Shut SMS #110

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

Kever Yosef
Q: Should one try to visit Kever Yosef?
A: Certainly. It is Eretz Yisrael. But obviously with the permission of Tzahal (Chief Rabbis of Israel. Kum Hithalech Ba-Aretz pp. 244-245).

Shlissel Challah
Q: Is there an authentic source for making Challah with a key in it (or in the shape of a key) on the Shabbat after Pesach as a Segulah for Parnasah, or is it superstition?
A: It is not forbidden but there is no meaning in doing so (This custom is mentioned in Ta'amei Ha-Minhagim pp. 249-250).

Yom Ha-Shoah in Nisan
Q: How was Yom Ha-Shoah established on 27th of Nisan when it is forbidden to mourning during Nisan?
A: It is true that it would have been proper to establish it on another day, and the Chief Rabbinate established 10th of Tevet as remembrance day for the Holocaust. But after it has already been established, we should not seperate ourselves from the community.

Mt. Herzl in Nisan
Q: Is it permissible to organize a tour of Mt. Herzl during the month of Nisan?
A: Yes. Some permit visit graves during Nisan. While there are some who forbid it, it is permissible to visit "Kivrei Tzadikim" (the graves of the righteous), and those buried on Mt. Herzl are Tzadikim who sacrificed their lives for the Nation of Israel. (The custom of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was to stand across from the national cemetery on Mt. Herzl and say: "These are the graves of the righteous who died sanctifying Hashem's Name. Why should I travel far distances?")

Washing Tzitzit
Q: Is it permissible to wash Tzitzit with the rest of the wash?
A: Yes. This is not considered disrespectful. It is also permissible to enter the bathroom with Tzitzit.

Suicide
Q: Is it permissible to perform acts for the ascension of the soul of someone who committed suicide?
A: Yes. His soul greatly requires rectification.

Criticism
Q: Someone was giving me a ride and texting at the same time. Should I mention to him that this is dangerous?
A: No. His car is like his house. If it is dangerous, give an excuse to get out.

Public Property
Q: Is it permissible to take some toilet paper to put in my pocket from a public bathroom?
A: Yes. Since it is a minimal amount, it is allowed.

Tzitzit with a Stench
Q: Can I wear my Tzitzit if they have a bad smell?
A: Hand-wash them and wear them while they are wet.

Praying for the Sick
Q: I want to pray for a sick person but I do not know his mother's name.
A: You can use his father's name, his last name or even just his first name. Hashem knows.

Blessing at Auschwitz
Q: My father is an Auschwitz survivor. When I visit Poland, should I recite the blessing "Blessed is Hashem who performed a miracle for my father in this place"?
A: No. This blessing is only for a super-natural miracle (Biur Halachah #218).

Sitting Next to a Woman
Q: Is it permissible for a man to sit next to a woman on the bus?
A: It is permissible if there is no other place, as is found in Baba Batra 57. The most important thing is not to stare at her.

Tefillin for a Lefty
Q: If a left-handed person is unable to find Tefillin for a lefty, can he put on a right-handed person's Tefillin while the Tefillin is upside down, or is it disgracing the Tefillin?
A: It is permissible, since the basic halachah is that the "Yud" of the knot must be facing the heart (Piskei Teshuvot 27:5).

Davening with a Minyan
Q: If I am tired, weak and do not feel so well, am I obligated to go to shul and daven with a minyan or is it permissible to daven at home on my own?
A: With a minyan. One needs to strengthen himself!

Broken Bone on Shabbat
Q: If a child breaks his hand or foot on Shabbat, do we desecrate Shabbat for him?
A: Yes. It contains an aspect of a life-threatening situation.

Digital Album
Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat to look at a digital album?
A: It is permissible if it is attached to the wall, and not on a computer, lest one adjust it.

Doula on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible for a doula to travel to the hospital on Shabbat?
A: On foot or by riding in the vehicle together with the woman giving birth, but without a special trip for her and without stopping to pick her up.

House Number
Q: Does the number of one's house or apartment have any significance?
A: No. Superstition.

Holy Nation
Q: Did Maran Ha-Rav Kook really refer to the Nation of Israel as a Holy Nation, despite all of the sins?
A: Yes, when he served as the Rabbi of Yafo, a secular city, he signed: Servant to the Holy Nation in the Holy Land.

Seat Belts
Q: Is it an obligation to wear a seatbelt according to Halachah?
A: Certainly. For two reasons: A. It is a life-threatening situation. B. Obeying the laws of the State is required by Halachah (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 379:6. See Shut Chatam Sofer vol. 5 Choshen Mishpat #44).

Garden of Eden for Animals
Q: Do animals go to the Garden of Eden or Gehinom?
A: No. Only a person, who is created in the Image of G-d. Tiferet Yisrael on Pirkei Avot, chap. 3 on the Mishnah: "Beloved is man, who is created in His image".

Shortening Tzitzit
Q: Is it permissible to shorten Tzitzit with scissors or a knife?
A: Yes. But it is preferable to do so with one's teeth (Mishnah Berurah 11:61. Kaf Ha-Chaim ibid. #17).

Immodest TV Program
Q: Is it permissible for girls to watch a TV program in which young male and female singers compete to see who is the most talented?
A: It is certainly forbidden. This program is prohibited and one should not benefit from it.

Tefillin on a Watch
Q: It is permissible to wind Tefillin straps over a watch?
A: Yes. The Mishnah Berurah (27:16) permits it; the Aruch Ha-Shulchan (27:13) prohibits it. Since it is a dispute, you may follow the lenient position.

Laws of Mourning on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to learn the Halachot of mourning on Shabbat?
A: Yes. Torah itself makes one joyous.

Prophecy
Q: Does prophecy exist today?
A: Since the destruction of the Temple, prophecy ceased and was given to children and fools. Baba Batra 14. We hope that if people are claiming to prophesy, they are either children or fools, otherwise they are false prophets.

Swiss Flag
Q: Is it permissible to buy a product which has the Swiss flag on it, since it includes a cross?
A: Yes. It is similar to a decoration which is permissible.

Immersing Utensils
Q: If a utensil was used without being immersed, does it still require immersion?
A: Yes.

On the Air with Rav Aviner

American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim
is proud to announce our newest ENGLISH book
from the Torah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner

"On the Air with Rav Aviner"

What should we do with our son who hits everybody?
Is it permissible to donate organs?
Is the Lubavitcher Rebbe the Moshiach (Messiah)?
Is it ethical to kill a terrorist who has been subdued?
Did Rachel Imenu really reveal herself to soldiers in the war in Gaza?
Did man evolve from monkeys?
Is it proper to travel to Poland to visit the concentration camps?

Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner – Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem and Rav of Beit El - hosts a radio call-in show in Israel focusing on questions of Jewish Law and faith. The questions range from familial relationships to national and international issues, from the most minute details of halachic observance to broad Torah philosophy, current issues of the day to life in the World to Come. Rav Aviner is one of the leading Rabbis of Religious-Zionism today. A prominent student of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, who followed directly in the footsteps of his father, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, Rav Aviner answers every question from his amazing breadth of Torah knowledge, with great insight and sensitivity and with his incredible sense of humor. The callers span the entire gamut of observance and non-observance. Rav Aviner speaks to each of them "ba'asher hu sham" – in his current spiritual state.

More than 250 questions and answers!

The cost of the book is 60 shekels in Israel and $20 outside of Israel (shipping included).

To order this book, please send a check:
American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim
PO BOX 1076
Jerusalem, Israel 91009

Attn: Mordechai Tzion

Questions: mororly@bezeqint.net

Shut SMS #109 - Hilchot Pesach

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


April First

Q: Is it permissible to point out that it is April First and participate in its customs?

A: No. It is the Christian date. And it is also involving oneself with nonsense.


Non-Jew at the Seder

Q: Is it permissible to invite a non-Jew to the Pesach Seder?

A: There is in fact a prohibition against inviting a non-Jew on Yom Tov, since it is forbidden to cook for a non-Jew on Yom Tov. Our Sages made a decree against inviting a non-Jew lest one add food for him while cooking (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 512:1. Mishnah Berurah ibid.). However, our Sages did allow a non-Jew to attend in certain situations when a Jew would not cook for the guest, i.e. when he came on his own, after the meal was already prepared. And all the more so in our time when everything is ready in advance and we do not cook at all after the holiday has begun. It is certainly permissible for a foreign worker to eat, since he is similar to a servant who may eat (see Rama, Yoreh Deah 113:4). And our Rabbis were also lenient in various areas for a non-Jew in the process of conversion (Shut Minchat Eleazar 3:8). And see the commentary of the Ya'avetz on the Haggadah, who explains the words "All who are hungry, come and eat" as an invitation to non-Jews. And see Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah (p. 320) that the non-Jewish British Governor of Jerusalem attended the Seder of Maran Ha-Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein also writes that there is no problem in teaching Torah to Jews when a non-Jew will also hear, as in the case of Rabban Gamliel and his non-Jewish servant Tavi, who in doing so became quite knowledgeable in Halachah. But one should obviously be careful about a non-Jew touching the wine if it is "Eino Mevushal" (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:132).


Korban Pesach

Q: Should one sign up for the Korban Pesach in anticipation of the coming of the Mashiach?

A: No. There is no need. We anticipate the coming of the Mashiach every day, but the building of the Temple will not be today. See Rambam, Melachim 1:2.


Selling Chametz over the Internet

Q: Is it possible to sell Chametz over the internet?

A: Yes. It is a form of appointing an agent.


Wicked Son

Q: How do we agree to have the wicked son at the Seder and talk to him?

A: Because he is our son, and we are happy that he is present. The true tragedy is the fifth son who is not even there.


Ashkenazi eating at Sefardi's House

Q: I am Ashkenazi. It is permissible for me to spend Seder night at the house of a Sefardi, who eats Kitniyot?

A: Yes, but don't eat Kitniyot. It is permissible, however, to eat: food which touched Kitniyot, food which absorbed Kitniyot, food in which the Kitniyot are no longer recognizable and are nullified in a majority, and food cooked in Kitniyot pots and pans (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:141).


Pesach Sacrifice of the Samarians

Q: Is there a problem with going and seeing the Pesach sacrifice of the Samarians?

A: It is certainly forbidden. After all, it is heresy. One who attends is strengthening those who are committing a transgression.


Medicine for Pesach

Q: Does medicine require Pesach certification?

A: All medicine which lacks taste is Kosher for Pesach and the rest of the year.


Soft Matzah for Ashkenazim

Q: Is it permissible for Ashkenazim to eat soft Matzah, like the Sefardim eat?

A: There are those who forbid it. While they agree that in the past Ashkenazim did eat it, they ceased doing so (Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo chap. 9 note #80) and there is no tradition (Masoret) to permit it. But there is also no tradition to forbid it, and the Rama (Orach Chaim 460:4) mentions that the Matzot where thick (and must therefore have been soft). And the Sha'arei Teshuvah writes there that they would prepare them with a type of grater, which is also a sign that they were soft. Ha-Rav Asher Weiss writes that the basic Halachah is that they are permissible, but he is concerned that we are not experts in making them soft and there is therefore a concern about Chametz (at the end of his Haggadah, siman #15). But Sefardim are experts. And Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter also permits them. In sum: It is permissible.


Bedikat Chametz

Q: Is it permissible to use a flashlight for Bedikat Chametz?

A: Yes, but a candle is preferable.


Beer Bottles

Q: Are empty beer bottles put out for decoration considered Chametz?

A: No.


Deodorant

Q: Does deodorant require Kosher certification for Pesach?

A: No, since it is inedible to a dog.


Selling Chametz

Q: What is permissible to sell?

A: Everything. But it is preferable not to sell actual Chametz, like bread, cakes, noodles, schnitzel, etc.


Checking Books for Chametz

Q: Is there an obligation to check books for Chametz?

A: Some are strict, but the basic halachah is that one is not obligated to clean them, as the crumbs that would be within them are smaller than the volume of an olive. Just do not put the books on the table on which you eat. One does not violate the prohibitions of not seeing or finding Chametz with crumbs smaller than the volume of an olive, but it is obviously forbidden to eat them, and if they fall into food, they are not nullified, even by a thousand-to-one ratio (Haggadah Chazon Ovadiah of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, p. 21).


Fish Food

Q: Is fish food Chametz?

A: Some is and some isn't. Ask in the pet store for non-Chametz fish food.


Cigarettes

Q: Are cigarettes Chametz?

A: No. But they are forbidden all year round.


Brushing Teeth after Afikoman

Q: Is it permissible to brush one's teeth after the Afikoman or is it forbidden because it removes the taste of the Afikoman?

A: It is permissible, just as it is permissible – according to most authorities – to drink coffee and tea after it, since only food is forbidden and not drink.


Moshe in the Haggadah

Q: Why isn't Moshe mentioned in the Haggadah?

A: In order to make it clear who provided the salvation – the Master of the Universe. I and not an angel, I and not a messenger. In most versions, Moshe Rabbenu is only mentioned in passing: "And they believed in Hashem and Moshe, His servant." In truth, Hashem provided the salvation, and Moshe Rabbenu is His servant.


Hand-Made or Machine-Made Matzah

Q: According to Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, which is preferable: hand-made or machine-made matzah?

A: Our Rabbi was particular to use machine-made matzah since it was decided by the halachic authorities that machine-made Matzah is kosher, and there is, in fact, greater care regarding the concern of Chametz than with hand-made Matzah (and once when our Rabbi was asked this question, he answered: In the same amount of time that we exert ourselves to make one hand-made matzah it is possible to make Reb Noson’s [our Rabbi’s brother-in-law], his and many other people’s matzah for the entire holiday).

The Redemption from Egypt and Today's Redemption

[Opening words from Ha-Rav's radio program]

1. Similarity and Difference
We are fortunate that we have merited the Redemption from Egypt and the Redemption we are currently experiencing. There is both a similarity and a difference between these two Redemptions, as our revered teacher Ha-Rav Kook explained in the article "The Pesach of Egypt and the Future Pesach" which appears in the book "Maamrei Ha-Re'eiyah" (pp. 164-166). The similarity is the great wonder with which each of the Redemptions occurred. In Egypt, we were slaves, downtrodden and persecuted, and we were instantly transformed into an exalted, strong and courageous Nation. This is an historical wonder which had no parallel until now. We were in Exile, a Nation scattered and separated among the nations, downtrodden, expelled, suffering pogroms, persecutions and the Holocaust. There are no words to describe the suffering we experienced. And, once again, we were suddenly transformed: a free Nation in our Land, a courageous Nation, a wealthy Nation, a Nation of Torah – an unbelievable wonder. This is the similarity. But there is also a difference. The Redemption from Egypt was performed "in haste" (Devarim 16:3). The Gemara in Berachot (9a) emphasizes that we were redeemed in an instant, a miracle of miracles. But the prophet Yeshayahu (52:11) writes regarding the Redemption of our time: It will not occur in haste. It will occur slowly, with difficulties, problems and complications. Our Redemption even goes backwards at times, occurs slowly, is not a miracle of miracles, and is accomplished through natural means. Nature moves at its own pace, without revealed miracles.

2. Which Redemption is Greater?
It would seem that the Redemption from Egypt was greater, what with its revealed miracles and wonders. After all, our current Redemption seems like a pauper riding on a horse. Our Sages teach, however, that this is not so. They say that the future Redemption is much greater than the Redemption of Egypt. The Mishnah in Berachot 1:5 relates that Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaryah said: I am like a man of 70 years, but I never merited proving why one is obligated to mention the Exodus at night until Ben Zoma explained: It says in the Torah (Devarim 16:3), "In order that you shall remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt, all the days of your life" – "The days of your life" refers to the days; "All the days of your life" refers to the nights. Ben Zoma's proof is from the word "all." The Sages disagree and say that the extra word "all" refers to something else: "'The days of your life' refers to this world; 'All the days of your life' indicates the time of the Messiah." According to their opinion, we mention the Exodus from Egypt in this time and in the days of the Messiah, but not at night. Ben Zoma says to the Rabbis: But the prophet Yirmiyahu says: "Therefore, behold, days are coming, says Hashem, when they will no longer say, 'As Hashem lives, who brought the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but 'As Hashem lives, Who raised and returned the seed of the house of Israel from out of the northern lands and from every country into which I had driven them, and they will dwell on their own Land'" (Yirmiyahu 23:7-8). We thus learn that in the days of the Messiah, we will not recall the Exodus, because the future Redemption will be so great that its light will outshine the miracle of the Exodus. The Rabbis answer that these verses from Yirmiyahu do not mean that the remembrance of the Exodus will be forgotten, but the great miracle of liberation from the oppression of the kingdoms of the world will be the main remembrance, and the Exodus will be the secondary one (Bereachot 12b). Ben Zoma and the Sages therefore both agree that the future Redemption will be greater than the Redemption from Egypt. The only dispute is whether the Exodus from Egypt will be mentioned in the days of the Messiah.

3. The Future Redemption
Why is the Future Redemption so much greater than the Redemption from Egypt? – After all, the Exodus from Egypt is the Miracle of Miracles, whereas the current Redemption is through a natural process. This recalls the letter of Ha-Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap to Maran Ha-Rav Kook, found in the book "Hed Harim", which reads: I am disappointed by the Zionist movement. I greatly value the building of the Land and the return to Zion but we lost out on the miracle of miracles on account of them, since a person receives from heaven what he expects. Now that we have toiled to build the Land, we have lost out on the strength of miracles and only receive only weakness. But – Ha-Rav Charlap says – I have seen that his honor does not agree. Maran Ha-Rav Kook responds to him in his letters (Igrot vol. 3, p. 20): His honor must be very careful regarding this thought that you had. The Redemption which comes "Kim'a Kim'a - slowly, slowly" is the strength of fortitude and not weakness. In truth, miracles show us that Hashem has the ability to perform anything beyond nature. But the Redemption through nature – through man - is greater. Hashem is not under "pressure." Hashem does not want to transverse nature. This is the strength of fortitude. Hashem performed the Redemption from Egypt and we were like babies for which everything was done. Now, we are no longer babies. The Master of the Universe brings the Redemption through us. There are therefore difficulties and complications. This is does not mean that it is not the Redemption, but that this is the Redemption through natural means. It is not that we are not on the right path. We are on the right path, but we are not at the end.

"I hereby forgive…” [regarding the Jewish bedtime prayer]

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

“Master of the Universe, I hereby forgive…” even though I may not be required to do so. All the same, I forgive. And even though nobody asked my forgiveness, I still forgive. And even though they are continuing to bother me, I still forgive. And even though I am no saint, but just a simple Jew, I still want to forgive them, so I do it. After all, You, Hashem, forgive me so much, so I should be forgiving as well.

“I hereby forgive everyone who angered and provoked me.” Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten angry. Maybe I didn’t have to feel provoked. Yet even if I was justified in how I felt, I still won’t think too deeply about it. I want to live a simple, pure, clean and wholesome life, without resentment in my heart. Therefore, I forgive.

“Or whoever sinned against me”. It’s a pity for him that he sinned. Poor fellow. Yet apparently I deserved it. Nothing happens by accident. It was from G-d. That fellow was just an emissary for evil. Had it not been him, it would have been someone else. G-d has a lot of emissaries. Obviously, that does not free from responsibility the person who sinned against me, but that doesn’t concern me. Let him make his own calculations directly with G-d. For my part, I forgive him.

“Whether he hurt me physically” – Obviously my body is very precious to me. I know that in the world to come I won’t need it, but here I need it a lot. Yet I won’t let myself fall into a psychological trauma over what he did. Therefore, I forgive him.

"Or monetarily” – Money is not important. It’s not the end of the world. G-d will fill in what I am missing – if He so wishes. Therefore, I forgive.

"Or he insulted my honor” – That really hurts! I’m not one who chases after honor, but it hurts me when I get insulted. Yet for me it’s all the more a matter of honor not to pay attention to every insult. What is “honor” anyway? The main thing is G-d’s honor. And it shows my respect for G-d’s honor that I am forgiving. Therefore, I forgive.

"Or harmed anything I own” – If G-d so wishes, He will make up my loss many times over. I forgive. I love saying those words, “I forgive”.

"Whether he did it inadvertently” – Maybe the person who hurt me was just unfortunate, and had no intention of hurting me. I forgive him. Every single moment, I am ready to be forgiving.

"Or intentionally” – I don’t understand how people can have intentions like these. Therefore, I don’t want to have such intentions myself. That’s not the sort of thing that gives me satisfaction. That’s why I forgive him.

"Or accidentally” – Sure, he should have been more careful, but I forgive him. Master of the Universe, I forgive him! It doesn’t involve forcing myself. It comes naturally to me. I forgive him.

“Or brazenly” – What kind of a person is this? But I don’t care. I forgive him. I’m happy with that. What a wonderful gift you gave me, G-d, that I am capable of forgiving and forgetting, and saying joyfully within myself, “I forgive him.”

"Whether he committed it in word” – Words can sometimes be so aggravating! But for me it’s an opportunity! More, G-d, more! I forgive him!

"Or in deed” – What an unfortunate soul to occupy himself with such things! How I pity him! I therefore forgive him. How happy I am to say, “I forgive him.”

"Whether in the present incarnation” – I don’t know what happened to me in previous incarnations, but in this incarnation I want to be clean and pure, without resentment. G-d, You put everything in order, so I probably deserve this hurt for some reason, as King David said, “G-d told him, ‘Curse David’” (Shmuel 2 16:10). As for me, I forgive him. It’s so good for me to say those words! It’s not just my private affair. It touches on the entire Jewish People. Every sin weighs on the Jewish People. Therefore, once again, “I forgive him!”

"Let no one be punished because of me” – I don’t need it. It’s better for me to remain innocent and pure in this sense. It’s good for me that I forgive and forget. It brings me the greatest happiness. G-d, if You wish to punish him, do so, but it won’t be because of me. Maybe I’ll be happy when it happens, but it won’t be because of me. And maybe I won’t be happy. Whatever happens, I forgive him totally.

I’m no deep thinker. There’s no room in my brain for dissonant emotions, and no room for resentment either. It’s tiring and burdensome. It leaves one feeling sullied. Yes, I forgive him.
Not only do I forgive everyone who sinned against me in the past. In keeping with the custom of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, I also forgive everyone who will sin against me in the future.
I derive my happiness from elsewhere. For example, “Happy are those who dwell in Your house” (Tehillim 84:5). Or, for example, “Happy are those who follow the path of perfection” (ibid. 119:1). I will not agree to leave even a drop of resentment in me. It bothers me. The purer I make myself, the happier I am. Whoever hurts me is, himself, the unfortunate one. G-d will have mercy on him, for I, for my part, forgive him. And even if he hurt me, let him not be punished because of me. It’s sad that he should be punished – but there’s no need for me
to explain at length. I love fine fragrances. I love the fine fragrance of Eden. I love Eden. So
I forgive him. Then I go to sleep thinking about Eden.
How good it is that I am forgiving. When I forgive, I feel a lightening. I ascend like a breath of fresh air. Until then I had a stone on my heart and I felt heavy. Now I am light. I feel integrity. I sing.
What a wonderful prayer: “I hereby forgive!” I cannot tear myself away from it! I would say it all night. So I’ll say it until I fall asleep…

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #50-51

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

#50
In the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei we say that Hashem is “Our G-d and G-d of our fathers.” This doesn’t seem to be a logical order. Why do we first say He is Our G-d? First Hashem was our fathers’ G-d. Then He became our G-d.
In reality, though, the Amida is in the correct order. The Avot were, of course, holy individuals. But they are the Avot, fathers of Our Nation, because of their children - Bnei Yisrael. The Maharal notes that it doesn’t say in the Torah the Avraham was a Tzadik. This is because if we, his children, don’t live up to being Tzadikim, people might think Hashem’s choice no longer applies. But Hashem’s love of us, and choice of us, is forever. It doesn’t depend on anything. Just like we are our parents’ children, and they love us forever, no matter what we may do - we are Hashem’s children and the Chosen People forever, no matter what we do. Even if we are punished, that tie can never be broken. So the Torah doesn’t say that Hashem chose Avraham because he was a Tzadik. It says He chose Avraham. Period. And this special love and being His special people was passed to Yitzchak and then to Yaakov and then to Yaakov’s children. And it goes to us today. We are His special, individual Nation, and we have this relationship forever. Therefore, in the Amida we first say Hashem is our G-d, and only then do we mention the Avot.

#51
In the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei when we say that Hashem is the G-d of our fathers, we also mention Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov individually. Each one of them had special talents and their own ways of relating to Hashem. Avraham Avinu was very public, outgoing and forceful. He was the one who went to Eretz Yisrael, conquered it, fought in wars, dug wells and publicly proclaimed Hashem’s Name. Yitzchak was more private and quiet. He even called the wells he re-dug by the names Avraham had given them. Yaakov was unblemished, complete and sat in tents. The Midrash says in the morning he sat in Avraham’s tent. In the afternoon he sat in Yitzchak’s tent. He learned from both of them and thus had the positive attributes of both his father and grandfather. Thus, all three of the Avot were somewhat different. We see from them that there are different positive approaches to serving Hashem.

Women's Tefillah Group

Q: May women organize a Women's Tefillah Group with a Torah reading?
A: No. There is no such concept, it is a new creation. We may not invent Halachot. See what Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter wrote: that there are 12 prohibitions violated by acting in this way (Be-Ikvei Ha-Tzon pp. 21-37. See also Ha-Rav Soloveitchik in Mi-Penini Ha-Rav pp. 67-68).

Women and Aliyah to the Torah

Q: Is it permissible for a woman to receive an Aliyah to the Torah?
A: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 282:3) rules that she may not.

Coercion and Education

The most extreme expression of not coercing a child is the Halachah that if a child is eating non-kosher food, the Beit Din is not commanded to separate him (Yevamot 114a).
We obviously should not understand this statement to mean that there should be anarchy in the child's life. Rather it teaches that while a Beit Din is not commanded to interfere, a father is certainly obligated to educate the child (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 343:1). We thus learn that there is a difference between coercion and education. Education is built upon love, trust and a close connection. Coercion is general, education is personal. We do not educate uniformly – not even children from the same family. Hashem therefore ordered it so that all the children in one family are not born at the same time to allow each one to slowly develop his character.
It is certainly true that a father and mother possess an awesome responsibility to educate their child, and the Beit Din must also be concerned that the parent's obligation is fulfilled (Mishnah Berurah ibid.). But it must not be done through coercion, since we do not gain anything from acting in this way. We must gently guide every child toward the good, each according to his ability.

Shut SMS #109

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

Learning and Nursing

Q: Is it permissible for a woman to learn Torah while nursing?

A: Yes.

Q: What about saying Tehillim?

A: Also permissible.


Hitting Back

Q: If my friend is hitting me, can I hit him back or is it a violation of not taking revenge?

A: It is permissible, since it is immediate and for self-protection. Sefer Ha-Chinuch #338.


Besmirching Rabbis

Q: The media is constantly besmirching Rabbis by using partial, incorrect quotes. Should we respond?

A: Ignore it. A response garners a response. And truth is the way of Torah.


Cohain who Kills in War

Q: If a Cohain serving in Tzahal kills someone in war, can he still recite the Bircat Cohanim (since someone who kills another person may not do so)?

A: Yes. Since he has killed defending the Nation and Land of Israel, he is exactly the right person to bestow a blessing upon us. Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Shut Yechaveh Daat (2:14. Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:61. Unlike Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik who held that just as King David was unable to build the Temple on account of his participation in war, so too a Cohain who kills in war is no longer able to recite the Bircat Cohanim. Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 132).


Muktze

Q: When did the laws of Muktze begin?

A: At the Giving of the Torah. Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chaim 308:4.


Why so many Mitzvot?

Q: Why is there a need for so many Mitzvot to merit Israel? Wouldn't only a few be enough? Please provide sources.

A: In order that one will completely and with self-sacrifice fulfill at least one Mitzvah. Rambam, commentary on the Mishnah, end of Makkot. Maharal, Derech Chaim, end of Avot. Sefer Ha-Ikarim 3:29.


Revenge

Q: Should we take revenge after a terrorist attack?

A: Certainly, through Tzahal.


Transition Lenses on Shabbat

Q: It is permissible on Shabbat to wear glasses which turn into sunglasses when exposed to the sun?

A: Yes. This is not the type of coloring the Torah forbade. Furthermore, it is temporary as well as indirect (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 18:18 note #70).


Woman Wearing Pants

Q: Is it true that Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef permitted a woman to wear pants?

A: G-d forbid. He merely stated that pants are not as bad as a mini-skirt (Shut Yabia Omer vol. 6 Yoreh Deah #14).


Dog-Food on Pesach

Q: What should one do on Pesach with dog-food which is Chametz?

A: It should be included in the sale of


Chametz

Q: Is it permissible to feed it to him outside of the house?

A: No. It is forbidden to own it, see it or derive any benefit from it.


Shemoneh Esrei Out-loud

Q: Is it permissible to daven Shemoneh Esrei out-loud?

A: If you are by yourself (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 582:9).


Minyan on a Bus

Q: Is it permissible to have a Minyan for Minchah on a bus, if we will otherwise miss the time to daven?

A: If it does not bother the other passengers. The same applies on a train or airplane (Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Penini Halachah p. 124).


Donating Blood on a Fast Day

Q: It is a fast day and there is a blood drive, but one has to drink after donating blood. Should I donate or fast?

A: Fast. We do not perform Mitzvot through transgressions. Donate another time.


Davening in the Wrong Direction

Q: After I finished davening Shemoneh Esrei, I realized that I did not daven towards Jerusalem?

A: After the fact, you fulfilled your obligation (Be'er Heitev #94. Shut Meishiv Davar 1:10. Shut Teshuvot VeHanhagot 1:79).


"Shiluach Ha-Ken" (Shooing away a mother bird)

Q: There is a bird's nest. But if I fulfill the Mitzvah of shooing away the mother bird, I will have conscience pangs. What should I do?

A: 1. This Mitzvah only applies when the nest is in an abandoned field and not on private property. 2. It is only when the mother bird is there, and not the father, which doesn’t occur often. 3. According to many authorities, it is only when one wants to use the eggs. If not, there is no Mitzvah, and it is "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" - causing animals pain (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:391).

How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day

Going away for Pesach

If you are going away for Pesach and will not be at home during the entire holiday, you can be lenient and not clean for Pesach. You should sell all of the chametz (leaven) in the house, including all of the crumbs -- but not just the crumbs on their own, because that would have no halachic value. It is possible, however, to sell the food in the cabinets and closets including the "chametz dirt." If someone is staying in your house, you need to clean the rooms which will be used. The remaining unused rooms must be closed off with tape, and you must sell any chametz which is in them.

There is still the question of how to fulfill the mitzvah of Bedikat Chametz (the search for leaven). If you arrive at your Pesach destination by the fourteenth of Nisan, perform the search there. If you arrive on the morning of the fourteenth, you should clean well and check a small room, i.e. the entrance way and not sell the chametz in that room. You must also perform the search for chametz, with a blessing, in the rooms in which you will live during Pesach - if no one else has done so.


Chametz smaller than a "kezayit" (the volume of an olive)

Chametz which is less than a "kezayit" may obviously not be eaten, but it is not included in the Torah prohibition of "Bal Yeira'eh" and "Bal Yimatzeh" (Chametz may not be seen or found on Pesach – Shemot 12:19, 13:7) (Responsa Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:145). Regarding the Mishnah Berurah's statement (Sha'ar Ha-Tziun 451:6) that chametz which can be seen is included in the prohibition of "chametz she-avar alav Ha-Pesach" (using chametz that has spent Pesach in a Jew's possession) -- the fact is that if it was included in the sale of chametz, there is no problem (see Mishnah Berurah 142:33 and Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 117:15). A "kezayit" is 27 cubic centimeters - 3 centimeter square or a little over an inch square. Usually, only rooms in which children are allowed to bring sandwiches or cookies are likely to contain such big pieces of chametz. A room in which people do not walk around with food does not need to be cleaned at all. Incidentally, you must take care not to hide pieces of chametz which are larger than a "kezayit" before "Bedikat Chametz," in case one of the pieces should get lost. If you do not find them, you will not need to bother much to hunt for them, and you can rely on the "bittul chametz" (declaring chametz ownerless) that you do after the search (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at 5:149).


Bedikat Chametz

Only search for chametz in places in which there is a reasonable chance of finding it. It is nearly impossible for chametz which is an inch square to be hidden inside a book! If there is a chance that the book has chametz in it, then it must be thoroughly checked. Most books, however, do not need to be cleaned or checked. Cleaning and checking a sample is sufficient. It is customary not to place books that have not been checked for chametz on the table during Pesach. Everybody knows their kids' habits. Peek, and open here and there. Regarding crumbs in the corners of the house: 1. They are not a "kezayit." 2. They are inedible to a dog. If there is bread behind a cabinet in an unreachable place, nobody will get to it on Pesach and it is as if it is buried -- just as you do not have to search under stones or under the house's foundations, since nobody will take chametz from there. By the way, start "Bedikat Chametz" in a place where chametz was used, so the blessing will apply to it.


Educating Children

If you want to do a spring cleaning, this is certainly possible, but not before Pesach – this is not the appropriate time. Pesach vacation is for taking trips, playing with the kids, being happy, dancing and preparing stories for the Seder. A woman works hard all year long: "They enslaved the Jewish women with back-breaking work" (play on Shemot 1:13). If the husband is on vacation too, this may be a good time to leave him with the kids, and give the wife a vacation! That is what vacation is for – not for working like a donkey and scraping floors. You can take trips, enjoy yourself, and arrive at the Seder rested in order to make a beautiful Seder and inspire the children. If a woman wants to work like a donkey, and be a kind of slave, she is permitted to do so, but it is not good educationally. She should be free in order to play with the kids. We left the slavery of Egypt, and it was not to enter into our own slavery! We do not have anything against house cleaning, but you should spread it out over the course of the year – each few months clean another room. This is not the time for projects of cleaning and arranging. In any event, when the Seder arrives there will still be disorder and cleaning that has not been completed.

If a woman is happy with suffering, she is allowed and it subtracts from the suffering of "Gehinom" (purgatory): Any suffering in this world is deducted from the suffering of "Gehinom." If someone desires, this it is legitimate, but not before Pesach. The month of Nissan is a happy month.


Husband's help

Question: Does a husband have to help his wife?

Answer: A husband does not have to help his wife nor does a wife have to help her husband. Rather, the two of them have to clean together since this is a shared home, and it is a shared life as well.


Children's Clothes

There may be cookies in your kids' pockets. Even the crumbs must be removed, since a child may put his hand into his pocket and then into his mouth. You only have to check the clothes you will be wearing that season. It is unnecessary to check any clothes that are put away and will not be worn now, such as winter clothes.


Question: It is possible to simply clean them by washing them in a washing machine?

Answer: Running the clothes through a washing machine will not necessarily get rid of all of the crumbs. The clothes must be checked.


Toys

Toys must also be checked. However, you may put some or all of the toys away, and buy new toys as a present for the holiday! This serves a double purpose of saving work and making the children happy.


Bathroom Cabinets

These may contain chametz, such as wheat germ oil and alcohol derived from wheat. What a waste to clean it. Close and tape the cabinets and include it in the sale of chametz.


Couches

You have to check between the pillows. It is an interesting experience to find lost objects.


Books

There is no need to clean them, just do not put them on the table on which you eat. The custom is not to check books for the crumbs that remain in them, but to rely of the nullification (Haggadah Chazon Ovadiah of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, p. 21). Clean the books which you will want to read at the table on Pesach, or clean a few books for Pesach.


Dining Room

You do not have to clean everything, just the place where people eat, i.e. the chairs and the table.

Chairs: If the chairs are clean, there is no need to clean them. If the kids throw cereal or other things on them and they do not look clean, clean it with a wet rag.

Table: There are two options: 1. Kashering with boiling water. 2. Covering with several layers of plastic and cloth tablecloths.


High Chair

If it is plastic, it may be immersed in a tub with boiling water and cleaning agents. Clean the cracks with a stiff brush. It is unnecessary to take the chair apart, because whatever is in the cracks and holes is inedible to a dog.


Kitchen

This room must be thoroughly cleaned and not one crumb of chametz left. A crumb is not nullified even in a thousand times its volume.


Dishwasher It is preferable not to kasher a dishwasher. You can do the dishes by hand as in previous generations. It is also possible to use disposable dishes.


Question: Is it at all possible to clean a dishwasher?

Answer: It is possible, but it is a lot of work; there are a lot of rubber parts and connections.


Oven

If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, it is best not to kasher it. Seal the oven and buy baked goods or buy a "wonder-pot" which allows you to bake on a stove.


Stove

Grates: Clean and cover the grates with as much aluminum foil as possible. Use aluminum foil that is thick enough not to tear, but thin enough to bend and shape. What a waste of time and effort! The best thing is to use special Pesach burners.

Burners: There is no need to clean them; they get burned up in the course of use.

Bottom Pan (where everything falls): In general, if some food falls into it, we do not pick it up, and it is considered "treif;" nevertheless, put aluminum foil on it.

Knobs: Wipe them clean.


Refrigerator

Clean it, but it does not have to be a lot of work. Of course, defrost the freezer (if you have an older model which does not defrost automatically) and clean it. It is best to eat up all chametz before Pesach, but if expensive chametz food products are left over, i.e. frozen foods, they may be wrapped up well, labeled "chametz," stored in the back of the freezer/refrigerator and included in the list of chametz sold before Pesach.

If you have an old refrigerator with cracks or crevices in the door which is difficult to clean, do not use its inner shelves, but cover them with plastic. Similarly, you must clean the door's rubber part well. If it is old, sometimes it is easier to replace it.


Food Pantry

Do not clean. It is a waste of time. Seal, put sign or sticker not to use and include it in sale of chametz.


Cabinets of dishes, utensils, pots and pans

Dishes, shelves, and drawers that will not be used on Pesach may be sealed, and need not be cleaned. There are those who are strict to clean even the things which are used for chametz, but one can be lenient on account of three reasons, each of which would be enough:

1. We sell all the crumbs together with the sale of chametz.

2. The dishes are clean -- nobody puts a dirty dish away in the cabinet.

3. Even if there is "chametz dirt," it is definitely less than a "kezayit."

By the way, sometimes it is easier to paint than to clean. You can paint the corner of the kitchen where food flies using a water-based paint and the gas grates using aluminum paint.


Microwave

It can be kashered by not using it for twenty-four hours, cleaning it for five minutes and boiling water in it for half an hour. All food cooked or baked in it on Pesach should be placed in a covered utensil.


Counters

It is possible to cover them with thick aluminum foil, and then there is no need to kasher them at all; just wipe them with a rag. Sometimes it is complicated to cover, and then one can kasher it. Where there are holes, pour floor bleach in them and then pour water from an electric kettle which is still boiling. It is good for two people to do this: One to pour and the other to unplug.


Sink

Regarding the kitchen sink, there are a few solutions:

1. Do not put anything into the sink on Pesach, and wash the dishes in the air. This, however, is unrealistic.

2. Put a plastic bin inside. Just make sure there is still a direct flow down the drain.

3. Thoroughly clean and kasher the sink like the counters.


Toaster

It is impossible to clean a toaster, but there is no need. Put it in the cabinet of sold chametz.


Mixer

You have to do "Hagalah" (kashering by dropping into boiling water) for the bowl and blades. As for the body of the mixer, wrap it in plastic -- making sure not to block the air holes. The best thing is to buy a cheap hand-mixer for Pesach.


Kashering dishes

This is a tremendous amount of work. It is preferable to buy new dishes. True, it is expensive, so buy a few things each year. As for pots, it is possible to buy cheap aluminum ones which are okay for just seven days. There are cheap plastic plates as well as cheap cutlery.


Car

You have to clean it. Take out the mats and gather the "chametz dirt" – there is no need for a vacuum cleaner -- and clean the compartments and containers. There is no need to pour water or dismantle the seats. In general, there is no need to dismantle anything with screws. Any way you look at it -- if the chametz is accessible, you can take it out without a screwdriver, and if it is not accessible, it will not come out on Pesach either.


Chumrot - Being Strict

If you know that you are being stricter than Halachah requires, and you choose to be strict, you deserve a blessing. And if you accepted a stricture on yourself and now you want to stop, the way to do that is to do "Hatarah" (getting the vow annulled). But if you thought that a particular act was the actual Halachah, and now you realize it is a stricture, you do not need a "Hatarah." If you have a strong desire to clean a lot, you deserve a blessing, especially for Pesach, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing." You should not, however, force a stricture on yourself, but accept it with love.

Summary In light of what is written above, it should take about an hour for the dining room, two-three hours to kasher the kitchen, and another hour to clean the rest of the house. In short, about one day!


All the rest of the cleaning jobs are either strictures or just made up. When we work hard, we use up our energy and get mad at the kids. You have to educate the kids -- but not to educate them to be aggravated: "I told you not to go into this room anymore! Why did you go in?! Eat on the porch! Eat standing up! Don't touch!" The whole kitchen looks like it was overturned by vandals; the husband and kids are trembling in fear in some corner and eating; the mother looks at them like a drill sergeant; there's anger between husband and wife. This is preparation for Pesach?! This is educating the kids? This is definitely not setting a positive example! Our memories of Pesach should not be of a reign of terror.


If you clean together with the kids, that is great, but it must be a happy adventure. First of all, you have to clean what you must – taking half a day – and after that if you want to do other things, you can clean with happiness and joy. Clean, sing, pour water and "you will clean with joy from the wellsprings of salvation" (based on Yeshayahu 12:3).


The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch writes: "Every person should sweep his room before Bedikat Chametz, and check his pockets for chametz, and the pockets or cuffs where you sometimes put chametz also need to be checked" (Orach Chaim 433:11) The Mishnah Berurah (#46) adds: "It is the custom to sweep the whole house on thirteenth of Nisan, so that it will be ready to check immediately after nightfall on the fourteenth." This custom is enough. Beyond that, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing" -- as far as Pesach goes, but not as far as the kids go.


It is understood that I am not forcing my opinion on anyone. I am simply stating my humble opinion with explanations. Whoever accepts the explanations will listen and whoever does not accept them will not. I heard most of the practical suggestions about how to shorten the cleaning from women themselves. It is possible that a woman has a strong desire not to shorten this work, and just the opposite, she finds joy in it. That is okay. Even she will benefit from all of the above, because she will not feel pressured that she might violate the Halachah, but rather she will clean with satisfaction and tranquility.


The essential point is the distinction between chametz, which there is an obligation to clean with all the severity of the Halachah, and dirt – which should obviously be removed, but not necessarily before Pesach. You can spread out the work of removing dirt over the whole year, so that we and our families do not suffer before Pesach. I am not advocating poor housekeeping. We should stand before chametz with awe and fear, but not all dirt is chametz. Do not treat chametz cavalierly, G-d forbid, but at the same time, not everything that is accepted as Pesach cleaning is directed at chametz.


Have a kosher and happy Pesach. We should ensure that we have a HAPPY Pesach and a KOSHER Purim. We should arrive at the Seder night neither tired nor aching but happy, so that this night will be a powerful experience for the kids, and a great source of faith in Hashem, the Redeemer of Israel.


"Dirt is not chametz and children are not the Pesach sacrifice!"

Do Not Punish a Toddler

It is completely forbidden to punish a toddler. The punishment does not help from an educational standpoint. On the contrary, it causes damage. A child of that age does not possess the emotional or intellectual ability to transform a punishment into a positive lesson.

Even the best, non-Jewish educators reached the conclusion that punishments cannot fix everything. This is a great advancement when compared to the state which existed in Europe a hundred years ago where children would be hit in a cruel manner and called horrible names.

We find teachings against child punishment in the writings our Sages from France from more than 500 years ago. See, for example, Rabbi Eliyahu De Vidas’ famous work "Reishit Chochma", in the chapter on raising children. Similarly, Rabbi Moshe ben Machir in his book "Seder Ha-Yom" on the Mishnah "A five-year old begins learning Chumash," where he explains that before that age one should not cause distress to a child since he is incapable of learning proper lessons from it. He does not say that a child of that age does not possess intellect, but that he is not able to understand cause and effect. Therefore, do not punish a toddler, but help to build him through his own intellect.

Sefer Torah in the Women's Section

Question: Is it permissible to pass the Sefer Torah through the Women's Section before and after the Torah reading?

Answer: We should not change the fixed structure of prayer, which has been in place for generations (Shut Rashba 1:323).

Women and Tefillin

Question: Can a woman put on Tefillin, as did Michal bat Shaul (Eruvin 96a. See Tosafot, Rosh Hashanah 33a d.h. Ha Rebbe)?

Answer: You are not Michal bat Shaul. In any event, it is written in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 38:1) that if a woman puts on Tefillin, we should protest. Furthermore, Michal bat Shaul put on Tefillin in private and not in public in a protesting manner. Besides all of this, there is a problem of "Lo Tilbash" - the prohibition of cross-dressing (Targum Yonatan on Devarim 22:5). Before we add to our Mitzvot, we must fulfill the obligations we already have. See Mesilat Yesharim (see also an interesting comment by the Kaf Ha-Chaim [ibid. #9], that based on the Kabbalah, there is no proof from Michal bat Shaul, since she had a male soul!).

Q: I heard that Rashi's daughters put on Tefillin?

A: We have not seen a reliable source for this fact. Nonetheless, there is a long way to go before we reach their level.

Kitzur Tefilat Amecha #48-49

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


#48

The Shemone Esrei, also known as the Amida, is the central part of our davening. Everything up to this point has been to prepare to speak directly with Hashem. Though there are many requests that we make, requests are not the essence of Tefilla. If it were, that would be service of ourselves, rather than of Hashem. Rather, the essence of Tefilla is "Devekut" – close connection to Hashem. When we daven, our souls reach for Hashem to connect with Him.

There are three ways that we have a close connection to Hashem. We have this close connection with our minds, which we achieve through learning Torah. We have this with our deeds, which we achieve through doing mitzvot. And we do this with our words, which we achieve with our Tefillot. Our words express our desire to get closer to Hashem. Sometimes it is hard to light this fire - to have our Tefillot truly express our soul’s great desires. But we cannot give up. As we keep davening, and understanding our davening, we find that there are indeed times that we have this deep, emotional connection to Hashem through our speaking directly with Him. These feelings of "Devekut" can come upon us and we can feel an incredible closeness to Hashem. But we have to give ourselves the opportunity, through regular and proper davening. It’s true that Hashem knows what we need before we ask Him. But He wants us to ask Him. He wants us to have this deep connection with Him, just as He has this deep connection to all of us. And so we come before Hashem during the Shemoneh Esrei. We give him praises and thanks. But we also make requests - not just for our needs but for the needs of all Klal Yisrael.


#49

Right before the Shemoneh Esrei we say a verse: "Hashem open up my lips and my mouth to say your praises." Even though we are not allowed to have a break between the blessing of Ga’al Yisrael and the Amida, this is not considered a break. It is considered to be an extension of Ga’al Yisrael. We say it not because we have any physical problems talking. We say it because we need permission to come before Hashem and speak with Him. When you think about it, it is astounding that we would have the courage to speak to Hashem, the Ruler of the Universe. So we ask His permission to allow us to speak. We do this using the expression "Hashem". We are saying that we recognize that He is our personal ruler. We are again saying we believe in Him and will honor His commandments. Once we do this, we are then ready to come before Hashem with our praises, requests and thanks in the Shemoneh Esrei itself.

Shut SMS #108

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

Coffee and Cake at Work

Q: Is it permissible for a man to bring coffee and cake to a woman at work, or visa-versa?

A: If it is in the framework of performing one's job, there is no prohibition. In general, however, one should distance oneself from signs of friendship with the opposite gender, but one should be polite.


Mourning Mother at Wedding

Q: How should a mother who is in mourning act at her child's wedding?

A: She can participate in everything. The same applies to the father. Hilchot Chatan Ve-Kallah of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef.


Cohain Remarrying His Wife

Q: If a Cohain divorces his wife and then regrets it and wants to remarry her, is there a solution?

A: To our distress, there is no solution.


Loving My Wife

Q: I love my wife, but there are a few things about my best friend's wife that I admire, which is confusing me. How do I free myself from this?

A: Oy va-voy that you are looking at what is going on with your friend's wife. From the moment of the wedding, your wife is the only woman in the world. All other "women" are like monkeys to you. Your wife is obviously not an angel, she has faults, she is just a human being, but a person is judged by the majority of his actions and traits. If your wife was an angel, she wouldn't have married you, since you are also not an angel and are merely human. Nonetheless, you should relate to your wife like an angel, since she is the only woman in the world to you (see Baba Batra 58a).


Shiduch

Q: Is it permissible for me NOT to relate at the beginning of a Shiduch that I am a Baal Teshuvah?

A: Yes. This fact is not important.


Shehechiyanu over Daughter

Q: When does one recite a blessing over the birth of a daughter?

A: One should recite Shehechiyanu when seeing her for the first time (Mishnah Berurah 223:2).


Taking Customers to New Position

Q: Is it permissible for a worker who leaves his job to bring his customers over to his new company?

A: No. They belong to the previous employer, unless he had a connection with them before the previous job.


Watching Someone's Bag

Q: Someone asked me to watch his bag at the bus station, and he has not come back for a while and my bus has arrived. Should I get on?

A: Yes, and ask someone else to watch it.


Cohain at Birth

Q: I am a Cohain. My wife wants me to be in the room during the birth of our baby. Is it permissible?

A: It is permissible for a Cohain to enter a hospital for the sake of a Mitzvah. The concern is a Rabbinic one and the chance of someone dying in the hospital at that time is low.


Dancing on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to dance on Shabbat?

A: Yes. What people do today is not considered "dancing." People go around in a circle and jump up and down. People do not dance in a way that must be accompanied by musical instruments and there is thus no fear that someone will repair a musical instrument. Aruch Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 339:9. See Shut Minchat Eleazar 1:29. Ma'aseh Ish vol. 5 p. 17. Ashrei Ish vol. 2 p. 128. There is a story about Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein that a student in his yeshiva finally got married after many, many years. At the Aufruf, they were so excited that they (including Ha-Rav Feinstein) began to dance around the Bima. A student asked him: Isn't it forbidden to dance on Shabbat? Ha-Rav Feinstein responded: You call this dancing?!).


Popularity

Q: Why do Rabbis express their opinion when because of doing so, they lose "points" with the public?

A: If this is their opinion, they are obligated to express the Torah's position. Rabbis are not searching for popularity, but for the truth.


Beauty

Q: Is beauty subjective or objective?

A: Subjective. Netivot Olam of the Maharal, Netiv Ha-Emet on Ketubot 17.


Amalek

Q: Is Amalek a phenomenon or an actual nation?

A: An actual nation. But we do not presently know who they are. Although the Nazis were similar to Amalek, this is not a halachic proof (Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik related in the name of his father, Ha-Rav Moshe – that besides the actual nation of Amalek, any nation that conspires to destroy the Nation of Israel is considered by the Halachah to be Amalek. Five Derashot. Kol Dodi Dofek note #23. Nefesh Ha-Rav p. 97. But our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was not pleased with what Ha-Rav Soloveitchik wrote in this matter, and he said that it was only a Derashah [a homily, or inspirational discourse], and one should refrain from saying things like this. Melumdei Milchamah p. 24).

Q: But isn't it cruel to kill women and children of Amalek?

A: The point is not to kill them, but to deter their actions so they will not dare to attack us again. Moreh Nevuchim.