Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #339

Preparing Oneself for Difficulties
Q: Is there a proper way to prepare oneself for difficulties which Hashem brings upon a person?
A: The proper way is to always see the good, to see that the majority of one's life and the majority of the world is good (Moreh Nevuchim 3:12), and to know that the difficulties are for the good (Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 19).

Paying Taxes for Pidyon Ha-Ben
Q: I am a Cohain and received money at a Pidyon Ha-Ben.  Do I have to declare it as income for tax purposes?
A: No.  It is a minimal amount of money, a rare occurrence and is considered a gift (Similarly, Shut Revivot Ephraim 6:389 brings from the Sefer U-Vacharta Ba-Chaim p. 68 that Ha-Rav Chaim Kreiswirth, Av Beit Din of Antwerp, said in his eulogy for Ha-Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, Rosh Yeshivat Torah Ve-Da'at, that he would pay taxes on the Mishloach Manot he received.  This, however, is an act of piety and not an obligation, since the amount one receives of Mishloach Manot is negligent).

Q: How do we know that the Zionist Rabbis are correct and not the Charedim?
A: This was a major question when the movement to return to Zion began, since there were many opposing factors.  But now that we see the building of Eretz Yisrael, the ingathering of the Exiles, the establishment of the State of Israel, the military victories, the unity of the Nation and the incredible Torah community in Israel, it has become clear.  In Eretz Yisrael there is great physical and spiritual success, while in the Exile there is great physical and spiritual destruction (See Nefesh Ha-Rav pp.87-88).

Language of Maran Ha-Rav Kook
Q: What language did Maran Ha-Rav Kook speak – Yiddish or Hebrew?
A: I believe that he spoke Yiddish to those who did not understand Hebrew.  Otherwise, he spoke Hebrew with an Ashkenazi pronunciation.  See Le-Shelosha Be-Elul.  When Rav Kook was unable to return to Eretz Yisrael during the First World War, he served temporarily as Rabbi in England.  In order to learn English, he read the Soncino translation of the Tanach.  As a result, when he spoke English, people said he spoke like a prophet…  

Texting While Driving
Q: I am riding in a car while my Rav is texting while driving.  Is it permissible for me to point out to him that it is forbidden?
A: Ask him directly.  In fact, 20% of fatal car accidents are a result of texting while driving (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 242:22).

Problematic Book
Q: Is it permissible to read a good book which contains a few problematic parts?
A: It is similar to eating Kosher soup with a few pieces of non-Kosher meat in it.

Crib Death
Q: It is true what they say that crib death is on account of disputes among Am Yisrael?

A: 1. No one knows the secrets of Hashem.  2. Disputes are certainly a bad thing and one should resolve them.

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Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #338

Blocking Road as a Form of Protest
Q: Is it permissible to block roads as a form of protest?
[There have been a lot of protests recently in Israel by a small group of Charedim called the Peleg Ha-Yerushalami, under the leadership of Ha-Rav Shmuel Auerbach (the son of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman), against the induction of Yeshiva students into Tzahal.  Their protests are blocking traffic all around Israel.] 
A: I have been asked this question many times during periods of expulsions from Yishuvim, like Gush Katif.  It is completely forbidden for 5 reasons, each of which is sufficient on its own:
1. Everything must always be done according to the law. 
2. The protesters are bothering people who did nothing wrong. 
3. Perhaps there is a doctor in one of the cars on the way to help someone, or a person on their way to the hospital.  The protester can get run over.  There is no permission to risk one's life, or the life of another, in order to protest. 
4. The police have to deal with the protesters instead of our enemies!  And the police deal gently with the protesters instead of spraying pepper spray or tear gas or similar things which could easily disperse them.  So even more police are required. And it is forbidden to cause a Jew to use force on a fellow Jew.
5. Nothing is accomplished in the State of Israel by force.  Decisions are made only by Jews talking one another.
In sum: Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah said that public struggle may only be undertaken without violence, without insults and without hatred (Le-Netivot Yisrael Vol. 1 in the article "Et Achai Anochi Mevakesh").

Loving Hashem and My Husband
Q: Who should I love more - Hashem or my husband?
A: Love of Hashem is also revealed through the love of your husband.

Hanging Bread on a Garbage Can
Q: Why do people hang left-over bread in a plastic bag on garbage cans instead of just throwing it out?
A: There is no good reason for doing so, since no one is going to take the bread from there to eat it.  It is forbidden to throw bread away in a disgraceful manner.  Therefore, one should try to buy bread in a reasonable quantity that will then not necessitate having to throw any away.  If there is no choice, then it should be disposed of in a respectful manner, i.e. by wrapping it in two plastic bags and placing it in the garbage.  See Piskei Teshuvot 171:3.  In the contrary, the Gemara in Pesachim (111:2) says that one should not hang bread, especially here, since it is in a disgraceful manner (See Kaf Ha-Chaim 180:14.  Maor Ha-Shabbat Volume 2, Penini Ha-Maor 30:4 in the name of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).

Q: Is swordfish Kosher?
A: It is a dispute.  The question arises since its scales fall off.  Although the Knesset Ha-Gedolah permits it, it is unclear whether he is discussing the same fish which we call "sword fish" today.  There are others who also permit it (Shut Shevet Me-Yehudah Volume 2 5:118.  Divrei Ha-Rav p. 192 in the name of Ha-Rav Soloveitchik), but the majority of Poskim forbid it (see Shut Tzitz Eliezer 9:40).

Second Marriage
Q: The Gemara in Sotah (2a) says that 40 days before a fetus is formed, a voice from Heaven announces the daughter of "this" person will marry "this" man (i.e. each person has a Beshert, a soul-mate).  If so, how does a widower get married a second time?
A: He marries a woman who is not his Beshert (and he is not hers), but with whom he can still build a household.  As it says: "G-d makes the solitary dwell in a house" (Tehillim 68:7.  Ramchal).

Tefillin After Accepting Early Shabbat
Q: If someone accepts Shabbat early and then realizes that he did not put on Tefillin on Friday, can he put them on before sundown begins?
A: Yes.  There are certain actions which our Sages allowed during twilight, and all the more so if he accepted Shabbat early, and all the more so for Tefillin.

Permanent Make-Up
Q: It is permissible for a woman to have permanent make-up?
A: It is permissible if it is to hide an aesthetic blemish, such as a scar, sparse hair or lack of eyebrows, since it is not actually permanent but rather only for a few years.  If, however, it is to add beauty, it is forbidden.  Taharat Ha-Bayit of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef Volume 3 pp. 29-34.

Blessing over Birkat Ha-Mazon
Q: Why isn't there a blessing over Birkat Ha-Mazon, which is a Torah Mitzvah, "And you should eat, be satisfied and bless" (Devarim 8:10)?

A: We do not recite a blessing over a blessing (Ha-Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Mi-Lisa, author of Chavot Da'at, in his commentary on the Haggadah.  Likutei Shoshanim pp. 13-15).

Short & Sweet - Text Message Q&A #337

Eye Color
Q: Are the color of one's eyes connected to his soul?
A: No.

Marriage Between People with the Same Name
Q: Is it permissible for a man and woman with the same first name to be married?
A: Yes (This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Neiman, who served as Av Beit Din of the Machzikei Ha-Dat of Belz in Montreal.  He states that although he had not heard such a ruling before, we should not add strictures that are not mentioned in Tzava'at Rebbe Yehudah Ha-Chasid.  Shut Agurah Be-Ohalecha Volume 3, Even Ha-Ezer #2).

Fashion Designer
Q: [Question from a woman]: I am a fashion designer for women's evening wear.  Is it permissible?  Are there limitations?
A: It is permissible on condition that the clothing is modest.

University Paper
Q: Is it permissible for me to write a university paper for someone else?
A: Ask the professor directly.

Translating the Kaddish
Q: Why don't we translate the Kaddish into Hebrew?
A: Because a translation cannot be precise.  In many Siddurim, however, there is a translation of the Kaddish, so that a person can quickly understand the Aramaic words of this prayer. 

Difficulty in Learning
Q: It is difficult for me to learn Gemara.  Is there hope for me?
A: Certainly.  It was also difficult for Ha-Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector to learn.  And also Maharam Shick.  And also Rabbi Akiva.

Passing Kiddush to My Mother or My Wife
Q: If I am eating a Shabbat meal with my mother and my wife, to whom should I first pass the Kiddush?  If I first give it to my wife, my mother will be insulted, and visa-versa.
A: The question is not formulated correctly.  You and your wife are one, and should decide together what to do (See the answers of Gedolei Yisrael on this question in Shut Ha-Shoel #37).

Shirt with the Verse "Hashem is the King"
Q: Is it permissible to wear a shirt which has the verse "Hashem is the King" printed on it?
A: 1. It must be covered when one enters the restroom.  2. Gedolei Yisrael and G-d-fearing Jews throughout the generations did not write verses of their clothing but upon their hearts and their actions.

Torah Classes on Cell Phone
Q: If one listens to Torah classes on his cell phone, computer or MP3, does he fulfill the obligation to set fix times for learning Torah?
A: Yes.  It is obviously preferable to learn from a Rabbi face-to-face.  

Divrei Torah at Meals
Q: On the one hand, the Gemara Ta'anit (5b) says not to speak during meals because there is a fear of choking on the food, while on the other hand, Pirkei Avot (3:3) says that a meal without Divrei Torah is like eating the sacrifices of the dead.  Isn't this a contradiction?

A: It means that one should not talk during the actually eating, but it is a Mitzvah to say Divrei Torah between the eating.  Mishnah Berurah (170:1-2).