Shut SMS #156

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Gilad Shalit
Q: I heard that Gilad Shalit's father is not Jewish? Did we have to release him?
A: Even so, he [Gilad Shalit] is still Jewish! And we must free our soldier even if he is a non-Jew. But even a Jew is not to be freed at all costs.

Magic Show
Q: Is it permissible to have a magician perform in school?
A: It is a dispute. Shut Yechaveh Daat (3:68) forbids it. Shut Aseh Lecha Rav (2:44) permits it. It is permissible to rely on the lenient opinion, if the magician reveals how he performs the tricks (see Chochmat Adam 89:6. Shut Yabia Omer vol. 5 Yoreh Deah #14. Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:44. Shut Betzel Ha-Chochma 4:13).

Which Yeshiva?
Q: Which is preferable – a Pre-Military Academy, a Hesder Yeshiva or a Yeshiva Gevoha?
A: The more one learns Torah, the more praiseworthy he is, and each person according to his ability. The crown of Torah is lying is front of everyone and anyone who desires can come and take it. Rambam, Talmud Torah 3:1.

Class or Helping to Clean
Q: Which is preferable – attending a Torah class or helping my mother clean for Pesach?
A: Certainly helping. This is a Mitzvah that cannot be performed by others. Moed Katan 9a.

Shemurah Matzah
Q: Is there an obligation to eat Shemurah Matzah?
A: It is a stricture based on the opinion of the Vilna Gaon that there is a Mitzvah to eat Matzah during the entire holiday of Pesach. But the majority of authorities rule that there is only an obligation to an a Kezayit worth of Matzah 4 times during the Seder: 2 for the Mitzvah of Matzah, 1 for the Korech and 1 for the Afikoman.

Wet Matzah (Gebrokts)
Q: Is it permissible to eat wet Matzah?
A: Yes. There are those (especially Chasidic communities) who refrain from eating wet Matzah, but this is a stricture, especially in our days when Matzot do not contain pockets of flour.

Changing One's Luck
Q: How can a person change his luck?
A: Repenting, davening and giving Tzedakah.

Traveling to Uman
Q: Is it worthwhile to travel to Uman in order to pray for a spouse?
A: Travel to Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah or Kever Rachel. Our Forefathers are greater than Rebbe Nachman.

Kimcha De-Pischa or Maot Chittim
Q: Is it permissible to use Maaser Kesafim for Kimcha De-Pischa, which is collected for the poor to provide their Pesach needs?
A: Yes. It is giving Tzedakah (This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerach in Halichot Shlomo – Pesach 2:2).

Desecrating Shabbat for a Cat
Q: Is it permissible for a fireman to desecrate Shabbat in order to help get a cat out of a tree?
A: No.

Stories of Rabbenu: Machine-Made Matzah

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi was particular to use machine-made Matzah since it was decided by the halachic authorities that machine-made matzah is kosher, and there is, in fact, greater care regarding the concern of chametz than with hand-made Matzah. (Haggadah with commentary of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, p. 93).

A student asked our Rabbi: Which is preferable, hand-made Matzah or machine-made. Our Rabbi answered: In the same time that we exert ourselves to make one hand-made Matzah it is possible to make Reb Noson’s (our Rabbi’s brother-in-law), his and many other people’s Matzah for the entire holiday (Iturei Cohanim Nisan 5766 #259 in the name of Ha-Rav Achyah Amitai).

How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day

Going away for Pesach
If you are going away for Pesach and will not be at home during the entire holiday, you can be lenient and not clean for Pesach. You should sell all of the chametz (leaven) in the house, including all of the crumbs -- but not just the crumbs on their own, because that would have no halachic value. It is possible, however, to sell the food in the cabinets and closets including the "chametz dirt." If someone is staying in your house, you need to clean the rooms which will be used. The remaining unused rooms must be closed off with tape, and you must sell any chametz which is in them.

There is still the question of how to fulfill the mitzvah of Bedikat Chametz (the search for leaven). If you arrive at your Pesach destination by the fourteenth of Nisan, perform the search there. If you arrive on the morning of the fourteenth, you should clean well and check a small room, i.e. the entrance way and not sell the chametz in that room. You must also perform the search for chametz, with a blessing, in the rooms in which you will live during Pesach - if no one else has done so.

Chametz smaller than a "kezayit" (the volume of an olive)
Chametz which is less than a "kezayit" may obviously not be eaten, but it is not included in the Torah prohibition of "Bal Yeira'eh" and "Bal Yimatzeh" (Chametz may not be seen or found on Pesach – Shemot 12:19, 13:7) (Responsa Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:145). Regarding the Mishnah Berurah's statement (Sha'ar Ha-Tziun 451:6) that chametz which can be seen is included in the prohibition of "chametz she-avar alav Ha-Pesach" (using chametz that has spent Pesach in a Jew's possession) -- the fact is that if it was included in the sale of chametz, there is no problem (see Mishnah Berurah 142:33 and Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 117:15). A "kezayit" is 27 cubic centimeters - 3 centimeter square or a little over an inch square. Usually, only rooms in which children are allowed to bring sandwiches or cookies are likely to contain such big pieces of chametz. A room in which people do not walk around with food does not need to be cleaned at all. Incidentally, you must take care not to hide pieces of chametz which are larger than a "kezayit" before "Bedikat Chametz," in case one of the pieces should get lost. If you do not find them, you will not need to bother much to hunt for them, and you can rely on the "bittul chametz" (declaring chametz ownerless) that you do after the search (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at 5:149).

Bedikat Chametz
Only search for chametz in places in which there is a reasonable chance of finding it. It is nearly impossible for chametz which is an inch square to be hidden inside a book! If there is a chance that the book has chametz in it, then it must be thoroughly checked. Most books, however, do not need to be cleaned or checked. Cleaning and checking a sample is sufficient. It is customary not to place books that have not been checked for chametz on the table during Pesach. Everybody knows their kids' habits. Peek, and open here and there. Regarding crumbs in the corners of the house: 1. They are not a "kezayit." 2. They are inedible to a dog. If there is bread behind a cabinet in an unreachable place, nobody will get to it on Pesach and it is as if it is buried -- just as you do not have to search under stones or under the house's foundations, since nobody will take chametz from there. By the way, start "Bedikat Chametz" in a place where chametz was used, so the blessing will apply to it.

Educating Children
If you want to do a spring cleaning, this is certainly possible, but not before Pesach – this is not the appropriate time. Pesach vacation is for taking trips, playing with the kids, being happy, dancing and preparing stories for the Seder. A woman works hard all year long: "They enslaved the Jewish women with back-breaking work" (play on Shemot 1:13). If the husband is on vacation too, this may be a good time to leave him with the kids, and give the wife a vacation! That is what vacation is for – not for working like a donkey and scraping floors. You can take trips, enjoy yourself, and arrive at the Seder rested in order to make a beautiful Seder and inspire the children. If a woman wants to work like a donkey, and be a kind of slave, she is permitted to do so, but it is not good educationally. She should be free in order to play with the kids. We left the slavery of Egypt, and it was not to enter into our own slavery! We do not have anything against house cleaning, but you should spread it out over the course of the year – each few months clean another room. This is not the time for projects of cleaning and arranging. In any event, when the Seder arrives there will still be disorder and cleaning that has not been completed.

If a woman is happy with suffering, she is allowed and it subtracts from the suffering of "Gehinom" (purgatory): Any suffering in this world is deducted from the suffering of "Gehinom." If someone desires, this it is legitimate, but not before Pesach. The month of Nissan is a happy month.

Husband's help
Question: Does a husband have to help his wife?
Answer: A husband does not have to help his wife nor does a wife have to help her husband. Rather, the two of them have to clean together since this is a shared home, and it is a shared life as well.

Children's Clothes
There may be cookies in your kids' pockets. Even the crumbs must be removed, since a child may put his hand into his pocket and then into his mouth. You only have to check the clothes you will be wearing that season. It is unnecessary to check any clothes that are put away and will not be worn now, such as winter clothes.

Question: It is possible to simply clean them by washing them in a washing machine?
Answer: Running the clothes through a washing machine will not necessarily get rid of all of the crumbs. The clothes must be checked.

Toys
Toys must also be checked. However, you may put some or all of the toys away, and buy new toys as a present for the holiday! This serves a double purpose of saving work and making the children happy.

Bathroom Cabinets
These may contain chametz, such as wheat germ oil and alcohol derived from wheat. What a waste to clean it. Close and tape the cabinets and include it in the sale of chametz.

Couches
You have to check between the pillows. It is an interesting experience to find lost objects.

Books
There is no need to clean them, just do not put them on the table on which you eat. The custom is not to check books for the crumbs that remain in them, but to rely of the nullification (Haggadah Chazon Ovadiah of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, p. 21). Clean the books which you will want to read at the table on Pesach, or clean a few books for Pesach.

Dining Room
You do not have to clean everything, just the place where people eat, i.e. the chairs and the table.
Chairs: If the chairs are clean, there is no need to clean them. If the kids throw cereal or other things on them and they do not look clean, clean it with a wet rag.
Table: There are two options: 1. Kashering with boiling water. 2. Covering with several layers of plastic and cloth tablecloths.

High Chair
If it is plastic, it may be immersed in a tub with boiling water and cleaning agents. Clean the cracks with a stiff brush. It is unnecessary to take the chair apart, because whatever is in the cracks and holes is inedible to a dog.

Kitchen
This room must be thoroughly cleaned and not one crumb of chametz left. A crumb is not nullified even in a thousand times its volume.

Dishwasher
It is preferable not to kasher a dishwasher. You can do the dishes by hand as in previous generations. It is also possible to use disposable dishes.

Question: Is it at all possible to clean a dishwasher?
Answer: It is possible, but it is a lot of work; there are a lot of rubber parts and connections.

Oven
If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, it is best not to kasher it. Seal the oven and buy baked goods or buy a "wonder-pot" which allows you to bake on a stove.

Stove
Grates: Clean and cover the grates with as much aluminum foil as possible. Use aluminum foil that is thick enough not to tear, but thin enough to bend and shape. What a waste of time and effort! The best thing is to use special Pesach burners.
Burners: There is no need to clean them; they get burned up in the course of use. Bottom Pan (where everything falls): In general, if some food falls into it, we do not pick it up, and it is considered "treif;" nevertheless, put aluminum foil on it.
Knobs: Wipe them clean.

Refrigerator
Clean it, but it does not have to be a lot of work. Of course, defrost the freezer (if you have an older model which does not defrost automatically) and clean it. It is best to eat up all chametz before Pesach, but if expensive chametz food products are left over, i.e. frozen foods, they may be wrapped up well, labeled "chametz," stored in the back of the freezer/refrigerator and included in the list of chametz sold before Pesach.

If you have an old refrigerator with cracks or crevices in the door which is difficult to clean, do not use its inner shelves, but cover them with plastic. Similarly, you must clean the door's rubber part well. If it is old, sometimes it is easier to replace it.

Food Pantry
Do not clean. It is a waste of time. Seal, put sign or sticker not to use and include it in sale of chametz.

Cabinets of dishes, utensils, pots and pans
Dishes, shelves, and drawers that will not be used on Pesach may be sealed, and need not be cleaned. There are those who are strict to clean even the things which are used for chametz, but one can be lenient on account of three reasons, each of which would be enough:
1. We sell all the crumbs together with the sale of chametz.
2. The dishes are clean -- nobody puts a dirty dish away in the cabinet.
3. Even if there is "chametz dirt," it is definitely less than a "kezayit."
By the way, sometimes it is easier to paint than to clean. You can paint the corner of the kitchen where food flies using a water-based paint and the gas grates using aluminum paint.

Microwave
It can be kashered by not using it for twenty-four hours, cleaning it for five minutes and boiling water in it for half an hour. All food cooked or baked in it on Pesach should be placed in a covered utensil.

Counters
It is possible to cover them with thick aluminum foil, and then there is no need to kasher them at all; just wipe them with a rag. Sometimes it is complicated to cover, and then one can kasher it. Where there are holes, pour floor bleach in them and then pour water from an electric kettle which is still boiling. It is good for two people to do this: One to pour and the other to unplug.

Sink
Regarding the kitchen sink, there are a few solutions:
1. Do not put anything into the sink on Pesach, and wash the dishes in the air. This, however, is unrealistic.
2. Put a plastic bin inside. Just make sure there is still a direct flow down the drain.
3. Thoroughly clean and kasher the sink like the counters.

Toaster
It is impossible to clean a toaster, but there is no need. Put it in the cabinet of sold chametz.

Mixer
You have to do "Hagalah" (kashering by dropping into boiling water) for the bowl and blades. As for the body of the mixer, wrap it in plastic -- making sure not to block the air holes. The best thing is to buy a cheap hand-mixer for Pesach.

Kashering dishes
This is a tremendous amount of work. It is preferable to buy new dishes. True, it is expensive, so buy a few things each year. As for pots, it is possible to buy cheap aluminum ones which are okay for just seven days. There are cheap plastic plates as well as cheap cutlery.

Car
You have to clean it. Take out the mats and gather the "chametz dirt" – there is no need for a vacuum cleaner -- and clean the compartments and containers. There is no need to pour water or dismantle the seats. In general, there is no need to dismantle anything with screws. Any way you look at it -- if the chametz is accessible, you can take it out without a screwdriver, and if it is not accessible, it will not come out on Pesach either.

Chumrot - Being Strict
If you know that you are being stricter than Halachah requires, and you choose to be strict, you deserve a blessing. And if you accepted a stricture on yourself and now you want to stop, the way to do that is to do "Hatarah" (getting the vow annulled). But if you thought that a particular act was the actual Halachah, and now you realize it is a stricture, you do not need a "Hatarah." If you have a strong desire to clean a lot, you deserve a blessing, especially for Pesach, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing." You should not, however, force a stricture on yourself, but accept it with love.

Summary
In light of what is written above, it should take about an hour for the dining room, two-three hours to kasher the kitchen, and another hour to clean the rest of the house. In short, about one day!

All the rest of the cleaning jobs are either strictures or just made up. When we work hard, we use up our energy and get mad at the kids. You have to educate the kids -- but not to educate them to be aggravated: "I told you not to go into this room anymore! Why did you go in?! Eat on the porch! Eat standing up! Don't touch!" The whole kitchen looks like it was overturned by vandals; the husband and kids are trembling in fear in some corner and eating; the mother looks at them like a drill sergeant; there's anger between husband and wife. This is preparation for Pesach?! This is educating the kids? This is definitely not setting a positive example! Our memories of Pesach should not be of a reign of terror.

If you clean together with the kids, that is great, but it must be a happy adventure. First of all, you have to clean what you must – taking half a day – and after that if you want to do other things, you can clean with happiness and joy. Clean, sing, pour water and "you will clean with joy from the wellsprings of salvation" (based on Yeshayahu 12:3).

The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch writes: "Every person should sweep his room before Bedikat Chametz, and check his pockets for chametz, and the pockets or cuffs where you sometimes put chametz also need to be checked" (Orach Chaim 433:11) The Mishnah Berurah (#46) adds: "It is the custom to sweep the whole house on thirteenth of Nisan, so that it will be ready to check immediately after nightfall on the fourteenth." This custom is enough. Beyond that, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing" -- as far as Pesach goes, but not as far as the kids go.

It is understood that I am not forcing my opinion on anyone. I am simply stating my humble opinion with explanations. Whoever accepts the explanations will listen and whoever does not accept them will not. I heard most of the practical suggestions about how to shorten the cleaning from women themselves. It is possible that a woman has a strong desire not to shorten this work, and just the opposite, she finds joy in it. That is okay. Even she will benefit from all of the above, because she will not feel pressured that she might violate the Halachah, but rather she will clean with satisfaction and tranquility.

The essential point is the distinction between chametz, which there is an obligation to clean with all the severity of the Halachah, and dirt – which should obviously be removed, but not necessarily before Pesach. You can spread out the work of removing dirt over the whole year, so that we and our families do not suffer before Pesach. I am not advocating poor housekeeping. We should stand before chametz with awe and fear, but not all dirt is chametz. Do not treat chametz cavalierly, G-d forbid, but at the same time, not everything that is accepted as Pesach cleaning is directed at chametz.

Have a kosher and happy Pesach. We should ensure that we have a HAPPY Pesach and a KOSHER Purim. We should arrive at the Seder night neither tired nor aching but happy, so that this night will be a powerful experience for the kids, and a great source of faith in Hashem, the Redeemer of Israel.

"Dirt is not chametz and children are not the Pesach sacrifice!"

Shut SMS #155


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

Quinoa on Pesach
Q: Is it permissible for Ashkenazim to eat quinoa on Pesach?
A: According to the opinion of Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:63), it is permissible since quinoa did not exist at the time of the Rishonim when the custom of refraining from Kitniyot began. But the majority of authorities do not accept this opinion (Shut Avnei Nezer, Orach Chaim #373. Shut Melamed Leho'il 1:88. Shut Minchat Yitzchak 3:138).

Cleaning under Refrigerator for Pesach
Q: Is one required to clean under the refrigerator for Pesach if it is difficult to move?
A: There is no obligation.

Helping One's Wife
Q: Is it preferable on Friday to learn Torah or help one's wife?
A: Help one's wife in any way she needs (Ha-Rav Yisrael Yaakov Kanieski was once asked about a Kolel student whose wife complained that he did not help her on Fridays. Should he be rebuked on account of this? He answered: On Friday, one should learn and not be idle. But one also needs to ensure that his wife does not view herself as a servant in the house. He also needs to help. He did not take a servant, but a wife. Halichot Ve-Hanhagot Le-Ba'al Kehillot Yaakov, pp. 17-18).

Forefathers Observing the Torah
Q: How does our Sages’ statement that the Forefathers observed the entire Torah fit with seemingly contradictory evidence in the Torah?
A: They observed the Mitzvot in the manner of their character traits. Torah Or of the Baal Ha-Tanya. And, in exceptional cases, they deviated temporarily. Nefesh Ha-Chaim of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin.

School Davening
Q: If there is a class with both Ashekenazi and Sefardi children, which Nusach of davening should we use?
A: Each child should daven according to the custom of his ancestors.

Organic Food
Q: How much money should one spend to buy organic food?
A: There is no scientific evidence that it is healthier.
Q: But earlier generations ate food like this and they lived much longer!
A: Much shorter. A half or a third less than the current life expectancy.

Army & Yeshiva
Q: How many years should one learn in Yeshiva and how many years should one serve in the army?
A: It is a personal decision. The more one learns Torah, the more praiseworthy he is, and each person according to his ability. Or Sameach, beginning of Hilchot Talmud Torah.

Couple without Children
Q: If a couple has been married for 10 years and live together in love, but have not been able to have children, are they required to divorce?
A: The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch that they are not required to divorce. And the same applies to Sefardim, see Otzar Ha-Poskim (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Even Ha-Ezer 1:3. 154:10).

Ha-Admor of Viznitz: Ha-Admor of All of Us

[Talk in Yeshiva during lunch]

A great Rabbi of the Nation of Israel has been taken from us: Ha-Admor of Viznitz, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Moshe Yehoshua Hagar. He is not just the Chasidic Rebbe of Viznitz, he is the Admor of all of us. Why? Because 99% of what he displayed self-sacrifice for during his lifetime is not particular to Viznitz, or even to Chasidut, but is Klal Yisraeli. There is no difference today between a Viznitz Chasid and another G-d-fearing Jew.
It is true that his Seudat Sheshilit was an experience full of passion, but passion is not something created by the Baal Shem Tov. Passion needs to be the possession of the entire Nation of Israel. Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Levi already wrote in the Kuzari (2:50) that one should not think that his joy and dancing and singing on Shabbat and Yom Tov is less important than fasting. And the Rambam, at the end of Hilchot Sukkah Ve-Lulav (8:15) says that joy in the service of Hashem is in and of itself service of Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov did not invent something new – rather, he reminded us of something that was forgotten. How much passion one should display has been disputed, but the passion of Ha-Admor of Viznitz was certainly proper for the entire Nation of Israel.
Besides being full of passion, Ha-Admor of Viznitz was also great in Torah learning. A great scholar, a great Matmid (one who learns Torah consistently and constantly). He was particularly expert in the book Ketzot Ha-Choshen. Though not everyone has the ability to learn that sefer, everyone must learn Torah. Ha-Admor’s example is for all of us.
Ha-Admor also established many educational institutions: institutions for children and adolescents, Yeshivot, women's seminaries, and Kollels. Everyone must learn, teach and spread Torah. This too applies to all of us.
Ha-Admor of Viznitz was also very careful in "Shemirat Einayim" (Guarding himself from looking at forbidden images). He established the Mehadrin buses (in which men and women sit separately). One should pay attention, by the way, to the word "Mehadrin": we are not obligated to observe such a stricture, but it is praiseworthy to do so. When a bus is relatively empty, there is no problem, but when it is packed with people, there is no place to look without seeing improper things. "Shemirat Einayim" is not a stricture, but a basic law. According to the Rambam, it is a Rabbinic obligation, and according to Rabbenu Yonah, it is a Torah obligation (see Beit Shmuel on Even Ha-Ezer, chapter 21). But according to all opinions, one must guard his eyes. And all of this has nothing to do with the Chasidut of Viznitz - it is Klal Yisraeli. Ha-Admor was personally very strict in this matter, and he is a worthy model for all of us.
Ha-Admor of Viznitz is also connected to all streams of Chasidic Jews. In addition to his son, Ha-Rav Yisrael Hagar, who is his successor as Chasidic Rebbe, and another son who is the Rosh Yeshiva in the Viznitz Yeshiva, he has one daughter who is the Rebbetzin of the Belzer Rebbe, a second daughter who is the Rebbetzin of the Skverer Rebbe and a third daughter who is the Rebbetzin of the Satmar Rebbe.
It is true that the custom in Viznitz is to wear white socks on Shabbat and to have the buttonhole on the right side of the hat. But one must not think that Viznitz Chasidut is a Chasidut of white socks and right-side buttonholes. This would be ridiculous. Chasidut Viznitz is about increasing passion, increasing Torah learning, increasing education and increasing modesty. And all of these things are Klal Yisraeli.
Ha-Admor of Viznitz is therefore the Admor of All of Us, and we must learn from his example.
May the soul of Ha-Admor ztz"l continue to be bound up in the bonds of the living with all of the righteous.

Soft Matzah for Ashkenazim

Q: Is it permissible for Ashkenazim to eat soft Matzah, like the Sefardim?
A: There are those who forbid it. While they agree that in the past Ashkenazim did eat it, they ceased doing so (Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halichot Shlomo chap. 9 note #80) and there is no tradition (Masoret) to permit it. But there is also no tradition to forbid it, and the Rama (Orach Chaim 460:4) mentions that the Matzot where thick (and must therefore have been soft). And the Sha'arei Teshuvah writes there that they would prepare them with a type of grater, which is also a sign that they were soft. Ha-Rav Asher Weiss writes that the basic Halachah is that they are permissible, but he is concerned that we are not experts in making them soft and there is therefore a concern about Chametz (at the end of his Haggadah, siman #15). But Sefardim are experts. And Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter also permits them. In sum: It is permissible.

The Importance of Taking Stock of Ourselves

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

When G-d wished to create man, He asked the angels their opinion. The angel “Kindness” responded, “Create man, for he performs kind deeds.” “Truth” agreed that man should be created… “Charity” likewise said, “Create him, for he performs charitable deeds.” Yet “Peace” said not to create man for man sows strife.
G-d responded, “While you were arguing, I created man” (Bereshit Rabbah). But G-d did not pass judgement on the angels’ words. Man therefore spends his entire life hanging in the balance: should he have been created or not? And it is he himself who determines, every moment, whether or not he is worthy of his existence.
Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai argued over this very question: was it better for man to have been created or not? And their conclusion was, “Now that he has been created, let him scrutinize his deeds, or as some say, let him scrutinize his good deeds for negative components” (Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 3).
A person must therefore take stock of himself on a daily basis. “Therefore, those in control say, ‘Let us enter into an accounting’” (Bemidbar 21:27). Those saintly people who have control of their evil impulses provide us with advice grounded in experience: 'Let us take an accounting' – Take stock of yourself daily. You should have a set time each day to be alone for this purpose (Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 3).
Magen Avraham writes that the best time for this is bedtime. A person should scrutinize his deeds well, and resolve not to repeat any sins that he discovers in his behavior that day, especially common sins like flattery, falsehood, irreverence and evil gossip (Orach Chaim 139, Magen Avraham #7).
Rabbi Eliyahu Di Vidas (Reshit Chochma, Sha’ar Ha-Kedushah, Chapter 7) likewise writes that before bedtime one should record the day’s deeds so as not to forget that he has sins to be rectified, as it says, “I am ever conscious of my sin” (Tehilim 51:5).
Rabbi Ya’akov Emden similarly writes that if someone committed a sin during the day he should record it at night in his ledger when he has free time, as did Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha (Shabbat 12b), thereby fulfilling the verse quoted from Tehilim. Moreover, he should remember to make amends (Siddur Bet Ya’akov, Bet Ha-Laila, Cheshbon Berachot, par. 5).
And in the sefer “Seder Olam” we find: “It is a Mitzvah to undertake the yoke of Heaven before going to sleep. The reason is that sleep constitutes one sixtieth of death, and before one departs from the world it is best for one to undertake the yoke of Heaven, and to proclaim one’s love and reverence for G-d. For the same reason some have the practice of reciting the 'Vidui' confessional… for no one knows when his time is up. We’ve seen many people go to sleep and not wake up. It is thus appropriate to recite a general confession, and also to specify one’s personal sins from that day. Moreover, he should ask forgiveness of everyone to whom he caused pain or about whom he spoke poorly. And if others were guilty of doing the same to him, he should forgive them with all his heart and soul" (Seder Keriat Shema Al Ha-Mitah).
The Zohar teaches, “Every night, before one goes to sleep, he should make a calculation regarding the deeds he did all that day, and he should repent from his sins and ask G-d’s mercy.” (Zohar Korach, 178:1)
Rav Kook wrote: “Wickedness in the world finds its base in man, and it increasingly takes up residence in him. Daily it is emboldened, weakening man’s ability to exalt himself and to ascend to goodness. Man’s evil impulse overcomes him every day. Man cannot manage without regular prayer, one component of which should be confession. A person has got to confess his sins, those committed openly, those committed furtively, and those kept a total secret. He must confess his proclivity for evil, which engulfs him constantly. When the purity of prayer and confession is present every single day, when man’s personal calculation is not something he forgets, then he will gradually be able to shake off his evil, before it has a chance to deceive him so badly that he can no longer raise his head. People who make such calculations daily rid themselves of their daily wickedness. Before their normal bedtime, they confess on behalf of themselves and the whole world. They at least register a protest over their own and their people’s wickedness wherever it turns up. By such means they keep themselves in sync with goodness and holiness, and elevate themselves to lives of holiness, drawing sustenance from the wellspring of goodness. ‘Into Your hand I entrust my spirit’" (Tehilim 31:6. Orot Ha-Kodesh 3:302).
A story is told about a holy individual who would record on paper every deed that he committed during the day that was against G-d’s will. He would not go to sleep until he had wept so much that his tears blotted out all that he had written (Likutei Maharich, Seder Kriat Shema She-Al Ha-Mitah).

Parashat Vayakel-Pekudei: Why King David was not Permitted to Build the Temple

[Sefer Al Diglo #75]



There are those who explain that our King and Master David was admonished: "You have shed blood abundantly, and have waged great wars. You will not build a house to My Name, because you have shed much blood on the Land before me" (Divrei Ha-Yamim 1 22:8).

But this understanding is surprising, because if this were so – if King David was truly punished on account of his wars - why didn’t Israel’s prophets instruct him to refrain from wars for the rest of his life? Is it proper that a person sacrifices himself for the Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Kingship of Israel, and is in the end told: "This was a mistake"?! The prophet Avigail in fact praised King David for his wars: "For Hashem will make my master a faithful house because my master fights the wars of Hashem and evil has not been found in you all of your days" (Shmuel 1 25:28). And what about the general principal that it is a Mitzvah to wage an obligatory war? According to the Ramban, this includes conquering the Land of Israel; and according to the Rambam it includes protecting Israel from a enemy. So how can a person be admonished when he is fulfilling a Mitzvah, and – on account of this – be told that he may not build the Temple? Where is it written that a soldier may not build the Temple?
It is true that a Cohain who murders may not recite the Bircat Cohanim, because "And when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you, even when you recite many prayers, I will not hear, your hands are full of blood" (Yeshayahu 1:15). Halachic authorities, however, have ruled that this does not apply to a Cohain who is a soldier of Tzahal and kills in war: "And on the contrary, it is proper to say to them: 'May your hands be strengthened and may your power increase'" (Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Shut Yehaveh Daat 2:14). And above all, our righteous Messiah himself, as the Rambam says, will both wage the wars of Hashem and build the Temple (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:1).

The true obstacle to King David building the Temple - as Rav Sa’adia Gaon explains - was not an ethical-spiritual deficiency connected to his participation in wars, but rather the need for him to dedicate his life exclusively to the labor of war. Changing gears in his old age, and dedicating his life to a different labor altogether was not what Hashem had in mind for him. This would be the life-project not of King David, but of his young son, who would sanctify his entire life to building a house for Hashem (Rasag, Targum Ha-Tanach Le-Arvavit Le-Divrei Ha-Yamim 129:9).
One must understand that the building of the Temple is the final, climactic step and not the beginning. There are three Mitzvot which we are commanded when we enter the Land - Building the Kingship of Israel, fighting the war with Amalek, and building the Temple - and they must be performed in this order (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:1-2). Therefore, anyone who is involved in building the Kingship of Israel is also involved in the waging of war, which is necessarily connected to it, as in the words of the Rambam’s title: "Laws of Kings and their Wars". And all of this precedes, and leads to, the building of the Temple.


Anyone who fights the wars of Hashem is involved in the preparation of the Temple. And this is what was said of King David: Although you were not involved in the actual building of the Temple, you nevertheless prepared it by the great wars which you waged, and now your son is able to build it. Our Master Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook similarly writes: "In building the Temple, as the King said to the prophet Natan: ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwells within a curtain’ (Shmuel 2 7:2), the prophet responds to him with the word of Hashem: ‘Did I speak a word with any of the rulers of Israel, who I commanded as shepherds of my Nation saying, why do you not build me a house of cedar?’ (ibid. verse 7). When the times comes, ‘I have appointed a place for my Nation Israel, and planted them, that they may dwell on it, and be troubled no more, nor will the children of wickedness torment them anymore, as in the beginning’ (ibid. verse 10), then the time will have arrived to build the Temple. Everything that King David, may peace be upon him, did, all the wars that he waged with the enemies of Israel to break the nations of the world from around our neck and to expand the borders of our Land, all of this was a preparation and a readying for the ultimate goal of building the Temple" (Ma’amrei Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 1, pp. 246-247).

Shut SMS #154

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
10 Shekels!
Q: I found 10 Shekels on an empty bus. Does it belong to the driver or to the bus company?
A: It belongs to you.

Tap Water
Q: Should we buy healthy mineral water instead of drinking unhealthy tap water?
A: There is no scientific evidence that tap water is unhealthy.

Kiddush Hashem
Q: If someone performs a Mitzvah privately, is ist still considered a sanctification of Hashem's Name?
A: If it involves self-sacrifice. See Rambam, Yesodei Ha-Torah 5:10.

Chabad
Q: Is it permissible to read a Chabad newspaper which refers to the Rebbe Shlit"a (May he have a good and long life), even though he died?
A: Yes, these are Divrei Torah.

Arabs
Q: Is there are problem with hanging signs that say: “Death to Arabs”?
A: It is a desecration of Hashem's Name. We must wage war against our enemies who threaten our lives, and this is Tzahal's role. But G-d Forbid that we should express such ideas against all Arabs. They are human beings. Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote in his letters that one must stir not stir up hatred against the Arabs.

40 Days at the Kotel
Q: What is the source of the Segulah of davening at the Kotel 40 days in a row?
A: There is none. It is new (see the words of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in Ha-Shakdan vol. 2, p. 109).

Na-Nach-Nachma-Nachman
Q: Ha-Rav wrote that the expression Na-Nach-Nachma-Nachman has no source. The source is the note of Rabbi Yisrael Odesser!
A: That is known. But there is no source for the contents of the note.
Q: He himself is the source.
A: There needs to be a source in the Torah. When a Tanna makes a statement, they ask what is his source in the Torah. And when an Amora makes a statement, they ask what is his source in the Mishnah, etc.

Taanit Dibur (Talking Fast)
Q: What is the source for a Ta'anit Dibur?
A: There is no source. It is contemporary. The Mishnah Berurah writes that he saw it in one book. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 571:1.
Q: Is it recommended?
A: One should talk naturally with people, saying Shalom and guarding one's tongue.

Over-Eatting
Q: I have an inclination to over eat. Is there a solution?
A: Support group, O.A.: over-eaters anonymous.

Mixed Youth Group
Q: What prohibition is there against a mixed youth group?
A: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-10.

Serving G-d with Joy

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

Question: When I pray, I feel nothing special. When I fulfill Mitzvot and study Torah, I do not connect to G-d. If this is the reason that I am serving G-d, I am clearly missing out on the essence. How can I improve my situation?
Answer: This is a delicate point. If a person serves G-d in order to get excited, he is probably not serving G-d but serving himself. That is, such worship of G-d is insincere.
Obviously, even worship of G-d that is insincere still counts as worship of G-d. Yet, if you are serving G-d even though you do not feel any connection, then you are worshipping G-d sincerely, and certainly would not want to descend to the level of insincere worship.
We can rest assured that at the end of the path we will feel an enormous, wonderful feeling, yet that is not the reason that we are serving G-d. There is a difference between knowledge and will. We know that this is the way things will be, yet that does not serve as a motive.
The book Mesilat Yesharim opens by saying that the foundation of saintliness is to derive pleasure from G-d (Chapter 1). Yet this should not be understood to mean that we should have selfish longing for that pleasure (see Orot Ha-Kodesh, 3:167).
The Master of the Universe created man with the goal that he should achieve pleasure in the service of G-d, yet our goal in serving G-d must not be that pleasure, but rather, to do G-d’s will. Or, as Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook worded it: “To shower contentment upon our Creator” (Mussar Avicha 2:4). Achieving perfection in our worship of G-d means worshipping Him “to fulfill G-d’s needs” -- exclusively to fulfill G-d’s will and not to receive any reward, even the reward of excitement.
Imagine a person who has saved a whole city, for which he received a reward of a thousand silver pieces. He must rejoice over his having saved a city and not over the reward that he received (Ibid.).
Our supreme goal must be the performance of G-d’s will, and not just to get excited about it. A person does not always get excited. Maran Ha-Rav Kook quotes the book Chovot Ha-Levavot as saying that if someone wishes to change his own nature for the better and to carry out a revolution inside himself, he must be ready to taste “bitter medicine” (Sha’ar Avodat Elokim, Chapter 5). Obviously, the medicine will just as likely be sweet, yet in advance we must be ready if occasionally it turns out to be bitter (Mussar Avicha, 2:1)
We do not always get excited. Ha-Rav Ra'anan, the son-in-law of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, complained that he did not feel progress in his Torah study. Rav Kook responded that during learning, he too did not feel anything special.

Shut SMS #153

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Traveling to Rebbe Nachman's Grave in Uman
Q: Is traveling to Uman good or bad?
A: In general, it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael, except in the case of a Mitzvah. Visiting Kivrei Tzadikim (the graves of the righteous) is not defined as a Mitzvah, but as a positive act. Are there no graves to visit in Eretz Yisrael? Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah are greater than Rebbe Nachman (Shut Orach Mishpat #147).

Helping Others Repent
Q: How can we awaken others to repent?
A: Before we help others repent, we ourselves must repent, and increase our proper character traits. This itself will increase the sanctification of Hashem's Name, as explained at the end of Gemara Yoma and in the Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei Torah, end of chap. 5.

TV
Q: Should one have a TV?
A: It is doubly damaging. 1. Content: lowly, surface, Lashon Ha-Ra, insults, violence, immodesty, etc. 2. Form: passive, lacking thought and depth, and intellectually damaging, on account of becoming accustomed to what one absorbs.

Yehoshua and Amalek
Q: Why didn't Yehoshua command Am Yisrael to destroy Amalek?
A: Either because he was not considered a king or it was not possible.

Sandek or Helping Mother
Q: I was asked to serve as the Sandek at a Brit Milah, but my mother asked me to help her with something at the same time. Which is preferable?
A: Certainly honoring your mother. The Pele Yoetz already wrote in distress about people who dole out much money to open the Ark in Shul or to serve as a Sandek – acts which are not Mitzvot from the Torah or from the Rabbis, but express one's love of the Mitzvot. Honoring one's parent is a great Mitzvah from the Torah. Section on "Kibud Av Ve-Em".

Honoring Grandparents
Q: Is honoring one's grandparents like honoring one's parents?
A: It is less, but still a great Mitzvah (Rama, Yoreh Deah 240:24).

Anti-Semitism
Q: Why do people hate Jews? What did we do?
A: It is hatred of Hashem which falls on us. Igeret Teiman of the Rambam.

Kashurt of Chickens in Tiveria
Q: It is true that the Kashrut of the chickens from Tiveria under the supervision of Ha-Rav Avraham Dov Auerbach is problematic?
A: It is not true. He is a great Torah scholar and a Tzadik. It is forbidden to believe such things. In general, slandering of this kind is on account of competition relating to halachic strictures or business. One must be extremely cautious against believing Lashon Ha-Ra.
Q: But Ha-Rav Auerbach himself does not eat this chicken.
A: This is a lie. He does eat it. By the way, it is permissible for a Rabbi to give Kosher certification that allows everyone to eat something, but to be strict on himself and not eat it. But this is not the case here.

Ritalin
Q: I have serious problems of concentration. It is worthwhile to take Ritalin?
A: Yes. It helps a lot. But obviously only after a recommendation from a doctor.

Davening in a Costume on Purim

Q: Is it permissible to daven in a costume on Purim?
A: The basic Halachah is that one must daven in clothing that one would wear when standing before a king. Therefore, one should not daven in a costume. One exception is brought in Shut Shevet Ha-Levi (10:28): if someone is dressed up in the clothing of another type of Jew, i.e. a non-Chasidic Jew wearing a Shtreimel, it is permissible, since such clothing would be worn before a king (This is also brought in Sha'arei Yemei Ha-Purim, p. 57).

Making Noise at the Mention of Haman’s Name

[Shut She'eilat Shlomo]

Question: Since making excessive noise at the mention of Haman disturbs many people, is it Halachically permissible to abolish it?

Answer:
1. The Rama wrote: "...The custom that we strike [something at the mention of] Haman when we read the Megilah in Shul has spread, and one should not abolish any custom or mock it since it was not established for naught" (Orach Chaim 690:17). It is therefore forbidden to abolish a custom of Israel.

2. The Mishnah Berurah wrote, however, that a custom which has a prohibited aspect to it may be abolished (Biur Halachah ibid.).

3. The basic nature of this custom does not contain any prohibited aspect to it, and great Rabbis of Israel customarily performed it: "And Ha-Gaon Yavetz (Rav Yaakov Emden) wrote regarding his father, the Chacham Tzvi, that he would hit, stamp his foot and strike his sandal when he arrived at the mention of Haman (Mishnah Berurah #59).

4. Throughout the generations, however, many mishaps were caused on account of this custom:
a. People did not hear the reading of the Megilah. This means that the actual Mitzvah (and the reason we are in Shul) was not fulfilled on account of a custom that is not even observed in all places (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).
b. People have behaved contrary to the Mitzvah of revering the Sanctuary. One should behave with seriousness and reverence in a Shul, and not with joking and levity, since the One who rests His Divine Presence is located within in it.
c. Damage has been caused to objects in the Shul.
d. Distress has been caused to fellow Jews.
e. Children have been taught the opposite of what is required: children must learn that the focus of being in Shul on Purim is listening to the Megilah and not striking something at the mention of Haman.

5. There were therefore some communities that decided to abolish making noise at the mention of Haman, and they publicly informed the entire city not to strike objects at the mention of Haman (Yafeh Lalev #690). And there was a time when the Sefardic Beit Din in Yerushalayim also held in this way, as did the Rabbis of Kushta (Kol Sinai, Halichot Olam pg. 41).

6. There are those who say that if our Rabbi, the Rama, knew where matters would lead, he would not have stated that one should not abolish this custom. The authorities wrote however that if a custom has changed from what it had been at the time of the Rishonim, it is permissible to abolish it (Be’er Heteiv ibid. #15). And the Mishnah Berurah also wrote of those who perform this custom: "their reward is canceled by their loss" (690:59).

7. Nevertheless, if the proceedings are proper and correct – meaning that people hit objects only in a manner that is appropriate for the holiness of a Shul, and do not disturb the hearing of the Megilah while doing so, etc. - we should not abolish this custom.

Our Great Master Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook

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

What was special about our great master, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who ascended on High thirty years ago? He ascended on High, but from there he continues to illuminate our path down here on earth.
First of all, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was the continuation – indeed, the consummate continuation -- of our Master, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohain Kook. For Ha-Rav Kook had, has and will have many disciples, but each one inherits a different aspect from him. Thus, they are his disciples to various degrees, some more and some less. One adds and another subtracts.
There are great disciples and simple students. But Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was the ultimate disciple, neither adding nor subtracting.
Now, one might say, “Obviously he didn't leave anything out. But why couldn't he add? Was he nothing more than an imitation? True, he was a "cemented cistern which loses not a drop" (Avot 2:10), but did he not add a drop himself?! Was he not a "spring that ever gathers force" (ibid.)?”
Certainly he was. But how can that be? The answer is that nothing that flows out of a spring is external. Its water all derives from the spring itself. Likewise, everything Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said was already stored away in the words of Rav Kook, and it makes no difference whether or not Rav Kook actually said it or not. This is the principle derived from the double wording of Devarim 11:13: “If you obey” [Im Shamo’a Tishme’u]: “If you hearken [Tishma] to the old, you will hearken [Tishma] to the new” (Rashi). When one hears a lot of ancient wisdom, with all one’s heart, soul and might, with all one’s intellect, emotion, imagination and will, with all one’s mind, spirit and soul, then the new wisdom, which seems so new, is really old.
What then was the approach of Rav Kook? What was his unique, Divine mission? As stated, Rav Kook’s path has been defined in many ways, because everyone took hold of a different approach. Our master, the consummate disciple, was the one who transmitted to us the definition: “The Redemptive Torah”, clarified at length in the work “Ohr LiNetivoti” (p. 280). This definition includes three parts, which are in fact one: 1. Torah 2. Redemption. 3. Redemptive Torah.
1. Torah. One might ask: Obviously Torah! Surely Rav Kook was a Torah scholar and his mission was Torah. Yet Rav Kook taught “the whole Torah”. The Torah in its entirety, all of its spheres included. The Torah is G-d’s will. It is G-d’s wisdom, the soul of the universe.
It is what gives the world meaning. It is the world’s cure.
2. Redemption. Rav Kook, the Cohain Gadol among his brothers, saw that G-d had decided to bring Redemption to His Nation, that He had inaugurated the third return to Zion, the rebirth of the Nation in its Land. He rose up and proclaimed: “Dear brethren, the time of your Redemption has arrived.” In his day, the Land was already being rebuilt, the ingathering of the exiles was taking place, and a Jewish State was in the making. And indeed, later on we witnessed the State of Israel itself coming into being, the wars fought on her soil, the further unification of the Jewish People, the return of Jerusalem to the Jewish People, and the Torah’s return to Land of Israel.
3. The Redemptive Torah. In other words, the Torah instructs the Nation about its current rebirth. The prophecy, “Joyfully shall you draw water from the wellsprings of salvation” (Yeshayahu 12:3), is rendered by Onkelos as, “Joyfully shall you receive new learning from the greatest of saints.” There are different levels of saintliness. We honor and love all of the saintly, but there are different levels of saintliness, and the “greatest of saints” are at the top.
And who are they? It is they who open for us the wellsprings of salvation in the Torah and fill us with the supreme joy of holiness. It is they who transmit to us the new learning that reveals the soul of rebirth.
Now we can understand how far Rav Kook goes and where Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah begins.
Their common ground is the Nation’s rebirth in its Land, illuminated by the Torah. But Rav Kook elucidated the spiritual strengths at the foundation of that rebirth, while Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah spoke about the actual revelation inherent in a Jewish State and army.
There is a story that Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah asked his father, Rav Kook, “Where are we in the Redemption – at the beginning? The middle? The end?” Rav Kook responded: It depends on our focus. If we are talking about the practical Redemption, then we are only at the very beginning. If we are talking about the Nation’s spiritual strengths, then we’ve already got it all stored away, from start to finish (Igrot Ha-Re’iya vol 4, p. 67). The entire tree is already stored away in the seed.
Now we can understand why the Redemptive Torah constitutes the entire Torah. In the exile we were a scattered, divided people, both physically and spiritually. Every stream, every Jew, took one holy portion as his inheritance, devoting himself fully to that portion. Now the time of the collective has arrived. The Jewish People are uniting in their Land and becoming a collective entity once more. And the Torah as well is being restored to its collective nature, in study and practice, mitzvoth and character refinement, law and homiletics, morality and faith. The entire Nation needs to rise up to rebirth.
Rav Kook ascended on High, but he left behind sustenance for the coming generations, many generations: the generations of rebirth. He prepared the rebirth of holiness.
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah ascended on High, but his spirit affects us and lives on within us. Not only within his books and through his disciples, but even within the entire nation, which has absorbed his words, consciously or not.
We carry on, by the light of our great master, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, building our Land and country, and being rebuilt through it. We carry on with the rebirth of our Nation and the rebirth of holiness, amidst the miracles being wrought by G-d for His Nation and inheritance.