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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Second Pesach Drasha


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Second Pesach Drasha


Rabboisai,

I start today's drasha with a sad and embarassing admission -- my own personal viduy in front of you, you minuval.

Over Chol Hamoed Pesach I was driving my einiklach to the pick up spot for the rabbinically sanctioned avoidah zorah -- idol worship -- known as Six Flags Great Adventures. Along the way, I dropped a quarter in the car. Since it is a Chiyuv Dioraisa, a biblical requirement, to pick up loose change, I reached down to the floor to retrieve the quarter, and behold -- I found half an M&M. It was this moment of temptation that started off a terrible cycle of sin and debauchery not unlike being mezaneh with an underage Parah Adumah.

Yes, at that moment, I was taken by an incessant urge to bite into the forbidden delicacy and indulge in the chometz delights of a treat that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and unlikely to lead to hours of painful stomach cramps. And as you know so well, you mamzer, Aveirah goreres Aveirah, one evil deed begets another...

One M&M, of course, is never enough. After dropping off the einiklach, I got down on my hands and knees and prostrated myself on the floor of the station wagon with the same fervor with which I had cleaned out the car one week earlier, searching for just one small bite of chometz. Boruch Hashem I found two crushed Cheerios in the ashtray, which I consumed immediately.

Alas, the Yetzer Harrah caught me on a weak day.

Still craving the delicious taste of chometz, I rushed home, and Boruch Hashem, no one was there. I headed straight for the kodshei hakadoishim of chometz, the vacuum cleaner. Would the bag containing all the crumbs of recent weeks of cleaning still be inside? I prayed to the Aimishteh for it -- and it was so. My Bashert, so busy spending her days teaching a class in Bais Yankif, her evenings serving as the mikvah lady, and her nights working at the 24 hour Kinkos, had forgotten to remove the lest vestiges of chometz. The careless bitch.

With great satisfaction I dove into the vacuum bag. Breadcrumbs! Leftover pieces of cookie! It was the most fun I've had committing an aveirah since my chavrusa and I studied the true meaning of "abomination" for extra credit back in high school, if you know what I mean. The utter joy of eating straight from the bag was only slightly tempered by the big lump of lint that got stuck in my throat.

After coughing up the fuzz ball, I became deeply troubled. I needed more chometz! I wouldn't dare go down to the basement to attack the food storage, since the goy who bought the chometz might show up at any moment and demand that which he rightfully paid for. The anti-Semite.

I had one more chance. I knew that with with all of the pre-Yuntif mayhem, my bashert likely forgot to vacuum the upholstered dining room chairs. I rushed to the dining room, got on my hands and knees next to the first chair, and positoned my head above the crack between the seat cushion and the wood chair-back.

And that's when my wife walked in. She shrieked in her loudest Ball-ha-Buster voice, "Pinky, how many times have I told you not to put your tongue in a strange place??!!"

So went my first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach.

This maiseh shehoyo is indeed reminiscent of a Halacha brought down by the Kley Yukkur in his seminal work, Tzeddek Tzeddek Tirdoif," loosely translated as "Never miss an opportunity to judge others."

As he points out, it is indeed ironic that on a holiday dedicated to the celebration of freedom, we adopt an additional layer of stringencies to our already complicated lives. The Kley Yukkur goes on to tell us that in designing many Mitzvois, the Reboinoisheloilum is not testing our complicity with His will; rather, He is testing our common sense when commanded to do the nearly impossible.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pesach Drasha


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Pesach Drasha


Rabboisai,

I am preparing this Drasha as I pack for my departure to serve as the officiating rabbi on a Pesach vacation. After resisting many such offers for years – hotels in the Catskills, Florida, Arizona, Cancun, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Antarctica, I was asked to fill in for a colleague on one of these Pesach getaways. My good friend, Rabbi Shloimee Glandolowitzberg, was committed to a venue, but had to cancel at the last minute because he had something caught in his throat. So I will now serve as the official rabbi on the Roy Cohn Kosher LePeysach Gay Cruise to the Greek islands.

Strangely, the organizers have suggested that I come without my Basherte, Feigeh Breinah, insisting that I will have a lot more fun that way. So she will be with the Kinderlach and Einiklach, while I sacrifice by bringing Toirah to a community of Erlicheh Yidden. Indeed, I had originally declined the offer, since I was planning to be in Eretz Yisroel for Yuntif. I explained to the organizers that Pesach is Klal Yisroel’s celebration of exiting Egypt and traveling to Eretz Yisroel, which, as the Toirah tells us, is “Eretz Zuvass Chuluv U’Dvash”, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. But they responded that the cruise will be quite similar: It will be flowing with something that looks like milk, and something else that almost has the texture of honey, but comes out of a tube. I do not know what they mean, but I look forward to being Mekayaim a new Mitzvah!

In addition, they told me that there were some additional Minhagim on the annual cruise that I would find interesting. Apparently, instead of dipping only two times – Ein Mol In Zatlz Vasser, Un Ein Mol in Charoisess – they dip a third time, after the Afikomen and Chad Gad Yuh, and suggested that I might enjoy it. Again, I am not familiar with such a Minhag; perhaps it is a Sephardic custom. But I can certainly appreciate the Mesiras Nefesh of maintaining a local Minhag.

Pesach is a time of different behaviors and liturgy and cuisine. We spend more time preparing for Pesach that we do actually celebrating it. Great credit goes to our wives for their commitment to creating Butey Ne’eman BaYisroel, good Jewish homes. In my own home, my wife takes charge of all of the Pesach preparation. She does all the planning. She does all the shopping. And even if she does not do all of the cleaning herself, she makes certain it is all completed. What a Tzadeykess! I knew last Moitzee Shabbos she was preparing to turn the entire kitchen over for Pesach when, immediately after Havdalah, she began ironing her Gestapo uniform. By the time we had Kashered the stove, the sink, and the counters, put all the Chometz dishes away, and brought down all of the Pesach dishes from the attic, I was ready to throw myself against a electrified barbed wire fence.

But, as we know, Pesach is not simply a personal or a family celebration. It is a communal one. Ashrenu that in our generation we can embrace Pesach in a way that previous generations could not. Why, a hundred years ago our great grandparents certainly had Matzoh, Marror, wine and Charoisess. Perhaps they had a little chicken or meat, some potatoes and eggs, and if their were Misnagdim, Kneidlach. Our grandparents and parents may have already had some semblance of Koisher LePesach cakes and cookies. But we in our generation have a much greater variety of choices. Koisher LePesach mustard. Koisher LePesach rolls. Koisher LePesach beer. And my favorite: Koisher LePesach breakfast cereal. During the rest of the year we make do with all of the Goyyishe cereals, as long as they have a proper Hashgacha, of course. But on Pesach we are Zoicheh to eat breakfast cereals that are made Lishmah, expressly for Zman Chayruseinu. My favorite is Sugar Frosted Kikee-Ohs, although my Einikel Binyamin Soirer U’Moireh loves Choco Aleph Baizes.

It is an ironic thing, of course: These cereals cost $28 a box before Pesach, but the day after Pesach the stores cannot give them away. I heard that last year the local Toimchei Shabbos was collecting unopened Pesach food for the poor: Cans, Matzoh, cocoanut covered marshmallows, etc., but had a big sign on their collection bin, “No Kosher For Passover Cereals, Please. Our Recipients May Be Needy, But They Are Not THAT Desperate”.

But what we have done in our generation is not that different from the actions of our predecessors. “B’Chol Dor VaDor Chayuv Udum Lirois Ess Atzmoh Ke’Iluh Hoo Yutzuh MiMitzrayim.” “In every generation, a person is required to view himself as if he (himself) escaped from Egypt.” The strength of our tradition has been the ability of our nation to seek relevance in each generation and make the Yuntif, and the ideas it represents, “their own”. Sometimes those additions have resulted in additional guidelines and restrictions that we find a source of annoyance, such as Kitniyois. Sometimes those additions have added strictures that many of us ignore, such as Gebruchs. And sometimes those additions have made Jewish lives so intolerable that CHAZAL had to find a back door to nullify their impact, such as Chometz She-Avar Uluv Al HaPesach, which led to the institution of Mechiras Chometz, symbolic selling of Chometz to a Gentile.

Like with so many other examples in Yiddishkeit, every generation and every community has left its mark on our grand tradition. In doing so, we do not abandon the notion of the Divine to the distant, irrelevant, somewhat unknowable past, but seek to embrace the Divine in our own lives. We pursue active engagement with the Reboinoisheloilum to satisfy our own spiritual cravings, as well as to have an excuse to take a few days off from work at the beginning of Spring.

I am reminded of a Ma’aseh Shehoya. One year the Vilna Goyn was leading the Seder at his Yeshiva, surrounded by his family and hundreds of his Talmidim. He had just made Kiddush on the first cup of wine and began to recite the Hagaddah, “Kol Dichfin Yaysay V’Yaychol, Kol Ditzrich Yaysay V’Yifsach”, “All who are hungry should sit down and eat; all who are needy should sit down and partake of the Karban Persach.” At that point, a homeless man dressed in tattered clothing entered the Yeshiva dining room and pulled up an empty chair to the table.

“Sir, what do you think you are doing?” asked the Gruh.

“Well, Mr. Goyn, I am hungry and needy, and I am taking up your offer to join your Seder” responded the man.

“Schmuck!”, the Goyn screamed, “Do you think I really mean this stuff that was written over 1,500 years ago? Next thing you know, you will expect me to believe that 600,000 people left Egypt! How the hell could 600,000 males, plus their families, live in the desert for forty years?! What were the Jews, a group of people, of a bunch of camels?!!”

At that point the vagrant revealed himself to be Eliyahu HaNavi. “Reb Goyn”, he said, “you are indeed wise. The miracles did not really happen the way the Toirah and Hagaddah describe, but we celebrate them anyway, to give meaning to our everyday lives. But you have rejected someone genuinely in need, and for that you will be punished by being known throughout history as a heartless Misnagid who has about as much spirit in him as a twice squeezed lemon has juice.” The man then took away all of the Afikoman presents left under the tree and left the building.

That night, the Goyn was very disturbed. He was wrought with guilt and confusion. Finally, Hakadoshboruchhu came to him in a dream. “Goyn, what is the problem?” He asked.

“Your messenger Eliyahu HaNavi showed me tonight what a selfish person I am, and told me I will be punished for all eternity as a result.”

The Aimishteh laughed a hearty laugh. “Goyn, that was no Eliyahu HaNavi! That was the Baal Shem Toiv playing a practical joke on you. He even took all of your Afikoman Tchatchkees to sell in order to buy vodka for his followers.”

“You mean I am not punished?!!” asked the Goyn, relieved.

“Well, you are a cold Misnagid. That is punishment enough, since you can only see what is in front of you. But I guarantee that the Baal Shem Toiv is also punished, since he can only look under the surface and cannot see obvious truths in front of him. Until you learn to live together, you will both be lost.”

Excitedly, the Goyn asked, “And at that point, will we be Zoicheh to witness the Geulah Shelaymah?”

“Well, not exactly. But your respective descendants will happily go on Gay cruises together.” With that the Reboinoisheloilum departed the dream, and went off to visit with some worshipers at a Hindu temple.

So every generation finds new ways to instill spiritual meaning and relevance. For one generation, it was Kitniyois. For another, it was Gebruchs. For countless others, it was the development of new creative recipes and additions to the Pesach liturgy. And for some in our day, it is the recreation of “a land flowing with milk and honey”, hopefully using proper precautions, if you know what I mean. Ashrenu that in our generation Klal Yisroel can embrace Pesach in ever more creative ways!

Ah Zissen Yuntif, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach


Rabboisai,

In anticipation of the upcoming Yuntif, I would like to address an issue related to Hilchois Pesach


The Anonymous Minuval" writes:

"Rav Pinky,

"Am I allowed to perform oral favors on my wife on Pesach if she has a yeast infection?"

Well, my beloved, gutter-minded talmid, this is a delightful question that I have been asked several times before, all by members of the Ashkenazic tradition, since, as everyone knows, Sephardic Jews have not subscribed to this approach to marital fulfillment since the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

With regard to your question, yeast is not in and of itself chometz (leaven), but is in the category of chometz-related matter. Hence, Chazal would certainly hold that you could NOT perform oral favors on your wife, though you are not required to dispose of her during Pesach.

However, if you are of the practice of performing oral favors on your wife with the aid of a chometzdikkeh food, say -- pudding, the issue becomes more complex. BeDiyeved, there are those that say that the Halacha would view this as similar to yeast, or a kli (a cooking utensil), and, therefore, you may keep your wife in your possession, as long as you do not perform oral favors on her during the course of Pesach.

Lechatchilah, however, if we consider a wife's private parts as food, and therefore, having been exposed to the chometz, the privates take on the nature of chometz, since chometz is not battul afilu be'elef (is not considered insignificant, even if it is an infinitesmal fraction of the food in question), then you must dispose of the chometz prior to Pesach, preferably by burning.

However, in our day, our Rabbis have determined an alternative approach, as we use with other valuable chometz investments. You are allowed to sell your wife's Erva to a gentile, provided you not benefit from it for eight days. And, of course, you have to provide access to the gentile at any time that the gentile so chooses to take possession of the chometz.

How is this contractual arrangement made? There are those that are more lenient, and say a verbal sales agreement is enough to drive the exchange of possession. However, the majority of Achroinim hold that there has to be a symbolic physical transfer of possession. In real estate sales, this is typified by a kinyan sudor, or exchange of possession using as handkerchief as a proxy. In this instance, however, an exchange of your wife's underwear would be the preferred mode.

As well, the Rabbis note, it is customary the night before Pesach to include your wife's Erva when performing Bedikas Chometz in your home. Your wife will certainly welcome the feather, but be careful with that wooden spoon!

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Parshas Acharei Mois

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Parshas Acharei Mois

In this week's parsha, Acharei Mois, the Aimishteh commands Klal Yisrael regarding forbidden relationships: " The nakedness of your father's wife you should not expose...your father's sister...your mother's sister...a woman and her daughter...two sisters..." And so on.

Oy vey. I must tell you, I am a little uncomfortable with this week's Parsha. In fact, I am downright sickened by the suggestion of having relations with one's own mother. And I am completely nauseated with the thought of having gilui arayois with my aunts; both my father's and my mother's sisters have beards, as well as shaytals that look far more titilating on the styrofoam heads sitting on the dresser.

So by the time the parsha gets around to talking about doing it with two sisters, I am totally not in the mood.

An obvious question arises about the wording of the possuk: Why does the Toirah speak of "not exposing nakedness"? How should we understand this term? One answer offered by the RAMBAN is that the Toirah chose to speak in loshoin nokiyus in order to avoid the parsha receiving an "R" rating, so that children under the age of seventeen, an important demographic, can read the parsha without being accompanied by a parent.

The RIF holds that the possuk clearly means to include actual biyuh, but the use of the term "exposing nakedness" is chosen to include voyeurism, digital photography, and Twitter. But the RAN holds farkhert -- you can have relations with anyone you want, so long as the lights are dim, in order to ensure deniability.

A more serious question is why is it that the halochois of all of these forbidden relationships are addressed to men? Shouldn't women be concerned about these issues as well? RASHI answers that since women come so late to shul, they miss the leyning anyway, so they are not included. But the ARI holds that this parsha is proof that in the time of the Moshiach, our frigid wives will put out the way they have been promising to for years.

But with all of these forbidden relationships, the one which receives the most attention, especially in our days, is the ban on male homosexuality. How are we to understand this biblical pronouncement, especially in modern society?

Reb Shlomo Kluger, living a century ago, spoke of the growing evidence that the homosexual inclination is a result of nature, not nurture. Reb Shlomo, who insisted that the buchrim in the bais medrish refer to him as "Big Hank", felt that our understanding of gay nature should evolve, much as halacha's attitude toward blind and deaf people has evolved as overall society has developed a more inclusive approach to people with these conditions. (I personally am strongly in favor of this line of thought. Indeed, I was born with a particular condition myself -- I lust after twenty-three year old red heads named Christine.)

In truth, this whole issue comes down to a question of public versus private. When I am standing at my shtender in shul delivering the weekly drasha, as I look down at the kehilla, I know that the room is full of people who commit aveiras of all sorts. I am certain that ten percent of the kehilla privately watches TV on Shabbos (Boruch Hashem somebody has the latest sports scores!) Some of the women don't always make it to mikvah. Some of the men, especially while their wives are in nidah, "take matters into their own hands", if you know what I mean.

Even I too have sinned on occasion -- I admit it -- I sometimes put the hot water ON the teabag on Shabbos, not the other way around. But in the great tradition of Chazzal, we should not stand around and look to punish people. We don't peek inside their homes, their refrigerators, or their cars. Chazzal tell us that in the time of the Sanhedrin, it was almost unprecedented that someone would be put to death. Between the conditions of drisha and chakirah and other requirements, it was virtually impossible that the human realm would come to pass judgment on other human beings -- that is the purview of the Aimishteh.

What becomes more complicated is the aspiration of some to embrace a more public profile for the gay Orthodox lifestyle. Rather than reject this, I suggest we at least consider the possibility. Indeed, we should move to accommodate all who seek to be frum, though disagree with one Biblical tenet or another. We should create shuls for these particular interest groups:

-- The Young Israel of Men Who Like to Be Mezaneh With Each Other

-- Congregation Bnei Avraham Who Like To Eat A Little Traifus Once in a While

-- Khal Adas I Like To Watch The News and Get the Latest Scores

-- Lincoln Square I Sometimes Spill My Seed on the Floor Synagogue.

As long as someone wants to indentify as being Frum, who are we to deny them that right? As long as they subscribe to the three basic principles of Ol Malchus Shomayim: Overall acceptance of the Torah, pass judgement on everyone else, and consider everyone who disagrees with you to be either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess