Shut SMS #225

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

Shomer Negiah

Q: We got engaged and are getting married.  Why do we have to be Shomer Negiah?

A: It once happened that a fiancé wanted to touch his fiancée.  She asked him: When you want to eat cake, what do you do first?   He said: I say a blessing.  She then asked: I am worth more or less than a piece of cake?  He responded: Much more!  She said: If so, you need seven blessings for me (i.e. the Sheva Berachot recited under the Chuppah). 


White Pants on Shabbat

Q: Is it proper to buy white pants for Shabbat?

A: According to the Arizal, one should wear 4 white garments on Shabbat (Ben Ish Chai, Lech Lecha #18).  In practice, there is no need (Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef.  Halichot Olam Volume, 3, p. 61).


Beit Din Requiring Blood Check

Q: Can a Beit Din require a blood check in order to establish paternity for payment of child support?

A: Yes.  We need to clarify paternity.  If the man refuses, he is obligated to pay.  And Rabbi Saadia Gaon required such checks.  Sefer Chasidim #332 (And so too Ha-Rav Dov Prof. Frimer.  Lev Nediv, p. 75).


Returning Engagement Gifts

Q: In the event of breaking off an engagement, should one return the gifts?

A: Yes.  They were given based on the idea that the couple was getting married.  Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer 50:4 (And so too Ha-Rav Dov Prof. Frimer.  Lev Nediv, p. 94).


Train Ticket

Q: Is it permissible to use a train ticket which I found on the floor and still has time on it?

A: It is theft.


Divorced Parents at a Wedding

Q: My parents are divorced.  My father informed me that if I invite my mother to the wedding, he will not give any money towards it.  If I don't invite her, he will pay for all of it.  What should I do?

A: Don't sell your mother for money (for an opposing opinion of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, see Kav Ve-Naki 1:290).


Blessing on Lightening

Q: If one saw the light of the lightening but not the lightening itself, should he recite a blessing?

A: Yes.  Piskei Teshuvot 227:3.


Machine-Made Tzitzit

Q: Does one need hand-made Tzitzit, or are machine-made Tzitzit also Kosher?

A: If they are machine made and have Rabbinic certification, they are Kosher.  But hand-made is better.  Piskei Teshuvot 11:2.


Segulah for Learning Torah

Q: Is there a Segulah for growing in Torah learning?

A: Learn consistently and without interruption (And I heard Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter relate that after he was married, he and his wife did not have children, and they therefore decided to visit Eretz Yisrael.  He was told that it is worthwhile to receive a blessing from the Steipler Gaon.  The way it worked was that one bought a book from him and at the same time asked for a blessing.  The Steipler was hard of hearing, and one would communicate by writing on a notepad.  The Steipler yelled in Yiddish: What can I do for you?  Rav Schachter wrote that he wants to buy Kehilat Yaakov on Kiddushin, the Massechet they were then learning in Yeshiva.  He bought it, received the change and said that the Steipler could keep the change as a donation.  The Steipler said that he did not need the money, business is business.  Then Rav Schachter asked for a blessing for children, and he blessed him.  The Steipler asked: What else can I do for you?  Rav Schachter said that he was learning in Kolel, and is it possible to receive a blessing for success in learning?  The Steipler said: All the blessings in the world will not help. Rather sit and learn and you will succeed).


Text Message Answers

Q: I sent a question 3 times and did not receive an answer/

A: I receive approximately 400 text message questions a day, and 600 during the holidays.  To my distress – I cannot answer all of them.  If I do not answer by the following morning, turn to someone else.  I apologize.  And if you are learning in a Yeshiva, it is better in any case for you to ask your Ra"m directly.


Shaliach Tzibur Not Acceptable to All

Q: Must a Shaliach Tzibur be acceptable to everyone in the Shul?

A: A majority is sufficient.  If it were not so, it would be extremely difficult to find a Shaliach Tzibur.  Piskei Teshuvot 581:8.

The Unity of the Four Species and the Nation of Israel

[Opening words from Ha-Rav's radio show]


There is a famous teaching of our Rabbis (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) that there are four types of Jews.  There are some Jews who compare to an Etrog, which has a good taste and a good smell, and these Jews possess both Torah learning and Mitzvah observance.  There are others who are similar to the Lulav (palm branch), which has a good taste but no smell, representing the Jews who learn Torah but do not observe the Mitzvot.  And then there are Jews who are like the Hadas (myrtle) which has a good smell but no taste.  These Jews fulfill the Mitzvot but do not learn Torah.  And finally there are those who resemble the Aravah (willow), which has no smell and no taste, and is thus likened to a Jew without Torah or Mitzvot.  The Midrash concludes that when we hold the Four Species together, we join these groups together and one atones for the other.  The Ramchal explained  in his book "Mesilat Yesharim" (end of chap. 19) that Hashem does not want Jews to separate from one another.  One group atones for the other.  Thus, if you are an Etrog you should not place yourself above others and say that they are no good.  You are an Etrog – full of Torah and Mitzvot – for all of the Nation of Israel.


There is a story found in the Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim 651) that Rabbi Menachem Rakanti once had a dream in which he saw Hashem's four-letter name written with the first three letters together and then the last letter on its own.  He woke up quite bothered and did not understand the meaning of the dream.  In the morning, he saw that there was a guest who held the Lulav, Hadas and Aravah in one hand and the Etrog in the other hand and did not join them together.  He then understood that according to the mystical teaching the Four Species correspond to the four letters of Hashem's Name.  One who separates the Four Species separates the letters of Hashem's Name.  We can go even further to say that one who causes discord and fragmentation among the Nation of Israel also causes a separation among the letters of Hashem's Name.  This idea is found in the teachings of Rabbi David Tabil of Minsk, the author of "Nachalat David" (Beit David, darash 6 quoted in Olat Re'eiyah vol. 2, p. 468).  This is also written in the Midrash about the Four Species which we mentioned above, for Hashem says: If you become one united group, I will be elevated.  Everything depends upon the Nation of Israel uniting.  


We will not cease talking about the importance of the unity of the Nation of Israel.  Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah would repeat himself over and over regarding important matters.


People occasionally say: The time has arrived to unite the camp.  Baruch Hashem, we have finally reached an ideal upon which everyone can agree.  Only one small detail remains: Who is this camp?  There are obviously many camps and each marches with its large flag and small trumpets.  And each camp thinks it possesses the entire truth, and the other camps are members of a different religion.  Since everyone else is suggesting a camp, I will also give a suggestion.  The camp I suggest is the entire Nation of Israel.  This is the true camp.  Do not be confused into thinking that you have the entire truth.  This is contained within the entire Nation of Israel and everyone is needed.  It does not help that the Etrog is better than the other species, since you cannot fulfill the Mitzvah with four Etrogim.  You need all Four Species.  The Master of the Universe spread all of the talents among the entire Nation.  Therefore, if you see someone who looks empty, perhaps he is not.  After all, our Sages say (Sanhedrin 37a) that even the empty ones in the Nation of Israel are full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate.

Preserving the Four Species throughout Sukkot

Question: How does one preserve the Four Species throughout all of Sukkot?

Answer: This is what one should do to preserve the Four Species so that they do not dry out:

  1. Lulav (palm) - One should store it in a cool place such as on the floor. Do not place it in water after it is open, rather wrap it in a slightly damp cloth. If the cloth is too wet, the lulav will become spoiled. Wrap it around the holder so that it will not become spoiled within the holder.
  2. Hadasim (myrtle) - Place the lower end in water. Wrap in a slightly damp cloth (not too wet, as we mentioned), or in a damp newspaper, and place in the refrigerator or any other cool place.
  3. Aravot (willow) - Wrap in up in a damp cloth. Placing the lower end in water will not help.
  4. Etrog - Wrap it and keep it in a shady or cool place.

The Nation of Israel and the Secret of Cholent

[Talk in the Yeshiva during Lunch]


Some people worry about the future of the Nation of Israel from various perspectives, and they ask: What's going to be?

Some say that the strength of the Charedim is increasing due to their high birthrate. Certainly that is a good thing, for these are G-d-fearing people. Yet – so goes the complaint – they have two shortcomings: 1. Many of them don't go to the army, and even if those who do go do not perform enthusiastically and devotedly in elite units or even in the fixed army.  2. Many of them do not work. As for those who do work, they are not involved in important, creative fields of endeavor.  A situation is created in which the secular learn professions in university and work as engineers and such, whereas the Charedim work as clerks or salespeople. They do not constitute a strong force in our economic creativity. These are two problems that have no solution.

There is another type of people, constituting a considerable segment of the population – the immigrants from Russia. They are another type of Jews. Most of them are irreligious. Our tradition does not interest them. Moreover, four hundred thousand of them are non-Jews. They are intellectual, inquisitive and critical people. They are highly talented, hard working, suspicious and strong, for in Russia either you were suspicious and strong or you perished.  They are powerhouses of doing and building even if they are not at all religious and not Zionists in the historic sense of the word. Straight and simple, they're just here in Eretz Yisrael, and they're leaving a strong stamp.

There is another type of people, plain old Joes, jokester youths uninterested in all the things mentioned above. There are hundreds of thousands of such youths roaming the streets by night. They're a considerable percentage of the population.  When they get married, they straighten out, because their wives tell them to stop their nonsense, but even then, they are not strong participants in building the Nation.

Then there are the people with the knit-Kippot, and they aren't so successful at taking hold of political power, because they are divided, and don't manage to unify. Most of the National Religious don't vote for National Religious parties, and those who do vote for those parties have split themselves between two parties, with each of those two parties splitting into several sub-parties. Each of those parties says that the other parties don't understand what's going on. Even the Rabbis don't succeed in sitting together. Each Rabbi thinks that he has all the truth and all the justice, and that everyone else is mistaken.

In addition to all of this, all the rabbinical posts and rabbinical judges' posts are being taken over bit by bit by the Charedim. The parties need the religious in the coalitions, and all that the Charedim ask for is money for Yeshivot and rabbinical posts. For the large parties, that's a small price to pay. What do they care if the Charedim receive the rabbinic postings? And money to Yeshivot is relatively minor. But the National Religious, on the other hand, have political demands, and that is something bothersome.

So, what's going to be?

The answer is simple. G-d takes all of these people, puts them all in a pressure cooker, locks the lid and makes them all into a sort of Cholent. That is G-d's secret: Cholent. Cholent is a Jewish wonder. The Talmud long ago asked (Shabbat 119a), “Why does our Shabbat dish have such a pungent fragrance?”

The Jews, being poor, took a dry bone, moldy potatoes, a bit of beans, a little water, a few moldy vegetables, a piece of tasteless meat, and they cooked it together for hours and hours, until what ultimately emerged was Cholent, with its heavenly flavor – the Paradise of poor Jews.

And it's the same here in the State of Israel.

G-d takes all the different sorts of people and He turns them into a marvelous Nation. He already did this in the iron crucible of Egypt.

Rabbi Zerachiah Ha-Levi, author of “Ba'al Ha-Ma'or” (Ha-Ma'or Ha-Katan, Shabbat 16b on the Rif), wrote: “Some say that making the Shabbat enjoyable by means of Cholent is based on a Rabbinical enactment, and anyone who does not partake of Cholent should be investigated to see if he is a heretic... whereas whoever arranges to cook for the Shabbat, to make it pleasurable to eat well is the true believer who shall merit the end of days.” (See Rama, Orach Chaim 257:8.  Mishnah Berurah #49, who quotes the Ba'al Ha-Maor.) From here comes proof that the redemption will come by way of Cholent. G-d takes all the various elements and builds Himself a marvelous Nation.

Even the four hundred thousand non-Jews who came from Russia will ultimately either undergo legitimate Jewish conversions, or leave. We hope that by dint of the Cholent they will become Jewish. The Jews, themselves, have to be transformed as well, so that they increase Torah learning.

Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook said that the same thing happened in the times of Ezra and Nechemia when there were a lot of substandard Jews, a lot of Jews with non-Jewish wives, a lot of Shabbat violators and a number of people who had sold their own siblings into slavery. Yet in the end it all was rectified, and after hundreds of years the Sages of the Mishnah and Talmud, those who built up the Oral Law, emerged from those very same Jews (Igerot Ha-Re'eiyah, Part 1 #311.  And see Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, Bereshit, pp. 283-383, who said: G-d has made us into a Cholent, and now the iron crucible is in the Land of Freedom).

The question is: What do G-d fearing Jews contribute to this Cholent?

We contribute “light” to the Cholent. In his work “Orot”, Rav Kook explains that this light is composed of two segments: love and faith. That is our contribution to the Cholent. It may well be that this is the Cholent's main ingredient, because love and faith are the force that transform the disparate elements into one. That force brings a blessing to the entire Nation. That is why we learn Torah. We learn the love of Israel, which is a very profound science, and we learn faith, which includes the Written Torah, the Oral Torah, and our medieval and later authorities.

And just as the Master-of-the-Universe juggles all those historic processes of the rebuilding of the Land, the establishment of the Jewish State, Israel's wars, the Israeli economy and more, so too, are our inner struggles divine processes as well. No group can take control over the Nation. Each one has to contribute what he considers to be the most important element.

We contribute love and faith. We lack in our hands all of the forces we need to build up the entire Nation. We are in this respect impoverished. Every group is impoverished and lacks a great deal. Yet all of us together create something marvelous and delicious which, like Cholent, which warms the heart and soul.


One-Day Conference on the Kotel Ha-Maaravi

[All talks in Hebrew]

Sunday, 3rd Day of Chol Ha-Moed Sukkot 5774


@Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Including talks by

Rosh Ha-Yeshiva, Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a

Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav David Lau Shlit"a

Rav of the Kotel, Ha-Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz Shlit"a

The Minhag of Kapparot: With a Chicken or With Money?

[Iturei Cohanim #264]

Q: Regarding the custom of Kapparot (swinging a chicken around one's head before Yom Kippur, symbolically transferring one's sins to the chicken; the chicken is then slaughtered and given to the poor): large quantities of chickens are often held for hours, or even days, in tightly packed cages, where they wait without water or food. They are then removed from the cages and slaughtered.  In light if this fact, and the obvious suffering caused to the chickens, is it not preferable to perform Kapparot with money?
A: The custom of Kapparot has been rooted among the Nation of Israel for a long time, and no one has the power to prohibit it.  It is, however, written in the Shulchan Aruch: "The custom that people have of Kapparah on Erev Yom Kippur, of slaughtering a rooster for each male and saying verses over it, we should stop this custom" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 605:1 in the name of the Ramban and Rashba), and the Mishnah Berurah explains (ibid. #1): "because it resembles the ways of the Emorites" (Darkei Ha-Emori – black magic).  But the Rama writes: "But some of the Geonim mentioned this custom, many later authorities mentioned it, and people have this custom in all of these countries, and one may not change it, since it is an ancient custom" (ibid.).  The Rama testifies that people acted this way in all of the Ashkenazic countries, and the Sefardic Jews did as well.  Furthermore, there is no problem of "Darkei Ha-Emori" in this custom, as the Mishnah Berurah explains: "And he thinks that whatever they do to this chicken should have been done to him, but it is acted out on this chicken, and the early authorities (Rishonim) explained that it is similar to a sacrifice brought for an inadvertent sin" (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).  The Chayei Adam, however, already wrote: "And even though some of the Geonim mentioned this custom, what is ingrained in the heart of the masses is that all of the atonement of Yom Kippur depends on it, and it is almost as if Kapparot and eating Matzah are considered of equal weight by them.  They think that they will not attain atonement on Yom Kippur without a rooster, but by acting in this way, they encounter the prohibition of eating a Neveilah (an animal which died without proper slaughtering),   G-d forbid, since the chickens push each other in large groups and the slaughterers are awake all night with grimaced faces and are so tired they do not even feel the knife (to make certain it is sharp).  If people would listen to me…it is better for them to swing money around their heads.  This in fact was the custom of the earlier ones who would swing seeds (as the Magen Avraham 81:2 writes in the name of Rashi).  They consider the seeds to be Tzedakah, and did not stumble in the prohibition of eating Neveilah, G-d forbid” (Chayei Adam klal 144 #4 and brought in the Mishnah Berurah 605:2 and Kaf Ha-Chaim #11).
The Chayei Adam thus teaches us that it is preferable to perform Kapparot with money when the chickens are in cramped conditions, and there is a question about the Kashrut of the slaughtering.  It is also possible to add the concern of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" (causing distress to animals), since the distress that the chickens experience during their upbringing is compounded by their great distress before Kapparot.  This is based on the insight of Ha-Gaon Rav Chaim David Ha-Levy: "And why particularly on the eve of the holy day do we need to be cruel to animals, without any need, and slaughter them without any mercy, at the time when we stand to request life for ourselves from the Living G-d" (Shut Aseh Lecha Rav vol 3, p. 67).  In truth, however, there is no prohibition of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" when a person uses an animal for a vital need, and a fixed custom of Israel is considered a vital need.  Nevertheless, since there is the possibility for us to use money instead, and such a substitute is, as the Chayei Adam wrote preferable when there is a huge quantity of chickens to slaughter, it can be argued that performing Kapparot with a chicken is not a vital necessity and there is an actual a problem of "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim."
To summarize: It is better to fulfill the custom of Kapparot with money.

The Secret of Concentration

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Ha-Azinu 5774 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Question: How can one increase one’s concentration in prayer, study, and life in general?

Answer: As with all such questions, there are two closely-related approaches: the lofty and the down-to-earth. The lofty approach involves achieving an elevated understanding. The down-to-earth approach means accustoming oneself to the way things work on the ground.


The Lofty Approach: Understanding

Understanding is a supreme ideal, as is explained in Rav Kook’s treatise Mussar Avicha, in the chapter, “Bechol Derachecha Da’ehu”. Whatever one does, G-d is present there. We must therefore do everything to the best of our ability.

There are two interpretations to the verse, “In all your ways, acknowledge Him” (Mishlei 3:6). The broader interpretation is that G-d can be found in everything. The narrower interpretation is that whenever a person does something good, G-d is there at that moment and not elsewhere. When a person prays, G-d is there with him in his prayer. At that moment, he won’t find G-d through Torah learning or kind deeds.

When a person is learning Torah, G-d is with him in his learning. At that moment, he won’t find G-d through prayer or kind deeds.

When a person is doing kind deeds, G-d is with him in his kind deeds. That is not the time to pray or study.

As the Talmud explains (Berachot 10), even though Torah study transcends prayer, when one is praying, he must to pray and not study Torah. There is a time for study and a time for prayer.

What is the source of Rav Kook’s idea? It is the concept of Tzimtzum, so to speak, the idea that G-d can limit Himself. Even though the Master-of-the-Universe transcends the universe and precedes the universe, when He does something, He limits Himself, so to speak, to that act. When G-d speaks with Avraham, He is not doing anything else at that moment (obviously, all this is from our perspective). A human being has to limit himself in what he does. This is in stark contrast to conventional “wisdom”, which praises the person who does a thousand things at once, like the butterfly that flits from flower to flower every second.

Such is the new fashion of the past five hundred years, which comes as a response to Christian pressure and terrible coercion. We can understand the response, but one needn’t exaggerate. A person has to decide for himself what to do, but whatever it is, he should do it well. Obviously, one is allowed to change his mind, but not as a habit or an ideal.

Therefore, one has to understand the major importance of concentration. You don’t have to dance at every wedding to know all there is to know, or to work in every profession. Focus on whatever you do. Concentrate and do it well. If you are a physician, be an excellent physician. If you learn Torah, be an excellent Torah learner.

There’s the story of the person who invited a friend to a meal.

“How is Uncle Eliyahu?” the host asked.

“He died,” the guest responded.

“So Aunt Sarah is alone?” the host continued.

“She died too,” was the reply.

“What? She died too? Heaven help us!” said the host, and he could eat no more.

Afterwards he asked, “What do you do for a living?” and the guest replied, “I work in your Uncle Eliyahu’s carpentry shop.”

“But you said he died!” cried the host.

“When I am eating, the whole world is dead,” said the guest. “Let a person eat in peace.”

One has to eat, so let him eat the way he must. Not like the wife who simultaneously eats, nurses, cooks, does laundry, chases down a child, gives another child a bath and calls her mother-in-law and gives her advice.

One must understand there is nothing ideal about doing a lot of things at once.

Whatever you do, do it well.

The Talmud in Arachin 11b illustrates this point. It teaches that in the Temple, some of the Levi’im served as Temple choir members while others served as gate keepers, and it rules that a Levite who served as a choir member was forbidden to fill in for a gate keeper. In fact, if he did so, he incurred the death penalty.


The Down-to-Earth Approach: Accustoming Ourselves

If you don’t succeed in concentrating during prayers, accustom yourself to it gradually. Start by concentrating on one blessing of the Eighteen Benedictions. Every week, gradually add something. In the Army this is called using an “exertion scale”. A soldier is not told on the first day to take forty kilograms on his back and to run forty kilometers. On the first day he takes a single kilogram and runs one kilometer, and so forth.

Is it hard for you to concentrate when you study? Take it slow. It isn’t working for you? Take a water break and then try again, or study something different. Bit by bit, get used to concentrating. There are a lot of people with attention deficits who have still become Torah scholars.

Is it hard for you to concentrate in life? The same applies. Every step must be gradual.

Going bit by bit, you can overcome all of your problems.

This goes for everything in life. When you marry a woman, no other woman exists after that. As Adam said after he married Eve, “All the other women are monkeys.” “But,” you’ll say, “I’ve still got a girl friend from my youth movement.” She’s not a girl friend! She doesn’t exist! She’s a monkey. That’s what is called the down-to-earth approach. Accustom yourself.

Obviously, in order for one to be motivated to accustom himself, he must have understanding. He needs a lofty atmosphere. That’s important.

Summary: Whatever you do, do it well, increasing your effort gradually. Then, you will surely succeed!


Man of Chesed: R' Shlomo Zakheim ztz"l


An exceptional individual, R' Shlomo Zakheim, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, has ascended on high at the age of 59 after a difficult illness and great suffering.  It is with the wonders of Divine Providence that this person, who sold medical services and donated millions upon millions to medical organizations was taken on high by such an illness.  Hashem directs the world in His wisdom, and we are unable to understand His secrets.


This man who became wealthy through providing medical services and equipment did not contemplate for even a moment of keeping the money for himself.  Rather he generously donated to Torah, medical and Chesed institutions and organizations.  Every person who came in contact with him felt that his kindness was not only on account of the Divine command but rather was his natural character.  The heart of this generous person was open to any distress and human need.  And with his smile and illuminated face, he touched everyone's heart who spoke with him.


He possessed a unique trait that he not only answered anyone who came to him for aid, he also went out to help others.  When he heard that the Arabs were bombing Southern Israel, he and others visited Sederot in order to support, strengthen and show solidarity, and he even donated a Sefer Torah there.  When he heard about the hideous murder of the Fogel family, he volunteered to help.  And, in particular, he opened his heart to the suffering of Jonathan Pollard, who has sat in an American prison for 10,155 days.  R' Shlomo employed every possible way to help him and aided anyone who came to visit Jonathan.  I – the lowly – visited R' Shlomo a few years ago when I came to visit Jonathan.  He told me: I will fly you from New York to the prison on my private plane.  When we took off from the small airport, it became clear that there was a problem with his plane.  We returned to the airport.  On the spot, he rented another airplane and flew us to visit Jonathan.  Later, he hosted a friend and me, and when he heard that we were from Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim, he - of his own initiative - wrote a generous check as a donation.  And he offered: "Here is the key to my house.  My house is your house.  Anytime you are in New York, you are welcome to use it" (although we did not need to take him up on his kindness).


This pillar of Torah and Chesed was an incredibly humble person.  He had the utmost respect and was submissive to Torah scholars.  And he did not lord over others.  He was quiet, modest and spoke with everyone as a friend with his gentle smile.


R' Shlomo built a small Shteibel in his mother's house, so he could visit her often.  After we Davened there, he visited his mother and showed her great honor which flowed from him in a natural and sweet manner.


We stand awed before this man who possessed a holy heart, a wholesome fear of Heaven and who always justified himself by perform Chesed: "Hashem is good to me.  I will be good to others".


May his soul be bound up with all the other souls of the righteous.

Q&A Regarding the War in Syria

Question #1: Should we be concerned that we will also be attacked?

Answer: We do not know the future.  The situation in the Middle East is very fluid and often the unexpected happens.  Nonetheless, security experts say that the chances are very low, since it is not worth it for them to open up another front and risk us crushing them.

In any event, B"H nothing will happen, but Tzahal is always ready, and now they are doubly ready.  With the kindnesses of Hashem upon us, we have a strong and excellent army.  There is nothing to worry about.


Question #2: Should one go and get a gas mask?

Answer: It is a personal decision.  We are not obligated to do so.  Tzahal will inform us if we are required.  It is an extremely low risk.  There is also a risk on being run over by a car while walking on the sidewalk. 


Question #3: Is this the War of Gog and Magog?

Answer: No.  We do not know many details about that war.  Nonetheless, we do know that it is described as a war in which all the nations of the world go to war against us, and – B"H – we are victorious.  It is therefore clear that this is not the War of Gog and Magog.  It is also not certain that there will be a War of Gog and Magog.  It might have already happened, it might not occur at all, or it may be that all of our wars for our Land since the establishment of the State are considered that war (see the book "Milchemet Gog U-Magog" of Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher).


Question #4: Is what is occurring in Syria good or bad for us?

A: It is difficult to answer this question, since we see that the situation in the Middle East is most unstable.  B"H, we are stable.


Question #5: Should we be distressed that people are being killed there?

Answer: It depends.  It appears that both righteous and evil people are being killed there.  If they are righteous, we are distressed.  Hashem is merciful to all of his creatures.  And if they are evil, we rejoice.  Hashem delivers them justice.


May it be Hashem's will that the following verse will be seen in the world: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Yeshayahu 2:4).


Shut SMS #224

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

Stain on One's Clothing

Q: If a Torah scholar has a stain on his clothing on account of visiting a fruit and vegetable market to check that they were separating Terumot and Ma'asrot properly, is this stain shameful, as it says in the Gemara Shabbat (114a): Any Torah scholar who has a stain on his clothing is deserving of the death penalty?

A: No, since it was for the sake of a Mitzvah (I merited accompanying Ha-Rav when he visited the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav David Lau Shilt"a.  At the end of the meeting, Ha-Rav gently pointed out to the Chief Rabbi that there was a stain on his jacket.  The Chief Rabbi said that he had not seen it, but he knows where it came from.  The previous night he had paid a surprise visit to the Tzerifim market to check the separation of Terumot and Ma'asrot.  Similarly, the clothing of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv were once all dusty from Bedikat Chametz.  He told his grandson not to clean it since it is "Kitmei Mitzvah – a stain from a Mitzvah."  And it says in the Gemara Pesachim 65b that it is praiseworthy for Cohanim to serve when they are up to their knees in blood!  Beginning of Chashukei Chemed – Eiruvin.  And also the Chatam Sofer wrote in his Chidushim on Sukkah 36a, that when an Etrog turns brown from being used so much, it is a Hidur!).


Non-Jewish Prime Minister

Q: If a non-Jew is elected the Prime Minister of the State of Israel will the State still be holy and still represent the beginning of the Redemption?

A: Don't waste time dealing with nonsense.  By the way, the Rambam (beginning of Hilchot Chanukah) writes that the holiday of Chanukah is on account of the return of Kingship to Israel for 200 years, which included Hordus who may have been a non-Jew.


The Kotel Tunnels

Q: Do the Kotel Tunnels have the same holiness as the Temple Mount?

A: No.  Shut Ha-Radvaz (#691 brought in Shaarei Teshuvah 561:2.  And after the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War, there were extensive excavations of the Kotel Tunnels, which extend under the Temple Mount.  Ha-Rav Meir Yehudah Getz, Rav of the Kotel, asked Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, is it permissible to excavate under the Temple Mount to find the Temple implements? Our Rabbi answered, "No, do not dig."  Our generation is still not ready to merit discovering the treasures of the Temple.  The book "Rav Ha-Kotel", p. 306).


Rebbe Nachman will Lift One out of Gehinom

Q: Why shouldn't one travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah?  After all, Rebbe Nachman promised that he will lift out of Gehinom anyone who visits his grave!

A: Rebbe Nachman is not greater than Avraham Avinu, and it was already promised that Avraham Avinu sits at the entrance to Gehinom and will not even allow anyone who has a Brit Milah to enter (Bereshit Rabbah 48:8.  And the Chidah wrote that Asher ben Yaakov stands at the entrance to Gehinom and saves anyone who knows Mishnah.  Midbar Kidmot, Marechet 1 #51).


Avraham Avinu – Sefardi or Ashkenazi

Q: Was Avraham Avinu Sefardi or Ashkenazi?

A: He was above Sefardi, Ashekenazi, Yemenite and Ethiopian: He was a Jew or a Hebrew! (Once in a talk in Bnei Brak, Ha-Admor of Sanz-Klausenburg, Ha-Rav Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, said: "I can't stand the division between Sefarim and Ashkenazim.  I say that Avraham Avinu was Sefardi.  He came from Aram Naharaim!"  And he also said: "I love Sefardim so much that in another reincarnation, I was Sefardi".  This was related by his son, Ha-Admor of Sanz-Klausenburg, Ha-Rav Shmuel David of Boro Park, in a visit with Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef).   


Entering the Temple Mount by Mistake

Q: I entered the Temple Mount a few times with a group of religious Jews and then learned it is a severe transgression.  I am totally broken.  How do I atone?

A: Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul said that one should remain awake all night and learn Torah. This is Teshuvah for one Karet and each night will exempt one of the punishments of Karet.  Shut Or Le-Tzion 3:30 #4.


Maran Ha-Rav Kook and the Charedim

Q: If Maran Ha-Rav Kook's approach is correct, why don't the Charedim follow it?

A: They have not learned it in depth.