Friday, January 26, 2007
According to a Tosefta in Makkois, the reason the severity of the plagues was so inconsistent is that, truth be told, the Aimishteh should have had better input from his political advisors. Moishe Rabbeinu and Aron Hacoihain should have made a suggestion or two, backed up by data and a business case presented in Powerpoint. (For example, my Rebbe muvhak, the NPOJHARTHA, is always open to new ideas; just last Shabbos he agreed with my suggestion that one small package of bacon added to a large pot of cholent would be Battul B'Shishim, and would help bring out a delicious smoky flavor. Boruch Hashem.)
I'm sure the Aimshteh would have welcomed some additonal thoughts. But Moishe was likely off making a little extra cash doing magic tricks with his Makkel at a bachelorette party. And Aron Hacoihain was probably too busy polishing the gold for the Eigel Hazahav.
So here are a few suggestions for some new plagues to bring upon the Egyptians, three and a half thousand years too late: New Plague #1 -- Ingrown toe nails. New Plague #2 -- Excessive flatulence. New Plague #3 -- Jock itch. New Plague #4 -- Yoko Ono.
But even with these latter day suggestions, the plagues must still conclude with the most horrific plague of all, Makkas Bechoirois, the Killing of the First Born. Which leads to a key question posed by the RASHBAM: Why did the Reboinoisheloilum choose to kill the first born? Why didn't He kill the youngest? Or the ugliest? Or the dumbest? Or even better, the ones with the hottest wives?
The RADAK adds on to this question: What does Hakkadoshboruchhu have against the eldest anyway? Look at the pattern:
• Plague #10 -- Killing of the First Born
• Yitzchak Hatzadik becomes the favored son over his older brother Yishmael, the Anti-Semite
• Yankif Avinu gains the birthright over his hairy elder twin, Aisav the Mamzer
• Moishe Rabbeinu leads Klal Yisroel out of Mitzrayim to the Promised Land, while Aron Hakoihain, the Minuval, has to support himself by slaughtering sheep for tips.
To answer this question, the Toldois Aharoin quotes a tremendously obscure Medrish that tells us that the Aimishteh Himself had an older brother who used to beat Him up all throughout high school, and who even stole His high school sweetheart, Asherah. As a result, the Rebboinoisheloilum has it in for all first born sons, and He started His cycle of revenge with His own older brother. According to the Medrish, the Reboinoisheloilum got back at His brother by inducing him to give up his birthright in exchange for a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and a McDonald's Happy Meal.
But, the MAHARAL asks, Adderabbah, were the plagues even necessary in the first place? Why be so harsh on the Egyptians? Was it necessary to wreak violent havoc across the whole of Mitzrayim in order to take revenge? Why not just charge them more interest and processing fees, and refuse to discount off the retail price for at least six months?
The MAHARAL goes on to answer that the Aimishteh acted with such wrath because the Egyptians hated the Jews so much. Those Antisemittin! And what did we ever do? Just because we used their baby's blood in our Matzoh -- They should get over it already!
But it was their incessant Anti-Semitism that bound us together as a cohesive nation, so that we could be rescued and delivered to the Promised Land.
And to this day, Anti-Semitism is what keeps us together.
A Maisseh Shehoyo: Just a few weeks ago I went to the Bronx, the first time I had been back since the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees in eight games. I'm walking down a busy street, black velvet yarmulke prominently displayed, waiting to be attacked by a shaygitz. Nothing. I've got my payis hanging down, my tsitsis flying in the breeze, and I'm collecting interest on my IRA. Still nothing. So I scream out, "Goyim, am I too frum to be hated?!" Still nothing.
The whole incident upset me so much that I had to step into the nearest restaurant, sit down, and order some traifus.
To be honest with you, without Anti-Semitism I worry for the Jewish people. To quote the motto of the A.D.L., “Rampant Anti-Semitism is a horrible thing; but a little Anti-Semitism is good for business.”
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval
Friday, January 19, 2007
Chazzal pondered at the meaning of this phrase. Pashut Pshat (the simple explanation) is that Moishe was using a metaphor for being shy and uncomfortable when speaking publicly, and was therefore not the best choice to serve as representative of Klal Yisroel.
On the other hand, a famous Medrish tells us that as a young boy, Moisheh was tested by the Egyptians regarding his greed. To prevent Moishe from being discovered as the future prophet of the global diamond industry, an angel pushed Moishe's hand onto a pile of burning coals. Moishe immediately drew his burnt hand into his mouth, scarring his tongue and leaving him with a speech impediment. (I must tell you -- I spent 6 years of my life trying to figure out this medrish. I imagine that someone must have fallen off an elevated chair dancing at a Chassanah and banged his head on the floor in order to come up with this one.)
According to a Gemarrah in Avoidah Zorah, Rava holds that Moishe is actually referring to the fact that he had a cleft palate. Indeed, Rav Ashi goes even further, suggesting that Moishe was also a hunchback. As proof, Rav Ashi cites a Braisah that says that though formally named "Moishe," his nickname was actually "Quasimodo."
Finally, Reb Hai Goyn suggests that Moishe, using the words "uncircumcised lips," was perhaps referring to certain "experimentation" in college with one of his gentile roommates, if you know what I mean, making him unfit to lead Klal Yisroel. But in the following Possuk (verse), the Reboinoisheloilum immediately made clear his "don't ask, don't tell" policy, rendering the whole issue moot.
Beyond this dispute over semantics, a fundamental question arises in this Parsha: If the Aimishteh loved the Jews so much, why didn't He just give us Egypt? We were running the place anyway. The Egyptians could have gone; there were twenty-one other Arab countries waiting to welcome them. And the Jews could have done really well with tour packages to the pyramids.
But instead, it was the Jews who were compelled to leave, which leads to another, no-less-important, question. Moshe, instead of taking the Jews north, should have gone south. Was Moishe's compass broken, or was he simply suffering from heat stroke? Or did he drink too much at the Kiddush Club that week?
Klal Yisroel could have had the whole continent of Africa. Beautiful beaches, diamond mines, glatt kosher safari tours, giraffe meat in our cholent. But no. Moshe went north, to a desert wasteland. (I swear, sometimes I think that Moishe Rabeynu's Tfillin were on a little too tight.) So we are now left with this tiny country with little more to offer than ceaseless geopolitical conflict, rampant corruption, and really rude hotel staff. (Thank the Aimishteh for the topless beaches in Eilat or I would never visit.)
Rest assured, we are not the only ones to struggle with this thorny issue. The status of Eretz Yisroel is of course one of the key areas of disagreement between the RAMBAN and the RAMBAM.
According to the RAMBAN: Whoever is the most extreme, right wing, fundamentalist, xenophobic political figure in the country, he’s our man. The government -- Labor, Likud, whoever -- they don't know what they're doing. Only by sheer force can we expel all the Arabs, as well as all the leftists and non-religious and anyone else we don't like, in order to build the society Hakkadoshboruchhu always intended. (That would leave about 200,000 people in the country -- which is about all He needs, apparently.)
The RAMBAM on the other hand holds farkhert: We should give the Palestinians as much land as viably possible. All our Arab cousins want is a little bit of dignity and a little bit of land, so they can live their lives as we live ours, in harmony, side by side. Then we can develop a common economic zone, open our borders, and hold Israeli-Palestinian dance mixers every Saturday night. (I bid twenty dollars for a slow dance with Fatima, by the way.)
However, thankfully, koolay alma lo pligi, the RAMBAN and RAMBAM do agree on one critical point. They both hold that in the event that a treaty is signed with an Arab country, a true Ben-Toirah must be first on line to get a visa in order to bring back souvenirs from the Shuk and show pictures to everyone in shul of himself sitting on a camel, visiting a local archaeological dig, and spending time with his new best friend, Fatima. And if he's lucky, she'll have "circumcised lips."
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
This week I address the critical question of Hilchois Shabbos.
Yoinoison Phey writes:
"Dear Rabbi Schmeckelstein,
"Is it true that the Torah says you cannot wear boxer shorts on Shabbos for fear of making an ohel (ed.: tent) if you get a... well, you know?"
"Your Talmid, Onan"
Thanks you for asking such a serious question that elevates our mundane daily lives to great heights of Toirah, and allows us to deeply penetrate that dark and precious abyss that is Halacha.
Indeed, this issue is a shver inyun that touches upon several halachic questions addressed in the Gemarra, by the Rishoinim, and by Larry Flynt in last year's Hooters Holiday issue. I will try to give the topic its fair due. Questions touched upon include:
-- Binyan: Construction, such as erecting a tent on Shabbos Koidesh
-- Muktza: Using something for which it was not intended
-- Machshava, or intent: Such as, "what is the intent of the owner?"
This exact question is first asked in a Gemarra in Shabbos, Daf Zayin, Amud Aleph. To address this, Rabbah quotes a famois Braisah. According to the Braisah, Rabbi Eliezer Ben Azariah says that a person's body part cannot be counted in establishing a Reshus, an independent territorial domain. However, Rabban Gamliel holds farkhert -- that a body CAN serve as a Reshus. He holds that if someone throws a piece of bread on Shabbos and it lands on top of a woman's double-daled tzitz, it is considered to be in its own Karmelis and it cannot be moved, lest it be carried into Reshus Harabim, the public domain.
Rabbah goes on to note: Given that erecting a tent is an act of construction, and construction is a clear Dioraisa, an Av Melachah no less, "one must take any action to avoid such an occurence." Says Rabbah, Lechatchila, one must always wear a jockstrap on Shabbos, but BiDiyeved, briefs will suffice.
However, the Gemarrah clarifies: "Bammeh Devarim Amurim," when were these words said? Only when the tent is higher than three tephachim (ed.: each tephach is approximately four inches) from the ground, as below three tefachim, the tent would be part of the ground itself.
Abaya and Rava then argue over the implication. Abaya notes that as a person's supine body is at least three tephachim high if you include the torso as part of the tent, only a "little kleinickel man" would be below the three tephach high minumum, according to Abaya. Therefore, most men could not wear boxers. Rava, on the other hand, holds that the tent actually starts at the top of the body, above the torso so that the makom hamilah itself would have to be three tephachim high. Says Rava, "only a freak or the goyyishe porn star Johnny Wad Holmes would have to worry about this Dioraisa, so let's move on to more important things, like using a kli reviyi in making Hawaiian Punch." Shoyn.
So what is the correct position? There is a famous three way machloikess Rishoinim that addresses this. According to the RASHBAM, we hold like Rava, since most men enjoy wearing boxers, and we wouldn't want to deprive them of their Oineg Shabbos.
However, the RAN states that we hold like Abaya. However, the issue, according to the RAN, is not one of Boneh, or construction. Rather, it is an issue of muktza, or the inability to use an item on shabbos. Among the categories of muktza is Muktza Machmas Miyus, or something which is off limits because it is unseemly. And what can be more unseemly than a man's schvantzlach. Consequently, since they serve as the "house" for such gross things, boxers may not be used for any other purpose on shabbos.
But the TUR tells us that this is nisht azuy pashut -- it's not so simple. He notes that not all schvantzlach render boxers off limits -- just those that are K'Baitzah, the size of an egg; however, if they are only KaZayis, the size of an olive, they are considered too small to be offensive, and therefore using boxers is permissible.
But, what about intent? Even if one has a ridiculously large makom hamilah, or if his baitsim are KeBaiyah or even KeEshkoilis, he certainly has no desire to build a tent, so why should he be denied the pleasure of loose fitting cotton? What's Pshat?
There is a famous story about the Kutzker Ruv. The Kutzker was travelling through the fjords of Norway to raise money for his Chassidim. For Shabbos, he stayed in a lodge outside Oslo run by evangelical Lutheran supporters. On Shabbos morning, he woke up to the sound of a knock on the door, and who should be standing there, but Brunhilda, the six foot tall chambermaid. "Rabbi," the chambermaid said, "how can I make you feel more at home?"
The Kutzker responded, "back in Kutzk, on Shabbos morning, I always have a little herring and a shot after davening. Do you think it's possible to do the same here?"
To that, Brunhilda entered the room, closed the door, and said, "Rabbi, if you snack on the matjes for about twenty minutes, I will let you finish with a shot."
That afternoon, the Aimishteh came to the Kutzker Ruv in a dream. "Rebbe, how come you were mezaneh with the groissa shiksa this morning?"
"Rebboinoisheloilum," the Kutzker answered, "I am in freaking Scandinavia. I only wanted to have a little Oineg Shabbos."
"Well, next time," Hakkadoshboruchhu said, "just go whale hunting like everybody else around here, and leave the herring and the shot for the shtibul."
So despite having the proper intent, sometimes we can do something that is inappropriate. So my advice to you, Reb Yoinoison, is that while Halacha Lemaisah it might be okay to wear boxers, truth be told, it is not in the spirit of Shabbos. Wearing boxers is not Shabbosdick.
So it is best to stick with briefs. Although if you see an am haaretz wearing boxers, there is no reason to say anything -- since he is not a true Ben Toirah, he probably has small Schvantzlach anyway.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
This week’s Parsha is all about names. Big names and little names. That why it starts with "Ve-eyleh Shmois".
I remember a Rebbe I had in Cheder. He had such a name, Velvel. What kind of name is that? It sounds like a cross between a fabric softener and the latest car from Chrysler.
On the other hand, I was sitting in Shul the other day next to three guys named Brandon, Matthew and Corey. Maybe next week they'll bring their chavrusas Sting, Friar Tuck and Captain Kangaroo.
Names are important. We are told by the Zoihar that in the center of the Reboinoisheloilum's front garden, right next to the bird feeder, sits a tree that determines the names of every member of Klal Yisroel. Every moment that a Jew is born, a leaf blossoms on the tree, and on that leaf is the name of the new soul. Mazel Toiv. And when the leaf gets rained upon, the person is blessed with wealth and happiness. When the leaf dries on the vine, the person is stricken with sadness and melancholy.
And when the leaf falls off the tree, it means his e-mail address somehow gets on a spam list and he will be targeted with offers to refinance the size of his Bris Milah through multi-level marketing and hot shiksas named Amber.
The Zoihar also tells us that when one of these leaves is deformed, it means that the person will have a particularly silly name. Take me for example. My parents, with the best of intentions, gave me the name Pinchas. It sounds a bit like a side dish in a Mexican restaurant. Pinchas, of course, was also the grandson of Aharoin Hacoihain, the Minuval, who when he wasn't making the Eigel was busy rifling through Moishe Rabbeinu's personal effects.
Or, take the name of my bashert, Feige Breina. Silly name, I agree. But in Yiddish it means "can suck a golf ball through a garden hose." Boruch Hashem.
There are names that are acceptable to the Aimishteh: Adam, Aharon, Mark, Chaim, Eric, Josh, Jeff, Lenny, Moishe, Steven, and Shlomo.
Yet there are names that Hakkadoshboruchhu frowns upon: Douglas, Avigdor, Paul, Yerachmiel (too many syllables) and Scott. He especially dislikes transgender names. According to the
One thousand years ago the Cherem D'Rabbeinu Gershom laws were established, decrees adopted universally by Ashekenazic Jewry. These critical laws are still in place today, including: A man may have only one wife; one should not open up someone else's mail; a man may not divorce a woman without her consent. One of the lesser known decrees of Rabbeinu Gershom was the banning of androgynous names. As proof for his ruling, Rabbeinu Gershom specifically referred to Parshas Shmois. Commenting on the names of Shifra and Pooah, Rabbeinu Gershom suggested that the names of the Hebrew midwives in
If you are not sure about a name, listen to the beginning of Parshas Shmois. That's why it’s called "Names." Reuvain. Shimon. Layvee. Yehudah. Yisaschar. Zevulun. Dun. Naftali. Gad. Asher. Menashe. Ephrayim. Binyamin. The names of the Shvatim, the twelve tribes, are the prototypical masculine names. They carry boldness and confidence, strength and vigor. They elicit images of broad shoulders and large, sweaty muscles. They ring with testosterone. The names are so gevaldik, it actually excites me a little, if you know what I mean.
I think I need to go sit in a nice, cold mikvah.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
This week’s shailah comes from my esteemed rabbinic colleague, the RAGU:
A non-Jewish colleague at work told me that I should convert to Christianity. His view is that Jews are being punished with cancer because they have not accepted Jesus as their savior. He says that the proof is that so many Jewish women wear wigs because Jesus's father has punished them with cancer and they lost all their hair during chemotherapy.
What do you recommend I should respond to him?
Your humble follower, the RAGU.
Eppis, this is a most disturbing shailah, and a difficult choice! Worship the Rebbonoisheloilum, eat lettuce and tuna out of a can at the finest restaurants, and sleep with a woman who is constantly reminding you of what a disappointment you are as a husband; OR adopt Yushka Pandra, eat shrimp and lobster, and get hot shiksa action every night. Hmmm, now THIS is a tough call…
Before we can responsibly address this shailah, we should review the basis for head covering in women and the significance of the mitzvah of wearing a shaytel. As background, we should probably also go out for a little traifus and surf porn on the internet, just so we can better understand our alternatives.
Shtatyt in Possuk – it says in the Toirah -- in Bamidbar, Perek Hay, Pussook Yud Khess, that when a Koihain is preparing to place a woman through the process of Soitah to see if she has cuckolded her husband, the Koihain should “Parah” the woman’s hair. There is great debate over the meaning of this term, but it is largely viewed as the presumptive basis for head covering.
Moreover, a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah suggests that when Chava causes for herself and Adam to be cast out of Gan Eden, it is not because she ate of the Pri Etz HaDaas, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Rather, it is because she uncovered her hair, that miserable slut, which caused the snake to extend fully, if you know what I mean.
Similarly, RASHI tells us that the reason that Rachel Imainu could not conceive is because she would walk around with her hair exposed, causing the Reboinoisheloilum to punish her by making her gain ten pounds in her butt, leaving her unattractive to Yankif Avinu, who was, to quote Rashi, “not into the whole Hispanic ‘Big Ass’ thing.” Shoyn.
So what is the essence of hair covering? A Mishnah and Gemarrah in Kesubois address the varying halachois requiring a woman to cover her hair, but the underlying reasoning is discussed by the Rishoinim. According to the TUR, hair is considered to be a form of Erva. Says the Tur, if a man sees a woman’s exposed hair, it is as if he sees her nakednedness. And if a man sees a woman naked, it is as if he has been mezaneh with her. And if a man sees a woman’s hair, and sees her naked, it is as if he is mezaneh with her twice in one day, an act which I have not been able to perform in thirty years.
The RAMBAM, however, disagrees. He holds that LeOylum, a woman’s hair is not Erva. If the issue was one of modesty, then all women, unmarried and married, would be required to cover their hair. Rather, women are encouraged by the Toirah to cover their hair so that they will not waste their husband’s money on fancy hairstyles. Says RAMBAM, yeshiva tuition is costly enough, and men should save whatever money they have left to buy single malt scotch and to pay for flowers for their pilegesh.
Which brings us to the issue of shaytlach, wigs. In our Toirah-true lifestyle, we know that shaytels are the essence of Yiddishkeit. Indeed, according to the Sifsey Chachomim, the mitzvah in the Asesres Ha Dibrois, the Ten Commandments, ordering us not to covet another man’s wife actually refers to the woman’s shaytel, not the woman herself. Says the Sifsey Chachomim, “the wife talks back, argues, and never knows when to shut the gehennim up, but the shaytel always sits there on the styrofoam head, ready to lend an uncritical, sympathetic ear. Who wouldn’t covet that?” So, according to the Sifsey Chachomim and many Poiskim, wearing a wig is a Dioraisa, and is indeed comparable to Aishess Ish, making it YeHuraig VeAll Yaavor, a mitzvah for which one should be willing to sacrifice his or her life.
However, this is nisht azoy pashoot, it is not so simple, you ignoramus. Because, there are many Poiskim who are in fact against the wearing of a shaytel, suggesting that this circumvents the basic intent of hair covering. This includes: Reb Yankif Emden, the Vilna Goyn, Reb Shloimoi (Big Hank) Kluger, the Chassam Soifer, the Maharshal, and none other than Oivadiya Yoisaiph before he became an oiver-buttel farbisseneh. (This is all true, by the way. Look it up, you michutziff.)
However, the Brisker Ruv was dismissive of this position, suggesting that any man who opposes women wearing shaytels is a chashash of Mishkav Zachor, a man who perhaps likes to spend a bit too much time in the mikvah every morning before davening checking REALLY, REALLY CLOSE to see if the other men have chatzitzahs on their schvantzels. His shita is supported by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Reb Moishe Feinstein, and Pat Robertson.
So Halacha LeMaaseh, the vast majority of Poiskim support the notion that a true Bas Toirah covers her hair in a shaytel. According to the Tzitz Eliezer, the shaytel should preferably be made of real hair and come from a hot shiksa. In the words of the Tzitz, “a Yiddishe woman should adorn herself in the finest coverings, to match the beautiful neshamah given her by Hakadoshboruchhu, and should cover her hair with the magisterial flaxen locks of a gentile woman, to complement the generous proboscis provided by the Reboinoisheloilum.”
However, the Schvantz Mordechai holds farkhert. If the purpose of hair covering is to ensure modesty, he asks, then what is the logic of a woman covering her hair with a shaytel that looks real, perhaps even better than the woman’s natural hair? And, he continues, if a Jewish woman parades before a Ben Toirah showing off the hair of an idol worshipping shiksa, could this not lead a Jewish man to intermarriage and idol worship? Or even worse, paying retail? Says the Schvantz Mordechai, wearing a real hair shaytel “makes about as much sense as waving a live chicken over your head.”
Rather, the Schvantz Mordechai holds that a woman should indeed wear a wig, but one that is easily distinguishable as a substitute for real hair. Citing a Gemarrah in Sukkoh, he suggests that women wear wigs made out of that stuff that Esroigs used to come wrapped in or out of leftover Hoishaiynois.
And this brings us to your question. Clearly, it is troubling that a goy, a shaygitz, an Oivaid Alilim, should infer that faithfulness to the Aimishteh is bringing a plague of cancer upon Klal Yisroel. Is this indeed true? And if it is not true, should we not still be worried about what the goyim are saying, for, as it says in Tehillim, “Lamah Yoimroo BaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nah Elohayhem?’”
Well, to be honest, we cannot address this shailah without speaking with leading experts in the medical field. So I spoke to the guy who sits next to me in shul, and his brother in law knows someone who once worked as a nurse’s aide in
So as this allegation is not true, there are several options we should consider. Perhaps every Bas Yisroel should walk around with her hair uncovered, like a street shiksa. At the same time, maybe she should eat a ham sandwich and carry a flashing neon sign that says in bright letters, “I AM A SHIKSA – COME BE MEZANEH WITH ME!!!” I should think this is NOT an option, chass v’sholom!
Or perhaps we should ignore the taunting of the goyim. Let your colleague think that shaytels are a sign of cancer. Maybe this will get Klal Yisroel discounts on groceries and better seats on the subway, as well as select government subsidies. But, of course, Yiddishkeit is all about proclaiming the majesty of the Rebboinoisheloilum, and we would not want the shkutzim to think that Yiddishkeit causes cancer. We must go about our everyday lives, not by ignoring the goyim, but by leading them, so that in Yemois HaMashiach they will continue to follow us around while holding our tzitzis.
So the best mode of action for your wife, and for every Bas Yisroel, is to adopt the wearing of a burka. After all, this is a form of tzniyus that is consistent with the Toirah’s concerns for feminine modesty. The gentiles will no longer suspect that Bnois Yisroel have cancer because they will not be able to see any of them. This will prevent Aishess Ish because, Aimishteh knows, no one will be attracted to a woman underneath her burka garb. And this will remove the need for real hair shaytlach, leaving hair on the heads of the hot shiksas, the way Hakkadoshboruchhu originally intended.