Understanding a Gemara in Baba Kama

Question: The Gemara in Baba Kama (52a) says: A Galilean said in front of Rav Chisda: When a shepherd is angry at the flock, he blinds the lead goat. It will fall in a pit, and they will follow it. Similarly, when Hashem wants to punish Israel, He appoints an improper leader. Is this the reason for our leadership today?
Answer: Hashem is not punishing us but is redeeming us – already 90-95% and provides us with great leaders.

Picture of Animals

Q: Is it permissible to hang pictures or poster of animals in my room?
A: There is no problem of hanging up pictures of animals, even pictures of non-kosher animals. The flag of the Tribes had pictures of non-kosher animals such as a donkey, snake, lion, etc… There are also shuls that have lions on the Ark. Chabad has a different teaching in this area. The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 25, pp. 309-311) taught that visual images have great impact on a person's mind, especially on young children: What one sees can leave lasting impressions for good or bad. Viewing sacred objects or images such as holy books has positive benefits, and pictures of impure animals harm the mind and soul. However, Rabbi Chaim David Ha-Levi – former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo wrote (Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 8:60) that there is no halachic problem of hanging up pictures of non-kosher animals since there were non-kosher images in Yechezel's vision of the chariot (Yechezkel 1:10) and there were also pictures of non-kosher animals on the Tribes' flag (Ibn Ezra on Bamidbar 2:2). He therefore ruled that it is permissible to hang them up but if one is a Chabad Chasid he is obligated to follow the Rebbe's rulings.

A Rabbi's Blessing

Q: How does the blessing of a Rabbi work?
A: There is obviously also a question on a person's prayer for himself. How can a person pray to Hashem? Does he expect to change Hashem's will? The Rivash explained this idea with a parable. A king said to one of his officers: "This man committed a crime against me, put him in prison. But if you come to arrest him and he asks forgiveness, let him go." When the criminal pleads for mercy, he does not change the king's mind. The king's will was if he acts this way, he will be forgiven. Hashem sometime decides if a person prays it will be one way, and if he does not it will be another way. Furthermore, the reason one person can pray for another is based on the idea that certain souls are unified. I can therefore pray for my son or brother. Regarding a Torah scholar, the Gemara says that it is as if everyone is his relative (see Moed Katan 25a and other places). The prayer has the potential to help him if one is not merely saying words, but truly means it.

The punishment for speaking Lashon Ha-Ra

Q: How is it possible to explain why one who speaks Lashon Ha-Ra against another has his mitzvot transferred to the person about who he spoke and receives his demerits?
A: This concept is written in the work "Chovot Ha-Levavot" (Obligations of the Heart). We do not have a source for this idea in the Gemara, but the author of "Chovot Ha-Levavot" was one of the early authorities and it seems that he received it as a tradition. It is truly a novel idea but it appears that one who speaks Lashon Ha-Ra against another causes him such great damage, pain and anguish, and the Master of the Universe punishes him in this way.

Learning Tanach "Be-Gova Einayim" - Parashat Lech Lecha

[From "Nesichei Adam"]

Those who look at Avraham Avinu as they do other people commit a grave error. This is called learning Tanach "Be-Gova Einayim" (literally, "at the height of the eyes"). This is first and foremost an intellectual error. This shows that they do not understand anything, they did not learn anything, and they did not grasp anything. They do not understand who Avraham Avinu is. The second error results from the first. It is an educational error. If we look at Avraham Avinu from the correct perspective and follow after him, we follow his light. But if Avraham Avinu is the same as us, even when we follow him, we will remain in the same place. We will not be elevated and exalted. We will not have a guide.
Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein related in the preface to the last volume of his responsa, Shut Igrot Moshe, an incident which occurred in his city in Russia. A man became ill with a horrible sickness: his tongue swelled up within his mouth, he was unable to speak and he eventually died. A day before his death, Rav Moshe came to visit him and the man asked that everyone leave the room. He had something private and of great importance to discuss with the Rav. He explained that he had given a class and had discussed Lot's older daughter who named her son Moav – from father. She was the progenitor of the Moabite People, which means that she is the ancestor of Rut, who is the great-grandmother of King David, from whom the Messiah will descend. How could it be, he had asked, that this woman, who had no shame, and therefore publicized her illicit and immoral behavior by giving her son a name that would ever recall here sinful act, was granted such honor? He spared no words in denigrating her behavior. He continued: "That night, two elderly women appeared to me in a dream. Their heads and faces were covered, and they said they were Lot's daughters. They had heard my complaint about their behavior and came from the World of Truth to convey to me a justification for their actions. Since it was well-known that Avraham Avinu, their uncle, was an individual for whom miracles were commonplace, they feared that people might say that their sons were conceived by immaculate conception. There were no men around, so how else could they have been conceived? In order to prevent another religion such as Christianity from being established by this misunderstanding, they decided to publicize the source of their conception. Their motives were pure and lofty. Since he had spoken ill against them and defamed their character, he was to be punished, just as the spies in the wilderness were punished. Their tongues swelled, and they died an unusual death." Ha-Rav Feinstein said that this seems correct. We are not speaking about the daughters of Lot. We are speaking about our great and holy people, and all the more so the giant of the giants: our Forefathers, Foremothers and ancestors in the Torah.

An escort to the Kotel for Our Rabbi

On one Shabbat during the time of the British Mandate, our Rabbi had an intense yearning to meet the Divine Presence which rests in the stones of the Kotel. But what could he do, the English placed a closure on the movement of the Jews. Our Rabbi decided to go anyway. He went to Yafo Street and began to march in the direction of the Old City. From one of the alleyways, an elderly Sefardic Jew, who looked like a Rabbi, came out to greet him. He asked our Rabbi: "Where are you going?" He responded: "To the Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi." The elderly man said to him: "Let's go together." Our Rabbi said to him: "Does his honor know that there is a closure and there will certainly be many English soldiers at the Yafo Gate of the Old City who will not allow us to pass?" The elderly man said: "When we arrive, recite with me the verses from Tehillim that I tell you and everything will be fine." They continued on together, and they saw eight soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with rifles in their hands ready to shoot. Our Rabbi said to the elderly man: "How are we going to get past the soldiers?" He said: "I told you, recite the verses with me and do not look at the soldiers at all." They recited the verses together and passed through the soldiers, and it was as if the soldiers did not see them. The Arab market was very crowded at that time and all of the Arabs moved to clear the way, saying: "This is a great master." They thus reached the Kotel.
The students asked our Rabbi how he returned and if the man waited for him. He said that the man disappeared, and returning was no problem. They also asked if he ever saw the man again. Our Rabbi said that he saw him a few times when there was a Brit Milah at "Sha'arei Tzedek" (The Hospital which originally had a building on Yafo Street with an event hall). They further asked which verses he recited, and he said that it does not matter since one cannot rely on such things even in a similar situation.
This story was once told to Ha-Rav Rafael Levin, son of Reb Aryeh Levin – the Tzadik of Jerusalem, and he said: "What? You don't know who the elderly man was? It is not clear to you that it was Eliyahu Ha-Navi?"
During the Motza'ei Shabbat classes, our Rabbi in fact spoke about Eliyahu Ha-Navi, who reveals himself throughout the generations, from the earlier generations until now – and he would emphasize – to the most recent of times. (Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet, p. 158-159)

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #29

"Hashem will bless His People with peace"
Peace will come from strength. In Elul 5690, the British and Arabs pressed us to give away the Kotel. The Arabs threatened more pogroms after those of the previous year. The leaders of the Jewish settlement were inclined to concede. Maran Ha-Rav Kook, stood firmly against them with all force. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, related the following: The leaders of the Nation trembled and claimed that we should agree for the sake of the entire settlement in the Land and in order to protect the lives of a myriad of Jews (Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 #64), as if our Master, Rav Kook, did not know the value of Jewish souls, as if he did not place all of his standing on the line in order to save one soul of Israel in the case of Chaim Arlozorov (This leading Labor Zionist was mysteriously murdered in June of 1933. When Avraham Stavsky stood to receive capital punishment for the crime, Rav Kook exerted all of his energies to defend him). Maran Ha-Rav Kook clarified, like a supreme commander, his responsible, decisive opinion that we will not ensure peace by yielding our right to our holy place. Our enemies will not back down by through this act. It is not in our hands to surrender and to relinquish our Divine ownership of this our place (Le-Netivot Yisrael, ibid., 5706 [1946], in which immense pressure was exerted on the Jewish community in Israel to concede the Land). Peace will arrive out of inner strength. And from where will we take this inner strength? From the Torah. There is no strength except Torah (Midrash Tehillim 25).

Speaking Nicely

Most of the arguments between husband and wife flow from not speaking nicely to one another. Communication is the essential glue between them. One should therefore taken great care in speaking to your spouse – without insults or sharp remarks. Speaking nicely can rectify many issues.
There are treatments for marital counseling in which the therapist does not speak with the couple, but has them sit facing one another and ensures that they speak nicely to one another. The couple then learns to speak nicely and this helps solve the issues.
This reminds us of the practice in the yeshiva of the Ramchal, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato: If one of the students mistakenly began to speak Lashon Ha-Ra, then another student, who was appointed to do so, would respectfully point it out to him, and he was obligated to stop even in mid-sentence.
If a couple acts properly, there is no need for a therapist or an appointed person. Each one should take care to speak nicely, and if one of them mistakenly does not, the other spouse can lovingly point it out.

The Goldstone Report

The Goldstone Report accuses us of not being ethical in war. If this is so, it is good news. It is a sign that the Messiah has arrived. As is known, the Messiah is accused of the exact same thing as it is written in the prophet Yeshayahu (63:1-6):
"Who is this coming from Edom, from Botzrah, with his garments stained red?" –
The Messiah's clothes are stained with blood.
"This one that is gloriously dressed, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save" – The Messiah says: What can I do? I have a role: to save people.
"Why are your garments red, like those treading the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, no one was with me from the nations" – Why are my clothes full of blood? Because I am alone. No one is helping me. You are attacking us for what we did in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Where have you been the last sixty years? Where were you during all of the wars and terror? Why didn't you yell out? Why didn't you yell when they were shooting rockets and mortars from Gaza for eight years straight? We did not have a choice but to protect ourselves.
Therefore "I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath. Their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing" – I was victorious and blood spattered on my clothing from the victory.
"For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come" – How long can we wait? How long can we suffer? How long can we sit and not respond?
"I looked, but there was no one to help. I was astonished that no one gave support" – When they strike us, no one cares, but when we protect ourselves, it is a scandal.
I am therefore letting you know "’My own arm brought salvation for me, and my own fury has sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger, made them drunk with my fury, and I poured their blood on the ground.’"
If so, the Messiah has arrived. In the Exile, the non-Jews struck us, murdered us and expelled us and we were not able to respond like a sheep among seventy wolves. But the sheep now has the strength to respond and attack the wolves. But people say: these are not the rules of the game. The sheep needs to be attacked. The victim is guilty. If there wasn't a sheep, the wolf would not eat him.
We are therefore telling the world that we are a Nation that desires life. We also desired life in the Exile, but we had little choice. We now have the choice and we choose to protect ourselves. After all, we are talking about war and we are protecting our brothers. The enemy places weapons among the civilian population: in schools and ambulances and shoots. The enemy uses the civilian population as human shields. What can we do?
Colonel Richard Kemp, a British colonel who has spent many years fighting terror, testified before the committee that there were civilian casualties and errors in the war in Gaza but the State of Israel acted to prevent civilian casualties more than any army in history. He said that Tzahal sent two million fliers and hundreds of thousands of text messages warning people where attacks would take place. 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. Tzahal canceled hundreds of missions to avoid civilian deaths. They also brought huge quantities of humanitarian aid. There is no parallel in history. It is possible that there were errors, but one must remember that the essential purpose of the war was to protect our brothers, women and child who are free of transgression.
We are a Nation who loves peace and pursues peace but when forced to wage war, we will fight. Esav loved to wage war: "You will live by the sword" (Bereshit 27:40). We do not live by the sword but we need the sword. This is called: "The clothing of Esav." When there is no choice, we wear the traits of Esav. But there are people in Gaza who are Esav. We saw what happened in Gush Katif. We left there at an incredibly high price: we expelled eight thousand Jews, we destroyed so many families, many of whom have yet to be rehabilitated and we made a huge gap in the Nation. And from the time we have left, they have not built one house or planted one tree. They have sunk all of their money into war. This says that people there think it is more important to murder us than to build their own lives. We therefore have no choice but to wage war.
The Nation of Israel is long-suffering, but we sometimes cannot suffer any longer. The Nation – those on the right and the left – were united that we could no longer take it and we know it was a just war. All of the deceivers did not see the events in their context, they did not take into account all that we did and what others do in the world. And what is the result? It unites the Nation of Israel. The enemy – whether with weapon or word – brings us closer together. Thus the Messiah has arrived who protects the Nation of Israel and unites us.

Shut SMS #41

Rabbi Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible for a convert to recite Kaddish for his biological father?
A: Yes. Shut Yechaveh Daat.
Q: Is it permissible to daven Shacharit on a beach?
A: Only when there is no choice since it is forbidden to daven in an open area.
Q: Is it permissible to use a stamp which was not marked by the post office?
A: Certainly not, it is included in the mitzvah of returning a lost object.
Q: Is it permissible to listen to a secular singer sing cantorial music?
A: No, it requires fear of heaven.
Q: Is it permissible to take a towel from a hotel? After all they charge more money since they know people do it.
A: It is certainly theft.
Q: My wedding ring was stolen. Is it a bad sign?
A: No, it is not a bad sign. If you want, your husband can buy you a new ring and make you happy.
Q: If I donate a book in someone's memory but do not write "In memory of…," is it still in their memory?
A: Definitely. The Master of the Universe knows.
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to have a nose ring?
A: It is forbidden in our days because of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" (following non-Jewish practices) which includes acts of arrogance and drawing attention to oneself.
Q: Is it permissible to name a baby after a grandmother who was killed when young?
A: We do not generally name a child after a person who died young, but it is permissible for a grandparent sine it is included in the mitzvah of honoring father and mother.
Q: Is it permissible to use a friend's pen without his permission?
A: If you are completely certain that he would agree.

Bircat Ha-Gomel for women

Q: I was ill in the hospital. As a woman, am I obligated to recite Bircat Ha-Gomel?
A: One who is laid-up in bed because of an illness is required to recite Bircat Ha-Gomel since the illness could lead to other complications. When men recite it, they do so when receiving an aliyah to the Torah. What should women do? There are three possibilities: 1. At some opportunity, like at a class, when there are ten men, she should recite it. 2. Someone should tell the Gabbai, he asks for quiet and she recites it from the women's section in shul. 3. Some women do not recite it because of the complications surrounding the issue of modesty.

"The souls they made in Charan"

Question: What happened to all of the people that Avraham and Sarah converted? Were they integrated into B'nei Yisrael or disregarded as soon as Yitzchak was born?
Answer: These people were and are the righteous non-Jews of the world. For example, there was Rachav who helped the Nation of Israel during the time of Yehoshua. They were not converted in the halachic sense since people - beside the Forefathers and Foremothers - could not become Jews during that time. Rabbi Tzadok Ha-Cohain of Lublin points out in his book "Takanat Ha-Shavim" that if this was not the cause than Yishmael and Esav would also have been Jewish. They therefore remain spread out among the world.

A kosher concern

Q: How should one act in a house in which there is a concern that the food is not kosher because the family is not observant but they say that they keep kosher?
A: It is impossible to rely on them for two reasons:
1. Perhaps there are halachot of which they are unaware.
2. Perhaps there are halachot of which they heard but they think they are stringencies.
It is possible that it is 100% kosher, but you cannot be certain.
There are therefore a few options: You can do your homework and gently check with them or you can act like Ha-Rav Eliyahu Lapian (brought in "Lev Eliyahu" vol. 1, p. 18 in the introduction) in which he was invited to eat a few times and he did not want to embarrass the one inviting him, he therefore said that the doctor forbade him from eating the particular food. And he explained to his students with a smile that he was not lying, G-d forbid, since the Rambam was a doctor! There are also many doctors in the State of Israel who say that there are all sorts of problems of overeating.

"Maaser Kesafim" from absorption package

Q: Does an Oleh Chadash who receives an absorption package have to give "Maaser" from it?
A: One must give "Maaser" from any money he receives: salary, found money, inheritance, gift, etc. An Oleh Chadash must therefore give "Maaser" from the absorption package.

Parashat Noach

[From Sichat Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit pp. 90-92, edit by Rav Aviner]

The Dubno Maggid once came to a small town. He went to minyan and there were only nine men, and the Maggid was greatly distressed. They asked him if it was permissible to count "Chaim'ke the Thief" for the minyan. He rebuked them: "G-d forbid you should refer to a Jew by this name." They went and brought him. The Magid welcomed him with great respect: Shalom Alecha, Reb Chaim. The following day, the Magid was looking for a messenger to bring some money to a nearby city. They suggested "Reb Chaim" to him. The Magid was surprised: "How can someone suspected of theft serve as a messenger for this? They reminded him that he himself honored him and called him: "Reb Chaim." The Magid told them that there is a major difference in the two cases. When you are simply talking about a Jew, it is forbidden to call him a thief, but when it comes to a practical matter, everything must be clear: is he a thief or not?

The source for this idea is found in this week's parashah. On the one hand, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said in the Gemara (Pesachim 3a): One should not speak in a derogatory manner since Hashem commanded Noach to bring the animals into the ark with these words: "From the pure animals and the animals which are not pure" (Bereshit 7:2). Instead of saying "the impure animals," the Torah was unusually verbose – and said: "the animals which are not pure" in order not to speak in a derogatory manner. This principle is quoted by the Magen Avraham (#156) as the proper practice.

On the other hand, when it comes to matter of practical Halachah, we do not employ this principle. The Rishonim point out that when the Torah lists the non-kosher animals in Parashat Shemini, it says: "the impure animals." When it comes to practical Halachah, there is a need to be clear. If a Rabbi says "Not kosher" instead of "Treif," perhaps someone will not hear the word "not."

We see this many places in the Torah. When a person stricken with Tza'arat left the camp, he called out: "Impure, impure" (Vayikra 13:45) and not "Not pure, not pure." And "Do not eat Treif meat, throw it to the dogs" (Shemot 22:30) instead of "Do not eat non-kosher meat." And the son in the Haggadah of Pesach is called "The wicked son" and not "The not righteous son."

When it comes speaking to other Jews, we must speak gently and with respect: "Reb Chaim." But when it comes to practical Halachah, we use the clearest and most direct language: "Chaim'ke the Thief."

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #28

"I never saw a righteous person abandoned, with his offspring begging for bread"

But there are many poor and downtrodden righteous people?! There are those who say that because of this we should recite this verse in a whisper in order not to embarrass a poor guest (see Siddur Avodat Yisrael, 562).
There are those who explain the meaning of "I have not seen" as "I have never seen indifference," rather I immediately exerted myself to give him food, with the understanding: "How can I bear to witness the destruction of my Nation" (Esther 8:6). But this is not the literal meaning. The literal meaning comes out from the entirety of Tehillim 37 in which our verse appears. The Psalm brings up the difficult question of a righteous person who suffers. The solution is long range. It is possible that the righteous person is hungry, but in the end his offspring will not beg for bread. The mills of Divine justice grind slowly.
Even the Book of Kohelet discusses at length the problem of the human lot which, at times, seems unfair. "Because the sentence for wrongdoing is not executed quickly - that is why men are encouraged to do evil" (Kohelet 8:11). When they see that there is no punishment for a sin, the wicked add sin upon transgression. Why does Hashem act in this manner? "Because a sinner does what is wrong a hundred times," the sinner returns to his evil ways over and over, "and He is patient with him," Hashem is patient and waits for the evil to repent. But why then is the righteous one guilty, and why does he suffer? "Yet nevertheless I am aware that it will be well with those who fear God," but this is also a good system for the righteous, "those that show fear before Him" (ibid. verse 12), in order that they serve Hashem for the sake of serving Him alone. If every evil person was immediately punished and every righteous person was immediately rewarded, it would ostensibly appear as though every person was righteous, but in truth we would only be like animals which act in a certain way to receive a treat. Since the Master of the Universe mixes up the cards of reward and punishment, one who serves Hashem does so out of an awe of heaven.

The Cost of Marriage

"Abba, how much did it cost you to get married?"
"I don't know, but I am still paying!"
Marriage is a truly constant effort from both members of the couple.
In advertisements, a precious item is sold for a small amount and only in the fine print does it mention the hefty monthly payments.
The wedding itself is inexpensive: You are betrothed to me with this ring – and the ring only need to be worth a perutah (a minimal amount). The Ketubah, however, stipulates many obligations, both daily emotion and financial ones.
One has to exert effort day in and day out! Exertion of emotion, exertion of time, exertion of effort. This is especially true for men who sometimes have the tendency to feel like a tourist at home and do not take responsibility. Someone who thinks that marriage is only romance will be sorely disappointed.
There is great effort involved, but it is so pleasant.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook's Grave

Rabbi Yaakov Filber relates that Maran Ha-Rav Kook's grave on Mt. Olives remained completely intact during the period between of the War of Independence and the Six-Day War when the area was under Jordanian control. While all the other graves were vandalized and the tombstones were uprooted by the Arabs and used for paving roads, Maran Ha-Rav Kook's grave remained untouched. He heard from reliable sources that every time a Jordanian tractor came reach the grave, the tractor would flip over. The Jordanians were struck by the holiness of the grave and left it alone. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, filled in the details. While everything around Maran Ha-Rav Kook's grave was bombed out or destroyed, his grave remained whole. An Arab worker related that they received special instructions from their superiors not to damage the grave in any way (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah #51). (Mareh Cohain of Ha-Rav Yaakov Filber, p. 139 including pictures of the untouched grave and its destroyed surroundings immediately after the Six-Day War).

Expelling the Children of Foreign Workers in Israel

Question: A storm is raging in Israel regarding the Government's intention to expel approximately 2000 children of foreign workers, most of whom were born in Israel, raised in Israel, whose friends are Israelis and who speak Hebrew. What is the Torah's view of this issue? Is it ethical to expel them?
Answer: This subject is divided into three parts:
1. Is it a good idea to bring foreign workers to Israel?
It is not a good idea. They influence many things in the country through their culture which is inappropriate in the view of Judaism. There is no prohibition of non-Jews living in the Land with the condition that they follow the laws of the State. On the whole, the foreign workers who come here are law-abiding. But we must be cautious. If we open the gates of Eretz Yisrael, we will find millions of non-Jews here tomorrow. Although we have a great desire to help humanity, our primary obligation is to strengthen ourselves here, and then we can bring a blessing to humanity. We therefore should not bring foreign workers here. There are other countries who do not bring in foreign workers since they then settle there. It is impossible to flood the country with non-Jews. It will cause assimilation. Who will do the work? The Jews need to work. Many Jews lack a livelihood, and they need to work.
2. It is permissible to oppress them?
G-d forbid! It is forbidden to maltreat another person. It is forbidden not to pay their wages. It is forbidden to steal from them. We are obligated to uphold the conditions upon which we brought them here. The men are forced to do all sorts of horrible things, and the women all the more so. This is a travesty and it is forbidden to be silent.
3. Is it permissible to expel them?
We must always uphold our commitments. If someone brings a foreign worker here for two or three years, he must follow his agreement and then the worker needs to leave, and all the more so if the worker came here illegally. No one can say that this is illegal. If I enter your house in an illegal fashion and you remove me, it is ethical.
The question regarding the children is the simplest. A child can easily adapt to a new place. Isn't Israel full of the children of new immigrants? And this is certainly true when we are talking about returning them to their native country. We must distinguish between individual morality and communal morality. It is impossible to run a country based on emotions. Everything must be carefully analyzed.

Shut SMS #40

Rabbi Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: If a person can either learn with a chevruta or daven with a minyan which is preferable?
A: Daven with a minyan. One should first fulfill his obligation and then add on.
Q: If there is a doubt, can I put a mezuzah on both sides of a door?
A: No, it will make the mitzvah look ridiculous.
Q: I have been dating a young woman for a long time, it is going well and we have decided to get married. But I ask myself: maybe I can find better?
A: No, she is the one. Believe in Divine Providence.
Q: Is it permissible to pet a house pet on Shabbat?
A: No, it is muktzeh.
Q: If all Israel has a portion in the World to Come, why should we exert ourselves?
A: 1. There is a big portion and a small portion. 2. Exert effort for the sake of heaven out of a love of Hashem.
Q: Can I buy something without a receipt?
A: No, you are aiding a thief. If you receive a discount, you yourself are a thief.
Q: Does one fulfill his obligation to ask forgiveness through a text message?
A: It depends on the severity of the offense.
Q: Is it permissible to use lipstick without kosher certification?
A: If it lacks taste.
Q: I have a stronger evil inclination than other people which makes it very difficult for me. What should I do?
A: You also have a stronger good inclination than others and, with Hashem's help, you will succeed.
Q: Is animal experimentation permissible?
A: Yes, it is for a human need.
Q: Can a son-in-law and father-in-law have the same name?
A: Some are strict, so you can add a name.
Q: My father wants something at the wedding and my finance does not. Who should I follow?
A: You and your finance should decide together.
Q: Hashem fulfilled my prayer. How do I thank him?
A: Prayer, repentance and Tzedakah.

Increasing yeshivot in the Old City

Q: Why don't we establish more yeshivot in the Old City of Jerusalem? The more yeshivot and Jews in the Old City, and the more we control it, the less riots by Arabs.
A: There were indeed many yeshivot in the Old City in the Old Settlement of Jerusalem. I heard an explanation: There is a mitzvah of "Shemirat Ha-Mikdash" (Guarding the Temple – in a spiritual sense, not a physical one). When there is no Temple, there is no such mitzvah to perform, but establishing yeshivot around the spot of the Temple is a quasi-fulfillment of the mitzvah. All of the yeshivot in Israel therefore tried to have a branch in the Old City. At the same time, we have to weigh establishing yeshivot in other places. There are places which have a lack of connection to Torah and we do not want to abandon them. We need to fill them with light. We therefore have two important goals. In fact, many times Rabbis from our Yeshiva went with their students and established other yeshivot. The last one was in Yafo and it is bringing much light there. Everything is important: Yeshivot close to the Temple Mount and yeshivot all around the Land of Israel.

Havdalah for Bar Mitzvah on Motza'ei Shabbat

Question: Can someone who becomes Bar Mitzvah on Motza'ei Shabbat recite Havdalah for himself and for others?
Answer: A Bar Mitzvah is obligated in the mitzvot, but he was not obligated on Shabbat. He should therefore hear Havdalah from someone else and all the more so not fulfill the mitzvah for others (Shut Har Tzvi #165 and Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Halichot Shlomo - Tefillin chap. 2 note #48).

Advertising trips outside of Israel in parashah sheets

Q: Is it permissible to advertise trips outside of Israel in the parashah sheets which are disturbed in shul in Israel? After all, it is only permissible to leave Israel under particular circumstances.
A: It is certainly forbidden. It is forbidden to leave Israel for a vacation. It is permissible to temporarily leave Israel to make a livelihood, learning Torah, or get married but not for a trip. We obviously do not throw stones at someone who leaves Israel for a trip, but advertising, encouraging and enticing others is a different matter entirely. I remember that there was once a letter from a reader in one of the parashah sheets which said: I don't understand – there was an article from Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu stating that it is forbidden to leave Israel for a vacation and below it there was an advertisement for trips outside of Israel. A contradiction on the same page. They answer him: There is no contradiction. The article comes from the Halachaha department and the ad comes from the advertisement department. I was not convinced by the response. How is it permissible to advertise forbidden activities? There are parashah sheets which do not advertise trips outside of Israel such as "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" of Machon Meir and "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and others. And we need to understand that they lose a lot of money since parashah sheets survive by the advertizing. There are travel agencies who organize trips both outside of Israel and within Israel and they say: You either publish them all or none. We support those who do not encourage Jews to do something which is against the Halachah even when they lose money.

Parashat Bereshit

The Torah is Optimistic
[Commentary on the Torah - Reishit, p. 24-25]

Hashem separated between the light and the darkness, and He saw that the light was good (Bereshit 1:4)! Baruch Hashem, there are good things in the world. The expression "it was good," is repeated over and over, and at the end of creation: "Very good" – an optimistic outlook. If the ancient religions of the Far East wrote the Torah, they would have written: "And G-d saw that it was bad," "And he saw all that He did and it was very bad." These are pessimistic religions. Everything is bad, everything is lost, everything lacks hope, everything is despair, the body is bad and the soul is bad.
We, however, say that the world is good. But there are so many trials and tribulations? – I know. I do not live on the moon. I noticed. I learned that Adam sinned and Kayin killed Hevel. I know that this is not exactly the Garden of Eden. But we are talking in principle – this world is the Garden of Eden. The world is good. The second day of Creation was even better, even if it is not written in the Torah. And the third day was even better still. In fact, this is the best of all worlds! But this does not happen in one day, rather in stages. And we are partners with Hashem in this work. Hashem Himself testifies that this world is good, and that it is the Garden of Eden. And if it is not currently the Garden of Eden - it is a temporary setback, and with the help of Hashem, we will succeed in freeing ourselves from it. All-in-all the world is good, the world is wonderful and the world is full of light.

Our Rabbi & Great Teachers of Israel

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

Chafetz Chaim
In the year 5681, our Rabbi traveled to Poland to meet with Rabbis and Chasidic Rebbes to convince them to join the "Degel Yerushalayim" movement which Maran Ha-Rav Kook established to infuse the Zionist movement with Torah and holiness. At that time, the Chafetz Chaim came to Warsaw, and our Rabbi, who yearned to see the splendor of the most righteous person of the generation, went to where he was staying. He found him surrounded by people. After over an hour, our Rabbi approached to take leave from him. The Chafetz Chaim asked: "Are you a local?" Our Rabbi responded: "No, from Jerusalem," and he added: "Your honor was close with Reb Eliyahu David (the Aderet), father-in-law of my father." When the Chafetz Chaim heard whose son was standing before him, his face lit up and he joyfully said: "Your honor is the son of the Rav of Zimel, the Rav of Boisk, the Rav of Yafo, the Rav of Jerusalem? Then why does he speak about his grandfather? Tell me about your father! How is he? We are old close friends."

Our Rabbi related that he heard from the family members of the Chafetz Chaim that during the late hours of the night, not exactly at midnight, the Chafetz Chaim would speak with Hashem relating the Redemption of Israel, saying: "Master of the Universe, I, Reb Yisrael Meir, also want to merit greeting the King Messiah. Please, bring the Redemption," and other such prayers. Our Rabbi would add: "It seems that there is great value in heaven to prayers such as these from great Tzadikim."

Reb Chaim Brisker
Our Rabbi would relate in the name of Reb Chaim Brisker that anyone who is not capable of closing the Gemara in order to perform an act of loving-kindness, when there is no one else to do so, is also not suited to open the Gemara to learn it! (Mi-Toch Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet vol. 4 p. 208. In the book "Gadol Shishuma" p. 15, it is related that our Rabbi said this statement in the name of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin).

Netziv
Our Rabbi related that the Netziv's wife travelled to Moscow for surgery. The students approached the Netziv and pleaded that he permit them to stop the learning in the yeshiva so they could recite Tehilim. He reluctantly agreed on condition that it would be exactly for five minutes and not any longer. He stood over them with his watch so it would not be even a half a second too late. "Stop learning in the Volozhin Yeshiva? – Don't heaven and earth exist from here!" (Mi-Toch Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet vol. 4, pp. 207-208)

Nechama Leibowitz
Our Rabbi said that she was a Torah scholar. He praised her greatly for her seriousness and fear of heaven. When she heard about how our Rabbi related to her, she felt immense respect. In contrast, our Rabbi said that her brother (Yeshayahu Leibowitz – a controversial Israeli philosopher) caused damage and was dangerous. (Iturei Cohanim #39)

Ha-Nazir, Ha-Rav David Cohain
In the middle of a class at Ha-Nazir's house, on Rechov Amos in the Geulah Neighborhood, he said to his students: "Stand up, stand up. Reb Tzvi Yehudah is passing by in the street." When they went out to the porch, they indeed saw our Rabbi Yehudah passing the house. This was the deep connection between the two of them.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #27

"Young lions may want and hunger"
What do lions lacking food have to do with us? Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, explains, that the word for "young lions" [kefirim] is derived from the word "heresy" [kefirah]. A "kofer" [heretic] is one who stumbles on heresy when it chances upon him. A "kefir" [young lion] is someone who has the trait of heresy implanted into the essence of his personality. The materialistic heretics [kefirim] are hungry, "but those who seek Hashem will not lack any good."

The Nobel Prize

Question: How should we relate to the Nobel Prize of the non-Jews? How should we relate to other prizes given out by non-Jews? Does a movie awarded an Oscar become a good and quality movie?
Answer: The non-Jews do not establish for us what is true and what is not, and they do not decide which movie is proper and which is not. The Torah is what decides which movie is good, clean, kosher and brings blessing. We received the Torah precisely for this reason. But our Sages do tell us (Eichah Rabbah 2:13): "Do not believe the Torah among the non-Jews, but do believe wisdom among the non-Jews." They possess the ability to teach scientific knowledge. See the Maharal at length in Netivot Olam, Netiv Ha-Torah (chap, 14) for the difference between Torah and wisdom. Science describes reality, and the non-Jews are able to understand this realm. The Torah describes what this world should be from an ethical, and we understand this realm. In this area, we need to give approval regarding what is proper and what is not.

Question: A scientist from the Weizman Institute won the Nobel Prize in the area of Bio-Chemistry. What does this say to us? Should we be happy?
Answer: We should certainly be happy. Although many Jews have won the Nobel Prize, we are now not only speaking about Jews but about the State of Israel. This is another indication that the Nation of Israel is returning to the Land of Israel. We are strengthening ourselves in Torah as well as in needed non-holy areas. Hashem has decided to revive our Nation in our Land. We are returning to Zion and building the Land. We established the State and the army. There is therefore also a need for non-holy matters. Non-holy matters are obviously not enough and holy matters are above them, but the non-holy is also important. The non-holy and holy are like the relationship of the body and soul. The body needs the soul and the soul needs the body. The essence is the soul, but there is also a need to strengthen the physical side of the national revival.

On the Second Day of Yom Tov

[Tzvi Kodesh, pp. 59-60]

In his youth, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, had difficulty learning without distractions in Eretz Yisrael, since he was the famous son of Maran Ha-Rav Kook. After consulting with his father and Ha-Rav Binyamin Menasheh Levin, he decided "to be exiled to a place of Torah" (Pirkei Avot 4:14 and see Igrot Re'eiyah vol. 2, letter 567 #2). He traveled to learn and teach in Halberstadt, Germany. On the second day of Yom Tov, our Rabbi would act like those who live in Eretz Yisrael regarding Tefillin and Havdalah but he would do so in private (One who is temporarily located in a different place than his home acts according to the stricture of the place from which he left and according to the strictures of the place to which he came - Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 468. He must therefore put on Tefillin in private on his weekdays, and similarly perform Havdalah in private without extinguishing the candle - Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 493 and Mishnah Berurah #13, Chayei Adam 103:4 and see Shut Orach Mishpat #157-159 at length.

Despite all of our Rabbi's efforts to conceal his ways, the matter because known to the youths because of their great interest in him. They were not experts in the laws, and they did not know that there is only one day of Yom Yov in Eretz Yisrael. They were shocked: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah is putting on Tefillin on Yom Tov! He was concerned that the matter could impinge on the holiness of the Second Day of Yom Tov, and he therefore explained to them that there is only one day in Eretz Yisrael. Afterwards he heard them saying: If there is a difference between the Jews of Eretz Yisrael and the Jews outside of the Land, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael are obviously correct because of the abundant holiness of Eretz Yisrael, and we should therefore act like them. Our Rabbi responded: On the contrary, out of the faith of the holiness of the Land of Israel, one must understand that it is not possible to have the same order in Eretz Yisrael and outside of Eretz Yisrael, and there must be two days outside of the Land. The youths were not convinced. Our Rabbi then said that we must know that there can only be definite and clear Judaism in the Land of Israel since there can only be an ordained Beit Din in Israel, while there is doubtful Judaism outside of Israel. The observance of two days of Yom Tov outside of the Land expresses the belief in the holiness of the Land of Israel. One who is satisfied with one day of a holiday outside of Israel and disgraces the Second Day of Yom Tov is a heretic regarding the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. He ended with the strong words at the end of Massechet Berachot (63) that it is impossible to sanctify months outside of Israel and to create an independent Judaism which stands on its own outside the Land.

One young man explained the words of our Rabbis that in Eretz Yisrael one day contains the holiness of both days of Yom Tov outside of the Land. Our Rabbi pointed out that the holiness of the Land is not based upon human, emotional, societal values but upon essential, Divine values, and Eretz Yisrael is the Land of Hashem (from Tzemach Tzvi, igeret 27).

Much later when our Rabbi was with Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Switzerland, he related that on the Second Day of Yom Tov when they davened with the community, his father told him to skip over some of the verses in Hallel based on the statement of our Sages (Shabbat 118b): "Anyone who recites Hallel every day blasphemes" (from Le-Shelosha Be-Elul [Mehadurat 5763], p. 54, #50).

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #26

The Holy One Blessed Be He makes peace between Michael, the angel of water, and Gavriel, the angel of fire. They are joined together, the water does not extinguish the fire, and the fire does not ignite the water. Just as there is peace in the wars between the angels and between the supreme ideas, so too will there be peace between the Jews below, who hold different opinions. Our Sages discuss the importance of peace hundreds of times. The intention is always peace among Jews. We should be willing to devote our central efforts for this goal.

Our Rabbi & Simchat Torah

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

Our Rabbi would carry a Sefer Torah that was given to him during the Hakafot until the end of the Hakafah, even if it went on for a long time. And when they wanted to make it easier for him and take it from him, he explained that a Sefer Torah is in the category of "a living being which carries itself." (Gadol Shimusha p. 91)

The davening would become longer each year. They would take the Sifrei Torah outside and go to visit the Chief Rabbis. During the dancing, the students would stop traffic and our Rabbi would justify their actions, since one must honor the Torah when it is in the street.

There was a certain street famous for the desecration of Shabbat which occurred on it. Our Rabbi went around it on Simchat Torah, and he said that he avoids walking on it on Shabbat. (Gadol Shimusha p. 96)

On Simchat Torah, even though our Rabbi was elderly and suffered great pain in his foot, he went with all of the students dancing to the Kotel. One student suggested: "Ha-Rav is tired. Perhaps he should rest a little and afterwards say some Divrei Torah." These words startled our Rabbi: "Fatigue is not in our lexicon." (Iturei Cohanim #265 in the name of Ha-Rav Tzvi Kostiner)

On Simchat Torah, our Rabbi would begin the Hakafot at eight in the morning and finish at five in the afternoon. In order to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, he would dance to the houses of the Chief Rabbis. The students would try to convince our Rabbi to shorten them, but he would not agree. During the entire time he would dance without a break, and he would encourage others with come with him, even though they wanted to end quickly and sit to learn Torah. He danced with vigor the entire time, even at the age of 80-90, and even though he had throbbing pain in his feet. One time at the end of the day when he removed his socks there was blood inside, but there was no sign of it on his face; rather he was happy the entire time. (Iturei Cohanim #265 in the name of Ha-Rav Tzvi Kostiner)
On Simchat Torah of the year 5738 or 5739, our Rabbi came to the old Yeshiva building on Ha-Rav Kook Street, without any strength, dragging his feet, and they were sure that he would not place a foot in the street. This was not so, however, andeven though in the Yeshiva he succeeded in standing with difficultly, he went from there to King George Street to the building of the Chief Rabbinate and danced four straight hours, with great strength. After a half an hour, however, the students were spent, their strength was already gone. (Iturei Cohanim #265 in the name of Ha-Rav Tzvi Kostiner)

He would not make Kiddush before the Hakafot of the morning. They explained that he acted this way because he did not want to drink wine before Birkat Cohanim of Musaf. (ibid. p. 95)

One year on Simchat Torah, the students were singing "Next year in Jerusalem." Our Rabbi stopped everyone and said: "This year!" (Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald – Iturei Yerushalayim #3)

He explained the meaning of the second "Hakafot" (on the night after Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah concludes in Israel) in two ways: 1. Identification with the Jews in Exile (who celebrate Simchat Torah on that night). 2. The state of joy towhich we reached in the string of holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret, brings us to an exalted state of joy, and this level does not end with nightfall. (Gadol Shimusha p. 119)

Shut SMS #39

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Does a single woman immerse in a mikveh before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
A: A single woman never immerses in a mikveh.
Q: Is it permissible to take iron supplements on Shabbat?
A: No. It is like all medicine and not a pressing need. Therefore, take it before and after Shabbat.
Q: Is it true what has been publicized that the War of Gog and Magog is coming?
A: Nonsense.
Q: Should we recite a blessing on gum?
A: Before but not after since it is not a large enough amount.
Q: Is it permissible to use a Shabbat elevator?
A: Yes.
Q: Is it permissible to read the New Testament?
A: G-d forbid! Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 2:4.
Q: A person entered a public pool with paying. Does he have to pay after repenting?
A: Certainly.
Q: What does "Meat Equipment" mean?
A: Parve food cooked in a meat pot.
Q: Do you have to wait six hours after it?
A: No.
Q: Is it permissible to eat "Meat Equipment" with milk?
A: For Sefaradim – it is permissible and for Ashekenazim – only if the pot in which it was cooked was not used the previous 24 hours.
Q: Can someone who ate meat eat food made on "Dairy Equipment" without waiting?
A: Yes.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that the building of the Temple is still in the distance. What is the source?
A: The Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:1-2, says that we must first establish the Kingship of Israel, then eliminate Amalek and only then build the Temple. And this is what our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, taught us.
Q: Someone seriously offended me. Do I need to forgive him?
A: No, only if he truly appeases you.
Q: Someone offended me, asked forgiveness and again offended me, etc. Am I obligated to forgive him?
A: Same as above, only if he truly appeases you.
Q: What should I do if someone is speaking during davening and it is disturbing our davening?
A: Gently say to him that our Land is expansive and please talk outside.
Q: The doctor advises hastening the birth. Should we follow his advice or trust in Hashem?
A: Since you are way overdue, his advice is correct, and you should trust in Hashem who said listen to doctors.
Q: Doesn't this confuse the order of souls appearing in the world?
A: No, this is the Divine order.

Hevel's Murder

Q: Why did Kayin tell Hashem that he was afraid that he would be killed because he murdered Hevel, when only Adam, Chavah and Kayin were in the world? Where his parent's going to kill him?
A: There are two possible answers:
1. It was for future generations. Kayin feared that Hevel's descendants would kill his descendants somewhere down the line.
2. The Sforno mentions in two places (Bereshit 1:26, 2:7) that there were other human beings who they were not created in the image of G-d in the world. Maran Ha-Rav Kook (Igrot Re'eiyah vol. 1, p. 105) also writes in the name of the Zohar (Vayikra, p. 10) that there were various other humans not created in the image of G-d which are not mentioned in the Torah (Maran Ha-Rav Kook also mentions this in Shemoneh Kevatzim vol. 1, p. 584). Kayin thus feared being killed by these creatures.

Ushpizin

Question: I have not had the custom to say the Ushpizin in the Sukkah. Is it worthwhile for me to change my custom?
Answer: It is not obligatory but a custom. This is not a difficult custom. It is worthwhile to say it if possible without taking a vow to do so (bli neder).

Volunteering in a place which desecrates Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to volunteer for an organization which desecrates Shabbat?
A: Yes, with the condition that you have no part in the desecration of Shabbat. You are not guilty for their violation of Shabbat. This is similar to what is written in the Mishnah Avodah Zarah (44b): Why doesn't Hashem extinguish the sun – after all idol worshippers worship it? Answer: We are going to lose out on the sun on because of these idiots? You volunteer for a good organization, and we should not extinguish it on account of confused individuals who desecrate Shabbat. Another example in the Mishnah: There was a bathhouse in Acco in which they placed an idol of Aphrodite. Can one bathe there? Yes – said Rabban Gamliel – she came into our domain, i.e. we did not build a bathhouse around her. There was a bathhouse and they put an idol inside. We can't bathe on account of this? Is it not that people desecrated Shabbat and an organization was built around them, rather there was an organization – and to our distress – there are people who desecrate Shabbat there. This is not something which invalidates the good things the organization does.

Connecting

It is really not good to be alone. I agree. "It is not good for man to be alone" (Bereshit 2:18).
We are no longer alone. We married. We are together.
Not exactly. The "together" can separate. This is not necessarily an eternal connection. You must connect – "And he cleaved to his wife" (ibid. 2:24) - with continuous activities: connect through words, connect through smiles, connect through gifts, connect through help, connect through discussion, connect through understanding, connect through listening, connect all the time. Perhaps it would be more pleasant if we were connected in a way that we could not separate? The world was not created this way, rather the responsibility lies upon us to build the connection (Ha-Emek Davar ibid.). The philosopher Plato tells about a couple who comes from their wedding, hugs and out of great love cannot separate, until they die from hunger. This is very moving but not so realistic. We have to exert great effort. We have to work at it. Hard work, but so pleasant.

Shut SMS #38

Rabbi Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: I am in a place without water and want to eat bread. What should I do?
A: Wrap both of your hands.
Q: Is it permissible to eat fish with milk or cheese?
A: Some are strict, but the basic Halachah is that it is permissible.
Q: Is it necessary to kasher a utensil which was cooked in on Shabbat?
A: The Mishnah Berurah requires it, but Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef does not.
Q: Does a person die only after fulfilling his mission in life?
A: Not necessarily. He dies at the time when Hashem decrees.
Q: Is it permissible to buy a Kosher product in a closed package in a store which is open on Shabbat?
A: Yes, but it is obviously preferable not to do so.
Q: Does an Amulet work?
A: Not necessarily, especially in our time.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that one should not give a boy's name to a girl or visa-versa. What is the source?
A: There is no source and it is actually not forbidden, but it is not proper to do so.
Q: How should we have a "Chanukat Ha-Bayit" (dedication of a house)?
A: The custom is that the first act in the house should be a holy one such as learning Torah or praying.
Q: I sin all the time. I get up and fall, get up and fall. I feel like Hashem is angry with me. What will be will me?
A: Be encouraged. Never despair. Everything will work out. And read "Mesillat Yesharim."
Q: When I was young, I stole little things here and there. The stores are no longer there and I do not even remember all of them. How do I repent?
A: Estimate the amount and give it to Tzedakah.
Q: Is there a source for a red string which people wear?
A: Yes, the Tosefta says that it is forbidden on account of "Darchei Emori" (superstitious practice, close to idol-worship).
Q: Perhaps we should stop answering text message questions since there are people who ask ridiculous questions and it shames the Halachah?
A: Out of 1000 serious questions I receive, there is one ridiculous one, and it is not correct to punish all the serious people because of a few stupid ones.
Q: Is it a sanctification of Hashem's Name if an Israeli sports team is victorious?
A: No. To be a sanctification of Hashem, it needs to be a mitzvah, and competitive sports are a "Moshav Leitzim" (frivolity).
Q: Is it permissible for children to participate in the second marriage of a parent?
A: Yes. There is no prohibition. It is a personal decision.
Q: Is it permissible to take medicine which does not have kosher certification?
A: If it lacks taste.
Q: My husband claims that a woman is supposed to bring the blessing of a livelihood, and since we have been married he does not have a livelihood and he blames me.
A: It is the opposite. Our Rabbis say that a husband should honor his wife and then there will be a livelihood.
Q: Should I get an amulet for the sake of my health?
A: See "Sefer Chasidim" that some amulets are nonsense and some cause damage. Therefore, you should give Tzedakah to the poor since Tzedakah saves from death.
Q: I spoke Lashon Ha-Ra about someone and he does not know. Should I tell him and ask forgiveness?
A: No, it will cause him pain. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter.
Q: Is there any value in refrain from buying German products?
A: Yes, but it is not obligatory. There are various considerations such as saving money and giving Tzedakah.
Q: What is the meaning of the stones we place on graves?
A: A sign of respect that we visited.
Q: What is the source of the term "baseless love" (i.e. just as the Temple was destroyed on account of "baseless hatred," it will be rebuilt on account of "baseless love")?
A: Maran Ha-Rav Kook.
Q: Is it permissible to read Tehillim at night?
A: Some are strict, but the basic Halachah is that it is permissible.
Q: Is it permissible to wrap parashah sheets in two plastic bags and throw them in the garbage?
A: No, they will be crushed up and mixed with the garbage in the garbage truck.
Q: Is it permissible to throw away a immodest piece of clothing or is it "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destruction)?
A: It is permissible. "Bal Tashchit" is only when destroying something for no reason.
Q: Is it permissible to charge my cell phone is a public socket?
A: Yes, it is a negligible amount and they will forgive it.

Tzitzit in the army

Q: Is it permissible not to wear Tzitzit during strenuous military exercises?
A: Only a four-cornered garment is obligated in Tzitzit. If you are not wearing a four-cornered garment, you are exempt from wearing Tzitzit. People do not usually wear four-cornered garments today, there thus seems to be no mitzvah of Tzitzit. But we should not avoid the mitzvah. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 24:1) says that it is proper to deliberately wear a four-cornered garment in order to put on Tzitzit. And this is indeed our custom. The basic Halachah is that if a man does not want to wear Tzitzit under specific circumstances, such as army exercises, it is permissible. But it is better and more proper to always wear Tzitzit during military exercises and during war. During the time of Bar Cochba, they waged war wearing Tefillin (Gittin 57b-58a), we can therefore wage war wearing Tzitzit.

"Amen" by a Women during Kiddush in the Sukkah

Question: Should a woman hearing Kiddush on Sukkot answer amen to the blessing of "Leshev Ba-Sukkah," since she is not obligated to dwell in Sukkah and the amen may constitute an interruption before the drinking of the wine?
Answer: While she is not obligated in the mitzvah, she can fulfill it. According to Ashkenzim, she recites a blessing over dwelling in the Sukkah if she fulfills it, while according to Sefaradim, she does not. There is therefore only a question according to the Sefaradim. Regardless, there is no problem of an interruprtion, since the blessing being recited is a necessary one for the person reciting it and it is not an "amen in vain."

Earrings for girls

Q: Is it permissible for a girl to have her ears pierced? What is the difference today between earrings in one's ear and earrings in other places on the body?
A: The Maharik (#88) says that the prohibition against following non-Jewish practices including acts that are arrogant and haughty. An earring in a usual place like an ear is permissible, an earring in an unusual place which draws attention of others is forbidden. It is related in the book "Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol" (vol. 2, p. 172) that the daughter of Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion) wanted to get her ear pierced but her father was uncomfortable with the idea. They agreed that they would go and ask Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and follow his ruling. When they asked him, Ha-Rav Auerbach Shlomo Zalman said, "What is your question? By us, we give the boys a Brit Milah and pierce the girls' ears."
Q: Why is piercing an ear a "usual place"? Perhaps it was not always the usual place and now it is? Perhaps an earring in another place became the usual place?
A: We follow the reality, what religious people do at a particular time, and one who deviates from that is transgressing.

Women bowing on Yom Kippur

Question: Can women fall on their knees during the Musaf on Yom Kippur since women were not located in the courtyard in the Temple and therefore would not bow? [In the book "Nefesh Ha-Rav" (pp. 214-215), Rav Soloveitchik rules that woman should not prostrate on account of this reason].
Answer: Yes. While women were not in the Temple courtyard in the times of the Temple, this is a minhag. As long as there is a modest place and she does not have a bad back, a woman may prostrate.