answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Chafetz Chaim and Zionism
Q: Did the Chafetz Chaim
A: No.He was not in favor and he was not opposed
(Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira said that the Chafetz Chaim did not express his opinion
in writing on the subject of encouraging Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.He was a Torah giant but did not make a
declaration, although he knew that secular Jews lived in Eretz Yisrael.He did not want to become entangled in
speaking Lashon Ha-Ra against Eretz Yisrael! Rosh Devarcha, p. 409.And regarding the Chafetz Chaim making
Aliyah, the Chazon Ish related in the name of the Saba Kadisha - Ha-Rav Shlomo
Eliezer Alfandari – that if the Chafetz Chaim had made Aliyah, when he arrived
in our Holy Land he would have seen the fire of dispute between those close to
Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld and those close to Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak
Ha-Cohain Kook.The Chafetz Chaim would
have said: Did I toil and write the books 'Chafetz Chaim' and 'Shemirat
Ha-Lashon' for naught?And he would have
immediately yearned to make peace between them, and would have gone from one to
the other, trying with all his will to mediate between them.But the moment he entered Rav Kook's house,
the zealots would have taken the Mishneh Berurah and thrown it under the table,
and Hashem did not desire this.He
therefore did not make Aliyah.Likutei
Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 166).
Father and Daughter
Q: Is it permissible for a
father to hug and kiss his grown daughter?
A: Yes, even if she is
married (see Rambam, Hilchot Isurei Bi'ah 21.Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:10).
Shiduch for a Blind Man
Q: Is it permissible for a
blind man to touch the face of a woman on a Shiduch for purposes of becoming
acquainted with her?
A: G-d forbid!And if you are sending a text message, it
seems you are not blind.If so, why are
you involving yourself with immodest questions?
Q: Is it permissible to say
'Bnei Akiva', since it is forbidden to call a great Rabbi by his name, and it
is named after Rabbi Akiva?
A: It is indeed a
problem.But it is not possible to
change the name at this point (see Chinuch Be-Ahavah Vol. 2, pp. 308-311).
Q: What is the source for the
Rambam's words that anyone who becomes angry is as if he worships idols (also
in Hilchot Deot Chapter 2)?
A: Zohar 1:27b. 3:179a and
other places there.But this does not
mean that the Rambam took it from there (since it is clear that the Rambam did
not see the Zohar), but he certainly took it from Shabbat 105b and Nedarim 22a
(Although the Rambam's language is not exactly like the wording of the Gemara,
but rather like that of the Zohar).
Q: Is it permissible to
download songs from You Tube?After all,
the singer knows that people do so?
A: It is only permissible if
it is legal.The knowledge that people
break the law does not nullify the law (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:40
#19.Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in Sim
Shalom p. 23, printed at the end of Mishpat Ke-Halachah.Shut She'eilat Shlomo 2:374, 3:463).
Q: Is it permissible to have
a Smart Phone?
A: Only on condition that you
are 100% certain that you will not look at forbidden things.Obviously, it is preferable to have a stupid
phone.It is extremely smart to have a
not smart phone.See Rebbe Nachman's
tale "The Wise Man and the Simple One".
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah –
Behaalotecha 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Question: I am
worthless. I’ve got a serious mental illness. I’m just not worth anything.
Occasionally I go to the hospital for treatment and then I come back a nothing.
I’m a wretch, my wife is a wretch, my children are wretches. I don’t do
anything of worth in life.
I see my
friends who went to school with me. All of them are successful. They teach
Torah, they are rabbis, educators, while I’m just a dishrag. I study Torah
several hours a day. I barely understand anything, I forget it all, due to the
treatments I receive. What am I worth?
the purpose of my whole life? Very often I am sunk in depression, and I ask
myself what I am living for? I’m not worth a thing.
Answer: To answer
this question, one has to determine man’s purpose on earth. Is it to be a Torah
scholar? Is it to be important? Is it to have high status? No. Man’s purpose is
to serve G-d, as is explained in the first paragraph of the book Mesilat
Yesharim. There are different avenues and modes of serving G-d, each one in
accordance with its nature and place. The rule of thumb is: “The greater the
pain, the greater the reward.”
Master-of-the-Universe is not an achievement-oriented elitist. Rather, He appreciates
the effort we make: “When Naomi saw what an effort Ruth made to go with her, she
ceased arguing with her” (Rut 1:18). The Jerusalem Talmud states, “One Mitzvah involving
pain is worth a hundred painless Mitzvot.” In your case, every Mitzvah is very hard,
hence it is as precious in G-d’s eyes as a hundred Mitzvot that anyone else
same goes with your Torah learning.
writes that man is judged in accordance with the majority of his deeds. If most
of his deeds are meritorious, he is a Tzadik [righteous]. If most are
sinful, he is a Rasha [evildoer]. If his deeds are half and half, he is
a Benoni [in between]. If most of one’s deeds are evil, he will
immediately die for his wickedness (Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1-2).
have a question against Rambam. Surely we see many people with many more sins
than merits, yet they do not die immediately.
Rambam was aware of this question and he answered it in advance: It is not we
who appraise the value of each mitzvah. Neither are we talking about a mere numerical
calculation. Rather, there may very well be one Mitzvah that is worth thousands
of other Mitzvot, “Only the Master of Opinions knows how the comparison between
sins and merits is made” (ibid.).
dear friend, have a great many merits. Truly a great many.
you are! Every Mitzvah you perform and all of your Torah learning involve great
toil. Surely, in the Supreme World, the World of Truth, there will be
surprises…People who are considered important here will be considered worthless
there, and people who are derided here will be highly important there. “The
elevated ones will be down low, and the low down ones will be up high”
friend, will be very important there. The main thing is there and not here. This
world is a mere crumb, a minute spark of eternity. Moreover, this great and
bright future is not just in the future, but in the present as well. The
millions of fluorescent bulbs in the banquet hall light up the waiting room as
your best, and be aware that you are precious in G-d’s sight.
the way to Eretz Yisrael, traveling through the vast threatening desert, the
Nation of Israel continued to experience crisis after crisis. These crises taught them the values of the
Torah and what it means to belong to the Nation of Israel. The greatest crisis was that of the Spies: their
failure revealed Israel's rejection of the Promised Land. The severity of the sin may be deduced from
the severity of the punishment: "Your carcasses shall fall in this
wilderness" (Bemidbar. 14:29). All
adults who accepted the evil report of the spies were to die in the desert.
that was not the end. This sin has haunted us throughout the centuries.The maxim, "The deeds of the fathers are
a precedent for the sons" (see commentary of Ramban to Bereshit 12:6)
holds in both positive and negative cases. It is not merely a case of formal precedent-setting;
the deeds of the fathers set a precedent for us because we are their
continuation, cut from the same cloth.We have inherited their character traits, and our deeds therefore reflect
and repeat theirs, both positively and negatively. The sin of the spies revealed a certain
spiritual flaw, a lack of faith and of love for the Land, of indifference,
emotional distance, and even rejection.This flaw has passed from one generation to the next, infecting the sons
and their sons after them.
the phenomenon of the rejection of Eretz Yisrael repeated itself during the
Second Temple Period, when only a small fraction of the Nation chose to return
to Eretz Yisrael. In general it was the
poor and underprivileged who followed Ezra.The scholars, the wealthy, and the Levi'im chose to remain in Babylonia,
a prosperous, flourishing Jewish community (See Ezra 2 with Rashi.See Ketubot 25, Kiddushin 69a with Rashi). According to the Kuzari (2:24): "Only a
few of them responded to Ezra's call, most, including the important people,
remained in Babylonia."
similar phenomenon occurred in the past century when many great rabbis and
leaders ignored the national revival and preferred to remain in the Exile.Sadly, just as the spiritual flaw and the sin
repeat themselves in history, so too does the punishment. The weeping which
occurred that night, the eve of Tisha B'Av, has become "a weeping for all
generations." (Ta'anit 29a).
the First and the Second Temples were destroyed on Tisha B'av. The exile from Spain and World War I, among
other catastrophes, began on Tisha B'Av. Only partial punishment was meted out to the
Generation of the Wilderness. We have
been receiving the remainder bit by bit ever since.
were the men who spoke evil of Eretz Yisrael? "And Moshe sent them from the wilderness
of Paran according to the word of G-d, all of them important personages, the
leaders of the Children of Israel" (Bemidbar 13:3). "They were
important men, and the righteous ones at that time" (Rashi ibid.). There was no sudden change in their
personalities. The weakness which had existed in potential simply now found its
expression: "And they went ... and they came" (ibid. 13:26). "Just
as they returned with bad intent, so too did they start out with bad
intent" (Sotah 35a). Were they
wicked or were they righteous?
answer is that there are different kinds of righteousness. There are people who are personally Torah
observant, but when it comes to national concerns, their behavior leaves much
to be desired. In contrast, there are
those who are devoted with all their hearts to their Land and Nation, but are
not personally devout. King Shaul, for
example, was more righteous in his personal life than King David (Yoma 22b and
Moed Katan 22b), but he failed as a King when it came to leading the Nation in
the war against Amalek.
also explains the conclusion of the Chesed L'Avraham (Ma'ayan 3, Nahar 12) that
anyone who lives in Eretz Yisrael may be considered righteous - otherwise the
Land would expel him.
this is hard to comprehend. However, if
this refers NOT to the righteousness of his private life - how observant he is
of the 613 Mitzvot - but rather to how devoted he is to his Land and Nation,
then it is quite reasonable. Both types
of righteousness are needed, and the Redemption will come when each type of
person perfects himself by becoming wholly righteous (Orot of Maran Ha-Rav
Spies, like many other righteous men, did not behave in such an admirable fashion
in their public lives. The Zohar tells us about the special evil impulse
reserved for the very (personally) righteous: "The Serpent nests in the
highest mountain tops - i.e. the sages and the righteous" (Tikunei Zohar,
end of Tikkun 13 and commentaries). This
evil impulse feeds on spiritual motivation. Defense of Torah observance and the need to
combat evil practices among those who build the Land become excuses for not
supporting our national redemption. This
is the evil impulse disguised as Torah observance. "And the great leaders
of Israel will have to stand trial in the Heavenly Court for this matter.G-d will hold them responsible for
humiliating His House" (Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh, Vayikra 25:25).
could such great men commit such a sin? What were the spiritual and
psychological elements which led them to do it?
important factor in any sin is personal interest. When a man imagines that he will suffer some
personal setback, it is difficult for him to remain objective. As Mesilat Yesharim teaches in chapter 11:
"The heart may be deceived, and if we investigate, we discover that it had
some slight unworthy desire…for man is by nature weak and it is easy to deceive
him into permitting things in which he has a personal interest." According
to our sages, the Spies had reason to believe that once they entered the Promised
Land, they would no longer be the leaders of the Nation, as they had been in
Egypt and in the desert.
is another explanation: it was not personal wealth or honor which the spies
sought, but rather spiritual wealth. They did not share the vision of "Malchut
Israel" [the Kingdom of Israel], as the only way to bring about the
greatest sanctification of G-d's Name and the means by which G-d's rule in this
world evidences itself, as we pray every day in "Aleinu". According to the Kuzari (2, 24), the Holy One
rebukes the righteous of each generation, saying: "You righteous! Although the words of my Torah are dear to
you, it is unseemly that you yearned for My Torah and not for My
Spies panicked at the idea of the Nation of Israel settling the Land. They worried that preoccupation with politics,
military and economic affairs would estrange them from the Torah. It was the "Eidah," the Sanhedrin,
who were responsible for the spiritual welfare of the Nation, who wanted to
stone Moshe Rabeinu. They claimed Eretz Yisrael
was "a Land that devours its inhabitants," that the temptations there
would spoil their character (Chidushei Ha-Rim). This same claim reappears at the beginning of
the Second Temple Period, when many of the great leaders of the Nation refused
to leave Babylonia and go to Eretz Yisrael because Jewish life in Babylonia was
much more established and secure (see Kuzari 2:22-24). This is a negative phenomenon, even if
motivated by spiritual considerations, as our Sages taught: "One should
always try to live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city where the majority are
idol-worshippers, rather than live outside of Israel, even in a city where the
majority are Jews (Ketubot 110b).
is no doubt that it is difficult to sustain a spiritual existence while
concurrently leading a public life, however, it is not impossible (see Rav Kook's
introduction to Shabbat Ha-Aretz). Although
the spies, "the heretic Tzadikim" (see Sotah 48b), warned: "We
cannot go up against the people [of Canaan], for they are stronger than us"
(Bemidbar 13:31), Calev and Yehoshua were adamant that "We shall surely go
up and possess it, for we are certainly able to" - Even if Eretz Yisrael
were in the sky, and G-d had commanded us to build ladders and climb up, we
would be able to do it! (ibid. v. 30, and Rashi's commentary there). Eretz Yisrael is the ladder by which we reach
heaven. It is precisely the
"earthly" preoccupation with settling the Land which raises us to the
highest spiritual heights, by virtue of the sanctity of the Promised Land.
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Can a woman wear a Talit?
No.The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is
"Yuhara – religious arrogance" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim
17:2).And if it is a men's Talit, there
is a problem of "Lo Yilbash" - the prohibition against cross-dressing
(Targum Yonatan on Devarim 22:5).
But Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in Shut Igrot Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:49) that
although she is not obligated a woman is permitted to fulfill the Mitzvah of
Tzitzit, with two conditions: 1. Her intention is not to rebel against Hashem
and His Torah, but for the sake of Heaven.2. The garment is different from a male garment, to avoid the
prohibition of "Lo Yilbash".
In order for this to be for the sake of Heaven and not "Yuhara", she
needs to wear the Talit in private and no one should know.And it needs to be a Talit specifically for
women (It is told that a woman once asked Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik if she
could wear a Talit during davening.He
responded to her: "Since this is a major change in traditional practice,
we must proceed gradually."He
suggested that she wear a four-cornered garment without Tzitzit for three
months and then come back.She returned
after three months and said that this was the most meaningful religious
experience of her life.Ha-Rav
Soloveitchik said: "For three months, you have been wearing a garment
without any religious or halachic value, it is thus clear that your feeling
comes from a source outside of the Mitzvah", and he did not grant her
permission to wear a Talit.Rav Aryeh
Frimer and Rav Dov Frimer.Tradition
Women and Tefillin
Q: Can a woman put on Tefillin, as did Michal bat Shaul (Eiruvin
96a.See Tosafot, Rosh Hashanah 33a d.h.
A: You are not Michal bat Shaul.In any event, it is written in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 38:1)
that if a woman puts on Tefillin, we should protest.Furthermore, Michal bat Shaul put on Tefillin
in private and not in public in a protesting manner.Besides all of this, there
is a problem of "Lo Yilbash" - the prohibition against cross-dressing
(Targum Yonatan on Devarim 22:5).Before
we add to our Mitzvot, we must fulfill the obligations we already have.See Mesilat Yesharim (see also an interesting
comment by the Kaf Ha-Chaim [ibid. #9], that based on the Kabbalah, one may not
use Michal bat Shaul as a proof, since she had a unique soul!).
I heard that Rashi's daughters put on Tefillin?
We have not seen a reliable source for this.Nonetheless, there is a long way to go before we reach their level.
Teacher or Doctor
Q: I have the ability to be a
doctor or a teacher.I am in doubt.Which is preferable?
A: Teacher.A teacher is for the soul while a doctor is for
Tax Evader as Witness
Q: If someone evades taxes is
he invalid as a witness at a wedding?
A: No, since he deceives
himself that it is permissible.See
Tosafot to Sanhedrin 25b d.h. Me-Ikra.But it is in fact theft.Shut
Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat #175.Shut
Yechaveh Daat (4:60, 5:45.Shut Aseh
Lecha Rav 1:70.And see Nefesh Ha-Rav,
Woman Delivering Dvar Torah
Q: Is it permissible for a
woman to deliver a Dvar Torah during Davening?
A: Certainly not.1. It is forbidden for men to gaze at a woman
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-9).2. It
is forbidden to change the accepted order of prayer (Shut Ha-Rashba 1:323.See Orach Mishpat #35.And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein forbids it even
not during Davening.Shut Igrot Moshe,
Orach Chaim 5:12.And Professor Nechama
Leibovitz strongly refused to deliver a talk in a Shul).
Teaching a Daughter a
Q: Is a father obligated to
ensure his daughter learn a profession?
A: Even regarding a son there
is no obligation, since it is not brought in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch,
rather it is a proper and important directive.And the same applies to a daughter.
Kiddush by a Woman
Q: Can a woman recite Kiddush
for her husband?
A: Yes.If he is sick and unable to recite it himself
(Mishnah Berurah 271:3).
Q: And if there are other men
A: Certainly not.1. It is forbidden to gaze at a woman.2.It
is forbidden to hear a woman sing.3. It
is forbidden to change the accepted order of prayer (see Mishnah Berurah ibid.
#4.Ha-Rav Yaakov Ariel also forbids
this and adds that doing so is in inappropriate form of social protest.Yeshivat Beit El website).
Kashrut of Toothpaste
Q: Does toothpaste require
A: No. 1. If there is
something not Kosher in it, the taste is spoiled and is within a mixture.Shut Har Tzvi Yoreh Deah #95.2. It is not eating, but rather tasting.3. This is not the manner of eating (It is
related that Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik was once asked if toothpaste requires Kosher
certification for Pesach.He responded:
No, it is inedible even to a dog.The
person said: But I gave it to my dog and he ate it!Rav Soloveitchik said: Who are you going to
believe, me or your dog?).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Naso 5773
– translated by R. Blumberg]
Question: In our
country, there are 300,000 immigrants who are non-Jews. It isn’t clear who was
responsible for this bizarre phenomenon, but it’s a fact that we cannot ignore.99% of them are uninterested in Mitzvah
observance, so perhaps we must enact a mass conversion of whoever is interested
in converting, rendering them part of the Jewish People, without Torah and
Mitzvot, and make do with that.
in our generation is like conversion throughout the generations, for the Torah
has not changed. Quite the contrary, according to the Torah, we have to be more
careful about accepting converts in our generation than in previous
generations, since the situation in our country is good, thank G-d. Hence we
have to consider the possibility that whoever sets out to convert is not doing
so out of love of the Torah of Israel, but for his own benefit. As Rambam said:
“The correct way of effecting conversion, is that when a prospective convert approaches
us, we investigate whether that candidate is seeking conversion for monetary
benefits, power or even out of fear. And we also investigate whether or not
that candidate has set his eyes on a Jewish person of the opposite sex… The Rabbinical courts rejected converts throughout
the entire time of King David and King Shlomo. During the time of the former,
converts were rejected lest they were coming out of fear, and during the latter
they were rejected lest they were attracted by the great monarchy and bounty
that Israel enjoyed. Whoever applies for conversion out of ulterior motives is
not considered a righteous convert” (Hilchot Isurei Bi'ah 13:14-15).
our own times, whoever sets out to convert is suspected of being insincere, making
us wonder, “Why are you coming now? Why didn’t you come during the Crusades,
during the Chelminski pogroms or during the Holocaust, but only to a fine,
wealthy country?!” (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 268:2). It may very well be
that the candidate is sincere, but he certainly should have to prove it.
discussions within Jewish law about whether or not Mitzvot have to be performed
with sincere intent (Orach Chaim 60), but with conversion it’s different. It’s
not enough to proclaim, “Your people are my people”. Rather, the candidate must
say, “Your people are my people and your G-d is my G-d,” as Rut did (Rut 1:16).
Otherwise, the candidate is referring to a different Jewish People, one that
has no G-d that revealed Himself to them at Sinai and gave them Torah and
Mitzvot. He is then not a “righteous convert” [Ger Tzedek], to use Rambam’s
term. He’s got the wrong address. He has converted to a different Jewish
People. Thus, changing the definition of a convert is tantamount to changing
the definition of the Jewish People.
did Hillel the Elder accept the candidate who said to him, “Convert me with the
intent of making me the High Priest” (Shabbat 31a). How could that be? Surely
that candidate was seeking power and privilege! Rather, the Tosafot explain
that Hillel knew that that convert was on his way towards being a total convert
(Yevamot 109b, s.v., “Ra’a”).It was
clear to Hillel that his insincerity would develop into sincerity.
In our day
as well, if a court is convinced and certain that the conversion candidate will
ultimately be G-d fearing, the Rabbinic court justice can accept him on his own
discretion (Beit Yosef 61, Yoreh Deah 268).
in our day the reality is the opposite. In many cases, when someone sets out to
convert, the court is convinced that he is not going to keep Torah and Mitzvot.
if people seek to convert under such circumstances, we have to wait and see
what is going to happen. As Rambam wrote: “And despite that [suspicion we
harbor regarding the attractiveness of King David’s era], many converts still
converted during the days of Kings David and Shlomo before laymen’s courts, and
the Sanhedrin suspected them. All the same, since they had immersed in the
ritual bath they wouldn’t reject them, but they would not accept them until
they saw what became of them.” (Hilchot Isurei Biah 13:15)
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira explained that it does not suffice for the convert
to say that he accepts the yoke of Mitzvot. Rather, as long as it is not yet
clear to us that he truly intends to keep Torah and Mitzvot fully, he is a “Safek
Ger” [a convert of doubtful status] (Menachem Avraham 1, pp. 69-70. And if
there is a clear assessment that he has not undertaken the yoke of Mitzvot,
then there is no value to his declaration, and his conversion does not take
hold (Shut Achiezer 3:26, at the start of paragraph 3. Shut Da’at Cohian 153, d.h.
that it says, “Love the convert” (Devarim 10:19). Certainly he must be loved,
brought near and accepted graciously. Yet that does not mean that we should lie
in the name of the Torah. Imagine someone telling his physician, “Please treat
me nicely. Love me. Make no demands of me. Go lightly with me. Let your
doctoring be friendly and indulgent.” If a physician conducted himself that
way, against what he was taught, he would be expelled from the medical
It is true
that the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Ben
Tzion Uziel wrote that in a great emergency, one can accept converts even if it
is clear that they will not keep Torah and Mitzvoth (Piskei Uziel Bi-She’elot
Hazman 65), and he was certainly a very illustrious rabbi. Yet his was a
solitary view, and all the other halachic authorities rejected it (Achiezer
ibid., Da’at Kohen, ibid. and 143, Igrot Moshe, Minchat Yitzchak, Shevet Levi,
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Auerbach, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Elyashiv, et al).
Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Dichovsky expressed the novel idea that if the candidate
declared that he accepts the Mitzvot, his conversion is in force even if his
behavior afterwards contradicts this, because we have to accept the idea that
at the very moment he made the declaration, there was a spark within him of intent
to keep Torah and Mitzvot. Yet that, as well, is a solitary view, with which
the other halachic authorities do not agree.
It is true
that sometimes in an emergency we rely on solitary views, but here it’s the opposite.
A convert has to be accepted as a Jew according to most opinions, even
according to all opinions. Consider the following: Suppose I came to you
suggesting that you marry a wonderful girl, but the chance that she was Jewish
was only one percent? Would you agree to marry her? Even if there was a one
percent chance that she was not Jewish, you would not agree.
we don’t do mass conversions, but only individual conversions, based on investigating
each candidate about whether or not he/she wishes to join the fold. True, the history
books note that there were cases of mass conversions, but it is not certain
whether this involved pristine, genuine conversion, or adoption of a few Jewish
customs. Moreover, it is not made clear what came of that afterwards. Likewise,
there is no support for any of this in our Talmudic or halachic literature.
What is clear is that from a scientific perspective, the DNA of Jews from all
ethnic groups is almost identical, which points to a low percentage of conversions.
of thumb is this: If a non-Jew converts and does not undertake to keep Mitzvot,
his conversion is no conversion (Da’at Kohen 148, Minchat Yitzchak 6:107, et al).
even imagining that such a conversion would be considered valid, what benefit
would we be bringing to that person who is not going to be keeping Mitzvot? We are
no missionaries, and we do not say that the World-to-Come is only for Jews.
That non- Jew, prior to his conversion, is one of the righteous gentiles who
has a heavenly portion.
Now we are
transforming him into a Jewish sinner who has no share in the World-to-Come!
(Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 157. Minchat Shlomo 35:3).
If so, you
ask, what is the solution? There is no solution! It is an unsolvable problem!
we have other serious, unsolvable problems in our national lives: the
proliferation of our enemies from without and from within; large portions of
our people being estranged from the Torah; educational and legal systems that
do not conform with Jewish law; most of the Jewish People living in the Exile facing
terrible spiritual dangers. And all this without mentioning the unsolvable
problem of the Exile, which weighed heavily on us for two thousand years, and
even so, it didn’t break us, and didn’t force us to abandon our religion.
believed that this suffering would meet its end, and now our hope is being fulfilled.
the same way, the problem of large numbers of non-Jews in Israel will be
solved. How? We don’t know. Perhaps it will happen the way our sages envision
it, or perhaps in some other way: “In the future, idolaters will come and
convert. Will we accept them? Surely we learned, ‘We don’t accept converts in
the Messianic era,’ just as we did not accept them in the times of David or of
Shlomo. Rather, they will become self-made converts, i.e., ‘they will push
their way in, even though they are not accepted’ (Rashi on Avoda Zara 22a), and
they will put Tefillin on their heads and their arms, Tzitzit on their garments
and Mezuzot on their doorposts.
those converts see the War of Gog and Magog, they will ask Gog and Magog, ‘Why
have you come?’ and the answer will be, ‘To attack G-d and His anointed,’ as it
says, ‘Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples mutter in vain?’
(Tehillim 2:1). Every one of those converts will then pull off his Tefillin and
leave, as it says, ‘Let us break their bands’ (v. 3), and G-d sits and laughs:
‘He who sits in heaven laughs.’” (Avoda Zara 3b)
strengthen ourselves in the pathway of Torah. Let us not change or alter our Nation.
Your people are my people and your G-d is my G-d.
The Book of Bemidbar is the book of transitions - the “on the way”
book. As the People of Israel journey to the Promised Land, they encounter many
dangers and must undergo many tests. In the first Parshiyot of Bemidbar, the
Torah teaches us how they prepare for their journey: Each tribe is arranged in
military fashion in its own specified area. In the heart of the encampment
stands the Mishkan, where the Divine Presence rests. The question of those who,
for one reason or another, are physically or spiritually estranged from the
Camp (the physically impure, the thief, the Sotah, the Nazir) is dealt with in
Parashat Naso. The Birkat Cohanim is received, the Mishkan is dedicated, and we
arrive at Parashat Beha’alotcha.
We begin with man’s physical and spiritual work in this world as represented in
the spiritual world of the Mishkan: Lighting the Menorah symbolizes
enlightenment. The light kindled in the Mishkan brings a blessing to all
cultural achievements world-wide. The Lechem Ha-Panim, on the other hand,
symbolizes man’s economic achievements. “To become wise - go south, for the
Menorah stands in the southern area of the Mishkan. To become rich - go north,
for the Shulchan Lechem Panim is in the North” (Baba Batra 25b).
Care of the Mishkan and its utensils is entrusted to the Levi’im. This week’s
Parashah teach us more about their work. It then goes on to the unique
sacrifice brought by each Jew - the Korban Pesach.
The Nation is now ready to travel, led by the Pillar of Cloud in the daytime
and the Pillar of Fire at night. Yitro, Moshe’s Midianite father-in-law, is
invited to become a part of the Jewish People and to embark on the journey
together with the whole Nation.
“A book of its own” is how our Sages designate the two short verses separating
the above preparations from the onset of the actual journey. “And it came to
pass, when the Aron set forth” (Bemidbar10:35-36): This Parashah teaches that
the Divine Presence accompanies us “on the way.” The Aron contains the Torah
through which the Master of the Universe reveals Himself to us, as the Gemara
tells, “I gave myself in the written words” (Shabbat 105a). It is as if G-d
Himself were in the Torah. The Aron containing the Torah accompanies us
everywhere, whether we succeed or fail: “He who dwells in their midst in all
their impurity”- “Even when they are impure, the Divine Presence remains in
their midst” (Yoma 56b). This short passage is framed on both sides by an
upside-down letter “Nun”. Nun is the letter of “Nefilah” - of falling and
failing, and for that reason was left out of the “Ashrei” (Shabbat 116. Berachot
4b). Nevertheless, the Master of the World does not desert us. He is with us in
our exile (Megilla 29a). |This concept deserves a ‘book of its own.’
No sooner do we start out on the way than troubles begin. First, “and the
People were as if complaining; it displeased Hashem” (Bemidbar.11:1). Then they
“desired a desire” (ibid. 4), followed by the Lashon Hara against Moshe, the
sins of the spies, Korach, and so on - all internal crises. These are followed
by enemies from without - Edom, Sichon, Balak and Bil’am. The way is fraught
with danger and time after time we fall.
After the Six Day War, a conference of Muslim academics was held in the
El-Azhar University near Cairo on the theological implications of the State of
Israel. They agreed unanimously that the State must be wiped out. As to its
Jewish population, there were two opinions. One was that they could be
permitted to remain if they were faithful to the Palestinian State. The other
held that they were incorrigible and must be totally eradicated. One professor
wrote an article in which he attempted to prove the intrinsic corruption of the
Jewish Nation as reflected in the ‘Old Testament’ itself, by the sins we committed
in the desert.
There is no attempt here to hide our imperfections. However, mistakes are an
inherently human characteristic. “There is no one so righteous on earth who
does only good and never sins.” We stumbled, got up, and resumed our work.
“Seven times does a righteous man fall, and he rises” (Kohelet 24:16). Through
these failures, we learn to correct and perfect ourselves.
There are things that can only be comprehended through trial and failure. The
trial of “Kivrot HaTa’ava” (the graves of desire) teaches us how to relate to
materialism. Through the crisis with Miriam and Aharon we come to understand
the vast difference between Moshe Rabbenu and all other prophets. Of course, it
is unnecessary to fail purposely, there are sufficient opportunities without
that. When we do fail, however, we must use that experience as a springboard
for spiritual elevation. “No person can really comprehend the Torah’s teachings
unless he has failed first” (Gittin 43a). Failure can actually help us reach
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Gemara Learning in Korea
Q: In South Korea, there is
much interest in learning Gemara.Is
A: Certainly not.It is forbidden to teach Torah to non-Jews
and it is forbidden for a non-Jew to learn Torah.The Torah is betrothed to us and not to them.One does not learn Gemara for an intellectual
experience – which is their interest – but out of Yirat Shamayim – fear of
Heaven (Chagigah 13a).
Reform and Conservative
Q: Are Reform and
Conservative conversions valid?
A: Certainly not.An essential element of the conversion is
accepting the yoke of the Mitzvot, and this is lacking.Shut Achiezer 3:26.Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:128, Even
Ha-Ezer 3:3.Shut Shevet Ha-Levi
10:224.Shut Mishneh Halachot 12:193.
Q: Where is it written in the
Torah that Judaism follows matrilineal descent?
A: Devarim 7:3-4.Kiddushin 68b.
Q: I heard that some say that
it was a later decree?
A: Nonsense.It is explicitly mentioned in Ezra 7:3-4, and
he did not invent it.
Staring at Women
Q: Is it forbidden for men to
stare at women, or do women also have to be careful that men not stare at them?
A: Both."A woman needs to be modest and careful
that men not stare at her, aside from her husband".Rabbenu Yonah, Igeret Ha-Teshuvah 159.
Q: Is Coca Cola Kosher in all
A: Not necessarily.There are many ingredients.It requires certification (See the amazing
Teshuvah regarding the Kashrut of Coca Cola in Shut Karnei Ha-Hod, end of
Volume 2, of Ha-Rav Tuvia Gefen, who served as Rabbi in Atlanta, where Coke is
produced in America.He discusses the
secret ingredient in Coke).
Q: Is it true that Coca Cola
A: This is a medical
question.All soft drinks cause damage
on account of the sugar.And some claim
that Coke causes damage on account of the phosphoric
acid which causes continuing damage to one's kidneys.
Bill with Tchernichovski
Q: Is it appropriate for the
State of Israel to put out a bill with the face of the poet Shaul
Tchernichovski, who was married to a non-Jew?
A: It is not appropriate.
Tzedakah to a Criminal
Q: A person evaded taxes and
is now having a trial which could end up in jail-time.Is it possible to give him Tzedakah for an
expensive attorney who could save him?
A: This has nothing to do
with Tzedakah.But it is a
kindness.Kindness is according to the
need and ability.But it seems that
there are other persons who are more in need of a kindness (Ha-Rav Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach was once asked regarding a Jew who stole a significant amount
of money and was serving a jail sentence in America.Is it proper to collect large sums of money
to help free him because of the Mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim – Redeeming
Captives?Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman said:
"Pidyom Shevuyim?!What does this
have to do with Pidyon Shevuyim?Pidyom
Shevuyim is when non-Jews kidnap a Jew for no reason, and put him in jail.According to my understanding, they don't
kidnap Jews in America in order to extort money.After all, the Torah says 'Do not steal', and
he stole.On the contrary, it is good
for him to sit in jail a little and learn that it is forbidden to steal." Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman added that if they wanted
to collect money for his wife and children, however, it would obviously be a
Mitzvah.Ve-alehu Lo Yibol Volume 2, pp.
To Enrich the spiritual life of the English-speaking World through the Torah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. By offering English translations of Rav Aviner’s written and oral Torah, this division of the yeshiva aims to expose English speakers to a powerful, sensitive and poetic voice unparalleled in our time. His unfailing optimism, his tolerance and love all Jews, his guidance for harmony within the Jewish family and his dedication to Eretz Yisrael, the State of Israel and Tzahal will inspire and enrich the lives of all who may now have access to his words.