Parashat Va’eira 5768

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03 Jan 2008

Parashat Vaera 5768

Parashat Vaera- Glorifying Hashem’s Name one Plague at a Time

Question: Couldn’t Hashem redeem the Nation of Israel with one plague?

Answer: Of course! Our Sages already asked: Why was the world created with ten utterances? Couldn’t Hashem have created it with one utterance (Avot 5:1)? Our world is not an expression of the divine ability to act at a single moment, but to act in stages. The Ramchal – Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto – writes that each day the world gets closer to its wholeness. All the worlds that were created previously were done piecemeal, but they all could be exalted. Our world was not created with the omnipotence of the Master of the Universe. Hashem limited His power and revealed Himself in the way in which humans work: little by little, according to a divine plan which continues to be actualized over time. It is not true that the Master of the Universe needed to bring plague after plague because of the stubbornness of Pharaoh’s heart. On the contrary, the Blessed One caused the stubbornness of his heart in order to bring the plagues upon him. “For I have made his heart and the heart of his servants heavy so that I can put My signs in his midst, and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your grandsons” (Shemot 10:1-2). In our days as well, do not despair for the Redemption which is progressing slowly, slowly. This is not divine weakness – G-d forbid, but the greatest strength for the sake of increasing sanctification of Hashem’s Name.

[From Rav Aviner’s commentary on the Haggadah – The Ten Plagues]

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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 Ha-Cohain Kook
Torah Scholars (continued)

Rabbi Aryeh Levin – the Tzaddik of Jerusalem

Our Rabbi once walked with Reb Aryeh on Shabbat and someone was smoking. Reb Aryeh ran to the person and said: How can you smoke on Shabbat on the street where Rav Kook is walking?
Our Rabbi would direct people to him for his good counsel. (Ha-Rav David Chai Cohain).

Ha-Gaon Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik

Someone visited our Rabbi and told him in the name of Hagaon Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik that the Torah scholars who are outside of Israel need to remain there in order to educate the community (See Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 98-99). Our Rabbi responded harshly and painfully: “But assimilation devours them there.”

Ha-Rav David Cohen, “Ha-Nazir”

Regarding the book “Kol Ha-Nevu’ah” (The Voice of Prophecy), our Rabbi said that this is the personal book of “Ha-Nazir.”

This book was placed in the last row of our Rabbi’s bookshelf which was covered by a curtain.

He said about this book: It is dangerous to talk about prophecy today. (Ha-Rav Achyah Amitai).

When a student asked our Rabbi his opinion about the book “Kol Ha-Nevu’ah,” he responded: I am not familiar with it. The student was surprised and said: Ha-Rav is not familiar with Ha-Nazir’s book? Our Rabbi repeated: I am not familiar. Since the student was not satisfied, he said: I do not understand how it is possible to include quotes from complete heretics in a holy book. (Ha-Rav Eliyahu Mali).

HaRav Natan Ra’anan (son-in-law of our master, Rav Kook)

At a gathering for Yom Yerushalayim, Rav Nosen (as he was known) was the opening speaker and our Rabbi was the closing speaker. Rav Nosen was introduced and referred to as Rav Kook’s son-in-law and a few other titles. Our Rabbi felt that they did not honor Rav Nosen with enough titles and ask the introducer to add more.

HaRav Shlomo Goren

Our Rabbi was asked why he respected Rav Goren when all of the great Rabbis of the generation came out against him, and he was therefore chosen to be Chief Rabbi by the secularists who also voted for the position of the Chief Rabbi. Our Rabbi responded: It is not true that “all of the great Rabbis of the generation came out against him,” and many great Rabbis, decisiors of Halachah, publicized their opinions that no one should question his rulings including Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (Letters of our Rabbi and see Shut Bnei Banim vol. 2, p. 210).
When Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, spoke in the yeshiva on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, our Rabbi stood. (Ha-Rav Achya Amitai).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

A talk given after lunch at the yeshiva –

Waking up to music from a clock radio

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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.

In Vitro Fertilization

Dissecting a cadaver

Minimum amount of meat to wait six hours

Milchig toaster oven for fleishigs

Witchcraft and sorcery

Sleeping in room with holy books

Blessings on drinking

Preparing at lunch on Shabbat for Seudat Shelishit

Drinking before Kiddush on Shabbat

Shabbat Shoes

Rabbenu Tam Tefillin by accident

Bowing during davening

Prayers for the ascension of one’s soul

Convincing daughter to wait for Hashem to send the right match

Yahrzeit on Rosh Hashanah

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Ha-Ravs article from this week’s parsha sheet “Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emuna” of Machon Meir  (Translated by Rafael Blumberg)

Silence does not constitute admission

Buddy, I recommend that you not respond to all the lies and defamation against yourself, even if according to Jewish law you are entitled to.
Sefer HaChinuch explains that the prohibition against insulting someone applies if you attack him with insults and invectives just like that, but if someone is attacked, he is allowed to respond, both in order to defend himself and because he is not required to be mute like stone (Mitzvah 338). Yet I recommend that you place yourself amongst those who “are insulted without insulting in return, who hear ridicule without responding… Of them Scripture states, ‘Those that love Him are like the sun at its height’ (Judges 5:31).”

Read the next of the article

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Which Kosher Certification is Acceptable?

Question: Is it acceptance to eat food under the kosher certification of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel or should I only eat from Badatz (the certification of the Ultra-Orthodox community)?

Answer: Quite simply, all kosher certification is acceptable, whether it is Mehadrin, Badatz, or the Chief Rabbinate. Any product with any kosher certification is presumed to be acceptable until proven otherwise. We rely on the principle of “chazakah – presumption” based on the Gemara in Niddah (15b) that a Torah scholar “does not allow food to leave his domain without its kashrut being ensured.” Sometimes there are differences of opinion, but one needs to prove that something is not kosher. It is true that sometimes there are people who are deceptive. There is a list which is constantly updated on the website of the Kashrut Department of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. There is, however, a general principle: We must not doubt the kosher certification of Rabbis. It does not matter which Rabbi who gives certification – whether it a Rabbi with a knit-kippah or with a velvet kippah. If we say that it is not kosher, we are saying that this Rabbi is a sinner. He is feeding non-kosher food to the Jewish People! This is a serious accusation. This thought itself is the height of non-kosher thinking. Why would he do this? What is his motivation? He wants to make money? In order to make money he is willing to feed non-kosher food to people?! Making such an accusation against a Torah scholar is a serious transgression. One must be very careful about acting this way.

A young person once called me: “Is this product kosher or not?”

I said: “I don’t know. What is written on it?”

He said: “There is a kosher certification.”

“If there is kosher certification it is acceptable.”

He asked: “Is it acceptable to rely on the kosher certification of this Rabbi?”

I asked: “Why not?”

He said: “I asked Harav Na’im Eliyahu (brother of Harav Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel) if it is acceptable to rely of this Rabbi.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He said that it is acceptable to rely of this Rabbi.”

“Then why are you calling me?”

“Can I rely on Ha-Rav Na’im Eliyahu?”

I said: “If I tell you that you can rely on him, you will have to call someone else to ask if you can rely on me.”

“You are right,” he said. “I didn’t think about that.”

This is an impossible situation. All kosher certifications of all Rabbis are therefore acceptable until proven otherwise. I am obviously only referring to Orthodox Rabbis who are particular about the laws of Kashrut.

Question: Nonetheless, perhaps I should be strict and only eat food with the kosher certification of the Ultra-Orthodox?

Answer: May a blessing come to anyone who is strict. The Talmud Yerushalmi quoted by the Tosafot in Avodah Zarah (36a) says, however, that one of the conditions of one who is strict is that he does not shame other people and, all the more so, a Torah scholar. The Yerushalmi relates a story that a Rabbi once came from Babylonia to Israel. He was strict not to eat a particular type of fat of an animal. The Rabbis of Israel ate it, and he said that he does not eat it. They told him: “You are going to eat it or we will declare you a “zaken mamre – a rebellious elder.” This was just an expression since there was no Sanhedrin at the time to make such a declaration. Someone who wants to be strict can be strict about whatever he wants, not necessarily relating to the laws of kashrut. He can be strict about the laws of tzitzit or Shabbat or lashon ha-ra (evil speech) or the Land of Israel or loving other people. Each person can choose to be strict about whatever he wants, but a person must also know where he stands. The Book “Mesillat Yesharim” discusses being strict in “Sha’ar Ha-Perishut – The Gate of Abstinence”: A. To separate from any pleasure which in unnecessary in life. B. To act strictly regarding everything in the world. C. To dedicate all of one’s time to divine service. I do not know if we are at this level. I am not at this level. A person who wants can be strict, but he must remember the “Vidu’i” (confession) of Rav Nissim Gaon: “For that which you were strict, we were lenient; for that which you were lenient, we where strict.” You were strict in the laws of kashrut, but lenient in the laws of lashon ha-ra. If you want to be strict, you can be strict, but I say that it is more important to be strict in honoring Torah scholars.

There is a story about this concept in Mishnah Berachot at the end of the first chapter. There is a dispute regarding what is the proper position for reciting the Shema. Beit Hillel says that at night one may recite the Shema in any position he wishes: Standing, sitting, reclining, etc…, but Beit Shammai says that one must recite the night-time Shema while reclining since the Torah states “when you lie down.” Beit Hillel explains that this is not the meaning of “when you lie down,” rather it refers to the time of lying down, i.e. night-time. The Mishnah relates that Rabbi Tarfon once acted strictly like the position of Beit Shammai and recited the night-time Shema while lying down, bandits came and almost killed him. He told this to the other Rabbis and they said to him, “If they would have killed you, you would have deserved it because you violated the opinion of Beit Hillel.” A question: Rabbi Tarfon did not violate the opinion of Beit Hillel, since it did not matter to Beit Hillel in which position he recites it. One can recite it sitting, standing, reclining, etc… If Rabbi Tarfon recited the Shema while reclining, how does he violate the opinion of Beit Hillel? The Book “Mesillat Yesharim” (chapter 20 – The chapter on balancing piety) explains that this issue was a major dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and the halachah was finally decided in accordance with Beit Hillel. A great person – Rabbi Tarfon – got up and publicly ruled like Beit Shammai which impinged upon the authority of Beit Hillel. People were saying, “Beit Hillel is lenient in this matter.” The damage which he caused by acting this way was greater than the value of reciting the Shema according to Beit Shammai. Therefore, if someone ways to be strict in a matter, it is better to be strict in honoring Torah scholars than in questioning the validity of a kashrut certification.

One time the “eruv” in Tiveria was damaged. The Rav of Tiveria ruled that the “eruv” was kosher. There was a great Torah scholar who lived there and he bumped into the Rav of the city after Shabbat. They talked, the Torah scholar walked him home and they sat and chatted. The Torah scholar said, “Let’s learn some Torah.” The Rav of the city obviously agreed. The Torah scholar took Massechet Eruvim and they learned. Suddenly, the Rav of the city said, “Oy va-voy! If so, I ruled incorrectly today!” The Torah scholar said, “It appears so.” The Rav of the city asked, “Did his honor announce in his shul not to carry on Shabbat?” “No,” he responded, “since carrying in this place is a rabbinic prohibition, but honoring a Torah scholar is a Torah mitzvah. I therefore did not say anything.” If we say that the kosher certifications which Rabbis provide are not acceptable, this impinges on the honor of Torah scholars. One must therefore be extremely cautious.

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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.