After the Six-Day War…

Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Building the Temple
After the Six-Day War, when a Torah scholar and professor came to our Rabbi and asked him why he did not begin to build the Temple, he responded, "The mitzvah of building the Kingdom of Israel takes precedence, according to the ruling of the Rambam at the beginning of the Laws of Kings" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, chapters of Messiah 4, Talmud Torah 1 addendum 2). Later, this was explained extensively by our Rabbi in the article "From Behind the Wall" (Mei-Achar Kotleinu) in which he said that only after great improvement in the building of the Nation, both physically and spiritually, can we enter into the holiness of rebuilding the Temple (see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, #23).

Offering a Sacrifice
After the Six-Day War, students approached our Rabbi and quoted the words of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher in the introduction to his book "Derishat Tzion" which repeats a tradition recorded in the name of the Vilna Gaon: if we would only leap and sacrifice one lamb, then everything would be ready for Redemption. They asked: perhaps it is proper to sacrifice one Pesach sacrifice? When our Rabbi heard this he became enraged: "We need to strengthen the Kingdom of Israel and return the Torah to those who learn it in Israel; [we need] to bring great repentance, and [only then] will we ascend to the Temple Mount from the midst of this prophecy." He said these words emphatically and forcefully. (Le-Mikdashech Tuv, p. 180)

Blowing up the Dome of the Rock
After the Six-Day War, the Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan, evacuated the non-Jews from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. A few young men, who fought in the Jerusalem Brigade, felt that it was not enough, and they prepared explosives to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. They nonetheless went to take counsel with our Rabbi, who rejected the idea: This must come from the entire Nation, and not a part of it. They went to Reb Aryeh Levin, thinking that since he supported Etzel and Lechi before the establishment of the State, he would response positively, but he also rejected their idea for the same reason that there is a need for National agreement. He related a story, which our Rabbi would also relate, that a certain influential preacher would travel to different cities and encourage belief in false messianism. When Rav Chaim of Volozhin was informed that he was scheduled to speak on Shabbat in a particular community, he sent two messengers, who were to violate Shabbat to stop him, since it was a matter of life and death. They were successful. A rich non-Jew asked Rav Chaim if he had heard about the preacher and if, in his opinion, he was the Messiah. Rav Chaim responded: And what do you say? He answered: This has nothing to do with me. Rav Chaim said: You are wrong. When the Messiah comes even you will feel it.

The young men asked Reb Aryeh Levin, half in jest: If so, the building of the Temple also depends of the decision of the Knesset? He answered: It may be. (Iturei Cohanin #57 from Ha-Rav Avraham Remer)

Parashat Chukat: From Impurity to Purity

Many of the Torah’s commandments are incomprehensible to the human mind. One of these is the Parah Adumah. Shlomo Ha-Melech himself exclaimed, “All of these I have tried with my wisdom, I thought to become wise, but it is still far from me” (Kohelet 7:23). I was able to understand all of the Torah, but when I reached the Parah Adumah, I studied it, inquired and delved into its depths - “I thought to become wise, but it is still far from me” (Yalkut Shimoni, 759).
What is so difficult to understand here? “The difficulty seems to be the fact that it [the Parah Adumah] purifies the impure, but at the same time makes the pure unclean” (commentary of Sforno on Parashat Chukat). How is it possible that the Torah commands us to purify ourselves through a process which itself causes (a lesser level of) impurity?
This paradox repeats itself over and over again. The theme of “Tikkun"
(achieving a higher level of perfection) through impurity runs throughout our history. One example: the Messiah is the descendant of David and Batsheva, and of Rut the Moabite and Boaz. While King David himself fulfilled the great Mitzvah of conquering our enemies, the blood he shed cast a shadow upon his accomplishments. Another example: it is permitted to fast even on Shabbat in certain conditions, but the fast itself mars the Shabbat. In both of these cases, the purification or redemption process passes through a stage of impurity.
This is also the case with the State of Israel. We are witnessing today a process of passing through a series of stages of imperfection. This does not cause us to panic, because we know that it is an essential part of the redemption process. Eventually all of these flaws will lead to perfection and sanctity. These "impurities" serve to accentuate the good, just as on Shabbat night, if one returns from Shul and the candles are lit and the table is set, the good angel prays that it should be this way next Shabbat, and the "bad" angel also forced to answer "Amen" (Shabbat 119b).

Kosher Mixed Society

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

Question: I am always hearing that mixed society is forbidden according to the Torah. I hear this from all of the rabbis - Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Charedim, National Religious – except for a small minority of rabbis who do not belong to the first line of great halachic authorities. I therefore understand that the views of that minority are halachically null and void.
But I am still not clear on one point: Surely there are parts of our life that are gender-mixed against our will, and I don't see how it is possible to change that. Therefore, instead of making a generalized decree prohibiting mixed company, wouldn’t it be better to provide us with guidance for those parts of our life which are mixed (agains our will), so that we will know how to build a mixed society that is Kosher?
Answer: Good for you that you distinguish between what is mixed against our will and what is allowed to be separate. Regarding the first, we must follow Halachah. Regarding the second, we must keep the genders separate. This distinction already exists in the Talmud, where it says that if a person has a choice of two paths, one in which he will encounter women and the other in which he will not, and he selects the former, then he is classified as an evildoer, but if there is no other path, then he can take the path where the women are, but he should try not to sin, such as by closing his eyes so he doesn't see what is forbidden for him to see (Bava Batra 57b).
Take, for example, the case of a wedding. You can't hold two weddings, one for the groom (with the men) and one for the bride (with the women). There is no alternative to the men being present at the Chupa where the bride is. Therefore, the solution is for the bride to cover her face with a veil.
Another example is a funeral. After all, only one deceased party is being buried, and you cannot hold two funerals, one for men and one for women. The Talmud therefore enlists the verse, "The Land shall wail, each family by itself, the family of the House of David by themselves, and their womenfolk by themselves" (Zechariah 12:12). In other words, there is a need for them to stand separately, even though the verse is talking about a serious and somber occasion - the future killing of Mashiach ben Yosef during the war of Gog and Magog. The Talmud adds that at that time, the evil impulse will no longer reign, and yet the men and women must still be separate from one another (Sukkah 52a).
Or, to take a happier example, we have the case of the “Simchat Beit Ha-Sho'eva”, the Water-Drawing celebration held during the intermediate days of Sukkot. Here, as well, there is no alternative to mixed company, for there are not separate Temples for men and women. At first, the men were on the inside and the women on the outside, but they saw that that was immodest. So the arrangement was changed: the men were below and the women above. This they found to be modest. A mixed gender event was thus held in a permissible manner (Sukkah 51a).
The question of mixed society arises at work as well, for men and women often work in the same environment. If there is a way to separate them, you certainly must do so. Sometimes, however, it is imperative that they work together, so you must take pains o ensuret that the mixed society is Kosher.
Rambam summarized his guidelines under the general heading of, "They must keep themselves far apart" (Hilchot Isurei Bi'ah 22), and the same appears in Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer Chapter 21. In addition, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried provides guidelines on this topic in his easy-to-read halachic digest, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: “A man has to remain very far removed from women. He is not allowed to send signals to a woman with his hands or his feet or his eyes. He is forbidden to joke with her, to be frivolous with her, or to gaze at her beauty. He is forbidden to smell perfumes meant for a woman... he is forbidden to gaze at a women's colored clothing… if somebody gazes at a woman, even her pinky finger, and he intends to have pleasure from it, his sin is very great indeed. It is forbidden to hear a woman's singing voice, or to look at her hair. One shouldn't say hello to a woman at all." (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-9)
In any event, we have to maintain as much separation as we can (Responsa Radbaz 3:481).
There are also family gatherings which cannot be kept gender-separate, for the entire family is one. Yet, legally speaking, our relationship to cousins or uncles or brothers-in-law is the same as our relationship to anybody else, and even more severe, as is well-known, since the parties know one another. Therefore you must, even in this case, be as cautious on all of the same points mentioned regarding co-workers.
Yet there are spheres in which the genders have no need to mix. As, for example, at a joint meal or outing. Rambam writes:
“The courts must appoint policemen who will patrol and comb the gardens, orchards and river-banks during the festivals, to prevent men and women from gathering there to eat and drink, lest they be led to sin. Likewise, they must warn the entire population about this lest they hold mixed celebrations in their homes.” (Rambam, Hilchot Yom Tov 6:21).
Moreover, these ideas are quoted by the Shulchan Aruch, which concludes, “Rather, they should be holy” (Orach Chaim 529:4). The Mishnah Berurah (#22) points out that the duty of separation does not only apply on festivals, but on regular weekdays as well. The only difference is that on festivals the problems are more common (and Sha'ar Tziyun #21).
Nowadays, we are obviously not going to post policemen. I am merely bringing examples of situations in which separation is warranted.
Another example in which separation is possible, and therefore must be maintained, at wedding meals and Sheva Berachot. If the men and women can see one another, then the words, “Let us bless our G-d, in whose abode there is joy” should not be recited, as there is no joy before G-d under those circumstances (Bach, Even Ha-Ezer 62; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:1).
In conclusion, Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote: “Striving to prevent gender mingling at gatherings is a theme that runs throughout the entire Torah” (Ma’amarei Ha-Re’iya, p. 189).
All efforts to mix men and women together should be directed towards one thing: Strengthening the love and brotherhood, peace and friendship between husband and wife. We must also help unmarried men and women to wed. As is well known, the more the genders are kept separate, the more marriages take place, the less divorces occur, and the more the couples live together in love and brotherhood, peace and friendship.

Shut SMS #118

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Q: Where can I read about strengthening myself intellectually against fear?
A: Mesilat Yesharim, end of chapter 9.

Pidyon Ha-Ben
Q: What is the source that a Pidyon Ha-Ben is equal to 84 fasts?
A: There is no source. In Sdei Chemed it is written that this is a nice saying that people use.

Engaged Couples
Q: Is it permissible for an engaged couple to pass items from one to the other?
A: Yes.

Wireless Internet
Q: Is it permissible to use another person’s wireless internet?
A: Only with his permission, since it slows down the speed of his connection.

Q: A young man who was offered to go on a Shiduch with a young woman, asked for her picture. Should I give it to him?
A: If she agrees.

Q: Is it permissible for me, as a teacher, to ask my students to tell me who colored the wall black in the classroom?
A: No. We should not accustom the students to tattling, except for in the case of something severe. Rather, you should say to the class: The repair costs this amount of money. Please make sure the money is on my desk within a week.

New Testament and Koran
Q: I found a New Testament and a Koran. Can I throw them in the trash?
A: You can throw away the New Testament, since it is idol worship. The Koran, which includes both words of proper faith and words of heresy, should be wrapped up and placed in the Geniza.

Selling a House to a Non-Jew in Israel
Q: Is it permissible to sell a house to a non-Jew in Israel which will serve as the consulate of a foreign country?
A: Yes, since it supports the standing of the State of Israel.

Strawberries and Mikveh
Q: My hands are stained from eating strawberries and I can't remove the stains with soap. Is it an impediment (chatzitzah) in the Mikveh?
A: No, since it does not have any thickness.

Mezuzah with Glue
Q: Is it permissible to affix a Mezuzah with glue instead of nails?
A: Yes, on condition that it is firmly attached and does not move. Shut Yechaveh Da'at (1:58).

Gilad Shalit
Q: What should we do for the sake of Gilad Shalit?
A: Not to bow to extortion, but – on the contrary – add strength and courage, and entrust the Mossad and Shabak to continue to work on our behalf.

Song and Dance
Q: I have a talent for singing and dancing, but – as a woman – I feel that the Torah closes off this area to me. What should I do?
A: Be involved in it only for women.

Q: Is it permissible to wear a keffiyeh on one's head instead of a Kippa?
A: No. It is non-Jewish dress. "Chukot Ha-Goyim" – imitating non-Jewish practices.

Shaving one's Mustache
Q: Is it permissible to shave one's mustache with a straight razor?
A: There are those who forbid it, but most authorities permit it.

"Death to Arabs"
Q: Why is it forbidden to say "Death to Arabs"?
A: Because it is not true. Only murderers and those who aid them are deserving of death.
Q: What is the source?
A: Do not murder.

Challah under one's Pillow
Q: Is it true that if one places challah which has been separated from dough under his pillow, he will dream about his intended?
A: Nonsense.

Learning to Swim
Q: Is there an obligation in our times to teach one's child to swim?
A: It was never an obligation, but only good advice. The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch therefore do not mention it. In our times, it is proper to do so (Ha-Rav Chaim David Ha-Levy in Shut Mayim Chaim 2:54).

Skirt Length
Q: What is the necessary length of a skirt?
A: Some say it should be down to the floor, and others say 10 centimeters below the knee, so that even while sitting the knees are covered (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:449).

"Churva" Synagogue

Question: I heard in the name of the Vilna Gaon that the building of the "Churva" Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem is a sign that the Third Temple will soon be built. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
Answer: I have not heard this idea in the name of the Vilna Gaon. What is correct is that the second rebuilding of the "Churva" Synagogue was performed by the students of the Gra who made aliyah with Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shaklov. But this occurred 200 years ago and, and the “Churva” was again destroyed. The "Churva" was built three times: The first time by Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid from Poland, the second time by the students of the Gra from Russia and the third time by the entire Nation of Israel – by the State of Israel – and the "Churva" will therefore not be destroyed again. The Gra himself says in the book "Kol Ha-Tur" not to involve oneself with signs and hints but that we must build the Land and renew the life of the Nation of Israel in our Land, and then the Redemption will come.

Parashat Korach: Differentiation or Generalization

[Tal Chermon]

Korach was not just anyone. He belonged to Kehat, the family of Levi’im who carried the Holy Ark (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:3), and, according to our Sages, was on the highest spiritual level (ibid. 8). In fact, according to our Rabbis, it was precisely this fact which misled him. Our Sages say that his descendents were among the Levi’im who served in the Beit Ha-Mikdash. One of the Psalms was composed by the “Sons of Korach” (see Midrash Shocheir Tov 1:6). His descendant, the prophet Shmuel, is compared to both Moshe and Aharon together (Berachot 31b). Thus, his challenging of Moshe and Aharon’s authority has a legitimate basis.
Korach was a great man and he made great mistakes. Moshe himself had a hard time contending with his claims (see Bamidbar 16:4 and Rashi’s commentary). Korach objected to Moshe and Aaron’s authority, claiming that “The whole Nation is holy. Why should you impose yourselves upon the Congregation of Hashem?” (ibid. 16:3). At first glance, it seems that he was right. The Holy One chose the entire Nation of Israel. When man chooses, he selects certain figures out of a group, but has no control over that group’s existence. When Hashem chooses, He is completely free. He created everything - that which He chooses and that which He rejects. Thus He has effectively “chosen” the Chosen People by creating us to be chosen! This is what is meant by the special Jewish character (Am Segula). Hashem created all of us as a Holy People. This “choseness” is intrinsic, comprehensive and irrevocable. No matter how wicked a man is, he remains a human being “in the Image of G-d.” Likewise, no Jew can forfeit his “Segula” - his special Jewish qualities. The command, “You shall be holy” (Vayikra 19:2) is not dependent upon free will - it is simply how we were created. In this respect, there really is no difference between one Jew and another. As Korach stated, “The whole Nation is holy.”
This leads Korach to complain that Moshe and Aaron are “imposing their rule over the Congregation of Hashem.” The people need no mediators, they can relate directly to G-d. Indeed, our Sages, in describing the days of the Messiah, teach that the Messiah’s task is to educate the non-Jewish world (see “Na'ot Deshe” of the Admor of Sochatchov). The Jews “shall teach no more every man his neighbor … for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Yirmiyahu 31:33 and Orot Ha-Kodesh 95 of Maran Rav Kook). “And the Land shall be filled with knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea” (Yeshayahu 11:9). The Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh teaches us that when the Messiah arrives, “a whole tribe of Israel will arise” (Bamidbar 24:17). It will not be some external supernatural phenomenon or personality who brings the Redemption, but rather a force within the Nation as a whole shall bring the Redemption. On Shemot, 19:6, the Or Ha-Chaim explains that the differentiation into Cohanim, Levi’im and Israel is the result of the Sin of the Golden Calf. Before the Giving of the Torah, we were promised that “You shall be to Me a Dynasty of Cohanim and a Holy Nation.” Were it not for the Sin of the Golden Calf, we would not even need a Cohain Gadol, since the whole Nation would be Cohanim. This is the ideal, which will be actualized with the Redemption.
Thus Korach’s vision of a classless society is not without a basis. It is anarchism in the best sense, attempting to create a society in which there is no coercion or hierarchy. Every individual would then be able to build his own life and seek his own spiritual and material happiness with no external interference. The problem with this is that one man’s cure may be another man’s poison. Anarchists are willing to depend on man’s good will to prevent clashes. Korach’s vision is the epitome of idealistic anarchism, “Why should you impose yourselves upon the Congregation of Hashem?”
This premise, however, is basically unsound. It is true that every Jewish person is inherently and equally holy. Nevertheless, “In the morning, G-d will make known to you who is His … and will cause him to come near to Him” (Bamidbar 16:5). Moshe told them that G-d has created limitations in His world. Just as you cannot turn morning into night, you cannot turn Cohanim into Israelites. This world is characterized by differentiation, in nature and in human and Jewish society.
There are two types of differentiation: “In the morning, G-d will make known to you who is His … and will cause him to come near to Him, and the one whom He chooses ….” G-d chooses some, and causes others to come close to Him. “Choseness”, as we have already explained, refers to Divine Creation of that which is chosen. Just as G-d chose the Nation of Israel from all other nations, so did He choose the Cohanim from the rest of our Nation. This is an absolute irrevocable choice. However, there is also a “coming near,” and this depends on each individual’s own efforts. “G-d is near to all who call Him, to all who truly call Him” ("Ashrei"). Divine light falls upon all of us equally, but it is absorbed better by some than by others. G-d makes Himself accessible to those who make an effort to reach Him (see Sukkah 53a). This approach is equally accessible to all. “I swear in the name of the heavens and the earth: be it Jew or non-Jew, man or woman, slave or maidservant - everything depends on one’s actions, and in accordance with them is one blessed with Divine inspiration” (Tana De-Vei Eliyahu Rabbah 9 and Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Ikvei Hatzon, chapter on thoughts). As the Rambam declares, “Any human being whose spirit moves him … to stand before G-d … becomes holy in the utmost” (Hilchot Shmitta and Yovel).
The Crown of Priesthood is Divinely ordained, but the Crown of Torah is accessible to all. It only depends upon us (Rambam, Laws of Talmud Torah 3:1). Indeed, the Halachah rules that a Mamzer who is a Torah scholar takes preference over a Cohen Gadol who is unlearned (Mishna Horiyot 13).
We therefore see that there are two types of differentiation within the Jewish People: One divinely ordained and one based upon one’s own effort. This divinely ordained differentiation affects all dimensions of life - society, time, and space. In general society, there is a difference between Jews and non-Jews, and within the Jewish people there are the Cohanim, Levi’im and Israel. In time, there is a difference between weekdays and Shabbat. Shabbat is not merely a psychological frame of mind, it is an objective, divinely ordained phenomenon. Were one to light candles, sing Zemirot, and rest on Tuesday, it would not be Shabbat. Likewise, there are areas which have the Kedusha - the sanctified status - of Eretz Israel, and others which do not. One who lives in South Dakota and claims that it’s just like living in Eretz Israel because he is so devoted to the Mitzvot is mistaken. In the same vein, areas which are geographically part of Eretz Israel, but are inhabited by non-Jews have lost none of their sanctity. It is not Man who decides which, when, and where is holy but the Holy One of Blessed Name (see Rashi to Bamidbar 16:5).
Together with this, there is a uniting factor: “There are two lines which guide us regarding society and the individual, one line differentiates and the other unites” (Orot Ha-Kodesh vol. 2, 439-440)…. Differentiation is not the result of egoism, but is rather a process which brings benefit to all. For example, the separation which Cohanim must undergo in the Beit Ha-Mikdash results in a spiritual uplifting for the whole Nation.
The guiding rule is separation in order to bring about unity. It is not “equality” in the gross sense of the word. It is not Korach’s vision of all being equally holy. That kind of equality eventually results in gross egoism: “The evil impulse begins with unity (i.e. the false alliance between Korach, Datan and Aviram, and the Levi’im - to claim that all are equally holy), and ends in division (each of the above had different aspirations and met a different fate). In contrast, the impulse for sanctity begins with separation (of Cohanim from Israel) and ends in unity” (Orot Ha-Kodesh ibid.).
Korach’s sin and the sin of the Spies are actually two sides of the same coin: The Spies denied the possibility of that holiness could infuse the material world: army, agriculture, politics, etc. They endowed the material world they saw in Eretz Israel with a power too strong to overcome (Bamidbar 13:31 and Sotah 35). They thought the only way to achieve sanctity was through complete detachment from anything secular.
Korach, on the other hand, saw holiness everywhere. He was great enough to take in the sanctity of the upper and lower worlds, to appreciate the holiness inherent in the shoemakers as well as in the prophets. But he blurred the differences between them. Our world is one of gradation: The Tanach contains the Five Books of Moshe, the Prophets and the Writings (Mishnah Megilah 26). Even in the Five Books, four were written by G-d Himself, and the fifth by Moshe Rabbenu…. Among the holidays, Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and Passover each has a different status. Even a house full of Torah Scrolls needs a Mezuzah, even a Talit which is all Techelet must have a Techelet string (see Rashi to Bamidbar 16:1), because there are distinctions and levels within the general sanctity. As we learn from the Parashah of Korach, false unity eventually leads to division, whereas sanctified division eventually leads to true unity.

I am No Longer Jealous

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

I try so hard, but I do not seem to succeed at anything. I am not talking about academic success or professional success. I gave up on that a long time ago. I am talking about success in Torah learning, Mitzvah observance and good character. I am simply running in place. The same spiritual difficulties I experiences a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, I still have now.
I really try and I don’t succeed. For others, everything is easy. Why was I created to be such a sad sack? It’s aggravating. It’s depressing. It makes me despair. It makes me sad. It’s frustrating. I am jealous of others. Yes, I am jealous. I know that isn’t right: so suggest something else for me!
It’s really not a fair race. I feel myself in a dark room while others are in a room full of light. They march forward in security and happiness, with everything open before them, and I trudge along, stumbling, zigzagging, getting lost and confused.
Such was my attitude for a long time. For many years. I would grade myself compared to others, and emerge the loser each time. I was a chronic loser.
Then, one day, a brilliant idea popped into my head. I’m not brilliant, but the idea was brilliant, a gift from heaven. I would stop grading myself against others, and would start grading myself against myself. Since then, my life has become heaven. True, my achievements are beneath those of my peers, and my talents and abilities are second-rate as well. Yet in terms of my abilities, perhaps I surpass my peers. The secret is this: I’m doing my best.
That’s the secret. I didn’t invent it myself. Rather, I found it in the Mishnah Berurah at the start of the Shulchan Aruch (1:12). It’s right there at the beginning – I’m not really capable of moving much farther than that. There, at the beginning of the first chapter, it says, “In G-d’s eyes, everything depends on one’s doing one’s best.”
Since then I am “happy with my lot”, and not just in the material sense of Avot Chapter 4, but also in the spiritual sense of Avot Chapter 6, referring to Torah and mitzvot, character, and serving G-d. I discovered that G-d is not achievement-oriented. He does not judge man according to results but according to his efforts – “According to the pain, so the reward” (end of the fifth chapter of Avot).
If my friend succeeds much more than me, so what?! “A lot or a little – the main thing is to have heavenly intent” (Berachot 17a). And that is precisely what I do – the best I can, with heavenly intent. Yes, I try. I run. “You should run to a light-weight mitzvah as much as to a heavy-weight mitzvah, for you do not know what reward awaits mitzvah observance” (Avot, the beginning of Chapter 2). The reward is for the running!
I am no longer jealous of anyone. If G-d ordained that such is my lot, it is a sign that that is precisely what I need. “No man can touch what is prepared for his fellow, even to the extent of one hair’s breadth” (Yoma 38b, quoted in Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 11, regarding jealousy). “Each shall keep to his own camp and his own banner” (Bamidbar 1:52).
True, I am living fulfillment of “He has made me dwell in darkness” (Eichah 3:6), so everything is that much harder. Yet quite the contrary, every little thing that I succeed in doing is enormously precious in G-d’s sight. Every little corner of light carries greater weight than the achievements of my peers in their rooms awash with light.
So very many times I felt myself too far away. I felt I could not connect myself to G-d, that my very ability to feel was blunted – compared to my peers who experience and taste all of G-d’s goodness. Now I understand that the opposite is the case. This is an opportunity for me to serve G-d with sincerity, not so that I can attach myself and experience excitement, but for the sake of G-d, and for His sake alone. Not for me. It is all for G-d’s sake. I don’t have much, but that little bit that I do have is all for G-d. I am no longer jealous. I am happy.
Thank you G-d, for giving me this soul.


There are those who claim that reading does not help a child of three years old. In contrast, there are others who claim that a delay in reading can cause damage which is difficult to repair. Neither of these extremes is correct. It is impossible to build a child's education based on general theories. It must be accomplished by the facts on the ground.
We should not pressure a three year old to read, but it is not forbidden for him to read. Therefore, the educator who said that it is good to teach a three year old to read and write is correct, on the condition that it is a joyful experience for him.
This is indeed the guidance given by Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, which is brought in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 255:5 in the Rama): we should begin to teach a three-year-old the letters of the Torah.
It is similar to a fruit: for the first three years it is Orla and forbidden to eat. Only at the beginning of the fourth year is the fruit for us (Biurei Ha-Gra ibid. in the name of the Tanchuma).
Nevertheless, we do not need to establish age requirements. It depends on the individual child and his will. Everything must be done with pleasantness, without pressure or tension. This will serve as the foundation for all of his future learning.

Shut SMS #117

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Giving Food to a Secular Jew
Q: Is it permissible for me to give food to a secular Jew when I know he will not recite a blessing?
A: Perhaps you can also eat at the same time and recite the blessing out loud (see Shut Minchah Shlomo 1:35).

Q: Why did the Torah forbid the fruit of Orla (the first three years of the tree), when as a result, we lose the blessing of the Land of Israel?
A: Some explain that it is to teach us the trait of self-control, which is an immeasurably greater blessing.

Reason for Learning Torah
Q: Why do we learn Torah?
A: It helps one’s soul grow.

Bread without Water
Q: I am stuck in a place without water. How can I eat bread?
A: In extreme circumstances, one my wrap both hands with plastic bags, or gloves, in lieu of washing them with water.
Q: Is it permissible to wrap the bread?
A: No.

Classical Music
Q: My parents love to play classical music for our baby. Is this a problem?
A: No. This is gentle music which awakens gentle feelings.

Highlighting in a Tanach
Q: Is it permissible to highlight in a Tanach?
A: Yes. It does not contradict the reverence one must have for it.

Jewish Philosophy
Q: Is it worthwhile to study for a degree in Jewish Philosophy at a university?
A: No, since it has heresy mixed in with it.

Lashon Ha-Ra in Bagrut (matriculation exams in Israel)
Q: We are taking the "Charedei" Bagrut in history, and the study material contains Lashon Ha-Ra against Rav Kook. What should we do?
A: If this is so, skip this part, as well as other parts containing Lashon Ha-Ra, and may Hashem help you.
Q: We will lose points on the exam, since they love to ask about this material.
A: May Hashem fill your lack. If you nonetheless study it, than study the truth at the same time in contrast to the Lashon Ha-Ra.

Davening in Shorts
Q: Is it permissible to daven in shorts?
A: In a place where people would stand this way before a king (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:40).

Q: How does one repent?
A: Regret. Abandon the sin. Accept not to sin in the future. Acts of loving-kindness. Torah learning (see Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah chap. 2).

Q: Is there another religion which says that G-d revealed Himself to the entire nation?
A: To individuals – yes. To an entire nation – no.

Merits and Demerits
Q: It is written that if a man speaks Lashon Ha-Ra than his merits are transferred to the person he spoke Lashon Ha-Ra about and that person's demerits are transferred to the speaker of Lashon Ha-Ra. Is this correct?
A: Yes. It is in the book "Chovot Ha-Levavot", brought in the Chafetz Chaim's "Shemirat Ha-Lashon" and it is also found in the Zohar.

Cell Phone as an Alarm Clock
Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat to use a cell phone as an alarm clock?
A: On condition that one not touch it and not turn it off, and that it has a simple ring and not music.

Chai Rotel
Q: What is the source of "Chai Rotel" - that if one donates or offers 18 Rotels (54 liters or about 13 gallons) of drink to those attending the celebrations at Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's tomb on Lag Ba-Omer, then the giver will be granted miraculous salvation?
A: There is no source. One Chasidic Rebbe told his student to provide drinks to thirsty visitors to the spot, and in merit of this kindness, Hashem would help him, as in all acts of kindness (Rotel is a liquid measure of the Turks, equaling about 3 liters, and contains no holiness).

Direction of Sleeping
Q: Is it true that one should sleep with one's head in the direction of the Mezuzah?
A: No.

Rabbi Akiva
Q: How in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Akiva, who taught "Love your fellow as yourself is the main principle of the Torah," did they fail to treat each other with proper respect?
A: In merit of receiving this education, they were saved from much worse. Rabbi Menachem Azrya of Pano. Brought in the book "Tal Orot".

Parashat Shelach: Righteous on an Individual Level, Wicked in Public Matters

[Tal Chermon, first edition, p. 437]

The Spies were distinguished and upright persons: "All of them [important] men, they were the heads of Bnei Israel" (Bemidbar 13:3). Rashi comments: "Anytime the term 'men' [anashim] is used in the Torah, it denotes important men, for at that time they were [still] righteous" (His source is Midrash Raba.). Our Sages teach, however, that at the same time they were also wicked. Rashi asks why the Torah repeats itself by writing, "And they went and they came" (Bemidbar 13:26). He deduces from this that their return was analogous to their departure - "Just as they returned [from their mission] with evil intentions, so did they depart with evil intentions." How can we reconcile these comments?

We must answer that they were righteous on a personal, individual level, but wicked in public matters. They did not believe that the Nation's Kedusha (sanctity) was powerful enough to pervade all of the Land of Israel. They did not distinguish between the status of the Nation of Israel in exile and the status of the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel. Sanctity in exile is limited to spiritual matter; in the Land of Israel it diffuses throughout everything. In the Land of Israel, every physical matter has Divine value. The Spies said, "He is stronger than we are/He is ('memenu' can refer to either 'we' or 'He')" (ibid. 13:31), and Rashi, following the Gemara in Sotah, comments: "They were referring to Hashem." They meant: "It's too hard for us, and too hard for Hashem. The sanctity will not be powerful enough to pervade all aspects of life in the Land of Israel."

The Spies were giants of the spirit, but they were still unfit to form the Divine leadership of the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel. The Zohar tells us that they said, "In the desert we were worthy of being the leaders, but in the Land of Israel, we will not be the leaders." On a personal, individual level, they were outstandingly righteous, and this was sufficient to make them leaders in the Exile. However, they were wicked insofar as their inability to raise the People of Israel to spiritual perfection in the Land of Israel (see Rabbi A. Kook, Chavash Pe'er, Drush Aleph, p.24). This sin has followed us ever since, until today, when we are beginning to learn how to function on a national level of Kedusha, thanks to the wonders which G-d has performed for His Nation.

Searching for a Torah Scholar

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

Question: Many girls are looking for a righteous, G-d fearing boy with sterling qualities, but some of them insist on going out only with boys who have decided to devote all their lives to Torah pursuits. The years go by and they don’t find what they are looking for. What is the proper path?
Answer: The girls’ yearning to wed a Torah scholar is appropriate, for Rambam wrote, “It is the nature of man to be drawn after the opinions and behavior of his friends and acquaintances, and to conduct himself like the people of his region. Therefore one must attach oneself to the righteous and always spend time with the wise in order to learn from their deeds. As it says, ‘To Him shall you hold fast’ (Devarim 10:20). One should wed the daughter of a Torah scholar and marry off his daughter to a Torah scholar” Hilchot (De’ot 6:1-2).
Obviously, we cannot know the future, and if a girl weds a yeshiva student whose plans are to learn Torah all his life and to be a rabbi, there is no guarantee that he will hold fast to this goal. Conversely, quite a few persons with various professions have decided at a certain point to devote themselves to Torah, and have emerged as Torah scholars. Yet if a yeshiva student is determined to become a rabbi, there is a much greater chance he will achieve this than if he has other aims in life.
Still, the central question is to define what is a “Torah scholar”. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, opposed the idea of “Kollel” for married students, and he viewed it as an option only for those who had already learned before their weddings to continue learning afterwards. He held this view because he was against fixing a defined purpose for a Kollel, such as a program preparing rabbinic court justices, rabbis or halachic decisors. Rather, he said that the purpose of a yeshiva must be to produce true Torah scholars. He explained that there are professional Torah scholars whose profession is Torah, and there are non-professional Torah scholars who have a different profession, yet who obviously are replete with Torah, its study, its fulfillment and its character.
This does not mean that they will have no influence on our Nation’s path, for as is well-known, influence does not have to be formal. Our master, Ha-Rav Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, in his work “Eder HaYakar”, explains that the main influence of a Torah scholar comes about through his very personality, and his oral and written influence is only secondary. This is likewise the meaning of “The Torah’s application is greater than its study”. In other words, the personal influence of the Torah scholar is greater than his academic influence (Ein Aya, Berachot 7). This is true regarding anyone, all the more so regarding a Torah scholar’s wife, who when all is said and done is not influenced precisely by her husband’s articles or lectures but by his very personality, and the same applies regarding his children.
Therefore, a woman should not seek to wed precisely a Torah scholar who will provide her with the title of “Rebbitzin”, but someone who will lead a life of Torah.


Question: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about wearing Techelet?
Answer: We only wear white. This is based on three reasons, each of which is sufficient on its own:
1. One of the authorities of last generation, the "Beit Ha-Levi," Ha-Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Brisk, held that in the absence of a continuous tradition, it is impossible to reinstitute the identification of the Techelet, even with proofs. This identification has disappeared until the reestablishment of the Sanhedrin. But even if we say that it is possible to reinstitute it with the aid of proofs, they must be strong, clear and beyond doubt. The proofs relating to the Murex Trunculus are not one hundred percent. And the identification of the Techelet today is the third time it has been identified. The first time was by the Chasidic Rebbe of Radzyner, and the Breslav Chasidim also adopted it. The second identification was by Ha-Rav Yitzchak Herzog, who later became the Chief Rabbi of Israel. So this is now the third such identification. The great Rabbis of our generation have not accepted these suggestions, and are waiting for a fourth possibility.
2. We are not strict to wear any Techelet since our Sages said that wearing a blue color which is not Techelet (called "kala ilan") invalidates an entire Talit (see Bava Metzia 61b and Menachot 40a, 43a). It is thus possible that wearing this Techelet could invalidate the entire Talit. Furthermore, when we are strict about something in general, it is when we are certain that we are better off regarding the mitzvah, but if we are uncertain, it is not considered a "stricture."
3. This is casting aspersion on earlier Jews and the great Rabbis of our generation who did not and do not wear the Techelet. A Torah scholar once asked Maran Ha-Rav Kook about Techelet. He did not ask if he should wear Techelet. He said: "I wear Techelet on my Tziztit which I tuck in. Should I also wear them on my Talit?" Maran Ha-Rav Kook answered: "No, by doing so you would be casting dispersion on the earlier ones who did not do so. It is fine if you are wearing them and they are tucked in, 'I walk with wholeness of heart within the confines of my house' (Tehillim 101:2), but do not wear them out."
It is also forbidden to act with "yuhara" – religious arrogance – before the great Rabbis of our generation. The Gemara in Baba Kamma (81) discusses that Yehoshua bin Nun made the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael conditional on ten laws. One of them is that people may walk on the side of the road (on the border of others' property) to avoid hardened clumps of dirt on the road. Rav and Rabbi Chiya were once walking on the road, and they veered off to the side of the road to avoid the clumps of dirt. Rav Yehudah bar Kenosa was ahead of them, and walked in the middle, taking big steps to avoid the obstacles. Rav said: "Who is that? It is 'yehura' not to rely on Yehoshua's enactment!" Rabbi Chiya said: "Perhaps it is my student, Rav Yehudah bar Kenosa. All his actions are for the sake of Heaven." It is haughty to act strictly in front of one's Rabbi. Rav Yehudah bar Kenosa was different, however, as he always acted strictly. If someone wears Techelet, we do not disparage him, he has on whom to rely. But if someone comes and asks, we say to him: "do not display 'yuhara.'" The Torah scholars of our generation wore and wear white Tzitzit and we are going to act strictly in front of them? Do we know more about Techelet than Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira ztz"l?! Do we know more about Techelet than Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu Shilt"a?!
In sum: We need to continue to research the matter, and it is a long journey. Although the heart aches, we wait. In the meanwhile, we wear white, "it has completely turned white, it is pure" (a play on Vayikra 13:13).
[MT – note: It is worth noting that Rav Aviner was once asked: What was Maran Ha-Rav Kook's attitude regarding Techelet?
Answer: When a Torah scholar, who wore Techelet on his Tzitzit, asked Maran Ha-Rav if he should also put Techelet on his Talit, he responded: "It is sufficient for you to have the Tzitzit with Techelet. Techelet on your Talit will be seen as casting dispersion on the earlier ones who did not put Techelet on their Tzitzit" (brought in "Sefer Ha-Techelet of Rav M. Bornstein, p. 192). "When Maran Ha-Rav saw that Ha-Rav David Cohain, Ha-Nazir, put Techelet on his Tzitzit, he asked him: Do you feel the lack of the Techelet on your Tzitzit and that you have a need for it? Ha-Nazir took this as a criticism and ceased putting on the Techelet. After a short time, Maran Ha-Rav came in a second time and said to him: Nu, nu, continue putting the Techelet on your Talit. Ha-Nazir however held fast to the first comment and refrained from doing so, and only put on the Techelet in private after the death of Maran Ha-Rav" (ibid., p. 188). I – the lowly one – heard the story in the following version: "When Maran Ha-Rav saw Ha-Nazir wearing Techelet on his Tzitzit, he rebuked him that he should not follow a path about which almost all the great Rabbis of Israel had reservations. Ha-Rav then entered his room and after a few minutes came out again and said to Ha-Nazir that there is nonetheless a place for this. Despite that this is not the path to be followed by the community, unique individuals may follow it, and since Ha-Nazir is unique and special, he could follow this special path."]

The Ideal Nursery School Teacher

How does one choose a nursery school? Based on the teacher.
And how does one choose a teacher? As is known, the teacher fills the place of the mother. Therefore, the most important trait for a nursery school teacher is to be motherly.
The second trait is awe of Heaven (Yirat Shamayim). This does not mean that she teaches the children awe of Heaven, but that she herself is filled with the holiness of Torah, attends Torah classes to the best of her ability, cleaves to women who are Talmidot Chachamot, yearns for holiness, and then the children will absorb it from her. An educator is not one who commands others to elevate themselves spiritually, but who is doing so on his own, and brings others along with him. Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah used a parable: An educator is similar to an oven which heats itself inside and then radiates warmth out - the warmth of holiness, integrity and Torah.
The third trait is the educational techniques used by the teacher. Sometimes, there is a teacher who uses many techniques but is dry, and it is better to have a motherly teacher, who is filled with displays of love for the children.
In sum, the business card of a nursery school teacher is: 1. Motherliness. 2. Yirat Shamayim. 3. Educational Technique.

Shut SMS #116

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:

Q: How can we help the entire Nation of Israel repent?
A: There is no wonder drug. We ourselves must be upright people. And, by the way, our Nation is returning to tradition. Just one example: there were once 20 members of the Knesset who declared themselves anti-religious, and now there are only 3 (see "Eder Ha-Yakar" of Maran Ha-Rav Kook).

Direction of davening
Q: If a Shul is not facing Jerusalem, in which direction should we daven?
A: Towards the Torah ark, but obviously the Rabbi who is there should decide (Be'er Heitev 94:3. Shut Meishiv Dvar 1:10. Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:79. And not like the Magen Avraham ibid. #3 and Yad Eliyahu brought in the Be'er Heitiv ibid.).

Preparing on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to take food out of the freezer on Shabbat in order for it to defrost for Motza’ei Shabbat?
A: No. This is preparing on Shabbat for a weekday. It is also possible that the food is Muktze.

Q: Is it permissible to enter a monastery in the framework of an educational field trip?
A: No. It is a place of idol worship.

Q: Does a dog have a place in the World to Come?
A: No. Tiferet Yisrael on Pirkei Avot 3:14 – Beloved is man who was created in Hashem's image.

Q: Is it permissible to tell my grandmother that I received a good grade on a test in order to make her happy, or is this arrogance?
A: It is permissible and a Mitzvah. One’s intention is the deciding factor here.

Q: Should one put Techelet on his Tzitzit?
A: Almost none of the great Rabbis agree with the proofs brought to identify it (Shut She’eilat Shlomo 4:12-20).

Q: Is using profanity simply not nice or is it also a transgression?
A: It is a severe transgression. Mesilat Yesharim, chapter 11.

Learning Rebbe Nachman
Q: If someone wants to learn the Torah of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, where should he begin?
A: With other books, and first learn Mesilat Yesharim one hundred times (see Likutei Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 2 p. 262 and Chayei Ha-Re’eiyah p. 172).

Standing for an Elder
Q: If there is an elderly person and I am not sure if he is above the age of 70, should I stand?
A: Yes. It is a doubtful situation regarding a Torah Mitzvah and we are therefore strict (Shut She’eilat Shlomo 1:351).

Tzitzit on a Reflector Vest
Q: Does a reflector vest with four corners require Tzitzit?
A: No. It is not a garment (Biur Halachah, Orach Chaim 10:11).

Temple Mount
Q: What is Ha-Rav’s opinion regarding going onto the Temple Mount?
A: My humble opinion does not matter. After all, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel prohibited it.
Q: And what is the opinion of the great Rabbis of Israel?
A: Almost all of them forbid it.

Q: If someone is a Ba’al Teshuvah and has a tattoo from his past, is he committing a transgression at every moment?
A: No. There is no transgression in leaving it. It is obviously proper to have it removed but there is no obligation to do so (Shut Minchat Yitzchak 3:11. Shut Lehorot Natan 8:72. Shut Revivot Ephraim 8:308).

Q: How should we answer those who claim: “It would have been better to stay in Exile and remain religious than returning to our Land and becoming irreligious”?
A: Nonsense. Some researchers say that since the Holocaust another 6 million Jews have assimilated. This is known as “The Invisible Holocaust.” In New York State, 56% of Jews currently intermarry. And in other States, the number reaches 85%. Our Land, however, is full of Torah.

Money for Rabbis and Full-Time Torah Learners
Q: How do Rabbis and those who learn Torah full-time receive a salary when the Rambam prohibits it?
A: The Shulchan Aruch does not rule like the Rambam in this case. It is certainly improper to learn Torah for the sake of earning money, but someone who learns with proper intent is permitted to receive money for doing so. See Kesef Mishneh on Hilchot Talmud Torah, chapter 3.

Wedding Ring
Q: What should a woman do with her wedding ring if she gets divorced – return it or sell it?
A: It belongs to her. She should sell it.

Shut SMS #115

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:

Attaining Faith
Q: How does one attain faith in Hashem when it is impossible to prove His existence?
A: It is possible to prove His existence. But faith is above proof and it is attained with the aid of books about Emunah.

Q: I am meeting a young man for the purpose of marriage, but my parents are opposed since he is from an extremely poor family. What should I do?
A: Continue. Money is not important. In the end, your parents will accept it.

Proposal with a Ring
Q: How should one propose marriage with a ring?
A: He should not. This is a new creation. One should refrain from doing so since there is a concern of Kiddushin. If it is done, it should be without witnesses.
Q: Then how does one propose marriage?
A: The young man and woman, who are meeting with the purpose of getting married, should decide together.

The Daughter of a Torah Scholar
Q: I daven to Hashem to send me a wife who is the daughter of a Torah scholar, but He only sends me young women who are good and righteous, but who are not the daughters of Torah scholars. What should I do?
A: They themselves are in the category of Torah scholars (Re'im Ahuvim p. 125).

Uprooting a Fruit Tree
Q: Is it permissible to uproot a fruit tree if it is in the way of a building project?
A: Yes. Since the building is worth more than the tree. It is preferable that a non-Jew does the uprooting (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:129).

Q: Is it permissible to wear Tzitzit directly on one's body?
A: Yes.

Q: Should we add Jonathan Pollard's name into the prayer for captured and missing soldiers?
A: Certainly. After all, he is a great hero who displayed self-sacrifice for the sake of the Nation of Israel.

Q: Is it permissible for a mourner to go out of his house to get some air?
A: Yes, in an empty place without bumping into friends.

Palestinian State
Q: Is it permissible to establish a Palestinian State on condition that the settlements remain in their places?
A: Certainly not! Besides the fact that this is not realistic, there is the Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, and it is not only the issue of individuals living in the Land, but – first and foremost – a national matter in which all of this Land is under our control and not under the control of another nation (Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, additions of the Ramban, Positive Mitzvah #4).

Q: Is it permissible to keep a non-Kosher book in one's house, but only prepare Kosher food from it?
A: Not if the author is Jewish, since it is forbidden to strengthen the hand of those who sin. But it is permissible if the author is a non-Jew.

Q: What is the source for a person having the power to bless others on his birthday?
A: There is no source.

War with Amalek
Q: What is the difference between what the Nazis did to the Jews and what we are commanded to do to Amalek (i.e. eradicate them)?
A: The Nazis’ goal was to exterminate us no matter what. We do not go to war against any nation, including Amalek, without first offering them peace. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 6:1. And the fact that we threaten them with war is for the sake of deterrence, so that they do not wage war against us. Moreh Nevuchim.

Non-Jew in Shul
Q: Is it permissible for a non-Jew to enter a Shul?
A: Yes, if he is not wearing a cross.

Loving Hashem
Q: What is more important – the love of Hashem or love of Israel?
A: They go together. True love of Hashem automatically leads one to the love of Israel.

Tzitzit on the Flag
Q: If someone is wearing the flag of Israel, does he have to put Tzitzit on it?
A: No. It is not a garment nor is it intended to be a garment. It is therefore exempt. Biur Halachah, Orach Chaim 10:11.

Q: I was adopted and am a convert and fear that people will find out. Can I be called to the Torah by my Jewish adopted father's name and not as "Ben Avraham Avinu"?
A: Yes (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:161. As opposed to Shut Minchat Yitzchak 1:136, 4:49).