Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #307

Child in his Parents' Bed
Q: Our child wakes up in the middle of the night with bad dreams and comes into our bed.  Should we insist he goes back or let him stay?
A: In general, you should bring him back to his bed and sit next to him with your hand on him until he falls asleep.  However, in special cases, it is permissible to let him stay if it is difficult for him.

Calling Parents by Their First Names
Q: My parents want me to call them by their first names.  Is it permissible, or forbidden on account of honoring parents?
A: Their will is their honor.  Tosafot Kiddushin (31b d.h. Rebbe Tarfon) in the name of the Yerushalmi. 

Kippah Made from Hair
Q: Someone made Kippot out of hair.  Is it permissible to wear such a Kippah outside of Israel in a place which is dangerous for Jews?
A: Some forbid wearing a toupée without a Kippah on account of Maarit Ayin.  Mishnah Berurah 2:12.  This is the ruling of the halachic authorities, that one needs a recognizable Kippah (This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky.  Emet Le-Yaakov on the Shulchan Aruch ibid.).  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 of that place permit it.  It is preferable, however, to wear a hat that is not unique to Jews (Piskei Teshuvot 2 note #57).  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).  And there is obviously an even greater solution: Making Aliyah.  Here, in Eretz Yisrael, one can proudly wear a Kippah.

Guarding One's Tongue
Q: How can I refrain from speaking Lashon Ha-Ra?  It is impossible!
A: Incorrect.  The more one accustoms himself to refrain, the easier it gets.  Furthermore, even speaking less Lashon Ha-Ra has great value.  Introduction to Sefer Shemirat Ha-Lashon of the Chafetz Chaim.

Snacks in the Dorm
Q: Is it permissible to take snacks and cookies from friends in a dormitory without asking, or is this stealing?
A: It is permissible if one is 100% sure that the friend would agree with all of his heart, and not only because he doesn't feel right refusing.

Officer of Soldiers who are Torah Scholars
Q: I am an officer in Tzahal and I have soldiers who are Torah scholars.  How should I relate to them?  Is it permissible for me to put them on the duty roster?
A: Everything is permissible.  1. It is the same "Pikuach Nefesh" which permits doing so for every soldier.  2. A Rav may forgo the honor due to him.  Kiddushin 32a.  And when a person is drafted into the army, he forgoes his honor.  3. Although a Rav may not forgo a disgrace to him, here it is for the best of the soldier himself.  This is similar to the halachah which a son can make his father grind on a mill.  Kiddushin 31a-b.  And it is for the best of the soldier that he be part of the duty roster so that the other soliders do not complain, unless they themselves initiate exempting Torah scholars from the list.  See too the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 243:a) that a Torah scholar is exempt from all types of guarding, but he is obligated if it is Pikuach Nefesh.  Shut Ha-Radvaz brought in the Pitchei Teshuvot there.

Picture of the Temple Mount
Q: Is it permissible to use a picture taken by someone who entered the Temple Mount?
A: Certainly not.  It was taken by way of a transgression.

Stupid Questions
Q: Why does Ha-Rav answer stupid question?

A: The person who asked the question is also a person who deserves respect and an answer.  In general, it is not your role to give Mussar to others who ask questions.

Video Dvar Torah - Parashat Yayetze: Explanation and Not Coercion

Video Dvar Torah:

Parashat Yayetze: Explanation and Not Coercion
Hashem says to Yaakov Avinu: "Return to the Land of your forefathers" (Bereshit 31:3).  Yaakov speaks with his wives, Rachel and Leah, and says: Listen, I have worked for your father with all of my might but he took advantage of me and changed my wages ten times (ibid. verse 7).  And only then does he say: Hashem appeared to me in a dream and told me to return to Eretz Yisrael (ibid. verse 13).
Why didn't Yaakov Avinu just say that Hashem told him to return, and therefore they are returning?  Why the whole introduction?
The Mishnah and Gemara in Ketubot (110b) in fact says that if a husband wants to go to Eretz Yisrael and his wife does not, she must go, or else he may divorce her without paying her Ketubah.  If the wife wants to go to Eretz Yisrael and the husband does not, he must go, or else he must divorce her and pay her the Ketubah.  Why then doesn't Yaakov Avinu simply tell his wives they are making Aliyah?
The Shelah Ha-Kadosh (Shenei Luchot Ha-Brit on the Parashah) explains that Yaakov Avinu did not want to give his wives orders and commands, even if they were Divine orders.  After all, they were going to have to leave their father, their birthplace and their house.  This is not always easy.  He therefore did not want to coerce them.  He preferred to explain.

We learn from here that one spouse should not give orders to the other, not a husband to his wife and not a wife to her husband.  Everything should be done in humility, with explanation and discussion, and not through coercion.   

What Blessings Will We Recite Upon Pollard's Release?

Q: When Jonathan Pollard is finally released from an American prison after thirty years, should he recite Ha-Gomel?
A: Certainly, as the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 219:1) rules that one who is freed from jail recites this blessing.
Q: But the Mishnah Berurah writes in the Biur Halachah (d.h. Chavush) that in the case of one who is imprisoned but not in danger, the Sefardic custom is to recite Ha-Gomel but the Ashkenazi custom is not to do so, and Pollard is Ashkenazi.  Furthermore, there are rules in a American prison and people are not randomly killed there.
A: 1. He has been in danger on account of the harsh treatment he received there, including years of solitary confinement.  2. He has been with other prisoners who could have murdered him (Piskei Teshuvot 219:4).  3. He has been in a life-threatening situation various times on account of illnesses, and he continues to be very sick.
Q: If so, it is clear that he should recite Ha-Gomel…
A: Furthermore, the Kaf Ha-Chaim (219:1) brings that Sefardim should recite Ha-Gomel when being released from jail on account of the lack of personal freedom, even if there were wonderful conditions.  And Ashkenazi Poskim hold that one recites the blessing if one is bound in handcuffs and this is the case here (Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #1.  Although Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that Pollard should not recite Ha-Gomel based on the simple understanding of the words the Mishnah Berurah writes in the Biur Halachah brought above.  Parashah Sheet "Divrei Shi'ach" – Parashat Re'eh 5775 - #131).
Q: Should we recite Ha-Tov Ve-Ha-Meitiv?
A: Yes, upon the good news of his release (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:1.  And this is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski.  Parashah Sheet "Divrei Shi'ach" – Parashat Re'eh 5775 - #131).
Q: When should we recite this blessing?
A: Upon his release.
Q: Why don't we recite the blessing now over the good news that he will be released?
A: We only recite it when he leaves the prison and is free, since there can always be complications.
Q: Should everyone recite this blessing?
A: Anyone who is truly joyous.  See Aruch Ha-Shulchan (ibid. #1).
Q: Should one recite Mechaye Ha-Meitim when meeting him after his release?
A: No, since we have known all along that he was alive.  We only recite this blessing if we have not heard from someone in over a year and there is a possibility that he is dead.
A: Should one recite Shehechiyanu when meeting him after his release as one does when not seeing his friend for 30 days?
A: Yes.  Although there are those who do not, for various reasons, customarily recite Shehechiyanu over seeing a friend (see Piskei Teshuvot 225:2.  And Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski said that one should not recite Shehechiyanu when seeing Pollard based on the Mishnah Berurah 225:2.  Parashah Sheet "Divrei Shi'ach" – Parashat Re'eh 5775 - #131).  But Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah quotes all of these blessings in Sidur Olat Re'eiyah (Vol. 1 pp. 380-382) as the basic Halachah lays out (and see Shut She'eilat Shlomo 3:83-84, 86).  
Q: But Shehechiyanu is only recited when one is joyous to meet his friend, and not when one has never met the person (Shulchan Aruch ibid. #2)?  And is someone who visited Pollard in prison, as Ha-Rav did, in the category of a "friend"?!
A: This is a unique case (see Piskei Teshuvot ibid. #2).  Pollard is all of our friend since he saved our entire Nation from the non-conventional weapons of the enemy.  When the Netziv met the Aderet for the first time, he recited Shehechiyanu (see Ha-Rav's commentary on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 59:21).
Q: This was special since the Aderet was a Torah giant!  And the Munkatcher Rebbe recited Shehechiyanu upon seeing the Saba Kadisha for the first time (Shut Yayin Ha-Tov #48-49), as did Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld over the Munkatcher (Masaot Yerushalayim p. 21).  And Ha-Rav Ephraim Greenblatt ruled that one should recite Shehechiyanu the first time he meets Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shut Revivot Ephraim 6:104).  It therefore seems that this is a special halachah for Torah giants!

A: One who saves his friend, and all the more so one who saves the entire community, has an aspect that is comparable to a Torah scholar.  See Pele Yoetz Erech "Hatzalah", who explains the saying of our Rabbis: "Even those of Israel who are empty are as full of Mitzvot as a pomegranate [is full of seeds]."  How so?  It is those who save lives.  And the Pele Yoetz emphasizes: One who saves lives is greater even than a Torah scholar.       

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #306

Q: I have OCD.  A Rabbi told me that Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that in such a case, one should be lenient whenever there is a doubt.  What does "whenever there is a doubt" mean?  That I don't need to ask a Rabbi every time?
A: No.  Whenever there is a doubt means exactly that: whenever there is a doubt (and see the book "Religious Compulsions and Fears" by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek).

Connections (Called "Protexia" in Israel)
Q: Is it ethical to use connections in order to receive a job or benefits?
A: On condition that you truly deserve them, but are unable to attain them in the usual way.

Guest Taking Food
Q: If I am at an affair, is it permissible to take a cookie in my pocket to eat later?
A: There is a dispute whether the host gives the food to the guest or whether he gives the guest permission to eat it.  In practice, if the food is on the communal plate, you cannot take it home, but if it is on your personal plate, you may.  Be'er Heitiv, Even Ha-Ezer 28:32.   

Placing Items in a Tefillin Bag
Q: Is it permissible to put items, such as a mirror and money for Tzedakah, in a Tefillin bag?
A: It is forbidden to place items in a Tefillin bag unless they are connected to performing the Mitzvah of Tefillin.  Therefore, it is permissible to put a mirror in a Tefillin bag but it is forbidden to put in money for Tzedkah.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Halichot Shlomo Chapter 4 #34 (A father who suspected that his son was not putting on Tefillin once asked Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein whether he could put a chocolate bar in his son's Tefillin bag in order to discover the truth.  Is it permissible to place something in the Tefillin bag for the great need of educating his son?  Rav Zilberstein answers that it is permissible to place a mirror in one's Tefillin bag since it serves to insure that the Tefillin are resting in their proper place and is therefore essential to the Mitzvah.  This is not the case however with a chocolate bar, since it is not part and parcel of the Mitzvah and it is therefore forbidden to place it in there.  In the book "Ve-Ha-Arev Na Volume 2 pp. 439-441.  And when Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef went to serve as a Rabbi in Egypt, there was a so-called "Chief Rabbi".  Rav Ovadiah complained to him regarding all sorts of halachic violations which needed to be fixed, such as serving Treif food in the Jewish hospital, to which he responded: "There is no problem".  There was a Torah scholar who served in the Rabbinate there, Chacham Yosef Chason, who told Rav Ovadiah that this "Chief Rabbi" doesn't even put on Tefillin!  And how did he know?  Every morning the "Chief Rabbi" would close himself in a room with his Talit and Tefillin bag, and come out after a half an hour.  Chacham Yosef claimed that all he does in that room is smoke cigarettes and nothing else!  Rav Ovadiah took out the Tefillin of the "Chief Rabbi" and replaced them with onions as a test.  If he actually put on Tefillin and found onions in his bag, he would scream: "Where are my Tefillin"?  No such scream ever occurred…  In the book "Sinai Ve-Oker Harim" pp. 97-99.  But how did Rav Ovadiah do such a thing, as it is forbidden to put onions in a Tefillin bag?  This was an extenuating circumstance of a spiritual life-threatening situation and a desecration of Hashem's Name).

Preparation for Tzahal
Q: What spiritual preparation should I do in anticipation of my army service?
A: Learn Mesilat Yesharim many times.  And do so as well when you are in the army.

Waking Up in the Morning
Q: I have a difficult time waking up in the morning.  What should I do?
A: Set a radio alarm at a high volume.

Rachel and Lavan's Idols
Q: Why did Rachel save the Terafim instead of destroying them or immediately burying them?

A: She feared that because of Lavan's deep connection to them, he would murder everyone because of them.  She therefore left open the opportunity to return them to him in the case of real danger.  Gur Aryeh of the Maharal.

Short &Sweet - Text Message Q&A #305

Laser Surgery for Cohain
Q: I am a Cohain.  Am I allowed to have laser surgery on my eyes or is it considered creating a blemish?
A: A blemish in one's eyes which cannot be seen does not invalidate a Cohain from serving in the Beit Ha-Mikdash.  On the contrary, the laser surgery will correct the "blemish".

Refusal to Discuss Ruling
Q: Why is Ha-Rav sometimes willing to give reasons for his rulings and other times unwilling to discuss them?
A: There are times when discussion gives a level of legitimacy to an opinion which has no place in Halachah (During one of Ha-Rav Aharon Kotler's visits to Vilna, Ha-Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski showed him a letter sent to him by a certain Rabbi with a lengthy Pilpul regarding turning on and off electric lights on Yom Tov.  Rav Chaim Ozer told him that he did not respond to the letter.  Rav Kotler asked: Why not?  Rav Chaim Ozer explained that if he responds, and the Rabbi writes back, and he responds a second time, the Rabbi could say: I discussed this issue from all sides with the Rav of Vilna in an exchange of letters, and I decided to permit it…  But if I don't respond at all, he cannot argue that the issue has any standing and relate it to me.  Aish Ha-Torah on Ha-Rav Aharon Kotler Vol. 2, pp. 240-241.
And the same principle was applied in response to a question that caused a storm amongst the Poskim during the Holocaust.  The European countries claimed that Shechitah was "Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim" (causing undue pain to animals) and made laws that an animal must be anesthetized before being slaughtered.  All the great Poskim discussed whether this was permitted according to the Halachah.  During that time, Ha-Rav Aryeh Tzvi Frumer, known as the Kozhiglover Gaon, wrote an ingenious Teshuvah (Shut Eretz Tzvi 2:39) regarding this issue and sent it to the Tchebiner Rav but did not receive a response.  At short while later, they met one another and the Kozhiglover Gaon asked the Tchebiner Rav why he did not answer his letter.  The Tchebiner answered that although the Teshuvah was a wonder and contained strong proofs, he did not understand how one can permit it anesthetizing an animal before Shechitah.  He said that when anesthesia is given to a person for the purpose of surgery, we search for an expert anesthesiologist to examine the person's condition, so that the person is not injured or killed by the anesthesia, G-d forbid.  And occasionally, there are errors.  In our case of giving an animal anesthesia before being slaughtered, who will examine the animal's condition and how will we know if the animal did not become Treif before being slaughtered?  The reason I did answer the letter is on account of the fear that if the Polish authorities saw that Rabbis were discussing this issue, some permitting it and others forbidding it, it would strengthen them to make such a decree, claiming that it is a dispute and some Rabbis permit it.  I therefore thought it best to remain quiet and not discuss the matter.  Sar Ha-Torah pp. 283-284).

Nurse Returning Home on Shabbat
Q: I am a nurse.  If I am working on Shabbat and my shift ends, am I permited to drive home or take a ride from a non-Jew?
A: According to Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, it is permissible. According to Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, it is forbidden. Therefore, one should return home in a car driven by a non-Jew.  If this is not possible, it is permited for a Jew to drive (Shut Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:80, 5:25.  Shut Minchat Shlomo 1:8.  Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach adds a note there that this issue was discussed in the important and famous book "Shut Igrot Moshe" by the Gaon and Tzadik, Ha-Rav Feinstein, and he only printed his Teshuvah after asking permission from Ha-Rav Feinstein.  See Ha-Torah Ha-Mesamachat pp. 229-230.  Other authorities who hold like Ha-Rav Feinstein include: Ha-Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievski in the name of the Chazon Ish.  Orchot Rabbenu Vol. 1 p. 213.  The Brisker Rav, Ha-Rav Velvele Soloveitchik, brought in Asiya #56 p. 64.  Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 3:105, 4:80.  Shut Amud Ha-Yemini #17).  

Q: Is Rastafarianism considered idol worship?

A: Yes.  It is a type of Christianity.