Shut SMS #152

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

Birth Control
Q: We are about to get married. Is it permissible to use birth control after the wedding? We feel that we have not yet built a strong enough connection between us.
A: There will be at least nine months during which to build.
Q: And if we know that it will not be enough?
A: Then delay the marriage.
Q: And if there is an actual emotional problem?
A: If an observant psychologist determines that this should be delayed, he knows what he is talking about.

Shomer Negi'ah
Q: A young woman is sitting next to me on the bus and fell asleep on my shoulder. Should I wake her and explain to her that I am Shomer Negi'ah (do not touch the opposite gender)?
A: You should wake her and simply apologize to her for doing so. The same applies even if she is not young.

Woman Riding a Bike
Q: Is it permissible for a woman to ride a bike?
A: Yes, on condition that she is wearing a modest skirt. The same applies to riding a horse (Rabbenu Chananel on the beginning on Pesachim).
Q: Does the same apply in an Orthodox neighborhood?
A: It depends on the local custom.

The Most Effective Segulah
Q: What is the most effective Segulah for success?
A: The Belzer Rebbe said that there is no greater Segulah than "Yirat Hashem" (Fear of Hashem), as it says (Devarim 28:58): "If you do not observe all of the words of the this law, which are written in this book, to fear this Glorious and Awesome Name of Hashem, your G-d" (Shut Az Nedbaru 1:79 #179. Beit Baruch 1, 405. Brought in Shalmei Yehudah chap. 10 note #41).

Ta'anit Ester
Q: Is it permissible to have a Purim party on Ta'anit Ester?
A: No. It is a day of repentance and seriousness.

Q: Which is preferable – buying from a non-Jew with a receipt or from a Jew without a receipt?
A: There is no question of preference. It is forbidden to buy without a receipt.

Q: How much enjoyment can one have from alcohol?
A: It is an extremely bad trait to drink alcohol. One should refrain, except for Kiddush and other Mitzvot (Rambam, Hilchot De'ot chapter 4).

Q: Is it permissible to set off fireworks on Purim?
A: No. It disturbs other, it is dangerous and – if I recall correctly – it is against the law.

Sending Mishloach Manot Anonymously

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo]

Question: Is it preferable to send Mishloach Manot anonymously or with one’s name?
Answer: There are two main reasons given for the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot. Some write that it is in order to ensure that every Jew will be able to rejoice on Purim. By sending good items to eat, we enable everyone to enjoy the Purim Seudah – even those who do not have enough money to provide for themselves. Others write that we send Mishloach Manot in order to increase love and friendship among Jews. By expressing love for one another, we counter Haman's claim that we are a scattered and separated Nation. This is the explanation given by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, author of Lecha Dodi, in his book "Manot Ha-Levi" (Esther 9:19). Seen in this light, one may argue that the message of love and friendship is better conveyed when the recipient knows who sent the gift (see Shut Chatam Sofer #196).
Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef wrote: There are those who say that one who anonymously sends Mishloach Manot to his friends does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, and he must send them again (Kol Sinai, Halichot Olam, p. 54).
It is therefore clear that a person who sends Mishloach Manot with his name on it to one friend, has already fulfilled his obligation, may thereafter send others anonymously. But in truth, there is reason to argue that sending them anonymously is preferable, so that a person who cannot afford to send a large gift does not suffer any embarrassment. In any event, one should not overdo the size of Mishloach Manot, and there are many Rabbinic decrees meant to minimize the expenses of Mitzvot so that people will not be placed in a difficult situation (Moed Katan 27a and end of Mishnah Ta’anit). The Rambam also wrote: "It is preferable for a person to be liberal with his gifts to the poor than to be lavish in his festive meal or in his giving portions to his friend, because there is no greater and more splendid happiness than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the converts. For one who gladdens the heart of the unfortunate is similar to the Divine Presence, as it says (Yeshayahu 57:15): To revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Hilchot Megillah 2:17).
It is also obvious, however, that one should not exaggerate in the other direction. As the Mishnah Berurah wrote: The Chayei Adam proves from the Jerusalem Talmud that if one sends a small amount to a wealthy person, he does not fulfill the obligation of Mishloach Manot. Other authorities however do not mention this issue, but it is proper to be cautious about it from the outset (Biur Halachah d.h. Chayav 695:4). It therefore appears that it is best to lessen the scale of the Mishloach Manot, since the essence is the love and the friendship and not the financial value. As we stated, even though according to the basic law it is permissible to send anonymously, if the sender makes his identity known he has the ability to increase love among the Jewish People.

Refusing Orders, etc.

[Be-Ahavah U-BeEmunah – Terumah 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Following our brief conversation, I see that I must clarify my position about being in favor of refusing orders. It is not to solve my personal problem. My own problem can be solved by making a polite request of my commander, who I know will help me. For me it is a matter of principle: a political tool to fight against this corrupt army and the corrupt state that stands behind it. Yes, I say this with great certainty, but with great pain as well. Everything is rotten, unfortunately, and can no longer be rectified. Therefore, the faster it is destroyed, the faster it will be rebuilt in an upright and pure manner. Refusing orders is just the tip of the iceberg. I have no faith in this country or in the Nation that dwells in Zion. True, I am talking only on my own behalf, and I don’t represent anyone but myself, but I am certain that I am serving as a mouthpiece for others like me. Please don’t respond with quotations from Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook or Chief Rabbi Kook – they should rest in peace – regarding the Jewish People. I feel no attachment to Chief Rabbi Kook, I’m no disciple of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda, and as far as the Jewish People, I don’t know what that is. I agree, unwillingly, that our lives are a partnership here, but I shall continue pulling as much as I can in the direction of the Torah, and against the degeneration that is going on from day to day. And in the end, I didn’t write to get an answer, but so that you would listen to what I have to say.
Answer: Thank you. I, too, am going to tell you what I think, not to convince you, but to prevent a misunderstanding. I don’t see myself in any sort of partnership. A partner has a part that is his, alone, and he’s allowed to insist on having his way with it. In a partnership, each member is entitled to stop changes in the arrangement, even if he is in the minority.
Rather, I see myself as part of the people, and our master Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote in Shut Mishpat Kohen that one should not confuse an aggregate with a partnership. An aggregate is like a body with organs, all of which are vital. Together they constitute a single vital whole. A partnership, on the other hand, is a collection of individuals like a joint venture, like a large insurance company.
All of Israel is responsible for one another. They suffer from one another, enjoy one another, in the same way that all of the body’s organs constitute a single organism, as Malbim explained, and not like a worm, which is made up of individual, independent vertebrae. The one who decides what happens in this country is the people, because it is the people who built it. It is the people who returned to Zion, who established the State and who liberated Judea and Samaria. Judea and Samaria do not belong to you personally, but to the people.
This Land belongs to the people, even the people down through the generations, and it is the people who decide things. I am one of the people, and everything I do in this Land, I do together with them, my being one of them. “I live among my people” (Melachim 2 4:13), as is explained many times in the Zohar on this verse.
I am not always pleased with what my Nation does – generally yes, but not always. Certainly there are different spiritual levels within the Nation, in line with Rabbi Luria’s comment that “Tzibur” [community] is an acronym for Tzaddikim [righteous], Benonim [middle level] and Resha’im [wicked]. Yet all of them constitute levels within the Nation – my Nation.
In the Exile, we were a collection of individuals. At best, we were communities.
Yet our lives as a Nation disappeared, and now they are slowly coming back. This is what died in Yechezkel’s prophetic vision of the dried bones. This is what died in the rot described by the Vilna Gaon in his Likutim, at the end of his “Sifra DeTzeni’uta”. And this is what is now coming to life. We have resumed being a Nation, and the greatest expression of that nationhood is our country and our army.
I therefore try to fulfill, “I live among my people”, and not to fulfill, “‘They have gone from here’ – they removed themselves from brotherhood” (Bereshit 37:17; Rashi).
I love my Nation greatly, even in the most problematic of times, as is explained at the end of Chapter 19 of Mesilat Yesharim. I am always together with my Nation, both when they rise up, and when they fall.
It’s true that we have many shortcomings in our public life, yet we are still rising as a reborn Nation. This is a Divine decision, and no human calculation can change it.
Everything will heal. Patience. It will come thanks a bit to me, and thanks a bit to you.
All of us together.

Rav Aviner in the News: The Religious Community is Paranoid


Rabbi Shlomo Aviner Shlita, Rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Kohanim addressed the controversy that erupted around the Kol Isha issue in the IDF. He feels the religious community got carried away in its response to and interpretation of the non-religious community’s motivation for the women singing. “With the exception of one or two Meshuganas who are working against the religious community, no one in the country is against the religious community. Generally speaking, there may be an effort to repel religious coercion”.
“When many religious people hear criticism against them they begin shouting ‘Shmad’ (Religious Persecution). What Shmad? Did anyone call for killing or doing something against religious Jews? He wishes to hear women sing because he wishes to hear women sing. That’s it. Why do you think this is against you? He hears women singing even when religious Jews are not present. The Chilonim (non-religious) also want the religious to take part in the ceremonies. What do you think - that they want people to begin streaming out when singing begins? Of course they don’t!”
“The Chilonim are not trying to prove anything. This is not a cultural war. The IDF simply wants everyone to participate, that’s all. They are not trying to win us over. The cultural divide has always existed”.
Regarding IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Peretz, the Rav commended him, explaining “He is the first chief IDF Rav in history to act against the military decision compelling everyone to listen to women singing.”
The Rav explained to his Talmidim that there is a Rav in the IDF and he has instructed soldiers to accept the word of their officers, for if this is not the case the military will fall apart. Rav Aviner expressed his support for the IDF and instructed his Talmidim to adhere to the orders of superior officers.

איפה כתוב שיוצאי אשכנז צריכים לנהוג על פי ה'משנה ברורה'?

This is from a talk Ha-Rav Aviner Shlit"a gave in the yeshiva on following the Mishnah Berurah.

I apologize it is only in Hebrew.

למעשה, כשיש מחלוקות בין שני חכמים, הולכים אחרי הרוב. השאלה היא: מה נקרא רוב - רוב חכמה או רוב מניין? מחלוקת. בית שמאי אומרים רוב חכמה, ובית הלל אומרים רוב מניין. להלכה, אנו פוסקים לחומרא לכאן ולכאן (עי' שו"ע חו"מ ס' כה). אם רב אחד הוא רוב חכמה ורוב מניין - הלכה כמותו. אבל אם רב אחד הוא רוב חכמה והרב השני רוב מניין - מחמירים בשני הכיוונים.
הפירוש של רוב מניין הוא רוב תלמידים. אין הכוונה תלמידים בכיתה א', אלא תלמידים שהם תלמידי חכמים, שאי אפשר לספר להם סיפורים. המשנה ברורה הוא רוב מניין. רוב החכמים קיבלו דעתו. אלה שחיו בדורו והיו בקומתו - לא היה שייך שיקבלו. אלא, הכוונה ב"רוב מניין" היא תמיד לדור שאח"כ. אפילו בדור שאח"כ, לוקח זמן עד שהדברים נכנסים, אך במשך הזמן נוצר לו רוב מניין.
לגבי רוב חכמה קשה להכריע. מי יחליט האם ל'ערוך השולחן' יש יותר חכמה או ל'משנה ברורה'? שניהם היו גאונים גדולים מאוד. 'ערוך השולחן' כתב את ספרו בעל פה. הוא היה דיין ובין הדיונים בבית הדין הוא כתב את ספרו. רואים בספרו גאונות של סברא. גם ה'אור שמח' היה גאון גדול מאוד. אלא שהמשנה ברורה הוא רוב מניין תלמידים. לכן יש סברא ללכת אחריו. אבל זה לא אומר שחייבים לנהוג כל דבר על פיו. כל הכללים - כגון הליכה אחרי הרוב, רוב מניין, הלכה כרב במקום תלמיד - הם בזמן שאין הכרעה. אבל אם יש הכרעה ודעה א' חזקה יותר מדעה ב' - לא הולכים על פי הכללים. בתורה כתוב להכריע על פי הוכחות. אם לא מצליחים - יש כללים. במסכת עירובין (ו, ב) כתוב: הרוצה לעשות כדברי בית שמאי – עושה. כדברי בית הלל – עושה. רק לא לעשות רק קולות או רק חומרות. כלומר, איפה שלא הכריעו, הולכים אחרי הרוב, אבל יש אפשרות להכריע יחיד נגד רבים, אם היחיד צודק.
אבל זה עדיין לא אומר שאם יש הוכחות חזקות אי אפשר לחלוק על ה'משנה ברורה'. יש דברים שהוא כותב ופוסקים גדולים שקדמו לו חשבו אחרת. יכול להיות שהוא לא ראה אותם או שהחליט לא ללכת כמותם, אבל הם פוסקים גדולים.
כגון בשאלה האם אפשר להתפלל מנחה אחרי הדלקת נרות שבת. כתב ה'משנה ברורה' (רסג ס"ק מג) שאישה אינה יכולה, שהרי בהדלקת הנרות קיבלה היא את השבת, וכבר אינה יכולה עוד להתפלל תפילה של יום חול. ברם, רוב הפוסקים לא חושבים כמו ה'משנה ברורה' והביאו הוכחות חזקות. במשניות במסכת שבת ניתן לראות, שאע"פ שנכנסה שבת, עדיין קיימים דברים מותרים, כיוון שאנו מקבלים בזמן זה תוספת שבת, ולא את השבת עצמה (סידור שו"ע הרב). לכן, אמנם זה נראה כמו 'תרתי דסתרי', תפילת מנחה בשבת, ובכל זאת, ספר 'פסקי תשובות' (רסג אות כב) מביא כמה פוסקים שכתבו שהדבר מותר (שו"ת 'ציץ אליעזר' יא, יג. וע' שו"ת 'באר משה' א, טו. שו"ת 'מנחת יצחק' ט, כ). דין זה שייך גם באיש המאחר לבוא לבית הכנסת אף לאחר השקיעה שמותר לו עדיין להתפלל מנחה של חול.
ה'משנה ברורה' (רכה סק"ב) אומר שמי שלא ראה חברו שלושים יום, אבל היה אתו בקשר, לא יברך "שהחיינו". דבריו תמוהים. לגבי ברכת "מחיה המתים", אכן כן הוא, שזו שמחה על הידיעה שהוא חי, לכן אם נודע לו שהוא חי, אין לברך. אך ברכת "שהחיינו" היא על השמחה בראיית החבר פנים בפנים. ה'משנה ברורה' כתב שיש דעות כאלו באחרונים, אך לא ציין מי הם. אדרבה, אחרונים רבים כתבו שיש לברך גם אם קיבל ממנו דרישת שלום תוך שלושים יום (בה"ט שם. שולחן ערוך הגר"ז. קצשו"ע. ערה"ש. כה"ח. אמנם עיין עולת ראיה א, עמ' שפ סעי' ב. שו"ת שאילת שלמה ג, פג-פד). לכן יש לברך.
לא חייבים כל דבר לנהוג כמו ה'משנה ברורה'. על פי רוב, אנו מבינים מה הוא אומר, אבל לפעמים יש דברים שהוא אומר ואנחנו לא מבינים. לא את כל ה'משנה ברורה' כתב ה'משנה ברורה'. חלק כתב בנו הגאון, ר' לייב, שהיה גאון גדול, אבל בכל זאת לא היה באותה הגדלות. סעיפים לא מסובכים הוא נתן לבן שלו לכתוב. לא כתוב מה הוא כתב ומה אביו כתב.
ה'משנה ברורה' היא עבודה עצומה. חבל שאין כזה על 'יורה דעה' ו'חושן משפט'. יש ג' גרסאות למה אין 'משנה ברורה' על 'יורה דעה':
א. סיפר הגרי"מ פיינשטיין: הג"ר אהרן קוטלר אמר ל'חפץ חיים' שהוא צריך לחבר משנה ברורה גם על הלכות 'יורה דעה'. ענה לו ה'חפץ חיים': אם תתן לי עוד 30 שנה, אעשה זאת... (עובדות והנהגות לבית בריסק ח"א עמ' קמד).
ב. הג"ר משה הלוי לוין, הרב דנתניה, שלמד בבחורותו בראדין, סיפר ששמע מפ"ק של ה'חפץ חיים', שהטעם מדוע לא הוציא לאור 'משנה ברורה' על סדר 'יורה דעה', כפי שהוציא על סדר 'אורח חיים', היה, כיון שנוכח לראות היאך התקבל חיבורו זה על 'אורח חיים' על כל גווני הצבור בקרב אחב"י, בעמקות ובהיקף עצום שכזה, וזנחו עקב כך את העיון במקורות ההלכה, סוגיות הש"ס עם הראשונים, וחשש שאם יוציא גם על 'יורה דעה' חיבור כזה, כולם יסתכלו בחבורים אלה ויפסיקו ללמוד את הדברים ממקורם.
חרה לו – ל'חפץ חיים' – היטב על כך שלא מעיינים בסוגיות הש"ס ואח"כ בראשונים ואחרונים ומשם למסקנת ההלכה, ובגין כך, כאמור, נמנע מלהוציא לאור 'משנה ברורה' על 'יורה דעה' (מאיר עיני ישראל ח"ב עמ' 134).
ג. ובכתבי הג"ר שמואל דוד הכהן מונק (רב קהל עדת יראים חיפה), תלמיד הג"ר אליהו דושניצר (מתלמידי ה'חפץ חיים'), מביא על השאלה מדוע לא חיבר ספרו גם על חלק 'יורה דעה': "וכי לא די בזה שאומרים עלי שאני סגרתי את ספר ה"מגן אברהם", עוד יאמרו עלי שאני סגרתי את ספרי הט"ז והש"ך?!" (מאיר עיני ישראל ח"ה עמ' 403).
אדם יכול לומר על פלוני שהוא רבו, והוא יכול לפעמים לפסוק לא כמותו. רבא עשה הכל כמו רב, חוץ משלשה דברים. ודאי שהוא רבו. שלשה דברים זה לא הרבה. אלא הוא רב שלי חוץ משלשה דברים.
מה שהתורה אמרה הכלל: "אחרי רבים להטות", כתבו הפוסקים שנאמר רק אם ישבו כולם יחד ונשאו ונתנו ביניהם, אך רוב אינו נחשב אם כל אחד ואחד אומר את דעתו בפני עצמו. שהרי, אם הרוב היה שומע את דעת המיעוט ונושא ונותן עמו, אולי היה משתכנע. כתב ה'בית יוסף' (חו"מ סוף ס' יג) בשם הרשב"א: "אילו היה שם אותו האחד, שמא היה מראה טעם הפך מה שהסכימו הרוב ויודו הרוב בכך". וכתב ה'שדי חמד' (ג עמ' 149): "לא אמרינן רוב אלא כשנחלקו פנים בפנים רובו מתוך כולו". וכן, "כשכל הדיינים מקובצים יחד במקום אחד כמו הסנהדרין" (גט פשוט, כלל א. ועיין שו"ת שאילת דוד במקור בית אב מאמר ב. משפט הוראה למהר"ץ חיות פרקים ד-ה, שדי חמד כללים מערכת יוד כלל לה, מנחת מצוה עת אות א, חזון איש כלאיים ס' א, לנתיבות ישראל ח"ג עמ' שנב-שנג במאמר "תשובה ובירור דברים").
במשנה בשבת (ו, ד) נחלקו תנאים האם מותר לחייל לצאת לרשות הרבים בנשק שלו. חכמים אוסרים, ור' אליעזר סובר שמותר שתכשיטין הן לו. הלכה כחכמים. אמנם 'ערוך השולחן' (או"ח שא, נא) מחדש שנשק נחשב משא למי שאינו חייל, אך לחייל הנשק הוא אחד מבגדיו ומותר לצאת איתו. זה החידוש שלו. הג"ר גורן פוסק שבשעת הדחק אפשר לסמוך על 'ערוך השולחן'. שעת הדחק היא למשל כשחייל רוצה להתפלל במנין. בשעת הדחק סומכים גם על דעת יחיד.
באשכנז היו עושים חתונות שישי אחר הצהריים, כך הרבה לא באים וזה חוסך סעודה. קרה פעם שהחתן התווכח על גובה נדוניה של יתומה, הגיע הלילה ולא מקדשים בלילה. אמר הרמ"א: מקדשים בלילה. כל חכמי העיר צעקו עליו. זה קרה בשבת הראשונה שלו בתור רב, כשהוא היה רק בגיל עשרים. למחרת הוא נתן שיעור כללי וכולם נרגעו. רבנו תם התיר (גמ' ביצה לו, ב ד"ה והמצוה). אמנם הוא דעת יחיד, אבל זו הייתה שעת הדחק (שו"ת רמ"א ס' קכה).
כל זה בשעת הדחק, אבל לא בשעת הדחק, אנחנו הולכים אחרי רוב מניין. זה ה'משנה ברורה'.
אמנם מובא בשו"ת 'בנים בנים' (ח"ב עמ' רט) שהג"ר יוסף אליהו הענקין אמר: גדול כח 'ערוך השולחן' בהוראה מכח ה'משנה ברורה'. במקום שהם חולקים, יש ללכת אחרי 'ערוך השולחן'. על ה'חפץ חיים' אמר שהיה צדיק הדור, אבל צדיק הדור לא יכול להיות פוסק הדור מפני שצדקתו מטה אותו להחמיר יותר מדי. עם כל זה, החשיב את הספר 'משנה ברורה' מאוד. הוא היה הוגה בו תמיד וידע אותו בעל פה.
וברבעון 'אור המזרח' (כרך לא, חוברת ג-ד [קי-קיא]), הרב ישראל שאול פרימר מביא את דברי הגרא"י הענקין, והוסיף: "וכדומה שמענו ממו"ר הרה"ג דוד קאהן שליט"א (הפוסק האמריקאי הנודע) בשם הרה"ג משה פיינשטיין שליט"א. וכן הוא הקבלה במשפחתינו מהגמו"ז זצלה"ה, הרב משה זאב הכהן מחבר ספר תפארת משה (שהיה מחשובי הפוסקים בשיקאגו)". וכן סבר הגרי"ד הלוי סולובייצ'יק זצ"ל אשר גם היה נוהג לומר שמי שרוצה ללמוד הלכה ילמד את הערוך השלחן ומי שרוצה לדעת איך לפסוק הלכה יעיין בחיי אדם.
וכן כתב הג"ר חיים דב אלטוסקי, חתן של הגרח"פ שיינברג, בחידושי בתרא – פסחים (עמ' מח): ידוע אמרת הגר"מ פיינשטיין ז"ל שהמ"ב היה צריך להסכמת הערה"ש, אבל הערה"ש לא היה צריך להסכמת המ"ב.
אבל העולם קיבלו את ה'משנה ברורה'. וכ"כ בס' 'ההר הטוב הזה' (עמ' 358), שנשאל הג"ר שלמה מן ההר: מה עושים כשיש מחלוקת בין 'ערוך השולחן' לבין ה'משנה ברורה'? וענה: צריך ללכת אחרי מי שגדול יותר בחכמה ובמניין. בחכמה - אי אפשר לדעת מי גדול יותר. במניין - אין ספק, שספר ההלכה של ה'חפץ חיים' – ה'משנה ברורה' - התקבל ברוב קהילות ישראל.
מסופר ב'מגד גבעות עולם' (ח"ב עמ' י) שהג"ר אהרן קוטלר היה הולך תמיד כשהספר 'משנה ברורה' תחת ידו, ושאל ע"ז הג"ר יצחק הוטנר: "הלא בודאי יש להדר"ג הרבה מה להרהר בלימוד, ומה טעם הוא הולך תמיד ו'משנה ברורה' בידו"? השיבו הגרא"ק: "הרבה פעמים אני נכנס לאסיפות העוסקים בעניני השעה, ומתקבלים שם החלטות גדולות וחשובות. ברצוני שזכות הגאון בעל ה'חפץ חיים' זצ"ל תעמוד לי, שלא תצא תקלה מתחת ידי".

סיכום: אם אין הוכחה חזקה נגד ה'משנה ברורה', ראוי ליוצאי אשכנז ללכת על פיו כי הוא רוב מניין, שרוב החכמים קיבלו דעתו. אך מי שרוצה דעה אחרת, בוודאי יכול.

Shut SMS #151

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

Non-Jewish Wars
Q: Is it permissible to be happy that the Arabs are at war and killing one another in Syria, since they are our enemies?
A: It is permissible to be happy that the wicked are being killed, but it is possible that there are righteous people among the fatalities.

Q: How should we deal with a child who requires a lot of attention at the expense of his other siblings?
A: You should give him more, since one must provide each child according to his needs.

Brit Milah in Shul
Q: Is it preferable to have a Brit Milah in a hall or in a Shul (which is a holy place)?
A: A hall. 1. The permission to have a Brit Milah in a Shul is not according to all opinions. 2. Even according to those who permit it, it is still forbidden to speak frivolous words in a Shul and this is extremely difficult to ensure.

Taking Counsel with a Rabbi
Q: What issues do and do not require one to take counsel with a Rabbi?
A: This is a personal decision.

Eating and Drinking in a Tank on Shabbat Night
Q: I serve in the tank division in Tzahal, and am sometimes in a tank when Shabbat begins. Is it permissible to eat and drink before Kiddush?
A: Yes, since one must be alert. It is a law of "Piku'ach Nefesh" – a life-threatening situation.

Cheap Disks
Q: A person is selling disks which are extremely cheap. Is it permissible to buy them? Maybe they are stolen? Maybe they are illegally copied?
A: Maybe yes, maybe no. Before buying, one must ascertain why they are so cheap.

Choosing a Rabbi
Q: How do I know who should be my Rabbi?
A: Someone who best increases your "Yirat Shamayim" (Awe of Hashem), proper character traits and the light of Torah (see our commentary on Pirkei Avot 1:6, 16).

Religious Bars
Q: Is the appearance of religious bars and pubs are good thing?
A: This is certainly a lowly and empty manner of entertainment, but it is less horrible than going to a place which is completely secular.

Tefillin while Laying in Ambush
Q: I am in the army and am laying in ambush, completely freezing, and don't see any possibility of putting on Tefillin.
A: If after the ambush it will be too late to put on Tefillin, then if it is permissible from the military perspective, it is enough to put them on for a few seconds.

Levi'im and Birkat Cohanim
Q: I am a Levi. Which is preferable – slowly davening Shemoneh Esrei with more Kavanah, or hurrying in order to wash the Cohanim's hands?
A: Slowly, since this is the basic law.

Diapering Daughter
Q: Is it permissible for a father to diaper his daughter?
A: Yes. There is no problem.

Change Your Place, Change Your Luck
Q: Is it true that if someone changes his place, his luck will change? How?
A: If a person goes to live in a new place, where no one knows him, and he is filled with humility, this will atone for his sins. Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah (2:4).

Flipping a Coin
Q: Is it permissible to flip a coin to make a decision?
A: Yes, if there is no other way to decide and one believes that Hashem is the One deciding. See Talmudic Encyclopedia, section on "Goral – lots" (Sefer Chasdim #679, 701. Shut Chavot Yair #61).

Damage to a Borrowed Object
Q: While I was playing normally, I destroyed a ping-pong ball which I had borrowed from a friend. Do I have to pay?
A: No, since you were playing normally. In Halachah, this is called: "Dying during its work," i.e. borrowing an animal which then dies while being worked in the usual manner. But it is proper to pay, and to go beyond the letter of the law, since he did you a kindness by lending it to you. Strictures are not only for food.

Yemenite Pronunciation
Q: I heard that Rav Kook said that everyone should daven with the Yemenite pronunciation. Should I change to it?
A: No. Maran Ha-Rav Kook only said that the Yemenite pronunciation is the most precise. But each person should follow the custom of his ancestors. Shut Orach Mishpat (and also Maran Ha-Rav Kook's approbation to Shut Mishpatei Uziel).

Meal after Brit Milah
Q: Does the meal after the Brit Milah have to immediately follow the Brit Milah or is it possible to have it later?
A: It is possible to have it later. The essence is that it is on the same day. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 265:12.

Davening for Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv

Question: Should we pray for Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv to heal from his illness, or – as one Rabbi suggested – should we pray for Hashem to take his soul on High since he is suffering so much?
Answer: It is correct that the Ran writes in Nedarim (40a d.h. Ain. And see Baba Metzia 84) that if a person is suffering terribly and seems to have no hope of recovery, it is permissible to pray for him to die. The source for this idea is the Gemara at the end of Ketubot (104a), where it is told that Rebbe Yehudah HaNasi was suffering terribly; his maidservant saw and prayed that he should die. Even though she was not a Torah scholar, but a maidservant, the Sages greatly respected her and the Ran rules according to her example. In Shut Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 5 Ramat Rachel #5, 7:49 Kuntres Even Yaakov chap. 13, 9:47), it is written that this applies only if one is davening for the benefit of the sick person who is suffering a fatal illness, and not in order to lighten our own burden. It is clear that our intent in this case it is to lighten the burden on Ha-Rav Elyashiv.
The Ran writes that it is permissible to pray for a person’s end in such a situation, but he does not write that one is obligated to do so. After all, the Gemara itself relates that while the maidservant prayed that Rebbe should die, the Sages prayed that he should not die. In the book "Midbar Shur," in his eulogy for Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan (pp. 332-336), Maran Ha-Rav Kook asks: Why did the Sages pray that he should not die? Their view is difficult to understand. After all, Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi was bed-ridden, suffering, could not teach or give halachic rulings, and was seemingly of no benefit to this world. If he would ascend on High, he would continue to teach Torah there. So why didn't they pray for him to die? Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains that the influence of a great Torah scholar is not only through his teaching, halachic rulings, etc., but also in the presence of his holy soul in this world. The fact that his soul is located in this world brings blessing, even when he is unable to provide practical benefit, is closed in a room and cannot converse with others. This is similar to the Vilna Gaon, who for many years was closed in a room learning Torah. This world with Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi is not the same as a world without Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi.
When Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught us this idea, he would say that Maran Ha-Rav Kook also suffered greatly, and he told him: Each and every moment that Abba is in this world, despite the suffering, he brings it light. And our Rabbenu would relate this with tears in his eyes.
If so, the same applies in our case. This world with the Ha-Tzadik, Ha-Gaon, Ha-Gadol, Ha-Rav Elyashiv is not the same as a world without him, even though he is currently unable to teach, give rulings, etc. The Rabbis who called on us to pray for Ha-Rav Elyashiv’s healing are therefore correct, and we hope that he will truly be healed and will once again actively bring the blessing of Torah and holiness to this world.
May Hashem send him a speedy and complete recovery.

Winter Q&A: Guarding Against Spreading Sickness

A Sick Person Going to Shul
Question: If someone is sick with coughing and sneezing, and is spreading germs in shul, doesn't he have an obligation to stay home?
Answer: One who infects another person with this type of illness is exempt from any fine, since it is "Gerama" – an indirect cause. The germs do not directly penetrate a person's body, but are spread throughout the room, and afterwards are breathed in. This is not considered a “certain” injury since it is not guaranteed that another person will become sick: perhaps he will not breathe the germs in; or perhaps he is immune to them. One who infects another person is therefore exempt from paying a fine. It is clear, however, that it is forbidden for a person to injure another, even indirectly, even with germs, which are like arrows. In the book "Kehillot Yaacov," the Steipler Gaon discusses similar cases, such as one who damages through witchcraft (Kehillot Yaacov, Baba Kama #39, #44 in the new edition at the end of the chapter). Therefore, someone who is coughing and sneezing should not go to shul, but should daven at home on his own. For the same reason, one should not send children with infectious sicknesses to nursery school or school, unless a doctor decides that it is better for young children to be infected with this sickness than to wait until they are older.

Asking Someone to Remove a Used Tissue from the Table
Question: If a person wipes his nose and places the used tissue on a table on which food is going to be served, is it permissible to point it out to him, or should one refrain out of a concern of embarrassing him?
Answer: It is certainly forbidden to put a used tissue on the table and, in general it is forbidden since it disgusts another person, as it is written: "For every deed, G-d will judge, on everything which is hidden" (Kohelet 12:13). The Talmud in Chagigah (5a) says, "This is one who kills a louse in front of another person and he is disgusted by it…This is one who spits in front of another person and he is disgusted by it." "On everything" means even on a small thing. ""Which is hidden" means even if the person who is disgusted does not inform the other person what he caused, since there was no problem in doing such a thing in his eyes. Therefore, one must certainly tell him, but it must be with gentleness and wisdom, as with every instance of giving rebuke. If, however, despite this he is still hurt or insulted, this is not our responsibility, since we acted according to the law, and he placed himself in this position.

Pointing Out to Someone to Clean their Nose
Question: Is it appropriate to tell someone that his nose is not clean or is there a concern for embarrassment?
Answer: This is similar to the previous question. Again, one should act with wisdom.

Kissing the Torah by Hand
Question: Isn't it preferable to kiss the Torah with your hand, and not your mouth, during the winter since it is unclear whether the others kissing it are sick?
Answer: It appears that the chance of contracting an illness this way is remote. We therefore leave it to the discretion of each person.

Windows Open or Shut in Shul
Question: According to doctors, it is important to have windows open in order to ventilate rooms and halls. If one of the people davening says that he is cold, does he take precedence over the others, when there is a danger of becoming sick because of lack of ventilation?
Answer: We follow the accepted practice of people in all of these matters - it is forbidden to act in a way which injures another person or which is difficult for him to endure (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 155:39 in the Rama). It therefore seems that the general rule is: In the summer, if someone wants to open the window, it is opened, even if the majority wanted it closed. And in the winter, if someone wants to close the window, it is closed, even if the majority wants it open. However, since doctors have established that there is a need for ventilation and that germs, not cold weather, cause the common cold, there is a need for ventilate in every place. This rule also applies in catering halls, Yeshivot, school classrooms, buses and similar enclosed spaces.

Shut SMS #150

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

Wearing a Bike Helmet
Q: Is someone riding a bike obligated to wear a helmet?
A: According to what the law requires.
Q: The law requires it, but the police do not enforce it.
A: If non-enforcement expresses permission, then after the fact, it is not obligatory.

Selling a Car
Q: What is a Segulah for selling a car?
A: Repent, pray and give Tzedakah.

Chumash with Rashi
Q: I am extremely busy in the army, but there is time between activities. What should I learn?
A: It is a personal decision. A person only learns Torah in a place his heart desires. But it is proper to learn Chumash with Rashi on the Parashah. It is wonderful.

Graves of Yaakov's Sons
Q: Are the graves of Yaakov's sons – aside from Yosef's – located in Eretz Yisrael?
A: It is written in the Midrash that their bones were brought to Israel during the Exodus (Rashi on Shemot 13:19). There are Arab traditions relating to the location of their graves but we do not have such sources.

Segulah for an Easy Labor
Q: I am going to have a baby soon. Is there a Segulah for an easy labor?
A: Repent, pray and give Tzedakah.

In Love
Q: Is it healthy to be in love with someone?
A: It is certainly a great Mitzvah to be in love with one's wife or husband.

Q: How does one overcome fears?
A: 1. Focus one's thought on the fact that there is really nothing to fear. 2. Gradually expose oneself to the threatening cause and see that it is actually nothing. 3. If these do not help, turn to a psychologist. 4. One should also learn chapter 9 of Mesilat Yesharim regarding exaggerated fears.

Cohanim in War
Q: Does a Cohain go to war?
A: Yes. There is a discussion whether a Cohain may marry an "Eshet Yefat Toar" (a beautiful captive woman - see Devarim 21:10-14).
Q: And the Cohain Gadol?
A: He would also go. There is a Halachah that if he married a widow (which is forbidden) he does not share in the newlywed’s exemption from going to battle. Mishneh Sotah 8:3.

New Car
Q: Is it permissible to throw an egg on a new car which I bought, in order to protect it from the Evil Eye - or is there a problem of "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destruction)?
A: It is forbidden because of "Bal Tashchit". It is also forbidden on account of the prohibition of "Darkei Emori", i.e. superstition.

I am a Convert (a true story)

[B-eAhavah U-Be-Emunah- Yitro 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

My name is Jonathan Israel. My wife and I were born in Korea. After searching in various directions, we decided in 1996 to visit Israel and to study Hebrew at the Bet Ha-Am Ulpan in Jerusalem. There we encountered an amazing sight: in one small classroom sat a cross-sampling of the entire world - immigrants from Russia, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, France and the U.S. There were light-skinned people and Asiatic people. I understood that all of these people were new immigrants, and slowly realized that this was no coincidence. We were witnessing the fulfillment of Yirmiyahu 3:14, “I will take you, one from a town and two from a clan, and bring you to Zion.” I saw with my own eyes that the words of Scripture were being fulfilled. The ingathering of the exiles was not science fiction. It was not just some ideal longing. Rather, it was a real fact.
When I understood this, it made me tremble. I saw with my own eyes proof that G-d exists and rules over the universe. This made me want to subjugate myself to Him. I said, “I’m no longer so young, but I’ve still got half of my life ahead of me, maybe less, and I must decide what I am going to do with it.”
I recalled Ruth, who had lived with Naomi in Moab. When Naomi decided to return to Eretz Yisrael, Ruth had to choose between two paths: Staying in Moab was the easy one. She would keep her old language, culture, food, family and friends. The second path, to Eretz Yisrael, was the hard one. In general, people look for the path that is convenient and pleasant. But Ruth chose the Land of Israel and the G-d of Israel. She understood that living within the Jewish People was a source of blessing, and that the truth would be found there. She therefore decided, “Your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d” (Rut 1:16). If the G-d of Israel is the only G-d, then I too, must come on board with the Jewish People, like Ruth. If the G-d of Israel is the One and Only Master-of-the-Universe, then I have no choice. I must choose the right path.
We spent about thirteen years in Israel as tourists. We had no tomorrow, only today.
We had to leave the country once every three months because we were tourists. Obviously, we had a lot of expenses. We also dreaded being detained at the airport. The security services would interrogate us as though we were escaped convicts. One time my wife’s visa had expired by one day, and that caused us no end of trouble. Every time, as we approached the airport, we felt terrible tension. For thirteen years, our situation was unstable. Everything was temporary. People didn’t understand why I remained in Israel with so tenuous a status. They didn’t understand me and they thought that I was not normal. But I knew that the truth resides only within the Jewish People. I understood that secret.
Our forefather Yaakov was born second and had to fight to earn Yitzchak’s blessing, and in the end he changed his fate. It was the same with me. I was born a non-Jew, with a history very removed from that of the Jewish People. All the same, I wanted to receive a blessing like Yaakov did. Quite a while ago I changed my last name to “Israel”. I wanted to be Yaakov, to be one of the people of Israel. I had no alternative.
I did what I could and I cried out to G-d. I rent my heart at the Western Wall for thirteen years. G-d performed a miracle for me, and at long last my dream was fulfilled. Thank G-d, I am now a Jew. Thank G-d who gave me a blessing. I belong to the Jewish People. Now I have a new family, a great many new families that are helping me.
I study the Torah several times a week. I am still an infant, and I know that I must learn a great many things. I must learn Judaism in depth, endlessly. I also must pray hard that G-d will help me, because there are people who do not like converts. The pathway I chose is not easy, but it is the only route to the blessing. I pray that G-d will help me to come closer to Him every day. My wife is very much loved by all, from adults to children. We wed twenty years ago and until now we have had no children, but we are very happy.
In Korea we were Christians. When I arrived in Israel, I switched directions to Judaism, and then we began to grow apart in our views and in our thinking. We didn’t respect each other. We quarreled. The Christians claim that they believe in G-d, but actually, they are the religion of Jesus. For them, only someone who believes in Jesus will have a place in heaven, and everyone else has no chance at all to go there, regardless of how good you are as a person. Everyone else, without exception, will go to Hell. It was this that my wife feared. My wife’s Christian friends strove to strengthen her in her belief in Jesus, and several friends also advised her to divorce me.
There was no harmony in our home, only tension and loneliness. When she went to Church, I remained home alone. I felt all alone in the world. After all, my wife was everything to me: my wife, a bit of a mother, a bit of a sister and a bit of a daughter. And suddenly we were apart. True, we lived in the same house, but our thoughts were entirely different. We were in the same bed, but the gap of faith distanced us. We only shared mundane words: “Did you eat yet? Was it good?” There was no warmth in our home. I didn’t feel that I had a friend. One year went by like that, and then another, and several more years crept by. I could do nothing but wait. It was clear to me that one person cannot change another.
One time we approached a woman whose husband was the head of a yeshiva, and that woman warned us, “It would be tragic for you to undergo conversion without believing in it. Better to do nothing.” My wife was shocked, and her heart closed up even more.
Several more years went by. She, for her part, didn’t want to separate. She wanted to wait. I couldn’t do a thing, but HaShem performed a miracle. Slowly my wife began to change, and after ten years, she began to light Sabbath candles. When she began to study at Machon Ora [Machon Meir’s study program for women], a great change transpired in her.
She came home happy from every class. She began to understand why I had waited for her for so many years. She greatly enjoyed the classes and she would explain to me what she had learned. Each day breathed new life into her, and she gained a sense of how important the woman and the family are in Judaism. In Korea, the men are the important ones. Sometimes they even beat their wives. There, a woman is nothing, just a baby machine. No one worries about women’s welfare. If a husband decides to leave his wife, he divorces her without giving her a cent.
Judaism, by contrast, is another world. My wife felt very free. In Judaism, you don’t force people to do things. If someone doesn’t come to services, you don’t demand that he give an accounting of himself. In Christianity, even someone ill has to go to Church on Sunday. There is no excuse for not showing up. If someone doesn’t come, he is classed as lacking faith. Likewise, the Church forces people to donate money to it even if there isn’t enough food at home. But Judaism says: First worry about your family. If you’ve got something to eat, then you can donate.
My wife understood that she was standing before G-d on her own. No one was forcing her to do anything. It was all between her and G-d. She began to realize how profound Judaism is, how many secrets are hidden in it, how marvelous a thing the family purity laws are. She understood that Jesus was not the Messiah, that certain conditions must be fulfilled for someone to be the Messiah: He must gather the dispersed Jews and fight against Israel’s enemies. Jesus did not meet these conditions, and obviously he is not G-d.
When I ask her, “Do you have any regrets that you converted?” she answers, “If I hadn’t been exposed to Judaism, I might regret converting, but having experienced the taste of another world, I can no longer stop mid-way…” and she adds, “Now, even if my husband leaves Judaism, I’m staying! I want it with all my soul!
My wife goes to Torah classes four times a week. I thank G-d that she has changed entirely. My wife and I are very happy with our new lives and we thank G-d who helped us enter the pathway of truth of the Chosen People. I pray that He should help me to come closer and closer to Him.

Parashat Mishpatim: Dispute over amount of money repaid

"When you Lend Money" (Shemot 22:24)
Dispute over amount of money repaid

Question: I lent someone 400 shekels, and he brought me the money. I counted the money later and only counted 300 shekels. He insists that he gave me 400. What do I do?
Answer: We have a principle "One who wants to extract money from his fellow is obligated to bring proof." The person who to whom the money is due must prove that the other person owes him. If not, he loses out. You needed to create a way to count the money so that it would have been clear how much there was. Our Rabbis say that when you lend money, you should write a document specifying the details of repayment. By having this document, and referring to it when you received payment, you would have been saved from this current dispute. At this point, it is difficult to prove that you are owed anything.

Shut SMS #149

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

Picture without Permission
Q: Is it permissible to take someone's picture without his permission?
A: Certainly not. You must be sure that he agrees (Shut Mishneh Halachot 4:114. See, however, Shut Be-Tzel Ha-Chochmah 4:85. There is a famous picture of Maran Ha-Rav Kook sitting in an arm chair, which was taken without his knowledge when he was in London during the First World War. At the moment of the photograph he was waiting for a Brit Milah to take place. The photographer later came to Maran Ha-Rav, brought him the picture and said: Although I brazenly took his Honor's picture without his permission, I now request a favor from Ha-Rav: please allow me to publish this picture as a source of livelihood. Maran Ha-Rav responded with a smile on his face: Isn't it an explicit verse in the Torah [Shemot 21:16]: "One who steals a man and sells him"! Maran Ha-Rav Kook ztz"l of Ha-Rav Z.A. Rabiner, pp. 110-111).

Q: Following chemotherapy all my hair will fall out. Is it permissible for me to shave my head?
A: Yes, aside from your Pe'ot.

Blessings over the Messiah
Q: What blessings do we recite over the arrival of the Messiah?
A: According to Rabbi Chaim Palagi: "Ga'al Yisrael" (Who redeemed Israel), "Shehechiyanu", "She-Chalak Me-Chochmato Li-rei'av" (Who gave of His wisdom to those who fear him – blessing over a great Torah scholar) and "Chacham Ha-Razim" (Knower of Secrets – blessing when seeing 600,000 Jews together). According to Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach: "Shehechiyanu", "She-Chalak Me-Chochmato Li-rei'av", "She-Chalak Michvodo Li-Rei'av" (Who shared His glory with those who fear him – blessing over a Jewish King) and "Chacham Ha-Razim".

Crying Baby
Q: When our 6-month-old baby cries at night - which he does every half hour – should we always get up to calm him?
A: If he is not sick, it is best that he gradually becomes accustomed to calming himself, so that he does not grow up pampered.

Professor Leibowitz
Q: Rabbenu Ha-Tzvi Yehudah distanced himself from Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz. What were the reasons?
A: His teachings discussed accepting the yoke of the Mitzvot without accepting the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Messiah's Arrival during Shemoneh Esrei
Q: If I am in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei and the Messiah arrives, what should I do?
A: Finish it with great Kavanah.

On Tu Bishvat: A Clear Messianic Sign

[She’al Na #3]

Q: When will the Messiah come?
A: It is known that our Sages rebuked one who engages in messianic calculations. "Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end" (Sanhedrin 97b)! They will announce the coming of the Messiah, but in vain, and the disappointment causes a horrible crisis of faith.

Q: So when the Messiah arrives we won’t greet him?
A: This is a different question. After he arrives, we will know. The Rambam writes that we will not know these matters until they occur (Hilchot Melachim 12:2). After they occur, however, we will know. When two students came and asked our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook “when will the Messiah come?”, he responded with a smile: He has already arrived a little.

Q: What does "he has already arrived a little" mean? He either arrived or he didn’t!
A: There is also a possibility that he will come "slowly, slowly" - gradually, in stages.

Q: If so, what is this "a little"?
A: This matter is explained by the prophet Yechezkiel. In an extremely special passage, he prophesied in the Name of Hashem to the mountains and the valleys.

Q: How is it possible to speak to mountains?
A: Why not? The Master of the Universe is concerned about the Mountains of Israel. The Shechina is distressed when the enemy rules over them. The Shechinah is distressed when they are destroyed and desolate. The Shechinah is distressed when they are mocked and scorned by the non-Jews. Therefore, when the time arrives, the Master of the Universe will act with great zealousness for the Land, and will decide that from now on these things will change and the non-Jews who are around will suffer their disgrace (Yechezkiel 36).

Q: That is to say, their lands will be desolate?
A: Actually no, rather our Land will bloom. "But you Mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people of Israel, for they will soon be coming" (Yechezkiel 36:8). If the Land is green, this is a sign that Hashem decided to bring salvation for His Nation. And blessed is Hashem, our Land is green both on this side of the ‘Green Line’ and on the other side.

Q: This verse is enough to signal the Redemption?!
A: This is what our Sages stated: "You have no Revealed End [clearer] than this, as it says: ‘And you Mountains of Israel...’" (Sanhedrin 98a).

Q: Why the blooming of the desolate in particular? There are many other important matters.
A: But this is the first matter. "Not on bread alone does a man live" (Devarim 8:3), but bread is in fact essential. Rashi (Sanhedrin ibid.) explains: "When the Land of Israel will generously give her fruit then the End will approach". And soon will be established "for they will soon be coming”. Jews are able to come, since there is food to eat.

Q: Is this the order of Redemption: first the establishment of agricultural settlements and afterwards the Ingathering of the Exiles?
A: Precisely. This is why the "Shemoneh Esrei" was fixed in its order. As our Sages taught: after the blessing over produce comes the blessing of the return of the exiles (Megillah 17b).

Q: If so, why aren’t there the same reservations towards interpreting this sign as towards those who calculate the End?
A: This is not an End for which we wait passively, but rather an End which we create in our fulfillment of the Torah commandment of settling the Land. In this we are emissaries of the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Q: This means that we bring the coming of the Messiah?
A: Indeed. The Midrash of our Sages is known: If you are planting a sapling and they inform you that the Messiah is coming, plant first and greet him afterwards (Avot De-Rebbe Natan, Shechter Edition, chap. 1, version b). Is the Messiah not more important than a sapling? No - these are not two separate matters: by planting a sapling you will greet the Messiah!

Q: But one can claim that these are merely trees and agriculture, with no connection to the Messiah and his coming!
A: The Prophet came precisely because of this! Yechezkel is not talking about upper worlds, but about matters that everyone in this world can see: those trees, that agriculture. The difference is what they see in them: do they merely see trees, or do they see the shining light of the Redemption of Zion and a Divine command to redeem the Nation of Israel?

The “Money Crusade”

[Newspaper Interview]

Q: What is the Halachic position on accepting contributions from Christian institutions and individuals?
A: First of all, you must realize that we don’t have to accept money from non-Jews – Christians or others. The Talmud likens the acceptance of such contributions to eating pork, because it profanes G-d’s name. To be a beggar, to be a Shnorrer, is a very degrading thing, and even more so when you’re being supported by money from non-Jews. What kind of thing is that to have the non-Jews support us? Can’t we manage by ourselves? Figure it this way: All the money from all the various organizations of the non-Jews doesn’t equal a half day of the State of Israel’s annual budget. True, after the State was established the economic situation was terrible – but even then it was degrading to accept money. But today, our country is wealthy. Imagine a wealthy person standing in the Kotel Plaza begging for money! If a wealthy Jewish country accepts money from non-Jews, the profanation of G-d’s name is even greater.
As far as Christian organizations go, the problem is even worse. Since the beginning of [their] history, the Christians have been trying to wipe us out. They tried to kill us but they failed. Then they tried to disperse us and to banish us, but we’re still around.
They tried to hurt us economically, but didn’t succeed. They tried to degrade and humiliate us, but here we are.
What’s happening now is being described in the Christian literature as the “Money Crusade”, as if to say, “With the help of money, we’ll wipe them out.” They sum it up with two words, “Hug and Strangle”. By giving us money they’ll become our friends. That will enable them to increase their missionary influence. In Israel there are tens of thousands of missionaries, with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the person who accepts their money is destined to convert, but monetary gifts open doors for them. It gives them a ticket into Israeli society, which better enables them to trap Israelis through their missions. Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohain Kook already wrote (Igrot Re’eiyah 4:61) that one cannot accept money from Christians when the one who’s going to pay for it is another Jew who will convert to Christianity. That’s simply immoral. The greatest rabbis have forbidden us to accept Christian money: the Chief Rabbinate, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira ztz”l, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, the rabbinical court of Chabad, the rabbinical court of the Eda Ha-Charedit in Meah She’arim, and more.
Q: What about the claim that Jewish lives depend on that money?
A: In the State of Israel, there is nobody dying of hunger. To claim otherwise is wrong. It’s straightforward libel against the Jewish People. When someone is in economic distress, money can be attained for him. The welfare services pass along tens of billions of Shekalim.
There are also many legitimate free-loan societies and charities.
I know of one charitable institution that, inter alia, accepts Christian money. Eighty percent of the contributions they receive line the pockets of the fund’s administrators. They talk all nice about how they’re receiving donations for poor, downtrodden people, but the money is going straight to their own pockets. G-d have mercy on them and may He help them to repent.
When the “Ateret Cohanim” yeshiva was founded thirty years ago, an affable American approached me and asked if we were building the Temple. I answered “No”. He then asked, “But you do want the Temple to be built, don’t you?” and I answered, “We certainly want it to be built! Who doesn’t?” He then asked, “And what are you doing to advance it?” I answered that we study Torah and seek to refine our character. Then he said, “I am willing to organize a donation for you from the Evangelical Protestants in the amount of fifty million dollars a year. Do you agree?” I gave him a one-word answer: No. I lost fifty million dollars times thirty years: 1.5 billion dollars.
But I have no regrets.

Shut SMS #148

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

Q: We have recently experienced many tragedies. What does this mean? What does Hashem want?
A: It is true that there are tragedies in the world. There are righteous people who experience bad things. If you are asking, it is a sign that perhaps this is the first time you have experienced such things. If so, Hashem loves you very much.
Q: But want should we do?
A: Someone who experiences tragedies should repent. Rambam, Hilchot Ta'anit chap. 1.
Q: But what should I repent for?
A: It is personal. Each person should repent for the sins he committed.

Text Message Responsa
Q: Does it bother Ha-Rav when people send text message questions?
A: Certainly not. I am happy to help. But sometimes I cannot answer right away because there is a backlog of questions.

Few Talitot
Q: Why don't we wear a few a Talitot at the same time, since we fulfill a Mitzvah with each one?
A: We do not act this way with any Mitzvah, rather we perform what Hashem commanded of us (There are many stories about why Ha-Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg – Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Or – wears so many pairs of Tzitzit [in his younger years, 150 pairs, and as he has aged about half that amount]. Some say that it is in order to fulfill all of the different opinions regarding Hilchot Tzitzit. Others explain that he began when his daughter was ill in order to fulfill a Mitzvah in her merit. But Ha-Rav Scheinberg himself says: "It is 15-20 Kilo of Mitzvot…" "Mishpachah" Magazine of 12 Nisan 5768 #851. This, however, is the unique practice of a great Rabbi).

Black Hebrews
Q: Are the Black Jews in Dimona considered Jewish? Should I donate to them?
A: They are not Jewish, and you should donate to Jews.

Q: Is there an obligation to recycle newspapers and bottles?
A: No, but it is proper to do so. By the way, in many places in America, it is obligatory by law.

Kivrei Tzadikim (Graves of the Righteous)
Q: Must one perform Netilat Yadayim after visiting Kivrei Tzadikim as one does after visiting a cemetery?
A: According to those who rule that Kivrei Tzadikim do not make one impure and Cohanim are permitted to visit them, there is no need for Netilat Yadayim. According to those who rule that Kivrei Tzadikim do make one impure and Cohanim are forbidden to visit them, one must perform Netilat Yadayim. Nonetheless, the custom is not to perform Netilat Yadayim after visiting Ma'arat HaMachpelah and Kever Rachel.

Shomer Negi'ah
Q: Is it permissible for me to help a girl while ice-skating? After all, it is only so she doesn't fall.
A: Yashar Koach to the evil inclination for his creativity in causing people to stumble in Halachah!

Leniencies and Strictures
Q: Why does Ha-Rav rule leniently in some areas of Halachah and strictly in other areas? Is Ha-Rav one who rules leniently or strictly?
A: These different areas of Halachah are unrelated. Each issue must be ruled on its own. Sometimes the ruling comes out leniently and sometimes strictly.

Mentally Ill
Q: If Hashem created man in order to serve him, why does he create the mentally ill and mentally handicapped?
A: We do not know. Perhaps it is connected to something which occurred to their souls before they were born. Ramban's commentary on Iyov, introduction and chap. 33. And also to what will occur to the souls after death.

Hitting a Child
Q: Must a father hit his child in order to educate him in Torah as it says: "One who spares his rod, hates his son" (Mishlei 13:24)?
A: Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught us that this is fulfilled through gentle rebuke.

Pictures from the Holocaust
Q: Is it permissible to look at pictures from the Holocaust of Jewish women without clothes?
A: G-d forbid. 1. It is immodest. 2. It is a horrible infringement on the honor of these women, may Hashem revenge their blood. What would you do if it was your mother?!

Q: I want to stop watching sports games on TV based on "Moshav Leitzim" (frivolity), but am unsuccessful. What should I do?
A: Gradually wean yourself off and read Mesilat Yesharim.

Custom of Husband and Wife
Q: How should a husband and wife act when they have different customs?
A: The wife follows the customs of the husband so they are united and at peace, based on the law of one who moves from one place to another and follows the customs of the new locale.
Q: Is the wife required to perform an annulment of vows when she changes her pre-wedding customs?
A: No. There is no need and we have not heard that earlier generations acted this way (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:158. Shut Minchat Yitzchak 4:83. Shut Yabia Omer vol. 5 Orach Chaim #37).

Bad in the World
Q: If everything is from Hashem, how is there bad in the world?
A: Bad is bad, but good will come from it. Everything is for the good. This is a deep subject for a text message. You can look in my book "Ve-Gavar Yisrael".