Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #256

"Bibi" Netanyahu

Q: Is it permissible to refer to the Prime Minister by the nickname "Bibi", or does this infringe upon the honor of the ruling authority?


Tzitzit during a Ball Game

Q: Is it permissible to remove one's Talit Katan during a ball game when there is a fear that they will rip?

A: No.  Tuck them inside your pants (And this is also the ruling in Shut Az Nedberu 2:55).


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 halakhic 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).


Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov

Q: Should one refrain from naming his children: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov and Moshe as is mentioned in the last testament of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Chasid (Azharot Nosafot #2)?

A: Some authorities hold that this testament is only for his children.  Nonetheless, the custom in this case is to permit it (and this is also the ruling in Shut Minchat Yitzchak 9:137).


Pre-Torah Writings

Q: Ancient writings, which precede the Torah, had been found with stories and laws similar to the Tanach.  If so, is the Tanach copied from them?

A: The existence of these is known.  1. There were prophets which preceded the giving of the Torah.  2. There are certain ideas which are relevant to the universal human spirit.  3. The Master of the Universe included proper and Kosher ideas within the Tanach.  Sefer Eder Ha-Yakar of Maran Ha-Rav Kook.


E-mail on Shabbat

Q: Can I read an e-mail after Shabbat that was sent on Shabbat?

A: After the fact, it is permissible to benefit from it.  Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 318:1.


Buying before Birth

Q: Is there a problem with buying clothing and furniture for a baby before the birth, or is there a problem of the evil eye?

A: There are some who refrain from doing so, but there is absolutely no halachic prohibition.  On the contrary, it is a sign of trust in Hashem (Ner Ne-Ishon Laila p. 123.  Unlike what Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said: The world is particular [not to do so] because of the evil eye.  She'eilat Rav vol. 2 p. 58).


Forgot to Count Sefirat Ha-Omer

Q: If someone forgot to count Sefirat Ha-Omer for an entire day and is extremely sad and embarrassed, can he continue to count with a blessing?

A: No.  There is an opinion which permits it, but it is a lone view.  Shaarim Metzuyanim Ba-Halachah (120:7).

In the End, the Two Worlds (Charedim and National Religious) Will Be One

Question: What is the difference in worldview between the Charedim and the National Religious that results in their differing halachic rulings regarding the Mitzvot of settling the Land, having a country, an Army, etc.?

Answer: the Torah forbids us to eat from the new grain before the waving of the Omer on Pesach (Vayikra 23:15). As the Talmud states in Kiddushin 38b: "Chadash [new grain from the new crop] is prohibited by the Torah."  The Chatam Sofer used this dictum as a metaphor to express his opposition to changes and to modernism within traditional Judaism (Shut Chatam Sofer 1:28,148, 181, etc.).  Amongst the Charedim, “Chadash is prohibited by the Torah” has become the defining principle of their approach.

For example, what was "innovative" about Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was that he never innovated anything: not in approaches to Torah learning and not in his halachic rulings. He had absolute loyalty to tradition. He received the word of Hashem, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Avot 1:1), and he passed it on to the next generation in the same format, "handing it down to Yeshoshua" (ibid.), and so forth.

Due to present and former attacks against traditional Judaism from all directions, the Charedi world is by nature conservative, in order to avoid gradual spiritual erosion, as it says "Strip her to her very foundations!" (Tehillim 137:7). That is why they opposed collaborating with the Zionists regarding the establishment of the State and army service. “Chadash is prohibited by the Torah.”

The Yeshiva World focuses on one thing: Torah learning. Following the terrible destruction of European Torah world, today's Charedim are making a monumental effort to build the world of Torah anew. To whatever extent they do collaborate with the State, it is for the purpose of advancing that goal.

Thanks to this outlook, the Charedi Torah world is flourishing more successfully than it has throughout the Exile.

Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook likewise explains that we relate with suspicion to anything new.  To make what is new permissible, the way the Pesach Omer makes new grain permissible outside the Temple, and the way the Shavuot wheat offering makes it permissible in the Temple we need content. The content that makes the new permissible is the old, the light “in which G-d enveloped Himself, causing His majestic luster to shine from one end of the world to the other” (Bereshit Rabbah 3:4). This ancient light, stored away in the soul of Israel, will cause a new light to shine for us, a light that will illuminate Zion (Ma’amarei Ha-Re’eiyah, p. 182). In other words, there are some things that were forgotten over the course of the Exile, and “having once been forgotten, they are now being institutionalized once more” (Shabbat 104a and elsewhere). When we are forced to innovate, we do so using old content, as Rashi says, quoting our Sages on Devarim 11:13: “If you heed the old teachings, you will likewise heed the new teachings.” In order for the new to be viable, it must be attached to the old, and this is accomplished through in depth study (see Ikvei Ha-Tzon, p. 107).

An example: Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren, who established the laws of the army, delved into the old teachings in order to create a Jewish army in keeping with Torah laws that had been temporarily eclipsed. Those foundations were hidden away, and Rav Goren reestablished them. Rav Kook likewise said, “The old shall be renewed and the new shall be sanctified” (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah Vol. 1, p. 214).

At the Giving of the Torah, the Jews said, “Everything G-d has spoken we shall do and obey” (Shemot 24:7), i.e. through Torah learning we will also rebuild the Land of Israel, the Jewish State and the Jewish army. The old renders the new permissible.

Thanks to this outlook, the National Religious Torah world is burgeoning, returning to its roots from before the Exile.

The controversy is about the means, not the goal. There is no essential difference between the Charedim and the National Religious regarding the goal. Everyone wants the entire Jewish People to settle in Eretz Yisrael. Everyone wants there to be a Jewish State and a Jewish army. Everyone wants that State to be holy, and everyone wants the nation that dwells in Zion to be holy. There is no argument over these points. The difference is only over the pathway there, the means to achieving the ends. Should we first move to Israel or should we first repent in the Diaspora and only then move to Israel? Should we collaborate with the Jewish State or not? Should we presently serve in the army, or not?

The argument is an internal argument, within the family, like the arguments between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon and between Rashi and Tosafot. There is an argument between us and them, but we share the same goal. The Charedim bring proofs from the Torah to back up their approach and we argue that those proofs are incorrect, and vice versa. The two worlds are headed in the same direction: that of the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law. There are not two codes of Jewish law, one for the Charedim and one for the National Religious. Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook put it this way: "This argument is within the camp. The spiritual camp consists of the G-d fearing. 'I am a companion to all who fear You' (Tehillim 119:63)."

It should be noted that the Charedi halachic authorities are by now likewise engaged in dealing with the laws affecting settling the Land, building a state and an army, for they, too, consciously or not, are part of the Nation’s rebirth in its Land.

With G-d’s help, the two worlds will ultimately become one.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #255

Dwelling in Jerusalem

Q: Why did you establish a Yeshiva in the so-called Muslim Quarter?

A: It is a Mitzvah to dwell in the entire breadth of our Land, and all the more so in Jerusalem, and all the more so in the heart of Jerusalem.



Q: Hasn't the time come to change the wording of "Nachem" (which we recite on Tisha Be-Av) which describes Jerusalem as the destroyed, shamed and desolate city?

A: Please come and visit our yeshiva "Ateret Yerushalayim" which is located in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the so-called "Muslim Quarter," and you will be convinced on the spot to leave it as is (since on the way you can see that much of the Old City is still in a state of destruction and shame, and is desolate of Jews.  Immediately after the Six-Day War, Rabbenu Ha-Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook was asked whether "Nachem" should be changed. He answered: "Jerusalem is still scorned and desolate, since the essence of Jerusalem is the Beit Ha-Mikdash." Le-Mikdasheikh Tuv, p. 11 #1).


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.


Ascending to the Temple Mount

Q: Why don't we ascend to the Temple Mount?  There are great Rabbis who permit it and other great Rabbis who prohibit it, and these and those are the words of the Living G-d.

A: 1. There are different levels among Torah scholars. Those who forbid it are the greatest Rabbis of our generation 2. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which is the deciding body in national issues, prohibits it.  3. Our Rabbis, Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, forbid it.


Story of the Two Brothers

Q: What is the source of the story of the two brothers, one married and one single, who brought wheat back and forth for each other on the spot that became the Temple Mount?

A: It is of non-Jewish origin.  See The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg.


How the Beit Ha-Mikdash will Appear

Q: Is there a Mitzvah nowadays to build the Temple or will it descend from the Heavens?

A: It is a Mitzvah to build it after appointing a King and eradicating Amalek (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:1-2).


Direction of Davening

Q: If a Shul is not facing Jerusalem, in which direction should we daven?

A: Towards the Torah ark.  But obviously the Rabbi who is there should decide (Be'er Heitev 94:3.  Shut Meishiv Dvar 1:10.  Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:79.  And not like the Magen Avraham ibid. #3 and Yad Eliyahu brought in the Be'er Heitiv ibid).


Davening in the Wrong Direction

Q: After I finished davening Shemoneh Esrei, I realized that I did not daven towards Jerusalem?

A: After the fact, you fulfilled your obligation (Be'er Heitev #94.  Shut Meishiv Davar 1:10.  Shut Teshuvot VeHanhagot 1:79).

Tearing One’s Garment upon seeing the Temple Mount After the Six-Day War

The Halachah rules that one must tear his garment when seeing the place of the Temple in ruins (Moed Katan 26a and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim #561).  In the Beit Yosef when discussing the obligation to rip one’s garment upon seeing the cities of Yehudah and Jerusalem in ruins, Rav Yosef Karo explained that we hold that "in ruins" means "under non-Jewish control."  The Magen Avraham (#1) and Mishnah Berurah (#2) accepted this view.  This means that even if there is a Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel but it is under non-Jewish control, it is still considered "in ruins", and one must tear his garment upon seeing it. Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, explained that the same applies for seeing the place of the Temple in ruins, and just as "in ruins" means "under non-Jewish control" for the cities of Yehudah and Jerusalem, so too does "in ruins" mean "under non-Jewish control" for the Temple Mount.  Therefore after the famous call of "Har Ha-Bayit Be-Yadenu - the Temple Mount is in our hands" during the Six-Day War, he ruled that there is no longer an obligation to tear one’s garment when seeing the Temple Mount, even though the Temple is still destroyed.  Our Rabbi explained that it is possible to claim that since there is no Temple, one must tear his garment.  One must understand, however, what prevents us from fulfilling the Divine Commandment of "Make for me a Temple" (Shemot 25:8).  Our inability to build the Temple is not due to "exile."  The Temple Mount is in our hands and we are in control. But we are prevented from building the Temple because of halachic and political reasons.  These are our reasons, not those of the non-Jews (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Yom Ha-Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, talk for Yom Yerushalayim p. 90 and Tal Chermon - Moadim, p. 218).  Our Rabbi wrote, additionally, that we should also be concerned about ripping our garments when we are not obligated and thus violating "Bal Tashchit" (wanton destruction of items) when the whole prohibition for tearing when seeing the Temple in a destroyed state is a Rabbinic prohibition.


In the book, "Mekor Chaim" (2:95 #1), Ha-Rav Chaim David Halevy - Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo for 25 years - wrote that he agrees with our Rabbi's opinion.  He explained that when a close relative dies, we tear our garments when the "dead is before us."  After the mourning, we observe an annual Yahrtzeit.  Similarly, when our "dead was before us" – the Temple Mount was under non-Jewish control – we had the obligation to tear our garments.  Now that we have control, the dead is no longer before us, and we observe an annual Yahrtzeit: Tisha Be-Av.  Despite his agreement, Rav Halevy concluded that in order to exempt us from this obligation, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel must make this decision.

It is related what our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, did on the day when the Temple Mount was liberated: "On the day of the liberation of Jerusalem, our Rabbi and "The Nazir," Rav David Cohain, were together at the Kotel, and the next day our Rabbi went to him to bring him his book "Le-Netivot Yisrael" volume 1 which was published on that very 28th of Iyar 5727.  Our Rabbi said that while standing facing the Kotel, he did not tear his garment upon his seeing the place of the Temple since "it is only considered in a destroyed state when the non-Jews rule over it" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 561 and Mishnah Berurah #2), and this fundamental principle which was stated regarding the cities of Yehudah also applies to the spot of the Temple.  "The Nazir" responded in agreement and added: "Is it not also true that his honor saw that our Master the Rav was there in his Shabbat clothing and he did not tear?" (He had seen a vision of Maran Rav Kook).  All were astounded and all eyes turned to our Rabbi, who nodded his head approvingly: "Yes, certainly" ("Rabbenu" - On the Life of Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah p. 211).

[Note: In the book "Peninei Halachah" (end of vol. 1 in the second edition), Ha-Rav Eliezer Melamed - Rav of Har Berachah - writes that our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would agree today that one should tear his garment upon seeing the spot of the Temple, after the horrible desecration of Hashem's Name which have occurred there.  When asked about this, Rav Aviner responded: "Baruch Hashem, the Temple Mount is still in our hands, and with Hashem's help it will remain so," i.e. our Rabbi's ruling still stands that we are exempt from tearing our garments upon seeing the spot of the Temple – M.T.]

The Holiness of the Western Wall

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


1. When we speak of the “Kotel”, the Western Wall, we must speak with great reverence.  We must follow the example of Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, who never dared to approach it at all, or of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who prayed there only on special, sacred occasions, at which time he would tremble with reverence, and he would keep on trembling for about two hours after he returned home.

2. All the more so that we don't insult the Western Wall by saying that it is less holy than the Temple Mount. The Kotel, today, is like the Temple was in its time. Presently, the Western Wall is our Temple.

3. The Kotel, besides constituting the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, was also  sanctified through Israel's prayers, self-sacrifice and pristine longing, such that it constitutes the holiest synagogue of the Jewish people.

4. When our Sages said that "the Divine Presence has never left the Western Wall," they were not talking about the wall of the Temple, but about the Kotel, as the Sages of Israel have proven. A strident debate over historical/national issues need not spill over into matters of Jewish law and faith. Rather, it should remain humbly in its place. Otherwise, even the Kotel’s special value will be lost.

5. The Temple Mount was never a place of prayer or a place of various religious ceremonies, and it was forbidden to go there for any other purpose than the Temple worship or building the temple. Maran Ha-Rav Kook saw with his prophetic spirit, as is mentioned in Shut Malki Bakodesh, a great vision of a single synagogue shared by the entire Nation, near the Temple Mount at the Western Wall.

6. Laws regarding the Temple Mount are not within the domain of the rulings of Rabbi X or Rabbi Y, but rather, they belong to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, serving the entire Jewish People.  Moreover, the decision that one should not enter the Temple Mount is not just anybody’s opinion, open to rejection. Rather, it is a final decision of whichever Judge “will be in those times” (Vayikra 17:9).

7. The site of the Temple Mount and of the Temple is not a matter of national conquest, that we need to maintain a presence or a settlement there, the way all other parts of the Land of Israel are.  Rather, as its name clearly states, it is the place and the mountain of the Temple. Its entire essence is the supreme holiness of G-d letting His Divine Presence rest upon us.
8. The Western Wall is the lobby and the Temple is the banquet hall, and there is no way to reach the banquet hall but through the lobby. Millions of lights from the banquet hall shed their light upon it.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #254

Using a Untensil without Immersion in a Mikveh

Q: I am a soldier.  I have a new pot and am unable to immerse it in a Mikveh.  Is it permissible to use it one time without immersion?

A: No.  It is permissible to use disposal utensils without immersion (if they are used more than 3 times, many Poskim require their immersion), but a permanent utensil may not be used even once without immersion.  In a pressing situation, it is permissible to give the pot as a gift to a non-Jew and than borrow it from him (since the utensil of a non-Jew does not require immersion).  Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:16.

Q: And what if there is no non-Jew?

A: Call a military Rabbi, or the 24-hour phone line for soldiers of the Military Rabbinate 052-941-4414.  They will sell the utensil to a non-Jew, or in a pressing situation, they will permit it based on the opinion that it is permissible since it is not the soldier's utensil (Kishrei Milchama of Ha-Rav Ayal Krim 3:58).


Removing Tefillin during Kaddish

Q: Is it permissible to remove Tefillin during Kaddish?

A: No, since one must have proper intention when answering "Amen, Yehei Shemei Rabbah", just as it is forbidden to remove Tefillin during the recitation of a blessing.  Mishnah Berurah 25:56.


Blessing on a Shul's Talit

Q: If I used the Shul's Talit, do I recite a blessing over it?

A: One does not recite a blessing over a borrowed Talit, but a Shul's Talit is meant to be acquired by anyone who is in need of its use.  One should therefore recite a blessing over it.  However, if one wears the Talit to honor the community, i.e. to serve as a Shaliach Tzibur or to receive an Aliyah, then no blessing is recited.  This is the ruling of the latter authorities - Achronim (Halichot Shlomo, chapter 3 #12.  Shut Mishneh Halachot 9:234).



Q: What is the blessing on chocolate?

A: It has been decided: Shehakol (Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein was once asked about the blessing on chocolate, and he responded that people have the long-standing custom to recite Shehakol, and now we must clarify why this is so, since it is impossible for us to say that Klal Yisrael acts improperly.  Reshumei Aharon of Ha-Rav Aharon Felder [who passed away last week], p. 24.  See Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah, p. 101, for a discussion of why the blessing is not "Borei Pri Ha-Eitz").


Tzitzit on the Flag

Q: If someone is wearing the flag of Israel, does he have to put Tzitzit on it?

A: No.  It is not a garment nor is it intended to be a garment.  It is a symbol.  It is therefore exempt.  Biur Halachah, Orach Chaim 10:11.


Kiddush for a Girl

Q: If a girl's parents did not have a Kiddush for her when she was born, will it impede her ability to find a match?

A: No (There was once a Kiddush in shul for a 25 year-old woman, since her parents did not have a Kiddush for her when she was born.  It was said there in the name of Ha-Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievski, the Steipler Gaon, that she would not otherwise find a match.  When this was related to his son, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski, he said: Who made this up?  Wouldn't I have heard this in my house?  My father never said that we should made a Kiddush for the birth of a girl!  Derech Sichah vol. 1 p. 33).


Witness who Smokes

Q: Can a person who smokes serve as a witness at a wedding?  Doesn't he violate the prohibition against safe-guarding one's life?

A: It is permissible if he is unaware of the severity of the prohibition.  Baba Metzia 5b (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 32:4, 34:2.  Shut Maharam Mi-Lublin #15 regarding a widespread prohibition.  Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger #96).

To Execute Vengeance Upon the Nations

Question: Considering recent incidents and in light of what we learn about the Exodus (that the nations of the world, including Pharaoh and Egypt, Arafat and the Palestinians, are emissaries for making G-d’s existence clear to all, and for internalizing the idea of G-dliness on earth in general, and among Israel in particular), then seemingly we have no reason to get angry at their deeds or to demand that the blood of our slain brothers be avenged. It would seem that we should focus instead on ourselves, for, as we said, they are just emissaries. So what purpose would there be in revenge? And what then would be the meaning of a “G-d of vengeance” (Tehillim 94:1)?

Answer: The foundation of the whole Torah is the principle that man has free will (see Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah, Chapter 5). If G-d decreed that certain people would be wicked and then punished them for being so that would be unjust.

Pharaoh’s doing evil to us was of his own free will. “G-d did not decree upon Pharaoh to do evil to Israel.” Quite the contrary, “He sent Moshe to him with a message, saying, ‘Let My people go! Repent!’” (Ibid., 6:3). But Pharaoh did not repent, so he was later punished with the removal of his free will.

Rambam further asks: “Does it not say in advance, ‘They will enslave them and oppress them’ (Bereshit 15:13)? Surely G-d decreed upon the Egyptians to do evil!” Yet Rambam answers, “Every single one of those who caused trouble and misfortune to the Israelites had the option, if he so chose, not to do them harm. G-d did not decree upon a specific person. He only made known to Avraham that his seed was destined to be enslaved in a land not theirs” (Hilchot Teshuvah 6:5). Therefore, the Egyptians were ultimately punished harshly, and some time afterwards, the kingdom of Egypt was entirely annihilated by Babylonia. Babylonia, in turn, fell before Persia and Media, and later Persia and Media's turn arrived, as in the parable of “Chad Gadya.” The time of each wicked kingdom to disappear arrives when its measure is full.

It is the same with the Arabs who live around us and in our midst. Each of them has free choice regarding whether to be a total evildoer, an evildoer by half, by a third, or by a quarter, or to be one of the righteous gentiles. Each of them will have to give an accounting in the celestial tribunal, and will be held accountable here on earth as well.

It is true that the Master of the Universe is also the Master of history, yet we must distinguish between the Prime Cause and intermediaries. G-d was surely the ultimate, prime cause of our suffering in Egypt, but the Egyptians were intermediaries by their own choice, and they were punished for this. Pharaoh’s daughter Bitya chose to save Moses, and she received her reward. Had she not saved him, G-d certainly would have produced someone else who would. Yet it was she who fulfilled the Mitzvah, and she was rewarded. As Mordechai said to Esther, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise to the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house shall perish” (Esther 4:14). This is because G-d orchestrates good things to happen through good people and bad things to happen through bad people. Everyone decides by means of his free will whether to be G-d’s messenger to increase goodness and blessing in the world, or to be an instrument of destruction and ruin. Our Sages recount: “When Turnianus was about to kill Pappos and his brother Lulianus at Lodkia, Turnianus said to them, ‘If you are from the people of Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, let your G-d come and save you from me the way He saved them!’ They responded, ‘Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah were reputable, and Nebuchadnezzar was a fair king, and worthy of having a miracle done through him. But you are an evil king and unworthy of having a miracle done through you. We have incurred a death sentence from Heaven, and if you do not kill us, G-d has many other agents of murder, many other agents of harm, many bears, many leopards, many snakes, many serpents, many scorpions who can come and strike us.’” (Semachot, Chapter 8).

Therefore, when the enemies of Israel rise up to annihilate us, we have to destroy them totally so that others will see and be frightened, and sin no more. G-d truly is a “Man of war” (Shemot 15:3), and “a G-d of vengeance,” and we are commanded to follow in His path and to take revenge against the wicked. During the course of the exile we were powerless. Now, thanks to G-d’s kindness, we have a strong army, and it takes revenge on our behalf against those who seek to annihilate us. This revenge is not a way of venting our aggression. We, after all, are a people of refinement and kindness. It does, however, serve to deter and frighten the evildoers of the earth. It is precisely in this manner that the Torah commanded us to strike back hard at our enemies.

G-d forbid, one must not raise complaints and accusations against the Jewish people.

Quite the contrary, we must come to their defense. In the meantime, we have not yet reached a time when “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Yeshayahu 2:4). There are still wars on earth. Our precious Jewish People sacrifice themselves for the Land, both in the army and by taking part in settlement. We have to remember this great merit of theirs. May it ascend heavenward before the Throne of Glory and bring us blessing.

The following is from the book “Pele Yo’etz”: “In a time of forced apostasy, a woman emerged and said, ‘Master of the Universe! You know full well the nation that You chose. Who is like Your people Israel, who are killed for the sanctification of Your Name.’ When the decree regarding apostasy was later nullified, a preacher revealed that this was due to what the woman had said.”

In the same way, Gideon was chosen to save Israel because he defended them. G-d said to him, “Go with this strength of yours, and save Israel” (Shoftim 6:14; Rashi). Gideon was not a righteous man, let alone the righteous son of a righteous father. Yet because he spoke well of Israel, G-d said, to him, “Go with this strength of yours -- your having spoken well of Israel -- and save Israel” (Zohar, Part 1, 254b. Zohar Chadash 58:22).

Ours is a remarkable, holy, exemplary generation, a generation that sacrifices its life for the sake of the people and the Land, a generation that G-d loves and for whom G- d performs miracles.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #253

Soldier Forced to Write

Q: If a soldier is forced to write on Shabbat in order to protect lives, is it preferable to write with a pen or computer?

A: With a computer, since writing with a pen or pencil is a Torah prohibition, and writing with a computer in such a situation is a Rabbinic prohibition (see Kishrei Milchamah 3:41).


Difficulty in Concentrating during Davening

Q: Despite my best efforts, I can't concentrate during the Shemoneh Esrei.  What should I do?

A: Concentrate at least during the first Blessing – "Avot" and at the conclusion of each blessing.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 98:1.  Mishnah Berurah #1.


Removing Tefillin to use the Restroom

Q: If one removes his Tefillin in order to use the restroom, does he recite another blessing when he puts them on again?

A: Ashkenazim recite a blessing.  There are divergent opinions among Sefardim (Mishnah Berurah 25:47, 8:37.  Biur Halachah 25:12 d.h. Ve-Yesh Omrim.  Ben Ish Chai, Shana Alef, Vayera #13.  Kaf Ha-Chaim 25:78).


Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah

Q: What is unique about Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah?

A: 1. It contains the essentials of Rabbenu's philosophy in a manner comprehensible to all.  2. It is based on the weekly Torah portions.  3. It does not explain individual words and sentences, rather is a meeting with the Master of the Universe.


Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein's Opinion Regarding Smoking

Q: I heard that Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein permits smoking.

A: This is how he ruled when the doctors said that smoking was not dangerous (Reb Moshe's son, Ha-Rav David Feinstein, also said that his father's ruling in Shut Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 2:76, allowing one to act leniently and smoke was based on the presumptions of that time that the overwhelming majority of those who smoked were not in danger.  This is certainly no longer the case.  Kovetz La-Torah Ve-Hora'ah 5772 p. 67). 


Davening in the Wrong Direction

Q: After I finished Davening, I realized that I was not facing Yerushalayim.  Do I have to Daven again?

A: You fulfilled your obligation (Be'er Heitev, Chapter 94.  Shut Meishiv Davar 1:10.  Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 1:79). 


Soldier Washing Uniform on Shabbat

Q: If a soldier's uniform is filthy and unbearable to wear, is it permissible to wash it on Shabbat?

A: A non-Jew may wash it for him.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 276:2.  Mishnah Berurah #25.  And it is considered for the sake of a Mitzvah.



Q: It is permissible today to name one's son Yishmael?  After all, Yishmael, the son of Avraham Avinu, repented (Baba Batra 16a.  Rashi on Bereshit 25:9).

A: It is permissible.  There was Rabbi Yishmael Cohain Gadol and others with that name.

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah's Teachings from the Chafetz Chaim

1.    The Chafetz Chaim said: Fufilling a Mitzvah in the Land of Israel is twenty times greater than fulfilling it outside of the Land (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Vayikra p. 265 and Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1 p. 160, 202).

2.    Ha-Gaon Reb Leib, the son of the Chafetz Chaim, told our Rabbi that when they began to build "Rishon Le-Tzion" his father said to him: "Reb Leib, it has begun," i.e. the beginning of the Redemption (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit pp. 457-458 and Devarim pp. 485-486, Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet p. 98).

3.    "A few years ago, a Torah scholar told me that a few young men wanted to avoid military service in a non-Jewish army and wasting time from learning Torah.  They wanted to physically injure themselves in order to be disqualified from the Polish military.  But the Chafetz Chaim opposed this: 'A person is not permitted to injure himself.  The body is not his.  And why avoid?  Practice in the Army.  The Messiah will arrive soon.  There will be a State.  And when there is a State, there will be a need for an army.  Prepare here.  You have the opportunity to prepare for the army of the State of Israel'" (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Devarim p. 263).

Starts and Stops in Redemption

In light of numerous setbacks in recent times, and the handing over of parts of Eretz Yisrael to the enemy, some people wonder whether ours is really the time of Redemption. Perhaps we were wrong to believe that G-d is now redeeming His Nation.  Heaven forfend!

When the Master of the Universe spoke about Redemption, He never promised that there would be no difficulties along the way.

Moshe was certainly G-d’s emissary in the Redemption from Egypt. When he set out to redeem Israel, he spoke to the Nation and they were enthusiastic. Yet when he went to speak to Pharaoh, that evildoer refused to listen. In fact, Israel’s plight worsened, and the Jews were compelled to gather their own straw. Those moments were exceedingly hard for the people and for Moshe himself.

Ramban in his commentary explains that Moshe surely knew that Redemption did not have to come in an instant, but could come gradually. In fact, some regression was likely, as indeed occurred at the time, followed by improvement.

Ramban quotes our Sages on the verse, “My beloved is like a gazelle” (Shir Ha-Shirim 2:9): “Just as a gazelle comes in and out of view, so does the first redeemer appear to them, then disappear, then reappear” (Ramban, Shemot 5:22.  Shir Ha-Shirim Rabbah 2:22).  The gazelle runs in the mountains, suddenly disappears and then appears once more. Later on as well, it seems to have disappeared, but it has really just moved forward, and it then reappears further along. In the same way, Moshe is the redeemer who brought good tidings and put hope and faith in our hearts. Suddenly he seemed to have disappeared. The situation grew worse, and then it got better.

At the start of the return to Zion, the Arabs perpetrated a terrible pogrom in Chevron. Not only were many righteous Jews brutally murdered, but the community was in despair, saying, “This is not what we thought would happen.” Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote an article “Return to the Stronghold!” saying, “We have to be courageous. In the terrifying event which has now occurred in Chevron, the redeemer seems to have disappeared, but he will be revealed once more” (Ma’amarei Ha-Re'eiyah, page 360).

We must not despair over what is happening. Rather, we must be courageous and persevere. This is not the first time since the start of our national rebirth that we face setbacks, and we have to consider that it will not be the last time either.

It says in Shir Ha-Shirim 2:17: “Be like a gazelle or a young hart upon the mountains of Beter.” What is meant by “the mountains of Beter?” This is a mountain with a cleft [Beter] down the middle. The gazelle passes through the cleft and none can see it. It was to reassure us about those times that G-d forged His covenant with Avraham (Bereshit 15), likewise called “the covenant between the split halves [Betarim].” When we see the gazelle run, all rejoice and are enthusiastic. The true test of whether we yearn for salvation comes when we do not see the gazelle, when it is concealed in the mountain cleft.

In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer we express this yearning. Rav Kook explains that yearning for salvation includes two things:

1. Even when it seems to us as though the Redemption is at a standstill, or actually regressing, we have to continue to believe that the Master of the Universe is moving matters forward, only we do not see it.

2. We have to seize upon all possible means to advance redemption, what Rav Kook called “creative yearning” (Olat Re'eiyah 1:279).

When we face hardships and setbacks, we must not despair, but rather increase our strength and courage. Then, in the end, we will prove capable of the challenge.