Parashat Vayetze: Yaakov's Dream

[Tal Chermon]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Waterpipe (Nargilah) – the Innocent Killer

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

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

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #1

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

Shut SMS #139

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashat Toldot: Esav the Wicked

[Tal Chermon]

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

Conversion Performed by Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren

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

The Great Sigd Holiday

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

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

Shut SMS #138

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street Named for Rav Aviner in Be'er Sheva!

The Balance of Terror

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

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

Shut SMS #137

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Tal Chermon]

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

Rabbi Binyamin Eisner – The Shofar of Rav Kook

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

Following much suffering, the pure soul of the great man, Rabbi Binyamin Eisner, z”l, has ascended to heaven. Who is a great man? One who recognizes the greatness of an outstanding figure and follows in his path. That is what our friend Rav Binyamin did. All his life he was drawn to our great master, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, and he humbly used to say: “To speak of a great man, one must be great oneself, and since I am not great, I will not speak about Rav Kook. Rather, we shall attempt, together, to learn his writings.”
Indeed, Rav Binyamin devoted his whole life to being the Shofar of Rav Kook, no more and no less. He was a gentle Shofar, a clear Shofar, a heartening Shofar, a profound Shofar.
All his life he taught the works of Orot, teaching faith, love of the Nation, and patience vis-à-vis the Jewish State. All his life he explained, with infinite patience, “Torat Eretz Yisrael” – the unique Land-of-Israel-based approach to Torah. All his life he built Eretz Yisrael. Torah scholars are called “builders”. He built up Eretz Yisrael in the spiritual sense, by being a faithful emissary of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook and his son Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook.
Our thoughts are with you, our dear friend, shepherd, teacher and mentor. You had a great deal more to build and to teach, and enormous abilities to carry on with your work, but “the Sefer Torah is now hidden away”…
Still, Rav Binyamin remains here with us. All his life, Rav Benny taught. He learned and he taught. He taught everyone. He taught the great and the small. He was a Torah teacher in Machon Meir and in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva high school. He taught Hebrew speakers and English speakers, yeshiva students and students of pre-military yeshiva academies.
Yet he never spoke a “canned” truth that he heard from others or that he read from others. Rather, his teachings came from within him, from the truth within him, from the divine truth abiding inside him, in his heart, his mind and his entire personality.
A Torah scroll could be placed beside him and we could say, “A learned what is written in B. A fulfilled what is written in B. He fulfilled its mitzvot. He fulfilled its mitzvot through his intent prayers, his sterling character, his seriousness and his happiness.
He fulfilled its mitzvot with all his heart and soul and might.
May his soul be bound up in the bond of the living, with all the righteous.

Love – Air for the Soul

Love is not a prize. Love is air for the soul. Depriving a child of love is similar to a scuba driver threatening to close his son's oxygen tank. If we threaten a child, he will begin to fear that he will not be loved and will be closed in his room.
We have yet to see a child destroyed by excessive love. Perhaps he was destroyed on account of the lack of proper treatment due to love. Perhaps he was not educated correctly, or punished when he need to be. A child is not destroyed by excessive love. And even when he is punished, he must know that he is loved – unconditionally!
Always remember: A child does not know how to distinguish when his mother is angry with him or when she is angry about something else. If his mother returns home with an upset face because she received guff at work, he is certain that it is his fault. This is true until the age of 10 – everything that happens in the world revolves around him. It is an egocentric period. Egocentrism is not egotism. Egocentric means that he thinks that he is the center of the world. A dog barks in the street – he is sure that it was at him. One parent yells at another – it is at him. Everything is to him and about him. A parent must always remember this, and be sensitive to it.

11 Mar Cheshvan: Rachel Imenu's Yahrtzeit

From Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a Book: "On the Air with Rav Aviner":

Rachel Imenu (Our foremother Rachel) in the Gaza War Against Hamas
Q: Rumors have spread about a woman presenting herself as our foremother Rachel appearing to Tzahal soldiers and warning them of explosives, booby-trapped houses and terrorist ambushes within the Gaza Strip during the war. Is this true?
A: In truth, Rachel Imenu was certainly with us during our long Exile as the Maharal explained in his book "Netzach Yisrael" (end of chap. 1 and beginning of chap. 34). He wrote that Rachel is the power that sustained the Nation of Israel during the course of the Exile and returned us to our Land as it says: "Withhold your voice from crying…and your children will return to their border" (Yirmiyahu 31:15-16). And Rashi explained at the beginning of Parashat Va-Yechi (Bereshit 48:7): Why wasn't Rachel buried in the Cave of Machpelah or even in Beit Lechem, but by the side of the road? In order for her to protect the Nation of Israel while we were on the way. This is the inner power which binds the Nation together. After all, it is a miracle and wonder that we were able to remain steadfast for two thousand years in the Exile. We were a lamb among seventy wolves and we are now returning to our Land. But regarding the idea that Rachel personally revealed herself to this person or that person, on such matters it is said: "A fool will believe anything." There are two types of extremism: one type of extremism is to deny miracles, and another type of extremism is to believe that when someone tells you about a miracle that there really was one. We need to check. It is possible that they may have been imagining. Sometimes a person imagines things, even a sane person. Sometimes one is under pressure, tired, hungry, and thinks he sees something that isn't there, and later fosters it in his memory. This is called FMS – false memory syndrome. It may have been a non-Jewish woman. There are also good Arab women – not all of them are, but there are some. And maybe someone dreamed up this idea to strengthen faith, and to say: "You see? There are people that go to war and there are people that don't go to war but they pray, and Rachel came to save us on account of their merit." Therefore, we need proof for such matters. There were soldiers who fell in battle and Rachel was not there. There were also soldiers who won battles due to their great dedication and wisdom and courageousness to fight, and Rachel was not there. This means that Rachel was not there in the image of a woman guiding them and telling them go this way or that way, shoot here or shoot there. But Rachel was certainly there in the sense in which we explained: the inner power which sustains the Nation of Israel and returns us to our Land. [There was a news story that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu prayed for Rachel Imenu to help. Rav Aviner gave this answer before this story has spread about Rav Eliyahu.]

More on Rachel Imenu
Q: Did Rachel Imenu really reveal herself in the war or not? In other words, who is obligated to prove it – the one who claims that she did appear or the one who claims that she did not appear?
A: The simple answer is based upon the halachic principle: "Ha-motzi me-chavero alav ha-ra'ayah - The burden of proof rests upon the one who demands the money," i.e. the burden of proof rests upon one who makes a claim which veers from the usual. The usual is that Rachel Imenu does not appear in war. Rachel Imenu was not in our first war when Yehoshua bin Nun waged war against Amalek. She was not in the war of Moshe Rabbenu against Sichon and Og. She was not in the war of Yehoshua bin Nun to conquer the Land of Israel. She was not in any of the wars of the Judges. She was not in the wars of King Shaul and of King David. She was not in the wars of any of the Kings of Israel. She was not in the war of the Hasmoneans. She was not in the war of Bar Kochba. She was not in the War of Independence, the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War. She was not in any war. The presumption is that she does not go out to war. Now, there are those claiming that she was there. It is possible, but it must be proven. How? We need to hear from the soldier who claimed that it happened. We need to question him before a Beit Din according to the halachah: Do you really see her? Maybe it was an Arab woman? Maybe it was a Jewish woman captured by the Arabs and she was reminded that she was a Jew? Maybe you imagined it? As long as it has not been investigated, it has not been proven. Up until now, I have not heard anything.

I was therefore happy when a friend told me what he saw with his own eyes. During the war, a bunch of reservists were sitting around a fire on a freezing-cold night with warm jackets which they brought from home. A few regular soldiers arrived and they were frozen to the bone. The reservists did not hesitate to take off their jackets which were almost more precious to them than their weapons and gave them to the other soldiers. This is Rachel Imenu! Rachel Imenu gave up Yaakov - who was the most precious thing to her – for her sister. I am not saying that a jacket and a spouse are comparable, but this act at its source comes from Rachel Imenu.

In David's lament for Yonatan, he says: "Your love was more wonderful to me than the love of women" (Shmuel 2 1:26). The Targum (the Aramaic translation) says: "the love of two women." A Chasidic Rebbe once asked: Who are these two women? His answer: Rachel and Leah. David was saying: "Yonatan, your love for me in which you were willing to forego the kingship flows from the love of two women - when Rachel was willing to forego for Leah." Giving up a jacket is obviously not like giving up the kingship, but it is still flows from Rachel Imenu.

And Rashi explains at the beginning of Parashat Va-Yechi (Bereshit 48:7): Why wasn't Rachel buried in the Cave of Machpelah or even in Beit Lechem, but by the side of the road? So that when we were on our way to Exile she would be an aid for her children, as it says: "A voice is heard in Ramah. Rachel cries for her children…there is a reward for your actions and your children will return to their border" (Yirmiyahu 31:14-16). But couldn't she be an aid from Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah – it is only a little farther away?! I heard one Rav explain that for the sake of her children Rachel gave up being buried in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. We see that Rachel Imenu was willing to forego and we must do the same. The Exile was on account of "Sinat Chinam – Baseless Hatred" and the Redemption will be on account of "Ahavat Chinam – Baseless Love." In this way, Rachel is an aid for her children. She teaches us "Ahavat Chinam – Baseless Love." Every soldier who entered the Gaza Strip did so with self-sacrifice to save other Jews. This is not a jacket, a spouse, the kingship or a spot in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, it is risking one's life. Therefore, Rachel was there. She was with every soldier who entered with self-sacrifice for the sake of his brothers. It truly was Rachel!

Shut SMS #136

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Praying under the Chuppah
Q: What should I daven for under the Chuppah in order to have a successful marriage?
A: Whatever your heart desires. Tehillim. But not in an overt fashion, since one should be humble. And one should certainly not delay the community. The same applies to the prayer of a bride before the Chuppah – do not delay the community.

Purchasing an Apartment for one’s Children
Q: What is the source for the obligation of parents to buy their married son or daughter an apartment?
A: There is no such obligation. It is a kindness.

The Mitzvah of serving in Tzahal
Q: Do I fulfill a Mitzvah every second I serve in the army?
A: Certainly.

Saving a spot on the Bus
Q: Is it permissible for me to save a seat for my friend on the bus if he didn't get on yet?
A: If there are other open spots for people to sit.

Memorial for First Wife
Q: My family is organizing a meal in memory of my first wife who passed away. Should I bring my current wife?
A: You should not attend at all. You are now married anew and your former wife is no longer part of your world. If you attend, even alone, it will hurt your current wife, even if she denies it.

Tzahal Uniform on Shabbat
Q: On my army base, they allow us to wear a white shirt on Shabbat. Which is preferable – a white shirt or a Tzahal uniform?
A: A white shirt is preferable in honor of Shabbat.

Bed-time Shema
Q: If I take a nap during the day, do I recite the Bed-time Shema?
A: No. It is only recited at night.

Destroying Idol Worship
Q: Is there a Mitzvah today to destroy the places of idol worship in the Land of Israel?
A: Our Sages said: Do not destroy them if you will be required to rebuild them even more beautifully (Midrash Tana’im Devarim 12b, p. 58. Avot De-Rebbe Natan, Nusach Bet #11. See Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah pp. 260-273).

Q: Is it permissible to point out to a friend that his behavior is causing other to mock him, though he may be insulted?
A: You should point it out. It is for his own benefit.

Instruments during Davening
Q: Is it permissible to play instruments during davening, such as during Kabbalat Shabbat and on the night of Yom Ha-Atzmaut?
A: No. We do not play instruments during davening. We should not change the custom of prayer. Instruments were only played in the Temple.