The Prayer for the State of Israel

Reciting the Prayer for the State of Israel
Q: Should we recite the Prayer for the State of Israel when the State is acting improperly.  After all, it says, "And send Your light and truth to its leaders, ministers and counselor and provide them with good counsel before You," and they are not demonstrating the light, truth or good counsel!
A: If the leader, ministers and counselors are following an improper path we should recite the Prayer of the State of Israel twice!  They need more illumination and more good counsel, since they are currently the leaders of the State.  Not reciting the Prayer for the State of Israel does not lead to a change of leadership.  It is similar to flying in an airplane that is not flying well.  The people investigate, and it turns out that the pilot does not know how to fly.  What do you suggest, sitting next to him, insulting and cursing him?  The plane will then almost certainly crash.  On the contrary, we should encourage him to do the best he can.  He is the pilot.  There is no choice.  Whether our current leaders are suited to their positions or not, we must pray that they perform their jobs the best way possible.

Standing for the Prayer for the State after the Expulsion from Gush Katif
Q: Is there an obligation to stand for the Prayer for the State of Israel, especially after the Expulsion from Gush Katif?
A: There is no source regarding this matter since it is a new prayer. One can stand or sit, it is unimportant. It does not strengthen the State if one stands, and it does not weaken the State if one sits. Each place should act as it desires. The prayer is not connected to the Expulsion from Gush Katif in any way.  Even before the Expulsion there were problems: violations of Shabbat, a problematic system of justice, etc… If the Government is acting inappropriately we should recite this prayer twice. If someone is sick, we pray for him. If he becomes sicker, we pray more. Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook wrote that our Nation is sick, but it will heal. Whether standing or sitting, we must pray for its recovery. Fortunate is the Nation that loves to argue in Shul regarding proper practice instead of arguing over money, riches, glory, etc… 

Short & Sweet - Text Messages Q&A #294 - Religious ANTI-Zionists

Religious ANTI-Zionists
Satmar Rebbe
Q: How should one relate to the Satmar Rebbe and Ha-Rav Elchanan Wasserman, who scorned Maran Ha-Rav Kook?
A: They erred severely in this area, but we are still obligated to honor them (Shut Radvaz 4:187.  Ma'amrei Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 56.  See Shut Bnei Banim 2:34).

Satmar Book
Q: I have a Satmar book with quotes against the State of Israel.  Should I throw it in the garbage?
A: No.  It also contains sacred words.  Place it in the Geniza.

Chasidei Satmar and Neturei Karta
Q: How should we relate to the Chasidei Satmar and Neturei Karta who participated in the Holocaust Denial Conference in Iran?  Is there an obligation to hate them?
A: G-d forbid.  One must love every Jew.  But it is permissible to wage war against their opinions.  They are confused and do not represent Satmar Chasidim (One of the current Satmar Rebbes, Ha-Rav Yekutiel Yehudah Teitelbaum, said about these members of Neturei Karta who visited Iran: "These people take the pure name of Satmar in vain! Our Holy Rabbi, the 'Vayoel Moshe' [the first Satmar Rebbe, and his uncle], exaggeratedly said that they cause more damage than the Zionists themselves.  We are working to cast off all these extreme sects.  When these went to Iran, the Satmar Beit Din issued a harsh letter against them."  Mishpachah Magazine.  29 Kislev 5773, p. 24).    

Counting Neturei Karta in Minyan
Q: Is it permissible to count someone from Neturei Karta in a Minyan?
A: Of course!  There is no question here.

Satmar Shul
Q: If there is no other Minyan, is it permissible to daven in a Satmar Shul, even though they are against the State of Israel?
A: Yes.  Do not excommunicate people.

Praying for the Health of a Neturei Karta
Q: One of the leaders of Neturei Karta is very ill and is in the hospital.  Should we pray that he dies?  After all, he has blood on his hands for actively supporting our enemies?
A: We should certainly pray for his recovery.  He is in the category of a confused person.   

Learning the Satmar Rebbe's Books
Q: Does one receive the reward for learning Torah when learning the Satmar Rebbe's books?

A: Certainly.

Shaving for Yom Ha-Atzmaut

Question: Is one obligated to shave before Yom Ha-Atzmaut (since there is a custom not to shave during the period of Sefirat Ha-Omer)?

 Answer: Yes, just as one shaves all year long to honor Shabbat, it is a mitzvah to shave in honor of Yom Ha-Atzmaut.  Obviously, if a person does not shave his beard at all, he does not do so, but if he generally does so for Shabbat, then he also shaves for Yom Ha-Atzmaut.  The same applies to getting a haircut.  Ha-Rav Yitzchak Nissim, former Chief Sefardic Rabbi of Israel, rules in Shut Yayin Ha-Tov (vol.2, Orach Chaim #11) that it is it is permissible to get a haircut and shave in order to honor the day based on various authorities who allow haircuts and shaving during Sefirat Ha-Omer for similar reasons.  For example, Ha-Rav Chaim Palagi (Sefer Moed Le-kol Chai siman 6, pg. 36) wrote that in his city of Izmir there were families who experienced miracles during Sefirat Ha-Omer and established them as days of joy and thanksgiving like Purim and cut their hair and shaved on them.  Ha-Rav Nissim therefore concludes that on a day when a miracle occurred during Sefirat Ha-Omer - like Yom Ha-Atzamaut - when the State of Israel was declared after 2000 years it is certainly permissible, and even a Mitzvah, to have a haircut and shave on that day (see also Ha-Rav Yaakov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, in Siddur Ga’al Yisrael for Yom Ha-Atzmaut p. 32, #13.  And Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren ruled that it was permitted for soldiers to have haircuts and shave on Yom Ha-Atzmaut as indicated in a Command of the General Staff of the Chief Rabbinate of Tzahal #34.0207 brought in Hilkhot Tzava of Ha-Rav Zechariah Ben Shlomo, p. 861).  The Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, also gave permission to trim one's beard on this day (See Luach "Shana be-Shana" published by Heichal Shlomo, 5752, p. 145. For those who disagree, see Ha-Rav Ovadiah Hadaya in Shut Yaskil Avdi 6:10 #2 and Ha-Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 94).  I remember that some students once asked our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, before Yom Ha-Atzmaut if it is permissible to shave for this day.  Our Rabbi did not answer.  Later he responded: "Tomorrow there will be an exam on your faces."  On Yom Ha-Atzmaut he saw that some students had been strict with themselves and had not shaved.  He said of them: "Their faces show their character" (Yeshayahu 3:9, i.e. they had not absorbed the true joy of the day). He added: When there is faith, there is joy, and when there is joy there are no halachic doubts.  How long will we speak out of both sides of our mouths (see Melachim 1 18:21)?!  Do we believe in the Revealed Redemption or not?!"

Q: When should one get a haircut or shave, since Erev Yom Ha-Atzmaut is Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Tzahal?

A: One should do so a little bit before the holiday begins.  For example, if Ma'ariv is at 7:00 PM, he should shave at 6:00 PM.

The Upright & Proper Gaon: Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Aharon Lichtenstein

A great Gaon has ascended on high.  He enlightened traditional Judaism for close to 60 years and directed those who were confused by the many evil winds which whirl around in our times.  He accomplished this in two ways.
1.    By the sheer force of his pure and courageous personality.  He was a man of truth, and everyone knew that what he said was what he thought.  He was a man who was not afraid to give his opinion and respected the opinions of others.  He was a man with a sensitive soul.  Anyone who gazed at him desired to be like him.  He was a true G-d-fearing person.  A person who learned Torah day and night.  He was in love with Torah learning.  He was humble and modest, without a drop of arrogance.  This Gaon did not want to be honored as a Torah scholar.  He dressed like everyone else and was clean-shaven like others.  It was once happened that he was on an airplane and received a pastry, but was in doubt as to its proper blessing.  The stewardess asked: Why aren't you eating?  He simply said: I do not know the blessing.  Sitting behind him was a new Baal Teshuvah with a long beard and Payot.  The stewardess said to Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Aharon Lichtenstein: Ask him, he will tell you…
He was a man who fulfilled what he thought, who left everything in order to make Aliyah because he felt that his place was here (even though his Rav and father-in-law, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik held that it was perhaps better to remain there and teach American Jews.  See Nefesh Ha-Rav pp. 98-99.  But Ha-Rav Soloveitchik did not force his opinion on him since he never forced his opinion on anyone.  And Ha-Rav Lichtenstein followed this path and also did not force his opinion on others.  And so Rav Soloveitchik held that one should stay in America and spread Torah there but Ha-Rav Lichtenstein reached the decision that his place was here and he therefore made Aliyah).   And we can say about him that which was said about Chizkiyahu, King of Yehudah: A Sefer Torah was placed on his grave and they said: This one fulfilled that which is written in this (Baba Kama 17b).  In one word: A Tzadik.  A Tzadik in our times.  A Tzadik in our generation.
2. By adopting a philosophy with the foundation: "May the beauty of Yefet (the best of general culture) adorn the tents of Shem (Torah)" (Bereshit 9:27) (Megillah 9b) – which is close to what is called Modern Orthodox philosophy.  He totally understood the new world and its thought and strove to take from it the finest flour which could find its place within the tents of Torah.  And the meaning of "Torah" is the entire Torah, especially the method of his teacher, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, and the refined Talmudic methodology of Reb Chaim Brisker.  And the meaning of the "finest flour" is the approach of humanism: the value of man, the thoughts of man, the feelings of man, the purity of man – as was said, in the tents of Shem.
He guided a person to be a person, and above this to be a Jew: loyal to the Land and State of Israel, and with devotion to the army - obviously within the proper proportion.
I – the lowly – did not merit to meet this great Gaon very often, but during the few times I sat near him during a gathering, I was struck by his gentleness, his integrity, the measured manner of his speech which flowed from his measured thought and his flight from superlatives and partisan outbursts.
I once merited receiving a phone call from him, at his initiative, and he told me that I should not be afraid to give my opinion even if others will insult and besmirch me.  I should stand firm and say what I think.  And it is proper to point out that the discussion was one in which his opinion was not exactly identical to mine.   
He stood on guard to protect true Judaism from the evil winds which whirl in every direction, from a lack of fear of Hashem, from empty religious fervor, from dangerous right-wing extremism and from excessive left-wing thought, etc.  He served as a stop sign and as a lighthouse.
This great man has been extinguished but his light has not, and will continue to enlighten traditional Judaism.

May his soul be bound up in the bonds of the living with all of the great Tzadikim and Geonim. 

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #293

Found Object
Q: I saw a coin on the street and went to pick it up.  My friend saw what I was doing, pushed me aside and picked it up for himself.  To whom does the coin belong?
A: To him.  Seeing an object does not acquire it.  Baba Metzia.  But he violated "Love your fellow as yourself."

Wedding Ring on Credit
Q: Is it permissible for a groom to buy the bride's wedding ring on credit?
A: Most authorities permit it, but it is proper to be strict and either put some money down or, if paying in installments, to make the first payment before the wedding.  Otzar Ha-Poskim #80.

Tzahal Uniform
Q: Based on the law that one must daven in clothing that one would wear when standing before a king, is it permissible to daven in a Tzahal uniform?
A: Certainly.  This may be the most honorable clothing we have.  And see Shut Avnei Yespeh 8:29 #5 (It is related that when Ha-Rav Shear Yashuv Cohain [current Chief Rabbi of Haifa] was serving as a Rabbi in the Army, he came to his wedding in Yerushalayim wearing his Tzahal uniform. Some people there did not look upon this positively. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook was surprised by their reactions, "Wearing the clothing of a Russian nobleman - this is appropriate?! But wearing the uniform of Tzeva Haganah Le-Yisrael - the Israel Defense Force - this is not appropriate?!" (Tal Chermon – Moadim, p. 135).

Reusing stamps
Q: The postal service in America crosses lines through the stamps on a letter to show that it was processed and therefore may not be reused.  But sometimes there are no lines through the stamps.  Can you reuse them?
A: It is certainly forbidden.  Ha-Rav Menashe Klein - the Ungvarer Rav - in Shut Mishneh Halachot (6:288) wrote that a stamp is how a Government charges a person for the service provided of delivering mail.  If a Government has - as does the Government of the United States - equal laws for all of its citizens, the laws of "Dina De-Malchuta Dina" (the law of the land is the law) apply.  Therefore, it is certainly forbidden to reuse a stamp, as the law states that you must pay a fee for sending a letter through the post office (Ha-Rav Klein also relates that when the Chafetz Chaim sent a letter through a messenger instead of through the mail, he would rip up a stamp.  Ha-Rav Klein says that there is no halachic or legal obligation to act this way, and the Chafetz Chaim did so in his great holiness and righteousness).

Beit Shammai in the Future
Q: I have heard that in the times of the Messiah, the Halachah will not follow Beit Hillel as it does now (Berachot 36b, Beitza 11b and Yevamot 9a), but will follow Beit Shammai.  Why?
A: This idea is written in the works of the later Kabbalists, but it does not appear in the Gemara or in the Zohar.  Nonetheless, we must understand that Beit Shammai discusses the future, in which the reality of our world will be more appropriate to the stringent positions of Beit Shammai.  Beit Hillel held positions more compatible with our current world.

Radio on Shabbat
Q: What should one do if the radio accidently turns on on Shabbat, and the neighbors can hear it?
A: Do not turn it off.  Put something over it like a blanket.  If it is not digital, turn the volume dial down in an unusual way.

Mayim Achronim
Q: Is there an obligation to wash "Mayim Achronim" (after eating)?  What about women?

A: There is an obligation if one's hands are not totally clean in order to recite the blessing after eating with clean hands.  The same applies for women (Shut She'eilat 1:111).

Standing in Silence during the Siren for Yom Ha-Shoah and Yom Ha-Zikaron

Question: Is it permissible to stand in silence during the siren on Yom Ha-Shoah and on Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers of Tzahal?
Answer: Some say that it is forbidden on account of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" (following the practices of the non-Jews). This is not "Chukot Ha-Goyim." The Tosafot (Avodah Zarah 11a) define "Chukot Ha-Goyim" as an act rooted in idol worship or devoid of meaning and the Maharik (#88) says that it has a taint of heresy. But it is permissible to do something which non-Jews do if it does not have roots in idol worship and is logical, such as doctors wearing white coats or wearing glasses. Standing in silence for the Shoah or for fallen soldiers is therefore not considered "Chukot Ha-Goyim," since it is to honor them. Furthermore, there are no other nations in which the entire nation stands in silence for a tragedy or for fallen soldiers. 
Others claim that this act is "Bitul Torah" (taking time away from learning Torah). But there is no problem to think about Torah or learn Torah by heart related to the self-sacrifice during that time.
I once saw in the name of the Kabbalist, Ha-Rav Ashlag, that the siren has an aspect of wiping out the memory of Amalek similar to making noise upon hearing Haman's name. If this is so, then there is certainly no problem. It is difficult to agree or disagree since it is not clearly exact how this wipes out the memory of Amalek.

Regardless, the entire community stands in silence for the Holocaust or for fallen soldiers and one should not separate himself from the community. There are certainly better paths in our traditions for remembering the deceased – learning Mishnayot, reciting "Kel Maleh Rachamim," etc… - but here one should not separate from the community.

It Once Happened with Rabbi…in Bnei Brak: Eulogy for Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shmuel Ha-Levi Wozner ztz"l

[On Motza'ei Shabbat-Yom Tov, Rav Aviner heard of the passing of this great Rav, whom he greatly respected. He immediately
dictated the following eulogy.  Mordechai Tzion]

Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shmuel Ha-Levi Wozner Ztz"l ascended on high at the onset of the holiday of Pesach.
For more than 100 years, Ha-Rav Wozner enlightened the skies of his devoted, pure and holy followers.
This Torah giant's spirit permeated three areas:
1.    Paskening Halachah. He was a great Posek in every realm of the Torah.  One could ask him any question and he would give a halachic ruling.
2.    The Zichron Meir Neighborhood in Bnei Brak, of which he was the Rav.  He was a leader, educator and one who spiritually directed and elevated others.
3.    The Yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin, where he served as Rosh Yeshiva The Yeshiva was named after the Yeshiva in Lublin where Ha-Rav Wozner merited learning in his youth under Rabbi Meir Shapiro.  He also merited seeing the Rogachover when he came to Vienna and recited the blessing of "Blessed is He who apportioned from His wisdom to those who fear Him" (Shut Shevet Ha-Levi 10:13 #3).
And this Torah scholar was not a lone sun but kindled many lights, many great lights, raised many students, who were themselves great Torah scholars, great Poskim.  And he established various Batei Din.
As mentioned, he was a giant in Paskening Halachah.  His Shut Shevet Ha-Levi, 11 volumes - 11 are the stars - deals with every area of Halachah including modern technology.  And these are not even all of his rulings – a number of them were never published.  Rav Wozner said 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 [Diava'ad] 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 – thus it should not be published (Brought in his name in Shut Chayei Ha-Levi of Ha-Rav Yochanan Segal Wozner, Av Beit Din of Skverer Chasidim in Montreal, Introduction to Volume 6).
He was also an extreme Charedi, even more so than the Chazon Ish, who related to secular Jews as "Tinokot She-Nishbu" - Jews who did not receive a proper Jewish upbringing and education.  He greatly praised the Satmar Rebbe and his book "Va-Yoel Moshe" and some of his sons are Satmar Rabbis.  He did not participate in Israeli elections.
We must understand, however, that his harsh rebuke against secular Jews and the State of Israel was rebuke out of love, and at times had the value of protecting the Nation and State of Israel.  His strong words were in the category of "revealed rebuke and hidden love".
And this is what Maran Ha-Rav Kook said to his student Ha-Rav Dr. Moshe Zeidel, who was upset with the Charedi criticism. He responded that the Charedim, who are opposed to Zionism from the depths of the purity of their spirit, aid in removing much of its negative tendency and will thus allow it to reach its royal potential (Igrot Re'eiyah 3:156).
And in general, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook taught us the meaning of the Mishnah in Piskei Avot (6:6): "One who carries the burden with his fellow" – that Torah scholars are required to carry the burden together, even if there are differences of opinion, since the shared burden of Torah is greater than that which separates us (classes on Kinyan Ha-Torah).
Therefore, we must understand that this Torah giant does not only belong to Bnei Brak or to a small group of Chasidim or Charedim. He spread his light to the entire Nation of Israel. 
He ascended on high but his Torah is eternal and will continue to enlighten our lives for future generations.

May his soul be bound up in the bonds of the living with all of the great Tzadikim and Geonim.