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Friday, June 17, 2016

On Gay Marriage and Mel Gibson


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On Gay Marriage and Mel Gibson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how can we possibly understand this complex world?

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 10, 2016

On Klal Yisroel's Leadership Paradigm


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Rabboisai,

My Rebbe Muvhak, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, SHLITA, has published a new blog post in which he discusses the differences between Hillel and Shammai, and suggests that Hillel was too flexible on issues related to Halachic rigidity when confronted with human sensitivity, and implicitly compares himself to Shammai, whom Rabbi Pruzansky SHLITA suggests represented the strong backbone of commitment to Toirah-true purity.

In honor of this new post, I am sharing a Drasha I deliver a couple of months ago on the topic of Klal Yisrael's leadership paradigm. This Drasha was originally written in honor of the presumptive Republican nominee.

While some may consider Rabbi Pruzansky as being insensitive to others, including women, Democrats, rape victims, progressive Orthodox, and anyone who disagrees with him, I would like to offer my full endorsement for the position of my Rebbe, SHLITA.

Anyone who disagrees with Rabbi Pruzansky SHLITA is simply a whiner, and is akin to a woman, or a man, who cries rape every time they are... ummm.... raped.

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On Klal Yisroel's Leadership Paradigm


Rabboisai,

It has been a busy week here at Trump headquarters. We have been running out of people to offend, and are struggling to come up with new ones. We started with Mexicans and Hispanics in general, moved on to Muslims, and embraced White Supremicists - thereby offending blacks and Jews. And Reboinoisheloilum knows, we set our targets on women.

We have boasted about our sexual prowess, thereby insulting religious social conservatives, and attacked China and Mexico while manufacturing Trump branded goods in China and Mexico, thereby offending everyone with any brain matter left.

So all that leaves are non-ethnic males with no brains - that is our core Trump target voting segment. Sheygitz Am Haaratzim... The kinds of people all of our Jewish ancestors came to America to get away from.

But this is the voting block that will "Make America great again." Boruch HaShem - the Moshiach is about to arrive, and he has small hands, a Groisseh Schvantzyl, and quite a bit of alimony to pay. He even shared his great wisdom through the failed Trump University.

And like a king, he often speaks of people getting on their knees before him.

It sounds like Shloimoi HaMelech all over again.

Rabboisai, when we think about the different leadership models for Klal Yisroel, we open up a historical Shailah: Who in the long history of Klal Yisrael were considered to be the best class of leaders? Were they the Avois, the forefathers. Were they to the Shoiftim, or the Koihanim, or the Neviim, or the Kings? Were they the Persian or Greek overlords, or the Chashmonaim, or the Sadducees or the Pharisees? Were they the Tannaim or the Amoraim or the Rabbis in general? Were they the leaders of the Jewish Federation, or AIPAC, or other Jewish organizations?

Or were they the great Roishei Yeshiva, or, Chass V'Sholom, the great Chassidic Rabbeihim?

The answer of course comes from the first Mishnah in the first Perek in Pirkei Avois.

משה קיבל תורה מסיניי, ומסרה ליהושוע, ויהושוע לזקנים, וזקנים לנביאים, ונביאים מסרוה לאנשי כנסת הגדולה.

"Moishe Rabbeinu received the Toirah from Hakadoshboruchhu on Sinai and passed it on to Yehoishua, who passed it on to the Elders, who passed it on to the Prophets, who passed it on to the Men of the Great Assembly."

The Mishnah later tells us that the Toirah was passed on to the various Tanaim, in a chain of tradition. And by Toirah, the Mishnah is not speaking of obscure teachings given on a mountain, but of the actual mantle of the leadership of Klal Yisroel.

Let us note: The Toirah, according to the Mishnah, was not handed down to the Koihanim, the priestly class, or to the Kings - from the House of David HaMelech or any other line. It also does not speak of lawyers, or investment bankers or accountants or Jewish studio executives or Malcolm Hoenlein for that matter.

Farkert! Our model for leadership, as defined in the Mishnah, idealizes Moishe Rabbeinu as the penultimate leader of Klal Yisroel. And by not mentioning the Koihanim, the Mishnah envisions Aroin KaKoihain, the Minuval, as no more than Moishe Rabbeinu's bitch.

Moishe was the soft spoken one - the Toirah tells us how Moishe declares to the Aimishteh, כי כבד-פה וכבד לשון, אנכי, "I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue". This is traditionally understood by CHAZAL to mean that Moishe either had a stutter, had burnt his mouth in a miraculous incident where some angels forced Baby Moishe to put hot coals in his mouth - believing them to be glowing jewels, or that Moishe suffered from Cerebral Palsy.

Meanwhile, Aroin HaKoihain, the Vilda Chaya, never know when to be quiet. For example, during the Chayt HaEigel, did Aroin HaKoihain, the Mechutziff, urge Klal Yisroel to be patient and wait a little longer for Moishe to descend from the Har Sinai? No! He gathered all the gold jewelry from Klal Yisrael and fashioned an Eigel HaZahav, a golden idol shaped like a calf. In addition, he used the extra gold to put gold caps on his teeth and many chains to wear on his neck and wrists and renamed himself "Notorious AHK". In fact, according to a Medrish, when Yehushua Bin Nun protested to the Cheyt HaEigel, Aroin responded, "Yo Yo Yo, Shut the fuck up you motherfucker or I will put a cap in yo ass!!" He then set off with his posse and they spent the night at the most expensive Midianite clubs, which he left at 4:30 the next morning with three leperous women on his arms.

There is a beautiful Gemarrah that talks about the political struggles in Judea. Rabban Gamliel was the Nasi, the President, of the Sanhedrin, but he acted in a disrespectful fashion to Rabbu Yehoishua, and was removed from his position and was temporarily replaced by Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah. The only reason Rabban Gamliel was not impeached permanently was because the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, as they were too busy debating whether circumcision was the most important Mitzvah in the entire Toirah or was an anachronistic practice of genital mutilation. (They ultimately ruled that it was a Mitzvah, since Jews always insist on getting 20% off on everything.)

This story appears twice in the Gemarrah, in both the Babli and the Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi has a slight variant on the story. In the Yerushalmi version, Rabban Gamliel asked all members of the Sanhedrin to raise their right hands in solidarity with him, in something akin to a Hitler salute. According to this same Gemarrah, during the period of his temporary removal from the Nasiut, Rabban Gamaliel took the time to get married to his longtime companion, Eva Braunstein.

So what do we learn from these important incidents in the history of Klal Yisroel? We learn that leadership is not equated with being the loudest or most obnoxious person in the room. Sadly, this is not a lesson that Steven Pruzansky has taken to heart. Leadership is also not necessarily based on popularity - Rabbi Yoichanan Ben Zakkai's polling numbers were very low, but he is credited with saving Yiddishkeit by moving the center of scholarship from Jerusalem to Yavneh. And fifty years later, Rabbi Akiva’s and “messiah” Bar Kokhba’s popularity ratings were at an all-time high when they led the Messianic rebellion against Rome, until Rabbi Akiva ended up as a Roman lamp shade, Bar Kokhba ended up as a puddle of blood at the last stand in Betar, and the Jews were banned completely from Jerusalem for the next few centuries.

So, from the perspective of CHAZAL, the penultimate model of leadership is to be like Moishe Rabbeinu. What does that mean? The first Perek of Avois brings down numerous members of CHAZAL citing examples of model behavior:

-- Hillel: נגד שמא אבד שמא, דילא מוסיף יסוף
“One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes.”

-- Shammai: אמור מעט ועשה הרבה; והוי מקביל את כל האדם, בסבר פנים יפות
“Say little and do much. And receive every person with a pleasant countenance.”

-- Rabbi Shimoin Ben Gamliel:
כל ימיי גדלתי בין החכמים, ולא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה; ולא המדרש הוא העיקר, אלא המעשה; וכל המרבה דברים, מביא חטא.
“All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on sin.”

-- Also from Rabbi Shimoin Ben Gamliel:
על שלושה דברים העולם קיים--על הדין, ועל האמת, ועל השלום.
“The world is founded on three things: On law, on truth and on peace.”

Rabboisai, these are the Heiligeh words of CHAZAL. However, they are all dead. We have now entered a new leadership paradigm, and I can tell you, from my seat in Trump headquarters, we ARE going to Make America Great Again. Here are a few actual quotes from our candidate that represent the new leadership paradigm for Klal Yisroel:

-- "My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault."

-- “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

-- “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”

-- “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

-- “One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

Rabboisai – We are privileged to live on the dawn of a special period, when we are about to embrace a new leadership paradigm for America and all the world. And with the help of the Reboinoisheloilum, Donald Trump will return America to the pristine country it once was – A lifeless arctic wasteland.

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

Friday, June 03, 2016

On Modesty


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On Modesty

Rabboisai,

I am writing these words while on a trip to Africa, where have I traveled to provide a professional opinion on whether researchers have found, at long last, a kosher pig.

I traveled here initially by plane, then took a river boat into the depths of the continent, and finally traveled by elephant and on foot to the Munpuku province of the Republic of Zambia. There I found my sponsoring party, a research team from the firm of Cohen, Goldberg, Goldberg, Feinstein and Schvantzkup LLP, standing over a young swine.

A close look revealed that it had the expected split hooves, but what appeared to the simpletons as signs of cud chewing and regurgitation were in actuality the combination of a the Chazer chewing a pack of Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum while suffering from a simple case of reflux.

No big loss for Klal Yisroel -- The pig did not taste that good anyway.

I share this story with you as I tee up a very sensitive topic in our time. We all pray three times a day for the Reboinoisheloilum to bring about our redemption, or at least to bring a marvelous bounty on the farm this year, which will be incredibly useful to me in my two bedroom apartment in Boro Park. And to curry favor with Hakadoshboruchhu, we give Tzedakah, do Mitzvois, and in general engage in behavior that is conducive to our spiritual existence. This is why I wear a wool suit and long Bekesheh in 95 degree weather, and why my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, wears a $3000 Shaytel, and a thong made out of her grandfather's Tallis.

But what is the end result that Klal Yisroel really seeks from the Aimishteh? Do we actually want Him to descend to the earth, to take up residence in His temple in Yerushalayim Ir Hakoidesh? Do we really want Him to gather all of Am Yisroel from the four corners of the earth, including the lost tribes, which include the Bnei Menashe from India, the Bnei Dan from Africa, the Navaho from America, and the Taliban from Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or do we simply want Him to give us health, make us wealthy, give us a new 55 inch OLED television with direct access to Netflix and the Internet, and help us win in our upcoming defense against accusations of misappropriation of investment funds? In other words – are we, in our lives, embracing the Divine for cosmic purposes, or do we simply seek material benefits? Are we motivated by the Oilum Habah, or by the Oilum Hazeh?

This was the subject of a famous Machloikess between Rish Lakish and Rav Huna. As brought down in a Gemara in Baytzah, Rish Lakish suffered from a weight problem, Rachmana Letzlan. As he aged, he stomach grew, and when he turned fifty, his shul told him that they would charge him a double membership fee since he always took up two seats. According to Rish Lakish, this was a form of profiling and discrimination, and he refused to pay. Rav Huna, the President of the Shul, argued that Rish Lakish, while taking up two seats, was definitely Oiver on Baal Toisiph, likely Oiver on Baal Tashchis, and was probably a Baal Keri.

The essence of the Machloikess rested on the proper interpretation of the Passook, “Shma Bni Mussar Avicha, Ve-Al TiToish Toiras Imecha” (Mishlei, Perek Aleph, Pasuook Chess). “Listen my son to the instruction of your father, and do not abandon the teaching of your mother” (Proverbs, Chapter One, Verse Eight). Rav Huna understood the Passook as describing a man’s link to his tradition, his community, and common sense. Hence, Rav Huna felt that Rish Lakish was in error in taking up two seats in shul.

Rish Lakish had a different understanding based on an alternate reading of the Passook, applying alternative vowels and punctuation (substitutions highlighted): “Shma Bni, MOISAIR Avicha VE-AYL, TiToish Toiras Imecha.” “Listen my son, TURN OVER your father and the Reboinoisheloilum (to the authorities or your enemies); abandon the teachings of your mother.” In other words, one should pursue a course that is expedient to his individual needs, even if it stands in contrast to his heritage and common sense.

Shoyn.

The essential ambivalence between satisfying short term versus long term needs was addressed is a famous Toisfois in a Gemara in Nezikin. The Gemara talks about the penalties demanded from the owner of an ox who has gored someone’s mother-in-law. Toisfois ask why we even demand a penalty -- shouldn’t a man be pleased that his mother-in-law has been gored? Perhaps the man himself should be giving money to the owner of the ox, and not the other way around? By Toisfois answers in a Gevaldik fashion: LeOilum, of course the man is happy that his mother-in-law has been gored, but his wife probably isn’t. And since her husband is going to hear about it ad nausium for the next year, the ox owner is required to compensate him.

So we see that our choices and actions are often complex and layered. At times, what seem like a position of Anivus – humility, which is modesty in behavior – may in fact be a position of Gaivah, boisterousness and pride. And what seems like Gaivah may be the greatest act of personal humility in the history of mankind.

Take for example a man like Warren Buffett, who has such nicknames as “the Oracle of Omaha”, “ the Navi of Nebraska”, and “the Cornhusker Shaygitz”. He has committed to giving most of his billions away to charity, leaving a few single digit million dollars for his children, since he says that he does not believe in inherited wealth. You might think that this man is a great Annav – a man of modesty – who is also a Groisse Baal Tezekah. But you, of course, are a complete ignoramus. In reality, he is Rashah: He has not returned any of my calls asking for donations to the Yeshivah, and he has not condemned Iran, Turkey, or the Democratic Party. So he must be an anti-Semite.

On the other hand, take the wearing of Sheytels by the Bnois Yisroel as an act of personal modesty. Sure, you might think that the wearing of a $3000 wig to cover one’s natural hair instead of using a $10 Shmata is an act of gross Gaivah. But you would be wrong. You might think that since wearing the hair of a Shiksa improves the aesthetic appeal of a woman, making her more attractive to men when she wears a Sheytel rather than less attractive, and that therefore a Sheytel is inconsistent with personal modestly. But this, again, highlights the fact that you are totally ignorant of the ways of the Toirah. No, a Sheytel is the greatest expression of Anivus. By wearing a Sheytel, a woman is signaling to the world that I, Ploinis Bas Ploinis, believe it is so important to cover my natural hair that I will do so even if it costs $3000 dollars and even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

Indeed, the Gemarra tells us that, “Darash Rav Avirah, BiSchar Nashim Tzidkaniyois SheHayoo BeOisoi HaDor Nigalu Yisroel MiMitzarayim,” “Rabbi Avivah explained that it was due to the merit of Jewish women that Klal Yisrael were rescued from Egypt” (Soitah, Daf Yu Aleph Amud Baiz/ Tractate Sotah, 11 B). How true and correct was Rav Aviyah! Although, truth be told, according to the Pnei Yehoishua, Rav Aviyah may only have been thinking with his Schvantzyl and was actually trying to get a little action from the Raish Gelusa’s wife while her husband was off traveling to Pumbedisa on business.

Consequently, we must emulate the actions of the Bnois Yisrael every day. Through our everyday actions we, too, must declare that we men are committed to the same kind of modesty exhibited by our wives and female neighbors. And how does one do that?

According to Rav Yoisaiph Katski, a man should emulate a woman’s modesty by copying her very actions! Men should wear Sheytlach just like women, which will address the multiple purposes of serving as Yarmulkes, covering up bald spots, and significantly improving the Gross Domestic Product of India. Also, if a large group of Jewish men have wigs, then Klal Yisroel will have many more candidates qualified to engage in secret operations in Dubai.

However, Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua disagrees. He says that men wearing wigs is a Dioraisa of Beged Isha, men wearing women’s garments, and a DeRabbanan of Lifnei Ivair, since if a man sees another man with an attractive Sheytel on he may come to commit an act of Mishkav Zachor, or even worse, steal his Styrofoam head.

So instead, Reb Shmiel insists, a man should not replicate the exact action of wearing a wig, but instead should emulate the spirit of that action. Just as a woman exhibits modesty before the Amishteh by covering her immodest, Ervadikkah hair while at the same time enhancing her appearance with an ostentatious Sheytel, so too a man should behave in that spirit. Consequently, even though a man is wearing pants to cover over his Bris Milah and Schvantzlach as a sign of modesty before Hakadoshboruchhu, he should also don a strap-on over his pants as a sign of true Anivus. At least on Shabbos and Yuntif, if not every day, a man should never leave the house without an artificial Bris Milah anchored at his Garter and his Makoim Hamilah.

And if he is having company such as an important Roisheshiva, or if it is a special day such as Shabbos or Yuntif, the man may want to wear a special, larger SheytSchvantz ™ for the occasion, perhaps in black. And if he is going to a large secular gathering like a Yankee game or a Republican fundraiser, he may even want to enhance his appearance, say, by wearing a strap-on with a foreskin.

As well, this Psak may create additional Parnasah opportunities in the community. Just as women have their wigs regularly attended to by a female Sheytelmacher, so too a man should have his SheytSchvantz ™ regularly serviced. It is not clear however, if the Schvantzelmacher need be a man, or may be a women, which would be my preference, of course.

Rabboisai, we live in a time of moral confusion.

-- When a segment of the ultra Orthodox community in Israel is working in unison to influence the Israeli legal system to prevent Malka Leifer, a former principal in a Chareidi girls school from being extradited to Australia where she stands accused of committing at least 74 offense against 10 victims, we have a problem.

-- When convicted sex offender in Israel, Moti Elon, continues to receive honors and speaking opportunities as a rabbi from many in the Dati Leuimi community in Israel, we have a problem.

-- When the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel continue to protect Moshe Hirsch Klein, a principal at the United Talmudical Academy, despite shocking videos that appear to show Klein kissing and fondling young boys in his office while they visibly struggle to escape his grasp, we have a problem.

We have a problem because so many in Klal Yisroel are obsessed with Oilum Hazeh, expedient and short term considerations and benefit, rather than Oilum Habah. They cast the appearance of modesty, yet beneath their external facade they are filled with Gaivah and pettyness, with greed for power and influence at the expense of the law and social well being. That is the act of a kosher pig.

What is more important is that we as a nation exhibit Anivus, true humility, even when it is not convenient or easy or profitable or guaranteed to make the headlines, just like Moishe Rebbeinu on Har Sinai, Rabbi Akiva being tortured by the Romans, and Monica Lewinsky on the floor of the Oval Office.


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

Friday, May 13, 2016

On The Meaning Of Life


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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On The Meaning Of Life


Rabboisai,

I have been asked so many question by Menuvals like you! "Rebbe, what Bracha should I say on fresh squeezed orange juice, with pulp?" "Rebbe, can I tea bag on Shabbos?" "Rebbe, I just slaughtered a chicken, and the blade had a nick, but it is Tuesday, and I just had to take out a third mortgage to pay for Yeshiva tuition. Is the chicken Koisher?" "Rebbe, my wife has little stains in her... Ummm... Untervesch. We think it may be nail polish, or left over strawberry jam. Do we have to worry about a Chashash of Nidah?"

These are very procedural, transactional questions. I am delighted that you trust me with such critical issues. I am frankly impressed that you can turn on a light by yourself without consulting me.

But sometimes I also get more intelligent question, of the existential type. "Rebbe, what is the nature of the Reboinoisheloilum." "Rebbe, what happens when we die." "Rebbe, what does the Aimishteh want from us?"

These are the most fundamental questions, the questions of the ages. But they ultimately boil down to one essential question: "Rebbe, what is the meaning of life?"

People spend many years in yeshiva studying at the side of great rabbeihim trying to understand the meaning of life. Other spend time with priests and ministers and imams and gurus of all sorts. Still others study the great philosophers, ancient and contemporary.

But I learned the meaning of life from a four year old girl. This is actually true. Mamish.

Many years ago, when my daughter Bracha was four years old, I was teaching her the music of The Beatles. I mentioned in passing that John Lennon was murdered a few years after the band broke up. She asked, in her childish innocence, why someone would kill John Lennon. And I was stumped: How does one explain the irrational, the unexplainable?

And so, after a minute of thinking how to respond, I told young Bracha, "You know, people spend their whole lives trying to gain control of their destinies. Sometimes things happen that we cannot control, as was the case of the murder of John Lennon. But for the most part, we spend our lives trying to wrest control from randomness and try to determine our own destinies."

It was with these unplanned words that I, for the first time, understood the meaning of life. However, this is not a statement of existential, theological, of philosophical belief. This is the practical meaning, the purpose, the intent of everything we do in our lives - our long term planning, as well as our day to day.

Rabboisai,

Why do you continue to worship the Reboinoisheloilum? Or why did you reject Him? So that you can influence your own fate.

- If you believe in the Aimishteh, you likely subscribe to the most basic notion - that good behavior is more likely to beget good rewards in this world, and/ or in the world to come. And bad behavior is likely to result in punishment, or at least a urinary tract infection.

- If you do not believe in Hakadoshboruchhu, it is because you reject the belief that an Old Man In The Sky is in control of your life. You have decided to take control from what you perceive is a placebo, "the opiate of the masses".

Self determination, being the master of ones own fate and taking control of ones own life, is why people go to college. And to graduate school. And to other professional trainings - so that they can be employed an a career of their choosing, maximize their income potential, in order to support themselves and their families.

Self determination is why people exercise, in order to positively impact their health. It is why people eat healthy food. It is why people go to doctors for well visits and see therapists for "self realization".

Our purpose in life is to gain control of our own fates.

And this is not simply an individual objective. It is a national one as well. Why do we vote? To shape the policies of the country that we live in. To put in place an environment that reflects the world as we would like to see it. To create an environment that is more conducive to our national future.

For Klal Yisroel, this issue played out in particular over the past 130 years or so. Why was there a massive return to Zion, ultimately culmination in the establishment of the State of Israel? Because we, as Klal Yisroel, discovered that we could not survive peacefully and securely under the sovereignty of others. The lesson of two millennia, culminating in the Shoah, was that we need to determine our own fate as a nation. And so we ceased waiting for the Moshiach to arrive on its own, to save us from oppression in the Diaspora. We decided to bring the Moshiach ourselves. We decided to create a national entity in which we would be in charge of our own destiny.

Rabboisai, what are the fundamental implications of this essential truth?

It means that we cannot remain silent in the face of injustices. From wherever they come. We need to shape our world around us as much as we have to shape ourselves, our own Daled Amois.

-- It means that we are responsible for our own educations, and the educations of our children, if our community denies us the opportunity.

-- It means that we need to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. The Rebbe or the Rabbis will not solve the plague of sexual abuse in our community - we must bring about that change.

-- It means that we cannot sit idly by as our brethren and sistren are trapped in modern day Ultra Orthodox cults, rooted in tradition, but corrupted by the centralization of power around individuals who deprive their communities of social progress, fiscal opportunities, and basic freedoms of choice and expression.

-- It means that we must speak out for common sense, when dangerous or offensive ideas are expressed by either the extreme left or the extreme right.

"Moishe Kibel Toirah MiSinai U'Musruh LeYehoishua..." As we read in Pirkei Avois, Moishe Rabbeinu received the Toirah on Sinai and passed it along to Yehoishua, who subsequently passed it along to the leadership of each generation. Yet we are also told in a famous Midrash "Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee", Toirah is not in the purview of heaven; it is in the hands of mankind.

Our purpose on this earth is to take control of our lives and to improve our communities for the well being of ourselves and our children and our colleagues. "Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee." We cannot wait around for a Deus Ex Machina. Or as Shakespeare put it, "Our fate lies not in our stars but in ourselves". We must be our own Moshiach. We must actively work to bring about our own salvation.


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