Q: It is permissible to visit an art museum
which displays both modest and immodest art, in order to see only the Kosher
A: It depends on the nature of the museum, and
one must be certain that he will not stumble at all (Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote:
"When I lived in London, I would visit the National Gallery and the
pictures which were most beloved to me were from Rembrandt.”Yovel Orot, p. 168.And see further in Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah of
Ha-Rav Neria, chap. 13 on Chanukah.And
the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about the Rebbe Rashab - the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe
– that he spent many hours in the Louvre in Paris staring at a painting which
stimulated many Chasidic ideas.Igrot
Kodesh, vol. 26, #9, p. 669.Igrot Kodesh
of the Rebbe Rayatz, pp. 397-398.And in
5773, the Admor of Karlin-Stolin visited the Israel Museum in order to see an
exhibition about Chasidic culture).
"Body Works" Exhibition?
Q: Is it permissible to visit the "Body
Works" exhibition which presents dead bodies?
A: No. Shaming the deceased (This is the
ruling of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.See Shut Da'at Cohain #199.Piskei Uziel #32).
Cohanim entering a Museum that has a Mummy
Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain to enter a
Natural History museum that has a mummy?
A: There is a dispute if a non-Jewish corpse
spreads impurity in an enclosed area (Tumat Ha-Ohel), and it is permissible to
be lenient (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Yoreh Deah 372:2.And we have heard in the name of Ha-Rav Moshe
Feinstein that he permitted it, but he warned against a Cohain touching a
mummy).And there are those who are
strict (Taharat Ha-Cohanim Ke-Halachah 5:6).
Cohanim in Yad Vashem
Q: Is it permissible for Cohanim to enter Yad
Vashem, since there are ashes of victims there?
A: Ashes do not impart impurity (Shut Be-Mareh
Ha-Bazek 5:105.See Shut Chelkat Yaakov
Yoreh Deah #217).
Q: Is it permissible for Cohanim to enter the
Israel Museum, since there are bones there?
A: Yes, they are not real bones, but imitations
made from different materials.
Gush Katif Museum
Q: Is it permissible to visit the Gush Katif
Museum in Yerushalayim?
A: Yes, while making sure that one guards his
Ahavat Yisrael (see Sefer Ha-Tanya, Chapter 32).
Islamic Museum in Jerusalem
Q: Is it permissible to visit the Islamic
A: No. Islam is heresy, since it claims that
the Torah has been nullified. We do not strengthen those who are transgressing
(See Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 2:2.Shut Tzitzit Eliezer 10:1, Chapter 9 #44. 14:91).
Q: Is it permissible to visit a wax museum?
A: In Eretz Yisrael – no, since it is
forbidden to make figures, but outside of Israel – yes (The basic Halachah is
that it is only forbidden to make the form of a person's face.Taz 141:15.But at this time people do not worship figures and we do not suspect
that they are used for idol worship.Chochmat Adam 85:6.Shach
141:23.It seems that there is no
prohibition to look at them.Shut Aseh
Lecha Rav 5:72 in the short Q&A.Nevertheless, it is known that in the museum in Eretz Yisrael the
figures of people are crafted by Jews. Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv therefore
rules that it is forbidden to visit there since it is a desecration of Hashem's
Name to benefit from a transgression, and attending the museum is aiding
transgressors.Brought in Shut Avnei
Yeshpeh 1:51.Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot
3:263.Shut Rivevot Ephraim 3:504.And see Shut Da'at Kohain #65-66 at
length.Shut Yabia Omer 3:8).
Q: It is permission to visit the museum of the
A: No, on account of strengthening
transgressors (as our Sages defined the Kutim.Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 267:47).
Entering Reform Institution in order to Enter
Q: Is it permissible to enter the Reform
institution on King David St. in Yerushalayim in order to enter the
archeological museum located there?
A: Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ruled that it
is permissible if it is for an educational purpose which cannot be attained in
another way (Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol vol. 1, p. 67).
Visiting The Israel Museum on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to visit The Israel
Museum on Shabbat if it is permissible to enter without paying or if one can
pre-purchase a ticket before Shabbat?
A: It is forbidden since keeping it open
involves Shabbat desecration (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 318:1).
Museum during 9 Days
Q: Is it permissible to visit a museum during
the 9 Days?
Q: Is it permissible to visit a Natural
History Museum which has exhibitions about the Big Bang, Evolution, dinosaurs,
A: Yes.These are not issues of faith but of science.The Maharal says that the purpose of science
is to describe reality, while the Torah describes what reality should be, i.e.
what is good and what is bad (Netiv Ha-Torah, Netiv 14).It is possible that there was a Big Bang: And
in the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth through the Big Bang.Maran Ha-Rav Kook said that Evolution does
not contradict the Torah.He also said
that the theory of Evolution needs to evolve.And regarding that the dinosaurs being a few million years old, when
according to the Torah the world is 5773 years old, Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains
that Hashem created worlds and destroyed them before creating our current world
(Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, 9:2 and Kohelet Rabbah 3:11).The worlds were destroyed but certain
remnants remained (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 1 #91."Derush Or Ha-Chaim" by the Tiferet
Yisrael found in Mishnayot Nezikin after Massechet Sanhedrin).
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Kelim after Mechirat Chametz
There are dishes in the closet where I placed the Chametz which was sold to the
non-Jew.Do the dishes need to be
immersed in a Mikveh after Pesach, since they were in the possession of a
No.It is written in the sale of
document that we are not selling the dishes but only the Chametz within them. But even if it were written that we are
selling the dishes, the majority of Poskim still exempt the dishes from
immersion.Chochmat Shlomo 448, Aruch
Ha-Shulchan Yoreh Deah 120:52, Darkei Teshuvah ibid. #90.This is the case since the buyer and seller both
have in mind that the sale will not be permanent. The non-Jew therefore does
not take possession of the dishes.
How is it possible that Rabbi Eliezer never said anything which he did not hear
from his Rabbi (Sukkah 27b), when it is related that he gave a Dvar Torah which
no ear had ever heard (Avot De-Rebbe Natan, Chapter 6)?
Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains that Rabbei Eliezer, with his deep ability to
listen, understood things in his Rabbi’s words which others did not
understand.Maamarei Ha-Ree’eiyah, p.
204 (and Ha-Rav Avigdor Neventzal wrote that he heard the same difficulty and
answer from his teacher, Ha-Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz.Although he adds that in his humble opinion,
there is no difficulty, since Rabbi Eliezer did not say anything which he did
not hear from his Rabbi out of a concern that he would err and spread incorrect
Torah.But when Rabbi Eliezer delivered
a Dvar Torah which no ear had ever heard, he did so in the presence of Rabbi Yohanan
ben Zakkai, his Rabbi, since if he erred, his teacher would correct him.In this case, therefore, there was no such
fear.Iturei Cohanim #104).
Number of those who left Egypt
How is it possible that in such a short time 70 people grew to 600,000?
210 years is 10 generations of 20 years.If each couple had 6 children – even not at one time – it is 3 to the
power of 10 which is approximately 50,000 x 70 = 3.5 million.
I heard that the number 600,000 who left Egypt means 600 families, since 1000
equals a family?
Nonsense.“And they were numbered were six
hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty”.Bemidbar 1:46.
Adding a Name
Q: Our son is extremely
short.We asked a Chasidic Rebbe what to
do and he recommended adding a name.Is
it enough to add it during an Aliyah to the Torah or do we need to do something
A: Ask the Rebbe directly, or ask
Q: I am extremely short.What can I do to grow taller?
A: If you are a child, ask a
doctor.If you an adult, I do not know
of a solution.You should know that many
great Rabbis were short.
Learning Tanach with Chazal
Q: Is it permissible to teach
children the simple meaning of the Tanach or must we teach them with Chazal?
A: Hashem gave the Torah with a
commentary, i.e. the Oral Torah.See the
Rambam’s introduction to the Mishneh Torah (Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik explains
the same way.When he was asked the same
question, he said that without the Oral Torah, the Tanach is the “Bible of the
Christians”.He added that Ha-Rav
Shimshon Rafeal Hirsch is an expert in fusing the Oral Torah with the teaching
of Chumash.Divrei Ha-Rav, p. 202).
Q: Is there are obligation to
light a Yahrtzeit candle on the anniversary of a person’s death?
A: It is a custom, but it is not
an obligation.See Shut Teshuvot
Ve-Hanahgot 1:702 (It is brought there that the Vilna Gaon did not hold by the
custom to light a Yahrtzeit candle on the Yahrtzeit).
Question: What is the connection between freedom and the
prohibition of chametz (leaven)? The entire process of ridding ourselves
of chametz seems like a heavy burden which robs a person of his freedom. In
fact, all of the mitzvot seem to deprive a person of his natural freedom of
Answer: Rav Kook explained that true freedom includes two aspects:
of the body: Physical freedom from any foreign subjugation: Anything which
forces the image of G-d within a person to be subjugated to any other power
lessens that person’s worth.
of the soul: Spiritual freedom from anything which turns it from the
straightness which is its essential existence. G-d created man upright,
and He cleanses man from any refuse which sullies his inner holiness.
Each morning we recite the blessing, "who has not made me a
slave." The mitzvot are not foreign entities which are forced upon a
person, rather they are commands that reveal his inner essence. Before
the mitzvot were engraved on the tablets that were given at Mount Sinai they
were written on the “tablets” of every Jew's soul. Our Sages therefore
said: They were "charut" (engraved) on the tablets – do not read the
word as "charut" (engraved) but as "cherut" (freedom)
(Pirkei Avot 6:2). By slightly changing the vocalization of the word, we
learn an incredible lesson: in order to truly be a free people, it is not
enough to be liberated from physical slavery. On the contrary, it is
possible to have an enlightened slave whose spirit is full of freedom, and a physically
free person whose spirit is enslaved. We were transformed into free
people on Pesach, but we do not become truly free until we rid ourselves of
anything which robs us of our natural essence. This is the reason for
destroying the chametz, which symbolizes the evil inclination and is called
"the yeast in the dough," since it ferments in the heart of people
and causes them to transgress (see Bereachot 17a). The destruction of our
internal chametz is what allows us to raise the flag of freedom (Olat Re'eiyah
vol. 2, pp. 244-245).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayikra
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Question: What is
the path of Religious Zionism? How is it possible to be hanging between two
the one world is Zionism and the other world is religiosity, and Religious
Zionists are torn between the two. It is true that in practical terms, these
represent two different worlds. There are irreligious nationalists and there
are non-nationalist religious Jews. Truthfully, however, it is all one world,
for what is the essence of Zionism? The Jewish Nation’s rebirth in its Land.
This includes the Jews’ moving to Israel, settling the Land andtaking
sovereignty over the Land. Obviously, sovereignty over the Land includes having
anarmy. Yet all this is written in the Torah countless times – that
Eretz Yisrael is our Land, that we have to live there, build it and occupy it.
In other words, we must fashion national ownership over it, or in other words,
a state and an army.
in his Addenda to Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, Positive Precept 4, where Ramban
reduces the Mitzvah of Eretz Yisrael to three parts: 1) living in the Land 2)
not leaving the Land desolate, i.e., settling the Land, and 3) not leaving the
Land in the hands of any other nation, i.e., occupying the Land and
establishing a state.
of Religious Zionism is the rebirth of the Jewish Nation in its Land, living
according to Torah law. And truthfully, it is all one. Yet since we were
prevented from dealing with the nation’s rebirth for two thousandyears,
we forgot. There is nothingnew here. Rather, there is something old
that has been forgotten. Our sages, at the beginningof Tractate Megillah
coined such an expression: “They forgot about it, and then they oncemore
nothing new here. It is all old. It is just that we have to re-accustom
ourselves to it, since we forgot it. It is true that at the start of the
renewal of settlement in the Land, between the nationalists and the Charedim
reigned not only hostility but apathy – what occupied the one did not interest
gradually, through their living together, they began to know each other and to admire
each other, and to cooperate. The Zionists became more religious, and the
religious became more Zionistic, and the Religious Zionists stand in the breach
and represent the fulfillment of the Torah to perfection. Perfection! “All that
G-d has said, we shall do and obey!” (Shemot 24:7).
Religious Zionism, itself, there are various hues. Some are more Zionistic and some
are more religious.
the proper path. It can be likened to the relationship between body and soul.
survive without a body, otherwise the soul will depart. Neither can one survive
without a soul. The body will be lifeless.
is, however, that when a Jew says, “I am religious,” that itself makes him a Zionist,
even if he is unaware of it.
are Zionists, even if they are unaware of it. And when someone says, “I am a
Zionist,” that itself makes him religious, even if he is unaware of it.
of this is explained in depth in Rav Kook’s work “Orot”.
Question: If someone sees
President Obama (who is visiting Israel) should he recite the blessing of
"Baruch…she-natan michvodo le-vasar ve-dam - Blessed are You…who has given
of His glory to flesh and blood"? (In the Gemara in Berachot 58a, our
Rabbis teach that one who sees a non-Jewish king recites the blessing.It is recorded in the Rambam, Hilchot
Berachot 10:11 and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:8.The Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim #159, rules
that even if one sees the king outside of his area of "rule," one
must still recite the appropriate blessing).
Answer: No, the President of
the United States is not a king.Halachic authorities mention four criteria in order to be considered a
king for this purpose:
1. One must be the absolute
ruler of his kingdom or country (Orchot Chaim in name of Sefer Ha-Eshkol,
Hilchot Berachot #49, Shut Ha-Radvaz 1:296).The President of the United States does not have absolute authority.He must bend to the will of the Congress
whether he likes it or not.
2.The king must have the ability to administer
capital punishment (Shut Chatam Sofer ibid.).The President does not possess this power.While he does have the power to grant life by
issuing a pardon, he does not possess the power of death (Shut Be’er Moshe
2:9).If he issues a pardon to Jonathan
Pollard, we can discuss this further…
3.The king must have royal clothing.The President of the United States wears a
suit like everyone else (Shut Yehaveh Da’at 2:28 and Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot
4. The king must have an
entourage (see Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot ibid.Ha-Rav Sternbuch writes there that he heard that Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim
Zonnenfeld, the great Rav of Yerushalayim before the establishment of the State,
once had a private meeting in a tent with the King of Jordan and he recited
this blessing even though he was without his entourage).While the President is traveling with 400
guards, it is for his protection.
The Satmar Rebbe similarly
ruled that one does not recite a blessing over the President of the United
States since he is not a king (see the book "Edut Bi-Yosef," p. 49
#76).The Steipler Gaon also ruled that
no blessing is recited over a President (Orchot Rabbenu vol. 1, pp. 93-94).
People get very scared about
what the President says, but there is no need.What he says does not mean that this is the way it is.This is for two reasons: 1. The United States
does not help us simply to be kind, but because they profit from it.They need us militarily.We handle this part of the world.They need us technologically.They make planes in the US, and then bring
them here and the "chevra" makes them into super-planes.The biggest plane manufacturer has a plant
here.It is not to be kind, but to profit.They need us no less than we need them.2. The President must bend to the will of
Congress.The Congress was pro-Israel
even before the establishment of the State.They are sometimes even more pro-Israel than we are because while in
Exile we learned to be weak and frightened.We need to add strength and courage and then the non-Jews will relate to
us in a proper manner.The Monroe
Doctrine was stated by President James Monroe that Europe would no longer
interfere with the affairs of the US: America for Americans.Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, applied this
doctrine to us: We will not interfere with what America is doing and America
should not interfere with what we are doing here.
The President of the most
powerful country, with the biggest army, the largest economy, the super-power
of the world is visiting the tiny State of Israel, and yet some people say that
this is not "Atchalta De-Geulah – the beginning of the
Redemption."Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach in Shut Minchat Shlomo (the last responsum in vol. 1) wrote that one
is obligated to recite four blessings when the Messiah arrives: 1.
"Baruch…Chacham Ha-Razim – Blessed are You…Knowers of secrets" which
is recited when seeing 600,000 Jews together and certainly at least this many
Jews will go out to greet the Messiah.2. "Baruch…she-chalak mechomato lirei'av - Blessed are You…who,
using His knowledge, has appointed those who fear him" which is recited
when seeing an outstanding Torah scholar and the Messiah will certainly fit
"Baruch…she-chalak michvodo lirei'av- Blessed are You…who has shared His
glory with those who fear him" which is recited when seeing a Jewish
king.4. "Shechechiyanu" –
Blessing Hashem for having arrived at this moment.We still are waiting for this time to arrive,
but we are continuing to advance.After
all, the President of the United States is visiting the State of Israel.Instead of reciting a blessing over the President,
I recommend reciting two prayers for the Nation of Israel, two which we recite
every day before the Shema, but now we should do so with extra proper
intention: "Blessed are You, Hashem, who chooses His Nation Israel with
Love" and "Blessed are You, Hashem, who love His Nation Israel."
Q: Should we try to see the
President since he is the most honored person in the world?
A: You do not need to run to
greet him.The Gemara in Berachot (9b)
says that a person should strive to see non-Jewish kings, so that he will be
able to perceive the difference between the non-Jewish kings and the
Messiah.President Obama, however, is not
a king.It is possible to have a king
who is not honored and an honored person who is not a king.Our Sages established this decree for a king,
and provided the definition of a king.Don't worry.We will be able to
tell the difference between him and the Messiah!
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Redemption without Teshuvah
Q: The Rambam rules in
Hilchot Teshuvah that we will not be redeemed without Teshuvah.If so, since there are still transgressions
among us, isn’t it clear that we’re not in the Redemption?
A: 1. See Kesef Mishneh, who
explains that Teshuvah brings us to Redemption.2. It is not currently the Redemption, but Atchalta De-Geulah – the
Beginning of the Redemption.3. The
Rambam writes that the Messiah himself will force all Jews to fulfill the Torah
and Mitzvot.If this is so, then we will
not all be righteous when he arrives.Hilchot Melachim 11:4 (see Alo Naale #24 at length).
Does a young woman have to tell on a Shidduch that she has dentures?
No.This is something which lacks
importance and is not considered fraud (This is also the ruling on Ha-Rav Yosef
Shalom Elyashiv, since a Cohain whose teeth fall out is not considered
blemished.Bechorot 37a.Tosafot ibid.And any blemish which invalidates a Cohain is considered a blemish in
women.Ketubot 72b.Kav Ve-Naki #527).
What is the source for proposing marriage while down on one knee?Is it permissible?
There is no source.It is forbidden on
account of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" (following non-Jewish practices).
If a woman only has one candle to light for Shabbat, does she fulfill her
Yes (A woman once called Ha-Rav Pinchas Hirschprung – Chief Rabbi of Montreal –
and asked: Since she only has one candle to light for Shabbat, is it possible
to light it facing a mirror so it appears as two candles?He answered that if this were the case, there
would be two women in the mirror, and both would have to light… The booklet
"Gedulat Pinchas", p. 83).
Should one sleep with a Book of Tehillim under his pillow?
No, rather he should recite Tehillim.And see Rambam, Hilchot Zarah 11:12.
How does one break the evil inclination?
Learning Torah."If this disgusting
one (the evil inclination) encounters you, drag it to the Beit Midrash.If it is stone - it will melt.If it is iron - it will shatter".Kiddushin 30b.
Incident with Beruriah
Rashi on Avodah Zarah 18b brings an incident with Beruriah and Rabbi Meir which
is shocking and hard to understand.How
could Rabbi Meir do such a thing?Was it
It is a complicated subject for a text message.See my long article on the issue in Iturei Cohanim (#223 Iyar 5763,
which explains it according to the opinion that the incident actually
occurred).Nonetheless, early editions
of Rashi do not contain this incident.Perhaps a mistaken student put it in (Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv also
explains that this incident never happened.Divrei Yaakov of Ha-Rav Yaakov Adas on the Teshuvot of Ha-Rav Elyashiv,
Seating at Wedding
Must a wedding have separate seating?I
heard that Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein does not require separation and he is a great
It is true that Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that a Mechitzah is only required
for a public event which is out to the public, but not at a private event like
a wedding.Shut Igrot Moshe 1:41.Yoreh Deah 4:24 #3.And this is how many act in America.But with all the greatness of Ha-Rav
Feinstein, the Halachah does not always have to follow his rulings, and in our
times, G-d-fearing Jews in Eretz Yisrael have a proper Mechitzah.See Shut Az Nedberu of Ha-Rav Zilber 12:47.
My wife in pregnant, and she wants to sleep while I watch the kids. If I do
this, I will not be able to Daven with a Minyan.
You are also obligated to take care of your children, and one who is involved
in a Mitzvah is exempt from another Mitzvah – in this case, Davening with a
Minyan (Sukkah 26a).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah –
Vayakel-Pekudei 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l related to "creative Halachah",
"flexible Halachah", "new Halachah" and "meaningful
Halachah", in his two lectures, “Zeh Sinai”, and “Sichah Le-Parashat
Korach”, and it is as though they were just written today.
Here are a
few of his comments:
foundation must be humility before the Master-of-the-Universe. A haughty person
will never be able to become a great Torah scholar. We must accept G-d's will,
without restraint, and not replace it with our own mundane, very utilitarian
use the expression ‘accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven’. What does the
word ‘yoke’ add? “One who accepts the Kingdom of Heaven without its yoke can be
doing so for convenience, or because it suits his own wishes. Undertaking the
yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven can sometimes be very inconvenient and
to join the ranks of the Sages of our tradition, one must avoid trying to explain
Torah law via external rationales. One must not judge or assess Torah laws according
to a secular yardstick. Such an attempt, whether based on an historical or psychological
interpretation, or deriving from a utilitarian approach, undermines the very foundation
of Torah and tradition, and ultimately begets the most tragic results.”
not surrender emotionally. We must not feel inferior. We must not develop an
inferiority complex. Anyone suffering from such a complex is surrendering to
the transient charm of modern, political or ideological slogans. I say that not
only must we not compromise – certainly not that – but twe mustn’t even
surrender emotionally or feel inferior. It is forbidden for anyone who
undertakes the yoke of Heaven to ever think it is important to collaborate to
the slightest degree with the modern, secular, philosophical trend.I believe that Judaism has no need to
apologize either before the modern woman or before the modern representatives
of religious subjectivism (which argues for a ‘personal truth’).”We mustn’t try to adapt the eternal halachic
norm to the transient values of a neurotic society.”
the yoke of Heaven requires us to attain the traits of respect and love, and to
admire the words of the Sages of our tradition, be they from the Mishnah, the
Talmud or medieval times. In every case, they are the ultimate authorities.
Irresponsible expressions against our Sages verge on heresy.”
witness to the fact that modern life is very complex. I know your problems…We
are facing terrifying social, cultural, political and economic problems;
problems within the family, the community; and problems of society in general.
We sometimes feel as though we are swimming against the current, and that it is
moving swiftly via an external force, in the opposite direction from our own…
The vast majority have abandoned us. We face an enormous challenge, but if you
think the solution lies in a reformist philosophy, or in an external
interpretation of Halachah, you are making a heinous error.”
many problems cannot be solved… If we say to dissident Jews, ‘This is our
position,’ they won’t like it. They will say that we are inflexible, that we
are cruel. Yet they will admire us.”
calls upon the Jew to lead a life of great valor, a life of self-sacrifice.”
say that the Torah is inflexible regarding problems, that it does not respond
to people’s needs, is absolutely false. Halachah is indeed responsive both to
the needs of the community and to those of the individual, but proceeds along
its own route…with its own criteria and principles.”
me, [my grandfather] Rav Chaim Soloveitchik used to do his utmost to be lenient.
Yet there are limits even to the leniencies of Rav Chaim. When you reach the
limit, all you can say is, ‘I surrender to the supreme will of Eternal G-d.’”
about Halachah as if it were fossilized, G-d forbid, is ridiculous… We are against
changes, but novel thinking is certain the very backbone of Jewish law. Novel thinking
is endemic to the system, not external to it.”
rebelled against the authority of Halachah. He said, ‘All Jews are equal!Therefore, every Jew has the right to
interpret Jewish law.’
Korach wanted, and what many Jews want now… is that the Torah’s exegetical tool
should be common sense, the empirical knowledge of daily living, man’s normal intellect.”
Law cannot be identified with common sense…. It has its own methodology… Anyone
who knows what the Oral Law is knows this.Are you familiar with the Women’s Liberation Movement? With complaints
against the Oral Torah, against our Halachah, claiming that it deprives the
woman, that the woman is unequal to the man in Jewish law? There are rabbis who
are willing to surrender in order to appease several female knights of Women’s
Liberation. Basically, anyone who has studied Torah as a child, and knows the
Pentateuch well, anyone who has studied the Talmud, knows that this accusation
constitutes slander, since the Torah states in Bereshit that G-d created man in
G-d’s image, that He created man male and female. Thus, equality is a given."
me explain the approach of those who advocate ‘common sense Halachah’. It doesn’t
matter what they call it. Whether they call it ‘meaningful Halachah’, or
‘creative Halachah’, or ‘the new Halachah’… they are errantly being led by a
simplistic philosophical doctrine that includes half-truths and false clichés.
They are enlisting…a theory about subjective religiosity.When I hear people talking about ‘meaningful
Halachah’, about “ending halachic stagnation’, about ‘empirical Halachah’, I
know what they mean… precisely what Korach and his followers had in mind.”
Moshe won…Korach’s congregation admitted in the end, “Moshe is the truth and
his Torah is the truth’.”
Ha-Rav Kook would quote a saying from earlier generations: "If you act
according to my custom, you will attain what I attained" (Sichot Ha-Rav
Tzvi Yehudah 64 #14).This means that in
order to internalize someone's Torah, one must first follow his ways and act
according to his positive traits.
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah pointed out one of Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s positive traits: he
would never burden another person to return Sefarim that he had taken from
another place (ibid. #16).
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah hung a note in the Yeshiva that reflects this same idea:
"Anyone who takes a Sefer belonging to the Yeshiva and does not return to
its proper place is no longer allowed to use the yeshiva's Sefarim."This is a condition for using the Sefarim.
“ruling” is based on various considerations:
If the person does not return it, he places a burden upon another person who looks
for the Sefer and cannot find it.He
wastes that person's time with a fruitless search: in the end, the book will
not be found.The librarian of the
Yeshiva is also burdened with the returning of Sefarim instead of learning
Some explain that there is also an issue of subjecting a person to "Avodat
is when a slave is forced to perform unessential labor.When a person labors at creative and
important work, he feels self-satisfaction, but when he works hard for no
reason, he feels frustrated.The Torah
obviously only states this prohibition in connection to a slave, and not to a
free person who has the choice to refuse to perform the labor.Nonetheless, not returning Sefarim has an
aspect of "Avodat Parech" to it.
There is also an issue of shaming Sefarim. When they are left around instead of
shelved, they can easily be ripped or ruined (this is true all the more so in
our Yeshiva, where the Beit Midrash is also where our meals are eaten).
person must therefore return a Sefer immediately after using it, or at the very
least, at the end of the Seder of learning.If it is the only copy of that Sefer in the Yeshiva, it should be returned
immediately, since someone may need it.
a person is sitting and learning and sees Sefarim which others left around, he
is not obligated to return them, but it is a kindness if he does so.If they are left around in a disrespectful
way, however, he is obligated to return them.
is written in the Sefer Chasidim that one of the signs that indicates a
person’s level of fear of Heaven is his relationship to Sefarim.
is the general rule: before a person learns Torah, he must have proper
character traits, and only then will he merit Divine assistance in his
To Enrich the spiritual life of the English-speaking World through the Torah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. By offering English translations of Rav Aviner’s written and oral Torah, this division of the yeshiva aims to expose English speakers to a powerful, sensitive and poetic voice unparalleled in our time. His unfailing optimism, his tolerance and love all Jews, his guidance for harmony within the Jewish family and his dedication to Eretz Yisrael, the State of Israel and Tzahal will inspire and enrich the lives of all who may now have access to his words.