Shut SMS #76

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:
Teacher
Q: Is it permissible to tell the administration about a teacher who seems unfit when it might cause him to lose his job?
A: It is permissible; the teacher is there for the students and not the students for the teacher – but you must provide the full picture.

Cutting
Q: Is it permissible to cut a line if everyone is doing it?
A: It is forbidden. The transgression of many does not make it permissible.

Bad Things for Good People
Q: Why does Hashem allow a woman to be killed in a car accident leaving orphans?
A: The Prophets asked why bad things happen to righteous people, but not in a text message. It is difficult to understand how a person wants to clarify such deep questions in a text message.

Hypnotism
Q: Is it permissible to use hypnotism for medical treatments or is it nonsense?
A: It has value as an addition to treatment, but only by a person who has legal permission to do so.

Holocaust
Q: Why did Hashem abandon us during the Holocaust?
A: It is spitting in the face of six million Jews to discuss this in a text message. You can call me or look in my book "Orot Mei-Ofel."

Koran
Q: If Mohammed was a monotheist, it is therefore permissible for me to read the Koran.
A: Monotheism is truly a great achievement, but it is not enough. Mohammed organized a giant slaughter of Jews, and then forced the widows and orphans to convert to Islam. The Koran is full of insults to the Nation of Israel, and denies the eternity of the Torah. It therefore should not be read.

An Oath not to Smoke
Q: If a person takes an oath not to smoke, can it be annulled?
A: No, since it is forbidden to smoke according to the Torah (See Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 2:1).

Lying to Help Someone Repent
Q: Is it permissible to lie to a secular Jew with the goal of helping him repent?
A: No, this is not the way. The Torah is the Torah of truth. It is similar to a salesman selling a damaged item and deceiving the buyer. The Torah is the most supreme good (see Eder Ha-Yakar of Maran Ha-Rav Kook).

Returning an Item
Q: There is a new law which allows one to receive his money back when returning an item. Is it permissible to buy something with the intention to return it?
A: G-d forbid. It is deception and theft.

Gog and Magog
Q: Someone told me from a trustworthy source that the war of Gog and Magog is coming soon.
A: Statements such as these mean nothing. It is forbidden to calculate the End of Days. Rambam, Melachim 12:2.

The Soul of a Non-Jew
Q: Does a non-Jew possess a Divine soul?
A: Certainly, beloved is man who was created in the Divine Image. Pirkei Avot 3:14. Tosafot Yom Tov and Tiferet Yisrael ibid.

Army
Q: How is it possible that there are Rabbis who say that one should not be drafted into Tzahal? Isn't it part of the Torah?
A: It is indeed not understandable (Me-Chayil El Chayil vol. 1 p. 168).

Abandoned Fruit
Q: If I am walking through an orchard, it is permissible to pick fruit?
A: It is certainly forbidden. And it is permissible to take what is lying on the ground only if you are positive that the owner will not gather it.

Stealing from a non-Jew
Q: It is permissible to steal from a non-Jew by downloading a song or game from the Internet?
A: Stealing from a non-Jew is forbidden (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 348:2).
Q: But the majority of people do it?
A: It still remains theft and one who is caught will be punished.

Kashrut Mistake
Q: I fried a milchig food in a flesichig pan which had not been used the previous 24 hours. What is the status of the food and the pan?
A: The food is Kosher and the pan must be koshered. It can be immersed in boiling hot water.

Cheese and Fish
Q: Is it permissible to eat cheese with fish?
A: It is permissible, but some people are strict. Shut Yechaveh Da'at 6:48.

“Souls of Ikvata”

[Tal Chermon - translated by Bracha Slae]

[This Dvar Torah is based on the meanings of the unusual word "Eikev" with which our Parashah begins, and with related words: "Akev = heel", "Eikev = as a result" and "Ikvata De-Meshicha = "The 'heels' of the Messiah".]

There are souls which can be likened to the head of a body and there are those which can be likened to a heel. All these souls together form a distinct entity - the collective body of the Nation of Israel. The head and the heel each has its own unique qualities, and neither can do without the other. The heel has “its feet on the ground.” It can tread even on the thorniest soil, while “falsehood has nothing to stand on.”
Our forefather Yaakov had this "Akev" quality: “And his hand was holding on to Eisav’s heel” (Bereshit 25:26). He overcame all obstacles through his connection to the Divine: “For you wrestled with G-d and men, and you overcame them” (ibid. 32:29). This was accomplished by grabbing reality “by the heel” (similar perhaps to the metaphorical “Achilles heel”). Ya’akov’s nature is one of a Torah Scholar - “a simple man, a tent-dweller” (ibid. 25:27 with Rashi), but he has a firm grasp on reality, and can deal with corruption by attacking its “Achilles heel.” Danger lurks in the heel, not the head, as we learn from the metaphor of the snake through whom Adam was cursed, “And he shall bite your heel” (ibid. 3:15).Rabbi Akiva was also endowed with "Akev qualities." His life story is an example of one who learned how to free himself from the snake’s curse. A descendant of gentiles who converted to Judaism, he hated Torah scholars in his youth. Through intellectual discipline and effort in the learning of Torah, he rose to such a level that he had 24,000 disciples. Just before Moshe Rabbenu’s death, the Holy One showed him a vision of Rabbi Akiva teaching Torah and then being martyred “Al Kiddush HaShem.” Ben Azai, one of Rabbi Akiva's most outstanding disciples, respected him more than any of the other rabbis of his time, as he alone was able to deal with the worst corruption and the hardest problems, those of the "Akev".This ability is most needed in Ikvata De-Meshicha, the period preceding the coming of Messiah, when the most spiritual concepts such as the Kingship of G-d must be brought down to earth through the Nation of Israel. Now the time has come to translate the prayer “They shall crown You in Heavens and on the earth” (recited in the Kedushah of Shemoneh Esrei), into down-to-earth action through establishment of a sovereign Israel. Simultaneously, the “souls of Ikvata” appear, those souls ensnarled in the problems of "Akev". One of the signs the Talmud cites of Ikvata De-Meshicha is the prevalence of chutzpah. This chutzpah is an integral part of the process of redemption, a part of the “Achilles heel” of the process. It is as if a snake is curled around the heels of the Messiah, nevertheless we will not give up.
Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained: Even if a snake, the symbol of the evil inclination, death, and the Satan is curled around a Jew’s heel, he still remains tied to the Soul of the People of Israel.
In this period, special Torah leaders possessing leadership qualities appropriate to this special generation are required. On his deathbed, Yaakov attempted to reveal the secrets of the Redemption to his sons, but was not permitted to do so (see ibid. 49:1 with Rashi). However, in the Talmud, Rabbi Abba states: “There is no clearer sign that the time of Redemption has arrived than that the Land of Israel produces fruit in abundance.” Under the guidance of our great teacher, Ha-Rav Kook, we are involved in uplifting the "Akev". We do so, not by breaking with our past, but “as a result of (Eikev) following these laws” (Devarim 7:12), and understanding the quintessential divinity encompassing even “those [seemingly] unimportant mitzvot which one treads on with his heel (Akev)” (Rashi ibid.). This stems from an understanding of the special position of Am Israel, of “the covenant and the compassion which He swore to your forefathers,” of our continuity from Avraham Avinu. When the Redemption arrives, heaven and earth will be united, and the Divine essence of the heel too will be apparent.
We will continue to help this process along, as King David said: “Your servant was careful in them [the mitzvot], in keeping them is 'Eikev Rav' (great reward)” (Tehillim 19:12).

You are Fat

Question: My husband claims that I am fat and pressures me to go on a diet. I also want to be thin but I cannot stay on any diet. As difficult as I am on myself, my husband is even harder on me.
Answer: The fact that you want to be thin is good but your husband demanding it is improper. He needs to love you whether you are heavy or thin. Heavy or thin has no importance, it is vanity. The essence of a person is his soul, his good deeds and his proper character traits. Perhaps your husband forgot about this, and so you need to remind him. Sometimes people forget the most basic things, and we must therefore repeat them over and over again.
After all, it is not that you are the most beautiful woman in the world and he therefore loves you, but on the contrary, he loves you and you are therefore the most beautiful woman in the world.
If you want to be thin, perhaps turn to O.A. – Overeaters Anonymous, which will give you support and the best way to achieve your goal.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #3

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

The Birkat Ha-Torah, along with Birkat Ha-Mazon, are mitzvot from the Torah. In Halachah this means that they are the only blessings which if we are not sure we said we go back and say them just to be sure. In the first part of this blessing we bless Hashem who has commanded us to "busy ourselves with the words of Torah." This means that our primary job is being involved with Torah and we need mind, body and soul to do it. It’s what we do to live. So here we have a very important lesson. No matter what we do during the day, our primary job as a Jew is to learn Torah.

Leaving Eretz Yisrael #8

When the son of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach became engaged, his prospective father-in-law called his father. He said to Ha-Rav Auerbach: "Since traditionally the wedding is held where the bride lives, Be-Ezrat Hashem, the wedding will take place in London." Ha-Rav Auerbach was not opposed to the idea, but added: "Good, we'll see which of the children and who from the family will come to the wedding. I will not attend since I do not leave Eretz Yisrael, and even for my son's wedding I don't leave Eretz Yisrael." When the prospective father-in-law heard these surprising words, he changed his mind, and the wedding was held in our Holy Land (Chicho Mamtakim vol. 1 p. 54).

Near-Death Experiences

Statement: Many people who were diagnosed as having clinically died but who then returned to life, report a remarkable experience that proves that the soul remains alive after death. The person feels himself being detached from his body, he hovers over it, gazes at it from above, and sees everything that happens to him. He enters a gigantic tunnel whose end is awash in brilliant, powerful, sweet light. He encounters an entity full of boundless love that affords him a feeling of marvelous contentment. He meets various figures, some known to him and some not, angels and saints. He watches a reenactment of his entire life, in a sort of movie. In the end he returns to his body due to a decision from Above or due to his own entreaties. All of this jibes with our sources about the World to Come being full of the light of the Divine Presence, and about encounters with previous generations. The remarkable thing is the enormous uniformity of all the descriptions. The experience is almost identical, which proves that it is true.
Reply: Indeed, everyone has an almost identical experience, but not entirely. Sometimes the experience is marvelous, and sometimes it is awful, with frightening nightmares about being tortured by demons, etc. (about 15% of the cases), unless one says that that is proof of Hell… Yet only 20% of those who have clinically “died” report near-death experiences (of whom only 15% have partial memories). Thus, most do not experience anything, which would make that proof that there is nothing…
Indeed, Dr. Raymond Moody, who in 1975 carried out all this research on clinical death before resuscitation regarding NDE, “Near Death Experience”, did do quality work, but only regarding those subjects that supported his opinion, and he ignored those that contradict it.
Research projects are not always reliable. Even the great researcher Dr. Kubler-Ross, who very much supported this theory, was, in her great enthusiasm, herself misled by a scoundrel who, so to speak, spuriously made contact with the dead, to confirm her theory. Moreover,
Christians meet Jesus and the heads of the Church, Muslims meet Muhammad and all sorts of Imams and we, the disciples of Moshe, meet Avraham and all the other lofty saints. All this demonstrates that each person see there what he believed in before, and all the other wonders he sees there are dictated by his own beliefs and opinions. That is why children, who do not yet have a rich perception of the world, report much less about near death experiences.
Psychiatrists do not believe that these phenomena constitute any proof of life after death. Rather, they consider them simply an illusion deriving from a fogging of the senses that leads to various experiences that a person undergoes being interpreted as life after death.
Hence, many people report similar although not identical experiences following other occurrences besides clinical death: 1) Taking Ketamine, a hallucinatory drug that serves as a quick-acting anesthesia. The drug causes a feeling of being cut off and distanced from the body – which facilitates operating. 2) Various drugs such as Hashish, LSD or DMT. 3) Psychosis. 4) An Epileptic fit. 5) Administering electric shock to the temple lobe during an operation for epilepsy. 6) Oxygen deprivation or diminished blood flow, for example in the trauma following the loss of much blood, or even in pilot training for fast acceleration. 7) High carbon dioxide levels. 8) Childbirth. 9) Meditation. 10) A very strong migraine. 11) Being in a critical situation, such as hearing the doctor say that you’re dead, or moments before your car is about to crash. 12) When one is in on the verge of sleep.
It goes without saying that people with well developed emotions or imaginations report more about that experience of near death.
As far as the feeling of being detached from the body and floating above it, called OBE – an Out of Body Experience – that is a well-known experience owing to a break-down in the temple lobe and the vestibular and proprioceptional system. These allow a person to keep track of his body and to know his body’s movements even with his eyes closed. When they are damaged, one’s senses operate in a distorted manner.
As far as people’s awareness of conversations going on around them when they were declared dead, it turns out that they weren’t entirely dead, despite the reports from the equipment. Or, a person may have unconsciously pieced together everything he was later told and retroactively processed it in his memory.
It is true that it is impossible to explain everything totally, but such is the lot of all the sciences, and we don’t reject them as a result. We certainly should not expand the delicate crack of misunderstanding and load tons of miracles into it.
Yet let us make no mistake. Certainly there is a World to Come. Certainly the soul lives on after death, even without scientific proof, and we don’t need such proof either. Quite the contrary, science needs faith to enlighten its path, and faith does not need science to prove it.
Moreover, let us not forget that we do not live in Heaven but on earth, and the Torah is a living Torah, which the Living G-d, who desires life, gave us. See Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 1, which deals with Torah and mitzvot in this world. G-d doesn’t like it when we are preoccupied with death. The dead render us impure. A grave renders us impure. If someone touches the dead, he is impure for seven days. All of these mental excursions to the grave and back are not healthy. Choose life!
Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote: “Regarding conjecture on metaphysical matters that remain outside the bounds of practical and moral life, even if we cannot deny them, we still should not let them dictate our way of life. Our holy Torah distances us from preoccupation with unclear visions, forbidding all sorts of witchcraft and séances. It forbids Cohanim from becoming impure through contact with the dead, and it links all the mitzvot to life.” (Igrot HaRe’eiyah, Letter #79).

Shut SMS #75

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:
Joint Minyan
Q: We live in a small settlement. Is it preferable to have separate minyanim for Ashkenazim and Sefardim or a joint minyan?
A: One joint minyan. Communal. Together!

Blackening Tefillin
Q: Do I need special color to blacken my Tefillin straps?
A: It is possible with a regular magic marker since they are synthetic. The same goes for the boxes (Piskei Teshuvot 43 #4).

New Car
Q: My wife and I bought a new car. What blessing do we recite?
A: "Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:1).

Mixed Swimming
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to swim in a mixed pool if she is dressed modestly?
A: G-d forbid.

Dating Doubt
Q: I have met a young woman a few times, and everything seems good, but I am concerned that maybe it is a mistake. What should I do?
A: Take counsel, face-to-face with someone who knows you personally.

Cell Phone on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to carry a cell phone on Shabbat in order to tell the time?
A: No, it is Muktzeh, since its main function is forbidden.

Christian Book
Q: What should I do with a Christian book I received which is full of Torah verses?
A: Throw it in the garbage. It possesses no holiness (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah #172).

Honoring one's Father
Q: I was angry with my father in front of my son. How do I repair it?
A: Ask forgiveness in front of your son or tell him about it.

Torah Scholars
Q: Who was greater - the Lubavitcher Rebbe or Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira?
A: Each one in his own way.
Q: Can you specify?
A: The greatness of Torah is not a subject for a text message.

Shidduch
Q: Does one need to tell a young man that the young woman he is getting set up with is heavy?
A: No. This lacks any importance (see Kehilot Yaakov, Yevamot #38).

Modesty
Q: It is important to dress modestly when we are home alone in the house?
A: Yes, also in the dark, because Hashem fills the entire world with His Honor.

Parashat Vaetchanan: From the Most Spiritual to the Most Down-to-Earth

[Tal Chermon]

The central theme of this week's Parashah is the Torah. "For which is a great Nation that has a G-d so close to it" (Devarim 4:7). Mankind's greatness and uniqueness lies in being created in the image of G-d. A person’s goal in life is to become close to his Source. We, the Nation of Israel, are a "great Nation" because of our connection to the Master of the Universe.
There are two main channels through which Man establishes a connection with his G-d - Torah and prayer: "For what nation is there so great, that has such righteous statutes and laws as this Torah" (ibid. 4:8). "For which is a great Nation that has a G-d so close to it, as Hashem our G-d is to us whenever we call out to Him" (ibid. 4:7). Nevertheless, it is a mistake to think that we should "Hear G-d answer us" when we pray to him. We turn to G-d in prayer, but He speaks to us through the Torah. We heard G-d's voice on Mount Sinai, but were unable to sustain such a high spiritual level for long. Most of the Ten Commandments were transmitted to us through Moshe Rabbenu (Shemot 20:15-18). Since then, in every generation, there are Torah scholars who continue what Moshe Rabbenu began (see Chulin 93a and Shabbat 101b).
The Torah is the soul of the Nation of Israel. Through the Torah, all the Divine attributes embedded in the soul of the Jewish People find concrete expression in daily life. Its core is the Ten Commandments which are repeated in our Parashah (see Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 13:16 and others). This leads into the "heart" of Parashat Vaetchanan - the first paragraph of the Shema. It contains all the elements of Jewish life, step by step, in a most wonderful order.
- Faith: "Hear O Israel, Hashem our G-d, Hashem is One" (Devarim 6:4). Monotheism is the basis of our faith, and this means that the world is to G-d as a dream is to the dreamer. It has no independent existence whatsoever (see Rambam, beginning of Mishneh Torah, Tanya - Sha'ar Ha-Yichud, Nefesh Ha-Chaim 3:11, Orot Ha-Kodesh 391).
- Acceptance of G-d's Rule: It is G-d's will that we be His partners in this world by crowning Him as our King - Only on Yom Kippur, when we are like angels and fully accept the Yoke of Heaven, do we say aloud, "Blessed Be the Name of His Glorious Kingdom Forever and Ever" (from the siddur).
- Love: When there is faith, there is love. "And you shall love Hashem your G-d." (ibid. v. 5). True love of G-d, just as love between friends, is a deep feeling based on appreciation and understanding.
- Study: The way to achieve faith, knowledge, and love is through study: "And these words shall be in your heart" (ibid. v. 6). Faith and love motivate one to study, and through study, faith and love are perfected.
- Heartfelt study: "in your heart": Emotion and intellect must work together.
- "And you shall teach them to your children" (ibid. v. 7): Continuity of this faith, knowledge and love from one generation to the next. This is the foundation of the Jewish People and the focus of all parenting.
- Actualization: This faith, knowledge, love, and education must be implemented in all aspects of our life. Since it is the ‘arm’ which embodies physical action, "you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm" (ibid. v. 8).
- Attitude: Not only are our external actions guided by the Torah, but also ourattitudes and how we look at things: "And they shall be as frontlets between your eyes" (ibid.).
- Family: The Shema is one of the Parshiyot of the Mezuzah - "On the doorposts of your house" (ibid. v. 9), and guides our family life.
- Civic life: "And on your gates" (ibid.) - "including the gates of your courtyards, cities, and states" (Rashi, op. cit.). G-d's word is our guide in our civic and political life, no less than in our private lives. It must be inscribed upon the entrance to the state.
Thus the delineation of our life's goals begins with faith in G-d and ends with a sovereign state. The Shema proceeds from the most spiritual to the most down-to-earth. This is the same order followed by the Rambam. His Mishneh Torah begins with Sefer Ha-Mada - faith in and knowledge of G-d, and concludes with Sefer Melachim - guidelines for the Kingdom of Israel.

I Want to be Sephardi

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

Forgive me, Rav Berger,
Forgive me, Rav Meltzer,
I’m really trying,
I’m really striving
to get my son into your institution.
I don’t know exactly what’s involved,
But I’m not succeeding.
Could it be my name?
My accent?
My skin color?
But I WANT to be a Sephardi!
I want to very much!

Forgive me Rav Krieger,
Forgive me, Rav Veltzer,
I’m really trying
to have my daughter marry one of you.
I don’t know exactly what’s involved,
But I’m not succeeding.
And I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s my name?
My accent?
My skin color?
But I very much want
To remain a Sephardi.
You teach, “Love your fellow Jew.”
You teach of a “Jewish soul”.
So maybe you can explain
Why there’s an ethnic rift?

Why am I called
“The Second Class Israeli”?
I want to be a first-class Israeli.
So I’m sometimes
A bit confused.
I don’t know how you do it.

Forgive me, Rav Weiner,
Forgive me, Rav Peltzer
But you say that all Israel
Have a share in Heaven.
So I wanted to know.
Please give me a clue,
A recommendation
On how to get there?
But I’m not succeeding!
Maybe it’s my name?
My accent or skin color?
But I very much want
To remain a Sephardi.

What’s better to be?
Ashkenazic or Sephardic?
Or perhaps Yemenite?
What should my name be?
My accent?
My skin color?
For I’m very happy
To be a Sephardi.

Leaving Eretz Yisrael #7

Question: Last week, a story was included in which Rav Elyashiv says that he holds that it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael to attend one's sister's wedding. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
Answer: It is permissible because it is a mitzvah.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #2

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

When we daven, we say the Tefilot in the Siddur and also add what we want to say to Hashem. Believe it or not, Hashem really does want to hear from us. He wants us to praise him, to thank him and to ask for what we need. But it is also important to remember that we aren’t just davening for ourselves and for our families and friends. Rav Kook zt”l says that our davening is like a test. Do we care only about ourselves or do we care for all of Klal Yisrael? When we daven, we are supposed to connect our Tefilot with all of Klal Yisrael. This doesn’t just make our Tefilot more powerful. It also raises them. It makes them more important as we are asking for things that all of Klal Yisrael needs. We ask for Mashiach, for the Beit Ha-Mikdash, for the sick to be healed, for us all to be in Eretz Yisrael, and many more things. Those aren’t just things that you and I need. They are things all of Klal Yisrael needs.

An Easily-Angered Wife

Question: My wife is easily angered. She explodes about even the littlest thing. At first, I was extremely frustrated until a found a solution from Socrates. He had an evil wife, Xanthippe, who would curse him in front of his students and she would flip over his desk. He would calmly respond: This is exactly how a rooster behaves.
Answer: You found a horrible solution, a solution of a swelled, male dominance. I suggest to you the solution of a great Sage of the Gemara: Rabbi Chiya (Yevamot 63a), whose wife use to cause him much distress.. hen he would find something that she would like, he would buy it and bring it for her. Rav asked: Why do you do this? She pains you! (Rav wanted to learn how R. Chiya was able to return good in place of evil). Rabbi Chiya answered: “It suffices for us that our wives raise our children and save us from sin.” You are obviously not as great as Rabbi Chiya, but your wife certainly does much more for you. Open your eyes wide and look. You owe her a great debt of gratitude. You must therefore greatly value her, thank her day and night and lovingly ignore her minor deficiency of anger, which is cancelled by the majority of her good character.

Shut SMS #75

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:
Collecting a Debt
Q: I lent someone a lot of money. When I asked for it back, I found out that he has everything in his wife's name, and he therefore has nothing. Should I take pity of him?
A: You should certainly demand it. He has plenty and is being deceitful.

Tattoos
Q: If a Baal Teshuva has his entire body tattooed can he serve as the Shaliach Tzibur?
A: Yes, but he should cover himself with clothing or a Talit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 53:5. See Shut Minchat Yitzchak 3:11).

Troubles
Q: How is it possible to love Hashem if bad things happen in life?
A: It is a complicated issue for a text message. See Mesilat Yesharim chap. 19 regarding loving Hashem with the parable of the doctor and army officer.

Kiddush for a Girl
Q: If a girl was born and her parents did not have a Kiddush for her will it be difficult for her to find a spouse?
A: No.

Prayer for Bad
Q: Is it permissible for me to pray for something bad to happen to another person if he ruined my life and did not apologize?
A: Yes, if it is impossible to remedy it by bringing him to a Bet Din.

Adopted Child and Mourning
Q: Is it permissible for an adopted child to sit Shiva for his adopted parents?
A: Is it not obligatory but certainly proper to do so (Sedei Chemed, Avelut 156).

Losing your Beshert
Q: Can a person lose his Beshert?
A: Yes, such as in the case that he is too choosy. There is also free choice in this matter. Shemoneh Perakim chap. 8.

Songs under the Chupah
Q: I heard that the Chief Rabbinate disqualifies Rabbis who sings songs under the Chupah? Why not rejoice?
A: The Chupah is the most joyous occasion and there is no need for additions. On the contrary, there is a need for seriousness and holiness.

A Star is Born (Israel's American Idol)
Q: Is it permissible to watch the TV show "A Star is Born" which presents a singing competition between new talent?
A: It is against all of our education which emphasizes good deals, proper character traits, Torah and mitzvot, justice and integrity, and not external behavior, lacking humility and modesty, which finds favor in other people's eyes.

Killer
Q: How can I comfort a friend who accidently killed someone? Can he atone?
A: This is too complex an issue for a text message. See my book: "Yemei Teshuvah."

Killing a Non-Jew
Q: Is it permissible to kill innocent non-Jews in order to save a Jewish captive?
A: Forgive me, life and death subject are too complex for text messages.

Parashat Devaim - “Mishneh Torah: Moshe’s Concluding Speech”

[Tal Chermon]

The entire book of Devarim is one long speech given by Moshe Rabbenu before his death and before Israel enters the Promised Land. In his humility, he had protested to being appointed, saying: “I am not a man of many words” (Shemot 4:10). Forty years later, at the age of 120, he encompasses the whole history and geography of Israel in his final speech - addressing both the individual and the Nation as a whole.
What is so special about the book of Devarim? The Ramban (in his introduction) explains that it is directed to those who will inherit the Land, as is written: “See, I have taught you statutes and laws as Hashem, my G-d has commanded me, so that you should follow them in the Land which you are going to inherit” (Devarim 4:5). Devarim is not a book of abstractions but of the fulfillment of the Torah on earth, in Eretz Israel. It is not a repetition of the rest of the Torah, neither is it completely new. It is an explanation or expansion, showing the old in a new light - the light of the practical application of Torah principles to our Nation in our Land.
Moshe’s closing speech is delivered “after he had slain Sichon, the King of Emori, who dwelt in Cheshbon and Og, the King of Bashan, who dwelt in Ashtarot in Edrei” (Devarim 1:4). These two wars are the prerequisite for understanding Moshe’s words. What connection can there be between war and Torah? We are the connection. Fulfillment of Torah in Israel necessitates military action at times. Abstract religion, separated from any connection to territory, needs no military defense. A national entity in its own land, however, must have sovereignty, and a military arm with it. It is up to us to bring all aspects of Torah "down to earth," with all that that entails, even war. This is what the Spies could not fathom. Now, “after he had slain Sichon,” it is conceivable. We have experienced our power to defeat two mighty kings, as the parashah ends: “And I commanded Yehoshua at that time, saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that Hashem, your G-d did to those two kings, and so shall G-d do to all the empires where you pass. You shall not fear them, for Hashem, your G-d is the One fighting for you’” (ibid. 3:21-22). Today too, great and mighty nations surround us. The situation is no different than it was in Yehoshua’s time, in David’s time or in the Maccabees’ time. We know that G-d is on our side, it is He Who will make us victorious.Long before Rashi and Ramban composed their commentaries on the Torah, “Moshe began to explain this Torah” (Devarim 1:5). Certainly, Moshe, G-d’s most loyal servant, provided the truest explanation, and this is how he began: “Hashem, our G-d, spoke to us at Chorev, saying, ‘You have dwelt long enough at the mountain…’” (ibid. v. 6). The Torah could not be properly fulfilled in the desert. “Turn, and start your journey, and go to the mountain of the Emori and to all its neighbors in the lowland, in the mountains, in the plains, and the desert, and along the coast, the land of the Canaanite and the Lebanon up to the great river of Perat” (ibid. v. 7). The Torah’s directive is to take possession of and settle the Land. “Who is like Your nation Israel, one people in the Land” (Amidah prayer of Shabbat afternoon). Complete fulfillment of the Torah is only possible in Eretz Israel.
Throughout the past century, a great debate has been going on regarding whether it is up to us to conquer and settle the land, or whether we should sit and wait for G-d’s promise to be fulfilled. This week’s parashah contains the promise: “See, I have presented you with the Land” (ibid. 1:8). Although this seems to imply that G-d will ensure that we get the Land, we are immediately commanded: “Come and possess the Land which Hashem swore to your fathers, to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, to give to them and to their descendants after them” (ibid.). “Hashem swore,” but it is up to us to ensure that His word be done. It is both a promise and a command. We must not rationalize that if Hashem swore, there is nothing for us to do but sit and wait. It is precisely because He swore that we know that our efforts are meaningful, and that they will bear fruit. We must conquer and settle the Land.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #1

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

When we learn Torah, we have the opportunity to listen to Hashem. When we daven, it is our opportunity to speak to Hashem. This is an amazing gift. Even though Hashem is the Creator and King of the Universe, He wants each and every one of us to talk to Him. We get to ask Him for what we want and we need. We do this by using the Siddur that was given to us by the Anshei Knesset haGedolah­ - the Men of the Great Assembly - that included the greatest Prophets and Sages of thousands of years ago. This is a great thing as most people would not know how to write their own proper Tefillot to say three times a day. We also would not know what to say, and focus too much on our individual needs and not enough on what all of Klal Yisrael needs. But we also cannot forget that we are also expected to add our own thoughts and feelings to our tefillot. Sometimes that means bringing new feelings or emotions to what’s written in the Siddur. We can best do that when we know what is in the Siddur and what it means. It also means adding our own Tefillot at the end of the Amida or at other times in the day.

Leaving Eretz Yisrael #6

A young man from a non-Orthodox family in America, made Aliyah, became religious and began learning in yeshiva. His sister, who remained in the Exile, began dating a non-Jew. He said to his sister: "If you get married to a non-Jew, I won't come to your wedding. I'll only come if you marry a Jew." These words touched her heart. She broke up with the non-Jew and later became engaged to a Jewish man. The yeshiva student was a Cohain, and he heard that El Al planes sometimes transport the deceased to be buried in Israel. He turned to Ha-Rav Yosef Shlomo Elyashiv and asked: Is it preferable to fly on a different airline where there is no problem of impurity from the dead or on El Al where it is more secure? Ha-Rav Elyashiv was surprised and said: Before you ask me about transporting the dead, ask me about yourself." The student asked: "Isn't there permission to travel outside of Israel to go to one's sister's wedding?!" Ha-Rav answered: "I have a problem, don't ask me. While there are Rabbis who permit it, I am not one of them."

We will be Back in Gush Katif

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

Gush Katif is an important way-station in the course of our Redemption. It started as a place full of light and joy and building and creation. Then it was one of breakdown and destruction, darkness and betrayal. Yet it was still a way-station. By the same token, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook counted even the heinous episode of the Altalena, of brother killing brother, amongst the way-stations of the Redemption. The cure is to open up the emergency store houses of love for our fellow Jew in order to melt the hatred (Mi-Maamakim, Li-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 p. 128). And that’s what happened at the Altalena: Those who were hurt and wounded maintained their restraint and prevented a civil war.
And at Gush Katif, as well, a large population behaved with restraint, and by such means a terrible war between Jews was prevented. This great merit is connected to the other sources of goodness: Self-sacrifice for the rebuilding of the Land as emissaries of the entire Nation under difficult economic, agricultural and security conditions. Thanks to G-d’s mercy, the Land responded and generously provided its bounty; and its people lived lives of Torah and labor, lives of kind deeds – to those around us and to others, and there was great unity between different sorts of people and great faith.
Indeed, the test of faith comes in times of crises, as is explained in Mesilat Yesharim (Chapter 19) regarding love of G-d. Here, the righteous of Gush Katif are passing their test. They don’t spend their time heaping calumny on those who didn’t join them in their struggle. They don’t recite, day and night: “We won’t forget.” They are not stuck in the past. Rather, they look ahead to the future. As Rambam wrote in one of his letters: A person should look inward at himself and not outward at others.
Yes, the most important thing is not what was but what will be: How can we return to Gush Katif? How can another, similar destruction be prevented from occurring in Judea and Samaria? And yes! From then until today a debate has raged among lovers of Eretz Yisrael. Some say that only the language of force works, and that had we exerted enough force, as, for example, the Charedim do, or – not to be compared – the Arabs, we could have saved our beloved Gush Katif. Others say that force only works with minor matters, but not with such politically and militarily crucial issues as this. Rather, there is only one way for Judea, Samaria and Gaza to remain ours: For the Nation to want it!
The reality proves that the second approach is the right one. Whoever looks at Jewish history with open eyes, starting with the awakening of the return to Zion during the past 150 years, will see that nothing happened through the use of threats or force, but because people wanted it. Our wonderful Land was rebuilt – because they wanted it. In the return to Zion, whoever wanted to come, came. In the War of Independence, only volunteers enlisted. In all of Israel’s wars, only those who believed in it fought devotedly. In the whole settlement program in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, only those who wanted to settle, came and settled. Also with all the Torah learning which has so increased in our Land, nobody learns Torah unless he wants to. Quite the contrary, using force pushes people away. As we said, the largest issues depend on will, since they are bound up with suffering. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said, “G-d gave three gifts to His Nation, and they come about only through suffering, and they are, Torah, the World-to-Come and Eretz Yisrael” (Berachot 5a). They all require self-sacrifice, and one cannot force self-sacrifice. Such was the approach of the righteous of Gush Katif, that it is impossible to coerce. Marriage, as well, cannot be coerced. You cannot command love, and Eretz Yisrael is likened to marriage (see Yeshayahu 62:4-5). According to the Sefat Emet at the beginning of Parashat Shelach, Eretz Yisrael is likened to Talmud study. That, too, is hard, therefore it depends on desire and will: “Eretz Yisrael contains the aspect of the Oral Torah, that a person must attain it by way of his own toil. Hence, conquering Eretz Yisrael depends on the will of the Jews themselves… Therefore, when the Jews refused the Land, they could no longer enter it.” Likewise, Rabbi Yosef Karo in his book, “Maggid Mesharim,” explained that the goal of sending out the spies, who were Torah scholars, was to arouse their desire for Eretz Yisrael (Parashat Shelach). Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna wrote the same thing: “Now that we have seen the great repentance [for Eretz Yisrael], among the people of lesser worth, amongst the medium level people and amongst the upright of heart, it is almost certain that the spirit of Redemption is shining forth” (Shut Yeshuot Malko, Yoreh Deah #66). And Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Levi similarly wrote that the redemption will come when the Jews long for Jerusalem with the very greatest desire (from the end of “the Kuzari”).
True, there is a theory in history called “Historic Materialism,” that what determines history is political or economic facts on the ground, as in the writings of Marx or Engels. Yet the main approach is “Historic Idealism,” that what determines history are beliefs and opinions and ideas, as in Hegel, and as in Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s famous article, “The Course of Ideas in Israel” (Orot). Therefore, we have to multiply the number of Jews who want the full extent of the Land. The more they increase, the better off our Nation will be. Indeed, in Gush Katif, as I said, there were a lot of righteous people of different stripes, but the entire Jewish People were not AT Gush Katif, nor were they WITH Gush Katif. The cure is the knowledge and awareness that this is our Land, as our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, wrote in his famous placard “Lema’an Da’at” [In order that they should know]: “This entire Land is ours… hence once and for all, these matters are clear and absolute, that there are no ‘territories’ or ‘[Palestinian] Arabs’ or ‘Arab Lands’. Rather, it is all Jewish lands, our eternal, ancestral inheritance” (quoted in Le-Hilchot Tzibbur).
And then, even to Gush Katif, we will return. For a long time, already, Gush Katif has been destroyed and gone, but that same faith of Gush Katif is hovering over the world, flittering around among people, causing sorrow and sadness, joy and hope. It is penetrating the hearts and minds of the simple people, of profound thinkers, of men and of women, of young boys and girls, without people noticing it. That faith is beating in their hearts, without their knowing where that fortitude, that sweetness, is coming from. It is that faith which will save all of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, and it is that which will bring us home to Gush Katif.

New Hebrew Books of Rav Aviner

1. Temimi Derech – On cleaving to Hashem
2. Tefilat Amecha vol. 3 – Commentary on the Siddur – from Shemoneh Esrei to Aleinu
3. Tehor Sefataim – On guarding one's tongue in Jewish thought and Halachah
4. Sipurei Yael – Children's book – stories from the notebook of a girl named Yael

[orders: www.havabooks.co.il]

Rav Aviner's Hesped for Ha-Rav Yehudah Amital ztz"l

הגאון האנושי
הג"ר יהודה עמיטל זצ"ל

על הפסוק "אנשי קודש תהיון לי" הסביר רבי מנחם מנדל מקוצק: קדושים אנושיים. אכן היתה זו משימתו העליונה של הגאון הגדול הרב יהודה עמיטל זצ"ל לבנות באומה קומה של קודש, בלי להרס חלילה את הקומה האנושית.
הוא בעצמו מספר, שכאשר נשאל בדבר חזונו של הקמת ישיבת הר עציון, מה יהיה המיוחד שבה, הוא השיב במשל התינוק הבוכה: מעשה במייסד שושלת חב"ד, המכונה האדמו"ר הזקן, בעל התניא, שישב ולמד בחדרו. לפתע שמע תינוק בוכה בעריסתו. סגר את הגמרא וניגש להרגיעו. כאשר חזר לחדרו, מצא את בנו יושב שקוע בלימודו. האדמו"ר תמה ושאלו: מדוע לא קמת להרגיע את התינוק הבוכה? הבן הנבוך השיב: הייתי כל כך שקוע בלימודי שלא שמעתי את קול הבכי. אמר לו אביו: אם אדם לומד תורה ואינו שומע קול תינוק בוכה, משהו פגום בלימודו. אכן זה חזון הישיבה: לבנות תורה בישראל, אך מתוך הקשבה לנשמת התלמיד, והאדם בכלל, צרכיו ותכונותיו.
אגב, גם צורת ההתבטאות הזו של הרב עמיטל זצ"ל היתה אופיינית לאנושיותו. הוא לא הצטעצע בניסוחים מתפלספים, אלא דיבר בפשטות ובישירות ואף נעזר בסיפורים רבים.
אם כן, הרב עמיטל זצ"ל, על אף שלמד תורה אצל גדולי עולם בחו"ל ובארצנו, והיה גאון בזכות עצמו בלמדנות, יחד עם זה נר היה לרגלו שהמוסר האלוהי לא יסתור את המוסר הטבעי. ולא עוד, אלא ייבנה עליו. אין זאת אומרת שהמוסר הטבעי ידחה מפניו את המוסר האלוהי, שהרי הרב עמיטל זצ"ל היה תלמיד חכם בכל מובן המילה, איש תורה ואיש הלכה ענק – אלא שאם הנך מבין את המוסר האלוהי באופן שהוא סותר את המוסר הטבעי, סימן שלא הבנת אותו נכון כמשל התינוק הבוכה הנ"ל.
התורה אינה אלטרנטיבית לאנושיות, אלא קומולטיבית. התורה אינה במקום דרך ארץ, אלא על גביה. כי דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה, כפי שהיה מזכיר הרב עמיטל זצ"ל בשם הרא"ש רבנו אשר, שהבין אדם לחברו קודם לבין אדם לד'.
לכן, מתוך אנושיותו, על אף העוצמה התורנית האדירה שבאישיותו, הרב עמיטל זצ"ל מעולם לא כפה מחשבותיו ודעותיו על תלמידיו, לא החליט עבורם, ובוודאי סלד מזה שיחקו את דרכיו, אלא אמר ברורות שכל אחד צריך להיות נאמן לאישיותו, שמותר לו ללמוד ולקבל מרבנים אחרים כפי מה שמתאים לו. ואף בישיבת הר עציון הוא הכניס רבנים רבים אשר דעותיהם לא תאמו את דעותיו, כאשר כולם דרים בכפיפה אחת באהבה ואחווה ושלום ורעות. ובדרך הרחבה של היהדות כל תלמיד ימצא את נתיבו, כמובן בלי להידרדר לשוליים.
והוא בעצמו היה נאמן לעצמו גם כאשר מצא את עצמו במיעוט. וכן היה עניו וצנוע, לא דיבר במלאכותיות, אלא זרם בטבעיות מלבבת.
כמו כן הוא היה מאדריכלי חזון ישיבות ההסדר בראותו את החובה להתגייס לצבא כשייכת לאנושיות היסודית של האדם, שחייב להגן על עמו וארצו. והוא בעצמו התגייס לצבא במלחמת השחרור.
וכן, על אף שהיה מאוהב בארץ ישראל, והקים את ישיבת הר עציון, במסירות גדולה, בכמה מבנים עלובים בתוך אדמת טרשים מתוך חזון גדול של בניין הארץ – יחד עם זה הוא עמד כל ימיו על הנקודה האנושית שבניין הארץ מותנה בכך שלא יפגע בעם ישראל ובקדושת חיי האדם.
ואף את המשרה הרמה של שר במדינת ישראל, לא קיבל הרב עמיטל זצ"ל מתוך רדיפת כבוד ושררה, מה שהיה רחוק מרחק עצום מאישיותו, בהיותו ביסודו ובמהותו ראש ישיבה מכף רגל ועד ראש, ראש ישיבה גדול ומחנך גדול – אלא מתוך תחושת אחריות לפעול למען איחוי הקרעים באומה.
השילוב הזה של גאונות תורנית ואנושיות ישרה, הוא שבנה לו כל כך הרבה תלמידים, על אף שכאמור הוא לא ראה את עצמו כרבם של תלמידים, מהם ראשי ישיבות ורבנים, מחנכים ואישי ציבור, אקדמאים ועמלי כפיים, אלפים אלפים בכל מלוא רוחב הארץ – אלא תלמידים כפי שהוא ראה אותם בעיני רוחו, לא כאלה כנועים לדעתו החייבים לחשוב כמותו ולקבל החלטתו, אלא אחראים על עצמם ונאמנים לעצמיותם, ובכך נושאים את חזונו התורני-האנושי.

Response to Vayoel Moshe of the Satmar Rebbe

A new HEBREW booklet (40 pgs. and B"H the first in a series):

Alo Na'ale
Response to the book "Vayoel Moshe" of the Satmar Rebbe

Answers by
Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Shlomo Aviner Shilt"a

Edited by Ha-Rav Mordechai Tzion

$6 for each booklet including shipping
Orders: mororly@bezeqint.net

Shut SMS #74

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:
Rashbi's Grave
Q: I heard that it is uncertain whether the Rashbi is buried on Mt. Meiron. Is it true?
A: Although Rabbi Binyamin of Tudela and Rabbi Petachya do not mention it, the Arizal verified it.

Cousins
Q: Is it forbidden for cousins of the opposite gender to touch? Source?
A: Certainly. Rambam, Isurei Bi'ah 21:6.

Ya'ale Ve-Yavo
Q: I do not know if I said Ya'ale Ve-Yavo on Rosh Chodesh. Do I have to repeat the Shemoneh Esrei?
A: Yes, we assume you acted as you usually do (Mishnah Berurah 422:10).

Widow and Divorcee Covering her Hair
Q: Do a widow and divorcee still have to cover their hair?
A: Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein has two Teshuvot where he writes that one may rely on the opinion that the obligation for a woman to cover her hair is a positive mitzvah and not a transgression, and one may therefore be lenient is an extenuating circumstance, such as one who cannot find a spouse because people think she is married because she covers her hair (Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:57 and 4:32 #4).

Borrowing Tefillin
Q: Is it permissible to borrow my friend's Tefillin without his permission?
A: If you are 100% certain that he would agree. Sometimes, it bothers people because of the sweat or another reason. Aruch Ha-Shulchan (14:11).

Tefillat Ha-Derech
Q: Is it permissible to me to add petitions into Tefillat Ha-Derech, such as save me from car accidents, drunks and traffic jams?
A: After reciting it.

Cohain's Wife
Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain's wife to visit Kever Rachel and other Kivrei Tzadikim (graves of the righteous), since perhaps she is pregnant with a boy?
A: It is permissible even if it is definitely a boy (Ha-Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fishcher).

Kivrei Tzadikim
Q: Is it permissible to leave Eretz Yisrael to visit Kivrei Tzadikim?
A: Rav Kook rules against doing so. End of Shut Mishpat Cohain. Visit our Forefathers and Foremothers in Maarat Ha-Machpelat and the graves of other righteous people here.

Bad Thoughts
Q: What should I do if bad thoughts pop into my mind?
A: It is not your fault. Think about something else. On the contrary, every time you think of something else, you fulfill a mitzvah (Mesilat Yesharim chap. 11).

Asking a Rabbi
Q: Is it permissible to ask a Rabbi a question even if I do not intend on following his position?
A: If you tell him up front that this is you intention.

Television on Shabbat
Q: In my house, they watch TV. What should I do?
A: If you have to be in the same room, turn your back to the TV.

A Collection of Quotes About the Love of the Land of Israel

[Tal Chermon]
Parashat Masei includes the verse: "You shall possess the Land and dwell in it, for I have given the Land to you to possess it" (Bamidbar 33:53) from which we learn the obligation to conquer and dwell in the Land of Israel (Ramban, positive mitzvah #4 in additions to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot). Rav Aviner collected quotes which express the love of our Land (Tal Chermon – Torah, p. 451):

“And this is the land which you shall inherit (by lot)” (Numbers 34:2), “The Holy One Blessed Be He said: ‘The Land of Israel is Mine and the Nation of Israel is Mine, it is fitting that I give what is Mine to those who are Mine’” (Midrash Tanchuma ibid.).

“There is no Jew who does not own four amot of the Land of Israel. But you will say: the Ishmaelites took possession of it, while we are in Exile? We have the right of possession: land cannot be stolen and it is still belongs to us” (Rabbi Nachshon Gaon).“We have not taken control of a foreign land and we have not taken away property which is not ours. This is the inheritance of our forefathers, which had once been unlawfully conquered by our enemies” (Chasmona'im 1:15).
“It is fitting that this Nation, which is the embodiment of the world, dwell in the Land, which is the cornerstone of world, since the Land of Israel is holy and it is fitting that it is inhabited by the Holy Nation. When the Children of Israel dwell in it, this is what gives life to the Land of Israel (Maharal of Prague).

"May Hashem give me the merit of planting fruit trees near Jerusalem with my own hands, in order to fulfill the mitzvah (Vayikra 19:23): ‘When you come to the Land, you shall plant’” (The Vilna Gaon).
“I am from the Land of Israel, but because of our sins we were exiled from there, and I must live in Ostrovtza. Any man who is asked where he is from must answer, ‘I am from the Land of Israel, but at the moment I am temporarily in the Exile’” (The Admor of Ostrovtza).
“Anyone who lives in the Land of Israel should always be happy” (Rabbi Elazar Azkari).

The Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel or the Torah of Israel

Question: Which is more important - the Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel or the Torah of Israel?
Answer: Ha-Rav Chanan Porat related that the students at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav once discussed this question at length. They turned to our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, and asked him. Our Rabbi smiled and said: We are involved in wholeness. We want wholeness and not only a part. This was already written in the Torah (Shemot 24:7): "Everything which Hashem said, we will perform and we will listen." We are obligated to do everything: The Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel or the Torah of Israel. Everything.

My Beautiful Wife

At first, I wanted to get married to a beautiful woman. I was young and I didn't understand life. I didn't understand that grace is false and beauty is vain. I didn't understand that a beautiful woman is no help if she has bad character traits and that she will embitter my life. I learned this lesson the hard way. I met many young women for the purpose of getting married, who were externally pleasant, but did not have a good heart.
I finally understood that inner beauty is what is important. Beauty is important – but inner beauty. I then got married to my wife, who is the most beautiful woman in the world in my eyes. Her good character traits give her incredible beauty. And the wonder is that this beauty does not wither with time. On the contrary, it grows.
At first, I thought that I would love a woman who is beautiful. It then became clear to me that it is the opposite. Because I love her, she is beautiful.

Leaving Eretz Yisrael #5

The Rav of Antwerp invited the Steipler Gaon – Ha-Rav Y. Y. Kanievski – to his daughter's wedding. The Steipler Gaon responded: "If his honor can find me a halachic source which would allow me to travel outside of Israel to bring joy to a groom and bride, I will immediately come. He did not find one.

The Ten Plagues of Facebook

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

1. Face Worship. Facebook, the Book of Faces, could have been a blessed endeavor, strengthening family and social relations with the help of a social network. Unfortunately, however, it is a monster that has attacked its creator and become an impediment with its worship of faces. Man is not a face but a soul, which is revealed through its good character and good deeds, not through outer appearance, or through various artificial shows that one puts on for the sake of photo-ops. “Grace is false and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears Hashem – she shall be praised” (Mishlei 31:30). One time our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, was invited to an exhibition devoted to his father, Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He said, “People will see his books and his pictures there, but they won’t see his fear of G-d there. I’ve got no business going.” How the soul suffers, seeing itself shoved into a corner, alone and scorned – and the individual being judged by his picture.
2. Exposure. A person has to be humble and modest, and not to expose personal details for all to see. The Jewish People are humble. A Jew does not have to be so extroverted, to reveal his personality and emotions to all, but only to his true friends. One time, Prime Minister Golda Meir was interviewed following the Yom Kippur War, and at the end was asked: “What do you feel personally?” She answered, “What I feel personally, is personal.” A person has to be a bit introverted. Moshe placed a veil over his face. Likewise, one should not peek with curiosity into the lives of others, and certainly not into the pictures of women, all the more so if they are immodest.
3. Advertisements. Facebook is sponsored by advertisements, some of which are disgusting, full of offensive language and sexual immodesty, provoking people to commit acts that are base, coarse and forbidden.
4. Crime. Since the information is out in the public domain and available to all, all sorts of unsavory people take advantage of it for evil: identity theft for the sake of extorting monetary contributions; for convincing people to come to rendezvous where they will be robbed; as well as the use made by various types of sexual perverts; for sending junk mail, and for racist groups that encourage hatred.
5. Addiction. Facebook is the fifth biggest cause of addition in the world. 400 million people in the world are addicted to it, and 2.5 million in Israel use Facebook. 75% of youth are regular users. Facebook addicts can spend 4-5 hours a day on it.
6. Loss of time. Time is one of the most precious things in life. A person thinks he is
going into Facebook for a moment, and he may be stuck there for long hours.
7. Superficiality. It’s all so shallow, so full of nonsense. People pursue that nonsense, and wallow in it. Pictures and videos, talkbacks and cheap blogs, and blogs responding to blogs. People engage there in superficial discourse, in nonsense, emptiness and shallowness, and they become shallow themselves. It’s a vicious cycle, and it gets worse.
8. Exhibitionism. A person develops a longing to be seen by others, to share glances and find favor in the eyes of imaginary, virtual friends. He constantly updates his personal profile in order to increase his popularity. He strikes an alluring pose and has his picture taken in order to draw attention to himself. He becomes enslaved to finding favor in the eyes of others, and to being seen by them.
9. Disintegration. Time disintegrates. Life disintegrates into grayish nonsense. One’s personality disintegrates. True, quality friendships disintegrate into virtual friendships.
10. Loss of friendship. Friendship is something vital to a person. Friendship or death! Loneliness is an awful sort of wretchedness. Therefore, one is supposed to acquire for himself a friend (Avot). Facebook instead supplies addiction to a shallow kind of socializing, engulfed in meaningless excitement, in virtual friendship. Pictures no longer reflect life. They have become the essence of life. It is the end of friendship. Facebook is a social network devoid of friendship, because a true friend is like a war buddy – someone ready in every situation to offer help and support. Certainly social connections are good, but that’s not a real bond, but the destruction of the concept of friendship. Facebook also leads to the disintegration of the family. 20% of divorces are because of Facebook and the corrupt chats that go on there. True friendship is face to face, not face to screen or screen to face. Therefore, please harness all your courage and cancel your membership in Facebook. Be brave! At first you will have 4-5 days of feeling dazed, but after that you will feel wonderful pleasure and supreme freedom.