Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #230

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


Good Teacher or Good Students

Q: Which is preferable – a good teacher with students who are not so G-d-fearing or a lesser teacher with G-d-Fearing students?

A: G-d-fearing students, since a person is influenced by his surroundings.  Rambam, Deot 6:1-2.  Yaakov Avinu therefore wanted to get out of his mother's womb when she passed the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, even though he was learning in the womb with an angel, because he wanted to get away from Esav.  Rabbi Simchah Bunem of Pesishcha.  Chatam Sofer (and Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski also gave this answer in the name of Ha-Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach.  Minchat Todah, p. 85).


Blessing over Shabbat Candles

Q: Do women recite the blessing before or after lighting the Shabbat candles?

A: Askenazi women – after (Rama, Orach Chaim 263:5), some Sefardi women do so before (Shut Yechaveh Daat 2:33) and some after (Darchei Halachah on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu 75:8).  Each family should follow the practice of its forefathers.


Bringing Food into a Bathroom

Q: What is the law concerning food or medicine in my pocket which I brought into the bathroom?

A: There is no prohibition to bring food or drink into a bathroom, and all the more so medicine.  Some are strict not to do so, but the food is certainly not forbidden.  Regarding medicine, there is no reason to be strict.  Piskei Teshuvot 171:9.


The Book "Maaneh Le-Igrot"

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about the book Maaneh Le-Igrot, which disagrees with Shut Igrot Moshe?

A: It is permissible for a Torah Scholar to disagree with Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Moshe Feinstein, but this book is written in a confrontational and brazen style against one of the greatest and most righteous Rabbis and should therefore be hidden away (In his time, the author of this work sent it to the Steipler, and then visited him.  The Steipler harshly rebuked him and yelled at him for insulting Ha-Rav Feinstein, and threw him out of his house.  The Steipler then told his son, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, that Rav Feinstein is a great Posek and Tzadik.   Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 5, p. 169.  And it is written in the book Maadnei Ha-Melech (at the end in Adanei Ha-Melech, pp. 81-82 note #27) that Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef (the Current Chief Rabbi of Israel) said that the students of Rav Feinstein bought all of the copies of Maaneh Le-Igrot and destroyed them.  And Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt, the leading student of Rav Feinstein and author of Shut Revivot Ephraim, said that after this book came out, he sat down to write a Responsa to each claim and to refute them one by one.  He asked for Rav Feinstein's permission to publish the Responsa.  Rav Feinstein, however, took the pages, thanked him for his concern for his honor, but requested that he not to publish them.  He explained that if they do not respond to that author, his memory will be forgotten on its own in a year or two, and no one will remember him.  But if they answer, his name will spread.  And this is indeed what happened, and he did not succeed in selling more than 50 of the 1000 books he printed (which implies that the student did not buy them and destroy them).  And Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef said that this book should not be put in the library of Yeshivat Chazon Ovadiah since it does not follow the proper manner of disagreeing.  And this despite the fact that Rav Ovadiah held that some of his opinions were correct and he mentions them in his works (Shut Yechaveh Daat 1:45, 2:22, 5:7.  Shut Yabia Omer 6 OC 48, 8 OC 23, 8 OC 31 and 8 OC 38.  Brought in Shulchan Ha-Maarechet of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef, Vol. 2 pp. 436-437).        

Further, Ha-Rav Aharon Felder relates that Rav Feinstein once told him that he actually had met the author once and the author asked him for a favor, which he granted.  Reb Moshe added: "I didn't know that the kindness I did for him was so great that he paid me back with such wickedness."  Reshumei Aharon Vol. 2, p. 4.  And Ha-Rav Shimon Solnica, my dear friend, told me that his uncle – Ha-Rav Baruch Solnica – had a Shul in New York close to the Shteibel of the author of Maaneh Le-Igrot.  Sometimes it was difficult for the Shteibel to get a Minyan and they would come to Rav Solnica's Shul to find people to come.  Rav Solnica refused since he had besmirched Reb Moshe.  Rav Solnica asked Reb Moshe how he should act and he said: You don’t have to give him people to Daven there on a regular basis, but you should certainly give him people to help make a Minyan). 


Ruach Ha-Kodesh for the Rambam

Q: Did the Rambam have Ruach Ha-Kodesh?

A: Yes, Ruach Ha-Kodesh which revealed itself through the intellect.


Memorial for First Wife

Q: My family is organizing a memorial for my first wife.  Should I bring my current wife?

A: Don't go at all.  You are now married anew and your former wife is not part of your world.  If you go, even alone, it will cause pain to your current wife, even if she denies it (The Chatam Sofer's third wife was the widow of Rav Tzvi Charif, the author of Tiv Gittin.  The Chatam Sofer once saw her lighting a candle for her first husband on his Yahrtzeit, 25th of Tishrei.  He was upset, since she should not have done so, but he rightfully did not say anything so as not to cause her pain.  The Chatam Sofer eventually died on the same day of the year.  Zichron Le-Moshe 68:1).


Cake for Desert

Q: There is a dispute among Halachic authorities if one recites a blessing over cake for desert.  What should one do?

A: Recite the blessing.  Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah did so in the name of Maran Ha-Rav Kook (see Rav Aviner's commentary on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 43:6).


Modesty Clothing for a Wedding

Q: Is it proper to request on a wedding invitation that the guests wear modest clothing, or is it insulting?

A: It is not insulting, but it should be carefully worded.

Truth or Superstition? #1


Q: Is it true that according to Kabbalah it is forbidden to whistle inside a house?

A: Nonsense (There is no prohibition against whistling.  Outside of Israel, non-Jews whistled, so Jews refrained from doing so.  It is also permissible to whistle on Shabbat.  Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:182.  This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik.  Divrei Ha-Rav, pp. 197-198).



Q: Is it possible by looking at a pregnant woman's fingernails to know if she will have a boy or a girl?

A: Nonsense.


Silver Knife

Q: What is the source that a pure silver knife is a Segulah for a livelihood?

A: There is none (And so says Shut Doresh Tzion of Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Mutzafi: It is a waste of money).

Parashat Toldot: Esav the Wicked

[Tal Chermon]


Yitzchak believed in Esav's ability to manage the material world morally and thus wanted to give him his blessing.  Rivkah, however, knew the stark truth.  In his present state Esav was not capable of advancing the world, since he himself was incorrigibly depraved.  Perhaps after several thousand years of improvement, when the End of Days arrives, he will be fit for the task.  He possessed strength, but it was the strength of wickedness which would be used for the destruction of the world, not it's advancement.  Yitzchak saw the future ideal, and the absolute truth, in which Esav's strength must and will be employed for the world's benefit.  Rivkah, however, saw the world in its present, realistic state where Esav was a source of evil.  At present he is a murderer, as he said, "May the days of the mourning of my father come soon so that then I will be able to kill my brother" (Bereshit 27:41)."  It is true that he was upset because his blessing was taken from him but there are limits even to an angry response.  Wanting to hasten the death of his father was clearly above and beyond.  It was even a bit too much for him to do personally, so he requested it of his dear uncle Yishmael, who would certainly comply willingly (Midrash Ha-Gadol, Bereshit 28:9).  These murderous inclinations were not develpoed overnight because of a one-time event.  They are indications of Esav's deep-rooted corrupt nature (Rav Charlop in Ma'ayanei Ha-Yeshu'a).  Rivkah knew his present state better than Yitzchak and thus decided that in the meantime Yaakov would have to fulfill both his and Esav's tasks.  Sarah had acted similarly a generation earlier when she decided to banish Yishmael from the home because of the negative influence of his corrupt behavior.  Avraham was shocked.  This went against the grain, which was the ideal of absolute kindness, but it was essential for practical considerations.  Hashem confirmed Sarah's approach: "Do everything that Sarah tells you" (Bereshit 21:12).  It is true that ideally they should live together, but at the present time it was not possible.  "The events that occurred to our forefathers are indications of what will befall their descendants."

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Avraham Zuckerman: The Perpetually Committed Torah Scholar

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Chayei Sarah 5774 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Our crown has fallen, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Avraham Zuckerman, ztz”l, head of the Kfar Ha-Roeh Yeshiva, head of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivot, builder of the Zionist Yeshivot, who raised up generations of disciples and disciples of disciples.

Rambam teaches us in Hilchot Talmud Torah, Chapter 3, that it is impossible to merit

the crown of Torah in tandem with wealth and honor. The Torah comes with humility and devotion, and it is attained by those who kill themselves over it (see paragraphs 6-9,12).

And such it was with Ha-Rav Avraham Zuckerman already in his childhood. At age six, out of his great craving for Torah, he was skipped from first to second grade, and then from second to third grade. At age eleven, he moved to a different city to learn in a Yeshiva in Polish Lithuania, his birthplace. At night he would wake up missing his parents, and he would weep silently into his pillow. Despite this, he continued to learn with great diligence. The Yeshiva belonged to the “Mussar” movement, which was preoccupied with man's being true to his own nature. Later on he studied in other Mussar Yeshivot until he arrived at the Navardok Yeshiva, the pinnacle of those Yeshivot, which emphasized humility and devotion. He had a custom of praying with his friends in the train station of the gentiles, in order to learn to be embarrassed before G-d and not before man. He learned there with great diligence.

He celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in the Yeshiva, as was the custom in those days, without gifts or parties. Rather, he was just called up to the Torah and wished a Mazel Tov.

The students slept in the women's sections of synagogues up to an hour away, on wooden benches with straw mattresses. There was no food in the Yeshiva. The students ate with householders who invited them.

He moved to Israel at age twenty, and never left the Land. He was opposed to doing so, even to visit Poland. He was also opposed to evacuating settlements. He celebrated his Aliya date as a second birthday, the day on which he was granted a new soul.

In Israel, as well, he studied at Navardok. In Israel he met the Rosh Yeshiva of

Navardok, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, “the Steipler Gaon”, from whom he learned the profundity within the simple and the simplicity within the profound.

One time he heard Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yaakov Moshe Charlop, the Rosh Yeshiva of

Mercaz HaRav, and he saw that this was the right direction. Later on he heard Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Moshe Tzvi Neriah.

He learned as an adult, married student in Yeshivat Ha-Yishuv Ha- Chadash, helping out younger boys. This was his most blessed learning period, in which he studied in peace, without having to worry about earning a living.

Later on he was appointed to be in charge of the branches of the Bnei Akiva youth movement in the North, encouraging the boys to go and learn in Yeshiva. At the time, there was no appropriate Yeshiva. That is how Yeshivat Kfar Ha-Ro'eh was founded. Later, he was appointed to be one of the teachers, and later still, the Rosh Yeshiva, and after that, he was appointed head of all the Bnei Akiva Yeshivot. He initiated the founding of numerous Yeshiva high schools and Hesder Yeshivot. He was the great founder.

And he did it all with humility and modesty, without trying to stand out in anything.

This great student was entirely humble.

When anyone came to get his advice, he would answer: “I'm not telling you what do.

I'm just telling you what I would do.” In discussions, his approach was that of Avot 2:8: “Do not say: Accept my opinion.”

He never got a driver's license.  He would take the bus. On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays he would not eat meat.

In Yeshiva, he did not teach that the main idea was to produce geniuses. Rather, he emphasized the common good.

He even encouraged scholastically weak students who had good character, fear of G-d and readiness to sacrifice for the Jewish People. He was very serious and very devoted, and he demanded seriousness of his students.

That truly great man has now ascended up to heaven, and still his spirit lives on forever in his students and his students' students.


May his spirit be bound up in the bond life with the souls of all the truly righteous.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #229

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


Passing of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef

Q: When Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef passed away, I recited the blessing of "Dayan Ha-Emet".  But I also feel that there is a good aspect to it since he was dragged into disputes and spoke against different communities.  Should I also recite the blessing of "Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv", like in the case of someone whose father dies and he receives an inheritance, in which he recites two blessings: "Dayan Ha-Emet" (over the death) and "Shehechiyanu" (over the inheritance.  See Bereachot 59b).

A: You are crazy (I say this to give you the benefit of the doubt).


Mashiach Now!

Q: After the immense pain of the passing of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l, I have a feeling that the Mashiach is going to come right now.  Is there a basis for this?

A: No.  We do not know when the Mashiach will come, and we wait each day for his arrival.  One of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith.


Utensil which was Cooked in on Shabbat

Q: Does one have to Kasher a utensil which was purposefully cooked in on Shabbat?

A: No.  Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef permits it (Livnat Chen 42), although the Mishnah Berurah (318:4) does not (Ha-Rav is also lenient for Ashekenazim, since it is a Rabbinic law). 


Saying "Tal U-Matar" Out Loud

Q: It is permissible during the Shemoneh Esrei to say "Tal U-Matar" or "Yaale Ve-Yavo" out loud in order to remind others to say it?

A: One is required to recite Shemoneh Esrei with an awe of holiness, as one would have standing before a king.  It is therefore forbidden, although some authorities are lenient (The Chazon Ish opposed this custom since it was not proper to say it out loud during Davening.  Dinim Ve-Hanhagot Le-Chazon Isj 4:24.  Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 1, p. 207.  Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski related that in his youth, he once Davened with his uncle, the Chazon Ish, on the 7th of Marcheshvan (when we begin reciting "Tal U-Matar" in Eretz Yisrael) and he raised his voice when he said "Tal U-Matar".  After the Davening, the Chazon Ish came out and said to him: "We do not yell out in Davening".  Divrei Shi"ach #35 – Lech Lecha 5774.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, however, said that there are Acharonim who mention the Shamash saying it aloud, i.e. Magen Avraham 114:2, but it is improper for others to do so.  Halichot Shlomo – Tefillah, Chapter 8 note #20.  Brought in Ishei Yisrael, Chapter 20 note #72.  But Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said that others may do so since it is for the benefit of the Davening.  Ashrei Ish, p. 113.  In any event, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski says that there are those who are lenient in order to remind others, but it is preferable to hit on the Shtender before the Shemoneh Esrei as a reminder.  Da'at Noteh, p. 298).


Missed Torah Reading

Q: If we did not read the Torah reading on Shabbat, is it possible to make it up at Minchah?

A: Yes.  Mishnah Berurah 135:5, unlike the ruling of the Kaf Ha-Chaim ibid. #9.


Chalav Stam

Q: If I have a product that is not Chalav Yisrael and I do not eat it, is it Bal Tashchit to throw it out?

A: If it has Rabbinic certification, give it to someone who is not strict about it (see Shut Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 1:47.  Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:314).


Throwing Bread

Q: Is it permissible to throw bread in a clean place where one knows it will not get ruined?

A: No.  This is a special stricture by bread.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 171:1.  Mishnah Berurah #9.  But some permit it.  Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #2.

That Serpent the Internet

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


The Internet really is a serpent. It’s the evil impulse. That serpent in Eden looked friendly. It promised things that were very fine: “You will be like G-d” (Bereshit 3:5). Yet all of that is the counsel of the evil impulse. Just so, the Internet looks friendly, but it is the evil impulse.

The Internet makes for a lot of problems. Yet the worst problem is the plethora of filthy videos which have gotten so bad that the paper is ashamed to bear their description. A study done a year ago at Tel-Chai College revealed that 90% of youth watch those videos, in other words, high school age boys between fourteen and eighteen. True, it says on the side that viewing is permissible only above age eighteen, but in actual fact nobody is checking and many boys start watching at age ten. True, girls watch it less, but they watch it as well, and religious youth are no exception.

All this involves a two-fold evil. First, the very watching involves a severe prohibition, as is explained in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16, which states that it is forbidden to read books that provoke the evil impulse. This applies all the more so to those vile videos, whose prohibition does not just constitute a stricture but an outright law to which every upright Jew and every upright non-Jew will agree. Second, those videos truly do arouse the evil impulse and corrupt the thoughts of youth, creating a distorted image of women. These videos encourage men to view women as sexual objects, entitled to offer themselves sexually to many men. They likewise encourage men to mistreat women sexually. Instead of learning what the pure and moral relationship between a man and a woman is from their parents or their school, the youth learn it from these deviant videos.

At one time people knew that one’s home is a shelter and the street is dangerous. Now, the Internet has brought the street and its filth right into the home.

Moreover, social networks such as Facebook have also taken the home outside, spilling

the trash from one’s home into the living room of another. The book Mesillat Yesharim warns us that the greatest moral danger is corrupt society (Chapter 5.  See also The Vilna Gaon in his Igeret).

Our conclusion must be that we take the Internet and throw it out of our homes.

True, it has some good things in it, but it also has evil, and what we gain is worth far less than what we lose.

We managed throughout the generations without it, didn’t we? True, it’s got Torah lectures as well, but it’s a source of sin, and you don’t do a Mitzvah at the cost of committing a sin. Sexual license is not the only sin involved. There is also forbidden gossip, violence, insult and falsehood, not to mention the awful waste of time. True, theoretically speaking the Internet can bring a blessing. After all, G-d’s ways are upright, the righteous follow those pathways and the wicked stumble on them. Here, however, we’re not dealing with theory, but with the sad reality.

So, the best thing is to cut oneself off from this modern device. This is the ideal. Many people, however, need to use it for work, for study, etc. In that case, one has an outright obligation to use one of the filter programs, and, obviously, without the possibility of going around it.

There are various programs, each with its pluses and minuses.

-- Moreshet (with five levels).

-- Rimon, with its five levels: 1) Protected 2) Protected Plus 3) Protected Squared 4)

Guarded and 5) Hermetically Sealed. Besides these options of Rimon, there is also Etrog, the most sealed of all.

-- Incognito.

-- Webchaver, in which every unconventional site visited is reported to a friend. That recalls the Talmud in Berachot: “Who sees me?”

-- There is also a simple solution: a password, half of which is known to one spouse and half to the other. Only with your spouse's knowledge can you thus access the internet.

Yet even all of this is not enough. All this is only a ruse. Amidst all of this, you need inner fortitude as well.

When the Vilna Gaon was going to set out onto street, he prepared himself psychologically by learning the four chapters of Mesillat Yesharim dealing with Zehirut - Caution, Chapter 2-5.

So everyone should write a summary appropriate to himself, and read it before he goes on the Internet - just like the officer who recites the same instructions each day before battle.

And indeed, this is a battle. It’s war.

One should write himself a prayer before entering that battle: “G-d and G-d of our fathers, help me to remain pure.”

Chaye Sarah: The Significance of the Discussions of our Forefathers' Servants

[Tal Chermon]

This Torah portion discusses Eliezer's mission to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak.  The Torah relates the event at great length, devoting about seventy verses to it.  It is in fact repeated twice – once when the events actually happen and once when Eliezer recounts the story to Rivkah's family.  Eliezer was in fact adamant that he tell the whole tale, as he said: "I will not eat until I speak my piece" (Bereshit 24:33).  Interestingly enough, there is an inordinate amount of "speaking" going on here about a subject that does not seem to be of such great importance! Surely there are far more important topics, such as the laws of Shabbat, which fill entire volumes of Halachah books and yet only warrant a few verses in the Torah itself.  We must conclude therefore that Eliezer's discussion is a very important matter, as our Rabbi tells us: "The discussions of our forefather's servants are more pleasing to G-d than even the Torah study of the sons."  The mere fact that Eliezer's narrative is repeated twice, while many important halachic principles were given only by remote indications in the Torah, proves this point (Rashi on Bereshit 24:42 quoting Bereshit Rabbah 60:8).

Spiritual elevation can be achieved in one of two ways – by the study of spiritual ideas or by spiritual experience itself.  The first path is a process of intellect and analysis while the second is a form of spiritual influence emanating from an inner vision and experience.  Our prophets of old did not attempt to explain or convince people by logical proofs, but rather expressed these inner truths through themselves. People who met them were then influenced and inspired by the very spiritual experience of coming into contact with the personality of the prophet (The period of the prophets coincided with the period that philosophers flourished in Greece.  For example, Yirmiyahu lived at the time of Pythagoras.  The Greek philosophers employed rational explanation while the prophets used the alternative method of spiritual influence).

The prophets did not stress the importance of Torah study.  Naturally, they themselves were outstanding Torah scholars, but this is not mentioned in the Tanach because life and study were not separate disciplines for the prophets.  Our prophets were not like us.  Today we live in a dichotomous state in which we devote part of our time to Torah study and spend the rest of our time "living our lives."  For them, their entire lives were Torah.  Even when they were involved in mundane matters, their whole approach emanated from the depth of their personality which was entirely Torah.  The experience of an encounter with such a "personality of Torah," even when it involved only secular matters, made for more of an impact than an analytical study of a thousand books. 

The ideal of Torah study is not stressed in the Tanach, but this is not because it is unimportant.  The leading Torah personalities obviously learned day and night but their studies were not an isolated aspect of their lives – rather they were a most natural part their existence – life itself.  Their deep-rooted connection to the Torah, which is manifested today by its study, was revealed in every action and word spoken in those times.

Yehoshua had to be specially charged to "meditate on it [the Torah] day and night" (Yehoshua 1:8), since he was on the verge of the conquest of Israel during which he would be fully occupied in his task as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, planning and executing military operations.  Under the circumstance, there was a need to emphasize the obligation of Torah study despite his heavy national burden.  In ordinary times, however, it is taken for granted that one must always to be attached to the Torah.

Every Jew must therefore aspire to achieve the level of the "servants of our forefathers" who manifested the Torah not only in their studies, but, like Eliezer, servant of Avraham, even in their most mundane conversations.        


Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #228

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

Tearing Garment for Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l

Q: Should one tear his garment when one of the Gedolei Ha-Dor ascends to heaven, i.e. Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l?

A: One should tear his garment for one's primary Rabbi, from which the majority of his wisdom came.  According to the Shulchan Aruch, one also tears for a Torah scholar who can answer a question in any area of Halachah.  According to the Rama, one tears only if he is known for his teachings.  The custom, however, is only to tear for the Gadol Ha-Dor.  Yalkut Yosef.  Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l was one of the Gedolei Ha-Dor but not the only one.  It is also possible to tear over the loss of a Torah scholar if one is distressed.  Mishnah Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 340:7.  Yalkut Yosef Aveilut 4:9.  Shut Yabia Omer Vol. 4 Yoreh Deah #35 ot 9.  Mishnah Berurah 223:8.  And see Techumin Vol. 31, pp. 215-221.  And Ha-Rav Yechiel Michal Tuchitinsky ruled that one tears for "A Gadol from the Gedolei Ha-Dor".  Gesher Ha-Chaim 4:5). 


Blessing of "Chacham Ha-Razim"

Q: At the funeral of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz"l, there were more than 600,000 Jews.  Was there an obligation to recite the blessing of "Chacham Ha-Razim" (Knower of Secrets – blessing when seeing 600,000 Jews together)?

A: On the face it, yes.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:5.  But we did not hear that the many great Torah scholars who were there did so.  This may have been since perhaps we only recite the blessing when one sees all 600,000 Jews at one time, since the Gemara relates the case that a Torah scholar recited the blessing on the Temple Mount (Berachot 58a).  It is also not certain that there were 600,000.  There may have been much less.  Calculate it for yourself.


Sheva Berachot for Secular Jews

Q: If a secular couple gets married but had been living together, do we recite Sheva Berachot for 7 days or only 1 day?

A: 7 Days.  Chatam Sofer.  Yabia Omer (Shut Chatam Sofer #123.  Shut Yabia Omer 5:11).



Q: I am an older single man and I have a strong inclination for immodest women.  What should I do?

A: Learn a lot of Torah, especially books of Musar and Emunah.  Rambam, end of Hilchot Isurei Biah.  And may Hashem bless you in its merit to get married quickly (see Derech Eitz Chaim of the Ramchal with Ha-Rav's commentary).


Food under the Bed

Q: I know it is forbidden to place food under a bed where one sleeps.  And what if it happened?

A: There is a dispute, and after the fact one can use the food (The Chazon Ish was strict not to eat it, but would give the food to the poor and not waste it since it is permissible according to the basic Halachah, and the merit of this Mitzvah would protect those who eat it.  Piskei Teshuvot 171 note #48).



Q: A person badly hurt me and asked for my forgiveness, but I cannot grant it with a full heart.  What should I say?

A: The truth.  It is his responsibility to appease you.  The Griz of Brisk – Ha-Rav Velvele Soloveitchik - said: If you say that you forgive him, and then you hate him in your heart, you are the one with the transgression (And it once happened that someone came to ask forgiveness from Ha-Rav Eliyahu Lopian.  He said: "You hurt me badly and I cannot forgive you with a full heart.  Come back in two weeks.  In the meantime, I will learn books of Musar in order to forgive you). 

Parashat Vayera: Avraham Who Loves Mankind

[Tal Chermon]


Avraham is depicted as a man of immense kindness.  He risked his life to save Lot, he hosted unknown guests and even tried to save Sedom from destruction.  His actions starkly contrast with those of Noach, who upon being told by G-d that He was about to destroy the whole world, did not utter a single word of protest (Zohar, part 1, p. 67b).  Even the episode of Sarah and Avimelech can be construed as an act of kindness on Avraham's part.  When Sarah was abducted by Pharaoh, Avraham asked her to pose as his sister so that they would treat him well, and through her efforts his life would be spared (Bereshit 12:13).  In the case of Avimelech, however, no justification for this deception is given: Avraham simply announced that Sarah was his sister.  This change is obviously done to teach us something.  Avraham's love for Sarah was in a sense fraternal, a pure and idealistic love that involved no feelings of jealousy or possessiveness that are so often present in a husband-wife relationship.  Avraham Avinu had no selfish and petty reasons for keeping her for himself.  She was thus theoretically free to go and become the wife of Avimelech if she chose to do so.  Such a choice was obviously a legal and moral impossibility and Sarah did not entertain it at all.  From Avraham's point of view, it was possible (See Talks by Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah on Parashat Vayera summarized by Rav Ilan Tor).  Kindness stems from the ability to see the Divine light and content that exists in every creation.  And thus Avraham, who saw the G-dly illumination in all creatures, loved them all.

I'm a Fighter!

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Lech Lecha 5774 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Part I

Yes, I'm a fighter! True, that seems bad, but sometimes there's no choice. It's not respectable nor acceptable, but I don't care. Therefore, I fight.

When someone is weak and spineless, he gets trampled to no end. The world is full of naïve people who praise appeasement and then meet a bitter end. Therefore, you must be serious and responsible, and attack.

I never attack without cause, spurred by aggressive passions. I, too, love peace and quiet. Yet as the Latin saying goes, Si vis pacem, para bellum, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” I attack only the enemy. And obviously I don't wait for him to attack me in order to defend myself. That's too late. I hasten the cure before the disease, waging battle in the enemy's gates. The best defense is a preventative attack.

I enjoyed seeing what Rabbi Yitzchak Arama wrote in his Akeidat Yitzchak: “Man is born a fighter. G-d, as well, whose pathways we follow, is a “man of war”, a warrior, causing salvation to burgeon forth.


Part II

Whom do I fight against? I'm not a lowlife. I bear no pathological fear of enemies lying in wait at every turn. I also know how to give in and to put myself aside. I do not say that anyone who does not belong to my group is an enemy. No, I investigate and think and bone up on the issue, until I go to war. Yet once I have made up my mind, I go for the whole stake, waging a life-and-death battle to the end, until my enemy is totally liquidated, unable to rise. I invest great energy in this, endangering my own life, because my own life is at stake.

That is the concept of total war. As the great theoretician Carl von Clausewitz said, or as the French say, “A la guerre comme a la guerre – “In war as in war”.

Who, then, is my enemy? Evil! It drives me out of my mind! I hate it and fight it wherever I encounter it. By such means I perform a good, not just for myself but for everyone. And please don't tell me, “Who are you and what are you? For a lowlife like you to hoist up the flag of war against evil.” For I will tell you: True, I'm a lowlife. I must therefore fight evil. For if I do not fight evil, I shall remain a lowlife.


Part III

Where do I find so much evil? The answer to that is the easiest to know and the hardest to act upon. It's in me. I fight against the evil within me. Not within others. How brazen it would be of me to fight the evil in others but not in myself! That itself would constitute a terrible evil.

I do not want to be evil! I did not say that I would be a saint, but I don't want to be a sinner. I don't want to be captive to the Devil. I don't want to be a wild man or a pagan.

It's true that I'm not worth a lot and I don't dare to claim that I am something special, or that I will be. All the same, against evil I do not compromise. And I don't go easy on myself either. I will fight any sin, any negligence regarding a good trait, any evil trait.

Such is my quest, and when I succeed, even a little bit, I feel everlasting joy. How happy I am!

I didn't make any of this up. I saw it it all in rabbinical treatises on fine behavior.

To be sure, life is no picnic. It's no playground. It's war, and I am thrilled to go to battle.

Won't you join me?


Short & Sweet - Text Message Responsa #227

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


Being Drafted into Tzahal

Q: I am a Yeshiva student.  Is it worthwhile to be drafted into Tzahal?  After all, this army does not fulfill its obligation to protect us.

A: I don't know what your sources are that it does not fulfill its obligation to protect us.  You are obligated to ask forgiveness for this slight against those who risk their lives for you.  Regarding the question itself, ask your Rosh Yeshiva, and also ask him if such questions should be asked in a text message.


Ultra-Orthodox and Army

Q: Why don't the Ultra-Orthodox join Tzahal?

A: They err in this area.  But the situation is slowly improving.  Patience.


Seeing-Eye Dog at the Kotel

Q: Is it permissible for a blind person to bring a seeing-eye dog to the Kotel?

A: Regarding bringing a seeing-eye dog into a Shul, it is a dispute (Those who permit it: Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:45.  Lubavitcher Rebbe, Igrot 6:936.  Those who forbid it: Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher in Torah Sheleimah vol. 16, p. 147.  Shut Chelkat Yaakov 3:87.  Sha’arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halachah 13:2).  It is therefore forbidden at the Kotel (on account of its higher level of holiness).


An Insulting Teacher

Q: We complained about a teacher who always insults the students, and as a result, she was fired.  She will not forgive us.  What should we do?

A: This is the general principle: The teacher for the students and not the students for the teacher.  A teacher who insults is fired.  She is the one who must ask for forgiveness.


Kiddush for One who Desecrates Shabbat

Q: Is there value for one who desecrates Shabbat by working to make Kiddush either before or after work?

A: Certainly.  Thus he will not forget it is Shabbat and will know to where he needs to return (And Ha-Rav Yaakov Weinberg, author of Shut Seridei Aish, related that when Ha-Rav Yisrael Salanter came to Koenigsberg there were many who desecrated Shabbat.  He told them to make Kiddush and come to Shul so that they would know it is Shabbat, and when they didn't need to work on Shabbat anymore they would return to observing Shabbat).


Birkat Ha-Gomel for a Child

Q: My baby was saved by a miracle.  Should I recite Ha-Gomel?

A: No.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 219:4.  Biur Halachah.


Who Keeps the Ketubah

Q: Who should have possession of the Ketubah?

A: Obviously the bride – it belongs to her.  But if she trusts that her husband will not take advantage of her in the case of a divorce, she can have him keep it.  Shut Igrot Moshe 3:26.


Wedding in a Shul

Q: Is it permissible to have the Chuppah in a Shul?

A: Sefardim – yes.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 391:3.  Shut Yabia Omer Vol. 3 Even Ha-Ezer #10.  Ashkenazim – no, unless there is no choice.  Shut Igrot Moshe Even Ha-Ezer 1:93 (Ha-Rav Moshe Stern, author of Shut Beer Moshe, was once invited to perform a wedding.  He arrived at the wedding and when he saw that it was in a Shul, he refused to perform it.  Many complained against him.  He went to ask the Satmar Rebbe if he acted correctly, and the Satmarer fully concurred.  Shut Beer Moshe 5:167.  However, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik once came to a wedding and when he saw that it was in a Shul, he sighed and said that if he had known he would have avoided attending.  He explained that it is not proper to have a Chuppah in a Shul, since the holiness of the Shul only permits for learning Torah and Davening, and not other activities, even Mitzvot.  Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 257).