Go to a Marriage Counselor

Question: My husband refuses to come with me to a marriage counselor. He claims that he does not have a problem; but that I do and I should go alone. And even when he admits that he has a problem, he claims that he can solve it by himself and he doesn't need any counselors. I therefore back down since there is no benefit for me to go alone.
Answer: Do not give in, since you are suffering, as is he…and the kids. Children who grow up with tension between their parents never reach a normal state. If you want to suffer, you are mistaken. The outside world is filled with difficulties, but marriage is designed to be a quiet and pleasant haven of refuge. There is also no reason for the children to suffer. You should therefore go to the marriage counselor alone for three reasons: 1. In order to strengthen yourself so that you do not begin to think that you alone are to blame. 2. In order that you react properly during the tension, and to protect yourself and your children. 3. Perhaps the counselor will succeed in getting him to come. Giving in is a wonderful trait, but not here.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #35

"Who created joy and happiness"
In the final blessing of the sheva brachot, there are ten expressions of happiness listed: 1. Sason - joy. 2. Simchah - happiness. 3. Gilah - rejoicing. 4. Rinah - jubilation. 5. Ditzah – pleasure. 6. Chedvah - delight. 7. Ahavah - love. 8. Achavah – fraternity. 9. Shalom - peace. 10. Rei’ut - friendship.
Our Rabbis already stated that "simchah - happiness" is referred to by ten names: Gilah - rejoicing, rinah – jubilation, sisa - joy, alisa (with a samech) - joy, aliza (with a zayen) - joy, petzichah – joyful, tzahalah - rejoicing, chedvah - delight, ha-rei’ah – friendship or ditzah - pleasure (Pesikta Kama #2 on Yeshayahu 54:1). We are surely a joyful Nation: the Torah causes joy (Tehillim 19:9); "the commands of Hashem are upright making the heart rejoice;" the mitzvot cause joy, and the Master of the Universe is happy through us (Tehillim 104:31); "Hashem will rejoice in his actions."

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #34

"Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the Garden of Eden."
From where do we know that Adam and Chava were happy in the Garden of Eden on their wedding? There is no explicit verse. They explain in yeshivot that there is no need for a verse, since it is logical. Why do I need a verse? It is a logical deduction! There was only one woman in the world, there was therefore no possibility of comparing, and the first man and woman were thus extremely happy. From the moment that a man is married, he should not look at another woman, think about another woman, compare with another woman, and then he will be joyous.
The truth is that one should act this way even before the marriage. It once happened that it was the custom in a particular place for the groom to give his bride a gift after the Chuppah. One groom did not give anything, because he was terribly poor, and he saved a small amount to pay for the wedding. The bride’s friends asked her where her gift was and they mocked her, the bride turned to her groom in tears: where is my gift? He responded to her: my gift is that you are the first woman in my life, the first woman that I look at and think about, talk with and laugh with, whom I love and dream about. Do not consider this a cheap gift. It was very costly for me, it was all the days of my youth. I am not sorry. This is my gift.
Why does the sixth of the ‘sheva brachot’ end with "Who makes the groom and bride happy" as opposed to the wording in the final blessing: "Who make the groom happy together with the bride"? Rashi explained that in our blessing, we give thanks to Hashem who causes the rejoicing of the groom and the bride, each of them on their own, that He will not withhold any good from them. But in the next blessing, we give thanks to Hashem "'Who created a wedding, joining of a man together with a woman with happiness and delight,' as a result it ends ‘Who makes the groom happy together with the bride’ which means the happiness of a man together with a woman" (Ketubot 8a).

Zionism - New or Old

[Sefer Al Diglo #32]

The definition of Zionism is not that we should make aliyah and establish settlements. This was done before the appearance of Zionism, and Jews throughout all generations, from all streams and from all paths, sacrificed their lives for this purpose. Zionism is not individuals who connect themselves to the Land of Israel. The definition of Zionism is the Nation returning to its Land, cleaving to its Land, awaking from the slumber of long exile and yearning for a National life. Zionism is a state and an army, sovereignty and a government. This Zionism returned in our days as in previous days before the Exile, as in the time of the Kingship of David.

Shut SMS #46

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: How can you tell the difference between an obligation and proper behavior in the Shulchan Aruch?
A: Sometimes Rabbi Yosef Karo points it out and sometimes the commentaries point it out.
Q: Is "Mayim Acharonim" an obligation?
A: If one's hands are dirty.
Q: Is it permissible to drink coffee made by a non-Jew in Kosher utensils?
A: Yes, there is no prohibition of "Bishul Akum" (food cooked by a non-Jew) for coffee since it is mostly water and there is no problem with the water since it can be drunk without being cooked.
Q: Is "Get yourself a Rav" an obligation?
A: It is not an obligation and it is permissible to ask questions to various Rabbis, but to truly grow in Torah and fear of G-d, this is the way.
Q: Is it permissible to say "Amen" without a Kippah? What is a Kippah all about?
A: One should not daven without a Kippah or say "Amen" without a Kippah. The whole idea of the Kippah is to instill holiness and awe of heaven.
Q: How do I convince someone that the Torah is from heaven?
A: Only with something by which you yourself are convinced.
Q: Is it permissible to be drafted into the police although then will be issues of violating Shabbat?
A: It is permissible and a mitzvah. Be in connection with a Rav there.
Q: Is a person's soul his intellect?
A: The soul resides there.
Q: What should I do if I am angry?
A: Count to 10.
Q: What if it doesn't help?
A: Count to 100.
Q: People are always speaking Lashon Ha-Ra about me. What should I do?
A: Be the type of person that even if people speak Lashon Ha-Ra about you, no one will believe it.
Q: Is it permissible to daven with musical instruments?
A: Certainly not. We should daven as Jews have done over the generations.
Q: But they played instruments in the Temple?
A: We are not in the Temple.

Free bus ride

Q: A friend of mine is a bus driver. He won't take money for the fare. Is this stealing?
A: It seems like stealing unless there is a dispensation for drivers to allow their friends to ride free, but I have not heard that such a thing exists. You therefore have to insist that you pay. If he won't take it, punch your own card or rips a hole in that ride. You can also count the free rides and throw your bus pass away when you have that many rides left. It is preferable, however, to tell him that you do not want to ride for free. You can say: "I asked a Rabbi and he said it is forbidden. What can I do? – Rabbis say everything is forbidden."
Q: Do I need to report him?
A: The basic law is that you have to report him based on the law of "Do not stand by idly over your brother's blood," which also applies to saving another from financial damage. But if you report him, it will be the end of him, I therefore recommend talking to him and telling him that it is not proper what he is doing, and a Rabbi told you that you have to report him if he does not stop.

Life on other planets

Q: Is there life on only planets?
A: The Rambam in his letter to the Sages of Marseilles wrote that there are three ways to investigate an issue: through prophetic revelation, intellect and experience (Igrot Ha-Rambam, Rav Shilat Edition, p. 479). Regarding our question, nothing is explicitly written either way in the Torah or Prophets. This is not surprising since the Torah is not a science book, but a guide for what is right and wrong. In order to understand reality, we have scientific intellect, which is also a Divine gift, and there is even a blessing upon seeing a great scientist: Blessed is Hashem…who gave of His wisdom to flesh and blood (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:7). We are not opposed to the concept of life on other planets, as Rabbi Chasdai Crescas mentioned at the end if his book "Or Hashem," but we do not have any conclusive scientific proof. We are therefore left with experience.
It is amazing that over the last fifty years people have been talking about aliens. Hundreds of thousands of people have testified that they saw an alien or spaceship, but there has still not been a scientific declaration that they exist. Why is this so? No museum possesses an alien or spaceship to investigate. There is a basic scientific principle that any assumption must be examined and analyzed to prove or disprove it. Committees have been established to investigate eyewitness claims, and all of them been explained in some fashion: a plane, missile, meteorological air balloon, helicopter in fog, secret military devices, shooting star, low clouds, etc… Science does not accept anything without proof but it also does not reject anything without proof. Over fifty years of investigations and there is no decisive proof either way, but the field of science-fiction literature is booming.
A tremendous debate whether there was life on the moon raged throughout America and the world's scientific community before the scheduled manned landing by the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module. Before this "one small step for mankind" actually transpired, opinions flew as to the possibility of life in space. It was perhaps a hypothetical question until – from the most unexpected quarter – someone not from the scientific community expressed a definitive answer. This outspoken expert was none other than the Satmar Rebbe – Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum – who exerted with total certitude that there was no life on the moon. And where, many wished to know, did this scholar, not famous for astrological insight glean this information? The Satmar Rebbe said that if there was life on the moon, the Ponevizher Rav – Ha-Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, who was a most successful fundraiser for his yeshiva in Bnei Brak, would have gone there collecting!" (Builders by Chanoch Teller, p. 352).
We must remember that the Torah is not a science book. Whether there are aliens is not the subject of the Torah. Our subject is how man needs to act in this world. Science comes to describe the world. The Torah does not come to describe what is, but what should be. The Torah does not come to describe if there is life on other planets, but how to have a pure soul and to be a holy and righteous person on this planet (Maharal in Netivot Olam – Netiv Ha-Torah, Netiv 14).

Parashat Vayetze: Heavenly and Earthly

[Tal Chermon p. 69]

The ladder is Yaakov himself (Nefesh Ha-Chaim 1, 10-19), who is simultaneously both heavenly and earthly. He embodies spirituality which is used to improve the physical world, but he also lives a material existence, which is guided by the spirit. These are the two faces of Yaakov.
The vision is not static. There is dynamic movement as "the angels of G-d ascend and descend it [the ladder]" (Bereshit 28:12). They ascend to heaven to obtain nourishment from the Divine source in order to descend to earth and illuminate it. The righteous are not satisfied with a personally, spiritually, elevating experience, but they return to the mundane world and use their spiritual acquisition to improve it (Moreh Nevuchim 1, 15).
During the Akedah, Avraham Avinu reached the most awesome of spiritual heights. Did Avraham remain in his heavenly state, detached from the rest of the world? No! "And Avraham returned to his young man and they arose and went together to Beer Sheva (Bereshit 22:19)." Despite his soul's leap to terrestrial loftiness, Avraham did not separate himself in any way from his material surroundings. He returned to the young men, in their spiritual state, in order to uplift and elevate them (Olat Re'eiyah vol 1, p. 96).

Our Rabbi & the Honor of Women

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

Our Rabbi gave classes for the yeshiva students at his house, and they set up an amplification system into the apartment next door so that the women could hear. There was sometimes a problem with the system and our Rabbi would wait until they fixed it. He would explain that for the honor of women he was obligated to delay so that they could also hear.

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)."

Our Rabbi would instruct his married students that there was also an obligation to provide their wives with spiritual food. In contrast to the general thought that women are exempt from learning Torah, he would emphasize with a smile that this does not apply to learning about faith: "Is faith a time-bound, positive mitzvah?..."

When the Beit Midrash was in the dormitory building, the women's section was close to the entrance to the Beit Midrash. There was a sign: "Women are requested not to linger in the hallway after davening" [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.

Our Rabbi was extremely particular not to stare at women. Even when a woman came to him for a long conversation on important matters, he listened to her carefully and responded warmly – his sight was always to the side. The same was when he gave a class to women. He would stand for a woman who was a Torah scholar, but he would not directly look at her. (Ha-Rav Eliyahu Mali – Iturei Cohanim #176)

Medicine – Scientific or Imaginary

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Lech Lecha 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Where do you draw the line between conventional medicine and alternative medicine? If people accept the latter, doesn’t it turn into conventional medicine?
Answer: No. Even if the masses accept it, it will still be “alternative,” just with the masses being misled by it. The question is this: Has a particular medical approach been proven scientifically or not, i.e., via experimentation and observation?

Question: But the fact is that alternative medicine works in many cases!
Answer: From a scientific perspective, that is not a bare fact but a fact with an explanation. We are happy that the patient was cured, but one has to make certain that there were no other causes to his cure. For example, there was a black plague two hundred years ago, and, in Turkey, mothers would remove puss from a patient’s abscess, rub it on a knife and make cuts in their other children, to confuse Satan into thinking that those other children had already been smitten by the disease, so that he would leave them alone. The method succeeded. Does that prove that acting against Satan works? Rather, the physician Dr. Edward Jenner ran experiments and proved the vaccination method.

Question: What do I care if the explanation is wrong? Isn’t the main thing that the method works and the patient gets better?
Answer: There is another possibility that such treatments achieve a psychological effect, a “placebo.” In other words, the patient’s belief in the treatment causes the brain to excrete painkillers so that the person feels good. One has to conduct an experiment in which a control group receives a sugar pill while a second group receives the alternative treatment, with neither the patients nor the physicians knowing which group has received which, and one has to prove that the alternative treatment works better than the sugar pill.

Question: What do I care if the treatment works like a placebo as long as the patient fells good?
Answer: Because only the external signs are cured and not the sickness itself, which is liable to get worse, and real medical treatment is thus prevented. For example, alternative medicine kills the pain caused by cancer, but the cancer continues to spread. There was a case in which a homeopathic doctor was convicted in court because he prevented the desirable treatment from being applied. One also has to make sure that the treatment does no harm.

Question: With scientific medicine, not everything has been totally proven either. The fact is that it undergoes change.
Answer: That’s only true regarding the details, but the general theory has been proven. Quite the contrary, the fact that there are changes proves that scientific medicine is always examining itself, criticizing itself and correcting itself. Not so the vast array of imaginary treatments based on the assumption that there are “life energies” whose existence has never been proven. Rather, they are a vestige of the paganism of the Far-East.

Question: But alternative medicine has been introduced into the health clinics and hospitals. Doesn’t that mean that when all is said and done they’ve admitted that it is true?
Answer: No. It’s a calculation of economics and responsibility. Alternative medicine brings in a lot of money that can be used for real treatments. They also employ a responsible approach by which they do not stop the scientific treatment.

Question: Some argue that scientific medicine itself is not so scientific, and that genuine treatments are rejected because they are expensive and unprofitable.
Answer: True, there are cases of physicians chasing after money or honor as in any other profession on earth. Yet since the scientific approach is based on constant self-criticism, distortions will not last long and ultimately the truth will shine forth. This is not the case with illusory medicine that for hundreds of years has been based on false assumptions such as “energies,” which have never been proven in a genuine manner to be more effective than placebos.

Question: How can one argue that such treatments are placebos? They work even on animals that don’t know their right paw from their left?
Answer: The animals trust their masters. The animals’ behavior, health-wise, is influenced by the psychological state of their owners.

Question: So with infants as well, you’ve got to interrogate the parents to neutralize the placebo’s effect?
Answer: That’s, in fact, what we do. Obviously, a simple placebo is much cheaper than any illusory medicine, which likewise causes much harm.

Question: It’s true that there are cases in which alternative medicine doesn’t work, but there are reasons for that…
Answer: The great principle of scientific investigation is the principle of refutability. In other words, the researcher who suggests a hypothesis has to provide a definitive experiment, such that if he fails, his theory is wrong. Yet imaginary medicine always views itself as right and it always has an excuse for everything, such that it cannot be substantively refuted. For example, here is what happens in homeopathy:
- The situation has improved – a sign that the treatment is working.
- The situation is getting worse – That’s a good sign, because the body is being cleansed of poisons.
- There is no improvement – but at least the treatment has stopped the deterioration.
- The patient died – because the alternative treatment was introduced too late, after scientific medicine ruined everything.

Question: Two hundred years ago, a cholera plague broke out in Europe. In the homeopathic hospitals, only 18% died, whereas three times as many died in the regular hospitals.
Answer: This is known. It was due to the lack of hygiene in the regular hospitals, which caused the disease to pass between patients. Today conventional hospitals are clean. 0% die of this disease, whereas in homeopathic hospitals the rate has remained at 18%.

Question: How can alternative medicine be deemed imaginary if it hasn’t been investigated?
Answer: It’s all been investigated. Every medical treatment on earth, including folk remedies, has been investigated.
Nostradamus’s prescription against the plague was investigated by the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Researchers risk their lives in uncivilized areas of the world to hear from witchdoctors how they cure using herbs, to ascertain whether or not there is any truth to it. Nothing is rejected. Yet nothing is accepted without proof. In 1985 the French Health Minister gave orders to investigate the efficacy of homeopathic treatment following operations in the stomach cavity. 600 patients from twelve hospitals were divided up into four groups. Two groups received different medicines chosen by homeopathic physicians, and two groups received placebos, with neither patients nor physicians knowing who was receiving what. There was no difference between the four groups!

Question: Where in the Torah does it say that we have to use scientific medicine?
Answer: Our great master, Rambam, explained that there are three reliable sources to man’s knowledge: 1. The intellect. 2. Experience. 3. Prophecy (Igrot Ha-Rambam, Rav Shilat Edition, p.479). Likewise, the Talmud states several times: “What do I need a verse to prove this? It can be understood logically!” Since we have no code of Jewish Law from Heaven regarding medical matters, what remains is the intellect and logic. With anything else, we are faced with the Torah prohibition against “following the customs of the idolators” (Vayikra 18:3. See Tosafot on Sanhedrin 52b and Tosafot on Avodah Zarah 11b). Indeed, there are about 150 methods of alternative medicine and almost all of them are based on ancient ideologies of the Far East, China, India and Tibet, even if they have been translated into modern terminology. These have not been based on controlled experimentation. Rambam wrote that the forbidden “ways of the Amorites” are practices not dictated by natural investigation, but are corollaries of sorcery (Moreh Nevuchim 3, 37). Heaven help us!

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #33

On the Sheva Berachot – "Let the barren city be jubilantly happy"

Just as there is a bond of marriage between a man and wife, this relationship also exists between the Master of the Universe and the Community of Israel. According to Rashi's commentary, the entire book of Shir Ha-Shirim is an allegory based on this idea, and it describes the great love story between Hashem and His Nation, love that is not dependent on anything from both sides. When we sin against Hashem, He continues His bond with us; and as we are required to sacrifice our lives for Hashem's Name, we remain faithful to the Master of the Universe. The groom and bride bind their individual joy with the great hope of the Nation of Israel: "Let the barren city be jubilantly happy" as it says: "If I do not elevate Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Tehillim 137:6). Rabbi David Abudraham wrote: "This blessing was established relating to the rejoicing of the future Jerusalem, which is compared to the joining of a groom and bride, as it says: ‘As the groom rejoices over the bride, so shall God rejoice over you’" (Yeshayahu 62:5). We are fortunate that we have merited that in our days the love is coming with the return to Zion, the building of the Land, the establishment of the State and the return of the Torah of holiness to the Holy Land.

Shut SMS #45

Ha-Rav Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah," "Olam Ha-Katan" and "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah." Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to knit words on a kippah?
A: As long as it does not draw attention and not verses from the Tanach.
Q: A bride found out a few days before the wedding that the groom had emotional difficulties and canceled the wedding. Is she obligated to pay the financial damages?
A: No, it is obvious that she would not have agreed if she had known. On the contrary, the groom's family should pacify her and compensate her for her pain and suffering.
Q: What should I do if my aunt wants to kiss me?
A: Avoid it, using wisdom.
Q: Is it permissible to repent on Shabbat? Perhaps it impinges on the joy of Shabbat?
A: It is certainly permissible.
Q: Is it permissible to visit the Temple Mount.
A: No. The Chief Rabbinate forbids it.
Q: Is it permissible to have a male coach for girls' basketball?
A: Certainly not, and we see that Religious girls' school have female gym teachers.
Q: Does a husband have to be taller than his wife?
A: No.
Q: If a Brit Milah is on Shabbat and many of the guests will drive, should it be postponed until Sunday?
A: Yes. Yalkut Yosef.
Q: Does Halachah require one to wear a seatbelt?
A: One is obligated according to the Halachah and the law.
Q: But Hashem protects…
A: This is a nonsensical claim, dangerous nonsense.
Q: Is it permissible to write on one's hand in order to remember something or is it like a tattoo?
A: It is permissible, since it is not deep in the skin and it is temporary.
Q: Is it forbidden to smoke light drugs?
A: There is no such thing as light drugs. All of them are heavy. It is forbidden according to Halachah: Rambam, Hilchot Deot chap. 4 and the law: one can be put in prison.

Trying perfume in a store

Q: Is it permissible to put on perfume in a store if you know that you are not going to buy there?
A: It is certainly stealing. They allow people to try a little of the perfume to check whether they are interested in buying it. If you know that you will not buy it, they do not grant you permission. Furthermore, if one enters a store and takes interest in item but does not want to buy it, he violates "genivat da'at" (deception), since the salesperson has false hopes that you will buy it. It is permissible, however, if the salesperson insists that you try the perfume. There are often people in the supermarket offering tastes of food or drinks. If someone offers and you say: "I am not interested. I am not going to buy it," and they say: "Try it anyway," there is no problem since they hope you will like it. It is, however, forbidden if it is on your initiative but you do not plan to buy it.

One Sink

Q: How should one act if he only has one sink?
A: There are three options: 1. Wash dishes in the air. 2. Place a rack on the bottom of the sink – one for milchig and one for fleischig – and wash the sink in between. Be careful not to have the utensils touch the bottom or sides of the sink. 3. Place a plastic tub in the sink – one for milchig and one for fleischig – and punch holes in the bottom to allow the water to flow out. Be careful to line up the holes with the drain so that the water which touches the sink does not flow back into the tub.

Blessing one's children

Q: Is it permissible to bless one's children before Shabbat if they will not be with us on Shabbat?
A: It is certainly permissible to do so before hand.

The Law of Return

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about the Law of Return (allowing all Jews to immigrate to Israel)? Two Olim Chadashim recently performed horrible crimes.
A: The Law is certainly a great mitzvah. This Land belongs to the entire Jewish People. We must allow all Jews to return and aid them. It is true that sometimes problematic Jews come to Israel, but everything must be judged by its majority, and we should not belittle this great and holy law on account of a few people.

Parashat Toldot: Sanctifying Hashem's Name in the Field

[Tal Chermon p. 58]

When Esav and Yaakov grew up, their different roles became apparent: "And Esav became a man knowledgeable in hunting, a man of the field, and Yaakov was a wholesome man who dwelled in tents" (Bereshit 25:27). Esav was not simply "knowledgeable in hunting" but he was a "man knowledgeable in hunting." His essence was to be a man of the field, a man of this world, a man who courageously confronts wild animals. Yaakov's essence was as a "wholesome man who dwelled in tents." It is possible that he also knew how to hunt; he was able to do so, but it was not an integral part of his nature. His essence was as one who "dwelled in tents," learning Torah and involved in spiritual matters. Esav's role was more difficult. It does not take great wisdom to sanctify Hashem's Name in the yeshivah; there are not many potential pitfalls there. But to contend with all of the world's complications and to overcome them is a great sanctification of Hashem's Name (There is a Chasidic interpretation of the midrash describing Esav's kicking to leave his mother's womb as he passed by sites idol worship which explains as Esav's attempt to sanctify Hashem's Name in the midst of idolatry). Esav was a courageous warrior, who was "a man knowledgeable in hunting," fighting against the wild animals in the field of reality and overcoming them.

Our Rabbi & Honoring Torah Scholars

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


Our Rabbi immensely loved every Torah scholar. He would mention a Torah scholar with an awe of holiness and rejoicing of the heart. When he met many Torah scholars, whether or not they were his students, he would hug and kiss them – just as Yehoshafat, King of Yehudah did (Ketubot 103b). He rejoiced in their honor, and was distressed when they were the subjects of derision or worse, when they scorned others. He was exceedingly severe with one who shamed a Torah scholar, and would not be silent until he objected, even with Torah scholars who stumbled in this matter.


Our Rabbi stood before his students who were Torah scholars, and would say that the honor of Torah scholars requires one to be fastidious.

Our Rabbi honored every Torah scholar, even he if he disagreed with him, and he instructed his students to act in the same manner. When he heard a student repeat an expression which he himself had used disagreeing with another Torah scholar, he chastised him: "That which is permissible to me is not permissible to you." Occasionally when he thought that a Torah scholar erred, he spoke harshly, but on subject and with respect.
[In this context, our Rabbi relied on what is related in the book "Keter Shem Tov" that the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, had a fierce opponent, Rabbi Nachman of Horodneko, who would constantly criticize him. One time that same rabbi heard his students speaking against the Ba’al Shem Tov, and he castigated them, saying, "How dare you speak that way against a holy man!" They responded, "But you yourself spoke out against him." He then replied with exceeding severity, "The way that is permissible for me to speak is not permissible for you." He then told a story of two craftsmen who worked together for twenty years in order to fashion the king’s crown. In the end, when the time came to set the diamonds in the crown, one said it should be one way and the other countered that it should be another. The argument grew in intensity until one craftsman called the other an idiot. A passerby who witnessed the argument injected his own words and called the man an idiot as well. The first craftsman, who had called the other an idiot, then said, "Are you aware that we are friends and that we have worked together for twenty years, making the king’s crown? Our lives depend on this last detail, and that is why we are expressing ourselves so sharply. But you! Have you lifted even a finger for the king’s crown? Have you ever in your life seen the king? YOU are the idiot!" Even when Torah scholars argue over Halachah, we - the insignificant - must stand in fear and awe and honor them all.]

In all of his stories about his experiences with people, he had a completely different style of relating to Torah scholars. "Torah scholar" was the most important of titles in his eyes, without any distinction which group he was connected.

During a class, when our Rabbi saw a Torah scholar standing in the outer room, he would call to him to enter and to sit close to him, and would say: "There is room," even though the bench next to him was full. He once explained that onemust honor a Torah scholar and make room for him.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #32

On the Sheva Berachot – "Who created the man in His Image"
What is the image of God? The Rambam explained at the beginning of the Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed) that this is the human intellect. We have emotion as well, but animals also have emotion. And, on the contrary, what causes the human emotion to be exalted higher than the emotion of angels is the human intellect which refines and purifies that emotion. Both man and woman are in the image of God, both of them are bearers of intellect. This obviously does not refer to basic intellect which is required to fix an object, but to the highest form of intellect which is utilized for ethical and spiritual matters to reach a knowledge of Hashem. This is the fundamental equality of a man and a woman - both of them were created in the image of God. There are all types of physiological and psychological differences, but these are completely offset compared with the common denominator. There are even differences between the intellect of a man and the intellect of a woman. On the one hand, there is a certain advantage to the male intellect in that it is not especially intermingled with emotion; the constitution of a woman is therefore weaker than that of a man (Shabbat 33b). On the other hand, there is a certain advantage to the female intellect in that it is more intermingled with emotion, the understanding of a woman is therefore greater than that of a man (Niddah 45b). There is a difference, but do not forget the common denominator. It is therefore not enough for a couple to love one another, they also need to value each other as being a bearer of intellect.
At the end of the Moreh Nevuchim, the Rambam returned to these words, a part of which is brought by the Rama in his introduction to the Shulchan Aruch: The way that a person acts when he is alone in his room cannot be compared to the way that he acts in front of a great king. But, behold, a person is constantly in a state of being in front of an awe-inspiring king, his intellect, the Divine spark which is in him, which attaches him to the Master of the Universe.

Happiness in Marriage

Question: I am not happy in my marriage. Every time I ask my husband to do something it causes endless arguments. What should I say to him?
Answer: Happiness is not something we receive but something we give. If you give, you will be happy. And the greatest kindness you can give is not with your mouth but with your ears. In order to make him happy, you have to listen to him. Obviously, you should not listen with impatience but with affection and understanding. And when you listen to him, speak to him about things which interest him.
It is true that he is sometimes quiet, but his silence also says something, and you must translate his silence into words. It is for this reason that Hashem gave women nine kavim of speech, so you can pleasantly express his words. In fact, you should think ten times before you say something unpleasant.
And regarding your unfulfilled requests for help, we hope that when you create a pleasant atmosphere, he will soften and come towards you. We hope. If not, we will consider it again.

Twenty-one Questions about the Messiah

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Chayei Sarah 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

1. Q: What will be the Messiah’s task before he becomes the Messiah?
A: He will be king (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:1).

2. Q: Will he really be king, or just in a symbolic, metaphoric sense, like a Torah scholar?
A: He will really be king – the king referred to in the ten chapters of Rambam’s Hilchot Melachim.

3. Q: What will his job be?
A: To restore the David monarchy as of old (ibid. 11:1 elaborates).

4. Q: How will we know who he is?
A: He will have to fulfill six criteria: 1. Be a king. 2. Be from the Davidic line. 3. Be a Torah scholar. 4. Observe the mitzvot. 5. Compel the nation to observe the mitzvot. 6. Fight G-d’s wars (ibid. 11:4).

5. Q: How will he compel mitzvah observance?
A: Like any king who passes laws and makes certain they are fulfilled.

6. Q: What are “G-d’s wars”?
A: Real wars like King David fought: “The first Mashiach [anointed one], King David, saved Israel from their enemies. The last Mashiach, who will emerge from David’s descendants, will save Israel from Esau’s descendants” (ibid. 11:1).

7. Q: Can you elaborate?
A: Rambam wrote (ibid. 4:10): “The king’s intent and goal shall be to exalt the true religion, to fill the world with justice, to smash the power of the wicked, and to fight G-d’s wars. For ideally, we do not crown anyone king unless he is prepared to pursue justice and war, as it says, “Our king will judge us, go forth before us and wage our wars” (Shmuel 1 18:20). Likewise, [David’s wife] Avigail said of David that he fought G-d’s wars (ibid. 25:28).

8. Q: If someone fulfills these six conditions is he the true Messiah?
A: No, he is then the “presumed Messiah.” In other words, as he has fulfilled the six prerequisites, we relate to him as the Messiah until it becomes clear whether or not he really is (Hilchot Melachim 11:4).

9. Q: What conditions must be fulfilled for him to become the true Messiah?
A: There are four conditions: “1. He was successful. 2. He vanquished all the surrounding nations. 3. He built the Temple. 4. He gathered in the dispersed of Israel. Then he is the Messiah for sure” (ibid.).

10. Q: And if he failed, is he then a false Messiah?
A: No. Whoever has fulfilled the six conditions is a reputable king (ibid.).

11. Q: Today, do we have a true Messiah?
A: No. No one has fulfilled these four conditions.

12. Q: Is there anyone who is the “presumed Messiah”?
A. No. Neither is there anyone who has fulfilled the six conditions of the presumed Messiah.

13. Q: When will the Messiah come?
A. We don’t know. “One should not calculate the end. Our Sages said, ‘Blasted be those who calculate the end” (ibid. 12:2)

14. Q: How will the Messiah look and how will he operate?
A: No one knows exactly. “Regarding all such matters, no one will know how it will be until it happens” (ibid. 12:2).

15. Q: Won’t the Messiah bring the Jewish People to repentance?
A: He will lead the Nation according to the Torah (ibid. 11:4). The one who will bring them to repentance is Eliyahu the Prophet (ibid. 12:2).

16. Q: What known figure is similar to the Messiah?
A. King David (ibid. 11:1).

17. Q: Is there another example?
A. Bar-Kochba, whom Rabbi Akiva and all the sages of his generation said was the Messianic King (ibid. 11:3).

18. Q: But he wasn’t?
A. He was the presumed Messiah, but not the true Messiah. When he unfortunately died, it became clear that he was not the Messiah (ibid.).

19. Q: Does the Messiah have to perform miracles?
A. No. One proof is that Bar Kochba was not asked to perform miracles. Otherwise, they would immediately have declared that he was not the Messiah (ibid.).

20. Q: What must we do to bring closer the Messiah’s advent?
A. We must become stronger in good traits -- kindness, the fear of G-d, Torah learning, observance of all the mitzvot, those between man and G-d, those between man and man, those associated with agriculture in Eretz Yisrael and those associated with building the Land, Shabbat, Kashrut, loving one’s fellow Jew and going to the army, study of Halachah and study of faith.

21. Q: Will this take time?
A. We don’t know. We await the Messiah whichever day he comes (Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith and see Hilchot Nezirut 4:11).

Mention on Hirhurim Blog

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http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/search?q=Aviner

Shut SMS #44

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 good idea to get life insurance?
A: Yes, it is protection for one's family.
Q: What is the source for generously paying a matchmaker?
A: It is a tradition. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 264:7 in Pitchei Tehuvah.
Q: What did they learn in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever?
A: The Mitzvot of Bnei Noach. General ethics.
Q: Is a Mohel required to check the baby after 24 hours?
A: In the majority of cases, he checks within 24 hours.
Q: Does a child have to wear Tzitzit which are kosher?
A: Kosher without stringencies.
Q: Should the small amount of dough separated for "challah" be burnt?
A: Yes, but not in the oven or it will make the oven treif. You can also place it in two plastic bags and put it in the garbage.
Q: Is it permissible to babysit on Shabbat?
A: Yes.
Q: Is it permissible to use baby wipes on Shabbat?
A: Yes, it is not considered squeezing.
Q: Is it permissible to teach a non-Jew Torah?
A: No, only the seven mitzvot incumbent upon non-Jews.
Q: Is it true that the Messiah has already arrived?
A: No, since the Messiah is the King of Israel who is involved with Torah, leads the Nation according to the Torah, and leads us in war (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:4), and we have yet to reach this point.
Q: When will the Messiah arrive?
A: It is forbidden to make calculations (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 12:2). We wait every day.
Q: I know that it is forbidden to copies disks, but is it permissible to borrow one from a friend?
A: Yes.
Q: Is it permissible to draw the sun?
A: Some authorities permit it. Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah and Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Shut Da'at Cohain.
Q: Is a separate men's and women's SAT class preferable or a mixed one at a higher level?
A: A separate one since fear of G-d is above everything.

Man on the moon

Q: Is one obligated to observe the mitzvot on the moon?
A: This question is discussed in the book "Man on the Moon" by Ha-Rav Menachem Kasher (pp. 51-55). It is clear that a person is obligated to perform the mitzvot on the moon. The Torah preceded the world, and not only are we obligated to observe it in Eretz Yisrael and everywhere in the world, but everywhere in the Universe as well. If there were plants of the moon they would obviously not obligated in Terumot and Ma'asrot. It is outside of the Land, but one is obligated in the mitzvot there. How to calculate the times on the moon is a serious question. The halachic authorities have already discussed this issue regarding the North and South Poles, and solved it by using extrapolation, i.e. we can calculate the times there by using the times from place where we do know the times. But the moon is outside of time. The Rabbis therefore rule that a person should continue to follow the time from the place from which he departed. Based on this, it is possible that different people in a space station or on the moon who came from different places will be observing different times. This question has also already been discussed regarding the international date-line. As is known, during World War Two, the students of the Mir Yeshiva escaped and went to Shanghai. There was a dispute when Shabbat should be observed: Saturday, Sunday (because it was over the date-line) or on both days because of the doubt (Ha-Griz of Brisk and the Chazon Ish ruled it should be observed on Sunday and Rav Tikochinsky said that it should be on Saturday). The dispute is whether the International Date-Line is 180 or 90 degrees east of Eretz Yisrael. It is thus possible that different people on the moon are observing different times whether for Shabbat or for day and night.Rav Kasher also writes that one loses performing the mitzvah of Kiddush Levana on the moon. How can one recite it if he is standing on the moon? Ha-Rav Menasheh Klein in Shut Mishneh Halachot (6:259) was asked: Is it permissible to recite Kiddush Levana when people are standing on the moon since it may appear as if you are saying a blessing to them? He answered: Yes, there is no difference (but he writes that it is forbidden to travel to the moon since there is no suitable air and it is dangerous). And it is written in Nefesh Ha-Rav (p. 79 note #7) that one Rabbi said that after man landed on the moon the words "I dance before you [the moon] but cannot touch it" in Kiddush Levana should be changed, but Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said that the intention is that one cannot touch it during the recitation of the blessing since one is on the earth and it certainly should not be changed. Rav Kasher was also asked: Is it even permissible to step on the moon since we say Kiddush Levana and the moon is thus used for a mitzvah (Tashmishei Mitzvah) and it is forbidden to denigrate an item used for a mitzvah? He answers that the moon was not only created for the sake of saying Kiddush Levana. It has an independent value. One can also ask: Is it permissible to step on Eretz Yisrael, since it is a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael and it is thus used for a mitzvah? I see people walking on the Land of Israel since that is also part of the mitzvah, as it says: Anyone who walks four amah (6 feet) in the Land of Israel is ensured on life in the World to Come (Ketubot 111a).

Fieldtrip before morning davening

Q: Is it permissible to begin a fieldtrip (tiyul) at daybreak and daven an hour or two later?
A: No, it is forbidden for a person to involve himself with his own matters before davening. It is therefore forbidden to begin a fieldtrip from the moment one is required to daven, even according to the earliest possible opinion. One should daven and then enjoy the trip.

Acquiring Territory in the Land of Israel

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 4 #54. Originally delivered on the radio program "Kabbalat Shabbat" which was dedicated to Beit El]

In the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah we read about Avraham Avinu purchasing the Cave of Machpelah in Hevron. We can ask ourselves: what does this story have to do this us? What do we learn from it for our lives?
Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, explained that we must view the history of our ancestors in light of the great principle "The action of the fathers is a sign for the children" (Ramban to Bereshit 12:1, Tanchuma - Lech Lecha 9 and Sotah 34a).
The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah marked the beginning of our settlement in the Land of Israel. The fact that Avraham Avinu acquired this first piece of land with money is of great significance, for he was a great warrior when necessary, and thus could have acquired the land through force. And so we learn that, of the various methods of acquisition enumerated by Halachah, money was the first to be used in the attainment of our Land. Indeed, so many generations later, Theodore Herzl too began the acquisition of our Land through monetary channels: the Bank of the Land of Israel, one of his earliest endeavors, was established not for individual matters, but for the settlement of the Land. Purchasing its stocks was a mitzvah, and the project itself provided a model for the activities of the Jewish National Fund.
Crucial to our understanding that "the action of the father is a sign for the children" is the idea that our forefathers were not separate entities from their children, but rather, formed a continuum with them. They were the foundation of Klal Yisrael. Their actions are "signs" for their children, i.e. for us, because we are in fact one entity with them. We are bound together, sharing a single essence which flows throughout time, from one generation to the next. When we learn about our forefathers and their actions, we learn about ourselves and our actions, which are one and the same.
This idea has its source in the words of our Talmudic Sages, who explained the Divine command to Avraham Avinu: "Arise, walk in the Land, its length and its breadth, for I am giving it to you" (Bereshit 13:17). This journey through the Land of Israel, Our Sages teach us, was not designed to signify Avraham Avinu's individual inheritance of the land ("I am giving it to you,") but rather to ensure that the Land would be easily conquered by his children (Baba Batra 100a). The father and the children are one entity: the promise to one includes the promise to the other.
It is clear that this Divine decision, "I gave this Land to you," marked the beginning of our connection to the Land of Israel. This Land is ours. It is an absolute, divinely decreed fact which is unchangeable. It is through our own efforts, however, that this connection is realized. Avraham Avinu brought into reality the Divine decree "I gave" by acquiring the Land with money. This action of our forefather was "a sign for the children" in the period before the establishment of the State of Israel, and continues to be "a sign for the children" in our day.
Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, explained in his speech about the Jewish National Fund, that our right to the Land was never annulled; not our right as individuals, and all the more so, not our right as a Nation. As a loyal, righteous Nation, however, we aspire to conquer our Land in a just and faithful manner. Whenever possible, we do not conquer through strength and sword, but, rather, through peaceful means: we are thus willing to pay huge amounts of money for every piece of our Land (Ma’amrei Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 1, p. 252).
We were and we are. With Hashem's help, may we merit to continue the work of Avraham Avinu.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #31

On the Sheva Berachot –
"Creator of the man"

What is the difference between this blessing and the next blessing "Who created the man" etc...? Rashi explains that this blessing, "Creator of the man," relates to the first creation of the first man and "Who created the man" refers to the second creation (Ketubot 8a). The original man was created in two stages. Before anything he was created alone, but since "It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make for him a helpmate," the second blessing of the creation of the man appears where he receives a partner, "an everlasting building." One can ask: Why two creations? Why create man alone which is not good for him and afterwards a partner? After all, Hashem could have shortened the process and created him with his partner right away.
Hashem is certainly Omnipotent, but he wanted the man to be alone and only afterwards marry. As in every matter, man has free choice, and it is in his power to decide if he wants to better his actions. Marriage is therefore also the product of free choice. It is one of the most fateful choices of life, and it is certainly incumbent upon him to weigh with clear understanding and the understanding of Torah with whom he should marry, and all the success of marriage also depends on the reciprocal efforts of the spouse. "It is forbidden for a man to betroth a woman until he sees her, lest he will see something unpleasant in her and she will be unbecoming to him and the Torah says: ‘Love your fellow as yourself’" (Kiddushin 41a). When people marry, they must be sure that they love each other, but that is not enough. There is a need for continuous serious work in order to understand the other, to feel the other, to learn to surrender to the other and to request from the other.
The original man who was created alone, was - according to our Sages, both male and female, the man and his wife joined together in one body. Afterwards the Master of the Universe separated him into two: one side man and one side woman. It seems as if marriage is the ideal, natural connection. However, one must arrive at this supreme level, this serious, chosen, intellectual, ethical connection. This is the pleasant and wonderful work of the marriage (see Olat Re’eiyah vol. 1, pp. 392-393).
It once happened that a couple brought an expensive, new car. During the first drive, the wife, driving alone, caused an accident and it resulted in major damage to the vehicle. An immense feeling of anxiety gripped her: My husband is going to kill me! She got the car registration to give the other driver the required information. During this a small note fell out of the insurance card, written in the handwriting of her husband: "My sweet, remember, I love you more than the vehicle."

Is This the Same Country?

[From "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Bereshit 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Since the Gush Katif expulsion, I’ve got a terrible wound over my heart that to this day has not healed. Quite the contrary, I’ve changed my relationship to the State of Israel. For me, it’s no longer the “first flowering of our redemption.” When I see a film in which our soldiers forcibly evict mothers, fathers and children, from their homes, in which synagogues are destroyed and graves are moved, I say, “It’s not the same country. It’s not the same army.”
Answer: Why not mention Sabbath desecration, breaches in Kashrut, sexual immodesty, the warped legal system, poor education, graft, and corruption? Indeed much of the Jewish population living in Zion has lost their faith in the government’s struggle against public corruption, and they believe that the public sector is very corrupt. Indeed, the situation is problematic.
Yet even when we arrived in the Land after the redemption from Egypt we had troubles immeasurably worse than those today, and it was the same in Ezra and Nechemiah’s time. And before that, just when Yaakov’s family began to grow strong, Yosef was sold by his brothers.
And when you get down to it, after Adam was created, Adam sinned and Kayin killed Hevel. Don’t you know that life is complicated? Life only looks simple to the drunkard (Yoma 75). “When one casts his glance on the cup, all looks smooth” (Mishlei 23:31). Life looks simple to him, but he only sees the surface. Haven’t you read Chapter 1 of Mesilat Yesharim? Haven’t you learned that man faces a two-front battle? Haven’t you learned that man has a good impulse and an evil impulse? Haven’t you heard of Noach’s flood and the Generation of the Dispersion? Of the destruction of the First and Second Temples?
One way the evil impulse tempts us is towards hatred, and we’re not allowed to feed that temptation. Jewish law states that one is forbidden to read a book that provokes the evil impulse (Orach Chaim 307:16), let alone to see movies that increase our desire to hate. Neither may we feed our evil impulse to despair. The evil impulse works alone. It needs no help. By contrast, the good impulse needs much strengthening. See Mesilat Yesharim, which states that one has to look for the ways and means to build it up, and that one has to take precautionary measures against those deleterious elements that would erode our good traits. True, there have been many crises since the start of the return to Zion. They didn’t start with the expulsion from Gush Katif, and there will be many more crises to come. The definition of a crisis is something that goes against our will. But open your eyes and see all the kindnesses that G-d performs for us. This Land was empty and now it houses millions. It was in the hands of the Turks and the British, and now it is in our hands. It was spiritually desolate and now it is full of Torah. The Jewish People were under the control of the world’s evildoers, and now we have an army that defends us.
Apparently G-d did you a kindness by letting you be born in the right time and place, so you don’t know how lucky you are. As for myself, I was born in the wrong time and place, and as an infant I had to be hidden lest I end up in the concentration camps. Thank G-d that infant was never sent there, but six million others were. Those sent to the camps would have paid a million dollars to be protected by that army you say is “not the same army.”

Shut SMS #43

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: Why do blessings begin in the second person and continue in the third person?
A: Because Hashem is close to us within the world and far away beyond the world (Nefesh Ha-Chaim 3).
Q: Do I have to wait 6 hours between meat and milk or is 5 emough?
A: You need 6 hours (Shulchan Aruch 89:1) unless you have a halachic-based tradition of waiting 5 hours.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that the basic halachah is that it is not forbidden to give a boy’s name to a girl and vice-versa, but it is improper. What is the source?
A: The book “Ta’ama De-Kara” of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, p. 119.
Q: Do we fulfill mitzvot because Hashem commanded us to do so or because they elevate us?
A: Because Hashem commanded. But Hashem commanded in order to elevate us: “Who has made us holy with His mitzvoth and commanded us…”
Q: Does a younger sister have to wait before her older sister is married?
A: Not in our times.
Q: I had a good friend, who was Druze, who was killed in the last war. Is it permissible for me to recite Tehillim for the ascension of his soul?
A: Yes, he is a righteous gentile.
Q: If I wear a skirt down to the floor, do I have to wear socks?
A: No.
Q: Where is it written that we must learn about faith?
A: It is part of the Torah, and one must learn all of the Torah.
Q: Is there a halachic basis for the practice to wait three hours between meat and milk?
A: Yes, it is a stricter version of the position mentioned in the Tosafot and Rama to wait an hour, which is practiced among Jews of German descent.
Q: Is it permissible to speak with Hashem like a friend?
A: With trembling of holiness.
Q: Is it permissible to take bottles from the municipal recycling bin?
A: No. It is theirs.
Q: Is it permissible to pay with a counterfeit coin I received?
A: Definitely not. It is theft.
Q: I broke a friend's possession which he bought on sale. How much do I have to pay?
A: The price which it can be purchased in the marketplace.
Q: Is it an obligation to wear a seatbelt?
A: Yes, it is a life-threatening situation.
Q: Is it permissible to smoke?
A: Certainly not. It is dangerous. 1000 die from smoking in Israel each year and 1600 from second-hand smoke.
Q: It is permissible to kill flies or mosquitoes who are bothering me? After all, they were created by Hashem.
A: It is permissible. If it is for a human need, it is not considered cruelty.
Q: It is permissible to have a dog?
A: Yes, with the condition that it does not bother the neighbors by scaring them, with barking or filth.
Q: Is it permissible to put a dog who is suffering to sleep?
A: Yes, and it is a kindness.

Prayer for the Sick

Question: Is there a point at which one no longer has to insert the name of a sick person into the prayer for the sick if they don't know the sick person's status?
Answer: One month.

Non-Jews on the Temple Mount

Q: If Jews are forbidden on the Temple Mount, aren't non-Jews also forbidden?
A: Almost all of the great Rabbis of this generation, both before the Six-Day War until now, prohibit ascending on to the Temple Mount. Maran Ha-Rav Kook, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah and Rav Avraham Shapira, along with every one of the Chief Rabbis, have prohibited visiting the Temple Mount. Regarding the non-Jews, they do not ask our halachic authorities. We are certainly distressed that they go on to the Temple Mount. After all, a non-cohain who enters the area of the Temple, even when it is not standing, will die (Bamidbar 3:10), i.e. the Arabs and non-Jews who ascend are liable for death. And there was in fact a stone on the Temple Mount when the Temple stood which warned: A non-Jew who enters is liable for death. This stone is located in the Rockefeller Museum and a picture of it appears in the Talmudic Encyclopedia in the entry on the Temple Mount. We are not Pro-Arab, but we are not interested in Arabs dying. A right-wing Jew once said that he was happy that Arabs go up on the Temple Mount since they will die as a result. We do not say such things. Hashem desires evil to be eliminated by people repenting and living.

Speaking Lashon Ha-Ra about yourself

Q: Is it permissible to speak Lashon Ha-Ra about yourself?
A: There is a story about the Chafetz Chaim traveling on a train, and someone who did not recognize him, began to say all sorts of praises about him. The Chafetz Chaim said: He is not so great. The person was so upset about this offense to a Torah scholar that he yelled at him and slapped him in the face. We learn from here that a person should not speak Lashon Ha-Ra about himself. Nonetheless, the basic law is that a person may speak Lashon Ha-Ra about himself. There is, however, another issue. The Gemara in Berachot says (34b): One who publicizes his sins is brazen. A person need not relate his sins. A person should be ashamed about them. By relating them, he is shaming the Master of the Universe. But it is permissible if the goal is to say that one erred or stumbled in this or that regard and was able to overcome it.

Parashat Vayera: One Difference between Avraham Avinu and Lot

[Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit p. 171 – edited by Rav Aviner]

Both Avraham Avinu and Lot welcomed in guests in our parashah, but there is a major difference between them. There is a story about a great Rabbi who was delayed in his travels and was unable to find lodging at such a late hour. He knocked on the doors of the Jewish houses, but did not reveal that he was an important person. He knocked on the door of a wealthy person and the owner yelled at him: "This is not a hotel! This is a private home! No and no!" In the end, a simple Jew welcomed him in. His identity became known in no time and word quickly spread throughout the city that the famous Rabbi was there. Everyone came to visit him, including the wealthy man who had said that his house was not a hotel, and he jumped forward and said: "Rabbi, Rabbi, come with me. I will provide you with a spacious room." This is the difference between Avraham Avinu and Lot. Avraham Avinu welcomed in "men" (Bereshit 18:2), while Lot welcomed in "angels" (ibid. 19:1). It is certainly worthwhile to welcome in angels, they are important, but Avraham Avinu welcomed in men. We clearly see the humanity and righteousness that we must possess in relation to simple people. The incredible greatness Avraham Avinu possessed toward Hashem flowed directly into his humanity towards human beings.

Our Rabbi & Military Exemption for Yeshiva Students

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

Rav Shear Yashuv Cohain, son of the Nazir and Rav of Haifa, related that during the War of Independence, there was a major dispute between Rabbis – including within Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, if yeshiva students should be drafted into the military. The students followed the path of our Rabbi and the Nazir and were active in the Haganah, Etzel and Lechi. During the waiting period, after the UN votes and before the end of the British Mandate, Rav Shear Yashuv would learn in the yeshiva. One day he left the yeshiva and saw a broadside with the huge title that Maran Ha-Rav Kook opposed drafting yeshiva students into the army, and it included harsh quotes from one of his letters regarding this issue. He was unsure what to do and left deep in thought when he bumped into our Rabbi. Our Rabbi, who recognized his state, said: "Shear Yashuv, what happened? Why are you so upset and pale?" He told him what happened and pointed to the broadside. Our Rabbi roared: "This is a distortion! This is a total distortion!" over and over.
After he calmed down, he explained that these quotes were taken from a letter of Maran Ha-Rav Kook to Rav Dr. Hertz, Chief Rabbi of England, regarding being drafted into the British army, which the latter presented to the government. Yeshiva students who arrived in London from Russia and Poland as refugees of World War One and were learning Torah were left off the list of those exempt from military service (for example, priests, who were exempted). Maran Ha-Rav Kook admonished him, and said that this has nothing to do with the war for Jerusalem. Rav Shear Yashuv encouraged and aided our Rabbi to publish a booklet clarifying this issue.
During the difficult battle for the Old City in Jerusalem, the Jewish community was defeated and Rav Shear Yashuv, who was badly wounded on his leg, and the surviving fighters were taken into Jordanian captivity. He thus did not merit seeing the publication of the booklet he initiated. After approximately eight months and the establishment of the State, Rav Shear Yashuv was released and taken to Zichron Yaakov for rehabilitation. Within a day, at a time when buses were rare, our Rabbi appeared outside his window. He entered the room, hugged and kissed him and burst out crying. He removed a small booklet from his pocket and gave it to him. It was dedicated to Rav Shear Yashuv.

The Honor of the Temple Mount

[from the Israeli newspaper "Makor Rishon"]

Like many other things, the subject of the Temple is beyond all human intellect. We must therefore stand before it in trembling and not assume that we can understand its holiness with our human capabilities. But the opposite extreme is also destruction, and we must learn with our intellect as much as we can, to try to understand, to study and analyze. We must learn about the Temple from the perspective of Halachah and thought as individuals and in conference and public lectures.
Many great Torah scholars expressed their opinion in a clear and unambiguous manner that one should not even touch the Temple Mount. For example, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was not less idealistic, courageous and dedicated than those pushing to allow visits to the Temple Mount, and he spearheaded the entire settlement enterprise, and at the same time, he ruled that it was forbidden to touch the Temple Mount. One who says to stay away from the Temple Mount is not necessarily weak, and one who is passionate about going up is not necessarily strong.
The claim that in relation to the Temple Mount we are like the G-d-fearing, Anti-Zionist Jews in relation to the Land of Israel is correct. But what does it matter? Is everything of equal value? Have we reached the state that we are incapable of distinguishing between different levels of holiness? There are certainly many great things about those who are passionate about going on to the Temple Mount, but the idea itself – in my view – is a complete mistake and dangerous.
The Temple Mount – it time has not arrived yet. What time has arrived? To increase building the Nation through love and faith.

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #30

On the Sheva Berachot – "He created everything for His honor"
Baruch Hashem, you got married! You must remember that the purpose of marriage is not solely for one person to benefit from another, but rather to increase the honor of Hashem. Rabbi David Abudraham wrote in the name of Rabbi Meir Ha-Levi Abulafia: This blessing was established in order to remind us that the essence of the wedding is to increase people in the world, "And this is the honor of God, since the honor of the Creator is only through His creations." "Everything which the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, He only created for His honor, as it says: ‘Every one that is called by My Name, for I have created him for My glory, I have formed him, and I have made him’" (end of Pirkei Avot, Yeshaya 43:7). We must always remember for the reason that we are found here on earth: To increase the honor of Hashem.

Observations regarding Yaakov Teitel and Poor Aristotle

[from Ha-Rav's Blog]

A difficult matter has arisen regarding Yaakov Teitel and it causes us double pain: 1. For all of the horrible accusations of murder and attempted murder – horrific in itself. 2. For all of the prejudice it is bringing in its wake. This is terrible since throughout our exile, when one Jew did something bad, the Anti-Semites blamed all of the Jews. But what could we do? – The non-Jews are not our brothers. We did not have great expectations. But now our brothers are doing the same thing.

What does this have to do with Aristotle? Approximately 2,200 years ago, Aristotle tried to teach us about logical deduction. An example of proper logical deduction: Moshe is a person. People have legs. Conclusion: Moshe has legs. But sometimes people make improper deductions: Moshe is bald. Moshe is a person. Conclusion: All people are bald. This is incorrect. But people make such deductions. Yigal Amir murdered the Prime Minister, z"l. Yigal Amir is a Religious-Zionist. Conclusion: Religious-Zionists are murderers of the Prime Minister. There can obviously be further incorrect logical deductions regarding Herzeliya from where Yigal Amir came or regarding Bar Ilan University where he studied, etc.

In our case, there are those who make the incorrect deduction: Yaakov Teitel stands accused of being a murderer. Yaakov Teitel lives in the settlement of Shevut Rachel. Conclusion: The residents of Shevut Rachel are murderers. Or even broader: He is a settler, so all settlers are murderers. Or even broader still: He is a Religious-Zionist, so all Religious-Zionists are murderers. Aristotle has tried for 2,200 years to convince us of the faulty nature of such deductions. Poor Aristotle.

It is one thing when we are concluding that all people are bald, but here such deductions destroy the most important thing we have: Love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. When we are united, we can overcome any challenge from within or from without. When we look for blemishes among others, we only hurt ourselves.

We are forgetting that the residents of Shevut Rachel, the Settlers and Religious-Zionists are good people, as are Jews who are not residents of Shevut Rachel, who are not Settlers and who are not Religious-Zionists. We are obligated to increase love and brotherhood, peace and friendship among the Nation of Israel.

Shut SMS #42

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: Are braces or a retainer milchig or flieshchig?
A: No, because one does not generally put burning hot food into his mouth which would transfer the taste.
Q: The Torah says that Yishmael would be a wild man. Doesn't this take away his free will?
A: No, it was an inclination and it was possible to overcome it. In fact, Yishmael repented in the end.
Q: Does Vaseline for one's lip require kosher certification?
A: No.
Q: When I finish basic training should I recite Shehechiyanu?
A: Yes, at the ceremony because it is great news.
Q: At the swearing in ceremony for Tzahal should I say "I swear allegiance" or "I declare allegiance"?
A: The basic halachah is that one can swear since you certainly will not commit treason and violate the oath, but because of the severity of the laws of oaths, you should declare.
Q: There is a Sefer Torah being donated to the shul but my wife wants me to stay at home. Which is preferable?
A: Home, since the Torah has many people to bring it joy, and your wife only has you.
Q: My mother does not have enough money and I am a student. What should I do?
A: Stop your studies and work. Do you want that strangers should provide your mother with a living?