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Thursday, May 21, 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

Shavuois Drasha


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Shavuois Drasha


On this holiday, the Yuntif of Shavuois, we celebrate two things: the giving of the Toirah by the Aimishteh, and lactose intolerance.

Why do we stay up all night to learn Toirah -- also known as Tikkun Layl Shavuois? According to RASHI, we do this to commemorate the fact that Klal Yisroel stood earnestly at the bottom of Har Sinai as Moishe Rabbeinu met the Reboinoisheloilum face to face at the top of the mountain, and all that could be heard were bolts of lightning, claps of thunder, the rustle of the wind, and the sounds of concessionaires looking to make a buck: "Hot dogs, get your kosher hot dogs!" "Get your program -- Mattan Toirah commemorative program!" "Bring home a stuffed Toirah to you kids! One of a kind! They'll never be available again!"

But according to the Bais Yoiseph, Shavuois is essentially a test of Klal Yisroel's commitment to Toirah values. And to celebrate this, we stay up all night to study for the test.

And as you stay up all night, you had better pay attention. A braisah in Bubba Basra tells a story of the Tannah Kamma, who was learning all night in the Bais Medrish with his students. Suddenly, one of the Talmidim pointed out the window and said, "Look -- it is light outside. It is time to recite the Keriyas Shma!" The Tannah Kammah, with a very serious look on his face, rushed over to the window where his student was standing, grabbed him by the ear, and twisted it until it started to bleed. "Stop looking out the window during my Shiur, you Schmendrick!" the Tannah Kamma declared. He then forced the student to recite Pesukai Dezimrah in front of the congregation for a week.

The RADAK has a beautiful interpretation of Tikkun Layl Shavuois, which takes a completely different approach. According to the RADAK, Shavuois night gives us the opportunity to initiate an extramarital affair, continue it over the summer while your family is away in the bungalow colony, and break it off just in time to repent on Rosh Hashana.

As proof, the RADAK cites a Medrish in the Medrish Tanchumah that tells how Rabbi Akiva used to "visit" the wives of his Talmidim at their homes on Shavuois night, while the Talmidim were up all night listening to a Shiur delivered by his assistant rabbi on exactly which shoe to put on first every morning.

But what does all of this have to do with eating dairy? In a Gemarrah in Maseches Soitah, Abaya suggests that we eat dairy Lehachis, because it is almost summer and the Goyim have all started to barbecue in their backyards and WE DO NOT ACT LIKE THE GOYIM, CHASS V"SHOLOM!!!

Rava disagrees. He suggests that we eat dairy to commemorate the miracle of Yehudis killing an enemy general by seducing him, giving him salty cheese to make him thirsty, getting him drunk, and then cutting his head off. (On this itself there is a disagreement of interpretation. RASHI holds that the general was killed because he was an enemy of the Jews; but TOISFOIS holds that Yehudis killed the general because he left her "unsatisfied" at the end of their encounter, if you know what I mean. Rachmanah letzlan.)

But according to the Brisker Ruv, there is actually a direct correlation between the receiving of the Toirah at Har Sinai and our preference for dairy on the holiday. 3500 years ago our ancestors longingly stood at Har Sinai, as Moishe ascended the mountain to receive the Toirah from the Reboinoisheloilum. As the time whiled away and Moishe did not return, the Jews began to panic. To help resolve the crisis, Moishe's minuval brother, Aron Hacoihain, demonstrated his loyalty by inciting Klal Yisroel to worship the Eigel. In other words, just as they were receiving the Toirah, the Jews were immediately rejecting it.

Was it that they were inherently evil? Was it that they didn't understand its significance? Was it that they were ungrateful, "stiff-necked" good-for-nothings like you, you Am Ha'aretz? No! They really wanted the Torah, but they found it too much to handle. Indeed, they craved it, looked forward to it, and viewed it as the capstone, the "dessert" if you will, of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt. But, alas, they found it difficult to digest. Sadly, this is how many of us are with dairy products. And therefore, to commemorate our experiences at Mattan Toirah, we eat blintzes, cheesecake, and all things dairy.

But we should look at this as a blessing, not a curse. After all, if we eat some nice, light dairy meals, along with a small salad, we might lose a couple of pounds, which will put us in a better position to keep up that affair all summer long.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, May 15, 2015

Parshas B-Har


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Parshas B-Har

In this week's parsha we learn of various laws regarding Shmita and Yovel, the Sabbatical and Jubillee years. At the root is the issue of property ownership. All property ownership is temporary -- land in Eretz HaKoidesh may only be sold temporarily; it can never be truly owned. As well, slaves are never truly owned -- they go free at Yovel. You cannot charge interest when lending money. Etc.

RASHI asks: Is this really Toras Moishe? What's pshat you can't charge interest? Next thing you know, we won't be able to use fresh gentile baby's blood in our matzoh!

According to the RAMBAN, all these laws prove that the Reboinoishelolum is really a Communist. To illustrate his point, he interprets Yetzias Mitzrayim as the first instance in the history of the world where the proletariat masses overthrow the bougious minority ruling class in legitimate political struggle of class vs. class.

But the Bais Yoiseph scoffs at the suggestion. He says that, farkhert, the Aimishteh's business model requires that property keeps on reverting to its original owner in order to encourage turnover of real estate and a constant cash flow stream from brokers fees. And He discourages interest simply because He favors equity over debt instruments.

Ironically, as the Toirah discusses Shmita, it uses the term "Shabbos Shabbosoin" -- a term used elsewhere in the Toirah only in reference to Yoim Kippur. According to the Zohar, in the realm of the Ayn Sof, the Kabbalistic term for the unknowable aspects of the Aimishteh, one year in the human realm culminating in Aseres Yemai Teshuvah equals the seven year cycle of the earth ending in Shmita.

This was erroniously intepreted by the false messiah Shabtai Zvi as equating earth years and dog years, and the reason he insisted that his followers eat Alpo immediately following Kol Nidrei. However, the true accepted interpretation was offered by the MAHARAL, who suggested that just as we walk around starving on Yoim Kippur and pray for a good year, during Shmita we should walk around starving and pray for reasonable prices on imported produce.

On a simpler level, we practice our own form of Shmita every week with our celebrating Shabbos Koidesh on the seventh day. The common theme, of course, is the commandment to refrain from any sort of commerce. Once a week we commit not to participate in commercial activity, or even activity which APPEARS to be commerce, such as giving gifts. And, as is well known, when all of Klal Yisroel celebrates one Shabbos completely, Moshiach will come.

Yet according to the Ari Zahl, the Moshiach has not yet come for one reason and one reason alone: The violation of commerce on Shabbos is transgressed in every shul in the world by one person who is single-handedly responsible for keeping us all in the golus -- the shul candy man.

Note the sins and temptations he brings on all Klal Yisroel:

- He insults the very authority of the Reboinoisheloilum. What child wouldn't rather have a sucking candy than listen to a crackly-voiced bar-mitvah bochur or self-absorbed amateur Chazzan? And when did you ever see one of those rotten kids make a bracha?

- He entices children to worship idols. Indeed, lollipops become their own form of Avoidah Zarah, especially when they bear the pictures of Disney characters. And Gummi Bears? The are the modern equivalent of the Eigel!

- He entices children to participate in multiple violations on Shabbos: He engages them in commerce-like activity on Shabbos. He causes children to seperate good candy from bad, an issur Diyoraisa of borer. He causes children to tear candy wrappers. Etc.

- He causes children to disrespect their parents, since they never observe the candy consumption limits put before them.

- Children often steal to get more candy. They lie. They covet ("I don't want my blue lollipop, I want her red lollipop")

In short -- with his devious, seemingly benign presence, the candyman causes children to violate five of the Ten Commandments every Shabbos.

What is the source of this evil incarnate? First of all, in 96% of all shuls, the candyman is older than the Aimishteh himself. On a visit to the Shtetl in Detroit, I once met a shul candyman named Junior -- he was 72 years old. Second of all, what does he want from these little boys and girls anyway? He is likely a pervert. Or even worse, a fundraiser.

The Ari proved through Kabbalistic sources that the candyman is actually the agent the Sutun. This is implied by the other principle sin he causes the children to commit: eating traifus. Ask yourself: Is the candy really kosher? How do you know? According to a medrish in Bubba Basra, Acher, before completely abandoning the faith, started out by eating Skittles.

And just like Acher, the candy man sees his actions as the opportunity to plant the seeds of evil in the neshamas of unsuspecting children. He knows that thirty years in the future, those children, all grown up, won't remember the Rabbi's speech or the Chazzan's davening. They'll fondly recall that Charms lollipop they once ate in shul, as they drive up on Friday night to the takeout window at the drive-through McDonalds to pick up Shabbos dinner.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, May 07, 2015

NEW -- On Intellectual Consistency and the Moral Compass


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On Intellectual Consistency and the Moral Compass



Rabboisai,

I come to you in great humility, as I have been too distracted to prepare a proper Drasha this week because I have been busy raising money for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Yes, Hillary is fixated on her own sense of entitlement. Yes, she unilaterally decided to manage her own e-mail private e-mail server while Secretary of State, thereby bypassing the checks and balances of transparency that we all expect from a public servant. Yes, Hillary allowed her lawyers to unilaterally erase tens of thousands of said e-mails. Yes, Hillary disregarded the agreement she entered with the Obama administration about making transparent all foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. Yes, the Clinton Foundation apparently did not accurately report all donations. Despite all of this, I am raising money for Hillary. That is because I am hoping that once Hillary becomes president I will be appointed Ambassador to Israel, so I can issue a formal protest over the efforts to force the Ultra Orthodox to serve in the military, instead of learning Toirah Yoimum V’Laylah, day and night.

This is indeed a burning issue for our community throughout history, and it has been the subject not only of debate, but of action as well.

In a Mishnah in Kesubois, Rabbi Meir points out the Passook from the Toirah that tells us that newly married husbands are exempt from military service. Rav Papa cites a Braisah that notes that Rabbi Meir, to avoid military service himself, would marry a different woman every two weeks, and that by the age of 30, he was the most successful pimp in all of the Gallilee. A Tosefta in Yevamois refers to Rabbi Meyer as having gold teeth and frequently pronouncing to the Sanhedrin, “I treat my bitches well”.

Rabbi Sheyshess discusses how in Babylon, rabbinical students were officially exempt from the local military draft. Consequently, several "Yeshivas" were created in Sura and Pumbedisa so that Buchrim could avoid serving in the army. In fact, many of the Buchrim even received Smicha, rabbinic ordination, even though they were not even capable of changing a light bulb by themselves.

However, there is a beautiful Medrish in Esther Rabbah that brings down the story of Reb Ari, who actually joined the military in order to avoid becoming a rabbi. He ultimately succeeded in assassinating Osama Bin Laden by arranging a meeting with him under the pretense of getting Bin Laden to autograph his military issued Bible, which he then used to bash Bin Ladin's skull in. Reb Ari ultimately received Smicha and the title "Rabbi", not because he studied for years in Yeshiva, but because there was a screw up in the Veterans' Administration benefits department that administered the GI bill. VeHameivin Yavin.

These stories go to the heart of the real life complexity facing many of us: How do we relate to people who demonstrate attitudes and behaviors that conflict with some of our principles, yet align with others of our principles? For example:

- How can a Democrat who believes in transparency and honest government possibly vote for Hillary Clinton?

- How can a Republican who believes in decreasing the role of government in our everyday lives favor policies that provide profitable companies with billions of dollars in government hand outs, advocate a constitutional amendment that institutionalizes prayer in schools, and propose various laws that seek to legislate which sexual positions are legal in the states south of the Mississippi River on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?

- How can many Orthodox Jews favor a strong Israeli military, an expansionist territorial policy which includes the retention of the West Bank and the reconquering of Gaza, while at the same time be opposed to able bodied Ultra Orthodox young men serving in the army because they have to study the proper ways to slaughter a goat and sprinkle its blood in a building destroyed nearly two thousand years ago, or have to learn to calculate whether a full moon seen at dusk in Jerusalem on a Tuesday should impact the ingredients in Zchhhhhhug being made in Yemen two days later?

- How can many rabbis and lay leaders, who present themselves as paragons of morality, look the other way when reality becomes inconvenient, say... When a fellow rabbi or community stalwart is accused of sexually abusing a child? For example, how is it that Rabbi Yisroel Belsky remains the #2 Posayk in the Orthodox Union (the OU), even though he supported - and continues to support - the convicted child molester Yosef Kolko in Lakewood, even participating in the persecution of the victim and his family. Are we to assume that the OU itself tolerates sexual abuse of minors? If yes, is that information known to Drakes, Entenmanns, Kelloggs, General Mills, Coca Cola, Heinz and the myriad other manufacturers of food products targeted at children certified by the OU?

What's Pshat, you Menuval?

Rabboisai, such questions are the pondering of the pure-at-heart, people who see the world as we would like to see it, versus the world as it really is. The fact that you would even ask such questions shows that you have a moral compass. And if you do not ask such questions, I suggest you stop reading this Drasha right now and go perform an act of Metzitza BiPeh on yourself.

------

Rabboisai, one of the key lessons of the Toirah, not necessarily how it is written in Toirah SheBichsav – the Written Law, but how it is interpreted in Toirah SheBaal Peh – the Rabbinic Oral Tradition, is the purist approach to the great figures of the Toirah.

When we discuss Avraham Avinu, we do not think about the sadist who was prepared to slaughter his own son, or the heartless man who sent his other son and concubine to die in the hot desert. Farkert! We think of the “institutional founder” of the monotheistic tradition upon which Yiddishkeit is based. We think of the man who haggled with Hakadoshboruchhu to find even one worthy man in order to save a city from destruction. We think of the man who displayed his faithfulness to the Reboinoisheloilum through his willingness to sacrifice his own son. That’s right; we do not think of Avraham Avinu as a living, breathing, multi-faceted human being. Rather, we think of him as a naïve schmuck.

Similarly, when we think of Yankif Avinu, we do not think of him as a man who deceived his father and stole his birthright from his brother. We do not focus on the man conned by his father-in-law into marrying the colluding sister-wives, or the inept father who could neither see through the lies surrounding his son’s disappearance nor protect his daughter from being raped nor prevent the brutal revenge on an entire town of mostly innocents by his bloodthirsty sons. No. Through the lens of CHAZAL we picture Yankif as the ultimate Tzaddik, a righteous man, who spent fourteen years studying Toirah in the mythical Yeshivas Shaym V’Eyver and fathered the nation that is Israel. We picture him as the paradigmatic Chassidishe male, Kleinah Shmaaser and all. (Note: According to Beraishis Rabbah, Eisav HaRasha was a Litvak Misnagid, which means he was hung like Bilaam’s oversized donkey.)

We can say the same for Aroin HaKoihain, the Minuval, who initiated the Eigel HaZahav, yet is celebrated at the father of the priestly line of Israel. We can say the same about Duvid HaMelech, “Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King”(1), whose murderous and adulterous crimes are forgotten as he is presented as the founder of the Aimishteh’s chosen monarchy.

And so on.

What motivated CHAZAL to retell the stories, all of which are readily available for us to read, in a way that exaggerates the good and ignores the bad of these Biblical figures? Could it be that CHAZAL thought us stupid? Or could it be that CHAZAL themselves spent a bit too much time smoking Besomim out of a Babylonian Hookah?

I would like you to think about that for a while, you Mechutziff. I have to go make Mei Raglayim, and will return to my Drasha in a moment.

------

Ok. I just recited Asher Yatzer. Please say “Amein”.

------

Now, where were we? Oh, yes. Why did CHAZAL recast flawed, three dimensional, very human Biblical figures as two dimensional heroes?

I would like to suggest that CHAZAL were not simply driven by an urge to rewrite historical tradition. Rather, they were using familiar cultural figures to craft a vision of “the world as we would like to see it, versus the world as it really is.” They were trying to model for us optimal behaviors in dimensions such as leadership, religious observance, loyalty and faith, so that we would know that in a world of conflicting needs and desires, we must aspire to a set of moral principles that define our behavior. This was not specifically an effort to inspire Halachic observance; rather, this was an effort to instill Jewish society and culture with a moral compass.

So when we are troubled by inconsistencies in behaviors, the lying, the hypocrisies, and the cover ups, we should not view ourselves as naïve and doe eyed and unrealistic and unwilling to compromise. We are inspired by the teachings of CHAZAL, by the moral compass embedded in Jewish culture. Judaism is not simplistically defined by Halacha; Yisroel Belsky strictly follows Halacha, yet he defends a pedophile. On the contrary. Judaism is defined by its moral compass, that tells us,

“Bring no more vain oblations; it is an offering of abomination unto Me; New Moon and Sabbath, the holding of convocations--I cannot endure iniquity along with the solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed seasons My soul hateth; they are a burden unto Me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.

“Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.“ (Isaiah, Perek Aleph, Psookim Yud Gimmel – Yud Zayin)

So fret not, my Beloved Talmidim and Talmidois, when you are disturbed by the intellectual inconsistencies of politicians and other public figures, religious institutions, and simple, regular people. There is nothing wrong with you. They are the assholes.

You aspire to the loyalty and integrity envisioned by CHAZAL. You aspire to an ideal perfection. You aspire to be the Goy Kadosh, the Holy Nation, and to be the Ohr LaGoyim, the Light Unto The Nations.

As is well known, Hillel HaZakeyn was once approached by a Roman and was asked to summarize the teaching of the Toirah on one foot. Without hesitation, he replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another: this is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary” (Maseches Shabbos, Daf 31, Amud Aleph, Talmud Babli). This fundamental teaching echoes the words of the Passook, “VeAhavta LeReyachah KaMoichah”, “Love thy neighbor as you would love yourself” (Sefer VaYikrah, Perek Yud Tess, Passook Yud Chess).

To put it is modern parlance, the clear message of the Toirah – both Toirah SheBichasav and ESPECIALLY Toirah SheBaal Peh, through the teaching of CHAZAL: “Thou Shalt Not Be An Asshole”.

The world is full of assholes, in politics, within the religious community, and in everyday life. But the essence of Judaism is to NOT be an asshole, to stand up to assholes, and to call out assholes when they are being assholes.

What would a world without assholes look like? Some would call it morally and intellectually consistent. Some would call it a time of peace. I would call it Yemei HaMashiach, the Messianic era.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval



(1) A reference to a great work of Biblical scholarship, “David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King” by Baruch Halpern (Bible in Its World) Paperback – November 12, 2003



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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess