Subscribe To My Weekly Drasha

Send a message to mailto:npoj8@yahoo.com with the word "subscribe"

Friday, June 22, 2018

NEW: On The Art Of The Compromise

To subscribe, send an e-mail to NPOJ8@YAHOO.COM with the word "Subscribe"

====================================================

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabbi-Pinky-Schmeckelstein/621655891273622

========================================================================================================


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN


http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================
 THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================

NEW: On The Art Of The Compromise


Rabboisai

Greetings from somewhere on the southern border of the Unites States. I am on assignment in my role as Spiritual Advisor to His Excellency President Donald J. Trump, SHLITA. I am performing the religious ceremony sanctifying the separation of families of illegal immigrants. It is kind of like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah theme, when the child becomes an “adult” in the eyes of the Reboinoisheloilum, freeing his or her parents from the burden of responsibility. Here we are doing the same thing: “Liberating” children from their parents so that we can enslave them to build our pyramids and the storage cities of Python and Ramses... errr... so that we educate the children on Truth, Justice, and the American way...

It is actually pretty fun when we rip children out of the arms of their parents. The children cry. The parents cry. But I believe that they are crying for joy... Well, I think that is what they are doing; I do not actually speak Spanish, but that is what my aides are telling me they are doing. 

Hey... we are just enforcing the law. Where would be without law? The world would be chaos, Tohu VaVohu. And so, in order to ensure an orderly society, we must obey the law. WE WERE ONLY FOLLOWING ORDERS!! 
——

WAIT! STOP THE PRESSES! HOLD THE FORT! PASS THE KETCHUP!

The President of the United States just signed an executive order that does not allow the enforcement of family separation. OY VEY! How inconvenient!! I have a Drasha half written...

More significantly perhaps, I must voice my utter disappointment! We were separating those families because they represented a threat to the United States of American. So if we are now allowing the families to be reunited, then we are increasing that level of threat! The President is now endangering our loved ones! He is being weak kneed and spineless, willing to make ideological compromises because of political pressure coming from the mainstream media and the left and the right and everyone else around the world. Has he forgotten that his role is to “Make America Great Again!”? Instead he will now “i haga a América grande otra vez!” This is unacceptable!

Next thing you know, he will be walking arm in arm with a vicious dictator and mass murderer who imprisons his own people in concentration camps! 

Oops. Well, that was last week...
—-

So, last week and this week, we have examples of moral and ideological compromises made “for the greater good”. How should we think about such examples? Do they reflect a lack of backbone? Or do they reflect courage to “take risks for peace” and to show flexibility in the face of evolving and emerging facts and sensibilities?

And if we believe that such moves are justified, such compromises are valid risks, then how can we criticize the decisions of others who have taken such risks in the past, such as... ummm... the Iran Deal? Or establishing a mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance, so that the government will not go bankrupt providing free health care to the uninsured? Or making concessions in trade agreements, such as the recognition of Canada’s desire to preserve a domestic dairy products industry? Or establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba? Or making peace with Libya in exchange for Khadafi giving up his nuclear capability? Or...

And the thing is... what should be perfectly clear is that compromises do not belong to one side of the political spectrum; both Republicans and Democrats, Democrats and Republicans make concessions. That is how progress against societal challenges is made. It is like “sausage making”; it isn’t a pretty process, but hopefully it results in something that works.
—-

But Nisht Gerferlach. We are Toirah Jews! We are the True Chosen People (TM). We aspire to perfection, and never compromise, right?

Although...

We are told in Pirkei Avois in the name of Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah: Im Ein Derech Eretz, Ein Toirah... Im Ein Toirah, Ein Derech Eretz.” “If there is no worldly occupation, there is no Toirah; if there is no Toirah, there is no worldly occupation.” What does this mean?

Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah likes to point out that this implies that a Ben Toirah is expected to work, and that he should not be supported by the community. But, conversely, someone who works must set aside time to study Toirah because that enriches his life.

However, Reb Yehoishaphat Katahoulah holds Farkert, that a community MUST support Talmud Toirah, and that Reb Shmiel must have been suffering from Rabies when he interpreted the Mishnah Azoy, using an explanation known as the “Rabbis with Rabies Theory”.

So, what was Rebbe Elazar Ben Azariah discussing according to Reb Yohoishaphat Katahoula? Very Pashut! Reb Yehoishaphat quotes a Braisah that tells us that a person is allowed to lie about three issues, one of which is “Derech Eretz”. In that instance “Derech Eretz” does not refer to worldly occupation - a day job, Chass V’Chalilah!! Rather it refers to sexual relations with one’s wife. In other words, if on a Shabboskoidesh morning your friend asks you if your Bashert gave you a little hot adult action on Mitzvah night, you are permitted according to the Toirah to lie, either to avoid embarrassing your wife in front of your friend, or to avoid embarrassing yourself. So instead of saying, “yes, we engaged in relations last night while my wife was reciting Kriyas Shma Al HaMitah for three minutes”, you are permitted to report back, “YES!! We did it three times over six hours, after my Bashert tied me up with my garter, whipped me with my Arba Kanfois, and had the local Mikvah Lady join us for a Mezumin!”

Similarly, according to Reb Yehoishaphat, this Mishnah is telling us the importance of sex for the Toirah scholar. “Im Ein Derech Eretz, Ein Toirah” is a declaration that a Toirah scholar needs to get hot adult action regularly. He does not need a job, Chass V’Shalom, but he needs to take a break in his 16 hour days of learning Toirah to be serviced by his wife, after she comes home from her three jobs, feeds and bathes the kids, and milks the cows. She is not “too tired”, that is the Yetzer Hurrah speaking!! “I do not care if you are too tired” he should say, “I am just following the Halacha according to Rebbe Elazar Ben Azariah”. 

(To which my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, would most certainly respond, “Then he should sleep with you!!!”)

Shoyn. Sorry, I got lost in a tangent.

But the point is - whether or not we hold by the interpretation of Reb Shmiel or Reb Yehoishaphat, the main point is the language. We are told that we cannot have A without B. And then we are told the converse. This does not mean that we should live in perpetual conflict. Adarabbah!! It means than we should seek a balance between Derech Eretz and Toirah, and between Toirah and Derech Eretz. It is a balance, a compromise.=

As such... according to Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, we should never view ideological compromise as weakness, but as doing what needs to be done in order to make progress and improve the greater good. 

Unless, of course, the person making the compromise is a Democrat, Rachmana Letzlan. In which case he is a spineless week kneed flip-flopper who is bringing about the demise of this country, and is undoubtedly an anti-Semite!

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Menuval


 
--------- 

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 15, 2018

Parshas Koirach

To subscribe, send an e-mail to NPOJ8@YAHOO.COM with the word "Subscribe"

====================================================

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabbi-Pinky-Schmeckelstein/621655891273622

========================================================================================================


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN


http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================
 THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================

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 Minuval

 
--------- 

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 08, 2018

Parshas Shlach

To subscribe, send an e-mail to NPOJ8@YAHOO.COM with the word "Subscribe"

====================================================

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabbi-Pinky-Schmeckelstein/621655891273622

========================================================================================================


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN


http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================
 THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================


Rabboisai,

Before I deliver my weekly Drasha, I would like to respond to several comments sent my way over the last two weeks. "Why" people have asked, "have you not published in the last two weeks? Have you become a Meshumid, or even worse, a Reform Jew?"

Well, truth be told, there is a simple answer: I WORK FOR A LIVING!!

And do you know why? Because you, my beloved Talmidim, are a bunch of good-for-nothing Mamzerim! How many of my books have you bought? How much have you contributed to my Yeshivah? It breaks my heart, especially when I read about the great wealth accumulated by several charlatans... err... great Rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/forbes-presents-the-richest-rabbis-in-israel-1.435748

http://www.forbes.co.il/rating/list.aspx?en6v0tVq=EE

Rebboinoisheloilumdammit! I expect you Talmidim to be buying my books and sending me checks left and right so can make this list next year!

Otherwise I will no longer pray to Hakkadoshboruchhu on your behalf, hand out magical amulets, or give out Red Bendeleh strings to wear around your Schvantzyls (or your wrists, if you are a woman, Chass V'Sholom). Instead, I will daven for you to have erectile dysfunction or sagging Tzitzim.

Pinky

-----

Parshas Shlach

This week's parsha, Shlach Lecha, is one of the most confusing Parshiyois in Kol Hatoirah Kooloh. Takkah, I had to read it three times to make sure it wasn't the latest issue of the National Enquirer. Or even worse, a Medrish.

Moishe Rabbeinu sends twelve spies into Eretz Yisroel to determine the fertility of the land, the vulnerability of the local populations, and the volatility of interest rates. The Meraglim come back and claim at first that the land is fertile, but the locals are too intimidating. They later change their story to say that the land itself does not provide adequate sustenance. Why can't they make up their minds, those Mishagayim? Only Yehoshua and Culayv are optimistic about Klal Yisroel’s ability to conquer the land.

Confusing point #1: What could these people have been thinking? I mean, why would Yehoshua and Culayv be interested in Eretz Yisroel? How about Madagascar? Or Dubai? What about Miami Beach? Or Brooklyn?

Also, as the spies were surveying the Promised Land, why didn't the Meraglim note that the hotels are overpriced; the people are rude; it's hard to find a decent kosher meal in Tel Aviv; oh, and HALF THE POPULATION WANTS TO FREAKING KILL YOU!!!!

Takkah, according to a Medrish in Divrei Hayamim Rabbah, the Meraglim never even made it into the heartland of Eretz Yisroel. Unbeknownst to Moishe Rabbeinu and the Bnei Yisroel, the spies secretly went down to Eilat and spent seven days on the beach ogling at the topless Scandinavian women.

Confusing point #2: When Klal Yisroel, those Behaimas, panic and long to return to Egypt, the Reboinoisheloilum decides to kill them all. Moishe Rabbeinu pleads for their lives by using a somewhat surprising argument: (Bamidbar, Perek Yud Daled, Possuk Tess Vuv-Tess Zayin) “... if you (the Aimishteh) shall destroy this People in a single instance, the nations (of the world) which have heard of you will say, 'Hakadoishboruchhu slaughtered this People in the desert because He was unable to bring them into the Land which he swore to them...'"

In other words, "What will the Goyim say?"

What will the Goyim say?!!! Who does Moishe think he is – Bibi Netanyahu or Ivanka Trump? Since when does Moishe Rabbeinu worry about the Goyim? Since when does any Jew worry about the opinions of the Goyim, those anti-Semites? Why, as is well known, in the world to come, the GOOD Goyim will walk around all day holding onto my Tzitzis. And the BAD Goyim are going to be my "bitches", since, according to the Ari Zahl, when Moshiach comes there will no longer be a prohibition of Mishkav Zachar.

No wonder Moishe was never let into Eretz Yisroel! If he likes the Goyim so much, he should learn to play golf and shave with a blade.

The RAIVID, when looking at this episode, suggests that Moishe was secretly trying to anger Hakkadoshboruchhu in order to be released from his contract. The Mesopotamians were offering him 50% more per year to be their leader, six weeks of vacation, plus unlimited use of the corporate magic carpet.

However, the RAMBAN holds that Moisheh made the defensive argument in earnest. And, remarkably, the Aimishteh ultimately relented and did not destroy Klal Yisroel (although He did raise management fees by 50 basis points).

What is going on here? I am reminded of a famous story in Gemarrah Yevumois about Rabbi Tarfun. Once, at the end of a three day Yuntif, Rabbi Tarfun went to put out the last of his garbage bags. However, he found that all the garbage cans outside of his house were full. He was about to put the bags into the cans of his Gentile neighbors, when his wife stopped him, and insisted that he get permission first. "Why?" he asked her, as she painted the toe nails of their thirteen daughters.

She responded, "you never know when you are going to need a Gentile's help." And it came to pass that three weeks later, as he tried to assemble his children’s' new swing set, the Gentile next door was the only person in the entire neighborhood who knew how to change the head of a socket wrench.

This theme is also addressed in a famous story in the Zoihar. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was sitting in the cave where he hid from the Romans for 14 years. After spending an afternoon meditating, Rabbi Shimon fell asleep. Using his deep Kabbalistic knowledge and the pureness of his soul, he summoned the presence of the Reboinoisheloilum. "What do you want, Reb Shimon? I'm on another call," Hakkadoshboruchhu asked.

"Aimishteh," Rabbi Shimon responded, "I am getting tired of living in this filthy cave. Can you please take me away from all this suffering, and reward me with land and wealth and lots of spare time for Toirah and day trading? Why do the Goyim have it so good, while I, one of your chosen few, continue to struggle?"

The Reboinoisheloilum paused for a moment, and then responded in a low monotonous tone that was little above a whisper. "Reb Shimon, how many people in the world are there?" He asked.

"Why, about six billion" Rabbi Shimon slowly responded.

Hakkadoshboruchhu continued. "And how many Jews are there in the world?"

Again, Rabbi Shimon answered, this time quickly, and with more confidence in his voice. "I would guess about twenty million."

The Aimishteh then raised His voice. "So do you think that in a world of six billion people, all reality revolves around the actions and the fate of 20 million people, three tenths of one percent of the global population? What kind of reefer are you smoking in that cave, you Michutziff??"

So the truth is, whether we like it or not, world opinion does matter. This may not make sense to you, you Am Haaretz, but neither does Shatnez or yeshiva tuition.

It also doesn't make sense that after witnessing all of the miracles of the exodus from Egypt, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, and receiving the Toirah, Klal Yisroel continues to rebel against the Reboinoisheloilum at every turn. But they should get over it already, and so should you.

Life doesn't make sense. And if you don't like it, you can always quit the religion and convert to Hinduism. Reboinoisheloilum knows there are a lot more of them. 

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval
 
--------- 

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 01, 2018

On Life At Internet Speed

To subscribe, send an e-mail to NPOJ8@YAHOO.COM with the word "Subscribe"

====================================================

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabbi-Pinky-Schmeckelstein/621655891273622

========================================================================================================


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN


http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================
 THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

====================================================


On Life At Internet Speed


Rabboisai,

We are all swept up in the tide of information that overwhelms our society. Facebook. Tweeting. Blogging. Skype. E-Mail. One barely has time these days to engage in good old fashioned Loshon Harah and Rechiloos in Shul, at the Mikvah, or on line at the kosher Duncan Donuts on a Sunday morning.

How is one to function in a world where the old customs, practices, and behaviors break down, replaced by a new social order that is unfamiliar? How can we maintain age old traditions when the new generation speaks a different cultural dialect? How can we continue a communal Mesoirah when the fundamental understanding of the very nature of community is in the process of being redefined?

However, you Minuval, we are not the first generation to face such questions. Do you think that we live in such unique times, that all of history culminates in our day, and that Klal Yisroel never faced such challenges in the past? Do you think you are so special that the Toirah offers you no guidance, even about technologies that were not invented until last Tuesday? What kind of Am Haaretz are you anyway?

No. There is a famous Medrish that says that there were six worlds in existence prior to this one - Seven universes in total, seven eras of history, each one created after the previous world was destroyed. So this is not the first time we have faced this or any other challenge, you Mechutziff! Klal Yisroel subscribes to an eternal truth called Toirah, linked to the Reboinoisheloilum, the eternal Omnipresent, who exists outside of time and space. Everything that we experienced has happened before, perhaps not in the Oilum Hazeh, the world as we know it today, but at a different time and place. Perhaps not on earth, but in the Twelve Colonies prior to the nuclear attack by the Cylons, or on Planet Vulcan before its annihilation by the Romulan outcasts. It may have been a long, long time ago in a place far, far away, but we experienced it before.

Indeed, we are not living through the first "information revolution" since the giving of the Toirah on Har Seenai. For example, we traditionally do not refer to the Mishnah and Gemarrah as "Talmud"; we refer to them as Toirah Sheh Baal Peh, the Oral Law, since they were once exclusively passed down orally. It was at one time anathema to even consider putting Toirah Sheh Baal Peh into writing, since it was believed that this would harm the integrity of the transmission of Halacha, as well as take away good union jobs from the Amoraim, the guild charged with preserving the oral tradition. (Sadly, my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, is a Karaite, and does not subscribe to the oral tradition, no matter how much I beg. Rachmana Letzlan.)

But the introduction of a new communications medium did not harm the integrity of Toirah Sheh Baal Peh. Rather, it democratized the Talmud, making it accessible to the masses: At first in manuscript form in the early and middle ages; then, in the Renaissance, printed on the printing presses of Europe; and later, in the 1940s, published in a serialized version in the Saturday Evening Post, right next to pictures sketched by Normal Rockwell, the week's Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz, and the latest anti-Semitic tomes of Henry Ford.

The Gemarrah itself cites a famous Machloikess on the decision to write down the Mishnah. According to Abaya, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi, the Tanna Kamma, compiled the Mishnah in order to standardize Halachic traditions during a formative period in the history of Klal Yisroel. According to Rava, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi compiled the Mishnah in order to standardize Halachic practices throughout the world's Jewish communities located across the globe – from Rome and Britannia in the West -- to Eretz Yisroel and Bavel in the Center -- to Persia and India in the East. According to Rav Puppa, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi wanted to commit the Mishnah to writing so that he could get credit as the principal author, in order to earn royalties and secure the movie rights. But according to Rabbah, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi canonized the Mishnah in order to impress a Mesopotamian stripper named Shayndel who he was secretly in love with.

In any case, the shift in format from oral to written served as a catalyst for increasing access to and fluency in our tradition. One no longer needed physical access to a center of study; one only needed to understand the language of the Talmud. Of course, this was not a trivial undertaking itself. The Talmud Bavli, the Babylonia Talmud, was edited in the Sixth Century CE with a light layer of redaction that added a modicum of structure, but was still a complex, meandering text written in the East Babylonian dialect of Aramaic. The Bavli had a special emphasis on prayer, holidays, and religio-legal issues. The Talmud Yerushalmi, compiled a century earlier under the duress of Roman persecution, had even less structure, and was written in the alternate Western dialect of Aramaic. The Yerushalmi was particularly interested in detailed laws related to the Land of Israel, such as Maaiser (tithing of crops) and Shmita (the agrarian sabbatical year). And the Talmud Koreani, compiled at the same time in Seoul during Samhan rule, prior to the invasion of the Goguryeo, was written in the Korean dialect of Aramaic, and had a particular focus on recipes for cooking dogs and cats.

The complexity of the Talmud was addressed head on by the RAMBAM, Maimonides, who in the twelfth century created a highly structured codification of Jewish law and beliefs, the Mishnah Torah, with the express intent of making Yiddishkeit more accessible to Klal Yisroel. His decade long achievement was celebrated within Klal Yisroel by the making of bonfires, in which some of his manuscripts were burnt by opponents. But the vast majority of scholars and communities welcomed his contribution, and his contribution is celebrated to this day in Israel during the annual "Maimunah", and in Iran on "National Turban Day".

The codification approach became the standard for Halachic transmission: The Arba Turim, the Shulkhan Arukh, the Mishnah Berurah, the Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh, Shmiras Shabbas Kehilkhesah, Conservative Judaism's "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice", the Reform Movement's "So You Think You Are a Hooknose", and the Reconstructionist Movement's "The Jewish Law Handbook: Hundreds Of Cultic Practices to Complicate Your Life and Leave You Dazed and Confused".

So, indeed, as information has become more accessible, Klal Yisroel has thrived. In truth, the fundamental challenge does not lie in the existence of the new forms of media themselves, but in how the new forms are used. Are they used for willy nilly gossip? Are they used for Tifloos? Are they used for Pritzus? Are they used for Latzanus, Chass V'Sholom? (Such a phenomenon would be deeply condemnable!) Or are they used for sharing the wealth of Toirah learning, doing Maisim Toivim, acts of loving kindness, and selling useless trinkets to the Goyim at a hefty profit?

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. In the 16th century the followers of the MAHARAL MiPrague came to him one day, proposing that they burn down the local printing press, since they had learned that in addition to publishing the MAHARAL's commentary on the Baba Kama and his biography of Mar Zutra, the printer had also published the Kama Sutra. The MAHARAL was deeply troubled by the news, but was also steadfastly committed to the principle of free speech. So the MAHARAL objected to the proposal, but as a compromise, he suggested that his students steal samples of ALL the publications produced by the printer, so that he could review them in his study with his personal secretary, Ingrid Bar Zanzibar.

Rabboisai, history does not flow at a steady pace. There are long periods of stability, which for Klal Yisroel have often been periods of wretched stasis. (Think back to the existence of most of our Ashkenazic ancestors in the Pale of Settlement for hundreds of years, or to our Sephardic ancestors living a second class, insecure existence across the Ottoman empire.) But there are also periods of great leaps – social, national, and technological.

We are indeed living in such a period. It is quite natural that we crave the stability and predictability of the past, of a simpler time. But the nostalgic longing for the past is frequently illusory. Who would want to return to the period of the Czars and the Pogroms? Who would want to return to a time of immense, unfathomable poverty? Who would want to return to a time when everyone was isolated, when a person could not see beyond his Daled Amois, his immediate sphere? Who would want to return to a time of less transparency, a time without peer awareness, a time when only a select few could raise their voices, while the teeming masses were silent, for wont of the ability to make their voices heard? Who would want to return to a period when all the lights are out and the curtains are completely drawn during Tashmish HaMitah?

Rabboisai, in order to forge a better tomorrow, we must embrace the future rather than fight it. There are indeed risks associated with the information revolution, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. And indeed, even if one tries to fight the information revolution, he is destined to fail. Such is the same for many social and national issues. Like skilled sailors, we must master the inevitable strong tides to secure our own interests and ensure our own benefit. And, most important, we must retain perspective and foresight, so as not to expose ourselves.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

 
--------- 

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess