Shut SMS #68

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
Comforting Mourners
Q: What should I say to a friend who lost his father?
A: First listen, then you will know what to talk about (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 376:1).

Sperm Donation to a Single Woman
Q: Is it permissible for a forty-year old, single woman, who has given up on getting married, to have artificial insemination from a sperm bank?
A: No. This is giving birth to an orphaned child. Turn to a good Shidduch agency and freeze eggs in the meantime (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 4:277).

Growing a Beard
Q: Why should one grow a beard?
A: 1. It is the glory of a Jew's face. 2. There are serious halachic problems with electric razors (see the book "Hadrat Panim Zaken").

Evil Inclination
Q: Why doesn't the Torah destroy the evil inclination? I have learned Mesillat Yesharim and the works of Rav Kook for years and fought against it and it is still just as strong.
A: Our job is to struggle against it all the time. Shemoneh Kevatzim 8:36.

Q: Is it worthwhile to use facebook?
A: One's gain is offset by his loss.

Suntanning on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to suntan on Shabbat?
A: It is permissible. This is not the type of "coloring" which the Torah forbids (Shut Az Nidabru 2:30. Not like the ruling in Shut Minchat Yitzchak 5:32 and Shut Chelkat Yaakov 4:17).

Interruption during the Shemoneh Esrei
Q: I discovered in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei that pages where missing from my Siddur and I do not know the davening by heart?
A: It is permissible to go get a different Siddur. This is not considered an interruption in this case (Piskei Teshuvot #104. Shut Be'er Moshe 3:13).

Conditional Marriages
Q: Is it worthwhile to establish conditional marriages which are annulled retroactively if one of the members of the couple wants to get divorced in order to solve the problem of those who refuse to give a "Get"?
A: Our Rabbis already dismissed this proposal since we will not nullify the holiness of Jewish marriages and turn them into a doubtful cases of prostitution on account of a few horrible instances (see Shut Igrot Moshe Even Ha-Ezer 4:106-107).

A Piercing in One's Bellybutton
Q: Is it permissible to have a piercing in one's bellybutton? It would obviously be covered?
A: It is forbidden. "Chukot Ha-Goyim" – imitating non-Jewish practices (see She'eilat Shlomo 1:339 #2).

Kashrut of Medicine
Q: What is the law regarding medicine without kosher certification? And what if it has a meat or dairy base?
A: Any medicine which lacks taste is kosher (Halichot Shlomo – Moadim vol. 2 4:6 and notes).

Parashat Beha'alotecha: I've Fallen and I Can Get Up!

Immediately upon traveling into the desert, the Nation of Israel begins to experience all types of difficulties. The people began complaining, they became dissatisfied with the manna, there was the crisis with Miriam and Aharon, the sin of the Spies, Korach and his band, the waters of Merivah where Moshe Rabbenu struck the rock, etc., all of these internal crises. Then there were the problems with the non-Jews: Edom, Sichon, Balak and Bila'am. The path was full of stumbling blocks.
After the Six-Day War, there was a conference of Arab professors held at "El Azhar" University near Cairo, on the meaning of the theology of the State of Israel. They all agreed that the State of Israel should be wiped out, but there were different opinions as to what should be done with the Jews. Some said that if they accepted Palestinian authority, they could be "fixed". Others said that there was no way to save them, since they are corrupt at their source, the dross of humanity, and one must be freed from them. One professor wrote an article attempting to prove the corrupt nature of the Nation of Israel based on the Torah. He brought as proof all of the failings of the Nation in the desert.
It is true that we have fallen, the Torah does not hide this fact. So what? Erring is a phenomenon of humanity. "For there is no man in the world who is righteous, who performs good, and does not sin" (Kohelet 7:20). We fall, but we arise and are encouraged. It once happened that a teacher, who just completed teaching school, received a position in a twelfth grade class in a school for juvenile delinquents. He was a thin, weak and pale young man and the students – experienced in theft and violence – were hoodlums. On the first day, he sat in the teacher's room shaking from fright and his heart was pounding. Suddenly the bell rang and he headed towards the class, almost drunk from fear, to the point that he did not notice that there was a step on the doorway. He tripped on it and fell face down on the floor. The entire class burst out in laughter, making fun of him and throwing paper and chalk. He got up slowly and said: "It happens that a person falls. The question is does he know how to get up. This is our first lesson." The students understood the lesson and gave him a round of applause. It is true that we fall and arise, fall and arise ("For a righteous person will fall and arise seven times" – Mishlei 24:16). The path is full of stumbling and complications, but we perfect ourselves little-by-little.

Our Rabbi & Herzl

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

One who shamed Herzl
Our Rabbi related that when he was learning in Yeshivat Torat Chaim (in the place where Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim is now located, and where generations of Rabbinic leaders, such as Jerusalem's Chief Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Ha-Rav Aryeh Levin and Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv learned), Ha-Rav Yitzchak Nissenbaum, who was the secretary and right-hand man of Ha-Rav Mohiliver (one of the founders of the Religious-Zionist movement called "Chibat Tzion") and famous for his Derashot, was invited to give the Derashah one Shabbat. This fact testifies to the position of the Rosh Ha-Yeshiva, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Winograd: He did not fear the zealots of Jerusalem at that time and he invited a well-known Religious-Zionist figure to give a Derashah in the Yeshiva. Hundreds of people, include many wearing shtreimels, filled the Yeshiva and listened to the gifted speaker. When he began discussing the foundations of Religious-Zionism, a screaming voice interrupted his words: "Is that what Herzl also says?," which caused a commotion among the listeners. Rav Winograd ascended the Bima, silenced the crowd, expressed his dismay and demanded the removal of the brazen person. Rav Nissenbaum adds in his book "Alai Chaldi" that he saw arms lifting the brazen man above the crowd and taking him out through the window. At Seudat Shelishit, Rav Winograd told him that one of the zealots came to him on Friday demanding that he not allow a talk about impure Zionism in the holy Yeshiva. Rav Winograd responded that the Yeshiva was his and anyone who disturbs the talk would be paid back in kind. He then hired two guards for the yeshiva who stood near the window for the proper moment. When the brazen man began to yell, the young people next to him grabbed his arms and legs and lifted him up to the guards. His comrades were shocked and did not dare to make a disturbance.

Herzl's picture which hangs in our Rabbi's home
It is well known that along with pictures of the Netziv, the Aderet, Maran Ha-Rav Kook and others, our Rabbi had a picture of Herzl hanging in his home.

Three stories about the picture:
Rav Avraham Romer related: "The picture of Herzl once disappeared from our Rabbi’s house and there was a suspicion that one of the students wanted 'to teach him a lesson.' When I suggested that perhaps the picture fell behind the desk, he permitted me to look there. When I found the picture, he was extremely happy and saw a need to comfort me because he saw that I had been distressed. He told me wondrous stories about Herzl and his position. He repeated the opinion of Reb Aharon Marcus z"l who said that Herzl was a descendant of Mahari Titzak (a famous Rabbi) and was from a Sefardic family. (Gadol Shimusha, p. 54)

When a particular Jew from the neighborhood of Geulah would come to our Rabbi's house, he would flip over the picture of Herzl. Our Rabbi once caught him in the act and asked him: Why are you doing this? Doesn't he have all five corners of his beard [which may not be shaved according to the Torah]?! (Iturei Cohanim #212)

A student of our Rabbi saw Herzl's picture hanging in the room where our Rabbi taught classes in his house, and it was hanging among the pictures of our great Rabbis. He asked for an explanation and our Rabbi gave an entire class on the fact that Herzl was the agent of the Master of the Universe in returning independence to Israel in this generation whether we like it or not. (ibid.)

Our Rabbi encouraged one of his students who was a baal teshuvah (a Jew who returned to being observant) to read Herzl's diaries. (Iturei Yerushalayim #6)

Herzliyah (a city on the coast of Israel named after Herzl)
When the Yemenite Chief Rabbi of Herzliyah was installed, our Rabbi said: Secular Zionism marches with Herzl, and we march with Herzl and Herzliyah (Herzl plus "Kah" – one of Hashem's Names). (Iturei Yerushalayim #6)

It's Not Funny

My dear friend, do not make jokes at your wife's expense. We love jokes, obviously in a limited manner, but not at someone's expense, and certainly not at your wife's expense, and all the more so not in public.
Yesterday you said in front of everyone: I have already suffered from my wife for ten years! Even she laughed, but realize that deep down she was hurt. Here is an idea: Since you love to make other's laugh, say: My wife has already suffered from me for ten years.
It is even possible to make a positive joke: I feel for ten years to have merited joy like the King of England. Or: I hope that I succeed in making her as happy as the Queen of England. – What am I saying?! More than the royalty of England.
Baruch Hashem, the gates of humor and creativity are not locked, and it is possible to make jokes NOT at your wife's expense. On the contrary, make her happy with your jokes.

Tzedakah Priorities

Question: I received an e-mail message from a Rabbinic group in my former community in the States, the substance of which was to urge the Jews in that area to give 75% of their Tzedekah money to local causes. While a good deal of the funds raised there are for worthwhile causes, many millions of dollars are being raised and spent to make shuls a little larger and a lot fancier. As the future of the Jewish people is here in Israel, would it not be more useful to invest more of the money here?
Answer: Both are important, and one who lives there should divide his money according to his wisdom and desire.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook would Return Books to their Places

Maran Rav Kook said: "If you want to be like me, act like me." This means that if someone wants to internalize the Torah which someone teaches, he should first imitate his positive character traits. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, pointed out that one of Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s positive character traits was that he never burdened another person to return the books which he used. He would not leave them on the table or elsewhere, but would return the books to the place from which he took them. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, actually made a ruling in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, a condition for using the Yeshiva’s books: If someone uses a book in the Yeshiva and did not return it, he is no longer allowed to use the books of the Yeshiva.
Maran Ha-Rav was so strict regarding this matter for four reasons:
1. One who does not return books burden others.
2. If someone does not return a book, perhaps someone else who is looking for it and cannot locate it will wander around searching for it and waste his time which should have been dedicated to learning Torah.
3. The Egyptians forced the Jewish People to perform "Avodat Parech" – cruel, busy work which had no purpose. There is a prohibition of forcing others to perform this type of frustrating work, which essentially makes them into a slave. It is permissible to have an employee perform "Avodat Parech," since if the employee does not like it he can quit and find other work. Forcing others to put your books away, however, is a violation of the prohibition of "Avodat Parech."
4. Leaving the books around is also disgracing holy books. It is written in the Chasidic books that one of the signs of a person’s Fear of Heaven is how he relates to holy books.
Based on these reasons, a person should be vigilant to return books to the location in which they were found.
There are two times in which one could return a book: Immediately after its use or at the end of a Seder (learning session). If the book is a single copy or there are only a few copies, it should be returned immediately after use since perhaps someone is looking for it. If there are multiple copies, however, the book may be returned at the end of the Seder. If one finds books laying around, which others did not return, he is not obligated to return them, but it is an act of kindness to do so.
By having the opportunity to return books, one should be happy that he can perfect a character trait, honor holy books, consider others and perform acts of kindness for another people.

Shut SMS #67

Ha-Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
A Lap of Luxury
Q: Is it permissible to buy a car for hundreds of thousands of shekels?
A: It is a waste. Give the money to Tzedakah. You life takes precedence over your fellow's life, but your luxuries do not take precedent over your fellow's life (Igrot at the end of Sefer Ha-Tanya. Aruch Ha-Shulchan Yoreh Deah 251. Sefer Ahavat Chesed of the Chafetz Chaim. Shut Orach Mishpat of Maran Ha-Rav Kook).

Q: My Rebbetzin, who I greatly respect, wears provocative clothing. How should I relate to that?
A: This is truly difficult to understand. But a person is judged by the majority of his actions (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1).

Q: If I receive a present from work, do I have to include it when figuring my taxes?
A: No, an insignificant amount is not required. Although Ha-Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky would pay taxes in America on the Mishloach Manot he received (Shut Revivot Efraim 6:389), it appears to be a strict interpretation.

The Grave of the Rashbi
Q: Is it preferable to visit Kever Rashbi on Lag Ba-Omer or learn Torah?
A: Learn Torah since it is a clear obligation.
Q: But the Arizal would visit Kever Rashi on this day?
A: We are not the Arizal (in the name of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski).

Q: Where can I read the truth about Herzl without false defamations?
A: Herzl – A New Reading. Dr. Yitzchak Weiss.

Civil Marriage
Q: Is it permissible for me to marry a woman who does not want to marry through the Rabbinate?
A: It is forbidden (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 2:305).

Dating and a Picture
Q: Is it permissible to show a picture of a young woman to a young man without her permission to see it they are interested in dating?
A: No. You need to ask her permission. The picture belongs to her. Furthermore, one should not close off opportunities since many times a picture is not flattering and reality is much better (Shut Mishneh Halachot 4:114. And unlike Shut Betzel Ha-Chochmah 4:85).

Medical Clowns
Q: Is medical clowning forbidden like other forms of frivolity or it is permissible?
A: Frivolity is forbidden. Avodah Zarah 18b. But jesting for a good reason is permissible, like mocking idol worship. Megillah 25b. And our Sages praise two men who would make the sad happy by joking around. Ta'anit 22b. Medical clowning is therefore permissible and a mitzvah. But only a man for a man and a woman for a woman.

Q: Is it true that the Redemption has already begun?
A: It began 130 years ago with the First Aliyah in 5641 (Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedilah pp. 374-378).

Q: Why it is forbidden to get an earring in one's eyebrow?
A: It is forbidden because of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" – imitating non-Jewish practices (see She'eilat Shlomo 1:339 #2).

Our Rabbi on Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Temple – Part 3

[From Sefer Le-Mikdashech Tuv, pp. 11-14 unless noted otherwise]

After the Six-Day War, when a Torah scholar and professor came to our Rabbi and asked him why he did not then begin to build the Temple, he responded, "The mitzvah of building the Kingdom of Israel takes precedence, according to the ruling of the Rambam at the beginning of the Laws of Kings" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, chapters of Messiah 4, Talmud Torah 1 addendum 2). Later, this was extensively explained by our Rabbi in the article "From Behind the Wall" (Mei-Achar Kotleinu) in which he said that only after great improvement in the building of the Nation, both physically and spiritually, can we enter into the holiness of rebuilding the Temple (see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, #23).

When a delegation of public figures came to our Rabbi with the request to work as forcefully as possible against the threatened agreement which the Government of Israel was prepared to sign with the Country of Jordan, which included surrendering the Temple Mount to their control, our Rabbi reacted: "What about the entire Land of Israel?" They repeated their words many times, as did he.

After the Six-Day War, students approached our Rabbi and quoted the words of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher in the introduction to his book "Derishat Tzion" which repeats a tradition recorded in the name of the Vilna Gaon that if we will only leap and sacrifice one lamb, then everything will be ready for Redemption. They asked: perhaps it is proper to sacrifice one Pesach sacrifice? When our Rabbi heard this he became enraged: "We need to strengthen the Kingdom of Israel and return the Torah to those who learn it in Israel; to bring great repentance, and we will then ascend to the Temple Mount from the midst of this prophecy." He said these words emphatically and forcefully. (Le-Mikdashech Tuv, p. 180)

Blowing up the Dome of the Rock
After the Six-Day War, the Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, evacuated the non-Jews from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. A few young men, who fought in the Jerusalem Brigade, felt that it was not enough, and they prepared explosives to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. They nonetheless went to take counsel with our Rabbi, who rejected the idea: This must come from the entire Nation, and not a part of it. They went to Reb Aryeh Levin, thinking that since he supported Etzel and Lechi before the establishment of the State, he would response positively; but he also rejected it for the same reason that there is a need for National agreement. He related a story, which our Rabbi would also relate, that a certain preacher would travel to different cities and encourage belief in false messianism, and he had a major influence. When Rav Chaim of Volozhin was informed that he was scheduled to speak on Shabbat in a particular community, he sent two messengers, who were to violate Shabbat to stop him, since it was a matter of life and death. They were successful. A rich non-Jew asked Rav Chaim if he had heard about the preacher and if, in his opinion, he was the Messiah. Rav Chaim responded: And what do you say? He answered: This has nothing to do with me. Rav Chaim said: You are wrong. When the Messiah comes even you will feel it.

The young men asked Reb Aryeh Levin, half in jest: If so, the building of the Temple also depends of the decision of the Knesset? He answered: It may be. (Iturei Cohanin #57 from Ha-Rav Avraham Remer)

The Churva Synagogue

Question: I heard in the name of the Vilna Gaon that when the Churva Synagogue is built it is a sign that the Third Temple will soon be built. Is this true?
A: I have not heard this idea in the name of the Vilna Gaon. What is correct is that the second building of the Churva Synagogue was performed by the students of the Vilna Gaon, who made Aliyah with Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shaklov. But this was 200 years ago. And then it was destroyed. This shul has been built three times. The first time by Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid from Poland, the second time by the students of the Vilna Gaon from Russia and the third time by all of the Nation of Israel, the State of Israel, and it will therefore not be destroyed. The Vilna Gaon also said in the book "Kol Ha-Tur" not to involve ourselves with signs and hints but to build the Land and renew the life of the Nation of Israel in our Land and then the Redemption will come.

“A Man or Woman Can Force a Spouse to Move to Jerusalem”

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

“A man or woman can force a spouse to move to Jerusalem” – such is the ruling when one spouse wants to live in Jerusalem. He or she has the upper hand (Ketuvot 110b). Jerusalem is superior to all else, not in the sense of aloofness and arrogance, but in the sense of being the spiritual pinnacle of Eretz Yisrael.

After all, we have to ask: We’ve heard over and over again about the mitzvah of settling the Land, but where in the Torah is there a mitzvah of settling Jerusalem? We have to answer: True, there is no mitzvah of settling Jerusalem per se, but since it is the spiritual pinnacle of the entire land, the mitzvah of settling the Land is fulfilled there all the more. Scripture states, “Hashem loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Yaakov” (Tehillim 87:2). Obviously, this is referring to all of Jerusalem, including the new neighborhoods of West Jerusalem. Yet it is clear that the main thing is the Old City, Jerusalem between the walls.

And if we are relating to Jerusalem in terms of the mitzvah applying to the entire land, then we have to apply to Jerusalem all three aspects of that mitzvah. It is well known that the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael can be divided into three parts: 1) moving to the Land, 2) settling the Land “so as not to abandon it to desolation” and 3) sovereignty over the Land – conquering and liberating the Land (“we mustn’t abandon it to any other nation” – Ramban’s remarks on Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Addendum 4).

Here is the place to talk about settlement and conquest. Through G-d’s kindness, we have merited conquest. Yet as we all know, it is not enough to conquer. You have to hold on to what you conquered. And how does one do that? Through settlement. Our sages say regarding the verse, “Clear out the land and live in it” (Bemidbar 33:53) that it is by virtue of our clearing it out, that we will merit to live in it (see Rashi). Yet by the same token, it is by virtue of our living in it that we can succeed in clearing it out. The two are interdependent.

My words apply not only to Jerusalem between the walls but to the entire length and breadth of the Land, in which we are commanded to settle and to take hold everywhere, even if that is hard in our day. Yet in our ancient holy city, it is all that much harder. It used to be said that to settle one Jewish home in the Old City is as hard as establishing an entire settlement. Indeed, the Old City is like a human heart, both in its size and in its complexity.

Obviously, even to establish Jewish factories there is a precious deed, but the main thing is to establish, facing the site of our Temple, factories of Torah and the fear of G-d, of good character and the love of Israel. And in response to the misdeeds of the past, we must strengthen our hold on Jerusalem to make it “a city of unity” (Tehillim 122:3) – a city that unites Celestial Jerusalem with Terrestrial Jerusalem. Let us be strong and of good courage in rebuilding our holy city, and the entire length and breadth of our Land.

Shut SMS #66

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
Q: Does lovingly accepting suffering mean that I cannot cry?
A: It is permissible to cry but you must believe that Hashem is sending them for our benefit (see Berachot 5a).

A Woman Learning Torah
Q: Can a woman learn Torah without reciting the blessings for learning Torah?
A: A woman is obligated to recite the blessings for learning Torah every day (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 47:14).

Tachanun on Yom Ha-Atzmaut
Q: Who rules that we do not recite Tachanun on Yom Ha-Atzmaut against the great Rabbis of the generation including Ha-Rav Elyashiv?
A: The question is incomprehensible. Ha-Rav David Cohain told me that in his youth he davened at the Tiferet Bachurim shul and when they wanted to recite Tachanun on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, Ha-Rav Elyashiv did not allow it.

Q: Is it permissible to date for the purpose of marriage two men at the same time?
A: Certainly not. It is unethical. If there is an exceptional problem, you should ask a Rabbi.

Better Not to Have Been Created
Q: If it were better for man not to have been created, then why should we live and what is the purpose? Can I have sources?
A: In order to serve Hashem, and then it is good that we were created. See ibid. Eruvin 13, Tosafot and Rashi, Ein Yaakov and Mesilat Yesharim chap. 3.

Modesty in a Clothing Store
Q: Is it permissible for a husband to accompany his wife into a women's clothing store?
A: It is immodest. There are all types of women who may enter, and all the more so if there are women it will make them uncomfortable (see Gan Na'ul).

Kindness for a Non-Jew
Q: Should one perform a kindness for a non-Jew?
A: "His mercies are on all of His works" (Tehillim 145:9).

Difficult Mother
Q: I have a difficult mother and it is hard to me. What should I do?
A: Patience and flexibility. It is great practice of humility for your entire life (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 240:8).

Palm Reading
Q: Is there any truth to palm reading?
A: It is nonsense.

Q: Is it permissible to walk around an apartment with only male roommates dressed in only a little clothing?
A: Modesty is always required both when alone and at home. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch chap. 2.

Woman Receiving an Aliyah
Q: What should I do if the shul in which I daven calls up a woman for an aliyah?
A: Leave (Gittin 61a).

Stealing Drugs
Q: I stole my friend's drugs. Should I return them?
A: Return the money anonymously.

Modest Clothing
Q: I wear beautiful clothing at home for my husband. What should I wear out?
A: Clothing which does not draw the attention of others (see Gan Na'ul).

Our Rabbi on Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Temple – Part 2

[From Sefer Le-Mikdashech Tuv, pp. 11-14 unless noted otherwise]

When a Torah scholar brought to our Rabbi researchers of the Temple Mount, whose purpose was to identify the boundaries of the Temple, (since in their view it was permissible to enter there without fear of harming the sanctity of the Temple), our Rabbi said to the scholar: "What is all this for?!" He compared this to a rabbi who gathered many proofs for the existence of G-d, and the Aderet ztz"l [Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim, former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and father-in-law of Maran Ha-Rav Kook], said about this rabbi’s book: "For what do we need proofs? (and he quoted the words of our Sages, "Any matter which is not clear, bring sources from the Talmud for it" - Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 2:3, Eruvin 10:1). We believe in Hashem above all proofs" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, sidra 2 Tazria, Parashat Ha-Chodesh 3-4; Emunah, sichah 15, 8). And so too in our matter: Behold, the Temple Mount’s boundary is surrounded by a wall. We do not traverse it, and we have no need for researchers.

After the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War, there were extensive excavations of the Kotel Tunnels, which extend under the Temple Mount. Ha-Rav Meir Yehudah Getz, Rav of the Kotel, asked our Rabbi, is it permissible to excavate under the Temple Mount to find the Temple implements? Our Rabbi answered, "No, do not dig." Our generation is still not ready to merit discovering the treasures of the Temple. (The book "Rav Ha-Kotel" p. 306)

When a Torah scholar mentioned to our Rabbi the custom of placing notes in the Kotel, our Rabbi said that one should not do this, and one should even refrain from putting one’s fingers into the Kotel [since it is forbidden for an impure person to enter the air of the Temple Mount in even the slightest way]. The Torah scholar said to him, but this is the custom of Israel [minhag Yisrael]. Our Rabbi responded, the word "minhag" [custom] contains the same letters as "gehinom" [purgatory].

When it became known to our Rabbi that archeological excavations were being performed under the Temple Mount, he responded with great distress: "What is all this for?! For what purpose should one fuss there?"

When they asked our Rabbi if there is a need to organize tours which encircle the Temple Mount in order to strengthen the fact that it belongs to us, he responded: "The Temple Mount is in our hands - there is no need for tours." They said to him that not everyone knows that the Temple Mount is ours. To this, he responded that if this is so, there is positive value in the tours in order to strengthen the proof of our ownership.


[Am Ve-Artzo vol. 2, pp. 251-252 - translated by Rabbi Gil Student]

Question: There is a custom in the Diaspora, in order to show unity with the State of Israel, to sing Ha-Tikvah on Israel Independence Day and Jerusalem Reunification Day, and at weddings and bar mitzvah parties, together with the anthem for that country.
I remember, however, when I studied in Israel that we never sang "Ha-Tikvah" on Israel Independence Day but, rather, "Shir Ha-Ma'alot" with the tune for "Ha-Tikvah".
Some say that it is a disgrace to the Nation of Israel that there is no reference to G-d in its national anthem even though many other countries praise G-d, such as Britain's "G-d Save the Queen".
I heard an opinion to replace the word "Chofshi" (free) [towards the end of "Ha-Tikvah"] with the word "Kodshi" (holy), thereby hinting to G-d without separating oneself from the general population, since no one can hear this difference while singing...
Answer: It is true that there is no mention of G-d in "Hatikvah." There is, however, nothing against G-d either and there is national value in it. Therefore, there is certainly no prohibition against singing this anthem. We definitely have more important songs of faith in G-d and also in nationalism, like "Shir Ha-Ma'alot" and "Shir Ha-Emunah" that Rav Kook wrote. If the entire community is singing "Ha-Tikvah," however, one should not separate from them but should join them, since through this they are demonstrating their connection to the Land and State of Israel, which is a big obligation, even though there are better ways of doing it. There is therefore no need to change "Chofshi" to "Kodshi," since being free is also something of value. There is a mitzvah that this Land [of Israel] should be under our rule and not that of another nation, as the Ramban wrote, so there is certainly a mitzvah to be free in our Land...

I Do Not Insult

I have problems with my husband. His behavior is inappropriate in many areas, so I point it out. We got married in order not to keep everything inside and obviously to help one another improve. But I point it out in a non-insulting way.
When we were first married, I did say it in an insulting way, and he called me a witch and he was kind of right. I then learned not to point it out in front of other people, even if he said something stupid or acted in an inappropriate matter. I also learned not to say anything when I am angry. I noticed that when I did this, I did not speak about what happened. I was frustrated and just tried to prove I was correct. I now wait until I calm down. And before I say anything, I make it clear to myself that the goal is to build a shared life together.
I also try to give him the benefit of the doubt. Many times I scolded him only to find out that I did not see the whole picture. I now try to see if I can understand the situation in a different way, perhaps I am taking things out of context. Only if I am unable to give him the benefit of the doubt do I say anything – gently.

Physical Therapy and Skirts

Question: Is it permissible for a woman to wear pants/shorts during physical therapy, as a skirt often gets in the way and sometimes even leads to immodesty (as the skirt can rise up)?
Answer: You should wear an Aladdin skirt - wide on the top with pants on the bottom.

We’ve Made Progress

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Today, how can it be that we are on a higher level than the Desert Generation, which merited numerous miracles and was led by Moshe? It’s true that now, as well, in our Land, we are facing crises regarding the Torah and Eretz Yisrael, but they are nothing compared to the sins of the Golden Calf, the spies and other severe sins.
Answer: Indeed, our sages said that our own redemption will be greater, so much so that Ben Zoma declared that in the Messianic era, the Exodus will no longer be mentioned (Berachot 12b). As it says: “Behold, the days will come – says Hashem – when they shall no more say, ‘As Hashem lives, that brought up the Nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As Hashem lives, that brought up and that led the seed of the House of Israel out of the north country and all the countries where I had driven them.’ They shall dwell in their own land” (Yirmiyahu 23:7-8). In fact, the present ingathering of the exiles is more remarkable than the Egyptian Exodus. Then, the entire Nation left Egypt together for Jerusalem. Now, the entire Jewish People have left all the countries of the world and returned to Eretz Yisrael, as though acting in synch. Moreover, in Egypt we had Moshe. Now, there is no Moshe. Now we are sheep without a shepherd. This has a disadvantage, but also an advantage. The advantage is that we are sheep who have done amazing things without a shepherd. The entire rebuilding of the Land, the entire return to Zion, the entire establishment of the Jewish State, all of Israel’s wars, the entire return to the Torah to Israel, we accomplished as sheep without a shepherd.
The shepherd will certainly come along, but not to solve problems that the sheep can solve alone. See Rashi at the beginning of Tehillim, Chapter 70, which employs the parable of a king who gets angry, destroys his sheep-pen, exiles the shepherd and banishes the flocks. Afterwards the king calms down, rebuilds the sheep-pen and brings back the flocks. The shepherd asks, “And what about me?” The king answers that he remembers him. Thus, the shepherd is brought back last.
When we left Egypt, we were like sheep entirely dependent on a shepherd. Hence, when the shepherd was absent, we committed the sin of the Golden Calf. On many other occasions, we were entirely dependent on the shepherd, like a boy who is dependent on his father and mother. Therefore, we sinned many times.
Now we know how to function without a shepherd, and we accomplish much. Even when we sin, it’s far from the level of sin that there was then.
All the same, our Sages say, “It is not that the Egyptian Exodus will be uprooted [from our awareness], but that our ultimate removal from the exile will be central and the Exodus from Egypt will be secondary” (Berachot ibid.). Here, however, Maharal carried out a Copernican revolution or paradigm shift in the introduction to his book “Netzach Yisrael”. There he explained that the relationship between the Egyptian Exodus and our ultimate liberation from the nations’ yoke is like the relationship between cause and effect. The cause is minor compared to the effect, and yet at the same time, the kernel of the effect is hidden within the cause. It’s like an apple seed buried in the earth. It’s insignificant compared to a large apple tree, but the potential of a tree is hidden within. Everything we are doing now with such great talent was hidden within us when we left Egypt, just as all of the adult’s talents are stored away in him when he is a child.
Similarly, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook asked his father, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, what stage we are at in the Redemption – the start, the middle or the end? His father responded that it depends on whether he was talking about the practical reality or the spiritual potential. In terms of the practical reality, the situation was very weak still. It was only the start of Redemption. Yet the spiritual awakening that was occurring possessed the power to usher the supreme Redemption to completion.
We should not boast about all the wonderful things we are doing now in our country, and look at eye level, or down our noses, at the Desert Generation. The Desert Generation was us, and everything we are doing now was already stored away in them. It just needed thousands of years of processing.
How fortunate we are to have been so privileged!

Shut SMS #65

Rabbi Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
Women and Talit
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to wear a Talit?
A: It is forbidden. 1. Because of "Yehura" (religious arrogance). Even if she is known for her piety, there is another issue. 2. It is forbidden for a woman to wear men's clothing, and a Talit is uniquely male clothing (see Shut Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:49).

No Lifeguard
Q: It is permissible to go up to your waist in the water where there is no lifeguard?
A: It is forbidden, since sometimes a strong current can pull one in (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:473).

The Name "Rachel"
Q: I have a lot of troubles and people tell me that it is because of my name: Rachel. Should I change it?
A: It is a wonderful name. Do not change it (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 335:10).

Messiah in Tel Aviv
Q: Is the Messiah really in Tel Aviv?
A: Nonsense. See Rambam Hilchot Melachim 11:4 for the criteria to be the Messiah.

The President of Israel
Q: How should we relate to the President to the State of Israel who is nothing and has done nothing?
A: You are nothing and have done nothing. The President is a lot of things and if he only had the merit of developing Israel’s nuclear bomb, he would be worth it (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1).

Waiting 3 Hours
Q: Is there a source for the custom to wait three hours between eating meat and milk?
A: It is a German custom, a stricture on the position mentioned by the Rama (Yoreh Deah 89:1. See Rabbenu Yerucham in Isur Ve-Heter #39).

Electric Shabbat Candles
Q: Is it permissible to light an electric "candle" for Shabbat candles?
A: Yes. Piskei Teshuvot (263:2).

Q: Is the belief in reincarnation a true belief?
A: It is a dispute among the Rishonim. The Zohar says that it is true (vol. 1 186b and vol. 2 98b). But the Arizal says that it is not to be understood in its literal sense (Sha'ar Ha-Gilgulim of Rabbi Chaim Vital. See Sefer Ha-Ikarim of Rabbi Yosef Albo and Emunot Ve-Deot of Sa'adia Gaon).

Mother's Milk
Q: Is a mother's milk dairy?
A: It is parve (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 87:4).

Honoring Parents
Q: How do I relate to my father after he called me garbage?
A: Patience. Humility (see Shulchan Aruch Yorwh Deah 240:8).

Stealing from a Hotel
Q: Is it permissible to take towels from a hotel since everyone does it?
A; G-d forbid. Just because everyone does something does not make it right.
Q: What about the small soap and shampoo?
A: This is allowed.

Mezuzah with Glue
Q: Is it permissible to put up a Mezuzah with glue?
A: Yes, if it is strong. Shut Yechaveh Daat (6:58).

Q: What right do we have to ask things from Hashem?
A: Every right, but not as demands, rather as petitions.

Q: Is there any value to playing sports?
A: What is necessary for the body's health (see Orot Ha-Techiya chap. 34).

Shehechiyanu on a Uniform
Q: I am volunteering for the police and received a uniform, which brings me great joy. Can I recite the Shehechiyanu?
A: Absolutely (see Mi-Chayil El Chayil vol. 1 p. 320).

Hebrew Pronunciation
Q: What is the most precise pronunciation of Hebrew?
A: We do not know. Everyone should follow the tradition of their ancestors (see Shut Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 3:5).

Unclean Dreams
Q: I am having many inappropriate dreams despite the fact that I have improved in not looking at women. Why is this happening? What should I do?
A: A known phenomenon. The evil inclination is feeling beaten by you and it is fighting for its life. Crush him (Mesillat Yesharim, chap. 11).

Parashat Behar-Bechkotai: "And I will lead you upright" (Vayikra 26:13)

Question: Should an individual living in the Land of Israel say, "and lead us upright to our Land (le-aretzenu)" in the Bircat Ha-Mazon?
Answer: I have seen three answers to this question:
1. Rabbi Yaakov Chagiz (Shut Halachot Ketanot #185) was asked: Should an individual living in the Land of Israel say, "and lead us upright to our Land (le-aretzenu)" or change it to "and led us upright IN our Land (be-artzenu)"? He responds, "This is how people customarily recite it [and led us upright IN our Land], but if one says "le-artzenu - to our Land," he does not lose out" (Rabbi Chagiz also rules that this is the correct wording in the blessing recited before the Shema in the morning, "Ahavah Rabbah," i.e. it should read "And led us upright in our Land" instead of "And lead us upright to our Land." This ruling which is also quoted in Minhagei Eretz Yisrael of Rav Yaakov Galis, p. 31). And Ha-Rav Dov Lior, Rav of Kiryat Arba-Hevron, was once asked the correct formula to recite in the Bircat Ha-Mazon, and he answered: "In Israel, we recite 'in our Land.'"
2. When asked this question, Ha-Rav Chaim David Halevy (Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 3:13) expressed surprise that people ask about this sentence in the Bircat Ha-Mazon, whose recitation is not obligatory, but do not ask it about a phrase in Musaf, which was established by our Sages in the Anshei Knesset Ha-Gedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly during the Second Temple) of which one may not omit even one word: "May it be Your will Hashem…that You bring us up in joy to our Land and plant us within our boundaries." Ha-Rav Halevy explained that this prayer was established for the entire Nation. As long as the majority of Jews remain in the Exile, it is possible to say "And lead us to our Land," "plant us within our boundaries," etc. since it applies to the entire Nation and not only to those of us who dwell in Eretz Yisrael. The same idea applies to the phrase in the Bircat Ha-Mazon (i.e. we continue to say "and lead us upright to our").
3. In this week's parashah, as part of the blessings we will receive for following the Torah, Hashem promises: "And I will lead you upright" (Vayikra 26:13). Our Sages explain this verse: "With upright posture, so that you do not fear any creature" (Sifra). But there is something problematic here: Doesn’t the Shulchan Aruch rule, "It is forbidden to walk with upright posture" (Orach Chaim 2:6), which the Mishnah Berurah (#9) explains: "Because you will press against the feet of the Divine Presence of the Omnipresent"? However, this is not a contradiction: The one refers to the individual who is required to be humble and modest, while the other refers to the entire community which is required to walk upright. Through this posture the honor of the Divine Presence will be revealed. In practice, the prayer books in Israel say, "le-artzenu - to our Land," since it also means that Hashem should lead the Nation to act in an upright posture.
Conclusion: Even in Eretz Yisrael, one should recite "lead us upright to our Land" in the Bircat Ha-Mazon since it also refers to all of the Jewish People and to the upright posture of the Nation. One who wishes to change it to "and led us upright IN our Land" may do so, however, since its recitation in the Bircat Ha-Mazon is a custom and not an obligation.

Our Rabbi on Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Temple – Part 1

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
[From Sefer Le-Mikdashech Tuv, pp. 11-14 unless noted otherwise]

A student related: When I asked our Rabbi the well-known question whether reciting the content of the prayer "Nachem," which is recited on Tisha Be-Av [in the Shemoneh Esrei in the prayer for rebuilding Jerusalem,] is speaking falsely in our time because of the passages of the "bitterness of our situation," he responded: "Jerusalem is still scorned and desolate, since the essence of Jerusalem is the Temple. Furthermore, the Old City of Jerusalem is in a state of desolation without inhabitants. It is impossible to approach the Old City and see piles of stones of synagogues and not burst into weeping!" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, addendum at the end of the talk "U-le-minim al tehi tikvah - And for the slanderers let there be no hope").

When I came to request permission and a blessing from our Rabbi (see Sanhedrin 5b, Eruvin 63a and Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:3) in order to establish a yeshiva in the heart of the Jerusalem, he rejoiced with great joy and encouraged me.

In the twilight of his years, when I asked him - in the name of my colleagues - if we should request that the guarding of the gates of the Temple Mount be placed in the hands of Tzahal and not in the hands of non-Jews, he did not see this as a pressing matter; he responded: "Slowly, slowly [Redemption arrives]" (see Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 3:2).

When I continued and asked if should we request the presence of our army on the Temple Mount, he again cooled with his glance what he considered as an impure burning desire and said sternly: "Slowly, slowly [redemption arrives]."

At the same meeting, when I mustered the courage, I asked - in the name of my colleagues who greatly pressed me to do so - if should we request that the flag of the State of Israel be flown on the Temple Mount, he looked at me with a dreadful glance of pain and amazement that I had sunk so low to the point of asking such questions, and he said forcefully: "We will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d!" (Tehillim 20:6). Despite this, "It is Torah and I need to learn it" (Berachot 62a), I therefore asked again, "Certainly, we will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d, but won't it be by way of the flag of the State of Israel?" Our Rabbi patiently repeated: "I told you: we will raise a banner in the Name of our G-d," with his absolute rejection of all the comparisons between any infringement of the holiness of the Temple Mount and the building of the Land of Israel.

At the end of this meeting, I told our Rabbi how we are continuing with the acts of redeeming the heart of Jerusalem, house after house, and then the stern and dreadful facial expression disappeared, and a full smile of eternal kindness enlightened his face. When I detailed the names of the streets, he said that I need not bother, because all of these places were etched in his memory from his youth.

A student was once scheduled to give our Rabbi a ride but was late because all of the traffic and he expressed his distress. Our Rabbi said: On the contrary, I am happy that Jerusalem is filled with people.

Lag Ba-Omer on Motza'ei Shabbat

Question: Often, non-Torah-mandated holidays are moved to avoid desecration of Shabbat. Why not Lag B'Omer? There will definitely be kids lighting bonfires well before Shabbat ends.
Answer: The problem is that it is not exactly a holiday with mitzvot but a popular custom. In Shut Sha'arei Tzion (#14), Ha-Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz - Rav of Kotel and Holy Places in Israel - discusses this question regarding the celebrations at Kever Rashbi on Meron and he says that the bonfires should be started later in the night and this is the custom of the Admor of Boyan, but he also refers to a letter from Ha-Rav Zalman Nechmiah Goldberg (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's son-in-law) that the bonfires should be done during the day for the reasons you mentioned. The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Yonah Metzger, also called for the bonfires to be lit of Sunday during the day.

I’m Charedi Too

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

I’m Charedi too. Certainly I am. After all, what is a Charedi? A person who trembles [chared] at the word of G-d, who strives to keep the mitzvot, to learn Torah, to improve his character, to avoid evil and to do good. Surely we were all commanded about these things, and we are all called upon to fulfill them. That’s what is on the mind of every Charedi: to be G-d-fearing. Indeed, this is the ideal of us all, that we “desire to fear Your name” (Nechemiah 1:11). I didn’t say that I am already G-d-fearing, but I am amongst those “who DESIRE to fear G-d’s name”.
Obviously, there are a lot of types of Jews who fear G-d, or want to fear Him, or are trying sincerely to fear His name. Yet the common denominator of them all is: fear of G-d. And that common point is infinitely greater than all the elements that divide us. Indeed, it is very essential that all the various types of G-d-fearing people should recognize and feel that commonality. This will lead them all to cooperate. As it says in Pirkei Avot 6:6: “Bearing the yoke with one’s fellow Jew” is one of the forty-eight ways by which the Torah is acquired. One may not agree with one’s fellow Jew. One may even have some criticism for him. Yet we should still cooperate with him for the majestic common goal of undertaking the yoke of heaven.
One time a new student arrived at the Mercaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, turned to him affectionately and said to him something along the following lines: “From now on you are a Charedi. From now on, you won’t be busy with hiking and going out to have fun at night, with work and hobbies. Henceforth you’ll be busy with Torah and mitzvoth. Henceforth you’re a Charedi!
What a wonderful world! This is a wonderful world that has sustained the Jewish People for thousands of years, and will continue to sustain them. This is a world that was built by the Men of the Great Assembly, who generated masses of Jews “who are set apart from the impurity of the nations of the lands” (Ezra 6; Nechemiah 10; Sefer Orot, page 110). And you can see the marvelous continuation to this very day of that same G-d-fearing, Charedi Jew. So much Torah! So much mitzvot! So much sterling character! So much familial contentment! So little divorce – and thank G-d for that.
Don’t expect to find anything else amongst those marvelous people. That isn’t their expertise. It’s not their mission. Don’t expect to find in them the rebirth of our nation in its land, in the Jewish State, and in the army. That isn’t their job. Each Jew has his own mission and task. Just as you won’t go looking for breakfast rolls in a hardware store. Among them, what you’ll look for is love and Torah and mitzvot, and that you will find.
Our master Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook warned in his famous Letter 378, published before the appearance of Orot Ha-Teshuva: “One must be careful to ensure that all the ideals of fortitude and valor, joy and rebirth, which claim so much relevance at present, not weaken our fear of G-d to the slightest degree. Quite the contrary, we need to have even more fear of G-d.”
Living together as a nation is infinitely more complicated than living as individuals. Thus, we have to have even more fear of G-d. G-d forbid that we should dispense with any of the fear of G-d of the Charedim. Quite the contrary, we ourselves have to be Charedim. We have to be more Charedi than the Charedim. We must build an additional level of marvelous piety. We need the piety of building the land, of the return to Zion, of the establishment of the State, and of Israel’s wars. Obviously, ours is not some new kind of piety, but an old type that was forgotten because of the Exile, and now it has to be reawakened, in accordance with Megillah 3a which refers to principles that were “forgotten and then reinstated”.
Yet all this is in accordance with that same fine, blessed piety that has existed for two thousand years. What, after all, is piety? It is the first levels of the book Mesillat Yesharim – avoiding all sin, alacrity to fulfill all mitzvot, being clean of the slightest hint of wrong-doing. All these are traits relevant to everyone. And the same applies to the higher levels: “purity” – acting with sincere intent; “separation” and “saintliness”, as we ascend further and further in holiness.
Fortunate is the person who trembles at G-d’s word. Fortunate is the person who fears G-d and walks in His pathways.