Parashat Terumah: Do Not Ascend Onto the Mountain – Part 1

Recorded from two conversations with our Teacher and Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Tau Shlit"a – Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Ha-Mor in Yerushalayim
[Sefer Le-Mikdashech Tuv, pp. 177-187]

First Conversation
Q: Is there a problem with us praying in hall in the "Machkameh" (court building), which is located within the wall of the Temple Mount, under special circumstances such as Yom Kippur after immersion in a Mikveh.
A: This is not appropriate for our level. Have we already fulfilled all of the other laws?!

Q: During the First and Second Temple Periods ordinary Jews also entered there.
A: At that time, the entire generation was on a different level (see the works of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook - Orot, Le-Mahalach Ha-Edei’ot and Mamrei Ha-Re’eiyah, Derech Ha-Techiya).

Q: There are some Rishonim (early authorities) who mention that it is permissible to enter there.
A: We do not rule that way. In Shut Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 15, pg. 84), it is brought in the name of Rabbi Meir Auerbach, that the Holy One, Blessed be He, performed a kindness when He placed boulders in our way in order not to allow going onto the Temple Mount, because, if it were not so, who would stop one who says "I hold like the Ra’avad" (according to his opinion there is no punishment of Karet - Divine excision – in entering the Temple Mount, but see Shut Mishpat Cohain of Maran Ha-Rav #96 that it is forbidden even according to his view).

Q: Does he mean that if Divine Providence prevents us from entering the Temple Mount, this testifies to the fact that this is not appropriate for the level of this generation, which is similar to the words of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, that removal of the permission to judge monetary cases (by the Romans) testifies that we were not suitable for it (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 7:2 and Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 1, 20)?
A: Yes.

Q: But don’t we have to enter the Temple Mount in order to demonstrate our presence, based on the law of "Conquering [the Land]"?
A: The conquest will occur on account of the fear of Heaven. On the contrary, entering is capable of making the Temple Mount into a cheap item. Regarding the Kotel as well, one should be careful not to transform it into an everyday item. There are those who come to the Kotel every day, chat there, and bother those who come there in the proper frame of mind. The desire to pray there stems from the inhaling of pettiness. They will begin petty disputes and quarrels in the midst of the Temple Mount itself. All of Israel must arrive like one man with one heart in order to enter there, when we will be suitable for this level and not by simply jumping in. Praying on the Temple Mount is certainly not a requirement but rather an act of piety, and why would you perform this pious behavior, if the Chief Rabbis do not act in this way?

Q: Perhaps it is incumbent on us, those who live and learn at the foot of the Temple Mount, upon whom a special obligation devolves, since we are like "experts" regarding this issue?
A: You are experts in relating to the Temple Mount out of "Rejoicing in trembling" (Tehillim 2:11).

[To be continued next week, B"H]

Gentle Education for a Gentle Age

Before a child reaches the age of education, which is approximately 6, one should direct his physical, emotional, and intellectual growth in a gentle fashion. In a certain sense, one should pamper him. The Gemara tells of one Sage who would buy his son old earthenware pots so he could play with them. This Sage understood that a child sometimes needs to break things while playing in order to build his character. We say to a frightened mother whose son climbs a tree and falls, that it is better for him to get injured on his knee than sustain an injury on his character.
Two Sages who lived in Tzefat four hundred years ago, Rabbi Eliyahu Davidash and Rabbi Moshe ben Machir, both warn in their books not to put pressure on a child before the age of 6 but rather to worry about his needs.
A proof for this idea is from one Sage in the Gemara who was 80 years ago and could stand
on one leg, and take off and put on a shoe on the other leg. When ask where he had to strength to do this, he responded that it is a result of the warm baths and lubricating oil his mother gave him in his youth (Chulin 24b).

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #30-31

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

Day #30
There is a well known Midrash that when the Egyptians were drowning in the sea, the angels started singing songs of praise to Hashem. Hashem got angry at them and said, "My creations are drowning and you are singing?" So how could Moshe Rabbenu and the whole Jewish People sing praises while all this was happening?
The answer is that this is no problem. The angels were not to sing. Moshe Rabbenu was to sing! This is no wonder. The angels did not have their babies thrown into the river and did not suffer. The Jewish People experienced all of this and so when our enemies were defeated we had to sing praises to Hashem for His great miracle. The same is true today when we rejoice at Hashem causing our enemies to be defeated.

Day #31
As part of the Song at the Sea, and later in the last blessing of Shema, we say "Mi Chamocha" - Who is like Hashem among the gods. Is Hashem among the gods? Are there other gods? Of course not! The Egyptians believed in many gods. When Hashem strikes a nation, it is also as if he is striking against their false gods. They see that those gods could not save them. They see that all their beliefs were wrong. So here we are singing that Hashem is really the only G-d and the victory of Egypt showed that the Egyptian gods were nothing. Hashem is the great and Holy G-d.

I am Founding a Large Movement

[Be-Ahava U-Be-Emuna – Mishpatim 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

I am establishing a large movement, a gigantic movement, the largest movement of the Jewish People. The movement will be called, “The Real, Serious, Loyal, Devoted Jewish People.” It will consist of the vast majority of the Jewish People, almost all of it.
Actually, this large movement has been around for a long time already, and it has had enormous accomplishments: the building of the Land, the return to Zion, the establishment of the Jewish State, Israel’s victories in wars, the restoration of Torah to the Land of Israel and the restoration and unification of the Jewish People in Israel.
Actually, the movement has always been around. I’d just like to air it out, in Rashi’s words, “to review some old material.” It’s very important to review these things thousands of times to protect ourselves from those who wish to confuse us by means of various editorials and other newspaper articles, by means of repeated manipulations and lies, until they, so to speak, become the truth. Our own information, by contrast, derives from serious, true surveys, and from these it emerges 100 percent clearly that: the Jewish People are a religious Nation, and they are nationalistic!
Obviously, regarding the term “religious”, we have to adopt a bit of patience and tolerance. There are religious people without Tzitzit and there are religious people without a Kippa. There are even religious people who go to services on Shabbat morning and then drive to the beach. This requires rectification, but on the other hand, the person in question may be good and upright and a performer of kind deeds. That’s religiosity too, isn’t it? You’ve got to realize that this person is wearing an invisible head covering – the sky above our heads. You’ve got to realize that the Jewish People harbor enormous belief deep within their souls, and evince a great deal of religiosity in their deeds.
Yet they’ve been told so many times that they are outside the fold that they’ve begun to believe that canard. The Jewish People are nationalists in the straightforward honest sense of devotion to the Land, the entire Land. Yes! The entire Land! The Nation that dwells in Zion views partitioning of the Land as a destruction and the partition of Jerusalem as the very worst destruction possible. It is not tempted by the enormous fraud that claims that "the settlers are four percent but they trample our hopes for peace, hence they must evacuate their homes."
It is clear to the Jewish People that the Land is not a matter that concerns only the settlers, but the entire Nation. They realize that Israel has not returned to its land just to find a safe haven in some tiny piece of land that will be called “the State of Israel”, but to be born anew and renew its days as of old. They do not believe for a moment in the illusory, fraudulent “peace train” that, so to speak, has set out from the station but is not heading anywhere. It only blares warnings about the Jewish People having to concede its demands to its Land. One need not be right wing to think this way. It’s enough to be a normal Ben-Gurionist.
The People dwelling in Zion are healthy and strong. They are not tired. Rather, they are full of faith. They will not sell out portions of their land or their capital for a mess of pottage or in response to threats. They aren’t even afraid of the atomic threat from Iran, and that itself distances this threat.
By way of comparison, when Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, bombed London, the resulting panic caused more deaths than the bombings themselves. When the Londoners overcame their exaggerated fears, life largely returned to normal. Thus, our own people, who are fashioned of a fearless cloth, are right. Have you any idea how many deaths, G-d forbid, could result from an atomic blast falling in the most crowded part of our country, our holy city Tel Aviv? Half a million? A hundred thousand? Fifty thousand? None of the above.
According to expert opinion, even the sort of atom bomb that Iran is preparing, if it fell in the most crowded area of our country, the holy city of Tel-Aviv, with proper preparation by the home command, would cause less than ten thousand dead. Obviously, even ten thousand is a lot, and even one thousand, and even a hundred and even ten and even one, but it does not mean the destruction of the city or the country, and it does not constitute an existential threat.
This being the case, why were over 100,000 people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
For several reasons:
1. The greatest cause of damage was the shock of the blast, because of the simple wood construction of most homes. In our case, however, there are bomb shelters, sealed rooms and strong construction.
2. Fires spread out of control due to the construction using inflammable materials. In our case, homes are made of cement.
3. People drank the radioactive water that fell from the clouds after absorbing radioactive fallout.
4. The air-raid sirens were not sounded and people continued to circulate. We have sophisticated air-raid sirens (the fly-time from Iran to here for an approaching bomb is more than ten minutes).
And what about the people who died of radiation in Japan during subsequent years? It was 1,200 people.
All of the preceding assumes that we will not succeed in activating our “Iron Dome” anti-missile system. In any event, we should not go into a panic and we should not collapse for fear of such levels of death, and we won’t do it. Hence, it already is not worth it for the enemy to send a bomb that will result in a harsh counter attack. Everyone knows that we’ve got an arsenal of several hundred Jericho missiles with atomic warheads….
How fortunate we are! We are a heroic people, a people of belief and trust in G-d, a people that loves its entire land. We are not a frightened people, cowering in a bomb shelter, but a people that has been redeemed. Our people does not always know what is happening in Judea and Samaria, but when they find out, they don’t relate to it as the individual problem of a handful of settlers, but as a matter of national strength, national health and national honor. They certainly will not abandon Jerusalem our capital.
As for those brethren lacking national and moral responsibility, trapped in their fears and ready to for all sorts of concessions, that minuscule minority that comes out with headlines about two states for two peoples, they are not where the gigantic Jewish People are. The Jewish People will never accept such suggestions. The Jewish People are Zionists!
The Haredim as well are Zionists, in their own way. After all, they live here and build here. Our great Nation sees that it is living here with enormous miracles – not bizarre miracles that break the laws of nature, but miracles in harmony with nature. The Jewish People harbor great faith. We saw this in Operations Cast Lead, and many other times. Our people all believe that they have been born anew, that they have been recreated as in days of old. They are full of vitality and strength. They believe that they are moving forward and not backwards, and their belief is the secret of their enduring.

Shut SMS #100!!!

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text messages questions a day! Here's a sample:
Text Message Responsa
Q: I haven't seen [the equivalent of ] text message responsa (i.e. short Q&A) among the Ultra-Orthodox.
A: You haven't looked well enough. For example, there are many volumes of rulings from Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski which have even shorter answers than those of text messages.

Divine Providence
Q: If a person is seriously injured, why do doctors care for him? Aren’t they interfering with Hashem's will?
A: It is also Hashem's will that they heal him, as it is written: "And he should surely heal" (Shemot 25:19. Baba Kama 85b).

Comforting Mourners
Q: Is it true that if I attended a wedding, it is forbidden for me to comfort mourners for a month's time?
A: Incorrect.

A: I dreamt that my father appeared to me and asked me to pay a certain amount of money to a particular person. Should I?
A: Only if you actually owe him money.

Meat and Milk for an Animal
Q: Is it permissible to feed a dog meat and milk?
A: It is forbidden if they were cooked together, since it is forbidden to benefit from such a mixture. But it is permissible if they were mixed while cold (Chulin 113a).
Q: Same with fish and meat?
A: Also permissible (Pesachim 76b).

Q: If one smokes and dies from cancer, is it considered suicide?
A: No, since not everyone who smokes dies from it, and smoking is not an immediate risk. But it is certainly forbidden.

A Single Woman's Hair
Q: Is a single woman obligated to have her hair in a pony tail?
A: This is a stricture. The essence is that her hair is not eye-catching.

Purchases before Birth
Q: Is there a problem with buying items for a baby before he is born?
A: There is no problem.

Knocking on Wood
Q: Is it permissible to knock on wood when hearing bad news?
A: No. That is superstition: knocking to idol worship and Christianity.

Evil Inclination
Q: Why is the evil inclination so strong?
A: In order for us to fight it and elevate ourselves towards Hashem.

Down’s Syndrome
Q: Can a man with Down’s Syndrome receive an Aliyah?
A: Yes, if he reads and understands.

Babylonian Talmud
Q: Why does the Halachah follow the Babylonian Talmud more than the Jerusalem Talmud?
A: The Halachah follows the later opinion. See the Rif at the end of Eruvin.

Christian Money
Q: Is it permissible to send my son to learn in an institution which receives money from a Christian organization?
A: It is forbidden to receive money from them, but the institution also receives other, Kosher, money. It is therefore permissible to learn there.

Q: Is it true that Maran Ha-Rav Kook believed in Evolution?
A: No. He only said that it does not contradict the Torah. He also said that the theory of Evolution needs to evolve (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah 1, 91).

Organ Donation
Q: If a person donates his organs after he dies, will he be resurrected with those organs?
A: Yes, with all of his organs, including those which quickly disintegrate into the dirt. Those which he donated will have additional light.

Non-Jews in the Resurrection of the Dead
Q: Will non-Jews be resurrected?
A: Yes. The righteous gentiles have a share in the World to Come.

Spiritual Decline
Q: I suddenly have a feeling of spiritual emptiness without having sinned. Why did this happen?
A: It is a test, an opportunity to serve Hashem for its own sake and not for spiritual pleasure. Be strong and courageous.

Evil Eye
Q: I have had an illness for many years and it is becoming more severe. I have tried everything, and am in despair. I don't believe in the evil eye, but feel that this is it. What should I do?
A: This is not the evil eye. You can call me.

Parashat Mishpatim: "After the Majority" (23:2)

Minority and Majority Opinion
[Sefer Am Ve-Artzo vol. 1, #11]

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

Respect for Young Children

A young child is weak both physically and spiritually, and it is possible that he is offended when someone points out his weakness. Do not forget that he has other qualities which adults lack. A child has an incredible ability to learn. It is difficult for adults to learn new things or to change our behavior. We tend to stubbornly tow the familiar line. But a child has the ability to learn and change. We must express our respect for these talents.
The fact that a child is physically weak means that we do not have to be overly worried. For example, he does not have to finish everything on his plate…
As a child develops, he will grow physically and spiritually. But as a child, he is weak and has yet to over his outer and inner enemies. He has yet to overcome his inclinations and feelings, and control them.
When a child is still weak, we must create rings of protection around him, in order that nothing bothers him. This stage comes before educating him.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #28-29

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

After reciting all of the Tehillim in Psukei Dezimra we now say "Baruch Hashem Le-Olam Amen Ve-Amen." We believe that Hashem is blessed and is the source of blessing forever. We then say that He is blessed from Tzion. Hashem’s blessings are especially revealed in Yerushalayim and throughout Eretz Yisrael. He is blessed as the G-d of Yisrael, as Hashem has a special relationship with us. And once we have this special relationship, and this special relationship is in Eretz Yisrael, then His glory will fill the entire world.

We say Shirat haYam towards the end of Psukei Dezimra. We try to feel as if we are crossing the Yam Suf. We remember this awesome miracle that occurred. As we know, the sea did not split automatically. We needed to actually walk into the sea. We needed to be moser nefesh - be willing to sacrifice ourselves for Hashem. Only once we showed great emunah - faith- that Hashem would do this miracle did He actually do it. Every Jew reached, for that moment, the level of being a prophet. When we said "Zeh Keli – This is my G-d" we actually were able to point and identify what we saw. Since we were moser nefesh we merited an incredible connection with Hashem. We don’t want that connection to go away. We say "We raise up and glorify Hashem." That is the purpose of our entire lives and the lives of all Klal Yisrael forever. We want to raise the honor of Hashem in this world.

Should Rabbis Intervene in Politics?

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

Question: Is it proper that rabbis engage in politics? Maybe their job is to engage in Torah study and in exalting the individual in his private life, which obviously will bring great blessing to the nation. Maybe they shouldn't be engaging in general communal matters, let alone weighty, controversial questions affecting the public, when they receive their salaries from the state.
Answer: Indeed there is such an approach which argues: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto G-d the things that are G-d’s.” The government will deal with state matters in this world, and the clergy will deal with matters of the soul and the World-to-Come. This is the well-known Christian approach, advanced by Jesus to our Sages the "Pharisees".
The problem is that, in the meantime, we as individuals live in this world, in this country, and we intend to remain here for a long time, as long as G-d, in His kindness, lets us. And the problem is that precisely by means of what happens in this world, we arrive in the World-to-Come. (Mesilat Yesharim chapter 1).
The problem is that our ideal is not just heaven but also earth, following the precedent of Avraham, who was commanded, "Go forth to your land" (Bereshit 12:1). Likewise, Moshe was commanded by G-d, "You have remained near this mountain too long. Turn around and head towards the Amorite highlands…. See! I have placed the land before you” (Devarim 1:6, 8). This is the special quality of our Torah. There is not only a Torah for the individual, but a Torah for public affairs, as well. More precisely, there is both the Torah of the public and a Torah of the individual. Or, even more precisely, there is a Torah of the individual that derives from the public Torah.
What, after all, is “politics”? It is a Greek word meaning, "the conduct of the city". And in its expanded meaning, it connotes the conduct of the nation, of the country.
Therefore, not only are rabbis permitted to engage in this -- they are obligated to. They bear spiritual responsibility not just for the individual but for the community.
Obviously, the issue here is not the political details and technicalities, but political philosophy. As an example, a rabbi does not deal with medicine, but with medical ethics. He is not an economist, but he deals with business ethics. He is not a military commander, but he defines the legitimate use of weaponry.
The rabbi engages in politics in the sense of guiding the nation and the country, the purview of men of the spirit. The politicians themselves have a narrow perspective. They lack the tools to solve general problems touching on the historic, ethical, and spiritual. That is the task of Torah scholars.
Towards that end, the rabbis have to be familiar with the facts and the problems. They have to know the institutions involved, be able to make value judgments, and to know when historic processes are taking place. In a word, they have to be pedagogues of the nation.
Obviously, even the political technocrats have to be honest people dealing faithfully with the needs of the public -- they can't be sunk in the deep mire of unethical political back-scratching. Yet even if they are faithful public servants, they cannot rise up to the exalted role of fashioning a society the way a Torah scholar can. The Torah scholar can be classified as an idealist-realist. Therefore, men of the spirit were always involved in politics, starting with the prophets, and on through the sages. In other words, rabbis must know the reality well, they must establish what the goal is, and they must sketch out a plan. This is called educating the nation.
With this comes an answer to the question: what should rabbis who receive a salary from the state do if government institutions order them to remain silent on political matters?
It's very simple. They should continue to talk, as our prophets did, as well as our Sages down through the generations, even in the exile.
There was the case of Rabbi Menasha of Ilya who expressed sharp criticism of the Russian regime for its “Cantonist” decree, by which ten-year-old Jewish children were drafted into the army for twenty-five years under the aegis of the tzar’s “Russification” program. Jewish communal leaders pronounced that because he was an official rabbi of the community, receiving a salary, he was not allowed to express himself in this matter. That great Torah scholar, a disciple-contemporary of the Vilna Gaon, responded, “If so, I quit this minute. I am no longer your official rabbi. I want no salary, and I shall say everything I want and must say.”
That is how our rabbis should conduct themselves now. It is also very logical and essential. A rabbi’s influence does not depend on his official appointment. He can’t force anything on anyone. He only teaches Torah, and only to those minds and hearts that want to hear it. If so, his quitting does not mean that he will stop talking and influencing, but only that he will stop receiving money for it. What emerges is that if he agrees to remain silent for the sake of money, he can no longer be classified as one who “hates profit”, and that constitutes a substantial flaw. By such means, obviously, he will lose the public trust, which will view its spiritual leaders as filtering their words in a filter of silver.
Therefore, if a nightmare ever comes true of rabbis being forbidden to speak out on public issues, they will have no choice but to resign and support themselves through other holy works. Then they will be able to express themselves freely.
Obviously, there may well be rabbis who will not speak out on public matters because they do not understand them, and they are certainly right in remaining silent, because they don’t understand.
What a shame they don’t understand, however, since such issues are part of their duty. Likewise, rabbis can also make mistakes. Indeed, rabbis must study each issue in depth before commenting, but that does not exempt them from the duty of studying and understanding. Rabbis may also have trouble drawing the line between public issues and the technical side of politics, and that is an error as well.
Generally, however, rabbis are definitely required to involve themselves in politics, and that, despite their receiving a public salary. Rather, the very fact that they receive a salary intensifies their duty to worry about the country.
We are quite familiar with the approach according to which religion should be kept separate from the state, and should shirk its responsibility to rectify injustice. In that regard Karl Marx said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world”; and, “The aim of religion is to anesthetize the people’s political consciousness, to describe to them an illusory world transcending the contentment that can be found here. It accustoms man to a world without a soul.”
Yet that is not our way. When Rabbenu, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook was asked whether it was good for rabbis to intervene in politics, he responded, “It’s very good! According to the Torah, they are obligated to intervene. If they don’t, they’re traitors! The Torah says, ‘Fear no man’ (Devarim1:17).” (from the introduction to the book, “Bama’aracha Ha-tzibburit”).
Another time when people argued that things he had said had stirred up a public debate, and that rabbis shouldn’t engage in politics, he responded: ‘I don’t ask anybody’s permission. Whatever is truth and justice I am obligated to publicize, in accordance with the Torah. The politics of the Jewish People constitutes Torah. It is holy.”

Shut SMS #99

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text messages questions a day! Here's a sample:
Stealing from a Thief
Q: Is it permissible for me to steal from someone who stole from me, since "one who steals from a thief is exempt"?
A: One is exempt from "Kefel" paying back double (the punishment for stealing in this case), but not from the theft itself (Baba Kama 69b and Chazon Ish, Choshen Mishpat 15:6).

Postpartum Depression
Q: I wanted a baby so much before and during my pregnancy, and now I feel that I do not love him. Taking care of him is just a burden. In general, I do not enjoy anything. In what way did I sin?
A: You did not sin. This is postpartum depression, a known phenomenon, which affects 10%-15% of women. Turn to a psychologist. It will work out.

Q: It is permissible to sit on a table?
A: It is not proper to do so (a table is compared to an altar, based on Yechezkel 41:22).

Q: Is a compass for finding the direction muktze on Shabbat?
A: No. It is permissible to use it.

Maaser Kesafim
Q: Is a gift to a bride and groom considered Maaser?
A: No. Unless the couple is poor, and this is the reason you are giving it to them. Maaser is only for the poor.

Nursing in Shul
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to nurse in the women's section of a Shul when she is covered?
A: Yes. There is no infringement on the holiness of the women's section.

Chanukat Ha-Bayit
Q: Is there an obligation to have a Chanukat Ha-Bayit?
A: There is a proper minhag that the first use of a house is a holy one, i.e. learning Torah or prayer, but there is no obligation to invite people to participate in this.

Biblical Criticism
Q: Is it permissible to teach Tanach with Biblical Criticism in a secular school to make a living?
A: G-d forbid. It is heresy.

Shetayim Mikra
Q: Is it permissible to learn Shetayim Mikra Ve-Echad Targum with Rashi's commentary instead of the Aramaic Targum?
A: Yes. Or any another commentary (Mishnah Berurah 285:5).

Learning During Repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei
Q: Is it permissible to learn Torah during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, if there is a minyan besides me?
A: No. Mishnah Berurah (124:17).

Q: I am always forgetting things and it bothers my wife. Is there a solution?
A: Notes.

Working while Pregnant
Q: Am I obligated to inform my employer that I am pregnant?
A: You are only obligated to tell as much as the law requires, no more and no less.

Q: I am a kid and am very proud that I am an excellent soccer player. How can I protect myself from arrogance?
A: Think a lot about the fact that this lacks value and importance. What is worthwhile is doing good.

Mentally Challenged
Q: Why did Hashem create mentally challenged people?
A: We do not know. It is one of the secrets of Hashem.

Ring for a Single Woman
Q: It is true that a single woman wearing a ring prevents her from finding her future spouse?
A: No.

Q: Is it permissible to try on shoes in a store when I am sure that I will not buy there?
A: No. It is deception.

Original Color of Jews
Q: What was the original skin color of Jews? Black? White?
A: Not black and not white but in the middle, brown like an acacia tree. Mishnah Nega'im 2:1.

Eye Rubbing
Q: Some have the custom to kiss their hand after rubbing their eyes. Is there value in this?
A: Nonsense.

Bed Facing the Door
Q: Is it forbidden for one's bed to face the door?
A: It is permissible.

The Custom of Eating Fruit on Tu Bishvat

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 1 #212]
Question: There are those who say that we are obligated to eat fifteen different fruits on Tu Bishvat, since Tu Bishvat is on the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat. Is this a custom or a law?
Answer: There is no mention in the Mishnah or Talmud that Tu Bishvat is a day of joy, rather it is the new year for trees. This means that it is the date that differentiates between the fruit of the past year and the coming year in terms of the obligation to tithe the produce (Rosh Hashanah 15). Among the Rishonim (Earlier Authorities), Tu Bishvat is mentioned as a day on which Tachanun is not recited (Minhagei Maharil), and this is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 131:6). The Magen Avraham mentioned the Ashkenazic custom to enjoy many fruits (brought in the Mishnah Berurah ibid. #31), and this is also the Sephardic custom (Pri Eitz Hadar – seder limud le-leil Tu Bishvat). The quantity of fifteen fruits, however, is not mentioned. Our master, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, wrote, "As is customary, there is on it [Tu Bishvat] an impression of a festive day, the first indication of the revival of the settlement in our Holy Land (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 2, p. 61). It says in the Jerusalem Talmud (end of Kiddushin), "Rav Bon said: In the future a person will have to give an accounting for all that his eyes beheld, but he did not eat." Rav Bon’s intention was not that a person should be a glutton and eat everything in his sight; rather he should endeavor to taste everything (obviously everything that is permissible) at least once. And it also relates that Rabbi Eleazar was concerned about this idea, and he would save his money in order to eat each of the year’s new produce. Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chaim 225:19) writes, "It is meritorious to eat a little from each year’s new produce. The reason is in order to demonstrate the preciousness of Hashem’s creation." He does not mention, however, that one must eat fifteen types of fruit.
Summary: It is an ancient custom to enjoy many fruits on Tu Bishvat. And it is praiseworthy to eat fruits which one does not normally eat during the year.


Question: What is the Halachah regarding mourning for someone who chose to be cremated?
Answer: It is obviously forbidden to cremate someone or be cremated (see Gesher Ha-Chaim chap. 16 #9), but even if it is done, all of the laws of mourning apply. After all, we also mourn today for those who desecrate Shabbat which is much more severe.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #27

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

The last chapter in Tehillim is also the last chapter of Psukei DeZimra. It sums up Tehillim and Psukei DeZimra with praises to Hashem. It includes many of the instruments used in the Beit haMikdash to help us offer these praises.

At the end, we say that the entire soul should praise Hashem. The soul has a spark of the Divine and is always trying to be closer to Hashem. One need not go far to find the light of Hashem. It is within the soul.

The Midrash Bereshit Rabbah says that for every breath – Neshima in Hebrew (soul is Neshama) - we must praise Hashem. Healthy people take for granted that they can breathe. Normally only when someone is sick do they realize how wonderful it is to be able to breathe. We take it for granted. We need to learn that we can take nothing for granted. Everything we have, even things that seem simple and obvious, are from Hashem. Therefore, everyone must always thank Hashem - for the past, present and future. When we do this, it prepares us for the Beit Ha-Mikdash, when we will use all the instruments to praise Hashem and become more and more connected to Him.

Which Blessings to Say?

[Be-Ahavah Ube-Emunah – Beshalach 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Rice: Before: Mezonot. After: Nefashot.
Rice cakes and Rice bread: Before: Shehakol, because you can’t easily tell what it’s made of.
Rice pudding: Ashkenazim – Mezonot, Sefardim - Adama.
Currants: Etz.
Pineapple: Adama. Because it’s recognizable.
Peanuts: Adama. “American Peanuts” coated in flour: Mezonot, because the flour determines the blessing.
Borekas: Mezonot.
Bamba: Shekakol, because the corn is not recognizable.
Burghul [wheat groats]: Mezonot
Chewing Gum: Before: Shehakol, because of the flavor swallowed. Afterwards, no blessing, because not enough is consumed.
Already Chewed Gum: No blessing.
Ice cream: Shehakol, if one eats it together with the cone. If one eats the cone separately, then one should recite Mezonot as well. One should recite the after-blessing only if he consumed the ice cream quickly.
Granola: If it is pasty, then one should recite Mezonot. If it consists of seeds that remain individual and whole, then each type should be related to on its own, unless it is such a minority as to be clearly nullified to the rest.
Pumpkin seeds and watermelon seeds, if planted for the sake of the seeds, then “Adama”, but if planted for the sake of the fruit, then “Shehakol”. If uncertain, then recite “Shehakol”.
Millet: If the seeds are whole, then Adama. If they are entirely mashed, then Shehakol.
Porridge from the five types of grain (wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt): If thick, then Mezonot. If liquidy, then Shehakol.
Sugar wafers: Mezonot, because the flour determines the blessing, and not the filling, even if there is not much flour.
The amount of Mezonot needed to incur an obligation to recite the Grace After Meals: 230cc. – eight match boxes, like bread.
As for sugar wafers made of potato flour, Shehakol.
Cooked wheat: If the kernels are whole, then Adama. If they are mashed or sticky, then
Sweet Challa: If the sweetness is recognizable, then Sefardim recite Mezonot, although
some still recite Ha-Motzi. Ashkenazim recite Ha-Motzi.
Sweet Challa with a minority of water and a majority of some other liquid such as juice, oil
or wine: Some Ashkenazim recite Ha-Motzi and some recite Mezonot. In any of these cases
regarding challa, if someone had the equivalent of a meal, consuming 230 cc., the cubic area
of eight match boxes, he recites Ha-Motzi.
Sunflower seeds are Adama.
Tehina is Shehakol, because you cannot recognize what it’s made of.
Wine: Borei Peri Hagafen, it is consists of less than half water.
Buckwheat [Hebrew “kusemet”] is not the spelt-kusemet of the five types of grain, but
“kasha”, and “Adama” is recited.
Leder [Dried fruit flattened like leather] is Shehakol, because its source is unrecognizable.
French toast made with oil and eggs: Ha-Motzi.
Fruit compote containing tree fruits and ground fruits: Recite both Etz and Adama, unless
either is type is negligible, and hence nullified to the other type.
Liquids from cans of vegetables: Shehakol.
Grape juice: Borei Pri HaGafen, if less than half water.
Fruit juice: Shehakol, unless the juice includes pieces of whole fruit, in which case the fruit’s
blessing is recited.
Malawah: Mezonot. If one consumes 230 cc., the equivalent volume of eight match
boxes, then HaMotzi.
Matza when it is not Pesach: Sefardim – Mezonot. Ashkenazim – HaMotzi.
Crackers: Mezonot, because they’re hard, thin, and crunchy.
Vegetable soup: If the vegetables are recognizable, then Adama. Otherwise, Shehakol.
Dried apricots: Etz.
Sprouts: Adama, because they constitute a common food. If they do not, then Shehakol,
because their origin is not recognizable. If cooked, then Mezonot.
Bran. Shehakol, because its origin is unrecognizable.
Soy: Whole beans: Adama. As a food, Shehakol, because it is unrecognizable.
Farina cooked and thick: Mezonot; Watery: Shehakol.
Fruit salad containing tree fruits and ground fruits: Recite both Etz and Adama, unless either type is negligible, and hence nullified to the other type.
Sambosek [Indian Fried Vegetarian Turnover]: Mezonot.
Stuffed grape leaves: Nullified by whatever the filling is.
Popcorn: Shehakol: Because the corn cannot be recognized.
Pizza: If, as is the usual case, its base is not sweet, then Ha-motzi. If very sweet, then
Mezonot. Even in that case, if one plans to eat two slices, then Ha-Motzi.
Pine nuts: Etz.
Passion Fruit: Adama due to the doubt about the appropriate blessing (Sefardim need not wait until the tree is past its fourth year to consume its fruit. Ashkenazim should wait.)
Rice crispies: Shehakol, because the rice is unrecognizable.
Candied fruits (peanuts, almonds, apples): If one can recognize what it is, then the regular
blessing. Otherwise, Shehakol.
Rice cakes: Shehakol. Unrecognizable.
Soup pasta: From wheat: Mezonot.
Banana or potato chips: Adama. Recognizable.
Wheat chips: Mezonot.
Wheat toast: Motzi, because it’s not considered to have changed, hence its blessing remains
in place. If manufactured a priori to be toast, then Mezonot, like melba toast.
Couscous: Mezonot.
Oat meal: Mezonot.
Cornflour: As a porridge: Shehakol. Unrecognizable.
Cornflakes: Shehakol. Unrecognizable.
Candied fruit peels: If recognizable, Etz. Otherwise, or if coated in chocolate or sugar: Shehakol.
Cassata [ice cream with wafer or cookie]: Shehakol. If the cookie is consumed separately,
then Mezonot as well.
Croutons – dark: Mezonot. Light, made with bread: Ha-motzi. If made a priori to be
croutons: Mezonot.
Krembo: Like cassata.
Cashew: Etz.
Fruit or Vegetable paste: If the pieces are recognizable, then their regular blessing.
Otherwise, Shehakol.
Chocolate: Shehakol, because you cannot tell that it came from a cocoa tree. Such is the
widespread custom.
Strudel: Mezonot. The flour determines the blessing.
Puffed wheat: Adama. If it falls apart or crumbles. Mezonot.
Almonds coated with sugar or chocolate: Shehakol. Not recognizable.
Soup nuts: Mezonot.
Corn snacks (like Fritos, Bugles): Shehakol. Unrecognizable.
Medicines: No blessing because it is not food. If it tastes good, then Shehakol. If one drinks a
minimum of water to swallow a tablet, then no blessing is recited on the water. If one drinks
out of thirst, or the water is sweet, then one recites Shehakol.
To incur a first blessing: Any amount.
To incur blessings recited after food – Borei Nefashot, Al HaMichya or the Grace after
Meals, an olive’s size, 27 cc., like a match box. Condition: If consumed within four minutes.
To incur Borei Nefashot after drink, a revi’it, 86 cc., like half of a normal disposable cup,
drinking fairly steadily.

Shut SMS #98

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text messages questions a day! Here's a sample:
Giving Away Parts of Eretz Yisrael
Q: If, in theory, giving away a small part of Eretz Yisrael would bring true peace, would it be permissible?
A: No. Just like you would not give your wife to your neighbor for a short time in order to bring peace between you and your neighbor. In any case, one should not deal with unrealistic questions.

Private Marriage
Q: I am about to get married to a woman, but on account of the marriage she will lose a large sum of money she receives monthly for being an army widow. Can I marry her before two witnesses without registering with the Chief Rabbinate?
A: It is forbidden. 1. According to the law. 2. According to the Halachah. 3. Theft.

Stealing from a Non-Jew
Q: Is it permissible to steal from an Arab?
A: G-d forbidden. It is theft and a desecration of Hashem's Name (see Be'er Ha-Golah, Choshen Mishpat 348:1).

Q: Why is someone who committed suicide buried with everyone else, when it is mentioned in the Halachah that he should not be?
A: Perhaps he regretted his actions; perhaps he lacked sanity (Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Yoreh Deah 345:5).

Women and Tefillin
Q: Can a woman apply the black color on Tefillin straps?
A: Yes. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 33. Mishnah Berurah #23.

Health Insurance
Q: Should one have full-coverage health insurance?
A: Yes. It is very important. It is essential for any illness, may one not come (see Rabbi Avraham ben Ha-Rambam, Ha-Maspik Le-Ovdei Hashem, Sha'ar Ha-Bitachon. Kovetz Teshuvot of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv vol. 1).

Broken Mirror
Q: It is permissible to have a broken mirror in a room?
A: There is no problem.

Prayer for the State of Israel
Q: Do I have to stand for the Prayer for the State of Israel? I am Sefardic and do not stand for Kaddish. Which is more important?
A: It depends on the custom of each place. Regarding the issue of standing: we do not stand for the Shema, which is more important than Baruch She-Amar.

Q: Is it permissible to go to a Muslim ceremony that is held in their museum?
A: No. Islam is heresy, since it claims that the Torah has been nullified. We do not strengthen those who are transgressing.

After Vomiting
Q: I ate a meat meal and vomited. Do I have to wait before eating dairy?
A: Yes. According to the reasoning of the Rambam, we wait because of the fear that there is meal between one's teeth (Ma'achalot Asurot 9:28).

Tefilat Ha-Derech
Q: Is one obligated to recite Tefilat Ha-Derech while standing?
A: Some halachic authorities write that one should stand; it is therefore a positive act. However, it was decided that one does not need to, based on the basic meaning of the Gemara (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 68:4).

Wrapped Cakes
Q: Is it permissible to buy wrapped cakes with Kosher certification in a store which does not have certification?
A: Yes. And it is not Ma'arit Ayin, since everyone knows that there are Kosher products there.

Q: Is there any meaning in dreams?
A: Not in our days. Almost all of them are extensions of a person’s thoughts during waking hours.

Q: Following the death of my father, my friends have distanced themselves from me. How did I act wrongly?
A: They acted wrongly. But this is a complex subject. You can call me.

Jokes about the Holocaust
Q: Is it permissible to tell black-humored jokes about the Holocaust?
A: G-d forbid!!!!

Confiscating a Student's Belonging
Q: Is it permissible for a teacher to confiscate a student's belonging for the entire year?
A: It all depends on the school's rules, which a student accepts upon entrance.

Mourner's House
Q: Is it forbidden to sleep in a mourner's house?
A: No.

Blood in an Egg
Q: Why don't we check hard-boiled eggs for blood?
A: Because it is rare to find blood. Only when we open an egg do we check (Rama, Yoreh Deah 66:8. Aruch Ha-Shulchan ibid. #11. And the Chazon Ish also did not check hard-boiled eggs. His brother-in-law, Ha-Rav Y.Y. Kanievski - the "Steipler" was, however, particular to check, and his wife related that he was sometimes stricter on certain things than her brother, the Chazon Ish – Orchot Rabbenu vol. 1 p. 239 #11 and vol. 3 p. 70 #8).

Parashat Beshalach: Where did the splitting of the Red Sea occur?

[Commentary on Haggadah of Pesach]

It is difficult to specify the site of the sea, where Mt. Sinai is, and exactly where the children of Israel traveled. The beginning of the journey was certainly in the land of Goshen and the end was in Yericho. In any event, they traveled along the length of the shore of the sea. "G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near, for G-d said, 'Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt" (Shemot 13:17). The path of the shore of the sea, from Suez to Gaza, had many traps, like "Migdol" and "Ba'al Tzefon" (ibid. 14:2). The Nation of Israel would clash with the enemies, and they therefore traveled on an unusual path. Thus, Pharaoh said: "They are imprisoned in the land and the Wilderness has locked them in." Regarding the location of this sea, there are two opinions among researchers. The southern school of thought claims that the sea is what is called "The Red Sea" in Greek and other European languages, because it has plants and grasses which give it this shade or because it is close to the land of Edom (which also means "red"). This sea is an offshoot of the Indian Ocean, which is narrow and long and has two gulfs which fork at the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba), and encloses half of the Sinai Peninsula. According to this interpretation, we can understand the verse which deals with the borders of the Land: "I will set your border from the 'Red Sea' to the Sea of the Philistines," which is the western border, "and from the Wilderness to the River," referring to the Euphrates River, which is the eastern border. This interpretation is also implied by a verse in the Book of Melachim: "And King Shlomo made a ship in Etzyon Gever, which is beside Eilat, on the shore of the 'Red Sea' in the land of Edom" (Melachim 1 9:26). This is also the opinion of Josephus. Accordingly, the splitting of the Sea occurred in the area of the large, bitter seas which are a northern continuation of the same south-western offshoot, and they were connected until the Suez during that period. Our Rabbis also mention that the Sea was connected to the Nile River (Shemot Rabbah 1:21). Pharaoh dug, Darius completed it, the Arabs filled it in, and Laspas of France opened it again. There are various difficulties with this opinion: There is no eastern wind there all night, the central Sinai is not tranquil, and there are no reeds – since the waters are bitter – which would justify the name "Yam Suf" which literally means the "Sea of Reeds."

The northern school of thought suggests a different possibility. They claim that the spot was on one of the shallow lagoons on the Shore of the Mediterranean Sea, at a place called the Sirbonic Lake, which has a length of seventy-eight kilometers and a width of twenty kilometers. The two dry "tongues" stretch out on two sides in the form of a bow with a two kilometer width and enter into the Mediterranean. The locust were hurled there by a western wind, "And hurled it towards the 'Red Sea'" (Shemot 10:19). This spot is located across from fortresses, like Migdol and Ba'al Tzefon; and it is also close to the land of Goshen, because the Children of Israel – which was a Nation with elderly, women and children – certainly could not travel too far. They would not have been able to travel more than five kilometers a day. According to this opinion, the Sea did not split from one side to the other, but returned to its side. Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra wrote: "Do not think that since the Torah says "into the sea" that they went half-way into the Sea. Even if they went only half a Persian mile (two kilometers) into the Sea, it is called "into the Sea" (Shemot 14:22). The Chizkuni also wrote that the Children of Israel did not pass through the entire width of the Sea, but only went into a part in which Pharaoh would follow after them and drown, adding that they went into a "half-circle" (ibid.). The Rambam agreed that they went into a part, "similar to a circular bow," and a picture of this bow is included in his commentary to Mishnah Avot (5:4). The Gemara in Arachin (15a) also says: "Israel was rebelling at that moment and saying: Just as we go on this side, the Egyptians will go on the other side. The Tosafot asked, how could Israel of that generation be of such little faith to think that Hashem would perform a miracle like that, bringing them to the Land of Israel, while leaving the Egyptians to attack them again? They answered that Israel did not pass through the entire width of the Sea, but through one strip along the length of the Sea, like a circular threshing floor, and a picture appears there (ibid.).

It is obvious that we should not conclude from all of this discussion that no miracle occurred, and what happened was simply a low tide followed by a high tide. Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra already harshly responded to Chavi Ha-Balchi (a heretic during the days of Rav Sa'adia Gaon), whom he reproached by referring to him as Chavi Ha-Calbi (he transposed the letters of his name to read "Chavi, the dog"): "May the bones of Chavi Ha-Calbi be ground up, who said that Moshe knew the time that the Sea contracted, when it receded, and the time that the Sea expanded, when it rose, in its continual movement, and that he passed through it when the water contracted, as is its usual way; and Pharaoh did not know the pattern of the Sea and therefore drown. These are insane words, since the contraction of the sea does not dry out a place and leave walls of water from its right and left, since everything is dry. Furthermore, it does not make sense that the end of the contraction and the beginning of its expansion would be only a few hours. In addition, Israel would not have finished passing through before Pharaoh and his army drowned" (Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra to Shemot 14:27). It is also difficult to explain that the Egyptian did not know this information when they had temples which faced the Sea. This was certainly an unnatural miracle, a miracle of miracles! It is interesting that our Sages also describe how the Great Sea (according to this, the Mediterranean) burst into the Red Sea: "Deep waters covered them" (Shemot 5:5). Are there deep waters there? Is it not hard, dry ground? Why then does the Torah say "Deep waters covered them"? The lower depth rose to the higher depth and the waters fought with them with all types of afflictions." "They descended in the depths" (ibid.). Are there depths there? Is it not hard, dry ground? This teaches that the Great Sea burst into it and the waters fought with them with all types of afflictions. It therefore says "They descended in the depths" (Mechilta Beshalach, Mesechta De-Shirata, parashah 5).

Ten Commandments of the Babysitter

1. Don't be even a minute late. If you are concerned about being late, than plan to arrive a little early.
2. If you are late, apologize.
3. Don't take the kids out without prior permission. If you do have permission to take them to a certain place, don't take them elsewhere.
4. Give the children a lot to drink. Don't force them, but suggest, and make sure they also eat.
5. Don't neglect the children. If their clothing or diapers are wet, change them as quickly as possible.
6. Don't let the children become over-tired. Allow them to rest sufficiently.
7. Don't let the children cry. Hug them, kiss them, comfort them.
8. Don't enter closed rooms in the house if you were not given permission.
9. Don't read books if you were not given permission, and in general, don't use anything without permission.
10. If the mother points something out, don't respond with chutzpa or yell, rather humbly and politely listen.

Shaking a Woman's Hand

Question: In the text message responsa from last week, on the question: If a secular woman puts out her hand, can I shake it? Ha-Rav answered: No. Politely apologize: Forgive me, this is saved for my wife. I once heard that Rav Moshe Feinstein when facing the same situation would shake her hand. The reasoning being that not shaking a woman's hand is a Rabbinic prohibition but embarrassing a person is a Torah prohibition. Was this in fact the case and if not, what about applying the above reasoning and allowing the handshake?
Answer: Rav Feinstein did mention this idea in his Teshuvot (Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:56) but concluded that it is difficult to rely on it. The Beit Yosef (Yoreh Deah 195) mentioned that according to the Rambam it is a Torah prohibition and one should be killed rather than transgress it! We should not embarrass anyone, but here she is causing herself embarrassment. Ha-Rav Ovadia Yosef declined to shake hands with Prime Minister Golda Meir when he received the Israel Prize. And Rav Mordechai Eliyahu did not shake hands with the Queen of England. In both cases, apologies were issued to the Rabbis that very night for putting them in that situation.

When to Begin Education

It once happened that a father turned to an educator and asked: At what age should we begin to educate our baby?
The educator asked: How old is your son?
The joyous father looked at his watch and said: 10 minutes!
The educator responded: You're too late…
Perfecting character traits is, in fact, a long process. Parents have to work on their character traits long before the baby is born in order to be ready. They have at least nine months before the birth. In general, in order to have a happy marriage, a couple must first learn about perfecting their character traits in the "School of Friendship," with members of their own gender.
The parents' character traits influence the child not only through education but also flow into the soul the baby is given. Furthermore, the holiness of the parents at the time of conception influences the holiness of the soul of the fetus. "And you will make yourself holy and you will be holy" (Vayikra 11:44).

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #26

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

We have already learned that one of the things that makes Ashrei so special and important is that it’s in Alef-Bet order. But as everyone knows, none of the verses begins with the letter Nun. The Gemara in Berachot says that this is because Nun is the letter of "Nefilah" – falling - and David Ha-Melech didn’t want to begin one of his verses with this idea. Even though there are other words that start with Nun, there is this very strong connection to this idea in the next verse and David wanted to stay away from it. In the verse which begins with Samech, we say "Hashem supports all those who have fallen and strengthens those who are bent." But what did David Ha-Melech really accomplish by this self censorship?
The truth is he accomplished a lot. He wanted to say things in the nicest possible way. He didn’t want to focus on the Jewish People falling, which is negative and can cause people to give up. He wanted to focus on the fact that Hashem lifts up those who are fallen. This is a beautiful description of Hashem and gives us hope. Hashem will make everything wonderful for Klal Yisrael. David’s focus on the nicest way of saying things teaches us an important lesson that we should also always find the nicest way.

Shut SMS #97

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text messages questions a day! Here's a sample:
Q: We have a nanny for our baby. She is an Orthodox woman, but she puts on Talit and Tefillin.
A: This does not invalidate her from being a nanny. The essence is that she is motherly.

Non-Religious Mohel
Q: If someone had his Brit Milah performed by a non-religious Mohel is it legitimate, or does he need a "Hatafat Dam Brit" (drawing a drop of blood)?
A: It is a dispute (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 264:1. Rama ibid. Chidushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger ibid. See Shut Mi-Ma'amakim 1:8).

Q: Is it true that sleeping with socks negatively affects one's eyesight?
A: Nonsense. On the contrary, it is modest.

Q: If a Mezuzah falls, is it invalid?
A: No.

Distancing Oneself from Women
Q: Is it permissible for me as a single man to eat at a married friend's house?
A: Yes, but distance yourself from his wife. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-10.

Christian Music
Q: Something in my heart tells me that Christian music is forbidden. Is this correct?
A: Yes, it is forbidden on account of the prohibition of benefiting from idol worship (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 167:1).

Sitting on the Ground
Q: Is it permissible to sit on the ground (since it is a sign of mourning)?
A: There is no problem according to the basic Halachah, whether on the floor or on dirt.

Q: Is there a problem with killing flies?
A: No. They bother people (Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:726, Shut Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 2:47 and Chazon Ish in Ma'aseh Ish vol. 7 p. 163).

Socks for Women
Q: Is a woman who always wears a modest skirt, which always covers her knees, obligated to wear socks?
A: The Mishnah Berurah does not require it, and it is permissible to follow his ruling (Gan Na'ul pp. 37-38).

Women and Gemara
Q: I am a woman. Should I learn Gemara?
A: The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 246:6) rules that you should not.

Dating 2 Men at Once
Q: Is it permissible to meet two Shiduchim at once?
A: No. It is unethical, except in rare cases.

Long Hair
Q: I (a man) have long hair with a pony tail. Am I obligated to get a haircut?
A: Certainly. There are three severe Torah prohibitions that are transgressed by having long hair: 1. It is an impediment between one's head and Tefillin, and therefore causes a blessing to be recited in vain when putting on Tefillin. 2. Following the ways of the non-Jews (which includes acts of conceit and haughtiness). 3. "Lo Tilbash" (the prohibition of men dressing or appearing as women) (Shut She'eilat 1:23).

Q: Is crucifixion practiced in Judaism?
A: No. Those who are stoned are momentarily hung, but not like the known crucifixion.

Q: I want to learn a profession which is my passion, but I keep failing the tests in that area. Is this a sign from heaven?
A: No. One must be stubborn and persist in important things.

Shaking a Woman's Hand
Q: If a secular woman puts out her hand, can I shake it?
A: No. Politely apologize: "Forgive me, this is saved for my wife" (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 4:298).

Q: Is the ideal of Judaism capitalism or socialism?
A: Future ideal – socialism. Current ideal – capitalism.

Big Bang Theory
Q: Is the Big Bang Theory possible?
A: It is possible. And in the Beginning, G-d created heaven and earth through the Big Bang.
Q: And what about evolution?
A: Same. Hashem created man through evolution.
Q: But the simple meaning of the verses do not seem to imply so.
A: They are a parable, or have hidden meaning (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah 1, 91).

Q: I have been told that we should not name our son Michael since this is the name of an angel.
A: This has no source in the Gemara or halachic authorities. This is a good name. As is Refael, Gavriel and Oriel (also angels' names).

Parashat Bo: Rabbenu Ha-Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda: Return to the Land of Your Soul and Body!

[Sichot Ha-Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Shemot pp. 129-130]

“We are leaving the impurity of Egypt and heading to the "Air of Eretz Yisrael which makes one wise" (Baba Batra 158b). "The air of Your Land is the life of the souls" (Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Levi, poems, "Tzion Ha-Lo Tishali'). This air heals us, both spiritually and physically, as we see from what occurred with Rabbi Shmuel Salant, who served as the Rav of Yerushalayim. In his youth, he lived in Lithuania and was stricken with tuberculosis to the point that the doctors almost gave up on him. They searched for ways to cure him and suggested various unique places in the world whose climate would help to overcome the tuberculosis and allow him to live longer: Italy, France on the shore of the Mediterranean and Egypt, where there is a concentration of good air. Rabbi Shmuel Salant said: Why should I travel to Egypt - after all, it is close to Yerushalayim? He traveled to Yerushalayim and lived until 93 years old, well beyond the average age, and served in the Rabbinate there for 60 years. This power flows from the treasured nature of the air of Eretz Yisrael. What makes one wise also heals. This air, which belongs to the entire Nation of Israel, also belongs to each individual: To his soul, to his body, and to his psycho-physio-biological state. Father [Maran Ha-Rav Kook] z"l once met with a great scientist, who was far from Judaism and researched prominent illnesses which exist among Jews. He explains these illnesses based on the fact that we are not Europeans but Asians. There is a difference between the Asian air and climate and that of Europe, and since we are Asians in our make-up and belong in an Asian climate, the fact that we were not there caused us many physio-biological complications.”

Did you Raise a Hand Against a Soldier?!

At the beginning of the settlement enterprise, the settlers encountered opposition from the army, and they set up several tents, bringing themselves into conflict with the army. Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook called on all of them to return. Prominent rabbis and professors sat in the Rav's home, and expressed a unanimous opinion that they had to go back there.
Then Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda's voice thundered: “Did anybody raise a hand against a soldier?” and everyone remained silent. They were frightened, and they did not respond. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda repeated in a thunderous voice: “Did anybody raise a hand?” Once more, everyone remained silent. Still Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda did not relent, and he shouted, “Did they raise a hand against a soldier?” Then they admitted that they had, in fact, and Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda replied, “In that case, stay here. Don't go back there.”
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda didn't let them go back there. Only after he had spoken to them on this topic at length, and they had committed themselves not to hit a soldier, did he approve their returning, and he then spoke very positively about the settlement drive and about the need to arouse the healthy forces everywhere. (I heard this story from Rabbi Ya'akov Levanon, and it may well be that I don't recall all the details well).
Obviously, the truth must be stated that one is not just forbidden to hit soldiers, but to strike any Jew, and Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda made that point before the State's establishment in his article, “I Am Seeking My Brethren” [Hebrew], where he laid out rules of behavior for public struggles: No hitting, no degradations, no hatred (Le-Netivot Yisrael 1:106). This is an accepted halachic principle: One does not perform a mitzvah by way of a sin. One does not perform a mitzvah that brings a sin in its train. If it is possible to do the mitzvah without a sin, then we remained obligated to do it. Yet if it is impossible, then such performance of the mitzvah is not what G-d commanded us to do. The Jerusalem Talmud includes a parable of a person who gave the king a gift of an object that he himself had stolen from the king (Perek Lulav Ha-Gazul).
Woe to the person whose defender becomes his prosecutor (see Mesillat Yesharim at the beginning of chapter 11 regarding those who fulfill mitzvot with the help of theft).
As stated, we have to avoid not just striking our fellow man, but also speaking or thinking evil of him. There's a well-known saying in Hebrew: “What begins with thought, continues with speech, and ends up with deeds.”
All the preceding applies regarding every Jew, let alone regarding soldiers. Don't forget that this soldier endangers his life for you, and you lift a hand against him?! Ninety nine percent of the time he is defending our people and our land. He is defending the great sanctification of G-d's name. Yet sometimes he is forced, against his will, to do things that are enormously hard for him, and his heart cries within him. And you dare lift a hand against him?!
You've forgotten the main point. You've forgotten that the backbone of the entire enterprise of rebuilding the Land, of the return to Zion, of establishing the State, of Israel's wars and settlement drives - is the love of Israel, the unity of Israel. That is what we need the most - to be friends.

I told you to be careful!

When we say to a child: "Be careful not to drop the plate" his hands start to shake and he drops it. We then say: "I knew it would fall. I told you to be careful." The very act of the warning, which displays a lack of confidence in the child, is what causes him to drop the plate.
We should not make the child feel bad or embarrass him for dropping the plate; rather pick up the shards with him. Do not make a big deal of it or say anything which will deepen his feeling of failure. For example, if a young child wants to dress himself, refuses his mother's help, and ends up with two legs in one pant leg, do not call him "Little fool," and do not even laugh and say it sweetly. He already feels weak and that he cannot do it himself.
We must understand that a young child lives in a different world from us. For him, the house is extremely tall and has big structures in it like one which has four pillars called a table. There are some which are smaller called chairs. And there are giants which roam around the house. Therefore, on the contrary, we must fill this small being with pride and a feeling of accomplishment.

Removing Mezuzot

Question: Can one who put up Mezuzot in a rented apartment take them when he leaves?
Answer: The basic Halachah is that one may not take the Mezuzot when leaving when a Jew is moving in there. There are, however, some solutions:
1. It is certainly permissible to take the Mezuzah Case.
2. One may replacement the Mezuzot with the least expensive, kosher ones available (Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 11 #20).
3. One may take a Mezuzah which he put up in a place where a Mezuzah is not a requirement but he wanted to be strict.
4. One can ask the new tenant to pay him for the Mezuzot, but he is not required to do so (see Rama, Yoreh Deah 291 and Be'er Golah ibid.).

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #25

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

In the Ashrei, we say "Your kingship is a kingship over all worlds and your rule is for every generation." Hashem’s kingship extends over all nature - including inanimate objects, plant life, animals, and humans. It extends to this world and the next. And Hashem’s rule is also over history - forever and ever. Sometimes, as human beings, we cannot understand why Hashem does certain things in nature or in history. That’s because we cannot see the entire picture, from the beginning of time to the end. Just because Hashem has a reason for everything, doesn’t mean we get to know the reason. Yet, we know that He is in charge and He runs the world.