Interpersonal Relating & Mitzvos
How To Be Sensitive To & To Not Harm People








































One of the things which is central to all interpersonal relations between Jews, is the fundamental prohibition against any Jew causing any harm, damage, disturbance or pain to another. The gemora (Shabos 31a) says that the section of the Talmud on damages is characterized by the word "salvations." If we damage each other, we cause G-d to bring destruction to us. If we do not damage each other (or at least correct it if we ever do), G-d saves us from harm and trouble.

The Mishna in Bava Kama specifically states that each Jew is NOT ONLY obligated to not damage another; the Mishna also specifies that the RESPONSIBILITY FOR GUARDING AGAINST DAMAGING IS ON EACH PERSON NOT TO DAMAGE ANOTHER and that MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL in both the obligation to guard against damaging another as well as equal in their rights if ever damaged.

I am herein going to provide a sampling of Torah rules (ANTHOLOGIZED PRIMARILY FROM CHOSHEN MISHPOT AND SEDER NEZIKIN) to hopefully improve awareness, sensitivity and behavior; so that Jews do only good to each other and never bad; and so that G-d does to us likewise. For practical, specific Torah law questions, please consult a respected rov.

A central rule of damages is "adom muad le'olam (a Jew is always responsible for harming another in any way; tangible or intangible; e.g. bodily injury, feelings, reputation, property, livelihood, etc.)." This includes causing harm with your property, such as letting your animal loose so that it eats or tramples on the property of another or leaving something somewhere so that it causes another to trip and fall. There are certain cases when you can even be responsible for damaging while you are asleep. If you hurt someone else or break property while falling down, you may even be responsible for damages.

You may not wake someone from sleep unless the person would want the thing you are waking him for more than the sleep. You may not waste a person's time, e.g. coming late for an appointment, double parking or blocking a driveway, keeping someone waiting unjustifiably or not returning a book that other people use to its proper shelf. Wasting even a moment of someone's time is considered a theft you can never repay, which is a very serious sin.

You may not dig near your land's boundary - even though you want to work on your own property - because your neighbor's land may collapse or underground water may cause water damage to your neighbor's property. If you ever sell land, you must offer it first to your neighbor because expanding his existing property is more value-adding than selling the same land to another person without connected land. You may not set a fire where heat can damage a neighbor or if an expectable wind could spread the fire to another's property and cause damage or danger. You can't make noise, nor cause dust or smoke nor do business in your home that brings the public, if this disturbs neighbors. You can't put up a wall that blocks a neighbor's view nor a window that lets you see into the window of your neighbor so as to violate privacy.

Deception and lying are prohibited. Flattery is considered deception since you prevent your victim from knowing what he really is or how you truly feel about him. Lying and flattering for the sake of peace or for saving a person from hurt feelings can sometimes be allowed (to lack peace or to inflict pain is a MAJOR damage). A woman who violates modesty laws is considered as if she is morally harming men.

In business, you may not cheat, misrepresent product or its quality, use faulty weights and measures, overcharge above market value (for certain products), renege on a price commitment or a transaction, or violate time obligations (to pay, to complete work, etc). When you are paid for your time, you may not use that time for personal purposes (because this is stealing).

You may not harm people passively e.g. not returning lost property, withholding or delaying help that another truly needs, not keeping your word. Torah standards are so high that if someone gives you a friendly greeting and you do not return at least as nice a greeting, it is considered as if you stole his greeting.

You are prohibited from shaming, defaming, hurting feelings, using disparaging nick-names (even if the victim agrees), "using" or imposing upon people, slandering, aggravating, making yourself big by diminishing another, being angry, disrespectful or arrogant. Kindness and charity are so meritorious that they extend a person's life span. In shul, you may not say silent Shmoneh Esray audibly nor walk within six feet in front of another praying Shmoneh Esray, as these disturb the other's concentration. Hashem overlooks wrongs done to Him by people who overlook wrongs done to him/her by other people. We must get along sweetly with and be civil to others. We are as pleasing and non-bothering to Hashem as we are pleasing and non-bothering to people.

There is sensitivity in halacha to women. To protect a woman's dignity, if a man and woman come to a door to beg at the same time and you can only can give one, give to the woman; and if a man and woman come to bais din for a case at the same time, the dayan is to take the case of the woman first. If a man and woman are captured by kidnappers, we ransom the woman first to protect her from personal vulnerability. If a husband and wife hurt each other's feelings, G-d punishes the husband more rapidly and brutally for hurting his wife. Making a wife an aguna or abusing her can brutalize her entire life; so if hurting a wife in one individual incident evokes G-d's strong response against a husband, how much more so when he damages her life profoundly and steadily(!), rachmona litzlon [Heaven save us].

Hashem told Moshe to speak parshas (the Torah portion) Kedoshim ("Be Holy") to the entire assembled Jewish nation. Further, "Kedoshim" is the Torah portion with the single largest measure of interpersonal mitzvos in one Torah portion. The Chasam Sofer points out that this teaches us that if one cannot live with people in a holy fashion (or he can be holy only if alone), he is not holy. It is when we can live with others in a holy fashion that a Jew proves he is holy. May it be the Alm-ghty's will that we keep learning and working on ourselves so that we all are holy and please Him with how well we treat each other.



The gemora (Yevamos 79a) says that there are three signs that indicate a person is from among the Jewish people: the people of our nation are compassionate, bashful and are bestowers of active lovingkindness. In other words, when a person has all of these traits, it is "an identity badge," it is evidence that the person is truly a Jew.

The Torah requires never paining a widow or orphan, and G-d becomes furious at and viciously punitive towards a perpetrator [Exodus 22:21]. Rashi says this is not limited to a widow or orphan; rather, it means NEVER PAINING ANYONE who is DEFENSELESS, WEAK OR VULNERABLE. Rambam (Hilchos Dayos) says that this must be fulfilled by giving such weak or needy individuals "rachmanuss yesaira (active and extraordinary compassion)." A wife is defenseless and vulnerable insofar as ending her married status is concerned. The one who is callous to her evokes G-d's fury. Chazal tell us that the way we treat another is the way G-d treats us, "measure for measure" (Sota 8b). Heaven gives compassion to each person who gives compassion to people; and Heaven withholds compassion from each person who withholds compassion from people (Shabos 151b). We must emulate G-d's traits (Sota 14a) and be holy (Leviticus 19:2).

The saintly Chafetz Chayim [Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, 1838-1933; in a classic work, "Ahavas Chesed (The Love Of Kindness)"], wrote, "If a person in his lifetime habitually failed to forego anything of his own for another, failed to have pity on others, he reinforces the attribute of stern and strict justice in Heaven towards him. So, after he leaves this world and he is in need of such benefits [e.g. kindness, pity, etc.], Heaven pays him back with his own characteristics. G-d deals with him the same way that he dealt with people."

The gemara says that chazeress [used for karpas, at the seder] is "chassa [lettuce]." Rabbi Menachem Kasher's hagadah relates this to the midrash which says that the merit for redemption from Egypt came from Jews having chas [related to chassa]; pity, mercy, compassion] on each other. The Egyptians gave us a hard work quota. Some Jews were stronger, some were weaker. The stronger finished their quota faster. What did they do? Did they go home? NO! They helped the weaker ones finish their quota. We were saved from Egypt in the merit of this chas; teaching that G-d helps or saves us when we are vulnerable, in need or trouble; for acting with kindness; for having pity, mercy and compassion on another Jew who is weak, needy or troubled.

Jewish law prohibits causing damage. It is argued in the law codes whether one who will have major loss may save himself by causing another minor loss, if he pays for it. If A has a jug with $1,000 honey and B has a jug with $3 wine, and the honey jug springs a slow leak, can A say to B, "Spill out your wine, I will pay you and salvage my honey." Ramo (Choshen Mishpot 264:5) says that some rishonim require that the owner of the cheap wine spill it out for the owner of the valuable honey, while others rule that the honey's owner has absolutely no right to damage the wine owner, even for pay (e.g. if the wine has sentimental value). Shulchan Oruch HaRav (Hilchos Shi'aila Uschirus ViChasima, 6) resolves the impasse beautifully by writing that a spiritual person will be stringent on himself and lenient on the other - the one in jeopardy of losing the honey should seek not to harm the owner of the wine, and the wine owner should seek to save the honey for its owner. The Jew cares about, and wants to do good unselfishly for, another Jew.

The Talmud says (Bava Kama 92a), "Each person who beseeches mercy for another person, when he is in need of the same thing (that the other person needs), is answered first." When you need anything, including Heaven's help with illness, parnossa, finding your zivug, working on anger or pursuing peace, if you know others who also need the thing that you need, pray for them. The Talmud is saying that Heaven will grant what you need faster in the merit of your generosity, concern and heartfelt prayer on behalf of others who need that same thing. Wanting mercy for the other person creates merit that entitles you to G-d's mercy. Feel compassion and empathy. Needless to say: if you can do something practical that will help the other person/people, do so also. Pray sensitively and caringly that Hashem help other Jews with needs, pains, hardships and troubles.

Rabbi Yonosan Eibshitz made an intriguing observation. When someone comes to a rabbi asking him to determine whether a certain animal is kosher or not, he will accept the reply that it is not kosher with a good attitude, even though this causes considerable financial loss. However, if the same person comes to a rabbi asking him to determine a financial dispute with another person, he will be angry at the rabbi for deciding against him, even when his financial loss is very small. Why is there this difference in attitude? When someone is told that his meat is not kosher, he accepts the loss graciously because no one else gains. But in a financial dispute, his loss is the other person's gain and this fills him with jealousy.

The causing of any damage is very serious in Jewish law. The Talmud tell us that any Jew may not cause harm or damage to any other Jew in any way: to his person, property, feelings, dignity, reputation, livelihood, status, etc. If a person causes any damage of any kind, THE PERSON IS ALWAYS RESPONSIBLE (Bava Kama 15b, 26a), whether the damage is on purpose or by accident, whether the damaging person is awake or asleep (in certain cases), or had no intent to cause damage by his action (Sanhedrin 72a).

You may not harm someone during the course of doing something permissible; and if a person requests that you injure or kill him, and he exempts you from accountability; you are not allowed to harm him in the least; the Torah places full accountability and all applicable punishments on you for all damage that you cause (Choshen Mishpot 421:12).

Each person has the responsibility to guard against causing damage to another, especially when the victim is in his or her domain. The damaging party must make all damage right according to applicable halachic remedies. The Talmud makes a specific point of specifying that ALL LAWS OF DAMAGES APPLY TO BOTH MEN AND WOMEN (Bava Kama 14b), whether regarding doing the damage or receiving the damage. Since men and women were equally at Mount Sinai for the giving of the Torah, the Torah applies to both men and women equally (Bava Kama 15a).

Don't get caught up in your "rights." "Rights" is "code word" for "demands" which come with explanations. Demands, with or without explanation, still do the same basic damage to a relationship. "Rights" impose upon the next person and when you impose enough, any relationship will break down. All demands, rights, entitlements and taking are a ticket to degeneration of a relationship. Sometimes it is gradual or subtle. But always it is inevitable. Eventually, the house of cards blows down, too weak to stand in the winds of life.

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 30b) teaches, "[The Torah says (Exodus 18:20) that Moshe is to show the Jewish people] 'The deed which they must do.' [What is the meaning of the extra terminology? The Torah could have more briefly said that Moshe should show them 'the deed' or show them 'what they must do']. 'The deed' means 'strict law.' 'Which they must do' means 'going beyond the requirements of strict law.' [The Jew is required to do] acts of kindness, care for the sick, bury the dead and go beyond the letter of the law on behalf of one another. Yerushalayim was destroyed [by the Romans] because they judged based on strict law and did not go beyond the letter of the law in their actions."

Even when empowered by "rights," even by rights taught to us by Moshe, even by rights that could be explained by Torah law(!), when one makes strict or callous demands on others, society and relationships cannot function or endure. This is plain to see in modern society, relationships and marriages. One's emotions, frame of mind, emotional needs become overpowered by the drive to grasp, to take, to "be entitled." The person becomes enframed and locked within a rigid boundary, beyond which he or she can not give. The person loses empathy, understanding, feeling, heart. The other person is only seen as a fulfiller or supplier of "rights" to which the person is inalienably entitled.

Many halachos tell us how much we have obligation to fellow Jews and their property and their rights. Some representative examples follow, primarily from the "Laws Of Damages To Neighbors," Choshen Mishpot chapters 153, 154 and 155.

If two businesses are next to each other, they may not damage each other's work or product. For example, an animal stable, paint factory or bakery cannot be set up next to a winery because the steam or foul odor will destroy the wine; but if the other business was there first and operating his business first, the owner of the winery cannot complain.

If your neighbor has a bird house, you may not put a ladder within eight feet (two meters) so that rodents can not use it to climb up and kill or eat the young birds. The neighbor must put the bird house far enough away from your boundary so that birds will not be likely to fly over to your land and damage your field or garden. You must distance vines or trees away from your neighbor's boundary enough so that when you do the gardening work around each vine or tree, you will not violate your neighbor's boundary nor damage his property. If a neighbor's tree is on your property at all, you may cut down the part on your property. If one's tree or a beam reaches over public property, it can be cut away enough so that a camel could pass under; and if they reach over a neighbor's roof, he may cut them off where they interfere with his needs over his roof. If a tree is on their boundary, both neighbors may take its fruit, even if the tree leans towards one side more than the other. If a plank protrudes from your house into your neighbor's air space, or if a water pipe brings water from your house to your neighbor's property, he has the right to demand removal.

If someone complains against a thing, and it is normal that people are unable to withstand that thing, this is a reasonable complaint.

The Chazone Ish said that the first test of whether a person is religious or not is whether the person keeps ALL halachos.



These days, we hear and read about all kinds of examples of Torah Jews hurting others Jews in ways that clearly violate the Torah. For example, a marriage partner anguishing the other, parking in front of another's driveway with no concern for his proprietary rights or for trapping him, disturbing talk in shul, being financially dishonest, bothering neighbors, imposing on and using people, pushing rudely ahead on a line in a store, breaking one's word, amplifying music at social or organizational functions so loudly that it can permanently damage people's ears, making noise blowing car horns because of no reason other than impatience, etc. How can we explain this blatant and widespread contradiction between being an alleged Torah Jew and forsaking "inconvenient" aspects of Torah.

A gentile came to Hillel saying, "Teach me the Torah in the time I can stand on one foot." Hillel replied, "What is hateful to you do not do to anyone else. This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn" [Shabos 31a]. The sages [Nedarim Yerushalmi 9] say that the most fundamental principle of the Torah is: "Love your fellow as yourself" [Leviticus 19:18]. There already was a "pre-existing" brief reply, to the gentile's question, which "sums the Torah up." The commentaries ask why did Hillel transform the teaching from "love others" to "don't hurt others?" Because, they answer, Hillel understood that not everybody is on the level of being kind, generous or self-sacrificing for others. Everybody hates mistreatment. Let the universal minimum be that people not hurt one another. This everyone can understand. This is important every day but is especially important during "the Three Weeks" when we must consider and rectify the faults, particularly interpersonal shortcomings, responsible for the destruction and exile; and during Ellul and the "Ten Days Of Awe" [from Rosh HaShana until Yom Kippur], when we must concentrate on serious repentance of all kinds and strive to merit a year of life, health and blessing.

The Torah says [Deuteronomy 4:39], "And you will know today and you will return it to your heart...". Rabbi Yisroel was one of the greatest Torah analysts of human nature. He explains this verse saying that there is as great a distance 1. between not knowing and knowing something as there is 2. between knowing something intellectually and internalizing it into one's heart. Until it is assimilated, knowing something only intellectually is the same as not knowing. This is a fundamental principle of applying Torah to "real life."

We are all treated to shmuzen [lectures] and shiurim [classes] about the greatness of learning Torah. The gemora (Pesachim 50b) even says that if you cannot learn for the sake of Heaven you should learn and you will come to do so for the sake of Heaven. Yet we see with our own eyes every day people who trample on Torah, and can give you 15,000 sharp, but perverse, "Torah reasons" why they are right and why you should "go jump in the lake."

Rabbinic tradition recognizes that people learn in order to serve their own purposes, having nothing to do with real purpose - Torah, mitzvos, spiritual growth and service of G-d. The midrash says, "Derech eretz (polite, civil, thoughtful behavior) must precede Torah." Tosfos says that there are people who learn for selfish motives such as to become arrogant, to annoy others or to win halacha debates. Rambam says that some learn to be respected or to be called Rabbi. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter says that some learn to be better able to harm or rob others. The Maharsha says that one with selfish motives limits the ultimate purpose of his deeds to this world, while the person with sincere G-dly motives extends the ultimate purpose of his deeds to Heaven and to eternity. The Rama [this is actual halacha in the Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Dayah 242:30], says that the laws of honoring one's primary rov apply specifically to the rov who taught one "practical halacha, in-depth understanding, and trained him to maintain truth and correct practical living." THE ROV TO WHOM YOU OWE SPECIAL HALACHIC RESPECT IS THE ROV WHO TEACHES AND CAUSES YOU TO LIVE AS A MENTSH!

Midrash Agada says that a true Torah person has four precious attributes: Torah learning, mitzva performance, kind deeds and good midos. Without all four, he is not a true Torah person.

The Vilna Gaon says that Torah DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MAKE A PERSON BETTER. If one learns without intending to be spiritually perfected, Torah will INTENSIFY WHAT IS NATURALLY IN THE PERSON - including the bad! Torah will only make better the person who learns it for the SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF PURIFYING HIS HEART, INCREASING HIS FEAR OF HEAVEN AND SPIRITUAL ELEVATION. Torah is powerful but it does not substitute for the individual's free will! The essential purpose for which G-d created human life is for perfection of midos (personality and character traits) AT ALL TIMES. AT EVERY MOMENT WHEN ONE IS NOT WORKING ON MIDOS, ONE IS WASTING HIS LIFE (Evven Shlaima)!

If one does not have good midos, kind deeds, derech eretz, fulfill the entire Shulchan Aruch (including interpersonal obligations) - he is not a Torah person. He is too clever for his own good - a danger to others and to his own soul. Ramban says that one can know all the laws and claim to be a Torah person; but unless he makes himself holy, he can still be a "low life."

King Solomon says (Proverbs 4:11), "In the way of wisdom I instructed you, I directed you on the straight paths [ma'aglai yosher]." "Ma'agal" can either mean a "path" or a "circle." There is Hebrew grammar problem, then, in the verse using a term that can be read "straight circle" - an inherent contradiction! I heard in the name of one of the Telsher rosh yeshivos that King Solomon is adding a deep message. A person has a storehouse of all of the midos (character traits) of the human personality. Midos are analogous to a "straight circle," IF THE PERSON HAS THE CORRECT MEASURE AND BALANCE OF ALL THE MIDOS. If there is too much or too little of any mida (trait), that puts bumps on his "midos circle." Where there is too much, the circle bulges out, too little it bulges in. G-d instructed us in Torah wisdom that it should lead us to the straight path which is only attainable through a "straight circle" - the proper content of midos. Only through midos can a person live with truth, goodness and righteousness; go according to the directing of the will of G-d, and live with others as G-d wants from each of us.

WHAT COUNTS FIRST AND FOREMOST ARE A GOOD HEART AND GOOD MIDOS. These tell us what the person will use his intellect and talents for, whether he is close to G-d or to his own ego. Rabbi Elimelech of Lizinsk writes that the ONLY REASON A PERSON IS BORN IS TO CHANGE HIS NATURE FOR THE BETTER.

The world is torn down by people hurting and harming each other. In contrast, the world 1. has "salvations" when we guard against harming one another (Shabos 31:a) and 2. "will be built by lovingkindness (Psalm 89:3)."

When people come in for marriage counseling, they are typically ignorant of how many halachic and ethical imperatives there are THAT THEY DO NOT KNOW that are FROM THE TORAH. If couples would have the humility, patience, compassion, respect, unselfishness and decency to factor in their responsibilities in personal growth and in treatment of their spouse, marriages would be a lot happier. If educators would sensitize their students to the feelings of others, TO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE IMPACT ONE'S BEHAVIOR HAS ON OTHERS, they would grow up to be more competent and successful spouses, neighbors and all around Torah observers. When we learn, it would be for the sake of Heaven. The proof would be that everyone would do what G-d wants us to do in all areas of life (midos, halacha, interpersonal relating, etc.). If people would stop hurting others, stop trying to have power over others, stop doing whatever they like and would get their priorities fixed; if they would value peace and start calling a rov, G-d would see to it that we all would have much better lives in all ways. As it says in Pirkei Avos, "Do His will in order that He do your will. Put aside your will for His will and He will put aside the will of others for you." His will is that your Torah be complete, starting in your heart and ending with good deeds at all times. The lowest level is never harming anyone, either by active deeds or passive neglect. However, the Jew's real goal is active lovingkindness, help and goodness to others with as much zeal as possible, with as good an attitude as possible and as much of the time as possible. The closer people are to you, the higher the priority they are - that you do consistent and constant good for them.



Some people think nothing of wronging others because they believe the other is a fine Jew who will completely forgive them or will accept inappropriate behavior. This, in essence, says that other's frumkeit is license to absolve oneself of his or her own frumkeit! Each one must be a fine person. Each one is required to never act at someone else's expense nor rationalize that the other will forgive any misdeed against them. If one sins against another, bain odom lechavairo tshuva [interpersonal repentance] requires apology with acknowledgement of the deed, remorse, commitment to never repeat the act and mefayess [appeasing the victim] in order to achieve effective tshuva.

Yosef's brothers sold him into slavery and he later became Prince of Egypt. After Yaakov (their father) died, Yosef's brothers feared vengeance. He told them not to worry and that he understood his getting to Egypt had been G-d's plan. Rabainu Bachya [to Genesis 50:21] asks: if Yosef forgave his brothers, why were the "asara harugay malchus [ten martyred sages]" killed by the Romans to atone for the brothers' sale of Yosef? How could there have been such a tragedy? Since Yosef only comforted them, but did not express directly that he forgave them, Heaven considered the forgiveness to be insufficient. When one wrongs another, the victim must explicitly express complete forgiveness in order for Heaven to consider the forgiveness effective. If people hurt other people, especially if they do so hundreds of times each year, year after year, if they never receive explicit complete forgiveness from EVERY person they ever hurt, they subject themselves to punishments from Heaven of frightening and tragic magnitude. In contrast, the Shulchan Aruch [Orech Chayim 231] says that if one intends everything he does for the sake of Heaven and if everything he does is the will of Heaven, he is doing service of G-d at every moment of his life.

The Shulchan Aruch says [Choshen Mishpot 421:12] that if person A tells person B, "Injure me, destroy an organ, cut off my limb, and I absolve you from all accountability," the halacha is that PERSON B IS FULLY ACCOUNTABLE for any damaging. B has absolutely NO PERMISSION to harm A, even if A begged B to do it! This is because no person with a normal mind would want to be harmed. The halacha is saying that to want something damaging done to oneself means the person is OUT OF HIS/HER MIND. No one with a normal mind, even a fine person, wants any harm!

All who violate any matters pertaining to harming, endangering, injuring or refraining from protecting or rescuing a Jew; and says, "I have my own problems and misfortunes, what do I care about others in regard to this?" or tries to excuse himself by saying "I am not strict regarding this, for things done against myself," bais din is obliged to give this selfish, indifferent person lashes. The one who is cautious in all of these things will receive wonderful blessings from Heaven [Choshen Mishpot 427:10]."

Each Jew is required to have a pleasant disposition to others and to makdim shalom [be the first to offer a sincere greeting] to each person he sees, even a non-Jew. All Jews are brothers stemming from our mutual "alter zaida [ancestor]" Yakov Avinu [our father Jacob]. We are required to be friendly, cheerful and courteous to all.

In all of our behavior and deeds, we must anticipate our impact on others before acting. Ask yourself: will my action hurt another, take from or inconvenience him or her, will it please, help or benefit the person, are my actions a kidush or chilul Hashem [sanctification or profanation of G-d]? Ask yourself: how do I like it when others act against me? Extend this thinking to: how would others feel when I act against them? Remember that all Jews are connected. We say in the Birkas HaChodesh, on shabos before the New Moon, "Chavairim kol Yisroel [all Jews are friends]." How must you act to someone who is both family and friend, whether you feel this way towards the person or not?

Pirkei Avos (chapter three) tells us that "All who are pleasing to one's fellow man are pleasing to Hashem and all who are not pleasing to one's fellow man are displeasing to Hashem."

There is a rule that everything in the written or oral Torah must have the briefest possible wording. Whenever a wording is longer than the shortest way possible, the extra is intentionally there for an additional teaching.

Hebrew could convey "pleasing" in a single word (e.g. noam, me'urav, etc.). Yet, in this mishna, Chazal chose a two-word expression to convey the concept, "nocha haimenu." "Nocha" is from the same root word as "menucha" [rest]. A more technical translation than "pleasing" might be, "All whose spirit is restful from him." This tells us something very profound.

A person may consider himself nice and pleasant to people. However, some people might be nice in some ways and not nice in others, nice to some people and not nice to others, nice at some times and not nice at other times. They say, "Because of the part of me that's nice, I expect G-d is happy with me."

In Kashrus [dietary laws], there is a segment of halacha called "ta'aruvos [mixtures]." If, for example, I mix kosher chicken soup with traif pig soup, the mixture is all traif [un-kosher]. Making mixtures of some pleasant behavior and some un-pleasant behavior is traif, not up to G-d's standards of "kosher" behavior, not G-d's definition of a truly pleasant person.

Chazal are telling us that G-d is specifically NOT PLEASED by people who are only PART NICE, who are a MIXTURE of pleasant and not, who are nice in some ways but bother and hurt people in other ways.

Only when a person is nice such that all people who interact with him are AT REST from him [nocha haimenu]; they have peace of mind and emotional security about him; each person's "spirit" is calm, satisfied, comfortable with him; his pleasantness is pure, steady and complete - only that person is the one who G-d is pleased with!

In Birkas HaMazone [blessings after meals], G-d is referred to as the One Who "is good and does good." Is this not redundant? Would it not be automatic that one who is good does good and that one who does good is good? We know that Torah sources are not redundant, so we must study why the double terminology.

King David tells us [Psalm 34:15] there are two basic steps to being good, "Turn away from evil and do good." On must first clean the slate by abandoning doing bad and then must occupy himself with exclusively and actively doing good.

One may be good but the person may be shy, busy or otherwise closed off from regular beneficial interaction with the rest of the world. He would never think of doing bad to another but he never actually does good for others. His quality of being good is abstract and theoretical but he never brings his abilities to actualization by being good to others to the extent of his potential. He may be good and not do good.

A person may do good, but with an ulterior motive. He may want something from you or may want to get your guard down so he can harm you. He may do good and not be good.

G-d, Who serves as the model for what our traits and behaviors aught to be, IS good and DOES good. That defines who truly is good: the one who IS GOOD AT ESSENCE AND WHO DOES GOOD IN PRACTICAL ACTION. A good person practices good midos, interacts sweetly with others and treats others with G-d's good traits and behaviors.

Rabbi Chayim Veetal, the famed mystic, asked: if midos are so fundamental, why is there no mitzva to have good midos among the 613 mitzvos? Because midos are so fundamental that you can't have the 613 mitzvos without them! They are such a basic prerequisite to Torah that the Torah expects them to be there before the Torah can be learned or observed! In other words, if good midos aren't there, Torah surely isn't there.

Late in life, Rov Shimon Schwab, leader of German-Jewry, was in a wheelchair and homebound. He once asked a visiter what was going on in the "Jewish world." The visiter proudly announced that "the NEWEST CHUMRA" was "YOSHON." Rabbi Schwab asked, "What about OLD BASICS, like DERECH ERETZ?" Pirkei Avos teaches us to always give people a kindly and pleasant countenance (chapter one) and to always receive people cheerfully (chapter three). Get into the habit of treating everyone in a sweet and friendly manner always. Be sociable and healthily involved in the life of your community. The Chafetz Chayim (Ahavas Chesed) says that even if you can't give a beggar a penny, a warm, friendly, comforting or encouraging response to the poor person can be a kindness, and, therefore, is a mitzva. Greet neighbors on the street. Ask people, with sincere interest, how things are. Approach them with compassion, helpfulness, humility, patience and responsibility. Generally, in Jewish law, the closer someone is to you, the higher the priority to give of yourself and be steadily good to them. Always be gentle, loving, kind and respectful; especially with those of your own home. You'll start to see your attitudes - and relationships - improve.



Rabbi Shalom Schwadron of Jerusalem tells of a "maaseh" that he was a part of. The story brings out how different one's reaction is when he relates to someone's suffering as contrasted with when he doesn't.

A neighborhood boy was playing in front of the rabbi's home. The child fell and received a bad cut. The little boy started screaming. Rabbi Schwadron ran out, put a towel around cut and carried the boy towards the home of a doctor who lived nearby.

An elderly lady saw him excitedly running carrying the child, and said "Don't worry, G-d will help." She thought it was one of Rabbi Schwadron's children. When he got closer, she recognized that the screaming boy was none other than her own grandson. When she saw who the child was, she stopped saying a dispassionate, "Don't worry," and started frantically screaming, "My Mayer, My Mayer." Several neighbors tried strenuously to calm her down.

Rabbi Schwadron noted that when it was someone else's child one can dispassionately go through the motions and say, "Don't worry, G-d will help." Let it be G-d's worry. When it's one's own child one screams frantically. A Jew screams in pain at the pain of any other Jew. This is a part of that great and central principle of the Torah: love your fellow Jew as you love yourself.

The Jew must have utmost sensitivity for other Jews.

Rabbi Simcha Zissel pointed out that people often stop feeling concern for a person when he starts healing from an illness. Because the patient is no longer in the worst condition, they feel happy, they cease feeling for his pain and suffering and no longer practice the same concern. This is wrong. As long as the patient retains even the slightest illness or pain, one must still feel for the patient, pray, help, exhibit concern. Just as the patient feels his pain until he is entirely healed, we must feel his pain until he is entirely healed. This sensitivity does not come easily nor naturally and we must work continuously to develop it.

The Chazon Ish wrote how to acquire sensitivity for another's feelings and situation in one of his letters. To feel the suffering of others, one must condition himself to do everything he can to help people and to save them from suffering. These actions will have impact upon emotions. Further, the person should pray for the well-being of others, even if one does not at the start feel their pain.

Sefer HaChinuch tells us that, "A person is molded by his actions." Through actions which are of a type that develop emotional association with another person and his situation, more feeling and sensitivity will develop over time.

An important insight on sensitive kindness can be discerned from a midrash (brought by Rashi to Jeremiah 31:14), which is relevant to our point.

G-d revealed to our forefathers that their descendants, the Jewish people, would go into a hard and long exile. Avraham prayed, "I put my son on the altar, willing to sacrifice him if that would have been your will. In the merit of that, please redeem my descendants, the Jewish people, from exile." G-d replied, "No."

Yitzchok prayed, "I WAS the sacrifice on the alter. In the merit of that, please redeem my descendants, the Jewish people, from exile." G-d replied, "No."

Yaakov prayed, "I raised the twelve tribes, the progenitors of the Jewish people, your holy people. In the merit of that, please redeem my descendants, the Jewish people, from exile." G-d replied, "No."

Then Rachel prayed, "I gave my sister Leah the signals that enabled her to marry Yaakov, and be saved from the heartbreak of public disgrace at the wedding. I sacrificed my own happiness to give Yakov to my sister. I went beyond any obligation of law. I had rachamim together with chesed. In the merit of that, please redeem the Jewish people." G-d replied, "For you I will redeem the Jewish people from exile."

Now, let's understand who we are talking about. The forefathers were holy people, prophets of G-d. Avraham was a paragon of chesed, but chesed was not enough. Yitzchok represented gevura, self-control for the will of G-d, and that was not enough. Yaakov was the "purehearted man who learned Torah," and that was not enough.

G-d listened to the prayer of Rachel because she was the combination of CHESED [ACTIVE LOVINGKINDNESS] TOGETHER WITH RACHAMIM [COMPASSION, MERCY]. Rachel was coming from a place of caring and feeling for another person, with active and connected recognition for the other person. That is positive, that is higher, that is spiritual power. Rachel was doing an act with compassion, mercy and pity for another person's feelings, pain, trouble and situation.

She innovated the combining of chesed and rachamim. She took kind action with sensitivity and with emotional connection, sharing the anguish. She "tuned in" to the recipient of her chesed, she was fully involved. It was the absence of this that brought exile and it is the practice of this that is the hope for redemption from exile - getting beyond "coasting." We are asking Hashem to give us chesed and rachamim, to "tune in" to our tsoris (troubles) and needs and save us. When she prayed to Hashem for chesed and rachamim, she was the only one who had demonstrated that she practiced chesed together with rachamim, so she was the one who merited to be granted what she asked for: Jewish redemption. This is a call to all Jews to go beyond themselves, to forgive and unify, to practice love and peace, to bestow kindness together with heartfelt compassion, and to influence others to do likewise and to have those "others" influence even more people. If we go beyond ourselves with chesed together with rachamim for others, we can ask Hashem to go beyond Himself (i.e. beyond strict or stern justice or merit) for us with chesed and rachamim, bringing salvation and redemption.

The midrash tells us that when Lavan switched his daughter Leah for his other daughter Rachel (to marry Yaakov), Rachel gave her sister Leah the signals by which Yakov would know to go forward with the wedding. Lavan was known to be a swindler. Rachel's reason for giving the signals to her sister was deep compassion (not participation in the deceit). Leah wore a veil over her face at the wedding. Rachel had enormous sensitive feeling for the pain, heartbreak and humiliation that Leah would have suffered in public had Leah's identity been disclosed. Rachel prevented the revealing of Lavan's deceptive scheme to marry Leah to Yaakov, even though Yakov was promised to Rachel.

Rachel was sacrificing her own marriage. Rachel was exhibiting the combination of chesed (active kindness) in conjunction with rachamim (compassionate feeling, mercy).

The midrash cited above (brought by Rashi to Yermia 31:14) states that it is in the merit of Rachel's practicing chesed in combination with rachamim for Leah that the redemption of the Jewish people from exile will happen. Note, it is because of the application of deep, human feeling together with Rachel's act of lovingkindness (a mechanical, technical act is not enough for G-d) that redemption will come.

Look at how powerful treating a person with feeling, kindness and extension of self is! It is not enough to refrain from hurting people. It is also not enough to actively chase opportunities to do kind, beneficent and respectful things for people. G-d's standards require developing sensitive feeling for the other person so as to give our inner selves, our heart, our feeling and our humanity within the act of giving.

The combination of chesed together with rachamim has power to achieve salvation. This stands to reason because of the principle of "mida kinegged mida (measure for measure)." Salvation requires G-d giving your fellow Jew chesed together with rachamim.

Sifri (Devarim 13) tells us, "All who have rachamim (mercy, compassion) on Jews, Heaven has rachamim on him. All who do not have rachamim on Jews, Heaven does not have mercy on him."

A Jew must have sensitivity and feel another's suffering and situation as if it is his own.

The Talmud (Sota 11a) tells us that Paro met with three advisors; Billam, Joeb and Yisro; to decide how to treat the growing Jewish people. Each was treated mida kineged mida (measure for measure) to pay each in kind.

Billam advised Paro to harshly enslave the Jews. In a subsequent war between Midyan and the Jews, Billam was brought by Providence to the place of battle, where the Jews killed Billam. Joeb didn't say anything and was, later, punished by painful suffering. Yisro would have no part of the scheme to abuse the Jewish people. He fled and was rewarded by having descendants of his on Sanhedrin (the great rabbinical court). His daughter married Moshe Rabainu.

A glaring question confronts us. Why was Joeb caused tremendous suffering for remaining quiet. His entire family died, his house burned down and his possessions were all robbed - all at one time. It was crushing. His friends couldn't console him.

Yisro was rewarded for running away - even though he didn't say anything. But, at least his separation from the evil showed that he protested it. He had no power over Paro so Yisro did what he could. He was rewarded for doing what he could. He felt the moral rectitude of having nothing to do with Paro and of separating from Paro's plot. He felt for the suffering that the plot would inflict on the Jewish people.

Joeb was concerned for himself. He didn't want to provoke, offend or alienate Paro. He didn't want to get himself into trouble. The Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, said that Joeb figured that speaking would not have prevailed on Paro. But he could have at least protested like Yisro did by fleeing. Why didn't he? Because he had no feeling for B'nei Yisroel. When something hurts a person, he screams. If he is silent, then he feels no pain. Joeb had to be taught what pain feels like and how to scream. Since he didn't feel the suffering of the Jews, he had to feel his own.

A Jew must feel another person's pain or situation as if it is his own or that of a loved one. In the merit of that, Hashem gives the combination of CHESED TOGETHER WITH RACHAMIM for us when we need it, when we need to be helped or saved.

Learn to recognize a mitzva that someone else doesn't take. The need doesn't go away just because someone else vetoed or rejected the mitzva. Feel and understand the person's suffering and situation.

Rabbi Chayim of Brisk was a paragon of chesed and he had an open house. He considered his property to be the property of Hashem. At any time, any number of people could be found eating or sleeping over, freely coming in and out as if the home were theirs. Many stories give particular insight to what a master of lovingkindness he was, for example the following.

A young woman in Reb Chayim's area was in love with a local man and wanted desperately to marry him. He took advantage of her, falsely promising he would marry her. After she had been abandoned, she turned out to be pregnant. She had no relatives to turn to, no way of earning a livelihood and was disgraced to the point of agony.

She knocked on Reb Chayim's door. The rebitzen answered the door and asked her what was wrong. The girl asked to speak with the Rav. The rebitzen, figuring that she might be able to help, explained that the Rav was not in but she offered to hear the young woman's problem to see if there was anything that she could do. The young woman, crying heavily, explained to the rebitzen what happened and that she was desperate and in serious need of help. The rebitzen became furious at her, called her harlot and told her harshly to get lost.

When Reb Chayim came home, he saw his wife muttering about something which evidently had the rebitzen annoyed. He asked her what it was and she explained how this lowly woman came to the door and had the nerve to expect them to get involved.

The rov became upset with her. "You mean she was crying, alone and in desperate trouble and you threw her out? It is forbidden to be cruel like that to any Jew. Go all over town, do whatever you have to do to find that girl and apologize to her with all your heart and bring her back to this house now."

The wife found the young woman in town and promptly brought her back to the house as her husband said to. The rov kindheartedly brought the woman into his household throughout the pregnancy and kept mother and baby in his house until the child was two years old.

The wood for Rabbi Chayim of Brisk was supplied by the community. Once, the treasurers determined that the expense was too great. A brief investigation showed that poor people in the town were taking freely from the unlocked timber supply in the rabbi's yard. The wood was immediately locked up, but when Rabbi Chayim heard, he ordered that it be reopened, saying that he could not enjoy warmth when his brothers froze in cold homes.

Learn to recognize needs when they present themselves. This opens up numerous, enormous opportunities for dignified and meaningful chesed.

Sensitivity to people keeps your soul safe.

A rabbi and his wife came to see the Chafetz Chaim. The wife complained to the sage that her husband's kind nature enabled people to take advantage of him.

The Chafetz Chaim said that it is true that one who is always good to other people can come to suffer. But, if one is insensitive to others, they would suffer because of him. In the long run, when a person's good deeds are weighed and his bad deeds are weighed, it will turn out that it is better to have suffered as a result of doing good for other people rather than for others to have suffered because of him.



King Solomon say (Mishlay/Proverbs 21:21), "Chase charity and kindness." We are not to wait until opportunities for charity or kindness present themselves. The Jew has to actively look and make generous and kind deeds happen. The level of thought and sensitivity that you put into the way in which you deal with another person can have significant impact on that person - and on the level of merit of your mitzvos! Rabainu Bachya wrote that one's eternal reward for a mitzva is determined ENTIRELY by the quality of the internal intentions and feelings that one does it with. With this in mind, let us study putting thought into sensitivity and kindness to learn how to optimize our interpersonal goodness. Let us start by learning from the teachers of Torah tradition, Chazal, the sages of Talmud and Midrash.


Rabbi Yonah said, "The verse does not say, 'Happy is he that GIVES to the poor.' The verse says, 'Happy is he WHOSE MIND CONSIDERS the poor (Psalm 41:1).' This tells us to consider caringly, thoughtfully how to benefit the needy." When Rabbi Yonah heard that a wealthy man lost his fortune and was ashamed to ask for money, Rabbi Yonah went to him and said, "I have inherited a fortune from a relative overseas. Take this valuable article and pay me back when you are in better circumstances." When the man took the article, Rabbi Yonah said, "It is now yours as a gift and you owe me nothing (Vayikra Raba)."

The gemora (Tamid 32b) says, "Who is wise? The one who foresees the long-run outcome [of decisions and behaviors]." In practical relating, especially when pressured, we might do or say things that have "bad side effects" or cause another detriment. We must be wise and think into our actions IN ADVANCE more deeply so as to have only good, moral and constructive effects.

After Avraham's binding of Yitzchok, Avraham sent a messenger to Sara to explain why they left suddenly for several days. The messenger said, "G-d told Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchok, it turned out to be only a test of Avraham's loyalty, so Yitzchok is fine." However, when Sara heard that G-d told Avraham to kill Yitzchok, she went into immediate, total shock. She never heard that her son was fine. This is how Sara died and why the story (in the Torah) of Sara's death follows right after the story of the binding of Yitzchok.

We learn from this - in the domain of the thought and sensitivity of the messenger's communication - to FIRST say that a thing worked out just fine; when an element of a statement is frightening, negative or disastrous. By not having thought and sensitivity, the messenger basically killed Sara.

In contrast, when the two sons of Rebbe Mayer and Bruria died at one time, she considerately broke the news to him in a gradual and considerate way. So wise and kind was her conduct with her husband that the story was incorporated into our Oral Torah (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni to "Aishes Chayil/Wife Of Valor" in Mishlai/Proverbs 31:10) for us to learn from.

On shabos afternoon Rebbe Mayer was learning in the bais ha'medrash. At that time his two sons died. His wife put them in a bed in a bedroom and covered them with a blanket. When he came home, he asked "Where are my sons?" She said they were learning. He went to find them and did not find them. By then shabos had ended and he came home to make havdalah. After he made havdalah, then she gave him a meal. He asked again, "Where are my sons?" She said to him, "Rebbe, I have a question to ask." He said, "Ask, my sweatheart." "Earlier, someone left a deposit with me. It is time to give it back. Should I give it back or not?" "He replied, "There is no option but to give it back." She took him gently by the hand, led him into the bedroom, brought him close to the bed and pulled back the covers. He started to cried and then said, "My rebbes, my sons" (he was particularly distressed because they had become such scholars that these two young men already taught him, their father, Torah). She said to him, "Did you not say that when one is entrusted with a deposit and the time comes to give it back that the only thing to do is to give it back?" With this, she comforted him and soothed his mind.

This midrash shows us that Bruria was sensitive not to hurt her husband. She waited till after shabos ended, till after he made havdala, till after he ate, and then she set Rebbe Mayer up for being immediately comforted, for being settled inside himself and for having perspective in a situation in which he would predictably be overtaken with grief. The midrash gives this as an example of a "Wife of Valor." Consider that this is especially profound because the two young men who died were HER sons also! Even under these emotional and sorrowful circumstances, she had the presence of mind, the thought and sensitivity to protect her husband from the pain of losing two beloved sons at one time. Consider also that the entire midrash only refers to her as "the wife of Rebbe Mayer," not by her name (we know her name from other Chazals which record stories about her). This indicates to us how fully and devotedly she gave herself over to protect her husband's feelings upon the loss at one time of his two beloved sons.

The Jew must never shame another or hurt another's feelings (especially in front of others) and should only make other people feel honored and happy. When Hillel, President of Jewry, heard that a rich man lost his money, Hillel gave the poor man a horse to ride on and a servant to run in front of him, to make him feel rich again and restore his happiness. One day, the servant did not show up and Hillel himself ran in front of the poor man (Kesubos 67b).

Pirkei Avos 1:15 says to receive everyone with a "saiver ponim yafos (cheerful countenance)." Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch says this means that our conduct with and approach to each person should be so genuinely friendly that they will be convinced we are kindly disposed towards them and ready to do all the good that is reasonably possible to do for them.

The mitzva to bring in, honor and satisfy guests applies to guests of every status. But the mitzva is more significant for those who are poor and troubled. The more needy the recipient is, the bigger the mitzva when we give kindness to him. Sincerely welcoming such guests and treating them with every consideration is the most virtuous practice of hospitality. Chazal [Yerushalmi Shekalim 5] tell us how a blind man once came to the house of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Yaakov. The rabbi seated his guest at the head of the table and he himself sat lower down. The other guests concluded that the blind visitor was an important person and, being so honored by Rabbi Eliezer, the others honored him extensively too. They gave him gifts and promised to give him money with which to live. The blind man asked, "Why do you honor me so much?" The other guests were surprised by this question and answered. "If Rabbi Eliezer Ben Yaakov sits lower than you at the table, should we not honor you?" On hearing this, the blind man was touched and blessed Rabbi Eliezer. "You have done an act of kindness to one who is seen but does not see. May you be blessed by Him Who sees but is not seen."

As Eliezer arrived from the desert at the well at the outskirts of the town, G-d arranged the time and events so that Rivka was just coming out at the same time to obtain water from the town well for her family.

When Rivka came out to the well, the midrash teaches (Sefer Agados Yisroel), there were more events that took place than the written Torah records. All events center around Rivka's practice of enormous chesed together with rachamim. This was just before she was matched to her soulmate.

Upon coming out to the well, she saw a little boy crying and she compassionately asked him what was wrong. He had a cut and a badly bleeding foot. She helped the boy, bandaging the cut foot and soothing the boy's fears. She encouraged him and told him sweetly that he was going to be just fine.

Before she could get back to the well, she noticed a worried and confused old lady. Rivka asked the old lady why she was so dismayed. The old lady explained that she was lost and forgot her way home. Rivka took her softly by the hand, assured the old lady that Rivka would get her safely home. Rivka walked her into the town and found the lady's home.

Rivka returned to the well at the outskirts of town and she, again, did not go back to the well for the water which she originally came out to get. A fatigued old man was sighing, standing in place on the edge of the desert. Rivka, with the same kindness, courtesy and patience that she exhibited all along, came over to the old man to compassionately inquire what his trouble was. He said that he needed to rest but there was nowhere to rest and he was too weary to go to the town to get to where he could find something to rest upon. Rivka looked around. Seeking here and there, she found and brought a chunk of wood bark on which the old man was able to sit.

She had just performed three noble acts which embodied chesed together with rachamim. She still had not yet gotten a chance to get her own family's water from the well...the purpose for which she came out.

G-d brought Eliezer from Israel to Padan Aram with "kefitzas haderech (miraculous rapidity - it took one day to make a trip that, through normal nature, without miraculous intervention, would take 16 days). G-d arranged the timing so that Eliezer would arrive just when Rivka first came out for water. He witnessed, and marvelled at, these three consecutive and extraordinary maasim tovim (good deeds) and said to himself, "What a kind, compassionate, merciful girl this is."

After these three superlative and sensitive kindnesses, Rivka noticed Eliezer and his just-arrived-from out-of-town caravan at the edge of the desert. Still not having obtained water for herself, she came over to Eliezer - who looked like a servant - and offered to give water to Eliezer and his entire entourage. Eliezer saw that she had just come out and that she had never yet obtained water for herself. She was carrying a water bucket that made it clear that she came out for her own water. Eliezer had ten camels in his caravan. It is important to remember that when a camel drinks, he fills up by drinking plenty. The camel doesn't only drink for present thirst. He puts a large amount of water into storage!

Eliezer asked water of Rivka only for himself. She offered water at first to Eliezer alone, saying, "Drink, my lord," showing that Rivka had tact and respect. After Eliezer was fully satisfied, she had offered to get water for his entire caravan. After Eliezer drank, she didn't throw out the rest of the bucket water in a wasteful manner. She didn't run home after Eliezer drank. She used the water purposefully. She had the intelligence to give drink to the human being first and then to the camels, so that the water would be palatable (Rabbi Yosef Dov MiBrisk). In her offering water to Eliezer, there was no proof that she was good-hearted. She may have been afraid or respectful since he was bigger than she. When she offered of her own volition to get water for the entire caravan, this was proof that Rivka was genuinely good-hearted (Shir Mi'one).

"And when she finished giving him to drink, she said, 'I will draw water for your camels until they have finished to drink' (Genesis 24:19)." In his brilliant commentary to the Torah, Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch writes that she did not immediately disclose her intention to bring water for all of the camels. She did not want to be conceited nor to boast.

Further, by waiting until he finished drinking, she presented the chesed so that Eliezer would feel no inhibition about receiving it and so that he would have no opportunity to tell her not to bother.

Rivka's kindness and hospitality were signs that she was a match for the family of the kind and hospitable Avraham. She fulfilled the mishnaic imperative of "say little and do much (Pirkei Avos, chapter one)." This matches the way Avraham treated his guests: he asked them to stay and partake of a morsel of bread. After they agreed to stay for something small, Avraham fetched them a complete multi-course dinner.

She drew water, running and carrying heavy buckets, in a polite and friendly fashion, making trip after trip, zealously and willingly transporting dozens of gallons of water. A mitzva is the will of G-d and doing it with effort, with concern in the heart and with attention to detail is precious to G-d, and Rivka gave "her all" with dedication (Kedushas Levi). Appreciate too that she was a young girl. Nevertheless she moved swiftly. The zealous are rapid to do mitzvos (Pesachim 4a).

Eliezer knew from the three kind, compassionate and sensitive deeds that she had done for others, and her magnanimous offer to serve his entire entourage with all the water they might have - all before she took a drop of the water that she came to obtain for herself - that this beautiful, wise and virtuous neshama was the one to marry Yitzchok.

In the time of the flood, Hashem killed mankind (except Noach's family) because it committed "CHOMOS," which is explained to mean petty theft. If, for example, a man had a rice business, people would each steal one grain of rice knowing that TECHNICALLY THERE COULD BE NO PROSECUTION. Everyone would steal such little amounts that victims could not claim theft nor sue each other; but they stole so much so that they put each other out of business. When all mankind became so cleverly malicious, it was EVIL ENOUGH TO DESTROY THE WORLD. G-d is not satisfied that you be "non-suable." Technicality is not enough, in Hashem's eyes. He wants you to actively be good, proper and honorable in all you do. The gemora (Shabos 31a) tells us that refraining from damaging people and their property brings salvation from punishment and calamity. Avos 1:18 tells us that truth, justice and peace maintain the world. Tehillim 89:3 tells us, "Chesed (active lovingkindness) will build the world."

After the flood, Noach brought a sweet smelling sacrifice. G-d was pleased, and He promised to never again destroy mankind. The gemora (Eruvin 65b) points out that G-d did not need a human's sacrifice. G-D ALLOWED HIMSELF TO BE CONVINCED TO BE FORGIVING AND COMPASSIONATE, TO OVERLOOK HUMAN SHORTCOMING. We must be like G-d; being easily convinced to look away, forgive and compassionately forgetting about another person's shortcomings and errors.

The gemora (Kesuvos 17a) says, "Always be sweet with people." The word "always" means that one is obligated to be sweet, even at times of trial and frustration, even with unpleasant people and even when you must force yourself. Chazal mean "always."

The midrash says, "END EVERYTHING YOU DO ON A GOOD NOTE." When this and the other above principles are always applied to all people in your life in general, you will make yourself a nicer and happier person; and when steadily applied to your marriage in particular, you will make it nicer and happier.



Rambam writes (Hilchos Dayos 6:3), "It is a commandment, incumbent upon every Jew, to love every single Jew as he loves himself...each must speak in praise of others, and have concern about the property or money of others, just as he has concern about his own property or money and wants honor for himself. One who takes honor by humiliation of another Jew has no portion in the world to come."

The distinguished Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov used to put on peasant's clothes every night so that he would not be recognized. He chopped firewood and carried it to poor, disabled old ladies, made a fire for them and cooked hot food.

A guest came to eat at Rov Chayim of Brisk's table and clumsily spilled wine, which badly stained the tablecloth. Reb Chayim promptly tilted the table and said, "The leg of this table is broken. One simply can't avoid constant spilling." This way, the guest's feelings were not hurt and his dignity was undiminished.

Even a guest can do enormous and discreet kindness. Rabbi Avigdor Halberstam, a saintly chasidic Jew in the 1800's, was a shabos guest staying with a rich family whose food was cooked by a maid. She was a poor orphan. He was told to take a portion of "chulent" first. It tasted awfully - the maid had spilled kerosine into it instead of vinegar. He kept on eating and eating the chulent, taking spoonful after spoonful, to the amazement of everyone at the table. He left none. He was willing to be thought of as odd, or risk getting sick, rather than have the maid humiliated or fired (Sipurai Chasidim).

Once a great rabbi was the shabos guest of Rabbi Chayim of Brisk. During shabos afternoon, the two were speaking Torah together in Rabbi Chayim's study. A congregant knocked on the door and said he had a shaalo [Torah law question] for Reb Chayim. Reb Chayim told him to proceed with the question.

The townsman said that there was a sick person with such and such a condition which required a certain malacha [violation of shabos]. Could he do the malacha [forbidden act] for this sick person? Rabbi Chayim said to do the malacha.

After the man left, the other rabbi turned to Reb Chayim and said, "I see that you are lenient in the laws of shabos." Reb Chayim replied, "No. I am stringent in the laws of 'pikuach nefesh [saving endangered life].'"

Rabbi Abush of Frankfort found out that a very sick man's family went to the synagogue for the services on the eve of Yom Kippur. He went to the house and found no one there to care for the patient, since they all went to shul. He stayed there to provide comfort to the invalid and to serve him his medicines, remaining at the sick man's side until the family returned home. Only then, did he pray the Yom Kippur service.

Rabbi Shnayur Kotler, late Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood, was taken by a driver to a wedding. Due to his extremely busy and tight schedule, as dean of the extremely important learning institution, he only had enough time to run in to say "Mazal Tov" to his friend who was marrying off a child. He told the driver to wait and that he would be out in just a couple of minutes. He was generally precise in keeping to his word. In uncharacteristic form, Rabbi Kotler did not return at the time he said he would. The driver was concerned.

The Rosh Yeshiva returned to the car ten minutes late, which was a major delay - and curiosity. He apologized for being late and explained to the driver that there had been a false and malicious rumor that the rosh yeshiva was in a fight with a certain man. That man was at this chasuna! Rabbi Kotler made a point to publicly spend ten minutes having a friendly chat with this man to prove that there was no antagonism between them and to dispel any rumor and gossip.

Before Passover one year, a man came to Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Bais HaLevi). The man asked the rabbi, "Can one fulfill the obligation of the four cups at the Seder with milk instead of wine?"

The rabbi replied, "No" and then handed the man a sizable amount of money. Afterwards, the rabbi was asked by an onlooker why he gave the man such a large amount, since it appeared that the person only needed enough money for some wine. The reply was, "Since he was ready to drink milk at the seder, I understood that he not only had too little money for wine for the seder; he also lacks meat. I therefore gave him enough money for wine and meat."

Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, father of the "Mussar Movement," lived in the mid 1800's. He once was a guest of a family that lived in a house which was located on the top of a hill. When it came time to eat, the family and eminent guest washed. Torah law requires washing the hands before eating bread. It is typical to pour the water over the entire length of the fingers. Reb Yisroel poured the water over only the tips of his fingers. The family asked him why he poured water only over the very ends of his fingers. He said that the maid carries water from the town well on her back in two heavy buckets that are on a pole. Every time water is running low, she has to go to the well and carry the heavy load of water up the hill to the house. How could he cause her to have to carry the water any more than the least possible amount necessary? He used the least amount of water necessary to satisfy the law, out of consideration for the maid.

The holiday of Passover has many mitzvos and they come with many strict laws. One year when the holiday was approaching, his students asked Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, "What should we be careful about in the observance of Passover?" The saintly rabbi answered that the workers at the matzo bakery are elderly widows. He told his students not to do anything that might hurt the feelings of these old ladies when the students go to the matzo factory - the students should practice consideration and good midos.

Rabbi Zundel of Salant used to get up every night at midnight to study. On snowy winter days, he would use these late night hours to clean away the snow that was on the path to the shul so that his neighbors could come to shul in the morning without obstacle.

A young kollel man, who had a daily learning schedule in B'nei Brak asked the following question of the Chazone Ish. He had the opportunity to "red a shidduch (discuss a match between a man and woman)," a big mitzva, in Yerushalayim. The way circumstances had fallen, the young man would have to spend a shabos in Yerushalayim and stay overnight, to discuss the marriage match on Sunday morning. The problem was that he had Torah learning on Sunday in the B'nei Brak kollel, and one should not miss Torah learning.

The Chazone Ish answered that he should be in Yerushalayim Sunday to propose the shidduch. This is a great chesed (act of lovingkindness). The young man would lose nothing for his doing the mitzva. When one does chesed, it enlarges one's mind. When he would get back to his learning in B'nei Brak, he would accomplish more with his time.

When Rov Shimon Schwab was elderly, he was homebound and in a wheelchair. He once asked a visiter what was going on in the outside world. The visiter proudly announced that "the NEWEST CHUMRA" was YOSHON. Rabbi Schwab asked, "What about the OLD BASICS, like DERECH ERETZ?"



Feivel was single and living alone. At one time he had a good job, but he came upon very hard times. He lost his job and was out of work for a lengthy period. Nothing worked out. He had been friendly for several years with his neighbor, Rabbi Feinberg, who found out that Feivel had come upon very hard times. Feivel was not the type of fellow who like to be a taker or a shnorrer (mooch). So the Feinberg family hit upon a strategy to help Feivel in a way that would be nice, thoughtful and effective.

"Feivel, my wife shops without making very precise measure of what the house needs. More often than not, we have far too much. You would be doing US a big chesed if you would come over to us for dinner. We always have so much. It's a shame to waste. The children love your company." One day led to another. Every time, members of the family told Feivel that he is doing them a favor and they loved having him. "There's so much, we can't eat it all." They invited him for supper several days a week on a steady scheduled basis. If on any occasion he couldn't come, he had to call the Feinbergs. If he wouldn't call, Feivel's visit was normal and expected on several specific evenings a week. They often sent him home with leftovers, groceries, fruit and bread. They always told him, with utmost sincerity, "It would go to waste anyway. You're doing us a big chesed. Please take it as a favor to us." Feivel always felt comfortable and welcome, and the entire Feinberg family was always uniformly kind, cheerful and considerate.

I witnessed the following myself in one of the shuls in which I doven. One of the individuals who prays in the shul is very impoverished, so much so that he wore torn pants. He would come day in and day out. He would pray, go about his business and not bother or burden anyone. One day, a chassidic man went over to this fellow and asked, "I need such a type of pants for my work. How much does a pair like this cost?"

The poor individual answered, "It's been 10 or 12 years since I bought these. If I recall, back then it was between 20 and 30 dollars." The poor individual was of the impression that he was doing the chassid a kindness by providing sought-after information.

The next day, the chassid came to shul and I saw him walk over to the poor fellow, smile lovingly, and place a twenty and a ten dollar bill into his hand. The chassid had essentially bought the fellow a new pair of pants of the kind that the fellow would - in his own taste - like. It was kavod together with chesed.

Then, as the tactful chassid was starting to back away, the poor fellow, who evidently knew how to learn, said with a smile, "When you told me yesterday that you want to know the price of the pants for work, you obviously meant for 'avodas hakodesh [holy work]!'" They both smiled warmly. It was a beautiful mitzva.

One organization that delivers Shabos food to poor families leaves packages on the doorstep. The deliverer rings the bell and runs away, to not embarrass recipients.

One lady secretly mailed unidentified money orders to a list of poor people (who she knew of from her shul) every month, payable to each recipient by name. When she passed away, there were a lengthy list of names and addresses and a tall stack of these stamped envelopes (filled with money orders) piled high on her desk, ready for that month's despatch. Only with the discovery of this long address list and the tall stack of envelopes, was her personal and tactful kindness project discovered. Every time the identity of a poor or troubled person came to her attention, she added that person to her list. Over the years, she accumulated a very large list. To the world, she was just a quiet old widow who kept to herself and went to shul.

About a century ago in Europe, a wealthy Jewish man owned a huge palatial home which had a plush white carpet. As one who loved mitzvos, he invited guests to generously bestow hospitality upon them.

One time, a poor man came to the door. He was disheveled and filthy. Nevertheless the kind, wealthy man invited him in to eat.

The host had not noticed that guest's boots were filthy. The guest trampled on the clean white carpet, leaving a trail of muddy footprints. What did the good-hearted host do? He ordered that the carpet be immediately pulled up and discarded, so that if ever a poor or dirty guest came for hospitality, the guest would never come to be hurt or shamed for damaging the carpet.

Nachman and his wife were hospitable and frequently had guests. His entire family was gracious, warm and sweet in the treatment of their guests. They always sought to make their guests feel happy, important and close to the family. He would tell guests that they are such good friends, they add so much to his meal, they should come again, and the like. But Nachman was not content to only have guests himself or to limit his kindness to his own capabilities. He understood King Solomon's words (Proverbs 21:21), "Chase charity and kindness."

Many of Nachman's guests were single. When a new guest came to his home, Nachman got to know the person somewhat and he got a sense of the person as an individual. At Nachman's shul, there was a large "oilam (congregation)." Nachman would tell fellow mispallellim (congregants) to actively phone single guests and invite them for shabos. He would choose people who he felt the single would get along nicely with. He would give them the single person's name and phone number. They would introduce themselves, say they were referred by Nachman and invite the single for a shabos meal. This way, lonely single people would start receiving a string of phone calls from Nachman's friends and neighbors and develop a network of families in the area to go to for shabos and to get to know. Kindness isn't enough until you chase it.

To do anything well, one must learn from those who know how to do it well - and must practice! To learn good Torah conduct, it is essential to find good teachers and influences. Spend time with and get close to rabbis, rebbitzens, happily married couples and good-hearted baalai midos tovos (people with good character and personality traits). Ask questions (e.g. how they build trust or respect, how to handle differences or keep peace, how to please people and communicate). Get advice and encouragement from them. WATCH, ABSORB AND APPLY WHAT THEY DO!



"Guard and keep the commandments of the L-rd your G-d and His testimonies and his statutes that He commanded you. And you will do what is correct and good in the eyes of G-d in order that it be well for you... (Deuteronomy 6:17-18)." Hashem tells us that His Torah is designed to be beneficial. Keeping his Torah and all of its laws is for our benefit. But we may never take liberties to do what we please or interpret what we want.

The Torah Jew is obligated to live by halacha. The Chazone Ish said that the first test of whether a person is frum is whether he observes ALL of halacha. It is hoped that the reader will be made to think, from this section, in terms of applying halacha to every action which has impact upon another person, so that on each occasion he will do only what is "correct and good in the eyes of Hashem."

I will bring some representative cases, from various Torah sources, primarily Shulchan Oruch [Choshen Mishpot] and Halichos Olam [Kitzur Dinim Bain Odom Li'Chavairo]. I hope to bring awareness of halacha in the arena of interpersonal impact, and to get the reader thinking about replacing causing harm with asking shaalos in practical every day life. We proceed with the following sampling of halachos. Hopefully the reader will:

* become sensitive to all other people,

* learn and recognize what impact your actions have on others,

* remain calm, polite and friendly when a difference happens,

* learn that there are two sides to each story,

* understand that the other party has rights, needs, feelings,

* retain yiras Shomayim throughout the entire episode,

* be motivated to Torah areas of Torah that relate to interpersonal impact, consideration, harming and the like (Nezikin, Choshen Mishpot, Sefer Halichos Olam, seforim by the Chofetz Chayim and other Torah giants, etc.)

* seek a qualified rov for instruction for all disputes and

* resolve all differences peacefully through da'as Torah.

This way, Jews will only have shaalos and never, chass vishalom, fights.



All who are involved in fighting violate the Torah commandment, "Do not be like Korach and his group" [who made a dispute with Moshe Rabainu; Numbers, 17:5]. The one who fights with others is called "evil." Fighting is not merely a sin itself but it brings to many other sins. Swearing that one will take sides in a dispute is a false oath because he is swearing to violate a mitzva. If he disgraces a person on the opposite side, he has a serious sin, all the moreso if the victim is a Torah scholar and more than that if the victim is his main rabbi. One can lose his portion in the world to come for disgracing a Torah scholar. Fighting can cause the sins of hurting feelings, slanderous or damaging talk (loshon hora, motzee shame ra and rechiluss), harming another's health or property, hate, vengeance, grudge-bearing and anger.

One already engaged in a dispute must strive with all his might to get out of the quarrel, reject loshon hora about any disputants, accept any insults or embarrassment derived from quitting the fight and disobey his father who orders him to be in the dispute. Instead, one must do all that is possible to silence the fight and to bring peace. All suffering derived from separating from a quarrel cannot compare with suffering of gehenom for being in the quarrel.

To settle a fight and bring peace, one is obligated to impose on himself and do all that is within his ability, for example to travel or spend money. It is a sin to remain silent, whether the disputant is someone he loves or hates, whether he is a party to the fight or whether he is not a party to the fight. Even if your strivings to end the fight do not succeed immediately, perhaps your efforts will succeed at a future time or will cause people outside of the fight to refrain from entering the fight. Therefore, you should not hold back because you fear you will not succeed at ending the quarrel. A distinguished person and a common person have equal obligation to end a fight between any Jews. Moshe Rabainu tried to make peace with Doson and Abiram, two evil trouble-makers. To not strive to make peace is considered undoing fear of Heaven, which is very evil.

The above is said of people arguing over worldly interests such as money or glory. It is an obligation to fight against those who sin and pursue ways that are not good in the eyes of Hashem, but only after first doing all that is possible to pursue peace and bring sinners back in tshuva. If one does not do all that he possibly can to exert himself and stop the sin, he is punished for their sins. One must differentiate between arguing against a sinful path and being a "rodaif" against a person [one who pursues a person to harm him]." Hashem always favors one who is pursued by a rodaif even if a righteous person is a rodaif after a sinner. Hashem wants sin eradicated, but not sinners. He wants them to do tshuva and receive His blessings along with the righteous. It is only an argument for the sake of Heaven if:

* the parties love each other,

* there is no struggle of personalities,

* there is no quest for victory or conquest,

* there are never personal insults,

* the parties follow instruction of a great Torah authority with fear of Heaven, and

* they differ only on what the truth is regarding the halachic matter at hand, so that there is greatest service of Hashem.

If their fight is personal and there is hate, Soton is behind this fight; it is not for G-d nor Torah.



The Torah prohibits wrongful pricing for certain kinds of merchandise, whether overcharging by the seller or underpricing by the buyer. Rather, one must conduct business honestly. This applies to all forms of business, including renting, contractual deals and monetary exchange.

One may not be deceptive about product. For example, one may not put attractive fruit at the top of a barrel of spoiled fruit to make the batch look like it is all fresh or mix a few spoiled fruit in to the barrel to raise profit on the batch. One may not paint product that is worn and rusty and then sell it as new.

One may not cheat on weights or measures whether to a Jewish customer or non-Jew. Doing so is a very serious sin. You may not even keep in your possession a measuring tool (e.g. worn out scale) that is deficient because maybe it will come to accidentally be used and thereby cheat someone. Money obtained through dishonesty or sin is separated from the person (e.g. robbery, doctor bills or losing investments) or the person is separated from the money (i.e. premature death). There are many terms in the Torah for stealing, each with a slightly different meaning (e.g. genaiva, gezaila, oshek) to teach that Hashem hates stealing so much that every variety merits its own unique name. To become wealthy and keep that wealth, one must conduct business faithfully (bi'emunah). One must conduct business according to what is customary in that region. For example, if the custom is to give a little extra (more than the precise weight), one must not fail to give the extra. This applies even if the customer agrees to accept less (the precise amount he is charged for) because someone may see and learn to fail to give extra and then, in that location, he is stealing and G-d is very strict about any stealing.

You must always keep your word whether for yes or for no (i.e. whether you say you will do something or you will not do something). If you promise to buy or sell something and to transact at certain terms, you must keep the agreement even if a better deal comes your way before you finish consummating the transaction, whether with land or merchandise, whether from a Jew or non-Jew. If a price has not been agreed upon, it is permissible to retract. If an action has taken place (e.g. partial payment has been made or if the buyer made a mark on the item), and there has not yet been a formal transfer of ownership, if either retracts, he cannot be technically forced to complete the transaction but is cursed by Chazal to have punishments like the people of the time of the flood, the Tower of Bavel, Sedom and Egyptians who drowned in the sea; because he did not stand by his word. If terms were agreed upon without an action, and the buyer or seller goes back on his word, he is called "lacking in faith" and he is disparaged by Chazal. If you are an agent for another, you must act according to the terms. For example, if A gives money to an agent to buy land or merchandise, and if the agent uses his own money and buys the item for himself, he is called a swindler. If he used the owner's money and bought the item for himself, he is a thief who must return the item even though he took possession. The pious person is not satisfied to only keep his word, he will also do what he decided in his heart to do. For example, if someone said to himself, "I will sell this to him at this price," and the other person offers him a larger price, the righteous man will sell it at the lower price that he decided upon in his heart. In all things, one should keep the thoughts in his heart when the matter has any interpersonal characteristic that is for the good of another Jew and which is in his power to do.

Regarding himself, one does not have to do even that which one says verbally that he plans to do to benefit himself, unless the matter is somehow pertaining to a mitzva. Generally, it is a Torah prohibition to say one thing with the mouth and intend another thing with his heart.

If one gives property to a workman and the workman damages the object, or does something different from the assignment (e.g. a tailor dying a garment the wrong color), the workman is obligated for damages to the owner's property.

All debts or loans must be paid according to their terms, whether to pay any employees [steady employees, contractual workers, part-time or per-project workers, etc.], pay creditors from whom you have purchased, to pay back monetary loans or to return borrowed property. This applies regardless of the means through which you hold back, whether by force, deception or locking the property out of the owner's reach. Sefer Mitzvos HaGadol says that withholding the money or property of others violates the prohibition of machlokess [quarrels, disputes] as the Torah says, "Do not be like Korach and his group." If necessary, one should sell his property, even seforim and land, to pay his debts on time.

The Torah commands many mitzvos addressing various kinds of thievery: g'naiva (sneaky stealing), gezaila (forceful stealing in the open), oshek (holding back something that belongs to another person), not to hold back pay to a worker and to pay a worker on the day he is due to be paid. The midrash tells us that G-d made many mitzvos against stealing to show how much he hates it. The Chinuch says that the Torah could have said one mitzva, "Do not take anything of another's in a way not allowed by Torah law." Since there are many detailed mitzvos addressing the various specific types of stealing, we see that a person can, in one act, violate several commandments and be serious punished; and, by not stealing in any way, there is enormous reward given by G-d because we can fulfill more than one mitzva at a time.

If one wants to sell land or a house, a neighbor with adjoining property has precedence over someone else because it is much more value-adding to obtain adjacent property than non-adjacent property. If two people come with money, there are halachos of priorities for who can buy the house. Generally, precedence goes to the one who lives closer, or who is a closer relative or who is a closer friend or who is a greater Torah scholar (practical questions should be taken to a rov).



You may not dig near your land's boundary - even though you want to work on your own property - because your neighbor's land may collapse or underground water may cause water damage to your neighbor's property. The softer the ground, the further away you must distance your digging from your neighbor's boundary. If you ever sell land, you must offer it first to your neighbor because expanding his existing property is more value-adding than selling the same land to another person without connected land [we mentioned in the paragraph above that a neighbor has the highest level of priority for selling a house or land; here we specify the obligation to let him know when you want to sell]. You may not set a fire where heat can damage a neighbor or if an expectable wind could spread the fire to another's property and cause damage or danger. You can't make noise, foul odor (e.g. from having animals), nor cause dust or smoke nor do business in your home that brings the public, if this disturbs neighbors. You can't put up a wall that blocks a neighbor's view, or is too close to his window nor a window that lets you see into the window of your neighbor so as to violate privacy.

If a plank protrudes from your house into your neighbor's air space, or if a water pipe brings water from your house to your neighbor's property, he has the right to demand removal. You may not leave any object in a place that is not your property that can cause a person to slip, be cut or be otherwise damaged. You cannot spill water on public property nor leave a sheet of paper on a floor nor a bulky object below a person's line of vision on which a person can trip, fall and be hurt. You cannot leave a long object, such as a pole or "s'chach" from a sukka, protruding up from a garbage can on a sidewalk which can injure a passerby. You are also responsible for damages if you leave an object on your own property and give someone permission to enter your property and he gets damaged by it.

A person is always fully responsible for all damage, whether:

* you damage with intent or by accident,

* awake or asleep when you cause the damage,

* you are also damaged by the act that damages another or you only damage the other person,

* you damage by action or by passively neglecting to guard that which you are obligated to guard from damaging (e.g. fire, an animal, etc.),

* you did the entire act or another started the act and you completed it so it causes damage,

* the damage is done to a person or to his property,

* the damage is tangible (e.g. physical injury, damaging property) or intangible (e.g. hurting feelings or reputation, wasting someone's time or coming late to an appointment, aggravating or provoking a person, teaching apikursus [heresy], waking a person from sleep for a reason that matters less to the person than his sleep, etc.).

You may not even harm someone who asks you to harm him. Even when you have his permission to harm him, you never have the Torah's permission to harm him.

If two businesses are next to each other, they may not damage each other's work or product. For example, an animal stable, paint factory or bakery cannot be set up next to a winery because the odor or steam will destroy the wine; but if the other business was there first and operating his business first, the owner of the winery cannot complain.

If your neighbor has a bird house, you may not put a ladder within eight feet (two meters) so that rodents can not use it to climb up and kill or eat the young birds. The neighbor must put the bird house far enough away from your boundary so that birds will not be likely to fly over to your land and damage your field or garden. You must distance vines or trees away from your neighbor's boundary enough so that when you do the gardening work around each vine or tree, you will not violate your neighbor's boundary nor damage his property. If a neighbor's tree is on your property at all, you may cut down the part on your property. If one's tree or a beam reaches over public property, it can be cut away by the public enough so that a camel could pass under; and if they reach over a neighbor's roof, he may cut them off where they interfere with his needs over his roof. If a tree is on their boundary, both neighbors may take its fruit, even if the tree leans towards one side more than the other. If someone complains against a thing, and it is normal that people are unable to withstand that thing, this is considered a reasonable complaint. All specific complaints, questions or cases should be addressed to a qualified rov, known for expertise in the subject and for yiras Shomayim (fear of G-d).



If a Jew is in need, whether he is rich or poor; especially if he needs to be saved from any kind of collapse, danger or trouble; it is an obligation to give him an interest free loan (Exodus 22:24, Ahavas Chesed, Leviticus 19:15). It is a positive mitzva to supply the loan and it is a prohibitive mitzva not to withhold the loan, so refraining violates two commandments. The mitzva applies to men and women, to rich and poor according to the person's means.

If you give a loan when another is in trouble, G-d guarantees to hear your prayer when you are in need (Isaiah 58:9). If you cannot lend the entire amount needed, give what you can and help the person find other people who can provide the rest of his needs.

The person with money has been given the money by G-d to give chesed and rachamim (kindness and mercy) to G-d's children. The person with the need has been given the obligation to give ne'emanuss and acharayuss (honesty and responsibility) in paying back according to all the terms and applicable halachos (laws).

The mitzva of lending also applies to property. You may refrain from lending if you have halachic cause to believe the person will not return what is owed (e.g. will break or lose property, will steal money or property, is lying about his need) but you may not refrain from lending due to your stinginess or due to indifference to the person's feeling's or situation.

When one borrows property, one must return that actual property, in satisfactory condition and on time. However, when one borrows something that is normally used in a way that makes it impossible to give that precise item back (e.g. food or cash), you may pay back with replacement property (you do not have to give back the same dollar bill that you borrowed, you can give back a different dollar bill). A person should never say "lend me an egg, a cigarette, a quarter for a pay phone;" when you will not truly pay back.

You must guard the dignity and feelings of all who request or receive loans.

When you have money that you could earn interest on (e.g. lend on interest to a non-Jew or make an interest-bearing investment), and a Jew needs a loan, you are obligated to lend to the money to the Jew for no interest.

You might be excused from lending in certain cases but you must ask a rov a shaalo because the considerations are varied and complicated. You do not have to jeopardize your livelihood or expose yourself to negative risk or consequence to give a loan; for example, if you:

* are in the banking or mortgage business and lend with "hetter iska" (partnering contract), your business is not required to give interest-free loans, or

* have a store that sells merchandise for cash, and giving credit could harm you such as by reducing needed cash-flow or buying power, you are not compelled to give credit, or

* give charity or a loan, when you will no longer have enough money to support yourself or family, this can cause you to need to take charity or a loan, or

* have genuine opportunity to use the money for a very major profit, or

* have objective reason to believe that a recipient might not be willing or able to pay the loan back, or

* need to keep money invested to earn interest to have money needed for life expenses.

You may not lie to excuse yourself from giving the loan but you may say diplomatically, when true, that circumstances do not permit you to give the loan.

The Torah commands us to lend money to our fellow Jew at no interest. The laws for this mitzva are extremely strong. Yet, the wording of the mitzva to lend (Shmos/Exodus 22:24) literally says, "If you will lend money to My people...". The Torah uses the word "if," which is seemingly weak language for such a strong mitzva. Daas Zekainim, commenting on the verse, deals with why. The Torah is teaching us that there are some people towards whom lending is optional: people who borrow and do not pay back.

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetski, z'l, once gave an interesting ruling on a shaalo relating to the laws of lending. A yeshiva was in serious need of funds. The Rosh HaYeshiva was applying for a $5,000 loan at interest from a local bank. A man who knew the Rosh HaYeshiva wanted to save the yeshiva the interest and indignity of the bank loan. However, his money was invested at a very high rate of interest and lending the yeshiva $5,000 would have meant a significant sacrifice of earnings. The Rosh HaYeshiva was a man of unquestionable integrity and could be relied upon to fully keep his word and honor all obligations. The man asked a posek (rabbinic law authority) whether he should lend the yeshiva the $5,000 (saving the yeshiva from the bank loan, but with a big financial sacrifice for himself) or give an outright tzadaka donation to the yeshiva for the value of the bank interest (so, at least, the yeshiva would not lose the value of the interest, while the man would have a smaller financial sacrifice). The rabbi said that this was a very hard question and that he would take it to Reb Yaakov, one of the leading Torah scholars alive at the time, who the posek knew personally. Rabbi Kaminetzki said that the man should lend the money and that the reward in olam haba (the world to come) for the monetary sacrifice would be great [heard personally from the posek].

Primary considerations in deciding whether to lend and the amount to lend can vary according to:

* what you can afford,

* how pressing the need is in the potential borrower,

* the number of people needing to borrow from you,

* the halachic priority order for lending to various people,

* the integrity of any potential borrower and

* the duration of any loan.

The terms of the loan must be written so that there will be no confusion or quarrel; and there must be two kosher witnesses to validate the document, or one or more co-signer(s) or a deposit to guarantee the repayment.

In Torah law, all monetary matters (borrowing, stealing, cheating, paying debts, etc.) are serious. In the subject of loans, failure to repay a small amount (pruta) is just as sinful as failure to repay a large amount (may'ah). Repayment of a loan is not any less obligatory if the amount borrowed is small or if the borrower comes on hard times. If one dies owing another a pruta, he is not allowed to enter Gan Aiden. The lender is not allowed to ask the borrower for repayment if the borrower is destitute and has no property. However, the lender may ask the borrower for repayment if the borrower has money or has property that could be sold for money to repay with. As much as the lender is obligated to be considerate, the borrower is more obligated to be honorable.

For certain cases with a complex combination of positive and negative factors (e.g. an honest person with no financial prospects), the Chafetz Chaim suggests to tell the borrower, "This is a loan and you will pay it back when you can." You consider it tzadaka and "take it off maaser" (take it from the tzadaka money that you give) until the person pays back.

When you have a difficult shaalo and are considering whether to give any loan or not, 1. follow the teaching of the mishna (Pirkei Avos, chap. 2) which tells us to weigh the reward of a mitzva against its loss and 2. bring the shaalo to a rov.



There is a widening trend in contemporary frum society that is capable of being extremely damaging, in both worldly and spiritual terms. The harm can be severe, permanent, unrepairable and "life-impacting." PEOPLE GENERALLY DO NOT REALIZE THE DANGER TILL IT IS TOO LATE. As such, I am writing an eight part series to address the situation in cultural, physical/medical, halachic and moral terms; to make the public at-large aware; and to propose remedies.

As part of my research for these writings, I interviewed four otolaryngologists [Ear, Nose and Throat physicians], including one who is the head of the ear department at a Manhattan hospital, one who specializes only in ears, a frum doctor who knows how to learn Torah (and can apply the medical elements of this matter to Jewish society, culture and practice) and one who trains ear doctors and who himself is listed as being among the top physicians in the New York Metropolitan Area; a professor of audiology; four audiologists; a psychiatrist and psychologist who each specialize in the negative impact of ear-damage on personality, ability to function and quality of life; and eight rabonim; whose contributions to this work have been invaluable.

I must make special mention of Dr. Maurice H. Miller, audiology professor at New York University who also, for the New York City Department of Health, is both the Chief Audiologic consultant and the Chair of the Communicative Advisory Committee. Dr. Miller supplied me with copies of a dozen and a half professional journal articles and text-book chapters, furnishing much of the scientific and medical material brought in the section, "Taking Strong Steps Against Causing Damage." He also gave me numerous comments to make the manuscript more accurate, professional and substantive. I must also express special thanks to HoRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Tiferress Yerushalayim in New York City, and one of the leading halacha authorities of our generation, who, on a busy erev shabos, gave me guidance and da'as Torah on this subject. Both of these men gave of their time and expertise with kindness, patience and generosity. To both I owe special expressions of gratitude and recognition. I further owe appreciation to many members of the public who, in response to previously published articles on this subject, have sent supportive, kind and helpful communications about this subject.

I hear more and more people telling me that they can't understand - or take - the louder and louder so-called music at chasunas [weddings] or other simchas. This could include concerts, amplified speech at organizational dinners, public lectures or other functions as well. Amplification as loud as it has become in the frum community's events is DANGEROUS to the nerves and sensitive, delicate and fragile structures in people's ears. This can cause many seriously harmful effects, often with long-lasting or permanent and non-curable inner ear damage, including but not limited to, hearing loss, loud and constant ringing in the ears ("tinnitus," which comes from damaging sound-sensing hairs or nerve endings in the inner ear), dizziness (which comes from within the ear), pain felt constantly or upon hearing sounds. Add to this the CUMULATIVE EFFECTS of repeated attendance at simchas where dangerously loud music is played, pounding ears for several hours EACH TIME. By attending noisy affair after noisy affair, a person's delicate internal ear structures can be weakened. Even if noticeable damage is not yet done, damage may be coming gradually, or susceptibility to being seriously damaged increases EVERY TIME. If damage has been done, conditions can be made much worse EVERY TIME.

It is incomprehensible that the Torah community could sanction or tolerate this widespread destructively loud amplification. It can be so loud that if someone yells in your ear, you can hardly hear him. Tractate Bava Kama tells us that every Jew must be responsible for guarding against causing any damage, a person is always accountable if (s)he causes any damage ["odom muad le'olam"] and if a person wants to be religious (s)he must be expert in matters of not causing harm. Causing pain or deafness can be grounds for a case in bais din against the "mazik [causer of damage]."

A frum ear doctor I interviewed said to me he regularly has patients come in who have ringing in the ears, inner ear pain or hearing loss DUE TO HAVING BEEN TO A CHASUNA WHERE THE MUSIC WAS HORRIBLY LOUD. The doctor said that when he goes to a wedding, he wears ear plugs, only goes "once around" [the dancing circle] and then leaves. The music volume should be low enough to clearly hear another speak in a normal voice about ten feet [three meters] away. Otherwise, medically speaking, everyone should wear ear plugs, should stay for no more than one quick dance and should then rapidly get out of there. If you can, tell a host in a nice and non-insulting way, in advance (when you receive the invitation), that loud amplification is harmful and you can only come to his simcha if he is committed to limiting the amplification to a soft, non-dangerous level. It is not worth even a risk of a lifetime of inner ear damage, going from doctor to doctor, desperately spending thousands on medicines, suffering added impact from their side-effects, being required to wear ear plugs full time or under noisier circumstances, having elaborate uncomfortable treatments (e.g. M.R.I., audiology tests, blood tests, E.N.G. [electronic middle-ear balance testing], Auditory Brain Stem Response test, etc.) that generally don't help much or at all, and living a life of long-term or permanent suffering and heartache.

The Torah says, "Vi'nishmartem mi'od li'nafshosaychem [you will exceedingly guard your well-being," Deuteronomy 4:15]. It is the ONLY MITZVA IN THE TORAH which says to DO THE MITZVA "MI'OD," to do it exceedingly or very much. It doesn't say to keep the laws of shabos or kashruss or idolatry, or any other fundamental law of Torah, "mi'od." The Torah is extra strict that we be very careful to diligently guard all aspects of spiritual and physical health. Even for a doubtful risk of ONLY MAYBE HARMING EVEN ONE PERSON at a simcha, we must apply the halachic principle, "suffaik de'Oraisa lechumra [for a doubt in a matter from the Torah, we are to be stringent]." Since serious damage to people is becoming more and more widespread, and the magnitude and durability of the harm keeps getting worse, as volume at simchas gets louder and louder, this applies all the moreso.

There is an old joke about simchas, "If you want to insult someone, place him at the table next to the band." The updated version is, "If you want to DAMAGE someone, just plain invite him to a simcha." He can be anywhere in the hall. Nowadays, with room-filling, head-jolting amplification, it is no joke.

The one-man-bands and band leaders have a vested selfish interest in amplifying the music so much. Sometimes their ego or foolish "sense of art" is at stake. Some one-man-bands think they compensate with volume for not having a ten-man band. But, primarily the motive for noise is money. The young people are "poisoned" with the idea that "loud is laibedig [lively]." Youthful ears are more tolerant of the trauma of very loud noise volume. Young people will be making their own weddings and if they consider a musician or band "laibedig," the young attendees are more likely to remember and hire the loud-playing "noise source" [many are not even worthy of being called musicians]. Here, young people are controlling a sociological trend. Youth determining Jewish practice or culture is anti-Torah. It reminds me of the expression, "the inmates are running the asylum." But, let me present Torah sources to make the point.

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, z'l, said that the older a generation is, the more we honor them. The highest point in Jewish history was the stand at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. The older a generation is, the closer to Sinai they are, and the more deserving they are of kavod [kavod]. Our "culture" should only be determined by the oldest, not the youngest, those who are most mature and learned in Torah to an advanced level.

One who learns from the young is comparable to one who eats unripe grapes and drinks wine right from the press [these are sour, impure, undeveloped and hurt your insides]. One who learns from the mature is comparable to one who eats completely grown grapes and drinks old wine [these are developed, sweet, pure and beneficial; Pirkei Avos, chapter four, with meforshim].

The gemora [Megila 31:b] tells us "If mature people say to you, 'Destroy,' and youth say to you, 'Build,' destroy and do NOT build, because destroying by the mature is building." Young people will be certain that destructive behaviors are valid. But when immature people think they are building, they can be totally destructive. It is only by accepting, internalizing and acting according to the constructive wisdom and experience of mature and learned people that they will behave properly...and truly be able to build. Jewish practice is only determined in accordance with mesorah [Torah tradition]. Any new questions about what the Torah wants us to do, in each generation, can be determined only by our mature and learned Torah sages [Deuteronomy 17:8-11]. True building is not directed by the young who demand insane and destructively loud amplification. Let the mature people say, "Destroy loud music." This will be true building.

I strongly recommend that readers print these eight articles out, save them, utilize them and apply the information, and inform other people about this subject matter [note: the material is written and Copyright 2001 by Rabbi Jeff Forsythe]. When you receive any invitation, send copies of this series to the hosts, musicians, bands, caterers and fellow-guests to warn them about the serious dangers of loud amplification. Send copies to roshay yeshiva, mashgichim and other educators so that they train the youth to know that loudness is damaging and that we are not allowed to harm each other.



The amplification of music at weddings and other simchas is getting louder and louder. It is becoming a widespread "culture." The loudness can be dangerous. It can damage structures and nerves in ears and cause suffering and hearing loss which is usually irreversible and incurable.

In halacha [practical Torah law], we see that harming makes one liable for damages, whether 1) through actively doing things that can cause damage, or 2) by neglecting to guard against things that can cause damage when not safeguarded. It is a Torah obligation to guard against anything that could possibly cause any kind of harm to another person or his/her property. One found guilty by bais din for damage can be liable for up to five kinds of compensation of the victim (damage, pain, medical care, time off from work and/or humiliation).

The halacha specifies means of injuring which make one liable. If a means is used that is different from the one in the Shulchan Aruch [e.g. electric amplification of sound] which effectively causes the same kind of damage as the means specified in halacha [e.g. resultant hearing loss or ear pain], even actions not specified by the Shulchan Aruch can bring liability, BECAUSE OF THE DAMAGES CAUSED. This article is not poskining shaalos [making decisions in practical Torah law questions]. Bring questions of your particular case to a trained, qualified and experienced rov or dayan.

Let us look at some of the basic relevant halachos, in Choshen Mishpot, the portion of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Law] which has to do with damages, interpersonal obligations and bais din. Note that the halacha treats harming one's hearing somewhat like it does physically hitting and wounding him.

The Torah strictly prohibits hitting anyone. For certain crimes, the Torah requires and authorizes bais din to punish a proven criminal with lashes. There are rules which restrict how much bais din is to hit the guilty person for his crime. If the Torah is strict about bais din hitting a proven criminal, how much moreso is the Torah strict about plain people, who have no permission, hitting someone innocent! If one even raises a hand in anger without hitting, this person is called "evil." Even if the hit does not cause damage of consequence, the perpetrator is liable to lashes by bais din. One who hits is in "chairem [excommunication]" and cannot be included in a minyan [Choshen Mishpot 420:1]. If one wounds another, even in a manner other than hitting, such that a permanent loss, large or small, results to the victim's body, the perpetrator is obligated for damages [420:13]. If one shouts in a person's ear and makes him deaf, the perpetrator is exempt from the human bais din but is guilty in Heaven's bais din. If, instead of shouting, the perpetrator grabbed him by the ear or blasted an instrument into his ear or hit him in the ear and made him deaf, the perpetrator is obligated by bais din for all damages, which financially increase according to the victim's profession, because the higher his level of skill, the more the deafness makes him lose [420:25]. Ordinarily, if one person causes loss of a limb to another person, bais din evaluates reimbursement for the value of the limb. Ordinarily, if the victim loses time from work, he is reimbursed at the lowest level of wage in that society. However, when one makes another person deaf, bais din evaluates the value OF THE ENTIRE PERSON (not just loss of his ear) and his earnings loss is calculated at the victim's FULL EARNING LEVEL [Bava Kama 85b] because his ability to work is more completely damaged by deafness than by any other injury [Rashi].

For anything that can cause harm, pain or danger; it is obligatory to make excellent protections, to effectively safeguard and to be cautious. This fulfills the positive [to do] mitzva to protect against causing another harm, and the negative [to not do] mitzva to not spill blood [420:8].

If one's work does not contribute to the welfare of society, if a person will sin to earn his livelihood, if a person does not have derech eretz or if a person does not behave in correct ways, he can not be a valid witness (how much moreso if the person causes harm on a regular basis!). If a person is ignorant of Torah, he is presumed to behave in wrong ways and he cannot be a witness until he is proven to be trustworthy [34:16-17, Sanhedrin 24b]. Musicians who amplify music to a detrimental extent could be presumed to be ignorant and untrustworthy, presumed liable to behaving in ways the Torah considers to be wrong and could be invalid to testify in bais din. If they are ever taken to bais din for causing harm, they might not be eligible to testify in their own defense.

If one sees a Jew in danger and can save him, or can have others do something to save him, or knows of someone planning to do something harmful and he can convince him [the one who plans to cause harm] to refrain, he is obligated to do all he can [426:1]. If he does not act, he violates the Torah commandment, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" [Leviticus 19:16]. If one witnesses, or knows of, something which can harm a Jew, he must act, or at least protest, to do all he can to save the Jew from harm. All who violate any matters pertaining to harming, endangering, injuring or refraining from protecting or rescuing a Jew; and says, "I have my own problems and misfortunes, what do I care about others in regard to this?" or tries to excuse himself by saying "I am not strict regarding this, for things done against myself," bais din is obliged to give this selfish, indifferent person lashes. The one who is cautious in all of these things will receive wonderful blessings from Heaven [427:10]."

Young people say that they want loud music. Jewish practice follows the mature, not the young. There is an additional halachic objection since the young people want the loud music. Since the music is played at dangerously loud levels, with the willing endorsement and active advocacy of the young, their requesting such loud music is characterized by Choshen Mishpot 421:12. The Shulchan Aruch says there that if person A tells person B, "Injure me, destroy an organ, cut off my limb, and I absolve you from all accountability," the halacha is that PERSON B IS FULLY ACCOUNTABLE for any damaging. B has absolutely NO PERMISSION to harm A, even if A begged B to do it! This is because no person with a normal mind would want to be harmed. The halacha is saying that to want something damaging done to oneself means the person is OUT OF HIS/HER MIND. Going to loud and/or visceral music is harmful to body and soul, the musicians are mazikim [damagers] and attendees who stay, or who want loudness, are viewed by halacha to be out of their minds. Both young members of the audience and the performers machshol [cause sin in] one another; with the musicians' greed, ego and advantage-taking probably bearing the most fault. Everyone present who stays is vulnerable to danger. One of our generation's greatest Roshay Yeshiva sums this up by saying that one who causes harm to himself is mentally ill, one who causes harm to others is evil.

Even if any given case does not have a technical requirement for taking musicians to bais din, the fact that halacha addresses these things shows the seriousness, reality and evil of the situation. The musician is still guilty of "grama" [causing harm in a way that might not be prosecuted by human court, but is prosecuted by Heavenly court]. A sin that is liable to prosecution by Heaven can be punished very severely. Whether being injured merits a bais din case or not, the whole insane business is just not worth it. One of the four ear doctors I interviewed for this series said that inner ear structures are very delicate, sensitive and easily damaged. Another doctor said that IT DOES NOT TAKE MUCH EAR DAMAGE TO CAUSE VERY HARMFUL, PERMANENT CONSEQUENCES.

We glorify noise, which is ultimately empty and destructive; while we erase halacha, which is real, of enduring value and fundamental to Jewish life. We make extreme loudness into something fancy and put it on a pedestal; while we sweep away "seder nezikin" [the section of the Talmud about damages] and Choshen Mishpot [the section of the Shulchan Aruch about damages, bais din and interpersonal laws]. It is like what the gemora [Bava Basra 10b] calls an "upside down world." King Solomon tells us in various parts of Proverbs that charm is false, beauty is futile and arrogance comes before a downfall.

The gemora [Shabos 31a] says that salvation from trouble is directly related to the subject of preventing damages. Harmful interpersonal failing is what caused our lengthy exile [Yoma 9b]. A generation guilty of widespread damage keeps us in galus [exile] and blocks the coming of ge'ula and Moshiach [redemption and Messiah]. Let us be humble and G-d fearing and do what the Torah calls, "Yoshor vitov [correct and good] in the eyes of Hashem [Deuteronomy 6:18]." As the Chazone Ish said, "The first step to being considered a Torah Jew is FULFILLING ALL OF HALACHA." We shall look at more specific halachic matters in parts four and seven. Naturally, when you have a practical halacha question, TAKE IT AS A SHAALOH [Torah question] TO A QUALIFIED, KNOWLEDGEABLE ROV WHO HAS YIRAS SHOMAYIM [FEAR OF HEAVEN].



Jewish society seems to have put a premium on becoming a noisy society. For example, Boro Park is one of the largest and most vibrant communities in the "frum world" today. On the busiest Avenues (e.g. Thirteenth or New Utrecht), or near any intersection when there is the slightest traffic back-up, or as soon as the light changes to green, the car horns blow like it is going out of style. Drivers have heavy hands and no patience. They have no consideration for the trauma they cause to ears of passers-by. Beggars on the street play annoying portable cassettes, thinking that blaring loud Jewish music will make you be more sympathetic or generous. Cars with loudspeakers drive by, roaring recorded local news or commercial announcements. Upstairs neighbors put in wooden floors so those beneath hear every child's stomping footstep. People in shul shout over who will lead the davening, whether to say Tachanun or whether to close a window. Between all the cacophony, pain and risk of inner ear damage; you have to constantly cover your ears or wear ear plugs in contemporary frum society. This generation brings new meaning to the term "rodaif" [pursuer, assailant]. We repeatedly attack each other with noise.

The most dangerous manifestation of this "culture" is that at simchas these days, music is amplified so loudly that people's ears can be seriously and incurably damaged, in ways that they might not realize until it is too late. Musicians intentionally and systematically amplify the volume to be deafeningly loud.

Torah law tells us that everything we do must be for the sake of Heaven and be a means of knowing G-d. Every Jew must learn Torah as much of the time as he is able, particularly since learning leads to action. If he does not learn regularly every day, he will diminish wisdom and goodness, come to theft, do stupid things, cause damage and create countless sins. One must always judge in advance what will come out of his actions so that the only outcome is service of his Creator. One who conducts himself this way is constantly serving G-d [Orech Chayim 231:1, with Bayur Halacha].

Let me share relevant knowledge from four ear doctors and four audiologists. High amplification can cause various kinds of long-term or permanent inner ear damage. Common examples include hearing loss, dizziness, pain and tinnitus (annoying ringing, squealing or roaring sound in the ears).

Tinnitus is heard, usually as a high pitch noise, within the head. The condition is often constant but the noise can, in some cases, be intermittent or varying. The damaged inner ear sends sound signals to the brain, regardless of whether or not sound enters the ear. The noise can be loud enough to disturb sleep, concentration, work, conversing with or relating to people. Severe cases can be torture (imagine having a screaming fire-engine siren glued inside your head with no "off switch"). It can be loud enough to cause people to have anxiety attacks and it has even been severe and unbearable enough to drive people to suicide. Such people might have to be kept by a doctor on tranquilizers non-stop to save them.

A damaged inner ear can be very sensitive. This can cause terrible stinging pain that can be felt steadily or that can be caused from hearing normal every-day sounds, high pitch sounds and/or louder-volume sounds. Dizziness can be disabling. Its frequency of occurrence and severity also varies with each individual. A person might perceive the room to be spinning around, or see objects as spinning around one another. These may cause a terrible nauseous feeling in conjunction with the dizziness. The dizziness typically requires the person to sit or lie still. If they don't, they can fall down. Hearing loss can cause sound to be heard at lower than normal volume, can cause sound to be muffled or unclear and/or can cause loss of ability to hear certain sound frequencies.

One may have to change what they ingest because certain foods and substances (e.g. caffeine, aspirin and salt) can promote or worsen bad inner ear symptoms. Sufferers from inner ear damage may require medicines with side-effects, vitamin and mineral regimens and/or uncomfortable medical tests, which might not help their case significantly. The effects of treatment can vary from person to person. The nature, intensity and steadiness of symptoms can vary; depending on such factors as the severity, duration and frequency of the cause(s) of damage; the person's age and the sensitivity-level of the individual's inner ear(s). An illness (such as a virus, anxiety or high blood pressure) can make an ear condition and its symptoms more severe, painful or intense; possibly irreversibly. For example, 1. a virus can cause tinnitus to get louder and hearing to get worse in a damaged ear; 2. tinnitus can cause anxiety, and anxiety (which raises blood pressure) worsens tinnitus. If not medically treated, this can become an ever-worsening tinnitus - anxiety - more tinnitus - more anxiety "cycle." Besides worsening tinnitus, high blood pressure is an overall danger to health. Inner ear structures and nerves, when damaged, often do not heal nor regenerate. Ear damage can be "life impacting" and even possibly "a matter of life and death."

These conditions require treatment and follow up by highly experienced and expert ear specialists and, in some cases neurologists. Since these conditions can be very difficult to treat, a patient may have to go to many doctors to find one who can help at all. And, yes it really happens: people are being injured frequently. It's happening more and more, the damage is getting worse and worse.

The Jewish community has to take a strong and unequivocal stand against loud amplification, which has no mekor or mesorah [Torah source or tradition] to justify it. Our society must forcefully, completely and immediately stop this unjustifiable and destructive blight. The best cure is to not let people get hurt in the first place! Our yeshivos teach the gemoras about not damaging [Seder Nezikin]. Let us practice the practical laws [halachos] of not damaging! The requirement of "nosay bi'ol chavairo [share your fellow Jew's burden]" requires invited guests to participate in a celebration but it moreso requires hosts and musicians to safeguard all who are present from even the slightest risk of any harm.

All parts of the body are for serving Hashem. Several mitzvos require hearing; for example: reading the Torah and the Megila, shofar blowing, learning Torah, responsive parts of prayer (e.g. Kedusha, Kaddish, Borchu, Hallel, answering "amen"), hearing oneself saying Birkas HaMazone [blessing after meals] and reading "Krias Shema," making peace, hearing mussar and tochacha [self-improvement and correction], hearing Kiddush and Havdala. Causing someone to lose some or all of his hearing, or causing someone to require a hearing aid, whether temporarily or permanently, makes him a "baal moom [defect, injured]" and nizik [victim of damage]; and these can deprive a person of mitzvos. The Steipler Gaon was hard of hearing and refused to wear a hearing aid because it could make him more dependent upon it and make him lose the rest of his hearing. Since hearing aids function somewhat as a microphone, they can be prohibited on shabos and yom tov. The Steipler DID NOT WANT TO LOSE HIS ABILITY TO HEAR KRIAS HATORAH ON SHABOS AND YOM TOV. Some people refrain from having a hearing aid, for reasons such as shame, cost or keeping their sense of dignity. They lose touch with the world. Rashi says that one who lives out of touch with the world is choshuv kimais [considered as dead]. Therefore, damaging hearing has an aspect of murder in it. Damaging hearing (or any of a person's functions) decreases mitzvos in the world and the one who causes such damage is responsible to Heaven for causing those spiritual losses in G-d's world, besides for the physical damage.

It is necessary to say "Shema" [required twice each day] loud enough to HEAR oneself saying it [Orech Chayim 62:3]. "Shema" means "hear." While saying the first verse, one must UNDERSTAND AND PAY ATTENTION to accepting the yolk of the Kingdom of Heaven [Mishna Brura 60:11]. Hearing is central to one's intellectual potential and ability to understand. The word "Shema" consists of the roshay taivos [initials] of the words "Ol Malchus Shomayim [yolk of the Kingdom of Heaven - ayin, mem, shin]" but in reverse order. This signals that we must obey the will of G-d even when OUR logic is the reverse of G-d's will.

Often the people in attendance at functions, whether guests or workers, DO NOT KNOW THAT THEY ARE SUBJECTING THEMSELVES TO GENUINE DANGER. Their hearing may be gradually deteriorating. The delicate structures in the ears may be getting weakened so that one time a loud noise may produce major injury. These people do not realize that they may be getting permanently damaged. So, they do not know to leave. And, who goes to a simcha for the purpose of leaving? People go in order to participate in the event. This creates a condition in which people who should stay have to go out and the people who go out are people who should stay. This is a contradiction. If people are wise enough to come wearing ear plugs to protect their ears, then no one can hear or talk to anyone. You have a crowd of people, yet they are all isolated. The music is loud to make people dance, and they plug their ears to not hear the extreme loudness. It's like needing to go into a bath or mikva and wearing a scuba diver's suit (which totally covers the person) in order to not make any contact with the water. The whole thing is completely crazy.

"Decibel" is the measure with which loudness is measured. If a human ear is exposed to a loudness of 100-110 decibels for a half hour, this already can do damage. If the volume is 120-130 decibels, the ears are overwhelmed. Their fragile structures can be traumatized and they can be severely damaged after even short exposure to high volume. To put "100-110 decibels" into layman language, if your home stereo were at full volume, if a subway train went by at full speed, or if your head were chained to an ambulance siren, sustained exposure to that level of sound for a short while can permanently damage your inner ears. Professional music amplification can be 20 decibels louder than this. If a guest stays at a simcha for two or three hours exposed to such enormous loudness, delicate inner ear structures or nerves can have serious and permanent trauma and damage. If musicians hear this loudness night after night, they can grow gradually hard of hearing and will play louder and louder because they are less and less able to hear how loud they are playing. Some musicians wear ear plugs to protect themselves and couldn't care less about harming the audience, which is pure cruelty and sadism. Workers at catering facilities hear dangerously loud amplification night after night also and their ears are repeatedly exposed to serious jeopardy, especially since harm, and susceptibility to harm, increase from each repeated exposure.

Questions of health and of causing harm are de'Oraisos [from the Torah]. If one wishes to say that only "maybe" someone will be damaged by loud noise at a simcha, this is a worthless excuse (and, probably, self-serving) because of the principle "suffaik de'Oraiso lechumra [in Torah questions in which there is doubt, we must be strict]." And, there is nothing religious in "erasing" Choshen Mishpot (or ignoring any part of halacha). Erasing halacha is "giving one's own Torah," and eliminating the Torah that Hashem gave. This is apikursus [apostasy] and MAKING ONESELF into an avoda zara [idolatry]. He worships himself. Such an arrogant person puts himself, in his mind, on a par with G-d as "authorized" to give law. Instead, we must incline to the side of guarding the Torah - and guarding THE PEOPLE of the Torah! We must never cause damage or danger to people. We are not even allowed to take a chance.

Hearing loss and ear damage can be either gradual and subtle or sudden and substantial. People can vary in this. I recommend that before you go to simchas, speak to an ear doctor (WHO KNOWS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY FRUM SIMCHA AMPLIFICATION) about the health of your ears, especially regarding exposure to sustained loud noise. Tell him clearly about the noise levels you are exposed to at simchas. If you cannot estimate the decibel level, describe the volume to him in simple terms, like how close people have to be to hear each other in conversation and whether this is with a normal voice or with shouting. Go for hearing tests periodically.

Rabbi Aharon Kotler, z'l, would not let his driver use a toll machine because it violates "kavod habrios" [human dignity] to reject the living toll collector. Even if we use toll machines today when we are on the roads, and are not on Reb Aharon's spiritual level, the obligation of kavod habrios still requires that we fully and actively acknowledge and value the honor of each human being. Since kavod habrios requires not rejecting the dignity of any person, kal vichomer [all the moreso] it requires not harming any person.

Since misguided, immature youth like loud amplification, thinking it "laibadig," adults (rebayim, family, etc.) should instruct youth on the seriously damaging nature of loud volume and Torah obligations to not cause damage. Let us train youth because they are responsible for fueling this trend. Youth must become informed and get their priorities straight. Let us teach the youth that loudness is an evil, it hurts people and that we should have contempt for any musician who would hurt hundreds of people ongoingly for money, ego-gratification or fame. We can take away incentive of musicians to appeal to youth (in their hope that the youth become future customers).

True Torah compassion includes shielding people in advance from troubles. The Torah Jew does not wait till after trouble comes upon another. TRUE "TORAH-DIK" COMPASSION REQUIRES HELPING BEFORE AS WELL, BY PREVENTING TROUBLE FROM COMING UPON HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE. This is the way of G-d [Tosfos Yeshanim, Rosh HaShana 17b] and it is our obligation to emulate G-d, as the Torah says, "And you will go in G-d's ways (Deuteronomy 28:9)." Rambam specifies that this requires imitating His traits [Hilchos Dayos 1:6]. THIS IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ACCEPTING THE YOLK OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Otherwise, you have things backwards - especially your idea of serving Hashem!



We have been exploring the widespread and worsening trend of harmfully loud amplification, which has become especially common at Jewish simchas, concerts and functions. This is a genuine danger and serious health hazard. We proceed in this installment with more relevant halacha. If you have practical questions, take them as a shaaloh [Torah question] to a qualified rov or dayan who has Yiras Shomayim [fear of Heaven].

The Torah says [Deuteronomy 6:18], "You shall do that which is correct and good in the eyes of G-d." The gemora [Bava Metzia 108a] says that this teaches that a Jew cannot allow another to lose an opportunity to gain a benefit that you can provide. This is brought in halacha [Choshen Mishpot 175:6], where the Shulchan Aruch says that one planning to sell land must offer it first to an adjoining neighbor and to give him priority even over a relative or talmid chochom (Torah scholar). Buying adjacent land is more value-adding than buying land which is not attached, because the buying neighbor's land is expanded. The meaning of the gain to the neighbor is significantly greater than to any one else. If we are required to not let another miss an opportunity to gain, we certainly may not make him lose or come to harm! There are many halachos for harchakas nezikin [preventing damage or distancing causes of damage]. For example, chapter 155 of Choshen Mishpot has 44 paragraphs of halachos obligating prevention or distancing of various kinds or causes of damage.

Rambam says that to keep oneself healthy and vigorous is a commandment from the Torah. We are obligated keep away from anything that damages or lessens the body. This is part of serving Hashem [Hilchos Dayos 4:1]. One does not have permission to harm himself, although one is exempt from paying damages if he does so [Choshen Mishpot 420:31]. The Chofetz Chayim [Likutai Amorim 13] says that this halacha shows that we are not our own "property," we BELONG TO HASHEM. Hillel made a point to keep himself clean and to eat adequately. When asked why, he said that the body is created in Hashem's image, it is for serving Him during one's fleeting lifetime and it is obligatory to take good care of the body [Vayikra Raba 34:3]. It is also significant that the section of halachos prohibiting causing physical harm to another is the LAST subject at the end of the Shulchan Aruch. This teaches that IT SHOULD BE THE FURTHEST THING FROM ANY JEW'S MIND TO HARM, OR TO ALLOW THE CAUSING OF HARM TO, ANOTHER PERSON! A thought of harming someone should be the LAST thing to occur to you.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, z'l, was asked if a person can ask another who is smoking to leave a public place due to the smoke being bothersome. Rabbi Feinstein replied [Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpot, section two, 18] that one can ask the person smoking the cigarette to leave a public place because the bother to other people is considered damage. It is forbidden for him to smoke where it pains, bothers or endangers another. In the gemora, Rabbi Yosi said that when one does a thing which is itself legitimate, but it causes damage as a consequence, the person is still liable for the damage. From this, Rabbi Tovi Ben Masna said that it is forbidden to cause indirect damage, or even damage for which the person cannot be made to pay. Examples include to stand a ladder on my land in a place where rodents can jump from it and kill my neighbor's birds on his property, to slaughter animals where birds will land and then track blood onto a neighbor's property, to have birds where their chirping noise will pain a neighbor, to cause an offensive odor that reaches a neighbor or to operate a business where adjacent residential neighbors will be disturbed by the people coming and going. Such things are prohibited, or the offender must distance such things far enough away that they cause no prospect of damage [Bava Basra 22b, Rambam Hilchos Sh'chainim 11:5]. Such things are indirect but they cause enough pain to be forbidden. Rabbi Feinstein concludes that smoking in a public place is worse because it is actively and directly harming. Since we forbid an indirect cause of harm, all the moreso, the smoker can be stopped or required to leave.

Chazay Hatnufa, a disciple of the Rosh [one of the halachic Rishonim], is quoted by the Chida. He says there is no assumption of validity for any significant cause of harm, even when people do not protest or fight it [ain chazaka binezek gadol]. Even if a cause of harm is done in a public place [reshus harabim] where the offender would have a right to be, even if it only bothers one person, even if it is a thing which has been done for years, the thing is forbidden and we are required to stop the offender. Whether the harm is against a group or individual, since the victim(s) can't stand that pain or damage, we have permission to remove the offender.

Since Rav Moshe, z'l, poskined that causing pain or harm directly and actively in a public place is forbidden, and noisy chirping birds are an example of an indirect cause of pain or harm THROUGH NOISE that can be forbidden, and a talmid of the Rosh basically delegitimitized any cause of socially accepted or ongoing cause of harm against even one person, even one time in all of history; kal vichomer [all the moreso], we must forbid the active and direct causing of pain and harm to multitudes repeatedly through loud amplification! On top of the many sources cited in parts two and four of this series, halacha specifically says that anything which a person cannot withstand that another person does, even if other people can withstand it, the victim can protest and stop that thing [Choshen Mishpot 155:41].

When one causes harm that requires financial compensation, even when bais din does not have the ability to force the payment, the offender is obligated to pay voluntarily. If he does not pay, he is a gazlan [thief, Ktzos (section one, note seven)]. Bais din is authorized to collect an injury victim's out-of-pocket costs [chisron kis] from the mazik [damager] for medical expenses and time off from work [Tur, Choshen Mishpot 420:44]. If the victim grabs the value due him from the mazik, he is allowed to keep the money, but not in excess of the amount due him. It is a machlokess [halachic dispute] whether this applies any time after the injury [Rosh] or only at the actual time of the injury [Rabainu Tam]. We rule that one can grab and keep the money even afterwards, but this is limited to the "value" of the injury. The victim would have to give back any excess money taken [Tshuvos Maharam Galanti, 108]. This suggests that if a musician's amplification causes pain or harm, it may be permitted to grab his instruments or electronic equipment to pay for damage-expenses caused, such as doctor bills, medical tests, prescriptions and time off from work. If what is taken exceeds the expenses, the excess money must be returned; if there is not of enough value, the victim could take more equipment for damage-expenses.

If something is liable to cause damage, and if there is no specific halacha governing how much we must distance this cause of harm from people, we must determine criteria to keep people safe. The Ramo [Choshen Mishpot 155:20] says that these criteria are to be determined by experts in the respective field of each kind of potential cause of harm. In our case, ear doctors can make such determinations. For example, one ear doctor told me that people in conversation ten feet apart should be able to speak in a normal tone and hear every word clearly and no one present should have any discomfort. This would be an example of setting a halachic boundary for amplification volume.

One host told a band leader that he wants the volume kept low. The band leader refused, saying that this will "mafsid momon [cause him to lose money]." Young people, who like volume to be loud, are potential future customers. They will only hire him if he plays loudly. This "frum sounding" claim of "mafsid momon" is false and invalid to the point of absurd and insulting to the intelligence. Hashem can choose to punish one through his body or property [Tikunay Zohar, quoted in Yom Kippur Machzor]. The Torah says that there is a punishment called tzora'as [leprosy-like disease] that comes onto one's house, clothes or body. Ramban [Nachmanides, Parshas Tazria] explains how Heaven's punishment is considered more severe and stringent as the tzora'as gets closer and closer to one's body. It is the smallest level of punishment when afflicting one's house, worse when on one's clothes and the worst is when it afflicts one's body. There is no comparison between an affliction of one's property and of one's "actual self." The latter is most serious.

The laws of Chol HaMoed [intermediate holidays] allow one to do work to save himself from losing something he has. One cannot do work to catch an opportunity to gain profit during Chol HaMoed, because he does not have it. He cannot consider a thing he does not have to be his or to be lost. Halacha says we cannot compare losing a thing that we have with wanting to increase profit.

This selfish, cruel musician thinks that he can compare the damage to people's bodies, which they already have and which they are required to maintain in good health, with his loss of (hoped for) property (profit) that he does not have or know if he will ever own. This is "davar shelo ba li'olam [presenting something that does NOT exist as if it does exist; Bava Metzia 33b]." He thinks he sounds "frum" by claiming "mafsid momon" while he has no concern that he causes mafsid [loss to] people's bodies. TO STOP ANYONE FROM CAUSING DAMAGE OR PAIN IS A MITZVA. There is no claim of "mafsid momon" when we stop someone from earning money by his "professionally damaging" people!



High levels of amplification at simchas and public functions is commonly made painfully and harmfully loud. Loudness is falsely perceived by the youth to be "laibedig [lively]" and commercial musicians want to cater to immature youth because they are a base of future customers. Validating loudness also sends the false and very un-Jewish message that we need loudness for happiness or joy. This destructive and widespread trend is fueled by immaturity and greed, and has no Torah justification for it. There is no basis in halacha [Torah law] nor mesorah [Torah tradition]. Jewish society must take strong measures to stop this trend and to protect our people from it.

I strongly recommend that the reader cut out, save and apply this article and all others in this series. Send copies from my column or website to hosts, musicians, educators, rabbis (who can influence their students or congregants), caterers and guests invited to events, to warn of the dangers. Educate people of all ages about noise-exposure and ear damage - by yourself, by sponsoring classes for adults and by promoting teaching about this to the children and youth in schools. Be creative. Find ways to spread the word.

Life and culture in America are becoming noisier and noisier. Thirty six million Americans have significant hearing loss, much of it premature and MUCH COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED. About fifty million have some kind of ear-damage symptoms [tinnitus - ringing in the ears, hyperacusis - pain from and sensitivity to sound, hearing unclearly, vertigo - dizziness, etc.] and other forms of harm DUE TO EXPOSURE TO NOISE. For example, tinnitus can be heard as so loud that it can drive people to distraction, drown out or distort normal sounds or conversation, prevent sleep and cause physical or psychological consequences [anxiety, high blood pressure, nervous tension, sleep and rest disruption, ulcers, depression, adverse affects on the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), etc.]. Ear damage might come slowly, painlessly and imperceptibly; but one day the symptoms will be noticeable, life will be negatively impacted - and it will never be the same. In the past, hearing losses started creeping up on people between the ages of 40 and 50. Now, hearing loss in children is up due to noise [listening to stereos, noise-producing toys, etc.]. In the 1980's, 3% of grade school children had hearing dysfunction. It is up to about 13% for school children and worse for teenagers. Ears bring information in. Damaged ears might not pick up what is said or taught and learning will be disrupted. Quieter environments help learning and raising children. Noise in homes (loud stereo and appliances, shouting, hectic or fast-paced lifestyle, blaring traffic outside the home, etc.) has damaging effects on the intellectual, personality and social development of children, starting from the beginning of life. In families which have quiet, the adults listen more and relate better to their children, discipline is calm yet more effective, all have more peace, all have more capacity for introspection and personal growth, and the children grow up to be better achievers in learning and their chosen field. It is important to create an environment that encourages quiet. The World Health Organizations reported as early as 1973 that, "Noise must be recognized as a major threat to human well-being" and that noise has a significant negative impact on quality of life. The quality of all aspects of life can be negatively impacted upon e.g. work and academic performance, social interaction, recreation, communication, not hearing danger warnings, emotional state, stress, irritability, etc. In scientific tests, people were found to be less generous, kind, helpful, considerate, relaxed and patient; and more frustrated, annoyed and hostile; when subjected to noise of 70 decibels or more. In one test, people refused to help a person wearing a cast, in another people recommended lower salaries for hirees, compared to comparable situations under quiet conditions. This has serious implications for Torah Jews concerned with midos, mitzvos and interpersonal behavior obligations! People do not get used to noise. As long as the noise remains, the negative effects on emotions, health and ability to function do not subside. Noise is an invisible threat to hearing. Hearing loss from noise exposure can be painless, progressive and permanent. In the early nineties, scientists examined people living in primitive conditions in Sudan and discovered that there existed virtually no deterioration of hearing in elderly people! This tells us how much our inner ears are assaulted by the proliferation of noise in America; where we constantly hear loud music, machines [jackhammers, trains, airplanes, power tools, industrial and construction equipment, sirens, etc.], vehicle horns and engines in traffic, walkmans blaring right into one's ears, noisy crowds, cell phones ringing in public places, etc. Impact on ears can be affected by duration, level and frequency of the noise, as well as by the individual's sensitivity level [which varies a bit in different people]. Hearing loss can come from one extremely loud sound, or repeated exposures or close proximity to hazardous loudness levels. Long-lasting, high-pitch and high-volume sounds are the most damaging and annoying. Annoyance from noise can be sufficient to contribute to stress; cardiovascular, psychological, digestive and other health damage and physiological disorders; and can cause negative impact on social behavior, learning ability and career achievement. Noise annoyance is worse at night, having the impact of ten more decibels than the same loudness level would have during the day. Hearing impairment and inner ear damage from noise are on the increase in industrialized countries. The only hope is prevention.

Inside the ear are microscopic structures called cochlea [pronounced "kok-lee-a"]. These receive sound and transmit the sound to the nerves in the ear, bringing the sound to the brain, enabling the person to hear. Cochleas are extremely sensitive and fragile. When exposed to overly loud noise, the cochlea is traumatized and delicate hair-like hearing cells can be either gradually or immediately damaged and then destroyed. Damaged or dead tissue might be replaced by scar tissue, but the hair cells (in the cochleas) themselves, and their function, are gone forever. Their ability to bring sound from the air to the nerve, and therefore the brain, is destroyed. Hearing is diminished, according to how much cochlea damage occurs. If parents bring babies or children to chasunas, their delicate cochleas can be assaulted from the beginning of their lives, causing the baby discomfort and even pain during the simcha and damage ever after. Their ability to learn, communicate, socialize, work - to live a full life - can be jeopardized. Further, when cochleas are damaged, the remaining tissue may be irritated and send continual signals to the nerve and brain, causing the sensation of sound, independent of sound coming into the ear, resulting in the disorder called tinnitus; hearing loud, constant and disturbing sound inside the head [that isn't there outside of the person's head] because the ear and the connections to the brain are damaged and these keep sending sound-messages to the brain as if it is an auditory sensation that is experienced as hearing noise. On top of this, the nerve can be overwhelmed by real sound that comes into the ear, resulting in serious pain, called hyperacusis, from hearing some or all sounds. The cochleas "translate" sound, as it occurs in the air, to impulses that can be transmitted as sound in the inner ear nerves and to the brain. Cochleas are an essential part of the auditory system. They are the analyzing portion of the human hearing system and are inescapably necessary as an intermediary between sound from outside the ear and the inner ear nerves. When sound hits the nerves directly, without the cochlea receiving and processing it first, the sound can cause unbearable pain upon contact with the nerves. If the cause is dead cochlea, these conditions are irreversible. Losing a cochlea is like losing an arm - it doesn't grow back. The pain of sound hitting nerves directly will be like a non-healing wound that can get worse and worse from repeated trauma. Loudness-induced hearing loss is almost never curable or recoverable. Even if you do not feel your ears hurting, you can be getting damaged during noise exposure. People tend to be further damaged, and increasingly more susceptible to damage, by prolonged or repeated exposure.

Fifty-five decibels is the highest loudness that is universally safe. From 55 to 80 decibels, people are usually safe but this can vary due to such considerations as individual sensitivity, age, genetics, medical and noise-exposure history. The more often, prolonged, loud and high-pitched the noise is, the more damaging. Most people are safe with occasional exposure to 70 decibels. Above 80 decibels, possibly 75 in children, the ear is more predictably and universally subject to harm. The more one is exposed to loud noise, the more his inner ear structures are traumatized and damaged, the lower his safe decibel level gets and the more he needs protection from daily-life, street, social or work-place noises. He may, for example, require ear plugs, industrial ear muffs, keeping the stereo on low volume or avoidance of offending situations such as by walking the long way around a construction site - or not going to simchas!

Scientific and medical tests have established that sustained loud noise levels of 85 decibels or higher are hazardous. Waiters, musicians, caterers, hall management and personnel and any others in any noisy work environment are in repeated jeopardy. Experts are considering dropping the defined "safe" limit from 85 to 80 decibels in a work place, since damage can already be possible between 80 and 85 [85 is about the volume level of a rattling sink garbage disposal, mini-bike, vacuum cleaner or crowded school bus]. Small increases of decibel count can actually represent large increases in loudness. A three decibel increase represents a doubling of sound. Since decibel numbers increase logarithmically, like the Richter scale which measures the force of earthquakes, 130 decibel sound amplification at a wedding is about 1,000 times louder than a 50 decibel conversation with a normal speaking voice. As another example, a subway train's sound is 100 decibels [115 when screeching]. 110 decibels is ten times as loud as 100. Imagine you are standing on the local platform of an underground subway station and an express goes by at full speed. An increase of 10 decibels equals the noise level of ten express trains going by simultaneously and an increase of 20 decibels equals 100 express trains roaring by simultaneously. The more you increase the decibel count, the more enormous the increases in sound level are.

If you can't speak in a normal voice to be heard over a noise, the noise is too loud. If someone next to you can hear the music coming from your stereo headphone, it is too loud. Every time you add five decibels, the time needed to cause permanent damage decreases by half. At a typical chasuna, permanent damage can be done in less than a half hour, possibly in a matter of minutes. You might notice speech is muffled, sounds are confused or that you are asking people to repeat themselves.

The high intensity amplification of music at simchas commonly causes people damage and suffering. This danger is not restricted to simchas, either. This can apply at any function or in any manifestation where there is loud electronic sound amplification, for example: large scale lectures, concerts, organizational meetings, conventions, in restaurants, listening to music through head phones [with sound very close to the inner ear] above a soft level, home appliances such as hair dryers or blaring loud amplification in a motor vehicle. However, simchas, such as weddings, vorts [engagement parties] or bar mitzvas, are the most common examples of events in contemporary Jewish culture at which there is loud amplification. Even youth who want loudness do not have the right to want something dangerous or to be cruel to entire crowds of people. Except for the relatively young and immature - whose inner ears have not YET collapsed from loud noise trauma - people don't enjoy loud simchas...they are in pain!

I could put a hat on your head and you would not be damaged. If I put an 18 wheel truck on your head, you would be crushed as flat as a pancake. If I put conversational sound at about 55 decibels into your ear, you would not be damaged. If I put amplified sound at about 130 decibels into your ear, inner ear structures would be crushed like that pancake. The ear is only made to handle a limited range of sound intensities - for limited periods of time. When loudness levels exceed what G-d made the ear to handle, the ear is overwhelmed - with what can be permanent the ear AND the person's quality of life, health and ability to function. This "pancake" analogy tells us what happens to the inner ear at simchas with amplification levels around 130 decibels. Since many people do not know that they are subjecting themselves to harm and do not leave, they compound their danger every minute that they remain present.

Inner ear damage, for example tinnitus [ringing or squealing noise in the ears], hyperacusis [extreme sensitivity to environmental sounds, manifesting as discomfort or pain from hearing various sounds] or hearing loss, can require a team of health professionals to diagnose and address a patient's problem, since patients can experience problems in many aspects of life. Conditions can disturb sleep, conversation, concentration, learning, work, socializing and relating. The suffering, stress, anxiety, depression and disruption of normal activity from inner ear disorders can impair life or push people to disablement or suicide. Problems can be emotional as well as physical. Therefore, some cases require a holistic, multi-discipline approach. The patient's personal physician, an ENT [ear, nose and throat doctor], mental health practitioner [psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker], audiologist, neurologist, dietician or nutritionist or others may be necessary, as appropriate to each individual case. Each professional should know about what the others are doing to make sure their tests, diagnoses, therapies or prescriptions complement the others to maximize aid and compassion for the patient; and do not contradict each other so as to endanger the patient or duplicate any effort unnecessarily. The patient must know that inner ear damage baffles even the best physicians. They must be warned that some treatments, surgeries or prescriptions might help some people but not others and there can be ugly side effects. Besides treating symptoms and helping the patient cope, practitioners should speak to the patient about the impact of the condition on his life, research being done (and new impending developments relating to the patient, if any) and how others cope; to give the patients with difficult or incurable conditions hope and strength.

Loud amplification is truly dangerous. Our generation must see its intrusion into the Jewish community as serious and address it accordingly. We must view this as a matter of social and halachic responsibility and deal with it strongly. It is not a trite or silly question. It could help if qualified and respected rabonim, with expertise in related areas of Torah and who have influence on people, would confer with physicians who specialize in related areas of medicine, who have experience with the difficulties of treatment and with patients' long-term suffering in such cases; so the robonim will formulate takanos (Jewish law decrees) limiting amplification to levels that ensure the safety, comfort and protection of all who attend any Jewish function. Hosts must be pro-active from the beginning of planning of their events. There must be a contractual agreement IN ADVANCE OF THE EVENT - made IN ADVANCE OF SENDING INVITATIONS (so the host can guarantee safety to all guests before inviting anyone!) - that requires musicians to limit the loudness level. The advance-terms must ALSO require that if anyone is uncomfortable, volume will be lowered to accommodate him, even if ONE PERSON'S SAFETY OR COMFORT determines the volume limit for the entire affair. The musicians will NOT BE PAID if the volume limit is exceeded or if anyone uncomfortable is not promptly and fully accommodated. Put the terms in writing and state them firmly to the musicians in front of two or more kosher aidim [halachic witnesses]. Perhaps if rabonim would refuse to participate at functions at which there is no advance guarantee of safe volume levels throughout, that would effectively send a message. A rov of a shul, teacher in a yeshiva, the officiating rabbi (the wedding's "mesader kidushin" or the one who trains a bar mitzva boy) or anyone whose actions can impact a group, could require amplification limits, or not come to simchas made by his group. Perhaps, upon receiving an invitation, the rov, teacher, grandparent or any influential person should ask hosts to guarantee keeping amplification low. If a host does not commit in advance to limiting volume and protecting attendees, he can ask his group (congregation, chasidim, talmidim, relatives, etc.) to NOT come (or to only stay briefly, just enough to say "mazal tov"). This protects people AND fulfills the halachic obligations to warn and protest.

One tzadik comes to simchas with a bag full of ear plugs, which he hands out to attendees! Although this is extraordinarily nice, it does not get to the root of the problem - stopping harm and teaching people that we are obligated not to allow harm.

HoRav Dovid Feinstein said that strong effort should be put into prevailing upon musicians, catering people and baalai simcha to stop loudness which is at levels capable of causing damage. This translates into halachic obligation for everyone in the Jewish community to band together IN UNITY to do all we can and to exert all the pressure possible to seriously and diligently combat the causing of harm through amplification. If all the individuals who are bothered by noise - or who recognize its dangers - would unite, powerful protests and effective methods would be possible.

Contact Rabbinic or kosher-certification organizations. Try to have their board meet to publish warnings [e.g. if they have publications or newsletters, make special mailings or announce news at meetings of their constituents] and to legislate takanos [halacha enactments] to protect against damaging loudness. If you have contacts at any organization or with any community leadership, communicate the importance of takanos which limit loudness. For example, do you know someone affiliated with the administration of Agudath Israel, Orthodox Union, Young Israel, any branch of the Chasidic or Sefardic communities; can you promote lectures through any branch of Hatzola or Bikur Cholim or at a local Jewish community center; if your shul rents space for simchas or gatherings, can you legislate an amplification limit for those who rent your facilities; do you know any rosh yeshivos or teachers who can teach their students about how loudness is a serious danger to people and violation of many areas of Torah [e.g. damages, imitating non-Jewish culture, remembrance of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh] - and is not "laibedig" nor "kosher" - and over time impairs learning Torah!? Let rabbis teach their students and congregants the halachos in Choshen Mishpot and poskim about prohibiting and preventing damage, pain and injury. Have them make unmistakably clear the practical connection between these Torah law responsibilities and the destructive amplification at simchas. Let parents teach children at early ages that loud sounds damage hearing and hurt ears. Teach them when young to avoid loud toys, blaring car horns, construction sites, loud amplification, etc. Make clear that loudness can remove some or all ability to learn, communicate, enjoy music, feel comfortable and live a full, healthy life.

Let rabonim remove their hechsher from any hall or caterer who would permit painful loudness because IF WE CAN'T TRUST THEIR BUSINESS IN THE LAWS OF CHOSHEN MISHPOT [DAMAGES], WE CAN NOT TRUST THEM IN THE LAWS OF YORAH DAYAH [KOSHRUS]! Put pressure on rabonim to DECLARE FACILITIES "TRAIF" IF THE HALL OR CATERER WON'T KEEP THE ENTIRE SHULCHAN ARUCH! If a hall allowed immodest dress or mixed dancing, it would lose its hechsher. So should the kosher supervisor declare facilities traif if it allows damaging volume that endangers health. Rabbis might even begin certifying bands or musicians who adhere to volume standards that satisfy the requirements of both Torah law and prevailing local secular law; and who assure the comfort and safety of all guests and workers at the affair and even neighbors near the catering facility. These rabbis would not allow bands or musicians to work on the premises supervised by them for any affair unless the band or musician agrees to those standards in writing. The maximum level of decibels must be monitored at the affair, the same way the mashgiach watches for mixing meat with milk or for uncertified cooking ingredients. The Ramo [Choshen Mishpot 155:20] says that experts shall be utilized to determine halachic safety criteria to protect people from causes of harm. A comfort level for hearing people speak understandably [without shouting] ten feet [three meters] apart, or a decibel level limit medically determined to be audiologically safe and comfortable could be used as a halachic basis for declaring loudness to be "kosher" vs. "traif."

Make a strong "grass roots" effort. Be creative and aggressive. Talk the subject up. When invited to simchas, send copies of this series to the host, other guests, rabonim of the youth who will be coming, etc. Tell others to make strong protests (but without causing fights). Put copies of this series on shul bulletin boards and send copies to heads of yeshivos, schools, organizations and communities. Demand that educators train the youth that loudness is definitely a health hazard [and not "laibadig"], on the importance of protecting people from damage, to protest vigorously against loud amplification and to have contempt for musicians who medically endanger people. When invited to a simcha, have everyone you know who is also invited to prevail upon the host to demand from the band a firm and constant safe and comfortable volume limit.

Encourage people to have their ears periodically checked by an ear doctor or audiologist, especially if they frequently go to simchas, dinners or other events that subject them to loud noise. Even if your hearing is excellent, get a hearing test periodically. If your ears are damaged by a loud musician, your "before and after" hearing test reports will constitute proof for bais din that your hearing was once good and was damaged at the noisy simcha. Try to get a recommendation to a good specialist or you can phone the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at 1-800-638-8255 for referral to an audiologist in your area. They can also send you material on dangers of noise exposure. People who are suffering from tinnitus (noise in the ear) or hyperacusis (pain in the ear or sensitivity to sound) they can contact the American Tinnitus Association for assistance and free literature at 1-800-634-8978. The League For Hard Of Hearing educates people about the dangers of noise, and coping with and the severity of hearing loss and ear dysfunction. The League offers literature and information. Call (888) NOISE88 [New York (917) 305-7700]. Their website address is Catering hall operators who really care about their community might hire a reputable, experienced and qualified occupational audiologist to devise means by which his hall will maintain safe standards in matters relating to ear-health, decreasing of noise, preventing of harm and guaranteeing the comfort and well-being of guests. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (noted above) can help make facilities safer for ears.

The Torah requires that remedies for damages accord with halacha. Aside from strict halacha, one must be concerned with never causing "chillul Hashem [profanation of G-d]," anger, animosity or fighting in the quest for a remedy against a fellow Jew. One must take practical questions to a qualified posaik or dayan with experience and Yiras Shomayim, for instruction.

Paying customers who hire bands have the power and responsibility to assure safe and comfortable conditions for the guests who they invite to their affairs. With hosts rests the greatest ability to assure the safety and comfort of guests. Tell a musician before hiring him, "I have requirements." Aside from serious danger, high noise levels make it impossible for guests to converse with each other or enjoy the event. Hosts should be encouraged to insist on smaller groups of musicians (who have derech eretz and kavod habrios [respect and dignity] for their audiences!), non-electric instruments and no electric amplification for any instrument and no instrument capable of a high-pitched piercing sound [high pitched sound can hurt ears, as can loud volume sounds] such as trumpet, drums or electric keyboards. There are plenty of acoustic instruments that can do a marvelous job making a simcha - without compromising the well-being of attendees; including the viola, clarinet, trombone, lower-range saxophones, etc. These limiting conditions must be treated as terms of doing business and written into a contract and/or stated in the presence of kosher aidim [halachically valid witnesses]. It must be clear that no amplifiers or loud-speakers for instruments nor electric instruments are permissible, including any keyboard or use of a mike for loud voice amplification. If any musician complains against the terms, remind him that he has no permission to make a living as a "professional damager," which is another way of saying "criminal." Let us make clear that we will not patronize criminals, even those substituting the name "musician," even those who play songs whose words are from Tehillim or are about newliweds. If I bash you on the head, but I use a gemora book to do it, am I off the hook for cracking your skull? If I give you food poisoning with kosher food, does that make the meal healthy? If I sing about Moshiach and the volume causes you permanent inner ear damage, pain and doctor bills, am I a tzadik [righteous person]? The worst yaitzer hora [evil inclination] is the one with payos! The Kotzker Rebbe says that the yaitzer hora has two aspects: one tells you to do evil and the second tells you that it is a mitzva to do it. One of the most fundamental forms of sin is to cause hezik [harm or damage] and we are obligated to prevent all forms of hezik and to save people from them.

If a person comes uninvited into another's domain, it is at the intruder's own risk. However, if he comes into another's domain with permission, the host is obligated to guard against any causing of harm to the visitor, whether to the visitor's property or body [Choshen Mishpot 378:6, 389:10 Ramo]. When one makes a simcha, he rents a hall, making it into his domain for the duration. It is a host's obligation to guard against any cause of harm to guests who were invited to the simcha. This ALL applies to a host being RESPONSIBLE TO NOT ALLOW DAMAGE TO THE EARS OR HEARING OF GUESTS at his simcha! By his invitation to a guest, the guest is there with permission and the host represents that the guest can presume and expect safety. The host cannot hide from the responsibility to see to it that there is no cause of harm to the guests invited to his simcha. Whether making an event at a hall (wedding, bar mitzva, organizational dinner, etc.) or at a private home (vort, sheva brachos, etc.), it is a contradiction to invite people into your domain and then damage them or to make them need to leave.

If this won't insult the host, you can gently say that you would not be able to come if there will be loud amplification. Describe to him the nature of the medical dangers or that you are under doctor's orders not to subject yourself to health risks from noise exposure. If applicable, you can tell hosts that you have a pre-existing condition [e.g. hearing loss, tinnitus or hyperacusis] and you cannot afford to sustain further damage. Maybe the host will agree to commit to a controlled and low volume. If you don't know the host closely enough to make coming conditional, just decline the invitation, gently giving the reason as the loud amplification and its power to damage. This serves the purpose of making the host aware that it can cause people serious harm. This can constructively register a protest and/or suggestion. Perhaps you can briefly show up (bringing ear plugs) for the chupa, or at a later time to just say "mazal tov." You must not speak to the host in a rude or angry manner. Your goal is protecting health and doing a mitzva, not fighting or insulting. Your tone must be sweet, gentle and peaceful. If many people ask the host to keep the volume down, demand (politely but firmly) an end to noise or if people leave affairs in droves, or refuse to come in the first place (if there is no commitment by the host in advance to maintain soft, comfortable, acceptable volume throughout the entire affair), maybe baal habatim and musicians will get the idea.

If a simcha is made on the host's condition that you expose yourself to loud amplification, your position should be that you will not come or stay. Say that you very much appreciate that the host thought enough of you to invite you and to want you at his or her simcha. Explain to the host in a nice way that the noise causes you pain, can harm people or some such, and that you cannot come, or that you cannot stay but briefly. Make it clear that the reason "is medical, not personal." You will be speaking truth and keeping the mitzva to protect your health and to advocate for the health of others. You are not responsible if the host feels insulted if you are protecting your health and you express yourself politely. The serious, permanent damage that can potentially be done by loudness is utterly pointless and unjustifiable. You don't have to suffer to protect the host's feelings.

Having studied some music, I personally believe that many musicians like the volume loud to mask their musical inadequacies and technical mediocrity. They take advantage of the fact that most in the frum community have never studied embouchure, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, chords or other elements of fine music. Loudness helps musicians get away with playing anything and substituting noise for musical content and quality.

Cigarette and alcohol labels have warnings. Perhaps we should have hosts add warning notices to their invitations, in all languages that pertain to their group (Hebrew, English, Yiddish, Russian, etc.), that loud music amplification at their simcha can cause significant and permanent damage to ears. Let people clearly know that the damage can be irreversible, non-treatable medically and can cause a life of genuine suffering. Those whose ears may be bothered 1) should come very briefly and leave quickly, 2) should ask the host to have the band lower the volume, 3) should leave immediately if their ears start to hurt or ring or 4) should not come. Perhaps similar warning notices should be required at the actual simchas, perhaps on the cards with table numbers or on big signs near the hall's front door. In any event, strong and meaningful steps must be taken against the loudness trend, to establish audiological/medical criteria for halachic takanos and to take all steps necessary to protect people from it.

If a person at an event asks a musician to make the volume lower, the musicians generally either will not or they will turn it back up as soon as the person walks away. Since musicians usually are not sympathetic or cooperative on the merits of the issue, the attack must be against their pocket by the public and the rabonim. No one has a right to earn a livelihood by damaging anyone else. In the days of the Bais HaMikdosh, women had to bring a sacrifice to the Holy Temple for a miscarriage. If a woman had five miscarriages, she would have to bring five sacrifices. The merchants, who sold the birds necessary for the sacrifices, artificially raised the prices and poor women were not able to afford them. Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel legislated that a woman only had to bring one sacrifice for multiple miscarriages. Suppliers could not sell their wares and bird sales plummeted so that the price for a bird dropped to one fourth of the original price THE SAME DAY [Krisos 8a]. One time, European fish merchants raised their prices, knowing Jews require fish for sabbath meals. The rabonim made a takana (enactment) that no one buy fish. When the merchants were left with no business, they got the message. Let us learn from these lessens and take strong steps against deafeningly loud musicians. Perhaps we should universally adopt the "minhag Yerushalayim" [the custom of only hiring a drummer who is also a singer, as the only musician at a chasuna]. There would be NO AMPLIFIED INSTRUMENTS, yet enough dancing to make a simcha.

There is another alternative WITHOUT ANY amplified music that has proven successful when tried. Hire a choir of young men who know the traditional songs and who have "Yiddishe ruach [Jewish spirit]." Let them provide unamplified singing. True simcha comes from within. At a sheva brachos or bar mitzva on shabos, a crowd can be very lively and happy without instruments. We can achieve the same thing with the right spirit at a chasuna on a weekday. The singers can form a nucleus and impetus, and provide a "formula" for arousing spontaneity, and getting people together. A choir can replace a band and get everybody dancing.

Left to their own self-serving devices, commercial musicians often cannot be trusted or reasoned with. They want a room full of potential customers to "kvell" and "chalish" over their noise. Therefore, the mature parents who make the functions, the baal habatim who hire musicians, must demand low volume IN ADVANCE, as a non-negotiable condition of doing business. DEMAND COMPLETE AND CONSTANT CONTROL OVER THE SOUND VOLUME AT ALL TIMES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE AFFAIR. Expect that the musicians will try to tell you that loudness is necessary for professional acoustics, instrumental balance or that everyone will love the affair if they play in their loud way. Accept no baloney from them; it is a self-serving and irresponsible "sales pitch" that ENTIRELY EVADES THE MEDICAL, HALACHIC AND MORAL REALITIES OF THE MATTER. If they show indifference to harming people, tell them you will not hire them and you will tell everyone you know to not use them. This is NOT lashon hora [slander] because there is to'elless [halachic constructive purpose] are guarding people from someone who wants to damage them for money. If musicians want your business, tell them, "Take it or leave it." Be firm and unequivocal with the musicians. Make payment to them clearly contingent on their satisfactory compliance. Get the loudness-limiting terms in writing in advance. Build the specific maximum allowable noise level into the contract. Specifically write that the payment is due "ONLY ON CONDITION" that you have complete control over volume. If you can, try to make objective standards that cannot be disputed or undefinable, by such terms as "all sound be below 80 decibels [or any level that is "universally comfortable/safe" or at a conversation-permitting level for people ten feet apart speaking at their normal voice volume] at all times" or "all people conversing at ten feet apart in their normal speaking voice shall hear every word of conversation clearly," and [this is VERY important] "any sound will be lowered to accommodate any person for whom the volume is uncomfortable, even if it means that the one person shall define the loudness limit for the entire affair." You can obtain a sound-level meter which measures loudness in decibels at an electronics or chain store. Bring the sound-level meter to each of your affairs. Consider it a moral and halachic obligation to monitor the sound level throughout, from beginning to end. Having one at your simcha will kill a musician's claim for payment when he violates the loudness-limiting terms. The sound-level meter can also be used as evidence that noise was the cause of ear damage that brought hearing loss, suffering, medical expenses, inability to work, etc.; for a bais din case against a musician or band. You can offer to "reward" a band by offering to promote it to other people if terms are complied with, people can converse over the music, no one complains or is hurt, etc.

Make it clear that you intend to enforce the comfort and safety of all attendees, including but not limited to, guests and workers. Word the contract so that, if the musicians violate the noise-limiting terms, they hold you harmless and they have made themselves exclusively and totally liable for all consequences. If possible, have two kosher witnesses present at the signing. IF THE MUSICIANS DON'T FOLLOW THE TERMS, YOU DON'T PAY THEM. They will have no case against you for not paying them a penny. If anyone is damaged, it will be the musicians, not you, who are taken to bais din.



The loud amplification of music at simchas commonly causes people harm and suffering. This danger is not restricted to simchas, either. This can apply at any function at which there is loud electronic sound amplification, for example: lectures, concerts, organizational meetings or conventions. However, simchas, such as weddings or bar mitzvas, are the most common examples of events in contemporary Jewish culture at which there is loud amplification.

Loud amplification at simchas and public gatherings can cause severe and incurable damage to the delicate and fragile mechanisms of the inner ear. Symptoms can include hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus [constant loud ringing noise in the ears] and discomfort or stinging pain in the ear, either constantly or from hearing sounds. People often do not know what danger they are vulnerable to from loud noise exposure - until it is too late. To permanently damage people like this is cruel, callous, immoral and forbidden; it is unacceptable to the Torah.

Tzar baalay chayim [purposelessly causing pain to an animal] is forbidden and seriously punished. Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi [who compiled the Mishnah] once spoke harshly to a calf. Heaven decreed excruciating pain on him for thirteen years for this [Bava Metzia 85a]. Sefer Charaidim tells us a woman became unable to have children. She went to the Arizal to ask why. He said that Heaven decreed this because she blocked a chicken from its food and caused it discomfort. If causing suffering to an animal is so severely punished by Heaven, kal vichomer [how much moreso] if we are cruel, unconcerned or hurtful with our brothers and sisters! On the other hand, for "all who have compassion on G-d's creations, Heaven has compassion on him" [Shabos 151b].

The Torah [Exodus 22:21] tells us to never pain a widow or orphan. Rashi there tells us that a widow or orphan are only examples, and the verse is saying that we may NEVER HURT ANY ONE WITH ANY FORM OF VULNERABILITY OR WEAKNESS. At a simcha, a hall is filled with relatives, friends, neighbors and associates who feel socially obligated and compelled to stay for the duration. They are vulnerable to noise trauma from deafening loudness and are weak against the host or musician who refuses to lower amplification to a safe and comfortable level. This is no way to treat people. Not hurting attendees at simchas requires lower music volume. Doing so is a CHEEYUV DE'ORAISA [complete and inescapable Torah obligation]. The gemora tells us [Shabos 133b], "Be like G-d. Just as Hashem gives graciously and is compassionate, you shall give graciously and be compassionate." This is not optional idealism, this is a practical requirement, as the Torah says, "Acharay Hashem Elokaichem taylaychu [go in G-d's ways," Deuteronomy 13:5]. The gemora [Sota 14a] specifically ties this verse to our being obligated to behave with kindness and doing only good for others. Sending more and more people (including those closest to us!) to ear doctors and causing potentially life-long, serious and irreversible suffering and damage is not kindness. It is destruction. We are a nation of builders and we build with GENUINE AND PURE KINDNESS, as the verse tells us, "Olam chesed yiboneh [the world is built by lovingkindness," Psalm 89:3]. Let us fulfill, "VoChai bohem [live by the Torah's laws," Leviticus 18:5] "and not die by the Torah's laws" [Yoma 85b]. Participating at a simcha is a mitzva, but not if doing so is detrimental. Mitzvos are for doing good, not for harm.

One of our generation's greatest Roshai Yeshiva said that the war between the Greeks and the Jews was a war over whether man should determine morality or whether G-d should determine morality. The Chanuka story teaches us that morality can only be determined by G-d. For man to decide what is or isn't moral is idolatry and such a philosophy always eventually leads to downfall.

"Midas S'dom [the trait of Sodom]" is a particular way of being evil that G-d hates. Pirkei Avos [chapter five] applies the term to a person who sees separation between himself (and his property) and another (and the other's property) by saying "mine is mine and yours is yours." Rabbainu Yona [commentary to Avos], writes that a person can physically give to another person, but the giving can be devoid of thought about the receiver. When one doesn't care about the other, his heart draws barriers between himself and others. Even if the person gives, by his closing himself off to concern about others, he brings midas S'dom into his heart. The Bartenura [commentary to Avos, based on Bava Kama 20b] writes that midas S'dom applies to a person who wants that others not benefit from what he is able to give. Midas S'dom is to be cruel and insensitive, to see to it another derives no benefit, to neglect others' needs, to see yourself as losing by another having good, to want another's well-being to be separated from you. The evil and perverse trait of Sodom was despised by G-d, especially after it became widespread and legitimatized as a social principle that spread throughout the community. G-d's response was to destroy Sodom. The sages prohibit midas S'dom [Eruvin 49a, Kesubos 103a]. They tell us that people of S'dom have no share in the world to come and that they had arrogance that came directly from good that G-d had given them [Sanhedrin 109a]. When one becomes arrogant, cruel or indifferent from blessing that G-d gives, this is midas S'dom. Torah requires giving, benefitting and caring about others. When midas S'dom becomes widespread and legitimatized, it undermines society [Rambam's commentary on Pirkei Avos].

Midas S'dom is what is happening with a "culture" of unjustifiably and destructively loud amplification at simchas. This is promoted by musicians, youth and hosts at simchas. This is the opposite of Yiddishkeit. Harmfully noisy simchas are no mitzva. One must never do anything wrong to do a mitzva. G-D WILL PROVIDE PERMISSIBLE MEANS FOR DOING HIS WILL. IF G-D DOES NOT AVAIL A HALACHIC MEANS FOR DOING HIS WILL, WE ARE FREE FROM DOING THE MITZVA [Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, commentary to Genesis 24:8]. The gemora [Sota 21b] calls someone who does damage through "religiosity" a "chosid shoteh [pious idiot]." He will let a woman drown because it is immodest to look at a woman. The Mishna [Sota 20a] says that a chosid shoteh can destroy the world. The world was created in ten utterances by G-d, to multiply punishment for those who destroy the world, and to multiply reward for those who build G-d's world [Pirkei Avos, chap. five]. Someone who wants to make a mitzva of bringing joy to a baal simcha by hurting participants at the affair is a chosid shoteh who has midas S'dom, is a destructive and perverse imbecile, is evil in the eyes of Hashem and constructs his thinking on false and invalid emotion-based reasoning which has no Torah mesorah [background/tradition] or makor [source].

An ignoramus cannot be sin-fearing or truly pious [Pirkei Avos, chap. two]. To be a truly pious person, one must learn and make himself a scholar, or, at least, attach himself to a pious and sin-fearing scholar for constant guidance in life questions. TORAH MUST ALWAYS APPLY TO "REAL LIFE."

The musicians have vested interest in playing loudly. The youth consider the loudness "laibedig" and are likely customers when they will make their own chasunas, if they are impressed with the noisy band. I once attended a bar mitzva and asked the musician to make the loud music lower. As soon as I walked away, HE MADE IT LOUD AGAIN. I asked him a second time. The instant I walked away, HE DID THE SAME THING AGAIN. I once was at a vort and asked the musician to make the volume lower. He simply refused and told me that I should keep away from the amplifier, as if that helped escape the room-filling electronic amplification. After a chasuna, I once told a "one man band" that his amplification was dangerously loud and could harm people. He thanked me for pointing this out and said he would keep his volume lower thereafter. Within a few months, I went to two chasunas at which he played - at the same deafening volume! The one time a musician made AND KEPT the volume low when I asked was at a sheva brachos. He was a teenage Lubavitcher, a bit over bar mitzva age, who was playing for the sincere sake of a mitzva, was not blinded by money or ego, and he personally had nice midos.

Everyone's earnings are decided by Heaven from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur for the coming year [Baitza 16a]. A person must live within his means and be careful to not spend more than he earns [Rashi]. All ill-gotten gains, which do not come as a kosher GIFT FROM HASHEM, will be SEPARATED FROM THE PERSON. This can come through severe trouble (e.g. major doctor bills, robbery, business or investment losses) or premature death [Bamidbar Raba 22:7]. No one can exceed his decree from Heaven for parnossa [livelihood] and the decree ONLY applies to earnings that come through kosher means. If a musician earns money by hurting attendees at his jobs, he is earning money for doctors, stock brokers, creditors, thieves or the funeral parlor.



We call a happy event a "simcha." What does the word "simcha" actually mean? It is the QUIET AND CALM INNER HAPPINESS that a Jew feels at a Torah milestone or celebration. It is spiritual. Once "happiness" is visceral or agitated, such as when derived from "hyper-amplified" rhythmic noise, it is no longer spiritual. Therefore, it is not "simcha," as the Torah defines it. Simcha is not dependent upon external, never mind physical, stimulation. True joy comes from inner identification with the spiritual meaning of the happy "life milestone" event being celebrated. The classic sefer Orchos Tzadikim tells us that simcha comes from "ABUNDANT CALM IN THE HEART, WITH NO TROUBLESOME ELEMENT." Simcha is not defined or enhanced by loudness. Torah simcha is characterized by inner CALM.

The Mishna Brura [560:16] says that because of "zaicher lechorban [remembrance of the destruction]" we must minimize klee shir [musical instruments] and "ain lismo'ach biyoser [don't overdo it making simcha]." One who does not tone down a simcha, lacks sensitivity to the chorban and violates the halachic obligation to remember it in practical life.

We are a nation of builders. True building is directed only by the mature, who are wise in their approach to simcha. The sages make clear with the following analogy that where there is noise, there is no chochma [wisdom].

The gemora [Bava Metzia 85b] says that a jar with one pebble can make a lot of annoying noise when shaken. A packed jar, loaded tightly with pebbles, will not make any sound, no matter how much it is shaken. This is an analogy to wisdom. A person who makes noise is an empty person. A chochom [wise person] is one who acts regarding any issue with substance, quiet and calm; no matter how much he is "shaken."

The Maharal writes that the difference between things of the physical world and of the spiritual world is that the physical is in motion and the spiritual is at rest. Sound comes from energy waves that are in constant motion. Noise is entirely physical. If the essence of wedding music is to "shake and bake," it is of the physical world, and its source is not Torah. Branding it "laibedig" or using words from the siddur does not make it kosher, any more than putting payos on a pig makes it kosher. It makes the payos traif!

Much of the noise passing these days as "Jewish music" is putrid and non-Jewish in its origin. A hallmark of contemporary secular music is deafening loudness, obscene rhythm and physically stimulating beat. These are sometimes evident recently in much of the "frum" music, often during ensemble playing and particularly when soloists improvise. In my experience, most who are going about as musicians and chazonim are often hardly worthy of the titles and generally are unsophisticated in halacha learning, are selfish and/or arrogant. Many have no sense of, never mind education in, genuine fine music. Contemporary Jewish music modes follow the tasteless and deteriorating trend of the outside world, with lascivious and visceral foundations, and, worst of all, being presented as holy by the self-serving to the ignorant.

Therefore, one of the major halachic grounds for objecting to this insidious and intrusive abomination, wearing a phoney "mask" of "simcha" or "mitzva," is the Torah verse [Leviticus 18:3], "Uvichukosaihem lo saylaychu [do not go in the ways of non-Torah culture]." These turn one away from serving Hashem, and this includes to NOT GO IN THEIR WAYS IN THEATER OR ENTERTAINMENT, WHICH BRING TO INSANE BEHAVIOR [Sefer HaChinuch, #262]. One must guard himself to not act like the nations, for this will be like a trap [Midrash Sifri 81]. We may not emulate them in any way [Ramo, Yorah Daya 178:1].

You cannot find one qualified halacha [Torah-law] authority, who knows the cultural and medical implications of this trend, who will endorse deafening amplification on halachic or "mitzva" grounds. A mekubal [Torah mysticism authority] in B'nai Brak refers to the commercial "Jewish music industry" as traif, as a kilkul [spiritual deterioration] and as a sin for which our generation is punishable. I am not revealing the punishment, but it is severe and has widespread destructive implications for our entire population that has already started to happen.

The audience is probably empty of any sanctioned Jewish "culture" or serious education in music. How many ever heard a Cantor Yossel Rosenblatt recording or a Beethoven symphony? How many formally studied music composition or orchestration? How many have heard recordings of simcha music made before rock 'n roll (the music being milder, flowing and melodic in both ensemble and solo playing; the tie to spirituality much more clearly evident; all instrumentation being non-amplified)? Our generation does not know any better, "kvelling" over so-called "Jewish music," and not seeing the contradiction of this "Jewish music" being used as a genuine and effective "weapon." You just tell them it's Tehillim or Moshiach with an electric guitar or a Casio and they get excited. Worse, they get "frum excited." After all, "it's laibedig!" and "it's holy," right? Most people in the audiences mindlessly take what the musicians dish out. Besides damage, callouness to the chorban and emulating secular culture; this probably also contributes to violating the sins of bittul zman [wasting time], baal tashchis [destroying worldly resources], bittul momon [wasting money], bittul kavod habrios [negating human dignity] and, for men, bittul Torah [negating learning]. Going around in circles having inner ears blasted is no mitzva. It is a serious sin to cause - or permit yourself to receive - damage.

King Solomon says, "The wise person fears and turns from evil and the imbecile strengthens himself to do sin with confidence" [Proverbs 14:16]. No wise person will do anything for which he would get punished [Rashi] and the fool who sins will slip and fall [Targum Yonason]. A wise person will calculate everything he does, before ever acting, to see if any sin will come from it [Rabainu Yerucham, Da'as Torah]. "Who is wise? The one who foresees the outcome" [before deciding or doing a thing; Tamid 32a]. Only when fear of sin comes before chochma [wisdom] does chochma endure; and one should always weigh the pleasure of a sin against the cost of its punishment [Pirkei Avos]. The gemora [Suka 30a] tells us that THERE IS NO MITZVA IF IT COMES THROUGH A SIN. THE ACT REMAINS A TOTAL SIN. So-called "mitzvos" at simchas are actually contradictions if any one is ever injured through them. They are avairos [sins] that are erroneously called "mitzvos," and loud simchas can do serious and widespread damage. THOSE IN ATTENDANCE DON'T KNOW THE DAMAGE THEY ARE SUBJECTING THEMSELVES TO. Isn't it ironic that simchas can be sins and people coming to them, expecting to do mitzvos, get punished? It's like rain on Sukkos - Hashem is displeased with the level of our service. Our priorities, values and judgement have gotten warped. When society makes "simchas" that can harm attendees, and this has become a widespread and accepted custom, it is a case of what Avraham our father said to Avimelech [Beraishis 20:11], "There is no fear of G-d in this place."

The Torah has kedimos [clear orders of priorities]. If one cheats to have money to give charity, if one does kindness in the neighborhood and thereby neglects his or her own family, if one makes newliweds happy by dancing while harming people with amplified music, priorities are warped. There are basic, universal requirements [e.g. halacha, derech eretz and good midos] and there are "extras" [e.g. minhagim, segulos and chumros] for people who want to be extra stringent or pious. But, ONE MAY NOT DO "EXTRAS" AND LEAVE OUT OR VIOLATE TORAH BASICS. It is only legitimate to do extras when all of the basics of Torah are completely fulfilled. Then you can add something meritorious that is EXTRA. When extras cause one to omit, skip or violate basics; extras are not legitimate, and may be avairos [sins]. This is SUBSTITUTION FOR TORAH, NOT AUGMENTATION OF TORAH! Extra effort to make a simcha that violates Torah prohibitions against hurting or damaging, or neglecting to safeguard against hurting or damaging, is not service of Torah. If the extras are actual avairos, they are all the moreso illegitimate and evil. If Torah is flawed, it is not the Torah of G-d. This is only human shortcoming. "Toras Hashem temima [Tehillim 19:8, the Torah of Hashem is perfect]."

Yosef's brothers sold him into slavery and he later became Prince of Egypt. After Yaakov (their father) died, Yosef's brothers feared vengeance. He told them not to worry and that he understood his getting to Egypt had been G-d's plan. Rabainu Bachya [to Genesis 50:21] asks: if Yosef forgave his brothers, why were the "asara harugay malchus [ten martyred sages]" killed by the Romans to atone for the brothers' sale of Yosef? How could there have been such a tragedy? Since Yosef only comforted them, but did not express directly that he forgave them, Heaven considered the forgiveness to be insufficient. When one wrongs another, the victim must explicitly express forgiveness in order for Heaven to consider the forgiveness effective. If musicians hurt people hundreds of times each year, year after year of their "careers," since they never receive explicit forgiveness from EVERY person they ever hurt, they subject themselves to punishments from Heaven of frightening and tragic magnitude. In contrast, the Shulchan Aruch [Orech Chayim 231] says that if one intends everything he does for the sake of Heaven and if everything he does is the will of Heaven, he is doing service of G-d at every moment of his life.



In the first seven installments, we spoke of how amplified music at simchas has become widespread and gotten so loud in recent years that more and more people are being caused suffering and damage to their ears and hearing, being caused incurable and often permanent injury (e.g. "tinnitus" - loud ringing in the ears, dizziness or pain in the inner ears, etc.). We spoke of how it is a mitzva to protect health, how it is forbidden by halacha [Torah law] to cause hurt or damage and how it is an obligation in halacha to guard against causing hurt or damage. Caring for health is a Torah obligation that requires unusually extreme stringency and diligence, and taking no chances. We spoke of how causing damage to ears and hearing are strongly and specifically prohibited by halacha. We spoke of how the so-called music and loud amplification are of non-Jewish derivation and are physical in their essence with a false "mask" of spirituality, violating the Torah commandment never to go in non-Torah ways or culture, including modes of entertainment. We spoke of how this culture of noise serves musicians' self-interest because the immature in the audiences consider loudness "laibedig [lively]" and they hire bands who they remember as being "laibedig" when they make their chasunas subsequently. We spoke of how it is anti-Torah and destructive to let the immature determine cultural trends. We spoke of how we should train youth that loud amplification causes serious ear damage, that the Torah strongly prohibits causing harm and that they should have contempt for musicians who would harm people. The perpetrator of inner ear damage could be liable to suit in bais din and is punishable by Heaven. Even if a person asks the perpetrator to cause him damage, the perpetrator is fully guilty and responsible for harming, because halacha considers one who agrees to be damaged to be out of his mind (no one normal would want it). We brought the gemora showing that the more noise something has, the less wisdom there is to it and the more emptiness there is to it. We brought from the Maharal showing how the more a thing is in motion, the more a thing is physical (noise is vibration of sound waves - pure motion), and that the truly spiritual is at rest. We showed that true Torah simcha is never noisy, it is calm and spiritual. We showed that if a thing truly is Hashem's will, He will send halachicly permissible means to do it and that there is no mitzva that comes through a sin. We showed that if a thing bothers or hurts even one person, halacha prohibits it and the offender must be stopped. We showed that a host takes responsibility to see that his invited guests are safeguarded from harm and that a musician has a "weapon" in his amplifier from which the public must be protected. We showed that no one has a right to earn a living by damaging people. We showed that halacha requires having experts establish criteria for distancing any cause of harm from people. In our case, ear doctors in conjunction with rabonim would determine safe and comfortable volume level limitations for protecting people from noise trauma and amplification damage at Jewish functions.

"Tradition is a fence that safeguards the Torah" [Pirkei Avos, chapter three]. Mesorah tells us how we understand our texts and practice Torah. There is no source or tradition for unbearably loud amplified music as a way to celebrate or conduct any simcha. This eight-part series shows that this "culture" of harmfully loud amplification is non-Jewish in origin and VIOLATES halacha [Torah law] and mesorah [Torah tradition] in MANY WAYS. Since "There is nothing new under the sun" [Ecclesiastes 1:9], anything "new" must be suspected as not being a genuine "thing." Good and meaningful "things" are those which have been around for centuries, in the Torah. If a thing is valid, even "modern" things, the timeless holy Torah always at least alludes to it.

Here we have a situation in which laymen are crafting Jewish "culture." There is no halachic basis, origin or justification for inventing a commercial Jewish "music industry," especially since its deafening loudness and much of its physically stimulating rhythm is based on a tasteless secular "spiritually poisonous" music industry, and since it has potent and widespread power to cause serious medical damage to very many people, steadily and systematically, on occasion after occasion. Laymen; whether commercial musicians with self-interest, immature bachurim [youth], or baal habatim who don't know the Torah or medical implications of loud music; certainly cannot innovate for Jewish society. Only rabonim, the scholars who are our Torah leaders, can determine what conforms with the mesorah and what is acceptable to adopt into Jewish life and practice.

A traif and widespread trend was born, and brought in from, "outside." Youth consider loudness "laibedig [lively]" and commercial musicians cater to youth because the youth are a base of future customers. These are the same immature, silly and egocentric youth who substitute 1) "shtik" or "dancing in the middle," which they do at simchas in order to be thought of as great shiduchim [prospective marriage partners], for 2) becoming fine and mentshlach people who would genuinely make great, mature and responsible shiduchim.

The Torah has compassion on the property of a Jew [Yoma 39a] and "kal vichomer [all the moreso]" the Torah has compassion on the body of a Jew [Bartenura, Krisus 6:3]. The Torah commands "hashavas avaida [returning the lost property of a Jew;" Exodus 23:4, Deuteronomy 22:1-4]. Kal vichomer [all the moreso] YOU MAY NOT CAUSE A PERSON TO LOSE WHAT HE HAS (e.g. hearing, physical well-being)! Sefer HaChinuch [The Book of Mitzva Education] counts "hashavas avaida" as TWO of the 613 mitzvos: 1) to return the lost property [#538] and 2) not to hide yourself from the other person's loss [#539]. Sefer HaChinuch says this is mandatory for the maintenance of civil life. Musicians and hosts can not hide from their responsibility to not hurt people's bodies (especially since the damage and loss can be severe, painful and/or permanent) and to not cost them money (by sending them to doctors and pharmacies), etc. The musicians have TOO MUCH POWER TO DAMAGE CIVIL LIFE.

"Simcha" that does damage is not simcha - and is not an option. Jewish musicians and hosts should not want anything they do to be responsible for even a small risk of "even maybe" harming anyone. They must accept responsibility to safeguard anything they do from the slightest possibility of causing harm to anyone - beyond any doubt. For hundreds of years unamplified instruments and maturity made an event truly into a mitzva and a joy, with no "bad side effects." True joy is inside the Jewish soul, not in the amplifier. A "need" for noise is physical, not in the least spiritual. If one can't feel joy inside, and calmly, independently of outside stimulation, then the part of him that can know simcha is broken or undeveloped. He needs a therapist (or a lot of growing up), not noise.

If you want to argue that the angels serve G-d with ra'ash gadol [great noise; Ezekiel 3:12-13, Siddur "Yotzer Or"], and that we should emulate angels, be reminded that angels are spiritual and do not have fragile physical inner ear structures. All the noise they can make in Heaven won't cause damage. Noise made on earth can cause damage! SERVICE OF G-D DOES NOT DAMAGE, AND NO VIOLATION OF SHULCHAN ARUCH [Code Of Law] IS SERVICE OF G-D!

One of the ear doctors I interviewed about ear damage gave the measure of "how low" the volume must be. If two people are talking in a normal voice at a distance of ten feet apart [three meters], they should be able to hear EVERY WORD CLEARLY, AND, even with this, there must be no one present complaining of any ear discomfort in any way. If EVEN ONE PERSON [e.g. an older person, someone with sensitive ears, someone whose ears were injured from a previous simcha, etc.] has any discomfort, the volume MUST IMMEDIATELY be lowered to accommodate him or her. THE WEAKEST PERSON THERE DEFINES THE MEASURE (not "a majority," not the host, not a musician). If anyone has a question about their ears being hurt at an affair, they should immediately ask the baal hasimcha for lower volume or they should ask a rov or respected person who is present to speak to the baal hasimcha to have the volume lowered. Failing that, they should immediately go home. The human ear is not made for such loud volume. Inner ear damage is often painful, "life impacting" and irreversible. One must never expose an ear to more than it was made to take. Doing so is no mitzva, it is destruction.

Let us make our life milestones into true simchas and pure mitzvos, with no bad aspect. Let us get back to a sane manifestation of calm spiritual joy at our simchas. Instead of damaging an attendee's ability to be happy afterwards - due to chronic and incurable hearing loss or ear pain - let the only lasting impact of a wedding be a happy marriage for the new couple, and let the only remnant of a bar mitzva be a youth who is thereafter fulfilling the will of his Father in Heaven. That way, we all can be closer to that noble goal of truly fulfilling the will of Hashem with mitzvos that are genuinely and fully mitzvos.



There is a debate lately about whether musicians should play loudly or softly at simchas. Since equipment these days can amplify music very much, A ONE-MAN BAND OR FULL ORCHESTRA can play at such high volume that guests' ears can hurt for months after and neighbors down the street from a chasuna hall threaten law suits to close the noisy place that blares music nightly.

The arguments for playing loudly include technical reasons (acoustics of a wedding hall, loud musicians having to hear each other so their playing is coordinated or producing music that overpowers the volume of talking guests), aesthetic reasons (I am an "artist") and business reasons (if younger folks, with more tolerance for high volume, like the band and consider them laibedig (lively), these young-bloods will hire or recommend the noisy band for more chasunas).

The arguments for playing softly are basic. When the music is extraordinarily loud, the noise can be painful, people cannot hear each other talk, nor themselves think. It is impossible to enjoy (or, often, remain at) the simcha. Intelligent guests wear ear plugs to block the high volume, but they have to keep to themselves like hermits because they cannot converse with others while wearing ear plugs; and they have to bear the less intelligent guests insulting them with gems like "You're not normal" or "Are you ill?"

High decibel sounds are very capable of causing significant damage to nerves in the ears and to hearing, and damage is oftentimes incurable and permanent. Harm to ears is common for people in noisy professions such as construction, subway conductor, working in a factory with noisy machinery and performing highly amplified music. The more one is exposed to loud sound, the worse the condition in the ears gets and the greater the chance that the damage is permanent. Symptoms can include long term or permanent loud and annoying ringing noise in the ears (tinnitus - harm to inner ear nerves), small or large measures of hearing loss, painful sensitivity to louder sounds and lasting pain or discomfort in the inner ears.

Torah does not believe in two sides endlessly vying for their conflicting interests nor throwing their opposing positions against each other. In Choshen Mishpot, the Shulchan Aruch tells us that when two parties have a claim against each other, there are procedures for handling it. The merits of each side's case, and the substantiation for same, are brought forth and judged by rabonim by virtue of what our law says, and there is a "psok." When one asks any shaalo (question), a rov gives a "psok." What does "psok" mean? If you say it means "answer," this is not correct. "Tshuva" means an answer, in relation to a question. "Psok" means "termination of the question." WHEN A HALACHA IS DECIDED, THERE IS NO MORE QUESTION - IT IS OVER. Let us look at this as a Torah question instead of endlessly throwing two sets of agendas back and forth!

First of all, once anything is capable of harming even one other Jew, or his property, it enters the category of "mazik (causer of damage)." The Torah prohibits being a mazik. You might claim that the other should be obligated to guard himself from harm. The Torah's position (Seder Nezikin and Choshen Mishpot) is that you are obligated to not allow yourself or your property to cause any kind of damage to any other person nor to his property. It is your responsibility to actively and ongoingly guard against causing any injury, pain or damage. You are accountable for paying up to five forms of monetary restitution (for: pain, medical expenses, embarrassment, loss of livelihood and/or repairing/replacing of damaged property as applicable to each case and decided upon by bais din). You must not even cause partial, indirect or unintended damage; and you can be accountable for actions which originate on your own property. For example, the Shulchan Aruch, in Choshen Mishpot, has a case where person A falls off his roof by accident and injures person B and some property on the street. Person A is liable to pay for all damage to person B and to B's property. Person A cannot claim: "I was hurt, too; I didn't mean it; I didn't know you were there; I fell by accident." A caused harm and B is paid for all damage. If A is killed BY HIS OWN FALL - EVEN DUE TO ACCIDENT, his estate owes B! Some musicians claim, in the interest of being laibadig ("lively") or artistic, that it is OK to play exceedingly loudly because their clients tell them to play very loudly or the clients are passive if the musicians violate the clients' instruction to play softly. Choshen Mishpot tells us that if A tells B to harm him (e.g. cut off A's limb, or to blind or kill A) and A says he forgives B and holds B to be innocent, B remains fully accountable and punishable BECAUSE NO ONE IN HIS RIGHT MIND WANTS TO BE DAMAGED. The halacha is very clear: if you harm someone with that person's consent, YOU STILL NEVER HAVE THE TORAH'S CONSENT and you are fully liable in halacha for all damages to the victim! Choshen Mishpot is also clear that if a person hits another person in the ear and causes deafness, doing so in front of two or more valid witnesses, the perpetrator must pay damages for causing deafness. In cases where bais din cannot extract financial settlements for technical reasons, one still can be guilty and liable in the Heavenly court for damages; which will be "collected" by suffering or financial loss in this world and/or by gehenom after your life in this world.

The entire world is caused salvation by refraining from causing damage (gemora Shabos). If you stop damage, you merit saving the world from damage, mida kinnegged mida (measure for measure). If you cause damage, you block salvation for the world. You are obligated to treat every other Jew as G-d's creation (Avos DeRebi Noson), only bestowing love and good.

The argument for blaring noisy music at simchas, even by a loud one-man band with a powerful amplifier, seems to be predicated on reasons of business and "art," with a preference for appealing to young folks over the feelings of the more volume-sensitive older folks. The young folks constitute a better pool of potential customers as they are probably more likely to make chasunas and bar mitzvas. This is pure greed. From a Torah perspective, this is warped reasoning, for many reasons. 1. THE OLDER A PERSON IS, THE MORE WE ARE OBLIGATED BY THE TORAH TO RESPECT, SATISFY AND ACCOMMODATE HIM. 2. Musicians' self-serving pandering to the young goes against the gemora (Megila 31b and Nedarim 40a) that says, "If older people say to you 'destroy' and young people say to you 'build,' then destroy and do not build; because destroying by mature people is building and building by immature people is destroying." This is practical advice - as well as Torah. 3. The numerous halachic prohibitions relating to causing any pain or damage. The Torah also has numerous laws which govern working for a living. The amount of money you are to earn each year is decided by Hashem every Rosh HaShana. Chazal say that all money you earn by avaira (sin) will eventually be separated from you by bad investments, doctor bills, robbery or your premature death. Livelihood requires a balance between hishtadluss (practical effort) and emunah (trust in G-d). Earnings are not retained when coming from hishtadluss that contradicts emunah or halacha. 4. The gemora (Sanhedrin) says that one whose profession does not contribute to society is posul le'aiduss (invalid to be a witness in court)...kal vichomer (all the moreso) one whose profession harms people on a daily basis! 5. Even if a musician is never sued once in his life, if he hurts one or more people on a regular basis, his "din vicheshbon" (Heavenly judgement) could have him liable for tens of thousands of injuries over the course of his work-life. 6. The gemora (Bava Metzia) says that a jar with one pebble can make a lot of annoying noise when shaken. A jar loaded tightly with pebbles will not make any sound, no matter how much it is shaken. This is an analogy to wisdom. A person who makes noise is an empty person. A chochom (wise person) is one who acts regarding any issue with substance, quiet and calm. 7. Noise is produced by sound waves, which are in motion. The Maharal says that the physical world is based on things in motion and spirituality is characterized by stillness. (Appreciate that the Maharal was hundreds of years before Einstein and the scientific knowledge that physical matter is built by atoms that are in constant motion! - yet the Maharal learned from the Torah that the physical world is based on motion and that spirituality is still!) Making noise is based on increasing the amount moving sound waves - adding physicality to the world. Loudness appeals to and stimulates the physical part of a person. A Jewish simcha is supposed to ADD SPIRITUALITY TO THE WORLD - THUS, LOUD AND HARMFUL NOISE AT A FRUM SIMCHA IS A CONTRADICTION AND MULTI-DIMENSIONAL AVAIRA (SIN)! 9. If one person asks another to injure him and he will absolve the perpetrator of all accountability, the halacha is that the perpetrator is fully guilty and is obligated for all punishments and penalties (Choshen Mishpot 421:12). Therefore, no host or guest can say to any musician(s) that he welcomes damaging loudness and forgives the musician(s). Those who make damaging loud noise are fully culpable. 9. If one harms another, it is obligatory to do prompt tshuva (repentance; Choshen Mishpot 422:1) including to feel remorse, admit being wrong, pay all damages, commit to never doing the wrong again, appease the victim and seek to be forgiven. 10. For thousands of years before electric amplification, Jews made happy occasions with unamplified instruments and the simchas were just fine!

One Boro Park ear doctor I know TRULY HAS PATIENTS REGULARLY COMING WITH INNER-EAR NERVE INJURIES AND HEARING LOSS, OFTEN INCURABLE, BECAUSE THE AMPLIFICATION OF CHASUNAH MUSIC IS HARMFULLY LOUD! If the musicians or host will not make excessive music volume lower, you have MEDICAL JUSTIFICATION TO PROTEST OR LEAVE, especially if your ears hurt. When you hire a musician or band, DEMAND that they COMMIT THEMSELVES IN WRITING NOT TO PLAY AT A HARMFUL VOLUME! The Boro Park ear doctor I interviewed said that harmful means: if the volume is too loud for two people at a distance of EIGHT FEET APART TO SPEAK AT A NORMAL LEVEL AND HEAR EACH WORD PERFECTLY CLEARLY or if the volume level HURTS THE EARS OF EVEN ONE PERSON PRESENT. Make clear to all musicians that PLAYING AT A NON-HARMFUL VOLUME THROUGHOUT IS A SERIOUS AND REAL CONDITION FOR HAVING THE JOB AND THEY FORFEIT PAY IF THIS CONDITION IS AT ALL VIOLATED. Musician: you have no right to injure or damage anyone; neither in the name of art nor business. If your loud volume hurts anyone, you are just a cruel, egocentric and selfish mazik, plain and simple; and this is multiplied by every person, at every event, that you pain or harm in any way. It is your responsibility to not harm anyone ever. Host: realize that you bear some responsibility for harming people if you let the music volume be harmfully loud. Guests: bring ear plugs to events with amplified music and use them in order to protect your hearing; save this article to show musicians and hosts; and don't be afraid to leave and to ask the rabonim present (or any group of mature people who understand the seriousness of the matter) to protest! Many involved in any given case might have a din (status) of a mazik (damager) and/or rodaif (assailant). The system for making and celebrating contemporary weddings, and the values and priorities which drive it, are flawed, out of hand and backwards; and is potentially systematically causing numerous avairos by the parents, children, guests and wedding-related businesses and workers. A bar mitzva is supposed to start a life of adult responsibility, not earaches. Each wedding is supposed to start a marriage, not hearing-loss conditions.



In the old shtetl, only close relatives came to a wedding that took place in a wooden shul, with no flowers, noisy band, fancy caterer nor photographer. The cooking was done by close family. The wedding was more memorable, personal and happy. The parents were able to sleep at night. They didn't worry over how to beg, borrow and cope for years with debt to marry off one child (never mind many).

Today, weddings seem to be designed for the approval of society and for one to out-do the other. People have oversized guest lists, including many people who are not necessarily close. The invited must show up after a hard day so that the host will come when invited to the oversized chasunos that the guest will some day be making. People can be invited to several weddings in a week, which can cost hundreds of dollars in presents. If one does not dance for the couple, he violates the "five voices" of wedding celebration and has a shaala of gezel (possibility of being a thief) for eating the host's food. In some circles, each family is required to buy presents for every member of the other family. If your child gets engaged and that family has ten children, you have to buy presents for all twelve family members. That alone can break you.

When children claim they want their wedding to have fancy amenities (plus catered tanoyim and sheva brachos and expensive furniture for the apartment) like their friends, they make demands upon their parents. The fathers may have to go around to 100 shuls "shnorring" for "hachnosas kala" (wedding expenses). Imagine the embarrassment for the fathers who have to go around begging! This all violates kibud av ve'aim (honor and respect due parents). If the parent, on his own, decides to make a big and fancy chasuna that exceeds his means, he is making a facade to stroke his own ego and to impress "fair weather friends." He is crushing himself and also is endorsing everyone in his society crushing themselves (and him) when they will marry children off. G-d is left out of this. And the question arises for the people in the 100 shuls whom the beggars approach: are they obligated to subsidize all of these unnecessary and extravagant extras? The burdens should not be legitimized, multiplied and put upon society. Rebbes and gedolim have protested and tried to make takanos (rules), but the situation is still seriously out of hand.

You can make a wedding with a mesader kidushin (officiating rabbi), two witnesses and a minyan for sheva brachos. If Aunt Shprintza will never speak to you again for not inviting her to the wedding of her favorite neice, let's say OK and bring her. But 500 people and a six figure debt we don't need - and we have no Torah justification for it. It is phoney, cruel and perverse. The parents leave the wedding hall with high blood pressure and can be sick for years, over all their debt. Mass market meals are rushed by impersonal and racing waiters, who give you barely enough time to eat before they take each course away. Some photographers physically shove you out of their way to get the desired light or angle. It's inhuman. And even if you can afford it, is it worth the avairos, lashon hora and all the ayin horas (making others who can't afford it feel bad), when your flowers have more colors than Noach's rainbow, when your all-French menu has more courses than your shul has siddurim?

The musicians play so loudly that guests have damage done to the ear nerves. One Boro Park ear doctor I know TRULY HAS PATIENTS REGULARLY COMING WITH INNER-EAR NERVE INJURIES AND HEARING LOSS, OFTEN INCURABLE, BECAUSE THE AMPLIFICATION OF CHASUNAH MUSIC IS HARMFULLY LOUD! If the musicians, or the host, will not make excessive music volume lower, you have MEDICAL JUSTIFICATION TO PROTEST OR LEAVE, especially if your ears hurt. When you hire a musician or band, DEMAND that they COMMIT THEMSELVES IN WRITING NOT TO PLAY AT A HARMFUL VOLUME! The Boro Park ear doctor I interviewed said that harmful means: if the volume is too loud for two people at a distance of EIGHT FEET APART TO SPEAK AT A NORMAL LEVEL AND HEAR EACH WORD PERFECTLY CLEARLY or if the volume level HURTS THE EARS OF EVEN ONE PERSON PRESENT. Make clear to all musicians that this is a CONDITION FOR HAVING THE JOB. Host: realize that you bear some responsibility for harming people if you let the music volume be harmfully loud. Guests: bring ear plugs to events with amplified music and use them in order to protect your hearing; and save this article to show musicians and hosts!

There are fights: child vs. parent, his side vs. her side. The engagement stretches to give time for raising money and for extravagant preparations. Instead of getting the couple married, the system keeps them apart - a contradiction! Getting engaged should mean they get married - and soon. Rav Avrohom Asher Zimmerman, z'l, a gadol in halacha and yira, said that when two people make a commitment to marry each other, it is healthiest to marry as soon as possible - WITHIN SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS (not months!). Many involved in any given case might have a din (status) of a mazik (damager) and/or rodaif (assailant). The system is flawed, out of hand, warped and has backwards priorities; and is potentially systematically causing numerous avairos by the parents, children, guests and wedding-related businesses and workers.

Ask a Boro Park or Williamsburg Jew if he has been to a Broadway show and he would gasp in horror at the thought. Why don't they gasp at the extravagant chasunah productions that they put on in their own neighborhood?

Current practice for making weddings puts significant trouble and imposition on many people, which is forbidden in Jewish law. In the laws of hashavas avaida (returning lost property), if you find something in a way that was obviously left in a place intentionally, such as when it is covered over or in a pile, it is not considered lost. It is forbidden to touch the article. This is because the halacha presumes the owner left it there on purpose temporarily and will come back for it. When it is not there because you moved it, you "matreeyach" (impose upon) him AND IT IS AGAINST JEWISH LAW TO IMPOSE UPON ANOTHER! It is forbidden to say your quiet Shmoneh Esray in shul out loud because the sound of your voice will trouble your neighbor who is trying to concentrate. HALACHA DOES NOT PERMIT US TO TROUBLE OR BOTHER ANOTHER. The Torah says that it is forbidden to hurt another person's feelings. Raban Gamliel died because he hurt the feelings of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkenos. Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel died because he hurt the feelings of someone who came to ask him a shaalo, who the rabbi kept waiting. Note that a FATHER AND SON BOTH DIED BY HEAVEN'S HAND BECAUSE THEY HURT THE FEELINGS OF ANOTHER JEW. This also indicates that TRAITS CAN TEND TO CONTINUE IN FAMILIES. When traits are bad, harmful and punishable, this can be very serious. When a man gives kiddushin on a condition that is impossible to fulfill (e.g. "You are married to me if you walk by foot up to the top of the sky") the kiddushin is valid and the condition is not. The halacha presumes he only wants to annoy her AND AN ACT DONE TO ANNOY ANOTHER JEW HAS NO HALACHIC SUBSTANCE. If one pursues a Jew in a way that can bring harm, he is called a rodaif (assailant, pursuer). Halacha does not hold accountable one who harms a rodaif - it is deemed to be guarding and defending against one who would harm another (ask a rov if you have practical shaalos - you can't just start knifing people who irritate you!). We have principle after principle, law after law, that make clear that we are not allowed to have bad impact on another Jew. WEDDINGS CAN VIOLATE MANY HALACHOS!

The Thursday psalm (81) makes clear that people want things that are NOT good for them. This is relevant in shiduchim, weddings & marriage; as well as other aspects of earthly life. Let me paraphrase a selection from the psalm.

G-d is He who grants victory and joy to those who are crushed by suffering. Listen to Me and I will testify against you, Israel. If you would only discipline yourselves and obey Me! Let there be no foreign god WITHIN you nor bow down to any strange power. I am the One Who brought you up from Egypt. Open your mouth so that I may fulfill the desire of those who obey Me. But My people do not listen to or submit to Me. And I let them go according to the dictates of their own heart, go in their own counsel. If only Israel would obey Me, if Israel would go in My ways. I would subjugate their enemies and turn My hand against their oppressors. I would provide miraculously for those who live undemanding lives, willing to sacrifice, do My will, be loyal to Me.

This psalm presents a frightening picture for the person who wants to follow his own desires and ideas. The greatest resulting punishment is that G-D LETS THE PERSON GO HIS OWN WAY AND HAVE WHAT HE WANTS! This can bring to CRUSHING TRAGEDY. I know a person who, when 18, prayed for a Chevy and actually got it! Three months later it was totalled in a crash. The gemora [Eruvin 13a] says that when one pushes for something, Heaven pushes him back. Some people "know" what they want in a shidduch (e.g. money, looks, yichus) or they pursue a certain person, and the marriage blows up in their face. They make extravagant weddings, and then miserable and vicious divorces, which are coming sooner and sooner after marriage these days. Focusing on desire and materialism is a foreign god within a person which alienates one from G-d.

We all think we know what is good. But, G-D HIMSELF TESTIFIES THAT TRUE GOOD IS DOING HIS WILL FOR HIS SAKE; HUMBLING OURSELVES; BEING HAPPY WITH OUR LOT IN LIFE; accepting the hardships and lessons of G-d's ways; and living a MODEST LIFE OF SPIRITUAL VALUES, PRIORITIES, ELEVATION AND REFINEMENT. G-d has the power to change nature, as He did when He took us from Egypt. He will even extract honey from a rock to provide sweetly for those who are devoted to Him.

A smaller, reasonable, warm chasunah; proportioned to the means and situation of the two families involved; will not only be more happy and memorable, but it will teach the couple good and healthy lessons in REAL interpersonal relating. It can be an excellent model for how to work nicely together. It will teach budgeting, prioritizing, responsibility, organization, consideration, compromise, communication, adaptability and that mature living requires limits and unselfishness. The most important purpose of a wedding is to start a married life. If a couple learns that life is a phoney superficial show, there is more likelihood the curtain will come down and the show will close on the stage of bais din. If the wedding is an example of heartfelt warmth, care, respect, co-operation, balance, giving and peace; it is more likely the marriage will start, AND REMAIN ONE ALSO! Isn't that what really counts?



[Translated by Rabbi Jeff Forsythe into English from selections from Rambam's Commentary To The Mishnah, several personal letters and Mishneh Torah:


* being superlative examples of Rambam's personal sensitivity to others,

* giving insights into his personal character and conduct, or

* furnishing his instruction to us on developing these]



I am concluding this commentary in accordance with my intention. I pray of G-d that he save me from mistakes [herein]. May he who sees fit to criticize me, or who knows a better explanation of any of the Mishna's laws, please make me aware of it and be kind enough to forgive me. Every pious and reasonable person will know that the project which I inaugurated was not an easy task to take on or to complete. Further, I have been stirred by the sufferings of our time, this exile which Hashem has decreed on us, and our being pushed from one end of the world to the other. Perhaps this has brought us reward because exile is an atonement for sins. G-d knows that there are several laws which I explained while on the road and that I compiled several subjects while traveling on ship. In addition, I busied myself with learning of some secular subjects [which develop the mind and increase the ability to know G-d].

The reason for which I am explaining the conditions [under which I wrote this commentary] was to exonerate my critics. They should not be criticized for criticizing me. [I want] G-d to reward them. I see them as friends. They are serving G-d. My writing of the conditions in which I compiled this commentary will explain why completing it took a long time.



I see from the letter of the esteemed gentleman Yosef, who is called Ben Gabir, that he has sorrow that he is ignorant, owing to his knowing only Arabic and not Hebrew. Therefore, he can study our "Commentary On The Mishna" with great relish, but he is not able to read our law compilation "Mishneh Torah." He also communicates in his letter that some sages in Baghdad reject some of my legal rulings. I was asked for the sake of study that I give my ruling in my own handwriting. I will comply with these requests in the following. May G-d guard you and increase you peace.

I must tell you firstly that you are not correct in seeing yourself as ignorant. You are our loved student. Such is everyone who has sincere will to learn even one verse or one law. There is no difference whether you study in the holy language or in Arabic or Aramaic. What matters only that it is done with understand. This is the important thing, regardless of whatever language is used in the commentaries or explanations. However, [the Torah] said, "He has loathed the word of G-d (Numbers 15:31)" of the person who does not elevate his soul. This also includes a person who refrains from continuing his learning even if he became a great sage, because the ongoing blossoming of one's learning is the foremost commandment.

Therefore, in general I say to you, that you may not disparage yourself or give up your motivation to keep growing. There are great sages who did not start their learning until an older age. Even so, they became distinguished sages.

If you want to study my ["Mishneh Torah"], you will have to learn our holy language, a little bit at a time. This is not very difficult because the compilation is written in an easy form. If you learn one portion, you will come to learn the entirety. I have no thought to compile, as you request, an Arabic translation. The work would lose its unique quality. How can I do this when I wish I could render my Arabic writings into the holy language? Be that as it may, you are our brother. May G-d guard you, bring you to your potential and grant you happiness in the two worlds.

Information has reached me. I do not know whether it is true. There is someone in your city who speaks slanderously against me. He strives to acquire honor by misleading people about my instruction. I further have heard that you made protest against this and rebuked the attacker. Do not do this. I forgive everyone who is against me because the person lacks intelligence. This includes when he seeks personal benefit by attacking me. He does me no harm. He pleases himself and I lose nothing. You cause yourself trouble with purposeless arguments. I do not need the help of other human beings. Let others go according to their own will. May G-d help you to serve Him with an honest heart. May He pull all of your actions and words to His name. May the peace that you, the sages and the students have be great. May our G-d bless them.



Moshe, the son of Rabbi Maimon, an exile of Jerusalem, the S'fardi (Spanish Jew) says what follows.

I received the inquiry from the esteemed gentleman Ovadia, the wise and scholarly convert, who has taken cover under the wings of His presence. May G-d reward him for his service. May complete compensation be given to him by the G-d of Israel.

You have asked me whether you are also permitted to say "Our G-d and G-d of our fathers," "Who has made us holy by your commandments," "Who has separated us," "Who has chosen us," "Who has given us as inheritance," "Who has taken us out of Egypt," "Who has done miracles for our forefathers," in the blessings and prayers that you say, whether by yourself or with the minyan.

You may say all of these things according to their normal text and not change any of it at all. You will also bless and pray in the same as every Jew from birth will bless and pray, regardless of whether you are alone or with a minyan.

The explanation for this is that Avraham our father taught the people, opened up their thinking and revealed the true religion and the oneness of G-d to them. He denied the idols and destroyed the love [people had for] them. He brought many converts under the wings of G-d's presence. He gave them instruction and direction. He commanded his sons and those in his house after him to guard the ways of G-d forever, as [the Torah] wrote, "For I know that he will instruct his family and his house after him and they will guard the way of Hashem to do righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19)." From that time on, anyone who converts to our religion and admits the oneness of the Name of G-d, as it is instructed in the Torah, is reckoned among the students of Avraham our father, may peace be upon him. These people are Avraham's house and he is the one who converted them to righteousness.

[Avraham] converted with his words and instruction those who were in his time. In just that same way, he converts those who come in subsequent generations by the teaching that he bequeathed to his descendants and house after him. In this way, Avraham, our father, may peace be upon him, is the father of all his righteous descendants who guard his ways. He is the father of all of his students and of all converts who come to commit themselves to Torah. For this reason, you are to pray, "Our G-d and G-d of our fathers" because Avraham, may peace be upon him, is your father. You are to also pray, "Who has chosen our fathers as His own," for the land was given to Avraham, as [the Torah] writes, "Stand up, walk through the land, its length and width, because I will give it to you [Genesis 13:17]." You may make changes regarding the words, "Who has brought us out of the land of Egypt," or "Who has done miracles for our fathers; if you wish, you may say, "Who has brought Israel out of the land of Egypt," or "Who has done miracles for Israel." However, if you do not want to change them, it is not a sin because you have come under the wings of G-d's presence, and acknowledged the One G-d. Therefore, there is no difference between you and us. All miracles that have been done for us have been done, so to speak, for us and for you. This is referred to in the book of Isaiah (56:3), "Do not let the convert who attached himself to G-d say, 'G-d has surely separated me from his nation.'" There is absolutely no difference between yourself and us. You are to definitely say the blessing, "Who has chosen us," "Who has given to us," "Who has taken us for Yours," and "Who has separated us." This is because the Creator, may He be blessed, has definitely chosen and separated you from the nations, and He has given you the Torah. This is because the Torah has been given to the converts, as it is said [Numbers 15:15], "One law will be for you of the congregation and also for the convert who dwells with you, a law that is eternal for all your generations. The convert will be same as you are before G-d."

You should know that most of our forefathers were idol worshippers when they came out of Egypt. They mixed with the heathens in Egypt and copied their practices and lifestyle. [This continued till the time when] the Holy One, blessed be He sent Moshe our Rabbi, the leader of all prophets, to separate us from the nations and brought us under G-d's wings. [This applies to] us and to all converts and gave one law to all of us.

Do not reckon your beginning to be inferior. Although we are the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov, you stem from He Who spoke and the world was created. This is like what is said by our prophet, "This one will say 'I belong to G-d,' and that other one will call himself with the name of Yakov [Isaiah 44:5]."



Your instructor sinned seriously by calling you an idiot for rejecting [his statement] that the Moslems are idol worshippers. It is appropriate for him to beg you for your forgiveness, even though he is your rabbinical leader. The, he should fast, cry and pray. Perhaps he will come to forgiveness. Was he drunk such that he forgot the thirty three statements of the Torah warning in regards to converts? Even if he would have been correct and you wrong, he was obligated to be gentle. How much more this is so when you have the truth and he is wrong.

When he spoke of whether a Moslem is an idol worshipper, he had to have been careful not to get angry with a righteous convert and shame him. [This is] because our sages said, "Anyone who is angry is as if he worshipped idolatry [Shabos 105b]."

The obligation which the Torah places upon us regarding converts is huge. We are commanded to honor and to fear our parents, and to obey prophets. A person can honor, fear or obey and not love. However, regarding converts, the Torah requires us to love with all the power that the heart has.

It is amazing that he called you the idiot. Can you be called the idiot? Heaven forbid! It is you who abandoned his father and his mother, forgot his birthplace and his nation and its power. Instead, you attached yourself to a downtrodden, hated and subjugated people. You recognized the truth and righteousness of this nation's Torah. You are a man who threw away the things of this world and erased them from his heart. You are nothing near to an imbecile. Rather, G-d has called your name "wise." You are a student of our father Avraham. He also abandoned his father and his relatives and turned towards G-d. And, He who blessed Avraham will bless you. He will make you fitting to see all the comfort destined for Israel, and in all the good things that G-d will do for us, G-d will do good for you, because G-d has promised good for Israel.



The point of this is all that I want from you, if you are my disciple, that you will go in my ways. It will be to your credit if you will be insulted and not insult, and if you will not let your words go unrestrained. First and foremost, set Hashem before you [Psalm 16:8] and let it be last that you censure the intelligent and religious. Make your goal with this man, if you are not able to make peace with him, to never do wrong against him in any way. It is possible for a person to reply, to censure and to differ with another person in a polite and friendly manner. Do not violate my instruction in any way.

Regarding what you mentioned about traveling to Baghdad, I have already given you permission for you to open a yeshiva so that you can teach and give rulings in halacha, and be diligent in making the [Mishna Torah] known. However, I have apprehension that quarrels with them [Shmuel Ben Ali and Zecharya, who both lived in Baghdad] will continually happen to you, so that nothing but quarrels will result. Further, if you have to always be teaching, your business will collapse, and you will then have to take salary from your students, which I cannot advise you to do. It is more beloved to me for a person to take one meager coin in salary for tailoring, carpentry or weaving than to have [all the wealth that comes with] the position of Rosh HaGolus. If you engage in work with them [your students or their families], your situation will decline, and if you will take money from them, you will become degraded in their eyes. My advice is that you should work to toil in your business and in the study of medicine, in conjunction with study of Torah truly for the sake of Heaven [with no need for money from it]. You will only teach the laws of the Rav [Rabbi Alfasi, called the "Rif," who lived in the century before Rambam and who wrote a fundamental halachic commentary on the Talmud], may he be remembered for blessing, and compare them with the [Mishneh Torah]. If you or your students ever find a difference, you must know that deep study of the Talmud can lead to that, and you shall search out the sources [in the Talmud]. If you spend your time on commentaries and on books which discuss the gemora, and those things whose value has been put to rest, that is just lost time and reduces the benefit. Let me know all of the things which you agree to do, and may Hashem set your esteemed self on the best possible road for you and your students.

Do not stop sending your letters to me because I have no better friend than them. When Ibn Almashat returns from his business trip to India, go over what we discussed. All of our friends send you their best. G-d knows that my sister's venerable husband Abu Alma'ali, and his brother, and his dear son Abu Alratza, and all who are in my house, from the greatest to the smallest [i.e. family and servants], are delighted upon hearing good news from you. We all hope to return to being together with you, as we wish and as you wish. Please give over the best of blessings to the honored elder who fears G-d, is modest, is honest, is trustworthy, is the honor of our greatest holy ones, is the saintly scholar, is the glory and strength of the kohanim, may his Rock and Redeemer guard him, Rabbi Yoshia your father-in-law. Also give over the best of blessings to his son, may G-d add for him more delight in him. "May he see descendants and have long life [Isaiah 53:10]." Even though the Torah stated the prohibition, "Never at all ask how a woman['s wellbeing] is [Kidushin 70b]," a blessing is not forbidden at all. "May you have peace and may your home have peace" [home representing "wife," 1 Samuel 25:6]. "At the time determined by G-d, Sarah will have a son [Genesis 18:14]." May the peace of all of you increase and greaten, as you would wish and as this writer would wish.



13. The business conduct of a wise and learned person is always truthful and trustworthy. When he says "yes" it is a reliable "yes." When he says "no" it is a reliable "no." He is stringent on himself in all of his reckonings. In his obligations to others, he is liberal and he gives in. When he buys from others, he is not stringent on them [if they are reasonably honest and reliable also]. He will responsibly pay the price of all purchases immediately. He will not become a co-signer nor guarantor and will not come to be power-of-attorney. He accepts obligation on himself in business matters even where the Torah does not obligate him to [i.e beyond the strict law]. He must always stand by his word and never change from it. If others are obligated to him by law, he gives them extension [of time to pay] and forgives. He gives [to fellow Jews interest-free] loans and is generous. His business will not drop into [take business away from] his fellow Jew. He will never pain any person in all of his lifetime. The general principle is that he will be persecuted but never persecute, he will be insulted but never insult. Scripture (Isaiah 49:3) refers to the person who does all of these things, and anything which is like them, "And He said to me, 'You are My servant, Israel, such that through you I will be glorified.'"



3. It is a commandment, incumbent upon every Jew, to love every single Jew as he loves himself, as the Torah says, "And you will love your fellow Jew as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)." Therefore, each must speak in praise of each other, and have concern about the property or money of each other, just as he has concern about his own property or money and wants honor for himself. One who takes honor by the humiliation of another Jew has no portion in the world to come.

4. There are two active commandments to love a convert who comes under the wings of the Divine Presence. One is because he comes under the category of fellow Jew and the other because he is a convert, and the Torah says (Deuteronomy 10:19), "You are to love the convert." [G-d] commanded on loving the convert as He commanded on loving Himself, as the Torah says (Deuteronomy 6:5), "You will love the L-rd your G-d." The Holy One blessed be He Himself loves converts as the Torah says (Deuteronomy 10:18), "And He loves the convert."

5. Anyone who has hate in his heart for any Jew transgresses a prohibitive commandment, as the Torah says (Deuteronomy 19:17), "Do not hate your brother in your heart." [Bais Din - Torah Court] does not [punish with] lashes for [transgressing] this prohibition because there is no action in it. This commandment only warned against hate in the heart. However one who hits his fellow or debases him, even though these are not permitted, does not transgress the prohibition against hatred.

6. When person A sins against person B, person B should not hate [person A] and keep quiet. This is what is written in scripture (2 Samuel 13:22) about evil people, "And Avshalom did not speak anything to Amnon, neither bad or good, because Avshalom hated Amnon." Rather, it is a commandment incumbent upon the Jew to let [the offender] know and say to him, "Why did you do to me this and that? Why did you sin against me in this matter?" The Torah says [Leviticus 19:17), "You will surely correct your fellow Jew." If [A, the offender] returned [in repentance] and asked from [B, the victim] to forgive him, he must forgive A. B must not be cruel about forgiving, as is written in the Torah (Genesis 20:17), "And Avraham prayed to G-d [for Avimelech, after he repented, even though he wronged Avraham]."

7. When a Jew sees his fellow Jew sin, or go in a way which is not good, it is a commandment to return [the one who did wrong] to the good, and to make known to him that he is sinning against himself with his wrong behavior. This is as the Torah says (Leviticus 19:17), "You will surely correct your fellow Jew." The person who corrects his fellow Jew does so whether for sins committed against a person or against G-d and must do so in private. He must speak to the [person he is correcting] gently and with a soft tongue, making it clear that he is only speaking for his good and to bring him to the eternal life of the world to come. If [the listener] accepts from [the one correcting], that is best. If he does not [accept], he will correct him a second time, and third time; and similarly he is obligated to constantly repeat the correction until the sinner [is just about to curse or to] hit him and he says, "I am not listening." Whenever it is possible and in one's power to protest, and he does not protest, he is [considered by the Torah to be a participant] drawn into those sins since he could have prevented them.

8. One who corrects his fellow must, at the start, not speak to him harshly so as to cause [the listener] shame. This is as is written [in the next phrase of Leviticus 19:17, the same verse which commands correcting a fellow Jew], "And do not carry sin on account of correcting him." Thus our sages (Arachin 16b) said, "You might think that you are able to correct him to the point at which his face changes [e.g. the face grimaces, gets red or angry]. The Torah comes to say [to correct but to] 'Not carry sin on account of correcting him.'" From here we know that it is forbidden to embarrass a Jew, and all the moreso when in front of people. Even though [the bais din - Torah court] does not [punish] him with lashes, this is a huge sin. Thus said our sages, "One who shames a Jew in public has no portion in the world to come." Therefore, each person must be very careful to never embarrass a Jew in front of people whether [the victim would be] child or adult. This includes never calling someone any name from which he would be embarrassed and never saying a thing [whose meaning or inference might cause him to be] embarrassed from it. In what cases are we talking? Things which are between a person and another person. However, when one is a sinner in things which are against Heaven, if he has not returned by way of correction in private, we shame him publicly and we publicize his sin and we intensely humiliate him in front of his face, we degrade and curse him until he will return to the good. This is like what all the prophets did with Israel.

9. When another party sinned against one and he does not want to correct [the offender] nor to speak to him at all because the sinner was extremely uncultivated or his thinking is faulty, and he forgives [the offender] with his heart, and he has no hostility, so that he does not correct [the offender], this is the trait of piety. The Torah was stringent only that there be no enmity.

10. A person is obligated to be particularly careful in behavior towards orphans and widows, because their feelings are very much down and their spirits are low. This includes even those who own much money, even the widow or orphans of a king. We are warned about them, as the Torah says (Exodus 22:21), "You will not afflict any widow or orphan." So how do we conduct ourselves with them? One must speak with them only with softness. One must treat them only with honor. One must never pain their body with labor or pain their heart with harsh words. One must have compassionate concern for their property more than one has for his own property. Whoever annoys them, angers them, pains them, tyrannizes them or causes them to lose assets transgresses the Torah's prohibiting commandment. It is all the moreso [prohibited] to hit or curse them. Even though [the bais din] does not [punish with] lashes for this sin, the punishment is clearly stated in the Torah (Exodus 22:23), "My fury will intensify against you and I will kill you with deadly weapon." [G-d] Who spoke and created the Universe established a treaty with them. Any time they cry out to Him from abuse they are answered [as the Torah says, Exodus 22:22], "If ever he cries out to Me, I will surely heed his cry." When does the foregoing apply? At any time when one hurts them for one's own selfish motivations. However, if an instructor hurts them to discipline them in order to teach them Torah or a trade or to train them to go in the correct path of life, it is permitted. And even with this [permission to discipline], one may not treat them the way they treat all other people. Rather, one must always differentiate them [from all other people] and guide them with great gentleness and compassion and with honor, as scripture says (Proverbs 22:23), "Because G-d will fight their fight." This applies whether one is an orphan who lost the father or who lost the mother. Until when is one called an orphan in this regard? Until he no longer needs to depend upon an adult to bring him up and to care for him, such that he will be able to do all that he needs for himself by himself, as all other adults do.



1. Whoever speaks negatively about another Jew transgresses a prohibition, as the Torah says (Leviticus 19:16), "You will not go about speaking tales about your fellow Jews." Even though [bais din] does not [punish with] lashes on this sin, it is an enormous sin and it causes the killing of numerous souls among the Jewish people. Therefore, [the Torah followed this phrase in this verse with the next phrase] adjacent to it (Leviticus 19:16), "And you will not stand idly by the blood of your fellow Jew." Go and study what happened to Doeg Ha'Edomi [whose mouth caused the killing of a city, 1 Samuel 22:6-19].

2. Who is a tale speaker? One who carries words and goes from one person to another and says, "So and so said this," or "I heard such and such about so and so." Even though the statement is truth, it brings destruction to the world. There is another sin which is in the category of this sin. This other sin is even worse beyond description. It is called loshon hora [evil speech]. This is when one speaks disparagement of his fellow Jew, even though what he speaks is truth. However, one who speaks false [disparagement] is called motzee shaim ra al chavairo [slanderer - one who brings a bad name on his fellow Jew]. But, the speaker of loshon hora is the one who sits and says, "So and so did such and such," "His forefathers were such and such," "I heard such and such about him;" and the speaker says words of disparagement. On this scripture says (Psalm 12:4), "May Hashem exterminate all [who have] smooth lips, the mouth which speaks haughty things."

3. The sages said (Tosefta Peah, chapter one) that three sins for which one is punished in this world and is caused to have no share in the world to come. [They are] idolatry, prohibited sexuality and murder. And loshon hora is equal to all three of them added together. The sages further said (Arachin 15b) that any who speaks loshon hora is like one who denied G-d, as scripture says (Psalm 12:5), "They who said, 'We will conquer with our tongue, our lips are with us; who is lord over us?'" Our sages further said (Arachin 15b) that loshon hora kills three: the speaker, the listener who accepts it and the one spoken of. The one harmed most is the listener, more than the speaker.

4. There are things which are avak loshon hora [literally: the dust of loshon hora]. For example, "Who would have said that so and so would be as he is now," "Be quiet about so and so, I don't want to make known what happened," "[I don't want to say] what was," and anything like these cases. Also, anyone who speaks well of any person in front of his enemies are guilty of avak loshon hora and causes [the enemies] to speak disparagingly about him. About this subject, Solomon said (Proverbs 27:14), "He who blesses his fellow in a loud voice, rising early in the morning, is considered as one who curses." This is because evil was derived from that which was good [so, what matters in Torah law is the fact that bad or damage is produced, regardless of the fact that the start may have been good]. Similarly, [there is full guilt for] the one who speaks loshon hora in a manner of joke or levity; meaning to say, one who is not speaking out of hatred. This is as Solomon, in his wisdom, said (Proverbs 26:18-19), "As a deranged man spreads fires, shoots arrows and kills, and like a man who swindles his friend and said, 'I am only joking.'" And also, one who speaks loshon hora in a deceiving manner, speaking as one who is innocent, as if he doesn't know that this thing which he said is loshon hora; and when we protest against it, he says, "I don't know that this is loshon hora," or "[I don't know] that these are the actions of so and so."

5. One is guilty of speaking loshon hora whether spoken in front of the victim or not spoken in the presence of the victim. Anything, which, if heard by anyone, one person from another, would be able to cause any damage to the person [spoken about], whether to his body or to his property; or even if it could cause trouble or fright to him, that [which is said about a person] is loshon hora. If these things are said in front of three [or more] people, the matter is considered public and known. If one of these three [who heard] repeated the material, this is not categorized as loshon hora. This is on condition that he does not intend to announce the material more widely and to spread the material further.

6. [All people whose speech can cause any hurt to a Jew in any way; whether the damage stands to be tangible or intangible; regardless of how the pain, loss or harm might manifest, e.g. in the victim's reputation, feelings, marriage prospects, livelihood, social status, personal relationships, etc.; whether the probability is great or is remote that something bad could result from speaking about another Jew; whether said in front of the person spoken about or anywhere else; whether the material was expressed by hint, gesture, joke, or plain statement; regarding those who speak negative speech about any Jew] all of these are "ba'alay loshon hora [masters of evil speech]" and the Torah prohibits dwelling in their vicinity and, all the moreso, prohibits sitting with them and hearing their words. The decree in the desert against our forefathers [to spend 40 years wandering in the desert, so that the generation would die in the desert, when the ten meraglim spoke loshon hora and the people accepted it] was sealed only because of loshon hora.

7. One who takes revenge on one's fellow Jew transgresses a prohibitive commandment, as the Torah says (Leviticus 19:18), "Do not do any act of vengeance." Even though bais din does not [punish with] lashes for this, it is an extremely evil trait. Instead, a Jew must forebear so as to relinquish his sense of entitlement on all worldly matters, because with people of understanding all [things of this world] are futile and empty and not worth taking revenge for. What is revenge? Person A says to person B, "Lend me your axe." Person B says, "I am not lending it to you." The next day, Person B needs to borrow something from person A and says to A, "Lend me your property." Person A replies, "I am not lending it to you in the same way that you did not lend me when I asked [to borrow] from you." This is [an example of] revenge. Instead, [after B refused to lend to A] when Person B comes to person A to borrow, A will give with a full heart and will not bestow the same as B did to A. This would apply in any case like this. And similarly David, with his superb character, said (Psalm 7:5), "Have I bestowed evil on those who are at peace with me or have I rescued the one who is for no purpose my enemy."

8. Similarly, any who bears a grudge on any Jew transgresses a prohibitive commandment, as the Torah says (Leviticus 19:18), "Do not ever bear any grudge against your fellow Jew." What is an example of grudge? Reuven said to Shimon, "Rent me this house" or "Lend me this ox," and Shimon refused. Some days later Shimon came to Reuven to borrow from him or to rent something from him. Reuven said to him, "Here you go, I am lending it to you, and I am not like you. I will not repay you like you did." The person who does the likes of this transgresses the prohibition against bearing grudge. Rather, he must erase the matter from his heart and not carry any grudge. This [is serious because] all the while that he bears any grudge regarding the matter and remembers it, he might come to an act of revenge. Therefore, the Torah was strict against grudgebearing to the point of [requiring that the person] erase the wrongdoing [against him] from his heart and not remember it at all. And this is the correct personality trait. Because, through this it is possible to bring about habitation of the earth and social relationships of human beings.