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Friday, June 26, 2015

On Gay Marriage and Mel Gibson


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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On Gay Marriage and Mel Gibson

This week I was traveling with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, to San Francisco for the Chassanah of her cousin Yerachmiel Guttvuch to Rebbetzin Morris Goldenbergsteinowitzsky. Under the Chuppah, Rebbitzin Morris walked in circles around Yerachmiel six times, but on the seventh circle tripped on his Gartel, which looked a lot like something out of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

So went our entry into the newly transformed world of institutionalized Mishkav Zachor.

Later that day, my Bashert and I returned to our hotel, and after a quick mitzvah involving fur-lined handcuffs and a rider's crop, we decided to order in a little Traifus and watch a movie on Netflix. We thought we were ordering up some soft core porn, Chass V’Sholom, so imagine my shock when “The Passion of the Christ” started: I looked up at the screen and saw Yushka Pandra, Koihanim, Am Haratzim, long haired Apikorsim, torture, and Tzailems.

Ich Vais -- what a disappointment! Two and a half hours of R Rated Hollywood magic, and not even a hint of skin! It was enough for me to open my laptop and dig up my downloaded pictures of Rebbetzin Kutler engaging in Zumba!

The whole episode poses a series of disturbing questions about our changing world:

- What should a Ben Toirah's attitude be towards gay marriage overall?

- How should we relate to a film written and directed by Mel Gibson about Yushka Pandra that may raise the specter of age-old anti-Semitism and deprive us of discounts on goods and services?

- If you watch "The Passion of the Christ" and you eat cholent, popcorn, or fried Chazer knuckles, can you make a Bracha, or will the Aimishteh get insulted and think you are praying to someone else, if you know what I mean?

- What's Pshat in an R rated movie with less hot Shiksa action than a benign exercise regimen?

I am reminded of a famous Medrish in Eichah Rabba about Hillel and Shammai. Hillel and Shammai were best friends who shared everything. Hillel was the Nasi, the Patriarch of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel, and Shammai was the speaker of the Sanhedrin. They lived together in a small Tudor style house, where Shammai loved to tend the garden on weekends. Once, while on a business trip to Chevroin on a Friday they realized that it was nearly Shabbos, and decided to be Toivel Zein in the river. Shammai wanted to go in first, insisting that because he was older, that was his right. Hillel wanted to go first, insisting that he was entitled because he was the Nasi. This was an argument that shattered their relationship.

When it became time to divide their physical assets, neither wanted to give up his share of the house. So they divided the house in two. Shammai got the dining room, the kitchen and one of the bedrooms, while Hillel got the living room, the office, and two bedrooms. However, whenever they talked about the house, each one referred to it as his own, so Hillel's half became known as Bais Hillel, and Shammai's half became know as Bais Shammai. Shoyn.

The Medrish tells us that when dividing their joint property, Hillel and Shammai approached the assets as business partners, but had Yoichanan the Koihain Gadol serve as mediator. This all brings to mind the question: Is a same gender partnership like a marriage? How do chazzal resolve these issues, given that they knew everything, had Ruach HaKoidesh, and were completely infallible, except when it came to avoiding persecution?

A famous Gemarrah in Tainis teaches us about the Talmudic principle of Hekesh, a juxtaposition of verses or opinions that imply a connection between two seemingly disparate ideas. This rule, applied to our new world, has some profound implications.

The biggest opponents of gay marriage in America are also the biggest proponents of the movie "The Passion of the Christ". Which clearly means that to oppose gay marriage is to support the evangelical view of the world, Christ's death, Jewish culpability, the Resurrection, Eretz Yisroel Hashleimah and the 700 Club.

To oppose the film, however, means that you would like Mahmoud Abbas as your next door neighbor, and suggests that the reason you like to stay until 1:00 am in the Bais Medrish with your Chavrusa is NOT because you are really fascinated by that Gevaldikah Toisfois, if you know what I mean.

Indeed, the entire history of Klal Yisroel is filled with similar confusing paradoxes of logic and circumstance. Esther HaMalkah saves Klal Yisroel by playing "hide the scepter" with Achashveiroish. Aron Hacoihain, the Minuval, leads Klal Yisroel into worshipping Avoidah Zorah, yet gets a promotion. King David, Dovid Hamalech, is Mezaneh with his most loyal soldier's wife, and subsequently has the soldier killed, yet still accumulates residential apartment buildings and other valuable investment properties.

At the same time, Moishe Rabbeinu touches a rock and is punished like a three year old child. Yoishiyahu Hamelech leads a significant return to Toiras Moishe, and is rewarded with an arrow through the heart. Rabbi Akiva develops the category structure for Toirah Sheh Baal Peh that we still use today, but later becomes the tragic subject of somber dirges read by starving people twice a year.

Of course, Yushka Pandra was perceived, is perceived, by his followers to be the Moshiach. We ourselves have also longed for salvation. It was that same Rabbi Akiva who once declared Bar Koichba to be the Moshiach. And who is to say he was wrong? (Well, actually the Romans, come to think of it.) The Lubavitcher Rebbe apparently thought that he himself was Moshiach, and years after his death, he lives on, Boruch Hashem, through the infighting of his followers.

Come to think of it, I may be the Moshiach. Follow the logic: I have more Toirah in my Payis than you have in your whole head of hair, you Vilda Chaya. I have never said that I am NOT the Moshiach. And can you think of anyone in our generation more qualified to be the Moshiach than me?

So life is fundamentally complicated and makes no sense to simple minded people like you, you Am Ha’aretz. And if you don't like it, go take it up with the Hakadoshboruchhu.

So how can we possibly understand this complex world?

The Ari Zahl explains the complexities of the world through his conception of the secret workings of the universe. He describes our world as originally designed by the Reboinoisheloilum to be perfect; however, through some cosmic accident, the world became fundamentally flawed. And our mission in the Oilam Hazeh is to rescue the lost bits of Kiddushah, the "holy sparks," that have been scattered throughout the cruel nether underpinnings of the world.

And how do we capture these sparks? By doing Mitzvois. By giving Tzedakah. By focusing not only on Bain Adam LaMakoim, but also on Bain Adam LeChaveiro. By helping old ladies across the street. By being Mezaneh with fat chicks that no one else is willing to sleep with. By opening up your home and your heart to others, even when they are different than you. By helping the widow and the orphan, the single parent and the foresaken child.

Who are we to reject the feelings, the physical needs, or the emotional needs of the Aimishteh’s creations, ALL of His creations, whatever their creed or color or gender or economic status or sexual orientation? So what's a little Mishkav Zachor or Mishkav Nekayvah between friends? This is OUR world, the real world, created by the Melech Malchei HaMelachim, Hakadoshboruchhu, not some fictional construct created out of someone’s imagination.

Indeed, good can come from strange places. Take crucifixion for example. It was the cruelest form of punishment developed by the evil Roman Empire. It was designed to spread fear and intimidation. It killed people slowly, as they suffered from hunger, thirst, and the impact of the elements. However, if I can ever get a hold of Mel Gibson, I've got a big Tzailem in my backyard with his name on it.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, June 25, 2015

On the Blessed Event


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THIS WEEK'S SPECIAL BAR MITZVAH DRASHA IS BEING PUBLISHED IN HONOR OF THE BAR MITZVAH OF ARI YEHUDA BEN DOVID SHMUEL AND HIS LOYAL SIDEKICK, J.C. BEN RABBEINU SCOOBY DOO HA-KOIHAIN.

MAZEL TOIV!!!

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On the Blessed Event


Rabboisai,

I was on my way to the Lower East Side last Sunday when I decided to take respite from my journey and stopped to engage a roadside Kedaishah. Under other circumstances, my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, would have responded by carving her initials on my Bris Milah with a Challah knife. However, given that following my brief encounter (at which, I should note, I left behind neither my staff nor my signet ring, only my Gold Card) I successfully completed my errand, and all was forgiven. And what, you may ask, was my task? Well, I went to the Lower East Side to pick up the gold-lame-and-sequin-covered Bentchers for the Bar Mitzvah of my Einikel, little Feivel.

What is the source of the Mitzvah of the Bar Mitzvah, and what is the Ikkar Mitzvah upon which we are Metzuveh? I bet you have wondered this your whole life, you ignorant Shaygitz, but never made an effort to ask because it would have required you to get up from the television for five minutes.

Well, the source of the Bar Mitzvah is discussed explicitly in a Gemarrah in Kesuvois. According to Rav Ashi, the Bar Mitzvah is conducted to commemorate the bond between the Reboinoisheloilum and Klal Yisroel. And the reason why it requires a boy to celebrate at the age of thirteen is Zecher L’Yishmael, to commemorate the age at which Yishmael, that other son of Avraham Avinu, had his Bris Milah. And we emulate the removal of Yishmael’s foreskin by emasculating our sons in front of an audience of 400 Shul-goers.

But Rabbi Chiya holds Farkhert: Making a thirteen year old Leyn in front of family, friends, and strangers is not at all like a Bris Milah, since the scars of Bris Milah heal within a week. Rather, Rabbi Chiya argues, a Bar Mitzvah is more like Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. The fear and loathing of reading the Parsha in Shul and being corrected by a handful of self-righteous perfectionist misanthropes can only be compared to sending your own son to slaughter, only this time with a sushi bar and a Viennese table. And the resulting emotional scars indeed echo the deep psychological trauma that undoubtedly plagued Yitzchak Avinu throughout his entire life.

How is one required to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah? A different Gemarrah in Eiruvin notes that Rish Lakish, when not learning for twenty six hours a day in the Bais Medrish, supported himself by working as a photographer at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, divorces, and the occasional Baptism. The Gemarrah quotes Rish Lakish as saying, “Three is better than one, but six is better than three.” According to Reb Saadya Goyn, Rish Lakish was referring to Ma’aisei Biyuh on the weekend. But according to Reb Hai Goyn, Rish Lakish was referring to members of a band playing at a Bar Mitzvah, noting that “a one man band at a Bar Mitzvah is like a flat-chested woman. The equipment may work, but it’s never your preference.”

There is a Machloikess Reshoinim that emanates from this Gemarrah between RASHI, Toisfois, and the ROISH regarding how a thirteen year old boy should commemorate his Bar Mitzvah. Koolay Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that a Bar Mitzvah boy should mark his becoming a man by reading from the Toirah. So where do they argue? They debate regarding what should follow Kriyas HaToirah. According to RASHI, after successfully reading his Parsha, a Bar Mitzvah Bochur should go into the Bais Medrish to recite Hallel. According to Toisfois, a thirteen year old boy should follow up his reading of the Toirah by going to the kitchen to eat a hearty breakfast. But according to the Roish, after finishing his Maftir and Haftoirah, a Bar Mitzvah boy should be escorted from the main sanctuary by a group of his friends, singing and dancing, and should be led to the Yichud room for a half hour session with his Tahtee’s “special friend”, Bambi.

There is an interesting historical debate regarding another important Bar Mitzvah custom – the throwing of candy at the Bar Mitzvah boy. What is the source of this custom? According to the ARI ZAHL, the practice was established by the MAHARAM MiRothenburg during the persecutions of 1275 in order to beat away the dark Klipois from the body of the child, leaving only the Holy Sparks. However, according to Reb Moishe Cordovero, the custom of throwing candy was introduced by the RAMBAM during the recession of 1194 in order to drum up business by raising the level of diabetes in the community.

How much should one spend on a Bar Mitzvah? This question has been a source of deep Toirah discussion, Talmudic discourse, marital debate, and bankruptcy hearings for the past 700 years.

According to the Shulchan Aruch, a person should not spend more than would be required to feed guests “KeBaitzah”, about an egg’s volume of food. However, he believes that the Bar Mitzvah should be a celebratory event open to the entire community and neighboring communities, costing no less than two months of the average household income, as defined by the KY (Klal Yisroel) Index based on the average income of all Jews for the twelve months prior to the event.

The RAMAH, however, disagrees, referring to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the Mechaber of the Shulkhan Aruch, as a “swarthy cheapskate”. The RAMAH holds that one is required to feed every guest “KeTarnegol”, a volume of food equivalent to the size of a chicken. In addition, the RAMAH points out, one must have at least one live band, or, at a minimum, a DJ accompanied by motivational dancers. As well, suggests the RAMAH, one is required to hand out Tchatchkees (“little toys from China” in English) to all of the children to bring home, so that their parents will be reminded to begin planning for their own blessed events by serving a one dollar box of pasta at every meal for the next year, except for Shabbos Koidesh, when they are permitted to serve Traif meat since it is a quarter of the price of Koisher. The cost of the Bar Mitzvah should be no less than six months of average household income according to the KY Index, or half of the family assets, whichever is the larger number.

Finally, the Mishnah Berurah holds that one must feed every guest “KeEigel”, a volume of food equivalent to a small cow. The food should be varied and should include no less than four courses, including fresh sushi served by a Mexican chef who sort-of looks Asian. Further, it is a Mitzvah to have a half hour of speeches and a video montage, so that the guests will have an opportunity to take a brief nap between courses. In addition to Tchatchkees, there is a requirement to have novelty photo booths and games for the children to play. There should also be adult activities for the parents and grandparents – a makeup artist for the women, so they can experiment with different eye shades and colors of nail polish, and lap dances for the men, preferably delivered by the hot Shiksa motivational dancers. The Mishnah Berurah also holds that it is a Hiddur Mitzvah, a preferred additional Mitzvah, to have jugglers, Chassidic guys who can dance with bottles on their heads, and elephants. The minimum cost is equivalent to half of the value of the family home or ten times Yeshivah tuition, whichever is the larger number.

I spent much time going through these Halachois with my own son, Reb Boruch Gedalia Pesachya Issur Simcha Schmeckelstein, regarding the planning of the Bar Mitzvah for my Einikel, Feivel Yisroel Shmuel Eliyahu Rabbah. My son, of course, is known by his Rabbinic acronym, the BIG PISS, while my grandson is known as the Little PISHER. After a detailed discussion of the religious laws, as well as a forensic review of our family finances, we determined to spend somewhere between the position of the Shulchan Aruch and the RAMAH. However, we agreed that the more important component of the Bar Mitzvah was the reading of the weekly Toirah portion.

To ensure that the Little PISHER would not feel excessive family pressure, we hired an outside Bar Mitzvah teacher. For $50 a lesson, he taught little Feivel the week’s Parsha. For an extra $25 a lesson, he taught him the Haftoirah. And for another $20 a lesson, he also taught Feivel the week’s New Testament reading, which is from Mark, Perek Chuff Baiz, where we read about how Jesus kills an abortion doctor, and how John The Baptist is reassigned by the Church to teach in a school for children that can neither speak nor write.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. The Chernobler Rebbe, the Meor Einayim – Reb Menachem Nachum Twersky, was once delivering a Drasha on the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan, the chasing away of a mother bird before taking the baby birds to eat. The Toirah, of course, promises the same reward for this Mitzvah as the reward promised for honoring one’s parents. The Cherlobler suggested that the Mitzvois of Shiluah HaKan and Kahbaid Ess Avicha are comparable because they are two sides of the same coin: The purpose of a parent is to raise a child to become an adult, and we must respect that role, even once the children have left the nest. Suggested the Chernobler, “We make a Bar Mitzvah celebration to commemorate the children’s leaving the nest. This is a celebration for the benefit of the parents, for which they receive great joy.”

After Shul was over, a boy of thirteen came over to the Rebbe and asked, “Rebbe, why is the Bar Mitzvah a celebration for the parents when it is the son who does all the work?”

The Rebbe looked down at the boy, smiled warmly, and said, “Son, at your age, you have a lot of joy. You wake up in the morning, and you have joy. You are in front of your classroom, writing at the board, and you have joy, to your great embarrassment. You are riding in the school bus and feel a bit of a vibration, and you have joy, whether you want it or not. You even get a little joy when you look at the three hundred pound secretary in your Yeshiva. And when you are alone in your room and have a few minutes to yourself, you are overflowing with joy, I am sure. I know I was when I was your age – at least twice a day.”

The Chernobler continued. “But your parents don’t have all that much joy anymore. If they are lucky, they have joy maybe once a week. So if the Bar Mitzvah gives them a little more joy, it can only help the marriage. At least until their house is repossessed.” With that, the Rebbe went off to do vodka shots, fondle Mrs. Goldberg, and take a nap.

Finally, I would like to address one related Shailah that many of my Talmidim ask me. Whenever I discuss this topic, they ask, why do I only focus on the Bar Mitzvah of a boy, and never discuss a Bat Mitzvah? The answer is quite simple: Girls are not supposed to have big celebrations when they reach the age of Mitzvois. According to the RIF, the most a girl should have is a party when she gets her first… err… Oirach KaNashim. At that party the parents should serve hard boiled eggs and hand out feminine protection to all the girl’s friends as party favors. After all, if the Reboinoisheloilum wanted girls to have a big party, read from the Toirah, put on Tfillin, be counted in a Minyan, be required to Daven three times a day, get equal pay for equal work, have the right to vote, be allowed to drive, etc., He would have given them a penis.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 19, 2015

Parshas Koirach


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Parshas Koirach

In this week's Parsha, Koirach, once again a portion of Klal Yisroel rebels against the Reboinoisheloilum's rule. A group led by Koirach challenges Moishe Rabbeinu's appointment as the Aimishteh's personal representative and business manager. After returning to their tents, Koirach and his minions are swallowed up whole into the ground.

How stupid are these Mishugayim anyway? How many times do they have to be told that they should shut up and study Toirah instead of asking for food and the right to return to Mitzrayim to visit the pyramids and eat Traifus? And how much abuse does Hakodoshboruchhu have to tolerate before he smites all the minuvals down like cockroaches with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and a really big shoe?

I know you were asking these questions, you good-for-nothing Amhaaretz, but they are actually stupid questions. I mean, we read this same Parsha every year. It hasn't changed since the Redactor compiled the text in Babylon -- OOPS -- I mean since the Aimishteh dictated the Toirah to Moishe on Sinai.

No, the real question isn't why the people keep on rebelling. Rather, it is: Why do we, and our wise Rabbinical predecessors, continue to look back at the generation of the Exodus as the paradigm of Jewish virtue, when in truth they were a bunch of Vilda Chayas? Compared to them, a band of marauding rabid water buffalo are cooperative.

Indeed, this paradox is highlighted in the following Maiyseh Shehoyo: In the late 1950s, the Bobover Rebbe was sitting in first class on an airplane next to the famous playwright Arthur Miller. The playwright observed the care and reverence with which the Bobover Chassidim escorted their Rebbe through the airport, got him settled on the plane, and checked on his well-being periodically. Miller turned to the Rebbe and asked, "Rabbi, how come it is that when I lecture at a university, a pillar of secular knowledge, I am treated casually by the students, even with disrespect, while you, teaching an archaic tradition, are treated with respect, almost as a beloved surrogate parent, by your followers?"

The Rebbe smiled, and replied, "It is very simple -- you, a secular person, tell your students that they are descended from monkeys, so when they look at you, they see a person one generation closer to their primitive ape past. We tell our students that they are descended from the generation at Sinai, so when they see me, they see a person one generation closer to the face to face encounter with the Aimisheh."

Arthur Miller stroked his chin and thought for a moment. And then he responded, "That may be true, but I am sleeping with Marilyn Monroe, so who cares?"

The Bobover Rebbe, recognizing that he had lost the argument, never traveled by airplane again.

The Tanna Kamma alludes to this question in a Mishnah in Maseches Nidah, Perek Gimmul. He suggests that the reason the Aimishteh enacted restrictions on "relations" with one's wife during her natural cycle (Zman Nidasa) is so that 50% of Klal Yisroel will always be so frustrated they will be ready to go to war over a missing paper clip.

However, The Zoihar tells a tale of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai sitting around a campfire with his female students and giving them life advice. He said, "When your husband calls you an idiot, it is the best news you have had all day." This is understood as a reference to the Kabbalistic understanding of the relationship between the Aimishteh and Klal Yisroel. The Aimishteh is seen as the groom, and the Jews as the bride. And what what could be more natural, or even healthy, than occasional bickering, or even a good knock-down-drag-out argument over who takes out the garbage or whose turn it is to do the dishes. Or in the case of Klal Yisroel, dancing around the Eigel Hazahav while eating traifus. Rather than leading to divorce, this keeps the marriage vibrant and stimulates the senses.

I am reminded of my own wedding day to my Bashert, Feige Breinah. As I stood under the Chuppah waiting for her to join me, I wished that the earth would open underneath my feet, just as it had for Koirach. Would I be a good husband? Could I manage a strong Jewish household? Would I be able to consummate my marriage that night without the ritual twenty minutes of begging?

The moment of introspection was broken by my bride. As she walked down the aisle and circled me seven times, she softly whispered, "wipe that stupid look off your face; the video camera is running!!"

So a little tension between bride and groom is quite healthy. Klal Yisroel in the desert understood this, which is why they frequently rebelled, about leadership, about idols, about what to eat, and about leaving the comforts of Egypt.

In honor of the generation of the Exodus, we too must keep the vibrance and energy of the relationship with the Aimishteh alive. Consequently, we are compelled to eat the occasional Traifus and watch the occasional game on Shabbos. We are supposed to have unclean thoughts and covet the property of others. For if we do not, we will fail to live up to the heritage of our forefathers.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 05, 2015

New: On Rabbinic Discretion


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New: On Rabbinic Discretion

Rabboisai,

I am writing this post from the nerve center of Yeshivas Chipass Emmess - The video control room that monitors the Yeshiva's Mikvah, Showers, and Shvitz.

It is from here that I manage the multiple cameras that shoot video from many angles: In the evenings, to record the many women who use the Mikvah to fulfill their Dioraisa of going to the Mikvah to purify themselves from bleeding from their disgusting Ervas for a week without dying; and in the mornings, to capture the views of boys and young men who come to work out, take a shower, and expose themselves literally and emotionally, in the sauna.

I feel like Hakadoshboruchhu, Baruch HaShem! The Toirah teaches us that we, humanity, were created in His image. And since He gets to see everyone naked, why can't I?

Rabboisai, it is terribly troubling to me how the media and the Am Haaratzim, not to mention the anti-Semitic American government, have vilified some of my closest colleagues for the leadership they have provided their communities. Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Freundel and Rabbi Jonathan (Yoinoison) Rosenblatt are both great leaders of our community, people we should aspire to emulate. They have shown such Mesiras Nefesh by video recording and staring at the Reboisheloilum's creations, all in the name of Kiddush HaShem. And anyone who does not see this is not fit to walk in their shoes... unless their feet happen to be the same size.

Such is the nature of leadership: We, the rabbis of this community put ourselves out, week in and week out, only to be criticized by the common man who cannot understand our actions and our motives. But that is why we are rabbis, and you Minuvals are simpletons who cannot count to twenty one without using all ten fingers, all ten toes, and that little appendage that Rabbi Rosenblatt likes to see after a nice game of racquetball.

Such is the nature of the masses of Klal Yisroel. You are Am Kshei Oref, a Stiff Necked People. We rabbis, however, do not have stiff necks; we prefer it when other body parts are stiff.

Rabboisai, since you are undoubtedly a complete ignoramus, I would like to teach you the Toirahdicka way of examining both of these situations that my close colleagues find themselves in. And then, when you realize that you are Choisaid BiKeshayrim, suspicious of the innocent, you will understand that you are slanderers who should be expelled by the rest of Am Yisroel. "VeLamalshinim Al Tehi Tikvah"... unless of course you have a lot of money and would like to make a nice donation.

So let us understand what really happened in each of these two cases.

My dearest friend Rabbi Barry Freundel is committed to the perpetuation of Yiddishkeit in its purest form. And what better tool is there to ensure purity than the Mikvah? So Rabbi Freundel set out on a one man mission to ensure that women who used his Mikvah would do so in a proper way. And since it would be inappropriate to attend in person to observe the women getting undressed, preparing for the Mikvah, sitting on the toilet, showering, going into the Mikvah, getting out of the Mikvah, drying off, and getting dressed, he decided to video tape all of these actions. Why? Not to ogle at women, Chass V'Sholom!! But to ensure that the each woman prepared properly for the Mikvah, removed every hair that might be a Chatzitza, wiped properly while sitting on the toilet, immersed completely, and emerged from the Mikvah once her Tevilah, her dunking, was adequate, and had satisfied the will of the Aimishteh.

And how did he know when a women's Tevilah was Koisher? Just like the Butterball Turkey™ that has a little button that pops out when the turkey is fully cooked, Rabbi Freundel, when reviewing the video, would wait to see if a congregant's nipples were erect when emerging from the Mikvah, at which point, at his desk in his rabbinic office, he would slap his right hand down on his desk and shout "KOISHER!", all the while using his left hand to spank something else...

And to ensure true preparedness for the Mitzvah of Mikvah, Rabbi Freundel would encourage women, including his converts and even non-Jewish students who might one day sleep with a Jew after having one too many tequila shots, to engage in "Practice Dunks". RAMBAM was a great Halachic innovator, as was the Vilna Goyn. Rabbi Freundel was simply following in that tradition. Baruch HaShem.

And now, for the first time, The Rabbi Freundel Complete Video Collection™ is available for purchase, for six easy payments of $69.95. And if you are among the first hundred Minuvals to call, we will drop one of those payments, and add a set of Ginsu knives as our special gift to you.

My other close rabbinic colleague, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, is a true Bucky BiSHAS. He has extensively studied the importance that mentorship plays in Klal Yisroel, particularly between a Rebbe and his Talmidim. And he too was inspired to walk in the path of the Reboinoisheloilum. Just as Hakadoshboruchhu formed Adam HaRishoyn from wet clay, Rabbi Rosenblatt set out to shape his students while they were sitting wet in the Shvitz. And just as the Aimishteh molded Adam out of dirt, out of nothingness, Rabbi Rosenblatt liked molded his students by removing all extraneous barriers from his Talmidim, such as clothing, self esteem, and self-respect.

What would motivate a middle aged rabbi to want to bathe naked and sit in the sauna with students, some as young as twelve years old, and engage in intimate discussions with them? Some of you Mechutzuffim might say that Rabbi Rosenblatt has a disease, a fatal flaw, a predilection that, while not clearly illegal, is an abuse of his rabbinic authority that crosses ethical and moral boundaries. But if this is what you believe, you are completely wrong! Chass V’Sholom! Rabbi Rosenblatt is a Tzaddik who likes to take students under his wing. We are told by RASHI, commenting on a Gemarrah in Kiddushin, about how Rabbi Meir, in order to illustrate to one of his students that “Nashim Da’ason Kalois”, “women are of simple minds”, asked the student to seduce Rabbi Meir’s wife Beruriah. After a few failed efforts, the student succeeded. So great was Rabbi Meir that he would compel his beloved wife and his student to engage in an act of Eishes Ish that, according to the Toirah, would be worthy of the death penalty, but for Rabbi Meir, it was a pedagogical device. Mi KeAmcha Yisroel!!

So the essence here, the commonality, actually, is the notion of going Lifnei Meshuras HaDin, going beyond the letter of the law, going beyond basic Halacha, in order to serve the Reboinoisheloilum.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya told to me by Rav Yarden in the name of Rabbi Freddy. The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the Rugachuger Rebbe were staying in the same village in the Ukraine for Shabbos to attend a poker tournament. As they were running to Shul on Friday night, they bumped into each other. “Good Shabbos, Rebbe” said one. “Good Shabbos, Rebbe” said the other. Then the Rugachuger looked at the Tzemach Tzedek and asked, “Tell me, Reb Menachem Mendel, what for you constitutes a ‘Good Shabbos’?”

The Tzemach Tzedek looked back at the Rugachuger and replied, “For me a good Shabbos starts with going to Shul on Friday night, going home, having some chicken soup and a meal, then leading a Tisch with my Chassidim, then going to bed. Then on Shabbos morning, I get up, I go to Shul and Daven, then have Kiddush and lunch with Cholent and Kugel and hand out Shirayim. Then my grandchildren come over and I play with them. Then I take a nap, go back to Shul, learn a little, Daven Mincha, and then go home for Shallashudis. That for me is a ‘Good Shabbos’. Tell me Rebbe, what is a ‘Good Shabbos’ for you?”

The Rugachuger paused for a moment, and then responded. “For me, a ‘Good Shabbos’ starts on Friday morning, when I get in a carriage and set out for Moscow. When I arrive in Moscow, I check into a hotel, and then order up a steak to the room, a bottle of scotch, and a Kurva. Then we Shtup all night. The next morning I go down to the hotel’s casino, gamble for a couple of hours, then go back to my room, order up another steak, another bottle of scotch and another Kurva. Then we Shtup all afternoon. That for me is a ‘Good Shabbos’.”

The Tzemach Tzedek looked at the Rugachuger Rebbe, his face frozen in a serious expression. The Tzemach Tzedek then poked his finger on the Rugachuger's chest and replied, “Rebbe, let me correct you. That is not a ‘Good Shabbos’. THAT IS A ‘GREAT SHABBOS’!”

The Tzemach Tzedek understood that the Rugachuger believed in not simply observing basic Halachic and social norms, but in going Lifnei Meshuras HaDin.

In our day, how does one know when someone is going Lefnei Meshuras HaDin? That, you ignoramus, is where rabbinic expertise comes in.

You might believe that a rabbi is committing gross crimes and violations that humiliate, denigrate, and victimize women in the case of Rabbi Barry Freundel and boys and young men in the case of Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, potentially leaving the victims scarred for life. But you would be wrong. Since Reb Barry and Reb Jonathan are rabbis, they, and the rest of us rabbis, are the only ones who are qualified to determine what is abuse, and what is a gesture that goes Lifnei Meshiras HaDin.

And anyone of you Menuvals who disagrees with me or would like to know more about my rabbinic ruling is invited to come to visit the Yeshiva next week. We can play a game or two of racquetball, and then discuss over a shower and a Shvitz. And if you bring your teenage son with you, I promise to give you a discount on The Rabbi Freundel Complete Video Collection™.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess