G-d’s handiwork. Therefore, “So may perish all Your enemies, O Hashem; but His beloved shall be as the sun when it goes forth in its might” (verse 31). This refers to the love between G-d and us, and the love between you and your husband. That love is fiercer than all the wickedness of Gaza’s demons of death (see Shir Ha-Shirim 8:6).

A Slow Line Enters Gaza: A Song for Israeli Soldiers

The Words to Rav Aviner's song:
[The Hebrew words can be found at: http://video.maale.org.il/blog/show.php?id=782&type=blog]

The unit commander is a factory owner.
The regimental commander is an engineer.
The company commander is a nature guide.
The platoon commander is in his mandatory army service.
The sergeant major sells holy books.
The sergeant is somewhat of a carpenter.
The squad leader is currently unemployed.
And the private is retired.

But all of them are excellent soldiers
Marching in the quiet of the night in a slow line
Entering enemy territory
Without fear
In order to wage war for our Nation
As their parents had done for them.

The unit commander has a bad back.
The regimental commander – high cholesterol.
The company commander – digestive problems.
The platoon commander just doesn't look good.
The sergeant major – problems with his eyes.
The sergeant has trouble sleeping.
The squad leader is scratching.
And the private has corns on his foot.

But all of them are excellent soldiers
Who slip into the darkness in a slow line
Entering enemy territory
Forgetting that they are pampered and sensitive
Filled each day with drops, oils and pills
And they are suddenly healthy.
And these men who are afraid of shots and dentists
Are suddenly courageous
They are not afraid of anything
They do anything that needs to be done
Because what is needed is needed.
They don't think about themselves
But about the national goal
Because it is enough of this mess
And we must now act to protect our Nation
And this is only the appetizer.

The unit commander is a leftist against the settlements.
The regimental commander is a settler for the settlements.
The company commander votes for the centrist party.
The platoon commander is a Religious-Zionist who is deciding between two parties.
The sergeant major is Ultra-Orthodox.
The sergeant is a socialist.
The squad leader votes for all the parties.
And the private has still not decided.

But all of them are excellent soldiers
Marching silently in the darkness of the night.
Under the smiling moon
With preparedness and strength
And the same people who do not agreed
About anyting in politics and religion
Have suddenly become brothers.
Brothers in arms and brothers in battle
Who sacrifice for each other with their heart and soul
Everyone suddenly agrees
That the best thing we have
Is our country and the army which defends us
And they are ready to completely strike the enemy
For once and all
So that we will be left in peace.

A Song For Our Soldiers



While I had posted this song before, this is an updated version which is professionally recorded. The song is by Eliyon Shemesh and the words are from Rav Aviner. It has been written for our soldiers fighting in Gaza and promotes a message of support and unity.

Punishing children

Q: Is it permissible to punish a six year old by not allowing him to learn Torah with his father?
A: We cannot educate our children through punishment. They do not understand what we want from them. A child often acts up because he cannot overcome his emotions, and not because he is a bad kid. When we punish him, he does not understand and loses faith in his parents. One certainly needs to educate, but one should be very careful about punishing children. We need to emphasize the positives and limit the negatives. When a person buys a cow, there are two ways to move it: by hitting it in the back or by calling to it. The same is true for children: you can push them forward with punishments or encourage them with love. This is in general. In your case, learning Torah is a mitzvah and we must increase it as much as possible. On the contrary, if he is not acting properly, in order to fix it and have him repent, he needs to learn more Torah.

Night-time Shema and chatting

Q: Should I say the Night-time Shema and then talk or talk and risk falling asleep without reciting it?
A: The ideal is obviously to chat and then say the Night-time Shema, but if there is a risk that you will forget it, it is preferable to recite it and then talk. There is one opinion – the book "Seder Ha-Yom" – that the blessing of the Night-Time Shema is a blessing over a benefit (Birchat Nehenin). With such blessings, such as eating an apple: one first says the blessing and then immediately eats, and if he does not immediately eat, it is considered an interruption. The same applies here if that one says the Nighttime Shema and does not immediately go to sleep then it is an interruption. But the rest of the halachic authorities say that it is not a blessing over a benefit but a blessing of praise (Birchat Shevach). This means that we thank Hashem for creating sleep. If this is so, speaking after the Night-time Shema is not an interruption after the fact. Therefore, if there is a concern that you will forget it, you should recite the Shema and then chat.

Rejoice or cry?

Q: I am confused: our military operation in Gaza is succeeding but there are also Jews who are being killed, which is extremely distressing. Should we rejoice or cry?
A: We need to distinguish between the community and the individual. There are communal calculations and personal calculations which are not always the same. The majority of the time, we are concerned for both the community and the individual, but there is occasionally an exception such at a time of war. During a war, the national goal overrides the individual's needs. The individual displays self-sacrifice for the national goal. Regarding the question, we are both rejoicing and crying. The Halachah says that if a person is happy he recites "Shehechiyanu" and if he is sad he recites "Dayan Ha-Emet." What is the law if one's wife gives birth to a boy and she dies in childbirth? He recites two blessings: "Shehechiyanu" and "Dayan Ha-Emet" (see Bereachot 59b). They are two different calculations and we do not mix them together. Is the husband not sad about his wife because a baby was born to him? And is the father not happy about his new child baby because his wife died? He has both feelings. Therefore, we are sad for those who have been killed and wounded but this does not affect our joy over our accomplishments. Our operation is succeeding and it is a great victory. One officer said: it will take years for them to reconstruct what we have destroyed. In the war of the Maccabees, people were killed, but we still rejoice. The same is true with the war for the conquest of Israel and all of the wars. Therefore, we are sad for the killed and wounded and we rejoice over Tzahal's accomplishments.

Shaking hands with an elderly woman

Q: Is it permissible to shake hands with an elderly woman?
A: No. It does not matter whether she is elderly or young. Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef once received the Israel Prize and it was presented by the Prime Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir. She put out her hand but he did not shake it. People said that it was not polite. He responded: The Torah is more important than politeness. And Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu once met with the Queen of England and she put out her hand. There were cameras from all around the world but he stood still like a soldier and he did not shake it. That evening Rav Eliyahu received a letter from the person responsible for royal protocol and they apologized. They checked the books of protocol of the British Kingship and they found that the Queen of England was not to put out her hand to a Jewish Rabbi (A Jewish Rabbi!). As a result, if you do not shake a woman's hand, you have the authority of Halachah, as well as Rav Yosef, as well as Rav Eliyahu and the Queen of England, who is extremely polite! Therefore, one has to plan: carry a bag in each hand. Or I once saw someone said: I am saving my hand for my wife. Or say: My Rabbi said it is forbidden. He is strict. What can I do?

X-mass Cookies

Question: Is one allowed to buy and eat x-mass cookies (in the shape of the tree, etc.) if they are kosher?
Answer: Yes, it has no connection to idol worship.

A Soldier Killed by Friendly Fire

[From Rav Aviner's video blog – www.video.maale.org.il]

Question: It is known that a soldier killed in battle is considered holy. Is a soldier killed by friendly fire also considered holy?
Answer: If a soldier is killed in battle or during military exercises under any circumstances, whether it is in error or in superfluous mission, he is considered holy and was killed sanctifying Hashem's name. The use of the expression "holy" in this context is taken from the responsa of the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh Deah #333) regarding a person who was murdered by non-Jews. While here the soldier was seemingly killed by our own troops, this is not correct, because the reason we are at war is that the non-Jews continually attack us. There is no difference in how he was killed since the nature of war in bound up with danger. In war, there is the fog of battle and it is complex. It is impossible to run a war in a gentle manner until the enemy says "uncle." These occurrences are a part of war and part of the self-sacrifice of the soldiers. If in the responsa of the Chatam Sofer the murdered was referred to as "holy" since he was murdered by non-Jews for no reason, this is all the more so true in our case in which a soldier willingly goes into battle to protect the Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel and to sanctify Hashem's name. And he knows from the outset that things such as this can occur as it says in the Gemara in Shevuot (35b) that a king who kills a sixth of his soldiers in battle is not punished, since this is part of the calculations of war. We are obviously not freeing those who made the error, Tzahal thoroughly investigates such incidents. We are only discussing the soldier who was killed sanctifying Hashem's name.

Our Rabbi & Tzahal - Part 3

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

After the Six Day War, there was a meeting between government officials and the head of Yeshivot. Representing the government and army was Moshe Dayan, and representing the yeshivot were our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky and Ha-Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht. When Moshe Dayan asked why yeshiva students are exempt from the army while other youths fight and die to protect the country, our Rabbi responded that he rejects the term "exempt." His students are not exempt from the army but delay their entry for a few years to solidify their Torah education before going out to defend their country. Our Rabbi advocated juggling these two imperatives -- Torah study and army service -- by first solidifying one's Torah accomplishments and only then serving in the army. (Sidrei Tzava Vi-Yeshiva #4, Sefer Am Ve-Artzo vol. 2 pp. 523-531)

It once happened that Jews went to pray at the Cave of Machpelah and waved the Israeli flag there in defiance of the orders of the Army and the Border Police. An argument broke out between them, and one side pulled the flag in one direction and the other side pulled in the other direction, until it ripped. When the matter was brought to the attention of our Rabbi, he said that placing the Army and the Police, who are our friends, in such an incredibly unpleasant situation of having to take the flag from Jews is more treif than pig.
When Tzahal blew up the Nuclear Reactor in Iraq in the year 5741, our Rabbi said in a voice trembling from excitement: "Did you hear! All of the non-Jews are shaking and scared from what the Jews did. Did you hear! Did you hear!" And he could not calm down. At that moment, a pregnant woman came in and requested a blessing for an easy pregnancy. Our Rabbi warmly blessed her, and then returned to saying: "Did you hear! Did you hear!" Klal u-ferat u-klal – the community, the individual, the community. (from Efrat Bedichi)

Shut SMS #4

From the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan."

Q: Is it permissible to lie to my parents that I am not entering Gaza to fight so they will not worry?
A: Yes. It is lying for their sake.
Q: According to the opinion of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that it is permissible to give food to a non-observant Jew who will not recite a blessing, is it permissible to give dairy food to a non-observant Jew after he has eaten meat?
A: Yes, because waiting between meat and dairy is “only” a rabbinic obligation, and especially since according to the Tosafot if one eats a meat meal, he can eat dairy at the next meal (without waiting).
Q: Is it a transgression to burden a non-Jewish cleaner by not being concerned about cleanliness at all and making the floor dirty?
A: One should certainly not burden him or her. Proper manners precede Torah.
Q: Which is preferable – davening minchah with a minyan after sundown or davening alone before sundown?
A: Even if there is only one opinion that it is still an appropriate time, then it is still permissible to daven at that time. However, the Mishnah Berurah does not agree and says that it is preferable to daven alone at the appropriate time.
Q: Is it permissible to daven with a Chasidic tune in the background?
A: No. One must pray with a trembling of fear, as if standing before a king.
Q: Scientists claim that the world has existed for billions of years. How then can Judaism say that it is approximately 6,000 years old?
A: Hashem created worlds before our world. Bereshit Rabbah.
Q: I returned to traditional observance twenty years ago, and it was told that someone sins are forgiven, but now I am very sick? How can this be?
A: It is not written that a righteous person will not be distressed. There are many righteous people in the world who suffer. May Hashem bless you.
Q: When I was angry, I swore not to have anything to do with my friend. Is there a way for me to be released from the oath?
A: You must go before three Rabbis.
Q: Is it permissible to work out in a co-ed gym?
A: No. It is immodest. One should stay far away from things like this.

Mention on Hirhurim Blog

Our blog is mentioned on the excellent blog "Hirhurim"

Rav Aviner's Q&A on what a person should do if he hears a warning siren for an incoming missile and he is in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei is briefly discussed there.

Check it out @
http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2009/01/walking-in-middle-of-praying.html

Addition:

An interesting story is posted in the comments there by the blogger Jameel @ The Muqata -
This reminds me of a Shayla posed to Rav Mordechai Eliyahu 10 years ago. A soldier asked: I'm in an IDF outpost in South Lebanon, and I have a question for the Rav. It says in the Gemara that one should not sleep with their shoes on, because one will wake up "with a taste of death" if they do. However, I need to run to bomb shelters in the middle of the night, and need to react quickly if there are terrorist around -- and my commander says I should wear my Army Shoes. What should I do? Rav Eliyahu answered: Better the taste of death, than death itself. Sleep with your shoes on, come home safely.

Bombing Civilians During War

[Q&A from Rav Aviner's radio show]

Q: Is it permissible to bomb civilians when terrorists are hiding among them and attacking us?
A: It is clear that it is permissible according to Halachah and is acceptable by international law. It is permissible according to the Halachah based on the law of "rodef" (literally "pursuer" - a case in which one is permitted to kill a pursuer so that the pursued person is saved from harm). Civilians who potentially prevent us from bombing and then the enemy fires on us, those civilians have the law of "rodef." The law of "rodef" applies even when the purser does not want to be a "rodef." This is called a "purser without intention." You grab a person and shoot from behind him - this person is considered a "rodef." The classic example of a "purser without intention" is a fetus in the mother's womb who endangers the mother's life. If it is not possible to save both of them, we save the mother and kill the fetus since it has the status of a "rodef" (Rambam, Hilchot Rotzeach U-Shemirat Ha-Nefesh 1:9 based on the Jerusalem Talmud). This is true even not only during a war, and it applies all the more so when they are waging war against everyone. The Mechilta (halachic midrash) says "The best of the non-Jews should be killed." The Tosafot raised a major difficulty with this statement: how can we say such a thing when according to Halachah it is forbidden to kill a non-Jew (Sanhedrin 53) and all the more so the best of the non-Jews (Tosafot to Avodah Zarah 26b and see Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah 158)? Tosafot explains that this statement refers to a time of war. This non-Jew does not appear to be hostile or, in our case, he killed but then reacquired an innocent demeanor. No, we did not make such calculations in a time of war; even a “pleasant”-seeming non-Jew is killed. A war is between two peoples. This is similar to what King Shaul said to the "Keni" (Shmuel 1 15:6): "Go, depart, go down from among Amalek, lest I destroy you with them." This means, even though you are my friend, if you are there, you could get hurt or killed. Therefore, it is permissible according to the regular Halachah based on the law of "rodef" and the laws of wars, and it is also acceptable among the non-Jews. During the Second World War, the Allied Forces bombed Berlin and destroyed neighborhood after neighborhood, until they reached the bunker of Hitler, may his name be blotted out, and he then committed suicide. The Allied Forces killed two million people during the conquest of Berlin and no one said a word because they understood that there was no choice. This is what Carl von Clausewitz, a military theorist, refers to as "Absolute War," i.e. we prefer not to wage war but if we are forced to go to battle, we are obligated to do so in the most cost effective way in which we save the most lives and equipment. We are all for "Purity of Arms" and for saving citizen lives. But which civilians? Our civilians who are being attacked. The political philosopher, Michael Walser, once wrote that when armed Palestians shoot rockets from civilian populations, they themselves – and no one else – are responsible for civilian deaths which are caused by the Israeli response. They are guilty, we are not (This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Shaul Yisraeli in the book "Amud Ha-Yemini" at the end of chap. 16 and Ha-Rav Yona Metzger in the book "Sofa Be-Midbar" #35 printed in vol. 3 of Shut Mi-Yam Ha-Halachah).

Commentary on the Writings of Rav Kook

We have had wonderful feedback to our first announcement regarding this initiative. We also wanted to let people know that any level of donation towards the publications will be a great help.

Commentary on the Writings of Rav Kook
Since the time that Rav Kook wrote his works, approximately one hundred years ago, they have been sealed books for the majority of the Nation of Israel – aside from those who merited learning from his students or from his students' students. We have therefore begun to write a Hebrew commentary on his works which is appropriate for every person.

The commentary contains three parts:
1. A concise and simple commentary interwoven within the text itself in an easily readable format.
2. Comments on the bottom of the page which include explanations and sources.
3. Longer appendixes at the end of the book for boarder understanding.

Through the kindness of Hashem, two Hebrew volumes have already been published:
1. Orot – The Land of Israel and War
2. Orot – Israel and its Revival

We are currently ready to publish two further volumes:
Orot – The Lights of Revival, part 1 and part 2

In order to process we need donations (publication costs are approximately 50,000 shekels for the two volumes) and dedication and memorial pages will of course be included in the publication.

Shlomo Aviner
(Those who are interested may contact me or Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig)

Hunting for Sport

[This month's Iturei Yerushalayim #27 - Tevet]
Question: Is it permissible for me to hunt sheep in my farm in America with the purpose of eating them?
Answer: This subject is discussed at length in the responsa "Noda Bi-Yehudah" (Tanina, Yoreh Deah #10). It is permissible to hunt in order to make a living. There is no prohibition of "tza'ar ba'alei chaim" (causing pain to animals), since there is a human need, whether for food or another use. There is an issue of endangering a human life when hunting dangerous animals, such as a bear for its fur. It is ruled, however, that it is permissible to take a small risk in order to make a living, such as climbing a tree to pick fruit or building a structure while standing on scaffolding. In the case of hunting for pleasure, however, it is certainly prohibited to take even a small risk.

There is no prohibition of "tza'ar ba'alei chaim" in our case, since it is also considered a human need, similar to riding on a horse, using a cow to plow, or putting animals in cages at the zoo. "Tza'ar ba'alei chaim" is only forbidden when one causes them pain for no reason, while it is permissible if there is a human need. Furthermore, "tza'ar ba'alei chaim" is in a case that one causes the animal pain and keeps it alive, but there is no prohibition if one kills the animal in the midst of the pain.

But the Noda Bi-Yehudah wrote that hunting for sport is cruel and lowly, and reminds us of Nimrod and Esav. On the contrary, Hashem is merciful to all of his creatures. It is not strictly prohibited but it displays a negative character trait. For example, it is permissible to pluck a feather from a goose in order to use it for a quill, but the Rama writes that the Jewish People refrain from doing so because it is cruel. It you intend to hunt sheep in order to eat them, there is no cruel entertainment involved, since it is obviously permissible to eat animals. The question thus becomes how you can hunt a sheep without injuring it in such a manner that will not make it "trief" (unkosher), unless you catch it with a trap or lasso.

Honoring the Chief Rabbi of Israel

[A talk given by Ha-Rav in the yeshiva]

Q: Is there are obligation to honor the current Chief Rabbi of Israel?
A: Absolutely. What kind of question is that?!

Explanation: One is obligated to honor every Torah scholar and one is obligated all the more so to honor the Chief Rabbi. This is the story in the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (25). Rabban Gamliel, the head of the Sanhedrin – i.e. the Chief Rabbi, ruled one way and Rabbi Yehoshua ruled another way. Rabban Gamliel said to Rabbi Yehoshua: "You have to come to me with your staff and your money belt on the day that you calculated to be Yom Kippur." Rabbi Yehoshua asked Rabbi Dosa ben Hurkenos if he was obligated to go. He answered: "He is the Chief Rabbi and he decided. If you question this Chief Rabbi, you have to question every Chief Rabbi going back to Moshe Rabbenu." If you say, "How was it that former times were better than these?" (Kohelet 7:10), you are incorrect. You forgot. "Go to the judge that will be in your days" (Devarim 17:9) – that is the judge you have. And the later generations should not say that the earlier generations were superior (Rosh Hashanah ibid.). Rabbi Yehoshua went and Rabban Gamliel stood up, kissed him on the head and said: "Peace be upon you, my Rabbi and my student. My Rabbi in wisdom and my student in that you obeyed me." Fortunate is the generation where the elders – i.e. the greater Torah scholars - listen to the juniors, and all the more so when the juniors listen to the elders (Rosh Hashanah ibid.). This is an explicit Gemara. This is the way events occurred according to divine direction: each time there was a head of the Sanhedrin, there were greater Torah scholars than him. Certainly the Chief Rabbi of today is not like the head of the Sanhedrin back then, but the Torah scholars of today are also not like the Torah scholars back then. Each one according to his level.

In the book "Chayei Ha-Re'eiyah" (p. 212 and see the talk of Rav Tzvi Tau on Elkanah in Emunat Itenu vol. 1, p. 85), Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriyah relates that a Torah scholar who made aliyah from America came to Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook and complained about the state of Judaism in the Land of Israel. He was so distressed that he was considering leaving Israel. Maran Ha-Rav Kook said to him: Doesn't your honor remember the learning of his youth? The Book of Shmuel relates about Elkana: "This man would ascend from his city every year to prostrate himself and to bring sacrifices to Hashem, Master of Legions, in Shiloh, and the two sons of Eli, Chofni and Phinchas, were cohanim to Hashem there" (Shmuel 1 1:3). Rav Kook asked two questions about this verse: 1. Why are we told in this verse that Chofni and Phinchas were there? 2. Our Sages say that Elkana would not only go up to Shiloh, he would go around and encourage others to do so as well. Why did he have to do this? After all, isn’t ascending to the Mishkan on the holidays a Torah mitzvah? Why weren't people following this mitzvah? Rav Kook explains that the first question is in fact the answer to the second question. The fact that Chofni and Phinchas were the cohanim in Shiloh caused people not to make the pilgrimage there, since they were corrupt. People said that if there were cohanim like this in this holy place, it was better not to go and see this ugliness and meet such sinners. Elkana then came and convinced them that despite the sons of Eli and despite the sins at this holy place, they should not give up on this mitzvah of Hashem. They should strengthen this holy place. Right now there are not great people there, but later there will be. Do not give up because of the difficulties. As a reward for this act, Elkana was blessed with a son, the prophet Shmuel, who served in the Mishkan. Rav Kook said to the Torah scholar that the same applies in relation to the holiness of the Land of Israel. Why are you mad at the Land of Israel? There are problems, therefore exert yourself and everything will work out. Although there are sinners, this is not a reason not to make aliyah and all the more so not to leave the Land of Israel. The more people committed to the Torah and mitzvot in the Land of Israel, the more holiness will be added to it.

There may be problems with the Chief Rabbinate, but you have to honor it. I have always said that the Chief Rabbinate is the nucleus from which the seedling will sprout from which the Sanhedrin will blossom. Everyone understands that it is not the Sanhedrin and it is not even a seedling of the Sanhedrin, but it is the nucleus and the nucleus is precious. Do you think the Sanhedrin will sprout from nothing? No, it will appear slowly. The same thing applies to the State of Israel. Okay there are difficulties, but what do you suggest? Would you prefer the British, the Turks or the Arabs? The State was built slowly. The Rabbinate was built slowly. The yeshivot were built slowly. Everything is built slowly. If you want everything to be whole from the first moment, you will not have anything. There are ups and downs. You had Rav Kook who was a Torah giant and afterwards you had others who were less than Rav Kook, and so it seems that they will continue to be less than Rav Kook. The essence is that we must pay attention to the process and not reject something great because of a temporary difficulty.

Warning siren in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei

Q: What should a person do if he hears a warning siren for an incoming missile and he is in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei?
A: He should certainly run to the bomb shelter and continue to daven the Shemoneh Esrei there. This is based on two reasons: 1. It is a case of a life-threatening situation. 2. Walking in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei without speaking is not considered an interruption. For example, if I am davening the Shemoneh Esrei and a child is bothering me something terrible and I cannot concentrate, I can move to another place. Or if I am davening by heart and I cannot remember "Ya'ale Ve-Yavo," I can go and get a siddur. Speaking is forbidden but there is no problem of moving if there is a need. Therefore, if I am in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei and I hear a warning siren for an incoming missile, I should go to the bomb shelter without talking and continue to daven in the place where I left off (see Piskei Teshuvot, Orach Chaim 104 and Shut Be'er Moshe 3:13).

Famine

Q: Is this week's rainfall enough for us to cease praying for rain? How do we know when to stop? For which sins are we punished with a lack of rain?
A: The Chief Rabbinate of Israel decides when we begin to pray for rain and when we should stop. Baruch Hashem, this is not the situation mentioned in the Mishnah when there is not even water to drink. We have water to drink. This is a problem for agriculture which is also important since they supply the food, but it is not the problem it once was. Therefore, there is no need to say that we are being punished. In the world in general, the sources of water are diminishing and relative to the whole world, the State of Israel is doing quite well. As a result, the question is not for which sins are which being punished, but for which merits are the Nation of Israel being rewarded with living in the Land of Israel which is a Garden of Eden. This is not necessarily a reward, but a loving-kindness of Hashem. Within this our wonderful existence, there are some things lacking, but on the whole things are amazing. May we merit this kindness through repentance, Torah learning and mitzvah observance.

Questions from a Nurse

A nurse on Shabbat
Q: Can a religious nurse switch swifts with a non-religious nurse on Shabbat?
A: Yes. It is permissible for a nurse to work on Shabbat because of "pikuach nefesh" (potentially life-threatening situations). If a non-religious nurse is not working – to our distress – she will violate Shabbat. If she is working in the hospital, almost all of the Shabbat violation will be permissible and a mitzvah. As a result, you will save her and limit her Shabbat violation.

Reciting Bedtime Shema when not sleeping
Q: Should a nurse who is not sleeping the entire night recite the bedtime Shema?
A: You do not recite it if you are not going to sleep.

"Vidui" (confession for a deceased person)
Q: If a nurse finds a patient who is deceased, should she recite the "Vidui"?
A: No, the "Vidui" is only to be said by or for the living. The "Vidui" is a form of repentance and a deceased person cannot repent.

New Song For The Israeli Soldiers

Here is a song composed by Eliyon Shemesh. The words are from Rav Aviner. It is a song for the Israeli Soldiers completing their mission in the Gaza Strip.

Communal prayer at a time of danger

Q: Should we daven in a large communal prayer in shul at a time when there is danger of kassam or Grad rockets and mortars falling or in a small minyan in a bomb shelter?
A: If there is an explicit instruction not to gather communally by the Home Front Command or by the Rabbi, there is no question. If there is no explicit instruction but a recommendation, it is recommended that people not gather when there is no pressing need; but it is permissible when there is a need such as communal prayer. In truth, the risk is minute. People – to our great distress – are killed four times more often in car accidents in the State of Israel than through all of the terrorist acts and wars combined together. Even when there is a slight risk, we do not take risks by walking in the street for no reason but davening with a minyan is certainly not for no reason. In general, terror does not have power. Throughout all of history, terrorism has not succeeded in conquering a country. Terrorists can kill tens of people, hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands but there are still millions of people. Terrorism is a psychological war. There is a Chinese saying: Kill one person and frighten tens of thousands. Their goal is to disturb normal life, weaken the citizens' trust in the government, and destroy the societal glue which binds a nation together. Thus, anyone who continues with life's routine is waging war against terror. And if the media does not report about terror, the terrorist will see that their activities are not working and it will cease.

Soul Letters

Every Jew is compared to a letter in the Torah, and when two people marry, two letters join together to become one word. One word is much greater than two letters, as it has content and meaning, which is not the case with an individual letter. It is not good to be alone, and one does not always have a reason to get up in the morning. While every letter is special, and every Jew is special, since the world was created for him, this is on condition that he knows that he should join with a loving soul and then also join with beloved offspring. The word continues to add letters and grows. But this does not mean that one should intrude too much into another's life. In a Torah scroll, it is forbidden for two letters to touch one another. Each letter must be surrounded by the parchment ("mukefet gevil"). Every soul needs air to breathe. One soul should not force itself on another, but respect its differences and then they will join together and created a new, shared reality.

Employee discount for friend

Question: Is it permissible to ask a friend who works at a store to buy something for me since he receives an employee's discount?
Answer: Only with the permission of the store.

Our Rabbi & Tzahal - Part 2

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi’s love of the Israel Defense Force and the holy soldiers of the Army was unique, and his students who were in the Army therefore loved to visit their Rabbi when they were in their army uniform in order to give him contentment. The blessing of our holy Rabbi to all of his students, before their departure to the Army, was pleasing and sweet. It once happened that a student came to our Rabbi on the day he was drafted into the Army at an early morning hour. The student who was helping Ha-Rav on that day got up and informed him that there was a student of the Yeshiva who came to receive his blessing before his draft. Our Rabbi got up with incredible zeal and with unlimited joy, recited the morning blessings, quickly drank the cup of tea which he was accustomed to do each morning in order to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his father who instructed him to do so this, and then the young man entered the room…Ha-Rav kissed, blessed, and encouraged him, and even left his house to escort him. Our Rabbi said that he must always place before his eyes the verse from Divrei Ha-Yamim (2 36:23): "Whoever is among you of all His people - Hashem his G-d be with him, and let him go up!" (Kinyan Torah of Ha-Rav Yosef Elnakveh, 2, pp. 73-74)

Generally, in similar situations, our Rabbi would quote the verse (Divrei Ha-Yamim 2 35:3), "Serve Hashem, your G-d, and Israel, His Nation."

A reporter asked our Rabbi: "If the honorable Rav teaches that the Israel Defense Force is holy, he should close the Yeshiva and not postpone the army service of the students."Our Rabbi responded: "The Army - holy, the Torah - holy of holies."

Shut SMS #3

Q: Is it permissible for a person who is not traveling on a bus to put a package in the luggage compartment to send to a certain destination?
A: It is certainly forbidden, and it is theft since the luggage compartment is designated for the passengers and the bus driver will be required to unload the package.
Q: Is it permissible to climb Mt. Everest despite the danger?
A: It is forbidden. One may not place himself in a potentially dangerous situation, even a slight one, for entertainment. It is only permissible for making a living or for a mitzvah.
Q: Someone publically insulted me. Do I have to forgive him or is it only if he asks for my forgiveness?
A: If he does not ask for forgiveness, you are not obligated to forgive.
Q: Is it permissible to use a child's high chair table for meat and milk?
A: It is certainly permissible when it is cleaned well in between, since it is not used with burning hot food (which would impart its taste into the table).
Q: There are different opinions in our community as to whether we need a rabbi, insofar we have many Torah scholars?
A: It is certainly required, even a house filled with Sifrei Torah requires a mezuzah.
Q: Is it permissible to play a joke on a friend when he knows that it is a joke and he will not be insulted?
A: If he will definitely be receptive.

Reserve Duty during the First Year of Marriage

[From Iturei Yerushalayim #26]

Question: Is a groom within the first year of marriage exempt from reserve duty?
Answer: The basic Halachah is that he is obligated to serve, since we are involved in an obligatory war and in an obligatory war everyone goes out to war including a groom from his room and a bride from her chupah (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 7:4). Today's situation is defined as an obligatory war both according to the Rambam, that it is a war which protects the Nation of Israel (ibid. 5:1), and according to the Ramban, that we are liberating our Land and protecting it (Positive mitzvah #4 in additions to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot). Although the groom is obligated, if he can be exempted from reserve duty it is certainly good. Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren ruled this way and says that he can request an exemption from his commanding officer. If he agrees – great, but groom may not demand it. There are two opinions among the Rishonim (early commentators) as to why a groom in exempt from army service during the first year:
1. According to Rashi, if he is killed in battle, it causes horrible anguish. Although the death of every soldier in a tragedy, this is an even greater one.
2. According to Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, the newly-marriage soldier will be preoccupied thinking about his wife and will not be able to fight as he needs.
While both of these reasons would seem to exempt the groom from an obligatory war, because of its importance, the need to serve overrides these reasons. But if there is a legal possibility through which the groom/soldier can be released from reserve duty during the first year it is certainly good to do so.

The Mitzvah of Serving in Tzahal

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, explains that serving in Tzahal is a three-fold mitzvah:
1. Saving of Lives
The protection of the Nation of Israel in our Land is accomplished by the removal of the enemy’s army as much as possible. In order to protect the Nation, there is a need for self-sacrifice as we are commanded, "Do not stand idly while your brother’s blood is shed" (Vayikra 19:16): If you see a fellow drowning in a river or bandits are attacking him or a wild animal is attacking him, you are obligated to save him (Sanhedrin 73a). According to various authorities, even if there is potential danger for the one who comes to rescue, he is obligated to attempt to rescue one who is in a situation of certain danger (Hagahot Maimoniyot, Rambam - Hilchot Rotze’ach U-Shemirat Nefesh, chap. 1, Kesef Mishnah ibid., Beit Yosef Choshen Mishpat 426 in the name of the Yerushalmi). This is also implied from the literal meaning of the words of the halachic authorities, who write: "One who is drowning in a river, or bandits are attacking him, or a wild animal is attacking him," since clearly there is also potential danger in rescuing, and the authorities did not limit the obligation of rescuing only to a rare circumstance when there is no danger. This applies all the more so when we are not discussing the saving of individuals but the saving of the entire Nation of Israel. Self-sacrifice is what saves blood.

2. The Mitzvah of Settling the Land of Israel
We are commanded to dwell in the Land of Israel, to settle it and also to possess it, as the Ramban writes: "do not leave it in the hand of any other nation" (Positive mitzvah #4 in additions to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot). "This mitzvah applies in all of its borders and its boundaries...that we are not to leave a part of it" (ibid.). For this mitzvah, if there is a need, we are commanded to sacrifice our lives, and even to enter into war, which is necessarily a dangerous venture. We will not attain security and our peace by yielding, but on the contrary, by strength and "standing at full stature."

3. Sanctification of G-d’s Name
We are commanded to sanctify G-d’s Name: "And I will be sanctified amongst the Children of Israel" (Vayikra 22:32), and there are many levels and shades of this great mitzvah (see Yoma 86a and Rambam - Hilchot Yesodei Ha-Torah, chap. 5). There is sanctification of G-d’s Name by individuals and there is sanctification of G-d’s Name by the entire the Nation. We are commanded to be partners in the great act of Hashem, returning the Nation of Israel to its Land and its revival, and to perform anything which is in our power for the sake of this great sanctification of G-d’s Name (see Le-Netivot Yisrael of our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah vol.1, pp. 118-127).

New Books by Rav Aviner

New Books by Rav Aviner:
1. Ve-Halachta Bidrachav – Essays on proper character traits, i.e. humility, happiness, courage, modesty, etc…
2. Shemot Bnei Yisrael – continuation of Rav Aviner's commentary on the Chumash - Parashat Shemot through Parashat Yitro

To order: www.havabooks.co.il

Does every bullet have an address?

Q&A from Ha-Rav's video blog

Q: During a war, there are many bullet fired and missiles and mortars shot. Is there Divine Providence who is killed, injured or saved or is it all luck?
A: It is certainly true that not only is there Divine Providence for the entire world, there is also Divine Providence for each individual, for each thing which occurs down to the smallest detail. We obviously do not know the calculations of Hashem but there is Divine Providence in life and all the more so in when a person will die as is written in the Gemara in Yevamot (50a). This does not mean, however, that a person can take risks and say: "If Hashem decreed that I will live then I will live and I do not need to be careful." This is not so. The book "Mesilat Yesharim" (chap. 9) says that a person who sins will be punished and if he takes risks and transgresses the mitzvah of "And you shall safeguard your soul," it is possible that the punishment will be a shortening on his life. A person must therefore always be cautious but it is possible that he could be injured or killed whether he is cautious or not but if he is cautious he fulfills a mitzvah and if he is not cautious he commits a severe transgression. While there is Divine Providence, a person must also pray and the prayer may change the Divine decision. It is similar to a king who says that a person who sins will receive a punishment, but if he asks for forgiveness he will not be punished. The same here: it is possible that Hashem says that if a person prays it will be one way and if he does not pray it will be another way. A man therefore should not fret about Divine Providence and he should act properly. May Hashem protect our Nation and the cities of our G-d.

Census

Q: Is it permissible to participate in the population census?
A: It is true that it is forbidden to count Jews but the Chief Rabbis of Israel already ruled that in the first population census in Israel that it is permissible since we are not counting Jews but pieces of paper. When they needed to count Jews in the Temple, they counted fingers (Yoma 22b). When a commander needs to count soldiers in the army, he does not count soldiers but helmets. Even though it is a life-threatening situation and counting them would be permissible, since if a soldier is missing it is extremely dangerous, he still counts helmets. During fieldtrips, the teacher counts hats or each kid says a number and he counts the numbers. During the census, we count pieces of paper.

Commentary on the Writings of Rav Kook

A Letter from Rav Aviner

Commentary on the Writings of Rav Kook

Since the time that Rav Kook wrote his works, approximately one hundred years ago, they have been sealed books for the majority of the Nation of Israel – aside from those who merited learning from his students or from his students' students. We have therefore begun to write a Hebrew commentary on his works which is appropriate for every person.

The commentary contains three parts:
1. A concise and simple commentary interwoven within the text itself in an easily readable format.
2. Comments on the bottom of the page which include explanations and sources.
3. Longer appendixes at the end of the book for boarder understanding.

Through the kindness of Hashem, two Hebrew volumes have already been published:
1. Orot – The Land of Israel and War
2. Orot – Israel and its Revival

We are currently ready to publish two further volumes:
Orot – The Lights of Revival, part 1 and part 2

In order to process we need donations (publication costs are approximately 50,000 shekels for the two volumes) and dedication and memorial pages will of course be included in the publication.

Shlomo Aviner
(Those who are interested may contact me or Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig)

A child who hits

Q: What should we do with our son who hits everybody?
A: There are various tactics: 1. Do not let him do it. You need to prevent him by gently taking his arm and explaining that we do not hit – without insulting him. 2. It is possible that he hits for many reasons. It is possible that he is bored and he is looking for activities which possess elements of alacrity and danger – he hits, runs, hits, runs, etc… If this is the case, you have to find activities which will allow him to release his excess energy: get boxes and let me break them with a hammer, give him a bath and let his spritz water all around, bring him on little trips. Or perhaps he is distressed. Why? I do not know – he has an older brother or a younger brother, there are tensions at home, etc… and this is how he releases his stress. It is also possible that he feels neglected and is in competition with his siblings. If this is the case, you need to give him attention. Either the father or mother should give him their undivided attention for 15 minutes a day. There are many possible reasons and it is hard to judge from afar. 3. I recommend to all parents to buy ten books for child-rearing at a young age – it does not matter which, they are all good but not all are complete, so they will complement one another. If you read these ten books, you will have a good picture of what to do.

Visiting non-religious parents on Shabbat

Q: Should I go to visit my parents on Shabbat even though they do not observe Shabbat?
A: There is no law that one is obligated to visit his parents. It is a kindness and as in every kindness, it is according to one's ability and the need. It is possible that your parents really need it: they are sick, lonely, etc… And according to your ability – this is a technical question: is it far or near? Do you have a car or time? And it is an emotional question: it is pleasant or difficult there? As a result, you do not have to go every Shabbat, this is extreme. And never going for Shabbat is also extreme. It is based on your ability and their need. It is not easy to quantify: perhaps once a month.
Q: What should I do when they watch TV and the phone rings?
A: Do not watch the TV and do not answer the phone.

16 Days to Go! - Free Pollard Now!

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

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

Yes, Jonathan Pollard committed a crime. However, in light of his 23 years of incarceration (seven of which were spent in solitary confinement), the disproportionate sentence that he received, his repeated expressions of remorse for his actions, and his deteriorating health, it is time for Jonathan Pollard to be set free. We need your help now more than ever. With President Bush set to leave office on January 20, 2009, time is of the essence. It is customary for Presidents to pardon many people at the end of their term. It is critical that the White House hear from as many people as possible in the next several weeks. They count up the calls and report them to the President.
Just a few moments of your time daily can help Jonathan Pollard regain his freedom. He needs your help now.
- Call the President at the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414
- Send a fax to the President at the White House at (202) 456-2461
- If you are in Israel, it is also possible to call the White House by dialing 077-566-4305 and it is only a local call!
With respect, say to President Bush: "Please free Jonathan Pollard now."
For more information: http://www.freepollardnow.com/