Shut SMS #163

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

Segulah for Shalom Bayit

Q: Is there a good Segulah for Shalom Bayit?

A: Help your wife wash dishes (Satmar Chasidim end Shabbat very late due to a long Seudat Shelishit and the Rebbe's talk. Once, on a Saturday night, the Satmar Rebbe saw that one of his Chasidim was the last one in the Beit Midrash and was folding his Talit with great precision. The Rebbe asked him what he was doing. The Chasid said that he saw in various books that care in folding one's Talit is a Segulah for Shalom Bayit. The Rebbe responded: A better Segulah is to go home and help your wife wash dishes).


Q: If there are parts of the davening which I do not understand, can I skip them?

A: Definitely not. Even prayer which one does not understand has value since it is fulfilling the will of Hashem (Shut Ha-Rashba 1:423).

Meat which is not Glatt

Q: Can a person who only eats Glatt-Kosher meat cook with utensils that were used by someone who eats non-Glatt meat?

A: Yes. It is a case of a double-doubt. Perhaps the Halachah is that non-Glatt meat is permissible, and perhaps the meat which is designated as non-Glatt Kosher is in fact Glatt, since when designating meat as Glatt there are additional strictures not based on whether the meat is Glatt or not. For this reason, one who eats Glatt may eat when invited to a person who eats non-Glatt. The host should obviously inform the guest, however, so he can decide on his own what to do (Shut Yabia Omer Yoreh Deah 5:3).


Q: Are people who do not see that the Redemption has begun blind or stupid?

A: Confused (see Rambam, Hilchot Mamrim 3:3).


Q: I wear Techelet on my Tzitzit. If I do not have Techelet, should I wear only white Tzitzit or not wear Tzitzit at all?

A: Certainly white. It is a Torah Mitzvah. Woe to us from such a question (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 4:12-20).

Text Message with Fiancee during Week before Wedding

Q: Is it permissible to communicate through text messages with my fiancee during the week before our wedding if there is a lot to plan and it is difficult to do so through a third party?

A: Yes. Although there is a custom not to meet during the week before the wedding, it is certainly permissible in this manner for things which are necessary.


Q: Should one not to have an epidural during childbirth in order to “experience” the birth?

A: If a woman is suffering she should certainly have one, and even with it, she will experience the birth.

Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz

Q: What was Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah's opinion about Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz?

A: Acceptance of the yoke of Mitzvot without acceptance of the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom.

Q: How should we relate to him today?

A: He hardly has any religious students.

Haftarat Naso: A Strange Hero

[Shoftim 13:2-25]

"For you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, for the boy is to be a Nazir of Hashem from birth, and he will begin the salvation of Israel from the hands of the Philistines" (Shoftim 13:5). This child was Shimshon, and he began to liberate Israel from under the yoke of the Philistines who ruled over our Nation (ibid. 11).

In order to understand the tragic reality of that time, we must remember that although the Nation of Israel was in the Land, they had absolutely no independence. They had already been oppressed by the rule of the Philistines for forty years. They did not have an army, and therefore had no possibility of beginning a war of independence. It was against this dismal background that Hashem had mercy on us and sent us the amazing figure of Shimshon.

This incredible man, who appears in the Book of Shoftim, is clearly different from other judges. He is in fact a rather strange man. Instead of acting as a judge, leader or military man, he engages in odd adventures: he knocks down gates and carries them on his back, he gets involved with Philistine women, he captures foxes and lights fires with them, he tells riddles and kills people in order to take their garments. What benefit is this to us? It is true that the Philistines caused us much distress, and any act of vengeance was justified, but there is a huge gap between these odd acts and the statement "And he judged Israel" (ibid. 16:31).

We cannot deny that this was a man who possessed incredible strength. He took the jaw of a donkey and killed one thousand men (ibid. 15:16). But instead of using his strength for the beneficial and constructive purpose of saving the Nation of Israel, he used it for personal adventure. Throughout his entire life he wandered around, with long hair like a hippie, detached from society, far from Judaism, living among the Philistines, marrying their daughters and using his strength for nonsense and vanities. He does not have a friend, Rabbi, supporters or students. So what could possibly explain his place in the Book of Shoftim?

It is true that Shimshon had long hair, but it was not due to his vanity. He was a Nazir, and was therefore prohibited from cutting the hair on his head. "And razor should not touch his head because the boy will be a Nazir of Hashem" (Shoftim 13:5). Furthermore, he was not only a Nazir, but a Nazir from birth. A Nazir is a supremely holy person, who raises himself above the simple, lowly and base matters that interest other people. Before Shimshon's birth, an angel informed his mother: "He will be a Nazir of G-d." But why? Wouldn’t it be preferable to give him the opportunity to decide on his own? Why do they decide for him? There is a special reason: He will not be elevated for his own personal righteousness and holiness – he can worry about this himself – but "The child will be a Nazir of Hashem from the womb, and he will begin to save Israel from the Philistines" (ibid. 13:5). This man's role in life was to begin saving us from the Philistines. But did he need to be a Nazir for this purpose? It seems that one would need to be a military man, not a Nazir!

But there is more: not only was it divinely decreed that this man would be a Nazir, but also that he would possess "Ruach Ha-Kodesh" (Holy Spirit). "And the spirit of Hashem began to resound in the camp of Dan, between Tzorah and Eshta'ol" (ibid. v. 25). A "Ruach Ha-Kodesh" is not something which immediately appears and descends upon one who is not ready for it. It appears slowly, as part of an ethical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual elevation. After intense efforts, a Holy Spirit reveals itself little-by-little, while crumbs of spiritual awakening appear. Shimshon was in fact a very serious person, and the spirit of Hashem resounded within him. Perhaps he possessed a Holy Spirit at first, but it was later diminished? This is not so, for the text tells us three times that the Holy Spirit was within him. In the incident with the lion: "And the spirit of Hashem came mightily upon him, and he tore him apart as he would have torn a kid" (ibid. 14:6). He accomplished this with the Holy Spirit which rested upon him. Even after Shimshon had obligated himself to pay thirty garments if someone solved his riddle, it is written: "And the Spirit of Hashem came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them and took their clothing" (ibid. 14:19). And much later: "And the spirit of Hashem came mightily upon him, and the cords that were on his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire and his bands melted off his hands" (ibid. 15:14).

The answer to the riddle of who Shishom was, and what purpose he fulfilled, is given by the text itself. After Shimshon married a Philistine women, causing great distress to his parents, the text says: "But his father and his mother did not know that it was from Hashem, and at that time, the Philistines ruled in Israel" (ibid. verse 4). During the time of Shimshon, there was no State of Israel, only the State of the Philistines, Philistina. It was therefore impossible to draft an army and organize a rebellion. People were not ready to rebel. Shimshon knew them well and knew that they were frightened. They were even ready to hand Shimshon over to the Philistines! When the Philistines demanded that Shimshon be handed over to them, "three hundred men from Yehudah went down" to capture him, "and they said to Shimshon: Don't you know that the Philistines rule over us? What have you done to us?" (ibid. 15:11). It is extremely difficult to save Israel under such adverse conditions. He received an appointment as the Chief of Staff, but there was no army, and no one was ready to be drafted. How could he save them under these conditions? He therefore received an appointment from his gut, and had time to contemplate and plan. During Shimshon's time, it was not the State of Israel against another country, but the Philistine State with limited autonomy for the Jews. There was therefore no possibility to wage war. So this was Shimshon's plan:

a. He would wage guerilla warfare in order to exhaust and weaken the Philistines until they could no longer bear it.

b. He would work alone, since the Nation was not willing to join him.

c. He would act without endangering the Nation of Israel in any way. It was not possible to wage a struggle under the flag of the State of Israel. The Philistines would certainly attack the Nation of Israel. Shimshon fought as if it was his own personal war on account of his youth. He did not wage war for the Nation of Israel - he had nothing to do with them and didn't even live with them. He was not married to one them but to a Philistine. Clearly then, his marriage was tpart of a Divine plan. But the Philistines solved his riddle and therefore were the recipients of his vengeance: he killed Philistines in order to pay them the garments that were due to them.

Shimshon was not an “individual” person, but rather he a “communal” person of Israel. He had nothing of his own: no house, no Torah learning, no wife. Everything he had belonged to the Nation of Israel. And everything he had he gave. "Hashem G-d, please remember me. And please strengthen me just once more, G-d, and let me avenge one of my two eyes" (ibid. v. 28). I fell, but perhaps precisely because of the fall, I can bring salvation to the Nation of Israel. I am not complaining. I accept the judgment I was given. I played with fire and got burned or, more precisely, I received an order to involve myself with fire and got burned. I therefore ask: "Let me die with the Philistines" (ibid. v. 30). I am not asking for life for myself. All of my life is for the sake of the Nation of Israel. Shimshon’s entire life was, in essence, in the category of "Let me die with the Philistines," since it was entirely devoted to beginning "to save Israel from the Philistines" (ibid. 13:5). He sacrificed his entire life, made himself impure, and placed himself in complicated, comprimising situations. Our Sages say in the Zohar that he even sacrificed his World to Come for this purpose (Zohar, Naso 127a).

Only one thing interested him: "Let me die with the Philistines." Hashem in fact accepted his request, and on the day of his death, he struck the Philistines with an eternal blow to the point that they did not dare raise their hand against Israel for the next twenty years. Although Shimshon stumbled, because of this fall, he was able to bring great salvation to Israel that outlasted his own lifetime.

Honoring Rabbis at Weddings

[From a talk in the Yeshiva during Lunch]

Question: Should Rabbis be honored by inviting them to weddings to recite blessings under the Chupah?

Answer: What honor is there in this? When I was a small child, I was taught to recite blessings. When guests came and saw that I knew how to do it, that brought me great honor. But a Rabbi knows how to recite blessings, so what honor are you bestowing on him when you tell him to recite a blessing? And not to mention the problem of the long pauses that develop between blessings, which some sources say creates a problematic interruption. In some communities, it is customary for the groom to recite all the blessings without pause.

Someone once told me that he wanted to honor me with a blessing. I told him that I don’t chase honor, and, and in any case this doesn’t honor me. He then told me that he wanted me to bless him so that I would honor him. Now he was speaking the truth. He wanted me to come in order to honor him. Obviously, I want to honor everyone. Yet perhaps this indicates a bad trait of him pursuing honor.

As is well-known, Rabbis don’t play tiddly-winks all day. They barely have any time. They also have families. For some of them, their rabbinic salaries do not suffice, and they have to do other work as well. So why are you forcing them to come to a wedding, to waste two or three hours, just to say a half-minute blessing? Because you are chasing honor. You should consider well before inviting Rabbis and wasting a lot of their precious time. Especially considering that, for some unknown reason, weddings always start late.

When I got married, I said that the wedding should begin at such-and-such a minute, and it began at that minute. I appointed a friend to take a cab and have it arrive ten minutes before the Chupah at the home of Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, who officiated at the wedding. I also told him, “After the Chupah, you stay with the Rabbi, get a cab and bring him home.

I told another friend: when you bring Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, be at his house a half hour before the time, and return him as well.” Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Min-Hahar preferred to come on his own, and he arrived five minutes early. The wedding started right on time. Why start late and waste people’s time? I told all the guests and friends that the Chupah would start on time. My wife, as well, told all her friends and family the same, and so it was.

You might ask: All the same, aren’t people happy to have an evening out? It could be, but Torah scholars don’t have the time.

If you invite a Torah scholar to a wedding, you have to take care to transport him there and back. Many times I’ve been invited to weddings where they have forgotten to arrange to bring me home. You’ve got to take care of a Rabbi’s transportation and not waste his time. The further the wedding is from his home, the more you have to consider whether it is justified to make him miss Torah learning. If you decide it is, take care of his transportation. Pick him up exactly on time and place someone in charge of taking him home after the Chupah. A lot of times I’ve looked around after the wedding to find who is taking me home, and everyone refers me to someone else. It’s not supposed to be that way! If you invite your Rabbi, arrange decent transportation for him: both ways.

One person invited his Rabbi and told another Rabbi to take the first Rabbi home. He turned that second Rabbi into a cab driver. Of course, being a cab driver in Eretz Yisrael is a wonderful thing, because with every four cubits of travel he merits the World-to-Come (Ketuvot 111a). All the same, however, don’t turn Rabbis into cab drivers. You’ve got to think all these things through. At stake is wasting a Rabbi’s Torah-learning time. One has to be very careful regarding a Torah scholar’s time.

One time Ha-Rav Shimon Shkop was ill, and Rabbis contributed their Torah learning to his cure. One Rabbi contributed half-an-hour. Another contributed fifteen minutes and the Chafetz Chaim contributed one minute. People asked him, “Rabbi, is that all?!” and he answered, “Yes. You don’t understand the worth of Torah learning. If you understood it, you wouldn’t be puzzled.”

A major rule is that you don’t put pressure on Torah scholars. A Rabbi knows all the considerations. If he says he cannot come, then he cannot come. There’s no need to pressure him. You shouldn’t pressure anybody, let alone a Torah scholar. At my own wedding, I gave an invitation to Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Natan Ra’anan, and he didn’t come. I don’t know why he didn’t come, but I didn’t ask. Yet he sent me a letter with a blessing.

You’re allowed to invite your Rabbi to your wedding, but you don’t have to invite all the Rabbis of the yeshiva. Even as far as your own Rabbi, you should ask him if he wants to come in such a manner that it won’t be unpleasant for him to say no. “If you come, I’ll be very happy, but if you’re busy, that’s perfectly fine.” When you ask someone something, you have to ask in such a manner that it will be ok for him to turn you down. Don’t pressure anyone, let alone your Rabbi.

There are loftier ways to honor your Rabbi than giving him a blessing under the Chupah. There’s no law that a student has to follow his Rabbi’s path. He can follow another path, but if he thinks that this is the Rabbi who made him what he is, he has to find the avenues to increase his Rabbi’s honor. Ha-Rav Yoel Kahn, one of the closest disciples of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, admires his Rebbe and wants to increase his honor. He therefore works to spread his Torah, so that people read his ideas and learn from them. That’s called increasing one’s Rabbi’s honor. I don’t know if he ever kissed his Rebbe’s hand. Doing that doesn’t increase his honor. Dedicating his life to teaching his Rebbe’s Torah is what increases his honor

Likewise, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook is my Rabbi. That’s why I published his talks. Otherwise, people would forget what he said. This took hours, days, months, and cost a lot of money. Five volumes of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s talks on the Torah cost half a million Shekels. I took the money from my own book sales. In this way, I did my utmost to disseminate his Torah. Also, for years I collected all of his tapes. Having learned them, I wanted to honor him so that his words would spread. But I never kissed his hand. One day when he was eating, a crumb of bread fell on his trousers. I moved my hand to clean him off and he hit my hands. “How dare I…”.

If someone truly loves his Rabbi, honors him and wants to increase his Rabbi’s honor, he must somehow come up with ways to honor him, not via externals but via genuine honor.

Shut SMS #162

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

Learning on Shavuot Night

Q: Is one obligated to stay up and learn all Shavuot night?

A: No, but it is a proper custom. If one does not have the strength, he should try to learn until midnight (see Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim #494).

Q: Which is preferable – learning Torah all night and falling asleep during Shachrit or going to sleep earlier and davening properly?

A: Going to sleep earlier, since davening Shachrit without falling asleep is a basic law, while learning on the night of Shavuot is a proper custom.

Q: Which is preferable – learning at night or during the day, if one will learn more during the day?

A: During the day, since adding to learning is a basic law, while learning Torah on that particular night is a proper custom (Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski answered that since the custom is to learn on Shavuot night, it is preferable to learn at night even if it results in learning less on the following day. Piskei Shemuot, pp. 81-82. Nonetheless, a grandson of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv once asked him why he does not follow the custom to stay up learning all night on Shavuot, but goes to sleep and then wakes up at 2 AM, as he does every day, to learn Torah. Ha-Rav Elyashiv explained that he made a calculation regarding how much extra Torah he would learn by staying awake all night, and it turns out he would actually lose 15 minutes! For the sake of these few cherished minutes of learning, he decided that it is preferable to go to sleep at the beginning of the night as usual. Ha-Shakdan vol. 2, p. 240. And Ha-Griz Soloveitchik of Brisk was surprised that people are particular to stay awake on Shavuot night which is a custom, while on the night of the Pesach Seder – according to the basic law – one should relate the Exodus from Egypt all night until sleep overcomes him, and people are not careful to do so. And the custom of "Beit Brisk" is not to stay up learning the entire night of Shavuot, since it is no different from any other night and there is no preference learning on that night than during the day. Uvdot Ve-Hanhagot Le-Beit Brisk vol. 2, p. 79).

Q: Are women obligated to learn all night?

A: They are not obligated, but it is certainly a proper act.

Ten Commandments

Q: Is there an obligation to stand during the reading of the Ten Commandments?

A: Ashkenazim and some Sefardim have the custom to stand. The majority of Sefardim sit (Shut Yechaveh Da'at 1:29. Shut Ashe Lecha Rav 6:21. Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim4:22. Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:144).

Q: And if I am in a Shul where the custom is different than my custom?

A: Act like everyone else (Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Ashrei Ish p. 440).


Q: Is it permissible to enter a spring where there is a sign that says: "It is forbidden to enter the water. JNF"?

A: The answer is within the question.

Riding a Bike on Shabbat

Q: Why is it forbidden to ride a bike on Shabbat?

A: 1. A concern lest one fix it, which is a Torah prohibition: flat tire, adjusting the steering, raising the seat, fixing the chain, etc. 2. Lest one leave a private domain. 3. Lest one go farther than the Shabbat boundary (Techum Shabbat). 4. Weekday activity (Uvdin De-Chol).

Q: I heard that the Ben Ish Chai permitted it within an Eruv.

A: Correct. Rav Pealim vol. 1 Orach Chaim #25. But he is a lone opinion. And some say that he changed his mind (Shut Yechaveh Daat 2:48).

Gift from a Shidduch

Q: I was dating a man for a long time with the hopes of getting married and in the end it did not work out. During that time, he gave me a gift. Should I give it back to him?

A: It is proper if it was a significant gift.

Haftarat Bemidbar: Eternal Covenant

[Hoshea 2:1-22]
In the midst of his great despair over the Nation's unethical behavior, the prophet Hoshea underwent an incredible experience. Only after this does he understand that the Nation will return to Hashem.
"The number of the Children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted, and instead of saying to them: 'You are not My Nation,' say: 'You are the sons of the living G-d'" (Hoshea 2:10).
Surprisingly enough, the one who says "You are not My Nation" is actually the prophet Hoshea. He lived during one of the darkest periods in our history, and it was difficult for him to grasp our Nation's pure nature while we were mired in the filth of unethical behavior. The prophet therefore lost hope in the Nation's purification.
Our Sages relate (Pesachim 87a) that when Hashem turned to Hoshea and said: "Your children sinned" - Hoshea should have answered: "They are Your children, descendants of Your dear ones, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov!" But instead he said: "Master of the Universe - the entire world is Yours - exchange them for another nation!" Hashem then commanded him: "Go, take a wife from the prostitutes and children of the prostitutes, for the Land has committed great prostitution, departing from Hashem" (ibid. 2:1).

This extremely perplexing command was followed by the prophet, even though it was surely contrary to his nature. After his wife had given birth to two sons and two daughters, Hoshea was commanded to separate from her, since he was a prophet - just as Moshe Rabbenu had been commanded to separate from his wife.

It was obviously very difficult for Hosea to accept the command to separate from his wife - for he was bound to her through the children she had borne him. Hashem said to him: "You cannot leave your prostitute wife and her children, even though you cannot be sure that the children are even yours! All the more so I cannot exchange another nation for Israel, My sons, the sons of those I tested, the sons of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov." Hoshea thus realized that he had sinned and asked Hashem to forgive him. Hashem said: Before you ask Me to forgive you, ask forgiveness for Israel… So Hoshea asked forgiveness for Israel, and Hashem annulled the decrees against them" (Pesachim ibid.).

"You are son to Hashem, Your G-d" (Devarim 14:1). Is this expression, which is the most exalted of the Nation of Israel, dependent on our merits? According to Rabbi Meir, we are "Children to Hashem" regardless of our behavior, as it says: "They are foolish children" (Yirmiyahu 4:22). From this verse, we learn that even when they are acting foolishly, they are still called children. It is also written: "Children, they are not trustworthy" (Devarim 32:20). From here we learn that even when they are acting in an untrustworthy way, they are called children. And it says: "Evil seed, children that act corruptly" (Yeshayahu 1:4). Furthermore, even if they are evil, they are still called children. In order to emphasize that we are "Children to Hashem" without condition or change, Hoshea clearly states: "Instead of saying to them: 'You are not My Nation,' say: 'You are the sons of the living G-d'" (Hoshea 2:10).

The deep anger and despair of the prophet dissipated. He finally realized that these problems may exist in the present, but in the future the Nation will repent. They will not repent by force but out of love: "She will pursue her lovers, but she will not reach them. She will seek them, but she will not find them, then she will say: I will go and return to my first husband for it was better for me then than now" (ibid. v. 9). The Nation of Israel will come to understand that the foreign cultures which attracted it are nothing but deceit, all of the pleasures are fleeing vanities, and true happiness is loyalty to Hashem. This verse has in fact been used by our Sages as a paradigm for proper education: True education is gentle, with understanding and convincing, and not by pressure. The Gemara in Berachot (7a) says: "One chastisement in the heart of man is better than many lashes." Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained that this insight of our Rabbis, that education need be through love and pleasantness as opposed to by the stick, has only recently been understood (Ain Aya, Berachot chap. 1 #70).

The love between Hashem and His Nation will return. "I will betroth you to Me for eternity, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy. I will betroth you to Me with fidelity, and you will know Hashem" (Hoshea 2:21-22). These three expressions of betrothal are said by a Jew each morning while putting on Tefillin, as he winds the straps around his finger, similar to three wedding bands.

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Bechukotai 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his book “Da’at Tevunot”, writes that every person has a task in G-d’s world. Even the most insignificant person was not created in vain. There’s no person who has no place. In his commentary on the prayer book, regarding the end of the Yom Kippur service, Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohain Kook wrote that when a person is born, it is a sign that the world needs him. All the more so regarding the great men of every generation. This applies to all generations, but especially to the most recent one, the generation of redemption, as the Vilna Gaon wrote at the end of his work, “Even Shleima”.
Ours is a new generation, one in which the nation is being reborn. Throughout the ages we have known that the Exile is temporary, that the Diaspora is a cemetery, and that ultimately the graves would be opened, as the Prophet Yechezkel wrote. We knew that the Exile constitutes awful decay, national decay, and that ultimately G-d would arouse His spirit upon us from On High, as the Vilna Gaon wrote in his commentary on Sifra De-Tzniuta.

That time is now. So Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook teaches us. He didn’t make this up. Nor was he quoting some kabbalistic source. He was quoting a simple Talmudic text, clear and explicit: “Rabbi Abba said: You have no more clear sign of the end of days than that of the verse: “But you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near” (Yechezkel 36:8). Rashi explains: “When the Land of Israel yields its fruit bountifully, then the end of days will be near. You have no more clear sign of the end of days than that.” And indeed, the Land is yielding its fruit in bountiful quantities.

Thus, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, a special emissary of G-d, was sent to us to teach the nation the meaning of rebirth, the meaning of a nation living independently in its Land, according to its Torah. He came to remind us of things we had forgotten, and he taught this via five different themes – five that are all one.

1. Rebuilding the Land. This itself constitutes the revealed end of days. As Ramban wrote in his Addendum 4 to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, we are commanded not to abandon the Land to desolation. Its full expanse must be settled, and no area in it may be left vacant. This is a great Mitzvah: the Mitzvah of settling the Land.

2. The Return to Zion. It is a great Mitzvah for every Jew to live in our land, and not in any foreign country. Every Jew in the Diaspora must make the move to Israel. This, too, Ramban mentions there, but the Torah itself – from start to finish - expresses this theme. Now that the Land is yielding its fruits, the Jewish People are returning to it from all four corners of the earth, including a massive Aliyah from Russia, something which Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was absolutely certain would occur, at a time when many viewed it as a distant dream. He spoke much about the Aliyah to Israel of all world Jewry, in all its different shades and stripes, opinions and worldviews. This is the Mitzvah of settling the Land.

3. The Establishment of the Jewish State. It is a great mitzvah to establish a Jewish State. This, as well, is from that same Ramban source: “We mustn’t leave the Land under the control of any other nation.” “A Land under the control of a Nation” is what constitutes a political state. Creating such a Jewish state is a mitzvah, and we have a divine promise by the prophets that we would once more conquer the Land. Sovereignty must be applied to the entire Land.

When Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was asked, “Is this the political state that our prophets envisioned?” he would answer: “Precisely so! Obviously it isn’t perfect. We must arm ourselves with patience, we must toil together, and we will raise up our level, together with the state itself. This state is an enormous sanctification of G-d’s name, and even if G-d’s name is also profaned here, His Name is sanctified much more.” This is the Mitzvah of conquering the Land.

4. The Army. Protecting the country obviously requires an army. There are numerous enemies from without and from within. It is a great mitzvah to go to the army, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah wrote in his article “Mitzvat Ha’aretz” before the War of Independence. He said this included Yeshiva students, and he said no one was exempt from this. This mitzvah can be divided into three parts, like everything else in the Tzahal: saving the Jewish People, saving the Land and sanctifying G-d’s Name.

5. The Unity of the Nation. The backbone of the Nation’s rebirth is its unity. We are a Nation and not a collection of individuals. “I shall make you a great nation” (Bereshit 12:2), Who is like your people, Israel, a single nation in the Land” (Shmuel 2 7:23). The Mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew means loving every single Jew without exception. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). You must love him, without casuistry, without twisted logic. Public struggles, as well, wrote Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah in his major article addressed to the public at large, “Et Achai Anochi Mevakesh” (I am searching for my brothers), must be conducted in an atmosphere of love, without raising one’s fists, without humiliating others, without rancor. In other words, love must reign in our behavior, our speech and our thoughts.

All these themes Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught relentlessly throughout his life - in his lectures and personal guidance, in his books and in the works of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak

Ha-Cohain Kook that he edited and published.

And, as stated, none of this is new it is all very old. But it has been forgotten due to the Exile. Now, with the Nation’s rebirth, these portions of the Torah are likewise experiencing a rebirth. At first, Maran Ha-Rav Kook was alone in his generation, and his son, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah after him, father and son being as one. Slowly, disciples gathered to them, and more and more people came and listened, until there were dozens, then hundreds, then thousands and hundreds of thousands. Now the Nation is full of them.

Our teacher’s thought has penetrated many hearts and minds, both of the religious and of the secular, of the Charedim and of the Zionists. His thoughts and his views, which are not his own, but just part of the Torah, hover in the air over the Jewish Nation, consciously or unconsciously, as they build their lives exalting and putting things straight. Obviously there is a great difference between one who proceeds through life doing something knowingly and one who does so unknowingly. This is especially so when we face difficult, complex situations, that require, in our teacher’s words, “nerves of steel”.

Therefore, we call upon every Jew, young or old, working people, men of letters, to study the writings of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Delve deeply into them. Analyze them as much as you can, for they include everything. They are a life source. In them is hidden the soul of the great rebirth of the Nation returning to life in its land, according to its Torah.

Shut SMS #161

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


Q: Is it permissible to travel in a taxi if the driver offers you a set price? Or must it only be with the meter?

A: It is permissible with a set price, on the condition that he gives you a receipt.

Shomer Negiah

Q: My boyfriend and I took a vow to get married. Is it permissible for us to touch one another?

A: G-d forbid. Only after the wedding. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8.

Learning Torah and Transgression

Q: I feel like a fake because I am learning Torah when I am full of transgression.

A: On the contrary, the Torah gives strength to overcome the evil inclination. One should therefore learn a lot.

Smoking or Girls

Q: Which is worse: smoking or being with girls?

A: Certainly girls. See Sanhedrin 75a: It once happened that a man set his sights on a woman. Rambam, Yesodei Ha-Torah Chapter 5. But smoking is also a severe transgression.


Q: Is it true that on December 21, 2012 there will be a tragedy in the world or an event which will completely change the world?

A: Nonsense. This is a date mentioned on the Mayan calendar. By the way, the descendants of the Mayans themselves do not subscribe any importance to this date. This is an innovation of those involved in the New-Age culture.


Q: I feel that by observing the Mitzvot, I am losing out on all the enjoyments of the secular world.

A: There are many Kosher enjoyments, and those which are not Kosher are nonsense, fleeting and impure.

Wedding Photographer

Q: Isn't there the same permission for a wedding photographer to take pictures of women dancing at a wedding as there is for a male doctor to take care of female patients?

A: No. The photographer is involved with beauty, while the doctor is involved with healing.

Hair Covering

Q: Is it permissible for a married woman to have hair showing down to her shoulders with the scarf covering the top of her head?

A: It is only permissible to be lenient and expose two fingers’ worth of hair, i.e. 4 cm. (Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:58, 4:112).

Blessing on Spot of Crossing the Jordan River

Q: Should one recite the blessing of "Blessed is Hashem…who performed a miracle for my ancestors in this place" when seeing the spot where the Jordan split and the Jewish People entered Eretz Yisrael?

A: No, since we do not know the exact location where it happened. But it is possible to recite the blessing without mentioning Hashem's Name or Kingdom. Piskei Teshuvot 218:3 (Kum Hithalech Ba-Aretz #25).

Haftarat Bechukotai: Trust in Hashe,

[Ashkenazim/Sefardim: Yirmiyahu 16:19-17:14
Yemenite Jews: Yechezkel 34:1-27]
Trust in Hashem is not a synonym for inaction and passivity. It is what pushes a person to action without expecting immediate results.
In our Haftarah, we find a section of verses which remind us of the style of King David's Psalms: "This is what Hashem says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from Hashem. He will be like a bush in the wastelands, and he will not see goodness when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes. Its leaves are always fresh. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit" (Yirmiyahu 17:5-8).

At first glance, it is difficult to see the connection between these exalted verses - which call a person to trust in Hashem - and the rest of Yirmiyahu's words here, which announce the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel as a result of our transgressions. But the connection is in fact quite simple: the call to repent, together with the ethical ideal, can cure the Nation. The political difficulties we encounter will not be solved by diplomatic channels, but rather by the Nation of Israel being the guardian of universal ethics. If we fail in our task, we lose our place as a Nation among humanity, and experience the trials and tribulations of the Exile. Instead of placing our trust in backstabbing nations and wallowing in a miserable state, the prophet calls us to trust in Hashem. Complete trust in Hashem means acting with integrity. It means being ready to receive all results which stem from these actions, even if they turn out to our detriment, and recognizing that we are constantly surrounded by Divine Providence.

Do not think that crime pays. It is possible that in the short term righteous and upright people are poverty-stricken and distressed while crooked people are happy and prosperous. But in the long term, the opposite will occur. One whose heart is distant from Hashem, who has chosen to rely on man, and is mired in all sorts of different affairs, will not merit seeing days of kindness. But one who behaved with integrity without compromise will merit days of joy. The reward for acting in this way does not appear immediately. If this were the case, most people would be full of integrity, if only for the sake of their own best interests.

Our world is a world of trials (Mesilat Yesharim, chap. 1), and it is therefore incumbent upon us to overcome many difficulties. Through these, one’s true personality will be revealed. One should not despair because of Divine judgment. Its reason will be revealed sooner or later. It is only a matter of time. Such trust in Hashem is not, as mentioned, the same as laziness, inactivity, o reliance on miracles. It is full confidence that the Master of the Universe controls events and does not abandon His creatures to happenstance. At the same time, a person is discerning, rational, and takes responsibility for his actions, whatever the results may be. He knows well that the world belongs to the Master of the Universe, and he will eventually have to give a Divine accounting for all that he did.

And above all else, he knows in the depth of his heart that all of historical occurrences, whether personal or communal, are arranged according to Divine wisdom and justice. This is trust in Hashem.

The Torah Scholar’s Ambition

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

Question: What ambition should a yeshiva student have? To be a great Torah luminary?

Answer: That can be worded better. His ambition has to be to grow in Torah, to increase his Torah. We must avoid haughtiness and expressions such as “great Torah luminary”. A person requires a bit of sense and a bit of humility. Not everyone can become a great Torah luminary. It depends on one’s talents and prospects. But he must grow in Torah, each person in accordance with his ability. Or, it can be worded differently: the goal is to become a Torah scholar. This is something to which every Jew should aspire. “And all your children shall be disciples of Hashem” (Yeshayahu 54:13).

There are different types of Torah scholars. There are professional Torah scholars, for whom Torah is their trade, like Shul rabbis or yeshiva rebbes, and they earn a living from this. There are non-professional Torah scholars, like carpenters, engineers or soldiers, who are full of Torah. Being a Torah scholar is the ideal, normal state of every Jew. He should be full of Torah, full of spiritual, moral and halachic thoughts.

Therefore, in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook never led training programs for rabbis, teachers or rabbinical judges. Every student was supposed to learn all of these things himself. The main thing, rather, was to raise up Torah scholars. That is the ideal image of the Jew: a Torah scholar!

In various cultures the ideal was to be a knight, a monk or a gentleman. For us, the longed-for goal is the Torah scholar. As noted above, not every Torah scholar has Torah as his profession, but being a Torah scholar is what constitutes his personality.

As much as a person can, he should grow in Torah. For this there are Yeshivot. The first was the yeshiva of Moshe. It is true that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov also learned in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Noach’s son and great grandson. Yet we do not know exactly how they learned there.

The yeshivot have carried on until our own day, and they have the glorious goal of raising up Torah scholars. To become a Torah scholar one must learn with diligence, work on perfecting one’s character and increasing one’s fear of G-d. One must also show enormous self-sacrifice. According to the effort, so the reward.

It’s not just a matter of the quantity of knowledge, but of devotion to study. The main thing is not to know but to study, and that study will leave its mark on the person’s whole personality, and the person will bring a blessing to his Nation.

Shut SMS #160

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

Trip to Jordan

Q: Why shouldn't one take a trip to Jordan? After all, it is part of Eretz Yisrael.

A: Correct, but it is on a lower level of holiness since it is not under our sovereignty. This is similar to when King David fled to Gat, which was under Philistine rule, and he said that it is like idol worship. Ketubot 110b. Furthermore, it is dangerous, and we do not put ourselves at risk for a trip (Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:312).

Guarding on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to violate Shabbat in order to guard one's belongings from Bedouin thieves?

A: Yes, just like the police do, since it is damage to the community. See Shut Amud Yemini (#17). And it is also a continuation of conquering Eretz Yisrael (see She'eilat Shlomo 1:193 which brings a Teshuvah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren permitting guarding one's flocks on Shabbat).

Gemara or Tanach

Q: Which is preferable to learn – Gemara or Tanach?

A: Gemara. And a little Tanach (see booklet on learning Tanach at the end of Ha-Rav Aviner's commentary on Yehoshua).

Teaching a Non-Jew Tanach

Q: Is it permissible to teach a non-Jew Tanach?

A: Only the sections which apply to Bnei Noach, i.e. non-Jews (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 10:9).

Place where a Miracle Happened

Q: If I pass a place where a miracle happened to me, do I recite the blessing of "Blessed is Hashem…Who performed a miracle for me in this place"?

A: Only if it was an unnatural miracle. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 218:9.

Sheva Berachot

Q: Are newlyweds obligated to have Sheva Berachot twice a day, every day, for the whole week?

A: No. Only what brings them joy.

Q: Can they go on a honeymoon instead?

A: If that is their desire (Re'im Ahuvim, pp. 165-169).

Gan Eden for Animals

Q: Do animals go to Gan Eden?

A: No. Tiferet Yisrael on Pirkei Avot (3:14).

"Long Live our Master"

Q: Is someone who says: "Long Live our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi, King Messiah, forever and ever" regarding the Lubavitcher Rebbe a heretic?

A: G-d forbid. But he is mistaken.

Anniversary of Aliyah during Omer

Q: I made Aliyah 10 years ago. Is it permissible to make this day during the Omer into a holiday with music?

A: Holiday – yes. Music – no.

Most Chasidim

Q: Which spiritual leader among the Jewish People had the most Chasidim?

A: Shabbatai Tzvi, may the name of the evil rot. Three Million.

Haftarat Behar: Historical Patience

[Ashkenazim/Sefardim: Yirmiyahu 32:6-27
Yemenite Jews: Yirmiyahu 16:19-17:14]

The Talmud tells us that only those prophecies that contain messages for all generations were recorded for posterity (Megillah 14A). So it is clear that this Haftarah - in which Hashem requests from the prophet Yirmiyahu to buy a field in during the collapse of the Kingdom of Yehudah - must also contain a message for us.

Hashem tells Yirmiyahu: Your cousin will ask you buy his field because of his financial hardship, and you should do so (Yirmiyahu 32:6-7). But why should he? Soon no kingdom will even exist?! And Yirmiyahu himself had been warning the Nations for years that all sorts of treaties made with surrounding nations lacked any meaning! The only possibility for salvation would be the ethical and spiritual integrity of the Nation – something which, barring a miracle, seems impossible based on the Nation’s current state. But as we know, miracles do not interfere with free will. Yirmiyahu had been predicting the impending disaster for so long that those with a surface view saw him as a prophet of doom, and Babylonia, the enemy of Israel, saw him as a friend. All seemed lost. Hashem therefore had to specifically instruct him to buy the field. But why? It is true that one should help a relative who is mired in financial difficulty by buying his field, but this is with the purpose of working Eretz Yisrael. But here the future was so bleak. What is the point?

At this time Yirmiyahu was in prison - not because of any criminal act, but on account of a "Divine" transgression. His imprisonment resulted from his firm and harsh prophecies, which did not find favor with the political leadership of that period. In order to circumvent his prophecies as well as protect the prophet from the Nation's revenge, King Tzikiyahu bowed to political pressure and imprisoned him. In fact, following his prophecy regarding the destruction of the Temple, Yirmiyahu was saved from a public lynching at the last moment by Achikam, who was from a pro-Babylonian party (Yirmiyahu 19).
Yirmiyahu was thus in prison when his cousin visited. "Just as Hashem said, my cousin Chanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard. 'Buy my field at Anatot in the territory of Binyamin since it is your right to redeem it and possess it. Buy it for yourself'" (ibid. 32:8). Despite the bizarre nature of the Divine command, the prophet remained a loyal servant and sealed the deal while in jail. "I knew that this was the word of Hashem and I brought the field at Anatot from my cousin Chanamel and paid him seventeen shekels of silver" (ibid. v. 8-9). A deal is a deal, and it had to be completely legal: "I took the deed of purchase -- the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy – and gave this deed to Baruch ben Neriah ben Machseyah, in the presence of my cousin Chanamel and the witnesses who had signed the deed, and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard" (ibid. v. 11-12). This was not some mystical ceremony but an actual business deal.

After he fulfilled Hashem's will, the prophet expressed his surprise and pain: "See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it… And you told me Hashem G-d: 'Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed, and the city being overtaken by the Babylonians'" (ibid. v. 24-25). Is this really the proper time for such a deal? The Nation of Israel is in mortal danger!?
Hashem answers that while Jerusalem will indeed fall to the Babylonians, it is only a temporary tragedy: "I will gather them from all the lands where I banish them in My furious anger and great wrath, I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be My Nation, and I will be their G-d. I will give them one heart and one path to fear Me for all days for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them… I will rejoice in doing them good and will plant them securely in this Land with all My heart and soul" (ibid. v. 37-41).

We must be armed with historical patience. A person cannot stop history from unfolding, despite the difficulties involved. Yirmiyahu was able to accept the Divine plan when he understood that our historical path has direction and meaning.

As we said, only the prophecies required for later generations were recorded (Megillah 14a). The same questions which Yirmiyahu asked are also asked in our time. Many people today are concerned about the demographic demon of the non-Jews in Israel. But the lesson learned from Yirmiyahu is that we are obligated to elevate ourselves above this confused thinking. We must continue to build ourselves in our Land and implant ourselves in it, to buy fields and houses, without consideration for the seemingly unsolvable problems. They will be solved in the future and we will then see with our own eyes the fulfillment of the eternal prophecy of Yirmiyahu:"For this is what Hashem of Hosts, the G-d of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land' (ibid. v. 15).

The Great Rabbi Chaim Druckman – Our Master and Teacher

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

I am joyous that Ha-Rav Chaim Druckman received the Israel Prize because he is my master and teacher. Obviously he is not just mine, but also the master and teacher of many tens and thousands. When I was a boy I began studying Torah from him and I saw a true Torah scholar, full of fine character traits, fear of G-d, and warmth. And I said to myself, “This is a genuine Torah scholar of Eretz Yisrael. He is pure fire. All should admire him.”

Rav Druckman is a normal Torah scholar. He’s no extremist. Don’t take that description for granted. Rambam writes that the middle road that eschews the extremes is the path of G-d. It is the high road, the path G-d wants us to take, as it says, “Follow His pathways” (Devarim 28:9).

And all this is so because before being a disciple of Moshe – in Torah – Rav Chaim is a disciple of our forefather Avraham – in character refinement.

It is this which makes our master Rav Chaim a true educator, and Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, in his day, declared that Rav Druckman was “our country’s true Minister of Education”. He is a magnificent educator, because he sees the good in everyone. He therefore loves everyone and everyone loves him. There isn’t one person in our country who could hate him. All the same, this love of his is not an empty gesture or a trick. Rather, very simply, because Rav Druckman doesn’t have a drop of malice, because he is total kindness, total goodness, total love for every Jew, as well as for every person who joins the Jewish People, he therefore became the head of Israel’s conversion program and has signed on the conversion documents of 50,000 souls who have come under the wings of the Divine presence.

He is the great educator who walks before the camp. Bnei Akiva can lift its eyes to him and say, “This is our master.” The yeshiva high schools can raise their heads and say, “This is our master.” He has a great claim, as well, as far as the “Hesder Yeshivot”, those yeshivot that combine army service with Torah learning.

In his own home, as well, he adopted a child with Down’s Syndrome, as if he didn’t have enough challenges of his own. Yet if someone embodies kindness, he is kindness all the way. His is the kindness of Torah.

And let us not forget his wife, the Rabbanit Sara, the devoted physician, who certainly on the same level as my master and teacher Rav Chaim.

In the political sphere as well, Rav Chaim was guided by our master Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, in his holy work of educating the nation. Indeed, a politician is supposed to educate the Nation. That is Rav Chaim: an educator on the individual and national level.

Rav Chaim is a Torah scholar who sanctifies G-d’s name on earth, in accordance with our Sages’ words at the end of Yoma, and Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei Ha-Torah at the end of Chapter 5: “What constitutes the profanation of G-d’s name? It’s when a great Torah scholar, renowned for saintliness, commits acts that lead to people mocking him. And even if those acts are not sins, he has still profaned G-d’s name. An example would be his buying something in a store without paying for it immediately… or his engaging in much commerce… or his failing to address people gently or to receive them graciously, but rather angrily and argumentatively.”

By contrast, “if the Torah scholar scrupulously makes sure to greet all people gently, humbly and graciously, and he suffers insult without insulting in return, if he treats others with respect, even those that treat him lightly, and if he radiates integrity in his business dealings… until everyone praises him and loves him and appreciates his deeds, then he has sanctified G-d’s name. Of him it says, ‘You are My servant, Israel in whom I glory’ (Yeshayahu 49:3).”

Indeed, Rav Druckman is amongst those who suffer insult without insulting in return.

He really does get insulted and hurt a great deal. It is impossible to describe just how much, and it really does hurt him, but he never returns an insult.

Such is the humble person under discussion. He is an open saint, but a secret saint as well. In other words, his personality is so open, it radiates so fully, it has such a great influence, that one could think that what we see is all there is. Yet that is not the case. There is to his modesty much more than what we see. Don’t ask me what. I don’t know. Because Rav Chaim is a humble, modest person, who doesn’t often reveal what’s inside of him.

Yet it’s clear that within his spiritual psyche there are entire universes of magnificent holiness of which we see only the periphery.

Well done, Rav Chaim! Go forth with your strength and have courage. Keep up your great and holy work on behalf of our people and our land, because we need you. Continue faithfully occupying yourself with the needs of the community, and G-d will bestow a blessing on your handiwork, and all that you do shall succeed.

Biography of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, including Ha-Rav Aviner

Parashat Emor: Cohanim in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah in Hevron

Question: Is it permissible for a Cohain to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah?

Answer: There is a halachic dispute about whether or not the graves of the righteous are impure. If the graves of the righteous are not impure, then it would be permissible for Cohanim to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, Kever Rachel, the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, et al. While some do permit this, most authorities rule that the graves of the righteous are impure and it is therefore forbidden for Cohanim to enter. It is not permissible however, to give lashes to someone who does enter, since there are those who permit it. Some authorities also explain that Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah is built so that the lower structure, where the graves are located, is covered and detached from the building. Much has been written about this issue. I do not know much about this, though, since I am a Cohain and have never been inside Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not visit the graves of the righteous in general since he was a Cohain (Le-Shelosha Be-Elul vol. 1, p. 76) and accordingly did not enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. I am not more righteous than Maran Ha-Rav Kook, so I also do not enter.
The same question applies to Kever Rachel. Even according to the opinion that the graves of the righteous are impure, some say that the building was made in a way to make it permissible for Cohanim to enter. Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu relates that he once told our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, that it is written in the book "Kuntres Yechi’eli" that it is permissible for Cohanim to enter Kever Rachel. Our Rabbi asked him: what do people say there? He answered: they read the verses about our mother Rachel. Our Rabbi travelled there, but only went as far as the door. When he returned, Ha-Rav Eliyahu asked him: why didn’t you enter? He answered: My father did not enter, therefore I did not enter" (Parashah Sheet "Kol Tzofa’ich #279. See also Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah - Eretz Yisrael p. 142 note 1 that after the Six-Day War, the students of our Rabbi organized a trip to the liberated areas in the Shomron. One of the places they visited was Kever Yosef. The students entered, but our Rabbi remained outside, because he was a Cohain). Again, Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, so I do not.
[M. Tzion – note: We can also mention that in the book "Ke-Chitzim Be-Yad Giborim" (vol. 3, p. 108), Ha-Rav Avichai Ronski, the former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, was asked: is it permissible for a soldier who is a Cohain to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah for a tour, in order to learn about the place in the event that there is a terrorist attack there and his unit needs to take action? Ha-Rav Ronski answers that it is permissible for three reasons: 1. It is obvious and clear that the security apparatus which would be sent on such a mission must train for it properly. 2. In general, it is not clear that the graves of our forefathers are directly located under the floor of the prayer halls, and even if they are located there, it is possible that the impurity does not break out and spread upward since it there may be hollow spaces larger than a "tefach" (handbreath – 7.6 cm-9.6 cm) which separate the floor from the graves. 3. There are Rishonim (Rabbis of the Middle Ages) who ruled that the graves of the righteous do not cause impurity, and Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu permits Cohanim to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah and Kever Rachel. Even though the majority of authorities prohibit entering, it is possible to add this lenient opinion to the other reasons that permit it. Ha-Rav Aviner writes in his comments to this book that it is important to know that the first reason is the main one, and the second and third reasons are only additional minority positions which can be added to permit it. And we must point this out so that people do not learn that there is an all-encompassing heter to enter.]
Question: If Cohanim enter one of the Kivrei Tzadikim, such as Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah or Kever Rachel, and they recite Birkat Cohanim, should one recite Amen since there are a minority of authorities who allow Cohanim to enter, or should one refrain from reciting Amen since it is a Mitzvah which is performed through a transgression?

Answer: Yes, one should recite Amen, since they have on whom to rely to enter. In a case where there is a dispute as to whether to recite a blessing, and one relies on the permissive opinion, he does not perform a transgression. But, those who follow the authorities who rule that one should not recite a blessing, should not recite Amen, since it is an Amen in vain. The dispute here, however, is not regarding whether one should recite the blessing, but rather if one should enter. But after he enters, he should recite the Birkat Cohanim, and one should respond Amen.

Q: If a Cohain receives the first Aliyah of the Torah reading in one of the Kivrei Tzadikim, should one respond Amen?

A: Yes. Same as above.

Participating in a Seudat Mitzvah

Stories of our Rabbi -
Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi related this Dvar Torah many times: The Gemara in Sanhedrin (71a) says that a Ben Sorer U-Moreh (Rebellious Son - see Devarim 21:18-21 who is killed on account of where his current transgressions will lead. Among others things, he eats meats and drinks wine like a glutton.) who eats as part of a group fulfilling a Mitzvah is exempt from the law of Ben Sorer U-Moreh. Rashi (ibid. 71b) brings two examples of such a group: eating a sacrifice in the Temple and eating the Korban Pesach.

But a difficulty can be raised on Rashi's comment: the Korban Pesach is eaten roasted, and a Ben Sorer U-Morer – whether he eats as part of a group fulfilling a Mitzvah or not – only receives capital punishment if he eats raw meat. How then could Rashi bring an example of the Korban Pesach which is never eaten raw?

Our Rabbi explains that the Ben Sorer U-Moreh in this case was not eating from the roasted Korban Pesach, from his own raw meat, while sitting with a group who was eating the roasted Korban Pesach. Even this slight participation with a group fulfilling a Mitzvah exempts him from capital punishment, even though he was eating raw meat.

Our Rabbi would mention this Dvar Torah when he arrived late to a Brit Milah or had to leave a Simchah early, but was at least able to make it for part of the meal. He would use this idea to emphasize the great value in participating in a Seudat Mitzvah, even if only for a short time (Be-Shipulei Ha-Gelimah of Ha-Rav Yair Oriel, pp. 84-85).

Tax Evasion

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Acharei-Kedoshim 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Question: What should I do if my employer evades taxes? Am I allowed to work for him? Likewise, am I allowed to buy in a store that evades taxes?

Answer: Tax evasion is theft. There is no difference between stealing from an individual and stealing from the public. The public pays taxes in exchange for various governmental services, and tax evaders receive, through theft, services for which they did not pay. Now then, if you are a partner in evading taxes, as for example, when someone sells products without giving a receipt in return, then not only your employer is evading taxes, but now you, yourself, are evading taxes, i.e., you are stealing. Therefore, you are obligated to tell your employer that you cannot be partner to that theft, even if this means he will dismiss you from your work.

A person is not allowed to do a sin, even if his livelihood depends on it. One is not required to fulfill a mitzvah if he has no money, as when he has no money to purchase Tefillin.

Such is not the case regarding a sin. One is forbidden to do a sin even if he will thereby lose a lot of money (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 656). Sometimes, our Sages permitted violating a Rabbinic prohibition in the case of great potential loss, but that was only in extraordinary situations, and anyway, here we are not talking about a Rabbinic prohibition, but about the Torah prohibition against theft. Therefore, if a person is being obligated to be a partner to theft, he must vacate that workplace.

True, if he not partner to the sin, but he knows about it, then he is like any person who knows about tax evasion. Does the law require that he report it? One has a duty to report only a criminal act, such as murder, assault or theft (!). But is there is duty to report it according to Jewish law? Yes, there is, as part of “returning a lost object” (Shemot 23:4).

Money stolen from the public has to be returned. It can be viewed in terms of “Do not profit by the blood of your fellow” (Vayikra 19:16).

Rambam explains that this negative precept is not just violated when A wants to steal directly from B, but also when A wants to cause B to lose his money. Therefore, if someone has critical information he is obligated to testify, first of all as part of the laws of testimony, but, adds Rambam, also as part of “Do not profit by the blood of your fellow.”

It thus follows that according to Jewish law, whoever knows about tax evasion, whether by his own employer, or by anyone else, he is obligated to report it, in order to save those being stolen from.

Yet this is a complicated law, for by such means we become involved in the laws of Lashon Hara, forbidden gossip, and Rav Yisrael Meir Ha-Cohain explains in his work, “Chafetz Chaim” that in order to be allowed to report something bad about someone, certain conditions must be met: something beneficial must result from it, the person speaking the Lashon Hara must have that benefit in mind, it must be impossible to achieve that benefit otherwise, etc. It is a complicated issue. Obviously, we are not talking about someone who works for the Tax Authorities and must ascertain whether the law is being followed. He is certainly doing a great mitzvah. As far as a regular person goes, however, this is a complex topic, for the fear is that an atmosphere will take hold in which everyone will begin reporting on everyone else. It’s a complex topic, both for the citizen, and for the worker.

Yet we needn’t forbid a worker to work for an employer who does something illegal, if that worker, himself, is not involved, just as we needn’t forbid his working for someone who violates the Sabbath, when the worker has no connection to that. After all, it isn’t easy to find work. As for buying from a store that evades taxes, or receiving the work or services of a person who evades taxes, there are three situations:

1. The customer is not obligated, whether according to secular law or Jewish law, to check whether the worker keeps proper books or to demand a receipt from him. It’s good to demand one, but there is no obligation.

2. If he becomes aware, however, that the seller or the worker evades taxes, he’s not allowed to buy from him. Otherwise he’s considered to be buying from a thief, which renders one, to a certain extent, a partner in thievery. After all, if the thief finds no one to sell to, he will stop stealing. As our Sages said, “It’s not the mouse that steals, but the hole.” If the mouse has no hole in which to hide its food, it won’t steal.

3. If the seller offers a discount if the customer pays in cash and doesn’t demand a receipt, then the customer is not just assisting the thief, but is himself a thief. Both are thieves, partners in theft, splitting the theft between them.

By the way, a little story. A person invented something that brought him income, and others stole the idea and earned money at his expense. I suggested to him to ask Rabbis to write that it is forbidden to steal his idea from him, and he responded, “I’ve got a lot of experience with this. People listen to rabbis on the laws of Kashrut, but not on the laws of theft. They steal copyrights and they steal taxes.”

Very sad.

Let us be strong and courageous.