Parashat Vayakhel 5768

February 27, 2008

Parashat Vayakhel 5768

Would you like to order?

Talk given by Rav Aviner in the yeshiva during lunch

Q: Does a person need order in his life or is order secondary to the truly supreme and holy ideals?

A: Both are the words of the Living G-d. The Gemara in Yoma (33a) says that Abaye created order from the traditions of Abba Shaul. However, he drew them from the words of Abba Shaul which were beyond mere order. There is chaos without order, but we do not simply want order since there are ideals which are higher: The supreme world, self-sacrifice, love of Hashem, awe of Hashem, devotion to Hashem, etc… Yes, a yeshiva student – as everyone in life – needs order: To wake up on time, arrive to davening on time, eat breakfast on time (otherwise there is a mess all over and it is impossible to clean), learn at the appropriate times (which is called “seder – order” in Hebrew), etc… And everything must be in place: All of one’s books, if you take a book you should return it, your clothing should be organized, etc… The Gemara in Shabbat (114a) says that a Torah scholar who goes out with a stain on his clothing is liable for death! This is the basic principle – order and cleanliness, and then there are ideals above order.

Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was organized. Every book in his house had a particular spot, and he knew where each one was. Every object had its place. When he placed a book on the table, he placed it parallel to the table and not on an angle. When the students left after all of the classes, he would go around and organize everything, since they forgot things, moved things, etc… But above this, he had incredible insights, and sometimes he learned Torah all night without sleeping, and sometimes he did not eat. All of this was beyond mere order. We therefore learn that we must act the same way. If we don’t it is a desecration of Hashem’s name. A guest sometimes visits the yeshiva, and if he sees a student eating breakfast at eleven o’clock, he will think that he is a loafer. He wakes up at six or five-thirty in the morning, davens, eats and goes to work. It is true that perhaps the student learned until two or three in the morning and slept in, but this is not Hashem’s will. Hashem wants the world to run by order: He fixed the laws of nature and gave fixed mitzvot. Once in a while there is an absentminded professor who forgets his hat on the train. He then walks into an electric pole because he is deep in thought. He has a bump of his head, so he takes the cover of a pot to apply pressure to his injury and then he enters the university with a pot cover on his head instead of a hat. This, however, is not necessary. It is possible to be a great Torah scholar and be orderly and neat. There is a story in the Gemara in Eruvin (54b) that Rabbi Eliezer forgot his jacket in the market of Tzipori. He later found it and it had a scorpion in it. A miracle occurred for him. But we are not so deep in thought about Torah like Rabbi Eliezer who forgot his coat and merited a miracle.

Our Revered Teacher, Rav Kook, said that nothing needed to be changed in the tradition religious schools. There was no need to add secular studies. He did, however, suggest two areas to improve: 1. to learn “Emunah” – works on proper faith. This was not an innovation, but it is obligatory and was forgotten. 2. to teach about order and cleanliness. This also was not an innovation, but the institutions in Jerusalem were filthy beyond description at that time. There was therefore a need to emphasize it. After having the passion to serve Hashem, please preserve the order and cleanliness. Would you like to order now?

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Avraham Avinu and the Internet

From the parsha sheet “Mayanei Hayeshua #338 – Parashat Ki Tisa 5768

If Avraham Avinu lived in our time, he would take a five kilo hammer and he would smash every computer with internet on the face of the earth. Everyone would immediately attack him: “You are crazy! You have destroyed the most beautiful instrument which has benefited humanity.”

He would then respond: “Its gain is offset by its loss. I am in favor of technological advancement, but purity of one’s soul is the most important thing. I am not impressed by the techno-barbarian which you have created with this instrument.”

They would then say to him: “You don’t believe in both the education of man and his pure soul? It is the personal choice of each person and his free choice, and he knows how to overcome his evil inclination.”

He would certainly respond: “On the contrary, this is how a person is freed from the addiction of his inclination and returns to freedom. Please, the evil inclination is performing his job with loyalty and he does not need you to help him with the aid of 30,000 licentious websites – aside from all of the nonsense and ‘lashon ha-ra’ (evil speech). Please, do not raise a poisonous snake in your homes.”

“If we understand you correctly,” they would respond to him, “This is good advice and not a halachah of the Shulchan Aruch. It therefore remains for us to decide.”

He would then pull a Shulchan Aruch out of his pocket and read: “Words of desire like the Book of Emanuel…they are also [forbidden] on account of enticing the evil inclination and one who writes them and copies them, and there is no need to say – one who printers them, causes the public to sin” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16). He would the turn to the parents: “You have not heard the parable about the father who buys his son a perfume shop on an immoral street, and the father finds him acting immorally, grabs him and is angry with him. People say to the father: What did you think?”

“Nonetheless,” they would say stubbornly, “because of a few isolated instances, everyone should not lose out.”

“If this is what you are saying,” he would say with a pained look of his face, “you have no idea what is going on. You must know that many young people have fallen because of the internet as well as children, married men, righteous people and Torah scholars. And when one’s spouse finds out about it, and it will be found out soon or later, she fells humiliated and betrayed. Many times she wants a divorce and much effort is needed to calm her and explain that it is not cheating, but ‘only’ impure, disgusting and vile things. The young who experience these vulgar websites also feel impure. He does not know how to escape the poisonous snake which is wrapped around him and is biting him. Even if he does manage to escape, these loathsome things and filth pursue him his entire life. He is mired in the mud, and wants to free himself from it. Woe to us…”

In the end, they will ask him: “What do you suggest?” He is surprised by the question and responds: “I suggest that there will not be any internet, but if you do not listen to me or there are factors which make it necessary, then there are two solutions: 1. Chardei (Ultra-Orthodox) Rabbis – who allow internet use for work – say that it is the same as the laws of “yichud” (the prohibition to be alone with the opposite sex – excluding relatives). A person may not use the internet alone, but only with others. Each person will have part of the password to enter. 2. An internet filter on the highest level.

Avraham Avinu finally smiles: “I do not desire evil for you or to oppress you, just the opposite, I want you to live free of all filth. You should have happy and pure lives.”

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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: Is it permissible to say “amen” to a blessing which one hears over the phone?
  • A: Yes, and for any live broadcast.
  • Q: Is it permissible for a mourner to attend a “brit milah”?
  • A: Yes, but not the festive meal.
  • Q: Is it permissible to eat fish with dairy? Please provide sources.
  • A: It is permissible, but some are strict. Shut Yechaveh Da’at 6:48.
  • Q: Is there a “segulah” (catalyst) to find a husband?
  • A: Prayer, repentance and tzedakah.
  • Q: Is it permissible to whistle on Shabbat?
  • A: Yes, whistling is not considered an instrument.

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

Our Rabbi and honoring of the State – Part 3

Dr. Zerach Warhaftig

Our Rabbi had strong criticism for the Minister of Religious Affairs, Dr. Zerach Warhaftig z”l, because he did not prevent the lectures of a certain philosopher at Bar Ilan University, and he did not relate to all of our Rabbi’s critiques during their discussion. They needed to meet over a particular matter, and Dr. Warhaftig informed our Rabbi that he would come to his house. Our Rabbi wore his holiday clothing, and stood outside out of excitement, so that the guest would not have to knock on the door, rather our Rabbi would greet him and escort him inside. He said: “All of this is on account of the fact that he is a minister in the Government of Israel, and it is an obligation to treat him with the honor of the State. Furthermore, criticism of his positions does not nullify the honor of the State.”

Chaim Moshe Shapira

So too did he relate to the Minister Chaim Moshe Shapira z”l, even though he had strong criticism of him over a particular issue. He treated him with honor in all places and at all times, and referred to him as “Our Interior Minister.”

Michael Chazani

When the Minister Michael Chazani came to visit our Rabbi, our Rabbi illuminated all of the lights, as he did to honor Shabbat. The students asked him: “Why?” He responded: “A Minister of Israel.”

The President of Israel

On the night of Yom Ha-Atzmaut, our Rabbi would dance and gird his loins from the Yeshiva to Beit Ha-Nasi (the President’s House). Even though the President was not awake at this late hour, our Rabbi would nonetheless return on this same path each and every year without sluggishness or weakness. The students pointed out to him that each time that they arrived at Beit Ha-Nasi the President was sleeping and did not come out to them. Our Rabbi responded: “What does it matter to me if he is awake or sleeping, we are giving honor to the Kingship, since we have a President,” and he always requested from the guards to deliver his blessing and the yeshiva’s blessing to the President. He did not take into account the weaknesses or frustrations of the entire community which was dancing and exerting effort to arrive at Beit Ha-Nasi. Rather he displayed the character of Eliyahu the Prophet, who would gird his loins and run before the chariot of Achav until they reach Yizre’el, because of the honor of the Kingship (see Melachim 1 18:46 and Menachot 98a).

Moshe Dayan

On the Yom Yerushalayim after the Six Day War, the yeshiva planned a festive gathering and they sent invitations to various governmental ministers and important figures. A positive response was received from the Minister Moshe Dayan. Our Rabbi was extremely excited, despite the sharp public criticism he had for Moshe Dayan, and he blessed and praised him.

At that gathering, Moshe Dayan delivered a Dvar Torah in the yeshiva and said that our forefather Yaakov was wounded by the angel, but in the morning the sun shone for him, and he added: “Even when there are those wounded in the war and even when there are casualties of the battles – the vision and the hope remain.” Our Rabbi kissed him and said: “We hope that our Moshele will enter the Government soon.” And it happened. Of course, our Rabbi did not agree with all of what Moshe Dayan did, but he greatly valued his cunning, truth and self-sacrifice.

Menachem Begin

Our Rabbi was once in the hospital, and he laid there and did not respond. Students tried to engage him in conversation, but our Rabbi did not answer. An announcement arrived that the Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin, needed to see him. The students were concerned about what would happen; perhaps our Rabbi would be embarrassed because of his condition. The nurse came to perform a treatment for him, our Rabbi awoke, and said: “Perhaps later,” because he did not want the Prime Minister to arrive in the middle of the treatment. He strengthened himself, sat on the bed and requested a towel. When the Prime Minister arrived, Our Rabbi became completely alert, and everyone was amazed. Our Rabbi said: “Perhaps it is possible for just the two of us to be together?” Everyone left. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Begin said: “Jerusalem, mountains surround her, and Hashem surrounds his Nation” (Tehillim 125:2). This appears to have been the depth of the content of their conversation.

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Collective Punishment (Translated by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon)

  • QUESTION: A number of children did something bad. Is it possible to punish the entire group so that the punishment has a greater impact and is more useful?
  • ANSWER: If the other children have no part in the misdeed, it is unjust to punish them for something they did not do. Thus Avraham our Father said, “G-d forbid for You to do this, to kill the righteous with the sinner, and to make the righteous like the sinner…” (Bereshit 18:25). (Torat Imecha, p. 127)
  • QUESTION: The Rav has written not to engage in collective punishment since it is fair. But what if I don’t know who did something bad, and nobody will confess or say who is responsible. If I don’t punish collectively, there will be no educational consequence for the misdeed.
  • ANSWER: If we don’t know who did the misdeed, one may not punish others, as this is an injustice. It is true that educating children is a great mitzvah. But we don’t do a mitzvah by doing a sin. If it’s not possible to do the mitzvah properly, then we are forced not to do it and are therefore exempt. It is also not good to have children get used to telling on others to keep the rest of the group from being punished…Therefore, if it’s not possible to know who did the misdeed and to punish them, we will have to find another way to educate. In any event, those who equate punishment with education are incorrect…The essence of education is to strengthen the good and to raise it. Normally when one talks with young children, they didn’t do the misdeed in order to sin. Rather, their feelings took over. Education is about giving them confidence and strengthening them. (Chinuch BeAhavah vol. 2, p. 101).

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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.

Court case against a Jew during Adar

  • Q: Our tradition says that the month of Adar is an auspicious time for a court case, does this also apply to a case against a fellow Jew?
  • A: This is a good question since the source of this idea is that we were victorious over the non-Jews during this month, we therefore say that it is a good month for us. If this is a case against a Jew, however, this is quite different. This is also said regarding a case in the non-Jewish courts. Even if a Jew makes a claim against you in a non-Jewish court, he is acting inappropriately, but this does not make him a non-Jew. I therefore do not think that this whole idea applies.

Sleeping in gloves

  • Q: If a person slept in gloves, does he have to do “netilat yadayim” (ritually washing his hands) in the morning?
  • A: Yes, this washing is not an external uncleanliness and the gloves protected him, but an inner uncleanliness, since sleep is 1/60th of death. One therefore is required to wash “netilat yadayim.” Why would there be a problem of “netilat yadayim” in the morning?
  • Q: The cold.
  • A: You can wash with warm water and even the cold water the water is also not that cold. 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 (in a Russian accent): 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 Russia army? He said: Yes. I asked him: Gehinnom (Purgatory)? He said: A mini gehinnom. I said: It is better here. He said: Much better. Incomparable. Baruch Hashem.

Buying books with tzedakah

  • Q: Is it permissible to buy holy books with tzedakah?
  • A: Tzedakah is for the poor.
  • Q: Why then are there authorities who permit it?
  • A: In the past, books were extremely expensive, the equivalent of 10,000 shekels today. People bought books with tzedakah on condition that the poor could use them. Books are inexpensive today, twenty to fifty shekels, and the poor do not need them. This opinion therefore does not apply.

Time watching program on computer

  • Q: How much time can a child watch religious, educational programs on the computer?
  • A: There are two important aspects: Quality and quantity. Quality: You must ensure the content is kosher. Quantity: Not too much. What is “not too much”? Once every two days, once a week, once every two weeks. I do not know how to give an exact definition. You need to limit this activity, even if it is a good program, since it stupefies a person. Most of the programs are simple and shallow. This damages a person, but a small amount is okay. The best is not to watch at all, but there are other factors involved.

Informing fellow workers of rights

  • Q: Is it permissible to tell fellow workers about their benefits if the employer is not doing so?
  • A: Yes, based on the law of returning a lost object. They lost something, but they do not know it. You are returning it to them. “Do not stand over your fellow’s blood.” This is not only if someone is going to kill someone else, but even if he is going to lose money.

Relying on a miracle

  • Q: Can my neighbor, who is a mother with a newborn, turn on the heat if she does not have the money to pay the heating bill and rely on a miracle?
  • A: She may turn it on because it is a life-threatening situation. A few people have already died from the cold, and it is especially dangerous for a newborn. There is, however, a different solution: You need to collect money for her. All of the neighbors should chip in a small amount of money for her heat. This is the answer to the question. Sometimes complex arguments are needed to answer halachic questions, but this is the answer here. The Chasidic Rebbe of Tzanz once said that when he was young he could answer difficult halachic questions with complex solutions, but now that he is old he does not have the ability. He will therefore answer a simple difficulty: On the one hand, it is right before Pesach and it is forbidden for people to eat chametz (leaven), but people do not have enough money to buy matzah, etc… On the other hand, it is forbidden to steal. Solution: No one is leaving here until you give money to resolve this difficulty. We therefore do not need complex Torah arguments here. We need everyone to donate a small amount of money for heat for this woman. If you cannot collect enough money, call me and I will send you the money.

A student who davens for a long time

  • Q: A girl in seventh grade does not like davening in class with the other student and wants to daven on her own for a longer time. What should we do?
  • A: There are set times in school. Obviously, they are not written in the Torah, but without set times the entire framework will crumb. She therefore has to finish davening with everyone else. If she wants to daven more, she can daven before or after school. It is impossible for everyone to do her own thing. She also needs order to help build proper character traits. We do not force her to attend this school, but these are the rules of the school and every school has its rules. It is known that one must daven with a minyan, the prayer of an individual – no matter how great or righteous he or she may be – is incomplete. He must daven with a community and there is great strength in communal prayer. While it is not a halachic obligation for her, there is a deeper meaning of this Halachah. She needs to be with everyone else, she needs to eat with everyone else and she needs to daven with everyone else. Obviously, you need to explain this to her gently and with great sensitivity.

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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.