answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
When young people go out into the wilderness in order to scream to Hashem:
"Please, Hashem, save us" or similar things, it is considered idol
worship?Is it preferable to going to a
This is an invention of Breslov Chasidim.It is not idol worship, since they are not worshipping a foreign god,
but Hashem, and it is a type of prayer.It is surely better than a discotheque. but it is obviously preferable to
Daven in the normal manner (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 582:9 and the
Are there guidelines for polite eating?
Certainly.Use utensils, don't lick
one's fingers but use a napkin, don't put too much food into one's mouth, don't
get food on one's clothing or beard, don't chew too quickly, don't make noise
when chewing, etc.Piskei Teshuvot
Does this apply even when one is eating alone in his house?
the State of Israel in Birkat Ha-Mazon
Did Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah say in the Birkat Ha-Mazon: "May the
Merciful One bless the State of Israel, the beginning of the blossoming of our
Redemption" and "May the Merciful One bless Tzahal, who stands guard
over our Land"? Can I add it?
Rabbenu did not say it.You can add it
but it is preferable not to make changes.After all, you see that Rabbenu did not add it and you are not more of a
Zionist than him.The State of Israel
and Tzahal are included in the blessing over the Land and the food (and see
Shut Beit Mordechai #28 and Shut Be-Ohela Shel Torah 4:5 who explain that there
is no blessing for the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael since it is included in
this blessing in the Birkat Ha-Mazon).
What is preferable – a CPR course or learning Torah during that time?
Learning Torah, which resuscitates the soul.Learning Torah is equal to them all.Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote that while it is a Mitzvah to save people,
there is no Mitzvah to study medicine (In his Teshuvah on whether or not it is
permissible for a Cohain to study medicine.Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:155).
If a man undergoes an operation to become a woman, or visa-versa, what is
There is doubt whether one is a male or female, and that person is required to
be strict in Mitzvot in both directions (It is written in Nishmat Avraham, Even
Ha-Ezer 44:3, that such an operation is certainly forbidden.And see Shut Tzitz Eliezer 10:25 which
discussions all of the issues involved).
of the State of Israel
Does the flag of the State of Israel possess holiness? Does one have to kiss
the flag if it falls on the floor? Must it be put in the Geniza if it is worn
No. It does not contain holiness. But one must treat it with respect (see
Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 99-100. Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:46. We heard from
Rav Aharon Rakefet that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein once said that he did
not regret any of the Teshuvot he wrote, except for the one about davening in a
shul which has the flag of Israel, in which referred to those who had made the
Israeli flag as "Wicked").
Must one ask a Rabbi regarding everything in his personal life?
No.There are things which one can solve
by himself and there are things for which one needs help.See Orot Ha-Torah, Chapter 5.
When some Chabad Chasidim have a question, they open the Rebbe's collection of
letters and find the answer on that page. Isn't this prohibited on
account of "consulting the dead" (Devarim 18:11) or "Do not
engage in sorcery" (Vayikra 19:26)?
The commentators of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 179:4) mention that it is
permissible to open a holy book and find an answer, and this is even called a
"minor prophecy" (Chida in Shiyurei Beracha, Yoreh Deah 179:1 in the
name of the Maharikash.Shut Chaim Shaal
2:38 #41.Shem Ha-Gedolim, Erech Nun
#14.Mishnah Berurah 322:24.Aruch Hashulchan 322:8.). This means
that there is no prohibition. There is a similar method of opening the
Tanach and locating verses which answer particular questions. This is
called "Goral Ha-Gra" – the lottery of the Vilna Gaon. There is
the famous story about the Tzadik of Jerusalem – Reb Aryeh Levin – in which he
used the "Goral Ha-Gra. During the Israeli War of Independence, a
group of thirty-five soldiers was sent to provide additional defense for the
Gush Etzion Settlements. Tragically, everyone in the group was
killed. After the war the bodies were discovered but the Chief Rabbinate
of Israel was unable to identify twelve of them. Reb Aryeh Levin used the
Goral Ha-Gra – which involves using a particular format of the Chumash and flipping
the pages back and forth until eventually a particular verse is chosen.
In each case, the verse chosen clearly identified particular body with a fallen
soldier (See "A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin,"
pp. 111-117). The "Goral Ha-Gra" was also used by Ha-Rav Aharon
Kotler when he wanted to immigrate to Israel from Russia, but Ha-Rav Moshe
Feinstein was greatly urging him to come to America in order to strengthen
Judaism there. The verse which came out in the "Goral" was
"Hashem said to Aharon: Go meet Moshe in the desert" (Shmot
4:27). He understood this to mean: "Hashem said to Aharon" –
this was a hint to his name Ha-Rav Aharon Kotler. "Go meet
Moshe in the desert" – Go meet Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein who is in the
spiritually desolate desert of America. Ha-Rav Kotler indeed went to
America and established the yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jeresy, which today is one
of the largest yeshivot in the world (see the book "Ha-Gaon," p. 1118
by Ha-Rav Dov Eliach).And it is related
in the book "Lev Eliyahu" (vol. 1, p. 35 in introduction) that Ha-Rav
Elya Lopian used the "Goral Ha-Gra" (he once told his students that
he received this "Goral" from the Chafetz Chaim) before he moved to
London.The verse which came out was:
"I will descend with you to Egypt and I will surely bring you up" (Bereshit
46:4).There is therefore no prohibition
in acting this way, but that does not mean that it will work - it depends on
who performs it. Reb Aryeh Levin,
Ha-Rav Aharon Kotler and Ha-Rav Elya Lopian were Torah giants and holy
individuals. It is possible to ask any question in the world through the
"Igrot Kodesh" but that does not mean that everyone will receive a
true answer, since, although it is a minor prophecy, not everyone is suited to
receive it. It is related that Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik – the
Brisker Rav – who was a completely righteous person – once tried the Goral
Ha-Gra.He opened the Chumash, landed on
the verse: "You shall be wholesome with Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim
18:13) and he stopped (Ha-Gaon, pp. 1126-1127).Similarly, it is written in the book Orchot Rabbenu (p. 218) that Rabbi
Chaim Kanievsky said that this father – the Steipler Gaon – was not in favor of
using the Goral Ha-Gra for two reasons: 1. We do not know exactly how to do
it.2. You shall be wholesome with
Hashem, your G-d."Therefore,
someone who acts this way does not perform a transgression, but this is not the
way of the Torah. If you want to know the answer to a question you have
to exert effort or take counsel with a Torah scholar.
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Should we protest the horrible abuses which Falun Gong is undergoing in
China?After all, we are a small country
and cannot solve all of the world's problems.
We cannot solve them, but we are obligated to protest as well as to act.The fact is that their government fears this
and denies it.
Why do we care? They are idol worshippers!
It does not appear that Falun Gong or Falun Dafa is idol worship.It is a technique of exercise with a little
meditation and perfecting of one's character traits, such as truth and
compassion.And we should certainly save
them from injustice.
But there is a swaskita in their symbol, like the Nazis.
G-d forbid, they are not Nazis.The
swaskita is an ancient symbol from the Far East which the Nazis adopted.They are good and ethical people.
Is it true that in China they take organs for transplant from members of Falon
Gong against their will and they die from this?This is horrible!This is like
what the Nazis did!Why are we silent?!
Some researchers make this claim but it has yet to be proven by international
organizations.What is certain is that
they abuse them in an extremely cruel manner, make false arrests and torture
them to death.
which Falls Off
Does one have to recite another blessing if his Talit falls off?
No.Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata
1:69.Not like the opinion of the
Mishnah Berurah 8:15.
Is there value in Segulot?
It depends on which.But the best
Segulot are learning Torah and performing Mitzvot (When Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom
Elyashiv had a great-great grandson – he merited having a great-great-great
grandson in his life, which is extremely rare! – people told him that one who
is the Sandek for a great-great grandson will not see Gehinom [see Leket Yosher
Yoreh Deah 52].Ha-Rav Elyashiv replied:
"I worked my entire life to enter Gan Eden through the main entrance, not
the side door!"Gedola Shimusha of
Ha-Rav Tzvi Weisfish, p. 230).
I am a totally unattractive young woman, I am even ugly, and I am not okay with
it.What can I do?
The essential beauty of a person is his inner, ethical and spiritual
beauty.External beauty is
relative.In the eyes of your husband,
you will be the most beautiful in the world. The philosopher Voltaire said: What is
beauty?If you ask a black man, he will
respond: 'A black woman'.If you ask a
Japanese man, he will reply: 'A Japanese woman'.If you ask a bull, it will reply: 'A
cow'.If you ask a toad, it will reply:
'A female toad'.And if you ask a
philosopher, he will answer with Incomprehensible gobbledygook…”We learn in the Talmud (Ketubot 16b-17a):
“What should one sing as he dances before a bride at her wedding? Beit Hillel
said: 'What a lovely, righteous bride!' Bet Shammai asked them: And if she is
lame or blind, should you say, 'What a lovely, righteous bride?' The Torah
says, ‘Distance yourself from a lie' (Shemot 23:7). Beit Hillel replied,
'According to what you say, if someone made a bad purchase in the marketplace,
should his acquaintances praise or disparage it when speaking to him? I would
say that they should praise it.' Based on this our Sages said, 'One should
always attune himself to his fellow's concerns.'" The Maharal in Netivot
Olam, Netiv Ha-Emet comments that beauty and truth are subjective. The groom
doesn't love his wife because she is beautiful. She is beautiful because he
Is it permissible for me to have plastic surgery to remove an unattractive
Our first meeting with the Creator in the morning is the verse
"How goodly are your tents, Yaakov.”This is how we begin our daily davening – with a verse that points to
Jewish modesty. How so? Because the entrances of Yaakov’s “goodly” tents did
not face one another, and thus prevented intrusions upon the privacy of other
families (Rashi on Bemidbar 24:5).
And yet the verse comes from the mouth of an evil person who was
completely corrupt: Bilaam. This is a person who had relations with his donkey
(Sanhedrin 105b), who was punished in Gehinom for his sexually activity (Gitin
56b) and who caused the Jewish People to sin with the daughters of Moav (Bemidbar
24:14 with Rashi) though he clearly knew that their G-d hated harlotry
(Sanhedrin 106a).But when Bilaam
experienced a spiritual elevation, through the hand of Hashem which rested upon
him, he clearly recognized the modesty which is deeply ingrained within the
Jewish nature.He was so amazed by it
that he began his third prophecy – the most elevated of all – with this
praising of their modesty. Recognizing and acknowledging our essential modesty
is how we meet our Creator each and every morning.
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
of the Rebbe
What is the source for eating Sherayim (leftover food) of a Rebbe?Is there something to it?
It has no clear source in the Gemara nor the Poskim.Some learn it from the Gemara Chagiga (13b)
that it is forbidden to eat a loaf of bread from which a mouse nibbled since
the impurity has spread throughout, and this is all the more so when a
righteous person eats from it that the purity spreads throughout (Ha-Rav
Avraham Shapira explained it in this manner.When this explanation was related to Ha-Rav Moshe Halberstam, member of
the Badatz of the Eidah Ha-Charedit, he said: "I am familiar with all the
statements regarding Sherayim except this one."Rosh Devarcha, p. 108).Or the Yerushalami Moed Katan (2:3) which
says that after the meal celebrating the New Month, Rebbe Yohanan would collect
the crumbs and eat them, saying: "May I spend my life in the next world
together with those who ate here last evening" (Brought in Shaarim
Metzuyanim Be-Halachah 42:2.Derech
Sichah vol. 1, p. 220 in the name of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski.And Chasidim ask: If one is strict not to
sell actual Chametz for Pesach, is it permissible for him to sell a piece of
Sherayim from his Rebbe?The Poskim
answer: yes.Shut Nachalat Pinchas 1:1 #65.Brought in Ki Ba Moed – Pesach vol.
1, p. 8.And Ha-Rav Aviner told me:
"This is a big Chidush, since he is interested in saving it and perhaps there
is no Bitul".And the Gerrer Rebbe
once said to Maran Ha-Rav Kook: "Chasidim eat Sherayim of their Rebbe,
i.e. they nullify themselves to their Rebbe.To whom do you nullify yourselves?"Maran Ha-Rav Kook answered him: "We eat the Sherayim of Klal
Yisrael."And Maran Ha-Rav Kook
already wrote that the greatest Tzadik does not reach the ankles of Klal
Yisrael.See Orot 76, 176).
I am volunteering at a center for mentally-challenged children, and there are
also Arab children there.How should I
relate to them?In a pleasant manner
like to the other children?
Certainly.One has to be a human
being.It is not a battle field
there.See the introduction of the
Netziv to Sefer Bereshit.
of Am Yisrael
What kind of Chosen People are we when we suffer and are killed all the
time?This is how Hashem loves us?
This is complex for a text message.Ask
a Rabbi face-to-face.Asking a question
like this in a text message is a horrible belittling of the suffering of Am
Yisrael and a belittling of Hashem.
Thank you, it is truly a belittling.
May Hashem bless you.
to Torah for Cohain who Married Divorcee
Can a Cohain who married a divorcee receive an Aliyah to the Torah?
Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein permits him to receive an Aliyah of a Yisrael, since he
nullified his holiness.Shut Igrot Moshe
(Orach Chaim 2:33).And Ha-Rav Ovadiah
Yosef permits him to receive an Aliyah only after the first 7 obligatory
Aliyot.Shut Yechaveh Daat (2:16).
while Standing Up
I saw that the Rambam writes that one should eat while sitting.Hilchot Deot 4:3.Is this the Halachah?
He writes this from a medical perspective, and now there is no such
concern.But it is proper from the
perspective of etiquette.Piskei
about Expulsion from Gush Katif on Tisha Be-Av
Is it permissible to see a film about the expulsion from Gush Katif on Tisha
It is forbidden to read books that arouse all sorts of inclinations.Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16.And this is all the more so for movies.Therefore, these films which usually arouse
hatred towards the army, government, etc., are forbidden all year round, and
all the more so on Tisha Be-Av.
Parashah begins with the Mitzvah of the Parah Adumah, one of the Torah's
"Chukim" - enigmatic Mitzvot. It continues with an account of Moshe Rabbenu striking
the rock at Mei Merivah to bring forth water for the thirsty congregation. This
"sin", like the Mitzvah of the Parah Adumah, is also shrouded in
you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me before the Nation of Israel -
therefore you [Moshe and Aharon] shall not lead this congregation into the Land
which I have given to them" (Bemidbar 20:12). Hashem's command is crystal
clear: it first describes what Moshe Rabbenu and Aharon did and said, and then maps
out their punishment. But there is one thing that's far from explicit: the sin!
What exactly is the sin for which they were punished so severely? To this
question there are almost as many answers as there are commentaries on the
commentary follows the opinion found in the Zohar (Bereshit 20) and the Midrash
(Yalkut Reuveni 70). He explained that
"Hashem did not command them to strike the rock, but rather to speak to
it.Had they spoken to the rock and produced
water it would have been a tremendous sanctification of the Divine Name. If a deaf and dumb rock, which is not
dependent upon G-d's mercy, does G-d's
bidding when spoken to, how much more so must human beings fulfill the Divine
commands" (Bemidbar 20:8-12 with Rashi). The Ramban disagreed with this explanation,
noting that Moshe Rabbenu was commanded to take his staff (ibid. v. 8), which
implies that he was supposed to use it. Furthermore,
he asks why it is any less miraculous to draw water from a rock by knocking it
with a staff than by speaking to it?Our
Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook sharpened the question by noting that hitting
an inanimate object seems more "natural" and appropriate than talking
to it. As the Nation of Israel came
closer and closer to Eretz Israel, they gradually assumed a more natural, less
overtly miraculous way of life. The
clouds disappeared upon Aharon's death, the well no longer followed them when
Miriam died. Later, when they actually
entered Eretz Israel, the Manna no longer fell. It would therefore seem more appropriate for
Moshe Rabbenu to strike the rock at this point (see Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah,
Chukat 1). But why, in any case, do the
commentators put such an emphasis on the difference between speaking to a rock
and striking it?
is defined as a "speaking animal." His ability to perceive abstract ideas and
moral imperatives and to express them in words is what sets him above the rest
of the animal world. On the verse,
"And man became a living soul" (Bereshit 2:7), the Targum Onkelos
translates "a speaking soul," and Rashi explained that it means the
ability to think and to speak. Through
Man's verbal ability, he communicates with and influences society and is able
to translate thought into action. This requires
proper use of the power of speech. There
are times to be silent and times to speak. Our Sages ask, "What is man's
special skill in this world?" They
answer, "To act as if he were mute" (Chulin 89a).
this mean he shouldn't discuss Torah and Mitzvot either? No, the Torah teaches: “You shall speak
righteously" (ibid.). It takes
great skill to differentiate between speech that is beneficial and a Mitzvah,
and that which is damaging and prohibited. Since speech expresses man's very being, it is
essential that the Nation be led by persuasion and not by coercion. The Aramaic word for "leader" is
"Dabar" - speaker.
Hashem wished to appoint Moshe Rabbenu to lead the Nation of Israel out of
Egypt, Moshe Rabbenu protested: "I am heavy of mouth and of tongue"
(Shemot 4:6). He felt himself unable to
communicate with the people. Hashem then
pronounced "Aharon, your brother, shall speak" in your place (ibid.
v. 14-16). Eventually, though, Moshe
Rabbenu acquired the power of leadership through speech. The phrase "And Moshe spoke" appears
innumerable times in the Torah, and the whole book of Devarim is one long
speech given by Moshe Rabbenu before his death (see beginning of Midrash Devarim
Rabbah). Important as speech may be in
leading the Nation, however, there is obviously a need for coercion as well. We don't depend on the power to persuasion to
convince a thief to compensate for his theft: we grab him by the neck and bring
him to judgment. There is a need for
courts and police. But these coercive
tools are secondary forces. The primary force must be verbal.
Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, explained that Moshe Rabbenu had such a great personality
that even when he tried to act silently – striking the rock without speaking –
the intensity of his presence was overpowering. But the Nation of Israel at
this point, preparing to settle Eretz Israel, was in need of a leader who would
not overpower them. Thus, his punishment
was appropriate: "Moshe would die and Yehoshua would bring them into Eretz
Israel" (Sanhedrin 17a). Moshe is
compared to the sun (Baba Batra 75a). Sunshine may sometimes be overpowering. Its light is so strong that the stars cannot
be discerned during the day, even though they are always present. The light of the sun, of Moshe Rabbenu,
overpowered and concealed other lights. Yehoshua however "is like the light of
the moon" (Baba Batra ibid.). The
light of the moon allows other lights to be seen too. When we entered Eretz Israel, there was no
room for coercion. The Nation must be
led by words and not by force. Moshe Rabbenu
was therefore punished by not being allowed to continue to lead the people by
force into the Promised Land. He would
die, and a different type of leadership would take over. The Rambam's
commentary is in a similar vein. He
explained Moshe Rabbenu's sin as one of anger (Shemoneh Perakim, chapters 4 and
7) because he called the Nation "rebellious," even though their
demand for water was not considered a sin. Although the Torah does not state that they
were punished for speaking angrily, the Maharal explained that angry speech is
a sign of a lack of faith. Anger is an
expression of attempting to force things to be what you want, while soft speech
implies the belief that others can be influenced by reason. The power of speech is man's greatest
strength, and we must believe in its power to change not only people's hearts,
but even inanimate objects (see Sefer Ha-Ikarim 4:22). As Yeshayahu said, [Hashem] fulfills His
servant's word" (44:26). Yehoshua prayed, "Sun - stand still in
Giveon and moon in the valley of Ayalon" (Yehoshua 10:12), Moshe Rabbenu
commanded the earth to swallow up Korach (Bemidbar 16:30) and Eliyahu Ha-Navi
imposed a drought upon all of Eretz Israel (Melachim 1 17:1). The sin of Mei Merivah and Moshe Rabbenu's
punishment teach us, once and for all, that force is not the way to educate.
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Korach
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
opportunism is a phrase that contains within it an internal contradiction.
after all, is “opportunism”? It means checking out what works, what is pleasing
and popular. Halachah, by contrast, is divine, eternal, absolute, firmly
has goals and ideals. Yet what can he do when they are smashed up on the
boulder of reality? Opportunism suggests: Very simple, make maximum use of opportunities,
while foregoing or changing your initial goals in favor of what is easily attainable.
Change your loyalties in accordance with the shifting likelihood of success.
to this, when there is a contradiction between Halachah and reality, halachic opportunism
will say: Reality wins. Halachah has to be adapted to it.
therefore sophisticated methods for officially continuing to tow the line. In
fact, the heretics in the universities claim that that’s what the Sages of the
Mishnah did. For example, those heretics claim, the sages of the Mishnah
considered the law of the rebellious son (in which the son must be killed in
anticipation of the hideousness of his future acts, Devarim 21:18) to be
inhumane, old fashioned, and in need of change, so they invented new conditions:
in order for this law to be applicable, for example, the parents of the child
must be identical in appearance and height – something which is obviously
impossible. By such means, they elegantly neutralized that law. Those same
heretics hold that the Sages of the Talmud did the same thing to the laws of
the Mishnah, and so forth – G-d have mercy on them.
that way, halachic opportunism changes one’s loyalty to the laws of the Torah according
to their shifting chances of success. In other words, according to the level of
popular support. That’s how it works: changing one’s positions in accordance
with one’s relative strength and in accordance with public opinion polls.
This is somewhat
reminiscent of the incident involving Rachamim Kalanter (Kalanterism), a member
of the religious “Mizrachi Workers’ Party" which, in 5713, sought to
depose Jerusalem’s mayor because of his support of establishing a Reform synagogue.
Kalanter changed his allegiance and supported the mayor in exchange for an
appointment as Vice Mayor in charge of religious affairs. In order to prevent
such Kalanterism, a law was passed that a Knesset member must leave the Knesset
before being chosen to a new party.
Here is an
example of religious opportunism: Many dwellers of Zion do not love conversions
that demand undertaking Mitzvah observance. They want to change the definition of
conversion to mean, “belonging to the Jewish People”. For them, “Your people
are my people” (Ruth 1,16) suffices, without “your G-d is my G-d” (ibid.). This
constitutes not just a change in the definition of conversion, but in the
definition of the Jewish People.
example: It is a fact that many girls enlist in the army against the rulings of
the Chief Rabbinate. The simple solution? A new ruling that says that this is
example: There is a lot of filth in modern culture, but the public loves it with
all its warts. Hence we must rule that all is permissible, perhaps with a few
minor changes as a sort of fig leaf. Any interesting film or book is
permissible, because, when all is said and done, it’s just “culture”. Even if
it’s got a bit of heresy, a bit of forbidden gossip, a bit of pornography…all
in all, those things are lost in the permissible majority. No big deal.
As for us,
however, the disciples of Moshe, when there is a contradiction between Halachah
and reality, we say: “Let G-d decide!” And why is that? Because G-d also determines
the divine nature of the soul.
exists in Halachah in black letters exists deep within us, in the letters of
our soul. Israel and the Torah are one. Indeed, that is a spiritual concept. Whoever
does not delve deeply into issues of faith, risks falling prey to halachic
opportunism. I am not writing this for the halachic opportunist. He will not
understand. He will think he is sanctifying the name of G-d. I am writing this
for us, so that we do not get confused.
Kook quotes the words of the Zohar: “The Devil begins by bringing people together,
but ultimately creates divisiveness. Holiness begins divisively but ultimately
brings people together” (Orot Ha-Kodesh 2:440-441, and 1:15). Opposites cannot
be attached together.
We do not
go “whichever way the wind [Ruach] blows”. Rather, we set sail in the direction
of “My spirit [Ruach] which shall be set upon you and My words which I have put
in your mouth” (Yeshayahu 59:20).
the 3rd of Tammuz, at the age of 86, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yehoshua Yeshaya
Neuwirth ztz"l ascended on high, after many years of learning and teaching
Torah.The book "Shemirat Shabbat
Ke-Hilchata" requires no advertising.It is found in virtually every home of G-d-fearing Jews, and is used by
Torah scholars and the masses alike.
his genius is virtually unknown.People
do not know that he wrote other books: Kitzur Dinei Shemitah Karkaot (Concise
Laws of Shemitah), Ohel Sarah – On the Laws of Family Purity, Chinuch Ha-Banim
Le-Mitzvot (Educating Children for Mitzvot), an halachic guide for nurses in
hospitals and tens of articles and hundreds of halachic ruling quoted in other
his traits were those of a great Torah scholar – humble, inconspicuous and not
out for publicity.He did not speak
about himself but devoted all of his strength for the good of Hashem, His Torah
and His Nation.
is possible to see one thing clearly in his book "Shemirat Shabbat
Ke-Hilchata": he is the faithful student of Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach.He learned from him since his
youth in Yeshivat Kol Torah, and he established the rulings in his book based
on his words.In fact, the foundation of
a Torah scholar (Talmid Chacham) is being the literal meaning of that title:
the student of a Sage, a faithful student, a devoted student, a student who
sits in the dust of his Rabbi's feet.
students obviously know him well, students of Yeshivat Kol Torah and also the
students of the Yeshivot he established: Pnei Shmuel Le-Tze'erim, Chochmat
Shlomo, Netivot Chochmah, and he was also known in the Sha'arei Tzedek
Hospital, where he was the Posek.
in truth, this is improper from our perspective.Before recognizing a Torah scholar's wisdom,
one needs to recognize his fear of Heaven.If there is no fear, there is no wisdom.
have now merited the third edition of the book "Shemirat Shabbat
Ke-Hilchata", 45 years after the first edition, in which the author relates
his life story under the title: "It is good to show gratitude to
Hashem".Obviously, it is without a
trance of self-promotion, rather in order to relate the incredible kindnesses
of Hashem for his family and for himself, and for the great miracles Hashem
performed for him.
the son of Ha-Rav Aharon Neuwirth, grew up on Berlin, Germany, when Hitler –
may his name be blotted out – rose to power.He and his brother were sent on a "Kindertransport",
children's transfer, to good-hearted Jewish families in Belgium.Much later, his parents also left Germany, on
account of a special permit of the Queen of Holland for 42 Rabbis.The children were then reunited with their
parents in Holland.But Holland itself
was conquered by the Nazis – may their names be blotted out, and they were also
unable to obtain food since there did not have food-ration cards.The underground supplied them with forged
food-ration cards and this is how they survived for years.Their little money ran out.The Jews of the underground then requested
from the leaders of the underground to appoint a Rabbi for them, just like –
Lehavdil - the non-Jews have a priest.Their request was answered, and his father, Ha-Rav Aharon, was appointed
the Rabbi of the underground, and this brought with it a salary – which in and
of itself was a great wonder.
there is no end to the miracles which occurred for them.We will only mention a few.The Nazis once burst into their apartment
searching for Jews and discovered the Aron Kodesh and they inquired about
it.Ha-Rav Aharon, who was filled with
Emunah and feared nothing, opened the Aron Kodesh and showed them the Sefer
Torah."What is written in
it", they asked.He replied in
German: "It says: Do not murder.""What else," they asked.He said: "Love your fellow as yourself."[And this next sentence does not appear in
the book, but I heard it]: He added: "I am obligated to cling to
Torah.You do what you are obligated to
do, and I will do what I am obligated to do".A great miracle occurred and the Germans
accepted his words and did not touch him.They wished him good night and left.
on, all the Jews were arrested and brought to a huge prison hall.When Rosh Hashanah arrived, Ha-Rav Aharon
pulled out a Shofar, which was hidden under his jacket.They covered themselves with jackets, and he
blew the Shofar three times, and miraculously, they were not discovered.In the end, they were released for a reason
unclear to this day.
Aharon sent his daughter to work as a house-keeper for a non-Jewish Dutch
family, since she did not have a Jewish-looking face, and he hoped to save her
in this way.But they required her to
work harder on Shabbat than any other day in preparation for Sunday, which is a
holiday for the Christians.After a few
Shabbatot, Ha-Rav Aharon decided to bring her back, even though she was safe
there and well fed.But on account of
the Shabbat desecration, it was impossible to continue.She returned home on a Friday, and on Sunday
they heard that that family had been killed on Shabbat by an aerial bomb.Indeed "Shemirat Shabbat
Ke-Hilchata" – observing Shabbat according to the Halachah – saved them.
Hashem, the war ended. Our Rav, Ha-Rav Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth ztz"l, went
to the port in Marseilles, France in order to travel to Eretz Yisrael, but they
told him to board on the ship on Shabbat.This greatly bothered him: "During all of the difficult years of
the war, I succeeded in observing Shabbat and how is it possible that now with
the liberation, I will desecrate it."But his situation was desperate and it appeared to be life-threatening
to remain in a strange place, with no money, no food and no place to go.He was forced to board the ship but he
regretted it for many years, especially since it became clear much later that
it was a deception of Shabbat-Desecrators who wanted the religious to violate
Shabbat.He then took it upon himself
that if Hashem merits him, he would do something for Shabbat, and later the
idea came to write the book "Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata".
he arrived in Israel, he was captured by the British, released and then people
advised him to work for his sustenance and to help his parents come to
Israel.But his deepest aspiration was
to completely devote himself to Torah learning.He asked his father what to do, and he responded in a letter: The One
who has helped up to now will continue to help!We went through five years of the Holocaust in for our son to learn Torah!You will learn only Torah.And our Rav wrote: "After years of
physical salvation during the war, I was saved again, but this time it was
we merit learning the book "Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata" in breadth
and in depth, and may we merit following in the path of Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon
ztz"l, his modest, his humility and his great devotion to Hashem.
his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim.
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Rabbi who Provides Kosher
Supervision and is Strict
Q: Is it permissible for a
Rabbi to provide Kosher supervision on a product but to be strict not to eat it
A: Certainly.After all, he makes certain the food is
Kosher, but has decided for himself to be strict (Although the Belzer Rebbe –
Mahari"d – said that a Rabbi who provides supervision on a product and
does not eat it at least once will not have much assistance from Heaven.And Ha-Rav Eliezer David Greenwald, author of
Keren Le-David and Rav and Rosh Yeshivah in Satmar, who did not carry within
the Eruv on Shabbat did so once to show that it was completely Kosher.Similarly, Ha-Rav Mendel of Vitebsk did not
carry within the Eruv on Shabbat in Tzefat, but did so once on Shabbat Shuva to
show that it was Kosher.And Ha-Rav
Moshe Halberstam of the Eidah Ha-Charedit in Yerushalayim related that the
Admor of Pupa was in Yerushalayim and carried out a book on Shabbat in order to
show that the Eruv of the Eidah Ha-Charedit was Kosher.Commentary on Pirkei Avot 'Az Yomru' of
Ha-Rav Yitzchak Aharon Goldberger, Dayan and Rosh Yeshiva for Pupa Chasidim,
pp. 73, 77).
"Being Killed and Not
Violating" and Drafting Yeshiva Students
Q: If there is a forced draft
into Tzahal and I want to learn Torah, is there the law of "Being Killed
and Not Violating"?
A: There are two problems: 1.
If you are killed, G-d forbid, you will not be able to learn Torah.2. No one wants to kill you.As to how to act, ask your Rosh Yeshiva.
Shiduch with a Student from
Yeshivat Har Etzion
Q: Someone suggested as a
Shiduch a student from Yeshivat Har Etzion.Should I refuse it?
A: G-d forbid.1. You are not going to marry the whole
Yeshiva (which is also forbidden) but only one young man.2. All Yeshivot are good.
Standing before a Groom
Q: I saw a custom that people
sit before the Chupah, stand up when the groom and bride enter, and then they
sit down again.What is the source?
A: This is a non-Jewish
custom.We do not stand for a
groom.But we stand when Torah scholars
enter.And during the blessings (And
this is the ruling of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski.Mevakshei Torah, Kovetz 51.And
Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein also held that one does not stand for a groom, but
explains that those who do stand perhaps do so since the groom is going to do a
Mitzvah – just as people stand for a baby being brought in for a Brit Milah.Ha-Rav Yaakov Kamensky and Ha-Rav Yitzchak
Hutner also did not stand for a groom.Shut Divrei Chachamim, p. 241.Ha-Rav Avigdor Nevenzal, however, wrote to me that one should stand for
Blessing for a Torah Scholar
Q: Does one recite the
blessing of "Baruch…She-Chalak Mechomato Lirei'av - Blessed are You…who,
using His knowledge, has appointed those who fear him" for Torah scholars
in our day?
A: Certainly.For the great Torah scholars of our
generation.Chayei Adam (63:9) also
writes that one recites this blessing.Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld explained that the Chayei Adam obviously
ruled this way since he met the Vilna Gaon… (Shut Shalmat Chayim #207.And it is related in the book Tal Ha-Re'eiyah
p. 87 that Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said, in the name of his father Maran Ha-Rav
Kook, that when the Aderet met with the Netziv in Warsaw the Netziv recited
this blessing.And see Piskei Teshuvot
224 note #17 that many great Torah scholars recited this blessing on other
great scholars including Chafetz Chaim, Or Sameach, Maharil Diskin, the
Rogachover, Chazon Ish, Ha-Griz Mi-Brisk, Ha-Rav Elezar Man Shach and Ha-Rav
Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.And Ha-Rav once
told me that he heard this blessing recited on Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira and
Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef when he visited Moshav Keshet in the Golan, where Ha-Rav
served as Rabbi.And see Shut She'eilat
Shlomo 1:117 regarding Ha-Rav Ovadiah's visit to Moshav Keshet.And see Ha-Rav's commentary to Kitzur
Shulchan Aruch 60:9 at length).
Q: Should we go to the
immodest wedding of my brother?
A: Yes.Either sit on the side in a modest place or go
only to the modest part.
commentary on the Rambam, called “Yad Ketanah”, brings a novel thought: arguments
for the sake of heaven are forbidden! (Hilchot De'ot 10). This is puzzling. After all, Pirkei Avot
refers to the controversy between Hillel and Shammai as a controversy for the
sake of heaven, singling it out for praise, and contrasting it with the
controversy of Korach and his assembly, which was not for the sake of heaven! The Yad Ketanah explains: everyone claims that
their controversy is for the sake of heaven! Have you ever seen a disputant say: “I've got
to admit: this controversy is not for the sake of heaven”?People always deceive themselves, and not
just others, claiming that their controversy is for the sake of heaven. They are not conscious of the self-interest
that motivates them.
all, we have to wonder how Korach, who was exceedingly wise, saintly and
blessed with Divine intuition, immersed himself in such an ugly controversy
with two holy individuals, Moshe and Aharon. Surely he was not the sort of
person who pursues honor for himself.
Yad HaKetanah explains that Korach deceived himself, speaking about the glory
of G-d and the glory of Israel, and claiming: “All the people in the community
are holy, and G-d is with them. Why are you setting yourselves above G-d's
congregation?” (Bemidbar 16:3). A minute element of passion was present in
Korach. It was so small and so concealed
that he was not even conscious of it, but it nevertheless led him to become
confused and to call evil good.
knew full-well what the problem was, and he answered Korach: “Listen to what I
have to say: You sons of Levi, isn't it enough that the G-d of Israel has
separated you from the community of Israel? He has brought you close to Him… Although He
gave this privilege to you and all your fellow Levites, you are now also
demanding the priesthood?!” (ibid. v 8-10).
Moshe use this argument to answer Korach's claim about the Divine holiness that
envelops the entire Nation of Israel? What
he was saying is this: If you are truly concerned about the specialness of
Israel in the aggregate, and the idea that one should not set himself above
them, then why didn't you say so when you were chosen with your tribe? You must understand that you have personal
motives veiled in a lofty ideology.”
by then Korach's conscience had already been dulled, and he didn't listen. That
is how he sank into perdition. We thus learn that when someone gets
enthusiastically involved in a controversy, “for the sake of heaven” so to
speak, he must examine himself many times over, wondering whether or not
extraneous considerations are involved.
humorous aside, there was once a Knesset member who would stop at nothing to
hold on to his seat, yet he claimed that he was acting for the sake of heaven. People answered him, “Of course you are! Surely Yeshayahu said (66:1): 'Heaven is My
if this is all so, the question still remains: How did our Sages say that Hillel
and Shammai’s controversy was for the sake of heaven? The Yad Ketanah answers very simply: They were
intimate friends. We can therefore be certain that neither was interested in
claiming victory over the other: they only wished to clarify the truth.Similarly, Rabbi Yonatan Eibschutz in his
book “Ye'arot Devash” explained that the gauge of a controversy being for the
sake of heaven is whether or not the parties are friends.
summary, differences of opinion are permissible, but divided hearts are forbidden.
Every one of us must flee a thousand miles from what seems like controversy,
and must run like a gazelle towards friendship and camaraderie.
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.