Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #286

Q: 1. According to Rav Kook, will there be sacrifices when the Mashiach rebuilds the Beit Ha-Mikdash?  2. Is it permissible to be a vegetarian?  3. What will a vegetarian do regarding the Korban Pesach?
A: 1. Yes.  See Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:1.  2. It is permissible.  3. One may be a vegetarian aside from eating a Kezayit of the Korban Pesach.  

Women and Musaf
Q: Are women obligated to Daven Musaf on Shabbat?
A: It is a dispute.  Mishnah Berurah 106:4.

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

Transcendental Meditation
Q: Is transcendental meditation permissible in order to calm stress?
A: According to science, it does not have greater efficacy than other regular methods of dealing with stress (See Ner Be-Ishon Laila p. 183).

Stealing from a Thief
Q: Is it permissible for me to steal from someone who stole from me, since "one who steals from a thief is exempt"?
A: One is exempt from "Kefel" paying back double (the punishment for stealing in
 this case), but not from the theft itself (Baba Kama 69b and Chazon Ish, Choshen  Mishpat 15:6).

Postpartum Depression
Q: I wanted a baby so much before and during my pregnancy, and now I feel that I do not love him. Taking care of him is just a burden. In general, I do not enjoy anything. In what way did I sin?
A: You did not sin. This is postpartum depression, a known phenomenon, which affects 10%-15% of women. Turn to a psychologist. It will work out.

Wearing a Kippah in France
Q: I am traveling to France.  Is it permissible to go without a Kippah on account of fear?
A: 1. Ask the Rabbis there.  2. Wear a hat so that you won't be identified as a Jew.

Brit Milah in the Afternoon
Q: Is it permissible to postpone a Brit Milah until the afternoon so that there will be more people in attendance (Be-Rov Am)?

A: It is preferable that it be done in the earliest part of the day because of the principle "The diligent fulfill Mitzvot as early as possible" (Zerizim Makdimim Le-Mitzvot).  It may be delayed somewhat, however, in order to allow close family to arrive.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Yoreh Deah 262:8 (The fact that Avraham Avinu performed his Brit Milah in the middle of the day was a special case.  See Torah Temimah on Bereshit 17:26 #53). 

Dancing on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to dance on Shabbat?
Answer: The Mishnah and the Gemara in Beitzah (36b) say that it is forbidden to dance on Shabbat and holidays out of a concern that someone might play an instrument, something then might happen to the instrument, and the musician might repair it, which is a Torah prohibition.  Today, however, it is permissible to dance, for three reasons:
1. The Rama in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 339:3) wrote that we do not protest dancing on Shabbat, since people are already accustomed to this activity, and it is better for them to perform it unwittingly than to do so knowing that it is wrong.  He also wrote that some explain that nowadays it is completely permissible to dance because we are not experts in repairing instruments and there is no concern that we will violate this Torah Mitzvah.  This only helps Ashkenazic Jews as Sefardic Jews do not rely on the Rama.  Based on the style of the Rama, it is clear that he was not enthralled with this leniency, but many communities nevertheless do dance on Shabbat, and not only Religious-Zionists.  In Shut Minchat Eleazar (1:29), Ha-Admor of Munkatch, who was definitely not a Religious-Zionist, wrote at length that it is certainly permissible to dance, as does Shut Devar Yehoshua (4:42).  They both permit dancing as is the custom of many communities. 
2. In the book "Ha-Kuzari," Rabbi Yehudah Halevi, who was a Sefardic Jew, wrote that there is value to fasting and ascetic practices, but there is also value to rejoicing, and our dancing on Shabbat and holidays is no less of Divine worship than fasting and ascetic practices.  This means that there is a Sefardic Rishon (Rabbi of the Middle Ages) who permitted this activity. 
3. The Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. #9) wrote that the concern and the reason for the prohibition are only when people dance to a precise rhythm, but what people do today is not considered "dancing."  People go around in a circle and jump up and down.  People do not dance in a way that it must be accompanied by musical instruments.  There is thus no fear that someone will repair a musical instrument as a result of the dancing.  There is a story about Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein: a student in his yeshiva finally got married after many, many years.  At the Aufruf, they were so excited that they began to dance around the Bima.  Ha-Rav Feinstein participated.  A student asked him: Isn't it forbidden to dance on Shabbat?  Ha-Rav Feinstein responded: You call this dancing?! 
And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski related that he once asked the Chazon Ish about dancing on Shabbat for an Aufruf or Bar Mitzvah, and the Chazon Ish answered that the custom is to be lenient.  He said, however, that his father, the Steipler, would walk around and not dance (Ma'aseh Ish vol. 5 p. 17). 

Permission to dance therefore applies to both Ashkenazic and Sefardic Jews.  This is the reason that many communities have, for many generations danced on Shabbat and holidays.

"Hair Kippah": Is it Halachically Permissible?


After the terrorist attack in Paris and the drastic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France, an Israeli from Rechovot invented a Kippah from human hair.  The Kippah is camouflaged within one's hair so that anti-Semites will be unable to identify a religious Jew, and yet one will still be covering his head.  Is this permissible?


Three questions arise regarding this issue: 1. Is wearing a Kippah an actual obligation?  2. Does the Halachah permit a Kippah made from hair?  3. Is hiding one's Kippah considered hiding his Jewish identity, something which was forbidden in the past during times of anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish decrees?  

1.    A Kippah is an absolute obligation.  A Kippah is of great importance.  Our Sages explain that a Kippah is meant to instill fear of Hashem within us and is a sign that the Master of the Universe is above us (Shabbat 156b.  Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 3:6).  According to the Achronim, it is even more of an obligation in our times, since wearing a Kippah has been accepted by Torah observant people (Shut Meharshal #72.  Shulchan Aruch Ha-Rav 2:6 based on accepted Jewish practice.  And some say not wearing a Kippah is imitating non-Jewish practice.  Shut Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat #191).

2.    A Kippah made from hair is nothing new, since there have always been toupees.  The Mishnah Berurah (2:12) already brings a dispute as to whether a toupee is considered a Kippah.  Some forbid wearing a toupee without a Kippah on account of Maarit Ayin (This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky.  Emet Le-Yaakov on the Shulchan Aruch ibid.).  This is the ruling of the halachic authorities, such as the Sedei Chemed (Maarechet Kaf, Erech Kippah), that one needs a recognizable Kippah. 

By the way, there is criticism in our times against wearing a small Kippah which cannot be readily seen.  According to Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef: “It should be recognizable and visible from all sides of the head, front and back” (Shut Yehaveh Da’at 4:1).  And according to Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, it is best to cover the majority of one’s head (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:8).

Nonetheless, in a pressing circumstance, it is permissible to cover one's head with a toupee (see Mishnah Berurah ibid.).  This is on condition that the Rabbis in France permit it, since we cannot decide on something which occurs there, as Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein stated: The Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in questions of the Rabbi from Pinsk (Meged Givot Olam Volume 1, p. 55.  Volume 2, pp. 31-32).

There is also an alternative solution, which is to wear a hat that is not unique to Jews (Piskei Teshuvot 2 note #57).

3.    It is true that if one is asked if he is a Jew, it is forbidden for him to say that he is a non-Jew.  But the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 157:2) already permits one to wear non-Jewish clothing so as to appear as a non-Jew, on condition that he not declare that he is a non-Jew (Regarding this question during the Holocuast, see Shut Mi-Maamakim of Ha-Rav Ephraim Oshry 1:15, 4:12, 5:3).

It is therefore permissible to wear a "Hair Kippah" but it is preferable to wear a hat.

And there is obviously an even greater solution: Making Aliyah.  Here, in Eretz Yisrael, one can proudly wear a Kippah.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #285

Righteous Convert

Q: Is it permissible for people to ask me if I am a convert?  And if they ask me, what should I say?

A: It is forbidden for someone to ask, since it has the potential to embarrass (Baba Metzia 58b).  If you are asked and are embarrassed to say that you are a convert, it is permissible to say that you were born a Jew (Yevamot 65b), even though being a convert is a great honor (see Tosafot Kiddushin 70b).


Teshuvah and Geulah

Q: Aren't the Charedim correct that Am Yisrael will first perform Teshuvah and only then return to Zion in purity?

A: This was in fact one of the possibilities, but as it happened, Am Yisrael did not repent in the Exile but will do so here (In the newly released edition of the book "Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah" of Keren Re'em, it is written in the introduction [p. 12] that during the Tena'im ceremony held for the engagement between the granddaughter of Ha-Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtel, author of Shut Mishneh Sachir and Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah, and the eldest grandson of the present Belzer Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe related that in the year 5703, Ha-Rav Teichtal came to his uncle and father [the previous Belzer Rebbe Ha-Rav Aharon and Ha-Rav Mordechai of Bilgoray] in Budapest to ask for a Haskamah for his book Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah.  Rav Mordechai of Bilgoray said to him: There is a dispute in Mishnah Pesachim [10:6]: How far does one recite Hallel during the Pesach Seder prior to the meal?  Bet Shammai says: Until [the verse] "Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah - As a joyous mother of children", while Bet Hillel says: Until "The flint into a fountain of waters".  We currently follow the halachic rulings of Bet Hillel.  In the future, the Halachah will follow Bet Shammai: "Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah" [- a play on the name of his book].

But apparently they were unaware that when the Belzer Rebbe - Ha-Rav Aharon -made Aliyah, he came to Reb Noson - Ha-Rav Shalom Natan Ra'anan Kook, Maran Ha-Rav Kook's son-in-law - and said: You and I had differences regarding the way to bring Jews on Aliyah. We [much of the Haredi world] said that they should first be strengthened in Judaism outside of the Land and only then could they make Aliyah in order to build in holiness; you said that every one of them should quickly come on Aliyah without calculation. After the Holocaust, it has become clear to us that we erred, and we are greatly distressed over this fact.  Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael pp. 57, 221-222.  This story is also brought in Imrei Shefer on Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira, p. 37).


Foreign Embassy in Eretz Yisrael

Q: Is a foreign embassy in Eretz Yisrael considered outside of Eretz Yisrael?

A: Not according to Halachah.  It is simply an agreement between nations that it is as if the embassy is their own country.



Q: It is permissible to say "Tu-Tu-Tu" to keep bad luck away?

A: It is a superstition and forbidden.


Bothersome Student

Q: If a student is being bothersome in class, should I send him to the principal?

A: Solve the problem by yourself.


Blessing by an Atheist

Q: Is a blessing said by an Atheist a blessing in vain?

A: This is the opinion of Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein but it is an innovative ruling (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:21).

Which Kosher Certification for Guests?

Question: I invited a guest for a Shabbat meal and he told me that he only eats from a particular Kosher certification of meat.  Do I need to buy that type of meat or can I buy meat with the Kosher certification that I usually use?

Answer: There are two possibilities: A. Buy what he wants.  There is a guest, so go out to greet him.  B. You can tell him, "No, I always buy this Kosher certification."  Does a guest dictate what you do in your house?  I once heard a story about a Rabbi in North Africa who had an event at his house, a bar mitzvah or something, and he honored one of his guests, who was also a Rabbi, to lead the "Birkat Ha-Mazon".  The guest replied, "Thank you, but I do not eat from this Kosher certification."  When he heard this, the host took a key, locked the door, stood next to him with a chair and said: "You will eat this right now or I will break this chair over your head."  "Kol Ha-Kavod" – Way to go!  What is this?  You are invited by people, and you say that what they are eating is not Kosher?!  If this is how you feel then don't come, or say that you have a stomach ache or that you don't like the food.  You are not obligated to eat everything, but don't come to someone's house or event and say it is not Kosher enough. 

One Sukkot, students came to visit the Sukkah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.  He served them fruit.  They took the fruit and separated "Terumot and Ma'asrot" (tithes) right under his nose.  He took the so-called "Terumot and Ma'asrot" that they separated, ate them and said: "Bal Tashchit" (It is forbidden to wantonly waste things).  What nerve!  You are invited to a Rabbi's house and you say that "Terumot and Ma'asrot" have not been separated from his food?!  My father-in-law z"l once told me that he visited Ha-Rav Eliyahu Dessler on Pesach.  The Rav put out oranges and my father-in-law ate them.  Rav Dessler said: "You are the first person who ever ate the oranges I put out" (others feared that the ink of the seal was Chametz – leaven). 

One who wants to act strictly may do so.  May a blessing come to anyone who is strict.  The Talmud Yerushalami quoted by the Tosafot in Avodah Zarah (36a) says, however, that one of the conditions of one who is strict is that he does not shame other people.  Being strict is praiseworthy, but shaming others is forbidden.  There are many people who are strict in their home, but they eat what is served when they are guests; obviously, provided that the food is Kosher.  It says in the Book of Tehillim (101:2), "I walk with wholeness of heart within the confines of my house" – in the confines of my house I am strict, with other people I am not.  In the book "Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol" (vol. 2, p. 66), which contains stories about Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Ha-Rav was asked by female seminary students about eating at certain families' homes who were not as strict as they were.  He said: "I do not understand what you are asking.  Will they serve you non-Kosher food there?"  "No."  He responded: "Then eat."  They asked him: "Ha-Rav also acts this way?"  He said: "Yes.  When I am invited to a wedding, I eat what is there.  What I do not eat in my home, I eat when I am invited."  Someone who is invited and feels in his soul that he must be strict should not go.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 112:13) says that some people who live outside of Israel eat commercially baked bread which is produced by non-Jews (called "Pat Palter").  There are others who are strict and only eat bread baked by Jews.  If a host does not eat "Pat Palter" and his guest does, and the guest wants to eat "Pat Palter" because it tastes better, the Shulchan Aruch rules that the host should say the blessing on the "Pat Palter" and eat it in order to honor his guest.  This means that the host should give up a stricture for the sake of the good feeling of the guest.  And all the more so, a guest should not place his strictures upon his host.

This is from the side of the guest.  From the side of the host, if you are willing, give the guest what he wants.  He is ready to eat from your utensils, so he certainly does not think your food is not Kosher.         

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #284

Dispute with Maran Ha-Rav Kook

Q: How is it that Charedi Rabbis disagreed with Maran Ha-Rav Kook?

A: They did not disagree.  Quite simply, they did not read what he wrote and did not know what he actually said.


Basketball Victory

Q: Does Hashem care which team wins the basketball championship?

A: It is nonsense.  Hashem is not involved in nonsense.  Moreh Nevuchim 2:13.


Wrong Time for Asking a Question

Q: I was at a funeral yesterday and wanted to ask Ha-Rav a question, but Ha-Rav signaled to me that it was not the right time.  But the question related to the funeral!

A: Nonetheless it was not the appropriate time.  One should be completely involved in the funeral (Similarly, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik once participated in the funeral of an important Rabbi.  After the eulogies were finished and the coffin was being escorted to the cemetery, one of the students approached Rav Soloveitchik and asked permission to speak to him in learning.  Rav Soloveitchik was surprised and took offense: Is now an appropriate time to enjoy oneself by speaking in learning?  The student replied that he wanted to discuss Halachot of mourning.  That afternoon, Rav Soloveitchik mentioned this incident in class, and said that it reminded him of a story he had heard from Ha-Gaon Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, Av Beit Din of Vilna, that a fire once broke out in his home in Vilna and he was running to save his books.  A Yeshiva student suddenly approached him and asked if he could speak to him in learning.  Rav Chaim Ozer was taken aback: Is this a time – in the middle of trying to save books from a fire – to discuss Torah?  The student said: Yes, Rebbe, I wanted to discuss this exact issue with you, the Talmudic discussion regarding one being liable for starting a fire like he is for shooting an arrow... [Baba Kamma 23a].  Peninei Ha-Rav pp. 203-204).


Serious Text Message Questions

Q: Why don't I receive an answer when I send serious text message questions?

A: I apologize.  They require lengthy explanation.  Therefore, look into my books.


Blessing over Tears

Q: My wife sometimes cries from happiness and her love for me.  Is it permissible to drink her tears?  Do I recite a blessing?

A: Yes.  You should recite a blessing if they are tasty.


Siyum of a Book of Emunah

Q: If I finish learning a book of Emunah, such as the Kuzari, should I make a Siyum as one would on a Massechet of the Gemara?

A: Yes (And Ha-Rav Menashe Klein, the Ungvarer Rov, was asked about making a Siyum on a Mussar book, and he makes a distinction between types of Mussar books.  He says that the Vilna Gaon said that if the author of Mesilat Yesharim had been alive in his lifetime he [the Vilna Gaon] would have walked where ever he was to greet him.  Therefore, any Mussar book which is similar to Mesilat Yesharim is considered worthy of having a Siyum upon its completion.  Shut Mishneh Halachot, Mehadura Tanina, Madur Ha-Yeshuvot 1:451.  But Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt writes that he is unsure if one makes a Siyum on a Mussar book, therefore one should go elsewhere to hear a Siyum on Erev Pesach rather than hear a Siyum on a Mussar book.  Shur Revivot Ephraim 1:189.  Brought in the book Yoma Tava Le-Rabanan p. 38 note #21).


Traveling to Uman to the Grave of Rebbe Nachman

Q: It is written in the book… that one should travel to Uman.  Can rely on that opinion?

A: He is certainly a great Rabbi, but the halachah does not follow his opinion in this instance.


Mourner and Mikveh

Q: Is a mourner obligated to immerse in the Mikveh at the end of sitting Shiva?

A: No.

Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Vegetarianism

Question: Must one be a vegetarian according to Maran Ha-Rav Kook?

Answer: Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote in "Kovetz Tzimchonut Ve-Ha-Shalom" – "Vegetarianism and Peace" – that vegetarianism is a future vision.  Its importance is real, but not for today.  Why not?  Because it is impossible to skip stages (in human development).  Some vegetarians explain that they do not eat meat in order to show compassion to animals.  That is certainly important, but we first need to show compassion towards human beings, and we have not finished all of our obligations in this realm.  Once we succeed in being merciful and righteous towards human beings, we will move on to animals.  We cannot skip stages.  We are not criticizing those who are vegetarians.  If a person wants to be a vegetarian, he may do so, but it is impossible to define it as a mitzvah or even as a stringency.  Someone once asked me: I am a vegetarian and I have decided to stop.  Do I need a "Hatarat Nedarim" (annulment of vows), since someone who performs a proper custom a few times and wants to stop must perform a "Hatarat Nedarim"?  I said that there is no need for a "Hatarat Nedarim," since vegetarianism is not a mitzvah or stringency.  It is a good, compassionate, and a proper character trait for one who wishes, but it is before its time.  An individual who desires to be a vegetarian is fine, but this cannot be – as Maran Ha-Rav Kook refers to it – a communal practice.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook also warns in the same article that vegetarianism can actually be a hijacking of the feelings of compassion.  This means that sometimes there are people who are cruel to other people, but because their Divine souls cannot bear this cruelty, and need to be pacified, they say: we will be vegetarians and be compassionate to animals.  In fact, there were Nazis in the concentration camps who were vegetarians, and some evrn say that Hitler himself was a vegetarian!


Maran Ha-Rav Kook ate meat, as did our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah.  Among the letters of Maran Ha-Rav Kook is one he wrote to our Rabbi, when he (our Rabbi) was young and not eating meat.  Rav Kook asked him: Why aren't you eating meat?  You need to eat meat.  It is not our level to refrain from doing so.  You know that there are many cruel people in the world and many vegetarians who are cruel.  Maran Ha-Rav further wrote: A Torah scholar, along with other things, needs to know how to slaughter animals.  There are certainly Torah scholars who do not know how to slaughter, but it is good and proper.  Please learn to slaughter (Igrot Re'eiyah vol. 3, letter 780).  And in another letter (ibid. letter 784): Did you learn to slaughter?  And another letter (ibid. letter 799): So, are you learning to slaughter?  And finally, a letter (ibid. 839): I am happy that you learned to slaughter.  Now that you learned, you need to do so.  So, did you slaughter yet (see letters 852, 853 and 860)?  Maran Ha-Rav Kook pressured our Rabbi so that he did not adopt the ideology that it is forbidden to slaughter or eat animals.


Not eating meat is a future vision.  How do we reach this future?  Slowly, in stages, through all sorts of preparatory Halachot which teach us that we need to respect animals, refrain from being cruel to animals, not to cause undue pain to animals, etc.