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Thursday, September 05, 2019

NEW -- Damn Liberals!



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Damn Liberals!

Rabboisai,
Imagine, if you will, that you are Moishe Rabbeinu. Toirah Tzivah Luhnoo Moishe Moireshess Kehilas Yankif,
You climb up to Har Sinai to meet the Reboinoisheloilum Panim El Panim, face to face. You are the cloisest... errr... closest that any human being has ever gotten to Hakadoshboruchu. You receive the Luchois containing the Aseres HaDubrois, the Two Tablets containing the Ten Commandments. You then receive the rest of the Toirah -- Toirah SheBiChsav and Toirah SheBaal Peh -- the Written and the Oral Law, all that was, is and will be. You now know everything there is to know:
·         What is a kosher animal?

·        What should I do if I spill a spoon full of milk into a beef stew - Is it still Koisher, or is it Treif like Chazer-Schmaltz on Yoim Kippur?

·        Will synthesized meat -- created in a lab -- have the status of an animal, and therefore should not be eaten with diary? Or will the synthesized meat have the status of the vegetables, beans and other non-meat products that are its ingredients, and therefore be permissible to be eaten with dairy, as long as it is certified bug free and is served on a plate that has a Hashgacha by a waiter who has been screened for Shatnez?
Moishe has received a revelation of the construct of the world of the Divine. He has achieved perfection.
And then, when he descends from the mountain... Lo and Behold, Klal Yisroel has already strayed from the path of the Aimisheh and is having wild Tashmish HaMitah parties while smoking Besamim and worshipping the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf. Even worse – they are eating Triangle K, Rachmuna Litzlan! And as he comprehends all that he sees, and understands how this all stands in contrast to the path that he was just shown... he slams the Luchois down and shatters the Tablets into a thousand pieces and yells out at Klal Yisroel at the top of his voice, “Reboinoisheloilum-damned Liberals!”
------
Rabboisai,
We are living in a world that has been overrun by Liberals, Yemach Shmum! Here we are, at a moment in history that is not unlike Klal Yisroel standing at Har Sinai. It is a moment of perfection:
·         The State of Israel has never been stronger. It has a population of eight million or so, has diplomatic relations with most countries in the world, burgeoning relationships with many others, including Sunni Arab nations, and has even hosted this year’s Eurovision

·         Toirah has never been more embraced in all of history. Between Israel, the United States, and other countries in the world, there are about one million fully Observant Jews in the world - between Ultra Orthodox Chassidic and Yeshivish communities, and modern Orthodox. Consequently, there are more Jews engaged in serious learning in Yeshivas in the different communities than there ever were in history; not even in the glorious, holy villages and communities in Eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries did Klal Yisroel enjoy such scholarship. And if you include Chabad, The Kabbalah Center, and Jews For Jesus, the number of learned Jews doubles!

·         We have in the White House the BEST president the US has ever had. EVER. Period. That is true across the board, and especially with regard to Israel and Jews! He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, put pressure on the Palestinians, cancelled US participation in the Iran deal, recognized Israeli authority in the Golan Heights, closed the PLO office in DC, expelled the de facto Palestinian ambassador, and removed the PA from the State Department’s website.   What more can you want? Add into that tax reform, persecuting... errr... prosecuting immigrants -- illegal and legal, safeguarding the all-important Second Amendment, stacking the Supreme Court with Conservatives who will eventually save every fetus in America - but not ensure that as children and adults they have affordable access to healthcare, trade wars with China, hostile relations with Western Europe and Canada, excellent relationships with the leaders of Russia and North Korea, and the great economy, what more could anyone want? Indeed, I have long said that President Donald J Trump is the Melech HaMoishiach, and, recently, he admitted as much, noting “I am the Chosen One”. With that, he went farther than the Lubavitcher Rebbe in that he actually admitted his cosmic role to the world!
And yet... despite all of this clear, demonstrable evidence, there are still people, still Jews who question President Trump SHLITA’s wisdom and Chosenness. Damned Liberals! Why can’t they admit when they are wrong?
·         Liberals believe that Jews should vote for whomever they believe best serves their and the country’s interests. And yet, those same Liberals will vote for the Democratic Party. Do they seek a return to the days of Oibama or Clinton? Oibama was the founder of Al Quaida, and Clinton only tolerated Jews as long as they let him deposit Zerah on their blue dresses.

·         Liberals believe in global warming -- that human actions are impacting the global environment and causing climate spikes that are contributing to natural disasters. And what makes them believe in Global Warming? Science? I suppose these same Liberals believe the world is more than six thousand years old, that vaccines are good for you, and that cigarettes are bad for you! Go find me a Gemara that agrees with those positions! I guarantee you that no such Gemara exists!

·         Liberals believe that the US should have borders open to all. They point to the US as being a country of immigrants since its founding. But that is not in fact the case! North America was given by the Reboinoisheloilum to all current American citizens! How do you know? Because we run the country! Sure, many of our parents and grandparents came here as immigrants themselves... but that is quite different. Should they have been denied access to the US? That would have been anti-Semitism! However, as long as immigrants are not Jews, it is not anti-Semitism to deny them access to Our Land, especially if they are from Shithole Countries (TM).
Rabboisai, how should we deal with the dangerous phenomenon of Liberals in our midst?
I am reminded of a famous Gemara in Tainis. The Gemara brings down a Medrish where Rish Lakish was in a bar with Rav Pappa, and was regaling Rav Pappa with tales of his days as a roadside thief, a “highway man”. Rish Lakish talked about the time he held up a convoy of wagons and stole all of the passengers’ jewelry, beat up a driver, and exposed himself to a wagon full of women.
“You think you are a tough guy. Is that all you got?” Rav Pappa asked.
“Can you do better, you Mechutziff?” asked Rish Lakish.
Rav Pappa, who is well known in the Gemara as being obese, rubbed his bloated belly as he replied. “Son, I may weigh over 350 pounds, yet I fathered ten sons whose names get recited at every Siyum (Editor’s note: celebration of completing a single or multiple volumes of the Talmud), and every time someone does that, Ketching!, I earn a licensing fee. You risked your life to steal pennies, but people constantly pay me money for reciting my prose, and then thank me for it! So who is the tough guy now?”
Rish Lakish smiled at Rav Pappa and said, “Hey, fatty! I hope you enjoy spending your money as much as I enjoyed Shtupping your wife and impregnating her ten times.”
------ 
Rabboisai, the Liberals are taking what is ours! They want our money! They want our guns! They want to dilute our country with immigrants! They want to kill our fetuses! They want everyone to speak either Spanish or Canadian, but not English! They want to provide healthcare to all!
But you know what? Some of these Liberals have adopted these positions out of sincerity -- LiShma. So we can perhaps overlook their deep failings of being Liberals. Shoyn.
However, there are red lines that no one should ever cross.
To quote President Donald J. Trump SHLITA, Melech HaMashiach, “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat—I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” And how should we handle such disloyal Liberals? We personally do not need to do anything. After all, there are “some very fine people on both sides”. And our side has most of the guns.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval
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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess


Sunday, August 11, 2019

NEW -- Tisha Ba'Av Drasha




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NEW – Tisha Ba’Av Drasha


Rabboisai,

It has been a long time since I addressed you. And, in truth, it has been more than that since I wrote to you with a pure heart.

The last two years or so have been trying times for the Schmeckelsteins. Death. Illness. Professional transition. Monetary concerns. Temptation. Surrender. Shatnez. Loshoin Harrah. Blood. Frogs. Kinim. Aroiv. And so on.

You know. All the things that we spend our whole lives trying to avoid.

At some point, whoever you are, whatever you do, life throws you curveballs. And then your true character is measured.

When all is going well, you face basic life challenges. You think that you are a hero – especially because that is what you mother tells you – but it is not that difficult. But when you have a setback - personal or professional - character is when you pick yourself off the floor, no matter how shitty you feel, and you push ahead. Character is resilience.

And that is the meaning of life.

Shoyn.

I share this with you because this is a special time of year. We are currently commemorating Tisha Ba’Av, the saddest day of the year, outside of April 15. According to tradition, Tisha Ba’Av memorializes many things in Jewish history:

·         The first Bais Hamikdash was destroyed by the Babylonians. And, tragically, Klal Yisrael were not compensated by insurance. (Indeed, it was Prudential - not Yirmiyahu HaNavi - who originated the notion that the destruction on the Temple was an “Act of the Reboinoisheloilum.”

·         The second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed by the Romans. Well... they actually waited for all of the Jewish factions to kill each other within Jerusalem and destroy each other’s food supplies. If Klal Yisroel had only held out for two more months... we could have combined Tisha Ba’Av and Yoim Kippur, and perhaps celebrated Shabbos Nachamu with a “special friend” in the Sukkah…

·         Moishe Rabbeinu broke the Luchois when he saw the Jews worshipping the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, while eating Chazer sandwiches on bread that was not made from Yishon flour.

·         Apostomos burned the holy Torah. Note: I have absolutely no idea who Apostomus was. If you want more details, go to the Chabad or Aish website, AKA “Persecution.Com”

·         Alan Dershowitz was born, and he would go on to great fame and fortune representing such upstanding citizens as Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Baruch Lanner, and OJ Simpson. Mi K’Amcha Yisrael?!?!?!

How should we think about a day tinged with national tragedy, especially in a time of relative peace for Klal Yisroel, relative freedom of religion for Klal Yisroel, relative economic stability for Klal Yisroel?

I am writing these words from the Shtetyl in Pittsburgh, having spent Shabbos in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. It was in Squirrel Hill that a lone gunman walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue on a Shabboskoidesh last October and murdered eleven people during Davening.

Squirrel Hill is a quiet, peaceful, friendly neighborhood, abutting Oakland, home to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Carnegie Mellon University, and several other academic institutions, including several Catholic universities. Many of the Jewish residents of Squirrel Hill are affiliated with the hospital of universities. It was in many ways an Idyllic community, until...

When we think about the tragedies that befell Klal Yisroel which are commemorated by Tisha Ba’Av, it is important to remember that they too followed periods of stability and security for Klal Yisroel.

During the late First Temple period Klal Yisrael experience a renaissance under Yoshiyahu HaMelech, King Josiah, embracing centralized worship in the Bais Hamikdash and incorporating a newly found “lost book of the Toirah”, widely believed by both CHAZAL and secular scholars to be Sefer Devarim. All was well until, a generation later...

During the Mid-Late Second Temple period the Chashmonaim, the Hasmonian Maccabees, wrested independence from the Seleucid Greeks in Syria and the Ptolemaic Greeks in Egypt, and expanded Jewish sovereignty over many parts of the traditional Land of Israel. But factional divisions led to the entrance of the Romans into the territory, the loss of sovereignty, and, eventually, the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, and, finally, the banishment from Jerusalem and two thousand years of exile.

As Klal Yisroel, we have a rich history of great political, cultural, academic, economic, and societal achievements. Yet... we have suffered persecutions in every corner of the globe. What is the secret to our Jewish survival and, dare I say, success, especially in light of our legacy of tragedy?

Rabboisai, I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. The third Bobover Rebbe, Reb Shlomo Halberstam, survived the Shoah after losing his first wife and many of his children to the Nazis – the original White Supremacists. Upon reaching the shores of America, Reb Shlomo set about rebuilding his community… and his own life. Reb Shlomo remarried, and at his second wedding, one of his Chassidim asked him, “Rebbe, how can you dance, after all of the death and horror that brought you to this point?”

Reb Shlomo kept dancing, but leaned his head towards his Chussid’s ear. Answered Reb Shlomo, “You know, you might be right. Maybe I should go back to Poland, cover myself in the ashes of my family, and either wait for them to wake up from the dead, or wait to die in that place. Or, just maybe, I can try to rebuild my life and our Chassidus. What do you think I should do, Schmuck?”

Reb Shlomo’s Chassid paused for a moment, and then offered to sell Reb Shlomo a life insurance policy and an unfiltered cellphone. Reb Shlomo responded by embracing his Chussid and encouraging him to crouch to do the Kazatzkah. Reb Shlomo then tightened his Gartel, but his hands on his hips, and kicked his Chussic skver… errr… square in the Shvatzlach.

Shoyn.

Reb Shlomo knew that the secret to Klal Yisroel’s success is resilience.

Rabboisai, at this time of year we are reminded that even our greatest periods of success can easily transform into painful tragedy. But at the same time, we commemorate these tragedies on very few days of the year. Why is that?

To listen to some of our friends and colleagues, brothers and sisters, one might think that the real Mitzvah is for Klal Yisroel to be in a national state of mourning 365 days a year. We were persecuted. They took turns killing us. They are all against us. None of them are our real friends. Our fate is to suffer -- and suffer we shall every day.

But Tisha Ba’Av is only once a year. Yes, it follows the Three Weeks and the Nine Days, but is one day a year, and is followed six days later by Tu Ba’Av and Shabbos Nachamu, a universal time of new beginnings, and the occasional one night stand. We limit our national mourning to one day a year because Klal Yisroel is founded on resilience, The Toirah commands us to not forget the past, but wants us to focus primarily on the future.

And so Rabboissai, at the end of this long fast, after we eat everything not nailed down to the table, after a period or challenge and disappointment, after a period of pain, we can relax knowing that the worst is behind us, and the best is yet ahead.

Tzom Kal, You Menuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess




Friday, February 01, 2019

On the Performance of Teshuvah

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On the Performance of Teshuvah


Rabboisai,

I come before you with Viduy, confession, for a sin I caused my entire Kehillah.

I was Davening Shacharis for the Amud last week, leading the prayer service in honor of the Yuhrtzeit for my long departed cat Baruch Shepatrani, when, as I was finishing Chatzi Kaddish immediately prior to Shmoineh Esrei, a fly landed on the Shtender at which I was Davening. Instinctively, I smacked hard on the Shtender, killing the fly. Unfortunately, this confused all 250 of my congregants, who as a result all recited Yaaleh VeYavoh, even though it was not Roish Chodesh or any other holiday. After Chazaras HaShatz half of the congregants began reciting Hallel. And ten members of the Kehilla ended up manically running home to build their Sukkahs, even though it is the middle of winter.

I mention this story out of a sense of guilt, guilt for causing the Reboinoisheloilum’s name to be said in vain by the entire Shul. 

Guilt is a terrible burden. We are told of Moishe Rabbeinu that “Loi Kum B’Yisroel K’Moishe Oid”, no other person was ever able to achieve the greatness of Moses – The only man who ever saw God “Panim El Panim”, face to face. And yet the guilt associated with a minor transgression, the smiting of a rock instead of talking to it as commanded by the Aimishteh, was enough to keep Moishe out of the Promised Land, as well as deny him full pension benefits and healthcare for life. 

Sin and guilt are strong components of our Jewish tradition. Guilt runs deep in the psyche. It is a part of the human experience and cycle of behavior: appreciation of wrongs we have committed, and their implications, in order that we may do Teshuvah, perform penitence for our wrongdoings. 

And how does one do penitence?

BiZman SheBais HaMikdash Hayah Kayum, at the time that the Temple stood in Jerusalem, penitence was done through animal sacrifice. Someone would commit a sin – say, be MeChallel Shabboskoidesh, violate the Sabbath – and he would repent by engaging a priest to bring a Karban Chatusssss, a penance offering, on his behalf. He would also customarily tip the priest 20 Zuzim and an Apple I-Tunes gift card. 

But after destruction of the Temple when we no longer have animal sacrifice, a man must commit penitence through prayer and fasting and the giving of charity. So, for example, if you, my dear reader, missed Zman Kriyas Shema, you should be Mispallel to Hakadoshboruchhu, fast next Monday, and buy three of my books at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky (and not the goddamned e-books either). 

Bameh Devarim Amurim – When does this apply? When we are dealing with sins that are Bain Udum LaMakoim – sins that trespass on the precepts of the Reboinoisheloilum. Rules, so to speak, that are linked to the religious cult, but have no impact on other human beings. However, when we discuss Bain Udum LeChaveiroi – sins of man against his fellow man -- bringing a Karban or saying a few prayers is not enough. One cannot say “I am sorry” to Hakadoshboruchhu in order to be forgiven for his sins against another human being. That is like engaging in Tashmish HaMitah and not… errr… completing the Makeh BaPatish. It is an incomplete action – woefully inadequate.

A Gemarrah in Baba Kamma describes the formula of payments that one must make in order to compensate for damages to another human being. They are: Nezek, Tza’ar, Ripuy, Shevess, and Boishes – Compensation for 1) the actual physical damage caused; 2) pain and suffering; 3) medical expenses resulting from the damage; 4) the loss of time associated with the recovery; and 5) embarrassment and humiliation. Toisfois suggests that a sixth element should be added – compensation for being forced during recovery to stay home and watch Dr. Phil.

There are of course many types of sins, and many types of sinners. And there are also different kinds of guilt. The RASHBA identifies three kinds of guilt: The guilt of one who commits a crime; the guilt of one who enables a crime; and the guilt of the bystanders who do not help the victim and look the other way, even after the crime has been committed. According to the RASHBA, each of these archetypes must do Teshuvah.

There is a famous Gemarrah in Moed Katan that tells the story of a Maaseh Shehoya in Sura in ancient Babylonia. In the town of Sura, Reb Baruch was known among his Talmidim as a despot. In his Yeshiva, which had both boys and girls, her would violently abuse the boys by, among other things, kicking them in the schvatzlach. And he would sexually abuse the girls, by allegedly grabbing their…ummm…. Double Daked Tzitz, and doing things like going into their purses, pulling out their Nidah rags, and waving them at the boys in an effort to sexually humiliate the girls. He also perpetually used the abusive and foul Aramaic language instead of the Loshon HaKoidesh expected of someone of his stature.

One day Reb Baruch was brought before a Bias Din in which many of his Talmidim testified against him. He was, however, supported by many of the Amoraim, his rabbinical colleagues. He was ultimately exonerated of all of the charges, and the RCB (the Rabbinical Council of Babylon ) declared that , “The Bias Din determined that the overall portrayal of Baruch was false, and that many of the charges were great exaggerated or distorted… In light of the P’Sak of the Bias Din, we, the members of the RCB, wish Rabbi Baruch continued success as Rav and Educator.” Shoyn. What a Kiddush Hashem!

The only problem was that ten years or so later, the Judean Peoples Weekly published an expose on Rabbi Baruch, based on the testimony of many, many former students. An investigation by the Babylonian authorities ultimately led to Rabbi Baruch going to prison for 3 years. So, it turned out, all of the initial allegations against Reb Baruch were in fact true. The original Bias Din was completely mishandled. 

The Gemarrah goes on to discuss the culpability and Teshuva of all of the members of the Bias Din and the Amoraim who supported Reb Baruch, as well as the impact of the findings on many of his Talmidim. 

Of the members of the Bias Din, Reb Yoisaif did full Teshuvah. He dedicated the rest of his life towards rooting out abuse of children and young adults throughout all of Babylonia. Reb Aaron, upon learning of the tragic error of the Bias Din, expressed extreme regret and died shortly afterwards of a broken heart. And Reb Haman, whom the Gemarrah suggests was allegedly responsible for swaying the initial outcome of the Bias Din, made a public apology after much pressure, and acknowledged that mistakes were made in the trial and that the Bias Din was ultimately flawed since no members of the Bias Din were experts in abuse. 

However, Reb Haman was later involved in another controversial Bias Din trial in which he had a personal conflict of interest. In addition, when a new Rosheshiva that he did not approve of was appointed at the Yeshiva in Sura, he led many Talmidim of the Yeshiva in Sura in saying Tehillim. Nice guy. According to a separately Medrish in Vayikra Rabbah, after 120 year, Reb Haman was sent straight to Gehennim, had a large skewer shoved up his male Erva, had an apple stuck in his mouth, and was roasted over a fire for 1600 years and served to Adolph Hitler for Christmas dinner.

The Amoraim, too, varied in their forms of Teshuva. Reb Yossi expressed regret in front of his congregation and oriented his own Yeshiva towards operating in a manner where no abuses would be tolerated. Reb Shmuel allegedly denied any knowledge of the case, even though he was a signatory of the RCB letter and was its Sgan Nasi. According to RASHI, Reb Shmuel had perhaps forgotten his involvement in the case. Maybe he smoked Bsomim every day before Shacharis (Duuuuude)? Otherwise, it would be hard to account for such a memory loss. Finally, Reb Binyamin not only did not do Teshuvah, he opened his home to Reb Baruch for an extended period after Reb Baruch’s conviction, and later performed Reb Baruch’s second marriage. The Medrish in Vayikra Rabbah reports that after 120 years, Reb Binyamin went straight to Gehennim and spent the next 1000 years performing Metzitza BiPeh on syphilitic, uncircumcised Romans. 

And what of the Talmidim? Many went on to become the Gedoilim of the next generation, despite their traumas. But some, like Reb Shabtai, lost his faith, and instead of having the joy of learning Toirah all day, was forced to work in a Madison Avenue medical practice and make seven figures every year, Rachmana Litzlan.

---------------

Rabboisai, Klal Yisroel, and in particular Klal Yisroel in America, is going through its Catholic Church moment: All elements of the Orthodox community, from the Chassidic community on one end of the spectrum to the Modern Orthodox community on the other end, are being inundated by reported cases of sexual abuse of minors. But instead of confronting this scourge, much of the community continues to ignore it and has entered into a “circle the wagons” mentality, perhaps to protect their friends, perhaps to protect their institutions.

And what of the victims --those who have stepped forward, and the many who have remained in the shadows? Where is their Nezek, Tza’ar, Ripuy, Shevess and Boshess? And even worse, what of the future victims? For sexual abusers of minors are serial predators, and every abuser left teaching in a classroom or working in a camp or other such institution is always seeking out more victims.

Rabboisai, a community and a Rabbinate that does not change its behaviors is a community and a Rabbinate that has not done real Teshuvah. They can Klop as many Al Chayts as they want. They can recite Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Dibarnu Dofi from today until tomorrow, but the Reboinoisheloilum will be as deaf to them as they are to the cries of the past and future victims. They can keep Shabbos and Daven three times a day and keep kosher and say as many Brachois as they want and learn Toirah Yoimum VaLailah – day and night -- but they are simply reciting Hakadoshboruchhu’s name in vain. 

And as a result, like Moishe Rabbeinu, they too will never truly reach the Promised Land.


Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess