Parashat Shemot 5768

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Jonathan Pollard
25 Dec 2007

Parashat Shemot 5768

Parashat Shemot – Anonymity

Question: In this week’s parashah, Parashat Shemot, is there any meaning to the fact that the names of many great people are not mentioned, such as Yocheved, Amram, Miriam, etc.?

Answer: The Torah is not a historic encyclopedia. What interests us in the Book of Shemot is the birth of the Nation of Israel. As a result, only items directly connected to this idea are mentioned. There are many interesting and important items which not mentioned in the Torah because they are not essential for the main subject. We focus on the essence. Eliyahu Ha-Navi – Who is his father? Who is his mother? Where was he born? Where did he grow up? What school did he attend? It doesn’t matter. If it is not important for our subject, it is therefore not mentioned.

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Letter Sent to President Bush on behalf of Jonathan Pollard
In anticipation of President Bush’s upcoming trip to Israel

To the honorable Mr. George Bush, President of the United States of America,

May peace and blessing be upon the President.

I turn to the President on behalf of the multitude of the Jewish People who dwell in the Land of Israel and throughout the world to grant pardon to our brother, Jonathan Pollard. Mr. Pollard has already sat imprisoned for twenty-two years. His release, as the President surely knows, was promised at the Wye River Accord ten years ago, but was rescinded at the last moment. With each passing day, Mr. Pollard’s physical health continues to decline.

Granting pardon to Jonathan Pollard would bestow additional honor upon America, the renowned Land of freedom and human rights, would bring her blessings, and would strengthen the bond between her and the State of Israel: a gesture of goodwill during our State’s sixtieth anniversary.

With honor and respect,

Shlomo Aviner

Chief Rabbi of Beit El

Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the Old City of Jerusalem

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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:

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

Vilna Gaon

Every time that our Rabbi mentioned the Vilna Gaon, he shuddered as if he stood before a divine angel, and he would refer to him with only one word: “Ha-Gaon” (the Genius). (Ha-Rav Eliyahu Mali)

It once happened that our Rabbi was called up to recite one of the blessings at a wedding and they referred to him as “Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon.” He did not move. When he was told that he had been called up, he explained that he is not a “Gaon” and that it is only proper to use this description for the Vilna Gaon. (Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald)

Reb Leib, the son of the Chafetz Chaim

Reb Leib was a great Torah scholar and wrote part of the Mishnah Berurah with his father. When our Rabbi visited him, he gave him “Orot,” “Eder Ha-Yekar” and other books of his father, our master, Rav Kook to read. Reb Leib flipped through them. At the end, our Rabbi gave him “Rosh Milin.” Reb Leib began to read the first page, but he did not continue. He closed the book and said: “The Rav who wrote this is great in understanding. I do not understand.” (Ha-Rav Yechezkel Greenwald)

Ha-Rav Yitzchak Hutner

Our Rabbi said about Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yitzchak Hutner, who was a relative and was raised by our master, Rav Kook: “It seems that he hates Zionists.” Rav Hutner died during the period of our Rabbi’s illness. The students feared for our Rabbis’ health and they therefore did not tell him. The custom was to bring our Rabbi newly published books, and when the book “Igrot ve-Ketavim” of Rav Hutner was published, it was also placed on the table of new books. Our Rabbi opened the book and read the epitaph “May the righteous be remembered as a blessing” on the title page and was shaken. He said: “What is written here? I do not understand?! How is this possible?” The students who were concerned for his health took the opportunity to hide the book. (Ha-Rav Achyah Amitai)

Ha-Rav Elchanan Wasserman

Regarding the holy one, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Elchanan Wasserman, may Hashem avenge his blood, our Rabbi sternly said that when he met him he did not inquire about our master, Rav Kook, at all, and he had been Rav Kook’s student. Incidentally, Rav Wasserman’s father was the “shamash” (attendant of the shul) in Boisk (where Rav Kook had served as Rav). To a student who said that Rav Elchanan was a student of the Chafetz Chaim, our Rabbi said: “But far from him.” (Ha-Rav Achyah Amitai)

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

A talk given after lunch at the yeshiva –

“Sponga” during Shemitta

1. The prohibition of watering the ground during the Shemitta year is a rabbinic prohibition. This is unlike watering the ground on Shabbat and Yom Tov which is a Torah prohibition (a sub-labor [toladah] of “Zore’a – seeding”). It is therefore forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov to wash one’s hands over the ground. One must be especially careful on Sukkot. During the Shemittah year, however, watering is only a rabbinic prohibition.

2. According to the majority of Rishonim (early authorities), observing Shemittah nowadays is a rabbinic mitzvah.

3. Watering the ground by pushing the water from “sponga” is an “unintended act which is not beneficial to him,” since one does not want to water the ground or violate Shemittah, but needs some place to put the water.

4. Some people have pipes on their porch which brings the water to the ground. If the water travels through the pipe onto the ground it is called a “grama” – an indirect act.

Since the act is far from a Torah prohibition and there are extenuating circumstances, it is permissible.

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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.

Pictures of Rabbis in the Garbage

Which commentator is correct?

Girls singing for elderly men

What’s in a name?

Kohne and his wife who he divorced

Dispute over amount of money repaid

Friends speaking “lashon hara” (evil speech)

Publicizing non-kosher restaurants on the internet

Spouses during the Resurrection of the Dead

A Sephardic Jew with an Ashkenazic Rabbi and an Ashkenazic Jew with a Sephardic Rabbi

Lending money to a fellow Jew

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Kohen entering a hospital

Amount to pay matchmaker

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It is a Great Mitzvah to Donate Organ

Every Jew knows that saving a life is a great mitzvah which overrides nearly all of the Torah’s prohibitions – “Do not stand over your fellow’s blood!” (Vayikra 19:16). The donation of organs therefore overrides the prohibitions of desecrating the dead, benefitting from the dead and leaving the dead unburied.

There are over one thousand people in Israel waiting for organ donations. If they do not receive them, they have a death sentence, G-d forbid. In the meantime, they live lives of horrible physical suffering. I know of cases where one person saved seven people from death.

This obviously must be performed according to Halachah. We do not take organs from people until after they have died, which means brain stem death. We must distinguish:

The Gemara in fact states that respiratory cessation is death (Yoma 85a). The Chatam Sofer also rules this way (Shut Chatam Sofer, Yoreh De’ah #238). This means that independent breathing, without artificial aid, is dependent on the brain stem. Based on this, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that irreversible damage to the brain stem is the definition of death (Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah vol. 3 #132). The Chief Rabbinate of Israel also ruled this way under the leadership of Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira and the Rishon Le-Tzion, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu in the year 5747.

It is therefore a great mitzvah to donate organs for transplantation from a person who is definitely deceased. It is also a mitzvah for the family to agree to donate the organs from a loved one who passed away – especially if he expressed his desire to do so while he was still living. At such a moment, the family should turn to a halachic expert in the field of donating organs. If the family wants, they are permitted to oppose this decision and cancel the agreement of the deceased, but we are confident that the family will respect his wishes.

Perhaps you will claim: The doctor may murder one person in order to save another person. This is a wicked lie! We have never heard of a doctor descending to such depths in our country! Incidentally, death is established according to the precise parameters of the law and with the aid of doctors unrelated to transplants. Even if a doctor committed such a transgression, the sin is his, but the mitzvah is the donor’s. As we said, however, such a thing has never happened. It is a blood libel.

And if you ask: What will happen during the Resurrection of the Dead? Will he be lacking limbs? Nonsense! He will not be lacking anything. Someone who was sick or a wounded soldier will arise whole. Regardless, everything decays in the ground after a short time. On the contrary, a limb which was used for a great mitzvah will appear illuminated with a double light (see Shut Tzitz Eliezer 13:91 who is one of the main proponents who holds otherwise).

And if you ask further: Perhaps there is an “evil eye” in committing to donate organs which will cause one to die soon? This is also nonsense without a source. There is no “evil eye” in this matter, just as there is no such thing in obtaining life insurance. On the contrary, this is a “segulah” (an action which will bring about a particular consequence) for a long life like every mitzvah.

Do not stand over your brother’s blood! Have mercy on your brother!

[Rav Aviner’s hand-written response can be viewed at]

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

How much to yield

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.