Parashat Terumah 5768

February 6, 2008

Parashat Terumah 5768

Rabbi Aviner: Divorcees are just as valuable, if not more so

[Written by Kobi Nahshoni, this article appeared on this week (27 Shevat 5768)]

Rabbi of Bet-El speaks out against the ‘evil stereotype’ attached to divorcees in Judaism, calls on followers ‘not to judge anyone by past marital status’

In an article recently published in the Rosh Yehudi (Weekly parashah sheet distributed in shul each week in Israel) pamphlet, the Rabbi of Bet El and spiritual leader of the Religious Zionist movement, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, called on Orthodox Jews to change their deeply entrenched prejudices against divorcees, and to start judging people based upon their character rather than their past marital status.

“Divorcees are just like all other women, they do not have horns,” the rabbi noted. “As a matter of fact, these women are probably more worthwhile because of their previous experience with married life.” [Rav] Aviner went on to state that divorcees have “feelings and emotions like all other women, and are just as G-d-fearing, dependable and worthy as their never married counterparts.

“I have no idea where all of the evil stereotypes regarding divorcees originated,” said the Rabbi. “These women do not have horns on their heads; in fact they probably have a far broader and more mature outlook on life.”

Addressing Orthodox men’s reluctance to marry divorcees, Rabbi Aviner stated that “one must naturally take the time to find out whether there is some character flaw in the person in question that brought about the divorce, but as a general rule you should always take the time to assess your future spouses’ character and nature before marriage, whether or not they were previously married.” Strong faith, fear of G-d, and dependability, explained the Rabbi, are all traits that one can most definitely find in a divorcee. “Divorcees do not fall short of other women in this respect, and their feelings and emotions must also be respected.”

In that vein, the Rabbi stated that divorced Orthodox women should be allowed a second chance at marriage, not only with a widower or fellow divorcee but even with a single man.

“One must not marry right off the bat like a blind fool,” advised the Rabbi. “A couple who marries must be well matched and compatible. That being said, “We must judge each individual based on their character rather than their past marital status.”

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Be Slim!

Be slim! I’m not worried about beauty, for there is no arguing about appearances. Rather, I am arguing about health and life itself. Obesity causes all sorts of malevolent illnesses, amongst them heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world. So please, take off weight! Get off that fat! With every gram you take off, you add several hours to your life. That’s right. I’m not exaggerating. So please run away from tasty fast foods, full of salt, sugar and fat. They’re poison! They steal a lot of hours of life from you. Also don’t believe in wonder diets. They’re nonsense and a waste of money. Rather take off a bit of weight each day. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Mishlei 4:18). In the end, you will be slim.

Please keep a daily chart. Eat normally, and only at meal time. Avoid between-meal snacks, but water is good to drink. Drink at least eight cups of water every day. The best food in the world is fresh vegetables with peels. Eat a lot of delicious salad. Fruits are also something wonderful. Fresh fruit with a peel, dried fruits, prunes, carob and raisins — but not a lot because of the sugar. Altogether, even healthy food should be consumed in moderation, apart from vegetables, which are unlimited. “On all other nights we eat all the other vegetables.” Grains are important. In other words, whole wheat bread, spelt, oats, brown rice, millet, whole wheat crackers. Yet one should not eat white-flour products like bread, noodles, macaroni, cake, cookies, and all sorts of sweet and salted baked items. The meaning of “not” is “not at all”, or very little, and the less the better. Milk products – certainly, but milk, yoghurt and leben should be low fat, as well as white cheese and yellow cheese. The “meat and fish and every delicacy” of the Shabbat refers to lean meat, like poultry, and lean fish, but not fatty meat, organ meat, sausage or eggs.

There’s a story of a good-hearted soul who saw someone stranded with his car alongside a road, and made a great effort to extricate him from his plight. “I am very grateful,” said the driver, and took out a large sum of money from his wallet. “Perish the thought,” said the goodhearted soul. “In that case,” said the driver, “I’ll give you something worth more than money. I own a sausage factory, and I’ve got some advice for you: Never eat sausage if you want to live.”

You can get the fat you need from vegetables, such as soy, sunflower seeds and techina, but do so in moderation, because they have so many calories. Water! Drink lots! A quart or two per day. Stay especially far away from candies, chocolate, sweet drinks, cakes and snack foods. Don’t cry. I haven’t decreed that you must be an ascetic. I’ve left you a great many very tasty foods. And altogether, being slim is a delicious feeling.

Obviously, don’t smoke! It goes against the Torah, and it’s just plain poison. Do a lot of physical exercise. If your destination isn’t too far off, get there by walking fast on foot. Take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator. Keep daily tabs. Search your soul, and watch over your body. The two go together. “The soul is yours; the body is your handiwork.”

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Parashat Bereshit 5767 – translated by Rafael Blumberg]

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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: Can I read poems and stories by Bialik?
  • A: In general, it is permissible, asides for a few poems written after the pogroms which are defiant [to Hashem]. We obviously have better writings.
  • Q: Is it permissible to object to my father speaking lashon ha-ra (evil speech)?
  • A: Yes, with humility, and say: “Would you like to talk about this…?” [Thus changing the subject]
  • Q: I bought a disk and it is scratched and it does not play well. Is it permissible to burn another one from it?
  • A: Yes, this is like insurance.
  • Q: How should one act at a stop light on Shabbat?
  • A: One should be careful like on a weekday. We have to beware of danger on Shabbat as well.
  • Q: How does one check figs for bugs before eating them?
  • A: One should make sure that a dried fig does not have holes. Then one should open it and check it by light to be certain that there are not bugs’ eggs inside. A black color is generally a sign of worms.

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

Herzl’s picture which hangs in our Rabbi’s home

It is well known that our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, had a picture of Herzl hanging in his home.

Three stories about the picture:

Rav Avraham Romer related: “The picture of Herzl once disappeared from our Rabbi’s house and there was a suspicion that one of the students wanted ‘to teach him a lesson.’ When I suggested that perhaps the picture fell behind the desk, he permitted me to look there. When I found the picture, he was extremely happy and saw a need to comfort me because he saw that I had been distressed. He told me wondrous stories about Herzl and his position. He repeated the opinion of Reb Aharon Marcus z”l who said that Herzl was a descendant of Mahari Titzak (a famous Rabbi) and was from a Sefardic family. (Gadol Shimusha, p. 54)

When a particular Jew from the neighborhood of Geulah would come to our Rabbi’s house, he would flip over the picture of Herzl. Our Rabbi once caught him in the act and asked him: Why are you doing this? Doesn’t he have all five corners of his beard [which may not be shaved according to the Torah]?! (Iturei Cohanim #212)

A student of our Rabbi saw Herzl’s picture hanging in the room where our Rabbi taught classes in his house, and it was hanging among the pictures of our great Rabbis. He asked for an explanation and our Rabbi gave an entire class on the fact that Herzl was the agent of the Master of the Universe in returning independence to Israel in this generation whether we like it or not. (ibid.)

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law: Hilchot Sheleg – Laws of Snow

It snowed in Yerushalayim last week and Rav Aviner spoke about the laws of snow in his talk during lunch –

Muktzeh on Shabbat?

  • Q: Is snow muktzeh on Shabbat?
  • A: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 300:11) says that one may not crush ice on Shabbat. This implies that snow is not muktzeh, since the only problem is crushing. We can reject this by saying that perhaps the Shulchan Aruch is discuss snow which fell before Shabbat, but snow which fell on Shabbat is muktzeh based on “nolad” (something created on Shabbat). One can argue, however, that snow is like rain and rain is not muktzeh on Shabbat (Mishneh Berurah ibid. 338:30). Even though the rain was not necessarily in the clouds before Shabbat, it is not muktzeh. As such, what is the different between rain and snow?! Some explain that they are not the same since snow is never in the clouds. Tiny drops fall and they become snow close to the ground. Some therefore say that snow is “nolad” (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 5:22). This is not exact, because the rain is also not necessarily in the clouds and made before Shabbat. There are tiny drops in the clouds and they thicken on Shabbat and become rain, just like snow. There are therefore many authorities who rule that snow is not muktzeh (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 15:36 and 16:44 in the name of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef). Similarly, many authorities allow putting water into a freezer to make ice on Shabbat.

Making and throwing a snowball

  • Q: Is it permissible to make a snowball on Shabbat?
  • A: The Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 10:12) writes that putting all sorts of things together is forbidden on Shabbat because of “boneh” (building). Some argue that making a snowball on Shabbat is therefore forbidden (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata ibid). Some explain, however, that since a snowball is temporary it is permissible. One may therefore be lenient. Making snowballs before Shabbat which one sets aside to throw on Shabbat (within an eruv) is permissible. There is a question about throwing a snowball since it is crushed. One can argue that if the snowball is crushed it is an “unintended act which is not beneficial to him,” since the thrower wants a full snowball to hit the other person. This is not the intention of the one who is hit, but we follow the intention of the thrower.

Making a snowman

  • Q: Is it permissible to make a snowman of Shabbat?
  • A: Building a snowman is not a temporary, since it is meant to last. One should therefore not build a snowman on Shabbat.

Eating snow

The blessing before eating snow is “She-ha-kol,” and there is no blessing after eating since one does not eat enough (ke-zayit – approximately the size of an olive) and one eats it slowly (like tea or coffee).

Blessing on seeing snow

  • Q: Is there a blessing on seeing snow?
  • A: No. It seems that snow was not a rare occurrence in Israel (see Tehillim 148 where King David said that we should praise Hashem for fire, hail, snow… and Yoma 35b where Hillel climbs on the roof of the yeshiva because he does not have enough money to pay to get in and snow falls on him).

Immersing in snow

  • Q: May one immerse oneself in the snow as in a mikveh?
  • A: If there is forty seah of snow, which would be about 200 gallons, in one area that is all connected to each other, there is a dispute whether one may immerse in it. It is also quite difficult since the snow must touch all parts of the body.
  • Q: How about immersing one’s hands for “netilat yadayim”?
  • A: Again there is a need for forty seah. Since some authorities rule that one may immerse one’s hands, no blessing should be recited in one’s is required to do so.
  • Q: Can one’s immerse a utensil?
  • A: This is also a dispute (see Pitchei Teshuvah, Yoreh De’ah 108).

I once went to the mikveh and it was undergoing repairs so there was no hot water for a long time. When I came in, there was a Jew in front of me. I said: Is there hot water? He said: My commanding officer in the army said that water is always hot. It is clear: In Russia it was negative sixty degrees, the water was therefore always hot. I said: You were in the Russian army. He said: Yes. I asked him: Gehinom (Purgatory)? He said: A mini-gehinom. I said: It is better here. He said: Much better. Incomparable. Baruch Hashem.

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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.

Vow for a meal of thanksgiving

  • Q: I am pregnant and I vowed that I would make a meal of thanksgiving to Hashem. My neighbors are still waiting to have children. I do not want to invite them, since it may upset them, but I do not want to have it without them, since if they hear they may also be upset. What should I do?
  • A: You should perform a “hatarat nedarim” (annulment of vows) before three Rabbis and give the money to the poor and hungry. It is certainly more of a mitzvah to give food to the hungry than those who have food. You certainly need to thank Hashem, but you can thank Hashem even without a meal. You correctly said that this can lead to upset and jealous as it says: “Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?” (Bereshit 42:1). A person should not display things to others which can cause negative feelings. You can also give the money to the poor in order for them to have a meal of thanksgiving and to announce that this is the thanksgiving meal of so-and-so. Even if you planned to have the meal in your house, this is also considered a meal of thanksgiving, and then you do not even need a “hatarat nedarim.” The essential point is to thank Hashem.

Locusts – pareve or fleishig

  • Q: Are locusts parve or fleischig?
  • A: Locusts are parve like fish.
  • Q: Is it like fish which cannot be cooked with meat?
  • A: People do not cook locusts. Our Sages in the Gemara (Pesachim 76b) say that we should not mix fish and meat, since it causes “tza’arat” (skin disease), but they do not say this about locusts and meat. Therefore, one can eat locust with meat. Nonetheless, Ashkenazic Jews do not eat locusts since we do not have a tradition as to which types are kosher. Sefardic Jews from North Africa received permission to eat them. Yememite Jews also eat them.

Speaking “lashon ha-ra” (ill) about secular Jews

  • Q: Is it permissible to speaking “lashon ha-ra” about secular Jews?
  • A: The Chafetz Chaim writes that it is permissible to speak “lashon ha-ra” about an “apikoros” (heretic). Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, agreed that this is correct, but he said that this also opens up a breach to allow everyone to decide who is an “apikoros.” I will decide that anyone who does not think exactly like me is an “apikoros.” The entire House of Israel will then be full of “lashon ha-ra.” It is permissible to me to disagree with a G-d-fearing Jew, but I do not have to consider him an “apikoros.” Further, while secular Jews certainly seem to be heretics, many authorities have already ruled that they are “Tinokot She-nishbu” (literally Jewish children captured and raise among non-Jews), i.e. Jews who did not receive a proper Jewish upbringing and education. In order to be an “apikoros,” one must be knowledgeable. Someone once came to our master, Rav Kook, and said all sorts of thing against the Tanach. Rav Kook said: You are right. He said: I am?! “Yes, if the Tanach is as you say then what you are saying is correct, but the Tanach is something else.” He was not denying the Tanach, he simply did not know it. This is not an “apikoros,” it is an unknowledgeable Jew. Secular Jews are not heretics, they are simply “Tinokot She-nishbu.” They have not learned and do not know, therefore do not speaking ill against them. It is possible that a secular Jew is an “apikoros,” but it is not so simple, because the “spirit of the time” is extremely strong. Sometimes someone did learn Torah, but there are all sorts of influences. The Rambam (Hilchot Mamrim 3:3) defines someone with a corrupt education as a “Tinok She-nishba.” Today, however, one’s education is not limited to one’s parents, but includes the “street.” What is the “street”? These are all of the possible “foggy” influences: Radio, TV. Internet, books, etc… We build walls, but things still enter. There is a saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree. The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Herzog, was once asked, what happened with his son Chaim, who became the President of Israel and who was secular? Rav Herzog said: The apple doesn’t fall from the tree only applies with a usual wind, but an unusual wind can carry it far away. He was referring to the Tosafot on Baba Kamma 27b. It is therefore even possible for the son of the Chief Rabbi to receive a corrupt education. Not from the Chief Rabbi, but from what is going around in the “street.” In short: Do not be quick to apply the term “apikoros” to anyone.

Mourner and “Sivuv She’arim” (Circling the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem)

  • Q: My father died a month ago. Can I participate in the “Sivuv She’arim” as I do each month?
  • A: “Sivuv She’arim” is a mitzvah, but it is not possible for you to participate. When you go, you meet all kinds of friends. The problem is not circling the gate itself, but meeting with friends. If you want, you can go alone. Not actually alone, but before or after everyone else.

Only a women’s voice?

  • Q: Why is a women’s voice considered nudity, but not other aspects of a woman?
  • A: In the same Gemara in Kiddushin (70a) which mentions “Kol be-isha erva – a women’s voice is nudity,” there is also a list of other things which are considered nudity. All of the senses: Sight, hearing, smell, touch and even thought. It is written in the book “Mesilat Yesharim” in chapter 11 on cleanliness, which deals with forbidden things about which people are not conscious, that it is forbidden to derive benefit from a woman with any sense and he brings many proofs.

Preventing adverse affects at work

  • Q: How can I avoid being adversely affected by the atmosphere at work?
  • A: I will give the advice which many follow. Before you go to work learn some of the book “Mesilat Yesharim.” It will fill you with holiness, strength and courage. You should also learn it in the middle of the day and it will keep you on the right track.

Peyot (Not cutting the corners of one’s hair)

  • Q: Does one need “peyot”? What about long “peyot”?
  • A: The Torah says that one must have “peyot” (Vayikra 19:27). It is forbidden to shave the corners of your head, but there is no obligation for them to be long. A half of a centimeter is certainly long enough. I did not say that this is the minimum, but it will definitely fulfill the mitzvah. Some people are strict and have long “peyot.” Why are they strict? It is like every mitzvah: May a blessing come to one who is strict. Some people, therefore, grow very long “peyot.” This is your personal decision, but it is absolutely forbidden to shave them completely.

Stopping to pray for someone who is healed

  • Q: I was praying for someone who was sick and now – Baruch Hashem – she is healed. Should I continue to pray for her?
  • A: If you prayed for the person to be healed and she is healed, you no longer need to pray. If she is still in danger – she is still undergoing treatment or there is a possibility of a recurrence – you should continue to pray.

“Zimun” for women

  • Q: I was at a party for women and after eating they said the “zimun” (introduction to blessing after eating). It seemed strange to me. Is it permissible?]
  • A: The Halacha is that three or more women who ate bread can recite the “zimun,” but the custom is not to do so. It is not a transgression, but it is not the custom.

How many blessings?

  • Q: I drank water and I now want to eat something with the same blessing of “She-ha-kol.” Do I need to say another blessing?
  • A: It is all dependent on your intention. If your intention was to eat the second food, you do not say another blessing. If your intention was not to eat the second food, you have to say another blessing. For example, I ate an apple and afterwards I say: “That was tasty. I’ll have another,” you need to say another blessing, since you changed your mind. There are many discussions regarding one who eats one apple and did not have intention for another apple, but it was in front of him. Or a guest who does not know what the host will bring out, so his intention is for anything that the host brings. Your question, however, is simple: It depends on your intention.

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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.