Rav Aviner Calls on Bayit Yehudi to Stop the Giyur Bill

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #274

Attacks against Charedim

Q: How is it that there have been attacks from all sides recently against the Charedim?  It's terrible!

A: There is a whole well-thought out and well-funded campaign to delegitimize the Charedim and the Rabbinate.  But don't worry, the Torah is eternal.


New Book about Ha-Rav Elyashiv

Q: Is it permissible to read books about Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, or is it forbidden since they often contain disparaging remarks against Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren?

A: It is permissible to read them, but you should skip over those sections (Regarding shaming Torah scholars in general, see Ma'amrei Ha-Re'eiyah p. 56).


Netilat Yadayim in the Morning

Q: What is the halachah if I wash Netilat Yadayim in the morning in a kitchen sink full of dishes?

A: You should not do so from the outset.  After the fact, wash all of the dishes three times.  Piskei Teshuvot 4:14.


Wedding in a Shul

Q: Is it permissible to have the Chuppah in a Shul?

A: Sefardim – yes.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 391:3.  Shut Yabia Omer Vol. 3 Even Ha-Ezer #10.  Ashkenazim – no, unless there is no other choice.  Shut Igrot Moshe Even Ha-Ezer 1:93 (Regarding Sefardim, the Sefardic Chief Rabbi, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef, writes that a Torah scholar testified that Ha-Rav Elazar Man Shach was once invited to perform the wedding of one of his students, who was Sefardic.  When he saw that the Chuppah was set up outside, he asked that it be brought back into the wedding hall, in order not to disrespect the Sefardic Minhag, which was not to have the Chuppah outside.  Ain Yitzchak Volume 3, p. 357.  And regarding Ashkenazim, Ha-Rav Moshe Stern, author of Shut Beer Moshe, was once invited to perform a wedding.  He arrived at the wedding and when he saw that it was in a Shul, he refused to perform it.  Many complained against him.  He went to ask the Satmar Rebbe if he acted correctly, and the Satmarer fully concurred.  Shut Beer Moshe 5:167. However, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik once came to a wedding and when he saw that it was in a Shul, he sighed and said that if he had known he would have avoided attending.  He explained that it is not proper to have a Chuppah in a Shul, since the holiness of the Shul is reserved for learning Torah and Davening, and not other activities, even Mitzvot.  Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 257).



Q: Why is the Ramchal famous for his book Mesilat Yesharim and not for all of his other amazing books?

A: The other books are truly amazing, but it is possible that he was essentially sent to this world for Mesilat Yesharim.


Tzitzit during Ball Game

Q: Is it permissible to take off Tzitzit while playing a ball game since the Tzitzit might tear?

A: No.  Rather tuck the Tzitzit in your pants (And so too Shut Az Nedberu 2:55).


Rabbi's Picture

Q: I am a girl.  Is it permissible for me to hang up a picture of a great Rabbi in my room?

A: Yes.

Traveling on the Roads of Yesha [Judea and Samaria]

Question: Is it permissible to travel on the roads of Yesha in our day? I am asking about people who live there, people who work there and people who wish to visit. Doesn’t the Torah say, “Watch yourselves very carefully?” (Devarim 4:15). Sure, it’s a Mitzvah to be in Judea and Samaria, but doesn’t regard for life override Mitzvot?

Answer: This is imprecise. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto writes (Mesilat Yesharim, Ch. 9), that there are psychological factors that diminish our yearning to do Mitzvot, and one of them is the fear of danger. He explains that we mustn’t go too far. Not every fear must prevent our doing a Mitzvah. We must distinguish between justified fear and exaggerated fear, otherwise we are liable to sit in fear day and night doing nothing. Mesilat Yesharim further states: “It says, ‘A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself’ (Mislei 22:3). For example, when he sees a lion along the way, he takes cover. The point of the verse, however, is that one should hide from ‘the evil that one SEES,’ and not from the evil that is possible.”

When it comes to such fears, there is no end to them. They are just our imagination, as Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook explained in his article “Ha-Pachad” [The Fear] from the book “Ikvei Ha-Tzon.” People understand that they are obligated to do something important, but their imagined fears prevent them from doing so.

We must to distinguish between cases of “harm being common” (Pesachim 8b), where we have to be cautious, and cases of “harm not being common,” where we need not be cautious. The Rabbis also said, “Those on their way to do a Mitzvah do not come to harm” (Ibid.). Unless harm is common, these people have nothing to fear. G-d will protect them. The Talmud teaches (Bava Metzia 24:15):  “‘His life depends on it’ (Devarim 24:15): Why is the [fruit picker] willing to climb up a ladder and hang out of a tree and risk his life? Is it not for his livelihood?”

In fruit picking, a laborer is liable to fall out of the tree, but the need to earn a living compels him to do so anyway.  But is one allowed to endanger oneself and violate “Watch yourself very carefully” for the sake of earning a living? The answer is yes, if the danger is uncommon (Rabbi Kook, Mitzvat Re’eiyah 3:17). That is, it is rare for fruit pickers to fall out of a tree, and since what they are doing is for their livelihood, they are allowed to undertake a certain level of risk. (see Shut Noda Bi’Yehudah 2, Yoreh Deah, end of Siman #10). Certainly no one should endanger himself for no reason (see Igrot HaRe’eiyah 3:132). Here, however, it is not for no reason, but to earn a living.

The same applies for the sake of a Mitzvah. Rabbi Tarfon once recited the evening Shema on the road, and followed the stricter approach of Bet Shamai, lying on his side to recite it. Because he lay down in this way, he did not see that bandits were approaching, and they almost killed him. The sages therefore castigated him for not conducting himself like Bet Hillel [who allowed the Shema to be recited even standing] (Mishnah Berachot 1:3). Still, why did he risk this? Surely reciting the Shema is not among the three Mitzvot which must be fulfilled even at the cost of one’s life. The answer is that the risk he faced, that bandits would attack, was not a common one (Pitchei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 157:3).

Another example involves Rabbi Akiva: when he was in prison, he used his drinking water to wash his hands ritually, even though he knew that the chance of obtaining more water was near zero.

In our own case, the danger involved on the roads of Yesha is classed as “uncommon” thanks to the Israeli army. It is certainly much less common than traffic accidents, in which an average of 1.5 people are killed, and fifty are severely injured every day. Even in Yesha itself, more people are hurt in traffic accidents than by terrorists -- may their name be blotted out! Even so, people continue to drive -- taking the necessary precautions of course.

The level of risk permitted for the sake of a Mitzvah is like the level of risk that people take for the sake of earning a living. At the end of the Kuzari, the King of the Khazars asks the scholar: “Why are you going to Eretz Yisrael? Surely the trip there, involving travel over land and by sea, is fraught with danger?” The scholar responds, “It is no different from the merchant who travels far in hope of earning a profit.”

There were once three friends who decided to move to Eretz Yisrael with their families. The local Jewish court, however, wished to detain them out of fear of the dangers involved in travel by sea. Perplexed over what to do, they asked the author of the book “Me’il Tzedakah” his opinion.  He responded that there was no danger. He said, “Don’t ask rabbis who live in-land. Ask rabbis who live by the sea. I live in a port city and every day I see merchants setting out to sea” (Shut Me’il Tzedakah #26, quoted in Pitchei Teshuvah, Even HaEzer 75:6).

Thus, it is permissible to travel the roads of Yesha, for those who live there, those who work there, and those who are just visiting. Obviously, we must follow the instructions of the army.

Until now our discussion has applied to all Mitzvot, such as reciting the Shema and ritual hand washing. Yet the Mitzvah of settling the Land takes priority. In response to the king of the Khazars, the scholar pointed out that traveling to Eretz Yisrael was not dangerous, but he added that even if it were dangerous, still “it is even less of a problem to endanger oneself in order to settle Eretz Yisrael than it is to endanger oneself for the sake of participating in a compulsory war.”

Just as the army endangers itself in compulsory wars defending Eretz Yisrael, so may we undertake a certain degree of risk for the sake of moving to Eretz Yisrael and settling it. This is the only Mitzvah in the whole Torah in which we may knowingly place ourselves at risk. Regarding other Mitzvot it says, “Watch yourselves very carefully.” Once someone has already been caught by non-Jews, and, for example, Christians say to him, “If you do not kiss the cross, we will throw you into the fire", he must give up his life. Yet no one should knowingly get himself entangled in such a situation. Rather, one should flee.

From Eretz Yisrael, however, one does not flee! Quite the contrary, we move there and settle there of our own accord. The Mitzvah of settling the Land is not only fulfilled through participation in a compulsory war, but also by moving to Eretz Yisrael and settling it, including strengthening our hold on main roads. “Whoever walks four cubits in Eretz Yisrael is guaranteed a place in the World-to-Come” (Ketubot 111a). This applies not only to the center of Tel Aviv, but especially to a place where our enemies desire to do us harm. For the sake of this we may place ourselves in a life-threatening situation, not actually on the level of a soldier, but similarly. Obviously, we have to take all the precautions that the army dictates or recommends.

If the army opens a road, that signifies that it is classed as “danger being uncommon.” Obviously, the army cannot maintain 100% security, and even in the heart of Tel Aviv a murderer can strike. Such was the practice throughout the generations that Jews settled the Land, whether danger was common or not common, whether they were religious or irreligious, Zionists or Charedim. If not for self-sacrifice, we would not be here today. On the Northern border as well, Jews live in the shadow of danger.

A Jew once asked the Chazon Ish, who was not a “Zionist” in the accepted sense of the word: “I live on the border. Perhaps I can move further in?” The Chazon Ish replied, “If everyone does that, the inner section will become the border.”

Thus, let us be strong and not fear.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #273

Talit for Sick Person

Q: If a person is sick and does not have the strength to stand, can he put on his Talit while seated?

A: The blessing over the Tzitzit, as with all blessings over Mitzvot, including wrapping oneself in the Talit, should be done while standing.  Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 1.  But after the fact, one fulfills his obligation while seated.  Mishnah Berurah #8.  And for a sick person, it is permissible from the outset.


Treatment by a Female Nurse

 Q: Is it permissible for a man to receive a shot by a female nurse?

A: Yes, just as it is permissible to go to a female doctor.  But it is preferable to go to a male nurse and a male doctor (And once when a male nurse was not found, a female nurse gave a shot to the Chazon Ish.  Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 1, p. 255.  And similarly, Ha-Rav Avigdor Neventzal said that it is permissible to donate blood when a female nurse is taking the blood, but it is obviously preferable to have a male nurse.  Mishnah Berurah with Rav Neventzal's comments "Be-Yitzchak Yikarei" end of Volume 6, p. 5).


Red Baby Stroller

Q: Someone told me that using a red baby stroller will cause my baby to have a bad temper.  Is this true?

A: Stupidity.



Q: Where should one keep the Ketubah?

A: It belongs to the wife.  There are three Minhagim: 1. The wife keeps it.  2. It is kept in the couple's house.  3. It is hung on their wall (see Shut Igrot Moshe 3:26).


Act of Roi Klein ztz"l

Q: I was drafted into Tzahal and I constantly think of Roi Klein ztz"l, who jumped on a hand grenade in order to save his fellow soldiers.  If I am in the same situation, am I obligated to do so too?

A: He was not obligated to do so, but he displayed self-sacrifice, great self-sacrifice, and he is a supreme Tzadik (see Le-Netivot Yisrael Volume 1 p. 157). 


Big Bang Theory

Q: Does the big bang theory contradict the story of Creation?

A: No.  The story of Creation is not literal but a supreme secret.  Mishnah Chagigah Chapter 2.


Nature Reserve

Q: I entered a nature reserve through a broken fence during a time when it was not open.  What should I do?

A: Pay immediately.



Q: Is it worthwhile for me to take an Amulet in order to succeed in Torah learning?

A: One succeeds in Torah learning by toiling in Torah and one does not need an Amulet.  The Chida in the name of Rabbi Chaim Vital, student of the Arizal, warned that one should distance himself from such things.  This is also written in Sefer Chasidim (Chida in Zeroa Yemin Petach Anayim 1:13.  Sefer Chasidim #204-205.  Makor Chesed ibid. and at the end p. 586.  Ner Be-Ishon Laila pp. 286, 289.  And when Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski was asked this question, he responded: "Do not take Amulets".  Segulot Raboteinu p. 286). 


Bubbles in Coffee

Q: Do bubbles in coffee indicate that someone will win money?

A: Nonsense.

Rav Aviner Backs Rav Amar in Jerusalem Rabbinate Race

U.F.O.’s, Aliens and...Technology

Question: Does intelligent life exist on other planets?

Answer: In his letter to the Sages of Montpelier, Rambam writes that there are three available resources for examining any topic: prophecy, rational proofs and empirical evidence. In our case, the Torah and the prophets wrote nothing definitive in either direction. This is not surprising, for the Torah is not a science text but a book guiding us in what is good and what is bad. In order to become aware of reality, we possess scientific intellect, and that too is a divine gift. There is even a blessing for when one sees a scientist. We have nothing against the possibility of additional worlds, as Rabbi Chasdai Crescas mentions at the end of his book “Ohr Hashem,” yet we possess no decisive source in this regard. Neither do the theoretical research sciences offer any definitive proofs. So that leaves empirical evidence.

How remarkable it is, then, that for more than fifty years people have been talking about U.F.O.’s and aliens, and hundreds of thousands of people have testified that they saw them. Even so, their declarations have no scientific worth. Why? For in no museum on earth is there is any U.F.O. or any part of one that would enable a scientist to examine it. This is one of the elements characterizing the scientific approach, that one scientist cannot rely on the declaration of another. Rather, every experiment must be examinable. That is, it must be possible for any scientist on earth to repeat the experiment, and each is entitled to either accept the first scientist’s assumptions or to prove their inaccuracy. Numerous commissions have been established to examine the various testimonies of people, and the phenomena have been explained in various ways, such as saying that the "U.F.O.s" were actually airplanes, missiles, meteorological balloons, kites, jets, helicopters, the moon viewed through fog, secret military devices, astronomical phenomena, comets, the Northern Lights, low flying clouds, automobiles on distant, cloud covered peaks, and so forth.

Science is critical. It does not accept anything without proof, neither does it reject anything out of hand. The matter has been investigated for fifty years, and we have nothing to show for it. All the same, people continue to express interest in this topic, and there continue to be hundreds and thousands of sightings. Likewise, this literary genre remains current and continues to fascinate people.

It is true that there are bizarre phenomena that science has not succeeded in explaining, and that some of the phenomena become explainable by means of the U.F.O.s. All the same, this is not an acceptable approach. There will always be unexplainable phenomena, but here those who believe in U.F.O.s grab a foothold where Science has no answers. They dig into the crack in scientific explanations, expand it into wide depths and introduce all sorts of conjecture into the hole. Yet that conjecture is just as far from being provable as the original phenomenon.

I am therefore puzzled by this stubbornness regarding faith in U.F.O.s. What is at work, however, is a modern myth with a psychological dimension of profound anxiety. I shall explain:

Why, in the imaginings of witnesses and writers, do the aliens come here? With their advanced technologies, what do they have to look for here? The closest star outside of our solar system is 40,000 years' travel in the fastest spaceship. Why should they go to all of this trouble? It must be -- some will explain -- that they are looking for women here in order to renew their species which has reached stagnation. Moreover, the alien is a very intelligent and hedonistic creature, but he lacks emotions. He neither cries nor gets angry. Worse, he has no morality and suffers from no dilemmas or inner turmoil. He is inhuman. Therefore, the alien is sort of a kidnapper, seeking to give new life to his species...

What does all of this nonsense have to do with us?

What we really fear is ourselves, the man of tomorrow, lest he be alien to us, steeped in technology but lacking a human approach to social relations. People are in fear of science and technology. It is true that science and technology, per se, are good things, but they are liable to cause dehumanization and the end of mankind. It will not be man’s fault but such dehumanization will be caused by the deterioration of morality. You cannot talk to a computer.

Sometimes a computer eats an important file and the user pleads: “Please computer! Return the file to me!” But there is no one to talk to. The computer prints “error” and you really feel “Arur,” cursed -- “cursed in your comings and cursed in your goings” (Devarim 28:19). People fear that man will turn himself into a computer, a sort of techno­barbarian, more dangerous than the most primitive, barbaric man, since he will have in his hands powerful means of control which will serve his cruelty. Having no conscience, He is liable to send an atomic bomb by the push of a button. And all of this threatens society, namely, technology taking control of life. Hundreds and maybe thousands of books have been written about this in America, and all in vain. It is impossible to put a bridle on the insane gallop of the technological monster. People are afraid of a new mutation of the human race -- “computer-man,” lacking a conscience and armed with powerful means -- the beast within man attached to high technology.  That is the alien we fear.

Efficiency, talent and excellence are taking control of man instead of morality and gentleness. A sort of totalitarian technology is appearing, at the center of which is a machine lacking human emotion.

Indeed, there is what to fear. Yet let us not stop technology. Let us rather increase morality, justice, the Torah and its light.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #272

Ascending onto the Temple Mount

Q: Perhaps the time has arrived to permit going onto the Temple Mount!  Although the Chief Rabbinate of Israel prohibits it, a huge number of Jews goes up!

A: Not true.  This is a marginal phenomenon.  The number of Jews who have ascended over the last five years are: 5658, 5792, 7724, 8247 and 8528.  And this is out of the 300,000-400,000 tourists who visit there annually!


Baseless Hatred

Q: It has been said that the Chafetz Chaim appeared to one of the great Kabbalists and said that the Redemption is being delayed because of Lashon Ha-Ra.  Should I believe this?

A: It is true, but we do not need a revelation in a dream in order to know this (see Netziv, Ha-Emek Davar in the introduction to Sefer Bereshit).


SMS Questions

Q: Does Ha-Rav only answer halachic questions or also questions of Emunah?

A: All questions, time permitting.  If there is not time, halachic questions take precedence.  Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah, end of Chapter 4. 


Clothing in which One Sleeps

Q: Is it permissible to wear clothing in which one sleeps?

A: It is permissible.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 71:5 writes that one should not do so, but the Halachah does not follow his opinion (see Ha-Rav's commentary on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch ibid.).


Cross on Swiss Flag

Q: Is it permissible to buy a product on which the Swiss flag appears, such as a Swiss Army knife or back pack, since it has a cross on it?

A: According to the basic halachah, it is permissible, since although the cross was originally associated with idol worship, it is used here merely as a symbol.  No one worships the flag or treats it with special honor.  Furthermore, a person does not purchase the item because of the cross.  It just happens to be on it.  It is similar to the statue of Aphrodite which was placed by the Romans in the bathhouse.  It was permissible to enter the place despite the statue's presence (Avodah Zarah 44b).  For this reason, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein also permits using a stamp with a cross on it (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:69).  However, one should distance himself from the unseemly and anything similar to it, and one should therefore scratch out the cross. 


Prophet who was a Convert

Q: Was there ever a prophet who was a convert?

A: Ovadiah Ha-Navi.


Nuclear Bomb

Q: Is there any truth to what one Rabbi said that a nuclear bomb will fall on Israel in the next month?  What will happen to our children?

A: Nonsense.  By the way, even if – G-d forbid – a nuclear bomb fell on the most populated area in Israel, i.e. the holy city of Tel Aviv, there would be 10,000 deaths, which is equivalent to the number of people who die each year in Israel from smoking.  But in reality, this is all nonsense.



Q: Was Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah particular not to speak Yiddish?

A: He spoke Hebrew, unless there was someone who did not understand and only spoke Yiddish.  But this was rare.