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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Parshas Eikev

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Parshas Eikev

Rabboisai, I hope you have been saving up your money, because after this week's parsha, Parshas Eikev, you are probably going to need to spend some quality time with your analyst. That is because in Parshas Eikev, Moishe Rabbeinu reminds Klal Yisroel of all of their misdeeds in the desert: from complaining about desert conditions -- to the Eigel Hazahav, the Golden Calf -- to the Miraglim, the rebellion against the conquest of the Promised Land -- to the refusal to pay brokers' fees for the tent dwellings in the wilderness. The threat, as Moishe states, is that if Klal Yisroel doesn't behave, the Aimishteh will withhold rain from falling.

The Yayin Mevushal points out that this Parsha is the basis for the Kabbalistic view of Hakkadoshboruchu and Am Yisroel as being soul mates in an erotic male/ female relationship, with the Aimishteh designated the masculine role. He sophomorically notes that the Parsha clearly equates a long, indulgent build up of the Rebboinoisheloilum's happiness and satisfaction with an occasional liquid emission released from the sky.

Building upon this line of thought, the ARI ZAHL suggests that the male/ female dynamic is actually meant to be a husband/wife relationship. And pointing at this Parsha, he suggests that the frequent threats made by the Aimishteh against Klal Yisroel prove that He is a chronic wife abuser.

In a famous Gemarrah in Soitah, Rav Shayshess asks in the name of Rav Hamnuna in the name of Rav: Why does the Aimishteh always have to threaten Klal Yisroel-- why can't He simply emphasize the positive? Abaya responds that Moishe and the Reboinoisheloilum actually liked to tag team as good guy/ bad guy, based on something they once saw on an old episode of CSI - Williamsburg. He suggests that the real reason Moishe was not allowed into Eretz Yisroel was that Hakkadoshboruchhu preferred to always play the bad guy role and didn't want to take turns.

However, Rava vehemently disagrees and suggests that Abaya should spend more time learning Toirah and less time watching cable television. Rava suggests that Hakkadoshboruchhu feels compelled to remind Klal Yisroel of their wrongdoing because of their damned short memory. They pray for emancipation, yet quickly forget the evils inflicted by the Egyptians prior to the Exodus. They pray for a Bais Hamikdash, but forget how when it stood it was a platform for abuse. They pray for a return of Malchus Bais Dovid, the Davidic monarchy, though forget how it was often a platform for corruption and idol worship.

Look at your own life, you worthless minuval. You pray for health, yet abuse your body. You pray for rain, then you complain about it. You pray for a loving, kind wife, yet would gladly give up an arm to be mezaneh with your hot shiksa secretary. You pray for peace and unity among all the Jewish People, yet the only people you hate more than Hamas and Ahmadinejad are that guy who sits two rows ahead of you at shul and that bitch two blocks away who wears tight jeans and a shaytl.

I am reminded of a maiseh shehoyo. I was recently traveling through the shtetl in Minneapolis, sharing Divrei Toirah for a nominal honorarium of 5000 dollars a speech, plus expenses. That Friday night, I found myself offering a vort at the local Conservative Synagogue. As I stood at the Bimah, I looked down at a congregation filled with women with yarmulkas and women sitting next to men, while behind me on the Bimah sat a female Rabbi and Cantor.

Upon my return to the Yeshiva, I mentioned my shock and horror to my rebbe, Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser, regarding the gross violations of modesty and the reversal of gender roles. He replied that we should not look upon the Conservative Movement with contempt; rather, we should view all of its congregants with love, as indeed we are all brothers and sisters, members of the tribe of Klal Yisroel, who standing together, side by side, received the Toirah from the Reboinoisheloilum at Har Sinai, and are forever united by that cosmic experience.

And, in his soft spoken voice, he added that if anything, we should feel pity, since they will all burn in the eternal fires of hell and have their living flesh devoured by maggots and scorpions because of their corruption of the Aimishteh's commandments, while we dance on their graves, doing the hora and the choo choo train conga line, and then dance on the graves of the other Jews who have committed abominations before Hakkadoshboruchhu, including: the Reform, the Conservative, the Chasidim, the Modern Orthodox, the ultra left wing, the ultra right wing, people who make more money than me, people who make less money than me, people with hotter wives than mine, people married to meeskeits, Woody Allen, all lawyers, all representatives of Amway, all people whose employers took government bailout money, and anyone who reads this Dvar Toirah.

So the key message of the warning in this Parsha is: though you have the best of intentions, you may as well give up now. Because after 120 years, there will be a limited number of people who get to sit alongside the Aimishteh in His throne. And I have no intention of giving up my seat for you, you minuval.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

On Optimism and Shivas Tziyon (The Return To Zion)

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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On Optimism and Shivas Tziyon (The Return To Zion)


Rabboisai,

The following is a true story. I was walking by myself on the back roads of Gush Etzion many years ago - the roads that are not paved, that go through ancient vineyards built in stepped irrigation. These roads may even date back to Roman times.

As I was walking -- in my cocky teenage walk -- an older Arab man came up to me. I thought to myself, "Rebboinoisheloilum, now I am going to die. Shema Yisrael AdoiShem Eloikaynu AdoiShem Echaddddd." Instead he gave me a large batch of grapes, and refused to take money for them, no matter how much I insisted.

Such is the nature of the Arab Israeli conflict. It defies basic understanding, because it is rooted in emotion, not rationality.

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Rabboisai, one of my Talmidois reached out to me in despair last week, ruing the latest events in Israel and Gaza. In this case, it was the believed capture of an Israelis soldier. "When will it end?" she asked. "Is it hopeless?"

Rabboisai, a late uncle of mine, a veteran of the early days of the State, used to make a half joke about Israel: He said that the pessimists in Israel speak Yiddish. But the optimists speak Arabic.

I never quite understood what he meant. But given that he was born in China (Mamish!), was raised speaking Russian, was taught English and French in school, and learned Hebrew and other languages later, I am surprised that he could form a cohesive sentence in a single language.

My uncle's experience, as a purely secular Jew, was quite typical of his generation. After making Aliyah with his parents and brother, he helped build the State. He likely never learned a piece of Gemarrah in his life, so never had the joy of diving into a Gevaldikkah Toisfois after a quick dip in the Mikvah, never had the pleasure of engaging in a Machloikess with his Chavrusa, and undoubtedly never undertook the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan. He never wore a Shtreimel and his wife never wore a Sheytel. Yet he was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died as a Jew. He served in the army, as did his children. He paid his taxes. And when he went to the Oilum Ha'Emes, he left children and grandchildren to continue his legacy. His experience is typical.

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Do you, you Minuval, believe that modern Israel became magically populated with Jews one day, who answered the call to come live in their ancestral homeland? No, you Vilda Chaya! Shivassss Tziyoin, the return of the Jews to Zion, has been a long, drawn out process of at least 150 years.

Even before Theodore Herzl, there was the First Aliyah and the Second Aliyah. There were Chareidim who came and settled. There were indigenous Jews who can trace their ancestry in the Land of Israel back centuries.

And then of course there were the waves of immigration: Following the pogroms of the early twentieth century; in the days leading up to the collapse of Jewish life in Germany; during World War II; after the hell fires of the Shoah, before Statehood; and wave after wave of immigration following the establishment of the State -- survivors from Eastern Europe, Jews from Western Europe, Jews from Egypt and Iraq and Morocco and Israel and Yemen and elsewhere in the Arab world. Jews arriving in secret waves of Aliyah from Romania and Argentina. Jews from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. Jews who continue to arrive today...

To what is this phenomenon comparable?

One need only look at Jewish history to find a very direct precedent. Roughly fifty years after the fall of Jerusalem and the first Temple, the Babylonians fell to the Persians, who decreed that the Jews were free to return to their ancestral homeland and rebuild their Temple. Did they travel en masse and rebuild the Bais HaMikdash immediately? No, you Mechtiziff Ignoramus!

The Jews returned in waves. First came Zerubavel and later Sheshbazar, escorted by the Koihain Yehoishua and the Neviim Chagai and Zechariah. Zerubavel and Sheshbazar claimed descent from the House of Duvid HaMelech. But they disappeared from history. Then came Ezra, a Koihain. Later came Nechemya. And others. Rebuilding the Bais Hamikdash and the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel did not happen instantly or magically, but took numerous generations to be established and secured.

And so, to those like my Talmidah who suffer through moments of despair, I would like to remind you that earlier conquests of Israel and Judah and the establishment of the First and Second Temples were not accomplished in one day or one month or one year or one decade or one generation or one century. And, similarly, Modern Israel, our Third Temple, is the product of a multigenerational enterprise.

So when will it end? When will there be peace? When can Klal Yisroel stop having to worry about defending itself from its Arab neighbors and return to infighting over the draft of the Chareidim, public transportation on Shabboskoidesh, whether or not we hold by the Heter Mechirah for Shmita, and whether or not Payis can be used as Koisher Schach in a Sukkah?

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. The RIF was once riding in a boat on a journey from his home in Fes, Morocco to sell Esroigim to the Jews of Yemen. When he arrived in Yemen, he expected to make a large amount of money, as Sukkois was weeks away. The RIF started peddling his Esroigim door to door, but no one wanted to buy his Esroigim. He then went to the Central Synagogue of Aden and set up an Esroig stand, but no one expressed any interest in his wares. He then asked the local rabbi, Chacham Yousef Ibn Al-Misnagid, why none of the locals were interested in his Esroigim. Chacham Yousef laughed at the question. "You, my dear RIF, are from Morocco, and consider yourself European. And you try to sell us your Kleinekeit little Esroigim that look like a man coming out of the Mikvah on a cold day. We Yemenites consider ourselves African, and have massive Esroigim that are hung like Oig Melech HaBashan." With that, Chacham Yousef pulled out his Yemenite Esroig that was the size of an American football.

The RIF was disappointed, as his business venture had clearly failed. He was silent for a few minutes. Then he spoke. "Reb Yousef, forget about the Esroigim. They are silly looking fruit anyway. Can I interest you in buying real estate in New York? America has not been discovered yet, but believe me, in about 1,000 years you will make an absolute killing!" And with that the RIF was able to make a handsome return on his travel investment.

Rabboisai, when will peace come? This is indeed a Shailah long asked by Klal Yisroel, even in the centuries when there was no large presence in Eretz Yisroel. And since the dawn of modern settlement, we have failed to achieve peace: First in the pre State era, then at the time of Independence, and even now, when we have a strong army and large population.

I would like to suggest that we have been all wrong in the way we have pursued peace. We have tried using secular visionaries like Herzl, secular Zionists like Weizman and Ben Gurion, shrewd strategists like Eshkol and Meir, traditionalists like Begin, moderates like Rabin and Peres, and conservatives like Sharon and Netanyahu. They were founders, men and women of letters, people with political experience and military background. But they lacked the core skills required to negotiate a long term agreement that was advantageous to the Jewish People. They meant well, they tried their best, and had genuine achievements, but they could not deliver the ultimate prize. We have a secure State, but no peace. It is like getting a good massage, but no "happy ending".

I would like to suggest that we need a different fundamental skill set to bring about peace in Eretz Yisroel. We need Chassidim to negotiate peace with the Arabs.

Chassidim have a different mindset and special stamina that makes them better suited to represent Jewish interests: They wear long black coats in the middle of summer. They are able to drive big fancy cars while collecting Welfare, food stamps and receiving Section Eight. The have beautiful Payis that hypnotically sway back and forth, back and forth. If they can make ends meet with 12 kids while the man is learning in yeshiva and the woman is working as a teacher during the day, in a grocery store during the evening, and as a Mikvah lady at night, then I want them at the negotiating table.

Chassidim will get us the best deal possible... perhaps even convincing the Palestinians to accept pennies on the dollar, pay retail prices, and engage in all financial exchanges in cash. In exchange for stopping rocket fire from Gaza, the Chassidim will throw in a few old cameras from B&H and fresh Kugel and Yapchik every Friday. And they will make sure that the Palestinian elite have access to some of the finest diamonds on the market. In addition, the Chassidim will offer extensive employment opportunities to the Palestinians: As doctors and lawyers, as engineers, as Goytas, as Shabbos Goyim, and as their representatives serving in the IDF while the Chassidim continue to study in Yeshiva all day and avoid the draft.

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Rabboisai, to be a Jew means to be an optimist. Our intellectual and philosophical grounding is in the past, but our fate is to build a life in the present and future. May we see true peace and security in our lifetimes.

Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, August 01, 2014

Parshas Devarim


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Rabboisai,

Before reading this week's Drasha, please take a few minutes to read the names and personal stories of the fallen Israeli soldiers. They are our sons, our brothers, our nephews, our fathers, our uncles, our friends.

Yehi Zichram Baruch.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-gaza-conflict-2014/operation-protective-edge-the-idf-s-fallen

Pinky

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Parshas Devarim

This week we begin Sefer Devarim -- the Book of Deuteronomy, as the Goyim and the Reform call it. With this, we officially begin the countdown to a day a few months from now when men will dance with other men, hand in hand, to celebrate the completion of the cycle of the reading of the Toirah. (I can't wait; I have a date with a Talmid named Yerachmiel. I hope I get lucky.)

Saadia Goyn, a menuval in his own time, asks why we even bother with Sefer Devarim, which is largely a restatement of the preceding books of the Toirah. Why not jump straight into Beraishis?

According to the RAN, the repetitive nature of Devarim is directly related to its being read in the summer months, during which we customarily are relegated to repeat episodes of all of our favorite shows. Indeed, the RAMBAM, in his famous introduction to Hilchois Depreciation, suggests that to keep the Toirah fresh, we should pre-empt the entire Sefer Devarim and replace it with an original dramatic anthology series on famous Jewish tax evaders. We don't hold like the RAMBAM, however, because even if we had new episodes every five minutes, we wouldn't have enough time over the summer to do justice to the topic.

The RASHBA agreed completely. In his shtetl one year he preempted the entire Sefer Devarim with a new reality series entitled "Who Wants To Marry a Sheitelmacher." The series was cancelled after one season, however, as there was little interest in marrying a woman with the hair of a hot shiksa and the body of Moby Dick.

So we do read Sefer Devarim. In it, we are witness to Moishe Rabbeinu standing before Klal Yisroel in the desert as he is about to exit the stage of history, summarizing Klal Yisroel's achievements, reviewing rules and regulations, and basically reminding the Bnei Yisroel that they are a bunch of rebellious good for nothing minuvals.

A Gemarra in Pesachim asks why Moishe didn't simply distribute a pamphlet in order to save time and the expense of organizing a large gathering of all of Klal Yisroel.

According to Rav Yehuda, Moishe simply liked the power of the stage, and relished the opportunity to lead one last political rally.

But according to Rav Ashi, Moishe really milked this thing into a big money maker: He charged for attendance, got a piece of the food concessions (five dollars for a kosher hot dog in the desert), and sold licensed products such as Moishe Rabbeinu golf shirts, stuffed Toirahs for the kids, and big orange sponge hands saying "We're Number One". He also set up a website and internal satellite network and charged for pay-per-view access.

This week, in the first Parsha of Devarim, we focus on the soujourning, the travels, and the battles of the previous forty years.

According to Rabbeinu Tam, of all his achievements, Moishe rabbeinu was most proud of his beating Oig Melech Habashan, which is why there is so much detail of their encounters in this week's Parsha.

According to a famous medrish, Moishe was twenty amois high, he held a stick twenty amois high, and he jumped twenty amois high, and he only reached Oig's ankle. Yet he was able to knock Oig down to the ground, and then proceeded to cut off Oig's private parts, which he used as a tent on family camping trips.

But a different medrish tells us that Moishe and Oig really settled their disputes through arm wrestling. After much struggle, Moishe won the match, and in turn received all of the land east of the Jordan River on behalf of Klal Yisroel. While Oig, upon losing his kingdom, was forced to work as a telemarketer and sell Amway products in his spare time.

The MAHARAL has a beautiful interpretation of this event. He suggests that Moishe Rabbeinu never actually fought Oig. Indeed, he never met him, though did read an article about him once. Rather, Moishe created this legend to build excitement about the prospects of entering the Eretz Yisroel, to unify the people, and to make people forget about the whole "Babylon has weapons of mass destruction" debacle.

Indeed, just as the Jews stood on that mountain overlooking the Promised Land, we too, in our generation, stand at a critical juncture in our history. Do we push forward, or step backward? Do we move into the future, or recede into the past? Our wives are relying on us to make the right decisions, as are our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

So you owe it to them: Stop learning in Yeshiva and get a job already, for Reboinoisheloilum's sakes! This way you will have money to support your twelve children and countless grandchildren. And, if you are lucky, you will have some leftover money to attend strip clubs and eat some traifus. You're not getting any younger, you know. Moishe knew that the only choice was to move into the future. We should all embrace his wisdom.

Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Road to Redemption


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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On the Road to Redemption

Rabboisai,

What a long week this has been!

On Sunday I was out in Brooklyn raising money for my Yeshiva, offering donors of $100 or more some magical Bsomim that would help them see the Reboinoisheloilum’s Merkava and commune with the Shchinah, as well as give them a Taiva for Maichel afterwards (“give them the “munchies” BLA”Z).

On Monday I cracked the code on bringing Toiras Moisheh to the masses: My investors and I had looked into opening a kosher sports bar in Teaneck, with 18 life size high definition screens carrying sporting events from all over the world that customers could watch while drinking beer and eating Spicy Bnei Brak Wings (Vos iz Pshat Ah Buffalo?). However, we were told that sports is “Nisht Azoy Ah Yiddisheh Zach”. So after being denied a Hashgacha from the local Teaneck Kashrus board, the OU, the Kuff K, and even the Triangle K, which I understand is run by a former Reform Rabbi who is now a leader in the Church of Scientology, we decided to change our business model. So we translated the sports bar concept into something more in synch with Yiddishkeit, and on Monday we opened up the first ever Beis Medrish Bar and Grill, featuring 18 life size Rabbis telling over all sorts of Divrei Toirah, while diners eat burgers, fries and drink Shlivovitz from little plastic shot glasses. Not only did the Mashgichim approve the Hechsher, they insisted that their son-in-laws be allowed to deliver Shiurim for tips!

On Tuesday I finished writing my latest Sefer, Di Chusin Oon Di Chavrusa Mit Di Shverkeit, an engaging tale about an unusual love triangle, loosely based on the life of Reb Shlomo Kluger, Reb Akiva Eiger, and Queen Victoria. It is available as an e-book, or wherever Bantam Paperbacks are sold.

On Wednesday I held office hours and Farhered numerous Talmidim on Hichois Karban Toidah. I am proud to say that when the Bais Hamikdash is rebuilt, Bimhairah BiYamaynu, there will be no shortage of impoverished twenty-something-year-old Yeshiva students living on Welfare and Food Stamps who never worked a day in their lives, who will be prepared to slaughter goats on behalf of Klal Yisroel.

On Thursday I opened my doors to the public and welcomed a bunch of Sucker Am Haaratzim …. errr…. I mean… Heimisheh Baal HaBusim who in exchange for me handing them dollar bills handed my secretary checks for $50, $100, and even $1,000 a piece. Gemilas Chassadim does indeed deliver returns multifold! Boruch HaShem.

It was during this session that I learned something astounding. One of the Baal HaBusim mentioned that Klal Yisroel is at war! I of course agreed, and reminded him that the war against the Yetzer Harrah is a constant battle, and we can never let our guards down.
And then he took out his newspaper and showed me that Eretz Yisroel is under attack! Did any of you Minuvals know that? And if yes, why didn't you tell me?

So, as it turns out, Medinas Yisrael is fighting a battle against the Hamas, who are being supported by the Iranians, who are also supporting the Iraqis, who are fighting a war against ISIS, who are also fighting against the Syrians, who are supported by the Russians, who are supporting the Ukrainian rebels, who are fighting against the Ukrainians, who are allied with the Western Europeans, who are supported by the Americans. You see, I told you Barack HUSSEIN Oibama was an anti-Semite!!!

As I began to read up on the current battles, I learned of the horrific deaths of Israeli citizens and soldiers, and the constant barrage of missiles being directed at Klal Yisroel.

Sad to say, this is something I warned about in a Drasha five years ago: If the women of Klal Yisroel refuse to dress Tzniusdick, Hakadoshboruchhu will bring down His wrath tenfold. In addition, if Jewish men refuse to put on Tefillin, the Reboinoisheloilum will deliver His wrath from the North. If little Jewish children engage in mixed swimming, Eretz Yisroel will face a devastating attack by the Australian Aborigines. And if all of Klal Yisroel does not stop with this Internet, iPhone, and Facebook Shtussim, the Aimishteh will bring about an attack by the mermaids and mermen who live in Atlantis, under the Mediterranean Ocean.

Luckily, I had a dream last night that restored my hope. In my dream, my father-in-law, the Shmutzedikkah Rebbe, came to me to tell me that if every family in Klal Yisroel sends me $100, Moshiach will finally arrive. Redemption at last. No more wars. No more famine. No more Arab Israeli conflict. No more anti-Semitism. Peace and joy and good will towards all mankind. And the opportunity to study Toirah night and day, day and night, together, in our ancestral homeland: Slobodka.

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Rabboisai,

As has been pointed out many times, our ancestors faced few of the challenges that we face as a Nation today. Klal Yisroel were perpetual victims for nearly 2,000 years. Our very presence in the Israel, the United States, France, Argentina, Russia, the UK, Germany, and across the globe is a reflection of the wandering nature of our People. We are all the descendants of refugees; our nation has indeed been The Wandering Jew.

But today, for the first time in two millennia, we have our own State, whose borders must be defended, whose economy must be sustained, and whose population must be cared for from cradle to grave. We have to live side by side with other nations, some of whom are friends and some of who are mortal enemies.

As such, when we have no choice, we are forced to wage war, with all of its pain. We have the challenge of sending sons and daughters into battle, an act whose consequences are interlocked with tragic outcomes. We have to worry about the Israeli civilian population. We also have to defeat the enemy, who have embedded themselves amongst civilians, who themselves become casualties. It is a cycle of violence of a Hundred Years War.

We are taught in the Gemarrah: “Four entered the Pardes. They were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them, "When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, 'Water! Water!' for it is said, 'He who speaks untruths shall not stand before My eyes' (Psalms 101:7)". Ben Azzai gazed and died. Regarding him the verse states, 'Precious in the eyes of G-d is the death of His pious ones' (Psalms 116:15). Ben Zoma gazed and was harmed (went insane). Regarding him the verse states, 'Did you find honey? Eat as only much as you need, lest you be overfilled and vomit it' (Proverbs 25:16). Acher cut the shoots (became a heretic). Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and left in peace.” (Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 14b).

But what is the peace that Rabbi Akiva returned to? A life of academic achievement, followed by a torturous death. But his mark remains, through his teachings and the teachings of his student, which are foundational to Jewish thought.

Redemption is not granted to those who sit around and wait; it is earned. It is not a Bais Hamikdash that descends magically from the sky. It is a great enterprise, whose foundation is embedded in the ground, and built from the ground up with blood, sweat and tears.

And in time, redemption will be achieved when we have achieved security and peace, peace and security. Bimhairah BiYamaynu.

Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess