Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Sivan 5763 - June 11, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








From Yerushalayim To Lakewood: HaRav Eliashiv Answers Questions By Live Satellite Broadcast

by Yisroel Friedman

The Meah Shearim-Lakewood Connection

Though the hour was past midnight, the air was hot and thick due to the heat wave that had descended on Jerusalem and the rest of the country. Pulling over to the side of the gravel road at the corner of Admon and Chanon Streets in Meah Shearim, a smallish utility vehicle extended a satellite dish up from its rooftop. An old man returning from Tikkun Chatzos peered at the strange sight and then glanced at his watch in puzzlement.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, thousands gathered to hear dvar Hashem zu halocho. A technological bridge connected the modest home of Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, shlita, to a huge auditorium thousands of miles away in the town of Lakewood, New Jersey. An hour-and-a- half later--early evening on the East Coast and the middle of the night in Jerusalem--a live transmission of sheilos on matters of kiruv rechokim, the centerpiece of the annual Lev L'Achim conference, would begin.

When the image of Maran HaRav Eliashiv appeared on the screen, a flash of excitement was visible on the faces of the bnei Torah packing the hall. He was joined by HaRav Zilberstein, HaRav Efrati and the rabbonim on the board of Lev L'Achim, together sending forth Torah and horo'oh to Klal Yisroel.

Not everyone can make the journey to Jerusalem, even if his heart yearns to be there. But now a camera lens was bridging the geographic distance between HaRav Eliashiv and top ranks of the Torah world in the US. Following opening remarks by HaRav Efrati, as HaRav Zilberstein began a question and answer session with Maran HaRav Eliashiv all those watching the screen in Lakewood leaned forward in their seats and perked their ears.

Words of Introduction from HaRav Yosef Efrati

With the permission of Maran shlita, I ask leave to say a few words in honor of the gathering in Lakewood, led by the roshei yeshiva, that would like to hear a Torah perspective on Lev L'Achim and on the obligation to come to its assistance.

It often happens that in the wake of events, misfortunes or trials of a private or public nature, individuals and communal representatives come to ask Maran for advice and guidance for various undertakings in spiritual matters, in Torah or in helping others. Rabbenu's usual response is that each individual knows what his own spiritual needs are, far better than anyone else, as the posuk (Mishlei 14:10) says, "A heart knows its own bitterness."

In the course of the past winter, however, there were some exceptions. When the Lakewood mashgiach, HaRav Mattisyohu Salomon, arrived as the emissary of the American gedolim with a number of suggestions for communal action in view of the difficult situation, our teacher's response was that the community should be aroused to support Lev L'Achim. He also gave this answer to a father who wanted to perpetuate his son's memory and to a number of others as well.

What is the special significance of supporting Lev L'Achim? Surely there is no need to tell bnei Torah about the importance of Torah study and supporting Torah study, or the importance of helping Lev L'Achim, particularly in these times when the Torah world is facing so many nisyonos. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile trying to explain why assisting Lev L'Achim is so important.

I have heard Rabbenu say that Lev L'Achim is a cause that encompasses everything -- learning Torah, observing mitzvos, drawing others closer to Torah and above all, saving youngsters by enrolling them for Torah education in Chinuch Atzmai. The obligation to engage in all these endeavors results from each Jew's standing as guarantor of his fellow Jew's mitzvah fulfillment.

A further point should be made, though, regarding the special obligation that bnei Torah have to help such a concern. This is apparent from what is written in the name of the Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Aharon Kotler zt'l. In a number of places in Mishnas Rabbi Aharon, (see vol. III, pg.151 onwards), HaRav Aharon Kotler, zt'l, describes the obligation incumbent on lomdei Torah to feel bound to the Klal and to feel they are doing the task of the Nation. "Let the grapes pray on behalf of the leaves, for if not for the leaves [that afford protection from the elements], the bunches could not survive" (Chulin 92).

Elsewhere, in a discourse on chinuch (ibid. p. 176), Reb Aharon mentions a gemora in Taanis (11), which he frequently cited (see also pg.155), which says that "When the community at large is in distress, a person should not say, `I will go home and eat and drink and all will be well with me.' The posuk (Yeshayoh 22:13-14) says of one who does so, 'And behold, there was joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die' (Yeshayohu 13:14). And the next verse reads, '...Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you till you die...'"

This second posuk is applied by the gemora in Yoma (86a) to chilul Hashem. In other words, the magnitude of the sin of failing to identify with the suffering of the community is such that atonement is harder chas vesholom than that of sins that carry the penalty of death or excommunication.

"Rather," continues the gemora, "one should identify with and share the community's suffering, as we find Moshe Rabbenu did" [during the war with Amolek].

Reb Aharon says that this doesn't only refer to material misfortunes but also to a time when there is a fight to save Klal Yisroel spiritually from Torah's becoming forgotten R'l. At such a time, bnei Torah must be infused with a sense of responsibility for the klal and a sense that the world is sustained only by those who feel this responsibility.

This is paralleled by something that Reb Aharon is quoted elsewhere (see Chaim Sheyeish Bohem, p.100 onwards, quoting HaRav A.Y. Lebovits zt'l, rov of Vienna) as having said about the special quality of the Chasam Sofer zt'l. Besides all his great Torah attainments and his sublime holiness and purity, he was always part of the community at times of distress and trouble.

The obligation of bnei Torah to be partners of Lev L'Achim thus springs from the responsibility that Torah scholars have towards the nation of the Torah, particularly at times of spiritual hardship, when tens of thousands are in danger of being severed from Torah. In return for this assistance, may we speedily merit receiving Torah and the complete redemption.

Shoel Umeishiv

HaRav Silberstein: Lev L'Achim workers who go out to draw families closer to Yiddishkeit became friendly with a certain family, where the wife is interested in strengthening her level of observance while her husband still remains some way behind. He does not lay tefillin and the mezuzas in their home are of an inferior standard and possibly invalid.

The wife wants to know whether she is allowed to take money for tefillin and mezuzas from her husband's pocket while he is asleep and tell him that she received it as a gift. I told her that the Torah says, "Lo signov." She replied that these are dangerous times and that she and her family live in close proximity to Arabs and that having tefillin and mezuzas will afford their home protection. She asked me to give her permission to carry out her plan.

HaRav Eliashiv's reply: Two issues are involved here. First, regarding tefillin, this is apparently no worse than the case of a person who says, "I will not take the arba minim" or "I will not make a succah," where the halochoh is that we force him to fulfill these mitzvos (Kesuvos 86). In practice, the halochoh in this case follows the opinion of the Ketzos HaChoshen (Choshen Mishpot, siman 3), who rules that only beis din have the authority to force someone in this way but no one else. The husband certainly has an obligation to lay tefillin and if a beis din [with sufficient authority] existed, they would compel him to buy and to lay tefillin. However, here we are not talking about a beis din's compulsion.

The second point concerns mezuzas. The halochoh is that it is forbidden to live in a house that has no mezuzoh. Since the husband has an obligation to provide his wife with living accommodations, it would seem that she can demand that he provide a home with mezuzas. Otherwise, she cannot live there. The Mordechai however writes that even where there is an obligation to affix a mezuzoh, if it is impossible to do so, living in the house is not forbidden. Therefore in this case he gave her living quarters and even if there is no mezuzoh she can continue living there. Her proposal to steal is therefore categorically forbidden.

HaRav Silberstein sums up: Regarding tefillin, we rule according to the opinion of the Ketzos HaChoshen, that only beis din are authorized to compel someone to fulfill mitzvos and a wife has no standing as a judge in this regard. Moreover, the crime of stealing, a serious offense in itself, is also involved.

With regard to mezuzoh, the question was based on the husband's obligation to provide his wife with accommodation and if the halochoh was that it is forbidden to live in a house without a mezuzoh, there would be grounds for consideration. However, since the Mordechai writes that if it is impossible to affix a mezuzoh, it is not forbidden to live there, she should neither take money for tefillin nor for mezuzas, and may Hakodosh Boruch Hu protect them.


HaRav Silberstein: Many people, both in Lakewood and in Eretz Yisroel, signed an agreement to support Lev L'Achim on a monthly basis. With the recent worsening of the financial situation, someone wants to discontinue his monthly donation. He started giving and now wants to retract. His question is whether it is possible to retract a promise made to [support] as great a mitzvah as this.

HaRav Eliashiv's reply: In Nedorim (27), the gemora discusses vows that result from compulsion, and rules that they do not take effect. Can one be released from a vow in which he forbade something without specifying for how long it should remain forbidden? It seems that such a vow will remain in force forever, unless the person making it stipulated that it is only to last for a certain time. It would appear to be the same here, if he undertook to give a [regular] donation for an unlimited period, without specifying that it would only be for a year or for six months.

As to the actual question, as far as vows to tzedokoh are concerned, the halochoh in all such cases is that one cannot seek release from such a vow (she'eloh) and a chochom who releases someone is doing something that is forbidden. Here however, were the donor to have been asked when making the undertaking, he would have said that he had no intention of continuing it forever. There are thus grounds for releasing him if he goes to seek release. If not for this rationale though, it appears that a vow actually remains in effect forever, compelling its maker to fulfill it.


HaRav Silberstein: A person undertook to engage in activity on behalf of Lev L'Achim once a week, by going to learn with a family. Since his working hours are in the evening, and engaging in this activity will cause a drop in his income, can he deduct this loss from his ma'aser money?

HaRav Eliashiv's reply: If in practice it is clear that he gets a regular salary and by going out his salary will be cut, he may deduct the loss from ma'aser.


HaRav Silberstein: A child with a birth defect was abandoned in the hospital where he was born in Eretz Yisroel by his parents, immigrants from the C.I.S. whose Jewish status is questionable. He has now been there for an entire year. Lev L'Achim personnel found a chareidi family who are prepared to adopt the child. Were there to be no doubt about the child's religion, there would be no question, for there is no greater way of helping a fellow Jew in need. Since such doubt exists however, is it a mitzvah to take the child in and raise him as a Torah observant Jew, "leTorah, lechupoh ulema'asim tovim?"

HaRav Eliashiv's reply: The gemora in Yoma (85) tells us that a child found abandoned in a city where there is a majority of gentiles, may be fed non-kosher food. Rashi comments, "It is permitted to feed him neveilos and tereifos until he grows up and accepts geirus." In this case, it is certainly a mitzvah to raise him and for him to later on undergo geirus and be a Jew.

HaRav Silberstein sums up: My father-in-law is basing his answer on Rashi's words, "until he grows up and accepts geirus," which seem unnecessary. These words imply that it is a mitzvah to convert him even though there is no certainty as to his Jewishness. In our case, it is certainly a mitzvah for them to take him.


HaRav Silberstein: Lev L'Achim workers drew a new immigrant from the C.I.S. closer to Torah. After it became apparent that he was uncircumcised, they spoke to him and he agreed to undergo milah. In the meantime, R'l he contracted a malignant disease, Hashem yishmor. The doctors say that he can still have milah. He himself wants it very much. In fact, his heart's desire is to leave the world as a Jew. Since he is weak and dangerously ill though, the question arises as to whether or not to perform milah.

HaRav Eliashiv's reply: If it involves danger to his life, then according to halochoh, it is no milah. Rashi says in Yevomos that if milah is performed when there is danger, it is no milah. If a child's eighth day falls on Shabbos and milah is done even though the child is endangered thereby, it is chilul Shabbos, since it has the status of a milah shelo bezmanoh.

Concluding Statement from HaRav Silberstein

I would like to tell the great rabbonim in Lakewood a powerful idea that I heard from my father-in-law. It was when I told him that Lev L'Achim workers had brought some children, aged eight or nine years old, who had arrived from Syria, to our talmud Torah in Holon. The only language they knew was Arabic, so we hired teachers who could speak Syrian Arabic. After they had been learning for a time and progressing, they came to me with a question about an incident involving their father that had taken place while they were in Syria.

Their father was sitting at home one day, when he heard the sound of a police car pulling up outside their house. Hakodosh Boruch Hu blessed him with a clear mind and he realized immediately that they had come to search for foreign currency. If they found any in his home they would have him killed immediately. He had a bundle of tens of thousands of dollars there and he decided to throw it out of the window. The police arrived, conducted their search and found nothing. The children said that right after the police left, a Jew found the bundle of money and returned it to their father.

Now that they were learning the sugya of yi'ush, they said, they were wondering whether the finder had any obligation to return the money, for there could be no greater renouncing of ownership than their father's discarding the money.

I related this to my father-in-law shlita and he asked me to look up the Ritvo on Succah (20), where the gemora says that at first, when Klal Yisroel forgot Torah, Ezra came up from Bovel and reestablished it. It was forgotten again and Hillel the Bavli came up and reestablished it. It was forgotten again and Rabbi Chiya and his sons came up [from Bovel] and reestablished it. The Ritvo asks however, that nowhere do we find Torah having been forgotten in Rabbi Chiya's time, for Rabbi Yehuda Hanossi and his colleagues, who were towering scholars, were alive then.

He answers that Rabbi Chiya's and his sons' contribution to the understanding of a particular halochoh, by explaining the meaning of one word ("chotzlos"), is considered tantamount to reestablishing Torah.

If this much is said about a single halochoh, imagine the merit of someone who teaches Torah to a Jewish child, and imagine how much greater is the merit of those who bring tens of thousands of children to Torah education. What a tremendous act of establishing the entire Torah.

Here it is still night and we are presently in the courts of Hashem's house with "Hashem's servants who stand in Hashem's house in the nights" (Tehillim 134:1). We have the merit -- I don't know how -- of sitting with our master and asking him questions on matters of the greatest consequence. We would like to bless our master that Hakodosh Boruch Hu extend his days and years, in good health and that we merit to continue learning Torah from him.

To conclude, we add our own blessing to Maran shlita's, who blesses all who are involved with the education of Jewish children -- may Hashem's blessing rest upon you; we have blessed you from Hashem's house. Bircas Hashem aleichem beirachnuchem miBeis Hashem.


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