Shut SMS #81

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:
Faith and Problems
Q: There are all types of problems in the world. Doesn't this contradict faith in Hashem?
A: On the contrary, when everything is good, it is not so hard to have faith. The test is when it is a time of distress. Mesilat Yesharim 19. The foundation of faith is to know that all the deficiencies we see in the world are only according to our limited grasp, but in truth, they are not deficiencies. One must also recite a blessing on the bad, since everything is for the best.

Helping Others Repent
Q: Is it permissible to lie in order to help someone repent?
A: Someone who does this believes that the Torah is not true, and therefore lies in its name so that it will find favor in others' eyes.

Praying with a Microphone
Q: Is it permissible to say Tefilat Ha-Derech with a microphone on a bus?
A: No, one must hear it directly from the person, unless each person is reciting it on his own (Shut Minchat Shlomo 1:9).

Q: Is it permissible to learn the Zohar?
A: No. The Zohar is for special individuals (Rama, Yoreh Deah 246:6).

Old and New
Q: Are the words of Rav Kook old or new?
A: When our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was asked this question, he said that it is the oldest of the old and newest of the new, i.e. old in a new form. And, in fact, our Rabbi added the source for every line written by Rav Kook.

Torah and Politics
Q: Does Torah have what to say about politics?
A: Yes. The Torah includes everything. According to Christianity, religion relates to G-d and politics to Caesar – not G-d, i.e. Satan. This is one of the differences between us.

Davening while Traveling
Q: If one is on a long trip and there is no choice, it is permissible to daven Shemoneh Esrei while seated, or is it preferable not to daven at all?
A: While seated (Shut Be'er Moshe 3:14).

Q: I work for myself, and if I pay taxes, I will be in poverty.
A: One who has a lower income pays a very minimal amount of taxes. But based on what you wrote, there is no permission to steal.

Cemetery at Night
Q: Is it permissible to visit a cemetery at night?
A: Some are careful not to do so, but it is permissible. Nitei Gavriel (Avelut 82:10).

Impure Thoughts
Q: Since I began learning in yeshiva, impure thoughts overcome me, even in the Bet Midrash?!
A: The good inclination is increasing, and the evil inclination is also getting stronger against it. Tanya, chap. 28. Be strong and have courage!

Maaser Kesafim
Q: Can I give Maaser Kesafim to my father?
A: If your father is poor and you are poor, since Masser Kesafim is for the poor, and your father takes precedence before others. If you are not poor, you should support you father with your money and not Maaser Kesafim (Ahavat Chesed of the Chafetz Chaim, 19 and Aruch Ha-Shulchan Yoreh Deah 251:8).

Learning Out loud
Q: Is it permissible to learn Torah out loud in the Bet Midrash if it is bothering others' concentration?
A: It is certainly forbidden to bother others (based on "Love your fellow as yourself").

Oedipus Complex
Q: Is Freud's theory about the Oedipus Complex correct?
A: It has not been scientifically proven. Perhaps it was true in his house, since his father's second marriage was to a woman twenty years his younger, i.e. the same age as Freud's brother…

Postpartum Depression
Q: I gave birth and instead of being happy, I am depressed and want to cry. Maybe I am not normal?
A: You are normal. Approximately 15% of women suffer from Postpartum Depression, and the reason is not known… You can cry and express what you are going through to those close to you. Relax, enjoy and, if need be, see a psychologist.

Parashat Netzavim-Vayelech: To Stand Upright

[Tal Chermon]

"You - all (of the Nation of Israel) stand UPRIGHT today before Hashem, your G-d"

Kedushah (holiness) does not mean that we should constantly bow our heads, and particularly not before non-Jews. The Torah teaches us to hold our heads high. On the verse, "When you raise up the heads of the Children of Israel" (Shemot 30:12), the Or Ha-Chaim HaKadosh comments, "For sin causes one to lower his head, evil is rooted in earthly concerns, and is lowly. Kedushah leads one to raise his eyes on high - to become elevated both in quality and in quantity" (see his commentary, ibid.). A lowering of one’s profile is analogous to sin. Our Parashah says, "You - all (of the Nation of Israel) stand UPRIGHT today before Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim 29:9). One who stands before Hashem, stands straight and not bent over. The Or Ha-Chaim explains: "The farther anything is from Kedushah, the lower its profile, the more bent its head. Therefore the Torah tells us that when we stand before G-d, we stand upright with our heads raised" (ibid).

A Kiss

A kiss is a physical connection, but of all the physical connections in the world, it is the most spiritual. And why is this? Because those are the same lips which help us to talk together, the same lips which help us to smile and the same lips through which we breathe.
The connection between me and my wife comes before all else, above all else and after everything else – spiritually. There are many expressions to utilize, but they do not adequately describe it.
The essence is that I speak to my wife, listen to my wife, try to understand my wife, make an effort to express myself to my wife, and to unfurl the map of my soul before her and to read the map of her soul. My wife is my breath and my soul. Therefore, when I come close to my wife, I do so with love and reverence, with my lips, in the place of my speech and my breath.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #8

[adapted by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon from Rav Aviner's three-volume commentary on the siddur "Tefilat Amecha"]

In Birkot Ha-Shachar we bless Hashem: "Who has not made me a slave." Slaves have no control over their time. We are fortunate that we do have control over our time, and can use it to serve Hashem. Often slaves have no control over their own minds. Sometimes today when people cannot think for themselves, they are like slaves. If they have to do what everyone else does to “be cool” or “fit in,” that means they cannot think for themselves. They’ve become a slave to the group, to peer pressure or to society. But as Jews were want only to be servants of Hashem.

From Rosh Chodesh Elul through Hoshana Rabba we add the Psalm "Le-David Hashem Ori ve-Yishi - Hashem is my Light and Savior - at the end of davening. King David wrote this in reference to everything that could have caused him fear. With Hashem as his protector, there was truly no need to fear any of his enemies. In this Psalm, there is what may be the most important verse in all of Tehillim. "There is one thing I ask of Hashem, one request I shall have, to dwell in the House of Hashem all of the days of my life…”
Do we really only ask one thing of Hashem? We ask so many things. But they all come down to one central request. We wish to be close to Hashem. This means we want to recognize Him, understand Him as best as we can and to do what Hashem wants. Everything else that we ask for is to be able to accomplish the goal of being close to Hashem.
At the end of the Psalm we say, “Trust in Hashem. Make your heart strong and brave and trust in Hashem.” Rashi explains that we trust in Hashem when we pray. And when we don’t seem to get what we requested, we continue to trust in Hashem. We don’t always seem to get what we want when we want it. Hashem has his own time schedule. But when we are close to Hashem and when we trust Him, we truly have nothing to fear.

On Accepting Contributions from Christian Groups

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

Question: I don’t understand why the Rabbis have forbidden accepting money from Christian institutions such as the Christian “Friendship Fund”. After all, that’s a Christian organization that loves Israel, and I don’t feel like the money I received influences me the least bit in the direction of Christianity.
Answer: First of all, I am puzzled by your great enthusiasm about living off the money of others. Have you suddenly become a beggar, what in Yiddish is called a “schnorrer”? Even to be a schnorrer from Jewish money is a shame, but to be one from non-Jewish money is already a disgrace, a profanation of G-d’s name.
Observe what our Sages wrote: “Those who eat ‘something else’ are disqualified as witnesses” (Sanhedrin 26b). Generally speaking, in the Talmud ‘something else’ [davar acher] connotes pork. Here, however, Tosafot proves that it should not be interpreted that way (d.h. “Ochlei”). Rather, Rashi explains that here it is referring to “People who accept charity from non-Jews, this being a profanation of G-d’s name for the same of monetary gain. Such people are classed as ‘Rasha Dechamas’ – avaricious evildoers.”
If we were a poor country it would be one thing. I would yet understand this enthusiasm. I wouldn’t justify one’s being an “avaricious evildoer,” but I would understand it. Yet we are a wealthy country, amongst the wealthiest on earth, and all of this money is a tiny percentage of the national budget. And for the sake of this you degrade yourself? Shame on you! And the worst is that it is non-Jewish money.
Let me explain. The Evangelical Protestant missionary institutions try to infiltrate anywhere they can by whatever means possible. Now they have found the golden pathway – financial support. The sums they contribute are for them nothing. They just make a big impression on us and arouse our craving for more. In the United States there are fifty million Fundamentalists. If every one of them contributes ten dollars every year, you’ve got half a billion dollars right there, which looks like an enormous sum.
Financial support is their present method of slowly infiltrating us. It doesn’t happen all at once. Not everyone who accepts their money immediately becomes a Christian. Yet their influence involves a seepage process that can spread over years. Those people are very patient and gradually they make inroads.
When a simple Jew hears the word “Christianity,” he is filled with abhorrence. He immediately thinks of the blood of millions of Jews tortured to death by the Christians. He recalls the Inquisition. He remembers everything. Therefore, he will never want to listen to them.
Faced with that, what do we find in the internal memos of those organizations that hunt souls? “We have to break down the barriers between ourselves and the Jews. We have to rehabilitate their trust, which has been totally destroyed. We have to operate slowly and patiently. We have to show that we are friendly, and who is more friendly than He that distributes money to those who crave money?!”
They use data to infiltrate every community. For example, in order to penetrate the Charedim they dress up like Charedim and keep tabs on their poor. If someone falls ill or passes away, they come to visit, help out, provide money, offer an encouraging word – without a single word about Christianity, obviously. They come again and again until a connection is formed. They talk from the heart. When they see that the time is ripe, they say, seemingly as a side comment, “Certainly Christianity is something bad, but Jesus the Christian was all-in-all a
good person.” In the first stage, that one sentence is enough. Later on comes another sentence, and then another sentence, via the slow-seepage approach.
In one place, a missionary dressed as a Lubavitcher gave some Chabad women a series of lectures on Tanach in a style that was totally Chabad. The series went on for two years without one word about Christianity, until one day he mentioned that “That Man” wasn’t so bad.
Everywhere there are missionaries sporting knitted yarmulkes. The missionary’s son learns in a yeshiva high school, and he is a little missionary. His daughter studies at a girls’ Torah high school, and she is a missionary as well.
They’re all very nice. They don’t give themselves away. The main thing is to slowly build a connection, to foster trust. That is their approach. We know them and we know exactly how they operate. There’s a story about a man who picked up a hitchhiker, an officer, a lieutenant colonel, with a knitted yarmulke, who lived in Gush Katif. Certainly, all the elements of a fine person. They conversed at length, yet that same lieutenant colonel let slip a comment about “That Man.” Since the driver was personally involved in combating missionaries, he immediately sensed who this was and he reported it to the army. The army investigated and threw him out, because they don’t want missionaries there. The officer turned to the Supreme Court, but lost in court. The army has enough headaches without that.
That’s their secret. They wait until we say, “All in all, the Christians are fine people. They give us money. Hats off to them!” That’s how they break down the barriers. Sometime later, we say, “Maybe we’ll meet with them. Maybe we’ll talk with them.”
Dear friend, you are no expert in the strategies employed by the Christians. Were the donor an individual Christian, there would be room to deliberate from a halachic standpoint on whether one could accept his gift. At the same time, it is no great honor to be a schnorrer, as noted above. If, however, the donor is a Christian organization, then under no circumstances is one allowed to accept even one cent!
It’s true that if you, as a private individual, accept their gift, one can hope that you won’t be influenced towards Christianity. Yet we are talking about the public agenda of the Jewish nation, that it is forbidden for us to develop a dependency on them.
Here is a terrible case in point. Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of Christian missionaries working in Israel. Already a number of times a new Knesset law has been recommended: “One is not allowed to persuade someone to convert. Jews cannot persuade Christians or Muslims, Christians cannot persuade Jews or Muslims, etc.” Yet this law fails every time, because those same Christian organizations that support Eretz Yisrael and distribute funds to the settlements and to the poor threatened, “If you enact this law we will cease our financial support. We will also consider ceasing our political support.” Money demands something in exchange. It ensnares you.
Don’t mistakenly say, “They’re Christians, not missionaries.” Every Evangelist Protestant is a missionary, even if he hides it. Also, we haven’t learned Greek, so we don’t realize that the word “evangelist” means “missionary.” At all the pro-Israel Christian marches and demonstrations, the Christian Lovers of Israel walk hand-in-hand with the missionaries. It turns out that because of the money that you receive, Jews become Christians! For the missionaries, hundreds of millions are a pittance, but to us it looks like a lot. To refuse to
accept millions is a temptation that you can, indeed withstand. Yet once you start to accept it, it’s hard to stop.
About twenty-six years ago, such a Christian approached me, declaring that he greatly loved my yeshiva, because we were building the Temple. I told him that we’re not building the Temple. “But you want to build it, right?” “Certainly we long to build it,” I replied. “And what are you doing on that score?” he asked. I answered, “We learn Torah and strive to improve our character.” “Great! Very good!” he said. “We are fifty million fundamentalist Christians in the U.S.A. Every one of them will give one dollar a year, and you will have fifty
million dollars a year, and that will be our contribution towards building the Temple.” And what did I answer to his generous offer? “No!”
Since, then, I reckon that I have lost out on a billion three hundred million dollars. No big deal. Small change.
There’s a settlement in Judea and Samaria that received a million dollars from them. Now, in that settlement there’s a Christian worship service in their Town Council building! A prayer service of Christian missionaries and Jews for J. – right there in the Town Council building! Nowhere is it written that the one was in exchange for the other, but that is precisely the result. Let’s not be naive.
How fortunate you are, through G-d’s grace, to have been born in Eretz Yisrael, such that you don’t know what Christians are, how they operate and how sophisticated they are. You should bone up on your history.
By the way, there are two other types of Christians. First, there are liberal Protestants. They are against the State of Israel, because we, allegedly, committed an injustice against the Arabs. Second, there are Catholics, who presently are not engaged in missionary work. Yet, they, too are against the State of Israel, because they think that they are the true Israel, and it was they who were supposed to have established the State. Right now we are talking about the Fundamentalist Protestants who love the State of Israel and who are associated with the missionaries. The common denominator is that we suffer fusillades from all of them, and not
just today but throughout history.
Let us be strong and courageous. Let us not accept from them even a penny. Let us not run awry after their dollar crusade.

Shut SMS #80

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:
Waiting between Meat and Milk
Q: If someone eats a tiny bit of meat, it is permissible to eat dairy right after?
A: It is forbidden (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 89:1).

Army Service
Q: I can get out of military service in a legal way and I am inclined to do so because of what happened in Gush Katif and Amonah. Is it permissible?
A: It is a great mitzvah to protect the Nation and Land.

Temple Mount
Q: Is it permissible to visit the Temple Mount?
A: It is forbidden to ascend the Temple Mount as is the opinion of the majority of Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. We must increase holiness among the Nation and the time for the building of the Temple will arrive.

Giving a Hug and Kiss to a Non-Jewish Father
Q: Is it permissible for a Jewish woman to give her non-Jewish father a hug and a kiss?
A: Yes.

Buying Items before Birth
Q: Is it a problem to buy items for a baby before he is born?
A: There is no problem.

Affection between Parents
Q: Is it permissible for parents to show signs of affection in front of their little children?
A: It is permissible and proper.

Divorcee Covering her Hair
Q: Must a divorcee continue to cover her hair?
A: Yes, except in the rare case that it is preventing her from remarrying (Shut Igrot Moshe Even Ha-Ezer 4:32 #4).

Male Hair Stylist
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to go to a male hair stylist?
A: It is forbidden, whether she is married or single.

Medical Clown
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to learn and work as a medical clown?
A: Yes, for women.

Health Club
Q: Is there a prohibition for a woman to work out at a health club?
A: It is permissible with the condition that it is completely separate from the men.

Q: Can a woman work as a waitress?
A: Yes, if she does so with modesty. And the same applies when she serves guests in her home.

Ankle Bracelet
Q: It is permissible for a woman to wear an ankle bracelet?
A: With the condition that it is modest and does not draw attention.

Q: Is there a difference in our struggle between a legal and an illegal outpost?
A: The evacuations are illegal but the struggle must be conduct without sinning, i.e. without violence, without insults and without hatred.

Economic Situation
Q: Will my economic situation improve?
A: We do not know, but there is hope with prayer, repentance and Tzedakah.

First Year of Marriage
Q: Is it permissible during my first year of marriage to go on a trip for a few days with two friends while my wife stays at home?
A: If she wants.
Q: Meaning, if she agrees?
A: No, if she wants it.

Good and Evil Inclination
Q: Do the good and evil inclinations exist within a person, i.e. the decision which way to direct his powers, or is there an external spiritual reality which acts upon a person, such as angels?
A: Both of these are explanations of our Rabbis, the Sages of the intellect and the Mystical Sages. Igeret Ha-Musar of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, printed at the end of Mesilat Yesharim. And see Orot Ha-Kodesh 3, 135. 235.

Q: When will the Messiah come? We suffer so much. We pray every day but he does not come!
A: He has already come a little.
Q: What does that mean?
A: Building of the Land. The Return to Zion. The establishment of the State. The wars of Israel. Jerusalem. The return of Ahavat Yisrael. The return of the Torah to Eretz Yisrael.

Wedding Ring on Credit
Q: Is it permissible for a groom to buy the bride's wedding ring on a credit?
A: Most authorities permit it, but it is proper to be strict and either put some money down or if paying in installments to make the first payment before the wedding. Otzar Ha-Poskim #80.

Clothing for Davening
Q: Is this permissible to daven while wearing shorts?
A: If in that time and place, people stand dressed in that way before a king (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:40).

Kivrei Tzadikim (graves of the righteous) outside of Israel
Q: Is it permissible to leave Israel in order to daven at Kivrei Tzadikim, and then immediately return?
A: Rav Kook forbids it. Mishpat Cohaim #147. There are greater Tzadikim here.

Kivrei Tzadikim
Q: Is it preferable to travel to the grave of Rebbe Nachman in Uman or Maarat HaMachpelah?
A: With all of his importance, our Forefathers are great than Rebbe Nachman.

Continuous Mitzvot
Q: Do the six continuous Mitzvot apply when one is in the bathroom?
A: Yes. See Chochmat Shlomo, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 80:5.

Parashat Ki Tavo: Joy in the Observance of Mitzvot

[Tal Chermon]

Our Parashah warns that we will be punished: “Since you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy and with a good-heart, from so much of everything …,” (Deut. 26:1).
“Joy in the performance of Mitzvot is in and of itself a Mitzvah…, this joy constitutes pure service of G-d and is of greater significance than the Mitzvah itself, as is written, ‘Since you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy.’ We are punished for not serving Him joyfully, as is written, ‘Serve G-d with joy, appear before Him with jubilation,’ ‘Righteous people - exult in G-d;’ ‘Exult in G-d, be joyful, righteous people, and be gleeful, you who are upright,’ ‘I revel in Your words as one who has found a great treasure’ (Tehilim), and ‘I praised joy’ (Kohelet). Our Sages interpreted these verses as speaking about the joy in the performance of Mitzvot” (Rabbeinu Bachayei, Kad HaKemach, “Simcha”).
“The Torah blames us for serving G-d joylessly, because one is required to rejoice in the performance of Mitzvot. This joy is in itself a Mitzvah. In addition to the reward one receives for performance of a Mitzvah, he is rewarded for this joy, and therefore he deserves punishment if he has no joy ….” (ibid.).
“The Holy Ari confided in a friend that that all the wisdom and Divine understanding which he had received was a reward for the joy he had when fulfilling any Mitzvah - tremendous, unbounded joy. He too cited the verse, ‘Since you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy and with a good-heart, from so much of everything …,’ meaning more than all worldly pleasures, more than all the gold and precious stones in the world” (Sefer Charedim).
Sometimes it is difficult to serve G-d with joy because of the burden of one's sins. One who is always conscious of his spiritual deficiencies and his guilt cannot take joy in anything. There are many and varied methods to find a way out of this dilemma, as many as there are complex emotional states due to feelings of guilt and wrong-doing. One of these methods is to “forget past sins” (Maran Ha-Rav Kook, Mussar Ha-Kodesh, 250), to wipe the slate clean and begin every day anew, disregarding any past burdens. Of course, this must be done “with good intentions and to enable him to serve G-d with joy” (ibid.).
One who succeeds in forgetting about past sins in order to “develop his capacity for Torah knowledge and wisdom” and “to bring more light and joy of G-d in his endeavors” (ibid.) will be rewarded in kind by Divine Providence - “These too shall be forgotten” (Yeshayahu 49:15).

Rabbi Can Make A Mistake?!

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah vol. 3 #21]
Question: I have been teaching Torah and serving in the Rabbinate for twenty years, and I belong to the Ultra-Orthodox sector. I happened upon a book from one of the students of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, I read it out of curiosity and also in order to publicly prove his mistake, but the opposite occurred and I saw that he speaks the truth. I learned other books from his stream of thought, and I reached the clear conclusion that during all of the years I was mistaken in my relationship to the Land of Israel and Zionism. One question bothers me: How can I follow a different path than my Rabbi, for I am full of respect and love for him, since I owe everything to him? Moreover, how can it be possible to imagine that so many great Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis erred? I am willing to say this about myself, but not about them.
Answer: I commend you for your integrity. It should only be that we should all learn how to admit the truth. To get to the heart of the matter, this question has been dealt with in many books, among them "Geulat Yisrael" by Rabbi Avraham Yelin, who was a brilliant Sage, although not well-known. Yet for his book he had approbations from the Admor of Ostrovtza and from Maran Ha-Rav Kook. In addition, his book "Erech Apayim" was very well-known.
Rabbi Yelin wrote: "Some claim that once someone has accepted a particular person as his rabbi, and that rabbi is opposed to Zionism, one must teach in accordance with that view so as not to violate the prohibition against "straying to the right or to the left from what they tell you" (Devarim 17:11). That is a mistake, however, for that verse is referring to theGreat Sanhedrin" (Geulat Yisrael, page 15). Quite the contrary, if it appears to a disciple that his rabbi has erred, he must ask him about this and argue with him until his rabbi changes his mind (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 242). There are numerous examples in the Talmud and the Poskim [Halachic decisors] of disciples disagreeing with their rabbis (page 15). Regarding the issue of Eretz Yisrael itself, we find that Rabbi Yehudah was one of the illustrious giants of his generation, and he ruled that it is forbidden to move fromBabylonia to Eretz Yisrael (Ketubot 110a). His disciple, Rabbi Zeira, disagreed with him and moved there (ibid.), as did his disciple Rabbi Abba (Berachot 24b and Geulat Yisrael, pp.15-16). He points out in the name of Rabbi Akiva Eiger that in our times, following the invention of the printing press, books have been disseminated throughout the world, and it is possible for there to be a student who studies books that his rabbi never studied, such that the student knows more than his rabbi (page 16). He likewise quotes Maharal Mi-Plotzk who saidthat if an illustrious rabbi knows the whole Torah, yet has not toiled to understand a particular law, and a lesser rabbi does not know the whole Torah yet has toiled to understand that particular law, the latter can better arrive at the truth, such that we will rule according to the lesser rabbi (Shut Meshivat Nefesh 16 and Geulat Yisrael, page 3).
As far as your wondering how it is possible for so many great rabbis to err regarding something so simple, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, wrote to a great Charedi Rabbi: "I was pained by what your esteemed self wrote some time ago in regard to G-d's great and awesome deed in rebuilding His Nation and inheritance and gathering in His scattered ones, and in regard to the Zionism that is associated with this. It is clear that you are absolutely mistaken regarding those matters. What you wrote is like what Ra'avad wrote in Hilchot Teshuvah, chapter 3, about the many rabbis greater than himself who followed a particular line of thought" (Le-Hilchot Tzibbur #6).
Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, is referring to Rambam's words that whoever says that G-d has a body is a "min" (an apostate), and to Ra'avad's response that Rambam is reacting too sharply to the great rabbis of Israel who thought that way. Here we have great rabbis who made an enormous error.
A question obviously remains: What made these illustrious rabbis err regarding the rebirth of our Nation? Rabbi Yelin responds that the true reason is found in the words of theillustrious and holy Rabbi Eliyahu Gutmacher from Greiditz, who was blessed with "Ruach Ha-Kodesh," Divine intuition. Rabbi Gutmacher was among the first to raise the idea ofagricultural settlement in Eretz Yisrael. He wrote to the illustrious saint Rabbi Elazar Wachs, suggesting the reason for the opposition: "The main cause of the opposition is that even in the greatest saints evil takes control to nullify this goodness. The whole force of evil is dependent upon this" (from a letter quoted in the book "Nefesh Ha-Chayah"). The author of "Chidushei Ha-Rim" wrote similarly regarding the sin of the spies ("Sefer Ha-Zechut" in Parashat Beshalach and "Geulat Yisrael," pp. 8-9).
Rabbi Yelin mentions that sometimes even the prophets erred.
Moshe erred regarding the goat of the sin offering, and as a result of that, he became angry with Elazar and Itamar (Vayikra 10). Yehoshua bin Nun erred regarding the Givonim (Yehoshua 9); the Prophet Shmuel erred when he was going to anoint one of the sons of Yishai and he wished to anoint the wrong one (Shmuel 1 16). Yerovam ben Navat succeeded in tricking the Prophet Achiyah Ha-Shiloni into giving his approval to idolatry (Sanhedrin 102a and Geulat Yisrael, p. 9).
Regarding settling the Land itself, the Torah says that "the whole community threatened to stone [Yehoshua and Calev] to death" (Ba-Midbar 14:10), and Rashi on 14:1 says that the phrase "the whole community" connotes the Sanhedrin. As Chiddushei Ha-Rim of Ger explains, the Sanhedrin argued that Eretz Yisrael would corrupt them (Geulat Yisrael, p. 9). During Ezra's times, the vast majority of the great rabbis opposed his going up to the Land on the pretext that Eretz Yisrael would cause the Jews to worship idols (Midrash Rabbah on Shir Ha-Shirim 5:3).
"The greatest saints handed over the Rambam's works to Christian priests to burn... Many illustrious rabbis fanned the flames of controversy, persecuting and inciting against our master Rabbi Yehonatan Eibschutz, the holy Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto and our teacher the Ba'al Shem Tov" (Geulat Yisrael, p. 9).
"We have likewise heard about one mistake put in writing by a brilliant, holy rabbi. Due to the author's greatness, the Charedim struggled to understand what he had written, and the holy Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk, who was a great lover of truth, said in this regard that the truth that emerged from here was that it showed the author that even he was only human" (ibid.).
Rabbi Yelin was apparently referring here to what the Maharal Mi-Prague wrote, that there is a difference between two Hebrew words that both mean "with him": "Imo" and "Ito", and that when Abraham took his two lads "with him" the Torah refers to this with "Imo," whereas when Bilam took his two lads "with him" the Torah uses "Ito." Truthfully, however, in the Torah it is the opposite (see Bereshit 22:3 and Ba-Midbar 22:22). The Maggid Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz wrote an answer to this problem (printed in "Be'er HaGolah," p. 155). Yet the Kotzker Rebbe, who had enormous admiration for the Maharal, said that even an illustrious rabbi can err.
Rabbi Yelin concludes, "From all this we can conclude that even a great and saintly rabbi can make a mistake... The truth is that even the greatest rabbis amongst the opponents have no correct knowledge on this issue" (Geulat Yisrael, p. 9). Thus, how fortunate you are to have merited to attain the truth from great rabbis who did not err, faithful emissaries of the Supreme King of Kings.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #7

[adapted for middle-schoolers by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon from Rav Aviner's three-volume commentary on the siddur "Tefilat Amecha"]

In Birchot Ha-Shachar we bless Hashem "Who has not made me a non-Jew." Here we are not talking about an individual, we are talking about a nation. Even though a non-Jew can also choose the path of righteousness and merit life in the World to Come, we thank Hashem that we are part of the Nation of Israel, who have been given the Torah which guides us on the right path, and helps us avoid the many obstacles which prevent a person from fulfilling his mission in life. This is what makes our Nation holy.

Shut SMS #79

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:
Text Message Questions
Q: Why do people ask such stupid text message questions?
A: We should not judge one who asks a question, since in his wholeness and pure faith he asks what is bothering him. It is not appropriate to ridicule someone, and one who mocks him in a cynical manner is revealing much about himself.

Charedim or Religious Zionists
Q: What makes us different from the Charedim?
A: We are Charedim, and we have an extra Klal Yisrael level.
Q: Why do most Baalei Teshuvah become Charedim?
A: That is incorrect, a mistaken impression.
Q: Why are so many Religious Zionists willing to compromise?
A: In truth, we should not compromise, but be Charedi and more.

Past Girlfriend
Q: I broke up with my girl friend since we were not a good match. How should I relate to her if she calls?
A: Be polite.

Music for a Mourner
Q: May a mother who is in mourning put on music for her children to listen to?
A: Yes, but she should not listen (Pesachim 25b).

Mayim Achronim
Q: Is a woman obligated to wash Mayim Achronim? Why?
A: She is obligated in order to recite the blessing after eating with clean hands (Shut She'eilat 1:111).

Q: May a woman who is engaged enter a cemetery?
A: Yes, unless the custom of her community is otherwise.

Pants for a Girl
Q: May a girl wear pants which belonged to her brother under her skirt on a fieldtrip?
A: Yes (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 2:323).

Witnesses for a Loan
Q: When one gives a loan, is there a need for two witnesses, one witness or just a document?
A: Is it sufficient to write a document (Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Choshen Mishpat 70. Shut Shevet Ha-Levi 10:268).

Movies about the Expulsion
Q: Should one watch movies about the Expulsion from Gush Katif?
A: It is forbidden to read books which stir up inclinations. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16. This includes the inclination to hate, and applies all the more so to movies.

Parashat Ki Tztei: Guarding Your Tongue

[Tal Chermon]
One of the Mitzvot of this week’s Torah Parashah is not too well known: “Remember that which Hashem your G-d did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt” (Devarim 24:9). Rashi explains that this constitutes a command to remember how Miriam spoke “Lashon Hara” - derogatively - about Moshe Rabbenu and how she was punished. However, it is difficult to comprehend exactly what her sin was, and why she was punished. All she did was discuss the fact with her brother Aharon that her brother Moshe had separated from his wife. She did not approve of this behavior, since no other prophets saw fit to separate from their wives.
There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with what she said since:
1. She spoke the truth.
2. It was a private conversation with her brother.
3. She spoke to a relative and not to a stranger.
4. Her intentions were only for the good.
5. Moshe was not even insulted, as the Torah tells us that no one was as humble as he was.
6. She did not intend to insult him, merely to compare him to other prophets.
7. The person she spoke about was her beloved brother, whose life she had saved when he was a baby.
8. She was a righteous person, but received a very serious punishment for a seemingly small transgression.
In truth, these points do not raise questions, but rather provide the answers, as the Rambam (Mitzvat Tumat Tzaraat 16:9), and the Ramban (Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, Mitzvah 7, and commentary on the Torah, Parshat Metzora) explain:
1. “Lashon Hara” is forbidden, even if it is true.
2. It is forbidden even in a confidential conversation.
3. It is even forbidden to speak derogatively about relatives.
4. It is even forbidden when one has the best intentions.
5. It is even forbidden when the person spoken about is not insulted.
6. It is even forbidden when nothing really bad is said.
7. Loving someone deeply does not grant permission to speak badly of him.
8. It is not a “small” transgression, but rather a very serious one.

How is the Mitzvah of remembering what Miriam did to be fulfilled? Our Rabbis rule that it must be performed verbally (Sifrei on Parshat Bechukotai). When must we fulfill this Mitzvah? Some Rabbis rule that this verse should be read out loud after the daily morning prayers (Sefer Charedim, ch. 4), while others rule that once a year is sufficient, during the Shabbat Torah Reading (Magen Avraham, 60). The Arizal wrote that when we recite the words “to thank You” in the blessing preceding the Shema every morning, we should remember that our mouths were intended not only to praise and thank G-d, but also to refrain from speaking “Lashon Hara.” This too is a way of remembering the lesson we are taught through Miriam.

Which is more precious?

A man's wife would make challah for Shabbat, but on account of the large size of their family, he had to buy extra challah from the bakery so that there was enough. The challah from the bakery was tastier than his wife's homemade challah. He was in doubt on which challah to make the blessing. On the one hand, the Halachah states that one should recite the blessing on the more precious challah. On the other hand, perhaps he should recite the blessing on his wife's challah in order to honor her. He asked his Rabbi, who answered: "Beloved is man, for he was created in G-d's image" (Avot 3:14), and all the more so your wife is more beloved to you than any person, and her challah is therefore more precious.
Another question: A man was in doubt whether to recite the blessing over his wife's Challah or his mother's challah. His Rabbi said to him: Your question is not phrased correctly. From the time you were married, you and your wife are one person. The correct phrasing is therefore: You and your wife have a question as to how to honor your mother. The Torah says: "And they become one flesh" (Bereshit 2:24), and obviously one spirit and one soul. Figure it out together and your will find a solution. Perhaps recite the blessing on both.


Question: In last week's Parashah Sheet Ha-Rav listed two websites that relate to matchmaking, but then in the Text Message Responsa, he says that the Internet is filled with filth and nonsense and one shouldn't use it to learn Torah -- even though he is knowingly doing just that with his weekly e-mails. How can we understand this seeming contradiction?
Answer: If one can do without the Internet or is considering not using it, it is preferable. If, however, one is using it, we should at least encourage proper use, including proper filtering and worthwhile content.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #6

[adapted by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon from Rav Aviner's three-volume commentary on the siddur "Tefilat Amecha"]

In Adon Olam we say: "Hashem is my G-d, my living Redeemer." He is concerned with the whole world, of course. But he is also concerned with every single individual person. When we daven, we have to remember that Hashem cares about each and every person. It’s not just that He knows what we are doing, He cares. He loves us and so He wants our Tefillot. "Rock of my pain in time of distress." In times of trouble, He is My Rock. Hashem is there for us - where we are happy or sad. And He wants us to daven to him. And since we know this, we can say: "Hashem is for me, and I will not be afraid."

Don't Copy!

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

Don’t copy. Don’t copy discs, software, songs, “or anything else that belongs to your neighbor” (Shemot 20:13). Your neighbor worked and toiled and invested his best efforts and resources. Will you benefit without paying? Where is your integrity? Where is your morality? Even without the Torah, where is your natural morality? Have you forgotten the Mitzvah of “Do what is good and right” (Devarim 6:18), which according to Ramban is a positive Torah precept? How can you be such a scoundrel with the Torah’s license? Yet here, this is not with the Torah’s license, but against the Torah’s license. Our Sages long ago ordained patent rights (see Techumin 6-7). The Sages enact ordinances, and the public may as well (Baba Batra 9b). Open your eyes and see the warning of the sages of Italy from 500 years ago regarding the book “Ha-Bachur” by Rabbi Eliyahu Bachur HaLevi: “The wording of the opinion handed down in Rome, the capital, by its Rabbis and Sages: They passed a decree of excommunication on any person who steals his neighbor’s handiwork… And since we know that this man… wrote the above-mentioned writings with great toil, forfeiting his time over many days… and perhaps there is among you a root whose fruit is gall and wormwood (Devarim 29:17), who will have the nerve to publish even those aforementioned writings, all of them or some of them, in a more attractive format, taking the profits for himself, while the original authors will lose out.

“We have therefore demonstrably set ourselves apart, to be against the destroyers. As it says in Kiddushin 59a: “If a poor man is examining a cake, and someone else comes along and takes it from him, that person is called an evildoer.” We also say, “'Fishing nets must be kept away from the hiding-place of a fish which has been spotted by another fisherman the full length of the fish's swim, because that is called interfering with the other’s livelihood” (Baba Batra 21b)… And since printed books can move from ocean to ocean, we have not set any limit. Rather, we decree across the board: Whoever knows of our decree, having seen it or heard it, must not publish these books. And whoever publishes them, he, himself or his agents, will be classed as a trespasser and excommunicated. And whoever knowingly buys it from him after hearing our decree, will be covered by the curse and the excommunication, and may all Israel be blessed.”

Therefore, my friends, be very careful to avoid such trespassing, for “cursed is he who trespasses his neighbor’s territory” (Devarim 27:17). Don’t watch copied movies. Don’t listen to copied songs. If you’ve got a copied CD, throw it in the trash. “Keep a shovel with your weapons to cover your excrement. Let your camp remain holy” (Devarim 23:14).

One might say: I’ll do what I feel like. I’ll do what everyone else does. Everybody copies. Everybody downloads. If you say that, it’s not your wisdom talking. It’s not your integrity talking. It’s your evil impulse. Such is not what “everybody” does. It’s what thieves do. “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania said: ‘I have never been out-argued by anyone except by a woman, a young boy and a young girl… What was the case of the girl? One time I was walking down a road that passed through a field. A girl asked me, ‘Rabbi! Is that not a field?’ I replied, ‘No, it’s a beaten path’ (that does no harm to the field). She replied, ‘Thieves like you beat it down’ (One is forbidden to walk in the middle of a field, and thieves like you trod on it until they created a path’. Eruvin 53b. See first comment of Ben Ish Chai on Parashat Nitzavim).

Yet you might still argue that the owners gave up on it. They know in advance that this is what is going to happen, so it’s like a lost object swept away by the river (Baba Batra 24b).
But that isn’t so, my friend. All such things are said about natural disasters, regarding which
people are impotent, since they can do nothing, so they give up hope. In our case, however, they cry out and protest the theft, and if they can, they call the police. There have already been cases of people paying hundreds of thousands of Shekalim because they downloaded things from the Internet illegally. Moreover, Ha-Rav Moshe Isserlis wrote that with lost objects, even after the original owner loses hope of its return, we should go beyond the letter of the law and return it. According to the Mordechai, we can even force a finder to return such an object to the original owner. In our own case, however, the issue is real theft.

You might argue: Here, one party benefits and the other loses nothing (Baba Batra 20). But
don’t say that, for we only argue that retroactively, after the deed, but not a priori (Tosafot ibid.). As we already noted, the Rabbis enacted patent laws. Moreover, there are Federal laws and international laws. So, if you wouldn’t buy it in the first place, you can copy a book for personal use, for that the law allows. But you can’t copy a CD.

And when we quoted the Torah saying, “Don’t covet anything belonging to your neighbor,” the point was not to exempt theft from non-Jews, for it is well-known that stealing for non-Jews is likewise forbidden. Moreover, such theft profanes G-d’s name. Woe to us for our sins, for the State of Israel appears on the list of countries in which copyright laws are not enforced. G-d says, “You have profaned My great name amongst the nations, who say, ‘G-d
caused His Presence to rest on a nation of thieves.”

Thus you have three reasons for the mitzvah of not copying, and each suffices: 1. To be ethical and good. 2. Our Sages’ decrees regarding copyrights. 3. National and International laws, which have halachic force. We are further tempted to say: “The items are overpriced! Who can buy it?” That is irrelevant. Don’t buy it. The evil impulse further says, masquerading as the good impulse: “I only copy Torah content, so that I can learn Torah, for the sake G-d’s name.” That’s worthless. That’s a mitzvah via a sin. G-d doesn’t want that kind of Torah learning. Something else: Don’t download even one song. Don’t do even one sin. Don’t make yourself a CD with a collection of copied songs, with each song stolen from a different CD. Even one song has a price. A person can be recognized by three things, and
one of this is his relationship to money. How wonderful honesty is! How wonderful kosher
wealth is! “If you eat by the sweat of your own brow, how fortunate you will be” (Tehillim 118:2).

Shut SMS #78

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:
Date with a Person who has a Problematic Parent
Q: Is it permissible to go on a date for the purpose of marriage with a young man whose father is in jail?
A: I cannot answer since I am biased. I have one grandfather who married the daughter of a thief and another grandfather who married the daughter of a murderer. This is not Lashon Ha-Ra since everyone knows them: The first is Yitzchak Avinu and the second is Yaakov Avinu. What fault does the young man bear and what is his sin? One must be judged on his own merit (see Kehilot Yaakov, Yevamot #38).

Mitzvot on the Moon
Q: How should an astronaut determine the proper times to daven on the moon?
A: Based on the location from which he departed (see "Adam Al Ha-Yare'ach" by Ha-Rav M.M. Kasher).

Gush Katif Museum
Q: Should one visit the Gush Katif Museum?
A: Yes, making sure to guard his Ahavat Yisrael (love of every Jew).

Q: It is my birthday today. What mission should I take upon myself for the coming year?
A: Torah – finish learning a book. Kindness – for someone or other people.

Failure to Pay Taxes
Q: On account of cheaper competitor who do not pay taxes, my clients are leaving and I cannot manage to make a living. What should I do?
A: Inform your clients that it is forbidden to avoid paying taxes. If this does not help, tell the authorities what the businesses are doing.

Q: I heard that it is written in the Gemara that there are three stars which have aliens living on them. What is the source?
A: There is no such Gemara and no other source.

Fasting on Wedding Day
Q: Does a bride need to fast on her wedding day?
A: An Ashkenazi bride, unless she is weak (Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Even Ha-Ezer 61:21).

Q: Is a father on the day of his son's birth exempt from Tachanun?
A: No.

Aiding a Shabbat Desecrator
Q: Is it permissible for me to arrange an urgent doctor's appointment for someone who needs a doctor's clearance to participate in a sporting competition on Shabbat?
A: It is forbidden to aid someone desecrating Shabbat.

Swimming on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to enter the water on Shabbat without swimming?
A: No, the decree includes this as well (Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 2:13).

Solider on a Bus
Q: Is it permissible for a soldier to ride the bus in his uniform when he is on a break from the army, since he can ride for free?
A: On condition that he has a military document which gives him this privilege (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 4:29).

Honoring Parents
Q: My family wanted me to participate in a Bar-B-Q and I want to learn Torah.
A: In this matter, learning Torah is greater than honoring father and mother. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 240:25.

The Zohar
Q: In my yeshiva, they began classes in learning the Zohar. Should I participate?
A: Absolutely not, the Zohar is for unique individuals – great Torah scholars (Shach, Yoreh Deah 240:6).

Q: Is it permissible to wear sandals without socks?
A: It is permissible but it is preferable to wear socks (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:322-323).

Unconscious Husband
Q: My husband is unconscious in the hospital resulting from a car accident. Is it permissible for me to rub cream on him or perform other treatments when I am in Niddah, since if I do not, the family will say that I am neglecting him?
A: It is forbidden since it is not a life-saving treatment, unless you take pills which indefinitely postpone your period.

Painting the Mechitza in Shul
Q: Is it permissible to paint the Mechitza in Shul or must we do so outside?
A: It is permissible since it is for the Shul itself.

A Lecture by a Woman
Q: I have to attend a lecture by a woman. How should I act?
A: Do not look at her, but listen and take notes.

Q: It is worthwhile to get the internet to listen to Torah classes? We don't have any children at home.
A: One's gain is offset by his loss. It is full of filth and nonsense.

Rabbi's Picture
Q: Does one need to place a Rabbi's picture in the Geniza? Is it permissible to use a newspaper which contains a Rabbi's picture for cleaning purposes?
A: There is no obligation to place it in a Geniza. It is permissible to use it to clean but not for disgusting cleaning.

Parashat Shoftim: "Emunat Chachamim"

[Tal Chermon]

"According to the Torah which they [the Sages] teach you and according to the law which they expound to you, shall you act, you shall not turn from that which they tell you - neither right nor left" (Devarim 17:11). "Even if they tell you that right is left and that left is right! And certainly if they say that right is right and left is left" (Rashi quoting Sanhedrin 89). This is what is meant by "Emunat Chachamim" - faith in the Sages. Some people think that faith must be blind and preclude understanding. This is a very shallow interpretation. It allows skeptics to say: "If faith is not a function of the intellect but rather some vague emotion that I personally do not feel, then there is no reason for me to believe." On the contrary, faith is the greatest exercise of intellect and the greatest achievement of philosophy that exists.
Faith in Sages means trust, communication, and a common point of reference. The Halachah speaks of the honor and reverence due to Torah scholars, but "Emunat Chachamim" is on a higher plane, it is a deep, pervasive, vital feeling of connection. Faith in the Sages is an extension of faith in G-d - an extension of our faith in The One Who gave us the Torah - to faith in those who continue to disseminate Torah. "And they believed in G-d and in His servant Moshe" (Shemot 14:31). "Emunat Chachamim" means faith in the Oral Torah, which has been handed down from one generation of Sages to the next, from the very beginning until this day. The Oral Torah is Divine and eternal and a direct extension of the Written Torah. However, it reaches us indirectly, on a more human plane, through Torah Scholars. It makes no difference if they have gained their Torah knowledge through intellectual analysis refined by years of Torah study until their thought processes parallel those of the Torah, or if they have achieved a "Divine Inspiration;" i.e., not something magical or a sudden prophesy, but an enlightened understanding likewise gained through years of Torah study, as it says in Baba Batra 12: "Prophesy was given to the Sages."
There are differences of opinion among Torah scholars, but all opinions are "G-d's living Torah." These opinions are likened to sparks flying from an anvil, breaking into 70 different rays, each one representing another facet of the "70 faces of Torah." All of these combined constitute one great, all inclusive truth. This should be our approach to Torah: To elevate and include all the "facets" of Torah. There are also, however, approaches which are outside the bounds of the Torah. It requires hard work to identify, refine and purge them. There are also approaches outside the bounds of Torah, but which have sparks of holiness, requiring more delicate work to refine.
Therefore, no one should make light of his own abilities, treating his own thoughts, feelings, desires and tendencies as worthless. They are a reflection of the Image of G-d in which he was created. Faith in one's Rabbi does not imply subordination or relinquishing the right to think for oneself. It should rather uplift one's inborn tendencies by refining them, certainly not by forcing them into a mold which is foreign to himself. This process of refinement is painful at first, for one must detach himself from parts of his life which are in reality foreign to him, but to which he has become accustomed, and which become difficult and painful to do without.Faith in the Sages means trusting them. Your connection to your Rabbi depends on your trust, and may be a long drawn-out process. There may be a conflict between the development of your ability to think critically and independently of your Rabbis and teachers, and the deep love and respect you feel for them. These two flames slowly unite into one bright torch.
"Intellectual analysis and a sense of faith and admiration for Men of G-d, the bearers of the great traditions wherein the treasures of the Divine are hidden - [these two approaches] differ psychologically [and subjectively] to a great extent" but "these two forces really complement each other" (Maran Ha-Rav Kook, Orot Ha-Kodesh 1, pp.47-48).
Faith in the Sages should not make one into something he is not, quite the opposite - his faith should help him refine and develop his own unique self tenfold. Sometimes, when one begins a rabbi-student relationship, he relinquishes his own personality as if he was an infant, but this is merely a transitional period until he undergoes a process of self-refinement. He then becomes his own man, able to think critically and freely for himself.

I Failed

I whispered to my wife under the Chupah: "I will never fight with you. And if we do fight, I will always say to you: You are right." Looking back, I have not lived up to that promise even once. We have fought a lot, and I always claim that I am right. But I am not sorry: not for the promise and not for my failure. I am happy that I promised since I set the ideal and the aspiration. When one knows the truth, there is hope. I am not sorry that I failed, since I learned from every failure and I improved. I learned from each experience and I or, more accurately, we improved. We thought that marriage was complete stability, and we now understand that it is a joint journey, and we travel along together.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #5

[adapted by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon from Rav Aviner's three-volume commentary on the siddur "Tefilat Amecha"]

The Birkot Ha-Torah end saying Hashem is the One "Who gives the Torah." The Taz and others note that this in the present tense. It’s not only that Hashem gave us the Torah back at Har Sinai. He gives it us every day. He gives it to us when we learn it. He gives it to us when we apply it to our own lives. He gives it to us when we teach it to others. And so we bless Him for this great gift, and then say some selections from the Torah itself.

Leaving Eretz Yisrael #10

Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was deeply disturbed that there were people in the Religious-Zionist and Charedi communities who leave Israel for reasons not permitted by Halachic authorities. He said that he does not see any permission to act in this manner. When he was invited to his grandson's Bar Mitzvah outside of Eretz Yisrael in the year 5731, he wrote that he does not see sufficient permission for doing so (and he added that even if he teaches a lot of Torah and perhaps there is permission to leave to teach Torah, the large amount of teaching will cause a reduction in Torah learning). Regarding Cohanim, he ruled that one should be concerned for the position of the authorities who rule it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 372), since the land outside of Israel is considered impure (Halchot Shlomo – Tefillah vol. 1 p. 277 note #16).

Finding a Match is Hard Work

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Re'eh 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Singles often find themselves bitter at those people who are able to make matches but who don’t even try. They are also bitter at matchmakers who, while trying to make matches, seem not to invest much thought in it, trying to slap together “any Kippah with any skirt.” In reality, matchmaking in the Charedi world goes better than in our community. It seems as though one of the main reasons for this is that matchmakers there receive appropriate remuneration for their activities; they therefore perform more seriously and energetically. Why should the Rabbis of the National Religious public not enact a binding ordinance requiring that every matchmaker be given an appropriate sum? Wouldn’t many people then try to make matches in a serious, worthy manner?
Answer: It’s true. You really do have to invest much thought before you suggest a match, because inappropriate suggestions breed aggravation and frustration. Moreover, the couple should be accompanied after they meet in order to help them in their decision making, one way or the other. Often the couple is deterred by all sorts of extraneous details. They forget that man is not an angel, that he should be judged based on how he mostly is, as Rambam wrote in Hilchot Teshuvah: “If he is mostly meritorious, he is righteous.” For someone to be considered righteous, that is enough. It’s not rare for couples to decide to break up, but following long talks with the matchmakers, to agree to meet again, and in the end they wed and produce a steadfast, Jewish home.
Matchmakers, whether professionals or not, need nerves of steel and have to be ready to suffer criticism. Very often the couple has other problems apart from mutual compatibility, and they find a ready ear in the matchmaker, pouring out their distress and seeking good advice and support. It involves a lot of effort to convince the couple to view matters in proportion and not to examine the prospective candidate’s minor shortcomings with a magnifying glass. Here is an example of a negligible shortcoming: A man came to the Talmudic sage Rav and asked regarding himself: “If a non-Jewish slave cohabits with a Jewish woman, what is the status of the resulting son?” The Rabbi answered, “He’s a legitimate Jew.” That person then said, “If you hold that way, give me your daughter as a wife.” The Rabbi replied, “I won’t do it.” Rav Shimi bar Chiye questioned Rav’s response by way of a folk saying: ‘The Rabbi says, theoretically, that a person is a legitimate Jew, but in actual practice refuses to give him his daughter when it comes to the test of reality.’ Rav responded, “Even if the man was as great as Yehoshua Bin Nun, I wouldn’t give him my daughter, and it’s my business as to the reason.” Rabbi Shimi bar Chiye said, “If that person was as great as Yehoshua Bin Nun, he would find a match easily. Here, however, it is Rav who rules that he is legitimate, and if he does not wish to give him his daughter, who will do it?” Rav still refused. When a similar question arose before Rav Yehuda, he gave the following advice: “Go hide.” In other words, he advised him to conceal his identity or to wed a woman born of a similar background. Likewise, the Talmudic sage Rava advised, “Flee
to a place where no one knows you” (elaborated-upon translation of Yevamot 45a).
The question is asked: How is it permissible to trick people and to hide such a severe blemish? Does this not halachically constitute forbidden deception? Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, author of the “Kehilot Yaakov” answered this question: Regarding people who are as hard to match up as to split the sea, when people agree to wed, their joy is great, and they will not agree to wed just anybody, but only the person they themselves have chosen, whom they find pleasing. At that point, they will not be willing to end the match over normal shortcomings, but only over terrible shortcomings that one would never agree to” (Kehilot Yaakov, Yevamot, Siman 38).
It follows that a non-Jewish father would not be considered a terrible shortcoming, and it should not be taken into consideration. It is clear to us, however, how much work a matchmaker would have to put in to convince the prospective suitor that such is the case. It is therefore clear that the matchmaker must be paid, whether he is a professional or an amateur; such is the Charedi practice, whether the matchmaker was approached, or whether he himself initiated the match. Several hundred shekalim should be paid in advance to cover phone calls and investment of time, and if the efforts succeed, thousands of shekalim should be paid, and one should not feel sorry about it. All these are negligible sums compared to the expenses of the wedding, and certainly as compared with the great joy of the marriage.
At this time, I would like to announce that two matchmakers’ sites have been opened on the Internet. The candidate does not sign up, but goes through the matchmaker who lists the candidate’s details anonymously. Afterwards, he looks through the listings on the site, identifies those suitable for his candidate, and he calls that suitable person’s matchmaker, and the two, together, work towards the match’s success. Here are the
The sites also provide much guidance for matchmakers.
Mazel tov!

Shut SMS #77

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:
Mourner at Brit Milah
Q: Is it permissible for a mourner to attend a Brit Milah?
A: Yes, but without the festive meal (Pnei Baruch 20:23).

Doubtful Debt
Q: What is the law if I am in doubt whether I paid a debt, but I think that I did?
A: You are exempt, but it proper to check with the person to whom you owed the money.

Immodest Clothing Donation to a Gemach
Q: Is it permissible to donate immodest clothing, such as pants, to a Gemach? It is possible that a woman would wear them under a skirt, although it is not certain.
A: It is permissible. Regarding the prohibition of "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind" (Vayikra 19:14), we "tolim" (literally "hang" on the assumption) that a person will act in the proper way (Mishnah Shevi'it, end of chap. 5).

Q: Is helping singles get married important, like Eretz Yisrael?.
A: Certainly.

Q: I am a woman and I have a very difficult time davening from a siddur. When I am forced to do so, my Kavanah is very minimal. Does prayer such as this have any value?
A: Yes, it has value. You should daven part of it, according to your strength (Shut Ha-Rashba 1:423).

Engagement Ring
Q: My parents bought me a ring, which looks like an engagement ring, as a present. People say that I should exchange it, since it is preventing me from getting married.
A: Nonsense.

Laws of Sacrifices and the Temple
Q: Should Cohanim start learning the Laws of Sacrifices and the Temple?
A: There are other subjects which take precedence (Li-Netivot Yisrael 1, 23).

"May his name be blotted out"
Q: Is it permissible to say "May his name be blotted out" for an evil Jew for a policeman or soldier who expelled Jews?
A: It is forbidden. If a man dies childless, his wife must marry the brother of her deceased husband ("Yibum"). The Torah says that the reason for "Yibum" is so that "his name is not erased from Israel" (Devarim 25:6). But what should I care if his (the evil Jew's) name is erased? If I say "may his name and memory be blotted out," what is the problem if his name is erased from Israel? There is no halachah, however, which eliminates the need to perform "Yibum" for a sinning Jew (Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer 157:3). This therefore means that I must be concerned that his name not be erased from Israel (In the name of the Sochachover Rebbe, the author of "Avnei Nezer").

Parashat Re'eh: Upon Entering the Land

Our Parashah focuses on the community. "Look! I place before you [plural] today a blessing and a curse" (Devarim 11:26). Eretz Yisrael is the location where the blessing of holiness appears. The first act which the community of Israel must do when it enters Eretz Yisrael is to destroy idol worship (Devarim 12:2-3). Entering the Land and destroying idol worship is in fact one and the same. There is even a special blessing recited when seeing a spot where this occurred: "Blessed is Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, who uprooted idol worship from our Land." This Land cannot bear to have idolatry within it. The Rambam explained in Hilchot Melachim (6:5) – based on the words of our Sages (Yerushalami, Shvi'it 6:1) – that when Yehoshua conquered the Land, he sent three letters to the non-Jews: 1. If you want to flee, you can do so and we will not pursue you. Our Sages explain that the Girgashi fled to Africa. 2. If you want to wage war, we will wage war against you. 3. If you want to make peace and remain here, you can do so under two conditions: A. This Land is ours, and will be under our sovereignty as the Ramban says (Additions to Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, positive mitzvah #4). You must accept our authority. B. You must rid yourself of all idol worship. Here, in this Land, there is no place for idol worship.

Question: Why then don't we destroy all the idol worship which is in our Land at this time?
Answer: There is a midrash which says that one must have much deliberation in this matter, lest we destroy it and others rebuild it, such as a weak government that gives into political considerations (Midrash Tana'im Devarim 12:2 p. 58. Avot De-Rebbi Natan 52, 11. And see Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah pp. 260-271).

Leaving Eretz Yisrael #9

Before Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach underwent surgery on his head - which was obviously difficult, dangerous and complex - people exerted great pressure on him to travel outside of Eretz Yisrel for the surgery. This was more than fifty years ago when the medical services in Israel were not as advanced as today. But Ha-Rav Auerbach remained firm in his refusal to leave the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. To those who worried about his wellbeing, he said: "If there is one doctor in Eretz Yisrael who agrees to operate on my head, I will not leave Israel" (Chico Mamtakim vol. 1, p. 54-55).

The Laws of Uprooting Jewish Settlements

(Written approximately five years ago in 5765)

In the course of the suffering accompanying the Divine process of our Redemption, we are once more encountering this terrible conflict between brothers involving the uprooting of Jewish settlements. We are not exempt from clarifying it in the light of Torah, which illuminates the proper path for both the individual and the Nation, both in healthy situations as well as in morbid ones. There are three parties involved here: the government, civilians and soldiers.

1. The Government
When it comes to long and short-term urban planning, it is certainly the government which must make decisions, but as far as the ideological question of whether a particular location belongs to the Nation of Israel or to another nation, that question transcends governments, for the answer to that question was provided by the Master of the Universe, by the Torah, by Jewish tradition, by history. Even the government was commanded regarding Eretz Yisrael: “We were commanded not to abandon it to any other nation, or to desolation” (Ramban, (Additions to Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, positive mitzvah #4). This command transcends the government. Quite the contrary, the government draws its strength and authority from it. Uprooting a Jewish community is a terrible crime with no parallel throughout Jewish or world history. All the more so that establishing a foreign state in the very midst of our own country is a national crime which surpasses all the bounds of reason and ethics. Likewise, the illustrious Rabbis who head the “Rabbinic Union for the People and Land of Israel” recently issued a proclamation absolutely rejecting the establishment of a foreign state within Judea and Samaria, or otherwise abandoning part of Eretz Yisrael to foreigners. Let us hope that our government will speedily free itself of the present agreement, returning to the path of truth and valor.

2. Civilians
Every Jew has to struggle to nullify these terrible decrees. The entire nation must rise as one man with one heart and struggle against this dysfunctional government that is leading us down the path of destruction. Obviously, as with any other mitzvah, this must not be performed by means of a sin. Before the founding of the State, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, established red lines as far as political struggles between us: No violence, no insults, no hatred (“Et Achai Anochi Mevakesh” in Li-Netivot Yisrael, vol. 1). Likewise, in the struggles over the completeness of the Land, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda never instructed us to use violence, to insult or to hate anyone. Therefore, please do not insult policemen or soldiers, let alone their officers. When a soldier takes hold of your hand, don’t use physical force to resist. Don’t hold on to boulders. You might get hurt, or the soldier might get hurt. And don’t play freeze-tag with the soldiers either. The evacuation of a Jewish settlement is a terrible desecration of G-d’s Name. Don’t make it worse before the television cameras of Israel and the whole world, which will show Jewish soldiers dragging Jews out of a Jewish settlement. If you force a soldier to drag you, don’t yell: “Why are you hurting me?” Don’t hurt his heart! When the Jewish Community of Hevron was just starting out, some of our group danced with an Israeli flag at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and soldiers ordered them to stop. When they didn’t listen, the soldiers grabbed at the flag, some pulling in one direction and others pulling in the other, until the flag got ripped. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda, responded: “What you did was more treif than pig. You put our friends, the soldiers, in an unpleasant situation in order to advance the cause.”
We see for ourselves that many soldiers feel horrible at being asked to evacuate outposts. Many themselves live in settlements and outposts. One must also be very careful of provocateurs who let their mouths spill out hatred and incitement to evil, but then report to the police what they saw around them. Don’t send children. It is hard for them to digest simultaneously a love of the Land and the Nation of Israel, with a love of the army.
Remember this: Our Rabbi stood at the head of the war over Judea and Samaria and loudly proclaimed: “Over Judea and Samaria there will be a war!” “Over our dead bodies!” Yet he never, never instructed anyone to use force against a soldier, a policeman, or even to insult them.
Whoever has learned Halachah knows the major principle: “We do not learn practical law either from abstract study alone, or from hearing isolated cases alone. Rather, we must learn it from a combination of abstract study with its practical applications. Once someone has asked questions and received such practical guidance, he can go and act accordingly” (Baba Batra 136b). The utterance that “there will be a war over Judea and Samaria” is in the realm of “abstract study.” It may be profound and holy and sublime and powerful, but it is not practical Halachah. Our Rabbi rejected anything that would create a rift amongst the Nation, and he said, “I do not want a civil war.”
The halachic conclusion of the illustrious heads of the “Rabbinic Union for the People and Land of Israel” was as follows: “To behave with great caution; to avoid all physical or verbal violence against our soldier brethren… and let it be said to the credit of the public that all
of them but rare exceptions are following the guidance of our Rabbis.”

3. Soldiers
Soldiers as well, as part of the Nation of Israel, must struggle devotedly to keep our Land intact, all the more so if a soldier is a high-ranking officer with an influence on the workings of the army and the government. Yet even he mustn’t fulfill a mitzvah by means of a sin. To cause the disintegration of the army is a grave sin. Our army works on the basis of unity – one for all and all for one. If the army disintegrates, it is no army, and that places the Nation in danger. The army is not rightist or leftist, middle-of-the-road or any other category. Otherwise, the Nation would be in danger. The country and the Jewish State would be in danger. The army is where the aggregate soul of the Jewish People is being renewed in all its glory. Driving a knife into that is the opposite of the whole process of our rebirth.
Remember this! Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda, stood at the head of all the ranks of settlers in Judea and Samaria, yet no soldier ever heard from him the words: “Refuse orders.” The soldier does not become partner in a sin, emissary to perform a sin or collaborator in a sin. The government’s sin was already performed and is now nothing but water over the bridge. Our Rabbi wrote numerous flyers against abandoning parts of Eretz Yisrael, yet he never wrote: “Refuse orders!”
“Many are the thoughts in a man’s heart, yet it is G-d’s counsel that will endure” (Mishlei 19:21). They keep presenting the same program, each time by a different name. We overcame 242, Gunnar Jarring, 338, Kissinger, the Geneva Pact, the Autonomy Agreement, the Reagan Program, the Shultz Initiative, the London Accord, Madrid, the Biltmore talks, James Baker, Oslo I, the Mitchell Report, Oslo II, the Sharm a-Sheikh Pact, the Camp David Summit, the Taba Talks, Clinton, George Tennet, General Zinni and the Saudi Plan.
We will overcome!

"We Got Married for This?"

- "Shalom, dear Chaim, I've waited so long to eat dinner together."
- "It's not important, Rina, I could have eaten alone. You don't have to wait for me."
- "But, Chaim, I want to eat together with you. Why were you late?"
- "I was at a Torah class. It's important."
- "And I'm not important?"
- "Of course you are important. But one also needs to add wisdom. If one does add wisdom, he is like an animal."
- "So, I'm an animal?"
- "Don't be insulted, Rina. That is not what I meant to say. Okay, let's eat."
- "Why are you eating so fast, Chaim?"
- "…"
- "You don't like it. I worked hard to make something you like!"
- "I like it all…"
- "But why are you rushing?"
- "I have an important meeting."
- "For what?"
- "For the benefit of the community."
- "And I am not part of the community?"
- "Why are you insulted? You are certainly a part."
- "To you, I am only a part?"
- "Rina. I am in a rush. Shalom."
- "We got married for this?"

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #4

[adapted by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon from Rav Aviner's three-volume commentary on the siddur "Tefilat Amecha"]

When we continue in Birkat Ha-Torah, we say that we want the words of the Torah to be not only in our mouths, but in our children’s, and their children’s, and their children’s, and so on forever and ever. And we want this for all of the Jewish People. The Torah is our "Morashah" - our sacred inheritance. Both the Torah and Eretz Yisrael are called "Morashah." They belong to the Jewish People forever, but every individual Jew must work hard to claim his share and to help Klal Yisrael be strong in this area. And notice that Hashem is willing to help. "He teaches Torah to His Nation Israel." Hashem is a teacher, and indeed the greatest teacher, in the world. All we need to do is listen to what He is teaching us.