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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Parshas Tetzaveh

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Parshas Tetzaveh

In this week's parsha, Parshas Tetzaveh, the Aimishteh commands Moisheh Rabbeinu to appoint Aroin Hacoihain and his sons to serve as the priests of the Jewish People. A serious question arises immediately: Why would Hakkadoshboruchhu appoint the minuval conspirator who built the Eigel Hazohov to lead the religious rituals of the Mishkan and the Bais Hamikdash?

Please don't try to figure this one out, you michutzeff – you might hurt yourself and have to take the rest of the day off.

According to the Bais Yoseph, Hakkadoshboruchhu singled out Aroin so that he and his luch-in-kup sons would do all the dirty work of Klal Yisroel, so that Moisheh would have more time for speech therapy. And what was the dirty work? Primarily it was slaughtering the cows, sprinkling the blood, smoking the Parah Adumah, etc.

Clearly the Bnei Yisroel are obsessed with cows. Why this obsession? We sacrifice them, we eat them, we drink their milk (provided the proper Cholov Yisroel supervision), and we put their pictures on overpriced cartons of ice cream.

In India, where I once was a talmid, people are also obsessed with cows. Bessie walks around the streets, treated with respect and reverence. This is because the cow community is viewed as the model form of society. Unlike Am Yisroel, cows are friendly, cooperative, and never speak on their cell phones while in a movie theatre. In other words, they make the Jewish People look bad. Consequently, it is a Chiyuv Dioraisa to walk into Kosher Delight, ask for a double beef burger, fries, and a coke. And, Pirkei Avos tells us, whoever eats an overstuffed pastrami sandwich is guaranteed a place in Olam Habbah. (Indeed, according to the Rabbeinu Tam, the Aimishteh banned the eating of pigs solely so we will rid the world of more cows.)

Picking up on this logic, the RASHBAM asks a further question: If Aroin Hacoihain and his minuval sons no longer have a Bais Hamikdash to serve as their base of exploitation... err, in which to lead the Avoidah, who is charged with doing the Jewish People's dirty work in our day?

According to the Toisfois Yom Tov, in our day, it is the Rabbi who is charged with doing the dirty work. Cohanim are relegated to playing Casper the Friendly Ghost at the front of the shul on holidays (or everyday in Eretz Yisroel or amongst the Sephardim, those Am Haratzim).

The TUSH disagrees vehemently, suggesting that the Toisfois Yom Tov was busy picking the crumbs out of his beard and not paying attention to all the sources. He holds that shul caterers are charged with the dirty work, pointing out that cleaning up half eaten plates of cholent and Kishka after a big kiddush is the equivalent of handling the fat of the Egla Arufah with your bare hands.

I believe that both the Toisfois Yom Tov and the TUSH were completely off target. I think that the dirty work of the Jewish People is today done by the Gabbai. After all, who likes the guy? He stands up there on the Bimah acting like he is the Rebboinoisheloilum, hands out Aliyois to all his friends, and absolutely loves to correct the errors of the pimple faced Bar Mitzvah kid who is barely tall enough to read from the Torah.

Come to think of it, he also likes to humiliate underage children by forcing them to go to the front of the shul to lead Adon Olam and Anvim Zmirois. I ask you: Is it a right of passage, or child abuse?

In my kehillah, I love the Gabbai because he makes me look good. Every Shabbos, all the mishugayim stand at the front of the shul and argue with him over whose turn it is to daven musaph for the amud. Meanwhile, I can slip to the back and find out what the Yankees did the night before. (Boruch Hashem we have some am haratzim who watch TV on shabbos.) When there is too much talking, I let the Gabbai shush the kehilla. They may be talking about Torah, but then again they may be talking about sports or how the whole insurance in scandal is very reminiscent of most Yeshiva raffles.

In any case, the Gabbai of today is just like the Coihanim of yesterday. If he calls your name you better go quickly -- you won't get another Aliyah for the next three years. But be careful: He just might have an Eigel Hazohov up his sleeve.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Book Has Arrived...


Rabboisai,

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Pinky

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Parshas Teruma

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Parshas Teruma

I must begin with an apology for not preparing a drashas for last week’s Parsha. I was away on a business trip, traveling to the Bahamas to dedicate a local mikvah. No one invited me, of course, but given that it was a "business trip", it is tax deductible. Well, after my Bashert went to the mikvah, we got back to our hotel room and dedicated the mikvah. Twice.

Which brings us to this week's Parsha, Parshas Teruma. Teruma of course refers to the contributions made in the midbar by Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People, in setting up the Mishkan. The ARI ZAHL asks an obvious question: why was Am Yisrael, while traveling in the desert for forty years, probably not having showered, so privileged as to be able to donate the materials for the Mishkan, while we, in our day, don't have a similar opportunity?

The ARI ZAHL offers a beautiful answer. In a time of spiritual unification between the Rebboinsheloilum and His bride Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People express our closeness to the Aimishteh by funding spiritual endeavors. But in a time when Klal Yisroel is separated from Hakkadoshboruchhu, trapped within the realm of the mundane as scattered sparks, we can only aspire to emulate this divine behavior by cheating on our taxes.

Well, I would like to suggest that in our generation, we are again in a state of closeness to the Rebboinoisheloilum. In fact, you sitting out there, reading this in shul instead of peaking into the Ezras Nashim, are blessed with a gevaldik opportunity to cling to the Aimishteh. Like Klal Yisroel in the midbar, you too have the chance to give tzedakah, and cling to Hakkadoshboruchhu through performing a big mitzvah.

Minuval, how much money do you waste every week on narishkeit? Movies, cable television, Playstation, gym membership, mortgage, rent, 401K, income taxes, bread, health insurance, cholesterol medication, anti-depressants, birth control (Rachaman Litzlan). You should be spending your money on real items that will make the world a better place and reserving your spot in Olam Haba, the afterlife. And at the same time, you can provide me... err… rabbinic scholars an appropriate standard of living.

You read this commentary every week. Did it ever occur to you that I don't do this for my health? No, I do this to help your neshama, you ungrateful vilda chaya! And now, just as the Jewish People did in the desert, you have to pay.

I want you to take out your check book right now and start making out a check to "Yeshivah Chipass Emmess/ NPOJ International -- Tuition".. (Incidentally, we do accept credit cards with a nominal 52% surcharge.)

"And why should I?" you are asking, you good-for-nothing? I'll tell you. When you contribute to NPOJ International, you help to preserve the Jewish People. Our yeshiva and movement are critical in the struggle against assimilation. And of course, our philosophy embraces modernity and the integration of modern cultural ideas.

We are against the peace process in Eretz Yisrael, but are also in favor of a just and lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Your contribution helps to fight anti-semitism. We are also resoundly against Jewish xenophobia, and also oppose the Jewish cabal bent on dominating the media and implementing world government.

In other words, whatever it is, we're against it. Unless you're in favor of it, in which case we're in favor of it too. Just so long as you write us a check.

Make that checks. Because in Parshas Teruma we read of a multi-level contribution structure that is echoed and commemorated in our own fundraising model.

The Reboinoisheloilam commanded the Jewish People to contribute gold for the Mishkan. This is equal in our day to the Yeshiva tuition that you must pay. He also commanded them to donate:

• Silver, which is equal to the building fund
• Brass, which is equal to the family obligation
• Techayless, which is equal to the journal ad
• Argaman, which is equal to the dinner
• Toalas Shani, which is equal to the Rabbi's discretionary fund.

Additional commandments are equivalent in our day to the Passover candy drive, the book fair, and, of course, scrip. So this week, as you read this, don't read my name as "Schmeckelstein" but as "Shekel-stein".

A beraisah in Sanhedrin brings down a debate among the chachomim on how much money one should contribute. Rav Yehudah Hanassi said you should give until it hurts; Rabbi Yochannan said you should give beyond it hurting, until it begins to feel good. But the Chachomim held that you should give until you cannot afford groceries and have to appear before the scholarship committee.

While lechatchilah we hold like the Chachomim, bedeeyeved you don't have to go so far. Just so long as you donate enough so that next month my Bashert and I can go and dedicate a new mikvah in Hawaii.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Parshat Mishpatim

From the Desk Of:

Rabbi) Sterling (Shmiel Eliyahu) Tyler (Tanenbaumowitz) III Phd Theology
Senior Vice President, NPOJ Intl. Yeshivas Chipas Emmess)



Parshat Mishpatim

The esteemed Rabbi Schmeckelstein asked me to comment on this week's Torah reading, due to his prior commitments. I told him, "Pinkas, you know I no longer delve in theological content." He insisted however, so what follows are my most sincere thoughts.

In this week's reading Moses (Moisheh) delivers a full array of laws to the Israelites. Rabbi Schmeckelstein would have you believe that Moses stood on Sinai, face to face with the creator who revealed His presence on this earth, and then delivered in painstaking detail rather detailed laws that would be relevant only centuries later once the Israelites had established their own sovreignty in the Promised Land.

I find that hard to accept. Let's face it: how often has the Almighty rang your doorbell, delivered a six course dinner, and asked you to share it with you loved ones. For that matter, two weeks ago we read of the crossing of the Red Sea. How often has a deep rain puddle spontaneously split in two, allowing you to pass through without causing water damage to your $800 Bruno Maglis? Why, just last week I spent $150 repairing my shoes from scratches gained at my nephew's 13th year communion (Bar Mitzvah).

And why exactly are we compelled to dance at those things? When my brother Simon (he prefers Shimin Velvel) pulled me onto the dance floor against my will, I was forced to hold hands (!) with two sweaty Hasidic Jews who believe the world was created in six days, the sea split, and the Diety has nothing better to do than care about whether or not one eats shrimp, turns a light on on Friday night, or commits adultery with an idol worshipping farm animal.

No. You had better face facts. My wife Buffy (Breina Rifkala) and I no longer subscribe to such superstitious hype.

These tales and legends were generated to maintain and preserve a an ancient culture, which is the only reason we perform any sort of traditional religious practice. They were created to subjugate the masses, while at the same time lining the pocket of the King, the Prophet, the High Priest, the Raish Gelusa, the Chief Rabbi, the Prime Minister, or whoever else was in charge at the time

Take for example Exuodus, chapter 21, versus 22-25 (Shmois, Parshas Chuf aleph, possuk chuf bayz):

"(22) If men work together to hurt a woman with child and her offspring departs though there was no harm, he shall be fined according to how the husband will demand, and he shall pay his liability. (23) But if there will be harm, then you will give a life for a life.(24) Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for a hand, foot for a foot."

Rashi quotes the elder rabbis and suggests that this refers to the "value" of what was lost rather than the actual literal punishment. Either way, the authorities make out like bandits: Fines. Footless and one-eyed criminals, dependent upon the dole of public institutions.

Yes, the Practicing Orthodox, with their Fundamentalism, have naively subscribed to such superstitions.

Similarly, the Reform and Conservative have created their own brand of Practice. Who are they to alter the natural order of Jewish heritage? What kind of training do they have? What amount of formal education or practical knowledge? What nature of personal experience?

Indeed, when I first played golf, I was quite poor. But only through constant practice was I able to attain a five handicap. And now I can use a five iron when the situation really calls for a nine iron. What is their background?

Indeed, these naive and lost souls of all streams of Judaism (Yiddishkeit) do not realize that when Moses saw the face of the Lord he was looking in the mirror. I pity those who, in our day, look in the mirror and see only their own blank ignorance gazing back at them. Every morning, as I apply my Clinique skin conditioner, I too, like Moses, see the face of the Lord. And that's how I know that I must be right.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Parshas Yisro

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Yisroi, we read of the giving of the Aseres Hadibrois, the Ten Commandments, to Klal Yisroel. We are automatically struck with two obvious questions -- or at least they would be obvious to you if you were paying attention, you Minuval:

Question One: Why are there Ten Commandments? How come the Goyim get seven, in the Sheva Mitzvois Bnei Noiach, the seven Noahite laws, but we get more? Did we really need more? Were we required to PAY MORE!? (Frankly, I've got my hands full; with Sarbannes Oxley, the new accounting laws, I have to work twice as hard to embezzle...err… to make a living.)

Question Two: Why does the Parsha that features the essence of the Jewish faith, the giving of the Aseres Hadibrois, carry the name of a Goy? A priest no less? What, Moishe Rabbeinu was such a self-hating Jew he needed to make the Parsha sound more Goyyishe? Or were he and the Reboinoisheloilum smoking some kind of exotic bsomim on Sinai and not paying attention?

I defy you to give me an answer, because whatever you say, you won't know what you are talking about, you Am Ha'aretz.

Regarding the first question, the RAIYVID points out that of the original Sheva Mitzvois Bnei Noiach, the seven Noahite laws, two were completely dropped and do not appear in the Ten Commandments.

The first dropped mitzvah is the commandment not to eat the flesh of a living animal. The RAIYVID quotes a Mishna in Hoirayois that explains that this mitzvah was dropped because Moishe Rabbeinu didn't want to be seen as a hypocrite. Do you think he had time to start doing cooking when he was receiving the Toirah on Sinai? There he is, up on Har Sinai for forty days and forty nights, face to face with Hakkadoshboruchhu, and do you expect him to say, "excuse me Aimishteh, I have to go pop a pizza bagel in the Microwave -- please give me five minutes"?

Of course not. Moishe ate the flesh of living creatures, and he enjoyed it! And who can blame him -- while up on the mountain, the Reboinoisheloilum supplied Moishe with His delicious bounty. Birds flying around. Mountain goats. Grasshoppers. Aimishteh Almighty, just thinking about it makes my mouth water!

However, Moishe did use paper plates and plastic forks while eating because he didn't fully trust Hakaddoshboruchhu's Hashgacha (kosher certification). After all -- the Rebboinoisheloilum did create pigs too, as well as horses, frogs, and Skittles. Who is to say that the Aimishteh wouldn't slip a little bacon into Moishe's meal while Moishe was intensely carving out the Luchois. I mean, when it comes down to it, can we really trust Him?

The second dropped mitzvah is the commandment to establish a legal system. A Braisah in Baba Kamma Sutra tells us that this commandment was dropped so that Moishe Rabbeinu could set up his father in law in a nice racket...err...I mean...engage Yisroi's expertise in crafting the legal system of Klal Yisroel. (According to a Medrish in Shmois Rabbah, Moishe was getting a 20% "mitzvah fee" on the contract, plus equity.)

So indeed, that leaves us with five mitzvois (7 commandments - 2 commandments = 5 commandments). Yet Klal Yisroel received Ten Commandments? That is double what everyone else received. What's Pshat?

This is explored in a famous machloikess, rabbinic debate, in a Yerushalmi in Soitah.

According to Bais Shammai, Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People, received Ten Commandments because we are like the Rebboinoisheloilum's first born child. As such, we are entitled to twice the inheritance of everyone else, twice the Land, twice the money, twice the mitzvois, and twice the persecution. I personally would have preferred half the mitzvois, half the persecution, and a date with the Olsen twins, but please don't think I am complaining, chass v'sholom.

However, according to Bais Hillel, Klal Yisroel was actually only supposed to receive Toirah Sheh-Baal-Peh, the Oral Law, on Sinai, and nothing in writing, in order to ensure deniability in the event of an SEC investigation. So what happened? Well, Tzippoirah, Moishe's wife, had instructed Moishe to bring back souvenirs for the kids since he was going away on a long business trip. And given that he had two sons, he was planning to give each son one Lucha (tablet) with five commandments each. But when Moishe descended from the mountain things got a bit out of hand. Says Bais Hillel, we all would have been much better off if Moishe had come down with two T-shirts that said "My father spent 40 days and 40 nights face to face with the Rebboisheloilum, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"

So that answers our first question. However, our second question still remains: How could the Parsha detailing Klal Yisroel's receiving of the Toirah have been named after Yisroi? Eppis, Yisroi is a Galach! (This reminds me of the Yeshivas that give winter vacation during Kratzmach week. It's a slippery slope, you know: one day it's teaching Gemarrah to girls, the next day it's Yushke Pandra.)

The RASHBA addresses this question. He says that the naming of the Parsha after Yisroi comes to imply a critical mitzvah: Since Yisroi was the father in law of Moishe Rabbeinu, and the Parsha that includes the Ten Commandments carries Yisroi's name, then an eleventh commandment must be implied: Thou shalt marry a Shiksa, so long as her father is socially prominent.

The RIF wholeheartedly disagrees: he says that if you want to marry a Shiksa, especially one who is hot, who cares about her father?

In our day, the RAPAS disagrees with both of them. That's me, by the way -- Rav Pinky Schmeckelstein (one of my Einiklach once called me the Raw Piss, and I had to break one of his fingers). I say that both the RASHBA and the RIF were too busy thinking with their Bris Milahs.

The real reason why the Parsha carries Yisroi's name is to teach us an important lesson. Even if we keep the Torah, the Mitzvahs, Shabbos, Aishess Ish, we still don't get any of the credit. We get leftover Cholent on Tuesdays while the Goyim get lobster. We get persecution, they get membership in exclusive country clubs. We get Barbara Streisand and Dr. Laura, they get Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton.

Shver Tzu Zeineh Yid.