Teachings from the mouth of our Rabbi from the Chafetz Chaim

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

1. The Chafetz Chaim said: Fufilling a mitzvah in the Land of Israel is twenty times greater than outside of the Land (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Vayikra p. 265 and Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 p. 160, 202).

2. Ha-Gaon Reb Leib, the son of the Chafetz Chaim, told our Rabbi that when they began to build "Rishon Le-Tzion" his father said to him: "Leib, it has started," i.e. the beginning of the Redemption has begun (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit pp. 457-458 and Devarim pp. 485-486).

3. "A few years ago, a Torah scholar told me that a few young men wanted to avoid military service in a non-Jewish army and wasting time from learning Torah. They wanted to physically injure themselves and disqualify themselves from Polish military service. But the Chafetz Chaim opposed this: 'A person is not permitted to injure himself. The body is not his. And why avoid? Practice in the Army. The Messiah will arrive soon. There will be a State. And when there is a State, there will be a need for an army. Prepare here. You have the opportunity to prepare for the army of the State of Israel'" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Devarim p. 263).

Excerpt from Rav Aviner's commentary to the Book of Yonah - see above how to purchase it

Chapter 5 - The Honor of Israel

Our Sages summarize this idea in one brief statement: "Eliyahu demanded the honor of the father…Yonah demanded the honor of the son" (Mechilta De-Rabbi Yishmael, Bo, parashah #1). This is to say that the prophet Eliyahu demanded the honor of Hashem, and with great forcefulness. As he said to the Jewish People on Mt. Carmel: "How long will you limp between two opinions? If Hashem is G-d, follow him and if Baal [is G-d], then follow him!" (Melachim 1 18:21). He later killed all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Yonah, on the other hand, demanded the honor of the son, i.e. the Nation of Israel. For her sake, he was willing to do anything, even to distance himself from the Master of the Universe. As we have mentioned, according to our Sages, there is a connection between Yonah and Eliyahu: Yonah's mother was the widow from Tzarfat, and it was he who was revived by the prophet Eliyahu. He later demonstrated the same zealousness as the prophet Eliyahu, for the honor of Israel rather than for the honor of Hashem. He did not want to trample on the honor of Israel. Our Sages say: "Yonah went to kill himself in the sea. And you also find the forefathers [cf. Moshe Rabbenu, according to the Vilna Gaon], and the prophets sacrifice themselves for Israel" (Mechilta De-Rebbe Yishmael, Bo). We must remember that earlier Yonah had prophesied during the period of King Yerovam ben Yoash regarding the expansion of the border's of Israel (Melachim 2 14:25). Even though his prophecy was proven correct, it was to no avail: Israel did not repent (Malbim). And now the Master of the Universe was commanding him to do the exact opposite: to help Assyria repent so that it would be a rod of Hashem's anger against Israel (Yeshayahu 10:5). The Malbim explains: "Hashem wanted to show that the Assyrians had greater merit than Israel, since they listened to a prophet and repented while Israel did not repent." If Yonah had not already prophesied to Israel, the shame would not have been so great. But under the circumstances, if Yonah now prophesied to the non-Jews and they repented (which was likely, since they were close to repentance), he would help cause major damage to Israel's honor. Yonah did not want to have any part of this even and was willing to sacrifice himself instead. In the end, the Master of the Universe forced him to accept the prophecy, by having him swallowed by the fish.

Question: Where did Yonah get the power to demand the honor of Israel?
Answer: Yonah's power exists from the power of the Nation of Israel. The Jerusalem Talmud (Sukkah 5:1) relates that when Yonah entered the "Simchat Beit Ha-Sho'eivah" (the rejoicing at the water libation ceremony during Sukkot which takes place in the Temple) the Divine Spirit rested on him. This was the communal Divine Spirit, i.e. belonging to the entirety of Israel, which appears only three times a year, when all of Israel comes to see and be seen in the Temple.

Question: If Yonah was so righteous, why was he punished by Hashem?
Answer: Hashem certainly knew that Yonah was righteous, but He wanted Yonah to prophesy and to understand fully the concept of repentance (which we will discuss later). Hashem therefore forced him to prophesy and Yonah learned this lesson the hard way.

Question: How do we know that the prophet's refusal stemmed from his opposition to the repentance of the people of Nineveh?
Answer: We learn this from two sources: 1. The verse at the end of the book (4:2) in which Yonah himself testifies that the reason for his flight was that Hashem is gracious and merciful. 2. The idea we learn from the Oral Torah (via Rashi) that the non-Jews are close to repentance.

Shut SMS #34

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to put Tefillin on my toupee?
A: No. You should put on Tefillin at home with a blessing while not wearing your toupee and then put them on in shul without a blessing on the toupee.
Q: Is it permissible to pray in sandals?
A: Yes, if your feet are clean.
Q: Is it permissible for a father to daven if he has a baby in a front or back baby carrier?
A: Only if there is no choice.
Q: I have finally been drafted into the Holy Army of Tzahal. Should I recite Shehechiyanu?
A: Yes, over being drafted and over the uniform – with incredible joy.
Q: Do I have to tear my garment when I visit the Kotel after a long time?
A: We do not tear at all since it is under Jewish sovereignty.
Q: Should a woman giving birth on Shabbat travel to the hospital in an ambulance or car?
A: Whichever is more comfortable for her.
Q: I am a security guard for a settlement. If a resident brings me food in his car on Shabbat, can I eat it?
A: No, but do so with wisdom in order not to offend him.
Q: Is it permissible to go to the dentist on a fast day since you have to put water in your mouth and spit it out?
A: It is permissible, but not on Tisha Be-Av.
Q: Is it permissible to use non-kosher bait for fishing?
A: Yes.
Q: I accidentally swallowed a fly. Am I fleischig?
A: No.
Q: A soldier in my unit is looking for a verse from the Tanach for his tattoo. Is it permissible to help him?
A: Certainly not. It is forbidden to get a tattoo. It is also forbidden to bring a verse from the Tanach into the restroom, etc.
Q: Is it permissible for a man to grow long hair in order to donate it to cancer victims?
A: No, we do not perform a mitzvah through a transgression.
Q: Is it permissible to read my horoscope each day to see what will happen to me based on the stars?
A: It is forbidden and nonsense.
Q: Should I turn to a homeopath?
A: There is no scientific proof that it is valid; therefore do not become involved with it.
Q: I am 15 and want to visit Maarat Ha-Machpelah but my parents do not allow it because of the security situation. Is it permissible to pressure them or should I give in to them?
A: Try to convince them and if you cannot, go beyond the letter of the law and give in to them.
Q: Is it possible to learn Torah at an advanced age and become a Torah scholar?
A: Certainly, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Eliezer and many other great Torah scholars throughout the generations prove it.
Q: Is it permissible to learn Torah with a Rabbi who read Harry Potter? Isn’t his brain filled with nonsense?
A: It is permissible, a person is judged by the majority of his actions.

Mysticism – Indolence – Fraud

[From "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Ki Tetze 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: People avail themselves of all sorts of mystical channels to solve their problems: astrology, praying at the graves of the righteous, reading tea leaves, mystics and miracle workers, energy transfer, battling the evil eye, etc. Is there any truth to these things? People claim that mysticism can solve all your ills, and the fact is that it works! What is certain is that many people are attracted to these things. After all, mystical Torah secrets exist in this world! Not everything is rational in life!

Answer: Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, said that not everything people say is true, and that only the fool believes everything. At the same time, you can’t deny everything. Some of it is true. One thing is certain: the spread of such things does enormous damage to mankind (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, Bereshit pp. 310-313). Indeed, the result is great harm, involving man’s becoming accustomed to indolence and idleness, fantasies and illusions, and to distancing himself from hard work. Our Sages taught us the way of the Torah, that “Man is born for toil” (Iyov 5:7), as Ramchal explains in Mesillat Yesharim (Chapter 9). Everything is toil. Even prayer is toil, and not sensory reverie. Even spiritual elevation is toil, and not a free gift of pleasure from a charismatic personality…

In a word, people have created an alternative Torah-bypass route, devoid of toil. There are several ways to tell a fraud, and one way is monetary. A true healer does not seek money from the unfortunate. Rather, his goal is to be benevolent. Quite the contrary, he distributes money to them. You can tell false mysticism when they demand money for holy water, standing bank orders in exchange for rectification of the soul, and even your political vote in exchange for all the blessings of this world and the next.

They’re big experts in “Kabbalah” [Hebrew: “receiving”] and what they receive is money, and usually they hand out no tax receipt, and many of them have been sued by the tax authorities.

Wisdom is generally lacking as well. There’s nothing holy about them, and they carry no approbation from the great halachic authorities. Undoubtedly, people are attracted to this out of curiosity, idleness, or disappointment with science. Obviously, I’m not talking here about blessed scientific curiosity, but about unhealthy curiosity. Magic is always captivating. Without a doubt, science occasionally disappoints us. Certainly, it doesn’t have answers for everything, and there are cracks in its surface. Yet we mustn’t make it out to be worse than it is.

One can have no claims against the child for having a childish mentality, for believing in magic. Yet people have to get over that. They have to grow up and shake off that mentality. Alas the flight from common sense cuts across national and sectarian boundaries.

Does mysticism work? Certainly! This is because 80% of illnesses cure themselves spontaneously. A third of pains disappear with the help of sugar-pills and placebos. To verify the efficacy of a treatment, you need a controlled, random study, being carried out identically in two different places. Certainly the mystical secrets of the Torah really exist, yet none of the things described above fit that category. The secrets of the Torah constitute profound wisdom which deals with the most profound questions: G-d’s rule over the world, the meaning of life, reward and punishment, etc. By contrast, all of this nonsense and fraud is enormously superficial. The problem is not that the practitioners in question are not rational. Certainly there are things that transcend the intellect. Yet none of the things described above are secrets of the Torah. They simply are not Torah, but another pathway, an alternative religion. Instead of serving God, instead of mitzvot, they invent things that are not part of the Torah, and that sometimes diverge from the Torah.

Certainly our Sages mentioned paying visits to the graves of the righteous, yet even the dead admit that this is not the main thing in the Torah. The evil eye is mentioned as well, but not in the shallow meaning that people attribute to it (see Ein Aya, Berachot 20).

Certainly Ruach Ha-Kodesh - Divine intuition - exists, but it does not easily rest upon a person, but only following the protracted journey described in Mesillat Yesharim, consisting of achieving nine distinct spiritual levels, each one higher than the one preceding it: caution, alacrity, wholesomeness, separation from sin, purity, saintliness, humility, the fear of sin, and holiness.

It is well-known that many people believe in astrology, the evil eye and reading tea leaves. Yet we, disciples of Avraham and disciples of Moshe, say, “Have complete faith in Hashem, your G-d” (Devarim 18:13), and gradually, the Torah’s light will spread.

TV

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion on having a television in one's home?
A: There are three problems with television:
1. Television is a snake. It is true that there are good things on television but there are also bad things. The problem is that when people start to watch TV, they cannot stop. They begin watching good programs but then watch inappropriate things, such as violence, stupidity, etc. It is similar to cigarettes and alcohol: people cannot overcome bad behavior. A study was done and people were asked: do you watch stupid things on TV? This means that they themselves considered the programs to be stupid. 60% answered that they watch stupid programs. They were then asked: if you are watching an intelligent program and it is follow by a stupid program, do you have the strength to stop watching? 90% answered that they continue to watch. People are not strong by nature.
2. In many homes where there is a TV, there is no family life. People do not talk to one another. Parents do not talk to their children, and spouses do not talk.
3. One who watches TV is passive. You are not thinking or using your intellect. You are just watching, watching, watching and watching.
Therefore, TV does not contribute positively to humanity. It is not only a problem for Judaism, but for all humanity.
[note: In Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot (1:368), Ha-Rav Moshe Sternbuch was asked by a Ba'al Teshuvah (newly-observant person) who was still living at his parents' home: it is permission to break my parents' television set? Ha-Rav Sternbuch begins by saying that watching TV is very destructive, leads to many transgressions and he should do everything in his power to stop his family from watching TV.
Regarding damaging the TV, he notes that there is a dispute between the Ketzot Ha-Choshen (known as the "Ketzos" in the Yeshiva world) and the Netivot Ha-Mishpat (known as "Nesivos) (Choshen Mishpat 3) if the halachah that one may stop someone from violating a prohibition by force applies to each individual or only to Beit Din (Jewish court). He rules that it applies to a Beit Din. And, even according to the opinion that it applies to an individual, one cannot take away someone else's money without a ruling from a Beit Din.
He also points to the Gemara in Berachot (20a) that one of the Rabbis ripped off a red garment from a woman in the street because it was immodest. Although the Gemara praises him, he himself seems to say at the end that he should not have been so hasty. Furthermore, Rachel stole Lavan's idols, but Yaakov Avinu apparently did not approve of such behavior and declared that whoever stole them will die, and this is indeed was happened to Rachel.
Ha-Rav Shternbuch concludes that no action should be taken without consulting a Rav since more damage than good may come out of it. It is best to explain to them the destructive effects of TV and try to persuade them with kind words.]

Embroidered Verse of a Talit

Q: Is there a prohibition to embroider the Bircat Cohanim on the "Atarah" (collar of a Talit)?
A: It is permissible, and there are some Talitot which have the blessing for putting in it embroidered on them. The problem arises when the Talit is sent to the laundry, since it is improper for the holiness of a verse or blessing to go through the laundry. The best advice, therefore, is to embroider it in a way that the "Atarah" can be removed when the Talit is put in the laundry and you can clean the "Atarah" in a more appropriate manner.

Modesty in a bathing suit

Q: It is permissible for a young woman to wear a bikini at a separate all-women's beach?
A: If there are only women, there is no problem and any bathing suit is permissible. If there is a male lifeguard at the women's beach, which is permissible since it is a potentially life-threatening situation, there is a problem and she must wear a robe until she enters the water.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #20

"Blessed in everything, from everything, with everything"

"The Holy One Blessed Be He gave three people the ability to taste from the World to Come, our forefather Avraham as it is written regarding him: ‘[He was blessed] in everything’ (Bereshit 24:1), Yitzchak as it is written with regard to him: ‘[He was blessed] from everything’ (ibid. 27:33) and Yaakov as it is written with regard to him: ‘[He was blessed] with everything’ (ibid. 33:11). The evil inclination had no control over three people, and they are: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as it is written with regard to them: ‘in everything, from everything, with everything’" (Baba Batra 16-17). We pray that we will merit to taste the sweetness of the World to Come in this world, which is the sweetness of closeness to Hashem and the good feeling after doing good, and that the evil inclination will have no control over us, rather we will know how to be purified and liberated from it. These things are connected. By liberating oneself from the evil inclination, a person tastes a taste of the Garden of Eden. And out of the fact that he carries the supreme taste with him, the evil inclination is no longer interested in him.

Our Rabbi & Following the words of our Sages

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

Our Rabbi once joined a wedding for a short time, arriving while the bride and groom were in the "cheder yichud" (room of privacy where they go immediately after the ceremony). He refrained from partaking of the meal, quoting the Gemara (Berachot 6b): "Whosoever partakes of the wedding meal of a bridegroom and does not bring him joy him violates 'the five voices' mentioned in the verse: 'The voice of joy,' etc. (Yirmiyahu 33:2)."

Whenever our Rabbi reached home, before entering, he would knock, even though he knew that nobody was inside. This practice was in keeping with the words of our Sages in Derech Eretz Rabbah: "A person must not enter his home suddenly."

When they called him up to the Torah, he reacted with alacrity, without delay, in keeping with what is written by Pri Megadim regarding the reason for taking the shortest route possible when going up to the Torah: "To demonstrate one's love for [the Torah] and one's desire to read from it."

Our Rabbi & Guarding One's Tongue

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

On one occasion, when our Rabbi returned home from prayer, his taxi driver accidentally drove past his house. "Oops," said the driver, "I'll have to back up." Our Rabbi immediately corrected him, saying: "You have to proceed backwards."

On another occasion, our Rabbi was asked to "descend" a stairway. He immediately replied: "I do not 'descend'!" (implying that 'descent' has a negative connotation and that such expressions should be avoided).

Shut SMS #33

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to do an art project with food?
A: Yes, it is not "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destruction).
Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat and holidays for the person leading the davening to do so from the Bima (the Torah-reading table) and not from the shtender in order for everyone to hear?
A: Yes, the essence is that there is a Bima in the middle and a shtender up front.
Q: How should I answer a secular Jew who asks me where Hashem was during the Holocaust?
A: For a question of such depth, you can only answer what you know and not what you learn from a text message. I also do not know how to answer such a deep matter in a text message. If you are interested, see my book on the subject "Orot Me-Ofel."
Q: Is it permissible for me to occasionally make a phone call from work?
A: They will allow it if it is rarely done and essential.
Q: Is the famous picture of the Rambam really him?
A: No. In the picture, he does not have pe'ot and is dressed like a Turk.
Q: When one leaves the Kotel should he walk backwards?
A: Yes, like in every shul.
Q: After a parachute jump should one recite "Bircat Ha-Gomel"?
A: Yes, both Ashkenazim and Sefardim.
Q: Is it permissible to see the museum exhibition "Body Works" which presents corpses in different positions?
A: No, it is shaming the deceased.
Q: A lawyer is willing to give me a big discount if I pay with cash without a receipt. Is it permissible?
A: It is forbidden, it is illegal. He is not suitable to be a lawyer.
Q: If I am not a mourner, is it permissible to learn the laws of mourning or will it injure me?
A: It is certainly permissible, it is Torah and will not injure. Sefer Chasidim #261.

Accepting Converts from Amalek

[Iturei Cohanim #155]

Question: In the Mechilta (on Shemot 17:16), our Rabbis prohibit accepting converts from Amalek, but the Gemara (Gittin 57a) mentions that the descendants of Haman learned Torah in Bnei Brak. Don't these two sources contradict one another?
Answer: Quite simply, it is a dispute. According to the Mechilta, we do not accept converts from Amalek, while the Babylonian Talmud does not forbid it. The Rambam ruled like the Gemara, since he did not mention in the "Laws of Converts" that it is forbidden to accept converts from Amalek. He must therefore explain the problem of how King David killed the Amalekite convert who claimed he killed King Shaul, even though there were no witnesses (Shmuel 2 1). According to the Mechilta, we do not accept converts from Amalek and a non-Jew can receive capital punishment based on self-incrimination, but the Rambam followed the Gemara that we can accept converts from Amalek and it is forbidden to kill a Jew based on his own testimony. The Rambam thus explained that King David's action was a temporary ruling or part of the unique powers given to a king (Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrim 18:6). According to this explanation, there is a dispute between the two sources. It is possible, however, to resolve this contradiction in various ways:
1. There is a different version of the Gemara which reads: "The descendants of Na'aman" instead of "The descendants of Haman" (see, for example, Ba'al Ha-Turim on Shemot 28:2).
2. It is forbidden to convert them but if they converted of their own, they are considered converts (Megillat Sefer, Lo Ta'aseh 115). This resolution is difficult since the Mechilta seems to hold that we do not accept converts from Amalek at all.
3. It is permissible for them to convert and to be Jewish for all purposes but we do not marry them (Megillat Sefer ibid.). This is also difficult since the Mechilta is discussing conversion and not marriage.
4. We do not convert them from the outset, but if they convert they are considered converts after the fact (Shut Beit Yehudah. Resisei Lailah of Rabbi Tzadok Ha-Cohain Mi-Lublin #32 and 58). This is also difficult since the Mechilta implies that they are not considered converts even after the fact.
5. While Haman was from Amalek, he was a slave to Mordechai and slaves do not have "yichus" (are not related to anyone), i.e. his descendants are not related to him and are not considered Amalek (Kli Chemdah on the Torah).
6. If a woman marries a non-Amalekite, the offspring are not considered Amalek, since the genealogy of non-Jews is patrilineal (Yevamot 78b). According to this explanation, the "descendants of Haman" is not to be taken literally but that they were descendants of women in the Amalekite line (Gilyon Ha-Shas, Gittin 57a and Chazon Ish, Yoreh Deah Gerim 157). This explanation follows the opinion of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3, 50) that the obligation to destroy Amalek does not apply to women.
This is still difficult, however, since the Mechilta there writes that Hashem swore not to leave a grandchild or a great-grandchild of Amalek and this potential convert is a great-grandchild of Amalek! Some explain that even though this potential convert is not an Amalekite, since he is from the offspring of "Amalekite women," we should still reject him since he is connected to Amalek in some manner.
7. According to the Rambam, if Amalek makes peace, there is no longer a mitzvh to eradicate them (Hilchot Melachim, chap. 6); i.e., he is no longer an Amalekite and it is then permissible to convert him (Mishpat Ha-Meluchah of Rav Gershuni, Hilchot Melachim, chap. 5). While it is forbidden to convert directly from Amalek, it is possible for one to convert in another manner.
Additional sources: Shut Maharsham 3:272, "Sefer Michlol Ha-Ma'amarim" erech mi-bnei, Shut Mishneh Halachit 6:220, Sefer Hasidim 1019, Kedushat Levi – Kedushat Revi'it p. 124b (Sefer Haichei David 560), Seridei Eish 2:104 (ibid. 564).

3 ELUL

The Yahrzeit of Maran Ha-Rav Kook

The words engraved on Maran Ha-Rav Kook's tombstone
Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook
Born on 16 Elul 5625
Ascended to the Land of Israel on 28 Iyar 5664
Ascended to Jerusalem on 3 Elul 5679
Ascended to Heaven on 3 Elul 5695

Maran Ha-Rav Kook's Torah on One Foot:
Unity, Wholeness, Perfection
Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, on the Twenty-fifth anniversary of the departure of our Master, Rav Kook (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit, p.88, arranged by Rav Aviner)
Question: If someone came and asked: Teach me the Torah of Rav Kook while standing on one foot, how would you respond to him?
Answer: To a certain extent, it is possible to say while standing on one foot that the Torah of father, Ha-Rav ztz"l is: unity, wholeness, perfection - unity of Hashem, wholeness of the Nation and the Land and perfection of the Torah. "The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul" (Tehillim 19:8). Our Sages explain this verse: When it is perfect, it restores the soul (Socher Tov ibid. and see Yerushalami Berachot 5:3). Just as we are obligated to see the unity of Hashem before our eyes and the Torah in its perfection and all of its wholeness, so too are we to see the Nation, to its full and complete extent, in all its wholeness. The Gerrer Rebbe ztz"l – the authoir of "Sefat Emet" - would explain our Sages’ teaching, "Judge all of the person favorably" (Pirkei Avot 1:6), in this way: At a time when you judge the entire person, when you observe a person from all of his sides - then he will be "favorable," and aspects of merit will be revealed before your eyes. This is the fundamental outlook of the Torah. And you find the exact opposite with the wicked Bilaam: "However, you will see its edge, but not see all of it" (Bamidbar 23:13). Observing the edge, only part of the Nation, without looking at the entirety, obstructs the sight and distorts the image. If it sometimes seems that there is some flaw in the Nation of Israel, it is because you are only looking at a particular issue or an isolated occurrence, without observing the issues with a complete and encompassing perceptive. In Parashat Eikev, we find the expression "all of the mitzvah" (Devarim 8:1), meaning, the entire Torah is one mitzvah, one matter, one complete entity ("The entire Torah is only one Name of the Holy One, Blessed be He, one Name, one utterance, one saying, without any other, which has everything included in it" – Orot Ha-Torah 4, 1). A living being is a complete entity, and we cannot divide it. "Commandment by commandment, commandment by commandment, measure line by measuring live and measure line by measuring line, a bit here and a bit there" (Yeshayahu 28:13) - this is a failed and distorted outlook. One must perceive matters in their unity and in their completeness, in their entire revelation and in all their aspects, and then the Torah is perfect and restores the soul. This is true not only regarding the Torah, but also regarding the Nation and the Land. Just as the Torah, when it is perfect restores the soul, so too the holiness of Israel and the holiness of the Land of Israel, when they are perfect, whole, when we observe them within a whole and all-encompassing perspective, they restore the soul.

A Sefardic Jew with an Ashekenazic Rabbi and an Ashenazic Jew with a Sefardic Rabbi

Q: Can a Sefardic Jew have an Askenazic Rabbi or an Ashkenazic Jew a Sefardic Rabbi?
A: It does not matter. The person certainly has to tell the Rabbi that he is Ashkenazic if the Rabbi is Sefardic, and the Rabbi will answer him according to what an Ashkenazic Jew is should do. A Rabbi knows the halachah for everyone, and if he does not he will ask, except is the case of "pikuach nefesh" – a life threatening situation, since "piku'ach nefesh" is the same for a Sefardic and an Ashkenazic Jew.

The State of Israel & rebelling against the nations

Q: How was it possible to establish the State of Israel when the Gemara (Ketubot 111a) says that it is forbidden to rebel against the nations of the world?
A: While the Gemara in Ketubot does mention the prohibition of rebelling against the nations of the world, it is not found in the law codes – not in the Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch. There are two possibilities why this is so: 1. It is a dispute and we did not hold this way (Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, Le-Netivot Yisrael, vol. 2, p. 217). 2. This is not a legal (halachic) issue but a homilectic (aggadic issue) (see Shut Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #454 and Ha-Rav Menachem Kasher's "Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah," p. 187).
There is a commentary to the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot called "Megillat Ester" by Ha-Rav Yitzchak Leon and he did in fact write that it is forbidden to conquer Eretz Yisrael since it is it is forbidden to rebel against the nations of the world. He argued with the Ramban who said that it is a mitzvah to conquer the Land of Israel throughout all generations (Additions to the Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, positive mitzvah #4). It is thus a dispute between the Ramban and the author of "Megillat Ester." According to the general rules of deciding Halachah, we must follow one of them. The Ramban is well-known to all and there are many of his rulings in the Shulchan Aruch, while there is not even one law from the "Megillat Esther." Furthermore, the Rambam did not cite the Gemara that it is forbidden to rebel against the nations of the world.
Ha-Rav Meir Simchah – the Or Sameach – wrote in a letter of support for "Keren Ha-Yesod" ("The Foundation Fund" established to raise money and invest in the Jewish Homeland) that even according to one who claims that there is a prohibition to rebel against the nations of the world, we did not rebel or take the Land by force since the British gave us the Land. And after the British gave us the Land, the Arabs attacked us. We did not rebel against them, they came and attacked us. By permission of the nations of the world in the Balfour Declaration, San Remo and the UN vote, the prohibition fell even according to those who claim that such a prohibition existed.
Q: But the Satmar Rebbe said it is forbidden to establish the State?
A: This is correct, but the Satmar Rebbe's opinion is more-or-less a lone opinion. 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. This means that the Satmar Rebbe's opinion is a lone one and almost every authority disagrees with him. If you are a Satmar chasid that is something else, each person should follow his Rav. But if you are not a Satmar chasid, you should follow the majority of the Sages of Israel (See the book "Keraina De-Igarta" (#205), where the Steipler Gaon - Ha-Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievski – wrote that it is incomprehensible that after the establishment of the State, how the Satmar Rebbe could still hold his position).

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #19

May The Merciful One should send us Eliyahu the Prophet, who is remembered for good...

The last of the prophets, Malachi, announced that prophecy will return: "Behold, I am sending to you Eliyahu the Prophet...and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons, and the hearts of the sons to their fathers" (Malachi 3:23-24). Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook explained that "the fathers" are "Ha-Yishuv Ha-Yashan - the old settlement of Israel," the Jews who are righteous and God-fearing, and "the sons" are "Ha-Yishuv He-Chadash – the new settlement of Israel," the Jews who build the Land and the revive the Nation [but were largely secular]. There is alienation, and sometimes even tension, between these two camps, and on account of this, both sides lose out. This is the mission of Eliyahu: to explain to the fathers the value of the sons, and to the sons the value of the father, and with this, salvation will arrive.

Husband and Wife Swimming Together during Niddah

Question: Is there a problem for a husband and wife to swim together in the same pool while she is a niddah? - We are talking about a private pool where there are no mixed swimming issues.
Answer: Yes, it is forbidden for a husband to see his wife not completely dressed when she is a niddah. And even if she is fully dressed and enters the water, it is still a problem since a husband and wife should not frolic when she is a niddah. This does not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme. A husband and wife still have to smile, laugh, etc. during this period of time, but it is not possible to swim together.

Our Rabbi & Character Traits

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

Don't get excited
The administrator of the yeshiva once entered in a rage and said to our Rabbi: "It is written in the newspaper that they do not learn in the yeshiva but waste all of their time with Soviet Jewry and politics. We cannot be silent. We must respond!" Our Rabbi did not respond. He took counsel with a few people and decided not to respond. A journalist once interviewed our Rabbi and published an article filled with distortions. A student said to our Rabbi: "You must respond. It is impossible to let this pass in silence." Our Rabbi did not get excited. He explained that there is no need to respond to every little thing. (Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald)

Like everyone else
Our Rabbi participated in a funeral and the eulogies went on for a long time. One of the family members of the deceased went to one of the neighbors and brought our Rabbi a chair to sit on. Our Rabbi refused and said: "Everyone is standing. I will therefore also stand." But he leaned one leg on the chair and explained: "I am standing like everyone else, but if someone exerted effort and brought a chair, I will use it." (Ha-Rav Mordechai Greenberg)

Saying Shalom
Our Rabbi said that according to an explicit Mishnah, one should say "shalom" and not use other greetings (Berachot 54a). When he was asked: But Jews customarily say good morning or good evening in Yiddish? He responded in surprise: Is Yiddish our language?!

Who goes first
A student who was holding a chair was walking in a narrow hall in the old yeshiva building. He met our Rabbi in the hall and immediately moved to the side to make room. Our Rabbi said: One who has a load and one who does not have a load – the one with the load goes first (Sanhedrin 32b), and he insisted the student go first.

Fear of Heaven
Our Rabbi davened with great concentration, and he was very strict that the students not talk in the middle if davening. He would repeat the words of our Sages: "These are things that are the most important in the world, yet people disgrace them" (Berachot 6b). New, young students occasionally chatted during the davening. It once happened that our Rabbi pointed it out once, then twice and the third time, when they were speaking during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, and he threw them an admonishing look. Right after the davening, our Rabbi strayed from his custom and did not remain to hear the Halachah class given at the conclusion of davening. Instead he went up to the library, where he usually removed his Tefillin. Those students felt responsible and went up to the library to apologize. When they opened the door, they found our Rabbi crying. They approached in trembling, asked forgiveness and promised not to continue in their foolish ways. Our Rabbi then said to them: "You think I am crying on your account, I am crying on my account, since our Sages said: 'Anyone who has fear of haven, his words are heard' (Berachot 6b). And if I told you once, twice and three times and you did not listen, it is a sign that there is a blemish in my fear of heaven." (Ha-Rav Chanan Porat. See Or Le-Netivotai 3, 308, 326)

Shut SMS #32

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: I have a neighbor who borrows food items all of the time, but does not return them. Is it permissible for me to stop lending and lie when she asks by saying that I do not have a particular product?
A: It is possible, but the proper way is to ask for it back in a gentle manner.
Q: Why does Hashem forgive me when I repent, even though I could stumble again?
A: Because you exerted effort and struggled.
Q: Does a reflector jacket, which one is required to wear (in Israel) if he is on the side of the road with car trouble, require Tzitzit since it has four corners?
A: No, it is not a garment one wears for modesty, warmth or honor, but rather it is just a sign.
Q: Is it permissible to have a dog?
A: Yes, if it does not bother others.
Q: You had written that Ha-Rav Neriah innovated "Im Eshcachekh" (If I forget you, Jerusalem) at weddings, but it is mentioned in the Taz 560:4?
A: He innovated having the community sing it.
Q: Is it permissible for a young woman to have plastic surgery on her nose since it is causing her to have a lack of self-confidence?
A: Yes, in order to remove a distress such as in a rare case of a crooked nose. But it is not recommended to rush into this decision.
Q: Is it permissible to use two challot made with different grains on Shabbat?
A: Yes. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 274, Mishnah Berurah #4.
Q: The teacher gives us the same tests he gave in a different school last year. Can we get the tests from kids we know there and prepare for the tests?
A: You have to ask the teacher if he agrees.
Q: Is it permissible for a son to call the police if his father is hitting his mother?
A: Yes, but he should ascertain beforehand that his mother will not deny it.
Q: I am a mother of three small children. How many times am I obligated to daven a day?
A: The morning blessings, and beyond this according to your desire.
Q: Is it permissible to wish my parents "good night" after I recite the Bedtime Shema?
A: It is preferable to do so beforehand, but it is permissible if you forgot.
Q: I am a female officer in the army, far from religious observance. My husband's family is religious and when we spend Shabbat there I observe Shabbat, dress modestly, cover my hair, etc. I enjoy it immensely being with the family, but I don't feel anything. What causes a person to become a believer?
A: In order to come to faith, one must learn faith from people who believe, from books about faith or recordings of classes about faith.
Q: My wife and I are newly observant and are in the first year of marriage. Is it permissible to hold hands in public?
A: It is certainly forbidden to display public acts of affection. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi Shlomo Granzfield 152:10.
Q: Can a woman's whose due date past induce labor?
A: Based on the doctor's recommendation.
Q: Some hold that Torah learning protects more than the army?
A: Both are needed. This one is not sufficient without that one. See Niddah 70b.
Q: Is it permissible to shop on a weekday in a store which is open on Shabbat?
A: It is permissible, but a store which observes Shabbat is preferable.
Q: Because of the burden on the community, can a gabbai recite the blessing for the sick and each person recite the name (instead of each person coming, telling him the name and having the gabbai recite each one)?
A: That's a great idea.
Q: Is it permissible to roast a liver in the oven?
A: Yes, with the condition that there is a very high heat.
Q: Is it permissible to use a pen in a house where I am babysitting?
A: Yes, they will forgive the use.
Q: I fear that I will stumble in touching someone on a date - what should I do?
A: Meet in a public place where there are a lot of people.
Q: Who is more appropriate to teach in a girls' high school – a male Torah scholar or a woman?
A: Certainly a woman, whether on account of modesty or as a role model. And there is no lack of female Torah scholars.
Q: When one washes hands before davening must it is done from a cup or is it enough to wash?
A: It is enough to wash.
Q: Is it permissible to throw a Koran in the garbage?
A: No, since it includes ideas of believing in one G-d.
Q: Should one kiss his kippah if it falls on the ground?
A: There is no need; wearing a kippah is for the sake of modesty.
Q: Should we follow the books of medicine of the Rambam?
A: No, this is old medicine. See Rambam, Hilchot De'ot 4:18 with Kesef Mishnah and introduction of Rabbi Avraham ben Ha-Rambam to Ein Yaakov.
Q: Is it permissible to lie for a surprise birthday party?
A: Certainly. This is not the type of lie the Torah forbids.
Q: Is it permissible to pass by a place on Shabbat which has a video camera?
A: It is permissible. It is a "benefit which comes to a person against his will" (Pesachim 25b), since you are walking on your way, do not do anything in relation to the camera and it does not matter to you. Pnei Yehoshua ibid. in the name of the Ran.
Q: Is it permissible to eat a dairy product with fish?
A: Some are strict, but it is permissible according to the basic Halachah.

The Time has come for Brotherhood

[From "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emuna" – Re'eh 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

The time has come for brotherhood,
Between myself and…
My father and mother.
My parents-in-law.
My brothers and sisters.
And between me and myself.

Between religious and irreligious
Ashkenazi and Sephardi
Right wing and Left
Yeshiva-oriented and academic
Employer and employee
Commander and solder
High-brow and laborer,
Chassid and Non-Chassid,
Chareidi and Zionist.

Brotherhood between me and those I love
Me and those I do not
Me and those who love me
Me and those who do not.
Between those far removed
Those intimately close
And those in between.

Brotherhood between Nationalism and Universalism
Peace and war
Mathematics and poetry
Law and legend
Intellectual study and phys-ed
Body and soul
Intellect and nation
Spirituality and the mundane
Between different peoples
Between different nations
Between all mankind
Between man and other creatures
Between everything

It is long since time.
It was time already when Cain killed Abel.
When the First and Second Temples were destroyed
When rightist called leftist “traitor”.
When leftist called rightist “traitor”.
When one group rejected another.
The time arrived.
Long ago.

All the same I say:
Now is the time!
Don’t tell an Ethiopian Jew:
“You’re not Jewish!”
Just because he’s “too dark”.
And don’t tell a Russian Jew:
“You are not Jewish!”
Just because he’s “too white”.

Now is the time!
We returned to our land for this.
Because the time for brotherhood has come.
It’s so sweet!
So wonderful!
Be well
My brother.

Rav Aviner's Hebrew books which will be published – with Hashem's aid –in 5770

You can be a partner by dedicating a whole book or part of a book
in memory or in honor of someone
(any amount is appreciated and payment can be made over time).
Please be in touch with Rav Aviner (052-365-3028) or me if you are interested.

Elul/Tishrei:
Shut She'eilat Shlomo – Fourth volume of Ha-Rav's responsa
Tefillat Amcha – vol. 2 - Commentary on the siddur
Limrot Ha-Kol – "Despite Everything" – a children's book

Cheshvan:
Chochmat Nashim – A book on faith and ethics for women
Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Talmud Torah – talks of our Rabbi on learning Torah

Kislev:
Pesach: A collection of articles on faith and Halachah

Tevet:
Gan Na'ool – Issues and halachot of modesty

Shevat:
Shemirat Ha-Lashon – Issues and halachot of guarding one's tongue

Adar:
Commentary on Maran Ha-Rav Kook's work "Musar Avicha"

Nissan:
Avodat Hashem – Articles on faith and ethics

Iyar:
Tefillat Amcha – vol. 3 - Commentary on the siddur

Sivan:
Am Ve-Artzo – On Eretz Yisrael

Tammuz:
Yamim Nora'im – A collection of articles on faith and Halachah

Av:
Commentary on Maran Ha-Rav Kook's work "Orot Ha-Kodesh"

Elul:
Commentary on the book "Nefesh Ha-Chaim" vol. 1

Ritually washing hands in bathroom

Q: Is it permissible to wash "netilat yada'im" in the bathroom?
A: It is generally forbidden to wash "netilat yada'im" in a bathroom, and, on the contrary, if you just enter a bathroom you have to wash "netilat yada'im." This is what is written in the Gemara, but more recent authorities explain that our bathrooms are clean. This is similar to what the Gemara calls the "bathrooms of the Parsa'im" which was a hole and an incline which took the refuse outside of the bathroom. Our bathrooms are slightly different. The refuse is not immediate taken away, but it is completed cleaned. There are those who therefore explain that if someone enters the bathroom, they do not need to wash "netilat yada'im" when they leave. This applies even more so if there is a bathtub, washing machine, etc. It is not simply a bathroom, but a multi-functional room. The blessing must be recited outside and it is certainly preferable to wash "netilat yada'im" if there is someplace else.

Hugging and kissing children

Q: Is it permissible for a father to hug and kiss his daughter?
A: Yes, a father may hug and kiss his daughter, even when she is grown up and even when she is married. Her entire life. And a daughter may hug and kiss her father. The same applies for a mother hugging and kissing her son. She can even kiss him when he is grown and when he is married. And a son can hug and kiss his mother – even when she is married, which most of the time – with the help of Hashem - will be to his father! The same also applies to grandparents and grandchildren. They are considered like a "great father" and a "great mother." Regarding brothers and sisters, it is an intermediate state where some things are permissible and some are not. All other relatives – uncles, aunts, cousins, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, etc. – are like strangers in this regard and it is forbidden to touch them.

Crossing against a red light

Q: Is it permissible to cross against a red light? Is there a difference whether one is pressed for time or it is Shabbat and there are no cars?
A: It is certainly forbidden to cross against a red light because of two reasons, each of with is sufficient:
1. It is a law of the State and the laws are binding. We are obviously not discussing a law which is contrary to the Torah. According to the Torah, the laws of the State are obligatory.
2. It is dangerous – both in Israel and in the rest of the world. There are parameters where it is proper to place a stop light based on information gathered from experience.
Regarding Shabbat, to our great distress, you cannot be certain that there are no cars.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #18

"May The Merciful One break the yoke from our necks and lead us upright to our Land"

On the verse, "And I will lead you upright" (Vayikra 26:13), our Sages explain, "With upright posture, so that you do not fear any creature" (Sifra). One can raise the difficulty: Doesn’t the Shulchan Aruch rule, "It is forbidden to walk with upright posture" (Orach Chaim 2:6), which the Mishnah Berurah (#9) explains: "Because you will press against the feet of the Divine Presence of the Omnipresent"?! This is not a difficulty: one refers to the individual who is required to be humble and modest, while the other refers to the entire community which is require to walk upright, and through this the honor of the Divine Presence will be revealed. Rabbi Yaakov Chagiz (Shut Halachot Ketanot #185) was asked: Should an individual living in the Land of Israel say, "and lead us upright to our Land (le-aretzenu)" or change it to "and LED us upright IN our homeland (be-artzenu with the letter bet)"? He responds, "This is how people customarily recite it [and LED us upright IN our Land], but if one says "le-artzenu - to our Land," he does not lose out." In practice, the prayer books in Israel say, "le-artzenu - to our Land," but this also includes upright posture for the Nation.

Opening Bag of Milk on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to open a bag of milk on Shabbat by making a small hole with a knife or scissors as per during the week?
Answer: It is permissible with the condition that the hole is made in a imperfect manner without using scissors or a knife. If you must, you may start the tear with a scissor or knife and then continue with your hand or teeth (see Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 9:3).

Our Rabbi with Ha-Rav Yitzchak Nissim, the Chief Rabbi

A student related: On Simchat Torah (5728), our Rabbi and the entire yeshiva danced around the Chief Rabbis as was our custom. Ha-Rav Nissim Shilt"a – Chief Sefardic Rabbi – said that he was extremely distressed by the words publicized in the name of an important Rabbi that the question of returning conquered territories is not a matter for Rabbis but for politicians and military experts, and he forcefully spoke against this idea. Our Rabbi agreed with him and said that maybe the newspapers distorted this Rabbi's words.
Ha-Rav Nissim added that he spoke with an American fundraiser for Israeli causes and told him that all of the Jews of America need to make aliyah. The fundraiser responded: If everyone makes aliyah, who will donate the money to the support the State of Israel? Ha-Rav Nissim answered: "It is written that Eretz Yisrael is the "Land flowing with milk and honey" and she is similar to a nursing mother: just as she produces milk when her children nurse from her, so too is Eretz Yisrael flowing with milk and honey when all of her children return to her – "And we can send it to America!"
Our Rabbi related to him that in the period of the Arab riots before the establishment of the State, there was a call for Jews to sign a document stating that we do not have any rights to the Kotel, and the National Committee was inclined to agree with the thinking that it would stop the killing of Jews. But Maran Ha-Rav Kook forcefully opposed it, explaining that capitulating in matters relating to Eretz Yisrael does not bring peace and security but the exact opposite. And the same applies now (this was right after the Six-Day War). (From the booklet "Arba'im Le-Binah" by Ha-Rav Yitzchak Shlita, pp. 27-28)

Shut SMS #31

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: Hasn't the time come to change the wording of "Nachem" (which we recite on Tisha Be-Av) which describes Jerusalem as the destroyed, shamed and desolate city?
A: Please come and visit our yeshiva "Ateret Yerushalayim" which is located in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the so-called "Muslim Quarter," and you will be convinced on the spot to leave it as is (since on the way you can see that much of the Old City is still in a state of destruction, shame and desolate of Jews).
Q: Is it permissible to recite Tehillim on Tisha Be-Av?
A: According to most opinions, they should not be said but postponed until the next day.
Q: Why is it so difficult to be a Jew?
A: If we do it gradually, it is easy, as is explained in Mesilat Yesharim.
Q: Does every autistic child have the ability to prophesy?
A: Rabbis have already publicized that this is nonsense.
Q: Is it permissible to draw with a pen on your body or write something on your body or is it forbidden because of the prohibition of having a tattoo?
A: It is not a tattoo since it is on the surface and temporary. It is therefore permissible if it does not draw attention.
Q: Must I give food to an animal which "asks" me, such as a cat?
A: If you are responsible for it.
Q: Is the number 13 unlucky?
A: This is a superstition of the Christians.
Q: Is it permissible for me to nurse in a place where there are people if I am covered?
A: Yes. You should be on the side as much as possible.
Q: I am not succeeding in getting married. Is it possible that it is because someone is upset with me?
A: No. There is no such thing. You should pray, repent and give Tzedakah and find a good matchmaking organization.
Q: I am completing teaching at a school and it is possible that I offended some of the students. Should I ask their forgiveness?
A: Yes, from all of them together while you say your goodbye and bless them.
Q: Is it better not to put on Tefillin at all than to recite a blessing, put them on and quickly remove them?
A: You should put them on. Even a few minutes is sufficient.
Q: "Do not speak to a woman excessively" (Pirkei Avot, chap. 1) – why is it forbidden for me to talk to my wife a lot?
A: A quality conversation – yes, but not frivolous, extraneous and tiring talk.
Q: I made a match and the couple gave me a respectable amount of money. They broke it off. Do I have to return the money?
A: Certainly, there was no match.
Q: Is it permissible to take a jog before davening in the morning?
A: No, one should not engage in his own needs before davening.
Q: Will a woman who drinks the Havdalah wine grow a mustache?
A: Nonsense. But women do have a custom not to drink unless they are alone and reciting Havdalah.
Q: I have friends who ridicule Rabbis. If I protest, they will ridicule more.
A: Do not protest, but show on your face that you object.
Q: Do three women who eat together recite the "zimun"?
A: We do not act this way.
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to be on a beach just for women when there is male lifeguard and sometimes an additional man who is not a lifeguard?
A: With a robe until she reaches the water.
Q: Can a man with long hair lead the davening for a community where everyone has normal length hair?
A: It is improper. After all this is a severe Torah prohibition.
Q: If a man accepts upon himself all of the mitzvot but continues to believe in Jesus is his conversion acceptable?
A: G-d forbid. He is a Christian.
Q: What should I do with a Book of Tehillim that I received from the Friendship Fellowship of Christians and Jews?
A: Throw it in the garbage.
Q: Can I go to a mixed beach if I remain fully clothed?
A: G-d forbid. The place itself is forbidden, and the intermingling is forbidden.

Swine Flu

[From Ha-Rav's Video Blog]

Because of the outbreak of Swine Flu, one doctor requested that we ask the public not to kiss the mezuzah on the door of the health clinic (which many have in Israel) since it may transmit the illness. If this is so, then we should also refrain from kissing the mezuzah in hospitals and, in fact, everywhere. There is no halachah that we must kiss the mezuzah. It is an expression of our love of the mitzvah. Kissing the mezuzah is not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. What is mentioned is placing your hand on it when leaving and entering (285:2 in the Rama). It is possible that there is no concern of transferring the illness by simply touching it but one should not put his hand to his mouth afterwards. The essence is not kissing or touching the mezuzah, the essence is fulfilling what is written within it as the Rambam says at the end of Hilchot Mezuzah (6:13) that one should distance himself from the vanities of time and cling to the Master of the Universe. And may the following be fulfilled through us: "Heal us, Hashem and we will be healed, save us and we will be save" (from the "Shemoneh Esrei").

The Holiness of the State of Israel

[Sefer Al Diglo #33]

Question: I have seen various times that the State of Israel is referred to as a holy entity. It is not clear to me, however, why it is not enough to say that the State is the beginning of the Redemption (Atchalta De-Geulah). Why do we also have to call it holy, something which does not seem correct in reality?
Answer: The State of Israel is a holy entity, because it is a mitzvah, as the Ramban explains that it is incumbent upon us to possess the Land, and not abandon it into the hands of other nations (positive mitzvah #4, addendum to Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam), i.e. that we are required to establish a state and a mitzvah is holy, as evidenced in the formula of the blessing, "Who sanctifies us with His commandments." Even though there are problematic aspects in the State, which need to be corrected with all our might, this does not diminish the holiness of the State, which in its essence is the dominion of the Nation of Israel over its Land. For example, the mitzvah of tzitzit remains holy, even if the man who is wearing it is discussing frivolous matters.

Davening on an angle at the Kotel

Q: Do women in the women's section of the Kotel daven straight towards the Kotel or on an angle in the direction of the spot of the Temple?
A: It is true that one must daven towards the direction of the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and the Kotel – both the men's and women's sections - are not exactly in the direction of the Holy of Holies. It would therefore seem that both men and women need to daven slightly on an angle to the left. But we see that people, including great Torah scholars, do not act this way and daven facing the Kotel. The reason is that no one in fact knows the exact location of the Holy of Holies. There are many measurements and theories regarding the location of the Temple with one contradicting the next. The custom is therefore to daven facing the Kotel. [MF – note – I once heard that Rav Aviner asked Ha-Rav Simchah Ha-Cohain Kook – born and raised in Jerusalem and currently the Rav of Rechovot – this question, and he answered: People have the custom to pray facing the Kotel.]

Placing Notes in the Kotel

Q: Is it permissible to place notes in the Kotel?
A:
1. We must first discuss if it is even permissible to place one's fingers in the cracks and crevices of the Kotel. The book "Mishkenot Le-Avir Yaakov" forbids it since it is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount when impure and the Kotel is considered part of the Temple Mount (chapter one of Massechet Tamid). The Avnei Nezer, however, permits it for various reasons, each of which is sufficient on its own:
a. It is not necessary to say that the Kotel possesses the holiness of the Temple Mount. The reason is that the gates to the Temple Mount are located in the same wall as the Kotel, and it is written that the Jews would remove their shoes in the gates before entering the Temple Mount. The gates were thus considered outside of the Temple Mount and not a part of it.
b. Even if we say that the Kotel is part of the Temple Mount, entering with one's fingers is a "Bi'ah Bemiktzat" (a partial entrance) and not considered entering.
c. Even if we say that a "Bi'ah Bemiktzat" is considered entering, it is not entering in the usual manner, since people enter through the gates and not through the walls.
d. It is not clear that the upper areas of the Temple Mount were sanctified and would thus also sanctify what was under them.
Nonetheless, there are others who are strict. For example, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would not place his fingers in between the stones of the Kotel, although he would kiss them as long as they were not sunken in.

2. Even if the Kotel does not possess the holiness of the Temple Mount, it certainly possesses the holiness of a shul. And we do not use the walls of a shul for profane purposes.

3. Regarding the notes themselves, there are discussions whether it is permissible to place a siddur between the stones of the Kotel, but a siddur is holy and a note is not. Although the Munkatcher Rebbe - Ha-Rav Chaim Elazar Spira - wrote that he had a tradition from his Rabbis that the Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh gave someone a note to place in the Kotel which said: "My sister, my dove, my wholesome one." Our notes, however, are not on the level of the Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh who wrote to the Divine Presence in the present tense! In any event, if it is permissible to put your fingers into the Kotel, it is permissible to place notes as well. It is difficult to say that it is forbidden, but if someone is unsure as how to act, we recommend that he not place notes in the Kotel, since one should be as strict as possible in matters relating to the Temple Mount and "Mora Mikdash" (awe of the Temple). There were even great Rabbis who refrained from approaching the Kotel, among other reason, based on the position of the Radvaz who said that the Kotel is one of the walls of the Temple. Even though this position has been rejected, they were strict since it is a matter related to "Mora Mikdash."

It is therefore permissible to place notes in the Kotel, but we recommend praying directly to the Master of the Universe, who does not need notes. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, had reservations about placing notes in the Kotel, and he pointed out that there is a halachic problem of "Bi'ah Bemiktzat" (a partial entrance) into the area of the Temple Mount by doing so (see the book "Rabbenu," p. 304). And when a Torah scholar mentioned to our Rabbi the custom of placing notes in the Kotel, our Rabbi said that one should not do this, and one should even refrain from putting one’s fingers into the Kotel. The Torah scholar said to him: "But this is 'Minhag Yisrael' (the custom of Israel)?" Our Rabbi responded: The word "minhag" [custom] contains the same letters as "gehinom" [purgatory]. He also said that Maran Ha-Rav Kook refrained from kissing a stone of the Kotel, which was not protruding and he was careful not to place his fingers between the stones of the Kotel (See Le-Shelosha Be-Elul 1 pg. 59 #71).

Together

- We had a daughter.
- Mazel tov!
- I decided to name her a particular name found in the Tanach.
- That's a beautiful name.
- But my wife does not agree.
- You have to figure it out, together.
- According to the Halachah, who has the right to name the child?
- Regardless, you have to do this together.
- Isn't naming a child an important matter?
- A very important matter.
- Therefore, do I have to consider my wife's opinion?
- You need to consider her opinion and she needs to consider your opinion: a marriage is built upon mutual consideration.
- But how can we do so? We have different opinions regarding this matter.
- Even people with different opinions can figure something out together. This is the heart of marriage.
- But our Sages say that in certain realms a man decides and in certain realms a woman decides. I want to know who decides regarding a name for the child.
- Marriage is not a contract which delineates who is granted authority in particular matters. Even in areas where the opinion of one member of the couple carries greater weight, you must always figure it out together.
- Regarding our question, there is no middle ground. The decision will either follow my opinion or her opinion. What then is there to figure out together?
- You must even arrive at one of these decisions together.
- If I understand what you are saying, you are suggesting that my wife and I should discuss and figure it out together.
- Yes, together.

Our Rabbi & Humility - Part 4

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

When the Beit Midrash was in the dormitory building, the women's section was close to the entrance to the Beit Midrash. They hung a sign: "Women are requested not to linger in the hallway after daveing" [in order that women and men not intermingle]. When our Rabbi saw it, he asked that the note be taken down and rewritten in a more general manner: "The community is requested not to linger in the hallway after davening," in order not to offend the honor of the women.

With all of our Rabbi's care regarding issues relating to modesty, our Rabbi was also strict about women's honor. Before Kiddush on Shabbat day, he would ask over and over: "Are all the women here? 'Women are obligated in Kiddush during the day' (Berachot 20b)."

When the doctor informed our Rabbi that he could return home from "Neveh Simchah," where for many months he was recuperating from illness, he sat on his chair for a long time, and then slowly distanced himself from his bed. When he left the room, he burst out crying and explained the difficulty in his leaving: "The Divine Presence is above the head of the ill" (see Shabbat 12b). And when he was in Hadassah Hospital, he was once sitting on a chair, and hinted that he wanted to return to bed by saying: "The One who returns His Divine Presence" (from the end of "Retzei" in the Shemoneh Esrei).

Our Rabbi visited his brother-in-law, Ha-Rav Shalom Natan Ra'anan, in the hospital and took care not to sit but to stand in awe and caution as when praying, because of the statement of our Sages: "The Divine Presence is above the head of the ill" (see Shabbat 12b). Even when he left the room, he did not turn his back, but walked out backwards.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #17

Later Additions to the Bircat Ha-Mazon
May the Merciful One reign

These requests were added at a later period to the Bircat Ha-Mazon. They express different personal wishes, and they exist in different forms. After we recall that the Master of the Universe is Beneficent and performs beneficent acts for the Nation, we add that He is the Merciful Father to each one of his children in a personal manner. This is a wonder: the first three wishes of the Jew are in fact for the sanctification of His Blessed Name in the world: "May the Merciful One reign." "May the Merciful One be blessed." "May the Merciful One be praised." Only after comes the request for a livelihood, and then requests for the Messiah. Truly, for a Jew, these exalted Divine and Messianic wishes are in his soul like the bread which he consumes.

Shut SMS #30

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Eumnah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it possible that there are Arabs free from sin?
A: Certainly.
Q: My mother is exhausted and asks me to say on the phone that she is sleeping. Is it
permissible?
A: It is permissible to lie for the sake of peace.
Q: [A woman asked:] I feel spiritually weak and am not succeeding in praying. What should I do?
A: Pray to the best of your ability, at least the morning blessings.
Q: They say that there will soon be the War of Gog and Magog and two-thirds of the Nation of
Israel will die. I am scared
A: No one knows the future. We will win this war and there is no reason to be scared.
Q: If this world is a hallway to the World to Come, why is there the Resurrection of the Dead which returns people to this world?
A: There are two Worlds to Come: 1. The eternal life of the soul after death. 2. The physical Resurrection of the Dead, and eternal life.
Q: Does one have to wash "netilat yadayim" after using the restroom?
A: This is a stringency. It is sufficient to wash your hands.
Q: They found Obama's name in the Tanach. What is the meaning?
A: It has no meaning. It is possible to find every name.
Q: A person wrote that he is the Messiah and there will soon be a war. I am scared.
A: He is not the Messiah. The State of Israel will certainly have wars, but there is nothing to fear.
Q: Is it permissible to wear a shirt with a picture of a skull?
A: One should not wear clothing which draw attention.
Q: Can a Rabbi tell if a man and woman will be a good match based on their names and birthdays?
A: These are not the deciding factors. What decides is valuing the other and love.
Q: Can a cohain study medicine?
A: Yes, it is a mitzvah. Ask a Rabbi how it is to be done.
Q: Should one honor a teacher even if he/she is not a Torah scholar?
A: Certainly.
Q: Is it permissible to download songs and movies from the internet?
A: No. There are copyright laws. It is only permissible on sites where it is allowed according to the law.
Q: Is it permissible to erase Hashem's Name from the computer?
A: Yes, this is not true writing but temporary writing, and the Torah did not discuss this type of writing.
Q: I once cheated on a test. I want to fix it. What can I do?
A: Learn the material from the test extremely well.
Q: Is it permissible to recite a blessing over artificially created perfume?
A: No.
Q: Where should I give Tzedakah: my yeshiva or another place?
A: Your yeshiva. The poor of your city takes precedence.
Q: Is it forbidden to hear a girl sing or watch her dance. How about play an instrument?
A: It is permissible with the condition that you do not stare at her. Q: Have you got a supernatural remedy for staying healthy?
A: Prayer, repentance and giving charity.
Q: As a soldier, when I come back from strenuous security operations all night, I am extremely tired and I have no strength to pray.
A: Pray a shortened prayer: Morning blessings, Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, Yishtabach to Shemoneh Esreh, and Ashrei.
Q: What is the minimum length that one’s earlocks have to be?
A: Five millimeters.
Q: Is one allowed to cook pareve food in a meat pot and then to eat it at a milk meal?
A: According to the Sefardim it is permitted, and according to the Ashkenazim it is permitted as well as long as the pot has not been used with meat in the last twenty-four hours before its present use.
Q: Should a girl recite “Modeh Ani” in masculine language or feminine language? A: Feminine Language.

Toy Animals & Dolls

Question: Is it permissible to have children's toy which are miniature models of various animals in one's home (whales, lions...)?
Answer: Based on "Do not make me" (Shemot 20:19), there is a problem to make and possess the image of an eagle, lion and ox (the vision of Yechezkel). Further, it is a problem to have images even if not used for Avodah Zarah (idol worship). In the case of a toy animal, however, it is "derech zilzul" (shaming them) and authorities therefore allow them.
Q: Is it permissible to have a doll which is a very good model of ahuman being?
A: The same applies for doll. Since a doll is thrown, gets dirty, etc., it is considered "derech zilzul" and thus permissible. Although some are strict to remove part of the doll so that it is not a complete figure.

The War of Every Mother to Stay Happy

[Translated from Rav Aviner's "Happy Women" by Chana Jenny Weisberg, creator of the "Jewish Mom Video Series" available at JewishMom.com]

G-d will help you, but in order for that to happen, you must, first of all, help yourself.
“How can I help myself?” you ask.
In every way possible. This is an all-out war, a war on all fronts, and like in the army, you must use all available weapons.

So too, in order to be happy, you must use all kosher means, and all the kosher tricks at your disposal. These tricks don’t get to the root of the problem, they will however solve it for the time being:
- Listen to music
- Read good books
- Listen to interesting classes
- Take trips and go to fun events
- Eat delicious (low-calorie) cakes
- Drink cans of juice
- Talk with your girlfriends until 3 AM (even though you still haven’t cooked anything for Shabbat)
It doesn’t matter! Your husband prefers a happy wife and a meal of sandwiches over a royal meal served by an angry and mournful wife. Food is not such an important thing. Anyway it disappears and it’s as though it never existed.
It’s much more important that you make yourself happy.

These tricks don’t solve the problems at their root and they don’t remove the difficulties and the crises…but these tricks can cause us to forget our problems, at least temporarily, so that it is possible to take care of the them. Just like the car mechanics say: “You can’t fix the engine while it’s under pressure.” First of all, we need to remove our negativity.

To make ourselves happy is a matter of life and death, literally, because happiness can add years to your life.