Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #271

Yeshivat Ha-Gush

Q: It is correct to say today that we and Yeshivat Ha-Gush are two separate worlds, just as one would say about us and the Charedim?

A: I don't know who "we" is.  All the Zionist Yeshivot are the same, with minimal differences.  And the same with the Charedi world: that which we share is far beyond that which separates us.  It is forbidden to create sub-groups within the Nation "And who is like Your Nation Yisrael, one Nation in the Land" (see Maran Ha-Rav Kook's article "Masa Ha-Machanot" in Maamrei Ha-Re'eiyah).


Nazi Insult

Q: When people are arguing and someone calls the other a Nazi, how should he respond?

A: He should not respond.  By stooping to this level, the name-caller disqualified himself and lost the argument.  This is called "Reductio ad Hitlerum" or "argumentum ad Hitlerum", i.e. where someone compares his opponent's views with those of Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party (see Wikipedia for this expression).


Internet Fast

Q: Is it worthwhile to have a "Ta'anit Dibur" (a fast from speaking)?

A: It is preferable to have an internet fast.



Q: What is the blessing on papaya?

A: Adamah.  Shut Yechaveh Daat (4:52).


Woman Covering Hair during Davening

Q: If a married woman Davens at home on her own, is she obligated to cover her hair?

A: The basic Halachah is that she is not obligated, but in practice, the Minhag is for a married woman to cover her hair when Davening, even if she is alone.  Shut Yabia Omer (Vol. 6 Orach Chaim #15).  Sefer Tefillah Ke-Hilchata (Chap. 7 note #24 in the name of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).


Revelation of Eliyahu

Q: Why did Eliyahu Ha-Navi appear to the Arizal and the Vilna Gaon but not the Rambam?

A: The Rambam had a revelation of Eliyahu through his intellect.


Kashering and Toveling

Q: If one purchases a non-Kosher utensil from a non-Jew, which should be done first – Kashering it or immersing it in a Mikvah?

A: Kashering it.  Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:2 (And see a discussion of this issue in Ha-Rav's commentary on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 37:4).


Woman who is in Doubt about Birkat Ha-Mazon

Q: I am a woman and I am almost certain that I did not recite Birkat Ha-Mazon but I am not 100% sure.  What should I do?

A: There is a huge debate regarding whether a woman who is in doubt about whether she recited Birkat Ha-Mazon should recite it or not.  She therefore should not recite it (Piskei Teshuvot 186:2).  But if you are almost certain that you did not recite it, then you should recite it.


Writing on Fog

Q: It permissible on Shabbat to write on a window which is fogged up?

A: No (And so too Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 16:28).

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #270

Brief Torah Learning

Q: If I have half-a-minute free to learn Torah does it have worth?

A: Certainly.  Every word of Torah a person learns is the fulfillment of a Mitzvah.  Ha-Gra in Shenot Eliyahu on Peah Chapter 1.


Blessing on Chocolate

Q: What is the blessing on chocolate?

A: It would have been proper to recite Eitz, but the custom is to recite Shehakol since it contains various ingredients aside from cocoa, and its form is changed and unrecognizable.  Piskei Teshuvot (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 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, p. 24.  And this was Rav Feinstein's opinion in general.  Someone once told Reb Moshe that the Sanzer Rav, author of Shut Divrei Chaim, ruled that over a potato one recites Shehakol, because the potato does not really grow from the ground, rather it grows from air around the ground.  Reb Moshe said that even if such reasoning was correct, which it is not, didn't the Sanzer Rav know that the custom of the world is already to recite Adamah, and thus it does not make sense to rule otherwise.  See Chullin 136b.  Mesoret Moshe p. 50.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach also ruled that one should recite Eitz on chocolate, but since the world did not accept his ruling, he said that in practice one should recite Shehakol.  See Shut Minchat Shlomo 1:91.  And Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah p. 101, for a discussion of why the blessing is not "Borei Pri Ha-Eitz").


Netilat Yadayim after Donating Blood

Q: After donating blood should one wash Netilat Yadayim as one would after blood-letting?  What about after a blood test?

A: No.  Since these are spiritual matters, we only do what is written in the Halachah and do not add to it.  Halichot Shlomo 20:19.  Some authorities however do say that donating blood is similar to blood-letting, and that it is proper to be strict.  Piskei Teshuvot Vol. 1 p. 58.  But certainly not after a blood test (And this is also the ruling in the Halachic-Medical Encyclopedia of Rav Steinberg Vol. 2 pp. 525-527, Vol. 3 pp. 429-430.  It is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, since the amount of blood extracted when donating blood is equivalent to that in blood-letting while a blood test requires only a minimal amount of blood.  Be-Dama'ich Chayi - collection of Halachot regarding blood donation pp. 51-54).   


Military Discount

Q: I receive a 30% discount from various stores for being a soldier.  Is it permissible to use this discount to buy something for a friend?

A: You should ask the army.


Utensil in Right Hand when Immersing in Mikveh

Q: When immersing utensils in a Mikveh, should one hold the utensil in his right hand?

A: Yes, just as one holds the food or object in his right hand when reciting a blessing over it or for a Mitzvah.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 26:2.  Mishnah Berurah #17-18 (And this is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski in Kuntres Ish Iter #38).


Selling Transgressions

Q: I heard of a case where one person was willing to take on another person's transgressions for $500.  Is there such a thing?

A: Nonsense.  See Sefer Chasidim, edition of Ha-Rav Reuven Margoliyot, p. 591.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #269

Teacher with Bad Odor

Q: What should I do if one of my teachers has bad body odor?

A: Either leave him an anonymous note written politely, or inform the principal.  The same applies to bad breath.


Sister's Clothing

Q: Is it permissible for me to take my sister's clothing, since they were bought with our parent's money?

A: Certainly not.  They belong to her.


Cohain as Combat Soldier in Tzahal

Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain to serve as a combat soldier in Tzahal?

A: Certainly.  In circumstances when there are corpses, he will receive special directives as how to act (And regarding the question as to whether a Cohain serving in Tzahal who kills someone in war can still recite the Birkat Cohanim, see Shut Yechaveh Daat 2:14, where Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef rules that such a Cohain is exactly the right person to bestow a blessing upon us since he killed defending the Nation and Land of Israel.  See also Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:61. This is unlike Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik who held that just as King David was unable to build the Temple on account of his participation in war, so too a Cohain who kills in war is no longer able to recite the Birkat Cohanim. Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 132).


12-Step Program

Q: It is worthwhile to use the 12-Step Program to fix my behavior?

A: Certainly not.  This program is only for someone with an addiction.  It is like a drug which cures but has side effects.  One can therefore not use it except in the case of an addiction which cannot be cured otherwise.


Question to the Wrong Rabbi

Q: I accidently sent a text message question to a different Rabbi and he sent me an answer.  Am I obligated to follow his ruling or can I ask Ha-Rav?

A: If you intended specifically to ask me, the lowly one, it is permissible to re-ask the question.  If you intended to ask a Rabbi in general, you must follow his answer (Similarly, it once happened that a couple had a question about the laws of Family Purity on Shabbat Night.  Since they lived nearby to Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the wife went to his apartment building, but accidentally she went to the floor above Rav Ovadiah, where Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul lived, and he ruled that it was forbidden.  When she returned home, the husband understood that his wife had made a mistake.  He went on his own to Rav Ovadiah, who permitted it, and related that his wife had accidentally asked Rav Ben Tzion Abba who prohibited it.  Rav Ovadiah said: Rebbe Ben Tzion is a Gaon in Halachah, but my opinion in this case is that it is permissible.  Therefore, if you originally intended to ask me, it is permissible, but if you intended to ask any Rabbi, it is forbidden, especially since you asked Chacham Ben Tzion, and I cannot permit what he did not.  Maran by Ha-Rav Michal Shtern pp. 247-248).


Biblical Criticism

Q: How should we relate to Biblical Criticism?

A: It is nonsense which is not worth relating to.  This was explained by Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah (See also Ha-Rav's book "Torat Emet").


Kippah during Military Exercises at Sea

Q: During military exercises at sea is a soldier obligated to wear a Kippah?

A: No.  And it is a pious act to only remove it right before heading out to sea.  Piskei Teshuvot 3:12.

Can there be a Third Destruction?

Question: When the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, stood at the gates of Eretz Yisrael, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog said: there will not be a Third Destruction.  What is the source for this?

Answer: Rabbi Abba said: You have no more clear sign of the end of days than that of the verse: "But you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near" (Yechezkel 36:8).  Rashi explains: “When the Land of Israel yields its fruit bountifully, then the end of days will be near. You have no clearer sign of the end of days than that."  Sanhedrin 98a.  If Chazal says that there is no clearer sign, there is none!  When Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was asked what should be said to the Charedi community, which was unconvinced regarding the Redemption, he said: "We are not Karaites!  We are Talmud-faithful Jews, and the Talmud itself teaches us about the revealed Final Redemption.  It says that there is no more clear sign of the Final Redemption than the Land of Israel’s offering its fruit generously to the ingathering Jews!

Ha-Rav Dr. Yaakov Herzog related about his father, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog: "…his great Emunah was that the Return to Zion in our time is the beginning of the blossoming of the Redemption of Israel.  In the year 1941, when Rommel was at the gates of Eretz Yisrael, and my Father ztz"l was then visiting Washington D.C., President Roosevelt warned him not to return to Eretz Yisrael, because it was about to be conquered by the Germans.  My Father responded that the prophets prophesized regarding two destructions, and not on a Third".  Am Le-Badad Yishkon p. 16.  Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter writes that at the time of the Israeli War of Independence. Ha-Griz Soloveitchik of Brisk wanted to leave Yerushalayim and move to Switzerland.  Rav Herzog came to him and argued that he should not leave Eretz Yisrael, and that there was no need to fear the war since we have an accepted tradition that there will not be a Third Destruction.  The Brisker Rav answered that he has an accepted tradition from his father that when there is shooting one flees.  This seems to mean that although there is a tradition that there will not be another destruction, this principle does not apply to individuals being killed and therefore one must flee.  Ikei Ha-Tzon pp. 115-116 (Rav Herzog's opinion is also brought in Kim'a Kim'a of Ha-Rav Chaim Druckman p. 144 and Ti'um Kavanot of Ha-Rav Chaim Sabato p. 98).

This principle was also cited, however, right before the Six-Day War.  At that time, Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren - who then served as the Chief Rabbi of Tzahal - traveled to Australia to help raise money for the United Jewish Appeal.  With the closing of the Straits of Tiran, he understood that there would be a war and hurried to return to Eretz Yisrael.  The only route home was from Australia to Los Angeles, then to New York, and from there to Israel.  Rav Goren spent Shabbat in Far Rockaway, New York, which is close to the airport, in order to fly out right after Shabbat.  He spoke in the White Shul on Shabbat.  Rav Goren's autobiography "Be-Oz Ve-Ta'atzumot" pp. 264-265.  It is related elsewhere that Rav Goren said that a war with the Arabs was about to begin.  The entire community started to cry and feared a second Holocaust, but Rav Goren said that there was nothing to fear since the Torah promises that there will not be a Third Destruction (Ha-Rav Chaim Jachter in the name of Ha-Rav Shaul Chill, quoted in the parashah sheet "Kol Torah" of the Torah Academy of Bergen County).               

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #268

Another Child

Q: I want another child but my husband does not.  This causes me great distress.

A: You are right.  But this is too complicated for a text message.  Talk to my wife.


Running to Shul

Q: It is a Mitzvah to run to Shul from my house?

A: No.  Only when you are close to the Shul, so it is clear why you are running.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 90:12.  Mishnah Berurah ibid.


Israeli Flag

Q: Is it permissible to throw away a worn Israeli flag or must it be placed in the Geniza?

A: It may be thrown away, but not in a disrespectful manner (In the book Nefesh Ha-Rav pp. 99-100, it is related that one year the Agudat Yisrael Conference was held in a hotel in Yerushalayim and there was an Israeli flag flying on the roof.  Some of the participants, who were opposed to the State of Israel, were unhappy about this, but instead of requesting that the flag be removed they asked if all of the flags of the participants' countries be flown as well.  After this was publicized, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik stated at the Mizrachi Conference that while the Jewish People had flags in the desert, they were temporary and not for all generations.  But the flag of Israel has a different significance.  There is a Minhag in the name of the Rishonim brought in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 366:4: "If a Jew is found murdered, he is to be buried as he was found [i.e. in his bloody clothes] without any shrouds."  The Shach #11 explains that the reason for this Minhag: to kindle Hashem's wrath when He sees how this person was buried without shrouds.  Hashem's compassion will thus be aroused to avenge him.  And the same applies to the Israeli flag.  Towards the end of the War of Independence, the UN set a specific time by which the Jews and Arabs could seize land.  They established that all the territory in the hands of the Jews, as signified by raising the Israeli flag on that spot, would become part of the State of Israel, and all territory in Arab hands, would remain outside the State of Israel.  And this is indeed what occurred.  During this period, much Jewish blood was spilled in order to raise the Israeli flag over as much territory as possible.  Many Jewish fighters were killed, displaying self-sacrifice for the sole purpose of raising the Jewish flag, the flag of Israel.  Therefore, Rav Soloveitchik said, the flag of the State of Israel has the status of a murdered Jew's clothing, a symbol of the spilled blood of the Jews.  As a result, when the flag of Israel flies, it arouses Hashem's compassion for Am Yisrael).


Glue and Knot at End of Tzitzit

Q: Is it permissible to put glue or tie a knot on the end of Tzitzit so they do not unravel?

A: Some authorities permit it and others forbid it.  Piskei Teshuvot 11:14.


Wig and Sofer Stam

Q: Which is preferable – a Sofer Stam with more beautiful script but whose wife wears a wig or a Sofer Stam with less beautiful script whose wife covers her hair with a scarf?

A: The former.  1. The Sofer Stam is the deciding factor and not his wife.  2. Wearing a wig is permissible for both Ashkenazi and Sefardi women (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:442, 3:416.  And there is a story told about a couple who moved from Hungary to America, and the wife wanted to cover her with a wig like others in America instead of shaving her hair and wearing a scarf as had been the custom of her foremothers in Hungary.  The husband, however, did not agree and went to Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein to ask about this issue.  Ha-Rav Feinstein saw that the husband did not have a beard.  He asked: Did your father and grandfather have beards?  He said: Of course, everyone had a beard.  He asked: So why are you clean-shaven?  He said: This is America!  Ha-Rav Feinstein said: If so, there is no problem for your wife to wear a wig.  See also Shut Igrot Moshe Yoreh De'ah 1:81 on wearing modern clothing). 


Large Kippah in Tzahal

Q: The main officer of my base told me that my Kippah is too large.  What should I do?

A: A large Kippah is praiseworthy.  Ask a military Rabbi or call the hotline for soldiers of the Military Rabbinate: 052-941-4414.

Where was Rachel Imenu during Operation Protective Edge?

Question: Why did Rachel Imenu save our soldiers during Operation Cast Lead but did not during Operation Protective Edge?

Answer: A fool will believe anything.   There are two types of extremism: one is to deny miracles, and the other is to believe someone who tells you there was one.  We need to check.  It is possible that the person imagined seeing something or someone.  Sometimes even a sane person imagines things, especially one who is under pressure, tired or hungry.  He thinks he sees something that isn't there, and later fosters it in his memory.   This is called FMS - False Memory Syndrome.  It may have been a non-Jewish woman who was seen and mistaken for Rachel Imenu.  There are also good Arab women.  Or maybe someone dreamed up this idea to strengthen faith, and to say: "You see?   There are people who go to war and there are people who don't go to war but they pray, and Rachel Imenu came to save us on account of their merit."  But we need proof for such matters.  There were soldiers who fell in battle and Rachel was not there.  There were also soldiers who won battles due to their great dedication and wisdom and courageousness to fight, and Rachel was not there.  This means that Rachel was not there in the image of a woman guiding them and telling them go this way or that way, shoot here or shoot there.  But Rachel was certainly there - in both Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Shield - in the sense in which we explained: the inner power which sustains the Nation of Israel and returns us to our Land.