Shut SMS #223

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

The Western Wall

Q: Is it true that one should not simply say "The Wall" (Ha-Kotel) but rather "The Western Wall" (Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi)?

A: Yes.  Just as it is said about the ignorant that they call the Holy Ark (Aron Ha-Kodesh) as a "closest" (Aron).  Shabbat 32a (And Maharil Diskin was extremely particular regarding this issue.  To'afot Re'em p. 137.  Chicho Mamtakim Vol. 1, p. 58 #15.  Tel Talpiyot p. 31).



Q: I heard that 3 Orthodox women were appointed as "Rabbot" in America.  Is this permissible?

A: No.  If so, she is not exactly Orthodox.  She is not called a "Rabbah" but rather "Maharat", a Hebrew acronym for Manhigah Hilchatit Ruchanit Toranit, a halachic, spiritual, Torah leader.  This is an initiative of Rabbi Avi Weiss, who has unusual opinions.  It is a slippery slope here (And the Agudat Yisrael of America declared that on account of this action, Rabbi Weiss's Shul is not Orthodox).


Dancing with a Broom

Q: What is the source for the custom of dancing with a broom at the wedding of one's last child to be married?

A: There is no source.  It is assumed to be a joke of a Badchan (Wedding entertainer): Sweeping away one's last child.  Approximately 10 years ago, when the Gerrer Rebbe married off his youngest son, he searched for a source for this custom and could not find one. He thus clarified that no great Rabbi did this.


Birkat Cohanim outside of Israel

Q: Is it known who is "One of the Sages of our time" mentioned by the Mishnah Berurah in Sha'ar Ha-Tziyun (Orach Chaim 128 #131*) who brings sources that Birkat Cohanim is also a Torah Mitzvah outside of Eretz Yisrael?

A: It is the Aderet, who wrote in one of his books that he brought these proofs and others to the Chafetz Chaim when they met in Warsaw.  I heard this from Ha-Rav Chaim Domb.


Dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Q: Is a dollar from the Lubavichter Rebbe Muktzeh on Shabbat?

A: No.  Since a person does not use it as money but rather as a Segulah (Madrich Le-Dinei Muktzeh, p. 49).


Speaking Lashon Ha-Rav about Oneself

Q: Is it forbidden to speak Lashon Ha-Ra about oneself?

A: No.  There is a story that the Chafetz Chaim was once traveling anonymously and said something which lacked respect for the Chafetz Chaim, and the listener slapped him.  But this is a unique story.  It is, however, forbidden to publicize transgressions between oneself and Hashem, since it is brazen.  Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah (2:5).  


Texting on Shabbat

Q: What is the source that it is forbidden to send a text message on Shabbat?

A: Ask a child in first grade and he will tell you that using electricity on Shabbat is forbidden.


Reform and Conservative Rabbi

Q: Is it permissible to call a Reform or Conservative Rabbi: "Rav"?

A: Certainly not.  This is shaming the title of "Rav" which belongs to a Torah scholar (Ha-Rav Chaim Jachter wrote that Mrs. Atara Twersky told him that her father, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, would correspond with a Conservative Rabbi.  She saw that he wrote in English and not Hebrew, and asked about it.  Rav Solovietchik responded that since he writes in English, he can use the title "Rabbi" for the sake of peace but in Hebrew he would be forced to use the title "Ha-Rav" which he did not want to do.  Beit Yitzchak #40 5768 p. 242.  And similarly, in Shut Igrot Moshe, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein always uses the term "Rabbi" for a Reform or Conservative Rabbi and "Ha-Rav" for an Orthodox Rabbi).


Kissing a Book which Falls

Q: What is the source for giving a kiss to a Sefer which falls on the ground?

A: There is not obligation but this is the custom out of love.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Yoreh Deah 282:11.

Collection of Laws of Rosh Hashanah – Part 1

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo 1:235]

1. Lighting Candles

We recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu on both nights of Rosh Hashanah, even if one does not have a new piece of clothing or a new fruit (which he did not yet eat this season) before him. It is preferable, however, that there be a new piece of clothing or a new fruit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 600:2).

Question: Is it permissible to attach the candles in the candlesticks on Rosh Hashanah?

Answer: Attaching the candles to the candlesticks for the second night is forbidden on account of [the prohibition of] "leveling" (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata p. 76 #18), and this prohibition is no less important than the actual commandment of lighting the candles. One should therefore prepare two additional candlesticks before Rosh Hashanah or stick them into the candlesticks without attaching them on the holiday.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, one may not prepare the candlesticks before the stars come out (definite nightfall), since we may not prepare on the first day of Rosh Hashanah for the second day. But it is permissible to light the candles before sunset, since one benefits from their light on the first day itself.

Addition to the revised edition

Question: I saw in the book "Am Ke-Lavi" (the original name of this volume of She’eilat Shlomo) that it is permissible to light on the first day of Rosh Hashanah before sunset (for the second day) because it is not considered preparation for the next day, since we benefit from the lights on the first day as well. What is the source for this law, since it does not follow the opinion of the Mateh Ephraim (599:9-11)?

Answer: The Be’er Heitev writes: "The Levush (503:4) wrote: We customarily light the candles when it gets dark even before [reciting the prayer] "Barechu." And the Or Zarua wrote that there are women who recite the blessing before they go to Shul (for Maariv of the second day). And it is also written in the Shelah that it is a greater Mitzvah to do this than to light upon returning to their house since they would return to a dark house. And in Shul it is customary to light even when it is still day time since in a Shul it is always a Mitzvah to light candles, even in the day." And this is the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 514:5): "It is forbidden to light an idle light which one does not need, but [a light] of a Shul is not considered idle. It is permissible to light one even on the second day after Minchah and this is not considered preparing for a weekday, since in lighting it there is a Mitzvah for that time." And the Mishnah Berurah (#33) wrote: "There is a Mitzvah...that is to say, even if one does not need the light while it is still day, even so there is a Mitzvah to light it because of the honor of the Shul, and if it is already close to dark it is even permissible in one’s house since he needs it at that time."

2. Annulment of Vows

It is customary to release ones vows on Erev Rosh Hashanah or Erev Yom Kippur, but it is also possible to do this during the entire Ten Days of Repentance. One who is unable to do this should be released before three individuals when the opportunity arises (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:10).

3. Eating before the Shofar Blasts

Question: Is our custom of eating before the Shofar blasts in consonance with Jewish Law?

1) In general, when it is incumbent upon a Jew to fulfill a Mitzvah he should first fulfill the Mitzvah and then eat afterwards. Nevertheless the basic law is that only an actual meal is forbidden before the fulfillment of a Mitzvah, and a small snack is permissible. But in the generations of the Achronim, they were very strict regarding eating a snack, and they only permitted it for someone who was extremely feeble (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:9. Sha’arei Teshuvah 584 #3).

2) It is now customary in all places, even amongst the pious, to permit eating a small amount. They support this on the basis of the law that a small snack is permissible. There is therefore no basis to prohibit it. See the comprehensive article of Rabbi Y. Segal in Noam vol. 14, which states that someone who has difficulty with not eating, and whose Davening continues until after midday – is permitted to eat something small.

Summary: It is certainly preferable not to eat, in particular on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, since these Shofar blasts are a Torah Mitzvah, but for one who has difficulty waiting until the end, and whose ability to pray with proper concentration will be disturbed, it is permissible to eat something light. And one should obviously do so with awe and fear, and not for an inappropriate reason (In Shut Bnei Banim #14, Rav Yehudah Herzl Henkin disagrees with the above, but one can counter his argument).


4. Question: Is one required to recite another blessing over a Talit after the break between Shacharit and Musaf?

Answer: Yes, since this is a significant interruption and the person’s mind will be distracted from the Mitzvah of Talit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 8, Mishnah Berurah #37).

My Friend, Temima

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Ki Tavo 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


My friend Temima is the person who had the greatest influence on me in my lifetime.

I say this as an understatement, for the truth is that she has given me my whole life.  And all of this without her knowing it. She was unaware of her influence, living her life in quiet and tranquility. Yet I made her my Rebbetzin, even though we are the same age and our friendship lasted from age fourteen until her passing away at the age of twenty-seven from an illness.

Already as a girl she was weak and sick, yet she never emitted a single complaint, sigh or expression of envy. Rather, she accepted her suffering lovingly and said, “Everyone’s lot is like this. My suffering also atones, purifies and purges me.” She said such things innocently. And that was her name: Temima – Innocent. Apparently, when her parents chose that name for her, it injected her with a spark of divine intuition.

At first I didn’t notice her, because she was not a dazzling student. She was even less than average. She had a lot of trouble understanding, as well as remembering, and I was amongst the good students, so what did I actually have in common with her?

But one day, we happened to sit together on the bus on a class trip. We talked a bit, and that evening I returned home with a new realization: This girl was no know-it-all, but she was worth more than I. Compared to her, I was a wretched creature.

When I say that we chatted a bit, I do not mean that she was a chatterbox – she  spoke simply and to the point. I was the chatterbox, whether or my words were relevant or pointless.

In any event, that day I decided that she would be my Rebbetzin, and that I would try to learn from her. Obviously, I never informed her of this, because she would have responded with her bashful smile and said, “What nonsense!”

That’s how she responded when people thanked her for anything: “Why are they thanking me?” For her part, she would perform kind deeds for people day and night, boundless kindness. She did it for the poor, the wretched, the depressed, employing infinite patience, and all for the sake of heaven, with that simplicity and naturalness. She would help and help everyone until her strength ran out, despite her failing health.

I began following her path, and since then, my life has been full of light, a sweet light, a soft light, a gentle light, a pure light. I took pleasure in performing kindnesses without any calculation.

What natural, simple love of her fellow man she exuded! She never complained and never criticized anyone. Yet regarding herself she fastidiously took care that she should be without sin.

I have a hard time defining her personality. She wasn’t the female do-gooder type, but a simple girl who was just very careful to do no wrong. She was particularly careful about two things: 1) not to do anything to disturb others, and 2) to repent constantly regarding the slightest speck of arrogance. She made a recognizable, constant effort to remain innocent, even to the point of occasional naivety, and to remain humble.

She was always modest and unassuming. She never sought honor or position. She never sought to be “someone” or “something”. Quite the contrary, she took pleasure in remaining a “nothing”.

She certainly wasn’t looking to make an impression with her outer appearance. She never invested in beauty care, she wore modest, simple clothing, although always clean and neat, wearing layers of clothing from head to toe, and she even looked for a head kerchief worn by girls. She never studied the laws of modesty, but modesty was something natural to her.

Even though G-d did not bless her with health or with intellectual skills, she had not a drop of envy. Quite the contrary, she was very happy. How? Through the kindness she performed, relentlessly and unceasingly for others. Her kindness was infinite.

There was something else that brought her joy: prayer. When she recited her long prayers, morning, afternoon and evening, at those times when she was not busy with her kind deeds, one could see in her eyes that she was basking in supreme pleasure, indeed, that she was in heaven. At those moments, she looked like an angel. A little, human angel, but an angel all the same. She was a gentle angel. From her I learned that it is possible for a simple person to be an angel.

Temima had but one longing – to serve G-d. She filled her life in every way.

Thank you, my friend, for being with me.

Ha-Rav visiting the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav David Lau , in his office in Yerushalayim today - 15 Elul 5773

Kashrut of Laboratory-Grown Hamburger

Question: What is the law concerning the hamburger that has been successfully created in a laboratory?  While the lab-grown burger is extremely expensive now, they say that eventually its price will become less than regular meat, and so – in the future – this may really be an issue.  Is it Treif because it was taken from a cow that hasn’t been slaughtered?  Is it considered a limb taken from a living animal?  Is it Fleischig?  Is it forbidden because of Maarit Ayin?



1. We are not discussing cloning, as in the creation of Dolly the Sheep.  Cloning is an artificial process identical to the natural process of taking a cell from one animal and reproducing it.  Scientists have considered cloning human beings and this is certainly forbidden for various reasons: A. Horrible things can occur from the abuse of it.   B. Hashem wants a person to have two parents, a father and mother, and not one parent.  C. Hashem allows us to utilize medicine in order to heal, and not for other purposes (Baba Kamma 85a.  Ramban, Torat Ha-Adam, Sha'ar Ha-Sakanah).  In any event, such a creation would be a human being in every way.


2. Our case, however, is not a natural process of taking a cell and reproducing it, rather the meat is made by taking stem cells from a cow and growing them into strips of muscle which are then combined to make a burger.  Although the end product is meat, it is created in an unnatural manner.

This is similar to what is brought in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (59b) that Adam Ha-Rishon was prohibited from eating meat, but it is told that angels roasted meat for him.  The Gemara explains that meat which comes from the heavens was not considered meat, i.e. it is meat created in an unnatural manner.

It is also related there that Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta was once walking and encountered lions.  He cried out to Hashem: "The young lions roar after prey and seek their food from G-d" (Tehillim 104:21), and two pieces of meat came down from heaven.  He gave one piece to the lions and he brought one to the Beit Midrash, and asked if it was Kosher or Treif.  They answered him: An impure thing does not descend from heaven, i.e. since this was "miracle meat" – created in an unnatural way - it is not considered Treif (see also Menachot 69b).


3.  This "meat" undergoes many changes to the point that its entire identity is different.  This is the same as Gelatin from non-Kosher animals.  The bones undergo so many changes that the produt is considered an entirely new creation.  While some authorities are strict about this issue, the basic Halachah is that Gelatin is Kosher (See Shut Yabia Omer 8:11).


4. The stem cells cannot be seen by the human eye.  The Chochmat Adam (Klal 38 Binat Adam #34) explains that Halachah is only based on what we can see with the human eye and not on that we can see with a microscope.  There are many such examples in the Halachah: One can breathe, even though there are all sorts of creatures in the air, because these creatures cannot be seen (Aruch Ha-Shulchan Yoreh Deah 84:36); fish whose scales can only be seen by a microscope are not Kosher (Tiferet Yisrael, Avodah Zarah 2:6); worms only seen by a microscope are not considered as existent (Shut Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:146); and if two letters are touching in a Sefer Torah but their point of contact can only be seen by a microscope, the Sefer Torah is Kosher (Moadim U-Zmanim 2:124).  See my commentary on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 24:3. 


5. In sum: It seems that a lab-grown burger is not Treif, not considered a limb taken from a living animal and is Parve (although it is not vegetarian) based on three reasons: A. It is not created in the regular process as the creation of meat.  B.  It has undergone many changes to the point that its entire identity is different.  C.  The stem cells from which it is taken cannot be seen by the human eye.

However, since this is a new creation, the great Torah scholars must decide on the matter.


6.  And regarding eating such a burger with dairy, there is no problem of Maarit Ayin, since we do not add to the list of things forbidden in the Gemara on account of Maarit Ayin, otherwise there would be no end to such decrees (Pri Chadash, Yoreh Deah 87:7).  This is similar to the permission to use margarine, non-dairy creamer and Parve ice cream (Shut Yechaveh Daat 3:59). 


Placing Techelet in One’s Tzitzit

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Ki Tzetzei 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Question: Should one include the modern sky-blue “Techelet” strings, created with dye from the murex snail, in one's Tzitzit?

Answer: For more than a thousand years we have not had Techelet, so it is clear that such a halachic innovation must be effected by the great Torah luminaries of the generation. Yet we see with our own eyes that almost all the great Rabbis of our generation do not place Techelet in their Tzitzit. Thus the Halachah has been decided, and if someone conducts himself publicly counter to their practice, that constitutes arrogance, in other words, religious arrogance as though he is smarter and more righteous than they. Thus, I shall not clarify whether to add Techelet or not, but rather why the great Torah luminaries reject it.

From their lengthy deliberations, one can discern three main avenues of rejection:

1. The precedent of a thousand years.  2. Unwillingness to rely on proofs to re-institute a tradition.  3.  The weakness of the proofs that have been offered.

1. When the Radziner Rebbe first identified a particular animal, the cuttlefish, as the source of Techelet, he quoted the halachic response of the Ha-Gaon Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Brisk, the “Beit Ha-Levi”, who had written that if the murex snail had been known, and the means of production of its dye had been known the entire time that the Jewish People had ceased to use Techelet, yet they still had not added it to their Tzitzit, then it is as though this constitutes a tradition that this was not the same snail that our sages spoke about.

And even if we bring as many proofs as the sands of the sea, it will not help against the practical conduct of the Jewish People.

Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira quoted the Beit Ha-Levi in a letter of his that was

included in Rav Harari's “Laws of the Seder Night” (Letter #1), and he added there that the very fact that the murex snail was known but was not used to make Techelet proves that it is not the Techelet of the Torah. It could not possibly be that the proper snail existed and Jews would fail to do all they could to search for it and investigate it so as not to nullify the Mitzvah of Techelet from the Torah. Only if practically speaking no Techelet dye existed would there be cause to clarify and to look for the right one. He concluded by saying that his basis was our Sages' words, “Israel, if they are not prophets, still descended from prophets, and it cannot be that the holiness of the Torah would fail to enlighten them to keep the Mitzvah as commanded.

Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv likewise quoted the Beit Ha-Levi regarding the contemporary use of the murex snail, and he further noted that the Radziner Rebbe's identification did not achieve acceptance, nor did that of Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Ha-Levi Herzog. How then do we know, he concluded, that the present identification will not be rejected, as were its predecessors? (Kovetz Teshuvot 2:1).

2. Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik quoted the words of his great-grandfather, the Beit Ha-Levi, in a slightly different manner:

“Since the tradition about identifying Techelet ended, since for many generations we have not know what the 'Chilazon' [snail] of our sages refers to, then even if we succeeded in restoring this information through technical, scientific proofs and clear phenomena, that information still could not enter our tradition, and it is impossible for us to pass legal rulings based on this information without a halachic tradition.” (Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 52-53)

In other words, it is impossible to reconstitute a lost tradition regarding a Mitzvah object or a sin object, via proofs, but only via a continuing tradition of those who saw it with their own eyes.

It's a little like those matters whose rulings are based on expert testimony, as with torts, as opposed to those rulings that need eyewitness, as with capital crimes or the validity of a marriage.

The wording of Beit Ha-Levi quoted above is more strict than that of the Radziner Rebbe.

For the latter, there is no rejection in principle of various proofs. All the same they are rejected due to the weight of the years in which it was not used, that constituting a "negative tradition". Had the murex snail disappeared for a thousand years, there would be room for proofs.

Yet Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik holds that even then, if murex had disappeared, it would still be impossible to rely on proofs, because a tradition is required.

3. The proofs about the new identification are far from final. In the Mishnah and amongst our medieval Sages we find seven identifying markers for what constitutes the snail associated with Techelet.

a. It has a shell (Shabbat 75a)

b. The dye has to be produced from a living snail (ibid.)

c. It emerges from the sea once in seventy years, in other words, rarely (Menachot 44a).

d. It's similar to a fish (ibid).

e. Mediterranean House Geckos bite it and it dies (Sifri, Zot HaBeracha 13).

f. Its color is as black as ink (Rambam, Hilchot Tzitzit 2:2).

If we now investigate the recently identified murex snail we find the following:

a. It has a shell.

b. With a lot of snails, you do have to produce the dye immediately. Yet precisely with murex you can dry it and then produce the dye much later.

c. Murex does not come out of the sea. Rather, it remains attached to the sea floor.

Likewise, it is not rare, but is found in all the Mediterranean sea ports by the ton, for use as food.

d. It does not look like a fish.

e. Its shell is hard and house geckos cannot crack it. A hammer is required for that.

f. The dye that emerges from it is transparent (the sun just blackens it).

g. The snail is not black but white.

Those who support identifying it with Techelet try to answer all of these questions, but the identification cannot be called certain.

As a rule, we must realize that all scientific hypotheses have the stamp of doubt on them. New facts are liable to be discovered that will change the hypothesis, and any man of science who frames a theory first states cautiously, “according to the present state of our knowledge...”

Let us therefore conclude by quoting Ha-Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna in his response to the Radziner Rebbe:

“It's been rejected for a hundred years, and the wording in Arizal agrees with this, that

there is no Techelet except when the Temple is standing. It has been concealed by Heaven.”

Shut SMS #222

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

Text Message Responsa by the Rishonim

Q: Did the Rishonim also answer questions like text message responsa?

A: Yes.  For example, the Rambam was asked if one owes money to a widow, will the Shemittah year cancel it out or not?  He answered: "It will be cancelled" (Teshuvot Ha-Rambam #237).


Arab who Hits

Q: If an Arab hits me, can I hit him back?

A: Through Tzahal…


Water which Drips from Air Conditioner

Q: Is the water which drips from an air conditioner on Shabbat considered Muktzeh?

A: Yes.  On account of Nolad (an item created on Shabbat), since it is created from the moisture in the air.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 310 Mishnah Berurah #32.  Unlike what I wrote in my book Shut She'eilat Shlomo 4:103.


Jews – Amalek

Q: How should I respond to the words of a Rabbi who refers to other Jews as Amalek?

A: I – the humble one – am not involved with this issue, and I recommend for you not to be involved with it either.


Ascending on to the Temple Mount

Q: Is there a Mitzvah to ascend on to the Temple Mount?

A: Yes.  In order to bring a sacrifice.  See Rambam at the beginning of Hilchot Chagigah.  And there is also a prohibition of not appearing before Hashem (on the Temple Mount) empty-handed.  Rambam ibid. (See similarly the booklet "Divrei Shi"ach" of teachings between Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, p. 26.  And I have heard that some Gedolei Yisrael explains that one should ascend to fulfill the Mitzvah of Mora Mikdash – showing awe to the Temple, but this is a big Chiddush).


Number on Line

Q: If I took a number and am waiting on line but decide not to wait after all, is it permissible for me to give the number to another person?

A: No.  It is forbidden to help one person on the backs of others.


Cell Phone in Shul

Q: A cell phone rang in Shul, everyone looked at me thinking that it was mine and I pointed at the person whose phone was actually ringing.  Was this Lashon Ha-Ra?

A: One should signal: It is not me.


Ruling in the Name of a Rabbi

Q: I heard in the name of Rabbi… that one should…

A: If you did not hear it with your own ears, do not rely on it.  Check and please let me know.

Q: I asked the Rabbi and he said that he said nothing like this, rather someone asked him for a blessing and he blessed him.

A: The answer therefore hinged on the question (I saw a similar incident in the booklet "Divrei Shi"ach" of teaching between Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, p. 26).


Immersion in the Second Temple Period

Q: How did women immerse in the Second Temple Period, if they did not build Mikvehs?

A: Sea, river, spring, well.  Not only women but also men.  And the forty years in the desert as well, they immersed in Miriam's well, springs and different puddles (And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that in the desert they immersed Miriam's well.  Derech Shichah Volume 1, p. 318).


Netilat Yadayim Cup

Q: Does a Netilat Yadayim cup made from plastic require immersion in a Mikveh?

A: No.  1. It was made by Jews.  2. Plastic does not require immersion.  3. It is not a utensil for eating.

Shut SMS #221

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

Immodest Lecturer

Q: If I have to go to a class and the female lecturer is dressed immodesty, what should I do?

A: Stick your head in a book or notebook.  By the way, one should also not stare at a modestly dressed female lecturer (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:8-9).


Being Stricter than Your Rabbi

Q: Is it permissible to follow a Chumra which one's Rabbi does not?

A: Only in private, on account of "Yehura" – religious arrogance.  See Baba Kamma 81a (The author of the Kochav Mi-Yaakov once asked the Admor of Hosiatin why he does not prepare all of his water before Pesach to avoid any potential problems of Chametz?  He said that he learned this from what the author of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim said: that since the Baal Shem Tov was lenient, he does not act strictly.  He then asked: What does one lose by being strict, since it is proper to add another stricture on Pesach?  He replied that this is incorrect based on the Gemara in Beitza 36a that Abaye was punished for acting stricter than his Rabbi, Rabbah.  However, in the biography of the Arugat Ha-Bosen, it is told that he was strict to learn with his hat on even on extremely hot days.  He was asked: Why cause yourself distress?  Didn't the Ketav Sofer – your teacher – learn without his hat?  He responded: Is it forbidden to be stricter than one's Rabbis?!  Commentary on Pirkei Avot 'Az Yomru' of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Aharon Goldberger, Dayan and Rosh Yeshiva for Pupa Chasidim, pp. 74.  And see Shut She'eilat Shlomo Vol. 4, p. 285 regarding one who is strict in a place where it was decided to be lenient).


Long Pe'ot

Q: I have begun growing long Pe'ot but my wife says she is embarrassed, since it is not so acceptable in our area.  What should I do?

A: Since it is not an obligation, you should consider Shalom Bayit.


Washing Dishes on Shabbat

Q: It is extremely difficult for me to see dirty dishes in the sink.  Can I wash them on Shabbat even though we do not need them?

A: No.  It is preparing on Shabbat for a weekday.  You should therefore put them in a closed bag on the side.


Sheva Berachot

Q: Is there an obligation to have Sheva Berachot all 7 days?

A: No.  Whatever is most comfortable for the groom and bride.  After all, it is to bring them joy and not to burden them (Re'im Ahuvim pp. 165-169.  And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein related that when he got married they only had Sheva Berachot on Shabbat, and not on all 7 days as is customary today.  Reshumei Aharon Volume 1, p. 18.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach once lamented this practice and quoted what the Chatam Sofer wrote in his responsa Even Ha-Ezer #122: "That someone once had Sheva Berachot on Shabbat and the entire community mocked him", and that the Aruch Ha-Shulchan wrote in Hilchot Sukkah #640 that we do not have the custom to have Sheva Berachot every day.  Meged Givot Olam Volume 2, p. 72).


Woman Affixing up a Mezuzah

Q: Is it permissible for a woman to affix a Mezuzah?

A: Yes, since she is also obligated to have a Mezuzah.  Shut Daat Cohain #169.  Shut Yabia Omer Volume 3 Yoreh Deah #18.


Referendum on Yehudah and Shomron

Q: Should there be a referendum on the fate of Yehudah and Shomron?

A: This Land is not our personal property - it belongs to the eternal Nation of Israel for all generations, those who already lived and those who have yet to be born.  The Nation has the authority to make decisions within the framework of Halachah, but does not have the authority to decide regarding that which the Master of the Universe has already decided for eternity, such as Shabbat and the loyalty between a husband and wife (Le-Hilchot Tzibur, p. 53, 99, 111, 139).


Drunk Driver

Q: We have a driver at work who gets drunk.  If I report him, he will get fired.  On the other hand, it is dangerous.

A: You should certainly report it.  He is warned from the outset regarding it.  Baba Batra 21.