Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #241

Environmental Quality

Q: Is Halachah "Green", obligating us to be concerned about environmental issues?

A: Yes.  It is forbidden to cause damage to the environment.  But we must always weigh the expense of protecting it against other essential expenses such as food for the poor, education and the military.



Q: In which book can I learn about proper friendship?

A: Mesilat Yesharim (See also Ha-Rav's book "Vehalachta Bidrachav").


Yom Kippur Katan

Q: What is the source for the custom of observing Yom Kippur Katan on every Erev Rosh Chodesh?  Is it obligatory?

A: Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, brought in the Mishnah Berurah Chapter #417.  The custom is not obligatory, but one should fix Erev Rosh Chodesh as a day of repentance.


Fasting on Rosh Chodesh

Q: Is there a problem with fasting on Rosh Chodesh?

A: It is forbidden.  Mishnah Ta'anit.  Shulchan Aruch (Ta'anit 15.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 418:1).


Torah Learning by a Mourner

Q: The Ben Ish Chai relates in his commentary on the Gemara "Ben Yehoyada" (Berachot 24b) that a great Rabbi who could not restrain himself learned Torah when he was sitting Shiva (subjects that are not permitted during this time).  And there are other similar stories.  Is it permissible to act in this way?

A: No.  Although it is written in the Talmud Yerushalami in Moed Katan (3:5) that it is permissible for one who is impassioned about learning Torah to do so during Shiva, the Halachah does not follow this opinion (Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that this story of the Ben Ish Chai is not true.  Derech Sichah Vol. 1 pp. 100-101.  Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, however, quotes it in Shut Yabia Omer 2 YD 26.  It is also told that the Rogachover Gaon would learn Torah on Tisha Be-Av (aside from the permitted subjects) since he could not restrain himself.  Roah Devarcha p. 225.  Derech Sicha Vol. 1 p. 487.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe said the same of his boyhood teacher.  Siach Sarfei Kodesh p. 178.  And see Shut Ha-Meharsha"m 1:84 who notes that he wrote this Teshuvah on Tisha Be-Av.  He explains that this Teshuvah involves freeing an Agunah, and it is written that one who frees an Agunah builds one of the destroyed areas of Yerushalayim.  It is certainly proper to do so on Tisha Be-Av when we mourn the destruction of Yerushalayim.  Aleinu Le-Shabe'ach – Devarim p. 530).


Maaser Kesafim

Q: Ha-Rav said that it is not permissible to give Maaser Kesafim as a wedding gift since this money is designated for the poor.  What is the definition of a poor person?

A: Someone who lacks the essentials.

Q: Everyone lacks something!

A: Nice Pilpul, but Pilpul is not food for the poor.


Temple Mount

Q: Is it permissible today to visit the Temple Mount?

A: Since the Chief Rabbinate of Israel posted signs there saying that it is forbidden, there is not even a question.  There is therefore no need for an answer.



Q: Why do we need a large army?  Perhaps it is preferable to have a small army!  Hashem will protect the few in the military, and the many in the merit of their learning Torah?

A: We do not rely on miracles.  "When a camp goes out against your enemies".  Devarim 23:10.  We do not go out haphazard but in a well-organized manner.  Sifre ibid.  Malbim ibid.


Netilat Yadayim for Birkat Cohanim

Q: I am a Cohain.  The doctor told me that it is forbidden for me to get my hands wet for two days.  What should I do?

A: Do not go up to recite the Birkat Cohanim (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 128:6.  Piskei Teshuvot ibid. note #90).

The Army's Response Hierarchy

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


People ask: Bombs are falling from Gaza and a million people in the area have to stay home and flee into their bomb shelters. Why does the army remain silent and not respond with force?

Obviously, it is not the army who decides but the government. To the point, however, every attack certainly does deserve a forceful response, just as King David went to war because the enemy removed half of soldiers' beards and cut off half of their garments. Yet things are different now. The army operates according to a response hierarchy. Responses are proportional, tit for tat. The army cannot respond any differently, due to international war conventions, whether signed or not. In Latin this is called, Jus in Bello, the Law in Waging War.

Why must we uphold the Law in Waging War?

For three reasons:

1. Commitments: We have made commitments in the United Nations, explicitly or inexplicitly.

2. Morality. Not all the people in the Gaza Strip are evil. There, too, you'll find unfortunates.

True, we say, “War is War,” but as King Shaul said to Kenites, “Come, withdraw at once from the Amalekites, that I may not destroy you along with them” (Shmuel 1 15:6). In other words, "even though you are my friends, if you are there, I might hurt you. You are best off leaving." Taking pity on those not at fault requires morality.

3. Mutuality. How we behave is how others will treat us. It is not a matter of worrying about the enemy, but of worrying about ourselves. We require the assistance of the nations. We cannot live alone. True, it says, “Israel shall dwell alone” (Bemidbar 23:9), but in practical affairs it is not like that. For example, during the Yom Kippur War, we ran out of ammunition. It was very embarrassing, but the Americans organized an airlift for us and transferred ammunition to us. If they had not, it would not have been the end of our country, for we had thirteen missiles suited with nuclear warheads. Still, such things cannot be done in secret. There are satellites that see everything. The Russians already had ships in the region with nuclear bombs, and that's no picnic either. It was the Americans who told the Russians to desist. Until the Messiah comes and we are responsible for the entire planet we are not alone. In the meantime we are dependent.

Some people say: Since we are dependent on the nations, it is impossible for us to say Hallel on Israel Independence Day, for we are not independent. That is wrong. There is no country on Earth that is not dependent on others, not even the Americans, the Russians or the British. They don't do anything without taking others into account. They, as well, are not alone in the world.

One particular Rabbi, not a defeatist coward by any means, related that one time when Israel's foreign minister returned from a visit to America, he was criticized for having capitulated to American pressure. Rav Tzvi Yehuda told that Rabbi, “Do you think we never have to take the Americans into consideration?”

We also have our tension with the Iranians. We need world support against them. The fact is that at present the nations are working on our behalf against Iran. You can't always be fighting on all fronts.

In education, as well, you cannot be fighting on all fronts. You pick the most important front and you ignore the others.

In one of the Yeshivot, the Mashgiach [spiritual director] suddenly entered a room and found students playing checkers. They quickly hid the game under the table. The Mashgiach said, “I will explain to you what checkers is about. You always move forward. When you get to the top, you can do what you want.  You sacrifice one in order to win two.” He turned it into a lesson about behavior.

In running the country, as well, you sometimes sacrifice one in order to win two. We are not alone on this Earth.

A major principle regarding the Nation living in Zion is this: We go to war only when there is “no choice”. According to the statistics of the World Health Organization, every year 800,000 people are killed in the world by terrorists and other murderers. So why do we have the impression that more are killed here? It is because we know and love one another. An American living in New York is not connected to somebody killed in Miami. Yet when a Jew is killed or suffers, that creates large ripples.

Still we cannot go to war over such incidents. And the Nation dwelling in Zion would not agree to it either. Our soldiers are our citizens, and we cannot send soldiers who are not convinced that we must fight. Such wars are called “elective battles”. When there is a war of no choice, everyone goes out to battle, the Right, the Left and the Middle Ground. And they fight with self-sacrifice. It is not just the government who thinks we shouldn't go into battle over every incident - the Nation dwelling in Zion thinks it too.

Some say: “But there a million people stuck there!” True, but you must look at matters in proportion. There are worse problems still. When I was born, I had to be hidden away so I would not end up in a concentration camp. My paternal grandparents on my father's side died in such camps. That is suffering. The rule is this: we must thank G-d for what we have, and not bare open wounds over what we don't have. Sure there are problems, but we don't have to go overboard. We must increase our national fortitude.  This is not accomplished by shouting at our Prime Minister and army.

In conclusion, we must strengthen the residents of the South, and in general, strengthen our Nation and believe in our country, our government and our army. If we are always saying that the army is weak and the government is weak, we are weakening them. “What I have dreaded has come upon me” (Iyov 3:25). In other words, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. A source for this is Berachot 60a. The Mishna there states: “If someone enters a bathhouse he should say, 'May it be G-d's will that You save me from this and other such things. Let no corruption or sin befall me, and if they do befall me, then let my death be an atonement for all my sins.”

Abaye responded to this, “A person should not say this prayer, so as not to give the devil any ideas.”

Now we might ask: How could Abaye, a Talmudic sage, dispute the Talmudic ruling of the Mishnaic sages who preceded him?

Rav Kook answers this in Ein Aya: The Mishnaic sages were heroic men who feared nothing.  Hence they could say, “I am going to the bathhouse and I hope not to die. If I do die, then I shall die.”

Yet the Talmudic Sages were weaker, and could not talk that way. Had they said, “If I fall prey to sin, let me die as an atonement,” they would have been dead.

Therefore, one should not express himself this way. Rather, we should say that we are strong and heroic, and that is the truth. The army is on the right course with its self-restraint. Sometimes, the army waits in order to be able to attack more forcefully later.

Let us be strong and courageous.

Parashat Terumah: Where are the Vessels of the Beit Ha-Mikdash Today?

[Commentary to the Book of Esther, pp. 23-24]

We do not know exactly where they are. Some say that they are in the Vatican.  Others claim that they are in other places, but the truth is that they are buried somewhere under the Temple Mount. King Shlomo dug tunnels under the Temple Mount because he knew through his Divine Spirit that the Beit Ha-Mikdash would be destroyed.

Question: Isn't it written that Nebuchadnezar took everything (see Megillah 12a)?

Answer: The vessels which he took were replacement vessels. The original vessels are located under the Temple Mount.

Question: Aren’t there vessels in England that are associated with the Temple?

Answer: Perhaps, but the real ones are under the Temple Mount.

Question: The Menorah and the Table of the Show-Bread too?

Answer: Yes. As is known, Titus stole the Menorah. We see this in the Arch of Titus in Rome. The Jews of Rome have a custom to say Lamentations there on Tisha Be-Av. But those vessels were also replacements. There were ten Menorahs (Menachot 29a, 98b-99a) and many vessels. We do not know if he took the actual Menorah or a fake one which was placed in the Beit Ha-Mikdash to fool him into thinking that he plundered the Temple. Even if he took the actual Menorah, there are nine others. Nonetheless there is no need to search for them today. When the time comes, everything will be found, including the Ark of the Covenant and the jar of "Man" (Manna).

Question: Did anyone ever search for the vessels of the Beit Ha-Mikdash?

Answer: Many certainly searched, but they did not find them. There are different stories and fables.

Question: What about those people who claim to have seen the Ark?

Answer: Anything is possible. Nevertheless, everything that they saw also disappeared. Do not worry, there are others. Incidentally, my daughter who studies art made a relief of the Arch of Titus. She brought to my attention the fact that those who are walking in the relief are not walking in the direction of Yehudah to Rome, but the opposite: from Rome to Israel!  And this is true today, too: we are all returning home!

כבוד ראש ממשלתנו אינו חצי חרדי

 אם נכונה השמועה שראש ממשלתנו אמר שהוא מסכים לקיומם של ישובים יהודים בתוך מדינה זרה, הרי שיש כאן התקרבות מצדו לעמדות החדריות הקדומות.  אכן לפעמים החרדים מתגוננים בפני האשמה אנטי-ציונית ואומרים: אנחנו לא ציונים?!  אנחנו יותר ציונים מהכל!  הרי אנו הראשונים לעלות לארץ במסירות נפש ולבנותה במסירות נפש!

אך אין זה מדויק.  עניין הציונות אינו רק עלייה לארץ ובניין הארץ, אלא הרמת דגל הלאום.  כבר כתב הרמב"ן, כאשר סיכם את חובתנו כלפי הארץ, שהיא מתחלקת לשלושה חלקים: א. שנעלה לארץ.  ב. "שלא נעזבה לשממה", כלומר שנבנה בתים וניטע כרמים.  ג. "שלא נעזבה ביד זולתו מן האומות", כלומר ריבונות ישראלית, שלטון ישראל, מדינת ישראל, צבא ישראל (הוספות הרמב"ן לספר המצוות להרמב"ם מצוות עשה ד').  לעומת הנדיב הידוע, רוטשילד, שליח אלקי לחיזוק ההתיישבות בארץ, הרצל היה השליח האלקי להרמת הדגל הלאומי, הוא כשם ספרו כן תהלתו: מדינת היהודים, או כשמו ביידיש ובצרפתית: המדינה היהודית.

אלא שאגודת ישראל לא סברה כן, אלא תמכה באופציה ערבית של הקמת מדינה ערבית בארץ ישראל כאשר תמורה זו תינתן לנו חופש דת וחופש בכלל.  אין צורך לומר שגם הערבים הסכימו לכך וכבר בכנסיה הראשונה של אגודת ישראל, שלחו הודעה שהם רואים בעין יפה התיישבות יהודית עם שוויון זכויות אבל בלי אמביציות פוליטיות.

השקפה זו של אגודת ישראל לא היתה תאוריה בעלמא אלא תוכנית פוליטית מעשית שנוהלה ע"י ישראל יעקב דה האן, המנהל המדינאי הרשמי של אגודת ישראל, שהרכיב משלחת חרדית בראשות הגרי"ח זוננפלד לעבר ירדן להתייצב לפני האמיר עבדאללה.

ב"ה, כל אלה כשלו, הציונות גברה, המדינה הוקמה, בחסדי ד' עלינו.

לכן תמוה שראש ממשלת מדינתנו מזכיר אופציות שהועלו לפני תשעים שנה וכשלו.  אמנם הוא לא אמר זאת על כל ארץ ישראל אלא על חלקה, השרון - מדינת ישראל, השומרון - מדינה לא ישראל, אם כן הוא חצי חרדי.  אפילו אגודת ישראל, אחרי קום המדינה, השלימה עם המדינה, למחצה לשליש ולרביע, ועתה יש חרדים חברי כנסת ואף שרים.  רק פלג אחד של אגודת ישראל, העדה החרדית, נשאר נאמן לעמדתו הראשונית.

ולכן ברור לנו שאם אמנם מילים אלה יצאו מפי ראש ממשלתנו החשוב, ודאי לא אמר כן אלא כדי לשטות באויבנו, אשר חיים בדמיונות כוזבים שכאן זו לא ארץ ישראל אלא ארץ ישמעאל. 

אין ספק לכל מי שמכיר את ראש ממשלתנו, את זכויותיו הגדולות בעד המדינה ובעד בטחון ישראל ועמדתו האמיצה בעד שלמות הארץ - שזו כוונתו. אנו מכבדים אותו, אנו מעריכים אותו, אנו מוקירים אותו, ואנו נוהגים בו כמי שהאחריות הכבדה של גורל האומה מונח על כתפיו, ואומרים לו: חזק ואמץ, לך בכוחך זה והושעת את ישראל.

ואנחנו נמשיך לבנות את מדינתנו ולהיבנות בה בנפלאות ד' על עמו ועל נחלתנו.

Ariel Sharon: Hero of Israel

Arik Sharon has ascended on high and many are left with mixed emotions.  As are all human beings, he was a complex creature, light and darkness intermingled within him.  We must remember, however, that we stand before one who can be defined as a hero of Israel.

A hero of Israel: who fought with courage and strength, wisdom and ingenuity, especially during the Yom Kippur War. We are all indebted to him for his decisive role during this period.

A hero of Israel: who had a major part in the settlement of Yehudah and Shomron.

A hero of Israel: who faltered in the destruction of Gush Katif, but surely believed that he was acting in the Nation's best interest.  His failures do not nullify his merits, just as the positive acts performed by Yochanan Cohain Gadol, who served for 80 years as the Cohain Gadol, were not nullified by the fact that he became a Tzeduki (a heretic, see Berachot 29a).

This hero of Israel purchased a home in the Old City of Yerushalayim - "The Sharon House" - in the so-called "Muslim Quarter". In doing so he informed us, and the entire world, that this is Jewish land, the eternal property of our forefathers, upon which others came and built without our permission and presence.

This hero of Israel, man of the military, man of settlement and man of leadership has ascended on high, and we are all indebted to him.  A man of opposites has ascended on high, and we pray that he finds comfort there.



Merits of Ariel Sharon in Building

Up All Parts of the Old City of Yerushalayim


-       When he served as Minister of Agricultural, Ariel Sharon purchased a large piece of land near Sha'ar Ha-Prachim (The Flower Gate) for the Jewish community, and personally advanced the final permits to build in that spot.

-       He expressed his own desire to live in the Old City, and pointed out in which house he wanted to live.  It later became known that two weeks prior he had made a down-payment on that very house.  Known as "Beit Vitenberg," this house overlooks Ha-Gai St. in the so-called "Muslim Quarter," on the way to the Kotel.  Following the murder of a Jew in the Old City, the Sharons made the final decision to live there.  This was two weeks before the outbreak of the Second Intifada.  For an extended period, he and his wife Lili stayed in this home two days a week.  Our Rabbis, Ha-Rav Tzvi Tau and Ha-Rav Oded Valensky, saw this act as an extremely meaningful step in the State's taking possession of Yerushalayim.

-       He agreed to travel outside of Israel for the sole purpose of raising money to acquire another house in the Old City, "Beit Ha-Ma'alot".  Following his trip, a buyer was found. The house was purchased and Jews moved in. 

-       He respected the residents of the Old City for their self-sacrifice, particularly the women, who shouldered the daily burden of living there.

-        As the Minister of Housing, he authorized a security company to protect the Jewish community and their homes. It continues to do so today.

-       The entire merit of purchasing Ne'ot David and its community (in the so-called "Christian Quarter") is also his.  He traveled outside of Israel to raise money to purchase the hotel.  After the Jews moved in, and there were attacks from all sides (including the Municipality of Yerushalayim, the police and the courts,) to expel the "settlers", he personally petitioned the Prime Minister not to expel them. And they indeed remained.

-       When the harsh legal battle began to remove the Jews from these homes, claiming that they were disturbing the public order, the need arose for a top-notch lawyer.  When money could not be found for the retainer, Ariel Sharon personally gave $100,000, which allowed for an appeal.

-       His efforts influenced the President of Israel to publicly announce that Christians have no more right to live in the Christian Quarter than do Jews, thus breaking the myth of the "Christian Quarter" and advancing the position that every place in Yerushalayim belongs to the Jews.

-       He was responsible for acquiring the hotels at the entrance to the city.

-       He authorized the rebuilding of the Churvah Shul in the Old City and the allocation of huge sums for both this project and the latest plan to expand the Kotel and its accessibility.

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon R' Ephraim Greenblatt from Yerushalayim ztz"l

[Eulogy by Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner in Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim]


Le-Ilui Nishmat Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon R' Ephraim Greenblatt ztz"l, one of the great Poskim.  He was not so well-known in Israel, since he was hidden away in America, and there were only small signs on the walls of Meah Shearim announcing his passing, but anyone who is involved with Pesak Halachah knows him well.  He wrote more than 1000 Teshuvot which are brought in many works of the Poskim.  He was a major Posek, who touched every subject, corresponded with all Rabbis and wrote briefly and to the point.

His grandfather, Rebbe Yitzchak, who was from Brisk, was both a Torah scholar and a businessman.  Rebbe Yitzchak made Aliyah and brought his young son, Ha-Rav Avraham Baruch, to learn in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook said that the Yeshiva was not a proper place for him because he was too young.  He said he should go learn in a Cheider.  Rebbe Yitzchak then gave Rav Kook a letter of recommendation for his son from the Brisker Rav, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik.  Rav Kook went to the next room, put on his Kapote and Shtreimel, and said: In order to read a letter from the Brisker Rav, one must wear Shabbat clothing.  Since the Brisker Rav recommended him, Rav Kook said: You are accepted.  This was Rav Greeblatt's father.

Rav Greenblatt himself was born in 5692 in Yerushalayim and lived in the neighborhood of Makor Baruch.  He was the oldest of 11 children.  He learned in Yeshivat Kletzk in Rechovot under Ha-Rav Eleazar Menachem Man Shach.  His grandfather supported his children and grandchildren, but when his financial situation deteriorated he told his grandson, Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt: You are the eldest, travel to America, work in the Rabbinate and send money back to support the family.  He was in doubt as to what to do and asked the Chazon Ish, Ha-Rav Shach and Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer.  All of them answered that he should go to America.  Ha-Rav Meltzer blessed him: Travel there. You will succeed, you will do great things for the Jews in America and you will merit returning to Israel.  He was 18 years old.  Ha-Rav Aharon Kotler visited Israel at that time, and Rav Greenblatt spoke to him.  Rav Kotler said that he should come and learn in Lakewood and then enter the Rabbinate.  At that time, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein – the greatest Posek in America – sent two volumes of his commentary on the Gemara "Dibrot Moshe" to Rav Greenblatt's father.  His father said that the explanations were too long.  He told his son, Ha-Rav Ephraim, to give one volume to Ha-Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, and the other to Ha-Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir.  After a few weeks, Ha-Rav Shmulevitz said to him: It is too long.  I understand the questions but not the answers.  He added: Tell Reb Moshe that he should not write at such length.  When Ha-Rav Greenblatt arrived in America, he went to Rav Feinstein's Shiur at Metivta Tiferet Yerushalayim.  Reb Moshe said to him: You can learn here in the Yeshiva.  From that time forward for the rest of his life he was a student of Rav Feinstein, a great student.  Some say that he was the greatest of his students, and he is also one of the last of his students.  At the age of 20, Reb Moshe said to him: Go to Memphis, Tennessee to be a Rabbi.  Rav Greenblatt was in doubt about going to such a desolate place of Torah, but his Rabbi told him: You need to be there in order to strengthen Judaism.  Rav Feinstein sent 40 of his students throughout America to strengthen Torah observance.  Rav Greenblatt went to Memphis and served as a Rabbi there for 60 years until the age of 80.  He was a Rabbi, Av Beit Din, Shochet and teacher.  He also answered questions from all around America and corresponded with the great Torah scholars throughout the world.  As the leading student of Rav Feinstein, he brings rulings of the Rav which are not found elsewhere, and resolves difficulties which others raised about Teshuvot in Shut Igrot Moshe.  There are also over 100 Teshuvot in Shut Igrot Moshe addressed to him.  It happened that someone wrote a book Maaneh Le-Igrot which disagrees with Shut Igrot Moshe.  The book Maadnei Ha-Melech (at the end in Adanei Ha-Melech, pp. 81-82 note #27) states that Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef (the Current Chief Rabbi of Israel) said that the students of Rav Feinstein bought all of the copies of Maaneh Le-Igrot and destroyed them.  Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt, the leading student of Rav Feinstein and author of Shut Revivot Ephraim, said that after this book came out, he sat down to write a Responsa to each claim, to refute them one by one.  He asked for Rav Feinstein's permission to publish the Responsa.  Rav Feinstein took the pages, thanked him for his concern for his honor, but requested that he not publish them.  He explained that if they do not respond to that author, his memory will be forgotten on its own in a year or two, and no one will remember him.  But if they answer, his name will spread.  And this is indeed what happened.  The author did not succeed in selling more than 50 of the 1000 books he printed (which suggets that the student did not buy them and destroy them).  And Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef said that this book should not be put in the library of Yeshivat Chazon Ovadiah since it does not follow the proper manner of disagreeing (Brought in Shulchan Ha-Maarechet of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef, Vol. 2 pp. 436-437).  In his time, the author of this work sent it to the Steipler, and then visited him.  The Steipler harshly rebuked him, yelled at him for insulting Ha-Rav Feinstein, and threw him out of his house.  The Steipler then told his son, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, that Rav Feinstein is a great Posek and Tzadik (Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 5, p. 169).  Further, Ha-Rav Aharon Felder relates that Rav Feinstein once told him that he actually had met the author once and the author asked him for a favor, which he granted.  Reb Moshe added: "I didn't know that the kindness I did for him was so great that he paid me back with such wickedness" (Reshumei Aharon Vol. 2, p. 4).  We also heard that Ha-Rav Baruch Solnica had a Shul in New York close to the Shtiebel of the author of Maaneh Le-Igrot.  Sometimes it was difficult for the Shtiebel to get a Minyan and they would come to Rav Solnica's Shul to find people to join them.  Rav Solnica refused since he had besmirched Reb Moshe.  Rav Solnica asked Reb Moshe how he should act and he said: You don’t have to give him people to Daven there on a regular basis, but you should certainly give him people to help make a Minyan.  This was Reb Moshe, and Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt was his leading student.

He wrote 9 volumes of Teshuvot, Shut Revivot Ephraim (and we have heard that a 10th volume is being prepared for publication), as well as Divrei Torah on the Torah.  As was the practice of his Rabbi, he would write each Teshuvah twice: One to send to the questioner and one to keep and check over.  Rav Greenblatt corresponded with everyone: Zionists, Charedim, great Torah scholars, regular Torah scholars.  He even brought things which I wrote 30 years ago in Iturei Cohanim when I was very young.  He did not care if one was Charedi or not, it is all Torah.  He also brings in his Teshuvot his correspondence with Ha-Rav David Cohain, Ra"m in our Yeshiva.  He brings from everyone, and everyone brings him, although there are some Charedi Yeshivot who do not have his books since he brings Zionist Rabbis.

He would also write a Haskamah for any Sefer, to perform a kindness.  He would not do so quickly but would really look into the Sefer.  Ha-Rav Greenblatt wrote a Haskamah for the book "Chizim Be-Yad Giborim" of Ha-Rav Avi Ronzki, who was a Ra"M in our Yeshiva and then the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal.    He also wrote a long Haskamah for the book "Kum Hithalech Ba-Aretz" of Ha-Rav Mordechai Tzion, Ra"m in our Yeshiva.  He writes that he really examined the book and found practical halachic conclusions, that the author toiled writing the book for 7 years and that he found important discussions there.  He also writes that he wanted to write comments on the book but had just returned from the hospital, after a month's stay, and it was difficult for him to write, he apologizes.

He also performed kindnesses for me.  I have his Sefarim in my home which he sent me for free without my even having to ask. 

And he signed his Teshuvot: From Yerushalayim, currently in Memphis.  This is the same as the Semag who would write: Moshe of Coucy, exiled from Yerushalayim.

Following his grandfather's instruction, Rav Greenblatt not only served as a Rabbi but also invested his money, made great profits and helped his family financially.  He would give $50,000 to each grandchild who got married.  He had a huge library of 26,000 books.  Unfortunately, he invested his money with the man who perpetuated the Ponzi scheme, who is now sitting in prison.  Rav Greenblatt lost all of his money and was left with nothing.  He saw this as a sign that he needed to return to Israel.  He came to Israel at the age of 80 without money to buy an apartment and without his Sefarim.  He said: My children are in Israel, my wife was killed in a car accident (in 5762) and I don't have any money.  I am returning to Israel.     

When he arrived in Israel, Rav Mordechai Tzion invited him to visit our Yeshiva.  He said in his humility: Certainly.  It would be my honor, but I can't right now because I am not feeling well.  He was invited again and - to our great sorrow - was unable to come.  Toward the end of his life when he was living in Har Nof, he would Daven Mincha/Maariv in a Zionist Yeshiva.  One of the neighborhood people, with a Knit-Kippah and without a beard, would give a class between Minchah and Maariv.  This gaint Torah scholar would sit and listen without any feeling that it was beneath his honor.  His humility was amazing.

With his return to Israel, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer's blessing was indeed fulfilled: "Travel there. You will succeed, you will do great things for the Jews in America and you will merit returning to Israel".


May his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the righteous.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #240

Fruit on Tu Bishvat

Q: Is there a custom to eat the fruit of Eretz Yisrael on Tu Bishvat?

A: Yes.  Brought in the Mishnah Berurah in the laws of Tachanun (131:32.  Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:264).



Q: If I see an immodestly-dressed woman and enjoy her beauty, isn't the beauty a Divine creation?

A: This is not beauty at all but a replusive thing.  In the Torah commentary "Meor Ve-Shemesh (d.h. Veo), he writes in the name of the book "Or Ha-Meor" (Parashat Chayei Sarah) that when Rabbi Akiva saw a beautiful woman it repulsed him so much that he needed to vomit!


Precedence in Shaliach Tzibur

Q: I am a mourner but a major disagreement began regarding who takes precedence in serving as the Shaliach Tzibur…

A: Give in.  This will also give contentment to the deceased (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein told his son, Ha-Rav Reuven, that if there is a chance of dispute one should give up his "right" to serve as Shaliach Tzibur even if the Halachah grants him that right.  Reb Moshe [in English], p. 201).


Converting without a Brit Milah

Q: If a non-Jew is a hemophiliac, may he convert since it is impossible for him to have a Brit Milah?

A: The great Rabbis of Israel already ruled that it is not possible for him to convert.  Such a case was brought before Maran Ha-Rav Kook and he forbade it.  Shut Da'at Cohain (#150.  And also Shut Har Tzvi Yoreh Deah #220.  Shut Melamed Le-Hoil #86.  Shut Seredei Aish 2:102-103.  Shut Beer Moshe 8:126.  Shut Tzitz Eliezer 14:92, 15:1.  And also the Bnei Yisaschar in his book Derech Pekudecha of the 613 Mitzvot 2:30, although he adds that it is permissible for a non-Jew to put his life at risk in order to convert).        



Q: Is there any halachic issue which is not a dispute among the Rabbis?

A: 99% of issues.  Go through the Shulchan Aruch.  But those issue which are disputes are discussed at length.


"I wanted a daughter"

Q: I am the mother of 2 boys and found out that I am pregnant with another boy and am disappointed.  Is this ingratitude towards the kindness of Hashem?

A: No.  It is a natural, honest feeling.  But you will certainly accept the baby boy with love and gratitude.


Reform Conversion

Q: Is Reform conversion an actual conversion?

A: No.  There is no Beit Din nor acceptance of the Mitzvot (Shut Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 1:160. 2:128. Even Ha-Ezer 3:2-3. 4:88).

Digest of the Laws of Tu Bishvat

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


1. Tu Bishvat – the Fifteenth of Shevat -- is the date that separates last year’s fruit

from next year’s fruit when it comes to taking taking tithes (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 15).

2. We don’t recite Tachanun on Tu Bishvat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 131:6).

3.  There is an ancient Ashkenazic (Mishnah Berurah ibid. #31) and Sefardic (Pri Etz Hadar – Seder Limud LeLeil Tu Bishvat) custom of eating many types of fruit. There is no mention in those sources of eating fifteen types.

4.  It is proper to look for fruits one doesn’t have the opportunity to eat all year (Mishnah Berurah 225:19 based on Jerusalem Talmud at the end of Kiddushin).

5.  One should seek out fruits of the seven species of the Land of Israel (see Devarim 8:8). Yet fruits from the Land of Israel that are not from those seven species are preferable to fruits of the seven species imported from abroad. This is because a bounty of fruit in our Holy Land is a sign of Redemption (Sanhedrin 98a; Rashi). The Divine Presence rests upon the Holy Land and is absorbed by those fruits (Bayit Chadash, Orach Chaim 208).   Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook would therefore call an Israeli banana “the holy banana”.

6. A practice of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook: “To show his love for the holy fruits of the Land, he would strive to wash his hands ritually before eating them (Lishlosha Be-Elul 78).

7.  One should eat of the seven species first, in the following order: olives, dates,

grapes, figs and pomegranates (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 211:102).

8.  If someone eats both fruit from Israel and fruit from abroad, he should conclude his after-blessing with the ending for fruit from Israel, “Al Peroteha” rather than with the ending for fruit from abroad, “Al Ha-Peirot”, for the former take precedence (Siach Ha-Pesach p. 105, quoting from the Steipler Gaon, Ha-Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, and Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv).

9. Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote: “Tu Bishvat has some aspects of a day of rejoicing over our resettling the Holy Land” (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah Vol. 2, p. 61).

10. Some have the custom of planting a fruit tree on Tu Bishvat. When I visited Jonathan Pollard in an American prison, Pollard humbly told me, “I have a very large request to make of you: When you go back to Israel, plant a fruit tree.”

I therefore ask our readers to plant a tree for Pollard.