Thursday, February 22, 2018


I have what to say about this remarkable passage but maybe another time. I will let the intelligent reader reach his or her own conclusions. 


Why War?

"Late on X-mas Eve 1914, during World War One, men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and patriotic songs and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the trenches.

The following day, British and German soldiers met in no man's land and exchanged gifts, took photographs and some played impromptu games of soccer. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts." 

This is INSANNNNEEEE!!! One day they are maiming and killing each other. The next, they are exchanging gifts, taking pictures together and playing friendly games of soccer. The next, back to maiming and killing. 

WHYYYYY? Why do people go to war?? Why do the masses listen to the few crazy people who tell them to kill each other?? For what? For some land that they are going to lose again in the next war?? 


And that, sweet friends, is world history in a nutshell. 

[I am not referring to the wars of Israel which are either in defense or Divinely mandated]. 


Shades Of Gray

Rabbi Frand

The Medrash says that when Moshe descended from Mt. Sinai and saw that Aaron was apparently an active participant with the Jewish people in making the Golden Calf, he was exceedingly upset. The Medrash explains that Aaron’s intent was only to stall until Moshe came back down from the mountain. However, Moshe believed that his brother had been of one mind with the people and he had severely criticized him.

The Medrash says that G-d told Moshe not to be upset with Aaron, assuring him that his brother’s intentions were appropriate. Not only that, but G-d insisted: “I swear I will only accept the offerings of my children if they will be offered by Aaron in the role of Kohen Gadol.” This is alluded to in the pasuk [verse] “And you, bring near to yourself Aaron your brother and his sons with him from among the Children of Israel so that he shall be a Kohen to me… [Shmos 28:1].

What does this Medrash teach us? Was Aaron right or wrong in his strategy of going along with the Jewish people and trying to delay while they built the Golden Calf? The clear implication of the Medrash is that he was right and that he war rewarded for this strategy.

The problem is that the Torah states just the opposite: “And with Aaron, G-d was very angry (intending) to destroy him…” [Devorim 9:20]. G-d, too, was very upset that Aaron was not a more forceful opponent of the nation in their evil desire to create a Golden Calf. Avodah Zarah requires martyrdom. Aaron should have stood up in opposition — even if it would have cost him his life (as was the case with his brother-in-law, Chur).

How do we reconcile the Medrash with the explicit pasuk in the Torah which states the opposite?

The same type of paradox is found in a Medrash regarding the Burning Bush. The Torah says that Moshe hid his face because “he feared to look at G-d” [Shmos 3:6]. The Medrash implies that this was not an appropriate response from Moshe. The Medrash states that when Moshe [Shmos 33:13] later asks to see G-d’s Presence, G-d tells him “When I wanted you to look, you did not want to look; now that you want to see, I don’t want to show you.” The Medrash thereby implies that Moshe acted incorrectly when he hid his eyes at the Burning Bush.

On the other hand, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi — in this very same Medrash –states that Moshe Rabbeinu was rewarded for covering his face at the Burning Bush by the fact that later on G-d spoke to him ‘face to face’ [Shmos 33:11].

Again, which way is it? Did Moshe act properly or improperly? We seem to be getting mixed signals from the Medrash.

Rav Elya Meir Bloch (1894-1955) explains that we learn from both sets of “contradictions” raised by these Medrashim that G-d has the ability to look at a person’s deed and see within it multi-faceted activities. With G-d, things are not just black or white. With G-d there are shades of gray.

There were good intentions behind Aaron’s act of attempting to stall the people at the gate. He and his descendants received reward for that action. This does not contradict the fact that, ultimately, he should have stood up against the people even at the cost of martyrdom. Ultimately, his act was wrong and in fact ‘angered’ G-d.

Moshe Rabbeinu should have aspired for more at the appearance of the Burning Bush. At that moment, his desire to grasp an understanding of G-d should have overcome his awe and reverence for G-d. For that lack of aspiration, he later suffered and his subsequent aspiration to understand G-d’s Essence was denied. Nevertheless, he was rewarded for the overpowering awe and reverence that he did demonstrate at that time.

The bottom line from all this is that G-d’s Truth is able to resolve that which appears to us to be contradictory. G-d can look at a person’s deed and see in it both good and bad. The good must be recognized and acknowledged and rewarded. At the same time, G-d in His Wisdom, can see shortcomings and see that those shortcomings must be rectified or even punished.

Rav Bloch explains that we face these challenges all the time. We see people who do things that are not 100% right (perhaps not even 10% right), despite having had good motivations. We must have the ability to say “but it’s not all bad — he meant well!”

We need to emulate G-d and recognize that things are not all black and white. We must be able to at least discern and seek out good motivation, even in actions which may deserve condemnation.

Rav Aryeh Levine (the famous “Tzadik of our Times”; 1885-1969) had a very bitter and hostile opponent. For whatever reason, this person was put in jail. Rav Aryeh Levine went to visit him in jail. The jail guard asked Rav Aryeh “Why are you coming to visit this person? He hates you! He always publicly criticizes you!”

Rav Aryeh’s response was “He’s doing it honestly” (e.g — he means well.) That is a response that perhaps requires Reb Aryeh Levine’s level of righteousness. He was able to credit his enemy with persecuting him for well-intentioned reasons.

So many times, we observe incidents where we think “Okay there is good and bad, but the good is totally nullified by the bad.” G-d does not just nullify good actions. We too, should not nullify good so quickly. We should not just view the world as black and white. We should look for shades of gray.

Halachos Of Kiruv

Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

Of paramount important to Orthodox Jewry today is kiruv rechokim, bringing our fellow Jews back to religious observance. Thank G-d, the concerted efforts of many devoted individuals and organizations have borne fruit, and thousands of Jews the world over have gone back to their roots and become Torah observant.

We must bear in mind, however, that although kiruv rechokim is supremely important, it does not supersede Halachah. “The ends justify the means” is a philosophy utterly rejected by the Torah, and compromising halachic standards for the sake of being mekarev is forbidden.

Recently, a certain kiruv network recruited actors and actresses and honored them at an organizational event. In view of the immoral and decadent lifestyle pursued and personified by these people, honoring them may be a desecration of Hashem’s honor. When we give recognition to such people, we mock the sanctity and holiness which Hashem requires of us, His “kingdom of priests and holy nation” (1).

Another sensitive issue that presents itself to just about anyone involved in kiruv is the problem of men and women shaking hands. Physical contact of this sort is a serious transgression (2) and should be studiously avoided (3). Although kiruv professionals prepare themselves to deal with this problem, those of us who are not adept at handling such potentially embarrassing situations may not put ourselves in a position where we are liable to violate the halachah.

Since kiruv veterans agree that a most effective method of kiruv is the Shabbos invitation, let us review some of the potential trouble-spots so that we do not transgress the halachah while acting upon our good intentions.

If the guest does not live within walking distance of our home, he should be invited for the entire Shabbos so that he does not drive home on our account. The guest should be told that according to Jewish law it is prohibited for him to drive home on Shabbos. Experienced kiruv workers maintain that when properly explained, the guest will often accede to the request.

In the event that the guest will come for Shabbos only if he can drive home, there are authorities who permit inviting him anyway, provided that there is a reasonable chance that the invitation will lead to kiruv (4). The guest should be informed that sleeping quarters have been arranged for him and he may change his mind at anytime and decide to sleep over. Since not all authorities agree with this leniency (5) and not all cases are identical, the specific case should be presented to a rav for a final decision.

When possible, a guest at our table should be asked to wash his hands before eating bread (6) and to recite the proper blessing before and after food is eaten (7). If the guest cannot read the Hebrew text, he may recite the blessing in any language that he understands (8). Alternatively, the host may recite the blessings aloud while the guest listens and recites amen (9). If none of these suggestions are practical, it is permitted to serve him food, even though he will not wash his hands or a blessing–either before or after the meal–will not be recited (10).

A non-observant Jew may be counted towards the minimum number of people required for zimun. Preferably, however, he should not be the one to lead the zimun (11).

While teaching a non-observant Jew how to recite a blessing, it is permitted for the host to recite Hashem’s name (12).

A female guest, whether single or married, must be dressed at least according to the minimum standards of tzenius (13). A woman who is scantily clad, should not be invited into our homes under any circumstances.

If the female guest is not is not dressed with the minimum requirements of tzenius, kiddush, blessings, Divrei Torah or zemiros may not be recited while facing her. If one cannot avoid facing her, one may close his eyes or face downward throughout the recitation of these devorim sh’bekedushah (14).

A married woman’s hair should be covered while sitting at our table. If it is not, there are poskim who are lenient and allow devorim sh’bekedushah to be recited in her presence (15). One may rely on these poskim when no other alternative is practical (16).

A female guest should be asked not to sing zemiros along with the family. If this will result in alienating a potential ba’alas teshuvah, there are some poskim who allow her to sing along with the rest of the family (17).

The wine or grape juice should not be touched or poured by the guest (18). If the wine or grape juice is mevushal (cooked), there are several authorities (19) who permit non-observant Jews to touch it while others (20) do not (21).

Before learning Torah with a potential ba’al teshuvah, it is proper–when possible–to have him recite Birchos ha-Torah (22).

In a previous column we quoted the opinion of several poskim who prohibit proposing a shiduch between non-observant Jews who will not keep the laws of family purity. It is possible, however, that if the shiduch is made for the purposes of potential kiruv or in order to avoid the tragic alternative of intermarriage, then the shiduch may be proposed. A rav should be consulted.


1 Harav E. Svei (oral address, partly quoted in Yated Ne’eman, Dec. 6 1997).

2 Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:80; 3:138); Igros Moshe O.C. 1:113; E.H. 1:56; Az Nidberu 2:73.

3 Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky quotes the Chazon Ish as maintaining that shaking hands falls into the category of yehareg ve’al ya’avor (see Teharas Am Yisrael, pg. 44).

4 Teshuvos v’Hanhagos 1:358. Several arguments lend support to this position:
The guest is desecrating the Shabbos regardless of my invitation;
Actually, we are minimizing his chillul Shabbos for the time period he will spend at our home;
He will be eating kosher food;
Several poskim hold that “aiding a sinner” does not apply to one who deliberately sins (see Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:72 and E.H. 4:87-1 quoting the Dagul M’ervavah);
The purpose of the invitation is for kiruv and not to aid a sinner in committing a sin.

5 See Igros Moshe O.C. 1:98-99; 4:71; who prohibits organizing a minyan for children on Shabbos when they will surely come by car. [There are several differences, however, between the situations described in these responsa and the situation with which we are dealing.] See also a stringent ruling by Harav S. Wosner (quoted in Avosos Ahavah, pg. 119).

6 Rama O.C. 163:2.

7 O.C. 169:2.

8 O.C. 185:1.

9 Mishnah Berurah 213:9. B’dieved, even if the guest failed to recite amen, his blessing is valid.

10 Harav S. Z. Auerbach (oral ruling, quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 154). [See also Minchas Shelomo 35 where Harav Auerbach maintains that when denying a guest food will lead him to become antagonistic toward Torah and religious Jews, it is permitted to feed him. See also similar ruling quoted in the name of Chazon Ish in Pe’er ha-Dor 3:195]; Harav C.P. Scheinberg (quoted in Avosos Ahava, pg. 118.); See also Igros Moshe O.C. 5:13-9 who finds much room for leniency on this matter.

11 Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Harav C.P. Scheinberg (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 132) based on Mishnah Berurah 199:2 and Beiur Halachah. See also Teshuvos Pnei Mavin 40.

12 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:56.

13 Minimum requirements: Neckline must be high enough to cover the bone at the base of the neck (collarbone); sleeves must extend past the elbow; dress must cover the knees.

14 Mishnah Berurah 75:1; Chazon Ish O.C. 16:7.

15 Aruch ha-Shulchan O.C. 75:7.

16 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:39,42,43; O.C. 3:23,24; E.H. 1:114.

17 See Sridei Eish 2:8 quoting Harav S.R. Hirsch and other poskim who allowed singing under similar circumstances.

18 Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:46; 2:132; 4:58-3; O.C. 5:37-8.

19 Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:31; Minchas Yitzchak 7:61; Yabia Omer 8:15.

20 Minchas Shelomo 25; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (written responsum quoted in Yabia Omer, ibid.) Shevet ha-Levi 2:51; Teshuvos v’Hanhagos 2:401.

21 This issue is discussed at length in The Weekly Halachah Discussion, vol. 1, pg. 197.

22 Oral ruling heard in the name of Harav S.Y. Elyashiv.


Amazing Bisiyata Di-shmaya! Yesodei Yesodos about neemanus, eidus and rov. 

MILLIONS should hear this. [It is in English!]