Parashat Vayetze 5768

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14 Nov 2007

Parashat Vayetze 5768

Parashat Vayetze – Serving Your Employer with All of Your Might

We learn the great laws of work ethics from Yaacov Avinu. In this week’s parashah, Parashat Vayetze, Yaacov Avinu says to his wives, “You have known that I have worked for your father with all of my might” (Bereshit 31:6), “which teaches you that he was not idle for even a moment and he toiled with all of my might” (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayetze 11) .

The Rambam rules the same way:”Just as an employer is warned against stealing or delaying the wage of a poor person (the employee), so too is the poor person warned not to steal the labor of the employer, and to be idle here and there and to spend the day in deception, but he is obligated to be exacting with his time” (Hilchot Sechirut 13:7). What is the Rambam’s source for this ruling? The “Magid Mishneh” answers: “It is obvious.” It is obvious that it is forbidden to steal in any fashion.

The Rambam emphasizes the extent to which one must be exacting with his time. The Rabbis exempted employees from reciting the fourth blessing of the Birkat Hamazon during work hours, since it was not part of the original establishment of the blessing. In order not to waste the employers time, he would not recite the entire Birkat Hamazon, unless the employer would allow this minute to be used for this purpose (as is the our practice – see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 110:2 and Magen Avraham ibid.).

Not only is it forbidden for an employee “to be idle here and there,” but the Rambam adds: “A person is obligated to work with all of his might as we learn from Yaacov Avinu who said, ‘You have known that I have worked for your father with all of my might.'” Yaacov Avinu therefore also received a reward in this world, as it says, “The man greatly prospered” (Bereshit 30:43).

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Text Message Responsa

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

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

Hebrew Date:

– “I received your letter with a date which I do not know or understand, since I am not familiar with the counting of time from the year of the birth of ‘that sinner of Israel who the non-Jews made into idol worship’ [the words of my father, my teacher and my Rabbi, Ha-Rav Kook ztz”l in ‘Igrot’], who practiced sorcery, enticed and led Israel astray (Sanhedrin 107), who caused Israel to be destroyed by the sword, to scatter its remnant to humiliate them, to exchange the Torah and to deceive the majority of the world to serve a good other than Hashem (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim chap. 11)” (Igrot Rabbenu from 24 Adar Rishon 5727).

– Our Rabbi was particular that one should not write the Christian date, and when he was invited to a wedding and the date appeared like this on the invitation, he would not attend the wedding (Gadol Shimushah p. 91 #31).

– A rabbi of a community outside of Israel visited our Rabbi, and during the conversation our Rabbi asked about the date of a particular event. The guest answered with the date according to their count. Our Rabbi said: “Excuse me, I do not hear.” He raised his voice and repeated his words. Our Rabbi again said to him: “I do not hear,” and again a third time. On the fourth time the guest understood what our Rabbi did not hear, and he told him with the Hebrew date. Our Rabbi heard and smiled, and the guest apologized.

– Our Rabbi agreed to participate in an important ceremony on behalf of the Municipality of Jerusalem, but when he saw that only the Christian date, and not the Hebrew date, was on the announcement, he refused to attend, and all of the attempts at persuasion did not help.

– When the ruling of Rav Ovadiah Yosef was publicized that there is no prohibition in using the Christian date and those who use it have what to rely on (Shut Yabia Omer vol. 3 Yoreh Deah #9), our Rabbi expressed deep pain (see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 2 p. 239. From Shut Sheilat Shlomo 3:14).

– He was amazed every time he saw a stamp on a letter in Israel which was marked with the date from the Creation of the World” (Gadol Shimushah pg. 93 #34).

– A student once read a printed sentence “the seventheen century” and added: “May they be blotted out,” and it got good laugh from our Rabbi. (Iturei Coahnim #242 in the name of Ha-Rav Menachem Ha-Cohain).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law


Women reciting motzi

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Is it Permissible to have a Séance?

Question: Are there permissible ways to speak to the deceased, such as a séance?

Answer: Everyone knows what is written in the Torah: “There shall not be found among you…one who inquires of Ov or Yidoni or one who consults the dead” (Devarim 18:10-11. Rashi explains that “Ov” is a type of witchcraft in which the deceased would speak through one’s armpit). According to the Rambam, any type of consultation with the dead is absolutely prohibited (Hilchot Avodat Cochavim 11:13). According to the Ra”am quoted in the Hagahot Maimoniyot (ibid.), it is forbidden to communicate with the body of the deceased, but it is permissible to communicate with the soul of the deceased. This is because it is forbidden to consult the “dead” – the body died, the soul did not. Some explain, however, this is problematic because the soul also has a physical part to it called “Shitufa De-guf – partner of the body” which resides in the bones. This dispute is found in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 179:14.

There is a responsum of Rav Kook (Shut Da’at Cohain Yoreh De’ah #69) to a Rabbi in Romania regarding this issue. There were people who were desecrating Shabbat by keeping their stores open. The Rabbi spoke out against this, but the people did not listen. He knew how to communicate with the dead, so he invited one person and called his grandfather. The grandfather yelled at him, “Shabbos!” The people in the community began to complain that the Rabbi was consulting the dead. The Rabbi asked Rav Kook his opinion. Rav Kook said that it was forbidden because it is what is called “Sefek sefeka de-chumra” – a double-doubt about which we are strict regarding a Torah prohibition. There is a doubt about whether we rule the Rambam or the Ra”am. And even if we follow the opinion of the Ra”am, which permits communicating with the soul, how can you sure that you are enough of an expert to know that you are only communicating with the soul and not the body? In sum: Rav Kook rules it is forbidden.

The only possible way of communicating with the deceased is in a dream. A person, before he goes to sleep, can pray to Hashem that his father z”l or loved one come to him in a dream. He is not consult with the dead, he asks Hashem to do him a kindness and have him revealed to him in a dream. Nonetheless, since the person comes in a dream, not everything he says is necessarily true. Rav Kook relates that when he was in Yafo, there was a Jewish doctor who would speak with the dead. One day he said to Rav Kook: I stopped. Rav Kook asked: Why? He answered: Because they lie. Not every deceased person lies, but some do. Therefore, speaking with the dead is forbidden, and even someone who violates the prohibition, it is not clear that he is receiving anything worthwhile.

In the responsum to the Rabbi, Rav Kook says that mediums like this do not strengthen faith, and that one should fulfill the verse, “You shall be wholesome with Hashem, your G-d” (Devarim 18:13). Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would add that Rav Kook would nullify the value of stories like the one of the Rabbi from Romania, and Hashem will only be praised through people performing kindness, justice and know Hashem” (see Tzvi Kodesh of Rav Aviner p. 36).

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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.