Parashat Ki Tisa 5768

February 20, 2008

Parashat Ki Tisa 5768

Davening in Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s House (known as Beit Ha-Rav)

The yeshiva is conducting an experiment to have the students daven at Beit Ha-Rav on Shabbat morning. Rav Aviner explained the idea behind it during a talk given in the yeshiva during lunch.

The walk

First of all, there is “sechar halichah” – reward for making the effort to walk from the yeshiva to Beit Ha-Rav (see Sotah 22b and Shut Yechaveh Da’at 2:9). Secondly, there is also a problem of obesity in the State of Israel. Doctors say that one should walk twice a day for twenty minutes each time. It is true that sometimes there is a difficult Tosafot and students walk and walk and walk around the Study Hall trying to solve the difficulty, but this is not enough. While one is forbidden to exercise on Shabbat, the walk to and from Beit Ha-Rav is nonetheless twenty minutes each way.

A holy place

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi once meet Eliyahu the prophet at the opening to the cave where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai hid for thirteen years. We learn from here that a place where a great person lived is still holy after he is no longer there. Beit Ha-Rav is still holy even after Maran Ha-Rav Kook has ascended to heaven. It is related that our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, once after davening went to a particular room where Rav Kook learned, and he removed his Tefillin in the hallway. He said: “It is an explicit Halachah in the Shulchan Aruch that it is forbidden to remove one’s Tefillin in the presence of his Rabbi” (out of respect). Once when our Rabbi entered that room, he not only kissed the mezuzah as is customary, but he also kissed the door posts. Beit Ha-Rav, which was Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s house and for a time the site of Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, still retains its holiness.

The two rooms in Beit Ha-Rav

During the time of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, there were very few students who understood him and the meaning of “Torat Eretz Yisrael – the Torah of the Land of Israel.” The men who learned in the yeshiva had come from yeshivot in Russia and Poland and had learned the Torah of Exile. They learned Gemara and were “gaonim” (great Torah scholars), but they did not understand Maran Ha-Rav Kook. The same applied for Ha-Rav Charlop, who followed as Rosh Yeshiva. After Rav Charlop passed away, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah was in the same situation until the first graduating class from Kfar Roeh (a yeshiva for young men headed by Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriyah) arrived. While they arrived when Rav Charlop was still alive, he was very sick and our Rabbi ran the yeshiva. They were the first group who understood “Torat Eretz Yisrael.” Our Rabbi separated the yeshiva in two parts, and it was forbidden for the two parts to talk because they were in different worlds. The “gaonim” who learned Gemara and who did not understand “Torat Eretz Yisrael” were in the room where the benches were lined up and which looked like a shul, and the young men who came from Kfar Roeh and who understood “Torat Eretz Yisrael” were in the big room. We therefore daven in the big room.

It should not be a museum

We do not want Beit Ha-Rav to be a museum, but a place of life. Please go and daven there.

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Eat Right!

Forty percent of the Jews in Israel suffer from obesity. For some, the situation is more severe than for others. In any event, there is room for improvement, and amongst men more than women. I am not referring to aesthetics. Who says that a thin person is more handsome than a fat one? Rembrandt, for one, did not feel that way with his paintings. The human being comes in a variety of shapes, beauty is subjective, and there is no arguing about tastes and aromas. Only, obesity constitutes one of the greatest threats to the health of modern man, leading to heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, arthritis, hernias, varicose veins and more.

I am not telling you to go on a crash diet using appetite reducers. This can lead to malnutrition, dehydration or other side effects. Moreover, when people on such diets stop them, they almost all go back to their previous habits and become even more obese. Neither am I telling you to start obsessive physical exercise. Even strenuous exercise takes off little weight while increasing appetite. Obviously, regular exercise has enormous worth for preserving one’s health, but not necessarily for weight loss. I also am not telling you to afflict yourself and constantly starve yourself, living in morose suffering. The Torah is a Torah of the living. What I am suggesting is to eat a little bit less and to avoid unhealthy food. That isn’t hard, it’s pleasant and it’s also a good behavior trait. The Rambam writes, “One should not eat everything one desires, the way a dog or the donkey does. Rather, one should eat food that is good for him” (Hilchot De’ot 3:2). We are already advised in our Torah not to overeat.

It is true that sometimes there are medical causes to people being obese, such as having a slow metabolism, but that is rare. Almost always, the reason is very simple: taking in too many calories. Even if each day you only take in ten grams too many, that will add you four kilos per year, forty kilos over ten years, eighty kilos over twenty years, etc., etc… The solution is simple: methodical reduction in calorie intake (obviously I am not talking here about people who have special medical problems warranting their seeking a doctor’s advise, but about regular people who just keep on adding weight). That same calculation of grams works in the opposite direction as well.

One must always preserve a balanced, varied diet, including: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. G-d did not create anything in His world in vain. “A person shall ultimately have to render an account before G-d over everything he saw that he didn’t wish to eat, even though it was permissible to him and he could have eaten it” (Mesillat Yesharim, chapter 13, quoting the Jerusalem Talmud). This is referring to what people need for their health (ibid.). Yet one should avoid fattening, unhealthy food: 1) Fat – One should consume lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat milk products, and one should avoid fried foods. 2) Sugar – One should avoid candy, ice cream, soft drinks, cake, jams and chocolate.
One can eat a lot of fruit, but one shouldn’t go too far, since fruit has sugar too. Rather, one should eat one fruit, or fruit portion, at a time. One shouldn’t drink fruit juices, but rather one should eat the fruit itself, chewing well. Vegetables are excellent, cooked or fresh. Eat as much as you like. You can see that I am not torturing you. Quite the contrary, you’ll feel a lot better.

It’s true that sometimes there are psychological factors that cause overeating. A nervous, frustrated person finds a substitute for happiness in eating. If this is a serious problem for you, then I recommend that you contact Overeaters Anonymous, which consists of support groups, or more precisely, self-help groups, located everywhere, for men and for women. Everyone there is in the same boat, and they help one another.

Sometimes people also suffer from bad eating habits from childhood. Don’t worry. Anything can be improved. Eat a lot of small meals and don’t wait until hunger overtakes you and then you binge. In this the Jews from Germany are right. At 7:00 AM they eat a good breakfast; at 10:00 AM something small; at 1:00 PM a good lunch; at 4:00 something small; at 7:00 PM a good supper, and at 10:00 PM something small. Everything in good measure. This is highly recommended.

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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: I accidentally recited “borei nefashot” after eating bread. Do I have to recite “birkat ha-mazon”?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: What is the source that there will not be another destruction [of the authority of the Nation of Israel over the Land of Israel]?
  • A: Our Sages spoke many times about redemption and they never mentioned that there could be another destruction following it.
  • Q: A thief stole my bike and sold it to a store. Is it permissible for me to take it from the store without payment?
  • A: Certainly, it is yours, and the store will make a claim against the thief (obviously you must prove to the store that it is indeed yours).
  • Q: I broke open an egg and there was a small blood spot in the yoke. Is it kosher?
  • A: With eggs that are not fertilized, one must only throw out the blood spot because of “ma’arit ha-ayin” (the appearance of wrong-doing) and the egg is permissible.

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

Our Rabbi and honoring of the State – Part 2:

Our Rabbi would rebel if someone defined him as a “right-winger.” He did not see himself as affiliated to the right or the left. Political alignment did not have any meaning to him. His world views did not flow from the political situation in the slightest way; rather they were the Torah’s world views. As a result, he had specific world views relating to the Land of Israel, the Kingship of Israel and the Government of Israel. He was not affiliated with the left, but according to the Torah’s point of view, he supported specific socialist aims which characterized the left circles. He was not affiliated with a specific party, but saw himself above the parties. He nevertheless voted in elections, not out of a party affiliation, but out of the thought that in the given situation, this act could help the Nation of Israel.

It once happened that a rabbi said: “We achieved this [particular] religious law with the help of dirty politics. Our Rabbi commented: “These politics are the politics of the Master of the Universe.”

David Ben Gurion

Our Rabbi spoke sharply against David Ben Gurion for boasting that he lived with a woman without having performed the customary Jewish matrimonial procedures of Chupah and Kiddushin. Our Rabbi explained that as long as Ben Gurion was the Prime Minister he did not speak out against him; he was bound by the Torah obligation to honor the kingship. Only after he left his position did the Rabbi permit himself to say such things.

When our Rabbi was asked if one should stand for the siren at the time of the death of Ben Gurion, he responded: “This is connected to the State, and the State is the fulfillment of a positive commandment, one should therefore stand. Even though Ben Gurion was a heretic, he nonetheless has the merit of developing the Negev.”

Golda Meir

An important rabbi spoke with our Rabbi about the Prime Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir. Our Rabbi was silent and did not answer. But when he departed, our Rabbi said emotionally: “I cannot speak about the Prime Minister this way, the Prime Minister of Israel is an angel of G-d to me.”

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Questions on Tefillah and Yahrzeit

  • Q: Does one have to stand with his feet together during Kaddish?
  • A: One does not need to stand with his feet together, but should stand “derech kavod” – in a respectful manner, i.e. one should not have his legs spread too far apart.
  • Q: Should one bow during various times of Kadish?
  • A: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 56:4) says that there are five different points at which one should bow. Sefaradim follow this practice. Ashkenazic do not bow (see the Gra and Aruch Ha-Shulchan ibid.).
  • Q: What is the method for those who bow?
  • A: One does not bow as for Shemoneh Esrei (bend down like a rod and up like a snake – Gemara Berachot), but one bends from their spine.
  • Q: Does one have to stand with his feet together during Barchu?
  • A: One should stand “derech kavod” – in a respectful manner.
  • Q: Should one bow during Barchu? If so, how?
  • A: Yes. Some authorities question this practice and the Mishnah Berurah in Biur Halachah (Orach Chaim 113) writes that the source is from King David in Divrei Ha-Yamim 1 29:20. It is interesting that the Mishnah Berurah finds the source straight from the Tanach and not the Gemara or Midrash – this is rare.
  • Q: How should one bow?
  • A: One bends from the spine.
  • Q: Should a Shaliach Tzibur strike one’s chest at “slach lanu” during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei?
  • A: This is the practice.
  • Q: Should one bow during Aleinu at the words “v’anachnu korim u’mishtachavim”?
  • A: Yes, the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chaim 132:9) mentions it.
  • Q: How should one bow?
  • A: One bends from the spine.
  • Q: What is the reason that some recite the paragraph of “Tehillat Hashem” after saying Shir Ha-Ma’alot when bentching?
  • A: This is a custom among some Ashkenazim. Sefaradim do not say it. It is a foggy and late custom which is not mentioned in the Gemara, the Rishonim or the Shulchan Aruch. There is a joke that the anti-Zionists added it because Shir Ha-Ma’alot is too Zionist.
  • Q: What is the source of the yahrzeit?
  • A: The Gemara in Nedarim (12a) says that one fasts on the day that one’s father died. It is mentioned in the Codes.
  • Q: Beyond the fact that we wish to commemorate and bring merit to the departed on the yahrzeit, what emotions am I supposed to feel? Are there halachic implications, or is this simply a day of reflection?
  • A: It should be a day of “Cheshbon Nefesh – a spiritual accounting.” You should repent, pray and give tzedakah (as we say on the High Holidays).

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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.

Children putting on shoes in the proper order

  • Q: I am a nursery school teacher. Do younger children need to put on their shoes according to the proper order – right/left – or is it not necessary to be particular with them about this?
  • A: One does not need to over burden young children. It is therefore not necessary. If it is possible, however, it is certainly worthwhile since it is a proper custom.

Changing your mind for giving tzedakah

  • Q: A family wanted to donate money to build a shul, but the project is not progressing. Is it permissible to donate the money elsewhere?
  • A: It depends. If the family promised and makd a vow, they need to give the money, since a person must stick to his word. If they want to change their mind, they need to go to three Rabbis for a “hatarat nedarim” (annulment of vows). If they said “bli neder” (without vowing), they do not need a “hatarat nedarim.”

Laws of Lashon Ha-Ra (speaking ill) in Shulchan Aruch

  • Q: Why aren’t the laws of Lashon Ha-Ra mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch?
  • A: The Shulchan Aruch does not mention many, many things, since he does not mention simple and obvious laws and customs. The Shulchan Aruch also does not mention that it is forbidden to murder, that it is forbidden to steal and that it is forbidden to light a fire on Shabbat. It mentioned details which may not be known. The Rambam, however, does mention the prohibition of Lashon Ha-Ra in Hilchot De’ot (last chapter), since the Rambam mentions everything, including simple things. Many items which are not mentioned by the Shulchan Aruch are filled in by the commentaries on it. The Magen Avraham (156:2) mentions all of the mitzvot between people which were skipped by the Shulchan Aruch. For example, the Shulchan Aruch also skips “Love your fellow as yourself,” the mitzvah of rebuking, prohibition of dispute, revenge, grudges, “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind,” judging another person favorably, loving the convert, etc… The Mishnah Berurah (156:4) also mentions these items. Why does the Shulchan Aruch virtually skip over the mitzvot between people? Because everyone knew them. The laws of Lashon Ha-Ra are explained at great length by the Rambam, Rabbenu Yona in Sha’arei Teshuvah and the Chafetz Chaim did awesome and holy work and gathered them together from all of the different places.

Mourner visiting the cemetery during the first year

  • Q: May a mourner visit the cemetery each month during the year of mourning for his mother?
  • A: It is permissible to visit each week or each month. There are no restrictions. Some authorities say that one should not visit each week since it is not spiritually proper to live in a cemetery, but there is no halachic problem.

Cooking garlic and onions together

  • Q: Is it permissible to cook garlic and onions together in the same pan?
  • A: Yes, I do not understand why some say not to do this. There is no source for this practice.

Removing hair from food on Shabbat

  • Q: Is it permissible to remove a hair from food on Shabbat because of “Muktzeh” (not moving certain things on Shabbat) or “Borer” (selecting)?
  • A: It is not a problem of “Muktzeh,” since it is disgusting. This is called “geref shel re’ei – chamber pot,” and our Sages did not make a decree for disgusting things so that people could remove them. It is, however, a problem of “Borer,” since it is removing an undesired item from a desired item. You cannot remove the hair by itself, but it is permissible to remove the hair with a little bit of food. It is thus no longer “Borer,” since it is hair plus food.

Violating Shabbat to save a Shabbat desecrater in a car accident

  • Q: I heard that Ha-Rav said that it is permissible to save someone who has a car accident while violating Shabbat. Is this correct?
  • A: It is true that the Mishnah Berurah (329:9) says that we do not save a Shabbat desecrator, since he is violating Shabbat. In our time, however, Shabbat desecrators are considered “Tinokot She-nishbu” – Jews who did not receive a proper Jewish upbringing and education. They are not heretics or evil, they are confused. They do not understand anything. No one explained or taught them anything about Torah. We therefore relate to them as “Tinokot She-nishbu” regarding Shabbat desecration and all other transgressions.

Benefiting baby sister who died

  • Q: What can I do for the benefit of my sister who died at the age of one and a half, when we have not done anything for many years?
  • A: You can do what you have not done up to this point: Light a yahrzeit candle, say Kaddish, give tzedakah, repent, etc…and what you missed, you missed.

Tarot cards

  • Q: Is it idol worship to predict the future by using tarot cards?
  • A: It is not idol worship, but what is called “Darkei Emori” (the ways of the Emorites). It is not idol worship since you are not serving another god, but you are involved in nonsense. Something which has no logic reason and non-Jews perform it is called “Darkei Emori” or “Chukat Ha-Goyim” (the practices of the non-Jews). This is also forbidden according to the Torah. It is not the Torah prohibition of idol worship for which one is liable for death, but it is still forbidden. It is therefore forbidden to use such cards, as it says: “There shall not be found among you…one who practices divinations, an astrologer, one who reads omens, a sorcer, an animal charmer, one who inquires of Ov or Yidoni or one who consults the dead” (Devarim 18:10-11). All of these activities are severe transgressions. While the Rambam says that these things have some ancient connection to idol worship, today they no longer do, and are therefore included in the prohibition of “Darkei Emor.”

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

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.