Shut SMS #84

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:
Favorite Student
Q: I am a high school Rebbe. Is it proper if I love one student more than the others?
A: In your heart, it is okay. But not in practice.

Fallen Kippah
Q: What should I do if my Kippah falls off in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei?
A: Pick it up (Mishnah Berurah 104:2. Piskei Teshuvot ibid).

Q: Is giving Maaser a mitzvah or minhag?
A: Minhag, but it is an important minhag and one should accept it – without taking an oath (Tur Yoreh Deah 331. Pitchei Teshuvah ibid. #12. Shut She'eilat Yaavetz 1:6).

Non-Jewish Music
Q: Is there a problem to listen to non-Jewish music if one does not understand the words?
A: Yes. There must be kosher words, melody and singer (Commentary of the Rambam on Avot 1:17. Igeret Ha-Rambam to Sages of Aram Tzova, Mehdurat Ha-Rav Yitzchak Shilat p. 428. Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer #96).

Bad in the World
Q: Why does Hashem cause bad things to happen to me, since as a result my mitzvah observance deteriorates?
A: Good comes from the bad, like a doctor who causes pain, and it is out of love. Overcome the trial!

Shemoneh Esrei
Q: Is it permissible to daven Shemoneh Esrei in a room where people are sleeping?
A: If there is no bad smell (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim #103).

Shidduch Suggestion
Q: If one suggests a possible match, does he have to inform the person that the prospect had cancer at the age of three?
A: If the person has been completely cured and the risk is now no greater than any other person – one should not inform them (Re'im Ahuvim chap. 6).

Which Parents?
Q: We were married three months ago. With which set of parents should we celebrate the first holidays?
A: Where you are happy.

Marrying a Ba'al Teshuvah
Q: Is there a problem to marry a Kibbutznik who is a Ba'al Teshuvah?
A: There is no problem. Being a Kibbutznik is not a deficiency. Regarding the past transgression, the repentance completely erased them. Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah.

Q: Can a woman recite Hallel on the day on her wedding and on her wedding anniversary each year?
A: Certainly. Without a blessing. To express gratitude to Hashem.

Q: Is it permissible to recite Shehechiyanu for a new T-Shirt which will be used primarily for pajamas?
A: Yes, if you are happy (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 223:4).

Q: Is it possible to cook for guests, who only eat Glatt meat, in utensils which were used for non-Glatt Kosher meat?
A: Yes, but ask the guests first (Shut Yabia Omer Yoreh Deah 5:3).

Selling Transgressions
Q: Does it help to sell one's transgressions to a non-Jew?
A: Nonsense.

Q: I met a man, and he lied about his age because he was afraid to tell the truth. Should I continue to see him?
A: This is a shortcoming, but don't break it off. There is no one on earth free of transgression.

Standing in Line
Q: Can I ask my daughter to stand in line with an empty shopping cart while I collect the groceries and bring them?
A: This is also cutting the line.

Bad Dreams
Q: Since I have strengthened myself in purity, I am having unclean dreams. What should I do?
A: Our Sages explain that an evil person is shown a good dream and a righteous person is show a bad dream. Berachot 55b. Since an evil person follows his evil inclination, the good inclination therefore appears in a dream when he does not have a choice. And it is the exact opposite for a righteous person. Ain Aya of Maran Ha-Rav Kook ibid. Nonetheless, recite the Bedtime Shema with Kavana and do not eat a lot at night.

Crumbs and Grooms
Q: I am told that if I place crumbs from Melava Malka under my pillow, I will see my Beshert in a dream?
A: Nonsense

Shai Agnon
Q: Is it permissible to read Shai Agnon's books?
A: Some are appropriate and some are not.

A Child and the Inclination

Question: I heard that a baby has an evil inclination and not a good inclination, and that when s/he becomes bat/bar mitzvah the good inclination appears. Why?
Answer: First of all, a baby is defined by our Rabbi as one who has no sin. And, in fact, according to the Torah a child is not punished for his bad acts. He certainly does many stupid things, but they are not considered sin, since a sin is the result of intellect and an ethical decision. A young child is trapped by temptations and feelings. He is therefore not responsible for his actions. He is led by the evil inclination, i.e. different needs, temptations, desires, which come to satisfy him, but they are not considered sin. And little-by-little, we are obligated to educate him towards good and proper goals, to refine his desires and to overcome his evil inclination.
We need love and patience.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #11

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

We say "A person should always be G-d-fearing, privately and publicly." Yirat Hashem is a combination of fear and awe of Hashem as well as a desire to be close to Him. Fear of Heaven (Yirat Shamayim) isn’t supposed to be a side point of our life. It is supposed to be the essence of who we are. We are supposed to at all times and all places have Yirat Shamayim. But before we can get to "Always be G-d-fearing," we need to be a person, be a mentch. First we need to have good Midot¸ a good heart and to be honest, good people. Then we can have Yirat Shamayim. Someone who is not a good person cannot possibly have real Yirat Shamayim if they don’t also have good Midot.

How to Daven without Bothering Others

If you are the one leading the davening
Do not daven slower or faster than what is acceptable. Do not place "a burden on the congregation." If you daven too slowly you will cause others who have to go to work to leave before the end of the davening, and you will delay the next minyan from starting on time. If the someone davens too quickly, do not admonish him in the middle of the davening and embarrass him. Talk to him as a friend after davening. If speaking to him gently does not work, do not ask him to lead the davening.

Shul is not an opera house
Use the accepted tunes of the community. Do not use tunes with which the community is not comfortable. This causes discomfort to the community in addition to the halachic question involved in acting this way. If the person leading the davening acts differently from the accepted practice, please do not embarrass him, as we said above. If you ask your guest to lead the davening, advise him of what is expected of him in order to prevent any unpleasantness.

Shul is not a day care center
Do not bring young children who cannot remain quiet. It is permissible to bring a quiet child. If he begins to make noise please take him out immediately, even in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei, and especially in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei.

Shul is not a club house
Please take an urgent conversation outside, and "Hashem, the Beneficent One, will forgive." If you talk inside and disturb others who are davening, however, it is not certain that they will forgive you. If the conversation cannot be delayed and it is impossible to take it outside, please whisper and "Hashem, the Beneficent One, will forgive."

Shul is not a carpenter's workshop
Close chairs and folding shtenders quietly without banging them.

Shul is not a place to create work for others
Please return siddurim to their places. The Gaba'im are not your slaves,
Shul is not a welfare office
Pay your dues and donations, and do not perform mitzvot with money that does not belong to you.

Shul is not a Chasidic Rebbe's court
Do not make a long "Mi She-beirach" to which no one listens. A blessing will come to someone who is strict to forgo a "Mi She-beirach." Donate money when you receive an aliyah, and I promise you that the Master of the Universe will bless you even without the Gabbai's announcement.

Shul is not a "Shteibel" If you are late, repent. Do not organize a private repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei which prevents others from leaving and places a "burden on the community."

Shul is not an election rally
Do not shout out "Yasher Koach" to people who receive an aliyah or led the davening. They will be happier to receive a personal "Yasher Koach" with a smile.

Shul is not Hyde Park in London
Try, as much as possible, to hang announcements on the bulletin board.

The Netilat Yadayim room is not a club house for Cohanim and Levi’im
Conversation and the usual "jokes" are usually at the expense of the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei and others people's ability to concentrate.

The Silent Shemoneh Esrei is exactly that: Silent. Our Sages said that one should not daven the Shemoneh Esrei out loud in the presence of others, since a person is not permitted to increase his own concentration at the expense of another person's concentration. Do not clap your hand in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei "to expel external distractions." Ask Mekubalim (mystics) how to attain this result without making noise.

If you see a new face in shul
Smile at him, extend a handshake and greet him. The usual crowd in shul should also be viewed as a new face.

If you have an obligation to lead the davening, forgo it
The merit of forgoing it will benefit the ascension of the soul of the deceased even more than the merit of prayer.

If you are looking for challenges in mitzvot between one person and another – come to shul.
If you are looking for challenges in mitzvot between a person and Hashem, fulfill these mitzvot between one person and another. They are also the will of Hashem.


from Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim
in the heart of the Old City in Jerusalem

Shut SMS #83

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:
Foreign Workers' Children
Q: Is it permissible to expel foreign workers' and their children from Israel?
A: We must honor the agreements we have with them, not more and not less. We have more than enough foreigners in our Land.

Torah and Humanity
Q: Is it true that there is a contradiction between the Torah and humanity, and one should find the middle path?
A: Incorrect. The Torah includes the highest level of humanity, and contains the solution to any problem.

Homosexual Inclinations
Q: Isn't it denigrating to someone who has homosexual inclinations to say that he can be straightened out through treatment?
A: On the contrary, it shows the greatest value for his pure and strong soul which can overcome anything.

Picture without Permission
Q: Is it permissible to take someone's picture without his permission?
A: Certainly not. Only if you are sure that he agrees (Shut Mishneh Halachot 4:114. See Shut Be-Tzel Ha-Chochmah 4:85

Kosher Medicine
Q: Are pills against heartburn kosher?
A: Medicine which lacks taste is kosher.

Tzitzit for a Child
Q: Is there a problem for a 3-year old to wear ripped Tzitzit?
A: He must wear kosher Tzitzit.

Bride and Groom
Q: Is it permissible for a bride and groom to dance in front of others?
A: G-d forbid. It is forbidden for a woman to dance in front of men, and is it also forbidden for a couple to show affection in front of women (see the book "Gan Na'ul).

Salt and Pepper Shakers
Q: Does one need separate salt and pepper shakers for milchig and fleischig?
A: It is proper since they get dirty.

On the Haftarah for Minchah of Yom Kippur…Yonah: The Beloved and Courage Prophet

[The Book of Yonah]

Yonah, a prophet of Hashem, received a Divine command to call for a spiritual awakening in Nineveh, the capital of the huge Kingdom of Ashur. We would think that he would be overjoyed with this amazing challenge: To help an entire empire to repent. But his response is the polar opposite.
As is known, we pray three times a day in the prayer "Aleinu": "Therefore we put our hope in You, Hashem, our G-d, that we will quickly see Your mighty splendor…to perfect the world through the Almighty's kingdom. Then all humanity will call upon Your Name." Our deep aspiration is for all of humanity to find the proper path.
"Yonah arose to flee to Tarshish from before Hashem. He went down to Yafo and found a ship traveling to Tarshish. He paid his fare and boarded it to travel with them to Tarshish from before Hashem" (1:3). The first question which arises is: how can one flee "from before Hashem," since the earth is full of His honor? "How shall I leave from Your Spirit and where shall I flee from Your Presence?" (Tehillim 139:7). Is it really possible to run away from the Master of the Universe?
The Radak, Rabbi David Kimchi, explained that Yonah knew that one cannot flee from Hashem. This is made clear from the text itself which does not in fact say that Yonah wanted to flee "from Hashem" but rather that he wanted to flee "from before Hashem" (Yonah 1:3). Yonah sought to distance himself from the place of prophecy, for it is only possible to receive prophecy in the Land of Israel. The Radak says that if he left the Land of Israel, the spirit of prophecy – through which one is considered to be "before Hashem" - would not be able to rest upon him. The Land of Israel is the Land of prophecy. Our Sages were therefore surprised by the verse: "It was that the word of Hashem came to Yechezkel ben Buzi Ha-Cohain in the land of Kasdim" (Yechezkel 1:3)." How did he prophesy outside of the Land? The answer: "It was," meaning, "it already was" (Moed Katan 25a), i.e. Yechezkel began by prophesying in the Land of Israel and then continued to prophesy in the Exile.
But an additional question arises: How then did Moshe Rabbenu prophesy in the land of Egypt and in the desert? Rabbi Yehudah Halevi provides two answers to this question: 1. It is possible to prophesy not only in the Land of Israel but also about the Land of Israel, even when one is outside of the Land (Kuzari 2, 14). 2. The particular area where Moshe Rabbenu prophesied is part of the Land of Israel. There is a disagreement regarding the southern border of Israel, which is called "the River-bed of Egypt" [Nachal Mitzrayim]. It is unclear whether this refers to the Nile or to Wadi El Arish. According to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi "the River-bed of Egypt" is the eastern offshoot of the Nile called "Pelusium" and thus the land of Goshen, where Moshe Rabbenu prophesied, is within the borders of the Land of Israel.
Regardless, Yonah was well-aware that Hashem's glory fills the entire world. Therefore, according to the Radvaz, Rabbi David ben Zimra, who lived in Egypt four hundred years ago, Yonah still had not received the definite words to relate, as it is written: "Call out to her" (1:2). Yes, he had been "called," but the specifics of that call were as yet lacking. Only after he was spit out of the fish was the prophecy itself related: "You should arise to Nineveh, the great city, and call out to it the announcement which I tell you" (3:2). The Radvaz brought a proof from Targum Yonatan (the Aramaic translation) which explains the verse, "And Yonah arose to flee to the sea before he prophesied," i.e. before he received the prophecy (Shut Ha-Radvaz vol. 2 #842).
This brings us back to our original question: What did Yonah see that made him refuse to fulfill the Divine order? Rashi explained that Yonah said: The non-Jews are close to repentance (Yonah 1:3) – i.e. they repent easily. The Nation of Israel, however, is not close to repentance. They are stiff-necked. The Nation of Israel had a myriad of prophets. Our Rabbis relate that there were forty-eight prophets and eight prophetesses in addition to hundreds and thousands of prophets who did not leave any writings (Megillah 14a). They were so many prophets and yet the Nation of Israel did not always heed their call. The non-Jews, in contrast, repent quickly. We see this clearly when Yonah, without exhibiting any desire or passion, arrives to the city and says: "Another forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Yonah 3:4). He says the absolute minimum possible, and yet they begin repenting immediately! So Yonah reasoned: if I help the non-Jews repent, the Nation of Israel will be judged harshly. I do not want to be part of this process.
There is, in truth, a major question here: why do the non-Jews repent so quickly, while we, the treasured and holy Nation, are stiff-necked and do not listen to the prophets? The answer is that the non-Jews repent quickly, but they also return to their old-ways quickly. Their repentance is not deep and internal. It is true that the people of Nineveh repented: the king, the citizens and even the animals fasted and put on sackcloth and ashes. But it is also true that they returned to their sinful ways with the same alacrity. The proof of this is that we have never heard that the city of Nineveh became a city of righteous people. The opposite is true: Nineveh was the capital of Sancheriv, whose men destroyed the Kingdom of Israel and exiled the Ten Tribes who have disappeared to this very day. We have heard that they waged difficult and cruel wars. Their repentance was not sincere and true. In contrast, although the Nation of Israel is stiff-necked, when they do repent, their repentance is true and not merely an act of momentary excitement. The Maharal – Rabbi Yehudah Loew – explained that this character trait flows from the fact that the Nation of Israel examines every matter based on intellect. Because the Nation of Israel argues over every issue and is not easily convinced, it is difficult to get them to repent (Netzach Yisrael, chapter 14). The Nation of Israel is not easily moved because it is intellectual. We see this already during the period of Moshe Rabbenu when the Nation of Israel argued with him constantly: "Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the desert?" (Shemot 14:11). They even tried to understand revealed miracles in various ways. This is not a fundamentally negative trait; on the contrary, it testifies to their seriousness, depth, and intellectual search for truth. Non-Jews, on the other hand, are more grounded in the physical rather than the intellectual world. They are like a material which easily changes its form. Thus, Yonah refused to help the people of Nineveh repent so that their repentance would not be used as an accusation against the Nation of Israel.
Yonah loved Israel passionately and he had a good role model for his actions: Moshe Rabbenu. The sin of the Golden Calf was a horrible sin which our Sages compare to "a bride who engaged in extramarital relations during the wedding" (Shabbat 88b). In the midst of Hashem's revelation on Mt. Sinai, Moshe goes up to receive the Torah. When he descends, the Jewish People are dancing around the Golden Calf. The Master of the Universe informs him: "Leave Me alone, so that My anger will flare up at them and I may consume them, and I will make you a great nation" (Shemot 32:10). Hashem promises to create a new nation from Moshe Rabbenu, with no need for those who are dancing around the Golden Calf. But Moshe replies: No! And if You do not forgive them "erase me from the book which You have written" (ibid. verse 32). Moshe Rabbenu says: I do not want to be a great nation. I only want this Nation as it is. Moshe Rabbenu displayed enormous self-sacrifice when he, so to speak, gave an ultimatum to Hashem: either you forgive this Nation or "erase me from the book which You have written." In the end, the Master of the Universe forgave them. Yonah followed in Moshe Rabbenu's footsteps. Our Sages summarize this idea in one brief statement: "Yonah demanded the honor of the son" (Mechilta De-Rabbi Yishmael, Bo, parashah #1). Yonah demanded the honor of the son, i.e. the Nation of Israel. For Israel's sake, he was willing to do anything, even to distance himself from the Master of the Universe.
But, in the end, Hashem was correct. In His great mercy He is willing to accept even partial Teshuvah. If only Nineveh would take a small step towards repentance and Hashem, even if it is fleeting, it would suffice to cancel the harsh punishment which is planned. Yonah learned this idea when he was in the belly of the fish. He repented, and then agreed to fulfill his mission in Nineveh.
We will conclude with an interested historical note. A researcher named Olders wrote that in the year 5487 a whale was caught with the aid of a harpoon in the Falkland Islands, off the coast of South America. The whale began to move around in a frenzy, flipped over the fishing boat and swallowed one of the sailors. The sailor was found unconscious inside the whale three days later. They succeeded in reviving him, but he suffered severe psychological damage from this experience for the rest of his life, and was never able to recover. He survived because he was not in the digestive system of the whale, since its opening is too narrow to pass a full-grown man, but rather he was in its respiratory system. The man was thus able to breathe and did not suffocate. Nonetheless, he was obviously in an extremely distressful situation. In contrast, upon leaving the fish, Yonah was completely revived, helped the sinners return to Hashem and taught a universal lesson, which applies for all nations and all times.

I Did Wrong

I wronged my baby. I got angry with him. "Enough," I yelled, but I was wrong. I felt horrible. I was simply tired and frustrated. I know it is forbidden to become angry with a baby. And even a child. It has no benefit. But at least if I was right, I could have justified myself that I did it for his own good. But in this case, I was to blame. I simply acted improperly.
It is easy to wrong a baby or little child. He does not respond. You are always in an authoritative position. Furthermore, he respects you, considers you an angel, and even considers you G-d. He therefore always thinks he is to blame and that you are right. It is very comforting.
But this time, my baby did not take it. He looked at me with a look of betrayal and burst out with an angry cry. He had a feeling of being right.
Maybe I imagined it. Nonetheless, I hugged him, kissed him and said to him: "I am sorry. I love you. I was tired. I always love you." I do not know if he understood every word, but a smile appeared on his face.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #10

[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 "Gives strength to Israel." Notice that this is the first time in these blessing that we talk about Klal Yisrael, not just human needs. Klal Yisrael has special strength for which we must be grateful. Sometimes this is physical. Other times it is spiritual, for example, when we fight against the Yetzer Ha-Ra. We need this strength as individuals, and to help give this strength to the rest of Klal Yisrael.

Aseret Yemei Teshvah
Amida -1
From Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, we add in the first blessing: “Remember us for life, King who delights in life, and write us in the Book of Life, for your sake Living G-d.” Hashem wants life, loves life, and is the Living G-d. He has given us the Torah of Life, which is meant to give us a truly meaningful life. During the Aseret Yemei Teshuva we ask to increase life. We ask Hashem to remember us for life.
This first three blessings of the Amida are all to give praise to Hashem. Only then do we ask Him for things. So what is this addition doing in the first blessing? Why ask for life here? It is because we are not asking for life for our own sake. We ask for it for Hashem’s sake. We want to live to make Hashem’s Name holy. Therefore, it goes in a blessing where we praise him.

Amida- 2
From Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, instead of saying "Ha-El Ha-Kadosh" (The Holy G-d) in the third blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei we say "Ha-Melech Ha-Kadosh" (The Holy King). Why? During the year, Hashem waits patiently for us. He watches us slip and waits for us to do Teshuvah. And then Rosh Hashanah comes. He emphasizes that he is "Ha-Melech." He sits in judgment, closely following every individual on earth. The time of waiting patiently is over. Hashem expects us to act now. He expects us to do Teshuvah to become better people - better in the way we treat Him and better in the way we treat others. And we all know that there is always room to improve.

Rav Aviner in the News

Leading rabbi joins animal rights group's campaign against kaparot
[www.haaretz.com - By Yair Ettinger]

Ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel last week launched its annual information campaign against the ritual slaughter of chickens. That campaign just received a boost from an unexpected source, as one of religious Zionism's most influential rabbis joined the call against the practice of kaparot, in which an individual's transgressions are ceremonially transferred to an animal or inanimate object.
[Rav] Shlomo Aviner, head of Jerusalem's Ateret Yeshiva and rabbi of the settlement of Beit El, has spoken out in the past against the contentious rite. This time, however, he acceded to the SPCA's request and issued a religious ruling that, rather than slaughtering an animal, giving money to the poor is a better method of absolving oneself of transgressions.
"Because this is not a binding obligation but a custom, in light of problems related to kashrut and the suffering of animals, and given the edicts of the aforementioned rabbis, a recommendation must be made to favor performing kaparot through money, by performing the great mitzvah of providing for the needy," [Rav] Aviner wrote, citing religious decrees by rabbinical authorities from various periods throughout Jewish history.

Ketiva Ve-Chatima Tova

from Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim!

On the Haftarah for Rosh Hashanah…

The Prince of Hope
[Shmuel 1 1-2]

The Haftarah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah describes the birth of the prophet Shmuel, the great judge who saved the Nation of Israel from a period of terrible darkness. What a dreadful period of "When the judges judged" (Rut 1:1), which is explained by our Sages: "Woe to the generation when their judges are judged" (Bereshit Rabbah 42:4).
But relax, the judges did not commit any shameful transgressions, rather they simply despaired of that generation. Instead of rolling up their sleeves and traveling throughout the entire length and breathe of the Land to teach Torah and ethical behavior, they preferred to lock themselves in their ivory towers. They were convinced that the spiritual struggle was lost from the outset (see Yalkut Shimoni, Shoftim 68).
They were certainly many reasons to despair from the Nation of Israel, which was ripped asunder by civil war as in the case of the prostitute in Givah (Shoftim 19-20), and also by the spiritual corruption of idol worship such as in the case of the idol of Michah in the northern part of Israel (Shoftim 17-18). The result was that the enemies of Israel routed them and cruelly ruled over large parts of Eretz Yisrael.
Out of this darkness shone the light of the spiritual giant, the prophet Shmuel, who succeeded in bringing the Nation of Israel back to the proper path, while liberating us from our permanent enemy: the Philistines. Furthermore, he prepared the kingship of Israel, the kingship of Shaul which laid the groundwork for the permanent kingship of David. This is the great message he gave to us: Never despair (see Maamrei Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 450).
But who fashioned the wonderful personality of this judge and prophet? As in many cases, it was his parents. His mother, Chanah, is famous enough that there is no need to describe her spiritual level. But his father, Elkanah, was also a spiritual giant. What do we know about him? Only one thing: "This man would ascend from his city every year to prostrate himself and to bring sacrifices to Hashem, Master of Legions, in Shiloh; and the two sons of Eli, Chofni and Phinchas, were cohanim to Hashem there" (Shmuel 1 1:3). On the face of it, this verse seems quite ordinary: the custom of that period was to visit the Mishkan on holidays. But there is actually a lot more to it. To understanding this verse, we turn to a story related by Ha-Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriyah about Maran Ha-Rav Kook, the first Rabbi of the reviving Jewish community in Israel.
A Torah scholar who made aliyah from America came to Maran Ha-Rav Kook and complained about the state of Judaism in the Land of Israel. He was so distressed that he was considering leaving Israel. Maran Ha-Rav Kook said to him: Doesn't your honor remember the learning of his youth? The Book of Shmuel relates about Elkanah: "This man would ascend from his city every year to prostrate himself and to bring sacrifices to Hashem, Master of Legions, in Shiloh; and the two sons of Eli, Chofni and Phinchas, were cohanim to Hashem there." Rav Kook asked two questions about this verse: 1. Why are we told in this verse that Chofni and Phinchas were there? 2. Our Sages say that Elkanah would not only go up to Shiloh, he would go around and encourage others to do so as well. Why did he have to do this? After all, isn’t ascending to the Mishkan on the holidays a Torah mitzvah? Why weren't people following this mitzvah? Rav Kook explains that the first question is in fact the answer to the second question. The fact that Chofni and Phinchas were the cohanim in Shiloh caused people not to make the pilgrimage there, because Eli’s sons were corrupt. People said that if there were cohanim like this in this holy place, it was better not to go and see this ugliness and meet such sinners. Elkanah then came and convinced them that despite the sons of Eli and despite the sins at this holy place, they should not give up on this mitzvah of Hashem. They should strengthen this holy place. Right now there are not great people there, but later there will be. Do not give up because of the difficulties. As a reward for this act, Elkanah was blessed with a son, the prophet Shmuel, who served in the Mishkan. Rav Kook said to the Torah scholar that the same applies in relation to the holiness of the Land of Israel. Why are you angry with the Land of Israel? There are problems, therefore exert yourself and everything will work out. Although there are sinners, this is not a reason not to make aliyah and, all the more so, not to leave the Land of Israel. The more people committed to the Torah and mitzvot in the Land of Israel, the more holiness will be added to it (Chayei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 211-212).
This story from Maran Ha-Rav Kook's life provides us with deep understanding and an important contemporary lesson. The Nation sometimes loses its path, but we are told to act like Elkanah, who guided the Nation to follow him to the Mishkan on the holidays (Yerushalami Berachot at the end of chap. 9). But, make no mistake about it, Elkanah did not spend time giving speeches on proper behavior. In his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Eliezer Azkari, who was one of the leading sages in Tzefat during its golden period, explained that Elkanah had an influence on those of his generation mainly by his example: he would go up to Shiloh with such excitement, cleaving to Hashem and joy that it awakened a desire among others to join him. He loved the Nation of Israel, and respected it despite what he saw, and he was therefore successful in sharing his unshakeable faith with them. In the end, he merited a son who followed his path: he brought the Nation of Israel from darkness to great light.

Shut SMS #82

Ha-Rav 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:
Selling Alcohol
Q: Is it permissible for me to sell alcohol to Arabs, since it is forbidden for them to drink it according to their religion (Islam)?
A: It is permissible, since it is permissible according to the Seven Mitzvot of Bnei Noach. There is therefore no problem of placing a stumbling block before the blind.

Passion in Serving of Hashem
Q: I generally have passion in serving Hashem. What do I do when I do not?
A: It is a test from Hashem to serve Him for the sake of serving Him. See Musar Avicha of Maran Ha-Rav Kook.

Immersing a Pot
Q: I bought a pot produced by non-Jews but had to screw on the handle. Does it require immersion in a Mikveh?
A: No, this is considered assembly by a Jew.

Earthquake Insurance
Q: Is purchasing earthquake insurance for a building a lack of faith in Hashem?
A: No, it is acting properly. See Igrot Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:111). Yechaveh Da'at (3:85).

Q: I found money. Do I have to give Maaser?
A: Yes, as on all money.

Q: Is it permissible to go to the circus?
A: No. It is "Moshav Leitzim" (frivolity) and immodest (Avodah Zarah 18b).

Q: My daughter does not want to get up for davening on Shabbat morning but wants to sleep until lunch. Should I wake her?
A: You will not solve it by force.

Q: The law is that only a four-cornered garment requires Tzitzit. Why then do we especially wear Tzitzit?
A: They are the uniform of the Nation of Israel.

Hidur Mitzvah
Q: Is it preferable to buy a higher-quality Four Species or buy a regular set and give the additional money to Tzedakah?
A: Give the money to tzedakah. It is of greater importance (Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira in Rosh Devarcha, p. 194).

Milchig and Flieshchig Garbage Cans
Q: Is it permissible to throw milchig and fleishchig leftovers in the same garbage can or does one need separate ones?
A: It is forbidden to throw them in if they are boiling hot since it would be considered cooking meat and milk together (Chullin 115b. See, however, Mi-Penini Ha-Rav p. 152).

Temple Mount
Q: Should one tear his clothing when seeing the spot where the Temple stood?
A: No, since it is under our sovereignty (Tal Chermon – Moadim, p. 218).

"Price Tag"
Q: Should we punish Arabs for the trouble the Army does to the Settlers?
A: It is forbidden to punish an Arab for a transgression he did not commit. Furthermore, punishment must be meted out by the Nation and not an individual. It is therefore forbidden, and also causes damage.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #9

[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 provided me with all my needs." This blessing speaks about the individual. But what if I, or some other individual, don’t have all our needs? What if we are poor, or sick, or depressed or struggling in some other way? This blessing reminds us that Hashem has made His world in such a way that everyone CAN have everything they need. He has made the world perfectly. But it is up to people to make sure that everyone has their individual needs meet. So the world has enough food. The world has enough caring people and friends. We have to make sure that everyone we meet feels cared about. Hashem has done His part, and we thank Him for it. Now we have to do our part.

When we say the Vidui- the confessions- we verbally confess ours sins. This is part of our taking responsibility for our actions. We list sins in Alef-Bet order. Many have the custom to confess even more sins for each letter.
Notice, though, that we say these sins in the plural. "WE sinned. WE rebelled. WE stole..." This is because all Jews are responsible for one another. We are as one body, so the sins of one impacts us all. Therefore, we are confessing not only our sins, but the sins of all of the Nation of Israel.
Finally, it is interesting to note that we confess sins against other people, as well those against Hashem. Sometimes they are the same sin. For example, we say "Bagadnu- We rebelled." This means we rebelled against Hashem. He has done so much for us yet we didn't repay Him properly. But it also means we rebelled against other people, too. People did good things for us and we didn't treat them properly. We say "Gazalnu- We stole." It means that we stole from Hashem. We didn't say blessings. Or we didn't use the talents He gave us properly. But it also means that we stole from others- their money, their time, or their feelings.

The Prohibition Against Murdering Gentiles

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

(Published ten years ago, leaflet number #175, but, unfortunately, still needs to be published today).

(In answer to the question of whether or not it is permitted to murder non-Jews): I was caused great sorrow and shame by your very question of whether or not it is permissible to murder a non-Jew. The very fact of posing such a disreputable question is a mark of spiritual weakness and loss of direction. From four perspectives, each sufficient in and of itself, we can understand it is a severe, absolute prohibition.
1. From the perspective of faith in G-d, murdering an Arab, as if to advance the renaissance of our Nation in its Land, constitutes lack of faith in G-d. We believe that G-d is returning His Divine Presence to Zion and restoring Israel to its Land, accompanied by ups and downs, light and darkness. With all of the problems and difficulties, we do not struggle out of despair, but as warriors certain of victory. We therefore are not dragged down into wild, corrupt deeds. Rather, our fight over our Land must always be full of caution and integrity. We must not lose our heads. We must be aware that this is not what G-d demands of us, but rather that we be partners in the rebuilding of our Land.
2. From the moral perspective, harming one’s fellow man is immoral, let alone murdering him. One’s absolute duty to avoid such acts is part of the universal morality that encompasses every person on earth. This morality was not nullified for Jews by the Sinai Revelation. Quite the contrary, the Torah places us on a higher moral plane than any nation on earth. As the Mechilta teaches, “Prior to the Sinai Revelation, we were admonished against bloodshed. Following the Sinai Revelation, when our laws became more severe, could the laws of bloodshed have become more lenient?” (Quoted in Kesef Mishnah on Rambam, Hilchot Rotzeach U-Shemirat Ha-Nefesh 2:11).
3. From the legal perspective, the Talmud and our legal decisors state explicitly the prohibition against shedding the non-Jew’s blood (Sanhedrin 57a and Rambam ibid.). This prohibition is from the Torah (Bet Meir, Even Ha-Ezer 17:3). As for the question of why the punishment to the person who murders the non-Jew is “given over to Heaven” -- to the Heavenly tribunal – rather than to an earthly tribunal (Rambam ibid.), Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explains, in his second interpretation, that this is because besides the sin of murder involved, there is also the severe sin of Chilul Hashem, the desecration of G-d’s name, for which there is no repentance. Neither Yom Kippur nor suffering atone for this sin, but only death. Therefore, execution by a human tribunal would not atone for his sin of murder (Meshech Chochmah, Shemot 21:14).
I do not believe that there is a Rabbi who has permitted the murder of Arabs. Perhaps he expressed such an idea as figurative hyperbole, but even by doing so he violated the dictum of “Sages, be cautious in your words” (Avot 1:11). If, however, it should become clear, G-d forbid, that a Rabbi gave a practical ruling to do such a thing, it would become retroactively clear that that Rabbi, with all of his importance, is unworthy of the title "Moreh Hora’ah," “Teacher of the Law.” As a rule, one must be aware that regarding such grave questions, not every Rabbi is entitled to render decisions, but only the great luminaries who lead our generation.
4. From the perspective of pure nationalism, partisan murder of a non-Jew brings harm to our country. In the early days before the establishment of our state, various Jewish undergrounds carried out sentence against non-Jews in accordance with the reality of those times, yet our own times are not like those were. Now we have an army and a police force who risk their lives day and night for the nation’s security, and it is they, and no one else, who are appointed by the whole Nation to punish the enemies of our people. No private individual is entitled to engage in anti-Arab terrorism, to weaken the government and to perform, in the name of the Nation, any acts as a result of which the whole Nation will suffer.
Let us rid ourselves of the desecration of G-d’s name inherent in such painful, insulting questions. Let us devote our educational efforts to explaining that this shameful path stands in opposition to the essence of the Jewish Torah and its morality, and further causes real harm to the Nation and State of Israel. We must fortify ourselves with patience, and we must remain aware that salvation comes gradually. Let us become stronger to overcome our difficulties. If we proceed with wisdom and understanding then in the end we will emerge victorious.