More than 200 on an average day, 500 per day before a holiday, and 800 per day during times of war…
This is the number of text message questions received by Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a. With unwavering dedication to the Nation of Israel, an amazing breadth of Torah knowledge, and an incredible gift for brevity, Rav Aviner personally responds to each and every question – whether with a prompt and concise answer, or, in the case of more complex issues, with the suggestion that the questioner call to discuss the matter in depth.
Short and Sweet is but a small sampling of Rav Aviner's never-ending stream of text messages – a window into a new genre of Q&A, borne of modern technology but firmly rooted in traditional rabbinic responsa. Like the millions of little dots that comprise a pointillist painting, these individual responsum coalesce to form a meaningful picture: one that depicts our relationship to the Nation of Israel, our attachment to the Land of Israel, and our love for the State of Israel, Tzahal and the Torah of Israel.
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תוויות: Yom Ha-Atzmaut
תוויות: In the News
Stickers in Public Domain
Q: Is it permissible to put stickers - cf. Smile, Everything is for the Best! - on public property, like a bus stop?
A: No. This is not your personal domain. It destroys public property.
Damage to a Bike
Q: I borrowed my friend's bike, and now he accuses me of damaging the tire. I don't remember damaging it, and I only rode it on a regular road?
A: If you used it in the normal manner, you are exempt from paying. But it is proper to pay as a sign of gratitude.
Q: How does one prepare strawberries properly to ensure that there are no bugs in them?
A: Remove the green part with a little bit of the fruit, soak in soapy water for a few minutes and rinse with a strong flow of water (Min Ha-Mutar Be-Ficha of Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, p. 29).
Buying from a Thief
Q: Is it true that one who buys from a thief is exempt?
A: Incorrect. He is only exempt from "Kefel" – paying back double (the punishment for stealing). But it is forbidden to buy from a thief. Our Sages say: The mouse is not what steals, but rather its hole - i.e. without the hole, the mouse would not steal. Likewise, without a buyer, the thief would not steal (Gittin 45a).
Found Money in a Coffee Shop
Q: A worker in a coffee shop found money and is unable to locate the person who lost it. Does the money belong to the owner of the coffee shop or the waiter?
A: The waiter.
Breaking a Glass under the Chupah
Q: Is it permissible to break an old light bulb instead of a glass under the Chupah?
A: No. We break something of value in order to awaken our sorrow over the destruction of the Temple (see Tosafot on Berachot 31a).
40 Shir Ha-Shirim
Q: I was told that there is a great Segulah if one recites Shir Ha-Shirim 40 times. On the 41st time, one's prayers are answered. I have done this many times with great Kavana and tears, and nothing happened. Where is the fulfillment of the prayers?
A: This has no source. It is a new innovation. It is like any other prayer: it is not magic (see the words of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in Ha-Shakdan vol. 2, p. 109).
Q: I learn with a friend who has bad breath. It really bothers me. What should I do?
A: Tell him. It is for his benefit. But it must be done gently, for example: Forgive me, but I have a problem, I am extremely sensitive to smells…
1. Commentary on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch vol. 1, chapters 1-34
2. Ha-Mored Ha-Gadol – story for teens
3. Commentary on Yehoshua, including introduction to learning Tanach
4. Commentary on Orot of Maran Ha-Rav Kook – 10 volumes!
5. Shulchan Shabbat – Commentary on the Zemirot and Birkat Ha-Mazon
[To order: www.havabooks.co.il]
In preparation for Yom Ha-Shoah, a Rabbi in a yeshiva for younger students brought a film to show the students. The film included pictures which were shot by the evil ones during the Holocaust. There were those who sharply criticized the use of this medium to influence the students. When our Rabbi was asked about this matter, he responded that one must deepen awareness of the Holocaust in every possible way. (Gadol Shimusha p. 80)
Our Rabbi said that it would have been appropriate to lay Eichman down on the ground and to have all of Israel step on him and trample him.
Someone once came to pick up our Rabbi in a Volkswagen. He refused to enter (Ha-Rav David Goldenberg).
תוויות: Stories of Rabbenu - Our Rabbi
1. It is forbidden to leave Israel, unless one is: 1. Going on a temporary trip necessary to earning a living 2. marrying, or 3. performing a mitzvah. Visiting a death camp is not considered to be as a mitzvah, whether of the Torah or of our Sages. And is not mentioned amongst the hundreds of thousands of paragraphs found in halachic works that were written in recent generations.
2. One should not financially support the Poles, who collaborated with the Nazis in establishing the extermination camps, and even persecuted the Jews themselves many times. Shall murderers benefit from their deeds?
3. The trip is so expensive that often times only the wealthy students can afford to go on it. It is scandalous that something associated with the educational system should create a division between rich and poor.
Now one might say: If this is true, how should we remember the Holocaust? The answer is simple: books, pictures, films, Yad Vashem and similar places. One might also say: That's all well and good, but I’ll miss out on the experience of a live visit to a death camp. The answer is simple: Hold a live meeting with one of the Holocaust survivors, of which there are presently 87,000, and hear directly from him what he experienced.
Still again, one might argue: “But visiting a death camp is an infinitely more powerful experience than talking to a Holocaust survivor.” That argument is truly puzzling. Is an experience with inanimate objects really more powerful than one involving a living, breathing person?! Quite the contrary. Common sense and untainted morality dictate that all of the money spent on this trip should instead be donated to Holocaust survivors, who still suffering, to this very day, from the terrible open wounds to their bodies and souls.
It's true that many of them were successfully absorbed in our country and became its builders, but many others are still suffering. Our country does a tremendous amount for these survivors, but it has not succeeded in solving all of their problems. The State Comptroller's report from 2007 in fact found fault with the way survivors are dealt with. And even though, since then, their situation has vastly improved, there are still many who suffer from a lack of food and medical services.
In sum, despite the State's prodigious assistance, we have not succeeded in answering all of the survivors’ needs, especially since the Law of Assistance to Holocaust Survivors applies only to those who arrived in Israel before 5713. It's obvious that some of those who came afterwards are also suffering greatly.
But getting back to our topic: traveling to the death camps to remember what Amalek did to us there, while at the same time neglecting the Holocaust victims who live in our midst.
If someone claims that this involves no small measure of hypocrisy, he will not be entirely mistaken. If someone is shocked by a person who prefers spending his money on an important "death-camp experience," rather than assisting someone who was hurt there, and thereby performing a human kindness, he is not entirely mistaken either.
So here are several practical suggestions:
1. Cancel the Poland trips and give all the money to organizations that grant assistance and support to Holocaust survivors. There are many such organizations, and you can find them by yourself. That's far less complicated than all of the logistics of traveling abroad. I would like to mention one worthy organization that distributes free medicines to the poor, including many Holocaust survivors: “Chaverim LiTerufa” [Friends for Medicine].
2. Even if one does go to Poland, he should make sure that fifty-one percent of his expenses go to helping the victims themselves. This would allow one to argue that most of the funds are going to actual people, rather than to stones and rocks.
3. And even if this suggestion is rejected, then at the very least, ten percent of one’s total expenses from the trip should be invested in those suffering terribly to this very day, as a sort of ‘Ma’aser”, a tithe. That would at least render us a little bit innocent before G-d and man.
“Look to the Rock from whence you were hewn” (Yeshayahu 51:1).
תוויות: Yom Ha-Shoah
Question: What is our task on Earth? What do we need to do?
Answer: That is the ultimate question. And the answer is simple: We are here in the world to serve the Master-of-the-Universe. To magnify His glory in the world.
Whatever a person does, however important his activities and however great his talents, they are nothing compared to his ultimate enterprise: being a partner with G-d in the Creation Act, in the great task of making G-d’s glory appear on earth. This is what affords man’s life its greatest significance, its greatest glory, its greatest success.
So how does one accomplish this? Maharal explains in his “Tiferet Yisrael” (Chapter 3) that man is special compared to everything else in the universe.
The “supreme beings” [Elyonim], i.e., the angels and the celestial sphere and the heavens, are pure and holy, both potentially and practically. The “earthly beings” [Tachtonim], i.e., matter and flora and fauna, are inferior in potential and in practical terms, and will never change, just as the supreme beings will never change. Man, however, is special. He is composed of both the supreme and the earthly, of soul and body. More precisely, he is in practical terms an earthly being, but in potential a supreme being. In order to transform his supremacy from a potential to a practical state, he needs toil.
“Man is born for toil” (Iyov 5:7). This is to say: toiling in Torah (Sanhedrin 99b). Man is born for toil, toil in Torah and toil in Mitzvah observance. The Mitzvot hallow man, as we say in our blessings, “Blessed be G-d… who has sanctified us with His Mitzvot”. The Mitzvot transform man from an earthly being into a celestial being, and that is man’s task. G-d created man to turn him into a celestial being.
Our Sages say, “G-d desired to have an earthly abode” (Tanchuma Naso 16, explained in Sefer HaTanya 36), meaning: an abode within earthly man, an abode within man’s deeds, man’s character, man’s thoughts, man’s emotions and man’s pleasures. That is the great goal, “to take pleasure in G-d”. This is explained at the beginning of Mesilat Yesharim: man can become so holy that he takes pleasure in G-d. The greatest source of pleasure is not in this world, but in the World-to-Come. Yet when a person reaches the level of “Chasidut”, saintliness, as described in Mesilat Yesharim, by then he has already acquired a certain measure of taking pleasure in G-d.
Indeed, Mesilat Yesharim is a ladder set on earth with its head reaching the heavens, explaining how man can become a supreme being, and how he can become more than what he is. Idolatry says: “Be what you are.” But we say, “Be more than what you are”. More and more, all the time. “There are higher and higher levels, with even higher ones beyond” (Kohelet 5:7). Yet the higher levels above us are not alien to us. They are within us.
They exist in us in potential. They are in our soul.
That is our task – to be partners with G-d in this great work, each person in accordance with his strengths, each in accordance with is his efforts and each in accordance with his current spiritual level.
Speeding for Shabbat
Q: It is permissible to drive above the speed limit in order to arrive someplace before Shabbat?
A: No. Get out of the car if you cannot arrive in time.
Terrorist Attack Outside of Israel
Q: There was a terrorist attack in France and four Jews were killed. Some people responded: They deserved it because they lived outside of Israel. Is this possible?
A: Those who responded this way did so because they are abnormal, may Hashem have mercy on them. And in general, the Rabbi was a Shaliach from Israel and his sons were also killed, may their memory be a blessing, may Hashem avenge their blood.
Warning Siren in the Middle of Shemoneh Esrei
Q: What should I do if there is a warning siren for an incoming missile and I am in the middle of davening the Shemoneh Esrei?
A: Run to the bomb shelter and continue davening the Shemoneh Esrei there. Walking in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei without speaking is not considered an interruption (Mishneh Berurah 104:2. See Piskei Teshuvot ibid.).
Q: Is it permissible for Ashkenazim to eat non-Kitniyot food that a. was cooked in pots in which Kitniyot were cooked, b. has a small amount of Kitniyot mixed in, or c. was cooked with Kitniyot oil?
A: Yes, after the fact. The Kitniyot are nullified within the majority. Rama (Orach Chaim 453:1).
Q: Is it permissible to give dogs (or other pets) food which contains Chametz?
A: No. Aside from the prohibition against eating Chametz, there is a prohibition of benefiting from and possessing Chametz.
Shaving on Chol Ha-Moed
Q: If someone shaves every day, is it permissible for him to shave on Chol Ha-Moed?
A: The Rishonim already discussed this issue. While some authorities permit it, the majority forbid it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 531:2. See Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 1:39. Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:163. Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 189-190).
Blackening Tefillin on Chol Ha-Moed
Q: Is it permissible to blacken Tefillin on Chol Ha-Moed?
A: Yes. It is not strenuous work.
Drafting Torah Scholars
Q: Does the obligation to draft Yeshivah students into Tzahal include important Torah scholars?
A: Yes. Just like Moshe Rabbenu and Yehoshua bin Nun (Shut She'eilat Shomo 1:368).
What does Hashem Think
Q: Is it possible to know what Hashem thinks about me?
A: Certainly. This is why we received the Torah. This means that if you perform a Mitzvah, Hashem is happy with you. And if you perform a transgression, Hashem is distressed, and you should repent.
Q: Is it permissible to give an inheritance equally among men and women?
A: Yes, but as a gift, not as an inheritance.
Q: Did the Maharal really make a Golem?
A: There is no historic proof, but it is a popular tradition, and there is no contradictory evidence.
Q: Is it permissible to go mixed swimming if the women are dressed modestly?
A: G-d forbid. Yashar Koach to the evil inclination for his creativity.
Bride and Groom
Q: If 40 days have passed since the wedding, is it forbidden for a newly-married couple to attend a funeral or pay a Shiva call?
A: It is permissible.
Q: Should we hate the extreme left and the Neturei Karta who visited Iran?
A: We should hate their actions but love them. Sefer Ha-Tanya, chapter 32.
A: It is not forbidden but there is no meaning in doing so (this custom is mentioned in Ta'amei Ha-Minhagim pp. 249-250).
תוויות: Shut She'eilat Shlomo
Question: How is it possible that there was such a murderous attack in Netanya at the Park Hotel precisely on the night of the Seder (5762, in which 30 people were killed by a suicide bomber). This very night is called "a Night of Protection," a night protected from harmful spirits, and there are countless stories about Jewish People being saved on this night throughout the generations! And furthermore, the attack occurred at the time they were fulfilling the Mitzvot of the holiday and having the Seder? This question greatly burns within my bones!
Answer: Fortunate are you that this question burns within your bones. This is only because you are a true Jew who believes in Divine Providence and who believes in every word of our Sages, may their memory be a blessing. May there be an increase of those like you in Israel.
It therefore remains for us to explain the words of our Sages. It is in fact written in the Torah "It is a night of protection for Hashem" (Shemot 12:42), and our Sages explained: "A night of protection from harmful spirits" (Rosh Hashanah 11b). But there are other explanations by our Sages for the phrase "night of protection" (ibid. and Pesachim 109b), and according to them, it is perhaps possible to say that this night is not protected from harmful spirits. But this is not so, since the Tosafot wrote that according to all opinions it is protected from harmful spirits (Tosafot, Rosh Hashanah 11b d.h. lailah).
The Kli Yakar wrote, however, that only this exact night during the Exodus from Egypt was protected from harmful forces, but not the same night in the later generations (Shemot 12:42). And perhaps it is possible to explain Rashi in this way, who ties this idea to the verse: "and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smite" (ibid. verse 23). But the rest of our Rabbis explain that the night is protected from harmful spirits, not only the night of the Exodus but all of the nights (on this date) throughout history. In the Mechilta, however, our Sages say that the meaning of "protection" is not that man will be automatically protected, but on the contrary, "It means that all Israel needs to be on guard" (Mechilta, end of chapter 14 and also Merchevet Ha-Mishnah ibid. and Yalkut Shimoni 210). But also here the Rishonim determined that the intention is that man is automatically protected. Or more precisely, says Rabbi Chaim Vital, a student of the Arizal, he is guarded on condition that he engages in Mitzvot or, at the very least, he is not violating a transgression (Devash Lefi of the Chida, ma’arechet 30 #12).
And the Rama therefore rules: "There are those who say that one should recite "Shefoch Chamatcha - Pour out Your wrath..." before "Lo Lanu - Not for our sake" (continuation of Hallel after the meal), and open the door in order to remember that it is a night of protection, and in the merit of this faith the Messiah will come and pour out his wrath on those who deny Hashem" (Rama to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 480:1). The Mishnah Berurah explains: "And one should not fear anything" (#10).
And he also wrote: "We customarily only recite the Bed-Time Shema [on the night of the Pesach Seder] and not the other portions which we recite on other nights for protection, since it is a night of protection from harmful spirits" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 481:2). One should also recite the blessing of "Ha-Mapil - Blessed is the One who casts the bonds of sleep" (Mishnah Berurah #10).
I am neverthless sure that you would not give an instruction to all of the soldiers of Tzahal to go home on the night of the Seder on account of this reason. And why? Because the night is guarded from harmful spirits (which means demons - which are an abstract spiritual reality), but not from all types of enemies.
For example, the Talmud expresses surprise that there are four cups of wine, since this is a "pair" (a multiple of the number two), and there is an extraordinary spiritual difficulty with pairs. One of the answers is that the night is guarded from harmful spirits (Pesachim 109b), meaning that we do not have to fear "pairs" on this night.
And our Rabbis also write about the necessity of guarding against other extraordinary-spiritual dangers: putting salt on Matzah, pouring out water in the neighborhood of the deceased, food placed under a bed, a peeled egg which was left overnight, reciting "Me’ein Sheva" (on Shabbat night after the Shemoneh Esrei)…and there are those who wanted to say that we are exempt from the ritual washing of hands in the morning (which is because of the evil spirit), but their opinion was rejected (see Torah Sheleimah on Shemot 12:42, milu’im #13). We do not find in any of these discussions, however, that the Rabbis thought that there was protection from actual danger.
The Kaf Ha-Chaim brings: "There is a custom in various places that they do not lock the rooms in which people sleep on the night of Pesach...And one should not act this way…because damage from thieves is prevalent" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 480:16). One should leave it open only if there are not thieves, but one should close it if there is a fear of thieves, and all the more so the fear of murderers. He also brings: "Maharil writes that one should not lock the door with a strong lock. But where danger is prevalent, we do not rely on a miracle" (ibid. 480:15).
This is the general principle: one must guard against extraordinary spiritual dangers with extraordinary means, and against physical dangers with active means. Blessed is Hashem, we are a wise and discerning Nation. Against savage murderous terrorists, one must hold a weapon and smite them completely off the face of the earth. Against these harmful spirits the holiness of the night of the Seder is not enough – we also need the holiness of the weapon of Tzahal which is like its name - Israel Defense Force.
We must also beware of harmful spirits that are the futile imaginings of murderers who claim that they are peace-loving students of "Aharon, lover of peace and pursuer of peace." These thoughts are a type of spiritual corruption that brings irreparable damage and spills much innocent blood. Against these you must hold- and use - a weapon "and not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smite" (Shemot 12:23). Thus will peace be brought into our Land.
A: A general rule: all medicines which lack taste are kosher since they are not food. They are also kosher for Pesach. And we can even turn medicine which has taste into medicine which lacks taste. How? We wrap the pill in a thin piece of paper. There are authorities who even permit medicine with taste since the ingredients which give the taste are kosher or not chametz. The non-kosher and chametz ingredients lack taste and kosher ingredients with taste are added. This is the opinion of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in the book "Halichot Shlomo" (6, 4 and in notes). As a result, almost all medicines are kosher and almost all medicines are kosher for Pesach. There are organizations which publish catalogues with long lists of which medicines are kosher for Pesach as a kindness for people, but they could sum it up in one sentence: 99% of medicines lack taste and are kosher. People are concerned, however, so they publish long lists.