Shana Tova from Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a

Rosh Yeshiva

Shut SMS #132

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Q: Is it permissible to carry Machzorim to Tashlich?
A: Yes. It is permissible on Yom Tov to carry from one domain to another, and in the public domain. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 518:1. It is also permissible to bring them back. Mishnah Berurah #6.
Q: And on Shabbat?
A: It is forbidden to carry. And, in general, Ashkenazim and Jews from North Africa do not perform Tashlich on Shabbat. Mishnah Berurah 580:8.
Q: Is it permissible to walk 2000 Amah outside of the Techum Shabbat to perform Tashlich?
A: No. The prohibition of Techum Shabbat is not waved. Siddur Tzahal, Nusach Achid p. 758.

Immersion in a Mikveh on Erev Rosh Hashanah
Q: Is immersing in a Mikveh obligatory on Erev Rosh Hashanah?
A: Yes, this is the custom. Rama, Orach Chaim 581:4.
Q: When should one immerse?
A: In the afternoon. Mishnah Berurah #26. And some authorities permit it in the morning. Emek Halachah 2:25. And this is how one should act if the Mikveh is extremely crowed in the afternoon.
Q: Do women immerse?
A: Married women who are in a state of purity may do so. Chazon Ovadiah (Yamim Noraim, p. 59).
Q: Single women?
A: No. Ibid.
Q: What should one do if he is unable to immerse in a Mikveh?
A: Pour "9 Kavin" – 12.5 Liters – over himself. Mishnah Berurah #26. Or take a shower with a continuous, strong flow of water. Shut Minchat Yitzchak (4:21, 9:34. Chazon Ovadiah -Yamim Noraim, pp. 57-61. And see Shut Divrei Yetziv, Orach Chaim #13. Shut Shevet Ha-Levi 8:24. Piskei Teshuvot #326 note 14. Although Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said in the name of the Chazon Ish that a shower is not considered "9 Kavin" since it is not considered as a continuous flow).

Uman Rosh Hashanah
Q: Why are you opposed to traveling to Uman when Rebbe Nachman promised that anyone who visits his grave will be saved from Gehinom? It’s worth it!
A: There are many things immeasurably greater which will save one from Gehinom, which our Sages and even Hashem Himself promised.
Q: Such as?
A: Teshuvah. Tzedakah. Acts of Kindness. Learning Torah. Serving in Tzahal. Any Mitzvah…

Nursing in Public
Q: Is it permissible to nurse in public when the mother is completely covered?
A: Yes.

Verse on a Blackboard
Q: Is it permissible for a teacher to write a verse on the blackboard? After all, it will need to be erased?
A: It is permissible since it is written in order to be erased. But Hashem's Name may not be written.

Q: If I wear a long skirt that reaches down to the floor, do I need to wear socks as well?
A: It is enough to wear a long skirt (Shut Shevet Ha-Levi 5:79).

Palestinian State
Q: What will happen if the UN decides on a Palestinian State?
A: Nothing. Terrorists, as is their way, are trying to hurt us, which they do in any event. And the Eternal One of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.

Q: My grandmother tells me that Jews should not whistle. Is it true?
A: There is no prohibition against whistling. Outside of Israel, non-Jews whistled, so Jews refrained from doing so. In sum: Don't whistle in your grandmother's presence, out of respect for her.
Q: And on Shabbat?
A: It is also permissible (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:182).

Ends of Bread
Q: What is the source for the custom of not eating the ends of a loaf of bread?
A: It is an act of piety mentioned in Tzava'at Rebbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid #3. But it is surprising, and eating these pieces is permissible according to the basic halachah. Shut Minchat Yitzchak 9:8 #7.

Women Covering their Hair
Q: Why do women cover their hair? If it is immodest, then shouldn’t single women also cover their hair?
A: Single women in Yemen did in fact cover their hair according to the ruling of the Rambam. But those who do not follow this custom explain that the hair of a married woman is a type of beauty saved for her husband, i.e. the prohibition creates an immodest situation. See Shut Igrot Moshe (Even Ha-Ezer 1:57, 4:32 #4).

Q: Is there a problem of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" (causing pain to animals) by having animals caged in a zoo? Is it permissible to visit a zoo?
A: It is permissible since it is a human need. It is permissible to visit (Kum Hithalech Ba-Aretz #12).

Eating Before Buying
Q: Can I eat food in the supermarket before I buy it?
A: No. 1. Perhaps the store does not permit it. 2. It causes suspicion in front of others (that you won't pay for it). 3. "One who eats in the market is similar to a dog" (Kiddushin 40b. see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 2:443, 3: 81).

Q: Is it permissible to pick flowers in a public park?
A: Certainly not. It is theft.

Found Object
Q: I saw a coin on the street and went to pick it up. My friend saw what I was doing, pushed me aside and picked it up for himself. To whom does the coin belong?
A: To him. Seeing an object does not acquire it. Baba Metzia. But he violated "Love your fellow as yourself."

Shut SMS #131

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

Birkat Ha-Gomel for a Baby
Q: Our baby was saved from death. Should we recite "Ha-Gomel" for him?
A: No. He is not in the category of "Those who are obligated". Piskei Teshuvot 219:9. You should give Tzedakah.

Q: What does abracadabra mean?
A: Nothing. It is a made-up imaginary word. Some says that it comes from the Aramaic: "Avra Ka Davra" – meaning, "It should be created as I said".

Shiduch during Divorce
Q: I am going through a divorce. Can I begin to meet women for a Shiduch?
A: G-d forbid. You must wait until the divorce is completely finalized. In the meantime, the yoke of the Cherem of Rabbenu Gershon (which forbids divorcing a woman against her will) lays upon your neck. Shut Ezrat Cohain #62.

Mixed-Seating Wedding
Q: Is it permissible to have a mixed-seating wedding? After all, most of the community does so. Is everyone mistaken?
A: Yes. To our great distress, they are mistaken. See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:1. And also 152:8.

Q: How do I know if a decision I made is correct?
A: Check if it is in accordance with the Torah. Take counsel with friends.

Wedding Ring of a Widower
Q: My husband died. As a widow, should I still wear my wedding ring?
A: You can continue or cease to do so. It is your own personal choice.

Round Chupa
Q: Is it permissible to have a round Chupa?
A: Yes.

Egg Implantation
Q: I learned that if a woman is unable to become pregnant, some authorities allow the implantation of her egg in another woman. In such a case, who is considered the mother?
A: There are four opinions: The donor, the one who is pregnant and gives birth, both of them, neither of them. The bottom line, however, is that the woman who donates the egg is extremely joyful to have a baby.

Abominable Snowman
Q: I heard that remnants of a huge, pre-historic creature, half man and half ape, have been found and photographed. Is this true?
A: It is all a joke that was initiated by a man named Wallace who loved pranks. The existence of this "creature"(also called Bigfoot or Yeti) has been disproven by scientific research. It's all nonsense.

Playing Instrument on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat for someone to make music from the rubber bands on his (teeth) braces?
A: No. It is also included in the prohibition against make music on Shabbat.

G-d in Feminine and Masculine Language
Q: Why do we sometimes refer to Hashem in our prayers in feminine language and otherstimes in the masculine?
A: Because the Master of the Universe is above feminine and masculine, and sometimes reveals Himself as a Father and sometimes as a Mother.

Cell Phone on the Bus
Q: Someone is sleeping next to me on the bus. Is it permissible for me to talk on my cell phone?
A: Yes. Quietly. In any event, one must always speak softly there and in any public area in order not to bother others, and to prevent them from having access to your personal life.

Traveling to Uman to the grave of Rebbe Nachman on Rosh Hashanah

Question: Is it permissible to travel from the Land of Israel to Uman (Ukraine) to visit the grave of Rebbe Nachman on Rosh Hashanah?
Answer: This is a new "custom" based on the statement of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: "Anyone who visits my grave and gives eighteen coins to tzedakah will merit life in the World to Come." One may only leave Israel for a mitzvah (see Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 5:9 and Tosafot to Avodah Zarah 13a). Anyone who violates this, will, we hope, repent. Worse than this is one who travels under the impression that he is performing a mitzvah, because how then will he then repent?! Visiting the grave of tzadikim (righteous people) is not defined as a mitzvah – not a rabbinic mitzvah and not a Torah mitzvah; it is a positive act. Based on this, Maran Ha-Rav Kook ruled that we do not leave Israel to visit the graves of tzadikim, and he wrote "are we without graves in the Land of Israel that you travel to the Exile?!" (Shut Mishpat Cohain #147).

It is true that Rebbe Nachman said: "Anyone who visits my grave and gives eighteen coins to tzedakah will merit life in the World to Come," but Avraham Avinu is greater than Rebbe Nachman. Rebbe Nachman himself said this. Anyone who goes to Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah in Hevron and gives eighteen gold coins can be certain that Avraham Avinu will aid him. Furthermore, know that the Land of Israel is holier than Uman. Rebbe Nachman himself said this.

Therefore, go to Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah.

Also know that it is not enough to visit a grave and give eighteen coins to tzedakah to be worthy of life in the World to Come, but one needs to perform acts of loving-kindness, learn Torah and perform the mitzvot. And it is not proper to spend thousands of shekels to travel there. You should give the money to tzedakah. The value of traveling there is unclear, but giving tzedakah is clear. It is an explicit verse in the Torah.

Also, if you leave your wife alone and sad on Rosh Hashanah, know that you will not stand guilt-free before the Heavenly Court.

The custom of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was to stand across from the national cemetery on Mt. Herzl and say: "These are the graves of the righteous who died sanctifying Hashem's Name. Why should I travel far distances? (Oro Shel Olam, p. 380)."

[A collection of other leading Rabbi's statements on this issue -
Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu: "It is not proper to leave Israel on Rosh Hashanah or during the rest of the year, and it is preferable for one who wants to pray at the graves of tzadikkim to visit the graves of tzadikim in the Land of Israel – Hevron, Kever Rachel, Kever Rashbi – who was the teacher of Rebbe Nachman, etc. Do not leave Israel for the impurity of the lands of the other nations."

Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv: "Go daven at the Kotel."

Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef: "How did the grave of Rebbe Nachman become more important than the graves of the Rambam and Ha-Gaon Rav Yosef Karo?"

Ha-Rav Dov Lior explained how absurd is the thought-process of those who travel to Uman: "People travel to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in order to ask him to help them to travel to the grave of Rebbe Nachman so they can make a request of him."]

Collection of Laws of Rosh Hashanah – Part 2

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo 1:235]

5. Shofar
One should not say "Baruch Hu U-Baruch Shemo" (Blessed is He and Blessed is His Name) during the blessing over the Shofar, because this blessing is also recited in order to fulfill his (the listener’s) obligation, and "Baruch Hu U-Baruch Shemo" is considered an interruption (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 585). This is the general principle: any time during which it is forbidden to interrupt, one should not say "Baruch Hu U-Baruch Shemo." As, for example, during the blessing before the Shema in the morning and evening, during Baruch She-Amar and during Yishtabach. This also applies any time that a blessing is recited in order to fulfill one’s obligation, as in Kiddush and Havdalah. But one may say "Baruch Hu U-Baruch Shemo" during the morning blessings, during the repetition of the prayer on Shabbat Evening in Me’ein Sheva, during Magen Avot and during the blessings for an Aliyah to the Torah.

6. Bowing in Shul
When one bows on the ground, he should spread out a towel, handkerchief or piece of paper (but not a Talit bag, since it is disrespectful to put it on the floor). We do this because it is written in the Torah (Vayikra 26:1): "Nor shall you place a figured stone in your Land to bow down on it." This means that it is forbidden to bow down, even to Hashem, on a stone floor (except for one in the Temple. Rama in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 131:8). And because all of this refers to when one’s face touches the ground, one should spread out the handkerchief in the place where one’s face will be and not under the knees (Mishnah Berurah #40-41. Luach Heichal Shlomo).

Question: Can women fall on their knees during Musaf on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, since women were not in the Temple courtyard and therefore would not bow? [In the book "Nefesh Ha-Rav" (pp. 214-215), Rav Soloveitchik rules that women should not prostrate on account of this reason].
Answer: Yes, they may. This is a minhag. As long as there is a modest place and she does not have a bad back, a woman may prostrate.

7. Preparing on the First Day for the Second Day
Question: Is it permissible to prepare on the first day of Rosh Hashanah for the second day?
Answer: Regarding this issue, each day is considered as a holy day on its own, and just as we do not prepare on Shabbat for a weekday, so too we do not prepare on the first day of Rosh Hashanah for the second day, since there is room to say that perhaps the holiness of the second day is in fact a weekday in relation to the holiness of the first day (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata p. 20 #58 and p. 59 #1). It is therefore forbidden to cook, wash dishes, prepare candles in the candlesticks, make beds, set tables, etc... (ibid. 1, 58) on the first day in preparation for the second day. One must wait until after the stars have come out.
One may, however, prepare on Rosh Hashanah for Shabbat when they are consecutive days, by making an Eruv Tavshilin (by setting aside, before the holiday begins, an eruv consisting of a cooked portion of food and a piece of bread or matzah. This is considered the start of the food for Shabbat and any further preparation of food is seen as a continuation of it, and is thus permitted).

Addition to the revised edition
If Rosh Hashanah falls on a Thursday and Friday, it is forbidden to prepare on Thursday for Shabbat even with an Eruv Tavshilin. The preparation may only be performed on Friday (Shut Yehaveh Daat 6:32).

8. Repentance
Do not forget the essence of Rosh Hashanah: to perform Teshuvah, both in commandments between a person and Hashem and in commandments between a person and his fellow man.

You Shall Surely Remember the Holocaust

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Ki Tavo – translated by R. Blumberg]

Traveling to the Polish death camps is not something good. Any one of the following reasons should be a sufficient deterent from doing so.
(1) It is forbidden to leave Israel, except for a temporary trip related to earning a living, marrying, or performing a mitzvah. Visiting a death camp is not classified as a mitzvah, either of the Torah or of our Sages, and it is not mentioned amongst the hundreds of thousands of paragraphs found in halachic works that were written in recent generations.
(2) One should not financially support the Poles, who collaborated with the Nazis in establishing the extermination camps, and even persecuted the Jews themselves many times. Shall murderers benefit from their deeds?
(3) Oftentimes, due to the high costs, only wealthy students can afford this trip. It is a scandal that something associated with the education system should involve a division between rich and poor.
Now one might say: If this is true, how shall we remember the Holocaust? The answer is simple: books, pictures, films, Yad Vashem and similar places. One might also say: That's all well and good, but I'm missing the experience of a live visit to a death camp. The answer is simple: Hold a live meeting with one of the Holocaust survivors, of whom there are presently 87,000, and hear directly from him what he experienced.
Still again, one might argue: “But visiting a death camp is an infinitely more powerful experience than talking to a Holocaust survivor.” That argument, as well, is a cause for much puzzlement: Really? Is an enactment with inanimate objects more alive than one involving a living, breathing person?! Quite the contrary. Common sense and untainted morality dictate that all that money spent on this trip should be donated to Holocaust survivors, who are still suffering to this very day from the terrible open wounds to their body and soul.
It's true that many of them were absorbed in our country and became its builders, but many others are still suffering. Our country does a tremendous amount for these survivors, but it's natural for it not to succeed in solving all their problems. Many of them suffer from a lack of food and medical services. The State Comptroller's report from 2007 found fault with the way survivors are dealt with, even if since then their situation has vastly improved.
In sum, despite the State's prodigious assistance, we have not succeeded in answering all of their needs, especially since the Law of Assistance to Holocaust Survivors applies only to those who arrived in Israel before 5713. It's obvious that some of those who came afterwards are also suffering greatly.
But getting back to our topic – traveling to the death camps to remember what Amalek did to us there, while simultaneously forgetting the Holocaust victims who live in our midst.
If someone claims that this involves no small measure of hypocrisy, he will not be entirely mistaken. If someone is shocked by a person who prefers to spend his money on an important "death-camp experience," to assisting someone who was hurt there, thereby performing a human kindness, he is not entirely mistaken either.
Therefore, here are several practical suggestions:
1. Cancel the Poland trips and give all the money to organizations that grant assistance and support to Holocaust survivors. There are many such organizations, and you can find them by yourself. That's less complicated than all of the logistics of traveling abroad. I just would like to mention one organization that distributes free medicines to the poor, not necessarily Holocaust survivors, but including them, and its name is “Haverim LiTerufa” [Friends for Medicine].
2. Even if one does go to Poland, he should make sure that fifty-one percent of his expenses go to helping the victims themselves. That will allow one to argue that most of the allocations are going to people and a minority are going to stones and rocks.
Yet even if this suggestion is rejected, then at the very least, ten percent of one’s total expenses from the trip should be invested in those suffering terribly to this very day, as a sort of ‘Ma’aser”, a tithe. That will render us at least a little bit innocent before G-d and man.
“Look to the Rock from whence you were hewn” (Yeshayahu 51:1).

Shut SMS #130

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

Cemetery before Wedding
Q: What is the source behind the custom of going to the cemetery before a wedding and inviting one's relatives who have passed away?
A: The source is the Zohar (Parashat Balak and Pinchas), where it is said that ancestors in the World-to-Come participate in their descendants' joyous occasions. And this is the custom of many people (Nita'ei Gavriel – Nissuim 4:7. And the Gerrer Rebbe, the "Imrei Emet", told his son to visit the Kotel and Kever Rachel before his wedding).

Measurements of Ha-Rav Chaim Na'eh and the Chazon Ish
Q: How do we rule in the dispute regarding the halakhic measurements between Ha-Rav Chaim Na'eh and the Chazon Ish (for example, the size of a "kezayit")? Who is greater?
A: It makes no difference. Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked: how could Ha-Rav Na'eh argue with the Chazon Ish? He answered that the measurements of Ha-Rav Na'eh were practiced earlier and it was the Chazon Ish who argued against them. The book Yashiv Moshe p. 130 (see Noda Ba-Shiurim p. 271).

[Ha-Rav] Kahane was Right!
Q: Isn't there an infringement on the honor of a Torah scholar by using the expression: "Kahane was right" instead of "Ha-Rav Kahane was right"?
A: People mean the concept "Kahane", but one should certainly say: Ha-Rav Kahane.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook
Q: How did it happen that in his time, Maran Ha-Rav Kook was greatly respected by almost every great Torah scholar, while today most Charedi Rabbis ignore this fact?
A: This is not understandable. Patience.

Women getting Married
Q: I heard that it is permissible for women marry one another. Is this correct?
A: Incorrect. It is a Torah prohibition. Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer 20:2.

Non-Kosher Smell
Q: Is it permissible for me to work in an office which is above a non-Kosher restaurant whose smells come through the windows?
A: Yes. The smell is not forbidden. It is a benefit which comes to a person against his will. Pesachim 25.

Jerusalem's Light-Rail
Q: Should one recite Shehechiyanu over Jerusalem's new light-rail?
A: Yes, if you are happy about it, and it is good news for you.

Mechitza in Shul
Q: Does the Mechitza in a Shul have to be constructed in a way so that the men and women cannot see one another?
A: Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled in Shut Igrot Moshe (Orach Chaim 1:39) that in a pressing situation, it was sufficient to prevent intermingling between men and women and it was therefore permissible to have a Mechitza with a height of only 18 Tefachim. But Hungarian Rabbis ruled that it is forbidden for men to see the women and we should not change the custom as practiced for generations. And this is the ruling found in Shut Tzitz Eliezer (7:8), that the basic Halachah follows the Rambam in his commentary to the Mishnah in Sukkah: that it is forbid for the men to see the women. This is also the ruling of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah (Regarding this issue, it is told that Ha-Gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz"l once issued a ruling regarding the height of a mechitzah between men and women in a shul, stating that in pressing situations it is permissible to be lenient. The Satmar Rebbe came out against him. Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tvzi Yehudah said: "It is known that our paths are separate and different, but in this issue he (the Satmar Rebbe) is correct." The book Rabbenu p. 122).

Hebrew Pronunciation during Prayer
Q: May one use modern Hebrew pronunciation during prayer?
A: Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah rules that one should use the custom of his forefathers: Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Yemenite, etc. But if one is accustomed to using an Israeli accent, and will not concentrate properly if he uses his forefathers' accent, he should choose proper concentration (Techumin vol. 3, p. 388).

Q: Is it true that it is forbidden to pass a knife from hand to hand?
A: Not true.

Q: Who is more important – a Druze who lives in Israel and serves in Tzahal, or a Charedi who does not see any importance in Eretz Yisrael?
A: Certainly, the Charedi. Have you forgotten what Am Yisrael is?! And there is no Charedi who does not see the importance of Eretz Yisrael.

Charedi Philosophy
Q: Is the Charedi Philosophy against the Torah?
A: Certainly not. But it is lacking.

Life-Threatening Situation
Q: I am always afraid. People are being murdered all the time…
A: People are not being murdered all the time, G-d forbid, and one should not lack gratitude to Hashem. According to a report of the World Health Organization, 8 out of 100,000 Israeli citizens are murdered each year. 15 out of 100,000 citizens of France are murdered per year, and 25 out of 100,000 Americans. Therefore, thank Hashem.

Meat in Braces
Q: I have braces on my teeth. Pieces of meats sometimes get stuck in them and I cannot get them out. Is it permissible for me nevertheless to eat a dairy meal after I ate meat and waited six hours?
A: It is permissible. One of the reasons we wait six hours is because there may be meat between one's teeth and after six hours it is no longer considered meat. There is no difference.

Books in a Store
Q: Is it permissible to read books in a store for a little while if I do not intend to buy them?
A: Certainly not. Book stores are not designed for this purpose.

From the Archives: Rav Aviner with Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef

Collection of Laws of Rosh Hashanah – Part 1

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo 1:235]

1. Lighting Candles
We recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu on both nights of Rosh Hashanah, even if one does not have a new piece of clothing or a new fruit (which he did not yet eat this season) before him. It is preferable, however, that there be a new piece of clothing or a new fruit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 600:2).

Question: Is it permissible to attach the candles in the candlesticks on Rosh Hashanah?
Answer: Attaching the candles to candlesticks for the second night is forbidden on account of [the prohibition of] "leveling" (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata p. 76 #18), and this prohibition is no less important than the actual commandment of lighting the candles. One should therefore prepare two additional candlesticks before Rosh Hashanah or to stick them into the candlesticks without attaching them on the holiday.
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, one may not prepare the candlesticks before the stars come out (definite nightfall), since we may not prepare on the first day of Rosh Hashanah for the second day. But it is permissible to light the candles before sunset, since one benefits from their light on the first day itself.

Addition to the revised edition
Question: I saw in the book "Am Ke-Lavi" (the original name of this volume of She’eilat Shlomo) that it is permissible to light on the first day of Rosh Hashanah before sunset (for the second day) because this is not considered preparation for the next day, since we benefit from the lights on the first day as well. What is the source for this law, since it does not follow the opinion of the Mateh Ephraim (599:9-11)?
Answer: The Be’er Heitev writes: "The Levush (503:4) wrote: We customarily light the candles when it gets dark even before [reciting the prayer] "Barechu." And the Or Zarua wrote that there are women who recite the blessing before they go to shul (for Maariv of the second day). And it is also written in the Shelah that it is a greater mitzvah to do this than to light upon returning to their house since they would return to a dark house. And in shul it is customary to light even when it is still day time since in a shul it is always a mitzvah to light canldes, even in the day." And this is the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 514:5): "It is forbidden to light an idle light which one does not need, but [a light] of a shul is not considered idle. It is permissible to light one even on the second day after Minchah and this is not preparing for a weekday, since in lighting it there is a mitzvah for that time." And the Mishnah Berurah (#33) wrote: "There is a mitzvah...that is to say, even if one does not need the light while it is still day, even so there is a mitzvah to light it because of the honor of the shul, and if it is already close to dark it is even permissible in one’s house since he needs it at that time."

2. Annulment of Vows
It is customary to release ones vows on Erev Rosh Hashanah or Erev Yom Kippur, but it is also possible to do this during the entire Ten Days of Repentance. One who is unable to do this should be released before three individuals when the opportunity arises (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:10).

3. Eating before the Shofar Blasts
Question: Is our custom of eating before the Shofar blasts in consonance with Jewish Law?
1) In general, when it is incumbent upon a Jew to fulfill a mitzvah he should first fulfill the mitzvah and then eat afterwards. Nevertheless the basic law is that only an actual meal is forbidden before the fulfillment of a mitzvah, and a small snack is permissible. But in the generations of the Achronim, they were very strict regarding eating a snack, and they only permitted it for someone who was extremely feeble (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:9. Sha’arei Teshuvah 584 #3).
2) It is now customary in all places, even amongst the pious, to permit eating a small amount. They support this on the basis of the law that a small snack is permissible. There is therefore no basis to prohibit it. See the comprehensive article of Rabbi Y. Segal in Noam vol. 14, which states that someone who has difficulty with not eating, and whose davening continues until after midday – is permitted to eat something small.
Summary: It is certainly preferable not to eat, in particular on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, since these Shofar blasts are a Torah Mitzvah, but for one who has difficulty waiting until the end, and whose ability to pray with proper concentration will be disturbed, it is permissible to eat something light. And one should obviously do so with awe and fear, and not for an inappropriate reason (In Shut Bnei Banim #14, Rav Yehudah Herzl Henkin disagrees with the above, but one can counter his argument).

4. Question: Is one required to recite another blessing over a Talit after the break between Shacharit and Musaf?
Answer: Yes, since this is a significant interruption and the person’s mind will be distracted from the Mitzvah of Talit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 8, Mishnah Berurah #37).

To whom does Migron belong?

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

The HCJ (High Court of Justice) ruled that the residents of Migron must evacuate the town because they have taken over private Arab lands.
Sounds fair enough: “Don’t steal.”
All the same, perhaps someone would be willing to explain to me who exactly those Arab owners of those lands are? "No problem," the High Court will answer, "there’s a precise list of the Arabs. You can look at it."
All the same, might I not be allowed to ask yet another question? How is it that those Arabs, themselves, did not know about their ownership, and when the people of Migron came to them to pay them, they were very surprised about this gift falling upon them from heaven? After all, they never lived on these lands and they never worked them. The builders of Migron were enormously careful to settle only in rocky fields. You can peruse dozens of years of aerial photos and you’ll see that there wasn’t even a single house there, and not a single tree. And indeed, during the nine years in which the town flourished, not one Arab said a word. So, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to know how it suddenly became theirs? “Very simple,” the HCJ explains. “Before the Six Day War, in about 5725, King Hussein carried out a fictitious registration and distribution of these lands to Mukhtars closely associated with him. It’s elementary. These lands belong to those Mukhtars, and to their descendants, and to their descendants’ descendants, till the end of time…”
It’s very interesting to know that King Hussein is the owner of our Land. Yet first I’d like to ask a preliminary question of the HCJ which supports the legal foundations of the King of Jordan’s decisions. Surely that same King Hussein, himself, made a condition that if those Mukhtars didn’t work those lands and didn’t pay taxes, at the end of a number of years the lands would return to the king. Now then, they did return to him, and they are therefore state lands. To this the HCJ responds, “It’s true that according to the King of Jordan these lands returned to our country, but we are stricter than the King of Jordan, and whoever applies strictures is praiseworthy. Yet we rule like the King of Jordan and not like the King of Jordan. We rule like the King of Jordan that the lands will be transferred to those Arabs, but against the King of Jordan we say that the lands will remain theirs even if they don't actualize their ownership. We rule that it is theirs, and that is the law. The law is the law, and the law has to be preserved! ‘The law of the kingdom is law!’ (Baba Batra 54b).”
At this juncture, your honors, I shall stop asking innocent questions and say what is in my heart, my mind and my conscience.
First of all, the people of Migron are law-abiding citizens. They were in the past, they are now, and they will be in the future. They serve in the army, and some of them are officers. The women are mostly teachers, nurses and social workers.
Yes, “the law of the kingdom is law,” but the theft of the kingdom is not law. A discriminatory law is not a law. Even according to your approach, that these are Arab lands, it’s enough that the people of Migron should pay. There is a legal precedent regarding a settlement that was established on the private land of a Jew, and the court ruled: You cannot uproot families for whom this is the center of their lives. You cannot destroy homes. Rather, since the town was established innocently, it’s enough that the owners should be compensated.
Migron was established innocently. It was established by the State of Israel, with State planning and State funding. Nothing could be more innocent than that. The Jewish State was interested, for strategic reasons, in contiguous settlements.
So is that how things are, that a town built on Jewish land cannot be uprooted, but a town built on Arab lands can be uprooted? That’s a discriminatory law, and a discriminatory law is illegal. How righteous the people of Migron are, that they are fulfilling a law that is no law!
Yet we have to go back further still with the HCJ’s decision. As noted, the Government decided to be strict at our expense, more than King Hussein, and according to that, the court is acting legally in a formal sense. In other words, according to the Government’s decisions, we decide what is legal and what is illegal.
But first you have to ask a different question. Who says that these lands belonged to Jordan in the first place? Did we sell them to them? Did we give them the lands as a gift? In the past, did they have a country here or did we? “Now Shaul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah, under the pomegranate tree at Migron” (Shmuel 1 14:2). Was it really the King of Jordan staying there?!
Did we conquer Migron from the King of Jordan, or did we return to our Land? Is it occupation or is it ours?!
For close to 2,000 years, conquerors came and went, and now we have returned. If thieves came in our absence, does the land suddenly become theirs?
We’ve come home! It’s ours and it's not occupation. It’s our Land according to G-d, according to history, according to nature. G-d gave it to us and He promised us, through His prophets, that we would return to it, and now we have returned.
With all due respect to the Prime Minister and the HCJ, the statement that the lands belong to the King of Jordan is fantasy. How did Arab lands suddenly crop up here? They were ours and the Romans banished us from our land. For thousands of years we longed for our Land and prayed for it. Then, suddenly, due to Turkey’s collapse, it belongs to the King of Jordan?! That’s an outright lie! No! It’s been ours from time immemorial, as long as the heavens were over the earth.
It’s true that Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook wrote to the JNF that we are going beyond the letter of the law in paying Arabs for lands that are actually ours, because we want to fulfill “Love your neighbor as yourself” even vis-à-vis the non-Jews (Ma’amarei Re’iyah). And Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook likewise said that we have no business troubling this individual Arab or that, and if a piece of land belongs privately to an Arab, we won’t settle there. Rather, the main thing is that from a national perspective, this is our Land. And indeed, even now we are ready to pay a private Arab for land that doesn’t belong to him, but we cannot agree under any circumstances to the pronouncement that this land belongs to the King of Jordan, and that he, of his own free will, can distribute it to whomever he wishes. That constitutes unconscionable weakness.
Already before the State was established, there was talk about conceding parts of our Land and cutting the Land into pieces, and Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook wrote his article: “We Must Have Perfect Faith regarding the Torah and the Land”. This is not a new problem. This constitutes weakness and impotence. There is but one thing for us to do: to cry out in a loud voice: It’s ours! It’s ours legally! It’s all legal!
During the British Mandate, the British High Commissioner asked Rav Kook: “How can his honor support illegal Aliyah to Israel?” Rav Kook replied, “When there is a conflict between national law and international law, international law holds sway.” The Commissioner expressed puzzlement: “I know of no international law that permits Jewish Aliya to Israel.” Rav Kook answered, “The Bible! The Bible is international!”
According to the international law of the Bible, Migron belongs to us and not to the King of Jordan. The nations agreed to this, as well, at the San Remo conference, ninety years ago.
The statement that the King of Jordan can decide is unparalleled nonsense, and it has no precedent in world history. Therefore, let us be strong and courageous for our Land and for the cities of our G-d.

"Even when I yell at you, I love you"

There was a mother who constantly berated and criticized her son. The father, who feared complicating his relationship with his wife, was careful not to interfere. A father like this is a sinner. How can he not protect his son?! If need be, he is obligated to argue with his wife over this issue. It is forbidden to abandon a child who lacks protection.
There was a father who was bothered by his two-year old son. His child cried all the time and the father could not take it. He brought him outside in the dark and yelled at him: Shut up! Finish crying outside! The mother bought the child back into the house. His wife said to him: "Have you gone crazy?! To put a child outside in the dark just because he is crying?!" A child like this feels the disappointment. He is sure that his parents want to be rid of him.
The love we have for our child must be unconditional. It is possible that we sometimes yell at him, but afterwards we must tell him: Know that even when I yell at you, I love you. I love you now. I will always love you.

Shut SMS #129

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

Sperm Bank
Q: Is it a Mitzvah to donate to a sperm bank?
A: It is a transgression.

Q: My wife borrowed my parents' car and scratched it a little bit. She is very embarrassed. Is it permissible for me to say that I did it?
A: Certainly. It is lying for the sake of peace.

Kissing the Mezuzah
Q: Is there a halachic obligation to kiss the Mezuzah?
A: No. But it is an expression of love for the Mitzvah, just like for all Mitzvot (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 11:24. Birchei Yosef Yoreh Deah 285 in the name of the Arizal. See Mishnah Berurah 477:5).

Shofar during Elul
Q: Are Ashkenazim obligated to stand for the Shofar blown during Elul?
A: No, but this is the custom. Piskei Teshuvot (581:3).
Q: Does a person davening on his own blow the Shofar?
A: It was not decreed. Ibid.
Q: If a community does not have a Shofar in the morning, can they make it up?
A: At Minchah, but not Maariv. This is also to teach that we do not blow Shofar at night. Ibid.
Q: What is the law regarding one who hears the Shofar in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei and will not have another opportunity to hear it?
A: There are those who permit him to be quiet and listen.
Q: What is the law regarding Sefardim whose Shofar blowing in the early morning during during Selichot bothers the neighbors?
A: We do not perform a Mitzvah through a transgression such as bothering others. They should therefore blow it quietly.

Q: Should one write BS"D on an e-mail, as when writing a letter?
A: One is not even obligated to do so on a letter. But it is permissible on an e-mail as well.

Woman reciting Birkat Ha-Gomel
Q: Can women recite Birkat Ha-Gomel?
A: There are three possibilities: 1. She can recite the blessing in the Women's Section when the Gabbai quiets everyone down. 2. She can recite the blessing when 10 men are around, i.e. like before or after a class. 3. She can choose not to recite it at all because of issues of modesty (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 2:87).

Parent's Wedding
Q: Is it permissible for child to be present at their father's or mother's wedding?
A: It is permissible. It is one's personal choice.

Q: If a wife unjustifiably demands a divorce, is the husband obligated to pay her the amount of the Ketubah?
A: No. But all of the property and belongings they acquired while married is divided equally.

Q: If I say Divrei Torah to my non-religious friend, should I ask him to put on a Kippah?
A: No.

Homosexual Tendencies
Q: Is it a good idea to make a Shiduch between a man and a woman who both have homosexual tendencies?
A: It is a good idea to cure them and make them happy so that they can marry someone they love in a normal fashion. We should not bring a poor child into the world without a father and mother who love one another. This method has been tried, and ends in divorce.

Q: I am a saleswoman in a store. Is it permissible for me to write the price as 5.99 instead of 6 shekels? Or is it theft, since I will actually charge 6 shekels?
A: It is permissible since the buyer knows that he will pay 6 shekels. Besides, he can ask for an Agurah if he wants (See the Rosh at the end of Pesachim [#40] that although the Torah mentions counting 50 days of Sefirah, the Halachah is that we count 49 and although the Torah mentions giving 40 lashes, the Halachah is that we give 39. The Rosh explains that the way of the Torah is to round up when the last digit is a nine. And it is worthwhile to add the Admor of Ostrovzsa once met with Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky and the two spoke about the intricacies of the Halachah. Ha-Rav Caim Ozer was amazed at the words of the Admor of Ostrovzsa and declared: “You are truly a great man!” The Admor replied that this is hardly a measure of greatness. He explains by quoting the Gemara in Makkot 22b, where the Sages conclude that the meaning of forty lashes is actually only thirty-nine, and that people who rise in honor of a Torah Scroll but remain seated when a Torah scholar passes by are foolish, since the Torah states: “Forty lashes”, and our Sages come to teach us that the actual meaning is thirty-nine – one lash less – then it follows that their power is indeed great. The Admor asked: Why does the Torah only teach this law in Devarim (by the lashes), rather than earlier in the book of Vayikra (by Sefirat Ha-Omer)? There it is written, in reference to the counting of the Omer: “You shall count fifty days” and our Sages explain that the meaning is actually forty-nine days. Did they not subtract a day there as well? From here we learn, said the Admor to Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer, that the greatness of our Sages is not in that they subtracted one day from the counting of the Omer, but rather that they subtracted one lash from the punishment of the guilty – and therein lies their greatness: a great man is one who lessens the pain of his fellow man, and not one who only discovers novel interpretations of the Torah. Iturei Torah – Vayikra 23:16).

Christian Date
Q: Is it permissible to write the Christian date on a wedding invitation?
A: No. It is based on idol worship.
Q: And if it is necessary?
A: It is not clear why it would be necessary. But if it is, do not write the number of the year, since it is known. And instead of writing the number of the month, write the name of the month. And add: "According to their counting." And I saw someone write: "According to their error."

Parashat Ki Tzetzei: Accepting Converts from Amalek

[Iturei Cohanim #155]

Question: In the Mechilta (on Shemot 17:16), our Rabbis prohibit accepting converts from Amalek, but the Gemara (Gittin 57a) mentions that the descendants of Haman learned Torah in Bnei Brak. Don't these two sources contradict one another?
Answer: Quite simply, it is a dispute. According to the Mechilta, we do not accept converts from Amalek, but the Babylonian Talmud does not forbid it. It is clear that the Rambam ruled like the Gemara, since he did not mention in the "Laws of Converts" that it is forbidden to accept converts from Amalek. He must therefore explain the problem of how King David killed the Amalekite convert who claimed he killed King Shaul, even though there were no witnesses (Shmuel 2 1). According to the Mechilta, we do not accept converts from Amalek and a non-Jew can receive capital punishment based on self-incrimination. But the Rambam followed the Gemara that we can accept converts from Amalek and it is forbidden to kill a Jew based on his own testimony. The Rambam thus explained that King David's action was an exceptional ruling, or an example of the unique powers given to a king (Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrim 18:6). According to this explanation, there is a dispute between the two sources. It is possible, however, to resolve this contradiction in various ways:
1. There is a different version of the Gemara which reads: "The descendants of Na'aman" instead of "The descendants of Haman" (see, for example, Ba'al Ha-Turim on Shemot 28:2).
2. It is forbidden to convert an Amalekite, but if they converted on their own, they are considered converts (Megillat Sefer, Lo Ta'aseh 115). This resolution is difficult since the Mechilta seems to hold that we do not accept converts from Amalek at all.
3. It is permissible for them to convert and to be Jewish for all purposes but we do not marry them (Megillat Sefer ibid.). This is also difficult since the Mechilta is discussing conversion and not marriage.
4. We do not convert them from the outset, but if they convert they are considered converts after the fact (Shut Beit Yehudah. Resisei Lailah of Rabbi Tzadok Ha-Cohain Mi-Lublin #32 and 58). This is also difficult since the Mechilta implies that they are not considered converts even after the fact.
5. While Haman was from Amalek, he was a slave to Mordechai and slaves do not have "yichus" (i.e. are not related to anyone). Thus, Haman's descendants are not related to him and are not considered Amalek (Kli Chemdah on the Torah).
6. If a woman marries a non-Amalekite, the offspring are not considered Amalek, since the genealogy of non-Jews is patrilineal (Yevamot 78b). According to this explanation, the "descendants of Haman" is not to be taken literally but rather, means that they were descendants of women in the Amalekite line (Gilyon Ha-Shas, Gittin 57a and Chazon Ish, Yoreh Deah Gerim 157). This explanation follows the opinion of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3, 50) that the obligation to destroy Amalek does not apply to women.
This is still difficult, however, since the Mechilta there writes that Hashem swore not to leave a grandchild or a great-grandchild of Amalek, and this potential convert is a great-grandchild of Amalek! Some explain that even though this potential convert is not an Amalekite, since he is from the offspring of "Amalekite women," we should still reject him since he is connected to Amalek in some manner.
7. According to the Rambam, if Amalek makes peace, there is no longer a mitzvh to eradicate them (Hilchot Melachim, chap. 6); i.e., he is no longer an Amalekite and it is thus permissible to convert him (Mishpat Ha-Meluchah of Rav Gershuni, Hilchot Melachim, chap. 5). While it is forbidden to convert directly from Amalek, it is possible for one to convert in another manner.
Additional sources: Shut Maharsham 3:272, "Sefer Michlol Ha-Ma'amarim" erech mi-bnei, Shut Mishneh Halachit 6:220, Sefer Hasidim 1019, Kedushat Levi – Kedushat Revi'it p. 124b (Sefer Haichei David 560), Seridei Eish 2:104 (ibid. 564).

Social Protest or Money Struggle?

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

Does the protest against the high price of housing that has ballooned into a wider protest about the cost of living have any connection to the Torah? Certainly G-d enlightens our path in every matter affecting national affairs or social welfare, and all G-d has told us we must do and obey. The question is whether we have here a social protest or a money quarrel, a protest over life or a sectarian protest over luxuries.
Obviously, struggling for one’s interests is legitimate and permissible according to the Torah. One is allowed to fight to be rich. The Torah allows it, but doesn’t require it. What we are required to do is to prevent poverty, and what we’re allowed to do is to raise the standard of living. Preventing poverty is a duty that falls within the framework of charity. According to Jewish law, the individual must give charity and the public must mandate that. In other words, the community must provide for its poor. And all the more so the Jewish State. As is well-known, one’s life takes precedence over someone else’s life (Baba Metzia 62b), but one’s luxuries do not take precedence over one’s neighbor’s life.
For example, it cannot be that you will take a bath or water your garden if your neighbor has no water to drink (Nedarim 80b). And what is a poor person? It is someone who is lacking the bare minimum. As noted, raising the living standard is permissible, but one has no Torah obligation to join and abet such a struggle.
The protest in question has been defined by its leadership: The middle-class is collapsing, and is demanding of the government a larger piece of the pie, at the expense of other national needs (like security). Thus, we’re not talking about a real struggle on behalf of the poor.
True, some genuine poor have joined the protest, but they are a negligible minority. In fact, all sorts of other groups have joined, each with its own agenda: Some are fighting to stop the destruction of illegal Arab homes, others on behalf of illegal Bedouin towns, still others on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including some who are genuinely poor and homeless. Yet the main struggle is over the status of the middle class.
If we’re going to struggle over something, it should be over the abject state of the real poor. That is a Torah mitzvah. Yet the problem of genuine poverty isn’t so easy to solve either, because there is a limit on how much taxation you can legislate. In the economic reforms enacted by Prime Minister Netanyahu in his last term of office (ten years ago), he limited how much welfare money the government could allocate. The situation at the time was that ten percent of the nation was supporting the other ninety percent. There was a danger that the ten percent would get sick of this, and would move themselves or their factories abroad, or engage in a battle of wits, seeking legal loopholes around taxes.

The solution has to be a fight not against the rich, but on behalf of the genuine poor.

There are several practical solutions regarding housing costs. For example, an average apartment costs about 1,550,000 NIS (443,000 U.S. dollars). Out of that, 400,000 goes for construction, 150,,000 to the contractor, 150,000 for development. So far, a total of 700,000. The land costs 500,000, and various taxes cost 350,000. Thus, 850,000 shekels goes to the State. Such a sum can be collected from the rich, but it isn’t right to collect it from the poor. Yet truth be said, our Prime Minister has now suggested several solutions to solving the housing crunch, with most of them not new, but rather previous initiatives. Such things take time. That’s the rule. There are no miracle solutions.
It’s no secret that a lot of the power behind the protest saw a chance to attack the Prime Minister. One is allowed to fight to unseat the prime minister, but one must be honest and not hide a political war under the veil of a social struggle. In any event, the whole thing is moving farther and farther away from a Torah struggle. There is a lack of honesty here, as well, because the prime minister is precisely the one who has worked and toiled over these issues.
As stated, you can’t carry out economic revolutions overnight. Suppose the government stopped charging for land and construction taxes. Prices would, indeed, plummet, but those who bought before at the expensive rate would lose out unfairly.
Economic laws are complicated. Our sages say that G-d preferred to let a man, whose wife had died, sprout mammary glands so he could feed his infant milk, rather than produce money for him. Paternal milk is a private miracle, without ramifications on all of society, but introducing new money into the economy can have a pervasive effect. Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains in Ein Aya that G-d does not wish to hurt the laws of economics, even though they are harsh and cruel, because they keep the world going (Shabbat 53:5).
Let it be said to Israel’s credit that its economy is very stable, and that the harsh economic crisis that plagued America and Europe has spared us. Our Prime Minister’s profound reforms are slowly making our economic lives healthier. Sudden changes could cause economic crises, and those who will pay for it will be the poor, who depend on every penny. The various anarchists who sprout like crabgrass at those protests want to change everything, and they naively think that “we will destroy this old world, down to its foundations” (the Internationale), and out of the smoking embers of the old, rotten world will sprout the flowers of the future.
The presence of the Extreme Left at the protests is no blessing either. We’re not talking about a Social Left but about a Political Left, and in our case, we should be crying that nowadays there is no Social Left with proper party representation. Here it is noteworthy that the party that passed the most legislation to help the poor and the needy was the National Religious Party.
As far as the costliness of construction, the Political Left does not represent the Social Left, because in Judea and Samaria there is endless cheap land. When the views of the extreme, anti-security, political left find expression at a demonstration, our suspicions are aroused. Likewise, the funding of the protest by the New Israel Fund should also raise a lot of questions.
Let’s get back to the topic of construction being expensive. Another direction for a solution would be to speed up the construction process and simplify the process of attaining construction permits, which is painfully slow. After all, every year there are 50,000 more families, and the government permits the construction of only 40,000 housing units. Since demand surpasses supply, prices naturally rise.
In any event, the Jewish masses have not been present at these tent protests, and the numbers reported were blown out of proportion by four or five hundred percent. Only one sector of the nation was there, and as noted above, their struggle is legitimate, but it is not a struggle of Torah and justice, but a struggle over money. It’s an individualistic struggle rather than an idealistic struggle.
Let us be strong and courageous, and let us increase our genuine struggles on behalf of the poor and the weak.

Adam Ha-Rishon's Joy

Question: We recite in the Sheva Berachot: "Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the Garden of Eden." Where is it written in the Torah that Adam Ha-Rishon was happy?
Answer: They explain in Yeshivot that there is no need for a verse, since it is logical. Why do I need a verse? It is a logical deduction! There was only one woman in the world, so there was no possibility of comparing her to another. Adam Ha-Rishon was therefore extremely happy. And the same was true for Chavah. From the moment that a man is married, he should not look at another woman, think about another woman, compare his spouse to another woman. He will then be joyous with his wife.

Love Heals

An orphanage once conducted an experiment: The female teacher gave five kisses to each girl every day. They saw that the rate of the girls getting sick deceased by 20%. Then they gave an additional 10 kisses a day and the rate dropped by 40%. 20 kisses a day and… until they almost stopped getting sick more than the average rate. Wonder of wonders! These were poor orphans – but when they were hugged with all of one's heart, they could overcome, be healthy and live!
Similar research was done in elderly homes. When an elderly person is lonely, he deteriorates quickly. But an elderly person who has frequent family visits and feels loved – lives much longer. It is simple. Some elderly people have a dog or cat and this also strengthens their health and gives them longevity. It is not because the cat feds them, but because there is love. This is what sustains the elderly.
The same is true for someone who is alone – a widow or widower – a pet can be life-saving.
And all of this applies all the more so for a baby, a young child – in fact every person: love is life-saving.

Shut SMS #128

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

Terrorist Attack
Q: On the day of a terrorist attack, should we still go on our family trip which we planned to rejuvenate ourselves?
A: Yes. You should continue. This is similar to removing the dead from before the bride. See Rashi on the death of Nadav and Avihu. Their bodies were removed and the inauguration of the Mishkan continued.

Lubavitcher Rebbe's Tefillin
Q: In pictures and movies of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we see that his Tefillin are on his forehead. How can we understand this?
A: He himself was asked this question. He answered that in his youth his hair started from that spot.

Mixed Beach
Q: If a man wears glasses and has terrible vision without them, can he go to a mixed beach (with his glassed off)?
A: G-d forbid. It is a forbidden place. And he can see somewhat.

Man Whitening his Teeth
Q: Is it permissible for a man to whiten his teeth, or is it forbidden on account of "Lo Yilbash" (not dressing or acting like a woman)?
A: It is permissible. Not in order to increase beauty, but to remove an unattractive feature.

Q: If Tzahal is going to destroy an Arab's house, and the items within the house will be destroyed in any case, is it permissible for me to take them?
A: No. Tzahal decides what to do with them.

Learning Mishnayot
Q: What commentary should one use to learn Mishnayot after Rabbi Ovadiah Mi-Bartenura?
A: Tosafot Yom Tov. Rabbi Ovadiah Mi-Bartenura is like Rashi on the Gemera, and Tosafot Yom Tov is like the Tosafot.

Immodest Clothing
Q: What should I do if my wife wears immodest clothing and it is driving me crazy?
A: Have a heart-to-heart talk with her.

Q: I have a friend whose wedding is a far distance away. It will take me a long time to get there, and I have an important exam tomorrow and am not ready for it. I could fail. What should I do?
A: Don't go. Every act of Chesed is based on one's ability. In this case, your friend's gain is minimal while your potential loss is great.

Counting a Minor in a Minyan
Q: Is it permissible to count in a minor in a Minyan in a pressing circumstance?
A: For Ashkenazim, only in a pressing circumstance and based on an explicit ruling of a Rabbi. Sefardim do not customarily do so (Shut Mishpatei Uziel 8:7. Shut Yein Ha-Tov 1:28. Shut Yaskil Avdi 5:8. Shut Yabia Omer vol. 4 Orach Chaim #9. Shut Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 2:18. Shut Chelkat Yaakov Orach Chaim #28. It is related in Mi-Peninei Ha-Rav, p. 27: In the early years of Yeshivat Rambam in Boston, which was established by Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, it sometimes happened that they were lacking one for a Minyan. Ha-Rav Soloveitchik would rely on the opinion of Rabbenu Tam to count a minor. People would occasionally ask him if it was worthwhile to be strict and to have the minor hold a Chumash. Ha-Rav Soloveitchik would point out that Rabbenu Tam say that this is a ridiculous Minhag. And he would add that it is better for the minor to hold a Siddur than a Chumash, so he could daven properly).

Anger at Parents
Q: During therapy, I express anger at my parents for what they did to me, but our Sages teach that one who gets angry is like one who worships idols. What should I do?
A: It is permissible during therapy, since the purpose of therapy is to liberate yourself from the anger.

Tzedakah and Smoking
Q: Should I give Tzedakah to a poor woman when there is a good chance she will buy cigarettes with the money?
A: Give her food or other essential items.

Q: What should I do if I see a missionary operating on a bus?
A: Approach the people and explain why they should not listen to him.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook and the Arizal
Q: Is it true that Rav Kook understood the writings of the Arizal better than Rabbi Chaim Vital and the Zohar better than the Arizal?
A: This is incorrect. But Maran Ha-Rav Kook was given the power of explanation from heaven.

Killing Bugs and Mice
Q: Is it permissible to killed flies, ants, mice, etc. who are bothering you?
A: Yes. Since it is for a human need, it is permissible. And also, killing it is not included in the prohibition of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" – causing undue pain to animals (Ma'aseh Ish vol. 7, p. 163. Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:726. And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in Shut Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat 2:47 that if it is possible, it is proper not to kill them with your hands but with a trap. His proof is from the Wayward City- a place in which a majority of citizens worship idols and therefore has is to be destroyed (Devarim 13:13-19). Hashem promises that if the Wayward City is destroyed, He will give you mercy. The Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh explains (verse 18) that this promise is made because destroying and killing causes one to be cruel. It is therefore better not to kill bugs and mice with one's bare-hands. But this is a stricture).