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Thursday, August 27, 2015

On Our Mindset in Elul


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On Our Mindset in Elul


Meyreh V'Rabboisai,

I have received numerous comments about my focus in recent Drashas on contemporary political issues. People are concerned that as a rabbi I have limited insight into nuclear weapon technology, Iran, Israel, the United States, Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Gentiles, anti-Semitism, etc. What they fail to understand in their ignorance is that my encyclopedic knowledge of the Gemarrah has prepared me for everything in life. That is why this morning I will be performing cardiac surgery, this afternoon I will be meeting with the leaders of the Federal Reserve Bank to discuss how to flag up the US and global economy in the wake of the precipitous slowdown of the Chinese economy, and this evening I will be replacing the transmission on my vintage Ford Town and Country station wagon with the artificial wood siding. And my critics should all of course go take a Flying Tashmish HaMitah.

However, it is Elul, and excessive focus on the external world is indeed a distraction from our internal souls, our Neshamas, at a time when we anticipate standing in front of the Reboinoisheloilum, the Sutun prosecutor, the angels, and The Three Stooges - Avraham ("Moe") Avunu, Yitchak (Larry) Avinu, and Yankif (Curly) Avinu, although Eisav ("Shemp") Avinu sometimes puts in an appearance. Moishe Rabbeinu will, of course, be at the roulette table, Aroin HaKoihain - the Minuval, will be at the blackjack table, and Duvid HaMelech will be in a private room playing high stakes poker.

It should be noted that not one of the judges, prosecutors, jurors or others at the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), which also includes Heavenly Guards, Celestial Bailiffs, and Holy Court Reporters, is a women. There is a reason for this: "Nashim Daason Kalois" - women have weaker minds. And vaginas. Therefore the recent experiment with teaching women Gemarrah should perhaps be reassessed. They demonstrate that they of simple minds have such a poor ability to understand Talmud, now they want to become Rabbis and take the jobs of some of the men... errr.... Want to lead other women astray from being barefoot and pregnant, which is what Hakadoshboruchhu intended.

We are so grateful to Rabbi Mordechai Willig for having shared this Chiddush. He wrote this in an article that has been celebrated the world over, usually by women burning an effigy of Rabbi Willig,

It is wonderful that Rabbi Willig is once again taking a critical leadership role in Klal Yisroel. Why, it is already 26 years since he allegedly blew the Bais Din assigned to evaluate the actions of Baruch Lanner. In was an unsuccessful Bais Din, essentially exonerating Lanner, who went on to sexually abuse young women and physically abuse young men for another ten years. Many believe that it was Willig who swayed the other judges to disregard the testimony of those students who spoke against Lanner.

But I see no Stirah, no contradiction, here. Rabbi Willig clearly believes that it is acceptable for rabbis to sexually abuse women, just so long as they do not teach them Gemarrah.

I myself have been a big supporter of educating women in the ways of the Aimishteh/ Aibishter. That is why four years ago I opened my own Yeshiva for women, Y-CEF, Yeshivas Chippas Emmess for Females. Here the women learn Gemarrah, Mishnah Halacha, Machshavah, Kabbalah and Chassidus. However, in the spirit of the old Lithuanian Yeshivas, we do not teach them TANACH; the novels they are reading these days have much better sex scenes.

The role of an educator and rabbi is varied. We lead. We teach. We Paskin Shailois. I just Paskined on a leopard patterned thong. Either the woman was still seeing Mei Nidah, or the leopard had just gotten into a nasty fight with a wildebeest, Chass V'Sholom.

We also mentor. When the Mishnah teaches us "Asel Lechah Rav, U'Knai Lecha Chaver", this does not refer to Toirah scholarship; rather, it refers to living by example and finding the appropriate communal role models.

For me, that is an important component of my role. It was really at the top of my agenda when I opened the boy's yeshiva 35 years ago. I used to mentor the Buchrim in many ways. I would learn Toirah with them. Speak to them in my office. Go for kosher pizza or Starbucks with them. Play sports with them. Anything to bond with them. However, I did draw the line: One day one of the Buchrim, after a nice workout, suggested that we go take a shower together and sit in the Schvitz and talk a little. I told him "no thank you", as it says in the Gemarrah that a student should never see his rebbe naked, as it is not appropriate behavior. Besides, someone might see us and think we are gay, Chass V'Sholom.

However, seeing no conflict about someone potentially making that error when I mentor women, I regularly bond with some of my female students in all the ways mentioned above, plus, after a nice game of volleyball, I will take a shower with them. Nothing sexual, of course, after all I AM a rabbi! So we will stand inches away from each other, naked in the shower, dripping wet. Them we might wrap ourselves in towels and go to the Schvitz and talk about their careers, their aspirations, their boyfriends, and what makes them feel good after a long stressful day and a few glasses of wine.

Note: I do acknowledge that I have taken such showers with young Bat Mitzvah girls at the age of 12 or a little bit older. But once my Board of Directors suggested that I no longer do that, I have halted such activities, except for on Yom Tov Sheni Shel Goliyois, Isru Chag, Tu Bishvat, and when their parents are out of town.

Now, some people have suggested that my actions are very similar to those of Jonathan Rosenblatt, the rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center. Rosenblatt, despite revelations of his showering and naked Schvitzing with tens or hundreds of naked young men and boys as young as the age of twelve over the past twenty years or more, refuses to step down from his pulpit, and is being retained by his synagogue, apparently after the Chair and President of his Board overrode a Board vote to remove him from his role. And even in the face of his synagogue splitting, he is set on remaining in his position.

Well, my actions are quite different from his. His victims... errr... Talmidim are all males, and, consequently, they are prone to having long term effects of inappropriate exposure to an authority figure who exploited his position to engage in a form of sexual abuse. Abuse comes in many forms: Touching is just one of them, as is sexual penetration. But other forms include voyeurism and exhibitionism. Sexual abuse can simmer for years, so the "special male bonding" Rosenblatt initiated may only bear fruit years later, as some of his victims experience PTSD, professional and personal dysfunction, relationship problems, substance abuse, etc. later on in life.

However, my mentoring of women is not at all comparable. Women will not be subjected to PTSD and other post stress manifestations, since Nashim Daason Kalois, so their intellectual and emotional needs are, frankly, not of concern to Toiradickah Yidden. And, may I point out, at least I am not gay, Boruch HaShem.

So as we focus on our Ruchniyus, our individual spirituality, during this Choidesh of Elul, we need to step back from the news headlines and contemplate our own existential standing. Have we used our time wisely, focusing on becoming better human beings? Or have we behaved selfishly? Have we focused only on Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, commandments regarding the Divine and man, but not concerned ourselves with treating others with respect, or worrying about those less fortunate than us or different than us? Have we been arrogant and focused only on our egos? In other words, have we acted like Donald Trump? Or even worse, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky?

Or have we also concerned ourselves with Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, commandments regarding man and man, helping the unfortunate, the poor, the single mothers, the widows and orphans, the socially isolated, the hungry, the weak, the victims of abuse, and the abandoned, and even those that do not look like us, act like us, share our religious beliefs, or share our sexual orientation? And have we made certain that in the process we do not humiliate or exploit them to satisfy our own egos or sexual desires?

There is a famous story about the Kutzker Rebbe. The Kutzker was teaching his Talmidim about the importance of modesty, chastity, and poverty in becoming closer to the Reboinoisheloilum. Suddenly, one of his Talmidim, Beryl Markovitz, came running into the Bais Medrish excitedly, declaring, "Rebbe, My family just won the lottery! We are no longer poor!"

To which the Kutzker replied, "you Beryl, and your entire family, are now Oisgefucked."

"Why would you say such a thing?" asked Beryl.

The Kutzker adjusted the Yarmulke on his head and responded slowly. "Berylchic, we enter this world naked and helpless. And we leave this world in shrouds and helpless. That is how Hakadoshboruchhu created us and wants us to be. If the Aimishteh wanted us to spend all of our waking hours collecting resources, focusing on Gashmiyus, materialism, He would have created us with pockets, like kangaroos."

Beryl understood the wisdom of his rebbe, and convinced his family to donate the entire lottery winnings to support the Kutzker's Yeshiva.

That Roish HaShana the Kutzker came before the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), and with the large donation in his pocket, was given a seat at Dovid HaMelech's private poker game. However, he lost the entire fortune in several hands, and, as is well known, shortly afterwards lost his mind and lived the last twenty years of his life isolated in one room in his home, watching reruns of Friends and Arrested Development.

Beryl, on the other hand, left the Yeshiva, shortened his last name and met a friend, Friederich Engels, with whom he collaborated on two books - The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. And every year he took the proceeds of his book sales and spent the entire Aseres Yemai Teshuvah as a paid guest at the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), where he sat next to Moishe Rabbeinu and had a lot of luck at the roulette wheel, especially when he bet on red.

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Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On Gatkes and Anti-Semitism


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On Gatkes and Anti-Semitism


Rabboisai,

Three weeks ago I published a Drasha that discussed the Pollard affair and its relationship to the current questions regarding the proposed Iran nuclear agreement and the opposition to it. I made specific assertions about what I feel was an essential mishandling of the Iran situation on the part of the current Israeli government, but did not take a position on the actual proposed agreement itself.

After publishing that Drasha, I received a piece of hate mail from one subscriber who asked to be unsubscribed from my mailing list, claiming that I had crossed over from religious satire to political punditry, and that he chooses to get his political insights elsewhere.

Shoyn. Tashmish HaMitah him if he can't take a joke!

I was also removed from one Facebook group after posting the Drasha. Their loss. My membership in that group likely brought the average age of the membership down by twenty years. I guess that some people cannot handle alternative ideas and perspectives. They should probably stay away from reading the Mishnah, the Gemara, the Rishoinim and the Acharoinim, and stick to reading the biographies of famous rabbis published by Art Scroll, as well as watching Fox News.

Rabboisai - I was on the phone earlier today with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah. She asked that I pick up my Einickel, Menachem Mendel Melech HaMoshiach, from Cheder. I told her that I could not, as I had several pairs of ladies’ Gatkes to inspect for Shatnez, and several men's suits to inspect for Mei Nidah. Upon hearing this, my Bashert, my beloved chosen one, called me an "anti-Semite". Me!!!

Just yesterday I was passing by a Shoeshine place, and some Chussid - or Amish guy, it is hard to tell the difference - stormed out and complained that he was solicited by the shoeshine guy for a tip. And he referred to the poor illegal Mexican immigrant as an "anti-Semite", and then sent an e-mail to Donald Trump to have the guy sent to a concentration camp.

Finally, in Shul last week, someone asked for an Aliyah in honor of the Yahrtzeit of his cat. But my Gabbai, a very competent and solid Mentch by the name of Moishie Von Ribbentrop did not give him an Aliyah, as we had a Chushuvah guest, Barry Manilow, who we needed to honor with an Aliyah. And what did the guy call my Gabbai? Yes, you guessed it. He called him an "anti Semitic Nazi bastard". And then he pulled of the Gabbai's Tallis and ripped off the Tzitzis and threw them at Barry Manilow, who decided to use them as tassels in his next concert performance.

I share these stories because we are now bombarded with the term "anti Semite". People disagree with the President of the United States and call him an "anti Semite". People do not like positions that he takes, or the fact that he mentions publicly that there is a $25 million advertising campaign against the Iran deal, or that political pressure is being put by lobbyists on members of congress to reject the Iran agreement, and refer to the administration's “anti-Semitic tactics”.

Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to address Congress, circumventing US government protocol, gets up in front of Congress to tell them that the President of the United States is an ignorant asshole, but he is OK. But the President disagrees with the Prime Minister and various Jewish organizations in the US, and suddenly he is an anti-Semite?

Let us remember that this is the president who held the first Seder ever in the White House. This is the president that raised intelligence collaboration with Israel to the highest levels ever - a fact acknowledged by the Israeli government. This is the president that has used the U.S.' apparatus in the UN to block the Palestinians from unilaterally declaring statehood. And he is called an anti Semite?!

Do you know what an anti Semite looks like? I do. I went to visit my long lost relatives recently - I went to Auschwitz (Mamish). In preparation for the trip, I read up on the operations of the camp, especially Mengele's activities. I learned about the machine like precision of the trains bounds to Auschwitz, the selection process, the removal of hair and teeth and prosthetic devices, and the use of ashes from the crematoria as fertilizer. (Dude, they may have killed all of our ancestors, but they were great at recycling.) I learned about the German totalitarian regime, the anti-Jewish laws. I read about the collaborators in the various countries in which Jews were killed and from which Jews were deported to the camps. That is anti-Semitism.

In my Yeshiva we have numerous people of Russian descent. I often hear about the anti-Jewish laws that existed in the Soviet Union, the professional and academic glass ceilings, the other institutional challenges to Jews. That is anti-Semitism.

I also read recently about the banning of Matisyahu from a concert in Spain because he would not disavow Israeli policy. Now.. He is a Jew, not an Israeli citizen! That is anti-Semitism.

However, we live in a society where there is freedom of speech. Where you can pretty much say what you like. That is a very powerful thing. But as Stan Lee has pointed out so often, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility". Words can build, but they can also destroy.

There is an extremely famous Gemarah in Gittin, Daf Nun Zayin, Amud Aleph. It is the Medrish of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

The Gemarah tells of a wealthy man who he sent his servant to deliver an invitation to a party to his friend, a man named Kamtza. However, the servant mistakes the recipient as Bar Kamtza, an enemy of the wealthy man. Upon seeing the hated Bar Kamtza at his party, the host orders him to leave. Bar Kamtza, attempting to save face, offers to make peace with the host, first offering to pay for the food he eats, then for half of the expenses of the party, and then for the entire party, and is each time rebuffed by the host.

Humiliated, Bar Kamsa vows revenge against the rabbis present who did not defend him and allowed him to be publicly embarrassed. He visits the Roman Emperor and tells him the Jews are inciting to revolt against the Roman Empire. The Emperor sends an animal with Bar Kamtza to be sacrificed as a peace offering in the Temple in Jerusalem. On the way, Bar Kamsa purposefully slightly wounds the animal in a way that would disqualify it as a sacrifice in the Temple.

Upon seeing the wounded animal, the rabbis present at the Temple have to make a decision as to how to respond to the delicate situation. Some advocate dispensing with the law and offering the animal anyway to avoid war. But this plan is vetoed by Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkolos who fears that people will begin to bring blemished animals to the Temple to be sacrificed. They then suggest putting Bar Kamsa to death to prove that he is at fault, but Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkolos again refuses, because this is not the mandated penalty for intentionally bringing a disqualified offering to the Temple.

Rabbi Yochanan says because of the actions of Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkolos the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed and the Jews were exiled from Israel.

This is the famous Gemarah that is mandated to be studied on Tisha Ba'Av the darkest day of the Jewish Calendar. The story speaks of Sinas Chinum, the callous, senseless hate of Jew versus Jew. But it also speaks of myopic Jewish leadership that fails to see outside of its own little bubble and beyond its Daled Amois. It is the ultimate accounting of the Talmud for the destruction of the Temple.

---

Rabboisai,

I have zero interest in making a definitive pronouncement on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran. There are arguments both in favor and against.

On the one hand, successful implementation and management of the proposed arrangement sets the Iranian nuclear efforts back by ten to fifteen years. But on the other hand, the Iranians will be allowed to continue to own and develop a nuclear program.

On the one hand, the agreement may strengthen the hand of the moderates, and at least half of the country is hungry for moving towards a more open and Western society. But on the other hand, the benefits of any arrangement, including the release of $150 billion in assets held since 1979 and the eventual investment dollars that will flow to Iran will offer a pool of funding to the Ayatollas and the Revolutionary Guard.

On the one hand, we can overlook the burning of flags and calls of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" as political hyperbole that we have heard before, including from Egypt prior to the peace treaty. And while Iran has chemical weapons, it has never used them against Israel, implying a rational approach to geopolitics. But on the other hand, Iran arms and controls the Hezbollah, who have thousands of missiles aimed at Israel, funds Hamas (or did at one time) who have thousands of missiles aimed at Israel, and was responsible for blowing up the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Center in Argentina.

On the one hand, Iran will be subject to inspections to ensure compliance. But on the other hand, Iran will have up to three weeks from the time of filing a complaint until an inspection can take place, giving Iran time to remove signs of violations. In addition, as we learned this week, apparently some of the inspections are going to be subcontracted to the Iranians themselves (!!!!) Like… What the Tashmish HaMitah?!?!

On the one hand, Persian women are kind of hot. But on the other hand, Ayatollahs’ turbans are much nicer that SHAS', so they may take ten seats in the next Israeli election.

So, unlike most members the Jewish community, I do not know what the right answer is. I guess I wasted the opportunity to develop such detailed expertise. When I was growing up I studied Gemara on Shabbos. Apparently, everyone else became expert military strategists by playing Risk all Shabbos afternoon.

---

Rabboisai, Klal Yisroel is a small nation in size, yet we have survived and thrived throughout the generations by using our brains. We should be smarter than using such hyperbole as calling the President of the United States an anti-Semite. Let’s leave the hyperbole to the Iranians, and focus on substance and strategy.

If the Jewish community is going to fight the Administration tooth and nail - as it has a perfect right to do - by using highly aggressive campaigns of information and lobbying, then we should have a bit of thicker skin when the other side pushes back. That is not anti-Semitism; that is the political process.

So, Rabboisai, let’s not cry wolf and get our Gatkes in a bunch. But if your Gatkes are bothering you, don’t worry about it too much. Just send them over and I will be happy to inspect them for Shatnez.

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Ah Gutten Shabbos, you anti-Semite.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, August 14, 2015

On Life After Death


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On Life After Death



Rabboisai,

Oy, what a week I am having!

Last week I was banned as an individual “person” from Facebook. Clearly this was the result of Anti-Semitism! I have been Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein since I was born! (fifteen years ago, in a bar, on a Moitzee Shabboskoidesh, during a Melaveh Malkah filled with Toirah, “Special” Miztvois, and some nice Besomim.)

This left me, a rabbi with a global Yeshiva filled with Talmidim across the world – a bunch of good-for-for nothing Menuvals, Mechutzafim, and Vilda Chayas – errr, committed Masmidim and Baal HaBatim alike, who crave drinking the nectar of Toirah Yoimum V’Layla, day and night, usually mixed with a nice vodka – without being able to read my Toirah or connect with me on Facebook.

While I of course continued to have my e-mail list (feel free to join by sending me an e-mail to NPOJ8@Yahoo.com with the one line “Subscribe me, my beloved Roisheshiva”), my blog at http://rabbi-pinky.blogspot.com, and my Seforim athttp://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky, in the world of Facebook I was no longer in existence. I was no longer alive.

Baruch Dayan Emmess.

---

What happens in our tradition when someone passes to the beyond and reaches the Oilum HaEmmess? There is of course a very famous Machloikess in the Gemarrah on this topic:

-- According to Rav Huna, when one enters the Oilum HaEmmess, they get to sit with Moisheh Rabbeinu and the great Tzadikim and Gedoilei Yisroel, including Dovid HaMelech, Hillel and Shammai, Reb Yehudah Hanassi, RASHI, the RAMBAM, the Mechaber of the Shulkhan Aruch, the ARI ZAHL, the Lubavitcher Rebbe SHLITA, Baruch Spinoza, Albert Einstein, Groucho Marx, Benny Hill, the Gershwin brothers, Brian Epstein, Hank Greenberg (the baseball player, not the guy who almost destroyed the global economy at AIG), and the guy who invented kosher cheese doodles.

-- According to Rav Ashi, when one enters the Oilum HaEmmess, he is given a room in the compound of the Yeshivah Shel Ma’alah, and inside, waiting for him, are a Mikra’ois Gedolois TANAKH, a Vilda Shas, the RAMBAM’s Mishnah Toirah, a set of Mishnah Berurah, a deck of cards, and 72 virgins.

-- Rav Pappa holds like Rav Ashi, except he suggests that instead of 72 virgins, there is one very experienced Kurva who is capable of sucking a golf ball through a garden hose.

Well, here is the truth: I, Rabbi Pinchus T. Schmeckelstein, did indeed die. As my Facebook Neshama left my Guf, I felt as if I was in a tunnel. I saw a light at the end of that tunnel. It was the light of truth. I was immersed in an aura, a sense of existential truth and wisdom. I was drawn to that light, pulled closer and closer. As I approached the light, I could make out a figure in the distance. As I got closer, the figure appeared to be a person, calling to me. And then I arrived to him, standing in front of me, Punim El Punim, face to face. And then I could see him up close, and realized that I was in the presence of Rabbi Steven Pruzansky.

It was then that I realized that I had actually died and gone to Gehennim, and was staring the Sutun in the face.

So I turned and ran as fast as I could, struggling to return to this earth to increase my Spiritual Net Worth by learning more Toirah, by becoming a better person, by doing more Mitzvois, by helping bring peace and truth and justice, by helping more people, by giving more Tzedakah. And by getting back on Fucking Facebook.

And so I have established a new page on Facebook. Here I will post my weekly Drashas. Here I will encourage humor, dialogue and debate. Here I will have a live webcast of the inside of the Washington DC Mikvah (Barry Freundell sent me the link; he has a lot of time at home these days, sitting behind bars, and, Be-Ezras HaShem, serving as someone's... errr... Prison-Rebbetzin, if you know what I mean...).

Shoyn.

We read in Tehillim, in a Kapitel included in Tefilas Hallel, “Lumuh Yoimru HaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nu Eloikeihem’?” (Tehillim Koof Tess Vuv, Passuk Baiz) “Why should the nations say, ‘where is their Reboinoisheloilum’?” (Psalm 115, Verse 2, you ignoramus.) Duvid HaMelech challenges Hakadoshboruchhu, alluding to His perceived concerns about public reputation.

These are strange words. Does this mean to imply that the Amishteh cares about what the Goyim think? Is the Reboinoisheloilum a Liberal, Chass V’ Sholom? Or is this simply the expression of the belief of one Biblical author on the nature of Hakadoshboruchhu, more in the realm of a philosophical notion or a scientific theory? Or were Tehilim specifically written as a form of popular reading, a scree expressing opinions on the world of its day, with a taste for sensationalism and the intention of exploiting this bully pulpit to spread extremist ideas, somewhat in the vein of The New York Times, The Jewish Week, and Der Shtermer?

But what if in fact these words are not theological or philosophical or political theory, but they reflect the actual existential truth, as we are instructed by CHAZAL to believe that every word in the Toirah is true? And especially Tehillim, which have been recited in prayer to the Aimishteh for nearly three thousand years?

What if, sitting on His Heavenly Throne, the Reboinoishelum cares about public opinion, cares about human beings in the world besides Klal Yisroel? What if other people matter? What is being “The Chosen People” does not actually mean being “The Only People”? The implications are quite disturbing:

-- It would mean that we are not the only human beings that Hakadoshboruchhu cares about;

-- It would mean that, as members of the broad family of human society, we, as Jew need to me good citizens of the world. That means: No stealing from Goyim. No lying to the IRS. No real estate scams. No exploitation of Welfare and Medicaid and Section 8. (Do you hear me in Monsey, KJ, and Williamsburg, not to mention Jerusalem and Bnei Brak?) It would mean cooperating fully with the laws of the given country, Dina D’Malchusah Dinah, and the local justice system, especially in democracies where checks and balances exist to ensure relative social equality. In Dinei Nefashois, it would mean that we are all members in the quest to save human lives, not just Jewish lives;

-- It would mean that all men and women, all of mankind, are indeed created “Betzelem Eloikim”, all have a Godly spark. It would mean that ALL people matter, and not just the Jews.

But if that is the case, why be a Jew? If we acknowledge equality, why not be a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist, or a Rastafarian (“Hey mon, you got a Bsomim splif for me?”) or an atheist?

Why be a Jew?

Rabboisai, every so often we all get chain e-mails that boast about the accomplishments of Klal Yisroel in influencing the world. Besides being the religion that led to the creation of Christianity and heavily influences Islam, we have many accomplishments to our name: a tremendous number of Nobel Prize winners, political and philosophical leaders who have changed the world, scientists, doctors, business people, researchers, successful authors and artists and musicians and producers and directors and performers who have changed the world. Where would the world be today without Albert Einstein? Where would the world be today without an understanding of the Big Bang, a theory confirmed by a Traditional Jew named Dr. Arno Penzias? Where would the world be without Dr. Jonas Salk, the man who created the vaccine for Polio? Where would the world be without Bernie Madoff?

We are a tiny people, a small nation, a remnant who have survived a 2,000 year old Diaspora. How are we so successful, and Kal V’Choimer, why are we so successful despite immeasurable persecution throughout the ages? Our success and very existence do not make rational sense, either intellectually or statistically.

I am reminded of a famous Mashal. There once was a man who had 6 daughters. Reizel, Shprintza, Pessy, Hannah, Smadar, and Christina. All we very beautiful, except for Christina, who looked like she was hit in the face by a Sephardic Sefer Toirah while it was closed. All the men of the town wanted to marry the elder five daughters, but no one was interested in poor Christina. And so the man gave special attention of Christina. He gave her a better education. He bought her nice clothing. He got her a nose job, because, Aimisteh knows, she really needed it.

When it came for Shidduchim for all of the daughters, the elder five ended up marrying Rabbonim and prominent businessmen. Except for Christina, who refused to have an arranged marriage, and established her own business and a school for teaching other young women. One day, as she was attending a conference on global warming, she met a nice man. And she has now been married to Bono for 20 years.

Rabboisai, what do we learn from this story? We learn that we are all the children of the same Creator, Avinu SheBashamayim, Our Father In Heaven. We all have a role to play, we all have a mission. Not every trajectory is the same. Different groups have different needs. Different groups have different legacies. But we are all essentially created equal.

We must protect ourselves and our fundamental interests, including ensuring a peaceful and secure Medinas Yisroel. But we should never delude ourselves into believing that we are all alone, that Klal Yisroel are the only ones who matter in the eyes of the Aimisteh. For, “Lumuh Yoimru HaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nu Eloikeihem’?”

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Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, August 07, 2015

On The Arrival of the Messianic Era


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On The Arrival of the Messianic Era

I am writing this Drasha from the bomb shelter in the branch of my Yeshiva located in Israel, Yeshivas Sin'as Yisroel. The Yeshiva was named after a former Talmid of mine, Yisroel Schvantzylcrechtzin, who used to express his intense anti-Semitism by beating on his Brisoi Shel Avraham, daily.

Let's be honest: There is more than a little bit of disappointment in every one of us at the news of the past week. Our intense focus of recent weeks on the Iran nuclear deal - whether we are virulently opposed, accept it as an imperfect inevitability and are committed to making the best of it, or are fully supportive - has been distracted by two tragedies that are difficult to fathom.

- The savage stabbing of six marchers at a gay pride parade by a deranged Chareidi man, resulting in the death of a sixteen year old girl.

- The brutal attack on a Palestinian family in their home, resulting in the burning alive of a young child and the severe wounding of his parents and sibling.

While the vast majority of Israeli and global Jewish society has condemned these atrocities, it is terribly disturbing that these grotesque actions have clusters of supporters, as widely reported and seen in banners that have appeared in Israel and various news reports. The ultra Orthodox press has referred to the gay pride parade as the "Toevah" (literally, "abomination") parade. And ultra right Israelis point to Palestinian violence against Israelis and/ or "media bias" against Israel, as if brutality and victimization were a contest and justify immolation of a family sleeping in their beds.

I am reminded of a famous legend of the Chofetz Chaim. No one knows if it is true, but legend holds that the Chofetz Chaim always had a bag packed, so that when the Moshiach arrived, he would be ready to go to Eretz Yisroel at a moment's notice.

Of course, the paradox is that the Chofetz Chaim lived at a time when Jewish settlement became an option in pre-state Israel. He lived from approximately 1843 to 1933, a period which saw the growth of the religious community in Jerusalem, the First and Second Aliyot in the late 1800s, and the emergence of Zionism as a global political movement.

Had the Chofetz Chaim not waited in vain in Eastern Europe but actually traveled to the Holy Land, he would have discovered a world far apart from the fantastic descriptions of the Torah and the Talmud. He would have discovered poverty and swamps. He would have seen secular Zionists and Arabs. He would have seen violence, Jew vs. Arab and Jew vs. Jew.

In essence, he would have discovered a sparsely inhabited nascent society, dealing with many of the same social dynamics of today.

But the Chofetz Chaim did not come to Palestine. He remained in Europe, and died at the same time as Hitler was rising to power. And why didn't he come to pre-State Israel? Because the Messiah had not yet arrived.

Clearly, we can see from all of the current challenges facing Israeli society and the global Jewish community that indeed the Messiah has not arrived. There is military threat from Israel's neighbors, and concern that conventional weapons in the hands of Israel's enemies may be complemented by non-conventional weapons. There is internecine violence of Jew vs. Jew. And there is a latent brutal streak that represents a disturbing undercurrent in Israeli and Jewish society.

The Messiah has not yet arrived.

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite that fact that some people think that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the Moshiach and exists somewhere in suspended animation, watching Netflix and Hulu, catching up on the new episodes of Orange Is The New Black and old episodes of Seinfeld, and holding Farbreingins attended by the likes of Moishe Rabbeinu, Dovid HaMelech, and the Marx Brothers.

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite that fact that there is an erudite African American president of the United States who is both Moslem and Christian, Jew lover and Jew hater, Socialist and Libertarian, American born and born in Kenya to natives that only speak in the clicking language. The only way to prove his true birth heritage is to show his Shmaaser on television during the next State of the Union address. If he can prove that it is less than 8 inches and is uncircumcised, then I will accept that he is an American born Christian. If not, I will assume that he is actually a deep cover agent for ISIS who can do a fantastic, on key rendition of Amazing Grace when not plotting to surrender to Canada.

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite the fact that Bibi Netanyahu thinks that he is both the Likud Prime Minister of Israel and the Republican President of the United States, addressing the Knesset in Hebrew, the Congress in English, and a national web based gathering of the Jewish Federations across the US in hyperbolic terms describing how Israel is helpless, defenseless, and on the brink of destruction, while at the same time approving new housing in the West Bank and then complaining that it is the Palestinians who show no interest in a negotiated political settlement.

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite that fact that so many of the Ultra Orthodox, the "True Believers", can practice their faiths freely, often live in affluence or be supported by the State, or both, and have the freedom and autonomy to run their own schools, run their own legal systems, and force their women to work three jobs while the husband sits in Koilel, but not allow the woman to drive, because a woman driving in traffic might lead to mixed dancing, Chass V'Sholom.

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite the fact that the Secretary of the Treasury of the U.S. in a Orthodox Jew, which is more than the State of Israel can say.

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite the fact that Donald Trump may be the next president, will rename the country the "Trump States of America", and after three years will declare bankruptcy and once again rely on the banks for a bailout (which he has done with his properties many, many times), while at the same time accusing the Mexicans of being "freeloaders".

The Messiah has not yet arrived, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton may be the next president, proving that Israel and Zimbabwe are not the only countries where a politician can engage in all manner of questionable behaviors and still get elected because of a famous name, a party machine, and a toothless electorate.

The Messiah has not yet arrived.

I am reminded of a Gemarah in Shabbos that discusses whether one can fry an egg that was just laid by placing it in the hot sun on Shabbos.

According to Rav Ashi, one cannot do such an act since the egg is a "Beitzah SheNoldah", an egg laid on Shabbos, which cannot be used until after Shabbos, and also cannot be cooked, even in the natural hot sun, because cooking is not allowed, even through "passive means".

Rav Pupa, on the other hand, holds that one can cook an egg born on Shabbos in the hot sun.

Toisfois asks: How can Rav Pupa hold such a Shitah, despite the fact that two Dioraisas are clearly being violated?

The Pnei Yehoishua offers a beautiful Vort. He says that Kooley Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that you are "technically" not allowed to fry a Beitsah SheNoldah on Shabbos Koidesh in the hot sun. However, they disagree about whether a rabbi is Chayuv to follow Halacha, or do whatever the fuck he wants simply because he is a rabbi.

So, according to Rav Ashi, Halacha is binding, even if someone is stranded on a desert Island, since Hakadoshboruchhu is everywhere. However, according to Rav Pupa, the Halacha does not apply to him, since he feels that he need not follow the rules, because, Reboinoisheloilumdammit, he can justify anything since he is smarter than everyone else, and is therefore exempt from the basic rules of Halacha and society. Plus he is hungry and wants to eat a fried egg, so don't tell him what to fucking do, you self hating Jew!

The Messiah has not yet arrived. So the best we can do is use our brains and our capabilities to chart a course on This earth, in This world, inspired by Jewish tradition, the realities of global society and common sense, and not function as if we live in a fictional, fanciful Messianic world, such as Brooklyn, Bnei Brak, Washington DC, or Jerusalem.

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Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess