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Shu”t SMS—Cellular Responsa From Rav Aviner and Rav Eliyahu

Rav Shlomo Aviner

Rav Shmuel Eliyahu

Rav Shlomo Chaim Aviner is the French-born head of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the Old City of Jerusalem. Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, son of the famed Rishon Lezion (Israeli Sefardi chief rabbi) Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l, is the chief Sefardi rabbi of Tzefat. Together they answer about 400 questions every day about Judaism, halacha and philosophy, as well as the occasional gem of advice, via SMS messages. They publish their best ones every week in the Olam Katan Shabbat newsletter. Shu”t SMS questions can be sent to Rav Aviner at +972 52-3653028.

Listening to the News: Is it okay to stop listening to the news? It stresses me out, but is it more important to remain connected to Am Yisrael?

Rav Aviner: You may stop. The Chafetz Chaim told his son, Rav Leib, to stop reading the newspaper, summing up all of the news in one sentence: There are still problems in the world.

The Wave of Terror: What are we supposed to do to deal with this scary wave of attacks?

Rav Aviner: We’ve been at war since the establishment of the state, and our fighters have won great wars; kal vachomer, this small wave of terror (in comparison, this is is nothing).

VeNishmartem L’Nafshoteichem: Is it alright to avoid going around Jerusalem during these days to fulfill “venishmartem” (“And you should keep yourself safe” lit.— guard yourself, Devarim 4), or is this a sign of missing faith? What’s the boundary?

Rav Eliyahu: We cannot allow our enemies to decide when we can travel to the holy city Jerusalem. When have we ever given up on Jerusalem? “I will not give sleep to my eyes… until I find a place for God!” (Tehilim 132) Specifically now, we must go to Jerusalem, and keep on going!

Hastening the Redemption: What can we do in order to bring the redemption and the redeemer?

Rav Eliyahu: Learn the importance of the Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple) to the world. Learn about the spiritual and physical influence that its construction would bring to the world. Learn about how close we will be to G-d in the time of the Bet Hamikdash, of active hashra’at haShechina (Divine influence). Love of God will be open and obvious, and life will be abundant. There will be no more wars in this world. At all. We must work on this until we’ll be ready to fight for this place (the Temple Mount) with at least as much sacrifice as the Arabs.

Educating Tzniut: From what age should one be careful about a long skirt and shirt for a young girl? Should this be done in stages?

Rav Eliyahu: It’s worthwhile to start at age three to, slowly and surely, wear tzanua (modest) clothing. At gil chinuch (age of religious education, around six years old), to be more on top of it. By the age of nine, there is a complete obligation to dress in a tzanua manner.

Dogs in the Shul: Is one allowed to bring a dog into a shul if it’s a service dog for someone who is handicapped?

Rav Eliyahu: This is a debate between the Acharonim (later sages). It’s best to leave the dog outside of the building, or at least the shul itself. If he needs the dog with him, he should sit near an exit, or keep the dog next to him so that other congregants won’t see it.

Prayer and Pronunciation: Does a Teimani (Yemenite Jew, known to have a noticeably different pronunciation of ritual Hebrew) or Ashkenazi need to pray with a pronunciation that’s not his usual one?

Rav Eliyahu: One is not obligated to pray or speak with a Teimani, Ashkenazi, etc. pronunciation. He can pray with whichever pronunciation he’s used to, which he speaks with. God understands prayer with the Jewish pronunciation. He doesn’t need to hear you specifically in a Teimani pronunciation, or an Ashkenazi one, or any other for that matter. One who tries to pray with a pronunciation that he’s not used to will disturb his prayer and likely those around him as well. Even if you’re used to [this other pronunciation of prayers as well], and you’re in a place where they pray this way, you should nonetheless continue in the customs of your parents.

Printed in Olam Katan on November 6, 2015, edited by Rav Mordechai Zion. Reprinted and translated with permission.

Translated By Tzvi Silver, JLNJ Israel

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