Shut SMS #185

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

Idol Worship

Q: I am in India.  Is it permissible for me to go to a festival in honor of one of their idols and take a picture, with the clear understanding that I do not believe in it?

A: It is forbidden.  Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 2:2-3.


Mourner Answering Amen to "Ha-Makom Yenachem Etchem…"

Q: Should a mourner answer Amen to "Ha-Makom Yenachem Etchem…", or remain silent?

A: He should answer Amen, as we do for all blessings and greetings.  And I have seen this done by great Torah scholars (and this is recorded in Pnei Baruch 11:5 in the name of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:691, 3:377 and 4:274 and in the name of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.  Although Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski says that the custom is to remain quiet.  Halichot Chaim vol. 2, p. 150).


Traffic Lights on Shabbat

Q: Is one obligated to obey traffic lights on Shabbat?  What if there are no cars?

A: Yes, on account of the danger.  Even if there are no cars, one must obey, on account of the general principle.


Learning during the Repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei

Q: Is it permissible to learn Torah during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, if there is a Minyan without me?

A: No. Our Sages stated: "Prayer and learning Torah each have their own time".  Shabbat 10a.  See Mishnah Berurah (124:17. See Shut Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:19.  In the city of Brisk, someone was looking in a book during Chazarat Ha-Shatz and after the davening, Reb Chaim Brisker said to him: Is your "Hatmadah" (constant Torah learning) so great that you an unable to find time to learn later?  You should listen to the Chazarat Ha-Shatz.  Shut Revivot Ephraim 3:116.  Similarly, when the students asked Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach if it is permissible to learn Torah during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, if there is a Minyan without them, he scolded them: Do you learn Torah all day long to the extent that you are missing learning during Chazarat Ha-Shatz?  Halichot Shlomo, chapter 9 note #11.  And the great Rabbis listen with awe to every word during the Chazarat Ha-Shatz without even glancing into a book.  These include: Maran Ha-Rav Kook [Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah on Yechezkel – Gilyon #64], Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer [Be-Derech Eitz Ha-Chaim vol. 1, p. 41], the Steipler [Ashcavtei De-Rebbe, p. 12] and Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein [Shut Revivot Ephraim 5:61].  Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski says that learning Torah during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, it is a Mitzvah performed through a transgression.  Orchot Yosher, p. 104).


Mezuzah for non-Jew

Q: Is it permissible to give a non-Jew a Mezuzah so he will be healed?

A: No.  See Rambam, Hilchot Mezuzah 5:4, 6:13.


Learning Torah and Feeling

Q: I learn Torah but do not feel the benefit.  Should I leave yeshiva?

A: This question was asked by Maran Ha-Rav Kook's son-in-law, and Rav Kook responded that he also does not feel it, but in the future one will feel it.  This is similar to a child who eats but does not feel that he is growing, but in the end his growth will be apparent.  In general, a positive feeling is important, but it is not everything.  One must also be serious and fulfill one's obligation (Ginzei Ha-Re'eiyah – Sivan.  See Mesilat Yesharim, chap. 1).


King Shaul

Q: When I speak about King Shaul, must I say "King", or is it permissible to just say Shaul?  What about other kings?

A: We have not found a law that one must add the title "King".


Violation on the Internet

Q: My wife caught me looking at immodest sites on the internet and feels that I have betrayed her and does not want to have anything to do with me.  What should I do?

A: She is right.  You must pacify her.  You must find the way to do so yourself.  This will take time.  It is similar to a broken arm which requires both a cast and time to heal.