Killing a Terrorist When He has Stopped Murdering

Question: Is it ethical to kill a terrorist when it is logical to assume that he will no longer murder?
Answer: This question can be divided into two parts: 1. Can we really be certain that he has stopped murdering?  It is impossible to know.  2. Isn't this similar to the law of a "Rodef" (literally "pursuer" - a case in which one is permitted to kill a pursuer so that the pursued person is saved from harm)?  If the "Rodef" is in pursuit, we kill him, and if he is not in pursuit, we do not kill him. 
There are three answers given by halachic authorities:
a. A terrorist is never finished being a "Rodef".  He is not an "individual Rodef" who is angry with a particular person and wants to kill him.  He is a "communal Rodef" who wants to kill Jews and he does not care which Jews they are.  If we capture him, put him in jail, and later release him, as is the custom – to our great distress – he will continue to murder.  The organization of parents of those murdered by terrorists has exact records which state that more than 180 Jews have been murdered by released terrorists who have murdered again.  This means that when you free a terrorist - even with the goal of helping Jews - you endanger more Jews.  This person is therefore not a one-time "Rodef," but a perpetual "Rodef."
b. The halachic authorities also say that you should kill the terrorist in order that others will see and be frightened.  This "Rodef" is teaching other "Rodefim" through his actions.  If we have mercy on one who kills Jews and then gives up when the police approach, we encourage others to act like him, thus endangering other Jews.  In situations like these, we must indeed be extremely ethical.  The question is, ethical to whom – to the "Rodef" or to other Jews?  Answer: to both of them.  By killing him we are ethical to the Jews who have done nothing wrong, and we are being ethical to him, since we stop him from killing others and thus lessen his "Gehinom" (punishment in the World to Come).  The Mishnah in Sanhedrin (71b) says that the "Ben Sorer U-Moreh" (the rebellious son – see Devarim 21:18-21) is killed on account of his future.  While he has done many things wrong, he has not committed a sin for which he is liable for capital punishment, but he is killed so that he will die innocent and not guilty.  In our case the terrorist is already liable, but he will die less liable than if we let him live.  We do not use the concept "he should die innocent and not die guilty" to create new laws, but to explain them. 
c. There are halachot of war.  In war, we do not lock up an enemy who is shooting at us: we fire back at him.  This is similar to what King Shaul said to the "Keni" (Shmuel 1 15:6): "Go, depart, go down from among Amalek, lest I destroy you with them."  This means, even though you are my friend, if you are there, you could get hurt or killed.  In the halachot of war, we do not make such calculations, as it says, "The best of the non-Jews should be killed."  The Tosafot raised a major difficulty with this statement: how can we say such a thing when according to halachah it is forbidden to kill a non-Jew and all the more so the best of the non-Jews (Tosafot to Avodah Zarah 26b and see Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah 158)?  Tosafot explained that this statement refers to a time of war.  This non-Jew seems harmless or, in our case, he killed but he will become harmless.  No, we did not make such calculations in a time of war, even a harmless-seeming non-Jew is killed.

In sum: We therefore see that killing a terrorist is ethical.  However, this matter must be decided by the Chief of Staff and the officers of Tzahal and not by individual soldiers.  The State of Israel has signed international agreements which regulate warfare, and we must abide by them.  Although in specific instances we might suffer from these agreements, overall they are beneficial to us.

Purim in the Yerushalayim Neighborhood of Ramot – Who is the Mara De-Atra?!

Question: One of the Chief Rabbis of Yerushalayim, Ha-Rav Shlomo Amar, rules that in the neighborhood of Ramot, Purim should be celebrated on the 14th of Adar, since there is considerable distance between it and the other neighborhoods of Yerushalayim.  The other Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, rules to celebrate Purim in Ramot on the 15th, as in the other neighborhoods of Yerushalayim, since it is in fact connected to it.  Both of the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef and Ha-Rav David Lau also rule to celebrate it on the 15th.  Whom does the Halachah follow?  Who is the Mara De-Atra?!  I am totally confused!
Answer: I am not going to place my head between these giant mountains, lest my skull be crushed.  I therefore will not discuss the specific question, but rather the general question of who is the Mara De-Atra of that place.
The Gemara states (Shabbat 130a) that in Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos’ region, trees would be chopped down on Shabbat to provide coals needed to make the circumcision knife. This was the custom, even though Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos was the only one who ruled that this was permissible.  Similarly, in Rabbi Yossi Ha-Gelili’s sphere of influence, people would consume fowl and milk together, because he deemed it permissible. This, is despite the fact that he alone ruled this way, and the general principle that the law follows the majority. Conclusion: we follow the rulings of the local Rabbi, due to the principle of showing honor to Torah scholars, as explained in Shut Ha-Rashba (1:253), as well as Rama (Choshen Mishpat 25:2).
There is a general principle of Halachah: "The Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in a question for the Rabbi from Pinsk".  Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein related that he once received a letter from the Chinuch Atzma'ei in Eretz Yisrael regarding a dispute between Ha-Rav Yechezkel Abramsky and Ha-Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and asking for his opinion on the matter.  He said that he does not interfere with matters relating to Eretz Yisrael, and the authorities there must answer the question.  He said that the Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in a question for the Rabbi from Pinsk.  It is known that Reb Moshe was an expert in Seder Zeraim and even had a manuscript of his commentary on Seder Zeraim in the Yerushalami, but he did not publish it since he did not want to interfere with rulings of Mitzvot relating to Eretz Yisrael (Meged Givot Olam Volume 1, p. 55.  Volume 2, pp. 31-32).  Similarly, when Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein would be asked questions relating to America, he would say: Ask the Rabbis of America (We heard this in the eulogy of Ha-Rav Mordechai Willig, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, for Ha-Rav Lichtenstein).
I, the humble one, therefore cannot rule on this matter, since there is a Mara De-Atra of Yerushalayim, and I do not fill this role.
But the question remains, who is the Mara De-Atra: The Chief Rabbis of Israel or the Chief Rabbis of Yerushalayim?  Simply, the Chief Rabbis of Israel are the Mara De-Atra relating to issues of Klal-Yisrael, such as conversion, Kashrut, the Kotel, the Temple Mount, etc.  And each local Rabbi is the Mara De-Atra of his locale.  Otherwise, the Chief Rabbis could contradict every ruling of the local Rabbis.
In this case, however, there is a dispute between the two Rabbis of Yerushalayim!
This dispute about Purim in Ramot is not a new one.  This currently discussion recalls that Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held that in Ramot, they should celebrate on the 15th.  Then Ha-Rav Yitzchal Yaakov Weiss, the head of the Edah Ha-Charedit of Yerushalayim, publicized his opinion that they should celebrate on the 14th (Shut Minchat Yitzchak 8:62).  Ha-Rav Auerbach then humbly refused to state his opinion out of honor for the Mara De-Atra of Yerushalayim.  But he once added that according to the Minchat Yitzchak, who ruled that they should celebrate on the 14th, Ramot is not part of Yerushalayim, so he could can state his opinion, since the Minchat Yitzchak is not the Mara De-Atra there.  But, since Rav Auerbach himself holds that they celebrate on the 15th, Ramot is part of Yerushalayim and the Minchat Yitzchak is the Mara De-Atra there, he therefore will refrain from ruling… (Chico Mamtakim Volume 1 pp. 326-327).
As a result, perhaps we can explain that since Rav Amar rules that Ramot celebrates Purim on the 14th, it is not Yerushalayim, and he is not the Mara De-Atra there.  The Halachah therefore would follow Rav Stern, who rules that Ramot is Yerushalayim (and he is the Mara De-Atra there).  But Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach already did not follow this Chiddush.
The Gemara rules in various places that if there is a Chief Rabbi of a city, area or country, all of the other Rabbis must follow his opinion.  It is forbidden to rule against his ruling, and it is even forbidden for Rabbis to give rulings, lest the Mara De-Atra rule otherwise.  This is true even if the Chief Rabbi's opinion is a singular one (see Shut She'eilat Shlomo Volume 4 pp. 272-276).  In our times, however, the Chief Rabbis of cities do not force their opinion on anyone, and people can do as they wish in their homes and ask which ever Rabbi they choose.  Their rulings are only obligatory in matters relating to the entire city. The same is true with the Chief Rabbis of Israel: their rulings are only obligatory in matters relating to all of Eretz Yisrael.  If they are asked questions relating to a city issue, they humbly refuse to answer and refer the questioner to the Rabbi of that city.  
Until this day, there is a dispute between the Rabbis about Purim in Ramot and there are different practices among the neighborhood residents.  There are some among both the Ashkenazim and Sefardim who celebrate on the 14th and some on the 15th, and some are strict to celebrate both days.

We therefore say that since there is more than one Mara De-Atra of Yerushalayim and within Ramot itself, each person should follow the major principle "Get yourself a Rabbi" (Pirkei Avot 1:6, 16).  And to someone who does not have a Rabbi, we say: Do what you did last year, since there was the same dispute last year and all of the Rabbis still hold the same positions.

Same Question to Various Rabbis

Question: Is it permissible to ask the same question to more than one Rabbi?
Answer: It depends on what you are asking.  The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (7a) says that one who asks a Rabbi a question and he (the Rabbi) declares it impure may not ask another Rabbi who will declare it pure, and one who asks a Rabbi a question and he declares it forbidden may not ask another Rabbi who will declare it permissible.  This ruling is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 242:31).  Why is it forbidden to ask the same question a second time to a different Rabbi?  Some explain that it is because of the honor of the first Rabbi (Rashi to Niddah 20b): You asked a question and don't like the answer so you go to a different Rabbi?!  You are shaming the first Rabbi!  Others explain that when the first Rabbi rules, the object on which he ruled now has the status which he placed upon it.  This means that if I ask a Rabbi if something is kosher or not and he rules that it is not Kosher, the ruling of another Rabbi cannot change it.  The Halachah follows the second explanation (This is the opinion of most Rishonim, including Ra'avad, Ramban, Rashba quoted in the Ran Avodah Zarah ibid. and Rosh, ibid. 1:3).  Therefore, when I ask a Rabbi a question about a piece of meat, the meat has the status of his ruling, but if I have another piece of meat and I have the same question, I can ask a different Rabbi. 
There are also questions regarding a person's activities: How should I act in a given situation?  A Rabbi's ruling fixes the status of an object, but not the status of a person's activities.  Regarding an object, you can only ask one Rabbi, but regarding a person's conduct, you can ask various Rabbis.  Even in the case of an object, if I fervently want to ask a second Rabbi, I can, as long as I tell him that I already asked the first Rabbi.  If the second Rabbi so desires, he can talk to the first Rabbi and try to convince him to change his mind (Rama ibid.). 
I remember that someone once asked me a question regarding the laws of Family Purity and I answered: she is impure.  The questioner went and asked Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu. Ha-Rav Eliyahu called me and said: "Rav, look at it from this perspective and that perspective."  I then understood that it was permissible to be lenient and I said: "I retract, she is pure."   Furthermore, it is obvious that someone who asks a theoretical question may ask as many Rabbis as he wants.  You may also ask questions to different Rabbis at different times, since all Rabbis are Torah.

By the way, if someone accidently asked the wrong Rabbi a question, it is permissible to re-ask the question.  If he intended to ask a Rabbi in general (and not a specific Rabbi), he must follow his answer.  And it once happened that a couple had a question on Shabbat night about the laws of Family Purity.  Since they lived near to Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the wife went to his apartment building, but accidentally went to the floor above Rav Ovadiah, where Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul lived, and he ruled that it was forbidden.  When she returned home, the husband understood that his wife had made a mistake. He went on his own to Rav Ovadiah, who permitted it, and related that his wife had accidentally asked Rav Ben Tzion Abba who prohibited it.  Rav Ovadiah said: Rebbe Ben Tzion is a Gaon in Halachah, but my opinion in this case is that it is permissible. Therefore, if you originally intended to ask me, it is permissible, but if you intended to ask any Rabbi, it is forbidden, especially since you asked Chacham Ben Tzion, and I cannot permit what he did not (Maran by Ha-Rav Michal Shtern pp. 247-248).

The Satmar Rebbe is Visiting Israel!

[A talk given in the Yeshiva during lunch]

Question: The Satmar Rebbe arrived in Israel for a five-day visit.  Is it obligatory to go and greet him?
Answer: A person is not obligated to greet every single Torah scholar, especially since – Baruch Hashem – there are so many Torah scholars today.  A person is only obligated to greet his Rabbi, i.e. "Rav Muvhak" - the Rabbi from whom he has gained the majority of his knowledge.  Additionally, even if a Rabbi is not his main teacher, but is the "Gadol Ha-Dor", he is considered one's "Rav Muvhak."  Therefore, if the Satmar Rebbe is one's "Rav Muvhak," he is obligated to go and greet him, but if he is not, one is not obligated, although it is certainly permissible.

Regarding the question if the Satmar Rebbe is the "Gadol Ha-Dor" there is a dispute.  Who is the "Gadol Ha-Dor"?  The answer for us is simple: the "Gadol Ha-Dor" is Maran Ha-Rav Kook.  In fact, he is not only the leader of this generation, but the leader of generations.  But it is possible that there is a dispute.  One person says that this rabbi is the "Gadol Ha-Dor," while another says that another rabbi is the "Gadol Ha-Dor."  Surely some thought that the Rambam was the "Gadol Ha-Dor" and others thought that Rabbenu Tam was the "Gadol Ha-Dor."  It is even possible that each is the leading rabbi in a different sense.  The Gerrer Rebbe said that there is no need to find out which holiday is most important.  On Pesach, Pesach is the most important.  On Shavuot, Shavuot.  On Sukkot, Sukkot/  Each holiday, when it falls is the most important one.  So too here, it is possible that there are different types of leading Rabbis of the generation.   Nonetheless, the students of the Satmar Rebbe consider him the "Gadol Ha-Dor," and others do not agree.  Thus, one is not obligated to greet him as the "Gadol Ha-Dor."

Question: It is forbidden to greet him?
Answer: Why would it be forbidden?   Some say that if Yitzchak Rabin was a "Rodef" (literally a "pursuer" – who one is permitted to kill in order to save the pursued) then the Satmar Rebbe is all the more so a "Rodef" on account of his virulent anti-Zionist views.  We reject this position, since according to all halachic opinions, Rabin was not a "Rodef" and thus neither is the Satmar Rebbe.  It is certainly not forbidden to greet him.

The question of a rabbi who ridicules and insults the State of Israel, others Rabbis, etc. is a very sensitive topic.  On the one hand, the transgression of a Torah scholar who shames other Torah scholars is very severe.  On the other hand, we need to give the Rabbi as much benefit of the doubt as possible.  For example, there was a "Gadol Ha-Dor" of the previous generation who shamed all of the other Rabbis.  Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin said about him: He is insane – he is not normal.  This was giving him the benefit of the doubt.  There are also Torah scholars who have extremely harsh styles of speaking.  They refer to everyone as apostates, heretics, etc.  Explaining that this is someone's style of speaking is also a type of giving the benefit of the doubt.  We are not saying that this is proper, but are trying to see others in the best possible light.

In any event, quite simply, it is extremely important to honor all Torah scholars.  One should not shame them, even if there is a harsh communal dispute.  The Gemara in Sanhedrin (99a) explains that one great Rabbi, Rabbi Hillel (not Hillel the Elder who was a contemporary of Shammai), said that the Messiah would not come.  This is certainly a severe statement.  Everyone is waiting for and anticipating the Messiah, yet in his opinion: "No – there is no Messiah."  Rav Yosef said to him: "May Hashem pardon his error" (as explained by Rashi).  We clearly see that despite the severe nature of Rabbi Hillel's comments, Rav Yosef did not shame him.  Based on this, there is a Teshuvah of the Radvaz (4:187) that even a great Rabbi who has expressed himself heretically should not be ridiculed even though one should argue with all forcefulness against his ideas.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained this law based on the Jerusalem Talmud, which compares disgracing a Torah scholar to a structure of stones: that is, if one stone is shaken, the entire structure is shaken (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10:1). Thus, one who scorns a Torah scholar knocks over the entire building of the Torah in Israel (see "Perek Tzibbur" by Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Cohain Kook, Ma’amrei Ha-Re’eiyah 55).  Scorning Torah scholars is similar to sitting on a powder keg; we do not know when it will blow up and who will be injured.  Shaming Torah scholars cannot be controlled and we do not know where it will end.  If someone disgraces one Torah scholar, he disgraces them all.


We saw this with our own eyes: Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the first Satmar Rebbe, made extremely harsh statements.   Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, never scorned or denigrated him even though their stances were diametrically opposed.  Our Rabbi once heard a severe ruling in the name of the Satmar Rebbe, and all he said was: "This is not correct."  Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah also admonished students who expressed a lack of respect towards the Satmar Rebbe, and would not allow them to continue to speak.  Once Ha-Gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein issued a ruling that in pressing situations it is permissible to be lenient in a regarding the height of a mechitzah between men and women in a shul,.  The Satmar Rebbe came out against him. Our Rabbi said: "It is known that our paths are separate and different, but in this issue he (the Satmar Rebbe) is correct."  Even though they were polar opposites regarding the Redemption of Israel and Klal Yisrael, our Rabbi never said one negative word against him.

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #314

Bitul Torah
Q: What is the definition of Bitul Torah?  Is every moment that I am not learning Torah considered Bitul Torah?
A: Each person according to his level.  The more one learns Torah, the more praiseworthy.  See Or Sameach, beginning of Hilchot Talmud Torah.

Personal Prayers
Q: Is a personal prayer from the heart equal to a prayer from the Siddur, or is it even greater?
A: It is less.  The prayers from the Siddur came from the heart of the Members of the Great Assembly (Anshei Knesset Ha-Gedolah) which included prophets.  They are the heart of Klal Yisrael.  A personal prayer is therefore an addition to the prayers in the Siddur and not a substitute of them.

Chabad
Q: Is it idol worship for Chabadniks to say that the Rebbe is alive and is the Messiah, and to Daven to his picture?
A: They exaggerate, but one who says this is idol worship is also exaggerating.

Burying Dentures
Q: Is there an obligation to bury dentures with a person who passed away?
A: No (See Berachot 5b that Rabbi Yochanan would carry a bone [smaller than the size of a piece of barley which would spread impurity – Rashi ibid.] or a tooth [Rashbam on Baba Batra 116a] of his tenth son who died, in order to comfort others who had a loss.  We learn from here that it is not even required to bury an actual tooth.  See Shut Yabia Omer Volume 3, Yoreh Deah #21.  Shut Tzitz Eliezer 10:5 #8.  And see Shut Mishneh Halachot 16:113 who brings a few opinions that one is un fact required to bury a tooth.  And he also relates there that although the Noda Bi-Yehudah held that there is no obligation to bury a tooth, he appeared to his son, Ha-Rav Shmuel Landau,  in a dream and told him to bury his tooth which he left on a bookshelf.  Ha-Rav Shmuel miraculously found the tooth).

Maran Ha-Rav Kook and JNF Tzedakah Boxes
Q: I heard in a class by a Charedi Rabbi that Rav Kook preferred Eretz Yisrael over the Torah, and he therefore ruled to remove the Tzedakah boxes of Rabbi Meir Baal Ha-Nes and replace them with JNF Tzedakah boxes.
A: It is a lie!  On the contrary, Maran Ha-Rav Kook ruled that the Tzedakah boxes of Rabbi Meir Baal Ha-Nes should remain affixed in the wall, as was the custom, and that the JNF Tzedakah boxes should be placed on the table.  Shut Da'at Cohain (#136).

Marriage, Army, Studies
Q: What is the proper order: Marriage, army, studies?
A: Studies, army and then marriage.  This is in general.  But for specific cases, one should ask a Rabbi who knows the individual.

Name Not in the Tanach
Q: Is it permissible to give a child a name which does not appear in the Tanach?

A: Certainly.  For example, Rabbi Tarfon, Rabbi Akiva, etc.