Parashat Vayigash 5768

December 12, 2007

Parashat Vayigash 5768

Parashat Vayigash – I Feel Your Pain

“Then he [Yosef] fell on his brother Binyamin’s neck and wept, and Binyamin wept upon his neck” (Bereshit 45:14). “And he [Yosef] wept” – over the two Temples that would stand in the territory of Binyamin and would be destroyed, and Binyamin wept over the Tabernacle of Shiloh that would stand in the territory of Yosef and would be destroyed (Rashi).

Why did they weep then, at a time of joy, over future destruction? And why did each one weep over the destruction in the other’s territory and not in his own territory?

As is known, the Temples were destroyed on account of baseless hatred (Yoma 9b). When Yosef and Binyamin met, they realized that the separation between them up to now was caused by baseless hatred, and they foresaw the future destruction, which would also be a result of baseless hatred. They therefore wept.

The spiritual repair of baseless hatred is the great strengthening of mutual love to the point where another person’s pain is greater than one’s own pain. Each one therefore wept over the other’s destruction, which teaches and proves that each one of them cared more about the other’s destruction than his own. Even though Binyamin’s Temples could not be built until after the destruction of Yosef’s Tabernacle, Binyamin nonetheless wept over the destruction of Yosef’s Tabernacle, since he preferred that his Temples not be built if it meant that the other’s sanctuary would be destroyed. This love contains in it the ability to be a spiritual cure for baseless hatred (based on Me’eina shel Torah in the name of Ha-Rav Ha-Kadosh Y. Mikazmir z”l). – Tal Chermon

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Text Message Responsa:

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets “Ma’ayanei Ha-Yeshu’ah” and “Olam Ha-Katan.” Here’s a sample:

  • Q: Does it make sense to ask a rabbi which profession to pursue if one cannot decide?
  • A: Absolutely. While it is not the “profession” of the rabbi [to be a job counselor], you can get good advice from him.
  • Q: Should I say “Shechechiyanu” on a new kippah that was knit for me?
  • A: Yes, as with any new item over which you are happy.
  • Q: I am a “Ba’alat Teshuvah” (one who became observant) and have a tattoo on my shoulder. Should I remove it?
  • A: It is forbidden to get a tattoo, but if you have it, there is no obligation to remove it. It is obviously preferable to have it removed.
  • Q: Is it permissible to put on make-up before Shabbat which will remain all of Shabbat or is it “ma’arit ayin” (the appearance of doing something which is forbidden – putting on make-up on Shabbat)?
  • A: It is permissible, because we do not make new decrees regarding “ma’arit ayin,” and especially here since many women act this way.
  • Q: A Divine Voice said that Elisha ben Abuya could not repent. Isn’t this surprising?
  • A: Even he could have repented. It was a test.
  • Q: Is it permissible to put an older, sick dog to sleep? Please give source.
  • A: There is no prohibition to kill an animal. If it is done for no reason, like hunting for sport, it is cruel. Responsa of Noda Beyehudah (Yoreh De’ah #10).
  • Q: Does one violate “bal tashchit” (wantonly destroying things) by throwing a working television in the garbage?
  • A: No, on the contrary, [it is a mitzvah].

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Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Honoring Parents

Our Rabbi would stand before his mother, and when he would separate from her he would walk backwards.

Our Rabbi’s mother needed to send him a message to remind him that he needed to eat. When our Rabbi reached the age of bar mitzvah, he informed his mother that from now on he did not want her to determine what he ate, but he would decide on his own. Nevertheless, when there were days that she saw him and touched her finger on cookies that were on the table, he immediately took from them and ate in order to provide her with contentment.

Netilat Yadayim (Ritually washing hands)

– One day, before netilat yadayim, Our Rabbi said: “Blessed is Hashem, a meeting with King Shlomo,” on account of a recognition and feeling that King Shlomo, who established netilat yadayim, was there (see Shabbat 14b and Rambam, Hilchot Avot Ha-Tumah 8:8).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Avraham’s language at home

  • Q: What language did Avraham Avinu speak to Terach? Was it Hebrew?
  • A: It seems that he spoke Aramaic to Terach, since Lavan – who was from Avraham’s hometown – spoke Aramaic, and the Torah even quotes it.

Rav Kook and English

  • Q: Did Rav Kook know English?
  • A: Rav Kook learned English in order to speak to the British who were in the Land of Israel. The way he learned was that he learned through the whole Tanach with an English translation and the entire Gemara with an English translation. The British High Commissioner once said to Rav Kook, “You speak English like a prophet.”

A talk given after lunch at the yeshiva –

Secular Jews: Today’s Hellenists?

  • Q: If Yehudah Maccabee killed all of the Hellenists, why don’t we kill all of today’s Hellenists, i.e. secularists?
  • A: Where is it written in the Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch that we have to kill Hellenists? Even when learning Gemara, we do not make rulings until the issues are clarified by the Rishonim (early authorities). It is a story in the Book of Maccabees. Who says it is right? It is not in the codes. Even if it is right, we do not act based on “Ma’aseh Rav” – seeing the actions of a great Torah personality. Rabbi Avraham ben Ha-Rambam says that we do not rule based on “Ma’aseh Rav”, since we do not know the reasons he acted that way. We cannot act until we check the reasons. Yehudah Maccabee had a “Beit Din Gadol” (Sanhedrin) and it was a temporary measure. It is true that the Rashba said that he had a “Beit Din Gadol” in Spain, but we do not understand enough to rely on the model of Yehudah Maccabee. Furthermore, we have to define who is a Hellenist. The secularists are not Hellenists! They are “Tinokot She-nishbe’u” – Jews who did not recent a proper Jewish upbringing and education. They are confused. The Hellenists wanted to destroy the Nation and the Land, and to make a Greek state here. Secular Jews do not want this. They serve in the army, and die for the Nation and the Land. And you call them Hellenists?! There is no connection between the two. Many of our ancestors had children who went astray: Avraham, Yitzchak, Shmuel, Eli, King David. Rav Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, had a secular son, Chaim Herzog, the President of Israel. Rav Herzog was once asked, don’t we learn that the apple does not fall far from the tree? What happened? He said: This is only with a usual wind, but an unusual wind can carry it far away. He was referring to the Tosafot to Baba Kamma 27b. In today’s world an unusual wind prevails. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe – the Alter Rebbe – the author of the “Tanya,” had a son who converted to Christianity. Chabad hides him, and when they admit that he converted, they say that he was insane. Scholars research all about this son. They don’t want to learn the beautiful teachings of the Tanya, but look for dirt. The secular Jews are not Hellenists. The reason people make comments like this is because they are sad, distressed and angry, but it is nonsense to talk this way.

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On Air

Every Tuesday and Thursday night Rav Aviner answers questions of Jewish Law and faith on the radio in Israel. On the Air presents a sample of these answers each week.

Tzahal soldier lighting chanukiyah

  • Q: I am a soldier in Tzahal and cannot always light the chanukiyah. What do I do?
  • A: You are exempt from lighting the chanukiyah. “Someone who is involved with one mitzvah is exempt from another mitzvah.” You are involved in the mitzvah of serving as a guard in Tzahal, you are therefore exempt from the mitzvah of lighting the chanukiyah. Here it is not only that you are performing a mitzvah, but it is a great mitzvah of protecting the Nation and Land of Israel and sanctifying Hashem’s Name. As a soldier, it is certainly not the first time you cannot perform a mitzvah. Sometimes you cannot daven, say Kiddush, etc… If you can light, great; but if not, you are exempt. I remember that there was once a discussion in the yeshiva. A soldier on guard duty asked about davening Minchah. One Rabbi said that he was exempt because he was fulfilling a mitzvah. Another Rabbi said that it is forbidden for him to daven because he will not be able to guard properly!

Maximum distance between Chanukah lights

  • Q: What is the maximum distance the Chanukah lights can be from one another?
  • A: I have never seen this discussed, but reason tells me that as long as they appear as one, it is permissible. These types of things are dependent on reality. For example, if the chanukiyah is on the roof and they are far apart and we are far away, they will appear as one. We do not fulfill our obligation with these, but if we did, here is an example. Our Sages did not give a definition. The Gemara in Shabbat (22a) says that the maximum height for the Chanukah lights is 20 amah (10 meters or 30 feet), so that the eye can see them. Perhaps we can say that since 20 amah is the maximum height, it is also the maximum width, so that the eye can see them.

Reciting “Shehechiyanu” more than once on Chanukah lights

  • Q: I will be lighting the Chanukiyah for my mother and then returning to my house, where I live alone. Do I recite the blessing of “Shehechiyanu” a second time at home?
  • A: No, the “Shehechiyanu” is only recited at your mother’s house, but the other blessings are recited a second time.

“Magdil” or “Migdol”

  • Q: Do we say “Magdil” or “Migdol” in birkat ha-mazon (blessing after eating) on Chanukah?
  • A: “Magdil” as usual. It is printed in all of the siddurim and bentches.

Shabbat Chanukah after from home (This question was asked five times this week!)

  • Q: I am spending Shabbat with at my in-law’s (or brother’s, friend’s) house, do I light Chanukah lights at home or at my host’s house?
  • A: You can light at either place, whichever you wish.

Waiting between Chanukah and Shabbat lights

  • Q: Can I wait a little bit between lighting Chanukah lights and the Shabbat candles?
  • A: Yes, you can rest in between.

Lighting chanukiyah at work

  • Q: I work in a hotel and I light the chanukiyah for the guests in the lobby. Do I light again at home?
  • A: Yes, the Chanukah lights are to be lit at home. If you have a family, you also have to light for your wife, children, etc…

Woman lighting chanukiyah

  • Q: My husband is not home, should I light?
  • A: Yes, you are obligated.
  • Q: Can my 13 year old son light for me?
  • A: Yes, he can light for you.

Late-night lighting

  • Q: It is 11:00 PM and I live alone, should I still light the chanukiyah?
  • A: Yes, you can light until “No one is left in the market” (Shabbat 21b). If people are still passing by, you can still light with a blessing.

Lighting in home where there are no people

  • Q: My mother is in the hospital, and we lit the chanukiyah for her there. Should we also light at her house?
  • A: If no one is in the house, you do not need to light. If she wants you to light there, do so without a blessing.

Cemetery on Chanukah

  • Q: Can I visit a cemetery during Chanukah?
  • A: Some have the custom to go and some have the custom not to go. You can do as you wish.

Lighting outside

  • Q: In the Talmud, our Sages originally decreed that the chanukiyah be lit outside, but then they ruled that we should light inside because of the fear of non-Jews. Today most people in Israel light outside. How can this be – don’t you need a rabbinic court that is greater in wisdom and number to change the decree?
  • A: One of the Achronim (later authorities) – I think the Davar Yeshoshua – actually rules this way. He says that after there was a decree to light inside, we should continue to do so even if there is no longer a problem with non-Jews. All of the authorities disagree with him. They give two possible answers: 1. The Rabbis originally made two decrees: Light outside if there is no danger and light inside if there is danger. 2. The decree to light inside was only in a place where there was danger. This is like the ruling of “Mayim Megulim” (exposed water). The Rabbis ruled that it is forbidden to drink water which was left uncovered because a snake could have put its venom in it. Tosafot ask, how then do we drink uncovered water today? They explain that the decree was only in place where there are snakes. Similarly, the decree to light inside was only for a place where there is danger.

Fake oil

  • Q: Every time I light my chanukiyah, it goes out. What do I do?
  • A: There are people who sell fake oil. They deceive people and sell fake oil for a high price. Check on the internet site of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. They had a list of fake oils. You can also use candles. It is a glorification to use olive oil, but you do not have to be strict. We are not strict about everything.

Where to light

  • Q: I am eating for Shabbat at one place and sleeping at another place. Where should I light the chanukiyah?
  • A: In the place you sleep. It is clearer that that is your place.

Window or door

  • Q: I live in an apartment building. Is it better to light in the window which faces the public domain or at the door across from the mezuzah?
  • A: Some authorities rule one way and others rule the other way. You can do as you wish.

Following different opinions in one house

  • Q: My son is coming for Shabbat. I light the chanukiyah in the window and he lights in at the door. Is there a problem of “Lo titgodedu – do not make different groups”?
  • A: No, this is only when there is a dispute. Here, there are different positions.

Best place to put chanukiyah

  • Q: I have two windows. One is higher than 20 amah (10 meters or 30 feet) and one lower than 20 amah. The chanukiyah must be lower than 20 amah so that people will see it. But if I put it in the window that is higher than 20 amah more people will see it. What should I do?
  • A: Our Sages made certain decrees and we say “Lo pelug” – we do not make distinctions. This principle is so that we have clear and simple laws, and we do not have to engage in complicated calculations to decide every situation. Here, the Rabbis gave rules and it is not to figure out where more people will see it. There is also a dispute as to whether the 20 amah is counted from the ground or from the floor of the room where you are lighting..

Moving chanukiyah

  • Q: Can I light the chanukiyah inside and carry it outside?
  • A: Yes, because both places are acceptable places to light. You cannot light it in a place which is not okay and move it to an acceptable place or visa-versa.

Rabbenu Tam Tefillin by accident

  • Q: If someone accidentally says the blessing and puts on Rabbenu Tam Tefillin instead of Rashi Tefillin, do you have to say another bless?
  • A: Yes, you must say the blessing again because there was “Hesech Ha-Da’at” – you took your mind off of the blessing, and also because much time has passed. Even if you put on another pair of Rashi Tefillin, you would have to say another bless. Furthermore, you do not usually say a blessing on Rabbenu Tam Tefillin because it is stricture and you therefore did not plan to have the blessing on the second set of Tefillin. It is like says a blessing on an apple and you are not planning to eat another apple. If you decide to eat a second apple, you have to say another blessing. Despite all of this, putting on Tefillin even without a blessing in a mitzvah as it says, “A lack of blessing does not impede fulfilling the mitzvot.”

Hashem forgiving Yosef’s brothers

  • Q: If Yosef forgave his brothers, why didn’t Hashem? We see that Hashem did not forgive them because of the Ten Martyrs which were killed during by the Romans as a spiritual repair for the sin of Yosef’s brothers.
  • A: When Yosef forgave his brothers it was going beyond the letter of the law. He was a supreme righteous person. Hashem, however, did not forgive them. For example, someone is killed and right before he dies he forgives them. The murderer nonetheless receives capital punishment. We do not forgive him. All of the years that Yosef was with Yaacov he did tell him when he arrived in Egypt, and he avoided being alone with Yaacov so that he would not ask. He comforted him. It says at the end of Massechet Yoma that some sins are forgiven after repentance, some sins require repentance and Yom Kippur, some sins require repentance, Yom Kippur and suffering and some sins require repentance, Yom Kippur, suffering and death. We learn how to properly repent from Achan (Sanhedrin 43b) who received capital punishment. How did repentance benefit him? He went to the Garden of Eden instead of Gehinom (purgatory). The President of Lithunia once visited Israel and he apologized for his country’s part in the Holocaust. What a joke! You think you can apologize for something someone else did and we can forgive you for the six million Jews who were murdered? The brothers almost killed Yosef and sold him. Yosef understood that this was part of a divine plan, but they did not know this and Hashem therefore did not forgive them.

Non-Jewish calendar

  • Q: It is forbidden to use the Christian date because it is related to idol worship, but what about using a different non-Jewish date?
  • A: We are Jews and we need to use the Jewish calendar date.

Kashering a pork factory

  • Q: Is it permissible to buy a factory which prepares pork and turn it into a kosher factory?
  • A: There is no problem. While pork is completely treif and to have a pork factory here is a great desecration of Hashem’s Name, if he enters and kashers everything, he is performing a great mitzvah. He is transforming a treif place into a kosher place. The place is not impure because pork was there.

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Rav Aviner’s article from this week’s parashah sheet “Be-Ahava U-Be-Emuna” of Machon Meir (Translated by Rafael Blumberg)

It’s a Mitzvah to Take Part in the Strike

[The teacher’s strike in Israel which began around Rosh Hashanah is entering its fourth month]

Obviously, the ideal is to solve labor disputes not through strikes but through rapprochement, arbitration or a court decision. One should not rush to use the weapon of strikes.
Yet if one side refuses to talk, or to turn to arbitration, or to honor a decision of arbitration, it is permissible to use the weapon of a strike in order to force that side to agree to talk or to arbitration or to agree to a decision arrived at through arbitration.

This principle applies today regarding the school teachers, who are arguing that they do not receive enough of a salary, and that to the contrary, the strike is in the pupils’ best interests. After all, if the teachers cannot earn a respectable living, many will not turn to this profession. Moreover, some will leave teaching. Also, due to the burden on teachers, who have to work many hours to earn a good living, the students are not going to receive the full care that they require.

Therefore, even though during the strike the students lose out, in the long run, they will benefit. Amongst our communal leadership, some do calculate the minor loss in the present versus the great benefit for the future – and this whether the pupils forfeit secular study or Torah study, for regarding both types of students, the same calculation applies.

And certainly a teacher cannot argue that he will not take part in a strike since either way it is going to take place. If one teacher is obligated, then all are obligated. If others do as he does, the strike will collapse. Regarding such thinking, it says, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.” If you strike, you don’t want other teachers not to strike. Or, in the philosophical language of Kant, morality must be “universalized”. In other words, in any moral dilemma, you must determine how matters will be if everyone behaves like you, and you must see yourself as a universal legislator whose behavior will serve as a yardstick for everyone. Therefore, every teacher must participate in the strike, both those teachers teaching secular subjects and those teaching religious subjects.

Yet since the pupils need to study, since their roaming around free is harmful and even dangerous, and since the teacher is free due to the strike, he has a moral obligation to give of his time to his students so as to advance them. In other words, he should provide them with informal study which is unconnected to the regular study regimen and which can be held in an informal location.

We have to hope and pray that the strike will improve the state of our children’s education.
One might ask: How can a teacher knowingly participate in a strike that brings Torah learning to a halt? This is an important question. Surely the Rabbis said that we do not cancel children’s Torah learning even to build the Temple. Yet educational considerations lead us to cancel Torah learning for many things, such as… youth activities and the struggle over Eretz Yisrael.

Yet in the case at hand, let it be said that canceling those Torah studies is what will allow them to survive. After all, the present situation of the teachers’ poverty and the crowdedness of the classrooms is leading to the loss of much Torah learning. It constitutes the worst neglect of Torah that there could be. Therefore, our great halachic decisors have allowed Torah-teachers’ strikes under certain circumstances where there is no choice, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Rabbi Chaim David HaLevi, and – among those alive today – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Moreover, should someone argue, “I, as a teacher, have no complaints. I receive a fair wage and in the institution where I teach all is well,” he is still part of the Jewish People, which includes not just the rich but the poor as well. Providing good public education is literally a matter of “pikuach nefesh” – not just physical life and death, but spiritual life and death – for the nation. Hence no one can say, “All is well with me”. Rather, he must enlist in the struggle on behalf of good education for the entire nation. Morality and self-sacrifice demand no less. And in these days of the strike, we must be strong and courageous on behalf of our children’s education.

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Family Matters – Ha-Rav writes weekly for the parashah sheet “Rosh Yehudi” on family relationships

We are not compatible

  • Q: We were married many years ago, but our marriage is not going well. The reason is clear to us: We are very different. We are simply not compatible. Why should we be stubborn and struggle in vain? Isn’t it preferable to divorce and each of us will find a suitable mate and peace will be on Israel?
  • A: The answer is simple: Spouses are always different, they are never compatible. People are very different from one another. This is in fact the challenge. In our world, everyone pulls in his own direction. The world therefore turns into a powder-keg. We believe and are confident that everything will be full of love and brotherhood in the end. How is this going to happen? We begin with the smallest unit – spouses. Not only in romantic love is it good for one to be with the other, but in true love one does good for the other. Math says 1+1=2. The poets say: 1+1=1. In our case, the later ones are correct. Therefore, differences are not the stumbling block, but refusal to accept the differences. If you follow your intellect, which grafts things together quite well and sees commonality, it will show you the truth that you are in fact quite similar.

Special thank you to Fred Casden for editing the Ateret Yerushalayim Parshah Sheet

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Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner is Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim. All material translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig. For more Torah:

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.