Shut SMS #144

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Woman on bus
Q: It is permissible for a man to sit next to a woman on the bus, if there is no other place?
A: Yes. But he should not look at her and be careful not to touch her (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:83. Even Ha-Ezer 2:14. A young man was once sitting next to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on the bus when a woman got on and there was no place for her to sit. Rav Shlomo Zalman said to the young man: Either you should stand up and allow the woman to sit or I will. The young man stood up and the woman sat next to Rav Shlomo Zalman. Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol vol. 2, p. 182. Although another time Rav Shlomo Zalman was sitting on a bus, and an immodestly dressed woman got on and sat next to him. Instead of continuing to sit, which was unpleasant and a Chilul Hashem to those who saw or standing up and potentially offending her, Rav Shlomo Zalman got off at the next stop and waiting for the next bus. Ha-Torah Ha-Mesamachat, p. 289).

Beginning of Redemption
Q: When will the Redemption finally begin?
A: It began 130 years ago with the building of the Land of Israel and the ingathering of the exiles, and one should not have a lack of gratitude to Hashem, G-d forbid.

Torah and Science
Q: Were the statements of our Rabbis regarding science stated with "Ruach Ha-Kodesh" (Divine intuition) or according to the science of their time?
A: Some and some. For example, the medical instructions in Massechet Gittin are the science of their time, as explained in Otzar Ha-Poskim, but the Laws of Tereifot are oral laws given to Moshe Rabbenu at Mt. Sincai, as explained by the Rambam and Rashba.

Drafting Torah Scholars into Tzahal
Q: If Rabbis do not require protection (Baba Batra 8b), why should those who learn Torah be drafted into Tzahal?
A: See the responsa of the Radvaz (2:752) who gives three answers: 1. This is not said about every Torah scholar. 2. A Torah scholar who requests protection reveals that he does not rely on his merit. 3. This is stated regarding protection in monetary matters and not life-threatening situations (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:368).

Picture of Lion
Q: Is there a problem to hang a picture of a lion in a child's room because it is a non-Kosher animal?
A: There is no prohibition to have a picture of a non-Kosher animal or a toy in the form of a non-Kosher animal. By the way, many Ashkenazi shuls have lions on the ark curtain. Be courage like a lion (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 1, Igeret #10. Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 8:60. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, however, was strict about this practice. And this is the custom of Chabad Chasidim. Likutei Sichot vol. 25, pp. 309-311).

Burning Picture
Q: If someone badly abused me, is it an ethical or halachic problem if I burn his picture?
A: There is no problem. He should be grateful that we don't burn him.

Student who Caused Damage
Q: A student caused damage in the school, but the teacher does not know which student. Is it permissible for the teacher to ask the students to tell him who did it?
A: He should ask the students to bring him the money for the damage within a particular time period. If they wish, they can all pitch in money. If they wish, they can collect the money from the one who caused the damage.

Parashat Vayigash: Yosef's Talent

[Tal Chermon]

In this parashah, we again encounter Yosef's organizational talent. It reached its peak as he rearranged the agrarian and economic policy of the Egyptian kingdom. Since Egypt was the pivotal point of the ancient world, this amounted to changing the entire economic structure of the time. The Torah elaborates in detail on all the economic steps taken by Yosef during those depressed years. He accumulated all the money in Egypt, he bartered food in exchange for all the Egyptian livestock, he bought their land in exchange for food, he transferred the people to the cities and imposed a system of taxation.

Question: Why does the Torah inform us of all the intricacies of Egyptian agriculture? What difference does it make to us?
Answer: It is of great import because we see that Yosef created a just and equitable state of affairs. The economic and social significance of Yosef's actions was that all means of production were nationalized and then justly and equally redistributed. Firstly, he collected all the money, then all the cattle and finally all the land. He abolished private ownership. After nationalizing all means of production, he moved the people into the cities, thus breaking up the clan framework and creating a new socio-economic structure. Yosef then distributed the means of production that he had acquired to the people for their livelihood. He devised a progressive tax of their produce which was handed over to the king while the rest remained as ample sustenance for their families. The Egyptian masses, deeply grateful for this new order, praised Yosef by saying: "You have saved our lives" (Bereshit 47:25). The Egyptians for their part were willing to forgo their freedom and to completely submit themselves to the king so they suggested: "Let us, with our land, be serfs to Pharaoh" (ibid. v. 19). Yosef did not accept their advice because slavery was contrary to his plan for social justice and therefore, "Yosef bought [only] the land of Egypt for Pharaoh (ibid. v. 20).

In order to achieve ones goals one has to wait for a ripe opportunity. Had Yosef tried to introduce his innovations, at a time of plenty when private property was flourishing, it would have been foiled because of fierce opposition. He was aware of this and thus waited for the right moment to realize his vision of social and economic justice.

Yaakov Avinu acted the same way with Esav. He knew that chronologically Esav was the firstborn but he also knew that it was he, Yaakov and not Esav, who was destined to perform the firstborn's mission of building the spiritual basis of the world. But to confront Esav and request the birthright would definitely not work, so he bided his time. One day Esav arrived home from hunting famished and exhausted. He said to Yaakov: "Fill me up with that red stuff" (ibid. 25:29). This was the ideal opportunity to accomplish his plan for true justice. The ways of the world are tortuous and complicated and they are strewn with obstacles that prevent truth from emerging smoothly. The man of virtue has to follow events waiting to seize the opportunity when circumstances are ripe, to illuminate the world with truth and to establish practical procedure for its accomplishment.

Same question to various Rabbis

Question: Is it permissible to ask the same question to more than one Rabbi?
Answer: It depends on what you are asking. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (7a) says that one who asks a Rabbi a question and he declares it impure may not ask another Rabbi who will declare it pure, and one who asks a Rabbi a question and he declares it forbidden may not ask another Rabbi who will declare it permissible. This ruling is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 242:31). Why is it forbidden to ask the same question a second time to a different Rabbi? Some explain that it is because of the honor of the first Rabbi (Rashi to Niddah 20b): You asked a question and don't like the answer so you are going to a different Rabbi?! You are shaming the first Rabbi! Others explain that when the first Rabbi rules, the object on which he ruled now has the status which he placed upon it. This means that if I ask a Rabbi if something is kosher or not and he rules that it is not kosher, the ruling of another Rabbi cannot change it. The Halachah follows the second explanation (This is the opinion of most Rishonim – Rabbis of the Middle Ages – including Ra'avad, Ramban, Rashba quoted in the Ran Avodah Zarah ibid. and Rosh, ibid. 1:3). Therefore, when I ask a Rabbi a question about a piece of meat, the meat has the status of his ruling, but if I have another piece of meat and I have the same question, I can ask a different Rabbi. There are also questions regarding a person's activities: How do I act in a given situation? A Rabbi's ruling fixes the status of an object, but not the status of a person's activities. Regarding an object, you can only ask one Rabbi, but regarding a person's conduct, you can ask various Rabbis. Even in the case of an object, if I really, really want to ask a second Rabbi, I can ask a second Rabbi if I tell him that I already asked the first Rabbi. If the second Rabbi so desires, he can talk to the first Rabbi and try to convince him to change his mind (Rama ibid.). I remember that someone once asked me a question regarding the laws of Family Purity and I answered: she is impure. The questioner went and asked Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu. Ha-Rav Eliyahu called me and said: "Rav, look at it from this perspective and that perspective." I then understood that it was permissible to be lenient and I said: "I retract, she is pure." Furthermore, it is obvious that someone who asks a theoretical question may ask as many Rabbis as he wants. You may also ask questions to different Rabbis at different times, since all Rabbis are Torah.

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #4

Blessing on seeing snow
Q: Is there a blessing on seeing snow?
A: No. It seems that snow was not a rare occurrence in Israel (see Tehillim 148 where King David said that we should praise Hashem for fire, hail, snow… and Yoma 35b where Hillel climbs on the roof of the yeshiva because he does not have enough money to pay to get in and snow falls on him).

Shut SMS #143

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Miscarried Fetus
Q: Does a miscarried fetus have a portion in the World to Come?
A: Yes. All Israel has a portion in the World to Come, aside from one who loses it on account of inappropriate behavior, and the fetus did no wrong.

Praying for a Miracle
Q: My hand was amputated. It is permissible for me to pray for it to return?
A: We do not pray for a miracle. Mishnah at the end of Berachot. But you should daven for an excellent prosthetic limb.

"May you live until 120!"
Q: What is the source for life being limited to 120 years?
A: This is no such limit. Some commentators do explain on the verse: "And the days of his life were one hundred and twenty years" (Bereshit 6:3), that this is the limit on the length of one's life (Chizkuni and Ha-Emek Davar). And many great Rabbis did live to this age (Moshe Rabbenu, Hillel, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai and Rabbi Akiva), but there is no impediment to living longer. For example, Sarah lived to be 127. May those who live longer increase!

Shabbat Protects Him
Q: It is said: "If someone observes Shabbat, Shabbat will protect him." If so, how can a person be murdered in a terrorist attack on Shabbat?
A: This is a beautiful saying which someone made up, but it is not Torah. It is therefore impossible to raise a difficulty based on it.

Wounding One's Father
Q: I was playing basketball with my father, and the ball hit him in the face and drew blood. The Halachah is that one who wounds his father is deserving of death!!
A: This is nothing. It was not on purpose nor even an accident, rather it happened while you were playing in a normal manner. This is an extremely rare occurrence and unexpected. And he forgives you.

Sleeping on Clothing
Q: Is there a problem of sleeping on clothing?
A: Yes. Under one's head. Horayot 13b.

Taking off Kippah
Q: If there is a strong wind and there is a concern that my Kippah will fall into a puddle and get dirty, can I take it off?
A: Hold it tightly on your head with your hand.

Honoring One's Wife
Q: Why doesn't the Torah contain an explicit Mitzvah to honor one's wife just as there is a Mitzvah to honor one's parents?
A: Because a husband and wife are one person.

"Bli Ayin Ha-Ra" (Without the Evil Eye)
Q: When someone asks me how many children I have, after saying the number, should I add: "Bli Ayin Ha-Ra"?
A: There is no need.

Stealing from Arabs
Q: Is it permissible to steal from Arabs? After all we are in a struggle for survival against them.
Q: Certainly not. It is both theft and a desecration of Hashem's Name. It is the role of Tzahal to wage the struggle for our existence.

Traveling to Poland
Q: Should one travel to Poland out of identification with the Holocaust? I heard that it is forbidden but doesn't one need to have a little humanity?
A: If you identify, give your money to a Holocaust survivor who lives in Israel and does not have money for food and medicine, instead of using it to visit reconstructed trees and stones. One needs to have a little humanity!

Canceling an Order
Q: According to the law, it is permissible to cancel an order for a particular item? Is it also permissible according to Halachah?
A: Only if there is a justifiable reason.

Kol Isha
Q: If one cannot fulfill his obligation to hear the Megillah through a microphone (since it is not his voice, but a reconstruction of it), then why is it forbidden to hear a woman's voice through a microphone?
A: Since it is forbidden to have benefit from her voice.

Covering one's Head
Q: Is covering one's head for a man and woman a Torah obligation or a Rabbinic one?
A: Man – Rabbinic. Woman - Torah.

Q&A on the Laws of Chanukah

Simcha - Joy
If someone forgot “Al HaNissim” in the Birkat Ha-Mazon, what is the law?
If he remembers before he mentions G-d's Name, he goes back, but if he doesn't, he doesn't go back. Even then, however, it's still good for him to recite it with the “Ha-Rachaman”s.
If someone forgot “Al HaNissim” in the “Shemoneh Esreh”, what is the law?
If he remembers before he mentions G-d's Name, he goes back, but if he doesn't, he doesn't go back. Even then, however, it's still good for him to say it in “Elokai Netzor”.
Do women recite Hallel on Chanukah?
If they wish to. Ashkenazic women recite it with a blessing, and Sefardic women without, as with any time-dependent Mitzvah.
Do a bride and groom fast if their wedding day falls on Chanukah?
At funerals/memorials/yahrzeits that fall on Chanukah, may we eulogize the dead?
Only praise that won’t make people cry. A Torah scholar can be eulogized at his funeral.
May we visit graves?
There are different customs, and everyone should follow his family custom. But visiting the graves of the righteous (Kivrei Tzadikim) is permitted.
Is there a Mitzvah to eat festive meals on Chanukah?
There is no obligation but doing so is a Mitzvah. Meat and wine are not required. Including words of Torah is a fine practice.
Is there an obligation to eat jelly donuts?
There’s a custom to consume dairy dishes and fried foods, but no obligation.
Is it permissible to do work while the candles are lit?
Men can. Women refrain from types of work that are forbidden for half an hour after candle lighting.

Chanukah Candles
Are women obligated to light Chanukah candles?
Yes. A married woman meets her obligation through her husband.
If a person is alone, such that if he lights candles no one will see them, and he won't be publicizing the miracle, is he obligated to light them?
Yes. The decree is a general one.
Do young boys light separately?
Ashkenazic boys light with a blessing. Sefardic boys, if they wish to light, do so without a blessing, using a Menorah distanced from their father's.
How about girls?
The same.
When is “Ha-Nerot Halalu”begun?
Once the first candle is lit.
Must the whole household be present during the lighting?
No, but it is preferable.
Which is better, candles or oil?
Each has its advantage. Candles emit better light, but the miracle occurred with oil.
May one light partly with oil and partly with candles?
No, because then it looks as though they are the lights of two different people.
Can one use electric lights instead of candles?
Yes, without a blessing, if one has no other choice. But they are permissible for Shabbat candles.
If the candles go out, must one relight them?
Not if they burned long enough and were lit in the right location. If, however, a candle went out during the first half hour, it should be relit. If the wind blew it out, one must light it again without a blessing.
Can the candles be moved elsewhere once they are lit?
No. See Shulchan Aruch 675:1.
What does one do with the oil and wicks or with the candles that are left over in the Menorah?
It is forbidden to use them. Rather, they must be disposed of in a respectable manner, such as placing then in a bag and throwing them into the trash receptacle.
What about the oil left in the bottle?
That can be used for anything. The same goes for candles left in the box.
Must one buy a silver Menorah?
No. Just that as with any Mitzvah, it should be performed in a seemly manner.
Can a Chanukah Menorah be formed in a circle?
Yes, as long as you can tell where the candles start and end.
Does the Shammes have to stand alone?
Yes. It should be distinguishable from the other candles, either higher or removed from them.
Is one allowed to eat before the lighting?
Yes, if it's just a bit of food, or if there is someone to remind them when candle lighting time arrives.
And how about work? And Torah learning?
One should have a friend remind them to light. Or one can use an alarm clock.
Can one light Chanukah candles at a party, an assembly, a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah?
Some allow it if Minchah or Ma'ariv is also recited there, because then the affair takes on the laws of a Shul. One can also do so if there are people there who otherwise won't light at all.
Must one purchase a glass cage so one can light outside?
It's appropriate, but one doesn't have to.
If someone’s home has two doors, does one have to light at both?
We do not do so nowadays. Since many people light inside, no suspicion is created that one didn't light at all.
If no one can see the entrance to one's home, should one still light there, considering that the miracle won't be publicized?
Yes, the decree is a general one.
If a house opens on a courtyard, should one light outside one's door or in the courtyard?
It depends on the type of courtyard. Outside one's door is better.
If one lives in an apartment building, where should he light?
Some say he should light below in the street; others say he should light outside his door in the stairwell; still others say he should light in the window facing the public thoroughfare. The last idea is best.
If someone is used to reciting Ma'ariv late, should he recite Ma'ariv earlier on Chanukah?
No. he should recite Ma'ariv when he usually does. Only those who recite Ma'ariv and light at nightfall should recite Ma'ariv first.
When should one light on Friday afternoon?
Before lighting Shabbat candles. One should make sure to have longer Chanukah candles, or
at least one longer candle.
When is the latest that one can light?
As long as people are still on the street, and that varies from place to place. If someone lights inside, he can light as long as someone is awake in his house. After that, he should light without a blessing.
What is better: for a woman to wait for her husband who is coming home late, or for her to light on time? And should a husband wait for his wife?
It's better to light on time, but they can wait if they want to, especially if they are lighting indoors.
If someone has to travel, what's the earliest he can light?
Starting at Plag Ha-Minchah, about an hour and a quarter before nightfall (i.e. halachic hours). In other words, fifty minutes before sunset, using long candles.
In a pinch, which is better: Plag Ha-Minchah or late at night?
There's a controversy over that. Late night is better.

People Away from Home
If someone is visiting a friend's house for the evening, should he meet his obligation through the friend's lighting?
No. He should light when he comes home, unless others in his family lit there earlier.
What if he spends the night at his friend's home?
He can suffice with his friend's lighting. His host should give him a share in a candle. And if he's Ashkenazic, he should light there by himself.
And if he’s coming home after Shabbat ends, where should he light?
Either place is fine.
Does a soldier in the army have to light?
An Ashkenazi should light with a blessing. One Sefardi should light for all the other
Does a yeshiva student have to light in yeshiva? What about a university student?
The same as above.
And a patient in a hospital?
The same.
And where should a hotel guest light?
In his room. And He should supervise his candles for a half hour, and then snuff them out.
And does a traveler on a ship have to light there?
Yes, if he has a roof, and the same goes for a train. And the same goes for someone sleeping in a car on a camping trip.
What about someone sleeping in the field?
He's exempt. He has no home.
And someone is sleeping in a tent?
Yes. And that includes a pup tent.
What side of the tent should he light on?
The right side, because there's no Mezuzah.
If a soldier is not allowed to light in a structure or a tent, where should he light?
Outside in a glass container, or in the dining room. He should wait until supper time when everyone is together, but a soldier should be left on "guard" duty. Letting the flame burn for half an hour suffices.
If a soldier has no candles, does he have to trouble himself to attain them?
Yes, as long as this doesn't impair his functioning as a soldier.
Does a soldier sleeping in a tank on field maneuvers have to light?
Yes. Likewise if he’s sleeping in a car.
And a soldier sleeping in a ditch?
Yes, if a roof has been spread over the ditch.
And if he's in a guard booth?
Yes, whether it's at the main gate or at a roadblock.
Is he allowed to light using unkosher oil?
And what about oil that hasn't yet had Terumot and Ma'aserot [tithes] removed?
That's forbidden.
Is one allowed to light candles without a Menorah if one doesn't have one?
Yes. One should keep the candles equidistant, so it doesn't look like different people's candles.
If someone missed lighting on the first night, should he recite “Shehechiyanu” on the
second night?
Can a soldier hurrying off to a mission light for several minutes and then extinguish the
Yes, but without a blessing. This ruling is based on the view that the half hour established by our Sages is not how long the candles must burn, but the time-span in which one is allowed to light (see Shabbat 21b).

Shut SMS #142

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Driving on Shabbat
Q: If there is a life-threatening situation and one must drive on Shabbat, is it permissible to turn off the car upon on arrival?
A: Yes. It is dangerous to leave the motor running. It could also lead to theft, including by terrorists or dangerous thieves. But you should turn it off with a "Shinui" (in an unusual manner).

Q: There is a big dispute in our family as to who should be Sandek at the Brit Milah – the paternal grandfather or the maternal grandfather. What should we do?
A: The custom is that the paternal grandfather takes precedence, but it is not obligatory. They should therefore draw lots.

Q: Is it permissible to bring children to a circus which is specifically designed for the religious community, in which there are only male performers?
A: If they are young, since it is "Moshav Leitzim" (frivolity). Avodah Zarah 18b.

Galei Tzahal (Israel Defense Forces Radio)
Q: Is it permissible to listen to Galei Tzahal – they are left-wingers?
A: There is no prohibition against being a left-winger. Furthermore, they are not left-wingers but are representative of the entire community. In practice, it is permissible to listen to any station on condition that it broadcasts only Kosher material.

Am Yisrael
Q: Did Hashem choose us or did we choose Him?
A: He – the Blessed One – chose us (Blessing over learning Torah).

Pre-Torah Writings
Q: Ancient writings, which precede the Torah, had been found with stories and laws similar to the Tanach. If so, is the Tanach copied from them?
A: The existence of these is known. 1. There were prophets which preceded the giving of the Torah. 2. There are certain ideas which are relevant to the universal human spirit. 3. The Master of the Universe included proper and Kosher ideas within the Tanach. Sefer Eder Ha-Yakar of Maran Ha-Rav Kook.

"Na Nach Nachma Nachman"
Q: What is the source of some Breslover Chasidim saying "Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me-Uman" in order to bring personal and national salvation?
A: There is no source for it. It is a new innovation.
Q: Why isn't it considered "Darkei Emori" (superstition) to think that it brings salvation?
A: Breslover Chasidim do not actually believe this, rather it awakens G-d-fearing among them. Regarding "Darkei Emori", see Pesachim 112a and Shut Rashba 1:167.

Pictures of the Sun and Moon
Q: I learned that it is forbidden to make a picture of the sun and moon. But I have noticed that many people are not concerned about this.
A: There are those who permit it if there is no association with idol worship. Commentary of Rambam on Mishnah Avodah Zara. Shut Da'at Cohain #64.

Q: Do mermaids exist? I remember learning about them in the Gemara?
A: They do not exist. The Gemara theoretically discusses what the law would be regarding a creature such as this (Bechorot 8a. Rashi. See Netivot Olam, Netiv Ha-Torah, Netiv #14).

Learning the Satmar Rebbe's Books
Q: Does one receive the reward for learning Torah for the Satmar Rebbe's books?
A: Certainly.

Olim from Ethiopia and Chanukah
Q: Should Olim from Ethiopia celebrate Chanukah?
A: Yes. Even though their ancestors were not part of the miracle of Chanukah (since they were exiled to Ethiopia beforehand), they are part of Klal Yisrael.

Dwelling in Jerusalem
Q: Why did you establish a Yeshiva in the so-called Muslim Quarter?
A: It is a Mitzvah to dwell in the entire breadth of our Land, and all the more so in Jerusalem, and all the more so in the heart of Jerusalem.

Earrings for Girls
Q: Why is it permissible for girls to have their ears pierced - they are deforming their bodies.
A: It is negligible (Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein – Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion, related that his daughter wanted to have her ears pierced, but he had doubts as to whether it is permissible. They agreed to go together and ask Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and follow his ruling. Ha-Rav Auerbach did not understand what Ha-Rav Lichtenstein wanted from him, and he said: "What is even your question? By us, boys have a Brit Milah and girls have their ears pierced!" Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol vol. 2, p. 172).

War over Yehudah and Shomron
Q: What did Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah mean when he said: "There will be a war over Yehudah and Shomron"?
A: He himself explained in writing and orally (recorded) that this is not practical instruction but an educational idea to awaken self-sacrifice. He never gave a practical ruling to act in this way. And see Baba Batra 130b, that in order to follow a given instruction it must be given as a clear halachic ruling.

Parashat Vayeshev: Yosef's Capacity to Bring Blessing

[Tal Chermon]

After the pair of Torah portions Vayetze and Vayishlach, which dealt with our forefather Yaakov, come two portions which discuss his sons. Among the twelve of them, Yosef stands out as an imposing personality. His special abilities are reflected in the blessings given to him by both Yaakov and Moshe, which surpass his brothers' blessings both in content and length. These blessings are sweeping and all encompassing: "[Yours will be] the blessing of heaven above and the blessings of the water lying beneath…[The blessing will be] until the endless bounds of the world's hills… It [the blessing] will come upon the head of Yosef, on the brow of the elect of his brothers" (Devarim 33:16). "The blessings of your father surpassed the blessing of my parents." Yaakov gave Yosef a blessing greater than he himself had received (See Ha-Amek Devar on Bereshit 49:26). Yosef was also split up into two tribes: Efraim and Menasheh. He was one of the sons, but was treated like one of the forefathers in that each of his two sons was a separate tribe. He thus possessed the qualities of both a forefather and a son. This is reflected in Onkelos' translation of the Hebrew word "even" when it is used to described Yosef. While this word usually means "stone" Onkelos sees it as a combination of two words "av – father" and "ben – son" (Onkelos on Bereshit 49:24). Yosef was both. Yaakov was aware of Yosef's numerous and diverse talents, so he made him a coat of many colored strips. He was thus distinguished from his brothers, who only had coats of a single color, indicating a specific talent for each one. Yosef, however, was all-encompassing, and was himself aware of his numerous talents. This was made clear in his dreams, which revealed his deepest thoughts. He dreamt: "And my sheaf stood erect, and your sheaves circled my sheaf and bowed down to it" (Bereshit 37:7) and in a second dream: "And behold the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me" (ibid. 37:9)." These dreams were expressions of economic leadership and success. The dreams were not vain or incidental, but were true, and in fact materialized when Yosef was promoted to a top position of economic leadership.

Conversation about Marriage

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayishlach 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

- Hello, Rabbi Aviner. I’ve got a problem with my wife. She doesn’t obey me. She doesn’t do everything I ask her to do.
- But she does do some of it?
- Yes.
- Thank G-d. And do you do everything she asks?
- No. Some of it.
- If so, you are similar and compatible. It’s a marriage made in heaven! The solution is simple. Sometimes you’ll concede to her and sometimes she’ll concede to you. And how are we supposed to know who is supposed to concede to whom? Very simple. What’s very important to you, she should concede, and what’s very important to her, you should concede. If something is important to both of you, and each of you is pulling in a different direction, find the middle ground. And everything should be done in happiness.
- But Rambam writes that a woman has to fulfill her husband’s will, and not that the husband has to do his wife’s will.
- That is true (Rambam, Hilchot Ishut 15:20), but in the preceding paragraph, Rambam writes, “Our sages commanded that a husband should honor his wife more than himself and love her like himself.”
- But I do honor her and love her!
- How does that express itself?
- I work and buy her things that she loves.
- But she also likes it when you fulfill her requests. That makes her happier than your gifts. If you honor her and love her, you surely want her to be happy.
- But our sages tell about a husband who commanded his wife to break candlesticks over the head of Baba ben Buta, and she did it. That shows that the husband has the final say in all matters, even if it's something that makes no sense!
- That husband wasn’t normal, and his righteous, wise wife met him half way even in bizarre matters in order to keep the peace.
- Where does it say that he wasn’t normal?
- Our halachic luminaries write that. Yet even without them you can understand for yourself that if someone orders his wife to break candlesticks over the head of a Torah scholar, he is not a mentally sane person. A woman is not required to heed her husband in bizarre requests (see Ketubot 72a), and it certainly is not to your credit if you follow that approach.
- But also in the Sefer Menorat Ha-Meor it says that a woman has to treat her husband like a king, and then he will treat her like a queen.
- Those are just delineations designed to preserve the family unit. Please consider the Torah scholars that you know. Is that the way rabbis and rebbetzins treat one another? No. They love each other, honor each other and work together, and they are good friends. If you want a happy marriage, be a good friend to your wife. As the Prophet Malachi wrote, “She is your friend and ally” (2:14). And when the parents are friends and like each other, the children, as well, grow up to be happy and successful.
May G-d bless you that you should be privileged to build a steadfast Jewish home, steeped in love and brotherhood, harmony and friendship.

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #3

Making a snowman
Q: Is it permissible to make a snowman on Shabbat?
A: Building a snowman is not temporary, since it is meant to last. One should therefore not build a snowman on Shabbat.

Eating snow
The blessing before eating snow is "She-ha-kol," and there is no blessing after eating it since one does not eat enough (ke-zayit – approximately the size of an olive) and one eats it slowly (like tea or coffee).

Shut SMS #141

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Bus Fare
Q: The bus driver knows my father and did not punch my ticket. What should I do?
A: Punch it yourself.

Payment without a Receipt
Q: A man did work for me, I paid him, but he did not give me a receipt. When I asked for one, he said that he would not give me one, and if I insisted, he would return my money. What should I do?
A: Take the money, give it to Tzedakah and give him the receipt which you receive from the Tzedakah organization.

Opening the Torah Ark during the Ninth Month
Q: What is the source for the custom of a husband to open the Torah ark during the ninth month of his wife's pregnancy in order to help along the birth?
A: There is no early source. Kaf Ha-Chaim 134:12 in the name of the Chida.

Burning a Page with One's Problems
Q: Is it forbidden to write one's problems on a page and then burn the page in order to nullify them?
A: It is superstition, close to idol worship.

Prohibition against Touching Opposite Gender
Q: Does the prohibition against touching someone of the opposite gender only apply to their actual body, or does it also apply to touching them through their clothing?
A: Both are certainly forbidden! One should stay extremely far away from the opposite gender. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-10. How the evil inclination is working overtime!

Lashon Ha-Ra about One's Self
Q: What is the source that it is forbidden for a person to relate Lashon Ha-Ra about himself?
A: There is no such Halachah. It is a personal decision based on the circumstance.

Baby Pictures
Q: Is it permissible to take pictures of our baby for an advertisement for which we will be paid? Is there a problem of the evil eye?
A: It is permissible. There is absolutely no concern.

Spading an Animal
Q: Is it permissible to spade an animal? Isn’t it impossible to use a horse if he is not spaded?
A: It is a known problem. See Torah Temimah on Vayikra 22:24 #153. It should be performed by a non-Jew.

Q: Isn't it racist to say that we are the Chosen People and the non-Jews are designated to serve us?
A: No. They will serve us out of free will and will see it as a greater honor, like a disciple serving his teacher.

Levels among Torah Scholars
Q: How could Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah say that the Ba'al Ha-Tanya was not on the same level as the Vilna Gaon? Is it permissible to compare great Torah scholars?
A: Yes. Just as the comparison between Rabbi Elazar Be-Rabbi Shimon and Rebbe. Baba Metzia 84b. And as per the ruling in Shut Mahar"i Me-Beruna #190.

Parashat Vayishlach: Yaakov Avinu – Adversities

Yaakov returned to Eretz Yisrael, but his life was also beset by adversity there. In fact, he suffered throughout his lifetime, starting from his conception when "the children clashed within her" (in the mother's womb [Bereshit 25:22]) and on through his birth when "his hand grasped the heel of Esav" (ibid. v. 26). He then had to buy the birthright (ibid. v. 33), received his father's blessing by deceit (ibid. 27:6-29), was forced to flee to Charan to save himself from his brother Esav who was plotting to kill him (ibid. v. 41-46), was duped into marrying the sister of the woman he wanted to marry (ibid. 29:20-25), was repeatedly swindled by his father-in-law Lavan(ibid. 31:41 and 30:28-43), had a confrontation with his "loving" brother Esav upon his return home (ibid. 32:3-33:18), suffered: the rape and abduction of his daughter Dinah, the reprisal attack on the city of Shechem (chap. 34), his son’s hatred of their brother Yosef (ibid. 37:1-12), the loss of this most beloved son of his (ibid. 37:12-36), the imprisonment of Shimon and later of Binyamin (chaps. 43-44), the crossing of his hands and the switching of his blessings to his grandsons (ibid. 48:10-21), etc., etc. There was not a period in Yaakov’s life that was free of hardship and tribulations. The greater a matter is, the more trouble and afflictions are associated with it. Yaakov is the most ideal of the forefathers (Bereshit Rabbah 76:1), because he was the final product – the full-blown Jew – that resulted from the creative process that transpired through our forefathers, Avraham and Yitzchak. "It was Yaakov who redeemed" (Yeshayahu 29:22)." Avraham's very existence is justified and gains significance by virtue of the fact that Yaakov is his descendant. Yaakov's life is beset by complications specifically because of his greatness (Zohar, Bereshit 207).

There’s No “Price Tag”

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayetze 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: When the Arabs attack us, are we allowed to retaliate, an eye for an eye? After all, attacking them and their property is the only thing that deters them. And likewise, when the army or the police evacuate settlements or hilltop communities, perhaps we should react against the Arabs. Let them know that just as they’ve got crazies, so do we have crazies who can’t be controlled: insane, irrational people. This will deter them by creating a balance of terror, an efficient approach. In his time, the Prophet Samson operated this way, and it worked.
Answer: That’s a very bad approach indeed. You don’t build up the Land of Israel through bad character and sins.
Quite the contrary, because of our sins we were exiled from our land. An important rule in Jewish law is this: one doe not do a mitzvah by doing a sin.
Our argument with the Arabs is over whose land this is. This is our Land and not theirs! Yet that does not permit us to kill them, hit them, rob them or even insult them. Quite the contrary. By doing such things we hurt our national struggle, moving it into the petty realm of spats with neighbors. And certainly one shouldn’t hurt an Arab for something he didn’t even do.
In his day, when the first settlement groups were setting out for the Shomron, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook said one is allowed to settle only on State lands, and he explained:
“We have no quarrel with Ahmed or Mustafa. We have no personal argument with this or that Arab. It’s a national struggle.”
The very question is a sign of weakness and confusion. It shows that there are people who haven’t understood what we have been doing here for more than a hundred years. The issue is not settlements by a particular Jew, but by the Jewish people. And the one who decides on this is the Jewish people, and not an individual Jew and not an individual student.
Within the very question is the hidden assumption that the Israeli government is hostile to the land, like the British in their day. It’s true that under British rule partisans operated, and then as well there was a terrible argument over whether each group was entitled to make decisions, or if this was a role for the entire nation. Yet at that time there was no country. Now, thank G-d, there is, and all agree that it is our country which must decide these things.
In Shimshon’s day as well, we didn’t have a country, and the Philistines ruled in Israel, so Shimshon operated alone. Part of his reason for doing so was to make sure that the entire Jewish people would not be held accountable for his deeds. Besides, everything he did, he did with divine intuition, in accordance with divine holiness.
Indeed, from “Price Tag” against Arabs, some people have moved on to “Price Tag” against the Army and Police, as though they are the enemy, as though they must be treated as informers and traitors, etc.
The Army virtuously does not report all of that – all of the stones thrown at it, all of the intentional harassment, all of the insults. When all is said and done, the Army loves the whole Jewish people, and sacrifices itself for all of the Jewish people. What a great army! In the book Pele Yo’etz (s.v. “Hatzala”), the following is quoted from our Sages: “Even the least worthy Jews are as full of mitzvot as a pomegranate is full of seeds” (Berachot 27a). How can this be? The Talmud is talking about “those who possess the mitzvah of saving Jewish lives. Through this, they surpass in merit the greatest sages of Israel.” And if this is said of those who save individuals, all the more so regarding the Army which saves the entire Jewish people, the entire Land of Israel, ensuring the full sanctification of God’s name and the full glorification of the Jewish people. They don’t report it, but it hurts them and makes them sad that the very people that they are protecting harm them and endanger them. Surely it is obvious to all that if the army didn’t do its work, if it failed to function even slightly, those very people wouldn’t be able to survive.
Our only consolation is that perpetrators of “Price Tag” are the fewest of the few, the fringe of the fringe, and, truth be told, sometimes they’re accused of doing things they haven’t done... Moreover, not one Torah scholar has ruled that one should act this way, either against the Arabs or against the Army and Police. There are only a very few isolated Rabbis who have alluded to their support, or have told their students, “It’s forbidden,” while winking in collaboration.
G-d have mercy on those fringes who shoot themselves in the foot and distance themselves from the community by taking a path that is neither beneficial nor moral.
Therefore, once and for all, changes in policy have to go through decisions of the entire nation, and not through the partisan acts of individuals. Don’t try to force your truths on everybody. The one making the decisions is the Jewish people, and it isn’t afraid of anything, not of the enemy and not of anything. Not even of you.
Thank G-d we’re moving forward. We’re becoming stronger. We’re becoming united.
We’re becoming exalted. And Hashem is walking before us.

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #2

Making and throwing a snowball
Q: Is it permissible to make a snowball on Shabbat?
A: The Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 10:12) writes that putting all sorts of things together is forbidden on Shabbat because of "boneh" (building). Some argue that making a snowball on Shabbat is therefore forbidden (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata ibid). Some explain, however, that since a snowball is temporary it is permissible. One may therefore be lenient. Making snowballs before Shabbat which one sets aside to throw on Shabbat (within an eruv) is permissible. There is a question about throwing a snowball since it is crushed. One can argue that if the snowball is crushed it is an "unintended act which is not beneficial to him," since the thrower wants a full snowball to hit the other person. This is not the intention of the one who is hit, but we follow the intention of the thrower.

Shut SMS #140

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:

Kashrut of Rice
Q: I heard that we should not eat rice because it is full of worms.
A: This is a rare phenomenon. It is sufficient to check the rice well as usual.

Wedding Gift
Q: We are a poor family, and our relative is getting married. They have the custom of giving expensive wedding gifts, but we are unable to do so. The trip is also costly. What should we do?
A: Give according to your ability, and include an apology note.

Born a Non-Jew
Q: I think it would have been better for me to have been born a non-Jew, since they seem to enjoy themselves more than we do.
A: I don't know if in reality this is true. In any event, we are certainly much happier.

Q: Is it proper to pray for an earthquake in Turkey and Iran?
A: No. Good people would also be injured and killed. Rather we should pray for them to repent, as is written in Aleinu. And there is no need to add anything to Aleinu.

"Al Naharot Bavel"
Q: Should one say "Al Naharot Bavel" before the Birkat Ha-Mazon on weekdays?
A: It is proper to do so, but is not obligatory since it is not found in the Gemara, Rambam or Shulchan Aruch, but in the Shelah (Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would not recite "Al Naharot Bavel" but rather "Shir Ha-Ma'alot" at each meal, because of our return to our Land. Iturei Yerushalayim #26. Although "Al Naharot Bavel", and when it is to be recited, appears in Siddur Olat Ha-Re'eiyah (vol. 1, p. 360) – a siddur with Maran Ha-Rav Kook's commentary which our Rabbi himself arranged and annotated).

Opening Umbrella Inside
Q: Is it unlucky to open an umbrella inside
A: Superstition. (but not to be done on Shabbat, as an umbrella is Muktzeh)

Q: If I only have one pair of Tzitzit and I sleep in it, do I recite a blessing over it in the morning?
A: No.
Q: Which is preferable: to sleep with the Tzitzit and not recite a blessing, or to sleep without them and to recite a blessing?
A: To sleep with them, since one is fulfilling a Mitzvah by doing so.

Sleeping on the Bus
Q: Is it permissible for me to wake someone up who is taking up two seats on the bus in order to sit down, or is it considered bothering him?
A: It is permissible. He is bothering himself.

Kosher Phone
Q: Is it obligatory to use the Kosher phone (which does not contain texting or internet access)?
A: The essence is that a person does not stumble by using his phone for forbidden activities. If he stumbles, he is obligated to use the Kosher phone. If not, he is not.

Photocopying from a Book
Q: Is it permissible to photocopy a few pages from a book as a teaching tool?
A: Yes, because: 1. You are copying from the book for personal use, which is permissible according to copyright law. 2. You do not intend to buy the book, in which case it is permissible according to Halachah.

Spitting at Christianity
Q: If one sees a priest or church, it there a Halachah that one should spit?
A: No.

Student without Tzitzit
Q: If a student in my class stubbornly refuses to wear Tzitzit, should I wait patiently or demand that he put them on?
A: If he is negatively affecting others in this area, then demand it, like Shammai. If he is not, then wait patiently like Hillel. Ain Aya, Shabbat 31.

Q: What should be done with a young woman who is anorexic and refuses food and treatment?
A: There is no choice, she must eat and have treatment. This is a life-threatening situation. She must therefore be hospitalized.

Parashat Vayetze: Yaakov's Dream

[Tal Chermon]

Yaakov emerged from the previous parashah ready to perform two tasks: the moralization of the physical world and the advancement of the spiritual world. Yaakov was destined to establish both the means and the tools for fulfilling our objectives and to improve and uplift the very soul, the very purpose, of our existence (Orot, Orot Ha-Techiyah, p. 16).

When Yaakov left Beer Sheva, running away from his brother Esav, his situation was far from ideal. He was homeless, unmarried, and completely penniless. He was the first exile in our history. What did the future hold for him? What would become of him? These questions must have gnawed away at Yaakoc while he fled. But then he had a dream. There are different types of dreams. There are lofty dreams, which are sparks of prophecy, and there are dreams that are complete nonsense. "A man is shown in his dreams only those things about which he has given great thought" (Berachot 55b). The content of the dream therefore depends on the identity of the dreamer and the quality of his thoughts (an example of this is given in the Gemara (ibid. 56) when Shevor Malka, the King of Persia, said to the Talmudic Rabbi, Shmuel: "People say that you are a sage. If this is really so, tell me what I will dream about tonight." Shmuel answered him: "You will dream that you have been routed by the Roman army, have been taken prisoner, and are forced to grind date pits with a golden mill." The strangeness of this answer bothered the king so much that he thought about it the entire day and, sure enough, dreamt about it that night). Yaakov's dream reflects his innermost thoughts, and his raison d'etre in life (Moreh Nevuchim part 1, chap. 36). There are two elements in his dream. The first is the Divine promise: "I am G-d…The Land upon which you are lying I will give to you and to your descendants. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth. You shall burst forth and spread to the West, East, North and South…I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this Land. I will not leave you until I have fully kept this promise to you (Bereshit 28:13-15)."

Hashem’s words assure Yaakov that, in contrast to his present pitiful and humiliating state, his future will be glorious, and he will be guarded and protected in the long trek that leads to it.

The second element of the dream is the vision of the ladder. "And behold he dreamed and a ladder was set on the earth and its top reached up toward heaven" (Bereshit 28:12). The ladder links heaven with earth. It is "set towards” earth (ibid.), i.e. from heavenly matters it directs itself towards earthly concerns. But it also "reaches heaven" (ibid.), meaning that all earthly needs draw their significance from heavenly considerations.

The ladder is Yaakov himself, who is both heavenly and earthly. On the one hand he embodies spirituality, which is used to improve the physical world. On the other, he lives a material existence, which is governed by the spirit. These are the two faces of Yaakov.

The vision is not static. There is dynamic movement as "the angels of G-d ascend and descend it [the ladder]" (ibid.). They ascend to heaven to charge themselves with Divine spirituality and then descend to illuminate the world with it. The righteous do not suffice with a personal spiritual elevating experience, but they return to the mundane world and use their spiritual acquisition to improve it (Moreh Nevuchim 1, chap. 15). In the Akeidah experience, Avraham reached such awe-inspiring spiritual heights that the youths who had accompanied him on the way were not allowed to be present. Despite the fact that the two attendants were none other than the two outstanding personalities, Yishmael and Eliezer (Rashi on Bereshit 22:5), Avraham instructs them: "Stay here with the donkey, while I and the lad go yonder" (Bereshit 22:5). Avraham's trust in Eliezer was so profound that he sent him to find a wife for Yitzchak who would share in the momentous task of founding the Jewish Nation. Furthermore, it is said of him: "He drew forth teachings from his Rav and transmitted them to others" (Yoma 28b). Despite these qualities, with regard to the sublime spiritual revelation at the Akeidah, Yishmael and Eliezer were equivalent to the donkey. The verse says: "stay here with the donkey" and our Rabbis add that in relation to the Akeidah: "You are people who are no better than a donkey" (Yevamot 62a). This event would be so extraordinarily incomprehensible that if witnessed by them they would either be struck mad or lose all faith in G-d. Avraham therefore proceeded alone and ascended to such heights that it was beyond the grasp of ordinary human morality. Did Avraham remain in his heavenly state, detached from and unconcerned with the prosaic world? No! "And Avraham returned to his lads and they arose and went together to Beer Sheva" (Bereshit 22:19). Despite his soul's leap to loftiness, Avraham remained attached to his material surroundings and endeavored to inspire them. He stooped down to the lads, who had remained at the level of the donkey, and offered them a helping hand in order to uplift and advance them (Olat Re'eiyah vol. 1, p. 96). Moreover, his very descent paved the way for the next ascent.

Then Yaakov awoke from the dream, "And he was frightened. He exclaimed: 'How awe-inspiring is this place! It must be G-d's Temple. It is the gate to heaven'" (Bereshit 29:17). He did not attribute the privilege of this vision to his own self-worth, but to the sanctity of the place. He thus did not even thank Hashem for this prophetic vision and for all the promises made to him. He knew that through the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, which was the "house of G-d and the gate of heaven," he would be able to fulfill his task of connecting heaven and earth. The Divine Presence existed here on earth and the mundane aspired towards heaven (Kuzari – section 2). "The Holy One Blessed Be He rolled together the whole of Eretz Yisrael under him [Yaakov]" (Rashi on Bereshit 28:13). Yaakov dreamed that in this special environment of Eretz Yisrael he would manage to perform the task for which he was so well suited: uniting heaven and earth.

The Waterpipe (Nargilah) – the Innocent Killer

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Toldot 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Don’t think the waterpipe (Nargilah) is an innocent device for pleasure and fun. This is a misconception based on two ideas: 1. The smoke is filtered by the water, so there’s no danger. 2. It smells and tastes like the fruit that are pictured on the package. What could be more innocent than fruit, sugar and honey?
These ideas are in fact big mistakes. Smoking a nargilah is a lot more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, and for several reasons, any one of which should suffice to prevent one from indulging in it: 1. The water provides only a partial filter. 2. The water’s moistness soothes the irritation to the breathing passages, so one can inhale the smoke more deeply. 3. Moreover, the water can cause edema in the lungs. 4. The smoke does contain tobacco, and is not supervised the way cigarettes are. It exudes a lot of carcinogens that cause: lung cancer, gum cancer, lip cancer and bladder cancer. 5. Passing the waterpipe around from one person to another can spread various diseases: herpes of the lips, tuberculosis, bronchitis, glandular fever, eczema and other skin diseases. 6. The ritual of smoking a waterpipe takes much more time than smoking a cigarette. It takes 5-7 minutes to smoke a cigarette, and it exudes 0.5 to 0.6 liters of smoke. It takes 70-200 minutes to smoke a waterpipe, giving off 50-600 puffs of 0.05 to 0.25 liters each. Thus, smoking a waterpipe is the equivalent of smoking about a hundred cigarettes! 7. The package does in fact say that the amount of tar and resin it contains is zero. That’s very nice, but they forgot to point out that this material is produced as a by-product when the tobacco is burning. 8. Let’s not talk about the damage caused to the fetus, nor about the damage to the non-smokers all around.
As is known, according to Jewish law it is forbidden to do dangerous things. It’s forbidden to take risks, even slight ones. Whoever does so violates, “Guard yourselves very well” (Devarim 4:15). Thus, for example, one is not allowed to cross a rickety bridge if there is any danger that its collapse would lead to a person’s death, even if the risk of collapse is very low, as explained in Rambam’s Hilchot Rotzeach U-Shemirat Ha-Nefesh.
Additionally, it is forbidden to behave in a manner that harms one’s body, even if each isolated act poses no danger at all. After all, a single cigarette or waterpipe session won’t kill you. Yet the cumulative effect is very dangerous, as Rambam explains (Hilchot De’ot, Chapter 4). There, Rambam explains that one has to conduct oneself in a healthy manner. This is called walking in G-d’s pathways. Also, in Chapter 1 he explains that this is a mitzvah from the Torah: “Walk in His pathways” (Devarim 28:9).
Don’t say it’s not dangerous, that the research doesn’t mean a thing, or that it is a fact that not all die from it. That’s nonsense. It’s true that 100 years ago they didn’t know how dangerous a waterpipe is, but now it’s clear to all, beyond any doubt.
Here’s an interesting example: In 1970, when those grave research studies began to be publicized, 64% of the physicians smoked. By 1980 only 10% smoked.
True, it’s hard to stop smoking.
Smoking actually involves two addictions, one physical and one psychological.
Everything depends on one’s willpower. Even if a person is weak, however, all hope is not lost.
He can cut down on his smoking slowly, gradually. One’s physical and psychological dependency will gradually decrease as well.
Let us just point out that even before 1970 they knew it was dangerous, and many physicians and rabbis forbade smoking.
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook hung a note in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav telling the boys to stop smoking, and following his request, all the Zionist yeshivot stopped. In the yeshiva high schools there are some smokers, but when they reach post-high -school yeshivot they see their heroes of Torah and military service do not smoke, and then they understand that there is no connection between smoking and masculinity, or between smoking and femininity.
Not smoking also saves a lot of money and saves one from having terrible breath and disgusting yellow teeth. Every eight seconds someone in the world dies from smoking. That’s five million people a year, and the number is rising. During the past 100 years, 100 million have died from smoking.
In our country ten thousand die from smoking every year, with a sixth of them dying from passive smoking - the wife, children or work mates of a smoker. And, as I have already said, waterpipes are 100 times more dangerous than cigarettes.
On average, a smoker shortens his life by fourteen years. Terrible. To say nothing of the awful suffering endured by thousands of smoking-related patients.
Smoke contains 5,000 toxic substances, of which fifty are carcinogenic, and, once more, waterpipes are 100 times worse. So, please, throw your waterpipe in the trash. And if you haven’t started yet, don’t start, even once.
We are in favor of clean air. Clean lungs, a clean mouth, clean living. So smokers: clean up your act. Then we can all breathe more easily.

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #1

Q: Is snow muktzeh on Shabbat?
A: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 300:11) says that one may not crush ice on Shabbat. This implies that snow is not muktzeh, since the only problem is crushing. But perhaps the Shulchan Aruch is only discussing snow which fell before Shabbat, and snow which fell on Shabbat is muktzeh based on "nolad" (something created on Shabbat). One can argue, however, that snow is like rain and rain is not muktzeh on Shabbat (Mishneh Berurah ibid. 338:30). Even though the rain was not necessarily in the clouds before Shabbat, it is not muktzeh. As such, what is the different between rain and snow?! Some explain that they are not the same since snow is never in the clouds. Tiny drops fall and they become snow as they come close to the ground. Some therefore say that snow is "nolad" (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 5:22). This is not exact, because the rain is also not necessarily in the clouds and formed before Shabbat. There are tiny drops in the clouds and they thicken on Shabbat and become rain, just like snow. There are therefore many authorities who rule that snow is not muktzeh (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 15:36 and 16:44 in the name of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef). Similarly, many authorities allow putting water into a freezer to make ice on Shabbat.

Shut SMS #139

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:

Death Penalty for Terrorists
Q: According to the Torah, should terrorists be given the death penalty?
A: Yes. 1. In order that they not murder again, since they are in the category of a "Rodef" (The Halachah states that one should kill another person who is pursuing others with intent to murder). 2. In order that others who may have the same intention will see, fear and thus not be brazen enough to do the same. But in practice, in matters such as these the Government must decide the proper course of action in the name of all of Am Yisrael (After the terrorist attack at the Hotel Savoy in Tel Aviv in 5735, in which 8 hostages and 3 soldiers were killed, one of the terrorists was sentenced to death - although the verdict was never carried out. Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was asked by one of the executioners: What is the Torah's opinion of this verdict? He responded: The Torah states, "If one comes to kill you, kill him first." Of a person who pursues another to kill him, the Torah states, "Save the blood of this one with the blood of that one." Sanhedrin 72b. "And cursed be he who keeps back his sword from blood." Yirmiyahu 48:10. And if this applies to an individual comes to kill another individual, how much more so does it apply when a community comes to kill another community, and to terrorize the reality of our lives in the Land of our revival. "Because they did not come to help Hashem against the mighty men...but let those who love Him be as the sun when it comes out in its might." Shoftim 5:23, 31. Sefer Le-Hilchot Tzibur #98).
Releasing Terrorists
Q: Why shouldn't we release terrorists? After all, it is determined in Heaven on Rosh Hashanah in Heaven if there will be a murder or not.
A: If this is so, you have nullified all human effort. We are commanded to act based on the Torah. At times, Hashem brings certain events about through the agency of a person who has caused you problems. This is called, "bad things are brought about through the agency of a bad person" (see Rashi to Devarim 22:8 – this is in order to punish the evil even more).

Endangering One's Life and Eretz Yisrael
Q: Which is more important – settling Eretz Yisrael or protecting one's life?
A: One must display self-sacrifice for Eretz Yisrael – making Aliyah, settling it and protecting it in the army – but it is forbidden to take excessive risks (Minchat Chinuch #425).

Violent Evacuation
Q: Should one go to try to stop the evacuation of an outpost when there is sure to be violent clashes with the police and army?
A: Certainly not. One does not perform a Mitzvah through a transgression. This adds nothing to the Nation of Israel – on the contrary – it damages.

Films about Gush Katif
Q: Should we show children films about the expulsion from Gush Katif?
A: It is forbidden to watch films which awaken the evil inclination. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16. This includes the inclination of hatred.

Rabbis Ascending on High
Q: Why are so many Rabbis dying?
A: Thanks to modern medicine, only a small number have died. Our great love for them, however, makes it feel like more.

Q: Why do hardly any Rabbis wear Techelet? There is much research that it is the true Techelet.
A: One should not give instructions to Rabbis what to do based on research, rather, one should ask Rabbis what is the halachic significance of the research.

Donating Hair
Q: Is it permissible for a single or married woman to donate her hair to make wigs for cancer victims?
A: Yes. It is a Mitzvah.
Q: Is it permissible for a boy to grow long hair for this purpose?
A: Certainly not. It is a Mitzvah performed through a transgression.

Notes in the Kotel
Q: It is permissible to read a note someone put in the Kotel?
A: It is forbidden. It was written with the intent that others would not read it. "One who gossips goes around revealing secrets" (Mishlei 11:13. Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein rules the same way in Tuvcha Yabi'u vol. 2, p. 492).

Hitting One's Chest during "Selach Lanu"
Q: Is hitting one's heart during the blessing of "Selach Lanu" a Halachah or a proper custom?
A: It is the custom. Makor Chaim, Kitzur Halachot, end of chap. 116.

Military Rabbinate
Q: If I have a halachic question in the army, who should I ask: My Rabbi or the military Rabbinate?
A: A personal question – your Rabbi. A military question related to the army – the military Rabbinate.
Q: But my Rabbi is a greater Torah scholar than the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal.
A: He is not greater than Chazal (The Sages of the Talmud) who rules that one should follow the "Mara De-Atra" (local authority).

Women Singing
Q: Regarding being present at a ceremony where women sing, I heard that Rav Kook remained present when a woman sang at a Governmental ceremony of the British?
A: Then you did not hear well. The one who remained was Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld who put his fingers in his ears, put down his head and closed into himself, on account of the honor of the Kingship, but Maran Ha-Rav Kook immediately stood up and ran outside, like someone fleeing a fire. The book Mi-Bechirei Tzadikaya of Ha-Rav Yosef Zusman, p. 178.

Parashat Toldot: Esav the Wicked

[Tal Chermon]

Yitzchak believed in Esav and his ability to manage the material world morally and therefore wanted to give him his blessing. Rivkah, however, knew the stark truth. Esav, in his present state, was not capable of advancing the world, since he himself was incorrigibly depraved. Hopefully - after several thousand years of improvement - when the End of Days arrives, he will eventually be fit for the task. He possessed strength, but it was the strength of wickedness which would be used for the destruction of the world. Yitzchak saw the overall picture of the ideal and absolute truth in which Esav's strength must and will be employed at the End of Days for the world's benefit. Rivkah, however, saw the world in its realistic, present state where Esav was a source of evil. At present he is a murderer, as he himself said, "May the days of the mourning of my father come soon so that then I will be able to kill my brother" (Bereshit 27:41). It is true that he was upset because his blessing was taken from him but there are limits even to an angry response. He even wanted to hasten the death of his father. It was a bit too much for him to do that personally, so he requested help from his dear uncle Yishmael, who would certainly comply (Midrash Ha-Gadol, Bereshit 28:9). These murderous inclinations were not created overnight because of a one-time event but were indications of his deep-rooted corrupt nature (Ha-Rav Charlop in Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'a). Rivkah knew Esav's present state better than Yitzkhak and thus decided that in the meantime Yaakov would have to fulfill both his and Esav's tasks.
Sarah had acted similarly a generation earlier when she decided to banish Yishmael from the home because of the negative influence of his corrupt behavior. Avraham was shocked. This went against his grain, which was the ideal of absolute kindness. But it was essential for practical considerations. Ideally they should have been able to live together, but it was not possible at that time. "The events that occurred to our forefathers are indications of what will befall their descendants!" (This concept first appears in the Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Lech Lecha, section 9. It is explicitly stated in the Shela Ha-Kadosh, Torah She-Biichtav, end of Parashat Vayishlach).

Conversion Performed by Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren

Q: I heard that the conversion performed by Ha-Rav Goren (called the "Brother and Sister") was not according to Halachah.
A: Lies and deceit. His responsum was published and you can learn it (After Ha-Rav Goren's ruling in this matter, a broadside containing terrible vilifications was written against him. Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah asked that the responum be brought to him. He looked at it and sent it to Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira. He did not ask whether he agreed with it or not, but whether it was well-built, like a serious halachic responsum. When Ha-Rav Shapira responded in the affirmative, our Rabbi proclaimed: "May the hands of those who perform evil be cut off." When he was asked: But aren't there great Rabbis among those who signed the broadside? He responded: "There are differences," i.e. not everyone criticized in an evil way. Iturei Yerushalayim #20.
And Ha-Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, leading Posek in America before Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, never supported the ruling itself since he was blind at the time and was unable to learn it. He was adamant, however, that it was forbidden to argue with Ha-Rav Goren since he was a "Gadol Ha-Dor" (one of the great Rabbis of the generation). And he brushed off all claims against him. When Ha-Rav Henkin was told that some claimed that Ha-Rav Goren was in the category of one who takes a bride, he answered forcibly: "This is politics, not Halachah." And although he received much pressure from other Rabbis, he did not change his mind. Shut Bnei Banim vol. 2, p. 210).

The Great Sigd Holiday

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Chayei Sarah 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Sigd, a holiday of Jewish immigrants from the Ethiopian Diaspora, falls out each year on the 29the of Cheshvan. This year, since it falls on Shabbat, it is pushed forward to Thursday. True, this is a holiday of Ethiopian Jewry, but its content applies to the entire Jewish people. Sigd includes the seven foundations of faith to which every Jew must cling.
1. Torah. The Torah is our life. We love it. It is the most pure thing in our life, and the most lofty. Therefore, for the Sigd holiday, Jews ascend a pure, lofty mountain, a sort of Mount Sinai. They climb the mountain together with the “Orit”, i.e., the Oraita, the Torah, in song and praise, as a sign of the yearly renewal of the giving of the Torah. Let us derive strength from the Torah.
2. Repentance. Ideally one must keep the Torah, but there is no man on earth who only does good and never sins. Therefore, after the Torah comes repentance. Fifty days after Yom Kippur comes Sigd. It is a day of fasting and repentance, because it is not enough to only repent on Yom Kippur. We have to repent all the time, every day and every moment. And just as we count fifty days from Pesach to Shavuot, so do we count fifty days from Yom Kippur to Sigd, which is a sort of “Mini Shavuot”. Let us derive strength from the Mitzvot.
3. Covenant. God forged an everlasting covenant with His people. Even when we sin and fall, we are still God's people. Every year we must renew the covenant. As the book of Nechemiah teaches:
“On the 24th day of this month, the Israelites assembled, fasting, in sackcloth, and with earth upon them. Those of the stock of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the inequities of their fathers. Standing in their places, they read from the scroll of the teaching of Hashem their G-d for one quarter of the day, and for another quarter they confessed and prostrated themselves before Hashem their G-d” (Nechemiah 9:1-3).
With the return to the Land of Israel, the covenant was renewed between God and His Nation. Likewise, down through the generations, every year there is the Sigd holiday which represents the renewal of the covenant between the Jewish People and G-d, the “Amana” ceremony, a day of prayer for the sake of Israel's redemption. In our own day, we see that all the prayers recited about redemption and about Jerusalem spoke the truth, and now the vision is being fulfilled before our eyes.
4. Unity. All of us, all of the Ethiopians, climb the mountain together. We are united. And now, not just Ethiopians, but the entire Jewish People. Once more we are seeing the fulfillment of "who is like your nation Israel, a united nation in the Land” (Shmuel 2 7:23).
The process of reunification is no simple task. It contains many difficulties, but we are moving forward.
5. Rejection of Christianity. In the year 4085, about 1700 years ago, the Habashite Empire was proclaimed by the king as a Christian country. Then began a civil war between Habashite Christians and Jews, whom the regime called “Beta Yisrael”. The Ethiopian Jews, headed by Phineas, established a Jewish state, the kingdom of Beta Yisrael. The wars came to an end in about 4400, and King Gideon established the Sigd holiday as a means of saying thank you to G-d for His miracles. This Jewish kingdom existed for about 1300 years, until it was conquered by the Ethiopian empire. Certainly, that whole magnificent country and all of those wars so full of bravery, were born on the foundation of opposition to Christianity.
6. Valor. As noted, a Jewish kingdom existed in strength and valor for 1300 years, and now, such valor is returning to the Jewish people. We have excellent soldiers and officers – including many Ethiopians.
7. The Service of God. The purpose of all life is to serve God. Such is the meaning of the word “Sigd”, like Hebrew “lisgod”, to worship G-d, to bow down to G-d. That is the most important thing in life.

Shut SMS #138

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:

Garden Gnomes
Q: Is it permissible to put statues of dwarves (garden gnomes) in my garden?
A: Yes, if they are not complete figures. Shut Da'at Cohain (#65).

Electric Razors
Q: Is it permissible to use an electric razor?
A: The Chafetz Chaim forbids it since it is similar to a razor which gets close to the skin. Likutei Halachot Makkot. And all the more so today, when electric razors get even closer to the skin than before. Chazon Ish. Shevet Ha-Levi. Minchat Yitzchak 4:113. But some permit its use, provided that one not place the electric razor too close to the skin. Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Shut Orach Mishpat 128, 53. Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank. To determine whether it is far enough away, you should rub your hand over the skin to make sure you can still feel the scruff. Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Halichot Shlomo on Tefillah, chapter 2, p. 11. And there are those who permit using an electric razor if it cuts the hairs little-by-little and not a lot all at once, as this is not considered destroying the hairs of one’s beard. Techumin #14, #22. But this is a major innovation (There is a story about an American Orthodox activist - Mike Tress - who came to visit the Satmar Rebbe. The Rebbe’s students saw a clean-shaven Jew speaking about all sorts of Torah subjects with the Rebbe and were surprised. After he left, one of the students asked the Rebbe: who is this clean-shaven person who came to speak with the Rebbe? The Satmar Rebbe responded: "When that Jew ascends to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask him: "Jew, where is your beard?" But when you ascend to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask you: "Beard, where is your Jew?").

Unity among the Nation
Q: Does the unity we saw among the Nation during the process to free Gilad Schalit signify something, such as the arrival of the Redemption?
A: Baruch Hashem, the Redemption began 130 years old with the Return to Zion, the building of the Land, the establishment of the State and the return of the Torah to Eretz Yisrael. Unity also returned, and the greatest unity is found in Tzahal with the self-sacrifice of one for another.

Borrowing from a Borrower
Q: Is it permissible for me to borrow an object from someone who borrowed it from someone else?
A: No. You need permission from the lender.

Hands in Pockets during Davening
Q: Is it permissible to put my hands in my pockets during davening?
A: Certainly not. You must stand as if you are before a king.

Lengthening Prayer
Q: Should a Cohain who davens slowly, shorten his prayer to order to recite Birkat Cohanim?
A: It is preferable, since reciting Birkat Cohanim is a Torah Mitzvah.

Yashar Koach after Birkat Cohanim
Q: Should one say "Yashar Koach" to the Cohanim after Birkat Cohanim?
A: There is no obligation, but it is permissible. The important thing is not to yell it out, since doing so detracts from the holiness of the davening and the Shul. It should be said quietly. (Piskei Teshuvot 128 note #222).
Q: Can the Cohanim respond: "Beruchim Tehiyu" or is there a problem of "Bal Tosif" – adding to the Mitzvot – since instead of three blessings, they are now reciting a fourth?
A: They are not obligated, but it is permissible (see Shut Har Tzvi 1:62. Aruch Ha-Shulchan 128:24).

Kever David
Q: Is it permissible for Cohanim to enter the Kever of King David?
A: King David is not buried there, although it does seem that it is a Jewish grave. Ir Ha-Kodesh Ve-Ha-Mikdash of Ha-Rav Yechiel Michal Tukatinsky vol. 2, p. 79. Cohanim should therefore not enter.

Star of David
Q: What is the source for the Star of David in Judaism?
A: There is no source.

Avraham wearing a Kipah
Q: Did Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbenu wear a Kippah?
A: They wore a head covering which was even bigger than a kippah, since the Rambam writes in Hilchot De'ot (5:6) that covering one's head is a sign of modesty and they were extremely modest.

Eulogy: Ha-Gaon Rav Natan Tzvi Finkel ztz"l Obligates Us

One of the great Rabbis of our generation – Ha-Gaon Rav Natan Tzvi Finkel ztz"l, Rosh Yeshivat Mir – ascended on high. Yeshivat Mir is the largest Yeshiva in Israel, with approximately five thousand students. The only Yeshiva which is larger is Yeshivat Lakewood in America, which numbers some 6000 students.
Perhaps you will say: What is a yeshiva with 5000 students? No one knows anyone else!
There are two answers:
1. Not all 5000 students learn in one place. There are various sections. There is a section for students from America (about half of the students in the Mir Yeshiva come from America). There is even a section for Chasidic students, even though it is a Lithuanian Yeshiva, because many Satmar Chasidim come to learn there. And there are other sections as well.
2. The Rosh Yeshiva, through his incredible self-sacrifice, had regular contact and personal conversations with every student. He would daven Shacharit in the main Beit Midrash in the "Beit Yisrael" Neighborhood of Yerushalayim; he would give a class to the whole Yeshiva once a week; he would travel twice a week to a branch of the Yeshiva in Achuzat Brachfeld for the morning learning and Minchah; and he periodically delivered a class on Musar. The remainder of the time, he had personal conversations with students in his home. He even spoke with the new students who wanted to attend the Yeshiva. He knew every one of them. Every student who came for counsel was known to him: the Rosh Yeshiva knew who that student was, what had occurred in his life and even why he was coming to talk to him. On the whole, he displayed great self-sacrifice. After all, he is the great-grandson of the Saba Mi-Slabodka, who was also called Ha-Rav Natan Tzvi Finkel.
How did this Yeshiva grow in quantity and quality? I have not seen an explanation for this, but it seems that it was the case from the beginning. The Yeshivat Mir was established in Russia in 5575, approximately 200 years ago. It was then known as "The Yeshiva of Roshei Yeshivot", since many of its students became great Roshei Yeshiva: Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, Ha-Rav Shimon Shkop. Ha-Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (author of Shut Seridei Aish), Ha-Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Ha-Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg and many other great Torah scholars. Everyone knew that the Yeshiva drew great learners to it. There is therefore only one explanation for its success: They learned Torah. What is the big innovation there? The innovation is that it is possible to be involved with many different things in life and therefore not learn Torah. There are many important things to be involved with, but these are for before one learns in Yeshiva or after one leaves. When one is in Yeshiva, he should learn day and night.
My cousin's cousin learned in Yeshivat Mir. He once visited me when I was learning at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav and he ended up sleeping over. He said to me: "You know, in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, they learn Torah. I thought they were involved in Zionism all the time". He saw that guys were sitting and learning at one o’clock in the morning. He was surprised: "They lied to me. They told me that they don't learn here". By the way, this is not the only time that people said that they don't learn at Mercaz Ha-Rav. Other claim they are involved in politics all the time. There are many conditions and paths in order for one to become a Torah scholar. There are 48 ways of acquiring the Torah (see Pirkei Avot, chap. 6). But the first way is: Learning Torah.
A person can have all the right conditions, but he will not become a Torah scholar if he does not learn. In contrast, a person can have difficult conditions – no livelihood, no food, no Chevruta, etc. – but if he learns, he can become a Torah scholar. There are some things that are dependent upon external factors, such as one’s wealth, family size, length of life, etc., but the amount of Torah one learns depends on the individual himself. If one says that he toiled and found Torah – believe him (Megillah 6b). If one toils, he will become a Torah scholar.
There are many important things: Building Eretz Yisrael, serving in Tzahal, agriculture, etc., but devoting ourselves to learning Torah day and night is our greatest responsibility. There was a secret society established in the Volozhin Yeshiva called "Nes Tziona," which had the purpose of spreading the idea of settling the Land of Israel among the Nation. A group of students signed a document describing its activities. Maran Ha-Rav Kook's signature did not appear on it even though he was learning there at the time. Someone once asked our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, why Maran Ha-Rav Kook was not part of it. He answered innocently: "He was learning Torah…" (see Tal Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 68).
The Gemara in Yoma (35b) writes that when a poor person comes to give a Divine accounting in the World to Come, he will be asked: Why didn't you involve yourself with learning Torah? If he says: I was poor and busy trying to make a living, the Heavenly Court will respond: Hillel obligates you! Were you poorer than him? Hillel worked every day and made a minuscule amount of money, half of which he would give to the guard at the door to the Beit Midrash to gain entrance and half of which he used to support his family. Hillel was extremely poor and displayed self-sacrifice to learn Torah. And when a wealthy person comes to give a Divine accounting in the World to Come, he will be asked: Why didn't you involve yourself with learning Torah? If he says: I was wealthy and busy taking care of all of my belongings and property, the Heavenly Court will respond: Rabbi Elezar ben Charsom obligates you! Where you wealthier than him? He was extremely wealthy and nonetheless dedicated himself to learning Torah.
We therefore learn that Hillel obligates the poor and Rabbi Elezar ben Charsom obligates the wealthy to be involved with learning Torah, i.e. there are no excuses for one who is not involved with Torah learning.
We heard that Ha-Rav Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, eulogized Ha-Rav Finkel based on this Gemara from two different perspectives:
1. Ha-Rav Finkel grew up in Chicago, in America, and was – in many ways – a regular American kid. He learned in a Jewish High School, but it was co-ed, he was a star on the basketball team, he was called Nati Finkel. He then came to learn in Israel. He learned and learned and grew into a great Torah scholar. Ha-Rav Finkel therefore obligates all those who grow up in an environment that is not the most religious.
2. Although it has been written that he died suddenly, this is not exactly the case. Ha-Rav Finkel suffered from Parkinson's Disease for many years. He nonetheless remained a world-class Torah scholar, had a personal connection with his students, and would travel to America to raise money for the Yeshiva in order to support its incredible growth. Despite being only 56 years old, and already having been ill, Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv declared that Ha-Rav Finkel should be appointed a member of the Counsel of Torah Sages on account of his great activities in the Torah world. He did not cease learning, teaching, raising money, building the Yeshiva, etc. because of his illness. He also did not take medicine, because memory loss was a possible side effect, and he was unwilling to risk forgetting his Torah learning. Ha-Rav Finkel therefore obligates all those who have difficulties in life.
It thus appears that Yeshivat Mir’s great quantity and quality is in the merit of this exclusive devotion to Torah learning. We also need to be completely devoted to Torah learning. When a person learns in Yeshiva, he must be solely committed to learning Torah. Only afterwards should each person occupy himself with other Mitzvot, on the strength of the Torah he learned in Yeshiva.

Street Named for Rav Aviner in Be'er Sheva!

The Balance of Terror

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayera 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: If, G-d forbid, the army and police come to expel us from our homes, can we wage a violent struggle? Obviously I am against violence and I don’t love violence, but what if for lack of any choice they evacuate us by force? Must I remain passive? If we use force in return, it may well deter them the next time. A balance of terror!
Answer: My dear friend, you suggest a balance of terror and argue that this is an effective method. Indeed, such is the situation that reigned for a long time between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both were afraid of war, and both understood that for both of them it would be a catastrophe. Therefore, the balance of terror prevented a Cold War from turning into a real war.
Yet this idea presents us with several questions:
1. A balance of terror is liable to lead us down a slippery slope and bring on an escalation. An example of this would be the balance of terror between our country and the terrorists in Lebanon, with each side not being interested in a broader struggle. Hence the conflict remained on a low flame, as a low-intensity conflict. The terrorists continued their terror acts, but they were careful not to go too far. They walked a thin line. Yet the balance of terror was broken in 5766 and it quickly led to the Second Lebanon War, and to great damage.
The lesson: If there is no real peace, and moderate violence reigns in its place, the moment one side goes too far, all hell can break lose.
2. What “force” would you like to use against the army? Do you really think you can beat them? Don’t you know that the army can throw one tear gas canister and everyone will flee? Do you really think that the I.D.F., which defends us against 300 million Arabs cannot overcome 300 or 3,000 people?! And I don’t want to mention the terrible possibility that instead of removing the fish from the sea, which isn’t easy, because they escape every which way, it could be easier to just remove the sea from the fish. In other words, the army could cease to guard the settlements, and then the Arabs would attack. The Government could turn off the water and electricity, and not let people travel on the roads. How many senior politicians have hinted at this and then denied it? Truthfully, I do not believe that someone would dare to do this. The point is, however, that you don’t have more power than the army and the police.
This reminds me of the story of Herschel of Ostropol, a beggar of Yiddish lore. One time a restaurant refused to give him a free meal. He threatened, “If you don’t let me eat, I’ll do what my father did in this situation.” The restaurant grew alarmed and let him eat. Afterwards they asked him, “What did your father do?” and he answered, “He went to bed hungry…”
3. A third problem, and this is the most serious, is this: The concept of a “balance of terror” is applicable between enemies. Here, we are friends. We and the army and the police and the Jewish State and the government are all friends. Sometimes our opinions are divided, but not our hearts. We are one people. Perhaps, my friend, you don’t look at it this way. Perhaps you think that the government and the army that executes its decisions are the enemy of Eretz Yisrael, and if so, war is war. Perhaps you associate yourself with those who call policemen Nazis, or hint that they are Nazis, or compare them to Nazis. As one boy asked me, perhaps with feigned innocence, “I understand that we’re not allowed to say ‘Nazis’, but are we allowed to think ‘Nazis’?” And I innocently answered him, “You can’t think it either.” So then he said, “But they really are Nazis!” I don’t know where he got such ideas. Therefore, you’ve got to realize something: None of them are Nazis! One time at one of the big demonstrations to stop the expulsion from Gush Katif, Knesset Member Scharansky said, “Don’t say ‘Bolsheviks’! You don’t know what Bolsheviks are! I do know! It’s true that what is happening right now is very bad, but it’s not Bolsheviks!”
And I say: Don’t say Nazis! Don’t say it. Don’t hint it. Don’t imply it. Don’t think it.
Maybe you don’t know what Nazis are. I know a little bit, because some of my family perished in the Holocaust, and as an infant I was hidden so that I wouldn’t end up in an extermination camp. So once and for all, remove this expression from parlance about Jews.
But I say a lot more than that: All of these people are our friends. We are friends! We have our differences, but we are friends. We are brothers. Remember that, once and for all – we are brothers.
You might ask: What do I suggest? I’ve been answering this question for more than thirty years, and Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook has been answering it for a hundred years. I’ll repeat it now for the thousandth time: Be strong.

Shut SMS #137

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Prophesying the Future
Q: I saw a report that someone prophesied about future events, such as the collapse of America. Is it possible that this is true?
A: Nonsense. Prophecy ceased. Baba Batra 14.

Q: What is the source for the idea that fasting erases a third of a person’s transgressions?
A: There is no source.

Overweight Woman
Q: Why am I ugly because I am overweight? It is sad. Everyone laughs at me. I was rejected by Shiduchim more than once on account of my weight. Now I am married, but my mother-in-law told me that I am shockingly ugly. After a few children, I am even more overweight. Why are overweight people doomed to be sad and considered not pretty?
A: Where does it say in the Torah that someone who is overweight is not pretty? The men who were not interested in you for this reason are stupid, and are captives of Hollywood fashion. The greater painters Rembrandt and Rubens saw immense beauty in overweight women, and painted them in wondrous light. In your husband’s eyes, you are the most beautiful woman in the world- otherwise he would not have married you. A thin woman does not possess any advantage over an overweight woman! None! Overweight is also beautiful.

Q: Is it permissible for a woman to wear a wig?
A: Some forbid it, and others permit it on condition that it is simple and modest - not like the wigs worn today (Shut She’eilat Shlomo 1:442, 3:416).

Seating at Wedding
Q: Should there be separate seating for men and women at a wedding?
A: Yes. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:1.

Pregnant Woman in Cemetery
Q: What is the source for pregnant women refraining from entering a cemetery?
A: Sefer Ma'avar Yabok. But the accepted Halachah is that she is permitted to enter (Neta'ai Gavriel – Avelut 84:4. Shut Minchat Yitzchak 10:42 #2).

Communal Struggles
Q: Is there justification for destroying the possessions of left-wing activists?
A: The main principle of communal struggles, and life in general, is that we do not fulfill a Mitzvah through a transgression. Violence, insults and hatred are transgressions.

Scuba Diving
Q: Is it permissible to participate in a scuba diving course in Eilat?
A: Yes, on condition that it is modest and not dangerous.

Q: Does one recite Tefilat Ha-Derech for traveling in a tank?
A: Yes. There is danger in traveling even a short distance.

Tzahal Uniform
Q: Based on the law that one must daven in clothing that one would wear when standing before a king, is it permissible to daven in a Tzahal uniform?
A: Certainly. This may be the most honorable clothing we have. And see Shut Avnei Yespeh 8:29 #5 (It is related that at the time of his wedding, Ha-Rav Shear Yashuv Cohain [current Chief Rabbi of Haifa] was serving as a Rabbi in the Army, and came to his wedding in Yerushalayim wearing his Tzahal uniform. Some people there did not look upon this positively. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook was surprised by their reactions, "Wearing the clothing of a Russian nobleman - this is appropriate?! But wearing the uniform of Tzeva Haganah Le-Yisrael - the Israel Defense Force - this is not appropriate?!"
Tal Chermon – Moadim, p. 135).

Q: After the release of Gild Schalit, I do not understand why the Americans do not release Jonathan Pollard.
A: It is indeed not understandable. They have been committing a travesty for 26 years. We must pray that in the end he will be released.

Q: Is it permissible for one to shave his head bald?
A: Yes, except for his Pe'ot which he must leave a length of 5 millimeters.

Ahavat Yisrael
Q: Why doesn't the Shulchan Aruch quote the Mitzvah of "Love your fellow as yourself"?
A: He does not bring things which are simple and known. But the Magen Avraham quotes it in chap. 156.

Q: How can we explain that there are all kinds of mystical people who prophesy about future events that really do occur?
A: They only say approximately what will occur and not exactly. See Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei Ha-Torah 10:3.

Q: Is it permissible to imitate a person's voice?
A: On condition that you are positive that he will not be offended.

Children in Shul
Q: Where is it written in the Shulchan Aruch that one should not bring disruptive children to Shul?
A: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 98. Mishnah Berurah #3.

Parashat Vayera: Avraham's Will Indicates G-d's Will

[Tal Chermon]

Avraham's discussion with Hashem over the inhabitants of Sedom was not a prayer or a petition – it was a debate. Avraham argued with Him, saying: it is inconceivable and sacrilegious that the judge of the entire universe should perform such an unjust act (Bereshit 18:25). This debate in fact paralleled the deliberations that were taking place in the Heavenly Court on the fate of Sedom (Sha'arei Orah). While different Divine attributes, so to speak, were hammering out the issue above, Avraham was like a radio receiver with a large antenna, receiving the heavenly broadcast. He then acted as the mouthpiece for the quality of kindness. Because of his close affinity to, his love of and his faith in G-d, G-d revealed His own will through him, so that Avraham was in fact expressing Hashem's own inner will.
This is the reason that the righteous are able to decree, and Hashem fulfills their desire (See Shabbat 59b and Taanit 23a). Or, in even more extreme cases, that the righteous are able to overturn G-d’s decree (Moed Katan 16a). All this does not mean, G-d forbid, that G-d wants one thing, while the righteous wants another and that Hashem changes His mind. No, there can be no inner change in the essence of G-d or of His will. Simply, the righteous person's will is one aspect of G-d's will and he expresses this particular point vocally.
This is also the explanation for why a curse pronounced by a Torah scholar, even if undeserved, is fulfilled (Makkot 11a and elsewhere). The curse is really a Divine protest against a particular state of affairs. And even though not all the conditions for its implementation apply, the protest stands. As, for example, when King David excavated the foundation of the Temple, the waters of the depth surged up and wanted to flood the world. King David thought of inscribing the Divine Name on a shard and casting it into the depths in order to quell the waters. There was, however, a halachic doubt: did the saving of the world justify the erasing of the Divine Name that would inevitably result from casting the shard into the depths? King David asked if anyone knew the answer, but no one replied. Only when King David threatened that anyone who knew the Halachah but did not speak up would be strangled, did Achitopel respond and say that it was permitted. Despite the fact that Achitopel revealed the answer in the end, King David's curse (inspired by a spark of the Divine will) clung to him and Achitopel died by strangulation (As described in Shmuel 2 17:23). This happened because Achitophel was in essence a negative personality, even though he did not act criminally on this specific occasion.
And thus we see that Avraham is a truly righteous person, whose own will is a faithful reflection of the Divine will.