Shut SMS #184

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

Davening in Work Clothes

Q: Is it permissible to daven Minchah in dirty work clothes?

A: From the outset, one should not, since this is not how one stands before a king.  When there is no choice, it is permissible (And Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked: Is it permissible for a painter to daven in his work clothes?  And he responded: If he would not be embarrassed to walk around wearing such clothing on Yafo Street in Jerusalem, he may wear them for davening in an extenuating circumstance.   Kav Ve-Naki #19).


Encouraging Aliyah

Q: How can we convince Jews to make Aliyah?

A: 1. Spiritually:  this is our Land, our State and our lives, and it is dangerous elsewhere because of anti-Semitism and assimilation.  2. Practically: one should help them find a livelihood, an area with people who speak their language (if they are not yet fluent in Hebrew) and an appropriate schools for their children.


Slit in a Skirt

Q: Is it forbidden to have a slit in a skirt even under the knee?

A: Yes.  It should be filled in with the same or similar fabric.  Malbushei Kavod, p. 102.



Q: What should I do in order to retain modesty - everything is full of horrible seductions: TV, Internet, Facebook, newspapers, Iphone, the street, etc.?

A: It is true that it is very difficult to overcome these obstacles but it is possible.  Everything which Hashem commands is possible.  One who overcomes is called "holy".  He is fortunate.   


Davening and Peace

Q: In the Shul where I daven, there is tension between the people.  Is it worthwhile to move to a different Shul?

A: Yes.  But it is preferable to make peace where you are.  And the Arizal wrote that before davening one should accept upon himself "Love your fellow as yourself", i.e. he should love all of Israel as himself, so that his prayers rise up together with those of all Israel.  Chida, Petach Einayim Ukatzim chapter 3 #4.


Conflict between Honoring Parents and Fulfillment of Halachah

Q: What should one do when there is a conflict between one's parents and fulfilling the Halachah?

A: One should honor his parents to the greatest extent which the Halachah allows in a pressing circumstance (Ha-Rav Elezar Menachem Man Schach told yeshiva students that their parents are not always comfortable with their customs and exactitude in observing Halachah, and this can cause arguments and strife.  Therefore, in any issue in which halachic authorities write that one may be lenient when there is a "Hefsed Merubah" (major loss), one may be lenient since arguing with one's parents is a "Hefsed Merubah".  The Booklet "Halachah Ke-Rebbe Elezar" by Ha-Rav Shmuel Baruch Genot, p. 36). 


Electricity on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to use electricity on Shabbat in Israel (in a permissible fashion - either by turning it on before Shabbat or using a timer) since the electric company desecrates Shabbat?

A: It is permissible.  There are many reasons for being lenient (And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein and Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said that the opinion that it is forbidden is according to the Chazon Ish and he is a lone opinion in this matter.  Shut Divrei Chachmim, p. 103).


Giving a Ring to the Groom

Q: Is it permissible for the bride to give the groom a ring and say to him: "Ani Le-Dodi Ve-Dodi Li – I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine"?

A: It is forbidden.  But after the fact, the marriage is still valid.  Shut Igrot Moshe (Even Ha-Ezer 3:18).

Not All Who Wish to Become Jews May Do So - Part 1

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Lech Lecha 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Some wish by a pen stroke to heal the wounds of our people, registering non-Jews as “Jewish” on conversion documents out of synch with Jewish law. They think that via this procedural step they can solve a profound problem of identity. Yet in reality they err and cause others to err, adding still more suffering to our Nation. Instead of toiling to bring near those far removed, they place an official stamp of recognition on the division of our people, creating two types of Jews: Jews according to Jewish law and Jews according to Israeli secular law. Heaven help us if tomorrow a boy proposes marriage to a girl he loves, but she answers, “I cannot. I am Jewish by Jewish law and you are Jewish by secular law. Leave me. I am forbidden to you.”

True, there are circles of people, both religious and irreligious, seeking to separate religion and state. They do not understand that you cannot solve problems and conflicts by division of forces, but only by increasing love. They do not understand that they are leading us to a deep crisis. And who knows where it will lead?

We mustn’t agree to there being two types of Jews in our midst, any more than we should agree to the establishment of two separate countries for the Jewish People.

Generations ago we were a dispersed people, scattered among various countries, but now we are a country ourselves, and the Torah too must manifest itself as a national institution.

You cannot have every group holding its own loudspeaker, thinking it represents Jewish law. The Chief Rabbinate must be the body that decides matters. When there is no national conception of the Torah, fissures form that threatens to shatter the nation. Therefore we must increase unity and we must strengthen the Torah as an all-encompassing institution of the Jewish People, centered around the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. This will solve the problem of conversion both here and abroad, and put an end to all of the yelling, agitation and divisiveness.

As for the very question of “Who is a Jew”, I can recall what Yosef Schechter, a learned educator, philosopher and researcher, said to David Ben-Gurion: “Here is what a researcher does when he sets out to deal with a problem. First he examines all the material that has been published until now. Then he examines all the conclusions that have been amassed, and he builds on them, unless he discovers contradictions.  The present question was deliberated upon by generations of our Sages. They pondered it in enormous depth and examined every detail with remarkable precision. Not only that, but we see with our own eyes the extraordinary result of their long, exhausting approach – the survival of a poor, persecuted nation throughout such a dangerous exile. True, in our own generation, novel and scientific research methods have been developed, but as far as spiritual problems, it is not only experimentation that should be the determining factor, but thought as well. And in this realm, we are forced to admit that civilization’s advance has only tainted the depths of our thinking. Who will dare, in our dark generation, in which the worst crimes against humanity were committed, to try to tailor the Torah of Moses to modern thought?”

A Supreme Court justice, the late Dr. Moshe Zilberg, wrote in his day that what we have here is not a minor, concrete question of registration, but a penetrating clarification of the essence of the concept of a Jew: “The one in the court docket is not the registrar of the State of Israel, or the Interior Minister, but the Jewish People down through the generations. Shall a ‘subjective test’ be what determines Jewishness? Is silent identification coupled with some ceremony that people have made up out of their heads based on their own understanding of the spirit of Judaism sufficient? Where is the boundary? Shall even the Christian who harbors deep affinity for the Jewish People be considered a Jew?

One soldier said that the radio broadcaster who announced on June 7, 1967 that the Western Wall had been liberated was worthy of everyone’s thanks, ‘because he succeeded in making clear for us, all at once, how foolish is the pilpulistic argument over who is a Jew’ (Siach Lochamim p. 236). Yet the Jewish People were not born yesterday. Shall we desecrate the word ‘Jew’, cross out its hallowed, historic meaning, and deny all the values of the spirit to which we became accustomed daily during our long exile? Whether we are called “religious” or “secular”, we cannot cut ourselves off from our historic past, nor can we deny it. We are carrying on. Not everyone who wishes to claim the title of Jew for himself may do so.”

Now someone called “secular” may rise up and say, “What relevance do Jewish legal definitions have for us? After all, we don’t keep Jewish law, and those who do keep it sometimes insult us by calling us non-Jews. It turns out that we aren’t Jewish either according to Jewish law.”

Yet that is not true. The essence of a Jew is not measured by behavioral criteria, nor does it depend on Mitzvah fulfillment. A Jew, even if he be secular, is still a Jew. One’s very Jewishness is independent of one’s deeds. It should be borne out by one’s deeds, but it does not depend on them. It is an inner quality and a spiritual character.

We are plagued by a very deep crisis of loss of, and search for, identity, and this is bitterly painful for us. In these times, we cannot avoid this issue. We must remember what we are, what our lives are, what it means for us to be a special nation, distinct from all others. We constitute a unique component of mankind, a people with a unique national psyche. We belong to a people that was not born recently, but in ancient times: the people of eternity, Eternal Israel.


Haftarat Vayera: For or Against the King?

[Ashkenazim/Yemenite Jews: Melachim 2 4:1-37

Sefardim: Melachim 2 4:1-23]


It clear from one of the verses of our Haftarah that the prophet Elisha had an excellent relationship with Yehoram, King of Israel, even though the king was totally wicked.  It is told that the great woman of Shunam hurried to serve the prophet and to provide him with "a little upper room with a wall" in which she placed "a bed, table, chair and lamp" (Melachim 2 4:10).  Out of respect and gratitude, he asked her: "What is to be done for you?  Should I speak to the king or the commander of the army for you?" (13).  Here we see that the prophet had carte blanche to visit the Prime Minister and the Chief of the General Staff, since he suggested that he could act on the woman’s behalf before them.


At face value, this fact is extremely surprising because we know, to our distress, that King Yehoram was a cruel and corrupt man.  "And he (Yehoram) did evil in the eyes of Hashem…he held fast to the sins of Yerovam ben Nevat who caused Israel to sin.  He did not depart from them" (Melachim 2 3:2-3).  It is impossible to find a more damning comparison than to Yerovam.


We would expect that the great prophet, who was responsible for the spiritual purity of the Nation of Israel, would diametrically oppose the King, and not have positive relationship with him - even for the purpose of helping others.  We would expect Elisha to sever all contact with him and devote himself to the pure needs of the entire Nation.


But this is not so, and we should pay close attention to the prophet Elisha, a man  obedient to the national government, even though he was a great zealot following the example of his teacher, the prophet Eliyahu.  When Yehoram, King of Israel, went to war together with Yehoshafat, King of Yehudah, against a shared enemy, he turned to Elisha in a moment of despair.  Elisha showed no mercy or love toward the king, admonishing him instead: "What do I have to do with you?  Go to the prophets of your father and the prophet of your mother…If it were not for the presence of Yehoshafat, King of Yehudah, I would not look towards you nor see you" (ibid. 3 13:14), since Yehoshafat was a righteous king.  The prophet Elisha did not fear rebuking the king of Israel with great forcefulness.


Furthermore, the prophet knew that the king saw him as a dangerous enemy who should be killed – he had already sent an assassin from the secret police to eliminate him: "But Elisha sat in his house and the elders sat with him, and the king sent a man from before him; but before the messenger came to Elisha, he said to the elders: 'Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to remove my head.  Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and push him at the door.  Is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?'" (ibid. 6:32).  Yehoram learned this tactic from his father, the corrupt King Achav, who sent special agents throughout all of Israel and the surrounding states in order to find the prophet Eliyahu and kill him.


Knowing all of this, how can we understand what united Elisha and Yehoram, who were so vastly different from one another?  The answer is simple: shared, infinite love for the Nation of Israel.  Even if the king of Israel was an evil man, he still remained the king of Israel, and carried the incredible responsibility of saving the Nation.  And while it is not the ideal situation, it is certainly preferable for the Nation to be ruled by the sinful government of Yehoram than to fall into the hand of the enemy and to suffer the decree of exile.


The prophet was therefore always ready to help the king for the benefit of the Nation of Israel, and the king, despite his ambivalence, could not refrain from expressing his gratitude to some extent.


When Yehoram was about to make a severe strategic error, the prophet Elisha warned him: "Beware that you not pass such a place, for Aram is hidden there" (ibid. verse 9). With this piece of advice Elisha saved the army of Israel, who went on to be victorious.  Elisha followed precisely the path of his teacher, Eliyahu, who did not hold back even the harshest rebuke when it was justified (Melachim 1 18:17-18), but also honored this same king of Israel when he displayed self-sacrifice to protect his Nation and the Land.  "And the hand of Hashem was upon Eliyahu, so he girded his loins and ran before Achav until the approach of Yizre’el" (ibid. verse 46).  Running from Mt. Carmel to Yizre'el valley!  Is it possible to display greater honor for the king?


Achav was internally conflicted.  On the one hand, he was influenced by his evil, non-Jewish wife, Izevel, daughter of the King of Sidon.  On the other hand, he was influenced by the prophet Eliyahu.  If the prophet were to abandon him, he would have fallen completely under the dominion of his wife - to the great detriment of the Nation of Israel.  The influence of the prophet indeed secretly bore fruit.  At the moment of truth, the king turned to him for advice and called him "my father" (Melachim 2 6:21).  Furthermore, during the national tragedy, Ahav was truly torn apart because of his pain; he ripped his garment, and while he was walking on the wall, "and the people looked, and he had sackcloth within on his flesh" (ibid. verse 30).


The heretic, the sinner, the anti-religious one was, somewhere within, a secretly repentant man, who wore sackcloth of mourning on his flesh. 


Shut SMS #183

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

Purpose of Prayer

Q: What is the purpose of prayer?

A: To serve Hashem with our emotions.  "And serve Him with all of your heart" (Devarim 11:13.  See introduction to Tefilat Amecha vol. 1, pp. 7-15).


Eretz Yisrael Vomiting out Sinners

Q: The Torah says that Eretz Yisrael will vomit out sinners (Vayikra 18:25, 28).  If so, how is it possible that our country contains so many Jews who are far from Torah observance?

A: It is a sign that they are not sinners according to this definition, as explained by Rabbi Avraham Azulai in Chesed Le-Avraham (Ma'ayan Shelishi, Ein Ha-Aretz, Nahar 12).  They are sinners in their individual lives but not in their communal lives.  Orot #84.  They are bad on the outside but good on the inside.  Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah, Igeret #555 (see Alo Na'ale #41).


Bread on the Street

Q: If I see bread thrown in the street, must I pick it up?

A: You are not obligated to do so, as no one will eat it since it's dirty, and it no longer has the status of bread for this Halachah (This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.  Kav Ve-Naki #58).


Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Q: Is giving someone the benefit of the doubt a Mitzvah or a pious act?

A: A Torah Mitzvah.  "Judge your fellow favorably" (Vayikra 19:15).  And see Pele Yoetz, entry on "Sanagoria".  


Experiments on Corpses

Q: Is it permissible in medical school to perform experiments and operations on corpses of people who donated their bodies to science?

A: Almost all of the halachic authorities forbid it, but it is permissible on non-Jewish corpses, since different laws apply to their bodies even in their lifetimes.  Shut Da'at Cohain (#199).


Learning Torah with Secular Jews

Q: Is it permissible to say words of Torah to secular Jews who have not recited the blessing over learning Torah?

A: Yes, as our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah ruled (Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv also rules this way.  Kav Ve-Naki #9).


Cohain who Married a Divorcee

Q: If a Cohain married a divorcee (which is forbidden according to Halachah), is the Shul exempt from saying Tachanun (as in the case of a permissible marriage)?

A: Certainly not.  This is not a day of joy but a day of sadness (This is unlike the ruling of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv who exempts them from saying Tachanun, since he is still a groom and it is a Yom Tov for him.  Although he does rule that this Cohain should not receive an Aliyah since he should not be honored when he violated a transgression.  Kav Ve-Naki #25).


Mitzvot between One Person and Another

Q: What is more important to teach a child – Mitzvot between a person and Hashem or between one person and another?

A: Hashem prefers Mitzvot between one person and another.  Rosh at the beginning of Peah.  The reason is that Mitzvot between one person and another are included in Mitzvot between a person and Hashem (since people were created in the image of Hashem).

With Marriage, You’ve Got to Invest

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Noach 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Marriage involves the constant giving of oneself. Yet it isn’t easy, because people naturally love themselves too much. One is certainly allowed to love oneself. It says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18), which implies that one does love oneself. Yet one shouldn’t exaggerate that self-love.

When there were just two brothers on the face of the earth, two brothers, it was enough for one to pounce on the other and kill him. That tells us that we must be cautious. It’s not easy to get along together. Adam didn’t physically hurt Chava, but when G-d asked him why he had sinned, he blamed her, basically saying, “The woman You gave me is a tainted gift.” Yet that wasn’t so. Eve was a marvelous gift, and Adam was denying a goodness done for him (see Rashi). G-d rejected Adam’s claim, punishing him together with Chava. This same shortcoming surfaced later in his sons.

Still, despite this difficult beginning, G-d does not give up. He wants people to learn to live together, lovingly. After all, there are a hundred billion planets in the Milky Way, so every human being could be settled alone on one of them, thus avoiding any tension. Yet G-d instead crowded us all onto one planet, so we could learn to live together.

This gargantuan mission starts small, with relationship between husband and wife, between two people who chose each other and love each other. Yet it requires an investment. In initial love there is no need to invest. It comes by itself, and one does not generally know why. It’s similar to a person loving orange juice – no investment is necessary, it love just exists!

A boy asked his father: “How much did Mom cost you?” His father answered, “After so many years, I cannot recall what I paid for the ring, but I keep paying each day…” This may be meant as a witty joke, but it holds an important truth: by signing a Ketuba, a groom undertakes an obligation to support and love and respect, etc. his wife. All his life he must keep investing in her. Nothing comes for free. Man is born for toil.

You might ask: isn’t it irksome, or frightful that marital bliss requires such an extensive investment?

The answer: no! just the opposite is true. If compatibility depended on hidden reasons, then we would need to be worried about the possibility that we were not where we should be, and that we would never know how to keep things right. Then, the first time a problem arose, we might say, “Perhaps we made a mistake!”

Yet since marriage depends on our investment, we have control over its success.. We must invest more and more, until we succeed. From that moment on, “the [miniature] ‘Temple’ is in our hands”.

In other words, on the most fundamental level, there ARE no compatible couples. Rather, there are couples who WANT to be compatible, and who invest in order to succeed in being compatible. The stubborn will succeed.

Mazal Tov!

Haftarat Lech Lecha: Yeshayahu Was One


[Yemenite Jews: Yeshayahu 40:25-41:17

Sefardim/Ashkenazim: Yeshayahu 40:27-41:16]


The fortieth chapter of Yeshayahu is considered by various streams of Biblical Criticism to be the beginning of "Second Yeshayahu"  - as if there were two prophets with the same name!  What is the reason behind this profane insistence on breaking up the words of our great prophet?


A pseudo-“question” which was asked by German “scientists” lies at the root of the problem: How is it possible that Yeshayahu, who lived during the generation of Uziyahu, Yotam, Achaz and Yechizkiyahu, the Kings of Yehudah (Yeshayahu 1:1), could describe the Nation of Israel’s return to Zion in the time of the Persian King, Koresh (ibid. 45), which occurred two hundred years later?  Was he an extremely elderly man who lived for two hundred years?  Clearly, these non-believing Tanach readers, called Biblical Critics, forgot something essential: Yeshayahu was a prophet. He could see great distances into the future because the Divine Presence rested upon him.  He knew quite well how to project forward two hundred years.


But this is not the only problem that bothered these critics of one hundred years ago, whose combined ignorance and hatred of Israel caused them to go astray (as they did in relation to Yehoshua bin Nun - see the article on the Haftarah for Simchat Torah).  They could not fathom how one man could have numerous and diverse facets.  Since the prophet Yeshayahu praises peace, the proclaimed, he must be a leftist.  But he legitimizes war, so he must be a rightist!  Since he praises Shabbat, he must be religious.  But he raises the banner of ethics and justice, so he must be a humanist.  He recited Hallel for the Nation of Israel (what a disgusting nationalist!), and yet he is enthusiastic about all of humanity, so he is a universalist.  Since he describes heavenly revelations, he must be a mystic.  But he speaks so logically to us, so he is clearly rational.  And so on and so on…Their conclusion:  there is more than one Yeshayahu.


Let's abandon this fantastic idea. There was always only one Yeshayahu. He was a great man who was able to combine his incredible spirituality with a thorough understanding of the human psyche, in all of its manifestations.  His ability to unify these diverse tendencies into one person is a capacity that transcends our world knowledge. How unlike this group of pseudo-scholars, enslaved by a dry theory and a weak understanding, who couldn’t unify – who could only understand by breaking everything into pieces.


And they were further confounded by this “riddle”: how is it that the entire tone of Yeshayahu’s message begins to change at the famous fortieth chapter. What began as a message of strength, courage and determination turns into one of comfort, expectation and confident hope.  This observation is in fact correct and astute…but it is nothing new!  Our great Rabbi, the Rambam, already referred to chapter forty and its following chapters as the "Consolations of Yeshayahu."  This does not mean that there were two separate Yeshayahus: the warrior and the comforter.  It means that there was a monumental shift - an unparalleled tragedy - which occurred in the seam between the thirty-ninth chapter and the fortieth chapter, and which caused the message to change. What is this momentous event? The “failure” of the designated Messiah, King Chizkiyahu himself.  Yeshayahu brings us this good news: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Yishai, and a branch will grow out of his roots.  The spirit of Hashem will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and awe of Hashem.  His delight will be in the awe of Hashem.  He will not judge after the sight of his eyes and he will not decide after the hearing of his ears…And righteousness will be the girdle of his loins and faithfulness the girdle of his reins" (Yeshayahu 11:1-5).  This was the time of King Chizkiyahu, who had the potential to become the Messiah.


Our Sages relate that "The Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to make Chizkiyahu the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 44a).  He was a righteous, courageous and activist king.  To our great distress, however, this messianic hope was hidden and, at the same time, the threatening clouds of Exile began to appear on the horizon.


It is now possible to understand the horrible despair that gripped the Nation of Israel at this time, and the transformation that took place in the style and content of Yeshayahu’s prophecy.


He turned to his Nation with love and succinctly informed it: Do not despair, the Redemption has not been canceled, it has just been postponed.  The Messiah will arrive at a later time.  Be strong and courageous.  "Why do you say, O Yaakov, and speak, O Israel: 'My way is hidden from Hashem, and my case has been passed over by my    G-d'" (Yeshayahu 40:27).  Are we eternally lost?  Certainly not!  "Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Eternal G-d is Hashem, Creator of the ends of the earth, Who neither tires nor wearies.  There is no scrutinizing His understanding.  He gives strength to the tired, and He increases the strength of the powerless" (ibid. 28-29).


The Master of the Universe never reaches a point of exhausting His strength, and the more we cleave to Him, the stronger and more indefatigable we become.  Even the youth, who are said to be full of energy, are sometimes broken after a difficult journey.  "Youth may become tired and weary and young man may utterly fall" (30)…But those whose hope is in Hashem will have renewed strength, they will grow wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not grow tired" (31).  It is in this sense that we recite the blessing each morning: "Blessed is Hashem…who gives strength to the weary."

Rav Aviner on Smartphones & Kosher Phones


Prominent Dati Leumi Posek Rabbi Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a was asked 1. for a p’sak regarding Smartphones and 2.  if one is required to use a Kosher phone. The Rav’s words were aired on Yeshivat Machon Meir’s internet Shiurim broadcasts.


The Rav explained that SMS text messages and internet connectivity are helpful to many people. He feels there is no prohibition in using either of these services.


“It is certainly preferable to have a Kosher phone but this is a Chumra and not an obligation. One who feels that a non-kosher phone is a Michshol (stumbling-block) must prohibit himself from using such a device” the Rav stated.


Rabbi Aviner continued by explaining there are things that the Torah does not prohibit, but if a person realizes that such a thing will cause him to stumble, he must place restrictions upon himself to avoid falling due to this Michshol.


And see:


Short & Sweet - Text Message Responsa #182

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


Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah and Honoring Parents

Q: I want to daven in Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah but my mother is shaking from fear that something will happen to me?  Should I give in to her?

A: Yes.  Even though it is not dangerous, you should give in.  If she instructed you to violate a Torah transgression, a Rabbinic transgression or even an accepted custom in Israel, you would not obey.  But davening at Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah is none of these, although it is important (Sefer Chasidim #340.  Brought in Beit Lechem Yehudah on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah #240).


Soldier on Train

Q: Is it permissible for a soldier to ride the train for free (in Israel) when he is not wearing his uniform?  I did and the inspector warned me that it is forbidden and the next time I must be wearing my uniform.

A: You already received an answer.


Male Lifeguard for Women

Q: Is it permissible for women to swim in a separate beach or pool where there is a male lifeguard?

A: There should obviously be a female lifeguard for women.  But if there is a male lifeguard, based on the fact that it is the women’s area, that the people there are in a potentially life-threatening situation, and that the lifeguard is involved in his job of keeping everyone safe (and is therefore not staring at the women), it is permissible for women to swim there. Outside of the water, a woman should wear a robe and it is proper even in the water to wear a bathing suit which covers as much as possible.  Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 4:62 (see Ya"d Moshe 29).


Overcoming One's evil inclination

Q: How great is the reward for someone who overcomes his evil inclination?

A: Very, very great.


Iranian Threat

Q: I am incredibly worried about the Iranian nuclear threat.  What should I do?

A: There is nothing to fear.  "The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps" (Tehilim 121:4).   "All who become angry with you will be shamed and humiliated.  Those who fight with you will be like nothingness and will perish.  The men who struggle with you, you will seek them but not find them.  The men who fight you, they will be like nothingness and naught."  Yeshayahu 41:11-12.  And Hashem performs this through His loyal agent – Tzahal, who is ready for anything (A Kollel student from Elad sent a letter to Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievsky that he has the possibility to prepare British passports for his family since his parents are British citizens.  His question was: Due to the Iranian threat, is it advisable to do so because of the frightening danger that is coming from the direction of the Yishmaelim?  Ha-Rav Kanievsky responded: "For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand"!   Pesach Haggadah).


Immodest Catering

Q: Is it permissible to eat at a meal where the caterers hired immodestly dressed waitresses?

A: It is certainly forbidden to use caterers such as these, and in general, there need to be waiters for men and waitresses for women.  But after the fact, it is permissible to rely on Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein and eat there, and one should not look at the waitresses. Eating in this environment is considered a benefit which comes to a person against his will (see Ya"d Moshe 26).


Fasting and Pidyon Ha-Ben

Q: Is it true that participating in a Pidyon Ha-Ben meal is equal to 84 fasts?

A: The Sdei Chemed says that this is a nice saying that people use.  Ma'arechet 60 Klal 54.  In Shut Emek Yehoshua, Yoreh Deah #18, he brings it in the name of the Arizal.  But Ha-Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach was once surprised at a student who missed a class in order to participate in a Pidyon Ha-Ben meal, and he explained to the student that a Torah class is also equal to 84 fasts.


Tooth that Fell Out

Q: What should one do with a tooth that fell out?

A: As you wish (See Rashbam on Berachot 5b.  Shut Yabia Omer vol. 3 Yoreh Deah 321.  Shut Tzitz Eliezer 10:5 #8).


Picture of Herzl

Q: Is it permissible to hang a picture in one's house of Herzl next to a picture of Ha-Rav Kook, or it is shaming Ha-Rav Kook?

A: It is totally acceptable, but they should be hung in a way to show their different levels (It is well known that along with pictures of the Netziv, the Aderet, Maran Ha-Rav Kook and others, our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah had a picture of Herzl hanging in his home.  Three stories about the picture:  1. Rav Avraham Romer related: "The picture of Herzl once disappeared from our Rabbi’s house and there was a suspicion that one of the students wanted 'to teach him a lesson.'  When I suggested that perhaps the picture fell behind the desk, he permitted me to look there.  When I found the picture, he was extremely happy and saw a need to comfort me because he saw that I had been distressed.  He told me wondrous stories about Herzl and his position. He repeated the opinion of Reb Aharon Marcus z"l Herzl who said that Herzl was a descendant of Mahari Titzak [a famous Rabbi] and was from a Sefardic family.  Gadol Shimusha, p. 54.  2. When a particular Jew from the neighborhood of Geulah would come to our Rabbi's house, he would turn over the picture of Herzl.  Our Rabbi once caught him in the act and asked him: Why are you doing this?  Doesn't he have all five corners of his beard [which may not be shaved according to the Torah]?!  Iturei Cohanim #212.  3. A student of our Rabbi saw Herzl's picture hanging in the room where our Rabbi taught classes in his house, and it was hanging among the pictures of our great Rabbis.  He asked for an explanation and our Rabbi gave an entire class on the fact that, whether we like it or not, Herzl was the agent of the Master of the Universe in returning independence to Israel in this generation.  Ibid.).

Haftarat Noach: Unconditional Love

[Ashekanzim and Yemenite Jews: Yeshayahu 54:1-55:5

Sefardim: Yeshayahu 54:1-10]


Can the covenant between the Master of the Universe and the Nation of Israel be cancelled on account of our sins?


This is one of the central claims of Christian theology: the Jews ceased being the Chosen Nation. The Nation of Israel remains only in body but not in spirit.  We were replaced by "Verus Israel – the true Nation of Israel," which, according to their opinion, is Christianity.


This is certainly not the teaching of Yeshayahu in our Haftarah: "For the mountains may move and the hills falter, but my kindness will not move from you and My covenant of peace will not falter, says Hashem, who has mercy on You" (Yeshayahu 54:10).


There is no "Old Covenant" and there is no "New Covenant," just one eternal love of the Eternal G-d for His Nation, which is also eternal.  This is the "love which is not dependent on anything" which is mentioned in Pirkei Avot (5:20); it is not conditional and it therefore cannot be nullified.  This is the love which we mention in "Shacharit" (the morning prayers) before the Shema, i.e. "Ahavah Rabbah" according to Ashkenazic tradition or "Ahavat Olam" according to Sefardic tradition.


The prophet Yirmiyahu is even more explicit: "Thus says Hashem, who gives the sun for a light during the day and the laws of the moon and stars for a light during the night, who sets the sea in motion and its wave to roar, the G-d of Hosts is His Name.  If these laws move from before Me, says Hashem, then the offspring of Israel will also cease from being a Nation before Me forever.  Thus says Hashem, if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below searched, then I will cast off all of the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, says Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 31:34:36).  Just as the laws of nature are immutable, so too is the law of the great history of the Chosen Nation of Israel.  Yirmiyahu emphasizes that "for all that they have done" (36), that is to say, despite all of our sins.  Even if the entire natural world crumbles, the Nation of Israel – the soul of the world – will not be consumed.


In light of this incredible Divine love, how can we understand the Exile, and its horrible suffering, which we experienced for such a long period?  The prophet Yeshayahu encouraged us to see this painful page of our history in the proper perspective: "For a brief moment have I forsaken you, but with great mercies will I gather you" (54:7).  Is two thousand years of Exile only a "brief moment"?!  For the Master of the Universe, and in relation to eternity, yes it is!  Israel pleasantly confirms this in the Psalms: "For a thousand years in Your eyes is like yesterday when it passed and like a watch in the night" (Tehillim 90:4).  In fact, we passed through the worst night, but now the light of morning is shining on the horizon: "For you will break forth to the right and the left, and your offspring will possess nations and settle desolate cities" (Yeshayahu 54:3).


Are all of these events not materializing right before our very eyes?  Instead of giving our attention to the bad news, which is spread daily by the media to depress us, we should once again read the optimistic, positive and realistic promises of the prophet Yeshayahu. 


The truth of the matter is that the prophet already knew that it would be difficult for us to free ourselves from the trauma of the Exile, and the constant concern and fear of our wanderings. So he teaches us about trust in Hashem.  "Do not fear, for you will not be shamed; and do not be humiliated, for you will not be mortified; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will not remember the mortification of your widowhood anymore" (4).


Do not lose trust in Hashem, nor in ourselves, because of the difficult “moment” in Exile.  This period of lowliness and destruction is finished once and for all – "In the overflowing of wrath I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have mercy on you" (8).


The era of love has returned: "Break out into song and be joyous" (1), "Enlarge the place of your tent and stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not" (2), "Stay away from oppression for you do not need to fear" (14).


The era of love has arrived.