Shut SMS #144

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashat Vayigash: Yosef's Talent

[Tal Chermon]

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

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

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

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

Same question to various Rabbis

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

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #4

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

Shut SMS #143

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A on the Laws of Chanukah

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

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

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

Shut SMS #142

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashat Vayeshev: Yosef's Capacity to Bring Blessing

[Tal Chermon]

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

Conversation about Marriage

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

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

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #3

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

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

Shut SMS #141

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashat Vayishlach: Yaakov Avinu – Adversities

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

There’s No “Price Tag”

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

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

Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow #2

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

Shut SMS #140

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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