Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #283

Dog who Barks at Night

Q: I have a dog who barks at night and bothers the neighbors.  Do I have a halachic obligation to bring him into the house so he won't bother them?

A: Certainly.  By the way, if one takes care of his dog properly he will not bark all the time.


Names and Shiduchim

Q: Regarding Shiduchim, does one need to check with a Rabbi to make sure the names are compatible?

A: There is no such thing (And when Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef was asked this same question, he responded: I don't believe in this.  People who encourage others to do so cause couples who can marry to separate).


Jonathan Pollard

Q: Is it permissible to give Maaser to help free Jonthan Pollard?

A: Yes.  Redeeming captives is the highest form of giving Tzedakah.  Baba Batra 8.


Passing Along a Text Message

Q: I received a text message on Whatsapp with a warning that if I do not pass it along to 20 people, my Mom will be stricken with cancer.  I am really sacred.

A: It is completely made up nonsense.  May Hashem have mercy on the fools who created it.


Cemetery before Wedding

Q: What is the source behind the custom of going to the cemetery before a wedding and inviting one's relatives who have passed away?

A: The Zohar (Parashat Balak and Pinchas), where it is said that ancestors in the World-to-Come participate in their descendants' joyous occasions.  And this is the custom of many people (Nita'ei Gavriel – Nissuim 4:7.  And the Gerrer Rebbe, the "Imrei Emet", told his son to visit the Kotel and Kever Rachel before his wedding).


Chabad Shul

Q: Is it permissible to Daven in a Chabad Shul which has a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe next to the Ark facing the congregation?

A: It is in fact forbidden to hang a picture like this in a Shul, but it is permissible to Daven there on the side that is not in front of the picture.


Shaliach Tzibur and Kavanah

Q: If I am serving as a Shaliach Tzibur and have proper Kavanah, my Davening takes a long time and causes "Tircha De-Tzibura - a burden on the congregation".  What should I do?

A: You should not cause a "Tircha De-Tzibura", since a person should not have more Kavanah at the expense of other people, just as one may not Daven out loud in order to have more Kavanah since it will disturb others (And when Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter was in mourning for his father, he did not serve as Shaliach Tzibur, since he Davens at length and did not want to burden the congregation).


Rashi and Midrashim

Q: Rashi states that he intends to explain the simple meaning of the text.  Why then does he quote Midrashim?

A: He brings Midrashim that explain the simple meaning (Rashi on Bereshit 3:8).


Measurements of Ha-Rav Chaim Na'eh and the Chazon Ish

Q: How do we rule in the dispute between Ha-Rav Chaim Na'eh and the Chazon Ish regarding halachic measurements (for example, the size of a "Kezayit")?  Who is greater?

A: It makes no difference.  Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked: how could Ha-Rav Na'eh argue with the Chazon Ish? He answered that the measurements of Ha-Rav Na'eh were practiced earlier and it was the Chazon Ish who argued against them.  The book Yashiv Moshe p. 130 (see Noda Ba-Shiurim p. 271).

Was Maran Ha-Rav Kook Charedi?

In the shallow definitions of the Religious-Zionist and Charedi street, some say Rav Kook was a Religious-Zionist and some say he was Charedi except for his stance regarding Eretz Yisrael.  Both are wrong.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook was Charedi from the sole of his foot to the top of his head, and even more than this: he was more Charedi than the Charedim.  It is clear as day to anyone who knew him and to anyone who learns his books.  And the same is true of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, who was known by many people who are still alive today.

Perhaps you will ask: But what about Rav Kook's attitude towards Eretz Yisrael, Zionism and the Redemption?  These issues do not detract from his Charedi-ism but add to it.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not invalidate Charedi-ism with his views but added to it an additional, forgotten level.

For what is Charedi-ism?  Fear of Hashem, being strict on oneself to perform difficult Mitzvot as well as easy ones, self-sacrifice for learning Torah, distancing oneself from corrupt culture, providing children with pure education, etc.  If so, Maran Ha-Rav Kook was certainly Charedi.

In fact, liberal Orthodox groups in Israel declare that although they greatly respect Maran Ha-Rav Kook, he is not the guiding force for them.  Each issue is decided on its own merits.  As a result, they reject Charedim as being outside of their "box", they are against stipends for Charedi Yeshivot and they spread many lies about the Charedim.  There are certainly many problems in the Charedi world, and their Rabbis acknowledge as much, but this is no reason to cast aspersions at them.

Furthermore, Maran Ha-Rav Kook was more Charedi than the Charedim.  How so?  He was the Divine agent for working not only to perfect the individual, but also to perfect of the entire community, i.e. the revival of the Nation of Israel in its Land, which is a more difficult realm than working to perfect an individual.  Matters relating to the entire community are always more complicated than matters relating to the individual.  It is more complicated to be David, King of Israel, who was completely holy, than an individual Tzadik hidden away in one's room. 

And if a person who is closed off in his own individual world, as we were in the Exile, must be equally careful in performing easy and difficult Mitzvot, then this is all the more so true for we who are involved with matters regarding the Nation, the army, the economy, politics, societal issues, etc.     

May we – students of Maran Ha-Rav Kook – serve Hashem with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might.

Learning Torah on "Nittel Nacht"

Question: Is it permissible to learn Torah on "Nittel Nacht" (Christmas Eve)?

Answer: There is a custom among some Chasidim not to learn Torah on "Nittel Nacht" in order not to contribute positive spiritual powers to idolatry. The Lubavitcher Rebbe related in a talk in the name of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, that the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab, played chess on "Nittel Nacht" (Parashat Vayeshev, 1st Night of Chanukah 5750). And this was indeed the custom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe until midnight of "Nittel Nacht" (see Sha'arei Halachah U-Minhag vol 3 pp. 64-67.  There is a famous picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his father-in-law, the Friediker Rebbe, playing chess on Nittel Nacht). But our custom is that one needs to learn Torah on that night, just like every night. Some explain that the reason for not learning Torah of that night is that the Christians would become impassioned on their holiday, would go out and kill Jews (Ta'amei Ha-Minhagim p. 500). We therefore would need to stand guard instead of learning Torah (Ta'amei Ha-Minhagim p. 500). Baruch Hashem, Christians do not act this way today and we need to learn a lot of Torah.

By the way, it is told in the book "Siach Sarfei Kodesh" (p. 192) that when the last Lubavitcher Rebbe was sitting shiva, the Satmar Rebbe, Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, paid a shiva call and asked him: Why do we observe the night of "Nittel Nacht" according to the non-Jewish calendar (which is forbidden) instead of according to the Jewish calendar? The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that we do not learn on that night in order not to give spiritual strength to the god of the Christians and we therefore observe it on the night that they celebrate, which is according to their calendar. And – he added – we must therefore be aware when they celebrate this holiday in the place we are located. In most places, their holiday is on December 25th, but it other places it is on a different day (For example, January 6th). In such places, that is the night of "Nittel Nacht".

But as we said, our custom is to learn a lot of Torah on that night. And Ha-Rav Moshe Sternbuch wrote that this custom was unknown in Lithuania and it is only a custom among Chasidim (Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:551). The Chazon Ish would learn on "Nittel Nacht," and said that it was forbidden to waste time from learning on this night and he criticized those who did not learn on that night. The Steipler Gaon would also learn on "Nittel Nacht," but did so by heart so as not to upset those who have the custom not to learn. The Steipler Gaon also requested not to be informed when Nittel Nacht is so that he would not have to waste time from his learning (Orchot Rabbenu vol. 1 p. 193). And Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef has written that no such custom exists among Sefardic Jews (Shut Yabia Omer vol. 7 Yoreh Deah #20). The Lubavitcher Rebbe also writes that this custom does not exist in Eretz Yisrael (Sha'arei Halachah U-Minhag ibid. p. 67), even though it seems that some do have this custom in Eretz Israel.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #282

Travel Agency

Q: Is it permissible to work in a travel agency since I may need to help someone plan a trip outside Eretz Yisrael?

A: It is permissible since it may be a trip permissible according to the Halachah.  And regarding "Do not place a stumbling block", if one is uncertain that the person will transgress the Halachah, we are "Tolim" (literally "hanging" on the assumption) that he will not violate it (Mishnah Gittin 5:9).


Living with One's Parents after Marriage

Q: After getting married, it is preferable to rent a small apartment or live with my parents in a bigger apartment and save money?

A: Rent an apartment in order to build an independent life (After all, the Torah says: "Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh".  Bereshit 2:24).


One's Rabbi's Rabbi

Q: Is a person obligated to honor his Rabbi's Rabbi?  Is it a dispute?

A: The Rama rules that one must do so (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 242:21.  But one honors his Rabbi more than his Rabbi's Rabbi.  Shach #40).


Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel

Q: I hold that the Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate is not Kosher.  How can they cause so many people to stumble by eating non-Kosher food?

A: It is Kosher like all other Kosher supervisions and actually even better than the others.  It is also forbidden (in Israel) to eat from another Kosher supervision without the restaurant or products having the Kashrut of the Chief Rabbinate.  But there is a real doubt whether it is permissible to eat your food, since one who denigrates Torah scholars is a heretic.  You are therefore obligated to do Teshuvah (Sanhedrin 99b).


How Do I Get to the Temple Mount?

Q: If A Jew asks me in the Old City: How do I get to the Temple Mount?, is it permissible for me to tell him?

A: No.  It is forbidden on account of placing a stumbling block before the blind, and aiding and strengthening someone who is transgressing.  You should therefore say: I do not know, meaning, I do not know of a way to permit this act (It is told about Ha-Rav Eliyahu Lapian that he was invited to eat a few times and he did not want to embarrass the one inviting him.  He therefore said that the doctor forbade him from eating the particular food that would be served. And he explained to his students with a smile that he was not lying, G-d forbid, since the Rambam was a doctor!  Lev Eliyahu Volume 1, p. 18 in the introduction).


Question from Another Community

Q: What is the Halachah in our community...

A: You are obligated to ask the Rabbi there (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein related that he once received a letter from the Chinuch Atzma'ei in Eretz Yisrael regarding a dispute between Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky and Ha-Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and asked for his opinion on the matter.  He said that he does not interfere with matters relating to Eretz Yisrael, and the authorities there must answer the question.  He said that the Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in question of the Rabbi from Pinsk.  It is known that Reb Moshe was an expert in Seder Zeraim and even had a manuscript of his commentary on Seder Zeraim in the Yerushalami, but he did not publish it since he did not want to interfere with rulings of Mitzvot relating to Eretz Yisrael.  Meged Givot Olam Volume 1, p. 55.  Volume 2, pp. 31-32).

Arguments within One's Family

Question: Is it true that there is a unique relationship within one's family even if there are harsh disagreements?

Answer: Yes.  Family is unique.  Ha-Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriya related that Ha-Rav Moshe Leib Shachor was a regular visitor to the house of the Brisker Rav, Ha-Griz Soloveitchik, and also one of the great admirers of Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  Rav Shachor tried to explain to the Brisker Rav, how Maran Ha-Rav Kook brought those far from Torah closer and how he publicly led in this spirit.  But the Brisker Rav's way was diametrically opposed, and he did not accept his explanation.  Rav Shachor saw that the Brisker Rav harshly criticized the leaders of the Mizrachi in general and specific individuals in particular, but he never mentioned Ha-Rav Meir Bar Ilan, the Netziv's son in his old age and one of the Mizrachi leaders.  Furthermore, when Rav Bar Ilan would visit, the Brisker Rav would warmly greet him.  Rav Shachor asked about this behavior, and the Brisker Rav said: "R' Meir is my uncle"!  Rav Shachor took the opportunity again to explain Maran Ha-Rav Kook's leadership, which along with his fundamental philosophy, also included a deep love for every Jew, and he added: "To Rav Kook every Jew is considered an uncle..." (Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 306).    

We once heard Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter (Rosh Yeshiva at YU) relate in the name of Ha-Rav Zevulun Charlap (who served as Dean of RIETS Yeshiva at YU and as a Rav in the Bronx), grandson of Ha-Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap (Rav of Shaarei Chesed Neighborhood in Yerushalayim and one of Rav Kook's closest students), that this story with the Brisker Rav and Rav Shachor was known in his family.  Rav Charlap added, however, that the Brisker Rav said that while Rav Shachor's understanding of Rav Kook was sharp, it was not according to the Halachah.  After all, there is a concept of one's seven closest relatives for which there are special Halachot based on the verse: "From your flesh (relative) do not turn a blind eye" (Yeshayahu 58:7), and not everyone is considered a relative.

It is possible to answer the Brisker Rav's difficulty, however, based on the Gemara in Shabbat (105b) which says that when a Sage dies everyone is his relative, i.e. everyone tears his garment over a Torah scholar's passing (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 340:6).  And if everyone is considered a Torah scholar's relative in his death, it is all the more so true in his life.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #281


Q: Is there a source for celebrating one's birthday?

A: There is no early source besides the Torah's mention of Pharoah's birthday.  There is no mention in the Mishnah, Gemara, Rambam or Shulchan Aruch.  The Aderet harshly opposed birthday celebrations.  The book "Nefesh David".  And some authorities opposed it on account of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" – non-Jewish customs.  But one may permit it since it is a custom based on a rational reason.  The Chazon Ish did not celebrate his birthday in any way (in the name of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski.  Segulot Raboteinu p. 350).  And Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said that there is some value in celebrating one's birthday on condition that one does a Cheshbon Nefesh (taking an account of one's spiritual state) on that day.


Non-Combat Soldier

Q: I was not accepted into an elite combat unit in Tzahal and I received a lowly position.  Why should I even go to the Army?

A: Every position in the army is incredibly important.  "For as the share of him who goes down into battle is the same share of one who stays with the equipment, they shall share alike" (Shmuel 1 30:24).


Free Choice for Animals

Q: What is the source that animals have free choice?

A: There is none.


Hallel over the Yom Kippur War

Q: we recite Hallel on Yom Yerushalayim for the miracle of our salvation during the Six-Day War.  Why then don't we do the same for the miracle of our salvation during the Yom Kippur War?

A:  It is included in the Hallel of Yom Ha-Atzmaut, just as all the miracles of the original conquest of the Eretz Yisrael are included in the Hallel of Pesach.  And Yom Yerushalayim is unique (See the book "Milchemet Yom Ha-Kippurim" of Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher).


Correcting Your Wife

Q: If my wife is saying a Dvar Torah at the Shabbat Table and she makes a mistake, should I correct her?

A: This is a good question, but don't ask me, ask your wife.


Choosing a Doctor

Q: I need a medical procedure.  Should I turn to a private doctor or use a doctor from my Kupat Cholim? [In Israel, there is socialized health care and each person belongs to one of the health-care providers]

A: If it is a routine medical procedure, a doctor from your Kupat Cholim.  If it is a more complex procedure, then a better doctor, if you have the money (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein once needed to have a pacemaker implanted, and his family said that he should wait for the world expert to do it rather than a regular doctor.  Reb Moshe listened to their advice.  After the procedure, he needed to return to the hospital because the procedure was not so successful and had to be fixed.  Reb Moshe once said: "I made a mistake in waiting for that special doctor, since I was shown from the Heavens that a doctor does not have to be the greatest expert, a regular doctor will suffice and the rest is dependent on Hashem".  Reshumei Aharon of Ha-Rav Aharon Felder Volume 1, p. 27). 


Cohanim in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah

Q: We are Cohanim and follow Maran Ha-Rav Kook and do not enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah.  But our son is distressed when all the kids in his class enter and he remains outside with me.  What should I do?

A: Compensate in another fashion (See Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:329.  Piskei Shlomo Volume #2 in section on Kedushat Cohanim).

It is Lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee Did Not Ask...

It is lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee did not ask politicians, because if he had they would have told him that one must consider the possible international pressure, and he would have sat and deliberated and deliberated.

It is lucky that he did not ask too many military strategists and experts, because they would have told him that there is no chance of delivering "the strong into the hands of the weak," and they would have broken his spirit.

It is lucky that he did not ask statisticians, because they would have revealed to him the secret that we are "the few against the many," and he would have been afraid of the demographic demon.

He also did not ask Roshei Yeshiva, because if he had, they would have ruled that it is forbidden for yeshiva students to interrupt their Torah learning, and then there would not have been a delivering of "the heretics into the hands of those involved in Your Torah".

He also did not ask too many Rabbis, because if he had, they would have told him that it is forbidden to challenge the nations of the world, and that we do not rely on a miracle, especially where there is a real potential for danger, etc., etc...

He also did not ask the humanists, because they would have confided to him that one soul of Israel is worth more than a few kilometers of land and is more costly for the Nation.

He certainly did not ask those who are pure-of-heart, because they would have depressed his spirit, and preached to him that it is not proper to kill or to be killed.

He did not ask deep thinkers, because – with their great depth - they would have confused him and stopped him with discussions of the order of priorities: Perhaps the Nation takes precedence, etc., etc...

He did not ask the pacifists, because they would have illuminated his eyes to the greatness of peace, and told him that one should never use violence, and that goodwill will resolve everything.

He did not ask too many questions, but he fulfilled his national and spiritual obligation.  He jumped into the lion’s den, with amazing self-sacrifice into the great battle which saved Israel. And then all of the politicians, all of the strategists, all of the statisticians, all of the Roshei Yeshiva, all of the Rabbis, all of the humanists, all of the pure-of-heart, all of the thinkers, and all of the pacifists became sages after the fact, and they lit Chanukah lights as a remembrance of the victory, and these lights illuminate our lives from those days until this time.

The Yeshiva World: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner: Yishai & Chetboun Can Bring Bracha to Am Yisrael

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #280

Changing One's Place, Changing One's Luck

Q: We do not have children.  Is it worthwhile to move, since changing one's place is one of the things which can change one's luck?

A: The Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah 2:4) cited the opinion of our Sages that one can change an evil decree by changing his location.  It is not, however, magic.  If a person changes his place he will not see miracles and wonders.  The Rambam explained that if he repents in a serious way, he changes his "location".  This means, "I seriously repented and I am no longer the same person in the same place."  This certainly changes the decree of a person.  This is also brought in the responsa attributed to the Ramban #285.  The essence is to repent, pray and give Tzedakah (And a Yeshiva student, who for a few years did not merit having children, asked Ha-Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman: Is it worthwhile to move?  Rav Shteinman responded harshly: There is no such thing!  Is the apartment guilty that you have not merited having children!?  There is no reason to move.  Segulot Raboteinu pp. 121-122). 


Science from the Torah

Q: Is it possible to learn physics from the Torah?

A: No. 

Q: But the Vilna Gaon did?

A: You are not the Vilna Gaon.


Sheva Berachot on Skype

Q: If we are having Sheva Berachot and we have 9 men, is it permissible to add someone via Skype?

A: No (And this is the ruling in the book "Derech Atarim" of Rav Avraham Maimon Ha-Levi #4).


Showering Before Immersion in Mikveh

Q: Is it permissible for a man to shower before immersing in the Mikveh?

A: Our Sages decreed that a woman should not bathe after immersion in the Mikveh.  Women used to bathe after immersing in a Mikveh since they did not immerse in clean Mikvaot as we have today.  They immersed in pits of water which were filled with mud and they emerged filthy, so they bathed afterwards.  As a result, people began to believe that both the Mikveh and the bathing were required for purification.  The Rabbis therefore decreed that it is forbidden to bathe after immersing in the Mikveh (Shabbat 14a and Rama to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 201:75).  We have similar problems in our time.  Although our Mikvaot are extremely clean, there are women who are sensitive and feel that they need to bathe after the Mikveh.  And a man's immersion in the Mikveh is less strict than a woman's immersion (since in the majority of cases he is not obligated to immerse), therefore a man is obligated to take a shower before immersion in order to not make the Mikveh dirty.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would bathe before and after immersion in the Mikveh.  The students asked why he acted this way.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman said: I shower beforehand to fulfill "love your fellow as yourself" - so I do not make the Mikveh dirty and I shower afterwards because of those who do not fulfill "love your fellow as yourself" (Ve-Aleihu Lo Yibol vol. 2, p. 286).


Davening on Har Ha-Bayit

Q: Which is preferable – to Daven Minchah on my own on the Har Ha-Bayit or with a Minyan elsewhere?

A: It is a severe prohibition to enter the Har Ha-Bayit, as the Chief Rabbinate of Israel rules.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah also ruled this way.


Standing during Ha-Tikvah

Q: Is one required to stand during the Israeli National Anthem, Ha-Tikvah?  What is the source?

A: Yes, just as everyone else, as Hillel says: Do not separate from the community (Pirkei Avot 2:5).

The Influence of One who "Only" Learns Torah

Question: Does a person who learns Torah but does not teach, answer questions, serve as a Rabbi, etc. have influence on a community?

Answer: Certainly.  The Gemara at the end of Ketubot (104a) relates that Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi was suffering terribly.  His maidservant saw and prayed that he should die but the Sages prayed that he should not die. In the book "Midbar Shur," in his eulogy for Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector (pp. 332-336), Maran Ha-Rav Kook asks: Why did the Sages pray that he should not die?  Their view is difficult to understand.  After all, Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi was bed-ridden, suffering, could not teach or give halachic rulings, and was seemingly of no benefit to this world.  If he would ascend on High, he would continue to teach Torah there.  So why didn't they pray for him to die?  Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains that the influence of a great Torah scholar is not only through his teaching, halachic rulings, etc., but also in the presence of his holy soul in this world.  The fact that his soul is located in this world brings blessing, even when he is unable to provide practical benefit, is closed in a room and cannot converse with others.  This is similar to the Vilna Gaon, who for many years was closed in a room learning Torah.   The world without Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi is not the same as a world with Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Nasi.

And when Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught us this idea, he would say that Maran Ha-Rav Kook also suffered greatly, and he told him: Each and every moment that Abba is in this world, despite the suffering, he brings it light. And Rabbenu would relate this with tears in his eyes.

This insight also answers a difficulty in Rashi (see Klei Yakar).  At the beginning of Parashat Vayetze, the Torah says: "And Yaakov left Beer Sheva and went to Charan" (Bereshit 28:10).  Rashi makes the comment that when a Tzadik leaves a city it makes an impression.  The commentators ask: Why does Rashi comment on Yaakov leaving the city?   What about when Avraham left to go to Egypt?   What about when Yitzchak went to Gerar?   They were certainly Tzadikim!  Why doesn't Rashi point out that their departure made an impression?  The answer is that it is obvious that Avraham's departure made an impression.  He was a man of Chesed and welcomed everyone in!   His tent had openings on all sides.   And when Yitzchak left, it certainly made an impression.  He was well-known and planted all over Eretz Yisrael.  But Yaakov, at this point in his life, was always learning Torah in the Beit Midrash, "A simple man who learned in tents" (Bereshit 25:27).   He was closed off from everyone.  We might think that if someone who "just" learns Torah and doesn't interact with others leaves a city, it won't make an impression.  Rashi therefore mentions this idea in connection to Yaakov, as opposed to Avraham and Yitzchak, to teach us that the opposite is true: Someone who learns Torah has an incredible influence on his place even if he is simply learning Torah on his own.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #279

Learning Torah with One's Grandson

Q: Is there a Mitzvah for a grandfather to learn Torah with his grandson?

A: Yes.  "And make them known to your children and your children's children".  Devarim 4:9.  "If one teaches his grandson Torah, it is considered as if he received it from Sinai".  Kiddushin 30a.  And see Piskei Teshuvot 473:27 (And Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik also pointed this out at the Brit Milah of the oldest son of his grandson, Ha-Rav Moshe Twersky HY"D, who was murdered Al Kiddush Hashem in the terrorist attack in the Shul in Har Nof.  As related by Ha-Rav Menachem Genack). 


Calling the Minister of Education "Rabbi"

Q: Should we call the Minister of Education "Rabbi"?  After all, he is implementing all sorts of changes against the Torah.

A: Yes.  Even if there is criticism against him, he remains a Torah scholar (See the introduction to Alo Naale).


Shaming Rabbis

Q: I have a friend who does not refer to Religious-Zionist Rabbis with the title "Rabbi".  What should I do?

A: Cease talking to him.  He is a heretic since he denigrates Torah scholars (Sanhedrin 99b).


Conversion Performed by Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren

Q: I heard that the conversion performed by Ha-Rav Goren (called the "Brother and Sister") was not according to Halachah.

A: Lies and deceit.  His responsum was published and you can learn it (After Ha-Rav Goren's ruling in this matter, a broadside containing terrible vilifications was written against him.  Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah asked that the responum be brought to him.  He looked at it and sent it to Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira.  He did not ask whether he agreed with it or not, but whether it was well-built, like a serious halachic responsum.  When Ha-Rav Shapira responded in the affirmative, our Rabbi proclaimed: "May the hands of those who perform evil be cut off."  When he was asked: But aren't there great Rabbis among those who signed the broadside?  He responded: "There are differences," i.e. not everyone criticized in an evil way.  Iturei Yerushalayim #20.

And Ha-Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, leading Posek in America before Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, never supported the ruling itself since he was blind at the time and was unable to learn it. He was adamant, however, that it was forbidden to argue with Ha-Rav Goren since he was a "Gadol Ha-Dor" [one of the great Rabbis of the generation].  And he brushed off all claims against him.  When Ha-Rav Henkin was told that some claimed that Ha-Rav Goren was in the category of one who takes a bribe, he answered forcibly: "This is politics, not Halachah."  And although he received much pressure from other Rabbis, he did not change his mind.  Shut Bnei Banim vol. 2, p. 210).


Swallowing a Fingernail

Q: Is it true that according to the Gemara a woman who swallows a fingernail will be unable to have children?

A: No.


Tehilim for a Shiduch

Q: Which Tehilim is appropriate to recite to find a Shiduch?

A: All of them are appropriate.



Q: Where was Hashem during the Holocaust?

A: One who asks such a question in a text message needs to seriously repent.

Number of children

Question: We have two boys and two girls.  I want to continue growing the family, but my wife does not.  What is Ha-Rav's advice?

Answer: After one has a boy and a girl, one should continue to have children as it says: "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand" (Kohelet 11:6 and Yevamot 62b).  But we are not told how many children to have.  The guiding principle is to have the most children possible based on one's ability – one's physical ability, one's emotion ability, and one's financial ability.  One's ability is a personal decision.  You cannot force your wife insofar as she would like more children but is unable.  This reminds me of the words of the Mesech Chochma on the mitzvah of "Be fruitful and multiply" (Bereshit 9:7).  As is known, women are not obligated in this mitzvah.  This is a wonder – how can a man have children alone?  The Mesech Chochma explains that women are not obligated because sometimes pregnancy is quite difficult, and childbirth is difficult, and taking care of a baby all of the time is difficult, and the Torah does not force someone to do something which may sometimes be beyond his ability.  But if Hashem does not command women to have children, how will children come into the world?  Hashem also implanted a desire for children within women as we see with Rachel: "Give me children or I will die" (Bereshit 30a).  Therefore, a woman has children because of her desire.  There is a balance between the desire and the difficulties, and a woman navigates between them.  This appears in the Torah, not when Hashem commands Adam: "Be Fruitful and multiply" (Bereshit 1:28), but after the flood when he commands Noach: "Be fruitful and multiply."  The first command was before the curse of "You shall bear children in pain" (Bereshit 3:16) and there was therefore no reason to be lenient.  But now there is the difficulty of the curse.  I therefore recommend not to pressure your wife and let her decide on her own.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #278

Honoring One's Mother and Wife

Q: Which is more important – honoring my mother or my wife?

A: You and your wife are one being, and together you should think and decide how to honor your mother, who is a joint mother to the both of you.


Switching Milchig Dish to Fleischig

Q:  It is permissible to switch a Milchig dish to Fleischig or visa-verca through Kashering?

A: It is permissible for Sefardim.  It is forbidden for Ashkenazim, since if one does this regularly, in the end, he will get confused.  Magen Avraham 509:11.  But there are various solutions when it is permissible to switch from one to the other:  1. If one is anyway Kashering for Pesach.  Mishnah Berurah ibid. #19.  2. In an extenuating circumstance.  3. If one sells his utensil to someone else, he can Kasher them.  4. If he makes them Treif, he can Kasher them and switch them.  5. If one has not used those utensils for 12 months.  6. One may Kasher them to Parve and later switch them.  Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #16. 


Wedding on the Temple Mount

Q: Can I have the first part of my wedding - the Kiddushin - in the afternoon on the Temple Mount and then the Chuppah elsewhere at night? 

A: It is absolutely forbidden to enter the Temple Mount!

Q: I follow a Rabbi who permits it.

A: I - the humble - follow the Chief Rabbinate of Israel who forbids it.


Relying on a Halachic Ruling

Q: If I saw a Rav rule in a certain circumstance, can I rely on it for myself?

A: No, since perhaps it was only in a extenuating circumstance or there were additional reasons which we do not know about for ruling leniently (Ha-Rav Yochanan Segal Wozner, Av Beit Din of Skverer Chasidim in Montreal, writes in the name of the Da'at Sofer in the name of the Chatam Sofer that halachic authorities are often required to make rulings in extenuating circumstances or after-the-fact [Di'avaad] based on a combination of halachic principles, and this is considered a sort of temporary ruling [Hora'at Sha'ah].  Such a ruling is in the realm of Oral Torah, and we must therefore be extremely careful not to turn it into Written Torah, i.e. it should not become a permanent ruling.  Shut Chayei Ha-Levi, Introduction to Volume 6).


Doves in the House

Q: In the morning, my wife and I found 2 doves on the table.  What does this mean?

A: That the window was left open (Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski answered similarly to such a question from a newlywed husband).


Baal Teshuvah

Q: Is it Lashon Ha-Ra to say that a person is a Baal Teshuvah?

A: Yes.  Just as it is forbidden to remind a Baal Teshuvah of his past actions.  Baba Metzia 58).


Electric Shaver

Q: Which type of electric shaver is permissible?

A: All of them are problematic.  There are those who permit their use on condition that one does not press too hard against his skin and one can still feel the scruff (Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.  Halichot Shlomo - Tefillah Chapter 2 p. 11.  And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein did not want to write a responsum in his Shut Igrot Moshe permitting the use of an electric shaver since even if there is no prohibition against using it, the face of a Jew is meant to have a beard!  Meged Givot Olam p. 96).


Traveling to Poland

Q: I never left Israel to travel to Poland to visit the concentration camps.  I know it is forbidden.  But I am a soldier now and the army chose me to be a representative for Yom Ha-Shoah there.  What should I do?

A: If it is your decision, don't go.