Shut SMS #171

Tefillin and Minyan

Q: If someone does not have Tefillin, which is preferable – Davening with a Minyan without Tefillin or on his own with Tefillin?

A: Tefillin.  Mishnah Berrurah 25:40.

Drafting Yeshiva Students

Q: Do Charedi Yeshiva students need to be drafted into Tzahal?

A: 1. Yes, being drafted into Tzahal is a Mitzvah, and there is no exemption.  2. One can postpone his army service in order to grow in Torah learning.  3. A matter such as this cannot be forced upon the Charedim, rather we must gird ourselves with patience out of a mutual understanding that the Roshei Yeshiva will education their students about  the importance of being drafted (see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, p. 118.  Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Tzava Ve-Yeshiva.  Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:368).

Honoring Parents and Tzahal

Q: My parents do not want me to go into the army.  Am I obligated to listen to them?

A: No.  Honoring parents does not apply if one's parents try to prevent him from fulfilling a Mitzvah.  One should obviously try to reason with and calm them (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 240:14).

Divorcee Covering her Hair

Q: Does a divorcee still have to cover her hair?

A: Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein has two Teshuvot where he writes that one may rely on the opinion that the obligation for a woman to cover her hair is a positive Mitzvah and not a transgression, and one may therefore be lenient in an extenuating circumstance, such as one who cannot find a spouse because people think she is married (because her hair is covered).  And the same applies to a widow (Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:57 and 4:32 #4).

Yehoshua Bin Nun

Q: Why did Yehoshua Bin Nun in particular merit to succeed Moshe Rabbenu?

A:  One who plants a date tree will eat of its fruit.  On account of his self-sacrifice for Torah learning with him day and night during the course of 40 years.

Avraham Avinu

Q: What should I learn from Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imanu?

A: Pursue righteousness and seek Hashem.  "Hearken to me, pursuers of righteousness, you seekers of Hashem, look at the rock from which you were hewn… Avraham your father and at Sarah who bore you."  Yeshayahu 51:1-2.

Hugging and Kissing in Shul

Q: Is it permissible to hug and kiss a friend in Shul?

A: In general, it is forbidden (Shut Orach Mishpat #22).  Although Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein would kiss his grandchildren in the Beit Midrash of his Yeshiva "Metivta Tiferet Yerushalayim".  He held that the prohibition against expressing love in Shul [Rama, Orach Chaim 98:1], which serves to “instill within one’s heart that there is no love like the love for the Almighty, Blessed is He", is only during the times of prayer, since the Shulchan Aruch brings this law in the Laws of Prayer and not in the Laws of the Holiness of a Shul.  Meged Givot Olam vol. 1, p. 92.  And when Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira – Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz Ha-Rav – visited Yeshiva University, he met Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik in the Beit Midrash and Ha-Rav Shapira kissed Ha-Rav Soloveitchik for all to see.  Many were surprised, and asked: How could Ha-Rav Shapira kiss him when the Halachah is that it is forbidden to kiss another person in a Shul or Beit Midrash?  Ha-Rav Shapira explained to Ha-Rav Nachum Lamm – President of the Yeshiva – explained that Ha-Rav Soloveitchik has the status of a Sefer Torah, and it is impossible to pass him without kissing him. (Rosh Devarcha, pp. 174-175.  "Vayehe Binso'a Ha-Aron" – eulogy for Ha-Rav Shapira by Ha-Rav Eitan Eisman, p. 45.  And see Shut Yechaveh Da'at 4:12 where Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef discusses the Sefardic custom to kiss the Rabbi's hand as a sign of respect, and therefore permits it in a Shul).

Haftarat Devarim: Gentle Rebuke

[Ashkenazim/Sefardim: Yeshayahu 1:1-27

Yemenite Jews: Yeshayahu 1:1-31]

Although the prophet Yeshayahu compared the behavior of Israel to the residents of Sedom and Amorah, he still carefully guarded his love for them.  We hear the message clearly, since "things that come from the heart, enter the heart."

"Hear the word of Hashem, officers of Sedom, listen to the Torah of our G-d, Nation of Amorah" (Yeshayahu 1:10). The harshness of the prophet's words shocks us.  Sedom and Amorah are the supreme symbols of wickedness and ethical decay.  This is similar in our day to calling another person a Nazi!  How could such abusive words emanate from the mouth of the prophet, the loyal agent of the Master of the Universe?!  "Sinful Nation, a Nation loaded with guilt, seed of evildoers, children given to corruption" (ibid. v, 4)!  "Therefore, the Master, Hashem of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: I will get relief from My foes and avenge Myself on my enemies" (ibid. v. 24).”  Is it really possible to relate to the Nation of Israel as the enemy of Hashem?

In the face of such harshness, we must point out that according to Halachah the mitzvah of rebuke must be accomplished with gentleness and love (see Rambam, Hilchot De'ot 6:8), since words spoken aggressively are never heard.  In addition, this mitzvah must be accompanied by two other mitzvot: Do not hate your brother in your heart and love him.  "Things that come from the heart enter the heart" (Maharam Alshich on the verse "With all your heart").  Rebuke out of love, saturated with affection for the other person, cannot be refused, while harsh words are ignored from the outset.

But – don't worry – Yeshayahu is not delivering hatred.  Despite his harsh words, he is a prophet of love.  All of his prophecies are laced with love and comfort.  In the same chapter, he says "Zion will be redeemed with justice, and those who return to her with righteousness" (ibid. v. 27).  For the Nation of Israel, nothing is irreversible: "I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning.  Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City" (ibid. v. 26).  What a sign of loyalty!

How then can we reconcile the difficult nature of this prophecy?  Through a parable brought by our Rabbis in the Zohar: A father is enraged at his son and is ready to hit him.  His mother yells and stops the father's impeding strike.  The son sighs a sigh of relief.  What he did not know is that his two parents were in it together.  Their roles complemented one another: one represented strict punishment and the other represents security and forgiveness (Zohar, Vayikra 14:2).  Did the father really want to wound his son?  Did the mother really want to ignore her son’s sinful behavior?  The parents therefore created a plan to instill fear into the child and put him on the correct path.

This parable is used to explain the aftermath of the Sin of the Golden Calf.  "Hashem said to Moshe…Leave Me now so My anger will burn against them and I will destroy them" (Shemot 32:10).  This was obviously not Hashem’s intention. He remained the loving and merciful Father, but wanted to instill fear within us so we would repent.

The Zohar teaches us the role of the mother who would save her son – before Moshe Rabbenu even knew it.  Hashem therefore hinted to Moshe Rabbenu: "Leave Me."  Moshe Rabbenu then understood that it was his responsibility to pray and plead for Divine forgiveness for His Nation.  The Torah tells us that his request was answered, and he succeeded in canceling the Divine punishment.  But if it were not for the fact that Hashem forgave them for the Sin of the Golden Calf, they would not have understood either the severity of their sin or their ability to repent.

The same applies to Yeshayahu.  He had to shock the Nation of Israel so that they would understand their corrupt ways and return to the right path.  "Wash and make yourselves pure, take your evil deeds out of my sight!  Stop doing evil.  Learn to do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (ibid. v. 16-17).  We clearly see that the prophet had complete hope and trust that he could help the Nation repent.  "Come and reason together, says Hashem, though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they will be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat from the best of the Land" (ibid. v. 18-19).

If we review all of Yeshayahu's prophecies, we see that his words are always words of comfort.  He is the one who discusses the coming of the Messiah at length (chap. 11).  Out of this fatherly love occasionally appears tough rebuke, but included in it are expressions of love.  The right and obligation of a loving father is to occasionally deliver harsh rebuke to his son.

The Nation of Israel did not question for even a second Yeshayahu's love and self-sacrifice for them, and his unending faith that the Nation would return to the ethical and holy path.

Daily Study of Faith

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Matot-Masa'ei 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

The innovation of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, said Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, or, more precisely, one of its innovations, is the study of faith.

Obviously, no innovation is really involved. The study of faith is part of the study of Torah - but over time it had been forgotten. There was a need to awaken it once more, to restore such study to its rightful glory. Our greatest Torah luminaries sorrowfully noted this abandonment, as, for example, in Mesillat Yesharim, Chovot Ha-Levavot, and the Sefer “Tikunei Ha-Zohar” commenting on what it called “Oraita Yevesha” [“dry” or sterile Torah].

Moreover, transcending those works, the Tanach itself records what the prophets had to say about “the guardians of the Torah who ignore G-d” (Yirmiyahu 2:8). This omission did great harm, for Torah is not just a matter of Mitzvah observance, but of keeping the Torah based on faith. G-d’s commandments are enormously broad, enormously profound. They possess a soul.

Therefore, the Torah includes two parts:

1. The study of Talmud and Jewish law, which guide us in what to do.

2. The study of faith, which guides us in what to believe, what to think, what to feel.

The expression “study of faith” is an innovation of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, and also seems to conceal within it a contradiction: “Study” involves the intellect, whereas “faith” is life. Yet the Vilna Gaon said long ago – and this is the source of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah’s utterances – that we have to study the book “Kuzari” because the main tenets of Jewish faith and of the Torah depend on it. Thus, we are supposed to study faith.

As far as the spiritual connection between study and faith, we find two verses, the one (Kohelet 7:12), “Wisdom preserves the life of him who possesses it”, and the second (Habakuk 2:4), “The righteous man shall live by his faith”. Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohai Kook explained that wisdom, itself, is not life. Yet if it is studied properly, it can afford one life. Faith, by contrast, is life.

What emerges from all of the preceding is that we must set aside time for daily study of faith. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught the yeshiva that faith must be studied daily, for no less than an hour and for no more than two hours. Obviously, however, even someone who is not a yeshiva student needs that same spiritual nourishment, for that is what nourishes the soul. More precisely, study of the Talmud and of Jewish law nourishes the soul as well, but study of faith is the life’s breath of the soul.

And how fine and how natural it is that this initiative emerged from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, the central, universal yeshiva, the mother of all our religious Zionist yeshivot. As Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah wrote, “To help our souls… by setting aside time to study all those precious works on morality and reverence for G-d, from both the earlier and later periods, those involving the revealed knowledge and those involving the hidden knowledge, one work after another, and striving to ascend along the pathway of philosophy and analysis…” (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah, Igeret 95).

Shut SMS #170

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

Learning Tanach with Emunah

Biblical Criticism

Q: It is permissible to mention the questions of Biblical Criticism in order to bring our answers?

A: Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah once yelled at someone who asked this question.  We should not mention Biblical Criticism at all (see Rambam, Avodah Zarah 2:2).

Moral Message

Q: Why don't we describe our Forefather's actions as immoral in order to impart a moral message?

A: A shrewd trick to slander our Forefathers. 

Holiness of our Forefathers

Q: Were our Forefathers and Foremothers in the Tanach holy people?

A: What a question!  Holy with a holiness beyond our understanding.

Where is it Written

Q: Where do we find in the Tanach itself that our Forefathers were spiritual giants and not merely regular people?

A: If they were merely regular people, why did Hashem reveal Himself to them and establish their path as a guide for us?

Lashon Ha-Ra about People in the Tanach

Q: What is the problem with speaking negatively about people in the Tanach?

A: Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein relates in the preface to the volume 8 of Shut Igrot Moshe, an incident which occurred in the city in Russia where he served as Rabbi.  A man became ill with a horrible sickness: his tongue swelled up within his mouth, he was unable to speak and he eventually died.  A day before his death, Rav Moshe came to visit him and the man asked that everyone leave the room. He had something private and of great importance to discuss with the Rav.  He explained that he had given a class and had discussed Lot's older daughter who named her son Moav – from father.  She was the progenitor of the Moabite People, which means that she is the ancestor of Rut, who is the great-grandmother of King David, from whom the Messiah will descend.  How could it be, he had asked, that this woman, who had no shame, and therefore publicized her illicit and immoral behavior by giving her son a name that would ever recall her sinful act, was granted such honor?  He spared no words in denigrating her behavior.  He continued: "That night, two elderly women appeared to me in a dream. Their heads and faces were covered, and they said they were Lot's daughters.  They had heard my complaint about their behavior and came from the World of Truth to convey to me a justification for their actions.  Since it was well-known that Avraham Avinu, their uncle, was an individual for whom miracles were commonplace, they feared that people might say that their sons were conceived by immaculate conception.  There were no men around, so how else could they have been conceived?  In order to prevent another religion such as Christianity from being established by this misunderstanding, they decided to publicize the source of their conception.   Their motives were pure and lofty.  Since he had spoken ill against them and defamed their character, he was to be punished as the spies in the wilderness were punished. Their tongues swelled, and they died an unusual death."  Ha-Rav Feinstein says that this seems correct. 

Don't speak Lashon Ha-Ra about people and incidents you don't know about.  And if this is true for the daughters of Lot, it is all the more so for our holy Forefathers and Foremothers. 

The Essence – The Mitzvot

Q: What is the problem with saying that our Forefathers were not completely morally upright?  After all, isn't the essence of the Torah to perform Mitzvot?

A: This also uproots the obligation to fulfill the Mitzvot.

We are Morally Superior to the Forefathers

Q: What is the problem with saying that we are morally superior to the Forefathers?

A: I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you do not know them.

Drafting Yeshiva Students into Tzahal

Question: Some people bring as a proof that Yeshiva students should not be drafted the Gemara in Baba Batra (8a) which says that "Torah scholars do not require protection".

Answer: The Radvaz (2:752, brought in Pitchei Teshuvah Yoreh Deah 243:2) already explained that this principle only applies under three conditions:

1. In monetary matters.

2. For great Torah scholars and not merely yeshiva students.

3. When they do not want protection at all. But in Israel, they do not want to protect, but they do want to be protected by others.

This Gemara is therefore irrelevant to the discussion.

(See Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:368 which deals with the obligation of yeshiva students to serve in Tzahal).

Haftarat Matot-Masa'ei: The Return to Zion Purifies

[Ashekenazim: Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4

Sefardim/Yemenite Jews: Yirmiyahu 2:4-3:28, 4:1-2]

During different periods, especially during the time of the Aliyah of North African Jews, the question has arisen: Is it preferable for religious Jews to remain religious in Exile, or to come to Israel with the risk that they might be influenced by the secular and abandon traditional observance?

"I brought you into the Land of Carmel to eat its fruit and goodness, but you came and defiled My Land and made my inheritance an abomination" (Yirmiyahu 2:7).  This Land was supposed to be a place of material and spiritual happiness for us, but it turned into a den of transgressors.  Hashem certainly did not take us out of Egypt for this purpose: "Where is Hashem, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the desert, in a land of plain and rifts, a land of waste and darkness, a land where no one has passed and no one lives?" (ibid. v. 6).  After we left the horrible desert and arrived in the Land of milk and honey, we wasted the Divine opportunity.  We acted without gratitude to Hashem, and defiled the Land.

To our great distress, this process has been reenacted in our time.  Hashem rescued us from the Exile, miraculously brought us to our Land in His kindness…and we turned our backs on Him, desecrated every ideal, every purity and every holiness.

This reality has led some Rabbis to question the value of the Zionist movement.  Jews return to the Land in order to desecrate the Halachah?!  Perhaps it would have been better to remain in Exile.  This Land is holy, and our Sages taught that a sin in the Land of Israel is much worse than a sin performed outside of Israel: One who shames the king in the street cannot be compared to one who does so in the royal palace!  The Torah itself warns: "Let not the Land vomit you out when you defile it" (Vayikra 18:28).  If this is so, then what is the point of coming and defiling the Land – to be exiled again?

But the Zionist movement is legitimate and follows the Divine will.  The midrash explains our verse from Yirmiyahu (2:7) "You came and defiled My Land" as meaning "If only My children would come and defile My Land" (Yalkut Shimoni Eichah #1038).

Furthermore, there are those who claim that there is no mitzvah to make Aliyah because there is a danger that one will become corrupt by being distanced from the Torah.  But the Gemara and halachic authorities themselves explain that one should live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshipers (Ketubot 110b.  Shulchan Aruch Even Ha-Ezer 75:3), despite the potential negative influence.  Although some authorities have written that in this regard heretics are worse than non-Jews, and there is a greater chance that they will have a negative influence, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Eliyahu Klatzkin explained in a small book of Halachah called "Dvar Halachah" (#38 p. 27a) that the same law applies in a city in Eretz Yisrael where the majority of residents are heretics.  His proof is from the Gemara in Eruvin (61b-62a.  Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim #385) where the law appears that it is impossible to make an "Eruv Chatzerot" (lit. mixed [ownership of] courtyards, which allows one to carry within the courtyard on Shabbat) with a Tzeduki (Saducee, i.e. a heretic), and various options are given if one lives in the same house as a Tzeduki.  But there is no mention of any prohibition of living in such a place, or any obligation to live in a place solely populated by observant Jews.  He adds that a person’s failure to observe the mitzvot of Hashem because he is concerned that spiritual damage will result, is discussed by the Gemara in Berachot (10a) regarding King Chizkiyahu, who did not engage in the mitzvah of procreation since he saw through Divine intuition that wicked children would issue from him.  The prophet Yeshayahu said to him: "What you are commanded to do, you must do!"  And Ha-Rav Klatzkin added (ibid.): As if there is permission to act wiser that Hashem's mitzvot (see Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit p. 276)! 

There is a story that after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews from North Africa and Yemen made Aliyah and were abandoning traditional observance.  The person who headed the Department of Aliyah at the Jewish Agency was a Torah scholar named Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Shragai, and he was being eaten up inside by this fact.  He did not know whether it was proper to continue to bring Jews to Israel under such circumstances.  Although he was encouraged by Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, the author of Shut Seridei Aish, and Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yosef Soloveitchik, he was still greatly troubled.  He went to the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Tzvi Pesach Frank, and asked him what to do.  Rav Frank said to him: Can you do me a favor and hand me the Yalkut Shimoni?  He opened it and showed Rav Shragai the words of the Yalkut Shimoni on Megillat Eichah: "Hashem says: If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure."  And he continued: What do you want from me - to transgress the words of our Sages?!  You are not responsible for what is occurring.  You must bring Jews to Israel and make every effort to connect them to Torah.  Rav Shragai continued to bring Jews to Israel and mentioned this story at various times.  In the book "Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael" (p. 57, 221-222), there is a letter of Rav Shragai describing exactly what happened, which he sent to me.  It is even more severe in this case since we are not discussing unobservant Jews outside of Israel, but observant Jews who made Aliyah and then were no longer observant.  If this is so, what was Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank's calculation?  Rav Shragai once visited France in a place settled by many North Africa Jews who did not make Aliyah, and he saw their situation.  They did not only abandon traditional observance, but abandoned Judaism altogether – complete assimilation.  He then understood that Ha-Rav Frank was correct that we should bring the Nation of Israel to the Land of Israel and we should know that everything will work out in the end.

We can also recall that a certain Rav once explained the line in the Haggadah, "If we received the Torah, but did not enter the Land of Israel – it would have been enough," that it would have been better for the non-religious pioneers to have remained outside of Israel rather than to commit sins in the Land of Israel.  These words caused much consternation, and when the students came to class, they told our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, what they had heard.  They thought he would discuss this issue at length, but his response was brief: "See Yalkut Shimoni #1038" and taught the class as usual (Iturei Cohanim #181).

When the Belzer Rebbe (Ha-Rav Aharon Rokeach) made Aliyah, he came to Reb Noson (Ha-Rav Shalom Natan Ra'anan Kook, Maran Ha-Rav Kook's son-in-law) and said: we differed with you regarding the way to bring Jews on Aliyah.  We said that they should first be strengthened in Judaism outside of the Land and only then make Aliyah, in order to build in holiness. You said that every one of them should quickly come on Aliyah without calculation.  Since the Holocaust, it has become clear to us that we erred, and we are greatly distressed over this fact.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook taught us that the process of the return to Zion would be similar to the return of Ezra in the Second Temple Period.  Many wealthy and important Jews remained in the Exile, and a small and not so righteous group accompanied Ezra to Eretz Yisrael.  These Jews slowly returned to Torah, thus paving the way for the building of the Second Temple and the development of the Oral Torah (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah, igeret #311).  Maran Ha-Rav Kook also taught us not to overly check the "Kashrut" of those who make Aliyah, since the Land of Israel naturally allows those worthy to reside within her, and she vomits out the inappropriate people (ibid., Igeret 82).

Through the meeting of the hidden holiness of the Nation of Israel and the hidden holiness of the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel will repent.  It is only a matter of time and patience.      

The War over Migron and over Judea and Samaria

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

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook proclaimed before the Jewish People, and before the entire world: “Over Judea and Samaria there will be war”, and “[We will halt its relinquishment] ‘with our bodies’” (Le-Hilchot Tzibbur, p. 214, p. 226).  When he was asked whether he meant civil war, he refused to answer. Afterwards he clarified to the Tzahal Commander-in-Chief that he did not mean civil war, or a war of the settlers against the army.

Here is what he wrote:

“Our devoted Sages instructed the Jewish People in how to wage war against the nations. Let us hope that matters will never come to the Jewish People waging war against their own failed government.”

Thus, what he was referring to was a situation in which the entire Jewish People are at war with their government. He wrote to the Defense Minister, “Over Judea and Samaria there will be an internal war, and when the entire Jewish People rises up against this government, we will obviously side with the entire Jewish People as G-d’s word achieves ascendancy over   G-d’s people and inheritance. We will not take the side of the failed government. The government must serve the people, and not vice versa.”

He further explained to his students that he was not advancing a practical directive but a proclamation of educational value. “I said and I wrote that over Judea and Samaria, Jericho and the Golan, there would be a war. No concessions are imaginable. Such threats, such utterances, such educational messages, must be repeated with regularity, thousands of times, to uproot this corruption, this disease, this weakness, at its source. These lands do not belong to the nations. We did not steal them from the nations. Rather, thank G-d, we have grown, matured, and returned to them. Over Judea and Samaria and the Golan and Jericho there will be a war. We must repeat these threats, these utterances, tomorrow and the day after, relentlessly, in order to express our position with strength and fortitude. We must remind the government and the Jewish People that we must not entertain the least possibility of conceding any part of our Land. We are not the owners of His Land. It belongs to the entire Jewish People. We are the Jews living on it. We are the representatives of the entire Jewish People. We must not betray our Land. We must increase our strength and fortitude to sanctify G-d’s name” (from a tape recording).

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah’s style of speech was thus meant to emphasize in the sharpest terms that there is a terrible and tragic issue at stake.

Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah never gave practical instructions to anyone to go and wage war over Judea and Samaria.


As for Migron, there is good news. We purchased a large part of the area. Hence there is no reason to destroy it and to move its residents to any alternative location. Of course it was always ours to begin with, yet now there is not even any legal pretext for anyone to protest against us. Thus, certainly there is no reason for the government to do anything so terrible as moving the residents.

Let us be strong and resolute for the sake of our Land and the towns of our G-d.

The True Gaon, Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ztz"l

The Ark of G-d, Ha-Gaon, Ha-Tzadik, Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ztz"l, has ascended on high.

The True Gaon – because in our days, every rabbi and Torah scholar is called a "Gaon" for the honor of Torah. We therefore emphasize with great respect that he is a True Gaon.

The True Gaon on account of his virtuous characteristics, on account of his great modesty, since he did not pursue publicity and position, since he was secluded, did not give speeches or appear in public, and lived in an extremely simple apartment.

The True Gaon since he was a "Shakdan" (one who learns Torah with great diligence), just as the book about him is called [Ha-Shakdan], and the first of the 48 ways to acquire Torah is learning (Avot 6:5).  Already in his youth he was a great Shakdan and Torah scholar.  The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yitzchak Isaac Ha-Levi Herzog, therefore appointed him as a judge on the district Beit Din and then quickly to the Beit Din Ha-Gadol. He filled this  position for more than 20 years.

The True Gaon on account of his complete loyalty to Torah and standing with full strength like a wall against any innovation (Chiddush) that was not in accordance with the Torah.  This complete loyalty came through flawless adherence to our holy Rabbis throughout the generations.  If we were asked what was our Rabbi's unique method of learning Torah, we would respond: It is simple, he did not innovate anything. The words of our Rabbis are so great that they do not require innovation.  And so too, if we were asked what was our Rabbi's innovation in his Pesak Halachah? we would respond: He did not innovate anything. How great is the old.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook in fact taught in his book "Olat Ha-Re'eiyah" (vol. 2, p. 152) that Moshe Rabbenu's greatness did not lay in the fact that he created anything new, but in the fact that he received the word of Hashem, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Avot 1:1).  By doing so, he established the principle of adherence among the Nation and all the worlds.  The great innovation of our Rabbi is that he did not innovate, and this itself is a major innovation: the innovation of loyalty to tradition, the innovation of healthy and clear conservatism, the great self-sacrifice for every letter of the Torah.  And when our Rabbi was forced to innovate, the new was entirely old, as Rashi says in the name of our Sages on the verse: "It will be if you surely hearken": "If you hearken to the old, you will hearken to the new" (i.e. if you truly learn the Torah as is, you will gain fresh insights into the Torah you already know.  Devarim 11:13 with Rashi).

The True Gaon, since he also knew how to be lenient when it was needed and required, and in this realm too he did not fear anyone.

The True Gaon since he respected every Torah scholar even if there were differences of opinion.

[For example, in his relationship to Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  His connection with Ha-Rav Kook already began with his grandfather, Ha-Gaon Ha-Gadol Ha-Mekubal, Ha-Rav Shlomo Eliyashuv, the author of "Leshem Shevo Ve-Achlama," from whom Rav Kook learned. And Rav Eliyashuv great respected his student.  He once said: There are different ways in Kabbalah: Ha-Ra'avad and Ha-Ramban, Ha-Ramak and Ha-Ari, Ha-Rama Mi-Pano and Ha-Ramchal, Ha-Gra and others, but Ha-Rav Kook includes all of them, no hidden teaching escapes him.

In the year 5682, Ha-Rav Kook attained permission for Ha-Rav Eliyashuv to make Aliyah, and his grandson, our Rabbi, made Aliyah with him.  Rav Eliyashuv and Rav Kook also learned many nights together in Yerushalayim.  When zealots spoke against Rav Kook. Ha-Rav Eliyashuv silenced them: You can't tell me who he is.  We have spent nights learning together.

R' Aryeh Levin once spoke with Rav Kook about his sorrow that there was a wonderful, righteous, young Torah scholar who would be a great match for his (R' Aryeh's) daughter, but the young man did not respond favorably to his suggestion (either because he thought he had better options or because he was not ready to marry). Rav Kook asked for the identity of the young man, and was told that is was our Rabbi. Maran Ha-Rav called for the young man and spoke to him. The younger Rav Elyashiv then accepted the proposal and the couple married. Rav Kook served as the Mesader Kiddushin.  Ha-Rabbanit Sheina Chaya ztz"l shared her husband's respect for Rav Kook, and when she once saw from the window how people were scorning him on the street and trying to knock off his hat, she was incapacitated for months.

It once happened that one of the editors of the "Otzar Mefarshei Ha-Talmud" (Treasury of Talmudic Commentators) refused to include Rav Kook's teaching on the Gemara, and was therefore fired by the chief editor.  The editor did not accept his decision, and they went to our Rabbi.  Ha-Rav Elyashiv was shocked and said to the editor: "Did you know Ha-Rav Kook?! You should know – he was holy. I would have fired you too."  And this happened with other books as well.]

The True Gaon, the great Gaon has ascended on high, but his strong spirit is spread throughout all parts of the entire Nation.  May we merit following his path and standing with great respect before his memory.

Fortunate am I, the humble one, to merit learning in the building of Yeshivat Torat Chaim (which today houses Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim) where our Rabbi learned in his youth. To stand on the same holy ground, and to learn his teachings.

May his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim.

A Defense of Text Message Responsa

See post by Rabbi Gil Student on Hirhurim Blog

Short & Sweet - Text Message Responsa of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a

200 on an average day, 500 per day before a holiday, and 800 per day during times of war…

This is the number of text message questions received by Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a. With unwavering dedication to the Nation of Israel, an amazing breadth of Torah knowledge, and an incredible gift for brevity, Rav Aviner personally responds to each and every question – whether with a prompt and concise answer, or, in the case of more complex issues, with the suggestion that the questioner call to discuss the matter in depth.

Short and Sweet is but a small sampling of Rav Aviner's never-ending stream of text messages –a window into a new genre of Q&A, borne of modern technology but firmly rooted in traditional rabbinic responsa. Like the millions of little dots that comprise a pointillist painting, these individual responsum coalesce to form a meaningful picture: one that depicts our relationship to the Nation of Israel, our attachment to the Land of Israel, and our love for the State of Israel, Tzahal and the Torah of Israel.

Price: $20 (shipping included)

Text Message Q&A

[Summary of a talk delivered by Ha-Rav Aviner at Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem during a conference on “Halachic Responsa on the Internet and in Electronic Media”]

Question: When one answers text message responsa, isn't there a danger of "cheapening" Halachah?

Answer: There have been and always will be questions and difficulties raised about short answers and brief rulings.

This question was already asked about the work of one of the greatest Rabbis of our Nation: the Rambam's Mishneh Torah.  The Mishneh Torah contains only the laws, without explanation or sources.  The Ra'avad asks: how can one analyze the halachah without providing sources?  The Kesef Mishneh explains the Rambam's rationale: not everyone has the ability to delve into the sources himself.  Balebatim, "laymen", only need the rulings, and not the sources from which they derive.  The Mishneh Torah answers this basic need of the Balebatim (see introduction of the Kesef Mishneh to the Mishneh Torah).

Later on, there was a further “deterioration”: the Shulchan Aruch.  The Shulchan Aruch is even shorter than the Mishneh Torah!  And not only does it lack sources, but it also only gives the Sefardic rulings.  The Rama asks: where are the Ashkenazic rulings?  Are there only Sefardim in the world?

And there were others who took issue with the Shulchan Aruch and its brevity: the Maharal, in his book Netivot Olam, is shocked at the idea that someone might make a ruling based on the sourcesless Shulchan Aruch.  The Meharsha (Chidushei Agadot on Sotah 22a) writes: "In these generations, those who rule from the Shulchan Aruch without knowing the reasoning and Talmudic basis [behind the rulings]... are among those who destroy the world, and should be reprimanded."  But the Pitchei Teshuvah (Yoreh Deah 242:8) explains: this fear was justified during the time of the Meharsha, since there were not yet commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch.  But now that we have the Taz, Shach, Magen Avraham and the rest of the Acharonim, and each law has been fully elucidated, it is proper to rule from the Shulchan Aruch and Acharonim on it.

We see in our time that although there is a decline in the quality of the Q&A, there is a great increase in the quantity.  There are also a number of ways to receive "quick" answers: fax, telephone, our radio program, letter and, of course, text message.  If someone is interested in a more extensive reply, I have four volumes of responsa and numerous other books that they can consult. 

But many people want nothing more than a "yes-or-no" answer.  There is a joke: A person texts a Rabbi: I have a big problem.  Is there a G-d?  The answer: Yes.  The sender replies: Thank you so much, Rabbi.  You helped me greatly.

I do not force anyone to send questions by text message, or ask people to read the text message responsa.  But there are many people who want it.  There are people in situations which do not permit asking questions at length, as for example, in Army Q&A.  A soldier cannot come to the Yeshiva whenever he wants.  Similarly, when someone is on a trip and runs into an issue.  And then there are those who do not have a personal relationship with a Rabbi, and need someone to ask.

The Pele Yoetz writes (Erech Asufah) that one should not belittle those who gather halachic rulings.  You are not required to read those books, he continues, but do not mock them, since these books are of great aid to the community at large.  And so it is with text message responsa, and collections that are made of them.

Shut SMS #169

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


Q: Did the Lubavitcher Rebbe possess prophecy?

A: There has been no prophecy since the destruction of the Temple.  Baba Batra 12.

Clothing of the Deceased

Q: Is it permissible to wear the clothing of someone who died?

A: Yes, aside from the shoes he was wearing at the time of his death (Gesher Ha-Chaim vol. 1 8:2).

Shiduch with a Woman who is Overweight

Q: An overweight woman was suggested to me as a Shiduch and it really bothers me.  Should I meet her?

A: Certainly.  This lacks importance.  Perhaps you will like her and then won’t care at all that she is overweight (See Netiv Ha-Emet of the Maharal).

Free-Choice for Klal-Yisrael

Q: Doesn’t Klal-Yisrael have free-choice?

A: "Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for Fear of the Heaven" (Berachot 33b.  See Pirkei Avot 3:14) is said about an individual, but just as Klal Yisrael has a covenant with Hashem for its continued existence, so too does it have a covenant that the covenant with Hashem will not be abandoned (Akeidat Yitzchak, Parashat Netzavim.  Shut Mishpat Cohain #328).

Modest Clothing

Q: Is it permissible for a woman to wear an over-shirt with completely modest clothing underneath, when non-Jewish women wear this type of clothing in an immodest fashion?

A: It is permissible, since she is dressed modestly.  It is also permissible to sell this type of clothing since it is possible to wear it in a modest fashion.  And regarding the prohibition of "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind" (Vayikra 19:14), we are "Tolim" (literally "hanging" on the assumption) that one will wear it in a permissible manner (Mishnah Gittin 5:9).  Shut Yechaveh Da'at (3:67).

Text Message Questions

Q: What type of questions can I ask Ha-Rav in a text message?

A: It is permissible to ask anything.  If it is complex, I will answer that we need to speak.

Expelling Jews

Q: When I am forced to leave my house in Givat Ha-Ulpana in Beit El and take off the Mezuzot, should I recite the blessing of "Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet" (Blessed be the True Judge)?

A: Certainly.  This is a bad tiding, very bad (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:2).


Q: Is the suicide which occurred on Masada proper according to Halachah?

A: According to Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren in the book Torat Ha-Shabbat Ve-Ha-Moed (pp. 391-404), it was proper since it was essential for preserving national honor and military courage.  According to Ha-Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriyah in the book Senif Melucha (pp. 196-198), it was forbidden, since in any situation a person must continue to struggle to live.  By the way, some historians claim that the whole event never occurred, since the only evidence is the account of Yosef ben Matisyahu, who relates that he heard it from the testimony of only one woman.  But this obviously makes no difference regarding the halachic clarification (When our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was asked how we should relate to the heroes of Masada, he answered that they are holy but we should not teach to follow in their path.  Gadol Shimusha, p. 80).

Blessing on the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin

Q: If I seeing Presdient Putin, who is visiting Israel, should I recite the blessing of "Baruch…she-natan michvodo le-vasar ve-dam - Blessed are You…who has given of His glory to flesh and blood"? (In the Gemara in Berachot 58a, our Rabbis teach that one who sees a non-Jewish king recites this blessing.  It is recorded in the Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 10:11 and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:8.  The Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim #159, rules that even if one sees the king outside of his area of "rule," one must still recite the appropriate blessing).  

A: No, he does not have absolute authority.  See Shut Yechaveh Da'at (2:28.  Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:139.  Shut Be'er Moshe 2:9).

Yehoshua bin Nun

Q: Why isn't the genealogy of Yehoshua bin Nun listed, as it is for all the other kings?

A: He did not attain his position on account of his genealogy, but rather because he was a dedicated student of Moshe Rabbenu.

A Jew's Worth

Q: According to the Rambam, is a non-Jew like Aristole, who studied Meta-physics, greater than a simple Jew?

A: No.  His wisdom is considered worthless compared to Torah, Mitzvot and proper character traits.  Introduction of the Rambam to the Mishnah (Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah would say that when we recite the blessing "Blessed is Hashem…who has not made me a non-Jew", it is not discussing the lowest of non-Jews, but the greatest of non-Jewish thinkers. Who has not made me Schiller and who has not made me Kant.  Ha-Rabbanit Tau ztz"l, Am Nolad, p. 9). 

Loving Parents

Q: Why isn't there a Mitzvah in the Torah to love one's parents?

A: It is included in "Love your fellow as yourself", and one should obviously also have great gratitude.