Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #330

Pesak Halachah before Blessing over Learning Torah
Q: If someone asks me a halachic question before I recite a blessing over learning Torah, is it permissible to answer?
A: Yes, if you answer without given the reasoning (even if you think about the reasoning).  Piskei Teshuvot 47:3.

Endangering Children for Settling Eretz Yisrael
Q: Is it permissible for parents to live in a place in Eretz Yisrael where there is some level of danger involved, or are they endangering their children?
A: Children follow their parents.  Shut Me'il Tzedakah brought in Pitchei Teshuvot Even Ha-Ezer #75.

Establishing Yeshivot
Q: Should we establish Yeshivot in every place?
A: Yes.  A Yeshiva is the heart of life in every place.

Calming a Baby in the Middle of a Blessing
Q: If I am in the middle of reciting a blessing and my baby starts crying, is it permissible for me to make signs with my hands and smile at him to calm him down?  After all, it is forbidden to do anything in the middle of a blessing.
A: After the fact, it is permissible, since calming the baby will aid in reciting the blessing properly.  Piskei Teshuvot 191:2.

Photograph on Shabbat
Q: What should I do if someone is taking a picture of me on Shabbat?
A: Refuse.  If it does not help, turn around or cover your face.

May the Merciful One Bless the State of Israel
Q: Should one add into the Birkat Ha-Mazon: "May the Merciful One Bless the State of Israel, beginning of our Redemption" and "May the Merciful One Bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force"?
A: There is no need.  These ideas are already included in the Birkat Ha-Mazon.

Direction of Davening at the Kotel
Q: Should one Daven straight at the Kotel or on an angle towards the Dome of the Rock which was the spot of the Beit Ha-Mikdash?
A: No one knows where the Beit Ha-Mikdash stood.  Although the Radvaz said that the Dome of the Rock is on the spot of the Beit Ha-Mikdash, Poskim have already pointed out that the Radvaz himself has a few contradictions regarding this issue.  Ha-Rav Moshe Sternbuch writes that the Radvaz says this is in the name of the Arabs and one cannot rely on their testimony.  Furthermore, he brings in the name of the Zohar that the location of the Temple is hidden in the ground and is unknown.  And the Arizal said that nothing will be built on top of the spot of the Beit Ha-Mikdash (Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 3:39).  And when someone said to Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski that today we know where the Holy of Holiest is located, and we should therefore Daven on an angle, he responded: We don't know anything (Le-Binyamin Amar p. 84).

Silver and Gold Wedding Anniversary
Q: Is the custom of celebrating a Silver or Gold Wedding Anniversary upon 25 or 50 years of marriage forbidden on account of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" (following the practices of the non-Jews)?
Q: No.  It is a proper and logical celebration in order to increase love and fraternity, peace and friendship (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah #175).

Unemployment Check
Q: I receive an unemployment check each month.  Is it permissible for me to work if the payment for this work will only be given to me after my unemployment benefits end?

A: Ask the unemployment office directly.

Yichud Among Pilots or Why Rav Aviner Stopped Answering Military Questions

Translated and summarized from here:

Ever since PM Benjamin Netanyahu publicized the existence of the first female Charedi pilot last week, I have seen much discussion online about whether or not she should really be considered Charedi, and if there is a problem with Yichud in the pilots cabin when flying a plane.  People just don't take well to anybody who does things a little differently than the average.  Anyways, someone asked Rav Aviner about it, and because the topic is interesting, I'll share it here.  
According to what is reported on Srugim, Rav Aviner responded to the query by saying that a similar question was asked about a private plane that was being rented to take a female passenger somewhere. Rav Asher Weiss said there is no Yichud because they will not come to any "hanky panky" as the pilot has to focus on flying the plane and if he gets drawn away from that the plane will surely crash.  Rav Aviner says that in a large plane, even more so it is not a problem. In a large plane there are stewards and stewardesses going into the cabin. And even with auto-pilot, the pilot still has to be alert and focused and ready to take over the controls at any moment.  
Rav Aviner concludes with an anecdote of how he once answered a similar question on a halachic program for the army. He was asked about a pilot with a religious female navigator being Yichud. He says he answered then that it is not Yichud (though he says there were other problems, though he does not specify). After the fact he was called by a reporter asking how he can answer army questions as a civilian. He responded that he is discussing theoretical questions, not practical, so it is ok, though he says after that he stopped answering army-related question and directs them to the IDF Rabbinate.

Hilchot Spinner

Is a Spinner Nonsense
Q: Some claim that the new "Spinner" is nonsense and therefore one should refrain from letting kids play with it?
A: Almost all games are nonsense, but kids need to play.  Every person needs to take a bit of a break (See Rambam, Shemoneh Perakim Chapter 5), and this is all the more so true for children.  The essense is not to overdo it.  Although there are smart games, such as Chess, kids also need easier games.  In sum, it is no different than any other game, and one should not over do it or become addicted to it.

Girl Playing with a Spinner
Q: Is it permissible for a girl to play with a spinner while walking in the street or does it draw unwanted attention to her?
A: It is permissible, since many play with it and it does not especially draw attention.

Spinner in a Shul or Beit Midrash
Q: Is it permissible to play with a spinner in a Shul or Beit Midrash?
A: In general, a Beit Midrash is holier than a Shul. The reason is that in a Shul, we turn to Hashem in prayer, but in a Beit Midrash, Hashem turns to us through Torah learning.  It is therefore permissible to turn a Shul into a Beit Midrash, but not visa-versa, since we go up in holiness and not down.  Nonetheless, there are more leniencies regarding a Beit Midrash since a person spends much of his time there and it is his home.  In a time of need, one may therefore eat and sleep there.  This leniency also applies to other acts which are not Torah learning and prayer on condition that they are not acts of frivolity.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim #151.  It is therefore permissible to play with a spinner in a Beit Midrash when one needs it for concentration, but this is forbidden in a Shul.  If one claims: but it helps one concentrate during Davening?  We are not in Shul for so long, and a person can concentrate for this amount of time without it.

Playing with a Spinner during Davening and Torah Learning
Q: It is correct that it is forbidden to play with a spinner during a Torah class, Torah reading and Torah learning?
A: Correct.  Absolutely.  One needs to have awe of holiness.  Berachot 22a.

Spinner on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to play with a spinner on Shabbat?  Is it forbidden on account of "Refuah" (medicinal purposes) since it is meant to help people with issues of concentration?

A: 1. If it has lights, it is forbidden on Shabbat.  2. If it does not have lights, it is not forbidden on account of "Refuah", since it is not recognizable as such.  3. It is considered like any other a toy, and is thus permissible for Ashkenazim and an issue of dispute among Sefardic Poskim.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 308:45.  Mishnah Berurah 338:21.  Yalkut Yosef - Shabbat Volume 2 308:6.  Shut Or Le-Tzion Volume 2 26:8.  4. If one can take it apart and reassemble it as part of a game, there is no problem of building.