Shut SMS #56

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets "Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'ah" and "Olam Ha-Katan." Here's a sample:
Q: Does one always have to follow the same Rabbi?
A: No, but the principle of "Get yourself a Rabbi" is a supreme concept in the service of Hashem.
Q: Is it permissible for a child to wear Tzitzit when they always get filthy?
A: No problem.
Q: Until what point of the day can one say Birchot Ha-Shachar?
A: After the fact, until sundown.
Q: Is it permissible to recite blessings and davening while barefoot?
A: Blessings - yes. Davening – no, one must stand as before a king.
Q: Why do we remove a tattoo from the deceased?
A: We do not.
Q: Does a towel need Tzitzit since we wrap ourselves in it?
A: No, it is not a garment.
Q: What is the path for becoming great in Torah learning?
A: There is no need to invent a way. Learning in a Yeshiva is the way to become a Torah scholar. See Tosafot Ketubot 63a. The only condition is to have the will. Rambam, Talmud Torah 3:1.
Q: Before long Iran will have a nuclear weapon and that will be the end. I wonder if it is worthwhile to bring more children into the world?
A: Nonsense. There is not going to be any end. May Hashem bless you with many children.
Q: Should I visit my parents or talk to them on the telephone if they always speak Lashon Ha-Ra?
A: Certainly. And if they begin to speak Lashon Ha-Rav humbly veer the conversation in a different direction.
Q: Why can't I say "Death to Arabs"? I hate them.
A: You can say "Death to terrorists," but not all Arabs are terrorists or support them.
Q: If I am in the army and someone turns on the light in a room on Shabbat, may I enter?
A: It is permissible. Do not intentionally benefit from the light, but you do not have to close your eyes. It is a benefit which comes to a person against his will. Pesachim 25.
Q: Is it permissible to read the Koran or the New Testament?
A: Koran – no, it is heresy. New Testament – No, it is idol worship.
Q: Should one stand for an elderly or important woman?
A: One who is 70 or older, a Torah scholar or the wife of a Torah scholar.
Q: How could those who went to save Nachshon Waxman have been killed, may Hashem avenge their blood, when "Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a mitzvah?"
A: Our Sages told us that when there is a frequent danger there is a chance that one may be harmed. Pesachim 8b. By the way, this applies to all the wars of Israel and I do not understand why you did not ask about them.
Q: Is it good to travel to Poland?
A: It is not. A. It is forbidden to leave Israel. B. It is providing a livelihood to murderers.
Q: Is there a "segulah" (spiritual act that yields a given outcome) to find a spouse?
A: Repentance, prayer and Tzedakah.
Q: Which takes precedence – paying back a loan or Tzedakah?
A: Paying a loan since we do not give Tzedakah on someone else's account.
Q: If my wife is not home, should I light Shabbat candles?
A: Yes, with a blessing. It is an obligation on the household.

Wedding Q & A

Prayers by the bride
Q: If a bride prays for five or ten minutes and the assembled wait for her, why is such a short period of time considered “Tircha De’tzibura” – a burden on the public? A: “Tircha De’tzibura” is not a matter of quantity, but of attitude. The bride has all day to pray. Why should she do it when everyone is standing around her waiting for her? There is a time for weddings and a time for prayer.

Words of Torah under the Chupah
Q: Our Sages said, “The reward of a wedding consists of the words,” which Rashi explains to mean, “Words that bring joy to the bride and groom.” Why then shouldn’t one say words of Torah under the Chupah?
A: The main thing is to gladden the groom by such utterances as, “She’s a lovely and pious bride,” and the same goes regarding gladdening the bride. The point is this: Certainly one should utter many words of Torah during the wedding, but not necessarily under the Chupah. There is a time for a Chupah and a time for Torah learning. Yet we should leave this decision up to the officiating Rabbi.

"Guided tours"
Q: Why shouldn’t the Rabbi give a “guided tour” of the ceremony under the Chupah so that people can understand what’s going on?
A: Very good, but not just then. There’s a time for a chuppah and a time for a guided tour.

Under the Talit
Q: Is it proper to place a Talit over the heads of the bride and groom?
A: A Talit being placed over the heads of the bride and groom is an ancient, holy Sefardic custom. I should add that it is also an ancient and holy custom of many Ashkenazic communities, and everyone should follow his own custom. The main thing is to conduct oneself modestly.

The bride's head-covering
Q: Should a bride cover her hair right after the ceremony?
A: As far as head coverings following the ceremony, for Sefardim who do not go into seclusion in a “Yichud Room,” some Halachic authorities have ruled that even after just “Kiddushin” [the placing of the ring on the finger], the bride must cover her head (see “Sova Semachot, Ha-Rav Ya’akov Yosef, p. 175). Others have ruled that the ceremony itself marks the completion of “Nissu’in” [full marriage, hence the bride must cover her head] (see Sova Semachot, p. 52 note 7, and p. 132). Yet even for those who take the lenient view, Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef wrote, “According to the main letter of the law, the bride is entitled to remain throughout the wedding feast in the head-covering of the wedding ceremony,” i.e. the head covering suffices, but she cannot appear without anything on her head.

The Yichud (seclusion) room
Q: how long should the couple stay in the Yichud room?
A: There are rabbis who say that twenty minutes in the Yichud room is enough, but this is obviously just meant to provide a general guideline. That specific time frame is not something from Moshe at Sinai. The main thing is not to exaggerate and to turn the Yichud room into an extended vacation.

The proper agenda
Q: What is the general idea that should guide the wedding?
A: Our Sages assigned a particular character to the wedding ceremony down through the generations, each community in accordance with its customs. There are many other fine activities that can be performed in life, but they needn’t be pushed into the wedding ceremony.

Purim on Motza'ei Shabbat

Question: What are the special Halachot when Purim falls after Shabbat? Answer: 1. We do not read the Megillah when Purim falls on Shabbat (nowadays only Shushan Purim can fall on Shabbat). It is a decree lest one go to a Rabbi to learn to read the Megillah and carry it in a public domain. There are later authorities (i.e. Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chaim 693:3) who forbid carrying the Megillah on Shabbat because of muktzeh (something prohibited to carry on Shabbat), but most authorities disagree and permit it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 688 and Mishnah Berurah #18), and all the more so on a regular Shabbat which is not Purim. There is, however, a problem of bringing the Megillah to Shul on Shabbat because of the prohibition on preparing on Shabbat for a weekday. One should therefore learn something at Shul from the Megillah on Shabbat itself.
2. For the same reason, children may dress up in a costume on Shabbat before they come to Shul, since they have enjoyment on the Shabbat itself from the costume; therefore, it is not considered as if one were preparing on Shabbat for a weekday. This is obviously on the condition that there is no part of the costume which is muktzeh, and it does not involve painting, [forbidden] tying, and other similar things.
3. Noisemakers are definitely forbidden on account of muktzeh. And even if they are not muktzeh, it is impossible to bring them because of preparing on Shabbat for a weekday, since it is not possible to rely on the solution of using them on Shabbat itself, since one may not make noise [from any type of instrument, objects, etc...] on Shabbat.
Summary: It is permissible to bring a Megillah to Shul while it is still daytime on Shabbat provided that one learn something from it. It is permissible for children to dress up in a costume while it is still daytime, but it is forbidden to bring noisemakers.

Our Rabbi & Purim

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

Control over the intellect
Once on Purim, the students brought all types of alcoholic drinks to our Rabbi and he drank them all, but it did not affect him and he did not say a word. At the end of the meal, they davened maariv and it was as if he had not had anything to drink and he was as usual. (Ha-Rav Yosef Kelner)

On another Purim, the students gave our Rabbi two bottle of Vodka to drink, but it did not affect him at all, and he continued his class in "Olat Ha-Re'eiyah" (thoughts of Maran Ha-Rav Kook on the siddur). (Ha-Rav Mordechai Sadeh)

Shtreimel
On Purim, a drunken student asked our Rabbi: "Where is the shtreimel of Maran Ha-Rav? We also want a Rebbe with a shtreimel!" Our Rabbi smiled and responded: "One for whom it is proper to wear a shtreimel has a shtreimel."

A blessing
On Purim, a drunken student asked our Rabbi to give him a blessing that he should merit the trait of truth. Our Rabbi smiled, but did not bless him.

The Jew who imitated Rav Shlomo Goren on Purim
On Purim, a tall Jew entered dressed in the uniform of a general of Tzahal: "Shalom, my master, Ha-Rav, I am Rav Goren," and he began imitating Rav Goren, and stating all kinds of halachic rulings. Suddenly, our Rabbi, burst out in awful screaming regarding shaming Torah scholars, and harshly scolded him.

Stupidity on Purim
It once happened that our Rabbi left in the middle on the Purim party. The students ran after him and asked him why he left. He said: "You also need to have awe of Hashem on Purim." (Ha-Rav Binyamin Eisner – Iturei Cohanim #196)

It once occurred on Purim that a student began to say "Purim Torah" and said "Rashi is a woman and Tosafot is a man because it says 'The entire glory of the princess is on the inside' (Tehillim 45:14) and Rashi's commentary always appears on the inside of a page!" Our Rabbi scolded him.

Protest Over Autopsies

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


Our Rabbi related that Maran Ha-Rav Kook once heard they were planning an autopsy, a violation of Halachah, on a woman who was alone when she died. He called the hospital and said: "This is the Chief Rabbi of Israel, I am a Cohain. It is forbidden for a Cohain to become impure by coming in contact with a corpse, but if need be, I will come and become impure for a met mitzvah" (a corpse which does not have anyone to bury it and even a Cohain is obligated to do so. He was suggesting that, if necessary, he himself would come to bury the body, rather than allow it to be desecrated).

We Don't Have Children

Question: We have been married for many years and do not have children. It causes us great sorrow which explodes into tension between us. What can we do?
Answer: This certainly causes great sorrow, and I am certain that you have done your utmost to try medical treatments. May Hashem bless you and we hope that you will soon have children. But there is no reason for it to create a separation between the two of you. On the contrary, it should cause you to strengthen your relationship against a common distress. It is not by coincidence that our forefathers and foremothers had fertility problems: Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Yaakov and Rachel. There is an amazing midrash on the verse which states that Yitzchak prayed facing his wife (Bereshit 25:21). Our Rabbi explain that Yitzchak said: Master of the Universe, may all the children You give me be from this righteous woman. And Rivka said: Master of the Universe, may all the children You give me be from this righteous man (Midrash Rabbah). We are always together, through all situations, pleasant or less pleasant. We are together in happiness, we are together in hurt. Happiness brings us closer as does hurt. We will overcome all difficulties together.

We’ve Come From Far Off to Fight

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

We’ve come from far off, from all the exiles, from all the countries, from all the destructions, from all the suffering. We’ve come to our army, and we shall love it, for it is ours. We left home, we left a wife, parents, children, friends. Yet in our hearts is a flame that cannot be snuffed out. We’re not afraid of anything, from hunger, or from the enemy. We’ll all go home, proud and happy that we defended our people; that we defended our land. We know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Our enemies are sworn to annihilate us all, but thanks to our soldiers they fail miserably. How truly fortunate we are! The main thing is that we should remain united. Then we won’t fear our enemies. And if they attack us, we’ll show them what for! Our enemies are sworn to liquidate us, but they don’t know our strength. Now they are mortified, humiliated, and in flight. Cowards! The battle command has gone forth! We don’t like wars! We don’t like battles! Yet when our enemies aim their weapons at us, we’ve got to go into battle, and we’ve got to win. Tremble before us, despicable enemies! Soon you shall pay the price of blood and tears! For we shall fight on behalf of our living brethren, and on behalf of those who have fallen. Whoever falls so that his people live on – is alive! We shall avenge your blood and liquidate your murderers. When we bring peace and freedom to our Nation, you will be with us. When a brother falls and disappears into the shadows, another brother rises up in his place out of the shadows. Some people remain at home, sleeping in their beds, but we go into battle, for your sakes, for our own sakes. Fallen brethren! We offer you a hand, in the name of our people and our country. We are proud thanks to you. Our hearts get excited when we remember you. We direct our steps according to yours. We claim victory by virtue of your efforts. We don’t demand much, just life. Not the enemies’ artillery, not the terrorists’ bullets. Just life. And when we return home after our enemies fall, after our murderers are smitten, we’ll come back tired and scarred, but better, gentler, kinder, more serious, more faithful, and more loving.

Shut SMS #55

Ha-Rav 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: Is it permissible to use an animal, like a monkey or dog, to turn on the light on Shabbat?
A: No, it is a Torah prohibition. "In order that your ox rest…"
Q: My son was rejected from entering a "Torani" nursery school because we have a television. Is this right?
A: Experience shows that children learn negative and damaging behavior from TV. You therefore have to choose: TV or a "Torani" nursery school for your child.
Q: If I thought about giving a specific amount to Tzedakah, am I obligated to do so?
A: Yes, if it was a clear decision.
Q: We bought a sliver amulet a few years ago. What should we do with it?
A: Sell it and give the money to the poor.
Q: Should we have a "Chanukat Ha-Bayit" (dedication of our house)?
A: It is a proper custom that the first use of your house be for a holy purpose such as praying or learning Torah, even if you are alone.
Q: Can girls in high school reciting Pesukei De-Zimra with a guitar?
A: No. One needs a trembling of fear when praying. Prayer should be on its own and afterwards play instruments.
Q: Why do Rabbis fight with one another?
A: G-d forbid, they do not fight. There are difference of opinion but with respect and love. "Love peace and truth." Zealots for their own reasons are the minority.
Q: Ha-Rav writes that one should not burn the "challah" separated from the dough in one's oven. Why and what is the source?
A: It is forbidden to eat this separated "challah" and it is "absorbed" into the pan or the bottom of the oven if burnt there. You can wrap it in aluminum foil. If it is not wrapped, it does not make something cooked in the oven unkosher because the taste is nullified by a 1/60th ratio. It is preferable, however, to wrap it in a plastic bag and place it in the garbage (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 42:12 note #52, Shut Mishneh Halachot 12:232 and Machon Ha-Torah Ve-Ha-Aretz – Imunat Etenu #10).
Q: Is there a mitzvah to burn the Koran?
A: No, only that one should not read words of heresy.
Q: Why are there text message responsa? People just make a joke of it.
A: Mockers will always find something to mock. Serious people, like you, read them seriously.
Q: But why not answer at length and in depth?
A: You can find them in my books of responsa and other books.

Purim and the Holocaust

Q: Why did Hashem save us during the time of Purim, but not during the Holocaust?
A: We do not know the secrets of Hashem. We obviously do not understand the Holocaust. While our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, taught at length why the Holocaust occurred (see Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Moadim, vol. 2), he said both before and after speaking about it that it is a Divine secret. We grasp in the dark in order to understand what happened, but with or without Purim, we do not understand. We also do not know when it comes to individuals why one person is murdered and not another. My dear brother-in-law was murdered by a terrorist in the street and this was worse than the Holocaust for my sister-in-law. The Holocaust destroyed one-third of the Nation of Israel, but my brother-in-law was everything to my sister-in-law. The Gemara in Yevamot (50a) says that Hashem establishes how long each person will live – it is the secret of souls. Someone once traveled to the United States to raise money and recruit students for the Hevron Yeshiva. One student who he recruited was killed in the riots in Hevron. Whenever he returned to the States, he feared that he would meet the father and he would travel in a round-about way in order not to meet him. One day he met the father on a street corner. The father took him by the shoulders and said: "You took my son to Hevron and he was killed. This was a sign that Hashem decided to take him. If he would have stayed here, he would have been killed by some gang in Chicago; now he was killed for the sake of our Land, the sanctification of Hashem's Name and the Torah. Therefore, I have been looking for you to thank you." The Master of the Universe sometimes performs a miracle for us and sometimes He does not. Joseph Stalin also wanted to destroy the Jews. He planned to transfer all of the Jews to Siberia in one day. Everything was ready – trains, buses, trucks, cars, etc… The plan was for half of the Jews to die on the way and half of them to die in Siberia. Stalin died Erev Purim, three days before the plan. I was a little kid. I remember that in shul on Shabbat everyone was very excited after davening and drank a "Le-Chaim." I asked them in Yiddish: Wos? Wos? – What? What? They told me: Stalin died. I asked: Who is Stalin? They said: The leader of Russia. Like any child I asked: A good non-Jew or a bad non-Jew? They said: A bad non-Jew, very bad. I said: Then give me a "Le-Chaim" too. But they didn't know how bad he was. We only learned later. Sometimes there are miracles and sometimes there are not miracles. A friend of mine who is a high-ranking officer in the army told me: "We have prevented 300 terrorist attacks this year. We captured three hundred terrorists with explosive belts." It was not that they thought that perhaps the terrorists would do something – they caught them with the explosive belts. But there is sometimes one terrorist who they do not capture. Why this one and not that one? Why was this person injured and not that one? Why was this person killed and not that person? We do not know. These are the secrets of Hashem.

Feeling a connection to Hashem

Q: How do we feel a connection to Hashem?
A: It is obviously impossible to connect to Hashem in the simple sense. Furthermore, the desire to gain benefit from servicing Hashem is a lack of understanding of what it means to cleave to Hashem. The question of why one does not feel a benefit in servicing Hashem is similar to the story of a mother saying to her son: Eat, so you can grow and become strong. The child eats and stands in front of the mirror in order to see himself growing. After some time, he comes to his mom with the claim that he does not see himself growing. In the physical realm, we can receive immediate benefit – like from eating, touching, seeing, or hearing. But this is not true in the spiritual realm. This area is very large and it is difficult to see where building occurs, stage after stage, level after level of cleaving and becoming close to Hashem.

Sending Mishloach Manot to Tzahal Soldiers: Two Teshuvot

I suggest that the community seriously limit sending Mishloach Manot to friends, and to concentrate on sending them to the soldiers in the area, whose lives are difficult. According to Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the reason for sending Mishloach Manot is to increase love between Jews, and according to the author of Terumat Ha-Deshen, to provide someone with food for the festive meal of Purim. Regarding soldiers, both reasons apply. Therefore, no one should be offended if he does not receive a Mishloach Manot from his friend, and all of us will be aware that our gifts are lovingly going to the guardians of our security.
[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 5 #49 in the original edition]

A year ago we began a tradition of seriously limiting sending Mishloach Manot from one person to his friend and to give Mishloach Manot to soldiers who safeguard our security and it is appropriate for us to continue to do so. This year there is also an organized trip to an army base. Everyone should therefore donate to Tzahal, and do not be offended if you do not receive a Mishloach Manot from a friend. I guarantee that he is your friend with all of his heart.
[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 1 #234 in the original edition]

For example, you can send Mishloach Manot to Tzahal soldiers through the websites: www.hebrongifts.com/mimafoso.html or http://pizzaidf.org

The Brisker Rav and Ha-Rav Maimon

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
Ha-Rav Eliezer Melamed wrote in the newspaper "Besheva": After the anti-Zionist Brisker Rav - Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik – harshly opposed the building of Heichal Shlomo (the building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel), Ha-Rav Yehudah Leib Maimon wrote a scathing criticism about him. My father and teacher, Ha-Rav Zalman Melamed told me that he went to speak with Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah about this and asked him: When a lesser Rabbi disagrees with a greater Rabbi, isn't this an impingement on the honor of the Torah and shaming a Torah scholar? Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah answered: Certainly. Ha-Rav Zalman Melamed then asked about Ha-Rav Maimon: How does he harshly disagree with the Brisker Rav? Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah answered: "But he is right" (meaning in regards to the dispute about Heichal Shlomo and similar issues). My father, who was then still younger, feared that he may have insulted Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda since the latter justified Ha-Rav Maimon's actions.
At a later period, my father accompanied Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah on his way, and Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said: You think that you are honoring the Brisker Rav. But in order to honor, one must understand and know, and then the honor is true, and the criticism does not impinge upon that which he must honor. And he related that there is a question why the Rambam placed the laws of the head Tefillin before those of the hand Tefillin (which one puts on first), and Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah explained before the Brisker Rav that the Rambam wanted to teach the idea that the head Tefillin is a mitzvah in and of itself, and he therefore did not teach them in the proper order. And he said that the Brisker Rav, who was an expert in the Rambam, liked his explanation.

Ha-Rav Zonenfeld's Funeral

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

When Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ascended on high, Maran Ha-Rav Kook wanted to attend the funeral, but our Rabbi forcefully prevented him, saying that he would lay down in front of the wheels of the vehicle and stop him from going out of a fear that the zealots would attack him (Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira quoted in Imrei Shefer of Rav Yitzchak Dadon p. 261. And there were actual cases that zealots physically attacked Maran Ha-Rav at several funerals. ibid.).

A Good Heart

Question: I do not understand how Yitzchak agreed to marry a woman who he did not know, and he relied on Eliezer to act as his agent. What if it was not a good match? And I also do not understand how Rivka, without knowing Yitzchak, says: "I am going" (Bereshit 24:58). It seems like a recipe for disaster!?
Answer: It was not a recipe for disaster but a recipe of kindness. Eliezer did not choose just any woman he met but searched for a woman with a good heart, who agreed to take water from the well, a large quantity, without asking questions. It was a sign that she had a good heart. He then said to her: You have a good heart. In our house, everyone has a good heart and you fit in, come with me (Rashi). When one has a good heart, he can overcome all problems. He does not only love to receive, he loves to give. And they indeed loved one another (ibid. v. 67 and 26:8). The most important thing is a good heart. Therefore, if you have a good heart you are fortunate. And if you do not, begin to work on it.

Ta'anit Dibbur

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

Question: What are the laws of a Ta’anit Dibbur? [literally, “a fast from speech” – undertaking not to speak words unrelated to Torah, for a particular amount of time] Answer: This is a new practice not mentioned in the Torah, the Mishnah, the Talmud or the Rishonim [medieval Sages], but only amongst several of the Acharonim [more recent Sages]. It is therefore impossible to determine halachot about it, and everyone can do whatever he wishes. This custom was spread by Rabbi Yitzchak Alfia, author of the “Kuntres HaYechieli,” and there several practices are elaborated upon, as they are at the end of the “Ish Matzliach” edition of Tehillim, for example, completing the Book of Tehillim three times.
Yet the main thing is to be careful with one’s speech and to avoid Lashon Hara, gossip and other forbidden speech. One can talk, but one shouldn’t say forbidden things. The Vilna Gaon wrote: “Until the day of one’s death, one must chastise oneself, not by fasting and self-torture, but by restricting his mouth and his cravings. That is repentance, and that is all the fruits of the World to Come, as it says, 'For mitzvot are a candle and the Torah is light' (Mishlei 6:23), but 'reproofs of instruction are the way of life' (ibid.). This is greater than all the fasts and self-torture in the world… Scripture states (Tehillim 34:13), 'Who is the man who desires life and who loves days… It is one who guards his tongue from evil.' By such means one can atone for any sin and be saved from hell. As it says (Mishlei 21:23), 'Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue, keeps his soul from troubles,' and, 'Life and death are in the hands of the tongue' (18:21). Woe to him who kills himself for the sake of one comment. What advantage is there to the gossip?' (Alim Li-Terufah) There is therefore room for holding a Ta’anit Dibbur as an interim means of learning to distance oneself from gossip, backbiting, and insult. As in the well-known words of Rambam, in order to be cured of an evil trait, one must temporarily move to the opposite extreme (Hilchot De’ot 2:1-3).
We find the following in the Mishnah Berurah: “I saw written in one sefer that when a person wishes to conduct a voluntary fast day, better that he should undertake a fast from speech than from food, for avoiding speech will do one no harm, either to his body or to his soul, nor will it weaken him” (Orach Chaim 571, M.B. 2; and the same idea may be found in Shemirat Ha-Lashon, Sha’ar Ha-Tevunah, chapter 2).
Obviously, however, all this refers to where one thereby does no harm to his wife or his children who wish to speak with him, or to anyone else who needs him. It is more important to speak kind words than to remain silent. There’s a story of a bus driver who engaged in a verbal fast and did not want to help his passengers who were asking him where to get off.
Surely our Sages said, regarding Tehillim 58:2, “Is it true [he’omnam] that you were silent [elem] about the righteousness that you should have spoken [tzedek tedaberun], the fairness with which you should have judged the children of men?”: “What should man’s trade [omanut] be in this world? He should make himself mute [ilem]. I might think this applies even to Torah learning? It therefore says, Tzedek tedaberun”, ‘Speak righteousness’ (Chulin 89a). Thus, silence is not appropriate across the board. Rather, it is an “omanut,” an “art” or a “trade”. It involves much wisdom, skill and sensitivity to know when to be silent and when to talk. When it comes to Torah and charity, you should talk. Here is our great master Rambam: “One should remain silent often and not speak except to utter Torah wisdom or to say something that he needs to sustain his physical self. It was said of Rav, a disciple of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, that he never throughout his life engaged in vain chatter, which is the talk of most people. Even for one’s physical needs one should not speak much. In this regard our sages commanded, ‘Whoever talks much invites sin.’ They said further, ‘I have found nothing better for the body than silence’ (Hilchot De’ot 2:4). Sometimes there is also a need to engage in kind words to one’s fellow man, to encourage him, strengthen him or gladden him. And sometimes, obviously, we do him a kindness by listening to him. The rule is this: Sefer HaKuzari calls man “the Speaker”. That is his virtue, that he can think and talk (Rashi on Bereshit 2:7). He must therefore use this supreme virtue for good, and be very responsible for every word he says.

Shut SMS #54

Ha-Rav 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: Is it permissible to hang pictures of Rabbis in a baby's room where we change diapers?
A: Yes.
Q: Is education a wisdom which can be learned from non-Jews or only from the Torah?
A: From non-Jews as well, which is appropriate with the Torah.
Q: I accidentally ate dairy after meat. Do I say a blessing afterwards?
A: Yes.
Q: Was the story about the 93 Bais Yaakov girls committing suicide instead of falling into the hands of the Nazis correct according to the Halachah?
A: Yes. See Tosafot 57b d.h. kaftzu. But this story does not have historical documentation except for a letter which seems unreliable.
Q: What should I do if my parents call in the middle of a Torah class?
A: Discuss with them what you should do in such a situation.
Q: Do I have to tell my parents that I am meeting a young man for the purpose of marriage?
A: No. It is a personal decision.
Q: Why are pants forbidden for women when they are not only for men today?
A: It is a man's piece of clothing in its essence, and like other things it is not dependent on the prevailing custom.
Q: Why is it forbidden to touch a girl?
A: Before one benefits from food we recite one blessing, before one benefits from his wife, we must recite seven blessings under the chuppah.
Q: I don't call this the State of Israel. It is just a state like the USA.
A: You are mistaken, because in the USA only 25% of the Jewish children learn in a Jewish school or study in a non-Jewish school and learn in a Jewish after-school program one day a week. And in general, that is not our country.
Q: Rabbis tell me that it is forbidden to leave Israel because it will make my soul impure, but I do not feel this impurity. Is it permissible for me to travel there?
A: The Halachah is that it is forbidden, even if you do not feel it. Similarly, it is forbidden to eat something non-kosher even if you do not feel that it makes you impure.
Q: Is it permissible to study Kabbalah?
A: Only for great Torah scholars. Shulchan Aruch.
Q: I have a customer who constantly speaks ill of the Religious-Zionist community. How do I explain the Torah of Rav Kook to him?
A: It is a waste of time. Someone with bad character traits will not understand.
Q: Why are there Rabbis who announce that the Messiah will arrive on a given date and then he does not come?
A: The fact is that no one knows when he will come. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 12:2.
Q: I was told that if I recite "Nishmat Kol Chai" 40 days straight, my prayer would be answered but it did not work?
A: It is certainly great to recite this prayer. However, it is not magic but a petition to Hashem. There is no Divine promise that it will work.

Donating Organs
Q: Is it permissible to donate organs after death?
A: It is a great mitzvah of saving lives. "Love your fellow as yourself."
Q: Including the cornea?
A: Yes, every organ.
Q: Isn't it a mitzvah to bury all organs?
A: It is superseded by the mitzvah of saving a life. And it also comes back to life in the recipient.
Q: Isn't there a fear that they will take the organ before the sick person is completely dead?
A: G-d forbid. They only take it from the person after brain stem death.
Q: What will happen to these organs during the Resurrection of the Dead?
A: A limb which was used for a great mitzvah will appear illuminated with an even greater light.

"Yashar Koach" to Cohanim

Q: Is it a proper minhag for everyone to shake the Cohanim's hands and say: "Yashar Koach" after Birkat Cohanim? After all, they are obligated from the Torah to recite the blessing and they also cannot hear the prayers that are now being said.
A: 1. Regarding saying "Yashar Koach" even though the Cohanim are obligated in the mitzvah, there is a Mishnah in Shevi'it (4:2) which says that the poor people who are entitled to take the ownerless crops during the Shemita year would nevertheless go to the owner of the field and say "Thank you", even though the owner was obligated to allow the poor to take the crop from his field during that year. There are versions of the Mishnah which say that everyone agrees that this is permissible. The Rashash (ibid.) said that this Mishnah is the source for the minhag to say "Yashar Koach" to the Cohanim after Birkat Cohanim. He emphasized that even though the Cohain would be neglecting the fulfillment of a positive mitzvah from the Torah if he did not recite the blessing, we learn that the circumstances which cause the giver to provide others with something does not diminish the receivers obligation to express gratitude. Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Yalkut Yosef (Tefila p. 338) also has written that it is proper to say "Chazak U-Varuch" or "Yashar Koach" based on this idea. Regarding the problem of missing out on the prayers during that time, this is improper. One should therefore say "Yashar Koach" quietly in order not to disturb others or wait until after the prayers so that it is not at the expense of the prayers.

A New Woman

I heard that it is written in the Torah that when one gets married his wife is defined as a "new woman" and the husband therefore does not go to the army during the first year in order to make her happy (Dev. 24:2) and in order that they can become accustomed to one another (Torah Temimah). I however did go to the army, the reserves and war. They did not exempt me. And even if they would have exempted me, I would have gone because how could my friends go to war while I sit at home?! But after many years of marriage I still feel like a have a "new woman", and I find out new things about her every day: her emotions, thoughts, desires, and even her imagination. It appears that every person is like that but they do not interest me, only she is important to me. It is interesting that that these things seem new, as they were always before my eyes. But it seems that I never paid attention. It seems that I looked at them but did not see, I heard but did not listen. I suddenly realize. Thank you, you are new to me each day.

Minority and Majority Opinion

[Sefer Am Ve-Artzo vol. 1, #11]

Question: The Torah scholars and great authorities of Israel who support the position of Gush Emunim (the movement to settle all of the historical Land of Israel) are the minority of Rabbis in contrast to those who are opposed. If so, shouldn't we follow the general principle of Jewish Law that majority rules?
Answer: I will deal with the essence of the question without discussing whether it is in fact the reality. After all, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was well known for his declaration that the majority of the world’s Torah giants did not oppose Zionism. Once, one of the students at the Yeshivah said that he would not dare make such a statement in the vicinity of the Holy Ark. The student’s words made their way to the ears of our Rabbi. Our Rabbi immediately ran to the Yeshiva, opened up the Holy Ark containing the Torah Scrolls and said, "Whoever says that the majority of Torah giants opposed Zionism is a liar. The truth should be told that Zionism was a new movement, and most of the leading Rabbis were uncertain as to how to relate to it. Most of those who did take a stand were actually in favor of Zionism."
The halachic authorities have written that the principle that we follow the majority only applies if all authorities sit together and there is give-and-take between them, and not if each one of them states his opinion on his own and we count up their opinions. Since perhaps, if the majority heard the opinion of the minority and had give-and-take with them, they would be convinced (Shut Ha-Rashba quoted in Beit Yosef, Choshen Mishpat, end of chap. 13). "Because we do not say majority rules except when a majority of them argue face-to-face" (Sedei Chemed, vol. 3, pg. 149), "When all of the judges are gathered together in one place like the Sanhedrin" (Get Pashut, kelali, klal #1, and see Shut She’eilat David in Makor Beit Av - ma’amar #2, Mishnat Hora’ah by Mahartz Chayot chap. 4-5, Sdei Chemed - kelalim ma’arechet yud klal #35, Minchat Chinuch, mitzvah 78 #1 and Chazon Ish - Kilayim siman 1).
Despite this idea, the authorities mention the issue of deciding based on "the majority of wisdom" (i.e. greater knowledge and expertise in a particular area of Halachah), and there are even those who say that we follow a "majority of wisdom" over a "majority of number" (Likutei Ha-Ramban, Sanhedrin chap. 4 in the name of the Rahag). One must distinguish between "the majority of wisdom" for each authority based on his area of expertise: there are Rabbis whose expertise is monetary laws, and there are Rabbis whose expertise is in Kashrut, etc... Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook's expertise was in the area of the workings of Klal Yisrael relating the rebuilding of our Nation and our Land, the beginning of the Redemption and in understanding the Master of the Universe’s direction of our history. He investigated, clarified, arranged, and constructed a complete method of understanding, whose scope and depth is far above all of the Sages of the generation of Acharonim (later authorities).
For example, Ha-Rav Joseph Soloveitchik, with all of his brilliance, did not construct an all-compassing method of understanding, and all of his teachings were, in essence, about the phenomenon of the religious individual. He did not present a philosophy of communal faith: The Rav only discussed the religious experience of the individual as opposed to the communal religious experience which includes understanding Hashem's role is guiding the history of the Nation of Israel.
All that was said above is equally applicable in relation to students who did not sufficiently learn Torah, and came to create all sorts of lies about Maran Ha-Rav Kook. They forged documents in his name, and placed in his mouth the opposite of what he said. The proper way to understand his teachings is through his son, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, who even in his youth, his father said of him, "...with gratitude of G-d, he is nearly one with me, he who is accustomed to remain faithful to my opinion and hears the conversation of my soul (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 1, p. 121).
Based on the decisions of Rabbi Akiva, in matter of the Messianism of Bar Kochba, the Rambam ruled, "He and all the Sages of his generation considered him to be the Messianic King" (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:3), even though we find Sages who disagreed with his position (Sanhedrin 93b and see Jerusalem Talmud Ta’anit 4:5, Eichah Rabbah 2:2). How then did the Rambam write: "Rabbi Akiva and all the Sages of his generation"? Rather it was clear to him, that in all matters pertaining to the vision of Redemption and the resurrection of Israel and its Land, Rabbi Akiva was the expert; that is, he possessed "the majority of wisdom." Therefore, even though the majority disagreed with him, he was defined by Halachah as "all the Sages of his generation" (see Rambam, Hilchot Ta’anit 5:3 where there is a similar understanding.

Aliyah against the will of parents

Q: It is permissible for children to make Aliyah against the will of their parents? And further, is it permissible for the Zionist youth movement to encourage Aliyah among young people, even against the wishes of their parents?
A: Many authorities rule that the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (dwelling in the Land of Israel) outweighs the mitzvah of Kibud Av Ve-Em (Honoring Father and Mother). This position is based on the verse (Vayikra 19:3): "You shall revere your mother and father and you shall observe my Shabbatot - I am Hashem, your God." From the juxtaposition of these two mitzvot, our Sages (Yevamot 6a and see Baba Metzia 32a and Rashi on this verse in his Torah commentary), have derived that if a parent commands a child to desecrate the Shabbat or violate any other mitzvah, the order must not be obeyed. Thus, the verse means that a child is required to revere his parents, but Hashem’s mitzvot take precedence over the wishes of the parents, because "I am Hashem your God," and both the child and the parents are required to obey Hashem. This Halachah is quoted in the Rambam (Hilchot Mamrim 6:12) and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 240:15).
Yishuv Eretz Yisrael is a Torah mitzvah – as we see in the Ramban (Bemidbar 35:53 and additions to the Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Mitzvah #4) and the Pitchei Teshuvah (Even Ha-Ezer 75:10): "The obligation to fulfill this mitzvah applies at all times, and this is explained by all of the halachic authorities, the Rishonim and Acharonim". Therefore, since dwelling in Israel is a mitzvah, a parent is not to be obeyed if they attempt to prevent the child from making Aliyah. This is the view of Rabbi Meir Mi-Rotenberg (Shut Maharam ben Baruch #79), Rav Moshe Mi-Trani (Shut Mabit 1:139 and quoted in Pitchei Teshuvah Even Ha-Ezer 75:6), Shut Me’il Tzedakah (#26) and Shut Beit Yehuda (vol. 1 Yoreh Deah #54).
We know of many cases where parents told a child, who wanted to stay in Israel after learning for a year or two, to return "home," finish their studies, and they would then help the child make aliyah. Often times, however, the plan never comes to fruition and the child gets struck there.
When Avraham Avinu arrived in Eretz Yisrael and there was a famine, he went down to Egypt. The students of the Vilna Gaon asked: why did he go down to Egypt and endanger his life and Sarah's life instead of temporarily returning to Ur Chasdim, where he had family? They answer that Avraham Avinu feared that if he returned to Ur Chasdim, he would get stuck there and not return to Eretz Yisrael (Doresh Le-Tzion, p. 257-258). We have the same fear for someone who returns to Exile.
Therefore, a child does not have to listen to his parent to leave Israel, but we must explain our feelings to them in a sensitive way. Betuel and Lavan did not want Rivka to marry Yitzchak and move to Eretz Yisrael, but she said: "I will go" (Bereshit 24:58), which Rashi explained: "Even if you do not consent." She told them she was going. We must do the same, and with Hashem help, his/her parents will make aliyah along the rest of his family.
[Authorities who agree include: Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook (Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 2, #40), Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Nissim (Shut Yayin Ha-Tov vol. 2, Yoreh Deah #7), Ha-Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Sefer Amud Ha-Yemini #22), Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shut Yehaveh Daat 3:69 and 4:49, Shut Yabia Omer vol. 6, Yoreh Deah #40 ot 5-6), Rav Chaim David Halevy (Shut Aseh Lekha Rav 1:17) and Rav Eliezer Melamed (Kuntres Penini Halakhah of Mitzvat Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, p. 16). And Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:449) has written that if one wants to move to Eretz Yisrael as a means of strengthening his commitment to Torah and spiritual growth, or in order to provide his children with a more vibrant Torah education and atmosphere, he may do so against his parents’ wishes. This is unlike the opinion of Shut Minchat Elazar (5:12) of Ha-Rav Chaim Elazar Shapira - the Munkatcher Rebbe, Shut Tzitz Eliezer (14:73) and Ha-Rav Shlomo Braun in She’arim Metzuyanim Be-Halakhah (Vol. 4, siman 143:9 in Kuntres Acharon).]

Shut SMS #53

Ha-Rav 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 found a cell phone and want to return it. Can I call the owner using his phone or is it stealing?
A: It is permissible. The cost of returning the object is incurred by the one who lost it.
Q: Is there a problem of using the "secular date"?
A: There is certainly a problem. It is connected to idol worship.
Q: It is proper to wear pants under my skirt if the skirt is halachicly long enough?
A: Yes, this is the custom of Yemenite Jews. Obviously, the pants must be modest and not eye-fetching and the skirt must be long enough even when sitting.
Q: What is the minimum size of a kippah?
A: Strict opinion: covers the majority of the head. Lenient opinion: Can be seen from all sides. Shut Yechaveh Da'at.
Q: How can I cleave to Hashem?
A: Cleaving to Hashem is following his traits, which are learned from Musar books like Mesillat Yesharim.
Q: When I wear clothing which is a little immodest I feel like it is pretty and I benefit from it.
A: One needs strength and courage to over the evil inclination which deceives us. When we give up on impure feelings of benefit, we merit true happiness.
Q: Is it permissible to erase Hashem's Name from a computer scene or a cell phone?
A: Yes, since it is not permanent and some say it is indirectly erasing. This is not the sort of writing forbidden by the Torah.
Q: Is it permissible to call a baby the same name which a wicked person had?
A: Ashkenazim and Sefardim do not do so. For example, they do not use the name "Avshalom" (King David's son). But Yemenite Jews do use this name since it is a beautiful name (Father of Peace). If this name is the name of a wicked person but also found in another context, it is permissible, since you are naming the baby after the other context.
Q: Is it permissible name a child after someone who died young?
A: We have the custom not to do so. But if someone died in a plague which took many people's lives, he is not the only one to have died young, and it is permissible to use that name. Similarly, for a soldier who fell fulfilling his duty or a Jew who was killed by a terrorist, it is also permissible, since – to our great distress – this is not a isolated incident.

A second earring

Question: My daughter wants to get one small, second pierce in one ear. It is very common with her high school friends and even among her female teachers. She studies in a very religious Torani school. Is this permissible?
Answer: There is no problem to have a second hole with the condition that the earring is modest. By the way, the first earring must be modest as well.

Parashat Yitro: The Giving and Receiving of the Torah

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, pointed out that we must carefully distinguish between the giving of the Torah and the receiving of the Torah. He gave an explanation about this which he had learned from his father, Maran Ha-Rav Kook, an idea which was both simple and deep. On the one hand, the Master of the Universe descends to us. "And Hashem descended on Mt. Sinai" (Shemot 19:20). Hashem lowers himself to meet us. "Who remembers us in our lowly state" (Tehillim 136:23). On the other hand, since Hashem descends, we are "invited" to meet him by exalting ourselves.
This week's parashah, Yitro, and Mishpatim, the one for next week, are a pair. In Parashat Yitro we are given an overview in which all 613 mitzvot are hinted at within the Ten Commandments, while in Mishpatim the details are included. At the end of this parashah, we see our elevation: "They saw the G-d of Israel, and under His feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, and it was like the essence of the heaven in purity" (Shemot 2:10).
Hashem's descent and our ascent are one amazing meeting.

Giving Tzedakah to Beggars

Q: When I visit the Kotel, there are so many people asking for money, should I give money to the beggars? What about people on the street? What about people who knock on my door and ask for money?
A: There are various issues involved:
Most Beggars are Swindlers - The Halachah is that we do not give money to beggars until we clarify that they are truly poor. This is a "Takanat Chazal" (Ruling of our Sages) since most beggars are swindlers. This ruling is found in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 251:10) and it applies to this day. Rabbis estimate that ninety percent of people who ask for money today are swindlers. If someone asks for money we do not give it until he provides verification from a reliable Rabbi. If someone asks for food, however, we give him immediately. What if he is being deceptive? It is a potentially life-threatening situation, and we therefore provide food without delay. Today, most beggars in Israel do not ask for food because there are many soup kitchens, and if you offer them food, they say that they prefer money.
Is Giving Tzedakah to someone who is not poor a Mitzvah? - The halachic authorities discuss if one fulfills the mitzvah of giving tzedakah if the recipient is in fact not poor. They point to the Gemara in Baba Batra (9a and see Rishonim and Achronim) and they also discuss whether the intention of the giver matters, but for certain he loses out on the mitzvah by giving that money to someone who is not truly poor. Perhaps you will say that giving tzedakah is still worthwhile even if the person is not poor since it strengthens one's personal character traits (tikkun midot), as the Rambam explained in his commentary to Pirkei Avot (3:15):, that by performing an act over and over, one will achieve proper characteristic traits. This, however, does not occur when one is performing an act which is not beneficial. A person is cruel if he does not give to the poor, but he is not kind if he gives to the wealthy. We have to give to truly poor people. A person should not buckle under emotional pressure from a beggar: I have many children and a husband who is sick, you have a kippah but you are not really observant, you give a shekel and they throw it down, etc… If a person was poor before he asked for money at the Kotel, after a day he would no long be considered poor: They collect 1000 shekels a day!
Rabbinic Verification - Even providing rabbinic verification is problematic today. Anyone can print a Rabbi's letter or signature off the internet in thirty seconds. One time some people from a tzedakah organization in Ashdod came and asked for my signature. I did not know them and asked if they had other Rabbis' signatures. They told me that they had the support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I said: If so, I will blindly support it. Please send me the letter. When I received it, I saw that in the signature there was an extra "alef" in the last name "Schneersohn" and instead of being signed by the last Rebbe – Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel, it was signed by the previous Rebbe – Ha-Rav Yosef Yitzchak, who died almost sixty years ago! It was a forgery! Often times there are people who request money for yeshivot or organizations which do not exist, never existed, and will never exist. One time I signed a letter in support of giving money to the poor. I found out that they were giving $1000 to anyone about to be drafted into "Nachal Ha-Charedi" (Ultra-Orthodox unit in the army) to convince them not to join. They claimed they were poor: They were in great spiritual poverty if they were about to join Tzahal. I called and requested my name be removed from the letter, but they did not. I called again, no response. I called again, no response. I sent a letter, no response. I sent a letter from a lawyer and they called: "Why not talk like a mensch? Come on, let's talk," etc… We have to be extremely careful about where we give our money.
In sum: We only give tzedakah to people who we can verify are poor or to trustworthy organizations. Give to one, two, three trustworthy organizations. It is not possible to provide for every poor person in any event. Most beggars are not evil people, they are mentally and emotionally unstable. We do not judge them, but we only give tzedakah to genuinely poor people.

[Collected by Mordechai Friedfertig.
Ha-Rav Aviner Shilt"a encouraged spreading its message]


1. The Praises of the Netziv

The Netziv – Rosh Yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva - said about Maran Ha-Rav Kook: "He is equal to everyone else [in the Volozhin Yeshiva]", "There was never a student like this in Volozhin" and "If the Volozhin Yeshiva was established only for this great student – it would have been enough." Ha-Rav Reuven Bengis – Av Beit Din of the Edah Charedit – similarly said that the most important [student] in the Yeshiva is the son-in-law of the Rav of Ponevezh (Ha-Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te'omim, Ha-Aderet – Maran Ha-Rav Kook's father-in-law).
[Tal Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 59-60, Shivchei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 45 and Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet p. 189]


2. The Chafetz Chaim: Know that he is holy and pure and anyone who impinges on his honor will not go unpunished.

The Chafetz Chaim once came to Ponovezh in his effort to organize Torah scholars who were Cohanim to learn matters relating to "Kodashim" (the sacrifices in the Temple), since the Temple would soon be built and therefore there would be a need to know the practical Halachah. He turned to Maran Ha-Rav, who was a Cohain (and who was stayed in his father-in-law's house), and asked him to focus on the laws relating to the Temple and sacrifices. A few days later, Maran Ha-Rav visited the Chafetz Chaim in the place where he was staying. The Chafetz Chaim said to him: "I have a request of you, but promise me from the outset that you will fulfill it." Maran Ha-Rav responded: "Since I trust that his honor will not request anything which is inappropriate from me, I promise to fulfill your request." "This is my request" – said the Chafetz Chaim – "When a Rabbinic offer comes before you do not refuse to accept it." Maran Ha-Rav, who had decided not to involve himself with the Rabbinate, found himself in a difficult position, and wanted to free himself and said: "In order to accept a Rabbinic position I would have to involve myself with the halachic authorities who discuss the issues involved, and I already promised his honor to involve myself with 'Kodashim.'" Chafetz Chaim thought hard and said: "I give up on your first promise, your Rabbinate is more important"…
[Bisdeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 218, Sichot Ha-Re'eiyah p. 122, Tal Ha-Re'eiyah p. 90, Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 231 and 550, Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim pp. 32-33 and mentioned in Bishelosha Be-Elul vol. 1 p. 35]


After Maran Ha-Rav Kook had served a while in the Rabbinate in one of the holy communities in the Exile, he received an invitation from the Chafetz Chaim to help him prepare a work on the service of the Cohanim when the Temple is standing. Maran Ha-Rav replied: If his honor permits me to remove the yoke of the Rabbinate which is upon me, I can fulfill the request which is extremely dear to me. The Chafetz Chaim answered: I have not found an individual as talented as you in administering a Rabbinate in Israel!...
[Ha-Re'eiyah Kook ztzvk"l of Ha-Rav Shmuel Baruch Shulman p. 36]

At a huge Rabbinical Conference in Vienna in 5683, one of the Rabbis made disparaging remarks about Maran Ha-Rav, the Chafetz Chaim (who was sitting at the dais) stood up shocked and said: "You insulted the Mara De-Atra (Rabbinic authority) of Eretz Yisrael." He left the conference and decided not to return to it. The Chafetz Chaim waited in his hotel to return to his city, and many people came to visit him or receive a blessing. When the members of delegation from Eretz Yisrael wanted to enter, he said: "I will not say 'Shalom' to those who caused dispute with the Rav of Yerushalayim (Maran Ha-Rav)!" And he added: "Know that he is holy and pure and anyone who impinges on his honor will not go unpunished."
[Bisdeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 225-228, Sichot Ha-Re'eiyah p. 26-127, Malachim Bivnei Adam p. 211 and for additional information on the subject see Sichot Ha-Re'eiyah chap. 11 and Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim chap. 4]

In the year 5681, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook (Maran Ha-Rav's son) traveled to Poland to meet with Rabbis and Chasidic Rebbes to convince them to join the "Degel Yerushalayim" movement which Maran Ha-Rav established to infuse the Zionist movement with Torah and holiness. At that time, the Chafetz Chaim came to Warsaw, and our Rabbi, who yearned to see the splendor of the most righteous person of the generation, went to where he was staying. He found him surrounded by people. After over an hour, our Rabbi approached to take leave from him. The Chafetz Chaim asked: "Are you a local?" Our Rabbi responded: "No, from Jerusalem," and he added: "Your honor was close with Reb Eliyahu David (the Aderet), father-in-law of my father." When the Chafetz Chaim heard whose son was standing before him, his face lit up and he joyfully said: "Your honor is the son of the Rav of Zimel, the Rav of Boisk, the Rav of Yafo, the Rav of Jerusalem? Then why does he speak about his grandfather? Tell me about your father! How is he? We are long-time, dear friends."
[Bisdei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 221, Sichot Ha-Re'eiyah p. 126, Shivchei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 157-158, Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet p. 97, Tzvi Kodesh p. 146 and Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim pp. 36-37]

See Bisdei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 217-231, Sichot Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 120-133 and the book "Bein Shenei Cohanim Gedolim" which discuss the special relationship between the Chafetz Chaim and Maran Ha-Rav Kook.


3. Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld: A Blessing to be the Cohain Gadol

On Shavuot morning after davening Vatikin, Maran Ha-Rav Kook was walking in one of the alleyways near the Kotel and met Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld. Ha-Rav Sonenfeld blessed him that he should merit serving as the Cohain Gadol in the Temple.
[Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 303-304 and see another blessing of Ha-Rav Sonenfeld to Maran Ha-Rav ibid.]

It once happened that Ha-Sonenfeld was honored to be a Mohel at a Brit Milah and Maran Ha-Rav was honored to act as the Sandak. The two Rabbis met at the door of the apartment where the Brit Milah would occur. After they exchanged friendly greetings, a problem arose: Who would enter the house first? Maran Ha-Rav respectfully suggested that Ha-Rav Sonenfeld enter first. But he responded: "His honor is a Cohain and the Chief Rabbi [of Jerusalem] – and the basic halachah is that he should enter first." Maran Ha-Rav humbly answered: "But his honor is greater in Torah than I am." They stood at the door without a decision as to who should enter first. The older houses in Jerusalem were built in such a way that there were two doors in each doorway – the left one was bolted closed and the right one opened and closed, allowing one person to pass through it. Maran Ha-Rav approached the opened door, struck his arm through it and unbolted the left door – and both of them entered at once!
[Melachim Kivnei Adam p. 64]


4. Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski: A Eulogy for Maran Ha-Rav at a Wedding

When the Chazon Ish left Vilna to make aliyah, Rav Chaim Ozer sent a letter to Maran Ha-Rav requesting his assistance. He began the letter: "The Glory of Honor, My Dear Friend, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, the Famous One… The Prince of Torah, Our Teacher, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook Shlit"a…"
[Bisdeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 236, Chayei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 388-389, Igrot Le-Re'eiyah #316 and Melachim Kivnei Adam pp. 106-107. Maran Ha-Rav's response is found in Shut Da'at Cohain #223]

There was a wedding in Elul 5696 in which Rav Chaim Ozer, Ha-Rav Shimon Shkop and many other great Rabbis attended. When news arrived that Maran Ha-Rav had died, Rav Chaim Ozer instructed Ha-Rav Shmuel Markowitz, Av Beit Din of Turatz to eulogize him. And this is what was done.
[This is quoted by Ha-Rav Tzvi Markowitz in Kovetz "Achiezer" #2 from the year 5628 and Davar Le-Dor – Kovetz Hespedim Al Rav Kook ztz"l p. 89]

See Igrot Le-Re'eiyah where there are tens of letters by Rav Chaim Ozer to Maran Ha-Rav with great respect and honor, and where it is possible to see the close relationship which existed between them.


5. Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer: We are Gedolim until we reach his doorknob

Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rosh Yeshiva of Eitz Chaim in Jerusalem, said: "I was young when I arrived in Volozhin, and I looked with great respect at the greater students who sat on the eastern wall, and among them were prodigies who would become Gedolei Yisrael. But I remember well that looking at him [Maran Ha-Rav Kook] was completely different - even among the special he was distinguished by his uniqueness!"
[Tal Ha-Re'eiyah p. 71, Shivchei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 101 and the booklet "Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem" p. 13]

Ha-Rav Meltzer once visited Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, and Ha-Rav Meltzer said about Maran Ha-Rav: "We are Gedolim until we reach his doorknob."
[Mi-Toch Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet vol. 2 p. 170, Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol. 2 p. 101, Shivchei Ha-Re'eiah p. 202, Bisadeh Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 274, Malachim Kivnei Adam p. 430 and the booklet "Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem" p. 22]

Ha-Rav Meltzer said many times: "If only I could daven during Ne'eilah on Yom Kippur, with awe of holiness and feeling, like Ha-Rav [Kook] davens during weekday Minchah."
[Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah #51, Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol. 2 p. 102, Orot Ha-Tefillah of Ha-Rav Y. Epstein (student of Ha-Rav Meltzer) p. 26, Shivchei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 200, Malachim Kivnei Adam p. 256 and the booklet "Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem" p. 29]

In the eulogy which Ha-Rav Meltzer delivered for Maran Ha-Rav in the Churva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, he said: "The True Torah was in his mouth" and "With the passing of Ha-Rav – the spine of Klal Yisrael is broken."
[Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 12, Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol 2 p. 101, Shivchei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 15, Bisadeh Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 275 and Malachim Kivnei Adam p. 430]


See the booklet "Az Nebabru Yirei Hashem" from Amichai Kinerati for the close relationship between Ha-Rav Meltzer and Maran Ha-Rav.


6. The Chazon Ish Stands During the Entire Lengthy Speech of Maran Ha-Rav Kook

As related by the founder of the city of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yitzchak Gershtenkorn: In the year 5694, Ha-Rav Kook was invited to the foundation stone laying ceremony for Yeshivat Beit Yosef (Novardok) in Bnei Brak, and he agreed to attend. During the celebration, in which the Chazon Ish also participated, Ha-Rav [Kook] gave a lengthy speech, with great passion regarding the Torah and Chasidut in Bnei Brak. During the entire time that Ha-Rav Kook spoke, those who attended sat comfortably in their places, while the Chazon Ish remained on his feet and listened intently to Ha-Rav Kook. Only when Ha-Rav Kook finished and sat down did the Chazon Ish sit in his seat. The matter was a wonder in the eyes of those present. Ha-Rav Tzvi Kagan, who was also there, added that when the speech of Ha-Rav Kook became lengthy, they suggested to the Chazon Ish to sit down, but he refused, saying: "The Torah is standing!"
[Pe'er Ha-Dor vol. 2 p. 32, Malachim Kivnei Adam pp. 340-341, Bisadeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 247, Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 217-218 and Likutei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 417-419]

Immediately upon arrival in Eretz Yisrael, the Chazon Ish turned to Maran Ha-Rav with a postcard asking him to clarify the correct procedure for redeeming "Ma'aser Sheni" (The tithe which would be brought to be eaten in Jerusalem). He began: "The Glory of the Honor of our Master Shlit"a".
[Igrot Le-Re'eiyah #310, bisadeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 35, Chayei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 119-120 and Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 217-218. Maran Ha-Rav's response is printed in Shut Mishpat Cohain #53-54 and see Pe'er Ha-Dor vol. 4 pp. 222-223]

The Chazon Ish encouraged his most gifted students to learn the halachic works of Maran Ha-Rav, and he would say: "Ha-Rav's way of learning and clarification of the Halachah is the truth of Torah."
[Re'eiyah Ve-chazon p. 10 and Bisadeh Ha-Re'eiyah p. 145]

See Bisadeh Ha-Re'eiyah pp. 233-248 where there are letters concerning Halachah and filled with respect and honor between Maran Ha-Rav and the Chazon Ish.


7. Ha-Rav Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik: The Glory of the Generation

The Brisker Rav wrote to Maran Ha-Rav Kook requesting help for a yeshiva student beginning with these words: "Great blessing for the honor of Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, the Famous One, the Glory of the Generation… The Prince of Torah, Our Teacher, Ha-Rav R' Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Shlit"a Kook. The Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem…" And Ha-Griz ended the letter: "I conclude with a blessing for all goodness for the glory of his genius Shlit"a, I respect and cherish the exalted nature of the glory of his genius with all feelings of respect and value."

Ha-Rav Yosha Ber (Ha-Rav Berel Soloveitchik), Ha-Griz's son and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Brisk following his father, once spoke harshly against Zionism. He was asked: And what about Ha-Rav Kook? He answered: "He is a Gadol." (from Ha-Rav Zalman Baruch Melamed).
[Ha-Rav Eliezer Melamed in the article "Ha-Rav Kook and Beit Brisk" which appeared in the newspaper "Be-Sheva" 5767 and Igrot Le-Re'eiyah #373]


8. Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein: He was the Gaon of Geonim!

Ha-Rav Shabatai Rapaport, Ha-Rav Feinstein's grandson, related that in the year 5739, during Sukkot in Monsey, NY, Ha-Rav Feinstein was involved with writing a contrary view to a responsa of Ha-Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer). Ha-Rav Rapaport showed his grandfather a statement from Maran Ha-Rav Kook (relating to the issue) which Ha-Rav Rapaport found amazing. Ha-Rav Feinstein responded: "What is surprising, he was the Gaon of Geonim!"
[Likutei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 59]

Ha-Rav Nisan Alpert, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi of Agudat Yisrael, author of "Limudei Nisan" and Ha-Rav Feinstein's student for forty years, was one of those who eulogized his Rav in New York. He also spoke at a memorial evening for Ha-Rav Kook, on the 50th anniversary of his passing. When he was asked about the connection between his Rav and Ha-Rav Kook, he answered that Ha-Rav Feinstein was a "Chasid" of Ha-Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Feinstein said to learn his books and one will find great things. He also added, rhetorically, that he did not understand what people wanted from Ha-Rav Kook ztz"l.
[Likutei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 60]


9. Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach: I only use the term 'Der Rov', Maran, for Ha-Rav Kook.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook was the Mesader Kiddushin at the wedding of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Ha-Rav Auerbach's brother-in-law, R' Shemuel Zelig, recalls how Maran Ha-Rav was honored with officiating at the wedding in the Jerusalem neighborhood of "Sha'arei Chesed." Although there were zealots who did not look upon this kindly, the groom's father – Ha-Rav Chaim Leib Auerbach – did not give in, because of the close relationship and deep respect between them.
[Ha-Torah Ha-Mesamachat p. 41 and Sefer Rabbenu p. 140 from the newspaper "Ha-Tzofeh"]


Ha-Rav S.Z. Auerbach said: If I say to you 'Maran' in Yiddish [Der Rov – Ha-Rav], know that I am referring to Ha-Rav Kook zt"l. I only use the term 'Der Rov', Maran, for Ha-Rav Kook.
[Sefer Rabbenu ibid. and the booklet "Or Shlomo" p. 24 and see note 34 where various testimonies to this fact are quoted]

Ha-Rav Auerbach honored Maran Ha-Rav with being the Sandek at the Brit Milah of his eldest son, R' Shmuel, who today serves as the Rosh Yeshiva of "Maalot Ha-Torah" in Jerusalem.
[The booklet "Or Shlomo" p. 21]

Maran Ha-Rav's picture hung together with pictures of other Gedolei Yisrael in Ha-Rav Auerbach's sukkah.
[The booklet "Or Shlomo" p. 28]

Ha-Rav Chaim Shteiner related that someone once published a book about Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector which also included disgraceful words about Ha-Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Auerbach said that it is forbidden to buy this book until it is corrected, and he also wrote a letter to the author asking him to fix it. He also met the author a few times and would always ask if the book was being fixed.

Ha-Rav Avigdor Neventzal related that Ha-Rav Auerbach would not hear the rulings of a particular Torah scholar because he besmirched Ha-Rav Kook's honor.
[Ha-Torah Ha-Mesamachat p. 308 and the booklet "Or Shlomo" p. 30]

Ha-Rav A. Yehoshua Zuckerman related that when someone mentioned in a talk about the horrible behavior of certain individuals against Maran Ha-Rav Kook, Ha-Rav Auerbach responded with great distress: I recommend that those who were brazen and dishonored Ha-Rav should go to his grave and ask forgiveness.
[Ve-Alehu Lo Vibol vol. 1 p. 83 and the booklet "Or Shlomo" p. 30]

And see further in the booklet "Or Shlomo" by Amichai Kinerati for the close relationship between Ha-Rav Auerbach and Maran Ha-Rav.


10. Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Shlit"a: Ha-Rav Kook was greater than us!

R' Aryeh Levin, who often visited Ha-Rav Shlomo Eliyashuv, the author of "Leshem Shevo Ve-Achlama," met the latter's young grandson there – R' Yosef Shalom. Even then, R' Areyh recognized the unique greatness of R' Yosef Shalom. R' Aryeh once spoke with Maran Ha-Rav Kook about his sorrow that there was a wonderful, righteous, young Torah scholar who would a great match for his (R' Aryeh's) daughter, but the young man did not respond favorably to his suggestion (either because he thought he had better options or he was not ready to marry). Maran Ha-Rav asked for the identity of the young man, and told that is was R' Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Maran Ha-Rav called for the young man and spoke to him. The younger R. Eliyashuv then accepted the proposal and the couple married. Maran Ha-Rav Kook served as the Mesader Kiddushin. When Maran Ha-Rav's name comes up, Ha-Rav Elyashiv often said that he was honored that Maran Ha-Rav performed his wedding.
[Parashah Sheet "Shevet Ha-Re'eiyah #31]


Ha-Rav Yosef Buxbaum, the director of the journal "Moriah” and student of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related:
It once happened that one of the editors of the "Otzar Mefarshei Ha-Talmud" (Treasury of Talmudic Commentators) included a ruling of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, but another editor removed it. I asked him why he removed the ruling: was it because he raised a difficultly with it and it required further study? He answered: "I didn't even look into the issue. I just think that a ruling of Ha-Rav Kook is not appropriate for 'Otzar Mefarsehi Ha-Talmud.'" I said to him: "From this moment, you are fired!" The editor did not accept his decision, and they went to Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Ha-Rav Elyashiv was shocked and said to the editor: "Did you know Ha-Rav Kook?! You should know – he was holy. He did not belong to our generation, and in his generation, they did not properly understand him. Reb Yosef was certainly permitted to fire you. I would have done the same thing."
[Weekly parashah sheet "Shevet Ha-Re'eiyah #31 and #50]


It is related that Rabbanit Elyashiv once heard words which impinged upon Maran Ha-Rav's honor, and it caused her so much pain that she physically suffered from it for many days.
[Tzadik Yesod Olam p. 232 and Parashah Sheet "Shevet Ha-Re'eiyah #50]


Ha-Rav Elyashiv once wrote a halachic ruling, and after he finished someone showed him a different opinion which Maran Ha-Rav had written on the subject. Ha-Rav Elyashiv immediately ripped up his ruling and changed his opinion to that of Maran Ha-Rav.
[Parashah Sheet "Shevet Ha-Re'eiyah #50]


Ha-Rav Elyashiv once mentioned a particular teaching of Maran Ha-Rav. Someone who was present said that Rabbi so-and-so, one of the greatest Rabbis of the generation, sayid otherwise. Ha-Rav Elyashiv simply responded: Ha-Rav Kook was greater than us!
[Parashah Sheet "Shevet Ha-Re'eiyah #50]