Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #279

Learning Torah with One's Grandson

Q: Is there a Mitzvah for a grandfather to learn Torah with his grandson?

A: Yes.  "And make them known to your children and your children's children".  Devarim 4:9.  "If one teaches his grandson Torah, it is considered as if he received it from Sinai".  Kiddushin 30a.  And see Piskei Teshuvot 473:27 (And Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik also pointed this out at the Brit Milah of the oldest son of his grandson, Ha-Rav Moshe Twersky HY"D, who was murdered Al Kiddush Hashem in the terrorist attack in the Shul in Har Nof.  As related by Ha-Rav Menachem Genack). 


Calling the Minister of Education "Rabbi"

Q: Should we call the Minister of Education "Rabbi"?  After all, he is implementing all sorts of changes against the Torah.

A: Yes.  Even if there is criticism against him, he remains a Torah scholar (See the introduction to Alo Naale).


Shaming Rabbis

Q: I have a friend who does not refer to Religious-Zionist Rabbis with the title "Rabbi".  What should I do?

A: Cease talking to him.  He is a heretic since he denigrates Torah scholars (Sanhedrin 99b).


Conversion Performed by Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren

Q: I heard that the conversion performed by Ha-Rav Goren (called the "Brother and Sister") was not according to Halachah.

A: Lies and deceit.  His responsum was published and you can learn it (After Ha-Rav Goren's ruling in this matter, a broadside containing terrible vilifications was written against him.  Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah asked that the responum be brought to him.  He looked at it and sent it to Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira.  He did not ask whether he agreed with it or not, but whether it was well-built, like a serious halachic responsum.  When Ha-Rav Shapira responded in the affirmative, our Rabbi proclaimed: "May the hands of those who perform evil be cut off."  When he was asked: But aren't there great Rabbis among those who signed the broadside?  He responded: "There are differences," i.e. not everyone criticized in an evil way.  Iturei Yerushalayim #20.

And Ha-Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, leading Posek in America before Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, never supported the ruling itself since he was blind at the time and was unable to learn it. He was adamant, however, that it was forbidden to argue with Ha-Rav Goren since he was a "Gadol Ha-Dor" [one of the great Rabbis of the generation].  And he brushed off all claims against him.  When Ha-Rav Henkin was told that some claimed that Ha-Rav Goren was in the category of one who takes a bribe, he answered forcibly: "This is politics, not Halachah."  And although he received much pressure from other Rabbis, he did not change his mind.  Shut Bnei Banim vol. 2, p. 210).


Swallowing a Fingernail

Q: Is it true that according to the Gemara a woman who swallows a fingernail will be unable to have children?

A: No.


Tehilim for a Shiduch

Q: Which Tehilim is appropriate to recite to find a Shiduch?

A: All of them are appropriate.



Q: Where was Hashem during the Holocaust?

A: One who asks such a question in a text message needs to seriously repent.

Number of children

Question: We have two boys and two girls.  I want to continue growing the family, but my wife does not.  What is Ha-Rav's advice?

Answer: After one has a boy and a girl, one should continue to have children as it says: "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand" (Kohelet 11:6 and Yevamot 62b).  But we are not told how many children to have.  The guiding principle is to have the most children possible based on one's ability – one's physical ability, one's emotion ability, and one's financial ability.  One's ability is a personal decision.  You cannot force your wife insofar as she would like more children but is unable.  This reminds me of the words of the Mesech Chochma on the mitzvah of "Be fruitful and multiply" (Bereshit 9:7).  As is known, women are not obligated in this mitzvah.  This is a wonder – how can a man have children alone?  The Mesech Chochma explains that women are not obligated because sometimes pregnancy is quite difficult, and childbirth is difficult, and taking care of a baby all of the time is difficult, and the Torah does not force someone to do something which may sometimes be beyond his ability.  But if Hashem does not command women to have children, how will children come into the world?  Hashem also implanted a desire for children within women as we see with Rachel: "Give me children or I will die" (Bereshit 30a).  Therefore, a woman has children because of her desire.  There is a balance between the desire and the difficulties, and a woman navigates between them.  This appears in the Torah, not when Hashem commands Adam: "Be Fruitful and multiply" (Bereshit 1:28), but after the flood when he commands Noach: "Be fruitful and multiply."  The first command was before the curse of "You shall bear children in pain" (Bereshit 3:16) and there was therefore no reason to be lenient.  But now there is the difficulty of the curse.  I therefore recommend not to pressure your wife and let her decide on her own.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #278

Honoring One's Mother and Wife

Q: Which is more important – honoring my mother or my wife?

A: You and your wife are one being, and together you should think and decide how to honor your mother, who is a joint mother to the both of you.


Switching Milchig Dish to Fleischig

Q:  It is permissible to switch a Milchig dish to Fleischig or visa-verca through Kashering?

A: It is permissible for Sefardim.  It is forbidden for Ashkenazim, since if one does this regularly, in the end, he will get confused.  Magen Avraham 509:11.  But there are various solutions when it is permissible to switch from one to the other:  1. If one is anyway Kashering for Pesach.  Mishnah Berurah ibid. #19.  2. In an extenuating circumstance.  3. If one sells his utensil to someone else, he can Kasher them.  4. If he makes them Treif, he can Kasher them and switch them.  5. If one has not used those utensils for 12 months.  6. One may Kasher them to Parve and later switch them.  Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #16. 


Wedding on the Temple Mount

Q: Can I have the first part of my wedding - the Kiddushin - in the afternoon on the Temple Mount and then the Chuppah elsewhere at night? 

A: It is absolutely forbidden to enter the Temple Mount!

Q: I follow a Rabbi who permits it.

A: I - the humble - follow the Chief Rabbinate of Israel who forbids it.


Relying on a Halachic Ruling

Q: If I saw a Rav rule in a certain circumstance, can I rely on it for myself?

A: No, since perhaps it was only in a extenuating circumstance or there were additional reasons which we do not know about for ruling leniently (Ha-Rav Yochanan Segal Wozner, Av Beit Din of Skverer Chasidim in Montreal, writes in the name of the Da'at Sofer in the name of the Chatam Sofer that halachic authorities are often required to make rulings in extenuating circumstances or after-the-fact [Di'avaad] based on a combination of halachic principles, and this is considered a sort of temporary ruling [Hora'at Sha'ah].  Such a ruling is in the realm of Oral Torah, and we must therefore be extremely careful not to turn it into Written Torah, i.e. it should not become a permanent ruling.  Shut Chayei Ha-Levi, Introduction to Volume 6).


Doves in the House

Q: In the morning, my wife and I found 2 doves on the table.  What does this mean?

A: That the window was left open (Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski answered similarly to such a question from a newlywed husband).


Baal Teshuvah

Q: Is it Lashon Ha-Ra to say that a person is a Baal Teshuvah?

A: Yes.  Just as it is forbidden to remind a Baal Teshuvah of his past actions.  Baba Metzia 58).


Electric Shaver

Q: Which type of electric shaver is permissible?

A: All of them are problematic.  There are those who permit their use on condition that one does not press too hard against his skin and one can still feel the scruff (Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.  Halichot Shlomo - Tefillah Chapter 2 p. 11.  And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein did not want to write a responsum in his Shut Igrot Moshe permitting the use of an electric shaver since even if there is no prohibition against using it, the face of a Jew is meant to have a beard!  Meged Givot Olam p. 96).


Traveling to Poland

Q: I never left Israel to travel to Poland to visit the concentration camps.  I know it is forbidden.  But I am a soldier now and the army chose me to be a representative for Yom Ha-Shoah there.  What should I do?

A: If it is your decision, don't go.

Q&A on Terrorists Attacks in Yerushalayim

Terrorist Attacks

Q: How should we relate to the phenomenon of terrorist attacks?

A: With strength, courage and gratitude to Hashem, since we are surrounded by 350 million enemies, and we largely live here quietly and in contentment.


Druze Police Officer who Fell in the Terrorist Attack

Q: Is it permissible to recite a prayer in Shul in memory of the Druze police officer who was killed protecting Jews in the terrorist attack in the Shul in Har Nof?

A: Certainly!  He sacrificed his life for the Nation of Israel and he is one of the righteous non-Jews.  This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef regarding a Druze soldier in Tzahal who was killed.  And one of his proofs is from the Yerushalmi (Megillah 3:7) that on Purim we say: May Charvorna be remembered for good, since he spoke out against the hater of Israel – Haman, and this is true all the more so for the Druze soldiers who take their lives in their hands to protect the Nation of Israel.  It is a Mitzvah to pray for their souls (Chazon Ovadiah - Avelut Volume 3, p. 238). 


Hashem and Terror Act in Shul

Q: How could Hashem allow people Davening with Talit and Tefillin in a Shul to be murdered? 

A: This is a surprising question.  One who asks such a question obviously did not hear that Jews in the Holocaust were burnt alive while wearing Talit and Tefillin in Shuls.  And earlier, the soldiers of Bar Kochba, who wore Tefillin during war, were killed.  It also seems that one who asks such a question did not hear that Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah, experienced endless suffering although they were the most righteous of people, and we do not find one word which they uttered against Hashem (see Rashi on Shmot 6:1).  It is also horrible when people not wearing Talit and Tefillin are murdered.  Every Jew has a complete Sefer Torah within him.

We must open our eyes wide and see that we are at a time of war.  As Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook said, we are in a continuous war since the return to Zion began, and sometimes there is a break.  On the contrary, we must thank Hashem for all of the terrorist acts that are NOT occurring. 


Terrorist Attack during Davening

Q: How could Jews be murdered in a Shul while Davening when the Gemara states, "Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a Mitzvah?"  They were not on their way to perform a Mitzvah, they were performing a Mitzvah!

A: See the Gemara in Pesachim 8b.  "Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a Mitzvah" is said in regard to an infrequent danger.  The example given there is one who is checking for Chametz.  Should he check under rocks?  No, he should not, because there may be snakes or scorpions under the rocks.  The Gemara asks – how so?  Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a Mitzvah.  Answer: This (snakes and scorpions under rocks) is a frequent occurrence and there is therefore a chance that he may be harmed.  Another example: A person has a joint wall with a non-Jewish neighbor.  Perhaps he should stick his fingers into the cracks in the wall to search for Chametz?  No, he should not check because the neighbor may accuse him of witchcraft and cause him terrible problems.   The Gemara asks – how so?  Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a Mitzvah.  Answer: This is an evil neighbor and it is considered a frequent occurrence.  We do not apply this principle when there is a frequent occurrence.  The Gemara states that the proof for this idea is found in the Book of Shmuel (1 chap. 16) when Hashem tells the prophet Shmuel to anoint David as king.  "And Shmuel said: How can I go - if Shaul hears he will kill me?"  (verse 2).  Hashem said: Tell him that you are going to offer a sacrifice in order that he will not be suspicious.  The Gemara asks: But he was going to perform a Mitzvah directly told to him by Hashem and "Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a Mitzvah" (see Rashi)?  Answer: When there is a frequent danger, even those performing a Mitzvah can be harmed.  This is discussed at length in the book "Mesilat Yesharim" at the end of chapter 9.  It is obvious that if there are terrorists living among us, it is considered a frequent occurrence and even people performing a Mitzvah can be harmed.    


Terrorist Attack as a Pogrom

Q: Was the terrorist attack in the Shul in Har Nof a Pogrom?  After all, Jews were killed in the middle of Shacharit wearing Talit and Tefillin!

A: What happened during that terrorist attack was truly horrible, but it was not a Pogrom.  A Pogrom is when many Jews are murdered and we are completely defenseless, as in the Crusades, the Chelminski Massacre, the Holocaust, etc.  But now we have a way to defend ourselves, and we succeed in doing so.  We have a powerful army, but even the most powerful army cannot completely stop terrorists.  Every free country in the world has terrorism.  Terror is a sign of weakness.  It is not enough for the Arabs to have 22 countries and a territory 500 times the size of ours, they want our Land as well.  But they are unable to do so, so they use terror, which means "to scare".  But we are not scared.  We continue to build our Land and strengthen ourselves.


Safeguarding One's Life in Yerushalayim

Q: Is it permissible to visit Yerushalayim at this time or is it preferable not to visit because of "You shall surely safeguard your soul" (Devarim 4:15, 23:11), because of all the terrorist acts?

A: It is a minimal risk.  See Mesilat Yesharim, end of Chapter 9.


Responding to Terror

Q: What can I do as a youth in the face of the horrible situation of terror attacks, riots, murders, etc.?

A: 1. Increase proper character traits, Fear of Hashem and Torah Learning.  2. Realize that the situation is not so bad.  We must understand the truth that we are in a time of war, and to express gratitude to Hashem for all of the miracles, and for the fact that there are relatively few terror victims. 

Terrorist Attack within the Holy

We were attacked in our spiritual heart - within a Shul.   Every attack is hideous and dreadful and all the more so an attack on the heart.  It is not by chance that they chose this holy place.  The forces of evil wanted to attack the heart, even though they will obviously not succeed in their goal.  The Nation of Israel is certainly stronger than the forces of evil, and the Torah is certainly the strongest of all.

We must remember that we are dealing with an enemy.  We are at war.  During war we are not merciful to the cruel.  One who is merciful to the cruel is cruel to those who require mercy (Tanchuma, Parashat Metzora 1. Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel 1 #121).  We are the merciful and they are the cruel, and when you are merciful to the cruel, you are cruel to your brothers and sisters.  This is a war like any other war.  There is a concept of the total war which means that, while we do not look for wars (we are a Nation which loves peace, searches for peace, and loves all people), if someone attacks us, we respond with all our might.  When the enemy simply shaved half of the beards of some of King David's soldiers and tore their clothes, he went to war.  In a war, the most important aspect is deterrence.  You cannot place a soldier on every square meter.  The Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim (1:41) discusses his national philosophy and writes that the secret to security is deterrence.  One must therefore strike his enemy with all his might.  It makes no sense to provide terrorists, evil people and murderers with electricity, gas and weapons!  Are you crazy providing terrorists and murderers with weapons?!  The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (15-16) says that it is forbidden to provide regular murderers with weapons, and you give weapons to these people, not only in the past but now.  Have you lost your mind?!  This mercifulness towards the enemy is harming us.  Other countries understand that we need to fight with all our might.  Perhaps they will yell and scream, but they would do that regardless of what we do. 

I remember a joke – although it is certainly not a times for jokes – from Meir Uziel, a comedian and grandson of former Chief Rabbi Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Uziel: In the competition for Ms. Ethical among the 200 nations of the world, we always come in last place, since we are the only ones who show up!  We must certainly be ethical, but to our brothers, not the enemy. 

During the Second World War, the Allied power destroyed neighborhood after neighborhood in Berlin, because everyone understood that there was no other way to wage war.  Did King Hussein of Jordan deal with Black September with kid gloves?  No, he killed 17,000 Palestinians and ended his Intifada once and for all.  President Assad killed 21,000 Palestinians in one month when there was an uprising in Syria.  And when Hamas wanted to take over Gaza, they killed many, many people.  This is the language they speak and understand.  This is how we must deal with them.

I remember that a terrorist once attacked a woman in Neveh Dekalim.  She lay down on the baby carriage to protect her baby, and he stabbed her fifteen times in the back.  By some miracle, someone came and shot him and saved her.  Later, an unethical reporter interviewed the rescuer on the radio and asked: "How do you feel after killing a person?"  He responded: "The thing which I killed was not a person."  I remembered this and quoted it various times.  I once met someone and I said "shalom."  He said: "You don't know me but you quoted me.  I am the person who killed that thing which was not a person."  I said: "Yashar Koach – Way to go.  Your actions followed what the Rambam says in Moreh Nevuchim (vol. 1 #7)."  The Rambam discusses the "demons" mentioned in the Gemara.  He says that a "demon" looks like a person on the outside, but is a wild animal on the inside.  It is more dangerous than a wild animal in that it has intellect.  People periodically ask me: Is the theory that we came from animals true?  I answer: "I do not know.  I was not there.  The question, however, does not bother me.  What bothers me is whether we have left being animals." 

We must therefore wage war with strength and courage and strengthen the Nation of Israel in our Land.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #277

Kashrut of Ha-Rav Avraham Dov Auerbach, Av Beit Din of Tiveria

Q: What is the level of Kashrut of the chickens under the supervision of Ha-Rav Avraham Dov Auerbach?  Some claim it is Mehadrin (stringent level of Kashrut supervision) and others claim that it is not.

A: It is Mehadrin Min Ha-Mehadrin (the highest stringent level of Kashrut supervision).  Ha-Rav Avraham Dov Auerbach is a great Torah scholar and a Tzadik.  I know him personally.  Cease believing salesmen who spread lies for competitive gains and besmirch the reputation of Torah scholars.


Wearing Tzitzit Out

Q: My boss at work told me that I have to tuck my Tzitzit in.  What should I do?

A: The Mishnah Berurah writes that one should always wear his Tzitzit out, you therefore should not agree to tuck them in.  Shut Tzitz Eliezer.  But it is sufficient to put out just a little bit of the Tzitzit (Mishnah Berurah 8:26.  Shut Tzitz Eliezer 17:4.  And also Orchot Rabbenu Volume 1, p. 229 in the name of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievsky).


Pregnant Woman in Zoo

Q: Why is it forbidden for a pregnant woman to visit a zoo?

A: It is permissible.

Q: But she will see non-Kosher animals.

A: It is permissible.  Even Rachel Imenu, when she was pregnant, rode on a camel which is a non-Kosher animal (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, however, taught that visual images have great impact on a person's mind, especially on young children: What one sees leaves a lasting impression, whether for good or for bad. Viewing sacred objects or images such as holy books has positive benefits, and pictures of impure animals harm the mind and soul.  Likkutei Sichos, Volume 25, pp. 309-311.  A Chabad Chasid therefore is obligated to follow the Rebbe's rulings.  However, Rabbi Chaim David Ha-Levi - former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo - wrote that there is no halachic problem of hanging up pictures of non-kosher animals since there were non-kosher images in Yechezel's vision of the chariot.  Yechezkel 1:10.  And there were also pictures of non-kosher animals on the Tribes' flag.  Ibn Ezra on Bamidbar 2:2.  Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 8:60.  Many Ashkenazi Shuls also have lions on the Parochet.  Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah 1:10).


Minhag of Jews from North Africa

Q: Should Jews who made Aliyah from North Africa observe the customs of their forefathers or follow the Beit Yosef, the Mara De-Atra of Eretz Yisrael?

A: The customs of their forefathers.  Rabbi Yosef Karo was not the Mara De-Atra of Eretz Yisrael in his time.  He was the halachic authority only for those who accepted him.  Shut Chemdah Genuzah of Ha-Rav Chaim Shelosh (And see the book "Divrei Shalom Ve-Emet" of Ha-Rav Shlomo Toledano, who disagrees with Ha-Rav Ovadiah's opinion that all Sefardim should follow the Beit Yosef.  The book includes all of the halachic disputes between Ha-Rav Shalom Messas and Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef).  


Halachic Rulings based on Stories of Gedolei Yisrael

Q: Is it permissible to make halachic rulings based on stories of Gedolei Yisrael?

A: No, since not all of them are factual, and even if they are factual, we do not rule based on "Maaseh Rav" (story of a sage), since all of the facts and reasons are not known (See Baba Batra 130b.  Shut She'eilat Shlomo Volume 4 p. 275.  And once Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein picked up a carton of milk and then put it down without pouring from it.  He then picked up another carton, which was a different brand, and he poured the milk into his cup.  It was publicized the next day that Reb Moshe ruled that it is forbidden to drink the first brand of milk.  When Reb Moshe was asked about it, he said: I put down the first milk because the carton was empty...).


Praying for a Non-Religious Son

Q: Is there value in praying for the health and success of my son who himself does not pray and does not perform the Mitzvot?

A: Certainly.  One should pray for and love all Jews, and all the more so your own son.  See Mesillat Yesharim, end of Chapter 19. 

Testing a Fetus for Abnormalities: The Responsum that Hangs on Hospital Walls

[Shut She'eilat 2:312]



Should older women be counseled to have a prenatal exam in order reveal fetal abnormalities? If a problem is detected, what benefit is there if it is not permissible to have an abortion? Furthermore, these exams can endanger the life of the fetus.


1. It is a good idea to undergo this exam.  If the tests reveal that there is no problem, the pregnancy can continue calm and with contentment for the mother, which may also benefit the fetus.

If, however - G-d forbid, the exam reveals a problem, the couple can turn to a rabbi and ask him if it is permissible in such a case to abort. If he rules that it is permissible - since there are cases in which it is permissible, and abortions have indeed been performed in accordance with the rulings of great authorities - the parents can responsibly decide what they want to do. If they decide to keep the child, it will be out of free will, and they will accept him lovingly with a full heart, and raise him lovingly with a full heart.

2. Regarding man interfering with Hashem’s will: there is absolutely no interference here.  Hashem illuminates the path of the scientific intellect of man.  If this were not so, all medicine and all science in general would be invalid.  On the contrary, wisdom gives strength to the wise man.

3. Regarding the claim that abortion, even when permitted according to Halachah, prevents a soul from entering the world: we do not engage in the esoteric when deciding Halachah. Halachah must be decided according to what is revealed to us and our children for eternity.  In any case, anything which is intended by the Halachah is intended by the levels of the Torah which are more hidden. If according to Halachah there is room to perform an abortion, we rely and trust that this soul will find a correction in other ways and the hand of Hashem will not shorten.

4. Regarding the test being dangerous: according to Halachah, it is permissible to put oneself in a situation in which there is a remote chance of danger when there is a need (such as making a living or performing a Mitzvah). Endangering oneself in a minimal way is called as “an infrequent damage” in Halachah. This law applies in our case, since giving birth to a disabled baby can sometimes destroy an entire family.  And all the more so when we are discussing the danger of a fetus has yet to be born.

We must certainly clarify, however, whether or not it is permissible to undergo a test with a minimal chance of danger. It does not make sense to enter into details here, since Blessed be Hashem, science continues to advance.  In each individual case, one must take counsel with a G-d-fearing doctor and with an halachic authority.

5. The last point is the most precious. The reality is that many women who are not young refrain from becoming pregnant, despite their great desire to have a child, because they are afraid of having a disabled baby. They live with a broken heart. When an halachic authority permits, and even encourages, them to arrange a prenatal exam, and also promises that in the case of a problem, G-d forbid, he will stand by their side in finding an halachic solution with responsible thought given to the effects on the family, a huge burden is lifted from their hearts.  They will be able to have more children, who will fill their lives with joy and happiness, and add more servants to the world for the sake of increasing the sanctification of Hashem's Great Name.

Rav Aviner's Responsum which Hangs on Hospital Walls

Ha-Rav Eliezer Melamed, Rabbi of Har Beracha, in his book “Penini Halachah" (Volume 3 p. 221) writes, “A few years ago Ha-Rav Aviner published a responsum, in which he encourages older women to test their amniotic fluid, so that if their fetus is sick, they can take counsel with a rabbi and decide if they will follow the strict or lenient position [regarding abortion]. This responsum was hung in various hospitals. And in its merit, a not insignificant number of women, approximately in their forties, who had earlier feared becoming pregnant, lest they gave birth to a sick baby, dared to become pregnant, and may there be more like this in Israel.”

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #276

Cohain whose Hands Shake

Q: Can a Cohain whose hands shake because of Parkinson's recite the Birkat Cohanim?

A: Yes, since they are covered by the Talit and will not draw attention.  This is on condition that he can raise his hands.  See Mishnah Berurah 128:52.


Brides Meeting

Q: Is it true that it is forbidden for two brides to meet within 40 days of the wedding, unless they exchange hair pins?

A: Superstition.


Visiting Poland

Q: Is it permissible to travel to Poland in order to remember the Holocaust?

A: It is preferable to donate the amount of money for the trip to Holocaust survivors who suffer from poverty.  This is a more suitable way to remember the Holocaust.


Rabbi who Provides Kosher Supervision and is Strict on Himself

Q: Is it permissible for a Rabbi to provide Kosher supervision on a product but to be strict and not eat it himself?

A: Certainly.  After all, he makes certain the food is Kosher, but has decided for himself to be strict (For example, there was an Eruv in the city of Brisk and the entire community carried on Shabbat but the Rav of the city, Ha-Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, and the Dayan, Ha-Rav Simchah Zelig, were strict not to carry.  Shut Mishneh Halachot 15:130.  And when Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik visited Brisk in his youth, he went to check the Eruv on Erev Shabbat with Ha-Rav Simchah Zelig.  Nefesh Ha-Rav p. 170.  Although the Belzer Rebbe - Mahari"d - said that a Rabbi who provides supervision on a product and does not eat it at least once will not have much assistance from Heaven.  And Ha-Rav Eliezer David Greenwald, author of Shut Keren Le-David and Rav and Rosh Yeshivah in Satmar, who did not carry within the Eruv on Shabbat, did so once to show that it was completely Kosher.  Similarly, Ha-Rav Mendel of Vitebsk did not carry within the Eruv on Shabbat in Tzefat, but did so once on Shabbat Shuva to show that it was Kosher.  And Ha-Rav Moshe Halberstam of the Eidah Ha-Charedit in Yerushalayim related that the Admor of Pupa was in Yerushalayim and carried out a book on Shabbat in order to show that the Eruv of the Eidah Ha-Charedit was Kosher.  Commentary on Pirkei Avot 'Az Yomru' of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Aharon Goldberger, Dayan and Rosh Yeshiva for Pupa Chasidim, pp. 73, 77).


Fake Mezuzot

Q: There are many fake Mezuzot on the market.  How does one know?

A: There are indeed many.  In the past one could identify the fakes because their letters were unnaturally uniform.  Today, however, there are more advanced processes for forgeries which alter the form of the letters throughout the Mezuzah.  One therefore needs certification from a Rabbi that the Mezuzot are Kosher. 


Mourning for the Holocaust

Q: Why do we mourn for the Six Million murdered in the Holocaust– wasn't this Hashem's Will?

A: It is also Hashem's will that we mourn.  This, however, is a conversation which needs to take place face-to-face with a Rabbi.


Reish Lakish

Q: Is it permissible to relate to our youth that Reish Lakish was originally a bandit and then became a great Torah scholar in order to show them that everything is dependent on the choices people make in life?

A: One needs to be extremely careful since during his lifetime, it is forbidden to mention a Baal Teshuvah's past (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 428:4), and all the more so to a great Torah scholar.  And Rabbi Yochanan was admonished for doing so to Reish Lakish (Baba Metzia 84a).   


Evil Inclination

Q: I have a strong evil inclination that I cannot overcome.  What should I do?

A: The evil inclination is deceiving you that you can't overcome it.  You can! (see Derech Eitz Chaim of the Ramchal with Ha-Rav's commentary).

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #275

Black Cat

Q: Is it bad luck if a black cat crosses in front of me?

A: It is a superstition and believing in it violates the prohibition of sorcery.  Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 11:4.

Q: I read in Sefer Ha-Kaneh that it is forbidden to kill a black cat.

A: It is not quoted in the Halachah books.  Regarding the issue of a black cat, see Ain Aya of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, Berachot Chapter 1 #47 (see Ner Be-Ishon Laila pp. 149-150).  


Davening in the Wrong Direction

Q: After I finished Davening Shemoneh Esrei, I realized that I did not Daven in the direction of Yerushalayim.  What should I do?

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


Being Stricter than Your Rabbi

Q: Is it permissible to follow a Chumra which one's Rabbi does not?

A: Only in private, on account of "Yehura" – religious arrogance.  See Baba Kamma 81a (The author of the Kochav Mi-Yaakov once asked the Admor of Hosiatin why he did not prepare all of his water before Pesach to avoid any potential problems of Chametz.  He said that he learned this from what the author of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim said: That since the Baal Shem Tov was lenient, he does not act strictly.  He then asked: What does one lose by being strict, since it is proper to add another stricture on Pesach?  He replied that this is incorrect based on the Gemara in Beitza 36a that Abaye was punished for acting stricter than his Rabbi, Rabbah.  However, in the biography of the Arugat Ha-Bosen, it is told that he was strict to learn with his hat on even on extremely hot days.  He was asked: Why cause yourself distress?  Didn't the Ketav Sofer – your teacher – learn without his hat?  He responded: Is it forbidden to be stricter than one's Rabbis?!  Commentary on Pirkei Avot 'Az Yomru' of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Aharon Goldberger, Dayan and Rosh Yeshiva for Pupa Chasidim, pp. 74.  And see Shut She'eilat Shlomo Vol. 4, p. 285 regarding one who is strict in a place where it was decided to be lenient).


Mother or Rashbi

Q: I visit Kever Rashbi every Rosh Chodesh but my family is moving this Rosh Chodesh and I assume that my mother would be happy if I stayed, although she did not ask me to do so.  Which is preferable?

A: Certainly honoring your mother, which is an explicit Mitzvah in the Torah and is in the Ten Commandments.  Visiting the Kever of the Rashbi does not have a source in the Torah, the Mishnah, the Gemara or in the halachic codes, and is thus not as important as a Torah Mitzvah (See Moed Katan 9:1-2.  Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah Chapter 3.  And Hilchot Maamrim 6:13).


Writing during a Life-Threatening Situation on Shabbat

Q: If one is obligated to write on Shabbat during a life-threatening situation, in the case of a doctor or soldier, is it preferable to use a pen or computer?

A: Computer, since writing with a pen or pencil is a Torah prohibition while writing on a computer, which involves electricity, is a Rabbinic prohibition (see Kishrei Milchama of Colonel Ha-Rav Eyal Krim 3:41).


Love of Hashem

Q: How do I work on loving Hashem?

A: See Mesilat Yesharim Chapter 9.


Non-Jewish Father

Q: My mother is Yemenite and my father is a non-Jew from Switzerland.  Am I Yemenite or Ashkenazi?

A: Yemenite.  From a halachic perspective, the non-Jewish father's seed is not considered.