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14 posts from October 2012

Marrying a Niece or Cousin

Dear Rabbi Brody, am I allowed according to Halacha to marry my niece or my cousin? Would there be any medical or genetic dangers? Thank you, NK from the Great Neck area

Dear NK,

Your superb question is mentioned in the Gemara, tractate Yevamot, 62b, on the bottom of the page. Indeed, our sages both encourage and bless anyone that marries a niece. Rashi states that the Gemara is referring specifically to the daughter of a sister; since a man naturally loves his sister, says Rashi, he will have a special affection for a wife who is the daughter of his sister. The Tosephot argue as follows: Rabbenu Tam agrees with Rashi, and says that the mitzva is to marry the daughter of a sister specifically (more than a brother), because the daughter of a sister will bring her husband good fortune and sons who resemble the father. The Rashbam disagrees with Rashi and with Rabbenu Tam, and says that marrying the daughter of a brother is just as good a mitzva as marrying the daughter of a sister. The Rambam, in agreement with the rationale of the Rashbam stipulates (Hilchot Issure Beia, 2:14), that it's a "mitzvat khakhamim", a rabbinical ordnance, to marry a niece, whether she's the daughter of a sister or a brother. As far as practical Halacha goes, The Rama rules that Ikar HaDin (Principle Halacha) is, "It's a mitzva to marry the daughter of a sister", then adds, "There are those who say that it is also a mitzva to marry the daughter of a brother. (See Shulkhan Oruch, Even Ezer 2:6)." In other words, the Rama tends to agree with Rashi and Rabbenu Tam, but doesn't ignore the Rashbam.

As far as the second half of your question, the Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a in the name of his grandfather, the holy Shatzer Rov of blessed and saintly memory, that ever since Abraham married his niece Sarah, there has been a blessing among Jews for marrying nieces. Also, the Shatzer Rov wrote that the doctor's warnings about hemophilia and other genetic or medical flaws as in the case of the European monarchies does not apply to a family that observes halacha, most specifically, family purity and refraining from forbidden relations. In short, if you have a worthy niece, whether the daughter of a brother or a sister, you are allowed to marry her; not only that, but you will merit the blessings of our sages from the Gemara. In any event, I strongly urge to test for Tay-Sach's disease before you even begin approaching the prospective match.

As far as cousins go, the Shatzer Rov (see "Or Ganuz, parshat Mattot/Massaei) says that whenever the Torah says "good", according to esoteric tradition and the Arizal, there is an eternal blessing. Hashem told Moshe Rabbenu to tell the daughters of Tslophkhod to marry their cousins (see Bamidbar 36: 5-13), and the Torah says "tov" about it (ibid, verse 6). From here, the Shatzer Rov zatza"l says it's very good to marry a cousin. If it worked for Bnot Tslophkhod, it'll work for you. It's worth noting that quite a few of the Melitzer Rebbe's 12 children are happily married to cousins. It saves a lot of headaches in shidduchim, because you already know the family, the prospective soul mate, and there're much fewer surprises. Let me know the good news. With Blessings always, LB

Zion, Shlomo Katz and Naftali Kalfa

May our eyes see Your return to Zion with love.

The One who restores His Presence to Zion.

May You build it up in our days an everlasting sanctuary.

And prepare the throne of David Your servant.

May the Temple be built and the City of Zion be filled.

And there we will sing a new song, and with joy ascend...

"V'techezena Eynanu", done by Shlomo Katz and Naftali Kalfa, is absolutely gorgeous - see for yourself:

The Narrow Bridge: Fear Not

Let's all remember me remind everyone that Hashem runs the world, and everything He does is for the very best. Whether or not there will be problems from Iran, Hamas, Hizbulla or anyone else is not given to our free choice; whether or not each of us does serious teshuva and strengthens his or her emuna is certainly given to our free choice. The Yetzer Hara, or evil inclination, wants us to worry about what's beyond our control, while at the same time neglect what's within our control. Ridiculous, eh? The EI will let you do anything, so long as it has nothing to do with teshuva and emuna.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev taught us that the whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to be afraid. This classic saying was put to music by Rabbi Baruch Chait. All of Israel sings it; it takes a Rebbe Nachman of Breslev to unify all of Israel, religious and non-religious alike.

The words of the song are: Kol Haolam kulo, gesher tzar m'ode... Ve'haikar, lo lefached klal. Translated, "The whole world is a very narrow bridge; the main thing is not to be afraid at all." You'll see our dear friends Rabbis Danny Bergson and Mitch Goodman performing it. So here's a big beam smile wishing you a peaceful Shabbat and a joyous weekend.

Avraham Abutboul, of blessed memory: The sweet strains of a Breslever

His music was honey from the portals of kedusha. He spoke to Hashem every single day, for he was a true Breslever chassid.

Internationally, Avraham Abutboul wasn't quite the household word. But, he was a brilliant composer whose music oozes with emotion.

Fourteen short years ago, Avraham Abutboul was one of secular Israel's favorite actors and singers. But, the magnitude of his shining neshama needed a lot more nutrition than what the stage, the theater, and Tel Aviv's Bohemian coffee-house circuit could give him. In short, Avraham became a Baal Tshuva, a student at "Chut shel Chessed" - Rav Shalom Arush's yeshiva in Jerusalem, and a Breslever chassid.

"Chut shel Chessed" in recent years has become a spiritual magnet for actors and musicians. Shuli Rand, award-winning star of Ushpizin, is also a student of Rav Arush's. In Ushpizin, Avraham Abutboul made his cinema comeback as a Haredi, starring alongside Shuli.

Avraham wrote his own music, and applied the heavenly words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev to his own divine strains. If you can imagine a Chassidic Leonard Cohen with the strumming ability of a Joan Baez, you can begin to understand where Avraham was coming from. 

Avraham hated war and violence of any kind. Here, he is singing his "Milchama Arura", cursed war, that was a big hit in Israel, even in the secular world.

2 short months ago, Avraham was diagnosed with cancer; the nasty disease consumed him like a wildfire. He left the physical earth last week. We mourn him and miss him, and pray that Hashem comforts his widow and orphans.

We don't forget you, Avraham!

Mother-in-law's too high expectations

Dear Rabbi Brody,

I have written to you before and you have been so helpful in the past. Perhaps you can advise me now. I underwent surgery about 2 weeks ago and I am now recovering at home and doing well, baruch Hashem. My son and daughter in law called me at the hospital every day. But now that I am home I only hear from them every 5 or 6 days. My son works 5 days a week and they have 4 wonderful young children. I am trying very hard not to feel as if they are not interested in my daily progress, but, to tell you the truth, that is how I do feel. I have tried to give the benefit of the doubt... but it is not working. Please help me. With thanks, Frida from Flatbush

B"H Dear Frida,

The more you have expectations, the more you are disappointed (see The Trail to Tranquility, pp. 55-56). You have lots of free time while you're recovering, but your son and daughter in law are up-to-the-eyeballs busy raising children and making a living. One cannot attain happiness from self-indulgence or dependency on others. When you were hospitalized, your son and daughter in-law were on high alert so they called every day out of concern; but, one can't be on high alert perpetually. On a routine basis, it's terrific for a daughter in law to call every 5 days! Thank Hashem for your marvelous good fortune rather than complain. You are blessed, so be happy! It's important to judge others fairly. Would you believe that many women complain to me that their daughters in-law call them less than once a month? You are indeed a lucky woman. Don't ever forget that Hashem does everything for the best. Blessings and a speedy recovery, LB

Dear Rabbi Brody,

WOW! your letter was great. I guess I needed some strong and on target words from  you, Rabbi. What a mitzvah you had. I cannot thank you enough. I printed out this letter and put it on my refrigerator door. Perhaps you might consider a book related to questions people have asked you over the years and your wonderful responses. Thanks so much, Frida

There's not enough about G-d

This post is dedicated to the full recovery of my cherished friend David ben Miriam, David Dome.

David Dome is an optometrist in the UK and one of my favorite people. He's not only a brilliant individual and super-talented musician and composer, but he has a spiritual thirst that nothing seemed to quench until he was introduced to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.

For over six years already, David has been in contact with me, all the time looking for better ways to serve Hashem. He incorporates his guitar into his daily hitbodedut - both David and guitar pour their souls out to Hashem. The results are phenominal; with David's kind permission, we're going to share a bit with you:

David went to an apparently Orthodox wedding where the folks that were celebrating forget about the star of the evening that made everything possible - Hashem! The food was London's finest glatt cuisine, and the band was the area's best. There were many speeches, with no one thanking Hashem! No one praised Hashem! David was beside himself with pain and frustration: "How can Sabbath-observant people give 13 speeches and 24 toasts with no one thanking Hashem?" He came home, grabbed his guitar, and began talking to Hashem. Here's what David sang (takes a few seconds to load):

It's a spectacular evening with good food and wine
All of us dressed up to the nines.
Converstaion is flowing and music is playing
And speeches are all said on time.
I try to relax with this small talk at large
Discomfort with having to pretend
Well you're happy to see me and I'm happy to see you
When we both know it's a means 'til the end.
And you're talking about T.V. and the latest movie
The desserts are amazing and the coffee's just fine
And only the best is gonna do.
The food keeps on coming in and it seems never ending
Is this what it means to be a Jew ?
I don't sense the Shechina when it should be here
Resting above me and you
And now he's praising his mother and he's thanking her father
But no mention of Hash-m is coming through
There's laughter and singing and guitars are ringing
A spectacular evening BUT THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ABOUT G-D.
Help me to see
Help me to see
Help me to see
Help me to see
Help me to see
Help me to see the good.
It's a spectacular evening BUT THERE'S NOT ENOUGH ABOUT G-D.
a smile from David and guitar
David is a strong representative of this generation's emuna revolution that will most certainly bring Moshiach; we wish him a clean bill of health and all the very best, amen!