Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #249

Wearing Tzitzit Out

Q: My boss at work demands that I don't wear my Tzitzit out.  Should I concede?

A: The Mishnah Berurah (8:26) writes that one should always wear his Tzitzit out, and you should therefore not concede.  Shut Tzitz Eliezer (17:4).  But it is enough to have a little bit of the Tzitzit sticking out (This is also the ruling of the Steipler Gaon in Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 1 p. 229).


Birkat Cohanim and Fertility

Q: We do not have any children.  Will it help to ask the Cohanim to have us in mind during the Birkat Cohanim?

A: Yes.  After all Hashem is the one who blesses and not the Cohanim, and the blessing of Hashem is a great thing (When this question was asked of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, he responded: Why not?  Segulot Raboteinu pp. 274-275).


Tzedakah for a Non-Jewish Parent

Q: I am a convert.  Can I give Tzedeakah to my non-Jewish father who is poor?

A: Yes.  We also help the non-Jewish poor.  And you should give him even more than your Tzedakah (Gittin 61a).  And this is true all the more so for your biological father to whom you have an obligation to give gratitude (Sdei Chemed – Avelut #156).


Traveling to Rebbe Nachman's Grave in Uman

Q: Is traveling to Uman good or bad?

A: In general, it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael, except in the case of a Mitzvah. Visiting Kivrei Tzadikim (the graves of the righteous) is not defined as a Mitzvah, but as a positive act.  Are there no graves to visit in Eretz Yisrael?  Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah are greater than Rebbe Nachman (Shut Orach Mishpat #147).

Q: Why don't we ask the Rabbis of Breslov their opinion?

A: The senior Rabbis of Breslov are opposed (see the booklet "Rosh Bnei Yisrael" of Breslover Chasidim).

Q:  But Rebbe Nachman promised that he will lift out of Gehinom anyone who visits his grave?

A: Rebbe Nachman is not greater than Avraham Avinu, and it was already promised that Avraham Avinu sits at the entrance to Gehinom and will not even allow anyone who has a Brit Milah to enter (Bereshit Rabbah 48:8.  And the Chidah wrote that Asher ben Yaakov stands at the entrance to Gehinom and saves anyone who knows Mishnah.  Midbar Kidmot, Marechet 1 #51).  When the great Rabbis were asked about leaving Eretz Yisrael to visit Uman, Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu said: "It is not proper to leave Israel on Rosh Hashanah or during the rest of the year, and it is preferable for one who wants to pray at the graves of tzadikkim to visit the graves of tzadikim in the Land of Israel – Hevron, Kever Rachel, Kever Rashbi – who was the teacher of Rebbe Nachman, etc. Do not leave Israel for the impurity of the lands of the other nations."  Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv answered: "Go daven at the Kotel."  Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef said: "How did the grave of Rebbe Nachman become more important than the graves of the Rambam and Ha-Gaon Rav Yosef Karo?"  Ha-Rav Dov Lior explained how absurd is the thought-process of those who travel to Uman: "People travel to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in order to ask him to help them to travel to the grave of Rebbe Nachman so they can make a request of him" (See Kum Hithalech Ba-Aretz #49).


Orot Ha-Teshuvah

Q: Whose notes appear in Orot Ha-Teshuvah of Maran Ha-Rav Kook in the edition of Or Etzion?

A: They are the notes of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah.


Recovering Corpses in the Army on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat to recover corpses of soldiers who have been killed or is violating Shabbat only permissible to save a life?

A: It is permissible.  1. For the morale of the soldiers, since they know that they will not be abandoned if - G-d forbid – something happens to them.  2. Out of a concern that the enemy will recover them and try to ransom them.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren (Meishiv Milchamah Vol. 2 p. 217).

More on the Charedim

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


As I wrote a week ago, Charedi Judaism represents the authentic first floor of the Jewish People. Yet now the time has come to add a second floor, or more precisely, to restore the second floor that disappeared in the Exile: the rebirth of the Nation in its Land, according to its Torah.

The Nation’s rebirth does not in the least nullify the need for Charedi Jewry. It just augments it. As Rashi said, “The Torah’s saying ‘these’ negates what preceded. The Torah’s saying ‘and these’ adds to what preceded.” The Nation’s rebirth does not replace Charedism, but adds to it. It is not an alternative. It is cumulative.

And once again, we are not talking about an addition, but a restoration of what was previously existed. As our Sages said at the beginning of Megillah: “They forgot them, and then they reestablished them” (Megillah 3a). Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook explained all this at length in his article, “Teshuvah U-Berur Devarim”.

Not only does the Nation’s rebirth in its land not serve to weaken Charedism, but quite the contrary. It should strengthen it all the more, as is explained in Letter 378 of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, which was printed at the start of Orot Ha-Teshuvah.

And altogether, such was the great vision of Rav Kook, which he called “The Flag of Jerusalem”, meaning, bonding Torah-true Judaism to the great ideal of the return to Zion and the rebuilding of the Land and the entire renewing of our days as of old. Yet in his time that vision did not find practical fulfillment. The generation was not yet ready.

All the same, that vision is now, slowly, being revealed, in measured, cautious steps.

Indeed, before the establishment of the State of Israel, the Agudat Yisrael was very opposed to this entire process, which was considered a dangerous innovation, and they even did not encourage moving to Israel. Yet after the State’s establishment a slow process of propitiation began. A representative of Agudat Yisrael signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The Charedim began joining the Knesset, and, later on, the government. At first they did so as deputy ministers, and later on as ministers, and now they actively strive to be part of the government. Obviously, none of this nullifies their justified opposition to all the processes of separating church and state, as regards civil marriage, non-halachic conversions, etc. Yet let us not forget that all of that opposition does not constitute hatred, G-d forbid, but vigilance.  As Rav Kook said, beneath a veil of accusations and contention lies a marvelous love (Orot, Orot Ha-Techiyah 25).

The Charedim recoiled from army service as well, both because of Torah learners, who are the Nation’s spiritual army, and as far as the Charedim in general, due to their fears regarding religious life in the army. Yet the truth must be stated that during Israel’s War of Independence, Charedim took part. There was the Tuviah Battalion, which included Yeshiva students from all the yeshivot of Jerusalem, who defended Jerusalem. After that, as well, there was the original version of the Nachal Charedi during the years 5720-5730, with its base in the town of Komemiyut. And now, in 5762, the Nahal Haredi Battalion was established once more, “Netzach Yehudah”, which is linked to Agudat Yisrael Youth, and which enjoys the support of Charedi rabbis. Netzach Yehudah has produced, and continues to produce excellent fighters. Finally, in 5767, “Shachar” was created, standing for “Shiluv Charedim” [Charedi integration], which likewise brings great blessing. The percentages of Charedim who enlist are increasing significantly from year to year.

All this has been happening without coercion, without threats of imprisonment or financial penalties, out of mutual trust and the creation of frameworks suitable for Charedim, without women, with the highest Kashrut standards, with a battalion Rabbi, Torah lectures, times for prayer, and more. And with G-d’s help, this trend is on the rise. As I said, all this has happened without coercion, based on mutual trust involving voluntary enlistment.

The same is true regarding work. At one time, until 5750, Charedi youths learned a trade, and it is that way today with Charedi Jewry abroad. Following the Holocaust and the destruction of the Torah in Europe, the great Charedi rabbis ruled that Torah learning must be strengthened before all else, and at the expense of all else. Yet down through the years a situation of economic duress was created amongst Charedi Jewry. The average salary of the Charedi family is half that of a secular family, and it goes without saying that the Charedi family has more than twice the number of children of a secular family. Here are some figures from the Bureau of Statistics from 5769: an average income of less than NIS 2000 per person: secular - 24%; traditional - 37%; religious - 48%; Charedim - 52%. Working wives: secular – 88%; traditional – 80%; religious 94%; Charedim 61%. Indeed, this creates poverty.

Not in vain did the great Charedi luminaries rule that a person must learn until the yoke of earning a living forces him to work (Shut Minchat Yitzchak 9:103.  Kaina De-Igreta of the Steipler Gaon). And sure enough, Charedi colleges have been set up for the study of law, accounting, business management, architecture, computers and more. Likewise, there are Charedi colleges for bookkeeping, graphic art, secretarial skills, social work and more.

The last point is the unity of the Nation, which is likewise mentioned in the famous work Em Ha-Banim Semecha, as one of the preconditions to redemption. Perhaps the most problematic matter is the limitation set on the number of Sephardic pupils in Charedi Ashkenazi educational institutions, but there are also great Charedi rabbis who are fighting against such quotas. In general, however, we needn’t go crazy over what they say in the news, which always presents the out-of-the-ordinary, i.e., the exceptional, picturesque outbursts of the Charedim. One musn’t get excited over those. Anyone with open eyes can see that there is a great love which is ever increasing.

Thank G-d, Charedi Judaism is rising higher and higher. This is so numerically (today it is 8% of the general population, in another fifteen years it will be 15%, and in another 25 years, it will be the majority!). Yet it is also true in the sense of the light shining upon Zion, strengthening the encounter between the hidden holiness of Israel and the hidden holiness of the Land.

We must realize that what binds us together is greater than what separates us. We must fortify ourselves with patience. We must maximize the positive and minimize the negative.

We must increase trust and love.

Tazria: Respecting a Shul

From where do we know that one must have respect and awe for a Shul?


From the verse in this week's Parashah: "He should not enter all times into the Holy" (Vayikra 16:2).  One may enter only when he is full of awe of Hashem within his soul.


This is why Nadav and Avihu were punished!  It is true that they entered the Mishkan and we are discussing a Shul, but a Shul is called "Mikdash Me'at" – a minituare Temple.  In our times, to our great distress, we do not have the Temple, so the Shul is Hashem's Temple.


It is permissible to jump, laugh and fool around (a little), but not in Shul.  This is a holy place.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #248

Contemporary Authorities and Smoking

Q: Why don't the great Rabbis of our generation clearly and loudly forbid smoking?

A: Many do (Shut Tzitz Eliezer 17:21.  Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul in Or Le-Tzion – Chochmah U-Musar p. 221.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Shulchan Shlomo on Refiah Vol. 2 p. 222.  Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in Shut Vayishma Moshe Vol. 1 p. 436.  Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski in She'eilat Rav Vol. 1 p. 92.  Ha-Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman in Yated Ne'eman and Ha-Modia – 12 Adar Alef 5660.  Ha-Rav Moshe Sternbuch in Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 4:115.  Ha-Rav Nisim Karelitz in a letter at the beginning of the book Sefer Chaim Lelo Ishun.  Ha-Rav Asher Weiss in a class on Parashat Ki Tzetzei 5767).


Tzedakah Box

Q: Is it permissible to take money which was put in one Tzedakah box and move it to another?

A: No.  The first Tzedakah organization already acquired it since the box belongs to them.  Shut Da'at #135.


Mazal Tov after Breaking the Glass at a Wedding

Q: Why do people yell out "Mazal Tov" after the breaking the glass under the Chupah?

A: This is a mistake, since breaking the glass is a remembrance of the destruction of the Temple.  And the Sdei Chemed complained about this "practice" (Asifat Dinim Ma'arechet 7 Ot #12).  After breaking the plate at the Tanaim, however, some explain that we do say "Mazal Tov", since the engagement is completed.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Even Ha-Ezer 50:26.  And perhaps the same is true under the Chuppah (Many now have the practice to break the glass in the middle of the wedding on account of this issue so that people will not yell out "Mazal Tov").


Army Discount

Q: As a soldier, I receive a 30% discount in some stores.  Can I buy something for a friend with the discount?

A: You have to ask the army.



Q: What does the Torah say about space aliens?

A: The Prophets did not say whether or not there are aliens.  We must remember that the Torah is not a science book. The Torah does not come to tell us if there is life on other planets, but rather how to have a pure soul and to be a holy and righteous person on this planet (Maharal in Netivot Olam – Netiv Ha-Torah, Netiv 14).  From a scientific perspective, by the way, there is no proof of aliens (The Satmar Rebbe – Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum – exerted with total certitude that there was no life on the moon.  If there was life on the moon, he reasoned, the Ponevizher Rav – Ha-Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, who was a most successful fundraiser for his yeshiva in Bnei Brak, would have gone there collecting!  Builders, by Chanoch Teller, p. 352).


Name from Before the Time of Avraham

Q: Is it permissible to call a baby by the name of someone who lived before Avraham, Avinu such as Adam, Chava, Noach, Shem, Ever?  I saw that the Mabit (1:276) wrote that it is not proper to do so.

A: The halachic authorities discussed this issue and ruled that it is permissible.  There were a few great Rabbis who had such names.  For example, Rabbi Binyamin bar Yefet (Berachot 33a), Akavya ben Mehalalel (Mishnah Eduyot 5:6.  Pirkei Avot 3:1) and the teacher of the Baal Shem Tov: Adam (Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:605).

Ode of Praise to Charedi Jewry

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


A lot of hostile verbiage has been uttered recently against the Charedim.  We therefore must, in honor of Purim, fulfill Esther’s call for unity: “Go gather up all the Jews” (Esther 4:16).

We must remember that we are brothers. We must remember that what we have in common is infinitely greater than that which separates us. We must remember that all the different hues within our Nation are nevertheless parts of the Nation, and that every hue needn’t occupy itself with criticizing others, but rather with examining itself. My point is not to teach the Charedim what they should be doing. That we leave to their Rabbis. My point is for us to clarify for ourselves, what we, the Jewish Nation, must learn from them. Be it a little or a lot, we mustn’t learn what they lack, but rather, what virtues that they possess, and these are they:

1. Faithfulness to the word of G-d: “Hear the word of Hashem, you who tremble at His word” (Yeshayahu 66:5). Once we were all Charedim, the entire Nation. Yet the Reformers changed things and said that one should adapt the Mitzvot to the spirit of the times. The Chatam Sofer proclaimed, “Everything new is forbidden by the Torah” (Shut Chatam Sofer Vol. 1 Orach Chaim 28, 148, 181. Vol. 2 Yoreh Deah 19). As a safeguard against inroads by the Reformers, the Charedim came and built a high wall to stop the changes.

2. Belief. Absolute, steadfast belief in the Written Torah’s being from heaven, and in the Oral Torah’s being from heaven.

3. Fear of G-d. The ideal for every person is to be a Torah scholar, and the duty of every person is to keep the light Mitzvot just as steadfastly as the weighty Mitzvot, and to set fixed times for Torah study.

4. Torah study surpassing all else. One must devote all his energies to Torah learning, even if one lives in penury.

5. Pristine Jewish Education. Pristine, pure education for one’s children in preschool, in elementary school, in yeshiva high school, in post-high-school yeshiva. There should be as much Torah learning as possible, along with the teaching of good character, the fear of G-d and the importance of keeping the light Mitzvot as steadfastly as the weighty ones. Such is the ideal: to be a Yeshiva person, learned, with sterling character.

And the girls should be provided with the appropriate parallel education, even at the cost of living in poverty.

6. Respect for Torah scholars. Respect, as well as reverence, and love. And above all, obedience before the great Torah luminaries of the generation.

7. Caution. Internet only with the strictest safeguards against corruption, and, if possible, not at all. And the same applies as far as the cell phone. Rejection of social events that are not entirely appropriate. Study of a profession in appropriate institutions. Charedi dress that preserves one from evil influences. By the way, Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, dressed this way as well, as did many other Zionist Rabbis.

8. Modesty. Modesty in female garb. Modesty in male garb. Each distancing themselves from the other, in accordance with Jewish law. Separate-gender education for children. Avoidance by women of prominent positions in society. Avoidance by couples of public displays of affection.

9. Free-loans. Many free-loan societies. 46 percent of Charedim volunteer many hours of their time with free-loan societies. This also provides an internal insurance for poor families.

10. Healthy families. A very high marriage rate. A very low divorce rate. Families blessed with many children.

Parashat Shemini: Fulfilling Mitzvot when it is Difficult

From where do we learn that it is occasionally difficult to fulfill Mitzvot?  From the Mitzvah of Brit Milah, in which we circumsize an eight-day-old newborn and he cries.

If Hashem wanted us to have a Brit Milah, why didn't he create an easier way without pain?  For example, we could have been born already circumsized, or the cutting could be painless like cutting fingernails or getting a haircut.

The reason is to teach us from the youngest age that fulfilling Mitzvot is occasionally difficult, but it is worth it!

But it is important not to overemphasize the difficult aspect.  After a Brit Milah, the baby calms down after a short time.  A French author wrote many years ago that a Christian baby cries for a lot longer after being sprinkled with cold water during a Baptism.  Furthermore, a baby suffers a lot more when he gets soap in his eyes in the bath, and yet we don't stop giving him baths.

We must therefore understand that fulfilling Mitzvot is occasionally difficult.  We must gird ourselves with strength and courage since we will come to understand that it is worthwhile! 

Rav Mutzafi Apologizes for Insulting Rav

Purim which falls on Motzei Shabbat

Question: What are the special Halachot for when Purim falls on Motzei Shabbat?



1. Bringing the Megillah to Shul on Shabbat: We do not read the Megillah when Purim falls on Shabbat (though nowadays only Shushan Purim can fall on Shabbat). This was decreed in order to prevent people from carrying the Megillah into a public domain (which is forbidden on Shabbat). There are later authorities who forbid carrying the Megillah on Shabbat even within a private domain on account of it being Muktzeh (something that may not be moved on Shabbat), but most authorities disagree and permit it (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 688 and Mishnah Berurah #18). There is, however, a problem with bringing the Megillah to Shul on Shabbat when Purim falls on the next day because of the prohibition of preparing on Shabbat for a weekday. If one does bring the Megillah to Shul on Shabbat, it should be brought inconspicuously, and one should be sure to learn something from it at Shul on Shabbat itself (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:17.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chaim 693:3).

And it is permissible on Shabbat to prepare for reading the Megillah.  It is not considered preparing on Shabbat for a weekday, since it is learning Torah (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata Chapter 28 note #169). 


2. Children Dressing in Purim Costumes on Shabbat: Children may dress up in a costume on Shabbat before they come to Shul, since they will have enjoyment from the costume on Shabbat itself. It is therefore not considered as if one were preparing on Shabbat for a weekday. This is obviously on the condition that there is no part of the costume which is Muktzeh, and it does not involve painting, [forbidden] tying, and other similarly forbidden things.  Adults, however, may not wear costumes on Shabbat, since many authorities rule that it is preparing on Shabbat for a weekday (Shalmei Todah - Purim of Rav Pelman #42.  Kaf Ha-Chaim 529:3, 551:93).  And it is also not honoring Shabbat.


3. Noisemakers on Shabbat: Noisemakers are definitely forbidden on account of Muktzeh. And even if they are not Muktzeh, one may not bring them because of preparing on Shabbat for a weekday, since one cannot rely on the solution of using them on Shabbat itself, as making noise from any type of instrument, object, etc. on Shabbat is forbidden (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:87).


Summary: It is permissible to bring a Megillah to Shul while it is still daytime on Shabbat, provided that one learns something from it. It is permissible for children to dress up in a costume while it is still day time, but it is forbidden to bring noisemakers.

Making Noise at the Mention of Haman’s Name

[Shut She'eilat Shlomo]


Question: Since making excessive noise at the mention of Haman disturbs many people, is it Halachically permissible to abolish it?



1. The Rama wrote: "...The custom that we strike [something at the mention of] Haman when we read the Megilah in Shul has spread, and one should not abolish any custom or mock it since it was not established for naught" (Orach Chaim 690:17). It is therefore forbidden to abolish this custom of Israel.


2. The Mishnah Berurah wrote, however, that a custom which has a prohibited aspect to it may be abolished (Biur Halachah ibid.).


3. The basic nature of this custom does not contain any prohibited aspect, and great Rabbis of Israel customarily performed it: "And Ha-Gaon Yavetz (Rav Yaakov Emden) wrote regarding his father, the Chacham Tzvi, that he would hit, stamp his foot and strike his sandal when he arrived at the mention of Haman (Mishnah Berurah #59).  According to the Shevet Musar, we also make noise when Haman's wife and sons are mentioned.  But in general, one should only make noise for Haman (Piskei Teshuvot 690:9). 


4. Throughout the generations, however, many mishaps were caused on account of this custom:

a. People did not hear the reading of the Megilah. This means that the actual Mitzvah (and the reason we are in Shul) was not fulfilled on account of a custom that is not even observed in all places (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).

b. People have behaved contrary to the Mitzvah of revering the Sanctuary. One should behave with seriousness and reverence in a Shul, and not with joking and levity, since the One who rests His Divine Presence is located within in it.

c. Damage has been caused to objects in the Shul.

d. Distress has been caused to fellow Jews.

e. Children have been taught the opposite of what is required: children must learn that the focus of being in Shul on Purim is listening to the Megilah and not striking something at the mention of Haman.


5. There were therefore some communities that decided to abolish making noise at the mention of Haman, and they publicly informed the entire city not to strike objects at the mention of Haman (Yafeh Lalev #690). And there was a time when the Sefardic Beit Din in Yerushalayim also held in this way, as did the Rabbis of Kushta (Kol Sinai, Halichot Olam pg. 41).


6. There are those who say that if our Rabbi, the Rama, knew where matters would lead, he would not have stated that one should not abolish this custom. The authorities wrote however that if a custom has changed from what it had been at the time of the Rishonim, it is permissible to abolish it (Be’er Heteiv ibid. #15). And the Mishnah Berurah also wrote of those who perform this custom: "their reward is canceled by their loss" (690:59).  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach did not make any noise at Haman's name, not even by stamping his feet (Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol, Vol. 1 p. 246).


7. Nevertheless, if the proceedings are proper and correct – meaning that people hit objects only in a manner that is appropriate for the holiness of a Shul, and do not disturb the hearing of the Megilah while doing so, etc. - we should not abolish this custom.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #247

Leftovers in Store

Q: I work in a store and the owner sometimes asks me to throw items into the garbage.  Is it permissible for me to take them for myself?

A: Yes.  They are abandoned.


Leftovers at Wedding

Q: Is it permissible to take food home from a wedding?

A: No.  It belongs either to the person who is paying for the wedding or the caterer.  When we eat there we do not eat our own food but the food of the person paying for the wedding.


Important Books

Q: Ha-Rav has said many times that it is important to learn Mesilat Yesharim, but at other times recommends Chumash with Rashi and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.  Which should I learn?

A: All are extremely important, each in his own area.


Blessings over Torah Learning for a Woman

Q: Is a woman obligated to recite the blessings over Torah learning?

A: Yes.  A woman is also connected to Torah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 47:14.  See Shut Orach Mishpat Siman 11 #2.  Ha-Griz on the Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 11:16 at the end.  Piskei Teshuvot 47:18). 


Writings of Maran Ha-Rav Kook

Q: Why haven't all of Maran Ha-Rav Kook's writings been published?

A: Since they must undergo editing in order to prevent confusion and error.  Otherwise, learning them is similar to someone walking on a flat roof without a railing.  At the same time, we must understand that almost all of Rav Kook's thought is found in his published works.


Burning Chidushim

Q: There are stories that great Rabbis, out of their humility, threw their Chidushim (innovation Torah ideas) into their fire.  Is this permissible? [This is told about the Tosafot Yom Tov, the Kotzker Rebbe and the Chidushei Ha-Rim]

A: This is an expression meaning that they hid them away (And to this question, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanienski answered: "Do not rely on stories".  The booklet "Derech Torah" pp. 108-109). 



Q: As a Yeshiva student, should I be strict in any area where the Shulchan Aruch brings a stricture?

A: Ask your Rosh Yeshiva.


Torah Learning and Teshuvah

Q: Is it true that one should do Teshuvah before learning Torah?

A: Yes, so that the learning will be with purity and fear of Hashem.  Even Shlomo.  Nefesh Ha-Chaim.  Orot Ha-Teshuvah.  And it is told that the book Ketzot Ha-Choshen was accepted by the entire world because the author learning with great fear of Hashem, and he would enter a special room before learning and repent with immense crying.  Piskei Teshuvah #155 note #34.


Torah Learning for the Ascension of a Deceased Person

Q: Does it benefit the deceased if one says before a regularly-scheduled class that the learning is "Le-Ilui Nishmat…"?

A: No.  Only if they add extra learning after mentioning the deceased (Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said the same.  Derech Sichah Vol.1 p. 484).

Praying for Yeshiva Students being drafted into Tzahal

See here for mention of Rav Aviner's position on

Praying for Yeshiva Students being drafted into Tzahal

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #246


Q: Is it permissible to call a child "Avram"?  After all, the Gemara in Berachot (13a) says: "Bar Kapara teaches: Anyone who calls Avraham 'Avram' transgresses a positive Mitzvah.  Rabbi Eliezer says: He transgresses a negative Mitzvah", and this is brought in Magen Avraham (156:2).

A: There is no explicit prohibition, but it is improper to do so (And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski answered that the Gemara in Gittin 50a quotes "Avram Choza'ah", and that which the Gemara says that "Anyone who calls Avraham 'Avram' transgresses a positive Mitzvah" – only applies to Avraham Avinu.  Derech Sichah Vol. 1 p. 32.  And see Shut Minchat Yitzchak 4:30).


Tzedakah Organizations

Q: I heard that there are many Tzedakah organizations in which much of the money goes into the pockets of the administrators.  How can I know which organization is trustworthy?

A: You should request oral certification from a Rabbi, Rebbitzin or social worker. 


Emunah of Women

Q: Is there a difference between men and women regarding Emunah?

A: No.


Soldier Davening during Guard Duty

Q: If I Daven during guard duty and an officer asks me how it's going, is it permissible to interrupt my Davening to answer him?  If I do not answer he will discover I am Davening. 

A: It is forbidden to Daven during guard duty without explicit permission.  If it is not possible to Daven before or after guard duty then you are exempt: one who is involved with one Mitzvah is exempt from performing another Mitzvah.  Sukkah 26a.  With all halachic questions, one should call the 24-hour-a-day phone line of the military Rabbinate 052-9414414.


Mourner at a Wedding

Q: My Rabbi in Yeshiva is supposed to be the Mesader Kiddushin at my wedding in a month, but he is a mourner.  Is it permissible for him?

A: Yes.  But I don't understand why you don't ask him directly.


Comforting Mouners

Q: I heard that it is forbidden to say to a mourner: "What can we do".  Why?

A: It imples that if it were possible to do something, we would, and it is impossible to do something against a decree of Hashem.  Baba Kamma 38a.  The Meharshal says, however, that this is only if one makes such a statement complaining against Hashem as if – G-d Forbid – He did an injustice.  But if it is said to ease the mourner's pain, the halachah is that it is permissible (Yam Shel Shlomo #10).


Weekly Parashah and Current Events

Q: Is there really a conection between the weekly Parashah and current events or do Rabbis just give creative give Divrei Torah?

A: There is a connection.  Magen Avraham, Chapter #580 (and so too the Tosafot on Megillah 31b).


Elderly Dog

Q: We have an elderly dog who suffers a great deal.  Is it permissible to put her to sleep?

A: Yes.  It is proper.  "His mercies are on all His works" (Tehillim 145:9.  And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein would stand during Pesuki De-Zimra, recite it outloud, and passionately say: "Hashem is good to all, His mercies are on all His works".  Meged Givot Olam p. 72).    

Completing One’s Purpose on This Earth?

Question: Why pray for the sick? Surely, the moment G-d decides that that person has completed his purpose, he will die anyway!

Answer: This is a question embedded with an assumption: that when a person completes his purpose he dies.  There is no source for that idea.

One time at an Israel Independence Day or Jerusalem Day celebration at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, they celebrated Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s eightieth birthday. Everyone praised him and all that he had accomplished during his life.

Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Zevin rose to speak, and said, “I do not agree with all of these accolades.” He then told how one time some people had approached Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe, with a sick child. The people described to the Rabbi how righteous, sweet and wonderful the child was, and, enumerating all his virtues, asked the Rabbi to pray for him. The Kotzker Rebbe replied, “He’s not so special.” The visitors were puzzled. Instead of arousing merit, the Rabbi had spoken negatively. All the same, the child was cured.

The Kotzker Rebbe explained that the Talmud states that Rabbi Tarfon’s mother came

to the house of study and asked, “Pray for my son, who is a great Tzadik.” They asked her, “How is he a great Tzadik?” and she replied, “One time I lost a shoe and he put his hand under my feet for me to walk all the way.” They then said, “That’s nothing. Even if he did a hundred times that, he wouldn’t reach half the Mitzvah of honoring one's parents” (Kiddushin 31b). The Kotzker Rebbe asked, “Why did the Rabbis so belittle Rabbi Tarfon’s greatness?”  He answered, “What Rabbi Tarfon did was on a very high level, meaning that perhaps he completed his purpose on earth, and his time had arrived to leave. The Rabbis therefore minimized his virtues, saying, ‘Rabbi Tarfon really did do something great, but it wasn’t perfect.’” And that is what the Kotzker Rebbe meant regarding the child.

Ha-Rav Zevin thus concluded, “Rav Tzvi Yehuda hasn’t done a thing.” Rabbenu Ha- Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook smiled. Rav Zevin then added, “He’s still got a great deal to

do,” and that’s how it was.

Yet this story has no source. True, the Kotzker Rebbe was himself a source, but the story had no source in the Torah, the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Rishonim or the Achronim. It doesn’t say anywhere that when a person completes his purpose, he dies.

The fact is that there are evildoers who die, and they certainly have not completed their purpose, for it cannot be said that their purpose was to be evildoers.

Rather, a person dies when G-d decides that he is going to die, whether or not he completed his purpose.  From this we derive that a person must strive to do as much as he can, for when his time arrives, he will pass away. As the Talmud States: “When Rabbi Yochanan would complete the Book of Iyov, he would say as follows: ‘It is man’s fate to die, and an animal’s fate to be slaughtered. Everyone is fated for death.  Fortunate is he who becomes great in Torah and toils in Torah and brings contentment to his Maker and earns a good name and leaves this world with a good name. Of him King Shlomo said: ‘A good name is better than fragrant oil, and the day of death [is better] than the day of birth' (Kohelet 7:1)” (Berachot 7a).

And here is what Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook writes in his “Olat Re’eiyah” prayer book, commenting on the end of the Shemoneh Esreh: “Before I was formed, I was unworthy: There was no need of me. I was created the moment there was a need of me. Yet now that I have been created, I am still unworthy, for I have not fulfilled my purpose” (Vol. 2 p. 356).

So we see that a person’s fulfilling or not fulfilling his purpose is a matter of free will.

And if someone thinks that as long as he does not fulfill his purpose, he will not die, and he will live on forever he is obviously mistaken. We see that it doesn’t work that way. People die when they need to die, according to a divine decision, whether they are righteous or evil.

One might ask: Isn’t there a proof from the Midrashim about Moshe and Yehoshua that when a person fulfills his purpose he dies? As our Sages said in the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:6): “It says regarding Yehoshua, ‘As I was with Moshe, so shall I be with you’ (Yehoshua 1:5).

Yehoshua should have lived 120 years like Moshe.  Why did he live ten years less? G-d told Moshe (Bamidbar 31:2), ‘Take Israel’s revenge against the Midianites, and then be gathered to your people.’ Although he had been informed of his approaching death, Moshe did not dawdle in fulfilling his task. Rather, he hastened with it, dispatching the forces (31:6). By contrast, when Yehoshua set out to fight the thirty-one Canaanite kings, he said, ‘If I kill them, I will immediately die, as occurred with Moshe.’ What did Yehoshua do? He began delaying the battle, as it says, ‘Yehoshua made war with these kings for many days’ (Yehoshua 11:18). G-d responded, ‘Since you did that, I will shorten your life by ten years.’ And King Shlomo said, ‘Many are the thoughts in a man’s heart, but G-d’s design shall endure’ (Mishlei 19:21)” (See also Em Ha-Banim Semeichah 3:51, where this Midrash is quoted).

Yet what occurred there was quite out of the ordinary. One cannot create a prototype from every example or pair of examples. Were this a general rule, our Sages would have told us so.

The question thus remains, but has to be worded differently: “Why pray for a sick person? After all, G-d has decided that in any case he is going to die. As we say during the Days of Awe – ‘Who shall live and who shall die’.”

Indeed the Talmud states (Yevamot 50a) that G-d decides how long each person will live. There is a dispute between the Sages of the Mishnah. According to one view, if someone has merit, his life is lengthened. If he has sins, his life is shortened. According to a second view, if someone has merit, his life span is completed. If he has sins, his life is shortened. In other words, according to the first view, his life is not entirely budgeted. Merits can lengthen his life and sins can shorten it. According to the second view, one cannot add to the years that G-d has assigned a person, but sins can reduce them. If time has been taken off due to sins, merit can restore that time, but merit cannot add to what was originally budgeted.

The Tosafists ask: The Talmud (Moed Kattan 28a) states, “Progeny, life span and sustenance do not depend on merit but on mazal [good fortune].” Does that not contradict the preceding? Yet they answer that the Mishna in Yevamot is talking about very great merit, enormous merit.

And some ask: Does prayer add merit? Moreover, how can the prayers of one person add merit to a second?

That is the principle of the unity of souls. Souls are connected. Some souls are connected more, and some less. The Jewish People, family, friends. If someone increases his own merit, that adds merit to the entire human race, so prayer really does add merit.

If someone increases his merit, does that necessarily mean he will live longer than G-d decreed that he would? Sefer HaIkarim (4, 8-9) has a relevant comment: G-d can make one of three decisions: 1) He can decide you will find a treasure even if you make no effort to find it. 2) He can decide you will find a treasure on condition that you make an effort to find it.  3) He can decide you will find a treasure if you make an effort, and that treasure will be commensurate with your efforts.

Sometimes G-d decides that a person will die, regardless of what he does. Nothing will help him. Sometimes G-d decides that the person will live, regardless of what he does, even if he is a terrible sinner. Sometimes G-d decides that it depends, and if he prays, or others pray for him, he will live. It’s impossible to know what G-d will decide.

The fixed life span that G-d decides on can be influenced by various factors such as great merit, as well as other factors that we are unfamiliar with. We do not know if our prayers will help as far as receiving what we ask for, but we pray. Prayer is never in vain, and never returns empty. It may be that one’s prayers will bring a different blessing, or that they will help the petitioner in the World-to-Come. We do not dictate to G-d what to do. We just pray humbly and beseechingly, and G-d does His will.