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A Spiritual and Halachic Guide to Making Aliyah
By Rabbi Mordechai Tzion (Friedfertig).
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1. The Book of Yonah - Commentary of Rav Shlomo Aviner
Gimmel Elul – Yahrtzeit of Maran Ha-Rav Kook - Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook: “I am building a Nation”
When our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook arrived in Israel, Rabbi David Ha-Cohen, the Nazir, walked all night from Jerusalem to Hevron to greet him. While there, he heard a Torah lecture from him. Following the lecture, he said to Rav Kook, “Based on your lecture, your views resemble those of Chabad.” Rav Kook smiled and responded, “I’m building a Nation.”
The Talmud teaches (Sanhedrin 38b), “Each generation and its scholars, each generation and its sages.” G-d’s conduct of each generation is different, and He sends the generation’s spiritual leadership accordingly (Even Sheleima 11:9). The Torah encompasses all generations from start to finish, all questions and all situations. Every generation has a unique divine emissary to uncover another part of the Torah that was previously hidden away, and known only to the most spiritual elite who transcend the generations and time, subsuming everything within their all-encompassing gaze.
Rabbi Hillel Zeitlin wrote an article entitled, “Rav Kook’s Fundamental Approach to the Kabbalah” [in Hebrew], in which he compares the Kabbalah of the Ari, of the Ba’al Shem Tov, of Chabad [Lubavitch] and of Rav Kook. Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, said that this article was generally accurate and that it hit the mark, but he added that the Kabbalah of the Vilna Gaon must be included as well.
Rav Zeitlin said that the Ari spoke about the divine light in the spiritual worlds. The Ba’al Shem Tov, and in his wake, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe (in his book the Tanya), brought that light down to man. Rav Tzvi Yehudah added that the Vilna Gaon uncovered the divine light within the Torah. Finally, Rav Kook uncovered the divine light within the Nation (Sifran Shel Yechidim, page 235).
These divine lights are obviously all connected. All of these elite figures gazed at the whole picture, but each from a different perspective. Imagine several people watching the stars from a tall tower, but each gazing at them from a unique spot within that tower (ibid., p. 236).
During the past hundred years an amazing thing has happened: the gathering of the exiles has begun. In the Shemoneh Esreh we pray, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom. Lift up the banner to bring our exiles together.” It is happening! Someone once told me, “When my great, great grandfather was born, there were 12,000 Jews in Israel. When my great grandfather was born, there were 30,000. When my grandfather was born there were 80,000, when my father was born there were 200,000, and when I was born there were 600,000. When my son was born there were two million, and when my grandson was born there were five million!”
Yet the ingathering of the exiles does not just mean a population transfer from one geographic place to another. We are gathering together and becoming a single nation once more. From scattered individuals, from a scattered, divided people, we are once more becoming the people described in Divrei Ha-Yamim 1 17:21: “Who is like Your People Israel, a cohesive Nation in the Land.” Maharal at the start of his work Netzach Yisrael explains that there are three characteristics to a healthy, normal people: their unity, their possessing a common land, and their being independent. In practical terms this translates as their possessing a sovereign state, an army and a government with all of its institutions. Slowly, our recognition, understanding and faith that we are a people and that we need to lead the lives of a people is returning to us. For a hundred years already we have been awakening. Yet there are many more Jews who are still in a deep sleep - both in the exile and in Israel. There are also many religious Jews who have not yet understood what a nation is, but we are nevertheless progressing. We are being carried along on the wings of an enormous movement, the Zionist movement. Rav Kook said (Orot 38): “In the end of days, a clandestine organization full of potential and yearning, fraught with internal contradictions, replete with light and darkness is calculating how to penetrate the coast for the salvation of Israel.”
Therefore, many religious Jews see the darkness and reject Zionism. By contrast, many secular Jews see the light and identify with it. Rav Kook emerged, saw the light and the darkness together, and he said, “I am building a Nation,” by which he meant that he was magnifying the light in order to banish the darkness. Rav Kook wrote about himself, “I know that G-d sent me to the holy land to revitalize it” (Igrot vol. 1, p. 189) – to invest spirit in the national rebirth, or, more precisely, to uncover the soul of the national rebirth. Rav Kook further writes about himself: “I am slave who has been sold to the masses, to toil and bear burdens. I have been sold to G-d’s people, who are starting to strike roots in the land of their inheritance, hoping for redemption.” (ibid., pp. 239-240). This is an enormous project, a Torah project, what Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah called “the redemptive Torah” (Or Le-Netivotai, p. 280), the Torah that teaches us how to construct the redemption of our people based on the word of G-d.
To build a single person is an enormous project, but to build a nation is infinitely harder and more complex. Towards that end Rav Kook was sent: “I am building a Nation.” Let us not think that he was not also building the individual Jew. He was involved in that even more. In order for all the individual Jews to be part of the national edifice and not just a collection of isolated individuals, each Jew has to be much more full of Torah and Mishnah, Gemara and Shulchan Aruch, the fear of G-d and good character, holiness and purity, Mesilat Yesharim and Chovot Ha-Levavot.
No less than this, the Nation’s rebirth has also to be a rebirth of individuals, such that all should be on a high level. As Rav Kook wrote: “Unless the national rebirth sheds new light on prayer, Torah, Mussar and faith, it will not yet constitute a true rebirth” (Ma’amarei HaRe’eiyah, p. 414).
This is the divine mission of Rav Kook – to transform our national rebirth into a true rebirth, and thank G-d, for the past hundred years, it has been growing more and more genuine thanks to the light and insight contained in Rav Kook’s writings. Yet we still have a long way ahead of us. We have much more to learn of his writings, and much more to teach, in order to uncover the light stored away in our rebirth, until we will see the complete fulfillment of Rav Kook’s vision [written before there was a State of Israel]: “The [future] Jewish state is the foundation of G-d’s throne in the world, and its entire purpose is to render G-d one and His name one” (Orot, page 160).
תוויות: Maran Ha-Rav Kook
Question: Many times I have encountered poor, suffering people, and my heart bleeds for them. I’m not talking here about those who suffer from injustices committed against them by evil people, but about those born with impediments that torment them. I am filled with resentment and anger over this. Why do these people deserve such suffering? I know I cannot receive an answer to this, but this is not my question. Rather I want to know if the very emotion I feel is legitimate. People have told me that it shows a lack of faith. After all, “G-d is good to all, and His mercy is over all His works” (Tehillim 145:9). If so, how dare I complain! Rather, I should remain silent and accept everything.
I do not understand this argument. Is it natural for me to complacently observe my fellowman’s suffering without feeling any resentment? Have I no heart? Have I no feelings?
Answer: Your feelings are justified and do not, G-d forbid, constitute heresy. Rather, they result from your honesty. King Solomon wrote long ago about the “tears of the oppressed” (Kohelet 4:1), and in the Zohar commentary, “Saba DeMishpatim” (Shemot 113:1), a very weighty claim is advanced for various types of oppressed people. Obviously, “The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all His ways are just. He is a faithful G-d, never unfair” (Devarim 32:4). Yet since we do not understand the secrets of His behavior – “For My plans are not your plans” (Yeshayahu 55:8) – it is permissible for those oppressed people to weep.
Following is the Zohar: “‘Behold, the tears of the oppressed’ – all of the oppressed pour out tears, stating their case before G-d.” The Zohar elaborates on various types of oppressed people:
1. A boy thirteen-years-old and one day, sentenced to death in Rabbinic court for his sins, despite his being considered an adult for only one day, making him like a one-day-old infant. Despite his newness as an adult, the court can theoretically execute him. We will not pause to analyze this example. Rather, let us suffice with the Zohar’s conclusion: “Here are the tears of those oppressed. They have no comforter.”
2. A person who is classified as a “mamzer”, the product of an incestuous relationship. Such a person is outside of the fold. He cannot wed, although he certainly is not guilty for his parents’ sin. He is poor and unfortunate. He pours out his tears before G-d and complains, “Master-of-the-Universe! If my parents sinned, what sin did I commit? Surely my own deeds are reputable.” Of him it says, “Here are the tears of the oppressed. They have no comforter.” In other words, there is no answer to his argument, and there is no comforter and there is no
one who can say a word in response.
3. There are other oppressed people, and they are infants who died in their mothers’ arms, causing all mankind to shed tears for them. There are no tears more heartfelt than those, for all mankind wonder to themselves, “G-d’s justice is the truth, and it follows the path of truth, and here you have these poor infants who didn’t sin. Why did they die? Where is the truth in G-d’s justice here? Certainly they have no comforter.”
As noted, at first we know that G-d’s judgments are truth, but we do t understand why, and we cannot sense why. Therefore, there is no comfort for our tears. In the future, however, we will understand, and we will have comfort.
The World-to-Come is not like this world. In this world, we say “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” over good news, and “Blessed is the true Judge” over bad news. In the World-to-Come, however, we will say “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” even about bad news (Pesachim 50a).
Yet in the meantime, we are in this world. We do not understand and we cannot intuit the truth. We have complaints about the tears of the oppressed, and we have no answer. And we believe in G-d, and we love Him and cling to Him.
To what is this similar? It is impossible to keep a child in a completely germ-free, sterile environment. This would in fact be dangerous, since his body would have no experience fighting against the germs. The first germ would knock him out! One should therefore not panic that he is breathing in millions of germs every moment. As long as he is healthy, he learns to overcome them.
But if a child is emotionally destroyed because his parents are cold and critical, constantly pointing thing out to him and insulting him, or making him feel unwanted, then his state is shaky and there will be a constant risk against any difficultly he faces.
A parent with a good heart, even who sometimes gets angry or makes errors, has not made a fatal mistake. The deciding factor in the child's well-being is having an overall good atmosphere.
Q: I have two Tzedakah boxes in my home and I took a loan from one of them and do not remember which one. What should I do?
A: Repay the loan to both Tzedakah boxes.
Q: Is it permissible to buy a product from a company which has immodest advertising?
A: It is permissible. This is not our responsibility. But it is obviously preferable to buy from another company.
Q: I am lazy. I do not have a desire to learn Torah. I only want to sleep.
A: Repair yourself slowly, in stages.
Computer on Shabbat
Q: I need to buy a laptop computer for my studies, but I cannot prevent my brother from using it on Shabbat. What should I do?
A: Buy it. It is not your responsibility.
Q: A young man says that he will commit suicide if a particular girl does not return his phone call, and we do not know if he is serious or joking. What should we do?
A: She should not return his call. This would be giving in to emotional blackmail. Tell his parents (see Sanhedrin 75a).
"The King who causes death"
Q: Why do we praise Hashem as "The King who causes death" (in the second blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei)?
A: Death is also a supreme Divine kindness, which allows the separation of the soul from the body. Each one of them is then purified on its own, and will be ready to reunite in purity during the Resurrection of the Dead.
Q: Is it permissible to set up a scarecrow whose base is a cross?
A: It is permissible. This is not a cross of idol worship.
Q: I am a lefty. Are there books which detail the special halachot for a lefty?
A: 1. Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski in the booklet "Ish Itar" in his book on Massechet Tefillin. It is also printed separately with the commentary "Yemin Moshe". 2. A few Teshuvot in Shut Be'er Moshe of Ha-Rav Moshe Stern. 3. Ha-Rav Gedalya Goldberg in "Ben Ish Yemini". 4. Ha-Rav A. Horowitz in Dvar Halachah, vol. 2.
Q: Why are we lenient when there is a doubt regarding a Rabbinic Mitzvah? Is a Rabbinic Mitzvah less than a Torah Mitzvot? After all, the Torah says "Lo Tasur" – do not turn away from what the Rabbis tell you - which gives a Rabbinic Mitzvah the strength of a Torah Mitzvah?
A: There are different levels even amongst Torah Mitzvot.
Empty Cans and Bottles
Q: Is it permissible for me to collect empty cans and bottles on Shabbat in order to get the deposit?
A: They are Muktzeh, and collecting them is preparing on Shabbat for a weekday. There are other problems with this as well.
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that avoiding taxes is theft. At my wedding, two of the witnesses work on the black market. Does my Kiddushin count?
A: Yes, since this transgression – to our great distress – is common and people do not act in the proper way with regards to its severity. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 34:4, 28. Shut Maharam Mi-Lublin #15. Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger #96.
Halachah and Kabbalah
Q: What do we do if there is a contradiction between Halachah and Kabbalah?
A: The Vilna Gaon claims that there is no contradiction, and if one does perceive a contradiction, it is a sign that he does not understand properly. Deep down, everything is one.
Cemetery before Wedding
Q: What is the source behind the custom of going to the cemetery before a wedding and inviting one's relatives who have passed away?
A: There is no source, but it is the custom of some people.
Refrigerator light on Shabbat
Q: What should one do on Shabbat if he opens the refrigerator door and the light goes on?
A: Place a towel on the door so that it does not close. Food that is perishable should be placed in the freezer or placed in a neighbor's refrigerator, and non-perishable food should be pushed to the back of the refrigerator.
Benefiting from Shabbat Desecration
Q: I am religious and my family is secular. On Shabbat, they turn on the lights and the air-conditioner. Is it permissible for me to benefit from them?
A: Yes, but do not intend to do so, i.e. it is permissible to be in the house, but do not purposefully go close to the air-conditioner or read by the light.
Moshe Rabbenu yearned to enter Eretz Yisrael. Our Rabbis ask in the Gemara (Sotah 14a): "Why did Moshe desire to enter Eretz Yisrael? Was it to eat the fruit, or to be satiated from its goodness?!
The Tur (Orach Chayim 208) cites a version of the blessing recited after eating the fruits of "The Seven Species," as follows: "Ve-Nochal Mi-Piryah Ve-Nisba Mi-Tuva - we shall eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness." The Tur objects, based on the above Gemara, because this version stresses the fruit of Eretz Yisrael, rather than the Land, from which it comes. And it is the Land that we must covet, so that we may fulfill the Mitzvot which are linked to it (The Torah Temimah on Devarim 3:25 also raises this issue). The Bach (ibid. and in Mishnah Berurah #50) shudders at the Tur's opinion, vehemently stressing that one must understand the sanctity of the fruits of Eretz Yisrael: The Divine Presence rests its holiness over the entire Land of Israel. The mountain, the hills, and the even fruits of Eretz Yisrael are imbued with the Divine Presence! The Chatam Sofer also refers to the fruit of Eretz Yisrael as "its holy fruits" (Chidushei Chatam Sofer on Sukka 36a).
The Gemara explains why Moshe Rabbenu desired so much to enter Israel: "Rather he said: Israel has been commanded many Mitzvot, and they can only be fulfilled in Eretz Israel. I wish to enter the Land so that all of them will be fulfilled through me." We must understand what Moshe Rabbenu is saying. Some people are not accurate in their reading of Chazal’s words, and deduce from here that the importance of Eretz Yisrael is not inherent but comes from its unique Mitzvot: Shemita, Terumot and Ma'asrot, etc. Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains in the last chapter of the introduction to "Shabbat Ha-Aretz" that the Land is not holy on account of the Mitzvot. On the contrary, the Mitzvot are a product of the holiness of the Land. The Land is in and of itself holy. There is a halachic expression: "Mitzvot dependent on the Land." The Mitzvot are dependent on the Land, i.e. the holiness of the Land. There is no such opposite expression of the "Land dependent on the Mitzvot." It does not exist, not in the Torah, not in Chazal, not in the Rishonim and not in the Acharonim. Fortunate are we who possess the holiness of the Land, and from it, the Mitzvot.
If so, how do we understand the Gemara's statement about Moshe Rabbenu? Answer: The "goodness" which he desired is not in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense! Usually people understand Moshe Rabbenu's words in the Gemara to mean: "I wish to enter the Land so that I will be able to fulfill all of the Mitzvot there," but that is not what the words say. This is an error. He was not concern about himself as an individual. Rather he understood the holiness of the Land, and its ability to perfect the Mitzvot. Moshe Rabbenu therefore desired to lead the Nation of Israel into Eretz Yisrael in order to attain this supreme spiritual level of fulfilling the Mitzvot there.
תוויות: Parashat Ha-Shavua - Devarim
A: There is an answer to this question in the book "Piskei Teshuvah" of Ha-Rav Avraham Pitrakovsky (#124). He quoted the book "Shut Matzav Ha-Yashar" on the Zohar that there was a young woman who was married to a wonderful man who died at a relatively young age. The young woman did not want to marry again. She said, "Why should I get married to someone else? During the Resurrection of the Dead I will be married to my second husband, and my first husband is dearer to me than anything. I prefer to remain a widow all of my life and then be married to my true soul-mate." There is a similar question in the book "Ha-Techiya Ve-Ha-Pedut" (question #6) of Ha-Rav Sa'adia Gaon: how will I find my wife during the Resurrection of the Dead? Ha-Rav Sa'adia did not want to answer since it is forbidden to answer a halachic question before someone who is greater than him in wisdom. Since this is a question of the Resurrection of the Dead, Moshe Rabbenu will be there and it is therefore forbidden for me to answer. If there are questions that arise now - what can we do? We have to answer them. Questions that have to do with the future, however, we leave for Moshe Rabbenu and the other prophets. It therefore seems that the question in "Shut Matzav Ha-Yashar" cannot be answered, but this was before the Zohar was revealed. After the Zohar was revealed, our question was answered. Regarding a Jewish servant, the verse says, "If he arrives by himself, he leaves by himself; if he is the husband of a woman, his wife leaves with him" (Shemot 21:3). This means that he enters the Resurrection of the Dead with his wife – his first wife. There are commentators who explain that the meaning of the Zohar is that she will return to her true spouse, i.e. the most successful marriage (see note in Piskei Teshuvah). Thus, she will return to the marriage which was filled with the most love, fraternity, peace, and friendship.
Is it permissible to wed a young woman who talks non-stop?
Certainly. After all, she just doesn't want to differ from our Sages' dictum (Kiddushin 49b) that ten measures of talk descended to the world, and nine were taken by women and one by men. It creates a pleasant atmosphere of talk in the house.
Is it permissible to wed a young woman who is taciturn?
If you both sit and are silent, then apparently neither of you is talkative. You therefore have to prepare topics for conversation. Does that seem artificial? Where is it written that it's forbidden to be artificial? The head-covering, the shirt, and electricity are artificial. A lot of things are artificial. Even the Talmud did not descend ready-made from heaven. The Rabbis put it together in their wisdom based on the word of G-d. The young woman will learn to talk. These are things that you learn.
Is it permissible to wed an impoverished young woman?
It's recommended. A wealthy girl is accustomed to a lavish way of life, and when she doesn't have it, she suffers. She may not make demands, but she still suffers. By contrast, a poor young woman is used to living modestly and won't suffer from it. Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah once asked his father about two matches that had been suggested to him: A wealthy young woman and a poor one. If he married the wealthy young woman, he'd be able to learn Torah in peace but would not be able to give her everything she wanted, while if he married the poor one she would already be used to living modestly but he would have to worry about earning a living. Maran Ha-Rav Kook told him that he should decide by himself. In the end, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda decided to wed the poor young woman (Tzvi Kodesh, pp. 152-157).
Is one allowed to wed a girl who is not pretty?
Certainly. After all, the chapter of Mishlei that we sing on Shabbat night, “Eshet Chayil”, states: “Grace is false and beauty is vain. A woman who fears Hashem is the one who shall be praised” (31:30). If you marry a pretty young woman, you won't be able to sing “Eshet Chayil”... The philosopher Walter was asked: “What is beauty?” and he replied: “It depends on whom you ask. If you ask a black man, he will respond: 'A black woman'. If you ask a Japanese man, he will reply: 'A Japanese woman'. If you ask a bull, it will reply: 'A cow'. If you ask a toad, it will reply: 'A female toad'. And if you ask a philosopher, he will answer" 'Incomprehensible gobbledygook'.”
We learn in the Talmud (Ketubot 16b-17a): “What should one sing as he dances before a bride at her wedding? Beit Hillel said: 'What a lovely, righteous bride!' Bet Shammai asked them: And if she is lame or blind, should you say, 'What a lovely, righteous bride?' The Torah says, ‘Distance yourself from a lie' (Shemot 23:7). Beit Hillel replied, 'According to what you say, if someone made a bad purchase in the marketplace, should his acquaintances praise or disparage it when speaking to him? I would say that they should praise it.' Based on this our Sages said, 'One should always attune himself to his fellow's concerns.'" Maharal comments that beauty and truth are subjective. The groom doesn't love his wife because she is beautiful. She is beautiful because he loves her.
Is one allowed to wed a woman who limps?
Where is it written that it is forbidden to limp? Even our Forefather Yaakov limped for a while.
And if she's missing a finger?
That's nonsense. It makes no difference. She doesn't put on Tefillin.
And if she's missing a hand?
What's the problem? But how will she take care of a baby? What - are there no husbands with two left hands?
Is one allowed to wed an angry woman?
That's a virtue. With an angry wife, you'll learn humility, and thanks to her you'll win a place in the World-to-Come.
Is one allowed to marry a disorganized woman?
Why not? You keep things organized and that way you'll learn humility. One time a woman wrote me that her daughter was disorganized, and that in all her life she had never seen such disorganization as with her daughter. Whenever she would go to her daughter's for a visit, she would find pots lying on the floor with food from the preceding Shabbat that had already gone bad, and also, the whole house was sticky. It was literally Sedom and Amorah after they were overturned. She asked me to write a letter about the value of cleanliness and order, which she would then pass on to her daughter. I wrote it and I gave it to her. One day I was invited to the daughter's house, and in the middle of the meal the daughter told me: “You wrote a letter to my mother about cleanliness and order, and she gave it to me. Only then did I [Rav Aviner] notice that her house was an indescribable mess. Until then I hadn't noticed, because that house was so full of love and joy...”
Is it permissible for a groom and bride to marry when their fathers have the same name?
Certainly. This is prohibition is mentioned in the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid (#23 and brought in Pitchei Teshuvah, Even Ha-Ezer 2:107 and Yoreh Deah 116:6). There is a dispute whether the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid only obligates his own offspring or everyone. The Noda Bi-Yehudah (Second Edition, Even Ha-Ezer #79) wrote that this "prohibition" is not mentioned in the Gemara and it is not possible to add prohibitions which are not found in the Gemara. The Rebbe of Sanz did not agree, and said that everything in the Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid applies to everyone (Shut Divrei Chaim, Even Ha-Ezer #8). Some authorities advise in such a case that one of the fathers add to his name, and then there won’t be an issue. Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote three responsa on this subject at the beginning of Shut Ezrat Cohain (#5-7). He says that being particular about this issue only necessary when someone is suggesting a match, because it is possible to suggest many other people. If the couple meets on their own, however, it is different because it is not easy to meet someone to marry. Maran Ha-Rav Kook also said that this does not apply in Israel, since the merit of Eretz Yisrael protects one from such spiritual matters. He mentioned the Gemara in Berachot (44a) that there was one city in Eretz Yisrael called Gufnit that had eighty pairs of brothers who were cohanim married to sisters, who were the daughters of cohanim. We see that they were not worried about "pairs" (a spiritual concern) since they were in Eretz Yisrael. In general, one who is not concerned about such matters is not affected by them. Furthermore, if a couple has an inclination and desire to marry, there is no concern. In sum: There is nothing to worry about. If you add a name, then there is no problem according to all opinions.
And we can mention that when they were writing the Tana'im for Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, who is solely referred to as "Chaim," the question arose as to how to write his name since he was given other names at birth: "Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim." The Chazon Ish said: Who said that we should reveal his other names? They didn't have to do so! As is known, Ha-Rav Kanevski is the son-in-law of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, and Ha-Rav Kanievski's mother, the wife of the Steipler, was concerned that the other side would be particular about them having the same name, and she therefore brought up the issue at the Tana'im. The Chazon Ish, however, was not concerned since the son-in-law and father-in-law each had additional names – Ma'aseh Ish vol. 7 pp. 130-131.
Does one have to wed the daughter of a Torah scholar?
One should marry a Torah scholar’s daughter (Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer 2:6). Alternately, she, herself, can be like a Torah scholar. Once, children were like their parents, so much so that our Sages said that one who marries a woman should check up on her brothers (Baba Batra 110a). Nowadays, when siblings aren’t identical, we don’t insist on this point. The main thing is that she herself should be steeped in Torah wisdom. The Chassidim are more strict regarding marrying the daughter of a Torah scholar, and the non-Chassidim are less strict. All the same, the traits of the woman herself are what is most important, for a person marries his wife, and not his parents-in-law, however important and great they may be.
Q: Is it permissible to sign up for a Ramadan sale with my cell phone company?
A: Certainly not. Islam denies our faith and claims that the Torah has been nullified. Do not flatter it.
Musician in Mourning
Q: I am in mourning and am a musician. What should I do?
A: It is permissible to perform for one’s livelihood. Nitei Gavriel (Avelut vol. 2 14:5).
Q: Is it permissible to vote for an anti-Semitic party outside of Israel so that the situation will be bad for the Jews there and cause them to make Aliyah?
A: G-d forbid. We need to be concerned for the well-being of our brothers. At the same time, we should encourage them to make Aliyah.
Q: I am a Cohain and do not feel worthy to recite Birkat Cohanim. Should I still say it?
A: Certainly. You are not the one blessing, Hashem is. You are the agent in order for the blessing to come into the world. “And place My Name on Bnei Yisrael and I will bless them” (see Rambam, Hilchot Nesiyat Kapayim 15:6).
Yichud in an Elevator
Q: Is there a prohibition of Yichud in an elevator?
A: No. Sha’arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halachah (152:6. Shut Mishneh Halachot 4:187).
Trip outside of Israel
Q: It is permissible to take a trip outside of Israel to rejuvenate?
A: No. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 5:9. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim #531. One should rejuvenate in our Land.
Levi'im in War
Q: Did the Levi'im participate in the war of conquering Eretz Yisrael in the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun? (Rambam, at the end of Shemitah and Yovel)
A: They participated. In the Laws of War of the Rambam, there is absolutely no exemption for them (Ha-Rav Tanenbaum, who was the secretary of the Va'ad Ha-Yeshivot in Israel, heard this from Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:368).
Q: Why didn't the Rabbis establish a fast day for the Holocaust?
A: It is included in Tisha Be-Av with all of the other tragedies of the Exile.
Q: Is Tzahal required to save Jews who sneak into Kever Yosef without permission? After all, they endanger themselves (and Tzahal).
A: Yes. One should have mercy on our confused brothers.
"Ad Meah Ve-Esrim" (May you live until 120 years old!)
Q: What is the source of the blessing "Ad Meah Ve-Esrim"?
A: There is no source. On the contrary, there are those who are against saying it, since it is as if we are limiting one's life, and Torah does not say there is a limit (see the book "Meged Givot Olam", p. 100, and the book "Aleinu Le-Shabei'ach" - Devarim vol. 1, p. 732.) But one may say it since it is merely an expression (It is related in the above books that towards the end of Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein's life, he was physically weak and needed an aide. New York State was willing to cover the cost, but he was required to fill out a form which included a question about how long he expected the aide to be needed. Ha-Rav Feinstein, who was then 90 years old, could have written that he expected it to continue for not more than another 30 years. But he refused to fill in the form, even though it resulted in a major financial loss. He was not willing in any manner to write a time which hinted at his end, even though he was already quite elderly).
Q: Is it permissible to take weight-loss pills?
A: Yes. There is no halachic problem. But beware, since almost all of them are fakes.
Which Shul is Preferable
Q: Is it preferable to daven in a Shul which recites the Prayer for the State of Israel and for Tzahal but davens quickly and late, or a Charedi Shul which davens slowly and early?
A: Charedi. Better davening takes precedence.
Male Hair Stylist
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to have her hair cut by a male hair stylist?
A: It is forbidden. Unlike a doctor, the hair stylist is involved in her beauty (it is permissible for a woman to go to a male doctor since he is involved in his work and not her beauty).
Q: I am going on a Shidduch with a young man who inclines towards Chasidut and I incline towards Rav Kook. Should I continue?
A: Yes. It is the same religion.
Q: Is it permissible to induce labor?
A: Yes, if a doctor instructs you to do so.
Q: This doesn't have an effect on the child's soul?
A: It is Hashem's will that the birth be hastened by doctors (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:74. Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Taharat HaBayit, p. 59. Shut Shevet Ha-Levy 6:228).
You can be a meaningful partner in these projects by dedicating a book, or part of a book, in memory or in honor of someone. Payment may be made over time. Please be in touch with Rav Aviner or with me if you are interested in this opportunity.
The upcoming books are:
1. Commentary on all of "Orot" of Maran Ha-Rav Kook – 10 volumes in honor of Gimmel Elul (Rav Kook's Yahrtzeit)
2. Commentary on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch vol. 1- sources, contemporary questions, halachic discussions, etc. (there is also the opportunity to sponsor this project).
Q: How should one relate to the Satmar Rebbe and Ha-Rav Elchanan Wasserman, who scorned Maran Ha-Rav Kook?
A: They erred severely in this area, but we are still obligated to honor them (Shut Radvaz 4:187. Ma'amrei Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 56. See Shut Bnei Banim 2:34).
Q: I have a Satmar book with quotes against the State of Israel. Should I throw it in the garbage?
A: No. It also contains sacred words. Place it in the Geniza.
Obligation to Hate
Q: Is there are obligation to hate those Jews from Neturei Karta who visited Iran?
A: G-d forbid. One must love every Jew. But it is permissible to wage war against their opinions. They are confused.
Q: There are Rabbis from Neturei Karta who participated in a Holocaust Denial Conference in Iran, and other Rabbis called to excommunicate them. What is Ha-Rav's opinion?
A: Do not excommunicate. Those Rabbis who participated are abnormal.
Counting Neturei Karta in Minyan
Q: Is it permissible to count someone from Neturei Karta in a Minyan?
A: Of course! There is no question here.
Q: If there is no other Minyan, is it permissible to daven in a Satmar Shul, even though they are against the State of Israel?
A: Yes. Do not excommunicate people.
Praying for the Health of a Neturei Karta
Q: One of the leaders of Neturei Karta is very ill and is in the hospital. Should we pray that he dies? After all, he has blood on his hands for actively supporting our enemies?
A: We should certainly pray for his recovery. He is in the category of a confused person.
Is one allowed to wed a newly religious person?
Certainly. There’s no problem with it. See Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah, chapter 7), who says that if someone becomes religious, that person is not second class. Quite the contrary. G-d loves him dearly and all his sins are wiped out. It is even forbidden to mention anything at all about his background. It’s true that there is a controversy in the Talmud about what is better – a newly religious person or completely righteous person. There are advantages to both
Is it permissible to wed a girl who has committed many sins?
Repentance blots out everything. Yehoshua Bin Nun wed Rahav, who was entirely corrupt from head to toe (Zevachim 116b). Yet she repented and converted to Judaism and he married her. Eight kings and prophets emerged from that match (Megilah 14a). Even the prayer “Aleinu’, written by Yehoshua, contains a sentence attributed to Rahav: “For Hashem is G-d in Heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other” (Yehoshua 9:11).
Is one allowed to wed a girl if one of her parents is problematic?
I cannot answer since I am biased. I have one grandfather who married the daughter of a thief and another grandfather who married the daughter of a murderer. This is not Lashon Ha-Ra since everyone knows them: The first is Yitzchak Avinu and the second is Yaakov Avinu. What fault does the young man bear and what is his sin? One must be judged on his or her own merit.
Is one allowed to wed a convert?
Yes. Boaz wed a convert and the result will be the Messiah. Ploni Almoni didn’t want to wed a convert, and he lost out (see Rut Rabbah 7:6, 9 and Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah, pp. 263-5). A person who converts is like a newborn baby. Is there any problem with marrying a woman who was born?
Is one allowed to wed a girl whose father is a non-Jew?
The Talmud (Yevamot 45a) tells of a person who approached a rabbi and asked him, “What is the law regarding someone born of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother?” The rabbi answered, “He’s kosher.” “If so,” he replied, “Give me your daughter for a wife.” The rabbi answered, “No. Even if this person were as great as Yehoshu Bin Nun, I wouldn’t give him my daughter for a wife, even though he is kosher.” His students asked him, “So what should this person do?” and he replied, “Either he should wed a woman who similarly has a non-Jewish father, or he should go someplace where people don’t know him and there he should marry whomever he pleases.”
The illustrious Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky expressed surprise at this idea (in his “Kehilot Yaakov” on Yevamot 4:44), stating that it seems to prove that one is allowed to hide a significant blemish, such as being the son of a non-Jew. He responds that since it was ruled that the son of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother is a kosher Jew without limitations (Rambam, Hilchot Isurei Bi'ah 15:3), his non-Jewish father is not considered a serious blemish that one must reveal. See the work “Ve-Ha’arev Na” by Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein (vol. 2, pp. 188-190) about a boy who the morning after his wedding is visited by an Arab who informs him that he is his father-in-law. Obviously the groom was filled with trepidation, but Rav Zilberstein ruled, based on the preceding principle, that after the fact, his wedding does not constitute a mistaken [hence nullified] transaction.
Is it permissible for someone to wed a girl who was born to parents who did not keep the laws of Family Purity?
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Isser Yehuda Unterman, told a story: “There was once a girl to whom two matches were suggested. The one was steeped in Torah learning, but his parents had conceived him without observing the Laws of Family Purity. The second was not steeped in Torah but he had no blemish involving the laws of Family Purity. A great rabbi ruled that the first was preferable, ‘because the Torah he had learned had cleansed his blemish.’ We may derive from this that the virtue of Torah overrides the blemish of not keeping the family purity laws.” (from a booklet which I believe quoted the Chazon Ish).
It is further told about a father who asked the Satmar Rebbe, “My daughter was offered a boy who is newly religious. What does the Rebbe have to say about that?” The Rebbe asked, “Is he learned in Torah?” and the father replied that he was. So the Rebbe told him, “If so, there is no problem. "‘G-d is the hope [Hebrew “Mikvah”, also meaning “ritual bath”] of Israel’ (Yirmiyahu 17:13) – Just as a ritual bath purifies the impure, so does G-d purify Israel" (Yoma 8:9). If the boy learns Torah, it is better than any Mikvah” (see the brochure “Kehilat Yisrael”).
The most important principle in matchmaking is the mnemonic “Mi Va-Mi”, literally “Just who are they?” but also short for “Your deeds [ma’asecha] will draw you near [yikrevucha] and your deeds [uma’asecha] will distance you [yerachakucha]” (Sefer Chupat Chatanim, Rabbi Rafael Meldola, laws of matchmaking, p. 11).
Is it permissible to marry a divorcee?
A divorced woman is perfectly fine.
Obviously, one has to clarify carefully the background behind the divorce, but being divorced is not a stigma. Quite the contrary. In most cases, the woman is a great heroine. She has been through suffering that has cleansed her. She has suffered loneliness which has prepared her for true friendship. She has borne, alone, the burden of educating children. One has to marry a woman with fine character traits, and if she is divorced, so be it.
Is one allowed to marry a widow?
Yes. Of course, one might ask, “Maybe she still loves her previous husband?” Perhaps, but if she has decided to remarry, that is a sign that she has moved on. It is very important to know that widows and widowers who decide to marry must remove the past from their hearts and take a new lease on life.
Is one allowed to marry a girl who already has one or two children? If the children are small, that is certainly very good. You will be their father in every sense of the word. It is more complicated if they are older. Sometimes this creates tension, and preliminary psychological counseling is necessary.
Is one allowed to wed a woman older than oneself? Where is it written that the man has to be older than the woman? People say that women mature more quickly than men, just as we see that Bat Mitzvah age precedes Bar Mitzvah age. When a couple is very young, this makes a difference, but with older couples, it doesn’t.
Is one allowed to wed a girl from a different ethnic group?
All Jews are equal. There is no meaning to the fact that one is from one ethnic group and the other is from another. Yardsticks of compatibility include age, intellectual level, outlook on life, mentality, character, etc. Even when Israel was divided up tribally, they still intermarried. For example, Manoach’s father was from the Tribe of Dan and his mother was from the Tribe of Yehudah (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5). Only during the generation that entered the Land was a restriction placed on marital choice: when a family only had a female to inherit the land (as with the daughters of Tzelofchad), the women were asked to wed within their tribe, in order to keep land inheritances from moving from one tribe to another. Apart from that, however, there was no limitation on marital bonds between tribes (see Baba Batra 120a). All the more so in our own day, where tribal division has disappeared. We mustn’t invent insignificant differences between ethnic groups.
(To be continued next week)
When we respond in anger, the anger is not at the child, rather it is at ourselves. Do not be alarmed. An infrequent event will not leave a scar on the child's education.
Education is not built upon infrequent occurrences, and it is not destroyed by infrequent non-education. Education is continuous toil.
The essence is that there is love, love in one's heart and expressions of love. And this love is equal to all of the reprimand. It also better than a flood of reproofs.
Love is the foundation. Without love – there is no child.
Q: Is it permissible to swim where there is no lifeguard? If it is forbidden, what did they do 300 years ago, when there were no lifeguards?
A: It is forbidden. To our distress, many drowned.
Mitzvot outside of Israel.
Q: I heard that there is no value in observing Mitzvot outside of Israel, since the Mitzvot are to be observed by Am Yisrael in its Land?
A: One must certainly observe the Mitzvot there since they are the supreme service of Hashem from the Torah, but the essence of the Mitzvot is their performance in Eretz Yisrael (see Rashi on Devarim 11:18. Ramban ibid. Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Eitz Hadar. Mei Maron 6:12).
Q: If I am davening Shemoneh Esrei during the Torah reading and therefore miss it, do I have to make it up?
A: No. The Torah reading is a communal obligation (Biur Halachah, chap. 124. Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:23. Shut Yabia Omer vol. 4 Yoreh Deah #31. Ma'aseh Ish vol. 3, pp. 121-122. And not like the opinion of Reb Chaim of Brisk. See Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 130. Divrei Ha-Rav, pp. 151-152. Likutei Ha-Grach, pp. 25-26).
Kivrei Tzadikim (the Graves of the Righteous) on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to visit Kivrei Tzadikim on Shabbat?
A: There is no prohibition. But the "Kuntres Zichron Yishai" (p. 40) in the back of the book "Ma'avar Yabok" brings in the name of Sha'ar Ha-Yichudim of Rabbi Chaim Vital that there is no benefit since the righteous are not found there on Shabbat, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh or Chol Ha-Moed.
Subway outside of Israel
Q: Outside of Israel, where Shuls are often far from where people live, is it permissible to buy a subway ticket before Shabbat and travel to shul on Shabbat?
A: No. It is carrying a ticket which is Muktzeh, and in the Public Domain. It is a weekday activity and the custom is not to do so (Shut Mateh Levi 2:19).
Shiduch with Someone from another Community
Q: Is it proper to go on a Shidduch with someone from another community (i.e. Ashkenazi and Sefardi, Sefardi and Ethiopian, Yemenite and Ashkenazi, etc.) or is it better to find someone from the same community since he will have a similar background as me?
A: The community is not important. The essence is the person himself.
Q: Does a woman who does not wear socks have an opinion on which to rely?
A: The Mishnah Berurah in chap. 75. And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote that one should not force women to wear socks, and it is permissible to rely on the Mishnah Berurah. The book "Oro Shel Olam", p. 94. And also see there where Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman says the same about Chabad women wearing Sheitels.
Q: What is the source that cats have 9 lives?
Refraining from Sinning
Q: When I refrain from sinning, such as not speaking Lashon Ha-Ra, is it considered a Mitzvah?
A: Yes, when you overcome your inclination. Kiddushin 39. For example, overcoming taking revenge.
Eating the Foreskin
Q: Does eating the baby’s foreskin after a Brit Milah heal barrenness?
A: This is a strange Minhag and we do not follow it. Machazik Berachah, Yoreh Deah #79.
Traveling to Poland
Q: Is it worthwhile to travel to Poland in order to see what the Jews went through?
A: No. It is preferable to visit Yad Vashem, and give the money you would have spent on the trip to poor Holocaust survivors who are here now (Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah vol. 3 #44).
Compost on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat to throw peels and vegetables into the compost container in our backyard?
A: No. It is preparing on Shabbat for a weekday.
Q: I have long Pe’ot. Which is preferable: Behind my ears, in front of my ears, wrapping them around my ears or putting them under my Kippah?
A: It does not matter. It is a personal decision. It is best to act like everyone else (see Orchot Rabbenu vol. 1, p. 236 that the Chazon Ish and the Steipler Gaon were particular not to "hide" Pe’ot behind the ears).
Q: Is animal experimentation permissible?
A: Yes. It is not in the category of “Tza’ar Ba’alei Chaim” (causing pain to animals), since it is for a human need (Shut Seredei Eish 3:7. See Chelkat Yaakov 1:30).
Q: Is it permissible for a blind person to bring a seeing-eye dog into Shul?
A: The basic Halachah is that it is permissible, but one should check the custom in that particular Shul (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:45. Lubavitcher Rebbe, Igrot 6:936. And not like the opinion of Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher in Torah Sheleimah vol. 16, p. 147. Shut Chelkat Yaakov 3:87. Sha’arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halachah 13:2).
We must be extremely careful against making generalizations. We live in a world where nothing is perfect. We must distinguish between one whose only thoughts are evil and who thinks of way to destroy the Nation and Land of Israel, and one whose intentions are good and wants to save the State, but who is nevertheless gravely mistaken in his path. There is a big difference between an evil person and a good person who errs. As Maran Ha-Rav Kook expresses, if we explain to a good person that 2 +2 = 4 and not 5, he will be grateful to us. When someone is mistaken, there is only one way of convincing him otherwise - and it is not by harshness and insults.
Am Yisrael is not divided in such a way that one group is completely right and contains all of the positives, while everyone else is lacking. There were times like this in the past, when idol worshipers were completely corrupt and scorned Hashem, but - in our days - the merits are scattered among the Nation. We even give the benefit of the doubt to those who divide the Nation: They are idealists, whose words flow from their heart to defend the Torah and the Land of Israel. But, with all due respect, they are also mistaken when they cut the body of the Nation with a sharp knife and use the terms "us" and "them".
Why do these idealists err so severely? Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah explains that the answer is found in two words: "Kima, Kima" ([the Redemption arrives] slowly, slowly). In the Exile, the Nation crumbles. But with its return to its Land, everything is being rebuilt and revived. This process takes time. It comes slowly.
It is easy to prove that this is the State about which the prophets prophesized. After all, the Nation is returning home and the Land continues to blossom. This is not the complete Redemption, for which we pray each day in the Shemoneh Esrei, but we must nonetheless be joyous for every "crumb" of Redemption. The Nation will not be reborn in a day. Israel will not return to its Land in one day. The Nation will not come to love Yehudah and Shomron in one day. And not everyone will begin to keep Shabbat and eat Kosher in one day.
Reality does not have wings like imagination. We must therefore gird ourselves with patience. Hashem has incredible patience. He waited 10 generations from Adam to Noach before destroying the world and another 10 generations between Noach and Avraham before rewarding Avraham for all of the goodness (Pirkei Avot 5:2). Hashem waited close to 2,000 years before the appearance of Avraham Avinu.
Patience is not idleness, but action based on considering the pace of reality. What we have accomplished thus far in the State of Israel has great value, and we must continue on. We must do all we can, without losing our joy and optimism. We must rejoice over what we have attained up to this point, in all realms. It is true that there are many complications, but one who only sees darkness and no light is lacking in gratitude to Hashem.
We must increase Ahavat Yisrael - love of our fellow Jews - and the understanding that we are one Nation. That which we have in common is infinitely greater than that which separates us. We are in the same boat; we are one soul. And - most of all - we must remember that difference of opinion is permissible, but division of hearts is forbidden.
תוויות: Three Weeks
Question: Which takes precedence - the Torah or the law? Which is more important? Surely there’s no question! Doesn’t the Torah override all else? Isn’t G-d’s word the root and source of all?
Answer: Certainly G-d’s word overrides all else. Yet G-d’s word tells you: Respect the law! The laws of the King of England, the laws of the America. The kingdom’s law is the law. If you don’t like the laws of a country, you’re free to leave.
This applies all the more so to the laws of Israel, the laws of the Israeli Government, the laws of the Israeli Parliament. Obviously I’m not going to tell you that if you don’t like the laws here you can leave, but I am going to tell you that even if you don’t like the laws, you should stay, because this is your country. But keep the law! Even if the king is no saint, but wicked like Ahab, his laws are still binding (Tosafot, Sanhedrin 20a).
Such is the will of the Supreme King of Kings that the laws of the kingdom should take precedence (Derashot Ha-Ran 11). See the long responsum of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook that the agreed-upon ruler of the nation is to be classified as a king
(Mishpat Cohain 337-338). Yet the truth is that even without the rulings of our medieval and more recent sages, we would know this. For what alternative is there if there is no law and no rule? Chaos. Civil War. The Jungle. The Wild West. Might makes right. Therefore, “one should pray for the welfare of the kingdom. If people did not revere it, they would swallow one another alive” (Avot, chapter 3).
Yet we say that law and order have not only utilitarian worth, but spiritual, halachic, divine worth as well. See also Ein Aya (Berachot 89), regarding the four types of people [who have undergone life-threatening experiences and] who must thank G-d. One of them is the person who has returned from the desert, a place where there is no governmental law and order. That person suddenly understands the value of such law and order, and joyfully undertakes the restrictions of the law.
So please! Respect the law and honor the law’s representatives joyfully.
The story is told of a student of the Mercaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva who was arrested by a policeman due to a legal infraction while driving. Just at that moment, our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, the head of the yeshiva, passed by. The student turned to his Rosh Yeshiva and asked him to talk to the policeman on his behalf. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda told the policeman, “Give him a ticket!”
You might ask: Is every law really the law?! Even laws that go against the Torah?! Is a law the law even if Hitler made it?!
I was waiting for that demagogic question. Certainly there are exceptions. Every person with a head on his shoulders understands that. Even the Halachah itself nhas exceptions, and even a great Torah scholar must drive his wife to the hospital on Shabbat so she can give birth. Yet we don’t let exceptional cases ruin all the conventional ones.
It’s true that Hitler made laws, yet that doesn’t render the very concept of laws to be invalid. The Nuremberg Laws are invalid. Yet in principle, law is not invalid. Your implied claim is called Reductio Ad Hitlerum, a false syllogism in which one invalidates something because Hitler ascribed to it.
Please stop placing the Torah above the law! In this game, which occupies the two extremes, with one side placing the Torah on a pedestal and the other side placing the law on a pedestal, there is an unholy alliance in which the unity of the nation is torn to smithereens.
When we say that the Torah is above the law, we don’t mean that the Torah is a dictator who smashes and tramples his subjects. Rather, the Torah should be providing a soul to the law, morality to the law, lending weight to the law and rendering it more savory. And obviously, the Torah should also facilitate critical review of the law, while exalting and refining it.
Yes, the law is the law, and not because the law stands above the Torah, but because the Torah teaches us that we must keep the law. That is a Halachah, and obviously, we can be strict in this as well…
In truth, a child has no need for being pampered. Pampering is a replacement for love. When there is love, there is no need for pampering. A child does not demand to be spoiled. When parents do not love enough, they shower their child with pampering. They buy him lots of toys and candy in place of the love which is lacking.
In America, many parents work hard from morning to night, don’t have time for their kids, and are therefore filled with guilt. As a result, they provide compensation for love by spoiling their children, which literally spoils them. The equation pampering = love is incorrect. Love is what equals love.
Night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz
Q: What is the law regarding the night of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz?
A: It is included in the mourning period, just as every day begins the night before. Shut Tzitz Eliezer (10:26) and Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik. And not like the opinion of Shut Igrot Moshe (Orach Chaim 1:168. 4:112 #2).
Electric Bug-Zapper on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to use an electric bug-zapper to kill bugs on Shabbat if it is turned on before Shabbat?
A: Yes, just as other automatic items (aside from a specific few) – may function on Shabbat.
Dairy on Shabbat
Q: If a person enjoys dairy food, may he eat a dairy meal on Shabbat?
A: Yes. The essence is that he enjoys it.
Lack of Knowledge in Blessings
Q: If I do not know the blessing over a certain food, what should I do?
A: Learn about it, or ask someone who does know.
Thieves on Shabbat
Q: If one sees thieves breaking into a car on Shabbat, is it permissible to call the police?
A: Yes. It is a danger to the community (see Amud Ha-Yemini #17).
Q: Is the prohibition of boys and girls touching (Shemirat Negi'ah) in order to keep them from having relations?
A: There is a double prohibition: A. It is a prohibition in and of itself, of deriving benefit from the opposite sex outside of marriage. B. It is also preventative, to keep from succumbing to temptation.
Q: It is permissible to buy a magic set for a child?
A: Yes. It is permissible to rely on the lenient opinions. It will teach him that what is called magic is not really magic, but tricks (see Chochmat Adam 89:6. Shut Yabia Omer vol. 5 Yoreh Deah #14. Shut Yechaveh Da'at 3:68. Shut Betzel Ha-Chochma 4:13).
Q: If I am going to a bar, is it preferable for me to wear pants and not a skirt in order to avoid causing a desecration of Hashem's Name (by looking religious)?
Q: You should certainly wear a skirt. We do not tell someone who is committing a transgression to commit another transgression.
Cohain Studying Medicine
Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain to study medicine? If so, how does he deal with the impurity from a corpse?
A: One may rely on the advice of Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren: the Cohain should ask a non-Cohain to take a metal key and touch a corpse, thus making the key the highest form of impurity (Avi Avot Ha-Tum'ah). The Cohain hangs then the key around his neck, placing himself in contact with the highest form of impurity. As a result, in a pressing circumstance (as in studying to be a doctor), the Cohain can rely on the position that when one is in contact with the highest form of impurity, it is permissible for him to come in contact with other forms of impurity.
Ascending to the Temple Mount
Q: Why don't we ascend to the Temple Mount? There are great Rabbis who permit it and other great Rabbis who prohibit it, and these and those are the words of the Living G-d.
A: 1. There are different levels among Torah scholars. Those who forbid it are the greatest Rabbis of our generation 2. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which is the deciding body in national issues, prohibits it. 3. Our Rabbis, Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, forbid it.
Q: Is it permissible to stop in between each of the Sheva Berachot in order to explain them?
A: No. It is an interruption. Explain before or after all of them.
Singing during Sheva Berachot
Q: Is it permissible for everyone to sing "Asher Bara" and "Kol Sason" during the Sheva Berachot?
A: This is not proper, since it is forbidden to break in the middle of a blessing for the amount of time it would take to complete the blessing. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 62:2. If the person reciting the blessing says it along with the others, they will not hear him, and if he waits, there will be a long break. Sefer Ha-Nisu'im Ke-Hilchata, p. 266.
Q: If the purpose of wearing jewelry is to look beautiful to my husband, then why would I wear even one piece of jewelry when I go out?
A: Indeed, you are correct. It is proper not to wear jewelry at all when one goes out.
Blessing for One's House
Q: Someone told me that the "Blessing for One's House" is from the New Testament. Is this true?
A: I believe it is from the writer Rudyard Kipling, but you still should not hang it up. We have the Mezuzah, which is according to Hashem's command.
Gemara for Women
Q: Is it permissible for women to learn Gemara?
A: No. Shulchan Aruchm Yoreh Deah 246:6. By the way, an American Rabbi once joked: It is too bad that it is not forbidden for men to learn Gemara… (so that they would have a greater desire to do so).
Answer: Certainly. You should spend less than you bring in, and not rely on the miracle of overcoming a simple mathematical principle. The Tur wrote that one should limit his expenses. The Mishnah Berurah explains that this is a harsh criticism against those who are enticed to spend money on luxuries without seeing the consequences, which in the end lead to theft and disgrace. Biur Halachah chap. 529. One should plan well.
Question: If someone does not have money for Shabbat or a wedding, should he
Answer: He certainly should not collect donations. Collecting donations is only legitimate for essential needs like food or medicine, as is written at the end of the Mishnah in Pe'ah (8:9): “Anyone who does not need (to take tzedakah) and does so anyway will not leave this world before being in need of other people (because he is poor); and anyone who needs to take (tzedakah) and does not do so will not die from old age before supporting others from what he has acquired.” This means that a person should not ask for donations for non-essentials. The Gemara says: "Make your Shabbat like a weekday and do not require [the help] of others" (Shabbat 118a, Pesachim 112-113), i.e. it is better to eat simple food such as bread and salt than to receive tzedakah. But if he does not have anything to eat, he should ask for tzedakah. The same applies for a wedding: a person needs to get married but he does not have to make a fancy wedding if he does not have the money to do so. I have friends who do not have a lot of money: one made a wedding in a nice outside area and brought sandwiches. The entire wedding cost 50 shekels. Another friend invited ten of us to the building of the Rabbinate which has a small hall. We drank coke, ate some cake, and the entire wedding cost 20 shekels. In Jerusalem in the Old Settlement as well as in Poland, people were poor and they made a wedding an hour before Shabbat, then davened ma'ariv and ate their Shabbat meal - which doubled as the wedding meal. If a person wants to live with extras it is a personal decision, but living with extras with other people's money is unheard of.
Question: Since there are people who are raising the idea of a Palestinian state in portions of Judea and Samaria, what about the possibility of Jewish settlements remaining in that same area?
Answer: That's an old idea. At one time it was a good. Now it’s bad. In the past, we established settlements under Turkish or British rule, and that brought a blessing. Now that is all behind us, and we live in the State of Israel - not in another country.
As is well-known, the mitzvah of the Land of Israel is divisible into three parts: 1. There is a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael and not somewhere else. That is called the mitzvah of living in the Land. 2. There is a mitzvah to settle the Land and to rebuild it. That is called the mitzvah of settling the Land. 3. There is a mitzvah that the Land must be under our sovereignty. That is called the mitzvah of taking possession of the Land (Ramban’s Addenda
to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot #4).
Ramban explains that the most essential component is the third part. The first two occur when the Land is already under our sovereignty.
Ha-Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna took a very strict view of this mitzvah. He said that if we are living under foreign rule, we are not fulfilling the Mitzvah of settling the Land. Our living in it has great value, but only as a preparation for fulfilling the mitzvah (Responsa Yeshu’ot Malko, Yoreh Deah #66). It is true that the great halachic authorities do not hold like him. Rather they say that even under foreign rule we fulfill the mitzvah of living in the Land. Still, they concede that we lack the mitzvah of taking possession of the Land, and the mitzvah of living in the Land itself is therefore not being fulfilled to completion.
Thank G-d, we are already a long way past these situations. We have risen to rebirth and we have an independent state. Now it has to be clear to us, to the Arabs and to the entire world that this is our Land. We have waited 2000 years, and now we are returning to it. We shall never leave it, forever and ever, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.
The Arabs who live in our midst have two options: 1. If they wish to live in their own country under their own sovereignty, they have 22 choices, whose area is 500 times greater than the State of Israel. 2. If they are happy living in our midst, we are ready to show them hospitality under our sovereignty and in our country. Obviously they are obligated to keep our laws, just as all the minorities in the world live according to the laws of various countries. Logically, most of them will choose to live in one of their own 22 countries, but as stated, it's up to them. In any event, there is certainly no moral or historic justification for them to have one more country at the expense of our tiny one.
In practical terms as well, it would be unthinkable to leave Jewish settlements in Arab territory. We know them. Many of them are murderers, and we have no guarantee that those among them who are not murderers will succeed in preserving our lives. They will keep us in a constant state of water shutdowns, power outages and terror, and very quickly, G-d forbid, not one Jewish home will remain in place. Especially if war breaks out, those settlements will be hostages, and an awful situation will be created.
But we don't need this analysis at all, because we have already said that in principle, morally, nationally, and historically: this Land is ours. We have to add that the very asking of the question attests to terrible weakness and horrible confusion. Before there was yet a Jewish state, when this question was raised, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook wrote that such a question is the result of a loss of self-confidence, due to the Holocaust, which made it harder for us to state confidently, “This is our Land” (LeNetivot Yisrael 1:92).
After all, there has been no nation in the world, throughout history, that was ready to give up part of its land. Nations are ready to engage in wars with great self-sacrifice for the sake of liberating the full expanse of their lands. Certainly they are ready to defend it when they already hold it. There is no parallel throughout history of a people fleeing from its land and handing it over to a foreign people!
This is our Land! Even the nations of the world recognized this with the decision of San Remo ninety years ago in 5680. The representatives of the great powers that had achieved victory in the First World War gathered together in Italy to divide up the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This decision included within it the Balfour declaration from 5677 to establish for us a national home, a decision that was accepted then by the League of Nations, and signed on by 51 nations. The Arabs then received an enormous tract of land compared to what we received. Already then Balfour said to them: What are you complaining about? You received an enormous area, and in contrast, the Jews received a tiny niche?!
This was an international decision and there is no authority under international law to change it and exercise a new partition. According to the Balfour declaration, all the Jewish settlements are legal, and not only do the Jews have a right to settle in them, but the nations have a duty to help build them. See Howard Grief’s book, The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law. How fortunate is the human race which in a moment of spiritual elevation admitted that this is our Land forever and ever.
Thus, the solution in relation to Judea and Samaria is very simple, and can be summed up by two words that Moshe, in his time, used with the spies: “Be strong!” (Bamidbar 13:20).
We must be strong! That will allow us already to find solutions to all of our problems, as we have until now.
We have been reborn. We have emerged from the nightmare of the Exile. Let us be strong and march forward.
Be strong and take courage!