Short & Sweet - Test Message Q&A #313

Q: How do I know if I am performing a Mitzvah in order to serve Hashem or out of arrogance?
A: Learn Mesilat Yesharim Chapter 11 on arrogance.

Taking Items from the Garbage in the Army
Q: Is it permissible for me to take army equipment which was thrown in the garbage by those commissioned to do so?
A: Yes, it is abandoned.  But ask a military Rabbi, or the 24-hour phone line for soldiers of the Military Rabbinate 052-941-4414.  This does not include items which have been set aside to be thrown away but have not yet been thrown out.

Opposing Opinion
Q: When a Rabbi answers a question, does he have to present an opposing opinion if there is one?
A: No.  There is no such principle.  It is his decision.  See Moreh Nevuchim 2:15.  And Rashi on Niddah 7b.

Maaser Kesafim
Q: I am a youth group leader and one of the boys in my group is poor and unable to pay the youth group fee and cannot participate in the field trips.  Can I pay for him with my Maaser Kesafim?
A: Yes.  He is considered poor in this matter.

"Al Naharot Bavel"
Q: Should one say "Al Naharot Bavel" before the Birkat Ha-Mazon on weekdays?
A: It is proper to do so, but is not obligatory since it is not found in the Gemara, Rambam or Shulchan Aruch, but in the Shelah (Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would not recite "Al Naharot Bavel" but rather "Shir Ha-Ma'alot" at each meal, because of our return to our Land.  Iturei Yerushalayim #26.  "Al Naharot Bavel", and when it is to be recited, does appear, however, in Siddur Olat Ha-Re'eiyah (vol. 1, p. 360) – a siddur with Maran Ha-Rav Kook's commentary which our Rabbi himself arranged and annotated).

Opening Umbrella Inside
Q: Is it unlucky to open an umbrella inside?
A: Superstition but not to be done on Shabbat, as an umbrella is Muktzeh.

Kosher Phone
Q: Is it obligatory to use a Kosher phone (which does not contain texting or internet access)?
A: The essence is that a person does not stumble by using his phone for forbidden activities.  If he stumbles, he is obligated to use the Kosher phone.  If he doesn't, he is not.

Student without Tzitzit
Q: If a student in my class refuses to wear Tzitzit, should I wait patiently or demand that he put them on?
A: If he is negatively affecting others in this area, then demand it, like Shammai. If he is not, then wait patiently, like Hillel.  Ain Aya, Shabbat 31.

Q: What should be done with a young woman who is anorexic and refuses food and treatment?
A: There is no choice, she must eat and have treatment.  This is a life-threatening situation.  She must therefore be hospitalized.

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah and the Temple Mount
Q: Is it true that Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook strongly prohibited going on to the Temple Mount because he feared that people were doing so in order to build the Temple?  Since this fear does not exist today, it is now permissible?

A: Where is this written?!  He prohibited going up on account of the holiness of the spot!  This is also not his innovation.  This is the way people acted throughout the generations, and the Chief Rabbinate forbids it.

Short & Sweet - Test Message Q&A #312

Choosing a Nursery School
Q: How does one choose a nursery school?
A: Choose the one where the teacher is the most motherly (see Ha-Rav's book "Chinuch Be-Ahavah" Volume 1).

Wedding Present
Q: I am invited to my friend's wedding, but do not have money to buy a gift because I am a student and work to pay for my studies.  Is it permissible for me to eat at the wedding?
A: It is permissible.  Each person according to his ability (see Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 1:24 that one should bring a wedding gift which is worth at least as much as the meal being served.  But I have heard Rav Aviner say that it is understood that some of those invited are unable to bring a gift, and the bride and groom understand and are just happy that they come to the wedding). 

Stolen Bikes
Q: There are illegal immigrants in Tel Aviv who sell bikes which seem to be stolen.  Is it permissible to buy them?
A: Certainly not, as our Sages say: The mouse is not what steals, but rather its hole - i.e. without the hole, the mouse would not have reason to steal. Likewise, without a buyer, the thief would not have reason to steal (Gittin 45a).

Using Another's Sefer Without Permission
Q: Is it permissible to use someone's Sefer?
A: It is forbidden without his permission, since there is a fear that the pages might tear.  Rama, Orach Chaim 14:4.
Q: What about a Siddur or Machzor?
A: Same.  Mishnah Berurah #16.  But some permit it since people are not particular about them.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan #13.

Emunah through Intellect
Q: Does Emunah have to be through one's intellect?
A: No.  Emunah is intellect above normal intellect: it is cleaving to Hashem.  See Midot Ha-Re'eiyah, Emunah 18.

Ambush on Shabbat
Q: If a soldier goes out of an ambush on Shabbat or returns from an ambush on Shabbat, is it permissible for him to take personal items with him?

A: It is permissible to take food which will contribute to his alertness.  There is a dispute regarding non-essential items.  The Chafetz Chaim is lenient in his book "Machane Yisrael" (see Ke-Chitzin Be-Yad of Ha-Rav Avichai Ronski, former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, Volume 2 pp. 36-37.  And Kishrei Milchama of Colonel Ha-Rav Eyal Krim, head of the Halachah Department of Tzahal, Volume 4 pp. 86-90).

Does a Person Complete His Mission in Life and then Die?

Question: When a person dies does it mean that he has completed his mission in this world?
Answer: No.  There are also wicked people who do the exact opposite of their missions and they nonetheless die.  The essence is therefore for a person to utilize every moment of his life to do good.  See in the Siddur of Maran Ha-Rav Kook Volume 2, p. 364 on the Davening for Yom Kippur.

Once during the Yom Ha-Atzmaut or Yom Yerushalayim celebration in Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, they also celebrated the 80th birthday of Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah.  Everyone praised Rabbenu and all of his life's achievements.  Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin stood up and said: I do not agree with all of these praises.  He related that people once came to the Kotzker Rebbe with a sick child and requested that he prayer for their precious and wonderful child, and they recounted all of his sterling qualities.  The Kotzker responded that the child had not done a thing.  Everyone was shocked!  Instead of arousing merit for the child, he denounced him.  The child nonetheless recovered.  The Kotzker Rebbe said that the Gemara in Kiddushin (31b) tells that Rebbe Tarfon's mother came to the Beit Midrash and said: Pray for my son who is a great Tzadik.  The Rabbis asked: In what way is he a great Tzadik?  She said: I once lost my shoe and he placed his hand under my foot the entire way home.  They said to her: This is nothing!  Even if he did 100 times this, he still would not fulfill half of the Mitzvah of honoring one's parent.  The Kotzker asked: Why did the Rabbis belittle Rabbi Tarfon?  He explained that what Rabbi Tarfon did was indeed great, but they did not want to ascribe it too much importance for fear that it would mean that he had completed his role in the world.  Our Sages therefore acknowledged that what Rabbi Tarfon did was indeed positive, but it was incomplete, just as the Kotzker Rebbe suggested about the child.  In the same vein, Ha-Rav Zevin said about Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah: "He hasn't done anything".  Rabbenu smiled, and Rav Zevin said: "He still has lots and lots to do".  And he did!  This principle of the Kotzker Rebbe, however, does not have a source.  Although the Kotzker Rebbe himself is a source, there is no source for his idea in the Torah, Mishnah, Gemara, Rishonim and Acharonim.  It is not written in any place that when a person finishes his task in life, he dies.

Avrech who Sold Invalid Tefillin Straps

Question: Someone from Bnei Brak sold Tefillin straps, and it was discovered that he deceived people, since instead of the required black color (which is an oral tradition Moshe Rabbenu heard at Mt. Sinai – Menachot 35a), the straps had a thin plastic black covering, which makes them invalid.  An Avrech (married Yeshivah student), in his innocence, purchased the Tefillin straps from the manufacturer in Bnei Brak and sold them to others.  Now that the deception has come to light, thirty individuals are demanding that the Avrech either exchange their Tefillin straps for Kosher ones or return their money.  Is the Avrech obligated to return their money, or do we say "Ones Rachmana Patrei” – a person is relieved of guilt if there are circumstances beyond his control.  Based on this principle, can he claim that he is not at fault, and therefore tell the customers to make a claim in a Beit Din against the original seller, since everyone knows who it is?
Answer: The Badatz of Bnei Brak and the Badatz of the Edah Ha-Charedit in Yerushlayim publicized based on the Mishnah Berurah (32:185) that since one can completely peel the black strip off of the leather, leaving the leather with no black coloring, the straps are invalid.  Gedolei Yisrael said that anyone who purchased Tefillin straps from 5774 until now should put them in boiling water or acetone and see if the strip separates from the strap.
The simple Halachah is that the Avrech is obligated to return the customers' money, or replace the straps, since it is "Hona'ah" (the act of wronging another by selling him an article for more than its real worth) and "Mekach Taut" (transactions entered into with a flawed understanding).  The buyers were not negligent, since they purchased the Tefillin straps from a G-d-fearing person and were therefore not required to check for such a deficiency (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 232:18.  Rama ibid.  Gra ibid. #27.  Aruch Ha-Shulchan ibid. #27.  Dibei Mamonot of Ha-Rav Ezra Batzri Volume 2 p. 210.).  The Avrech can then make a claim in a Beit Din against the original seller.
The principle of "Ones Rachmana Patrei” - one is relieved of guilt if there are circumstances beyond one's control – does not apply in this case to the seller of the Tefillin but rather to the fear that all of buyers did not fulfill the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin, and recited blessings in vain over the Tefillin they assumed were Kosher.  These are severe transgressions (See Pri Megadim Orach Chaim 32 Eshel Avraham #69.  Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 10:1).  The Avrech, in this cinstance, is not considered guilty for his role in this.  And the same applies to the buyers themselves.  Because they purchased the Tefillin from a seemingly "G-d-fearing Sofer", it is impossible to blame them.  In such a case, we say "Ones Rachmana Patrei”, meaning that they are not guilty of the transgression of not putting on Tefillin and reciting blessings in vain. 
Did such a person fulfill the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin?  This is a dispute among Achronim.  In Shut Rav Pealim (Orach Chaim 4:2), it is written in the name of the Chida that if a person performs a Mitzvah and he intends it for the sake of Heaven, he will receive a reward, even if the object of the Mitzvah turns out to be invalid.  His proof is from the Gemara in Makkot (11a) that Rav saw that Rav Chiya's Tefillin were sewn with flax, and the Halachah is that such Tefillin are invalid.  Certainly the great Rav Chiya had the reward of putting on Tefillin like the other righteous Rabbis, even though his Tefillin were sewn with flax, since his intent was for the sake of Heaven.  Rabbi Meri Simchah of Dvinsk, however, writes in his book "Mesech Chochmah" (Shemot 11:1) that one whose Tefillin were invalid does not fulfill the Mitzvah, even if he is not to blame, since he should have been careful to have his Tefillin checked.  In Shut Har Tzvi (Orach Chaim 1:35), Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank distinguishes between the case of Rabbi Chiya, who ruled for himself and therefore followed his own ruling, and the objective reality of a situation.  If a person follows the ruling of his Rabbi, that person receives a reward for performing the Mitzvah, even if his Rabbi's opinion is not accepted by the majority of Poskim.  If, however, a given Mitzvah object is shown to be invalid, he does not fulfill the Mitzvah.  Rav Frank is therefore in doubt as to whether a person whose Tefillin were invalid fulfills the Mitzvah since he could have brought them to another expert to check them.  In Shut Shevut Yaakov (2:10), however, he writes that if one made an effort to fulfill a Mitzvah, such as the case of one who purchased Tefillin from a trustworthy Sofer and brought them to be checked, he still fulfills the Mitzvah even if they turned out to be invalid, based on the Gemara in Kiddush (40a): Rav Asi said: If one intended to perform a Mitzvah, but was unable to do so, the Torah considers it as if he did.
Someone once had his Tefillin checked after many years and they were found to be invalid.  He asked Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach what he should do to repent.  Rav Shlomo Zalman said that he should wear his Tefillin longer than usual, i.e. he should remain in his Tefillin after Davening and learn Torah with them on.  If he is not comfortable to do so in public, he should do this in his house (Halichot Shlomo Chapter 4, Orchot Halachah note #115).

In sum: The Avrech who purchased the invalid Tefillin straps from the manufacturer is obligated to return the buyers' money, or replace the straps.  He is relieved of any guilt in the event that all the buyers did not fulfill the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin, and recited blessings in vain over the Tefillin they assumed was Kosher.  And the same applies to the purchasers of the straps.