Category Archives: Archives 5761

Nissan 5761 – Giving Tzedakah

1 Nissan 5761

L’chvod HaRav:

In my neighborhood I continuously encounter the same regular tzedakah collectors. Of course, I can’t judge the legitimacy of their request – that’s another issue. My question is, am I obligated to give every time I come in contact with these numerous collectors (which is almost every day)?

I would love to give to everyone but it gets a little out of hand. Also, if I am carrying my parent’s money, is it proper for me to decide to whom to give tzedaka? If it was my own money I would tend to give of it more freely, but I feel guilty handing out money which isn’t even mine.

Thank you,

Name withheld upon request

Dear Name Withheld,

Thank you for your questions. A person should obviously give Tzedaka to the best of their ability. Our Chaza”l teach us that one of the signs that a person is a descendant of Avraham Avinu is when they give Tzedaka willingly and generously. However, sometimes a person can be in a situation where requests are being made beyond their ability.

In this case, although a person may not turn away and ignore the people asking for Tzedakah, they should acknowledge them and their request with a pleasant smile, and politely excuse themselves from giving by saying that they are unable at this time. It is a violation of a Lav D’Oraysoh (Torah prohibition) to turn away from and ignore someone who is asking you for Tzedakah, as stated in Devarim 15:7-11.

I assume that you are asking regarding money that your parents gave you to spend, not money that you are watching for them. If they gave you the money to spend, you may assume that they wish you to use it in the manner most beneficial to yourself. Since giving Tzedakah is such an important Mitzvah, and you certainly will benefit form giving it both in Olam HaZeh (through maintaining a sensitivity to people in need) and in Olam HaBah, it is certainly a wise use of money, and you should not Chas V’Shalom feel guilty to give it to poor people in need.

Regarding the “other issue”- although you didn’t ask the question outright, I’m going to paste here an answer that I recently sent to someone else that discusses this topic. I hope you find it helpful!

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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L’chvod HaRav:

I was reading Devarim 15:7-11 on giving money to the poor who ask for money. If we help someone in the community with groceries and some money and they call others and ask for more money and make it a weekly habit of calling to tell you what they need and ask for help over and over, are we to help each and every time, especially if they aren’t handling their finances properly and are constantly looking through the congregation for people to pay their bills and give them money ? Is this included in this portion of Torah?

Thank you for your response,

Name withheld upon request

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Dear Name Withheld,

Thank you for your question. The highest form of true charity is helping a person become independent and stand on their own two feet. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew term used for kindness – Gemilus Chassadim, actually means to wean the person from their dependency on others (Gomel means to wean). Therefore, if by giving charity the recipient is becoming more dependant on others, it can be argued that this is not charity at all, they are being hurt by this, and other ways must be found to help them. HOWEVER – this is only if this is objectively true, that they could become independent but are not because they are receiving handouts. Many people are incapable of holding a steady job, frequently due to illness, both physical and mental. In this case they must be supported, and it is a big Mitzvah to do so. We must be most careful not to judge others based on our own perceptions. When making such a decision it would be wise to check with a Rabbi or professional social worker who may be more familiar with the person’s actual needs.

In any case, it is most important to realize that even if you might decide not to give money or groceries to this person, there is a Biblical prohibition not to ignore him. Therefore, you could tell him, “Come, how about if I help you find a job instead?” or “I’m sorry, but I’m unable to give now”, assuming that this is true.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Adar 5761 – Buying Merchandise Produced by Employee Exploitation

1 Adar 5761

L’chvod HaRav:

I have recently decided to avoid buying things made in certain countries because they are building bombs, have slaves, children, and people in captivity working and they voilate basic human rights. Is this hanhaga that I have adopted seen as a hanhaga tovah in halacha? Sometimes it becomes difficult to stick to, and I want to make sure that it is inline with the Torah’s view.

Thanks,

Suri

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Dear Suri,

Thanks for your interesting question. There are a number of issues that we must discuss to properly answer this question. First of all, we should first find out if according to Halacha it is permitted to purchase items that have been produced by violations of people’s human rights, or through a process which damages the public through pollution, or any other violation of Halacha.

Although, to the best of my knowledge, this issue is not discussed directly in the Shulchan Oruch, there is a similar issue that I believe directly parallels this one. Our Chaza’l teach us that we may not purchase items that have been stolen, even if they no longer Halachically belong to the original owner since he has given up hope of ever getting it back. The reason given is, since if no one would buy the stolen articles, the thief would have no incentive to steal, and would not do so. By providing him with the opportunity to benefit from his theft, the buyer becomes an accomplice in the theft. In the words of our Chaza’l (Gittin 45a)- “Lav Achbarah Ganav, Ella Chura Ganav”- it’s not the rat that steals, it’s the hole (that gives him a place to keep the stolen goods and hide) that steals. It seems to me that this concept can be applied to any situation where Halacha has been violated in the production of merchandise, by purchasing this merchandise the customer becomes an accomplice in the Issur involved in its production, and it is therefore forbidden according to Halacha to purchase such items.

However, I don’t believe that this applies in all situations. Very often, people are treated in a manner that may be considered horrible in some countries, but in other countries they are very grateful to have these jobs. It may sound horrible to us that there are young children stitching running shoes in Thailand (for example) for 25 cents a day, but to these people it makes the difference between starving and being able to put rice on the table for their family, and they are grateful for the job. So we must keep in mind that often, just because something is portrayed as exploitation in the media, this is not necessarily true. Additionally, there is often false information spread in the media by unions in the US and other groups that have an interest in keeping out foreign-made goods, who try to sway popular support for their cause by portraying foreign manufacturers in a bad light. Although if you know for sure that people are being enslaved etc. to produce this item it would be forbidden by Halacha to contribute to this by patronizing such manufacturers, you are not obligated to necessarily believe everything that you hear in the media regarding this, in my opinion.

I don’t believe that it is a Hanhaga Tova to punish individual factory owners and employees for the policies of their government, or other factories, when they themselves are just trying to make a living in a proper way. Therefore, unless you know that this item was produced improperly, the fact that it comes from a “certain country” is not a reason not to buy it, and you may do so, even if you have refrained from doing so until now.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Shevat 5761 – Kiruv Rechokim

1 Shevat 5761

L’chvod HaRav:

I have a two part question:

1) I know that there is a positive commandment of “hocheach tochiach et amitecha” – one has an obligation to rebuke one’s fellow Jew. We all know that unfortunately nowadays there are many Jewish people in our society that simply don’t follow halacha. For some it is because they do not know the halachot, and for others it is because they choose not to follow them. It seems as if rebuke in our society would basically involve constantly telling not-yet-religious Jews what they are doing wrong. This doesn’t seem to me to be the best method of bringing alienated Jews closer to Judaism. Taking all of this into account, do we still have the requirement to rebuke our fellow Jews? And how does this specifically apply to people we see daily at school or at work?

2) I know that one is not allowed to offer food to people if one knows that they won’t make a bracha on it. How can we then give food to the people referred to in question one? Also, what if they don’t know how to make a bracha on it?

Thanks,

Suri

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Dear Suri,

Thank you for your questions. Of course, you are correct in stating that there is a Mitzvah for a Jew to feel responsibility for a fellow Jew’s actions, whether observant or non-observant. This is based on the Mitzvah of Tochacha, as you note, and also other Mitzvos. However, obviously these Mitzvos will remain unfulfilled, and may even be cause for the terrible Aveirah of Chillul Hashem, if they are not done properly, and ill will is the result of your efforts!

Additionally, there are times that it is better _not_ to correct your fellow Jew, because this may cause them to do an Aveirah knowingly, whereas otherwise they would transgress it unintentionally! There are many different variables involved in this important Mitzvah. One of the places in which these Halachos are discussed is in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 608:2, and in the Mishna Berurah there 3-11. The bottom line is that a person should use much common sense in their efforts to help others realize what the Ratzon Hashem is, and not cause people to Chas V’Shalom be distanced from HKB”H.

Regarding giving non-observant people food if you know that they will not make a Beracha on it, it certainly is preferable to gently and kindly explain to them that there is a Mitzvah to make a blessing, and offer to say it along with them if they are unfamiliar with it, or explain to them that they need only say Amen to your Beracha, if they understand the meaning of what you are saying. If this is not practical, they can even say the Beracha in whatever language that they understand. If none of this is practical, Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatza”l (Iggros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 5 Siman 13:9), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatza”l (Minchas Shlomo Siman 35, and quoted as having stated so orally is Sefer V’Zos HaBracha pg. 154) say that today one may be lenient in giving food to a non-observant Jew in your efforts to be Mikarev them, even if they will not wash or make a Beracha.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Teves 5761 – Walking in Front of Someone Davening, Blood in Eggs

15 Teves 5761

L’chvod HaRav:

If I am sitting in a beit medresh and I get up because a Rav walked in or for some other reason, and before I got up someone was davening within four amos of my seat, or while I left someone started davening can I go back to my seat?

Thanks,
Suri

Dear Suri,

Thank you for your question. Regarding returning to your seat when someone else is Davening Shemoneh Esrei within four Amos, there are actually two separate issues to be concerned about, as stated in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 102:1-5. First of all, we may not sit within four Amos of someone who is Davening Shemoneh Esrei. However, it is very clear from the Shulchan Oruch there, that if you yourself are learning Torah or Davening, you are permitted to sit to the side or in back of the person, just not directly in front of them. The Mishnah Berurah seems to be uncertain whether or not you may stand in front of them, but the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch (18:18) clearly says that even this is permitted.

The second issue is passing directly in front of a Mispalel to get back to your seat, and this clearly forbidden, even if you had been there before they started Davening.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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L’chvod HaRav:

My roomate was about to fry an egg in a frying pan that was already on the fire and very hot. She cracked the egg straight into the pan and noticed that it was a bloody egg. She says that it wasn’t just a small spot of blood, but a lot of blood flowing. What do we do with the pan? Obviously we threw out the egg.

Thank you very much,

L. Friedman
Michlelet Esther 5759

Dear L. Friedman,

Thank you for your question. We must realize that there are two possible reasons why chicken eggs might have blood in them. One reason is because it has been fertilized, and the blood spot signifies an embryo in formation. In this case, the entire egg is considered Treif (although there is disagreement among the Rishonim is if is forbidden by the Torah or Rabbinically), and must be thrown out.

The second reason it might have blood is because of a tissue irregularity in the chicken that causes blood to be deposited in an egg at the time of its formation. This can occur also in non-fertilized eggs. The Shulchan Oruch (Yoreh De’ah 67:7) states that if the egg is unfertilized, i.e. there were no roosters in the coop, the egg may be consumed as long as the blood is removed. The blood spot itself is only prohibited because of Maris Ayin – because it gives the appearance of consuming blood, according to most Poskim.

Today, it may be assumed that eggs purchased commercially (and are not free-range, organic, and not purchased from a farmers market) are non-fertilized. Whereas in previous times it was common for farmers to have both fertilized and non-fertilized eggs for sale, egg farmers today (in the US and most other developed countries) specialize only in non-fertilized eggs. Consequently, if blood is found in such eggs, although the blood should be removed, the egg may be consumed. Since the prohibition is Maris Ayin, if the egg got mixed in to a mixture with the blood on it, the mixture may be used. Also, the pots do not require Kashering, as in your case. This is stated by Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatza”l, in his Teshuvos Iggros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. I Siman 36.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Kislev 5761 – Yoga

1 Kislev 5761

L’chvod HaRav:

Is there a problem with doing Yoga? I have heard that it is considered Avodoh Zorah and comes from I don’t remember where.

Thank you very much,

Name and Seminary withheld

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Dear Name Withheld,

Thank you for your question. Although I must admit that I know very little about Yoga, from the information that I have gleaned from various references it is clear that it is an important feature of Hinduism, which is clearly Avodah Zara. Apparently, there are also many different types of Yoga, some involving “religious meditation”, and other involving non-religious meditation.

It is important to realize that every religion that is started has some elements of truth to it, as this is how they attract adherents. However, they “repackage” the truths with other beliefs, and present it as a “package deal” and the claim is made that if one part is true, the whole must be true. This is how Christianity and Islam were started (based on our truths of Yiddishkeit). The Rambam (Hilchos Avodah Zara 1:1) writes that even Avodah Zara was started in this manner, and over time the original truths were pushed to the background, and only the nonsense (in the case of Hinduism I assume that this would be the deification of cows, etc.) remained.

Consequently, it is important to distinguish between meditation and exercises that are beneficial to a person’s mental and physical well-being, no matter what their beliefs are, and rituals that are part of idol worship. There is nothing wrong with meditation per se, references to it can be found in the Sifrei Kabbalah and even to a certain extent in Sifrei Mussar (Hisbodedus). People claim that meditative exercises can assist them in reducing weight, toning nerves and muscles, and improving their mental health, among other things. If this is true, there is nothing wrong with it, and a person might even be fulfilling the Mitzvah of “V’Nishmartem Me’od L’Nafshoseichem” by doing so. But to believe that this only works through a religious medium, and to pattern these exercises in the manner of those that practice Avodah Zarah, is clearly forbidden according to Halacha. I also believe that since Yoga is so closely connected with Hinduism, it would not be proper to organize a group of people, even if they are properly doing these exercises and call it a “Yoga class or group”, rather it should be called a “meditation class or group”, or something similar.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler