To Be Loved

It is essential for a baby to love and be loved. Both of these are included in one concept: Connection of love. This is essential like milk, water, and food. But we are not angels, and sometimes we express a lack of patience, lack of relationship, or lack of a smile, and the baby is disappointed and hurt.
Sometimes we do not show joy of our faces for all sorts of reasons, none of which he is responsible for: We are sick, worried about making a living, or concerned about some other problems. But the baby cannot figure out that it does not relate to him. He feels that he is the center of the world. If the parents laugh because they heard a joke, he thinks it is because of him, and he is happy. And if they are sad, he thinks they are distancing themselves from him. It is therefore always essential to smile at him, rub his skin or hair, kiss and hug him.
As we said, we are not angels, but human beings, and we make mistakes. But we can also fix them. When we do make a mistake, we must turn to him with love and explain that we will always love him. Does he understand? A little. Even if he does not understand our words, he understands our tone and our smile.
By the way, everything we said about the need to love and be loved also applies to adults.

Mourning for a Non-Jewish Parent

Q: Should a convert mourn for his non-Jewish parent?
A: One should mourn in the accepted manner of mourning by non-Jews over their parents in that place, in order that people do not say that one went from a higher level of holiness to a lower level. Acting in this way is ethical. He is not obligated to mourn with all of the Halachot as one does for a Jew. However, when Tavi, Rabban Gamliel's servant, died, Rabban Gamliel accept consolation, as if he were Jewish. When asked about this, he responded: Tavi is not like other servants, he is kosher (Mishnah Berachot 2:7). Therefore, he is not obligated to sit shiva for them, but he may do so. It is a personal decision (see also Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:130).
Q: Should he recited Kaddish?
A: Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef rules that it is permissible and proper to recite Kaddish (Shut Yechaveh Da'at 6:60).

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #15

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

At the end of "Le-Olam Yehei Adam," we say: "Blessed is Hashem…for sanctifying His name in public." Being able to make a Kiddush Hashem is a huge mitzvah. Sometimes Jews do it in how they die. But here we’re talking about being able to do it in the way that we live. In every situation we are in, we can sanctify Hashem’s Name. Often we don’t get to choose our situation. Sometimes we have hard times. But whatever our situation, we want to live and act in a way that makes Hashem proud and that shows the world the Holy way in which we live.

“Our Camp” – The Jewish People

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayera 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Sometimes people talk with me and use the expression “our camp,” so I respond, “Hold it right there! Who is ‘our camp’? Our camp is the Jewish People!” Certainly, within our Nation, different Jews are different from one another. The Jewish People includes all kinds. Yet they all belong to ‘our camp.’
By contrast, the non-Jews are not “our camp”. They, too, were created in G-d’s image, and when we recite the “Aleinu” prayer, we are praying for them as well. But they’re not our camp. Avraham was called the Hebrew, the “Ivri”, because he, so to speak, stood on one side [ever] of the river, and all the rest of mankind stood on the other. They, too, have righteous people, and the righteous of the nations have a place in the World-to-Come, but even they are not our camp. And within the Jewish People, there are individuals who do sins, and sometimes there are even wicked people, but they are our camp. If your son does not behave well, he remains your son. Yet your neighbor’s son, even if he behaves well, is not your son.
As was first noted by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal, the Hebrew word for Jewish community is “Tzibur”, the letters of which constitute an acronym for Tzadikim [righteous people], Benonim [people in the middle] and Resha’im [evildoers]. Indeed, some Jews are great saints, others are in the middle, and still others are worse. Yet they are all part of our Tzibbur, our camp.
In the Pesach Haggadah, we read how the Torah was addressing four types of sons, wise and wicked, simple, and too ignorant to ask questions. Yet all four are sons, and the Torah addressed all four. All four are our camp.
Moreover, the division into righteous, wicked and in-between is a personal division and not a communal division. A person may wear a Kipah but be wicked – heaven help us – and the opposite is possible as well.
Therefore, one should not divide up the Jewish People into groups and sectors. We already suffered from such divisions during the Destruction of the Second Temple. As the Netziv teaches in his introduction to his “Ha-Emek Davar,” at that time the Jewish People was divided up into groups, and whoever was not like one’s own group was deemed a Saducee or a heretic who had to fought and killed. During the First Temple Period as well, the split became so bad that we had two separate nations.
There was also a division by tribes, with each tribe considering itself a separate country and its own camp. Therefore, when one tribe was attacked, other tribes did not always go into battle to defend it, because that didn’t interest them. Neither did they want marriages between tribes. You have certainly noticed that today no one knows what tribe he comes from, besides the Kohanim and Levi’im, for whom this bears halachic ramifications. We remember many things about our origins. How can it be that no one remembers what tribe he came from?
The answer is found in Rav Kook’s work “Orot” (page 43). There Rav Kook explained that G-d made a decision that our tribalism should be forgotten. In the future it will be restored. As is explained at the end of Yechezkiel, our country will once more be divided up into tribes. Presently, however, G-d does not want tribalism, but a single Nation. When we live as one people, in love and brotherhood, peace and friendship, then our tribal divisions will resurface as different shades of a single, great nation.
Rav Kook, in his article “Masa Ha-Machanot” declared his total dissatisfaction with our division into “religious vs. secular” or “Chareidi vs. free-thinker.” These, he said, are “the names of [the pagan deity] Ba’al” – that’s what he called it (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 76).
Rather, we are one people. The proof of this is that even if in the past, as I said, when one tribe was attacked by the enemy, other tribes did not go forth to help them, today, by contrast, when a Jew is attacked, a million Jews go forth to defend him. Neither do they make calculations of who is called religious, secular, right wing or left wing. Chareidi or National Religious. That doesn’t interest them!
Rather, all fight for all. All for one and one for all!
That is a sign that we have overcome our tribalism. This million people comprises the largest youth movement in the Jewish People, larger than Bnei Akiva, Ezra, and Ariel combined. This movement is the I.D.F.. The Israel army is synonymous with unity.
This is our camp! Let’s not start dividing up the Jewish People into “camps”. Rather, let us say,
“Who is like Your people, Israel, one Nation in the Land!” (Divrei Ha-Yamim 117:21).

Shut SMS #87

Q: I have occasionally looked at immodest images without my wife's knowledge. Do I have to ask her forgiveness?
A: No, since it will cause her distress, but you should repent (Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. See Chafetz Chaim, Hilchot Lashon Ha-Ra 4:12).

Harry Potter
Q: Is it permissible to read Harry Potter?
A: It is definitely not worthwhile since it contains a mixture of ridiculous ideas.

Q: Is there an obligation for Metzitzah at a Brit Milah or are there lenient opinions?
A: It is an obligation according to all opinions. See Shut Da'at Cohain (#140-142).

Convert saying "Who has not made me a non-Jew"
Q: Can a convert recite the blessing "…Who has not made me a non-Jew"?
A: Some authorities say that he should say: "Who has made me a convert." Rama, Orach Chaim 46:4. Some say that he should not recite the blessing at all. Others rules that he can recite "Who has not made me a non-Jew," since there was a spark of the holiness of Israel in his soul which caused him to convert. Nezirut Shimshon on Taz (Piskei Teshuvot 46:12).

Q: Does a miscarried fetus have a portion in the World to Come?
A: All Israel has a portion in the World to Come, unless someone who loses it, and a fetus has his portion since he did not lose it.

Reporting a Damage
Q: I saw a truck knock down a stop sign and just drive away. I wrote down the license plate number. Should I report it?
A: Yes, it is returning a lost object.

Q: I have a lot of problems and people say it is because my name is Rachel. Some I change it?
A: This is a wonderful name. Do not change it (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh 335:10. And when Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski was asked this same question, he answered that this idea is nonsense, and the source for those who think this way is that the Chizkuni explains that Rachel could not have children because she lacked a letter "Hey" in her name. She therefore gave her maidservant "Bilhah" to Yaakov, since she had two letters "Hey" in her name, one for herself and one Rachel, but this is nonsense. Firstly, it is common place for women to have the name Rachel and they have children. Secondly, we see in the Gemara [Shabbat 154b, Bechorot 3b and elsewhere] the name "Rav Meri bar Rachel" and Rabbi Akiva's wife was Rachel [Avot De-Rebbe Natan chap. 6] – Derech Sichah vol. 1 p. 34).

Honoring Parents
Q: If my father is yelling at my mother, it is permissible for me to yell at him to honor her?
A: No, but speak to him afterwards in private and with humility (Shulchan, Yoreh Deah 240:11).

Q: Is it permissible to daven in a Chabad shul, where the people believe the Rebbe is the Messiah?
A: Certainly, they are G-d-fearing people. Please stop divisions and disputes.

Modesty in Swimming
Q: Is it permissible for young women who are fully-clothed to enter a spring where there are young men?
A: Certainly not. One must stay very, very far from such things. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8.

Human Skin
Q: I accidentally swallowed a piece of skin from my lip. Do I have to wait six hours before eating dairy?
A: No, human skin is pareve. By the way, so is mother's milk.

Parashat Vayera: The Akedah - A Divine Command Versus Human Morality

[Tal Chermon]

The Divine command to sacrifice Yitzchak shattered the moral foundations of Avraham's life. He who had fought uncompromisingly against idolatry and human sacrifice, he who epitomized the loftiest morality and kindness was about to murder his own son! He was thus going to violate the most basic and logically obvious moral dictate that existed, "You shall not murder."
There are three crimes that are so heinous that according to the Halachah one must be willing to die rather than to transgress them. They are idolatry, immorality, and murder. Of the three idolatry and severe immorality are derived from Torah verses, while murder is derived through logic. Even when threatened that unless you murder you will be killed, murder is forbidden. Who says that your blood is redder (= more important) than his (Sanhedrin 74a)!
And yet Avraham was on his way to murder his son! Avraham's "hypocritical" betrayal of the very ideals that he had preached to the world would destroy all his educational achievements. Past, present, and future are about to be obliterated with one blow! These are the morbid thoughts that the evil inclination flashed through Avraham's mind to dissuade him from performing G-d's will (Gra in Kol Eliyahu, Parashat Vayera sect. 12).
The Akedah constitutes the dissolution of man-made morality and its replacement with a Divine command. Avraham had to forgo even his highest and loftiest ideals, thoughts and aspirations and substitute them with one single ideal, G-d's will. This is most a dramatic demonstration of the fact that we do not observe G-d's mitzvot because they are intelligible and pleasant but because they are the word of Hashem. We do not differentiate between the pleasant mitzvah of putting on Tefillin and the less enjoyable mitzvah of wiping out the memory of the Amalek. Both are equally dear to us. We refrain from eating pork not because it is loathsome to us but because thus we have been commanded by Hashem (Sifra Kedoshim 20, also brought by Rashi on Vayikra 20:26). We must obviously try to elevate ourselves to the level that we feel delight in performing the mitzvot and repugnance at the very thought of a sin. Furthermore, it is self-evident that enjoying prayer, disgust at eating pig and repugnance at the very thought of murder and similar emotions are proper and worthy feelings. Man advances and senses what is right and wrong. We must understand, however, that morality is not determined according to what man knows, feels or understands but it is based purely on the Divine word. The Akedah came to uproot an ethical system which emanated from man, and to build in its place a firmly based Divine system of morality.
Naturally, Yitzchak was not sacrificed in the end. The Akedah concludes with the verse, "Do not harm the boy. Do not do anything to him" (Bereshit 22:12). It could not finish any other way since murder is prohibited. What has been achieved is that the precept "You shall not murder" has been converted from a humanly based imperative that can vary and change according to human emotions and understanding to an eternal, immutable and Divine command. Once this understanding is firmly rooted, man is called to raise himself and to feel the pleasure and delight in performing G-d's absolute will.

Questions regarding the Eiruv

Q: If the Eiruv is checked before Shabbat and is declared Kosher, should a person still be concerned that it was rendered invalid on Shabbat in the event of a storm? Can we rely on the "Chazakah" (presumption) that since the Eiruv was operational the beginning of Shabbat, it still remains that way?
A: It depends on whether the Eiruv is strong or not. This is a most serious question, and one should ask the Rabbi who is in charge of the Eiruv.

Q: If an individual actually knows with certainty that the Eiruv came down, should he tell other people, or keep quiet about it since they may not listen? Is this a case of "Mutav sheyeeheyu shoggegin v'al yeeheyu mezidin" (It is better for people to transgression unwittingly than wittingly)?
A: In general, the whole issue of an Eiruv is Rabbinic since we are discussing a "Karmelit". Therefore, if people will listen, one should inform them. If they will not listen, we apply "mutav she-yeeheyu shoggegin…" (see Rama, Orach Chaim 608:2 with commentaries).
Ha-Gaon Rav Avraham Dov Auerbach, Av Beit Din (Head of the Rabbinic Court) of Tiveria, once told me about an incident that occurred there in the past.. One time the "eruv" was damaged, and the Rav of Tiveria ruled that the "eruv" was kosher. There was a great Torah scholar who lived there and he bumped into the Rav of the city after Shabbat. They talked, the Torah scholar walked him home, and they sat and chatted. The Torah scholar said, "Let's learn some Torah." The Rav of the city obviously agreed. The Torah scholar took Massechet Eruvim and they learned. Suddenly, the Rav of the city said, "Oy va-voy! If so, I ruled incorrectly today!" The Torah scholar said, "It appears so." The Rav of the city asked, "Did his honor announce in his shul not to carry on Shabbat?" "No," he responded, "since carrying in this place is a rabbinic prohibition, but honoring a Torah scholar is a Torah mitzvah. I therefore did not say anything."

Q: If someone makes an announcement on Shabbat recommending that the Eiruv not be used because of the possibility the Eiruv came down (without having any knowledge that it actually is not valid), how should the community behave? Should this announcement be ignored, or once it is said, people should be careful not to carry?
A: One should ask the Rabbi in charge of the Eiruv.

Q: Does the Rav have any specific tradition from Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook regarding the use of an Eiruv on Shabbat?
A: In the book "Ki Shem Hashem Nikra Elecha" by Ha-Rav Shlomo Gilat (p. 66), he relates that Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah did not carry things out on Shabbat within the Eiruv, but he agreed that a student could carry the house key.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #14

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

In Birkot Ha-Shachar in the prayer "A person should always be in fear and awe of Hashem both in private and in public," we tell Hashem that we are the children of Hashem’s Brit (covenant) and the children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Hashem has a covenant with us, a permanent bond created by Hashem. It lasts forever because it was created by Hashem. This is different than a merit. When we say we have the merit of our fathers and mothers, this will only help us if we live up to their example. To get their merit we need to try to have the connection to Hashem and to follow Him just as they did. Hashem is waiting for us to do this. We say that Hashem loved Yaakov, and He loves us- his children- as well.

How to Be Happy

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Lech Lecha 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Everyone has a deep longing to be happy. Don’t confuse the longing for pleasure, which the Ancient Greeks called “Hedonism”, with the longing for happiness, which they called “Eudemonism”. Pleasure is partial, momentary, sensory and fleeting. Happiness, by contrast, fills up the whole person with great, permanent content, and eternal worth. I won’t get into a discussion here about whether happiness is a human need or is itself a virtue.
Does an upright person deserve to be happy, or is happiness itself a good, upright thing?
Whoever peruses the Book of Tehillim will see that happiness is mentioned numerous times within the supreme ideal: “Happy is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked” (1:1), “Happy are those that dwell in Your house” (84:5), “Happy is the people for whom such is the case” (144:15), “Happy are those that follow the path of righteousness” (119:1), etc.
If so, how does one achieve happiness? Obviously, someone who is lacking nothing in life – he has his parents, a spouse, children, status, work, health, and every other bounty – may not ask himself how to be happy. Yet there are unfortunate, suffering people, the impoverished and the ill, who find their lives unbearable and detestable, and one must certainly ask how they can find happiness.
We can ask a secondary question as well. Why is this matter never mentioned in our prayers? After all, Rambam informs us in his “Guide to the Perplexed” that all the principles of faith are hidden away in our prayers and blessings. Certainly one cannot learn all of Jewish law each day. Neither can one learn all the foundations of faith each day. If so, a person will be lacking spiritual contact with those foundations. Therefore, said Rambam, all of those laws and principles are stored away in our prayers and blessings by the Men of the Great Assembly, which included several prophets.
Regarding the question of happiness, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi enlightened us in his book, the Tanya (Chapter 33), pointing out that man’s happiness derives from “closeness to G-d”, i.e., faith in G-d; which does not mean just being intellectually convinced that G-d exists, but trusting in G-d, clinging to Him, and being connected to Him. Clinging to G-d is something that cannot be taken away from anyone. Whatever one’s circumstances, whether one is rich or poor, healthy or sick, single or married, whether one has a family or is childless, closeness to G-d cannot be taken away from a person. The Master of the Universe fills up the entire world. Not only is closeness to G-d one pathway to happiness, but all of a person’s happiness. That is because there is nothing in the world besides G-d. “In Heaven above and on earth below, there is nothing else” (Aleinu). All the rest is transient vanity. Obviously, clinging to G-d can be expressed as well through loving people and by loving all the mitzvot, through kind deeds and good character, through self-sacrifice on behalf of our people and land, our state and army.
That is what fills a person with happiness. G-d did a great kindness for His world that He didn’t abandon it, dwelling only on High, but instead established a residence on this earth. Thus we, who live on this earth, can be close to G-d.
All this is written in the siddur, and we daily mention how we fill ourselves with happiness anew each day. “How happy we are! How good is our destiny! How pleasant is our lot! How beautiful our inheritance! Happy are we who frequent the synagogues and study halls, early and late, proclaiming G-d’s oneness daily and forever, reciting twice each day, lovingly, ‘Hear Israel! Hashem is our G-d! Hashem is One!”

Shut SMS #86

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:
Q: I was on an extremely crowded bus and the driver was wonderful. I wanted to call the company and praise him, but I heard him speaking Arabic…
A: You should call. It is permissible to praise a non-Jew for his proper character traits.

Q: Is sneaking into an amusement park without paying considered theft?
A: Yes.

Male Hairdresser
Q: Is it permissible for a bride to go to a male hairdresser to "do" her hair for the wedding?
A: It is forbidden. Shut She'eilat Shlomo (vol. 2 #349).

Non-Religious Government
Q: Must the rulings of a non-religious government be followed? Source?
A: Yes, like Achav (Tosafot on Sanhedrin 20).

Q: Is it preferable to give a little Tzedakah each day or a lot at one time?
A: Separate a little each day and give it at one time (see the Rambam's commentary to the Avot 3:15).

Forgot Yaale Ve-Yavo in Bircat Ha-Mazon
Q: If someone forgot Yaale Ve-Yavo in Bircat Ha-Mazon on Rosh Chodesh, does he have to repeat it?
A: No (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 424:1).

Forgot Yaale Ve-Yavo in Shemoneh Esrei
Q: If someone forgot Yaale Ve-Yavo in Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Chodesh, does he have to repeat it?
A: At Shacharit and Minchah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 422:1).

Electric Shaver
Q: Is it true that most authorities rule that it is forbidden to use an electric shaver?
A: Yes.
Q: Then what can one do to avoid all problems?
A: Grow a beard. or remove it with cream (see "Hadrat Panim Zakan" by Rav Moshe nisan Viner).

Tevilat Kelim
Q: When one immerses utensils in a mikveh, is it enough to remove the sticker or must the glue be removed as well?
A: All of the glue.

Asking Forgiveness
Q: Is it permissible to ask forgiveness in a letter? E-mail? Phone? Text message?
A: It depends of the extent of the transgression. The essence is that the person who was hurt is truly appeased.

Q: Is it permissible to destroy an object on which I have insurance in order to receive a new one?
A: G-d forbid. It is theft.

Q: Should a woman in the first month of pregnancy refrain from going to a wedding?
A: There is no problem.

Age of the World
Q: It is forbidden for a child to learn in a Talmud Torah which teaches that the world is hundreds of thousands of years old?
A: There is no problem since it does not contradict the Torah. These were worlds which preceded ours. Hashem created worlds and destroyed them. Igrot Re'eiyah vol. 1 p. 105.

Honoring Parents
Q: My parents are emotionally unstable and it is difficult to honor them. What should I do?
A: Honor them to the best of your ability. Hilchot Kibud Av Ve-Em of the Rambam and Ra'avad.

Insulting a Non-Jew
Q: If I insulted a non-Jew, do I have to ask forgiveness?
A: Yes. There is no obligation to love a non-Jew, but it is forbidden to maltreat him.

Outside WeddingQ: Does it matter if an Ashekenazi Jew gets married inside or outside?A: The custom is to get married outside unless there is an opening in the ceiling (Rama, Even Ha-Ezer 61:1. See, however, Penini Ha-Rav p. 219 and Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:93).

Parashat Lech Lecha: Universalism and Nationalism

[Tal Chermon]

Avraham's designation as "the father of the multitude of nations" (Bereshit 17:5) indicates his responsibility for the whole of mankind. This responsibility was visibly manifested when Hashem informed him of his intention to annihilate Sedom. Avraham as "the father of the multitude of nations" recognized his responsibility and stepped in to intervene on their behalf. Avraham's moral obligation to mankind emanated from the fact that he was the father of the Nation of Israel, which had received this task, to be a blessing to the nations of the world (ibid. 12:3) by instructing them and redeeming them from both spiritual and physical perils.

There are Jewish thinkers who claim that our mission is to be "a light to the nations" which can only be performed when we are living dispersed among the nations such that we can bring them the morality of the Tanach. Their view is based on a misunderstanding of the verse in Yeshayahu where Hashem says to the Nation of Israel (Yeshayahu 42:6): "I have made you the Nation of my covenant, a light to the nations." We will not be a light to the nations scattered as individuals in Pressburg, Johannesburg, or Williamsburg. On the contrary, we can only effectively illuminate the world as a healthy Nation living in its homeland. Obviously, even as a forcibly dispersed Nation in the Exile, we did our best and our influence was conspicuous wherever we lived. But this was only a pale imitation of the real thing. We are destined to be a massive searchlight illuminating all of the darkness, but this is only possible when we are a Nation in our homeland.

Question: Is it correct to infer from the fact that Avraham is the father of all mankind that all the nations must become Jewish?
Answer: Rashi, in his commentary on the Torah (Bereshit 17:5), hints at this very question. Avraham's name was originally "Avram" which is an acronym meaning "the father of Aram." This means that he was a national leader, the father of his nation, Aram. Later, however, his name (and together with it his mission) was changed to "Avraham" which indicates his universal task as "the father of the multitude of nations." A remnant of his former name remains in his new name which shows that despite his new universal character, he still retains his national character. He is both universal and particularistic. This is not an anomaly, for the Kuzari (2:36) says: "Israel is the heart of the nations" or as the Zohar puts it: "the mind of the nations" (Zohar, Mishpatim 108. See Orot Yisrael of Rav Kook 1, 1). The comparison to the essential limbs, the heart and the mind, indicates that Israel is on a different level of existence from the rest of mankind, which could be compared to the inessential limbs, such as the leg or ear. We are the central life force present in humanity. However, it must also be remembered that the heart is only of significance when it is connected with the rest of the body, but not as a detached limb sitting in isolation.

We are linked to the rest of the nations and have a responsibility towards them, but we are also distinct and separate from them. Along with them, we possess the Divine image that exists in mankind, but we are above them from our external vantage point, "as a Nation that will dwell alone, not counting itself among the nations" (Bemidbar 23:9). We must use our special characteristics to help them. This state of connection and separateness can be exemplified by the world of ideas. There are ideas that are common to both Jews and non-Jews and it makes no difference if they were conceived by Aristotle or, on a holy level, by the Rambam. These ideas are broad concepts, well beyond national distinctions. A second category of thought is one where the idea is universal but the style in which it is stated is specific to each nation. Therefore, they have to be specially adapted to our specific national style before they can be adopted. This is unlike the first category which can be adopted without any alterations. There is a third class of ideas which are distinctly ours. Regarding them, we are "as a Nation that will dwell alone, not counting itself among the nations." These ideas are specifically ours and have no connection whatsoever with the non-Jews. This example in the sphere of ideas also applies to the practical world. We and our forefather Avraham are one and we act identically. Avraham was connected to the nations as "the father of the multitude of nations," but also a "mighty nation" (Bereshit 12:2), naturally separated from the nations and also a source of blessing to them. In the same way, we are both nationalist and universalistic as the same time and a source of blessing for the entire world.

Name Change and Pregnancy

Question: I was told that when a couple is having difficulty in giving birth the wife should change her Hebrew name, is there logic to this idea, even if she is not sick?
Answer: There is no connection between the two, rather the couple should engage in doing Teshuvah and giving Tzedakah.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #13

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

In Birkot Ha-Shachar in the prayer "A person should always be in fear and awe of Hashem both in private and in public," we tell Hashem that it’s not due to our righteousness, good deeds or strength that we can turn to Him. "It’s only because of Hashem’s great mercy." When we daven, sometimes we forget that davening is not a magic trick. Hashem doesn’t have to do something simply because we ask for it. Hashem doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Hashem everything. He has given us all that we have - as individuals, Jews and human beings. And one of the things He has given us is the ability to daven to Him.

A Good Heart

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

Question: One of the important criteria in choosing a spouse, if not the most important, is a “good heart,” as many people say. Yet in practice it is no mean feat at all to examine in a date of several hours whether one’s date has a good heart. Moreover, sometimes one’s emotions can blind one to negative traits. So how can one check on this?
Answer: Indeed, it has already come down in the Shulchan Aruch that one should flee from a match with someone who does not have a good heart. “If someone is arrogant, misanthropic and unkind, we fear lest he is a Gibeonite [See Yehoshua 9] (Even Ha-Ezer 2: 2). Not only is he not a good match, but he may not really be a Jew. This we learned already from Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, who undertook the daunting task of finding a wife for Isaac, upon which rested the fate of the Jewish People. On his way to Charan, he decided that he would not look for a wealthy, wise, or beautiful girl, but a girl who when asked for water would give it to him wholeheartedly. “She will be the one whom you have designated” (Bereshit 24:14): “She is fit for him, since she will be charitable and will therefore be worthy of admission into the house of Avraham” (Rashi).
Yet how can we know how to examine a prospective mate? For example, if the boy does not buy you a drink, he doesn’t have a good heart. The same is true if he leaves you alone in the dark at the end of the date, criticizes your opinions, feelings or wishes or gives you instructions on which field to study or how to dress. In all these cases, pay attention to those flashing warning lights. Be cautious and check them out.
Yet that isn’t enough, because there are boys who are wonderful when everything is easy and pleasant, but when reality hits them in the face, a beast suddenly bursts forth. So, please, artificially create situations like that. I know I am asking something hard, but there is no choice. So one time, come extremely late to a date and see how he reacts. He may get very angry. We all do. We’re only human. Yet it all depends on how he gets angry. Suggest to him that you sit inside, and then outside, and then say, “Well, actually, let’s sit inside, but it’s really better outside.” In short, drive him crazy and see how he reacts. After the wedding, it’s certainly probable that you will drive him crazy without meaning to. Order juice, then say, “No, it doesn’t taste good, and anyway, I didn’t really order juice”… You get the idea.
Yet none of this is enough either. An important rule is not to go out with someone without finding out about him beforehand. Before you go out, you should ask questions of objective people who you can trust, and who know him or her. You can approach his teachers or his dormitory roommates, or fellow soldiers. All of these know him in real-life situations of tension and difficulty.
It’s true. Emotions blind us. We have to be very wary of them. They can’t be the deciding factor in such a fateful decision, but only a secondary factor. First, one has to check out if the suggested candidate is appropriate, if he can be included together in the roster of reasonable, potential candidates. Only when he fits into that roster can one follow one’s emotions.

Shut SMS #85

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:
Giving Birth on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat to drop children off at their grandparent's house on the way to driving one's wife to the hospital to give birth, or must they be left at the neighbors?
A: Any additional driving is forbidden.

Tefillin Boxes
Q: What should one do with Tefllin boxes which are unusable?
A: Place them in the Geniza (Mishnah Berurah 42:2).

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.

Q: Is it permissible for me to tell my parents something I succeeded in or is it arrogant?
A: It is honoring father and mother.

Matching up a couple whose fathers have identical names
Q: Is it permissible for a groom and bride to marry when their fathers have the same name?
A: There is no concern in our state for what is written in the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid (#23 and brought in Pitchei Teshuvah, Even Ha-Ezer 2:107 and Yoreh Deah 116:6). And for one who is concerned, add a name to the groom's name (Shut Noda Bi-Yehudah, Second Edition, Even Ha-Ezer #79. Shut Ezrat Cohain #5-7. See Shut Divrei Chaim, Even Ha-Ezer #8 and Orchot Rabbenu vol. 4 pp. 246-247. And we can mentioned that when they were writing the Tana'im for Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, who is solely referred to as "Chaim," the question arose as to how to write his name since he was given other names at birth: "Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim." The Chazon Ish said: Who said that we should reveal his other names; they didn't have to do so! As is known, Ha-Rav Kanevski is the son-in-law of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, and Ha-Rav Kanievski's mother, the wife of the Steipler, was concerned that the other side would be particular about them having the same name, and she therefore brought up the issue at the Tana'im. The Chazon Ish, however, was not concerned since the son-in-law and father-in-law each had additional names – Ma'aseh Ish vol. 7 pp. 130-131).

Parashat Noach: The Holy and the Mundane

[Tal Chermon]

Noach's sin of intoxication led to the exposure of the different elements in the human race. Each of Noach's three sons had a specific spiritual character. Shem was holy, Yefet was secular and mundane, and Cham was impure and unholy. Noach blessed the G-d of the holy Shem: "Blessed be Hashem, the G-d of Shem" (Bereshit 9:26). Shem is the great believer who cleaves to G-d, and in whose very soul the Divine Presence resides. It is he that is connected to the Divine, spiritual source of all existence. Only we, the Nation of Israel, spearhead this ideology of Shem in the world (even though the Arabs also are called "Semites," i.e. "from Shem"). Malki-Tzedek, the priest of G-d the Most High, was naturally the King of Yerushalayim, where he met Avraham Avinu and blessed him: "Blessed be Avram of G-d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth" (ibid. 14:18-20). He was none other than Shem, who is now very old. This blessing embodied Shem's spiritual heritage. G-d is lofty, spiritual and heavenly, "Most High," but He is also the "Maker of heaven and earth" and actively controls all the forces at work in the world. By bringing bread and wine to Avram, Malki-Tzedek transferred to him his role as High Priest, and his spiritual heritage. Finally after nine generations, he had found a person who could continue his mission in the world. "He (Malki-Tzedek) revealed to him the laws of the High Priesthood and he also revealed Torah to him" (Bereshit Rabbah 43 and see Nedarim 32b).

Yefet embodies all secular matters. Noach blessed Yefet with a play of words on his name: "Yaft Elokim Le-Yefet." Rashi quotes the Targum Onkolos which explains the word "Yaft" as meaning to enlarge or extend. The blessing thus means: May Hashem enable you to extend and broaden man's physical existence in the world (Bereshit 9:27 with Rashi). His task is to develop all the secular matters in the world such as mathematics, physics, meta-physics, music and the like. Even his involvement in metaphysics is only in the secular sphere of human knowledge as opposed to Shem who is preoccupied with the spiritual side of existence with faith in Hashem.

There is, however, no clash between Shem and Yefet since there is no contradiction between holy matters and secular matters. When there is a firm basis of inner faith, then there is room for external expansion and for the development of human culture and science. Noach's blessing was: "May Hashem enable Yefet to expand our existence but may he dwell in the tents of Shem."

On one occasion, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, traveled on a boat together with Saul Tschernichowski (Hebrew poet and writer born in Russia in the Jewish year 5633 - about 130 years ago). Tschernichowski held a poetry evening on which he read some of his literary creations. The following morning, he asked Rav Tzvi Yehudah if he was interested in hearing his poems. Our Rabbi agreed. Tschernichowski, poised theatrically, began reciting his poems with great pathos. On completion, he said to our Rabbi: "You surprised me. As I was reciting I peeked at you and saw that you were actually listening." Rav Tzvi Yehudah replied: "And why not?" To this the poet said: "What do you, people concerned with religion and holy matters, have to do with secular poetry?" Our Rabbi answered: "There is no incompatibility between holy matter and mundane, secular things. The conflict is between holiness and unholiness. Here there is an uncompromising battle." Our Rabbi concluded: "Thus, perhaps it's feasible that you remedy your family situation" (Tschernichowski was married to a gentile woman, which is a cardinal sin in Judaism. It is in the sphere of "unholiness"). Tschernichowski thought for a moment and then answered: "Perhaps." Perhaps at that moment he had thought of repentance.

In contrast to Yefet, Cham is problematic. He is easily excited to promiscuous actions. He is the epitome of unholiness and impurity in mankind. We do not meet him half way. It is impossible for holiness to be connected in any way with unholiness. "Hashem wages a war against Amalek in all generations" (Shemot 17:16).

The Beginning of Education

The beginning of education is: "A child nurses from his mother's breasts" (Berachot 3a) – proper character traits do not flow through the milk, but health flows through it, and a close connection and love flow through it. The beginning of education is the mother's love. It gives the child self-confidence, strength, joy, spiritual health and stability, and will remain as a blessing for him his entire life.
A father's love is obviously also part, although he cannot nurse the baby. But he can hug and kiss the baby indefinitely, until a certain age where it then becomes confusing. This declaration of love will remain with the baby his entire life.
The most important thing at the beginning of a child's life is to feel love, and this need continues throughout his entire life.

One or Two Days of Yom Tov

Question: My daughter is in a seminary for the current year in Yerushalayim. She is definitely coming back to the US after the summer and has a scholarship to attend university. Should she observe one or two days of Yom Tov?
Answer: She should keep one day based on the opinion of Rav Goren (who based his opinion on Shaarei Teshuvah 496:3 and Kaf Ha-Chaim 496:40) that even though she has a plan to return, if she were to meet her match here, she would stay. This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Shmuel Salant, Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef (not like the opinion of Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein in Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 2:101).

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #12

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

We say: "A person should always be in fear and awe of Hashem both in private and in public." Sometimes there are people who are "Yirei Hashem" (Those who fear Hashem) in private but are afraid of how they will look in public. This means their Yirat Hashem isn't strong enough. Then there are people who look like Yirei Hashem in public, but in private don't really have Yirat Hashem. This means they are fakers who really aren't in awe or afraid of Hashem at all. They are only afraid of people. We want to have Yirat Hashem at all times and in every situation.

True Humility

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

Question: I do not understand our Sages’ words: “Know where you came from – from a malodorous drop, where you are going – to a place of dust, worms and moths, and before whom you are destined to give a strict account – before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He” (Avot 3:1). Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto enlisted this source as an example of reflection that leads to humility (Mesilat Yesharim 23).
People have the feeling that if they feel inferior and have a low self-concept, they won’t amount to anything. If a person thinks he has worth, that constitutes an incentive to achievement, but if he is nothing but dirt and dust, he will sit in shame. How hard the psychologists, in the wake of Adler, worked to liberate man from his inferiority complex. It’s fine to be humble, but to view oneself as a “malodorous drop, worms and moths” seems like taking lowliness to an extreme.
Answer: First of all, our great master, the Rambam, indeed taught us that although in general one should not go to extremes but should stay in the middle, with humility we make an exemption: “The good path is not for one to be just humble, but rather to have a lowly spirit, even to extremes” (Hilchot De’ot 2:3). The proof comes from Moshe, himself: “The man Moshe was more humble than any person on earth” (Bemidbar 12:3).
Second of all, the Rambam proved in his “Guide to the Perplexed” that there is no need to be elite and prominent to serve G-d. We are not the ministering angels, but just simple people, and all the same, we serve G-d. Not only does the army’s chief-of-staff serve the homeland, but the simple soldier does too. There is no need for me to be special and to act in a conspicuous manner. After all, all that is insignificant compared to the great privilege of serving G-d and being His partner in the great enterprise of perfecting the world.
Every simple Jew has an enormous worth before G-d. The proof is the end of the Mishnah: “Before whom you are destined to give a strict account – before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.” That is G-d’s will – that we do our work faithfully. Our Sages said: “Some accomplish more and some accomplish less, but the main thing is that one should direct his heart to his Father in Heaven” (Berachot 17a). One should say: I don’t make light of myself. This is how G-d made me. I am insignificant compared to G-d and compared to others, but I am content with my lot and I do the best I can.” Quite the contrary, it is this humility which affords one strength. Consider that all of our greatest spiritual figures were humble. Avraham said: “I have already said too much before my G-d! I am mere dust and ashes!” (Bereshit 18:27). Moshe and Aharon said: “What are we that you should complain against us?” (Shemot 16:7). And King David said: “After whom has the King of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog. A flea.” (Shmuel 1 24:14), and “I am a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people” (Tehilim 22:7).
In other religions as well, they spoke much in praise of humility, but that may be classed as “all talk and no action”. We have not seen that their rulers are exemplary humble people. Even Plato’s vision of a philosopher king, adorned in humility and all the other fine traits remains in the realm of a pious wish. Quite the contrary, Joan of Arc was a simple seventeen-year-old girl, not a member of the nobility, not learned and not even able to read or write, and besides all else, she was a woman and not a man. She was humble, simple, and innocent, and as a child, she loved to pray, which made her the object of scorn by young people her age. Yet thanks to her innocence, bravery and enthusiasm, she rose up and saved France from English conquest. All the same, the French could not bear that. They sold her to the English, and the Church burnt her at the stake. Only later on did they admit their error, but by then it was too late.
We say: “The humble shall inherit the earth” (Tehilim 37:11). The greater a person, the more humble he is. Every Torah scholar uses the expression, “In my humble opinion,” and signs his writings, “Humbly.” Our master Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook would sign, “A servant of the holy Nation on the holy soil.” Even the King of Israel was commanded “not to let his heart become higher than that of his brothers” (Devarim 17:20).
We mustn’t confuse humility with self-hate or self-derision. Humility does not mean dissatisfaction with one’s good deeds. Quite the contrary, if I am insignificant and I have succeeded in doing a good deed, then that is very great indeed, and how happy I should be! By contrast, the arrogant person will disparage his own achievements, thinking them unsuitable to his self perceived abilities and exalted spiritual level.
How fortunate we are to have been privileged to be a Nation of the humble.