Parashat Miketz 5768

December 6, 2007

Parashat Miketz 5768

Parashat Miketz – It is Lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee Did Not Ask…

It is lucky that Yehudah the Maccabee did not ask politicians, because if he had they would have told him that one must consider the possible international pressure in the overall plan, and he would have sat and deliberated and deliberated.

It is lucky that he did not ask too many military strategists and experts, because they would have told him that there is no chance of delivering “the strong into the hands of the weak,” and they would have broken his spirit.

It is lucky that he did not ask statisticians, because they would have revealed to him the secret that we are “the few against the many,” and he would have been afraid of the demographic demon.

He also did not ask too many heads of Yeshivot, because if he had they would have ruled that it is forbidden to cause nullification of Torah learning from yeshiva students who engage in Torah study, and then there would have not be a delivering of “the heretics into the hands of those involved in Your Torah.”

He also did not ask too many Rabbis, because if he had they would have told him, it is forbidden to challenge the nations of the world, and that we do not rely on a miracle, especially where there is a real potential for danger, etc…, etc…

He also did not ask the humanists, because they would have revealed to him the secret that one soul of Israel is worth more than a few kilometers of land and is more costly for the Nation.

He certainly did not ask those who are pure-of-heart, because they would have depressed his spirit, and preached to him that it is not proper to kill or to be killed.

He did not ask deep thinkers, because – within the midst of great depth – they would have confused him and stopped him with discussions of the order of priorities: Perhaps the Nation takes precedence, etc…, etc…

He did not ask the pacifists, because they would have illuminated his eyes to the greatness of peace, and that one should never use violence, and that goodwill will resolve everything.

He did not ask too many questions, but he fulfilled his national and spiritual obligation and jumped into the lion’s den, with amazing self-sacrifice into the great battle which saved Israel. And then all of the politicians, all of the strategists, all of the statisticians, all of the heads of Yeshivot, all of the Rabbis, all of the humanists, all of the pure-of-heart, all of the thinkers and all of the pacifists became sages after the fact, and they lit Chanukah lights as a remembrance of the victory, and these lights illuminate our lives from those days until this time.

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 8 #35 and Sefer Am Ve-Artzo vol. 2 #182. Originally published in the Israeli newspaper “Ma’ariv”]

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Text Message Responsa

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Here’s a sample:

  • Q: Is it permissible to record songs from the radio?
  • A: According to the law, it is permissible. According to Halacha, it is permissible if you were not planing to buy the album.
  • Q: Is it permissible to use incense from India?
  • A: Yes. It is not made for idol worship, but simply to smell.
  • Q: Should one say the blessing of “Shehechiyanu” on the first “sufganiyot” (jelly donut) he eats on Chanukah?
  • A: No, it is only said on fruits which come at set times during the year.
  • Q: Does a store which only sells fruit juice require kosher certification?
  • A: Yes, because they might mix in other ingredients.
  • Q: Can I listen to music after saying the bedtime Shema and the blessing “Ha-Mapil”?
  • A: It is permissible.

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

A Jerusalem Holiday

Our Rabbi once said to the yeshiva students on Chanukah that one must remember that the holiday of Chanukah is a Jerusalem holiday (Gadol Shimusha p. 120).

Maoz Tzur

When Our Rabbi would sing Maoz Tzur, he would cry during the sad stanzas and would be full of excitement during the joyous stanzas. (Ha-Rav Yehoshua Wiezman)


Our Rabbi would light his Chanukiyah inside. (Ha-Rav Aviner)

Excavations of the Kotel Tunnels and Finding the Temple Implements

After the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War, there were extensive excavations of the Kotel Tunnels, which extend under the Temple Mount. Ha-Rav Meir Yehudah Getz, Rav of the Kotel, asked our Rabbi, is it permissible to excavate under the Temple Mount to find the Temple implements? Our Rabbi answered, “No, do not dig.” Our generation is still not ready to merit discovering the treasures of the Temple. (The book “Rav Ha-Kotel” p. 306)

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Substituting a lower number to move up in line

  • Q: At the post office, you take a number and wait until your number comes up. I was waiting, and a woman – who had a lower number than me – got tired of waiting, put hers back on the machine and left. Is it permissible to take the lower number?
  • A: You should not take it.
  • Q: What if someone else if going to take it?
  • A: You should not take it. You should quietly wait your turn.

Where to light the chanukiyah

  • Q: In Israel, the chanukiyah is lit outside as was the original decree of our Sages. We have a gate which a few families enter to get to our connected apartments. Do I light the chanukiyah at the gate or at the door to my house?
  • A: This is a dispute between Rashi and Tosafot (Shabbat 21a). Rashi says that we light the chanukiyah at the door. Tosafot says that we light it at the gate which is facing the public domain. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 671:5) rules in accordance with Tosafot. The book “Mikra’ei Kodesh of Rav Harari says that it should be lit at the gate, and it is preferable to place the chanukiyah in a glass box to protect it from the wind or other potential problems.

Where do yeshiva students light the chanukiyah

  • Q: Where should a single yeshiva student light the chanukiyah – the yeshiva or his parent’s house?
  • A: The Gemara in Shabbat (23a) says that when Rabbi Zeira was single and learning in yeshiva, he went to the person’s house where he lived. Rabbi Zeira went to the host’s home because he ate and slept there, as was the custom for yeshiva students throughout the generations. Today, however, the yeshiva is the student’s home. There is a dorm and he lives here, learns here, eats here, sleeps here, and pays money to the yeshiva to stay here. The yeshiva is his home. He can light in his room or in the study hall because he eats and sometimes sleeps in both places. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would say that for the years that a student is in yeshiva, it is his home. Rav Avrum (Rav Avraham Shapira ztz”l) actually said that Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav is a city because there are so students who live there. The hallway is the main street and you should light outside your door because this faces the public domain. It doesn’t matter that someone goes to his parent’s house if he is sick. A person’s house is where he is when he is healthy. Students here are actually too much at home. They make it dirty, they eat from the communal plate, etc… It should be their home with proper manners. There are many opinions and discussion, but the basic Halachah for Ashkenazim and Sefardim is that one lights the chanukiyah at the yeshiva. If everyone in a dorm room is Ashkenazi, then everyone lights his own chanukiyah. If everyone is Sefardi, they light only one. If there is a mixture, it depends on the mixture.
  • Q: If the student is married, should he return home early to light at sundown or three stars (depending on the opinion he follows), or return home later?
  • A: If his wife is not upset, he should go home later. It is not a question of Chanukah lights, but of his wife. It is preferable to learn Torah than fulfill the stricture of lighting outside. Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, always lit inside. Children do not learn Torah on Erev Yom Kippur so that they do not forget to eat and on Erev Pesach so that they can clean a little. It is also forbidden to learn on Tisha Be-Av. One Chasidic Rebbe did learn on Tisha Be-Av and when asked he said: “If only this is the sin for which I go to “gehinom” (purgatory). I am going anyway, and I hope it is for this.” On Chanukah, however, there is an obligation to learn. You take a break to light the chanukiyah and then go back. The Greeks wanted us to stop learning, so we do not do their work for them. I remember when I was a yeshiva student in Yeshivat Mitnachalei Chevron, the people there organized a trip of Chanukah. I went to Rav Tzvi Yehudah and asked if I could go. He said: “A trip. Why not? Even in Volozhin they walked around for a minute after morning davening.” I understood what he meant.

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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.

Davening on the job

  • Q: At my workplace, we daven Shacharit and people generally punch into work after davening. Some people, however, punch in before davening, and are on the clock during the davening. Can they be counted in the minyan and lead the davening?
  • A: It is forbidden to fulfill mitzvot during work time. The book “Mesillat Yesharim” (chapter 11) brings this exact example when discussing theft. The Ramchal says that if someone fulfills a mitzvah during work time, it will not be considered a merit, but a transgression. If someone performs a transgression, it cannot be considered a mitzvah. A person who steals wheat and makes bread and then recites a blessing, it is not a blessing, but a disgrace. What is the difference between stealing an object and stealing time? When someone steals an object and performs a mitzvah – “Saneigor na’aseh kateigor” – a defender becomes a prosecutor. Something which is generally used as a vehicle to reach Hashem is transformed into a vehicle for sin. The same applies to stealing time. There are three levels of performing a mitzvah through a sin: 1. You fulfill a mitzvah through a sin, and now you have a mitzvah and a sin. The sin does not cancel out the mitzvah. 2. More severe – the mitzvah is canceled out because you performed it through a transgression. 3. Even more severe – the mitzvah becomes a sin. The “Mesillat Yesharim” says that someone who fulfills a mitzvah during work time, his act is considered a sin. This appears to be the opinion of the Jerusalem Talmud in the chapter “Lulav Ha-Gazul – The Stolen Lulav” in Massechet Sukkah. It is possible that others disagree with the Ramchal on this point. If a person davens during work time, he is sinning, how then is it possible to count a sinning person in a minyan? We are not saying that he is evil. A person is judged according to the majority of his actions. It is possible that besides this sin, he has many merits. At this moment, however, he is not daven, but sinning, and cannot be counted in a minyan and, all the more so, he cannot lead the davening. How do we inform him of this? You need great wisdom. Perhaps you can photocopy chapter 11 of “Mesillat Yesharim” and highlight the appropriate parts and give it out to everyone. I should add that a short mitzvah – like davening Minchah – which takes five to ten minutes is permissible, since you receive a break once in a while anyway. Shacharit takes much longer.

Student praising the teacher

  • Q: Can a student write on the side of a test that they enjoy the teacher’s class or some other praise, or it bribery because the teacher may feel indebted to the student and give him a better grade on the test?
  • A: I think that this is improper and there is an aspect of bribery. The teacher can either ignore it or write a note on the test that says, “Please tell me another time, but not here.” This is similar to judges. Our Sages gave examples of bribery: One of the judges had a feather on his shoulders and one of the litigants brushed it off, the judge said that he is invalid to judge. Another example is a judge arrived by boat and one of the litigants gave him a hand to help him up, the judge said that he is invalid to judge. There is a fear of bribery even for little things like this.

Teacher informing parents about child

  • Q: Is it permissible for a teacher to relate negative information to a parent, or is it “lashon ha-ra” (speaking ill about someone)?
  • A: It is certainly permissible because it is for the student’s benefit. The teacher and parents work together to help the child. It is not to besmirch the child, but to help him.


  • Q: What is Ha-Rav’s opinion about children receiving vaccinations?
  • A: They are extremely important. Before there were vaccinations, infant mortality rate was extremely high. Two out of every three children in a family would die. I am not talking about plagues, where countless numbers would die, but regular infant mortality rates. Vaccinations were like a miracle. Before vaccinations, world population was constant, after vaccinations it grew and grew, and now we have billions of people. The other reason for the drop in infant mortality is plumbing, before that sewage was flowing in the street. Some people are against vaccinations claiming that you are putting poison into the child. This is true that you are inserting poison, but it is a small amount which the child can easily overcome. Originally many children died from the measles vaccination, so they stopped vaccinating and there was a terrible outbreak of the measles, and ten times the amount of children died. Even today, some Charedim (Ultra-Orthodox), who made aliyah from England, believe that you should be natural. They did not vaccinate their children, and in Jerusalem and other places, there was an outbreak of measles. There were some places that children in an entire daycare center got measles because they only vaccinate children at the age of one in Israel. If someone does not vaccinate his children, it is not only that he endangers his own children, he also endangers other people’s children. Some countries have laws that people are obligated to vaccinate, and some Rabbis wrote that according to Halachah, you can force people to vaccinate their children because they endanger their children and the population at large. It is true that periodically children do die from the vaccination, but in medicine – as in every field and every medicial treatment – we follow the majority and the overwhelming majority of children are helped by the vaccinations. Furthermore, the authorities already discussed taking a minor risk to be saved from a greater danger (Tiferet Yisrael on Massechet Yoma). The idea that people want to be natural does not make sense. Okay, be natural, but do not be extreme. When they write, they do not write with their finger dipped in water, they write with a pen which is not natural. They use a computer which is not natural, and a phone which is not natural. They have clothing which is not natural. They do not wear a fig leaf. It is true that as much as possible it is good to be natural, but not to be an extremist. Vaccinating is not a joke. There is an obligation to vaccinate all children.

Finding meaning in prayer

  • Q: I am not religious and I am saying kaddish for my father, but I do not find any meaning in the prayers. What can I do?
  • A: During the time of the Second Temple, the members of the Great Assembly established the Shemoneh Esrei since most people could not express themselves properly in prayer. They included all true human needs in this prayer. For example, “Selach lanu – Forgive us” is a prayer for Hashem to forgive us, “Refa’einu – Heal us” is a prayer for Hashem to heal the sick, “Barech Ha-Shanim” is a prayer for Hashem to help us with a livelihood, etc… Every true need is found within this prayer. In order to find meaning, you must learn and analyze the words of the prayers and you will see how meaningful and relevant they are.

Reciting kaddish without a mourner

  • Q: Should the kaddish be recited even if there is no mourner?
  • A: Yes, and if your parents are still alive, you need to ask permission to recite it.
  • Q: Is this for all prayers or just for Shacharit since the Rama only mentions it in connection with Shacharit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 132:2)?
  • A: We say, “Yitgadel Ve-yitkadash – May His great Name be aggrandized and make holy” at the end of all prayers.
  • Q: The custom is not to say it at the end after the Psalm of the Day (“Shir shel Ha-yom”), but after “Aleinu.” Shouldn’t it be at the end?
  • A: Yes, but there are bigger issues to fix.

Women covering their hair for prayers on their own

  • Q: Do I have to cover my hair when I recite the bedtime Shema?
  • A: A woman is permitted to recite the Shema and Shemoneh Esrei without her hair covered. This is explicitly written in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 75:1. It certainly adds awe of Hashem and holiness when she does cover her hair. In the mikvah, Ashkenazic women recite the blessing with their hair uncovered, although some put something on their hair to increase awe of Hashem. Sefardic women, however, recited the blessing beforehand while fully clothed. There was a custom among Sefardic communities in North Africa for even single women to put something on their hair for prayer. Young girls would even put something on for school. In Israel today, this is not the practice of Ashkenazic or Sefardic Jews.

Ritually washing hands in bathroom

  • Q: Is it permissible to wash “netilat yada’im” in the bathroom?
  • A: It is generally forbidden to wash “netilat yada’im” in a bathroom, and, on the contrary, if you just enter a bathroom you have to wash “netilat yada’im.” This is what is written in the Gemara, but more recent authorities explain that our bathrooms are clean. This is similar to what the Gemara calls the “bathrooms of the Parsa’im” which was a hole and an incline which took the refuse outside of the bathroom. Our bathrooms are slightly different, it is not immediate taken away, but it is completed cleaned. There are those who therefore explain that if someone enters the bathroom, they do not need to wash “netilat yada’im” when they leave. This applies even more so if there is a bathtub, washing machine, etc… It is not simply a bathroom, but a multi-functional room. The blessing must be recited outside and it is certainly preferable to wash “netilat yada’im” if there is someplace else.

Use a hotplate or bleich on Shabbat

  • Q: What is the appropriate way to put food on a hotplate on Shabbat?
  • A: There are two conditions for using a hotplate: 1. The food must be a full-cooked solid. It is impossible to have a solid without any moisture. Whenever you remove something from the freezer there is moisture within it, but this is secondary. 2. Place the food on a “kedeirah al gabai kedeirah” – an upside down pan in order to indicate that this is not the usual way of cooking.

Item brought on Shabbat

  • Q: If someone brought us a bottle of Coke on Shabbat and they drove in a car, can we drink it after Shabbat?
  • A: You can use it after waiting the amount of time it took for them to bring it to you. If they traveled a half an hour, you wait a half an hour.

Moving grave of Rebbe Nachman to Israel

  • Q: There have been many issues regarding the grave of Rebbe Nachman in Uman in the Ukraine: They say that they won’t let us visit, etc… Is it a good idea to bring him to Israel?
  • A: This is an explicit Gemara at the end of Ketubot (111a) that it is good to bring the deceased to Israel, and many people do so. The Jerusalem Talmud (Kilayim 9:3) has a criticism: He lives outside of Israel, but he is buried in Israel. Nonetheless, one who is buried outside of Israel is not comparable to someone who is buried in Israel, because anyone who is buried in Israel it is as if he is buried under the altar. And even better than being buried in Israel is to die in Israel, and even better still is to live in Israel. Throughout the generations, they brought people to be buried here. Many of the followers of Rebbe Nachman wrote and received approbations from great Rabbis – including Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef – that Rebbe Nachman should be brought here, because Rebbe Nachman saw himself connected to the Land of Israel and wrote about it in various places and it was his desire to be buried here. Even if he did not say anything about it, it is obvious that that all of the righteous, and even the simple, want to be buried here and, all the more so, Rebbe Nachman.
  • Q: Is there any idea that he could help others during the Ressurection of the Dead if he is there?
  • A: No, he could always travel there if they need help. The Gemara at the end of Ketubot explains that those buried in Israel are resurrected easier and those buried outside of Israel experience “gigul atzamot – rolling in tunnels” to Israel. We don’t find that he is needed to gather people there. If need be, he’ll travel there.

Talmudic measurements

  • Q: Should we use the measurements mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud?
  • A: No, there is no need to use them. I have never seen anyone use the measurement of a “lug.”

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Unity, Wholeness, Perfection

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, on the Twenty-fifth anniversary of the departure of our Master, Rav Kook (Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit, p.88, arranged by Rav Aviner)

  • Question: If someone came and asked: Teach me the Torah of Rav Kook while standing on one foot, how would you respond to him?
  • Answer: To a certain extent, it is possible to say while standing on one foot that the Torah of father, Ha-Rav ztz”l is: unity, wholeness, perfection – unity of Hashem, wholeness of the Nation and the Land and perfection of the Torah. “The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul” (Tehillim 19:8). Our Sages explain this verse: When it is perfect, it restores the soul (Socher Tov ibid. and see Yerushalmi Berachot 5:3). Just as we are obligated to see the unity of Hashem before our eyes and the Torah in its perfection and all of its wholeness, so too are we to see the Nation, to its full and complete extent, in all its wholeness. The Gerrer Rebbe ztz”l – the authoir of “Sefat Emet” – would explain our Sages’ teaching, “Judge all of the person favorably” (Pirkei Avot 1:6), in this way: At a time when you judge the entire person, when you observe a person from all of his sides – then he will be “favorable,” and aspects of merit will be revealed before your eyes. This is the fundamental outlook of the Torah. And you find the exact opposite with the wicked Bilaam: “However, you will see its edge, but not see all of it” (Bamidbar 23:13). Observing the edge, only part of the Nation, without looking at the entirety, obstructs the sight and distorts the image. If it sometimes seems that there is some flaw in the Nation of Israel, it is because you are only looking at a particular issue or an isolated occurrence, without observing the issues with a complete and encompassing perceptive. In Parashat Eikev, we find the expression “all of the mitzvah” (Devarim 8:1), meaning, the entire Torah is one mitzvah, one matter, one complete entity (“The entire Torah is only one Name of the Holy One, Blessed be He, one Name, one utterance, one saying, without any other, which has everything included in it” – Orot Ha-Torah 4, 1). A living being is a complete entity, and we cannot divide it. “Commandment by commandment, commandment by commandment, measure line by measuring live and measure line by measuring line, a bit here and a bit there” (Yeshayahu 28:13) – this is a failed and distorted outlook. One must perceive matters in their unity and in their completeness, in their entire revelation and in all their aspects, and then the Torah is perfect and restores the soul. This is true not only regarding the Torah, but also regarding the Nation and the Land. Just as the Torah, when it is perfect restores the soul, so too the holiness of Israel and the holiness of the Land of Israel, when they are perfect, whole, when we observe them within a whole and all-compassing perceptive, they restore the soul.

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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.