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Friday, February 01, 2019

On the Performance of Teshuvah

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On the Performance of Teshuvah


Rabboisai,

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

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

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

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

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

And how does one do penitence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval.


---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sefer Shmois Drasha

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Sefer Shmois Drasha


Rabboisai,

I would like to start this week’s Drasha by reminding you that we have recently started a new Sefer in Kriyas HaToirah, Sefer Shmois. I know you probably forgot, as you were likely checking out the talent in the Ezras Nashim while the rest of the Shul shouted together “Chazak Chazak VeNisschazayk!!”. You Mechutziff!

I always found it ironic that Sefer Beraishis, a single book, covers history from the dawn of creation, four billion years ago... err... six thousand years ago, rather, but then is followed by four long, action packed books that primarily focus on Yetzias Mitzrayim - the exodus from Egypt - and the wandering of Klal Yisroel in the Midbar, roughly a period of forty years.

What’s Pshat? Avraham Avinu was not as important as Moishe Rabbeinu? Yankif Avinu wasn’t as important as Aharon HaCoihain, the Minuval? Miriam wasn’t as nasty and deceptive as Rivkah Imainu?

Seriously, shouldn’t the Toirah have taught us a bit more about the hooliganism... err... acts of Chessed of the Shvatim and a bit less about the colors of the paint on the undersides of the bolts used for holding the Mishkan together on the second Tuesday in Sivan in an Ibbur Yuhr?Couldn’t we have had a bit more action that would justify a sequel to Sefer Beraishis? Maybe we could have had a little Mishkav Zachor between Adam HaRishoyn and the snake? Maybe we could learn a bit about the cruise entertainment on Noach’s Teyvah? Were there featured singers and comedians? Were there plumbing issues. Maybe Avraham Avinu ultimately decides to slaughter someone else’s son? Maybe the Shvatim could have sold another of their brothers into slavery in place of some of the laws the Baal Koireh Leyns from the Toirah ad nauseam as we are trying to have a good conversation with our friends?

Rabboisai, this is indeed the opposite question than what is posed by RASHI when he asks why the Toirah does not start with the first Mitzvah in the Toirah instead of feeding us Bubbah Maisahs about talking snakes, towers built into the sky, and several generations of brothers who constantly try to screw each other over.

The RASHBA responds to RASHI, noting that Sefer Beraishis is included as the first Sefer Toirah specifically to warn us to never trust any of our brothers, whether they come from different mothers, or are even hairy identical twins. Our brothers will screw us over every time, so we better make like Yankif Avinu and steal from our brothers first and run away at the first possible moment. The RASHBA notes that this understanding of Beraishis is critical in order for us to comprehend why it is that Moishe Rabbeinu leads Klal Yisroel out of Egypt, through the desert, and to the brink of the Promised Land, but Aharoin HaCoihain, Moishe’s back stabbing brother, gets the Kehunah for his descendants for all eternity. Instead of trying to read his compass while wandering the desert, Moishe should have taken a half hour to review the lessons of Beraishis and made sure that Aharoin, tea Menuval, mysteriously “disappeared” while searching for his golf balls in the sand trap at the Sinai Desert Classic.

But the Sifsei Chachamim hold Farkert. LeOilum, in reality, Beraishis teaches us absolutely nothing about relationships between brothers. Rather, Sefer Beraishis warns us about nasty wives and mothers. Sarah Imainu forces Avraham Avinu to send Hagar and Yishmael to die in the desert. Rivka Imainu prompts Yankif Avinu to lie to his blind father, steal his brother Eisav’s birthright, and borrow his father’s Lexis without permission. And Rochel and Leah: Where do I start? Let’s just say that the subsequent Halacha against one man marrying two sisters was inspired by this very bad idea...

But the RAMBAN holds that Sefer Beraishis is actually a critical preface to the remaining four books of the Toirah. Sefer Beraishis begins with the creation of the world. The sky. The water. The land. Trees. Insects. Animals. Human beings. But missing from either of the two creation stories at the beginning of the Sefer: Any reference to Klal Yisroel. The world is created by the Aibishter for the benefit of all of its creations. Even when we talk about the Avois and Imahois, we see them living side by side with others, in coexistence. Avram Avinu teams up with four kings to take on five other kings in a game of full court basketball. Egypt, Mitzrayim, is a place of refuge that opens its doors to others, to refugees, during a time of famine. In sum, the world is a place that seeks harmony. I am so inspired by this notion, that If you were here right now, you Vilda Chaya, I would give you a hug.

However, Sefer Shmois begins with a very different view of the world. The open door policy of Egypt accepting Klal Yisroel with open arms turns into enslavement. A Pharoah arises that “knows not Yoseph”; instead of coexistence we have the opposite: Oppression. Antagonism. Hostility.

Says the RAMBAN, if the Toirah only began with Sefer Shmois, we would believe that the world was created for Klal Yisroel and Klal Yisroel only. We would believe that other human beings do not count. We would believe that other elements of the Reboinoisheloilum’s creations - the sky and water and the animals - are unimportant. We would believe that the world is solely ours for the taking. In other words, we would be Republicans.

But, according to the RAMBAN, Sefer Beraishis serves as a counterbalance to the rest of Chamishei Chumshei Toirah. Sefer Beraishis reminds us that all humanity was created in Hakadoishbiruchhu’s image, even you, you Minuval. If Sifrei Shmois, Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim teach us the importance of safeguarding our own Yiddisheh society, Sefer Beraishis reminds us that we are not alone on this earth. The eagle and the heron are our brothers (five points if you identify the reference). The Bnei Yishmael are our cousins. And Hagar, Bilhah and Zilpah are hot Shiksas that we can shack up with, as long as our wives agree. In other words, Sefer Beraishis reminds us that it is OK to be Reform Jews. Or even Democrats, Chass V’Shalom.

I am reminded of a beautiful Maiseh Shehoya about the Chernobler Rebbe. The Chernobled was giving Shirayim to his Chassidim on a Friday night. He was taking scoops of potato kugel with his hands and tossing them down to his Chassidim sitting around the long table, moving clockwise. As he made his way around the table, he noticed that the next person in line to receive the Shirayim was not a Chassid, but the Shul’s handyman and groundskeeper Piotr Christianovitch. Without hesitation, he scooped up the next bit of potato kugel and tossed it to Piotr.

Afterwards, his key aide, Reb Menachem Shmaaser, asked him, “Rebbe, how come you have a piece of the holy kugel to the groundskeeper. Isn’t that wasting some of the divine blessing on a non-Jew.”

A big smile emerged on the Chernobler’s face, and put his arm around Reb Menachem and have him a hug. He then walked him towards the front door of the Shul, and in an unexpected mood, shoved Reb Menachem out the door, into the frigid -20 degree weather.

“Tell me Reb Menachem”, the Chernobler mockingly asked, “how does it feel outside without the Shabbos Goy to turn on the heat? Do you think that Klal Yisroel can do that ourselves? We cannot even change a light bulb.”

Reb Menachem responded. “What’s the big deal about turning on the heat. It’s not like if I did it wrong it can cause a nuclear accident...”

And so, Rabboisai, as we begin Sefer Shmois, let us remember the words “Chazak Chazak VeNisschazeyk”. Our strength is not only grounded in our community, but is also grounded in our collaboration and coexistence with the broader world.

Shoyn.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval


---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

NEW: The Peoples Democratic Republic of Yidden

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NEW: The Peoples Democratic Republic of Yidden



Rabboisai,


While I was away on my four-month hiatus... I received several notes of concern. Several. Only several. 


What the Tashmish HaMitah is wrong with you people? I prepare Toirah for you, day in and day out, בשבתכי בבתי ובלכתכי בדרכי, בשכבכי, ובקומי... And all I get are “several”? You Menuvals!!


You should all be ashamed of yourselves. You call yourselves Talmidim? Did you at least recite Tehillim to Hakadoishboruchhu for me? Or give money to Tzedakah in my Zchooossss? Or travel to Eretz Yisrael and place a little Kepitl into the Koisel, asking for a Bracha from the Reboinoisheloilum on my behalf? Or travel to Uman and make a LeChaim while chanting to the Aimishteh at the Kever of Rebbe Nachman? Or travel to Mecca to offer an animal sacrifice to Allah? Or visit the Vatican to light a candle and pray to Yushka? Or travel to India to light incense and chant in praise of Lord Shiva. Or travel to Woodstock and smoke some Besamim LeShame Shamayim while listening to some serious Rock? Or travel to Washington DC to tell President Trump that he is the BEST PRESIDENT EVER!


How could you know that I was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Traveling. At times undercover. At times appearing as the Erlichah Yid I am as I write this Drasha, and at other times appearing as a secularist with humanistic sensibilities combined with a strong Jewish identity that recognizes the critical importance of national and “tribal” self-determination, potato kugel, and having a clean towel at the Mikvah.


Ich Vais.


It started in Labor Day, early September. I received a call.


“Hello”.


“Mr. Schmeckelstein!”


“That is Rabbi Schmeckelstein to you!”


“Okay. Mr. Schmeckelstein, How would you like to do something special for your people?”


“Sir, I do not know who you are, but I have already given lot of Tzedakah this year. (At this point I jingled a handful of change in front of the phone.) How would YOU like to do something special for YOUR people?”


“No, Mr. Schmeckelstein, we are not asking for money. We would Iike to discuss you joining an organization that does very important work for the nation, where activities are strategic, and where your actions can make a significant contribution to the national future.”


“Listen, I am not into the whole Chabad Tanya thing. My liver cannot handle all the vodka. And that whole ‘wearing the Rebbe’s shirt under the Chupah’ thing is a little too pagan for my taste. But I am happy to make a donation to the Moshiach fund, to help pay for a full page ad in the New York Times. That will certainly bring about the redemption, because I know that I would change my entire lifestyle and religious beliefs after seeing an ad in the paper. It happens to me at least three times a week!”


“No, not that nation. Your other nation.”


“You mean the US government? I already contribute to the US economy by stealing less federal education funding that most other Yeshivas. I deserve a reward!”


“No. No. Not that nation.”


“Do you mean the State of Israel? Hey - I am a Jew, but not a citizen of Israel. I think it is terrible that the Zionist Toirah Haters are trying to force Erlicheh Yeshiva boys to abandon their rigorous Talmudic studies in order to sit lazily on the borders of Lebanon and Gaza and be Mevatel Toirah all day. In fact, all female soldiers - secular and religious - should leave the army immediately and join seminaries. And all the men should abandon their units and study Toirah Yoimum V’Layla. Israel needs an army of Toirah scholars, not an army of soldiers. Did Klal Yisrael have soldiers in Eastern Europe? Of course not! And that brought our people centuries of the most profound Toirah scholarship! Gosh I miss those days...”


“Mr. Schmeckelstein, That is closer to what I was discussing. Although it is not for the State of Israel. On the contrary. Our institution is committed to religious study for many years, later followed by military service. We believe that people cannot serve as soldiers for a great cause unless they have a solid spiritual foundation. So they must study for months, if not years. But they must also go through military training and activity on the ground to reinforce that training.”


“Makes sense. I am in.”


“Great! We will send you plane tickets in the mail. We will have a member of the leadership of the Army of God pick you up at the airport!!”


“I already told you. I am not into Lubavitch. I do not need a Tzivas Hashem guy to pick me up in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv!!”


“Who said anything about Tel Aviv? You will receive your tickets in the mail to Beirut International Airport, and a member of Hezbollah will be there to pick you up!!”


Shoyn.


Rabboisai - Maybe the Hezbollah and the Mullah’s in Iran are on to something... Maybe the Jewish answer to our cultural clash between tradition and modernity should be the intentional meshing of both. 


And so, I would like to officially announce the new mandate of Yeshivas Chipass Emess. Once and for all, we are going to bring about the world as it should be.


I will be officially relocating my Yeshiva from Brooklyn, in Eretz HaKoidesh, to a new homeland in Eretz HaCana’anim. My new Yeshiva will be located in the Jewish Quarter… Which is wherever I lay my Shtreimel! It is from there that we shall announce the establishment of a new Jewish entity - to be called “The Peoples Democratic Republic of Yidden” or the “PDRY” or, simply, “Memsheless Yidden”. 


As Rosheshiva of Yeshivas Chipass Emess, I will be the Supreme Religious Leader of Memsheless Yidden. I will also serve as its new Supreme Political Leader.


What will we stand for in Memsheless Yidden? Well- of course! Ruling a modern state requires Rules of the Community:


First off - We will be for law and order!! The Toirah tells us to keep Shabboskoidesh, and by Reboinoisheloilum we will keep Shabboskoidesh! And if someone is Mechallel Shabbos... Law and Order! Skilah for a DeOiraisa. Makkois for a DeRabbanan. Lots of Makkois!!


And when someone is guilty of Kurais... a punishment from Shamayim... let’s just say that we will “help” the sinner get to Shamayim a bit early... I am the Supreme Religious Leader, after all.


Second - We will be for security! As we all know - “Yisrael Betach BaShem” - We are secure because of our relationship to the Reboinoisheloilum. And how do we ensure that security? Through learning Toirah and performing Mitzvois. So... in Memsheless Yidden, all men will learn Toirah every single day! It will be the first Koilel Nation (TM).


What will the women do? Why - they will be mothers. And they will teach. And they will be accountants. And work on computers. And do medical billing. And one can be a judge, maybe. And they will also work in medical care... as Mikvah ladies. And they will cook and clean and perform every labor needed to keep their men learning in Koilel, just the way Hakadoishboruchhu likes them to.


Third - Our homeland stands for modesty. Modesty in thought and modesty in deed. People must be modest and realize that they are just temporary guests on the Aimisheh’s planet. Consequently... they must subjugate their will to... mine. They must commit allegiance to me... by promising to perform my every will, even when they are sick in bed with the flu, stoned, and watching old episodes of Spongebob. Even then they must be willing to get up and fetch me groceries.


Fourth - We believe in family. People must marry young. And have lots of babies. Lots of them. And single people? They are the embodiment of the Yetzer Harrah, only with two arms, two legs, and an Erva. They are dangerous, and must be married off immediately upon reaching puberty, or three years of age, whichever comes first.

Now, what happens if someone wants to leave Memsheless Yidden? Well, they can go. But they cannot take the children. The children belong to Klal Yisrael - which is now embodied in our Heiligeh community. And if someone tries to take our children away? Well... we will get them back. We have our ways...

Fifth – We are all about education! Especially diverse and well rounded education. None of this “All Gemarrah all the time” education. No! We also believe in studying Mishnah and Toseftah. We also like to balance the curriculum with practical subjects, such as how to recognize clothing with Shatnez and how to maximize government benefits. And we also have an athletic program, where students get to practice throwing rocks at cars.

Sixth – In the spirit of Kibuv Av, we believe in respect for elders, all elders. So if any of our adults are accused of anything, say… such as sexual abuse… we will make sure that the accused is defended by the best lawyers, and will pronounce his innocence to the world. And is he still is sentenced to jail, we will host a Kiddush in his honor before he heads off to jail.

So, you may ask, what is the difference between Memsheless Yidden and Eretz HaKoidesh in Brooklyn and Monsey and KJ, and that place up in Canada, you know, that place where the Chassidim speak Yiddish with a French Canadian accent? Or between The Peoples Democratic Republic of Yidden and Eretz Yisroel?

Some might suggest that our little community in Guatemala is a bit of a cult. However, we are just the same as the Toirah communities in Eretz HaKoidesh and Eretz Yisroel. We share the same values: Enforcement of the Rules of the Community instead of civil laws, men learning all day instead of working, modest behavior subjugated to the will of religious leaders, early marriages, denial of secular education, and a culture of protecting abusers. So you will feel right at home.

So please join me in my new community. And if you are one of the first to call, I will make sure that you get a clean towel every time you go to the Mikvah.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Menuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Pinky Lives! -- Chadash Assur Min HaToirah

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Rabboisai -

After a brief hiatus of about four months I am back.

I cannot go into details now about where I was all of those boring, long weeks when nothing of particular urgency was going on. It has been a quiet time politically in the US, and for Klal Yisroel. The President of the United States has been acting with extreme sensitivity and responsibility. The Prime Minister of Israel has been setting an ethical example for all of our children. The Jews have been safe everywhere, especially in upscale areas of Pittsburgh...

In other words... I take about four months off and all Gehenim breaks loose.

We all have many things to think about. Sure, we can worry about the future of the US and its global alliances. We could worry about the State of Israel, with its corroding internal discourse, its continued unresolved conflict with the Palestinians, and the rising regional threats, especially emanating from Iran and Lebanon. We could debate whether or not there is a real rise in anti Semitism in the US and elsewhere, as measured by statistics and horrific acts, even on US soil.

We can even focus on ongoing social ills within the Jewish Community, including the lack of adequate secular education in Ultra Orthodox circles, the plague of sexual abuse within Jewish communities and institutions, enabled by religious authorities who are unwilling to see their punished, at the expense of more and more helpless victims, and the overall decline of secular Jewish identity in the US.

But none of these things are critical. They are all Narishkeit. They are temporary. What really matters is the permanent and spiritual. Zman Kriyas Shma. Shatnez. The length of the hair on a woman's Sheytel. Only eating fruit that has a Hashgacha. These are the types of issues that are the anchor of Klal Yisroel. They guided us in Mitzrayim. They guided us in Bavel. The protected us in Europe. And now they will certainly lead to our salvation.

Shoyn.

Pinky.

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Chadash Assur Min HaToirah


Rabboisai,

This week I had been planning to share with you the ultimate key to bringing Moishiach, the Shaym HaMephoirash, the ineffable name of Hakadoishboruchhu that has been passed down in my - MY - family, as I am the direct descendant of Moishe Rabbeinu, Eli HaKoihaon, and Yirmiyahi HaNavi. And in invoking the Name in this Drasha, in this large virtual Kehillah, I was going to trigger the Yemai HaMashaich, the Messianic Era and the End Of Days. It's about time, don't you think?

In my role as President Donald Trump's Advisor For Spiritual Afffairs this week, I discussed my plan with President Trump SHLITA, and he though the idea was "Terrific!" He even wanted to know if we could brand the Third Bais HaMikdash as the "Trump Temple".

However. President Trump inadvertently shared the Shaym HaMephoirash with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador a week ago, and as they tried to use this ultimate weapon in their Zil limousines on the way back to the Russian Embassy, they upset the Reboinoishoilum, who only allows the use of the Shaym once in a generation. So Moshiach-Tzeit, the era of the Moshiach, will have to wait.

Damn.

But the good news is that some of my investments in Canadian real estate, the defense industry, and privately run prisons will now have time to grow in value. Baruch HaShem.

Shoyn.

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We start today's Drasha with a series of questions. Please bear with me; I know that you have the attention span of a Goilem who just drank six Espressois... errr... espressos.

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-- The Mishnah asks: "Ma'Amusai Koirin Ess Kriyas Shma Ba'Arvin?" From what point can we start reciting Kriyas Shma at night? I am not going to recite to you the entire Machloikess; if you are not intimately familiar with this very basic Mishnah, you should probably stop calling yourself a Jew and start worshipping Yushka, since you are an Am Ha'Aretz and add no value to Klal Yisroel whatsoever. Unless of course you are willing to write a big check, and then we will praise your value as a supporter of Toirah and Klal Yisroel and as a communal leader. Kenayna Hurrah!!

-- We also have an adage in Klal Yisroel that begins, "Tuhdeer V'She'einoi Tuhdeer..." - When one has to prioritize the order of a liturgy, which comes first - the common or the uncommon? Again, I am not going to tell you the answer. You should know the answer, otherwise you should not be reading this Drasha, because you are not qualified to be a Jew. Instead, you should be fixing cars and doing projects that require sheet rock.

-- When someone has a son, he has the opportunity to engage in the greatest Mitzvah in Klal Yisroel - LeHachnisoi Ess Bnei LeBrisoi Shel Avraham Avinu - to connect his son to the eternal covenant that Avraham Avinu forged with the Reboinoisheloilum. How does one do this? By having a Moihel perform a Bris, a circumcision, on the eighth day of life, or as soon after as possible in the event of medical complication. And what does the Bris include? The key ingredients are: Circumcision, Metzitza BiPeh, and and serving bagels and lox.

You may raise concerns about the practice of Metzitza BiPeh, a practice during which the Moihel draws blood from the site of the circumcision with his mouth. Opponents of this practice point to several incidents in which a Moihel with oral herpes passed along this minor disease to the eight day old baby who has no immune system. This has occasionally resulted in the deaths of such children. You may argue that this practice should be waived and possibly be ruled illegal in civil law. But whoever would argue such a thing is either an agent of Yishmael or the embodiment of the Amalek in our day.

-- When a boy or a girl on the Kehillah is sexually abused by a rabbi or a respected community member or even a member of their own family, we must express sympathy for the victim. And we must do everything in our power - EVERYTHING - to make certain that the perpetrator is not reported to the police. After all, "Lama Yoimru BaGoyim, Ayeh Nuh Eloikaichem". What will the Goyim say?

So what if the abuser goes out and abuses again and again? Hey, the kids will get over it! Or maybe they will leave the community or even commit suicide. That will make the problem go away!

And let's face it, there are a lot worse Aveirois than sexual abuse. Such as Shatnez, shaving with a blade, and, of course, using a smartphone, especially during Chazarass HaSHATZ.

-- When a married person loses his or her faith, Chass V'Sholom, what should we as a community do? How should we respond to someone who goes - what is the expression? - OTB?

Well, we must of course show sympathy and understanding as a community, by banding together socially and economically and ensuring that the Frum parent gets sole custody of the children, and that the non-Frum parent gets visitation, of course - a half an hour a week, max, supervised.

And what if the Frum parent is physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive, or denies giving an Off The Derech wife a Gett? These our not our concerns, as the well being of the children in the Oilum HaZeh is pure Gashmiyus, materialism; as Frummah Yidden we must only worry about Ruchniyus, the Neshamas of the children in Oilum HaBah. And if the Frum parent's treatment of the children leads to their suffering, descent into despair, substance abuse, and early death, why that only means that they will be able to join the Aimishteh in Gan Eden sooner that they otherwise would have. What a Mitzvah we can do as a community!!

You're welcome.

-- Why did the Holocaust happen? Why, that is simple: Because the Reboinoisheloilum was punishing Klal Yisroel. And we know this because the punishment is foretold in the Toirah. Why did Hakadoishboruchhu slaughter all our ancestors? Once again, if you are asking such an obvious question, you do not belong as a member of Klal Yisroel.

The general point is as follows: If you do not agree with such "normative" definitions and prescriptions, you are a Menuval; even worse, you are a self hating Jew. In fact, you are more like a Judenrat. Or even worse, a Democrat.

Had you been in Egypt, you would not have been let out. Your sons would today be members of ISIS, and your daughters would be belly dancers.

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Rabboisai - We are suffering from a plague. What is this plague? People thinking for themselves.

This is a terrible thing which undermines rabbinic political and economic power.. errr... which undermines belief in the Reboinoisheloilum and Hashgacha Pratis, Divine engagement in the world.

Rabboisai, the advent of people having access to the internet on their personal phones echoes the earlier introduction of the internet, which followed the phenomenon of television, the invention of radio, and the root of all evils, the printing press. In general, literacy is causing people to do Aveirois -- that is: Exchange ideas,  develop questions, and seek answers. This sometimes leads to people going OTD, or becoming a Meshumad, or leading a secular lifestyle, or being a secular humanist, or affiliating with the Reform or Conservative movements.

Or, the worst, remaining engaged in the Orthodox community and challenging the community to address areas of concern on the philosophical, theological, social, practical, and Halachic dimensions.

Our nation is called "the People of the Book". What book does this refer to? I assure you, it refers to Toirah Moshe Rabbeinu, not the works of Darwin or Einstein or Watson and Crick, or Marc Shapiro, or The Economist, or National Geographic, or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. It refers to the writing of RASHI and Toisfois, not The Toirah.Com. It refers to the publications of ArtScroll, not to the publications or the Hebrew Union College or the Jewish Theological Seminary, or Koren Publishing or Yeshivasssss Choivevei Toirah, Chass V'Sholom.

Orthodox Judaism is called "Orthodox Judaism" because is contains "orthodoxies", basic beliefs. And if you do not  subscribe to those basic beliefs, especially as espoused by me and my rabbinic colleagues, then you may as well be building the next Auschwitz because you are promoting questioning which will lead to efforts to change our way of life, to assimilation, and to Shmad. Assimilation is the Holocaust in our generation; I know so, because I saw on Facebook that some rabbi said so. So it must be true.

How does one confront this challenge to the religious hegemony of our Gedoilim? There is a Machloikess on this:

According the Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua, such voices must simply be ignored. Unless of course the proponents of new ideas do not look or smell like us, in which case they should be challenged to a pissing contest, typically next to a fire hydrant.

Reb Yehoishaphat Catahoula, a rising rabbinical star, holds that we should attack anyone and anything that blocks our path, and tear away at their foundations of credibility as if we were ripping out the insoles of their shoes with our teeth, pulling out their stuffing, and biting at them to make them harmlessly squeak.

Maharat Avigail Katievsky holds Farkert, that we should sit calmly around such people, but strike at them with outstretched claws when they least expect it.

But her brother Reb Asher Katievsky believes that we should keep our community as far away from such influences, protecting ourselves and our community as much as possible by hiding in hard-to-find places, though occasionally coming out to engage as long as we are properly acknowledged by being stroked behind the ears.

Finally, Reb Betzalel Kupkayk holds that we should observe such people by lying in wait, quietly and stealth-fully, until we POUNCE and capture those annoying creatures, torture them, kill them once we get bored, and leave their carcasses on the front steps of the Rebbe's house, as a gift.

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Rabboisai, Shloimoi HaMelech once wrote that "Ein Chadash Tachassss HaShemesh", "There is nothing new under the sun". So who are these people who would have the Chutzpah to argue with Shloimoi HaMelech?

Some may suggest that there are many factors that should be considered in the modern era that should influence our approach in practicing our faith, such as:
-- Knowledge of science, including modern medicine
-- Modern social perceptions, such as the recognition of the fundamental equality of the intellectual capabilities of women
-- Better understanding of the behavior and the brain, including the lifelong negative impact of trauma
-- The rapid evolution of technology and communications.

People who cite such factors may be proud of themselves. They probably overheard conversations while sitting in a public Bais HaKeesay or while on line to register for welfare and unemployment benefits.

But we know better.

As the Chassssam Soifer said, "Chadash Assur Min HaToirah", nothing new is permitted by the Toirah. And he knew what he was talking about. He was a modern man, a man of our world; why, he died only a couple of years ago. In 1839. Compared to him, Einstein had the mind of a child, and Mark Zuckerburg was a shoemaker.

"Chadash Assur Min HaToirah" means that there have been zero changes in Yiddiskeit since Moishe Rabbeinu drank Espressois with Hakadoshbaruchhu on Har Sinai. He Davened using the liturgy of today, out of an Art Scroll Siddur. He wore a Shtreimel. He used filters on his water tap to keep out microscopic organisms. He used three filters on his iPhone, which he of course needed for professional purposes. He had two dishwashers in his kitchen, plus had a second kitchen for Pesach. He refused to sit next to women every time he sat on a plane. And he had a Nidah App on his iPhone to monitor his wife’s cycle and Mikvah habits.

And while according to the Toirah he preached the importance of honesty in judges and testimony, he made sure that such judges would always favor sexual abusers over their victims, and would deny parental access to children if a male parent decided that he liked to shave with a blade, or a female parent liked to eat Tarfus.

"Chadash Assur Min HaToirah."

So next time you hear of radical ideas, or have philosophical or theological questions, or worry about the well-being of human victims of Orthodox fundamentalism, get those ideas out of your mind. You have better things to be concerned about, such as Zman Kriyas Shma, which Shmineh Esrei to say first when reciting a Tashlumim, or how much suction to use when performing Metzitza BiPeh.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval



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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess