answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Shehechiyanu for the Birth of
a Child with Down's Syndrome
Q: Ha-Rav answered that if a
child is born with Down's Syndrome, one should recite "Dayan Ha-Emet"
on the distress as well as "Shehechiyanu" on the joy.We – with Hashem's kindness – had a baby with
Down's Syndrome born to us and we were very happy and are still happy, and we
don't see any reason to recite "Dayan Ha-Emet"?
A: Fortunate are you!May those like you increase in Israel.But most people also feel some sadness, and
one should therefore recite "Dayan Ha-Emet".Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that
Shehechiyanu should not be recited at all, and he is discussing a case where
the parents are only sad and have no joy (Kav Ve-Naki #70).But the usual case is that there are mixed
Tefillin which Fell
Q: What should one do if
Tefillin fell on the floor?
A: The basic custom is not to
fast but to redeem the fast with Tzedakah.And one should also add Torah learning.Piskei Teshuvot 40:2.
Eating at the House of a
Q: The laws of Kashrut
prevent me from eating at the house of my non-religious friends.Isn't it more important to be strict with
loving a fellow Jew and sanctifing Hashem's Name than keeping Kosher?
A: The laws of Kashrut are
not a bother but service of Hashem and sanctification of Hashem's Name.It is true that for the sake of friendship
one may decide to forgo strictures but not the basic Halachah.And one must be 100% certain that everything
is Kosher (see Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:54, 2:43.And see Ein Aya on Berachot, p. 361).
Holding Hands in Public
Q: My wife really wants to
hold hands when we walk in the street.Is it allowed?
A: Public acts of affection
are forbidden.Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
Shaking a Woman's Hand
Q: In the text message
response on the question: If a secular woman puts out her hand, can I shake it?
Ha-Rav answered: No. Politely apologize: Forgive me, this is saved for my wife.
I once heard that Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein when facing the same situation would
shake her hand - the reasoning being that not shaking a woman's hand is a
Rabbinic prohibition but embarrassing a person is a Torah prohibition. Was this
in fact the case, and if not, what about applying the above reasoning and
allowing the handshake?
A: Ha-Rav Feinstein did
mention this idea in his Teshuvot (Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:56, 4:32.
See also Orach Chaim 1:113) but concluded that it is difficult to rely on
it.This is especially true since the
Beit Yosef (Yoreh Deah 195) mentioned that according to the Rambam it is a
Torah prohibition and one should be killed rather than transgress it!We should not embarrass anyone, but here the
woman is causing herself embarrassment. Ha-Rav Ovadia Yosef declined to shake
hands with Prime Minister Golda Meir when he received the Israel Prize. And Rav
Mordechai Eliyahu did not shake hands with the Queen of England.In both cases apologies were issued to the
Rabbis on the same night for putting them in that situation.
Relating to Jesus and
Q: How do we relate to Jesus?
A: Our Sages say that he was
an extremely talented Jew who spoiled his proper character traits and
faith.The Rambam writes that he led a
huge part of humanity to idol worship and spilling of our blood.Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:4 – the
Q: And Muhammad?
A: The Koran described him as
uneducated, and as one with improper character traits and an inclination for
women.And see Rambam, Igeret
Teiman.But he has the merit that he led
a huge part of humanity to the belief in one G-d (and see Teshuvot Ha-Rambam
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayigash
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
If I maintain a certain degree of Kashrut standards, and am invited to eat with
a family that does not use the Kashrut supervisions that I find suitable, what
should I do? I know that they will be insulted if I don't eat.
The main rule is this: All of the Rabbinical supervisions are kosher! No Rabbi would
give a certificate for non-Kosher food. Our Sages said, "No Torah scholar
would allow anything imperfect to emerge under his auspices” (Eruvin 32a).
impossible to suspect a Torah scholar of writing “kosher” on non-Kosher food.True, anything can happen, but you need proof
to believe it. Thus, food with a Kashrut certificate may be presumed kosher
until proven otherwise. Obviously, some supervisions are more stringent and
some are less, but stringencies are for the confines of your own home.
needn’t be strict at the cost of insulting others. As the Jerusalem Talmud
states, a basic precondition to saintliness is not humiliating others who do
not conduct themselves on the same level as you (Berachot Chapter 2).
Therefore, since all the Rabbinic supervisions are Kosher, and refraining from
eating will humiliate others, one should eat what one is offered.
two stories in this regard about the illustrious Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach,
both taken from the book Ve-Aleihu Lo Yibol (p. 10):
response to my question about female seminary students from abroad who go as guests
to various families, and how they should conduct themselves Kashrut-wise, he
decisively responded: ‘Tell them that any Rabbinical Kashrut supervision is
good,’ although certainly anyone may undertake personal strictures.”
I got married, I came to Ha-Rav Auerbach and asked him: In my parents’ home and
my in-laws’ home they eat foods with various Israeli Rabbinical supervisions
which I do not eat from in my own home. How should I conduct myself when I eat
with them?’Rav Auerbach responded: Two
witnesses attended a Brit Milah of a Sefardic family and Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim
Zonenfeld, who was present, ate the meat that had undergone Sefardic ritual
slaughter. When you are the guest of family members or other G-d- fearing
people, you must eat everything they serve you. It’s not a matter of anyone
serving you non-Kosher food! According to the essence of the law, all
Rabbinical supervisions are valid (the issue was certifications by well-known
Rabbinical bodies in Israel). Some supervisions are more strict on certain
matters that do not touch on the essence of the law.
audaciously asked Rav Auerbach: Does Rav Auerbach conduct himself that way? and
he responded: Certainly! When I am at a wedding, I eat chicken prepared with
Rabbinical supervisions that I would not rely on in my own home."
his death our great King David delivered final instructions to his successor,
the future King Shlomo: eliminate King David's two loyal friends: Yoav ben
Tzeruyah and Shimi ben Gera (Melachim 1 2:5-9).
is impossible not to be shocked by these words.True, King David had some conflicts with these two figures, but at this
moment he is almost standing at the entrance to the supreme world: shouldn't he
be striving to forgive everyone?And
Yoav ben Tzeruyah faithfully served him over the course of many years!Shouldn’t King David view his sins in a more
proper perspective?Is this really the best
advice to give to the young future King who is about to fill his role: to kill
the great hero of the Nation? One who carried all of the Nation's battles for
independence on his back?
must first understand the sins of Yoav: "You also know what Yoav ben
Tzeruya did to me and what he did to the two leaders of the armies of Israel,
Avner ben Ner and Amasa ben Yeter, whom he killed; and shedding the blood of
war in peacetime, and putting the blood of war on the girdle that was on his
loins and on the shoes that were on his feet" (ibid. v. 5).What is this all about?In the first section, which is found at the
completion of the ongoing civil war: "And there was a lengthy war between
the house of Shaul and the house of David" (2 Shmuel 3:1) regarding the
inheritance of the kingship.Avner ben
Ner, the leading personality in Shaul's house, reached the conclusion that
continuing this dispute would not be profitable, and therefore worked to unify
all of the Nation of Israel around David.After this, he approached David, who was then living in Hevron, and
informed him that he was now accepted by everyone.David honored him and sent him on his
way.At that exact moment, Yoav, the
leading personality in David's house, returned from a military operation and
harshly attacked his King: "What have you done?...You know that Avner ben
Ner came to deceive you" (Shmuel 2 3:24-25).You are naïve, you do not understand anything
about political ruses!Yoav immediately
went after Avner, "Yoav took him aside in the gate to speak with him
quietly and struck him there in the stomach and he died" (ibid. 27).
is the exact model of political murder.Yoav thought he was acting for the good of the kingdom, and thought that
he understood better than David what was for the best.In his Machiavellian zeal, the ends justified
the means.In this sense, he was the
anti-thesis of David: a person of pure conduct even under the most difficult
circumstances.Do not be mistaken: Yoav
was not a lowly adventurist.He was a
person of stature, a spiritual giant and a national hero. But his national zeal
created a context for depravity.
is a second incident, with similar circumstances, that is connected to a new
civil war.Sheva ben Bichri organized a
revolt against King David.He succeeded
in assembling almost all of the Nation of Israel under his flag other than the
Tribe of Yehudah who remained loyal to its king.David appointed Amsa, his Chief of Staff, to
quickly gather the men of the Tribe of Yehudah as a last hope to save his
dynasty."Amsa went to muster the
men of Yehudah, but he was later than the set time which he had assigned to
him" (Shmuel 2 49:1).The reason
for the delay was that the soldiers were immersed in learning Torah and could
not be drafted.It is true that it is
permissible to cease learning Torah for an obligatory war, such as a war of
independence or a defensive war, but not for a civil war, regardless of its
importance.Amsa decided to nullify the
King's order, considering it illegal (Sanhedrin 49a), which ignited the fury of
Yoav.Yoav approached Amsa and tried to
calm his suspicions by saying: "Are you well, my brother?" (Shmuel 2
20:9).Yoav held Amsa's beard with his
right hand, as if he was going to kiss him, and then killed him with his sword
(ibid. 10).Much later, in the time of
King Shlomo, Yoav was tried by the Sanhedrin in a special session on these two
count of political murder (Sanhedrin ibid.).
one question still remains: Why did David, who was justifiably shocked by these
two transgressions of Yoav, keep him as the head of his army?Furthermore, why pass on the unfavorable task
of punishing the guilty to the young King Shlomo – something that would endanger
his standing in the eyes of the Nation, who saw Yoav as one of its greatest
Shlomo ben Aderet, known as the Rashba and one of the most important Rishonim
(early authorities), answered this question.The background of his halachic answer is a reality of sinners who have
had much power and endangered the community.In order to completely eradicate the "sharks," the Rashba
suggests cooperating with the "little fish," whose transgressions are
less severe.It is always possible to
judge those sinners later if they do not repent in the meantime.The Rashba requests that we follow the path
of King David, who ignored the sins of Yoav in order for him to aid in the war
against enemies of the state, those who placed immeasurable fear upon and
endangered the young kingship (Shut Ha-Rashba 2:238).
a downtrodden town in the Wild West, in which a group of bandits instilled fear
into the residents with the help of their pistols.The concerned federal government decided to
send a sheriff from one of the best law schools, a dynamo in jurisprudence, who
wore a fancy suit, stylish tie and elegant glasses.He walked into the local tavern with a pile
of law books under his arm and his diploma in his pocket.He approached one of the bandits and pointed
out which section of the law he was transgressing this time.The bandit let lose his anger and emptied the
chamber of his gun into the sheriff, ending his short career.The federal government learned its lesson and
decided this time to send the fastest pistol in the West.He did not complicate the situation by
politely citing the sections of law - instead he shot the gangsters without
warning.His strategy was more
convincing.This sheriff brought quiet
to the town and rode around on his white horse to ensure security for its
residents.Years past and the mentality
changed.Industry and technology spread,
a modern city sprouted, but our sheriff continued to fulfill his role by riding
on his horse between the cars and train tracks, shooting occasionally to keep
the order.The central government therefore
once again appointed a more elegant officer with a suit, tie, etc. who would
use polite phrases such as "My dear friend," "You are the hero
of my youth" and "I respect you."But now, he says: "I am the sheriff,
therefore please hand in your weapon and you will receive in its place a book
of tickets, a traffic whistle and a nametag.And – oy-va-voy - if you shoot another bullet since as brave as you are,
I'll throw you in jail.Be forewarned.”
the time of King Shlomo, the situation had changed.All of the governors and generals had been
replaced by civilian clerks.Yoav was
now superfluous and dangerous, since the period of the gunmen with their finger
on the trigger had past.The Nation was
obviously more sympathetic to a shining soldier than a civil
administrator.This is obviously not
enough of a reason to eliminate Yoav.It
would have been preferable for him to make himself and his deeds forgotten
instead of participating in the continuing revolt of Adoniyah.He did not learn to take advantage of the
longevity which he was given by improving his conduct and there was therefore
no way to commute his sentence.In fact,
this revolt reminded David of all of Yoav's deeds and led to his uncompromising
decision to eradicate him (Melachim 1 2:28-34).
great national hero did not understand that the time of warriors had passed,
and now Shlomo, the man of peace, was finally King.
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Shehechiyanu for the Birth of
a Child with Down's Syndrome
Q: If someone has a baby with
Down's Syndrome, does he recite Shehechiyanu?After all, he is sad.
A: He is both sad and
happy.He therefore recites
"Shehechiyanu" and "Dayan Ha-Emet."This is similar to a case in which one's wife
gives birth but dies during the process, or one's father dies but leaves him an
inheritance. He recites both blessings since he has both feelings (Berachot
60a.This is unlike the ruling of Ha-Rav
Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who rules that Shehechiyanu should not be recited in our
case, since the parents are not joyous but sad.Kav Ve-Naki #70).
Q: Is one obligated to throw
plastic bottles in the recycling bin, or is it permissible to throw them in the
trash, even though it pollutes nature?
A: It is permissible to throw
them in the garbage.There are also
researchers who claim that recycling bottles pollutes more than throwing them
in the trash, and the green ideology sometimes exaggerates (By the way, American
law requires recycling).
Helping a Blind Woman across
Q: Is it permissible for a
man to help a blind woman across the street by holding her hand?
A: One should hold her sleeve,
and this is on condition that there is no woman to help her (see Shut She'eilat
Tefillin on the Street
Q: Is it permissible to put Tefillin
on people in the street when perhaps their bodies are not clean?
A: This is a very distant
Q: Isn't it belittling Hashem
to call Him: "Tatte" – “Father” in Yiddish?
A: No.The Master of the Universe is our Father, on
condition that we remember that He is also our King.We are sons and servants of Hashem.But it is belittling to speak in Yiddish, as
if Hashem doesn't understand Hebrew.But
it is also possible to call Hashem: Mommy, since the Kabbalists refer to Hashem
as both Father and Mother.He is above
both male and female, but reveals Himself as both a Father and Mother.
Segulah against Traffic
Q: Is there a Segulah against
A: Driving carefully and
performing kindness to those who need a ride (And the Belzer Rebbe – Ha-Rav
Aharon Rokeach – also gave the Segulah that if one follows the traffic laws
with the strictures of the 10 Commandments, and also gives rides to those who
need them, in the merit of these kindnesses which he does on the road, he will
be saved from any bad occurrence.Shut
Shevet Ha-Kehati 5:241).
Messiah returning from the
Q: Is the Lubavticher Rebbe
A: The RCA, the Rabbinical
Council of America, decided that a Rabbi who holds that the Messiah will come
from the dead may not be part of their Rabbinic organization.
Choosing a Teacher
Q: What is preferable – a
Torah teacher with a beard, or a Torah teacher without a beard who can explain
A: The one who explains
better, since learning Torah is a greater Mitzvah than having a beard (This is
also the ruling of Ha-Rav Yosef Shlomo Elyashiv.Kav Ve-Naki #306).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Miketz
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
What is the right way to learn Torah? Should I try to understand the words of
our Sages and the commentaries, or should I clarify what I, myself, have to say
and what seems right to me?
The main point is to acknowledge and believe that G-d's intellect is infinitely
above our own humble human intellect. That is the necessary approach for our
Torah learning to be real. How can my impoverished intellect be exalted enough
to have any contact with the Divine intellect? It is through humbly and
reverently understanding my own limitations. Yet, if I do not relate reverently
to absolute divine truth, if I try a bit to address it on its own level, then I
am not learning the truth of Torah, but only studying my own thoughts and
the question -- am I thinking, speaking and innovating, or am I listening?
greatness was not so much that he came up with his own innovative ideas, but
that he listened to the word of G-d. Once and for all, Moshe constructed the
foundation of listening to G-d. As Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook
wrote: “Man’s greatness, what makes him rise above all that is exalted, is his
opening himself up to hear G-d’s voice, to accept G-d’s word, not to innovate
with his own ideas, not to set forth a vision, not to become entrenched in the
limited resources possessed by man and by every other creature, but to accept.
Moshe, the greatest prophet, the most humble man on earth, achieved this
exaltedness entirely by listening to G-d, and that listening was not tainted at
all by the darkness of man’s limitations. The way he listened to G-d
established forever how man should do that” (Olat Re'eiyah 2, 159).
epitomized Moshe greatness was his listening to the word of G-d, devoid of any
influences from without that could
deplete that greatness. He was free of all the pettiness of man's individuality
and temporality, thus enabling him to exalt himself totally to the eternal,
infinite Divine truth. If I am humble, I learn Torah in order to try to exalt
my intellect to that of the Torah. Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook would
explain that one must strive to bring one's intellect closer to that of the
explanation by the Tosafot commentary, and not to try to bring the Tosafot
commentary closer to one’s own intellect. After all, the words of the Tosafot
are G-dly. They constitute Divine intuition.
But if I
try to clarify what I say and not what our Sages said, than I must first define
who "I" am. After all, I am just the product of a certain education
and environment. If it is I who determines the Torah’s meaning, then I
transform it from holy to profane. Then it is no longer G-d's word. It is I.
Then I no longer have Torah.
depends on my humbly believing that Torah is divine, far loftier that all of
certainly have nothing against secular knowledge. But the secular must be informed
and illuminated by the sacred. If, however, I arrogantly raise myself up above
the Torah, engaging in intellectual inquiry or merely trying to satisfy my
emotions, and I turn the holy into the profane, then I am spiritually dead. The
purity of my faith has then been robbed from my soul.
approach gains sway, the result is spiritual destruction.
contrast to paganism, which involves man’s listening to himself, Moshe opened
the gate for the entire human race to heed G-d's word.
primary condition for achieving any contact with the Torah is absolute
humility, as Maharal explains at the beginning of Netiv Ha-Torah. Otherwise, I
don't see the Torah. I only see myself. “Moshe was pleased with the gift
bestowed on him, for You did call him a faithful servant. A glorious crown did
You place on his head as he stood before You on Mount Sinai. He brought down in
his hand the two tablets of stone” (Shabbat Morning Shemoneh Esreh)
of G-d – ‘Behold, the day is coming when I will send a famine in the Land, not
a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of Hashem.’”
are a Nation who loves unity and hates dispute.To our great distress, we have been torn apart by dissention for a long
time.In our Haftarah, the prophet Yechezkel
comes to comfort us: "Harmony will return.The word of Hashem came to me, saying: Now you, son of man, take for
yourself one piece of wood and write upon it ‘For Yehudah and for the Children
of Israel, his comrades,’ and take one piece of wood and write upon it ‘For
Yosef, the Tribe of Ephraim and all the House of Israel, his comrades.'Bring them close to you, one to the other,
like one piece of wood, and they will become united in your hand.When the children of your people say to you,
saying: ‘Will you not tell us what these things are to you,' say to them, ‘Thus
said Hashem G-d: Behold, I am taking the wood of Yosef which is in the hand of
Ephraim and the tribes of Israel, his comrades, and I am placing them and him
together with the wood of Yehudah; and I will make them into one piece of wood,
and they will become one in My hand’” (Yechezkel 37:15-19).
terrible divide between Yosef and his brothers ended after numerous evils.The father’s beloved son, a young genius who
absorbed only theoretical wisdom, inherited his brothers' criticism for
himself: "Yosef brought a bad report to their father" (Bereshit
37:2).Fearing that they would be pushed
out, as happened to Yishmael and Esav, the brothers make the horrible decision
to assassinate Yosef, but before doing so engage in the lesser evil of selling
him into slavery.We have to admit that
love and understanding did not reign in Yaakov's house.
is known, there were continuing disputes during the course of our history between
the descendant of Yehudah and the descendant of Ephraim.After King Shaul's death, the war of
inheritance continued to rage between David, a descendant of Yehudah, and the
inheritors of Shaul, the descendants of Binyamin.After King Shlomo's reign, the kingdom split
into two Jewish States: the Kingdom of Yehudah and the Kingdom of Israel.
civil wars between these two groups were numerous, and their fundamental
fraternity did not prevent blood from flowing.The Nation of Israel paid dearly for war between Achaz, King of Yehudah,
and Pekach ben Remalyahu, King of Israel, in which one hundred and twenty
thousand soldiers from Yehudah fell on the cursed battlefield (Divrei Ha-Yamim
2 28:6).In the end, both kingdoms were
exiled, one after the other.
is room to believe that all of the suffering of the joint exile would bring
them closer together, but this is only partially true.And there is certainly room to expect that
the return to Israel would be accompanied by reconciliation, but things are not
so simple.A new dispute appeared
between the Secular Zionists and the Ultra-Orthodox, or in the terminology of
120 years ago – the new settlement and the old settlement.The Zionists worked for the sake of the
national revival of the Jewish Nation in its Land, while the Ultra-Orthodox
were interested solely in faithful observance to the laws of the Torah.Intense mutual enmity reigned between the two
camps and no less severe was their separation due to of lacking of caring and a
big dose of misunderstanding.
his eulogy for Dr. Theodore Herzl, Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained that these two
streams are spiritual descendants of Yosef – a man of standing, statesmanship
and economic wisdom – and Yehudah – a holy person responsible for the inner treasures
of the Nation of Israel.According to
his opinion, a spark of Mashiach ben David (Messiah, descendant of David, who
is from the line of Yehudah) is hidden within the Ultra-Orthodox and a spark of
Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah, descendant of Yosef) is hidden within the Zionists
(see Sukkah 52a-b for a discussion of the two Messiahs).The premature death of Theodore Herzl, the
great leader of Zionism, contains to some extent the death of Mashiach ben
Yosef following his severance from Mashiach ben David.Maran Ha-Rav Kook emphasized that this
dichotomy is a disaster for both camps, and it is essential that everyone work
for the sake of national unity.Detached
from religion, the Zionist movement will find itself as a body without a
soul.And Faith without a base in
historical reality will turn into a virtual floating in air (Ma'amrei
Ha-Re'eiyah, pp. 94-99).Today we can
rejoice because we have progressed in the right direction of bring these ideals
together - but much work still remains to be done
now find ourselves in the final battle and we are not so distant from a joyous
tomorrow: "And speak to them: Thus said Hashem G-d: Behold, I am taking
the Children of Israel from among the nations to which they have gone, and I
will gather them from all around and bring them to their soil.I will make them into a single nation in the
Land in the mountains of Israel's hills, and a single king will be king for
them all; and they shall no longer be two nations, no longer divided into two
kingdoms again" (Yechezkel 37:21-22).
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Surgery on Chanukah
Q: Is it permissible to
undergo surgery during Chanukah when as a result one will miss lighting
A: Yes.It is permissible for a person to put himself
in a situation whereby he will lose out on performing a Mitzvah on account of
"Pikuach Nefesh" – safeguarding his life (see Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom
Elyashiv, brought in Ashrei Ish, p. 233).
Working when Candles are Lit
Q: Should women refrain from
working the entire time the Chanukah lights are lit?
A: It is enough to refrain
for a half an hour (Mishnah Berurah 670:4).
Q: Is housework is
A: Yes.Food prep, washing dishes and similar
activities (Chazon Ovadiah – Chanukah, p. 12.Shut Kinyan Torah 7:52 #3).
Q: If she is not at home?
A: It is permissible (Shut
Mishneh Halachot, Tanina 1:530).
Q: Should men also refrain?
A: Some are strict, but it is
permissible according to the basic halachah (Magen Avraham 670:1.Mishnah Berurah #3.Chazon Ovadiah – Chanukah, p. 14).
Chanukah Party for Mourner
Q: Is it permissible for a
mourner to go to a Chanukah party?
A: No (Halichot Shlomo, p.
One Who is Careful to Light
Q: Our Sages said that if one
is careful to light Chanukah candles he will merit children who are Torah
scholars - but many times this does not happen?
A: 1. Other reasons impede it
(see Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 2:340).2. This is a general parable.See
Ain Ayah (Shabbat 23b).
Permissible Uses of the
Q: It is forbidden to use the
Chanukah lights except for looking at them, as we say in Ha-Nerot Ha-Lalu.Are there any cases where it is permissible
to use them?
A: 1. It is permissible to use
them for looking in a book to check a halachah relating to the Chanukah lights,
since using the light is for its own sake (Birkei Yosef 673:5.Shaarei Teshuvah ibid. #3).2. It is permissible to have one's picture
taken next to the Chanukiyah, since this is not using its light (This is also
the ruling of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv brought in Shut Va-Yishma Moshe vol.
1, p. 212).
Q: Is it permissible to use a
scented candle for Chanukah lights?
A: Yes, and there is no
problem with benefitting from the scent since one is not benefiting from the
light (Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yoseh brought in Shut Ma'ayan Omer vol. 3, p. 332).
Blowing out Candles
Q: Is it true that it is
forbidden – all year – to blow out candles?
A: Some are particular to
refrain from doing so (Kol Bo #118).But
when performing a Mitzvah, we say that no bad will come to one who performs a
Mitzvah (Kaf Ha-Chaim, Yoreah Deah 116:115).
Lighting the Wrong Number of
Q: What should one do if he
lights either too many or too few candles on Chanukah?
A: Extinguish or add without
a blessing (Shut Ha-alef Lecha Shlomo, Orach Chaim #380.Chazon Ovadiah, p. 29.And see Shut Shevet Ha-Kehati 1:202).
Using Friend's Chanukiyah
Q: Is it permissible to use a
A: It is forbidden without
his permission (Ha-Measef 673, vol. 1 siman #55, based on Shut Beit Yaakov #3
that the principle: "A person is happy when his possessions are used for a
Mitzvah" only applies to Torah Mitzvot and not to Rabbinic Mitzvot).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayeshev
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
the Greeks entered the Temple, they contaminated all the oils" (Shabbat
they manage to contaminate everything? Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain
Kook explains that when a new yearning for the Greek style penetrates the
spiritual nature of our lives, it invalidates not only those points that it
touches, but the entire edifice. The weak-minded are tempted to say that the
foreign strain will harm only a small portion, and to take comfort from the
rest. But that's not how things are. Impurity does not leave even one corner uncorrupted
(Ein Aya, Shabbat, Chapter 2, 11).
with little things - with claims that you have to follow the spirit of the
times, to flow with life, with beauty and with progress, and it ends with the
most severe problems there are. True, one should always maintain friendly
relations with people, but, as the Mesilat Yesharim explained, this is
referring to people who behave properly and in accordance with the Torah and
purity (Chapter 5).
is good when people are arguing with each other over money. After all, in this
case a person is regarding what is his to give. Yet one cannot compromise
regarding the Torah, which is not his but G-d's.
A joke is
told about a meeting between the Pope, the Imam in charge of all of Islam, and
the Chief Rabbi of the whole world, in order to find ways to bring world peace.
The Pope said, "I am willing to forgo belief in Jesus the Christian."
The Imam said, "I am willing to give up on Muhammad." The Rabbi was
unwilling to concede on anything. Yet finding himself against the wall, he said,
"I am willing to concede the second “Yekum Purkan” on Shabbat.” His doing
so raised the ire of all the Jews of the world. They asked, "How did he
Reform movement began by nullifying that prayer, arguing that it mentioned the
yeshiva heads in Babylonia.
matters there is no room for compromise. We obviously cannot solve all of the problems
overnight, and have to equip ourselves with patience. Yet Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi
Yehudah Kook emphasized: being patient does not mean giving in. We are patient
because we have no choice, but we must always speak the truth, and not
surrender to the voice of the masses.
spoke of the generation in which the Messiah arrives as one in which “the face
of the generation is like the face of a dog” (Mishnah at the end of Sotah).
Some explain that a dog runs ahead of its master, as though it is leading, but
truthfully it constantly looks back to make sure of the direction in which its
master is running.
the National-Religious public is not being Hellenized. It is full of religious and
nationalist courage and fortitude. Yet it is still a lukewarm compromiser, as
Rav Kook wrote to the Mizrachi Movement:
average views, marked by physical and spiritual weakness, will never emerge
triumphant as we move towards our national rebirth.” (Igrot HaRe’eiyah vol. 2,
“We have to
be radicals. With half-baked compromises we will never rectify a thing” (ibid.,
pp. 123-124). “The Mizrachi, from within the World Zionist Federation, must
make its voice heard. It must be the voice of fortitude, not a voice of whimpering
and waffling” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 217).
close ranks with the masses! “One should not be embarrassed before people who
mock him in his service to G-d!” (Orach Chaim 1:1, Rema).
Torah is perfect. All that G-d said we must do and we must obey. We mustn’t subjugate
ourselves to the spirit of the times. Better to find the small container of
holy oil. In the end, we vanquished the Greeks – and gained another holiday!
The more they wanted to make us forget the Torah, the more did Torah study
spread to the entire Nation (Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin, Pri Tzadik, Vayeshev,
famous verse of the prophet Zechariah: "Not by might and not by power but
by My spirit, says Hashem of Hosts" (Zechariah 4:6), seems rather
strange.After all, human history has
proven through countless examples that spirit alone is not enough. On the
contrary! The weapon is the deciding factor of events, and even directs their
isn't this a pretty naïve stance?In the
verse itself the Master of the Universe, who is the Source of the message to
Zerubavel, is called "Hashem of Hosts," i.e. of armies!Did Zerubavel, the prince of the Jews who led
the return to Israel after the Babylonian Exile, only utilize spiritual means,
or did he also employ a strategy on the ground?Didn't he take pains to build the Temple (Ezra 3-4)?Even when the King of Persia ordered the Jews
to cease building, didn't they continue to do so without his permission (ibid.
against their enemies' threats (ibid. 4:5), those new immigrants initiated
rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nechemiah 2:17).It is related regarding those enemies:
"And all of them joined together to fight against Jerusalem and to cause
confusion in it" (ibid. 4:2).The
response of the Jews was not only spiritual: "And we prayed to our G-d and
stood on guard against them day and night because of them" (ibid. v. 3).
enemies, different non-Jews who dwelled in our Land during our absence in the
time of Babylonian Exile and who toyed with the idea that this Land belongs to
them, continued planning their pogroms (ibid. v. 5).The Jews responded with strength to protect
themselves: "I stationed the Nation according to family with their swords,
spears and bows" (ibid. v. 7).
of this military preparation did not slow down the rebuilding of the wall."And from that day, half of my young men
did the work and half of them held the spears, shields, bows and coats of
mail" (ibid. v. 10).It was an
inspiring sight: "Those who build the wall and those who carried the
burden arranged it so that he did the work with one of his hands and held a
weapon with the other.And each of the
builders had his sword girded by his side" (ibid. v. 11-12).Doesn't this picture fill us with incredible
this is the Haftarah of Chanukah, we ask the question: did the Hasmoneans
defeat the Greeks through spirit alone, without the use of force?And doesn't the Torah itself direct us to use
weapons when there is no other way to protect our independence?It commands us numerous times to arrange
military censuses: "From twenty years and up, everyone who goes to the
army in Israel" (Bemidbar 1:3).
is therefore a clear misunderstanding in the reading of our verse.In truth, the verse does not say:
"Not by might and not by power but by spirit" but rather "but by
My spirit."What is worthless
is might and power detached from the word of Hashem - violence for its own
sake, power as its own ideal.Everything
must be illuminated by faith in Hashem, by the most pure ethical standards.
Nechemiah established defensive units surrounding Jerusalem, he charged them:
"Do not be afraid of them.Remember,
Hashem, who is great and awe-inspiring, and wage war for your brothers, your
sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses" (Nechemiah 4:8).The Rambam, the great halachic authority of
the laws of war, emphasizes that a soldier must wage war out of a faith in
Hashem (Hilchot Melachim, end of chapter 7).
Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, never missed an opportunity to be
present at the great Tzahal military parade on Yom Ha-Atzmaut.Each time a tank, weapon or army unit passed
him, he recited the verse: "Some trust in chariots and horses, but we will
mention the Name of Hashem our G-d" (Tehillim 20:8), but he would
immediately add the beginning of the verse: "Through chariots and
horses," i.e. we rely on Hashem, but this reliance expresses itself in an
active manner, through our military efforts.
Hasmoneans also acted through deep faith, and therefore their small military
force with limited weapons succeeded in crushing the powerful Greek army.This is true in our time as well."The secret weapon of the Israel Defense
Force" is morale, faith, the inner conviction that we are fighting for a
just cause, and our connection to Hashem – whether all of Israel is aware of it
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