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Friday, October 24, 2014

On Living in the Image of the Divine

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On Living in the Image of the Divine


Moideh Ani Lifanecha Melech Chai VeKayam SheHechezarta Bi Nishmasi BiChemla Rabbah Emunasecha.

Thank you Reboinoisheloilum for returning me to normal life, after many weeks of intense interruption caused by the Yoimim Toivim that left me of the brink of being fired for missing so many days of work, for breaking my normal regimen, and for distracting all of my beloved donors… err … Talmidim from writing me checks… err… doing Mitzvois and supporting Limud Toirah.

Rabboisai,

I was delighted to hear Parshas Beraishis last week as we read that humankind, all of humanity, was created Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine. What does that mean?

According to Abaya, being created Betzelem Eloykim means that we were created very tall, very smart, very good looking, with the most beautiful perfectly curled Payis that one could ever imagine.

According to Rava, being created Betzelem Eloykim means that we were created to be intense and unpredictable, one day loving our children, and the next day smiting them with a plague or two, or a Schtickel famine. One day we speak of our undying commitment to our “bride” Klal Yisroel, and the next day we cut up her credit card, take away her car keys, and trade her to the Babylonians for $50,000 in cash, a utility infielder, and a nation to be named later.

But according to Rav Ashi, Abaya and Rava spent too much time at the “bummy” Shul and drank too many shots at Kiddush. Says Rav Ashi, mankind was created Betzelem Eloykim in the sense that we, mankind, were given free will. Unlike the plants and the animals, the other living inhabitants of this earth, we are not trapped to fulfill a very basic purpose as part of an ecosystem: To capture sunlight and convert it into energy, likely a plant. To consume plants in order to survive, like an herbivore. Or to eat herbivores while the National Geographic or Discovery Network cameras are rolling, like a carnivore. No, we have a purpose beyond our basic material needs. We have large brains. We have logic that allows us to exceed our animalistic kill-or-be-killed nature. We have opposable thumbs, and tools. We have writing and communications. We have the Internet. We have NPR. We have Sitcoms. We have Netflix. And some of us even have the Toirah.

We have the ability to build airplanes and grand buildings and write poetry and perform scientific research. We have the ability to do good deeds and help others. But we also have the ability to lie and cheat and steal. And kill. We have the ability to wage war against the guilty and the innocent, and to murder on an industrial scale.

And how do we determine what to do, as individuals, as part of a community, or as part of society as a whole? We have free will. Betzelem Eloykim.

Shoyn.

It is no coincidence that we read Parshas Beraishis following the long cycle of the Yumim Toivim, including Roish Hashanah and Yoim Kippur. On these days, and throughout the entire Aseres Yemai Teshivah, we ask Hakadoshboruchhu for acceptance, despite our inherently imperfect human natures. And why should He listen to us? “Kee Anu Amecha, VeAtta Eloykaynu; Anu Banecha, VeAtta Avinu.” “Because we are Your nation, and You are our Lord; We are Your children, and You are our father.” We are human beings. We do not always live up to the Reboinoishloilum’s expectations. But nevertheless we want Him, we pray to Him, to accept us as we are. We are complex. We are not all alike. We have diverse human natures and preferences and habits. Why? Because we have free choice. Because we were created Betzelem Eloykim.

And where does free will manifest itself? Well I am hungry right now, and I can decide to go to the kosher pizza place around the corner, have two slices and a coke, for the total price of $25. Or I can walk three blocks to McDonalds, Chass V’Sholom, and feed myself, my wife, my children, and my Einiklach, for the same $25. I can chose to keep Shabboskoidesh. Or I can desecrate Shabboskoidesh, violating the Word of Hakadoishboruchhu and risk really pissing Him off by turning on a light switch, Rachmuna Litzlan. I can choose to go to sleep at night by counting sheep (Hoyshiyah. Esss.. Amecha.. U’Varaiych…….. Esss……….. .ZZZZZZZ), or I can put myself to sleep by kneading the challah while thinking about Miley Cyrus, Claire Danes, George Clooney, or Rabbi Shmuley Boiteach, if you know what I mean.

But all of these examples are Bain Adam LaMakoim; They relate to religious commandments, rules and customs between man and the Aimishteh. But what of Bain Adam LeChaveiroi, actions that are between man and his fellow man? Whether they are actions dictated by the Toirah, or common rules of basic humanity, of society? Again, we are guided by our fundamental nature of being created Betzelem Eloykim. We have free will. We have free choice.

Rabboisai, when we look at the Eseres Hadibrois, the Ten Commandments, it is easy to discern that they are roughly divided between Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, and Mitzvois Bain Adam LeChaveiroi. Klal Yisroel has the Toirah NOT ONLY to teach us how to relate to the Divine, but also to teach us the proper ways to engage with our fellow man. Kabayd Ess Avicha ViEss Imecha – Respect your father and your mother. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not covet the spouse of another. Do not covet the property of another. These are the basic foundations of a functional society.

One need not be a Chassidic Rebbe or a Rosheshiva (like me) or a Rebbetzin with a three thousand dollar Sheytel, or even to believe in an anthropomorphic Reboinoisheloilum who engages with humankind though history in order to appreciate the centrality of these basic societal laws. Yes, even an Am Haaretz like you, my beloved Talmid, understands that if we do not answer to a basic human moral compass, all of society will break down. And one need only look 70 or 80 years back in our collective Jewish history to understand what happens when all of society breaks down – when there is confiscation of assets and enslavement and forced division of families and rape and medical experiments on human beings and gas chambers and mass murder. Klal Yisroel, of all Peoples, understands the importance of an orderly and just society.

But let us say, for arguments sake, that all of society does break down? What happens? Well, as we know from Parshas Noiach, Hakadoshboruchhu was once so disgusted, He decided to destroy the whole world, save Noiach, his family, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary-Anne, and two of every kind of animal. But in the aftermath of the Mabul, the Great Flood, the Aimishteh makes a treaty and a vow never to destroy the world again. The Reboinoishloilum exercises His free choice to create the world. And then destroys the world. And then ultimately pledges to never destroy the world again.

Humankind may be flawed. Humanity may not always live up to Hakadoshboruchhu’s plans, but He is fundamentally committed to tolerance and acceptance. “Kee Anu Amecha, VeAtta Eloykaynu; Anu Banecha, VeAtta Avinu.”

----

Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. There is a plague impacting pockets of the Orthodox community.

In the past week and a half, the Orthodox world was shocked to learn of the depravity of Barry Freundel, a prominent rabbi in Washington DC known for his intellect, his leadership on conversions, and his conservative stances against both the Open Orthodoxy movement and acceptance of homosexuals within Orthodoxy (advocating "reparative therapy", which is considered by many to be a dangerous form of abuse and an expression of human ignorance). This same "rabbi", who has held key regional and national Jewish leadership roles, a man who has lectured in some of the finest academic institutions in the world, was discovered to be a sadistic pervert, and an abuser of the weak. In addition to having been found to have been videotaping women showering and preparing for immersing in the Mikvah, he is also reported to have exploited prospective converts by forcing them to do clerical and other labor in his home. And he is suspected of sexually exploiting vulnerable converts.

Looking at the arrest of the high profile Barry Freundel, it is hard not to recall other recent scandals that have plagued Orthodoxy of late among other prominent figures: Michael Broyde (not a sex crime); Moti Elon, a nationally prominent Dati Leumi figure in Israel. And Yisroel Belsky -- a man who persecuted a sexual abuse victim and his family, in a crime where the accused ultimately pleaded guilty, and yet he remains the #2 Kashrus expert in the OU, the largest and most prolific global professional Jewish organization. Why are so many prominent leaders caught up in the worst scandals possible, all violations of Bain Adam LeChaveiroi?

Also, during this past week and a half, Joey Deangelo (born Yoel Deutsch), a victim of sexual abuse in a Satmar mikvah at the age of seven, was put to eternal rest, following what was either a suicide or an accidental drug overdose. Joey was an outspoken advocate for victims, and was shunned by much of his own family. His family even changed the time of the funeral in order to exclude the participation of Joey's closest friends at the funeral.

---

Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. We are living in an era when many in the Orthodox community, including many in the Orthodox leadership, have placed all of their emphasis on Bain Adam LaMakoim, and have set aside a basic commitment to Bain Adam LeChaveiroi. In the name of Toirah – but really in the name of maintaining hegemony and power and control – they are ignoring sexual abuse; they are causing humiliation and pain; they are even causing death.

Rabboisai, Judaism is not the exclusive purview of the Chassidic Rebbes or the black hat Misnagid Rabbis or the Modern Orthodox Rabbis or the leaders of Yeshiva University. It is not the exclusive domain of the Askanim, the power brokers, or of the wealthy.

WE WERE ALL created Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine. Judaism belongs to all of us.

Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. Judaism has a cancer. It is time to take Judaism back.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NEW: On Diversity

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On Diversity


Rabboisai,

I come to you at this somber time of the year with the most devastating news that has shaken me to my very core.

This past week I Davened in a Shul not far from my own, in honor of the Goldbergowitz Bar Mitzvah. It was a little Shtibul, crowded with Chassidim and Misnagdim, as well as one or two Mormons. They Davened Nusach ARI, the order of the liturgy ascribed to the ARI ZAHL, the 16th century scholar, Kabbalist and sultry jazz singer Rabbi Yitchak Luria. And... lo and behold... They put Hodoo in the wrong place! Not only that, their got the works of Keddushah all wrong! And in Kaddish, they added silly words like "Vayatzmach Pirkunei V'Kerayv Meshichei"! What language is that anyway? I did not know that CHAZAL spoke Chinese! I mean - It was like I had entered an entire alternate Davening universe! I felt like I was Captain Kirk when he beamed onto an alternate Starship Enterprise where Spock had a beard and Sulu was into dudes!

A week before that, I was asked to inspect the Gatkes of a woman from the local Sephardi Shul, Bais Abu Mussa Ibn Yisaschar Jihad HaKoidesh. I joined the Minyan for Shacharis, and can you believe it, they had the Koihanim Duchening on a regular day, not a holiday, in the United States? In addition, some of the Nigunim they were singing sounded like the Saudi national anthem. Plus, when they brought out their Toirah, it was encased in a missile. I was certain I had accidentally entered an ISIS meeting!

Finally, I was sitting in Shul on Chol HaMoed wrapped in my Tefilin, looking like the star of an S&M film. And… AMAZING… half of the men had Tefillin on, and the others did not! And this was Shacharis in an Ashkenazi Orthodox Shul!! Have half of all Jewish men forgotten the Mitzvah of “V’Samtem LeOis Al Yadechu, V’Hayoo LeTotafois Bain Einecha”?

What the Tashmish HaMitah is going on?!

---

Rabboisai - Klal Yisroel has clearly fallen since receiving the Toirah on Har Sinai. Once upon a time we had the Mesoirah from Moishe Rabbeinu and we all worshipped Hakadoshboruchhu in the same fashion. We all wore black felt Borsalinos, black suits, and white shirts. We all Davened out of the same Siddurim, and had the same Minhagim.

But all of you Shkutzim screwed it up:

-- The Chassidim won't eat Gebruchhhhhhts on Pesach

-- The Sephardim will eat rice and beans on Pesach, as well as the occasional grasshopper

-- The Conservative allow women to serve as rabbis

-- The Reform believe that one is not Mekayaim the Mitzvah of attending a Bar Mitzvah without eating a Kazayis of shrimp.

Meanwhile, it is only we, the Ashkenazic Jews of Lithuanian descent, who are the true bearers of Moishe Rabbeinu's legacy. It is we who are the holders of the True Path of the Aimishteh. We are the last bastion of unadulterated Holyness. We are the true believers, and are bathed in the protective light of the Reboinoisheloilum. Which is probably why our wives are so frigid.

Rabboisai, I believe that much of Klal Yisroel have lost their way and may as well be worshipping Yushka or Allah or one of the thirteen million deities of the Hindu Pantheon. Uchinvei.

However, others would point out that these variations simply reflect a natural diversity in our tradition.

When we think about it, Klal Yisroel were cast across the world over a period of two and a half millenia. Even in the time of Bayis Shaynee, in addition to the presence of Klal Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel, there was also a significant presence of Jews in Babylon/ Persia and in Alexandria, Egypt, and there were pockets of Jewish communities throughout the Near East as well as in Rome.

What is perhaps amazing, then, is that despite physical distance, philosophical divides, and influences of local cultures, our liturgy and practice have remained remarkably similar across our different communities. As such, communal efforts advocating homogeneity -- such as Satmar Chassidim living in Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel, Modern Orthodox Jews living in Teaneck and the Upper West Side, and Jews for Jesus... Err ... believers in the Rebbe living in Crown Heights -- may not be a source of strength. They are perhaps a source of weakness. Our diversity is perhaps our greatest strength, the collective inspiration of more than 2000 years, scattered across the globe, all coming together to make a holistic whole.

Klal Yisroel is not a pure bred animal, whose beauty is in its genetic purity but whose genes are so inbred that they lead to disease. Rather, Klal Yisroel is like a Cholent, all of whose various favors come together to achieve delight and perfection, and whose aftermath is an environment that reverberates across the house for days on end, ensuring that the kids dare not enter Mommy and Tatti's bedroom for at least 24 hours without a gas mask.

Shoyn

I am reminded of a meeting of the Global Union of Rabbis that took place in 1919, following the end of World War One. It was the largest gathering of rabbis from across the world and was convened to address the critical changes facing Klal Yisroel across the globe:

-- Many Jews had been killed fighting as soldiers on all sides of the conflict. (The following is true: In Germany, Jews were among the strongest supporters of the war effort. This was the first time that Jews were allowed to be commissioned as officers in the mighty German army. When one visits an old Jewish cemetery in Germany or former parts of Germany – e.g., places like Poland, you see the graves of Jewish boys who fell fighting for their homeland – Jewish tombstones decorated with the roman helmets that identify those who had fallen in battle. Little did anyone know the catastrophe that would begin in 1933 and culminate in the Shoah…)

-- Borders had shifted throughout Europe

-- Old line monarchies had fallen, and new government structures had arisen

-- Russia had become Communist, with a large component Jews who had tossed away their faith playing national and local leadership roles

-- The Ottoman Empire had collapsed, leaving the growing Jewish community in Palestine under British control

-- Many Jews had tossed away religious practice in exchange for new ideologies, including Communism, Socialism, Secular Yiddish culture and secular Zionism

-- The Chicago White Sox had intentionally lost the World Series, enabling people to make money on gambling on baseball… and the Jews never got a piece of the action!!!! (“Say it ain’t so, Yoisaiph!!!)

So the greatest rabbis of the world gathered together at this particular moment of tectonic shifts to chart the course for the future of Klal Yisroel. There were great Litvak rabbis like Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Reb Chaim Ozer, and the Chofetz Chaim; there were great Chassidic rabbis like Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn – the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum – the first Satmar Rebbe; there were rabbis from the Middle East including Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Palestine), the Baba Sali (Morocco), and Chacham Refael Aharon Ben Shimon (Egypt); and there were great rabbinic figures from the Western powers including Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz (UK), Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevy Herzog (Ireland), Rabbi Louis Ginzberg (Conservative), Rabbi Stephen Wise (Reform), Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan (Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist), Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplain, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

The Oilum started with an open dialogue about the key issues of the day, and the discussion quickly turned into a prioritization exercise. In the few days of meetings, what great challenge to Klal Yisroel would the group focus on resolving?

The Chofetz Chaim suggested that the gathering address the critical issue of Loshon Harrah, which he claimed was responsible for the spread of cancer. However, he was voted down. And behind his back all of the other rabbis joked about how silly he looked is his bowtie, and discussed the rumors they had heard about the Chofetz Chaim’s romantic attraction to Swedish water fowl.

Rav Kook insisted that the group focus on Shivas Tziyoin, bringing mass Jewish immigration to Palestine. However, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Rabbi Aron Kotler and the other Europeans shouted Rav Kook down, stressing how Toirah had reached untold heights in Eastern Europe, and how immigration would strain the flourishing Jewish communities of Lithuania, Poland, the Ukraine, Byelorrussia and other territories, where Jews were the most secure they had been ever since the time of Shloimoi HaMelech…

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach suggested that the gathering focus on how to help the Bnois Yisroel achieve better orgasms. But no one else in the room had a clue what he was talking about.

Finally, the group decided to focus on one topic: Ensuring the continuity of Klal Yisroel, given the shortage of men following the military casualties of the Great War. Discussion quickly turned to how the remaining Jewish men should select the best women of Klal Yisroel as brides to help them rebuild the community. But who were the most desirable Jewish women?

-- Reb Chaim Ozer suggested that Litvak women were the most desirable women since they had the finest Midois, which more than made up for the fact that the average Litvak woman looked like a yak with a broken nose.

-- Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum insisted that Hungarian women were the most desirable women because they were the most beautiful Jewish women in the world, and also had the largest testicles.

-- Chacham Refael Aharon Ben Shimon protested that North African Jewish women were the most desirable because they were more beautiful than Hungarians, cared for their husbands’ every need, and knew how to scare the Goyim away by ululating like a wounded hyena.

-- Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn suggested that the Russian women of CHABAD were the most desirable women, because as their husbands were trying to put Tefillin on passing strangers they would selflessly block the door with their large Russian… ummm… Zaftigkeits.

-- Finally, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan insisted that all Jewish women were equally desirable, so long as they put on Talis and Tefillin, meditated on existence, and donned a strap on.

At the end of the session the Oilum voted, and issued a formal statement featuring recommendations for the women who were best suited to meet specific marital needs:

-- Hungarian women were recommended for men who wanted many children. They are fertile like bunny rabbits, and are born with pelvises that can accommodate a grand piano

-- Russian women were recommended for men who needed wives who could do manual labor in the fields. They have arms like truck drivers and, at appropriate moments, can curse the way Rabbi Akiva did the time Rabbi Tarfon stepped on his foot in the Mikvah

-- Yemenite women were recommended for men obsessed with beauty, charm, and an attraction to Ella Fitzgerald

-- British women were recommended for men who had very good dental insurance policies

-- Litvak women were recommended for men with bad eyesight

-- Karlin Stolin women were recommended for men who are hard of hearing, due to their… ummm…. pronounced passion for Mitzvois

-- Klausenberger women were recommended for men hung like a Pitum

-- And Syrian Satmar women were recommended for men who needed a bit more drama in their lives. VeHamayvin Yavin.

As such, the Global Union of Rabbis specified that the common theme across all communities is that all Jewish women can make wonderful Yiddisheh Veiber as long as they are a good match for the specific needs of their husbands. (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach tried to add a clause that Jewish women should also be able to suck a golf ball through a garden hose. But the other rabbis still did not understand a word he was saying.)

--

So how is it possible that we can have such diversity, and yet still remain a singular community? Like the Shvatim traveling through the desert and settling in Eretz Yisroel, diversity in descent and tradition reflect a rich strength grounded in the notion that what unites us is far greater than that which divides us. And that which divides us, those differences, make for a grand exchange of ideas and traditions.

We are one Klal Yisroel, whether we live in Israel, the US, the Ukraine, Australia, or anywhere else. We are one Klal Yisroel, whether we are Democrat or Republican, Likud or Labor. We are one Klal Yisroel, whether our skin is white as snow or dark as night. We are one Klal Yisroel, whether we are observant or secular, whether we are Ashkenazic or Sephardic, whether we are Misnagdim or Chassidim. We are one Klal Yisroel, with a common history, a common present, and a common future.

We are one Klal Yisroel. And that even includes you, you good for nothing Menuval.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Simchas Toirah Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Simchas Toirah Drasha


Rabboisai,

This week we celebrate the conclusion of Sukkois and the completion of the annual cycle of Kriyas HaToirah by getting stinking drunk and dancing with members of the same gender.

Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato asks: Why do we dance with other men, which is a clear violation of Lifnei Iver for Mishkav Zachor, an unacceptable temptation that may lead to playing “bury my Sukkah pole in your Schach,” if you know what I mean?

There is a famous machloikess that addresses this question. Reb Yisroel Salanter comments that the completion of the Toirah cycle is meant as an Ois, a microcosm, of Oilum Habbah. With the completion of the Chamishei Chumshei Toirah, we experience a moment that is a foreshadowing of Biyas HaMashiach and Oilum Habbah, the dawning of the Messianic era and the World to Come. As such, we know that when Moshiach comes, many of the Halachic restrictions of Oilum Hazeh will fall away. Just as Tisha Ba’Av will shift from being a day of somber mourning to our greatest day of celebration, Biyuh SheLo KeDarko with another man will shift from being an “abomination” to a “Mitzvas Asei SheHazman Grummah.” It will also be a great way to reward your Chavrusa for knowing all the latest dance steps to “Zara Chaya VeKayama.”

Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov proposes a similar approach. He suggests that we do not dance in celebration of completing the annual cycle of reading the Toirah, since in ancient times much of Klal Yisroel followed a triennial cycle, completing the Toirah in three years. Rather, Rebbe Nachman states that we dance with other men to signal the end of the long holiday season. He writes in his famous treatise Likutei MoHaran that “Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Toirah clarify the essential differences between men and women. At this time of year, while men are busy trying to eke out a living without being fired for missing work, building the Sukkah, preparing the Arba Minim, etc., their wives are constantly calling them with requests, such as:

-- ‘Reuvain, can you please pick up bok choi on your way home from work’

-- ‘Shimoin, I don’t think we have enough dessert for the fourth meal we are hosting; can you pick up some brownie mix?’

-- ‘Layvee, I have to stay late at the office; can you come home early to give the kinderlach a bath?’”

Says Rebbe Nachman, “If I can trade being called fourteen times a day by my wife and being incessantly hen-pecked in exchange for engaging in Mishkav Zachor with another man, I will gladly play catcher in Biyuh SheLo Kedarko with a big sweaty Yeshiva Bochur named Lazer.”

However, the Vilna Goyn suggests that Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato and Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov probably spent a bit too much time hanging out at the Mikvah on Erev Yoim Kippur. He writes farkhert in Chuddushe HaGruh, “In Klal Yisroel, we don't have homosexuals. We don't have that in our Kehillah. In Yiddishkeit, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.”

Instead, the Gruh points to the seasonal nature of Shaloish Regalim as the true reason we celebrate on Simchas Toirah. He notes that just as Peysach is Chag HaAviv – the Spring Festival, and Shavuois is Chag HaBikurim – the Harvest Festival, Shmini Atzeres -- and especially Simchas Toirah -- celebrate something critical in the calendric cycle of Klal Yisroel and of Kol HaOilam Kooloh in general.

To make his point, the Gruh cites a famous machloikess. The Tur asks, “What is the most important Aliyah during Kriyas HaToirah?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the most important Aliyah is Rishoyn, the first Aliyah, since it is the Aliyah reserved for the Koihayn, the representative of Klal Yisroel designated by the Reboinoisheloilum to bless His chosen People.

According to the Bais Yoisaiph, the most important Aliyah is the second Aliyah, the Aliyah of the Layvee, since he silently enables the holy activities of the Koihayn by washing the Koihayn’s filthy hands and smelly feet.

According to the Keseph Mishnah, the most important Aliyah is the third Aliyah, since it is typically reserved for the biggest tzaddik in the room. Or, more frequently, it goes to the guy who writes the biggest check to the shul, even though everyone knows he frequently schtupps his hot shiksa secretary while eating pork, and makes his money by selling variable mortgages to eighty year old widows who live off of Social Security.

However, the Shulkhan Arukh holds that the fourth Aliyah is the most important one. His reasoning: Unlike the first, second, or third Aliyahs, the fourth Aliyah is an RBI position. He is batting clean up, while the others simply have the responsibility of getting on base. He has to drive them home, an awesome responsibility. As proof, the Shulkhan Arukh cites the fact that the last Aliyah is typically reserved for a Bar Mitzvah boy or a light hitting shortstop. Or for a pitcher in the National League, Chass v’Sholom. These mamzerim are likely to get out anyway, so we may as well put them in a position where they can’t do any damage.

Continues the Goyn: On Simchas Toirah, we echo the external calendar and combine the completion of the Toirah cycle with the completion of the Major League Baseball season. Consequently, there is a strong Minhag for men to dance together and jump on top of each other in victorious celebration. There is even a Minhag amongst the Sephardim to pour champagne over each others’ heads, although us real Jews celebrate by drinking scotch and making Mei Raglayim in the Ezras Nashim.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Elchanan Wasserman once took a break from the Simchas Toirah celebrations at his Yeshiva and ran home for a quick snack. When he arrived, the house was empty. No one was in the kitchen and no one was in the living room. He went upstairs, opened the door to his bedroom, and to his surprise, he found his wife Chraindie naked, rolling around in bed with the wives of his three Talmidei Muvhak, his leading student protégés. In shock, he asked his wife, “Voos Tootzuch Mit Der Gefilte Fish Party”?

His wife Chraindie responded, “Elchi, you are off in Yeshiva celebrating the end of the Toirah cycle, while we are here celebrating the end of our cycles.”

Pausing for just a moment, Reb Elchanan told his wife, “You are indeed an Eishess Chayil!” He then ran back to the Yeshiva, passed through the Bais Medrish amidst all of the Freilechin dancing and singing, and joined his three Talmidei Muvkak in his private study off the Bais Medrish. Together the four of them intently watched a playoff game on TV for the next hour and a half.

Ah Freilechin Yuntif, You Minuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Sukkois Drasha


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Sukkois Drasha

On this holiday, the yuntif of Sukkois, we wave fresh fruit at the sky for seven days, and eat in an open air beehive. We cap it off by dancing cheek to cheek with a bunch of bearded men. (I have a date with a talmid named Yerachmiel; I hope I get lucky!)

According to Chazzal, Sukkois is the time when Moshiach will come. And according to Reb Hai Goyn, it is the holiday when you are supposed to separate yourself from the secular world. He cites as proof the fact that you are forced to take off so many work days right before end of year reviews, you might as well start polishing up your resume.

The RI holds that Sukkois is actually a celebration of homosexuality. When Klal Yisroel were preparing for the long winter, planting in the fields by day and sleeping in huts at night, at the end of a long day they would sit down bichavrusa (in pairs) and study a little Talmud. One minute they are on daf yud baiz, amud alef, and the next minute they are on the floor, committing Mishkav Zachor. And who can blame them? I get excited by a gevaldik Toisfois myself!

The RI cites various Sukkois practices as proof for his position:

- We wave our phallic lulavim on the faces of all the other men, boasting about how ours is the biggest in the shul;

- Alongside our lulav is our esroig, where the gemarrah tells us that the more bulbous and full of veins, the better;

- We commit a sadomasochistic act with a handful of willow branches;

- We dance around the Toirah with other men, our fingers firmly entwined with others' hot, sweaty, hairy hands.

However, most Rishoinim disagree with the RI, referring to his rather abrupt departure from his position as director of the all boys Orthodox summer camp in Northern Lithuania (although they settled out of Baiz Din, so no one can prove a damn thing).

The RIF points to the beauty of the Sukkah celebration as a unique mitzvah within Yiddishkeit. Fresh fruit. The outdoors. Many Rishoinim hold that you should live in the Sukkah for eights days. It says in the Gemmarah that Rish Lakish would move into the Sukkah, and use it as an excuse for not having to deal with his mother in law all week. Rav Ashi, on the other hand, insisted that his mother in law sleep in the Sukkah, and take one or two of the kids with her.

The Sukkah offers many opportunities to be Hiddur Mitzvah, to go above and beyond the letter of the commandment. It is customary to decorate the Sukkah with pictures and other decorations. (Vooz iz givehn plastic fruit, anyway? I understand the Reform decorate their Sukkahs with shrimp.)

According to Rabbeinu Tam, it is actually a Mitzvah Dioraisa to buy Christmas decorations in January at fifty percent off, to be used in decorating the Sukkah the following year: Flashing lights. Ornaments. Candy canes. Indeed, one year the Vilna Goyn decorated his Sukkah with a nativity scene he bought for six dollars.

There are other things that one can do with a Sukkah. A Braisah brings down a story of Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, who, as a teenager, had the roof removed from his family's minivan so that he could drive down to the beach and be mekayaim the mitzvois of pleasuring his girlfriend and eating in the sukkah at the same time. What a tzaddik!

Yet the most beautiful element of Sukkois, and the aspect most shrouded in mystery, is the mitzvah of esroig. I still can't figure it out. It looks like a lemon. It smells like a lemon. It even tastes like a lemon. But it costs as much as heroin. How come it is easier to buy fresh peaches from Antarctica than it is to buy an esroig at a reasonable price?

And how many times in your life have you heard of esroig jelly. I bet you have heard of it all your life, but have NEVER seen it. You know why? Imagine this boast to your friends and neighbors: "I took 100 esroigim that last week retailed for a total of $5,000, mixed them up with a little sugar and pectin, and now it's worth about $1.50." Really impressive.

For this reason, I have a personal minhag. Two days before Sukkois, I buy 5 pounds of lemons in the supermarket, take them home, and then take a baseball bat to them. After about ten minutes of beating the crap out of them, I have plenty esroigim for myself and the kinderlach, and sell the remainder in the shul. With the extra money I buy some cologne, so I can smell nice for my dancing partner on Simchas Toirah night.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess