Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #328

Counting a Yasamnik in a Minyan
Q: Is it permissible to count a Yasamnik in a Minyan?  [Yasam is the Israeli Police Special Patrol Unit, a dedicated to continuous security, riot and crowd control and other special operations.  They were heavily involved in the expulsion from Gush Katif and Amona.]
A: The question is whether one who asks this question can be counted in a Minyan.

Learning Mishnah by Heart
Q: Is there value in learning Mishnah by heart?
A: Certainly.  For example, you can learn them while waiting for the bus or in a place without books (During the eulogies for Ha-Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Rosh Yeshivah of Ponovezh, Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef learned Mishnah by heart, since all of the eulogies were in Yiddish and he did not understand them.  Related by his son, the Chief Sefardic Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Yosef, in his weekly Parashah Shiur on Parashat Devarim 5774).

Stealing from a Non-Jew
Q: Is it permissible to steal from a non-Jew?
A: G-d-forbid!  Besides being forbidden on account of stealing, it is also a desecration of Hashem's Name.  The Arizal says that it also causes great damage according to the mystical side of Torah.  And see Kaf Ha-Chaim 156:12 (After the Six-Day War and liberation of Yerushalayim, some Jews took advantage of the Arabs' fear and went into their stores and stole from them.  Ha-Rav Shmuel Ha-Levi Wosner, author of Shut Shevet Ha-Levi, gave a Mussar talk to his Yeshiva students and said that doing so is a corruption of one's positive character traits!  To illustrate the severity of the issue, he said: "Anyone who touches money which does not belong to him becomes corrupt"!  And he added that one can always find "leniencies" in Halachot dealing with other people, but doing so certainly corrupts his character traits.  In the book "Rachemei Ha-Rav" p. 204).

Shabbat Observance by One in the Process of Conversion
Q: Is it permissible for a non-Jew who is in the process of conversion to observe Shabbat?
A: It is forbidden for a non-Jew to observe Shabbat (Sanhedrin 58b), so he must perform one forbidden act each Shabbat.  The Rambam holds that the prohibition for a non-Jew is against inventing a religion, but because he is not doing so here, he can observe Shabbat (There is a joke that a Yeshiva student once admitted to his Chevruta of many years that he is actually a non-Jew.  The Chevruat said: But you observed all of the Mitzvot, and you know that a non-Jew who observes Shabbat is liable for death!  The non-Jew said: I therefore carried something each Shabbat.  The Chevruta said: But there is an Eruv!  He responded: I don't hold by the Eruv…).
Q: What about a person who is in doubt as to whether he is Jewish or non-Jewish and is in the process of conversion?  What should he do?  After all, if he is a Jew, it is forbidden for him to desecrate Shabbat, and if he is a non-Jew, he is obligated to desecrate it!
A: He should perform half of a forbidden labor of Shabbat, such as writing only one letter, since this is only a Rabbinic prohibition for a Jew but is considered a complete violation for a non-Jew, since the concept of "Chatzi Shiur" (a violation which did not reach the Torah's forbidden measure) does not apply to non-Jews.  Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah #32, Musaf Ha-Shabbat #6).  It seems preferable, however, for him not to perform any forbidden labor, and rely on the above-mentioned opinion of the Rambam.  Another possibility would be to perform a half a forbidden labor of a "Melacha She-Eina Tzaricha Le-Gufa" (A prohibited labor that is performed for a purpose different from its normal purpose.  For example, the Gemara assumes that the normal purpose of digging a hole is to be able to use the hole.  One who digs a hole for the purpose of using the dirt instead of the hole therefore performs a "Melacha She-Eina Tzaricha Le-Gufa") on Motzaei Shabbat, since according to the Hafla'ah, it is already a weekday for Jews but is still Shabbat for non-Jews since the day for them begins in the morning, while for Jews it begins at night (Although his is a sole opinion) (It once happened in Yerushalayim that Ha-Rav Shmuel Salant, who served as the Chief Rabbi there, traveled to Europe to raise money for the Jewish community.  He stayed in Warsaw in the home of the Gerrer Rebbe, the "Chidushei Ha-Rim".  There was a convert in Yerushalayim who had had a Brit Milah and had yet to heal, so he therefore did not immerse in a Mikveh to complete the conversion.  After Minchah on Shabbat, Rav Salant's temporary replacement, Ha-Rav Asher Lemil Lowy, ruled in the name of the Badatz that he should desecrate Shabbat since a non-Jew who observes Shabbat is liable for death.  A great controversy broke out over this ruling, and questions were sent to many Gedolei Yisrael asking if this was correct.  Rav Salant himself did not agree with the ruling and said he should observe Shabbat, since after the Brit Milah, although he was not a full-fledged Jew, he was no longer in the category of a "non-Jew who observes Shabbat is liable for death".  The Gerrer Rebbe and Ha-Rav Yaakov Etlinger, author of the Aruch Le-Ner, agreed with Rav Salant (Shut Binyan Tzion #91.  Torat Rabbenu Shmuel Salant ztz"l 1:31.  Aderet Shmuel pp. 90-94).  

Private Wedding
Q: I am an elderly widower and want to get married to an elderly widow, but if we do, she will lose her first husband's pension.  Is it permissible to get married by a Rabbi in a private wedding and not inform the State?
A: Certainly not.  It is forbidden according to the Halachah, the decrees of the Chief Rabbinate and the laws of the State.  In the USA, one who performs private weddings can sit in prison for many years.

50th Wedding Anniversary
Q: What is proper way to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary?

A: By doing something which strengthens your connection to one another.