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Friday, January 30, 2015

On Schar V'Oinesh (Reward and Punishment)


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On Schar V'Oinesh (Reward and Punishment)

Rabboisai,

I must begin this week’s drasha with a statement and a plea for forgiveness. Allow me to read a brief statement prepared by my attorney, Reb Gedalia Geltshtupper:

“Last Moitzee Shabbos Koidesh, in the hours before Aliyas HaShashachar, I irresponsibly left my home without completing my Neigel Vassar. This regrettable act caused me to crash my 1987 Chevy Impala into the support posts of the elevated subway station near my home in Borough Park. (In my defense, however, I did honk.) I regret any embarrassment this may have caused my family, and any inconvenience I may have caused the riders of the F Train.
“I would in particular like to thank my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, for rescuing me from my vehicle by breaking through the back windshield with my prized leather-bound volume of Yoireh Dayah. My Bashert is my life partner, and she should not be distracted by any allegations or hearsay she may have read about me and the local Mikvah attendant Yankel in the Algemeiner Journal. Damned-Liberal-Yiddisheh-Media.”

Shoyn.

Rabboisai, we live in very trying times. The economic situation is not getting better for most of you Menuvals (although I am raking it in selling Brachas at bowling alleys.) Healthcare costs are continuing to rise while millions remain without healthcare, but no one, not the Democratic Administration nor the Republican Congress, has presented a comprehensive solution for solving this decades-old problem. And the wars in Iraq and Syria continue, threatening to become a quagmire. (Incidentally, I do not know what this word means. What’s Pshat ‘Quagmire’? It is often used in the newspaper when referring to military involvements, or marriage. But it is has two syllables and a “q” and is worth more than 50 points in Scrabble under the right circumstances, so at least using it makes me look smart.)

Luckily, we are all members of Klal Yisroel. We are the Chosen People who have a special relationship with the Reboinoisheloilum. So none of these issues or concerns have any relevance to us.

No. We need only concern ourselves with Toirah and Mitzvois, Chookim and Maaisim Toivim. Yes, we all have to make a Parnassah, but thanks to some very generous friends in the investment community and my Yeshiva’s tax deductible status. I am all set. You, however, may have some problems, but please don’t be selfish by ruining it for the rest of us.

No. We needn’t be distracted by Gashmiyus, materialism. We must always aspire to the higher spiritual plane of Ruchniyus. No matter where our physical bodies reside, even if in a four bedroom house that costs $1000 more a month than we should really be paying, we must aspire to raise our spiritual selves to the level of Hakadoshboruchhu. Because it is at that level that the Aimishteh monitors our actions, tracks our deeds, determines our rewards and punishment, and in general toys with our very existence as if we were small amphibians in the hands of a four year old child.

There is a famous machloikess in Mesechta Roish Hashashah that discusses the system whereby the Reboinoisheloilum tracks our every action and calculates Schar V’Oinesh, reward and punishment.

The Gemara cites a Braisah that states that according to Rabbi Akiva, Hakadoshboruchhu keeps track of individuals’ good deeds and sins in an Excel spreadsheet. Upon the commitment of a Mitzvah or an Aveirah, the Aimishteh, or His assistant Sally, enters a mark in a large spreadsheet. Says Rabbi Akiva, “the Reboinoisheloilum absolutely LOVES presenting a person’s Mitzvois in a pie chart because it reminds Him of the Lechem Hapanim.”

But, according to the Rabbi Yoise, Hakkadoshboruchhu uses an Access database. It is a simple tool that took Him just a few hours to learn, but now He loves to run reports on how Klal Yisroel is performing against the other Umois Ha’oilum.

However, Abaya quotes a different Braisah that quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying that the Aimishteh uses a robust SQL database that is open source. He used to use Access, but it crashed during the Mabul and He had to rebuild it from scratch. He is much more confident in His current system, which He and the Mal’achim can now access from any internet browser.

So how is this possible? We have an unbelievable Steerah! How can Rabbi Akiva have held two such conflicting positions? Which is the database that Rabbi Akiva actually holds is used by the Reboinoisheloilum??!!

But, the Gemara answers, this is not a problem. According to Rava, Kooley Alma Loi Pleegey, everyone agrees, that Hakadoshboruchhu uses an open source SQL database to track Schar V’Oinesh. So what are they arguing about? Says Rava, they are arguing about the operating system. According to Rabbi Akiva, Hakadoshboruchhu runs Windows, and He accesses the Schar V’Oinesh Database (SVO db [TM]) from a browser, though the actual SVO db is stored on a server in an offsite datacenter. And, adds Rabbi Akiva, every once in a while He will pull data into Excel to do some custom graphical reporting.

But according to Rabbi Yoise, the Aimishteh actually uses a powerful workstation running Linux, which also houses the SVO db. But not to worry, since the Reboinoisheloilum has a complex remote backup system, which ensures redundancy and 98% uptime. And, by the way, this is the same system that He uses to ensure world peace.

In such a beautiful Oilum, how can we think of anything besides Toirah? It is for this reason that we infuse Kiddushah into everything we do at any time and in any place. When we are at the Bais Medrish. When we are at work. And when we are at home. Because, as the Shulchan Aruch tells us, we have to remember that Hakadoshboruchhu is always in the room with us. He is always watching us. In short, He is a stalker. And the reason why the Shulchan Aruch tells us which shoe the Aimishteh wants us to put on first is because the Reboinoisheloilum also has a foot fetish.

However, children under the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah are exempt from Schar V’Oinesh because the Hakadoshboruchhu does not stalk them. Dude – that’s really weird, even for Him.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. The Vilna Goyn was once leading a rally against the Ba’al Shem Toiv, marching at the head of a crowd of hundreds of Misnagdim carrying torches, spears, and pitchforks. “Besht, you Minuval!” he called out in front of the castle where the Ba’al Shem Toiv was getting a makeover from three local homosexuals, “You are leading our people astray! If they follow your ways, they will become heretics!”

Suddenly, a small voice rang out from the middle of the mob. “But Reb Grah, what if the Besht’s ways lead members of Klal Yisroel to keep the mitzvois? Won’t that be better in eyes of the Reboinoisheloilum than if they become non-believers?”

The Goyn turned around to face the crowd. He called out, “Whoever made such a statement should step forward!” The crowd split and a very short young man stepped forward.” “What is your name, son?” the Goyn asked in a soft voice.

“Reuvain” the youth answered.

“Where are you from?”

“The town of Shklov.”

The Goyn suddenly raised his voice. “And is that where you learned that you should argue with the Gadol HaDor in front of an angry mob??!! Allow me to teach you a bit of Derech Eretz!” With that the Goyn thrust his pitchfork into the student’s body, impaling and disemboweling him in front of his hundreds of followers. “Score one point for our team!” he called out to the Misnagdisheh mob. “Now let’s go and find some Chassidic women and shave their heads!”

Rabboisai, we often feel like we are in a unique era of moral ambiguity. We often ask ourselves, “What should I do? What should I not do? What is the right thing to do in the eyes of the Aimishteh? How do I ensure my Schar in the Oilum Ha’Emes, or at least ensure that my Bashert doesn’t smash my head in with my SHAS while I am sleeping?”

When Klal Yisroel stood at Har Sinai and said “Na’aseh Va’Nishma” did it represent an eternal commitment, fixed in time and never changing? Some would say yes, but they would be disregarding the Eigel Ha’Zahav created by Aroin HaKoihain, the Minuval, when Moishe Rabbeinu hit a little traffic on the Cross Sinai Expressway. With that, Klal Yisroel’s eternal commitment was violated even before the ink could dry.

But Hakadoshboruchhu gave us another chance, and another chance, and another chance, over centuries and millennia. In between, he exiled us, and tortured us, and flayed the flesh of our faces, and burnt us in fire and sent us to the gas chamber. And yet we remain loyal to Him, and, we believe, He to us.
So it is clear that Klal Yisroel, and Yiddishkeit, are not chained to a single moment in time fixed at Sinai more than three thousand years ago that somehow becomes weaker and less relevant with the passing of each generation. On the contrary. Yiddishkeit seeks to renew and redefine our relationship with the Reboinoisheloilum in each generation. It is a living philosophy. Eitz Chayim Hee.

However, many of Klal Yisroel choose to see the Toirah as a dry, withering Sefer gathering dust in the back of the Bais Medrish. They prefer to focus on the type of fur that is halachically acceptable on a Shreimel, the proper religion of the Shiksa whose hair is used in a Sheytel, or the optimum height of the hilltop on the outskirts of Shechem on which to put up a trailer home. Or the minimum Shiyur that a wife must swallow in order to be called an “Eishess Chayill”. Yes, Rabboisai, some of you Mamzerim see the Toirah as a handcuff, rather than as a living Mikvah of insight.

Rabboisai, I invite you, my beloved Talmidim, to join me in diving into that Mikvah, to seek new sources of Toirah Truth. It will be a rewarding experience, and for an extra twenty bucks, Yankel the Mikvah attendant is sure to provide you with a happy ending.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Unity and Division in Klal Yisroel


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On Unity and Division in Klal Yisroel


Rabboisai.

I am writing a special Drasha for you this week in light of the current circumstances in Klal Yisroel.

I was eating a salad yesterday that I bought from a Glatt Koisher restaurant when I ran into one of my colleagues, Rabbi Herschel Schachter, who suggested that because there was broccoli in my salad, and broccoli may contain microscopic bugs, I am like Zimri Ben Salu HaShimoinee, leading to a perversion of Klal Yisroel. And only he, in the role akin to Pinchas Ben Eliezer, has the courage to halt my sinful actions by disemboweling me with a spear through my midriff.

I responded to Reb Herschel that by pointing out such an inconsequential Narishkeit, he is like Yeruvum Ben Nevat, splintering Israel into a separate communities, and in doing so is creating false idols reminiscent of the Kruvim on top of the Aroin HaKoidesh, only with larger Schvantzyls. And I suggested that Hakadoishboruchhu is destined to take His revenge on Reb Herschel and his male descendants, probably by ruining their Tzitzis in the washing machine and by making their Shmaasers wilt on Mitzvah night.

Rabboisai, we are living at a time when Achdus Yisroel Einenah, the unity of Israel is no more. Once upon a time Klal Yisroel stood united around Har Sinai to receive the Toirah from Hakadoshboruchhu. There was thunder. There was lightning. There was music. U2 opened, followed by Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Then came Lady Gaga and Lipa Shmeltzer. Then Joe Cocker and the Miami Boys Choir, followed by the Toronto Pirchei. And then Jimi Hendrix brought down the house with his psychedelic guitar rendition of "Zarah Chayah V’Kayamah".

After saying "Na'aseh V'Nishmah" Am Yisroel waited together for Moishe Rabbeinu to ascend the mountain, and stayed encamped at the base of Har Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. Klal Yisroel was connected as never before. Men learned Toirah all night. Women recited Tehilim. Kids played card games. The was hookah. Local Sinaitic Besomim were passed around, and lots of Leytzonois V’Simcha Dioraisa, A.K.A. LSD. Free love reigned. Six months later thousands of couples got married, Boruch Hashem. And three month after that thousands of babies were born, Kenayna Hurrah! It was a time of peace, love, and understanding, Man!!!

But not today. Look around at the divisiveness that defines Klal Yisroel:

The secular in Israel are trying to force their evil will upon the Ultra Orthodox by compelling the Chareidim to contribute to the State through participating in military or national service and pursuing employment. The Ultra Orthodox are resisting a change in the status quo and believe that due to their Toirah study and piety, they are entitled to have large families, be exempt from the army, refrain from secular education, and be supported by the State that most of them are ideologically opposed to.

The progressive Orthodox are trying to expand the role of women within traditional frames of reference, while the traditional Orthodox are opposed to innovation, and see such changes as outside the scope of tradition.

In Israel, the left seeks to make territorial concessions in exchange for a political arrangement with the Palestinians. The right seeks to preserve Jewish sovereignty over the traditional territories identified with ancient Israel.

We are at odds with each other as never before. There is tension. There is political debate. There are street demonstrations. There is name calling. And there are lots of discussions on Facebook, at least among the people who apparently have nothing better to do all day.

Is there not one thing we can all agree upon that unites us? Why cannot Klal Yisroel be perfectly united the way we were throughout our 4000 year history?

I mean... Of course throughout there might have been the occasional internal disagreement...

-- As noted above, the Kingdom of Israel in the north split from the Kingdom of Judah in the South. The Toirah suggests that political ambition led to the split. Biblical scholars suggest that the split resulted from exploitation, forced labor policies and other inequalities implemented by the HaMelech Shloimoih on the northern tribes of the Israelite confederation. I guess the wise King Solomon was not so Reboinoisheloilum-damned smart after all. And the Metzudas Tziyoin suggests that the north split off because they thought their cable bill was too high, plus they wanted a better selection of TV channels.

-- Within the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, there was an ongoing theological competition between the supporters of the Aimishteh, AKA Yahweh, and the supporters of the pagan pantheon. Even King Shlomo introduced idolatry into the Bais HaMikdash. But on the plus side, according to the Medrish Tanchuma, he also built a health club for the Koihanim within the Bais Hamikdash itself, which included cardio vascular equipment, a weight room, and a Svitz. But the Koihanim were always angry that they had to pay extra to use a trainer or get a massage.

-- Hillel must have thought that Shammai was a total ass. I mean, they disagreed on EVERYTHING, and Hillel typically won all the arguments. And yet, they sat together on the Sanhedrin as one of “The Pairs”, convening the institution on a daily basis. (A Yerushalmi in Brachois tells us that despite their differences, they were regular Sunday morning racquetball teammates, and they participated in a weekly poker game with Reb Elazar Ben Azariah, Elisha Ben Abuyah AKA Acher, and Ben Heyhey.)

-- Other famous “debaters” of the Talmidic period include Rabbi Yehuda and Reb Jose, Rav and Shmuel, and Abaya and Rava. To the best of my knowledge, none ever referred to the other as Koirach, although in a heated moment Rava did once say to Abaya, “hey, buddy, your wife looks like “a Persian howler monkey, and not one of the cute ones”.

-- RASHI, perhaps the penultimate commentary on the Toirah and a critical commentary on the Talmud, is ceaselessly debated and challenges by Toisfois, a broad school of scholars that followed in his footsteps in Western and Central Europe, some of who were his own grandsons. And did he express disappointment in their constant Minuvaldickah arguments on minutiae? Well, he might have, but he was dead. Kind of hard to debate or to deliver a Psak Halacha from the grave. Unless you are the Lubavitcher Rebber

-- The RAMBAN debates ceaselessly with the RAMBAM, considered by many to be the single most influential Jewish thinker since Jesus….errr…. since Rabbi Akiva.

And so on…

And what were these people debating about? Theoretical topics about the color of Moishe Rabbeinu’s Yarmulke? The number of goats that Yankif Avinu had? Whether the world is 6,000 years old or 6 billion years old? NO, YOU MECHUTZIFF! They were debating practical matters: What type of Tefillin should people wear -- RASHI or Rabbeinu Tam? What constitutes acceptable activities on Shabboskoidesh? What Bracha do you make on strawberry ice cream? Etc.

And in our own day we have considerable variation on core religious practices. For example:

-- Different Nusachichim of Davening/ variants of prayer – Between Ashkenaz, Sephard, Nusach Ari/ Lubavitch, Sephardi/ Edot HaMizrach, Roman, Yemenite

-- Yoim Toiv Shaynee Shel Goliyois versus one day of Yuntif in Eretz Yisroel

-- Chassidic practice versus Misnagdischeh practice

-- Kitniyois eaten by Sephardim

-- Gebruchts eaten by Misnagdim

So diversity is built into the culture of Klal Yisroel! There are different Minhagim. There are even different approached to Halachah. And to this the Gemarrah says, “Ilu V’Ilu Diverei Eloikim Chaim ”, alternate positions in a debate are all expressions of the living Reboinoisheloilum.

So if diversity is so inherent in our culture, why have contemporary debates deteriorated into pugilistic name calling and physical protests?

I am reminded of a Ma’aseh Shehoya. The Volna Goyn was once Davening for the Umid on the Yahrtzeit for his poodle. As he was about to recite Kedushah, a group of Chassidim came into the Shul to protest. The Gruh immediately stepped out of his Chazaras HaShatz and called the Czar’s police to arrest the Chassidim for loitering.

That night Hakadoshboruchhu came to him in a dream. “What did you have those Chassidim arrested?” asked the Aimishteh.

“Because they are perverting Your religion” replied the Gruh.

“MY RELIGION!?” screamed the Reboinoisheloilum. “Dude, I am a Hindu, for My-sakes. Plus I love the Payis.”

And from that day forth, the Goyn stopped persecuting the Chassidim and started persecuting the Reformed.

Rather than focusing on issues of true importance, the Jewish community has become self-absorbed as never before. Perhaps the existence of a modern State of Israel has exacerbated a hunger for political and economic power. Perhaps the advent of news and social media has created a quest on the part of some for controlling ideas, beliefs, and practices.

But we are not a group of former slaves camped out at Har Sinai waiting for the Good Word from On High. We have the power to think for ourselves. The Jewish ghetto of Eastern Europe is no more. And those that try to recreate it in our modern society are bound to fail, because there is not now, nor has there ever been, a singular Jewish doctrine. “Toirah Lo BaShamayim Hee.” “Ilu V’Ilu Diverei Eloikim Chaim.”

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, January 08, 2015

On Optimism and Shivas Tziyon (The Return To Zion)

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On Optimism and Shivas Tziyon (The Return To Zion)


Rabboisai,

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

To what is this phenomenon comparable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Parshas Vayigash


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Parshas Vayigash

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayigash, we read of the culmination of the Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, where Yoisaiph Hatzadick exposes himself to his brothers, as well as to numerous underage bystanders.

Not long after, of course, Yankif Avinu is told that his beloved son Yoisaiph is indeed alive, ending his years of mourning. The Toirah is silent about how the wonderful news is told to Yankif. However, a famous Medrish tells us that the news was gently broken to Yankif by his granddaughter, Serach Bas Asher.

Serach Bas Asher was respected amongst her family as a talented singer and a musician. The Shfatim were concerned that breaking the news outright to Yankif would cause him to have a heart attack. So instead, they employed Serach to gently sing to her grandfather while playing the harp, and embed in her song the news that Yoisaiph was alive. The Medrish goes on to say that Serach’s reward for performing this great expression of Kibud Av VaAim was eternal life.

Unfortunately for Serach, her gift of eternal life was not accompanied by a matching gift of a trust fund or a professionally managed pension fund to support her financially. Consequently, she was dirt poor, and had to spend the next thousand years working as an exotic dancer in a Mesopotamian strip club.

Whatever became of Serach Bas Asher? There is a famous machloikess on this topic in a Gemarrah in Megillah.

-- According to Abaya, Serach prayed for the Reboinoisheloilum to end her life as she witnessed the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash and the descent of Klal Yisroel into the Babylonian exile.

-- According to Rava, Serach lived though Golus Bavel, returned to Eretz Yisroel with Ezra and Nechemia, and lived for several hundred more years. But as Sinas Chinum overtook Klal Yisroel in the years before the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, Serach could no longer withstand her role as eyewitness to all of Jewish history, and prayed to the Aimishteh to be taken to the Oilum HaEmmes.

-- However, according to Rav Shayshess, Serach Bas Asher is indeed still alive, and is currently living in Wisconsin, running an online porn site, SerachWILD.Com.

-- Rav Puppa concurs that Serach is still alive, but he insists that she is neither engaging in pornography, Chass V’Sholom, nor living in obscurity. Farkhert, he holds that she is leveraging her years of wisdom and experience to make the Reboinoisheloilum’s world a better place by engaging in public service, and is none other than Hillary Clinton. In addition, Rav Puppa holds that Joe Biden is really Culaiv Ben Yefuneh, Barack Oibama is actually Shloimoi Hamelech, and John Boehner is in reality Yeruvum Ben Nevut.

A different Gemarrah in Shabbos focuses on Yankif Avinu’s response to the revelation of Yoisaiph’s whereabouts. According to Rav Chisda, upon hearing the news that Yoisaiph was alive, Yankif looked up to Shamayim and recited Hallel “at having lived to see the handiwork of the Etzbah Eloikim.” However, according to Rabba Bar Bar Channa, Yankif Avinu first looked down to the floor and took a moment to reflect on the enormity of the information. Then he turned around and bitch-slapped Yissaschar and Zevulun in the head, and then kicked Naftali in the Schvantzlach.

RASHI, however, is not at all troubled by the confusion raised by the total lack of any real information in theis story. He states in Perek Chuff Baiz, Passuk Yud Aleph that the entire Parsha of Vayigash should not be taken literally anyway, but should be read as a complete metaphor… for Parshas Miketz, which makes even less sense than Parshas Vayigash. Consequently, every year at this time, to coincide with Chanukah, RASHI would take a break from writing his commentary and travel abroad to sample the new wines being developed in Sonoma County. He would stay at a boutique hotel in downtown San Francisco and take day trips to the wineries where he would drink enough, he writes, “until I can no longer tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabarnet, or between a woman names Chris and a cross-dresser named Christine.” Shoyn.

As we sit here in our modern world, how are we to relate to the entire Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, and, in fact, to the entire Yankif Avinu cycle? Did we even need the brave actions of Yoisaph Hatzadick to begin with? Would we not have been better off had Klal Yisroel not descended to Egypt? Why did Hakkadoshboruchhu have to put our ancestors through hundreds of years of suffering the stinging horrors and humiliations of slavery, only to return to Eretz Yisroel through bitter conquest? Could we not have just stayed there in the first place and survived the famine by taking government subsidies?

Indeed, this is a reflection of a broader existential quandary – linked to one of the ultimate questions facing Klal Yisroel: Why is our history so twisted and tinged with challenge and tragedy? If we are indeed the Aimishteh’s chosen people, could we not have had it a bit easier, like, say, the Norwegians? Who is at fault for our having such a convoluted and tortured fate?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Katski, this is indeed the fault of Hakadoshboruchhu Himself, Bichvoidoi UbiAtzmoi. He points to the Akeidah and notes that just as Yitzchak’s life is spared when a lost little lamb is sacrificed in his stead, the Reboinoisheloilum constantly looks at the world, is tempted to destroy it, remembers His oath to Noiach, and then uses Klal Yisroel as His punching bag to take out His frustrations.

Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah holds farkhert. According to Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah, the eternal fate of Klal Yisroel is of course not the Aimishteh’s fault! He loves us the same way a child lives his pet hamster. Rather, we should really blame all the ills of our lives on our parents: If they had only loved us a little more as we were children, and bought us that thing that we really wanted, and let us watch a little more TV, and helped us more with out homework, and not favored our younger brother, and had been less critical of our bisomim smoking friends, we would have been better adjusted and had all the needed confidence to succeed in our lives' endeavors. Yes, it is our parents who are at fault for the failure of our going down to Egypt, for us being exiled, and for all of our other failings. Indeed, the fact that we are 3,000 years old, still wet our beds, suck our thumbs, and are always looking for a handout proves that our parents never really cared about us!

However, according to the Reb Bezalel Kupkayk, our eternal fate is the fault of neither Hakadoshboruchhu nor of our parents. Rather, it is the fault of the liberal media. Case in point: Did we really have to know that Yoisaiph had actually been sold into slavery by his brothers, who then lied to Yankif Avinu and maintained the lie for the next two decades? Is it that big a deal? Every nation has its little internal arguments, and exposing this disagreement only plays into the hands of the Anti-Semites!

Similarly, we would never have been exiled from Eretz Yisroel if the liberal media was not always talking about how corrupt the kings of Israel were. They should really love the country, otherwise they should keep their mouths shut. Did the liberal media need to tell us that idolatry was introduced into the Bais Hamikdash by Shloimoi HaMelech and most of the other kings of Malchus Yehuda? These were a few isolated events, blown totally out of proportion. And so what if there were poor members of Klal Yisroel being ignored by their fellow man -- they were probably illegal immigrants anyway. And so what if there were widows and orphans -- they should have planned better for the future!

Yes, it was the liberal media that undermined the position of Malchis Bais David, the Malchus of the Chashmonaim, and later, the leadership of the Nasi in the post Temple period. Media vehicles such as CNN, ABC, National Public Radio, Kol Yisroel, Israel's Channel 10, Shmuel Aleph and Baiz, Melachim Aleph and Baiz, Yishayahu, Yirmiyahu and the other prophets, as well as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. By the actions of the liberal media, our enemies have been strengthened and given constant reason to hate us and persecute us. Reboinoisheloilum-Damned-Liberal-Media!

I am reminded of a famous Machloikess in the medieval period. The RIF and the RAN got into a disagreement with the RALBAG and the RITVAH over who had the bigger shtender, Moishe Rabbeinu or Aaroin HaKoihain, the minuval. The RIF and the RAN insist that Moishe’s shtender was bigger, as we are told that Moishe was the greatest Navi that ever lived, and how can you imagine a Navi with an inferior shtender? The RALBAG and the RITVAH, however, refer to the fact that the descendents of Aharoin HaKoihain received the Kehunah as proof that Aharoin had a bigger shtender. After all, they argue, “only someone with a groisse shtender could have earned the right to appoint his descendants to the institutional leadership of future generations."

I would like to suggest a different approach. LeOilum, this debate isn’t really about the size of one's shtender. After all, size doesn’t matter, or so my Bashert, Feige Breineh, frequently reassures me. Rather, it is the scope of one’s influence that really counts. Moishe Rabbeinu was the greatest Navi, but his descendants were more interested in learning Toirah, and less focused on addressing the everyday needs of Klal Yisroel. By contrast, Aroin Hakoihain was indeed a minuval, what, with the designing of the Eigel and speaking Rechilus about Moishe. Yet his children were committed to serving Klal Yisroel, even if that meant giving of their private time, sacrificing commitments to their children, violating their marital vows, or taking of the collected wealth of Klal Yisroel. As a result, through their actions, they established the paradigm of the future religious leadership of Klal Yisroel.

Similarly, Yoisaiph Hatzadick and the cycle of stories that surround him do not represent some perfect era of Klal Yisroel’s history. On the contrary, they tell us that the nature of the relationship between Klal Yisroel and the Reboinoisheloilum is not at all clear. In fact, it is downright convoluted. Yet, what is crystal clear from the story of Yoisaiph is that the will of Hakkadoshboruchhu is best served when we hide our own identities, marry shiksas, work for the goyim, and abuse our brethren. Only then can we be in a strong position to help bring about the Geulah Shlaimah for all of Klal Yisroel. Bimayra BiYamainu. Umayn.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess