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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Parshas Acharei Mois

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Parshas Acharei Mois

In this week's parsha, Acharei Mois, the Aimishteh commands Klal Yisroel regarding forbidden relationships: " The nakedness of your father's wife you should not expose...your father's sister...your mother's sister...a woman and her daughter...two sisters..." And so on.

Oy vey. I must tell you, I am a little uncomfortable with this week's Parsha. In fact, I am downright sickened by the suggestion of having relations with one's own mother. And I am completely nauseated with the thought of having gilui arayois with my aunts; both my father's and my mother's sisters have beards, as well as shaytls that look far more titillating on the styrofoam heads sitting on the dresser.

So by the time the parsha gets around to talking about doing it with two sisters, I am totally not in the mood.

An obvious question arises about the wording of the possuk: Why does the Toirah speak of "not exposing nakedness"? How should we understand this term?

One answer offered by the RAMBAN is that the Toirah chose to speak in loshoin nokiyus in order to avoid the parsha receiving an "R" rating, so that children under the age of seventeen, an important demographic, can read the parsha without being accompanied by a parent.

The RIF holds that the possuk clearly means to include actual biyuh, but the use of the term "exposing nakedness" is chosen to include voyeurism, digital photography, and Internet chat. But the RAN holds farkhert -- you can have relations with anyone you want, so long as the lights are dim, in order to ensure deniability.

A more serious question is why is it that the halachois of all of these forbidden relationships are addressed to men? Shouldn't women be concerned about these issues as well? RASHI answers that since women come so late to shul, they miss the leyning anyway, so they are not included. But the ARI holds that this parsha is proof that in the time of the Moshiach, our frigid wives will put out the way they have been promising to for years.

But with all of these forbidden relationships, the one which receives the most attention, especially in our days, is the ban on male homosexuality. How are we to understand this biblical pronouncement, especially in modern society?

Reb Shlomo Kluger, living a century ago, spoke of the growing evidence that the homosexual inclination is a result of nature, not nurture. Reb Shlomo, who insisted that the buchrim in the bais medrish refer to him as "Big Hank", felt that our understanding of gay nature should evolve, much as halacha's attitude toward blind and deaf people has evolved as overall society has developed a more inclusive approach to people with these conditions. (I personally am strongly in favor of this line of thought. Indeed, I was born with a particular condition myself -- I lust after twenty-three year old red heads named Christine.)

In truth, this whole issue comes down to a question of public versus private. When I am standing at my shtender in shul delivering the weekly drasha, as I look down at the kehilla, I know that the room is full of people who commit aveirahs of all sorts. I am certain that ten percent of the kehilla privately watches TV on Shabbos (Boruch Hashem somebody has the latest sports scores!) Some of the women don't always make it to mikvah. Some of the men, especially while their wives are in nidah, "take matters into their own hands", if you know what I mean. Even I too have sinned on occasion -- I admit it -- I sometimes put the hot water ON the teabag on Shabbos, not the other way around.

But in the great tradition of Chazzal, we should not stand around and look to punish people. We don't peek inside their homes, their refrigerators, or their cars. Chazzal tell us that in the time of the Sanhedrin, it was almost unprecedented that someone would be put to death. Between the conditions of drisha and chakirah and other requirements, it was virtually impossible that the human realm would come to pass judgment on other human beings -- that is the purview of the Aimishteh.

What becomes more complicated is the aspiration of some to embrace a more public profile for the gay Orthodox lifestyle. Rather than reject this, I suggest we at least consider the possibility. Indeed, we should move to accommodate all who seek to be frum, though struggle with one individual tenet or another. We should create shuls for these particular interest groups. The Young Israel of Men Who Like to Be Mezaneh With Each Other. Congregation Bnei Avraham Who Like To Eat A Little Traifus Once in a While. Khal Adas I Like To Watch The News and Get the Latest Scores. Lincoln Square I Sometimes Spill My Seed on the Floor Synagogue.

As long as someone wants to identify as being frum, who are we to deny them that right? As long as they subscribe to the three basic principles of Ol Malchus Shomayim: Overall acceptance of the Torah, pass judgment on everyone else, and consider everyone who disagrees with you to be either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On Wife-Swapping, Swinging, and the Value of a Pilegesh

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Rabboisai,

This week I respond to a shailah, or, rather, suggestion, which is close to my heart. Rebbetzin Virginia writes:

Rebbe,

The following is an idea that I have been thinking about. If this could be implemented in some tzniusdika manner, it would be a great relief for us, the Women of Yisrael. Would you give it your blessing?

Axioms:

1. Given that most women who have been married more than 15 years have virtually no interest in sleeping with their husbands.

2. Given that most men want to sleep with anything that moves.

THE IDEA:

For couples married over 15 years, a Gemilas Chesed squad would be formed. A woman who wants a break from sleeping with her husband would list her husband on a special Shul listing. Other wives would check the list and sign up to “pinch hit.” For every night that a woman signs up to provide a night of "Chesed" with someone else’s husband, she will be entitled to receive a night from the "GMACH" for her own husband.

This is a great way for women to get the occasional night off, and to get the opportunity to sleep with husbands who are more appealing than their own.

Thank you for considering my idea.

Virginia

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Rebbetzin,

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

This is indeed a BRILLIANT idea that meets a growing need within Klal Yisroel, and a great challenge to our corrupt generation. Indeed, I may want to flesh out this idea in much more detail with you, perhaps over dinner some time next week. As ma’areh makoimois, can you please send me a 5 by 7 picture of yourself, plus your exact measurements. I will get back to you with a time and a location.

In the interim, I would like to share some of my initial thoughts on your gevaldik suggestion.

You are of course not alone in expressing concerns for the needs of Bnei Yisroel and for the sanctity of the Yiddisheh institution of marriage. Too often in this corrupt day and age we see shattered families all around us. Divorce. Soul-less marriages. Relationships in contract and name only. The men too busy in Yeshiva to pay attention to their wives’ veibisheh needs. Women so obsessed with servicing their own selfish purposes that they won’t allow their husbands to stay for evening seder in the Yeshiva past 10:00 pm, using such weak excuses as “I’m sick,” “Shloimee needs help with his homework,” “I have to work the overnight shift at 7-11, can you stay home with the kids?,” or “my mother just died and I’m sitting Shiva – can you be home?” Disgusting Prutzas!

There is of course the specific concern that you raise about couples having trouble in the bedroom after many years of familiarity. How can a Baal Habayis and his Bashert maintain a proper marriage when there is no longer any…errr...kishka left in the cholent? After all, the Toirah wants the Jewish couple to enjoy a healthy physical relationship. Hakkadoshboruchhu wants a husband and wife to be mezaneh regularly in the bedroom, to occasionally have relations on the sofa in the living room, to infrequently dip the pita in the techinah on the kitchen table, and to every once in a while ride the shtender in the Bais Medrish when no one else is around. This is the will of the Reboinoisheloilum!

Indeed, we can certainly look to the Toirah for insight on how to address issues related to a dysfunctional bedroom. According to a Medrish in Medrish Rabbah, Avraham Avinu had lost his…ummm…shverkeit with Sarah Imainu, and it was for this reason that she encouraged him to be mezaneh with her maidservant Hagar. Indeed, Rabbi Akiva, as quoted in the Yalkut Shimoini, notes that following Avraham’s relationship with Hagar, Sarah manages to conceive. He points to this example as proof that, quote, “eating a little gefilte fish in the restaurant across the street is always good for the digestion at home,” unquote.

So, as early as the Avois, we find a precedent for the use of a “Pilegesh” to serve as a “marital supplement.” Think of it as a daily multi-vitamin that includes Vitamins A, B 1-12, C, D, and a healthy dose of Viagra.

Avraham’s employment of a Pilegesh is doubled by his grandson Yankif Avinu. According to a Gemarrah in Kesubois, after marrying the Doublemint twins, Yankif is overcome with the stress of having the sisters constantly fighting over access to his Schvantzel. “You slept with Leah last night, it is my turn” declares Rachel. “Rachel is just jealous; you don’t have to spend time with my frigid sister” replies Leah. “Leah is a skanky bee-atch who smells like last week’s carp left out in the sun” retorts Rachel. All the cat fighting gets to his libido, compelling his wives to offer their maidservants as Pilagshois. But this gets Yankif’s romantic juices flowing, and, lo and behold, he ends up with twelve really well adjusted sons.

Chazzal derive the Halachois concerning marital relationships from the life style approaches of the Avois and the later practices of the Malchei Yisroel, the Kings of Israel. According to a Mishnah in the first Perek of Kiddushin, “A man may betroth his intended through kesef (the exchange of money), through shtar (a contract), or through biyuh (physical consummation), but may initiate a relationship with his Pilegesh by simply doing a quickie in the back seat of the car.” The Gemarrah goes on to ask, “Bameh Devarim Amurim, when were these words said? When a man has a car. But if he doesn’t have a car, according to Abaya, a man may have relations with his Pilegesh in his home; but according to Rava, he must be mezaneh with his Pilegesh in a location not suitable to serve as a permanent dwelling, such as a Sukkoh or an igloo.”

All of this relates to the needs of a man. But how do we know that a married woman can equally have her needs met through a temporary arrangement? Is there not a concern for the Dioraisa of Aishess Ish?

Rabbi Chiyah Bar Abba addresses this question in a Gemarrah in Soitah. According to Rabbi Chiyah Bar Abba, the injunction against a woman committing adultery was only relevant at the time that the Bais Hamikdash was standing. However, following the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, “a woman may seek consolation, through prayer, Teshuvah, Gemilas Chasadim, and by riding her husband’s chavrusa as if he were a Harley Davidson.”

The Gemarrah of course rejects Rabbi Chiyah Bar Abba’s opinion, ruling that a married woman‘s honor should always be protected by a full head covering, by a prohibition on her driving a car, and by having her erva stapled shut.

However, in the eleventh century Rabbeinu Gershom addressed this very issue in his famous Cherem, his set of socio-religious injunctions that remain in place to this day. His decrees include: The ban on reading other peoples’ mail and the ban on a man having more than one wife. His restriction on reading others’ mail, he writes, “is intended to ensure fair business practices.” His ban on polygamy, similarly, “is intended to ensure the fair exchange of Tashmish services between a Rebbe and his old bag of a wife on the one hand, and his Talmid Muvhak and his young hottie Kallah on the other.” Rabbeinu Gershom is of course also known by his Rabbinic nom de plumes as the “Meor Hagoilah,” “Reb Chapp-A-Feel,” and “The Randy Old Rabbi of Mainz.”

Rabbeinu Gershom of course wrote his Halachic opinions for the Ashkenazic world. However, on this issue the Sephardic community follows the teachings of the RAMBAM. Writing in his Mishnah Toirah in Hilchois Nashim, the RAMBAM addresses the famous question of how Queen Esther could possibly have been mezaneh with King Achashveiroish, a sheygitz. The RAMBAM comments that “Esther’s actions are permissible due to the principle of ‘Isha Ke’Afra,’ that (during intimacy) every woman is passive like the ground, just like my wife.” The RAMBAM goes on to note that in his day, “a true Aishess Chayil is just like a Pushka – her intrinsic riches increase when everyone in town takes a turn putting a little something into the slot.”

The Sifsey Chachomim assume a similar position in the Ashkenazic world.

So, Rebbetzin Virginia, as we apply these notions to our day, it is indeed appropriate that we act upon your noble suggestion. Boruch Hashem we have the communal interest and appropriate technology to enable such a spouse-swapping arrangement. Your idea is in the spirit of the Karban Toidah, Shalach Manois, Rabbi trading cards, and Kisvei Penthouse. Ashrei Ha’Ish, happy is the man, who is married to a woman with your level of wisdom. I hope one day soon that many more of Klal Yisroel will get to taste of your rich apple of Toirah and femininity.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Parshas Shmini


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Parshas Shmini

In this parsha, Shmini, we read about traifus. Lots of it. Pigs. Camels. Flying insects. Eagles. Bottom-dwelling-non-finned-non-scaled-fish. Reboinoishelolum, it makes my mouth water!

In fact I am currently lobbying the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the RCA, the OU, YU, JTS, the UJA, the ADL, the JCRC, the JDL, AIPAC, the WZO, the JNF, ARZA, the HUC, the Kof-K, the Triangle-K, and Amit Women to officially change the name of the parsha to "Parshas Mouthwatering". So far I have only heard back from two organizations: the Triangle-K, which wants to negotiate pricing, and the HUC, which thought the name of the Parsha actually is "Parshas Mouthwatering".

According to the RIF, the enactment of traifus restrictions is one of the ultimate tests of being a member of Am Yisrael. After all, it must be delicious! Indeed it is fair to assume that the Aimishteh created all of the taboo creatures with the delicious traifus-goodness baked right in. He must have taste-tested it too, to make sure he got the recipe just right.

Oy, what I wouldn't give to be a goy right now, so I could have no rules or restrictions! I would walk right into the local McTraifus, with my girlfriend Christine O'Reilly by my side, and order a bacon double lizard burger with deep fried owl, and wash it down with a vanilla milk shake. Actually, as long as I am immune from all of the commandments spelled out in the Toirah, make that my boyfriend Philip O'Reilly. We would eat the night away, and then go back to my place to worship Avoidah Zara, shave off our sideburns, and put on some shatnez.

But alas, Shver tsu zein a Yid, being a Jew comes with a price. WE have a covenant with the Reboinoishelolum: We follow His rules, and keep His mitzvois, His chukim, and His mishpatim. And as a reward, we get to spend our entire lives being persecuted

However, what happens when we don't follow the rules? The parsha tells us of one such occurence. Aron Hakoihain's good-for-nothing sons offend the Aimishteh and get burnt to a crisp. But what was their aveirah?

RASHI cites one suggested explanation, that Nadav and Avihu had all the best of intentions: they simply added on to the Avoidah, because they thought it would be a nice thing to do. In other words, they were guilty of Baal Toisiph, and the Reboinoisheloilum struck them down for trying to be Hiddur Mitzvah. Hey, please remind me of this next time I want to spend an extra ten dollars on an Esrog!

But according to Toisfois, the brothers were minuvals who were horsing around in the Mishkan. There they were, doing the Avoidah, when Nadav thought it would be hysterically funny to dump the contents of the Kiyore on Avihu's head. Avihu responded by taking the Urim V'Tumim and smacking Nadav in the face, causing him to fall backwards into the Tayvah holding the Luchois. This got the Kruvim angry and...well...you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark -- you know what happens next.

However, the Vilna Goyn, looking elsewhere in the parsha, suggests that given the references to traifus at the end of the parsha, Nadav and Ahvihu must have been using the Mizbayach to barbecue ribs, anointing them with a Mesopitamian Smokey Grill marinade, on sale at the local supermarket as a two for one special. But he is uncertain if the brothers were punished for eating traif ribs, or simply for overcooking them.

The RAMAH vehemently disagrees with the Goyn. He insists that cooking and eating traifus, even in the Mishkan, does not bring about a chiyuv of missah, just so long as whatever was cooked and eaten conforms with the same halochois in place for the Korbonois. He cites a Braisah in Yevamois that says the brothers had fully and successfully cooked their meal. But after eating they brought out a cake from which Avihu's wife had cut out a small wedge, "just to taste". Consequently they were chayuv missah for having brought a dessert with a mum into the Koidesh HaKedoishim.

In my humble opinion, I respectfully submit that the Goyn and the RAMAH have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. A maiseh shehoyo: When I was a young talmid I experimented with traifus, in the spirit of "Oiseh Maiseh Beraishis"; I felt compelled to sample all of His creations. Including dumplings. As I washed my first bites down at the Chinese restaurant, I waited. Would I be struck down by a bolt of lightening? Would I choke to death on a clump of traifus? No! The Aimishteh left it up to me to make my choices and live with them.

So did Nadav and Avihu, those minuvals. They saw the signs written on the walls of the Mishkan, yet chose to ignore them and paid the ultimate price. When will they ever learn? As the spring season arrives, we should all keep the bitter lessons of Navad and Avihu in mind: Always keep the room well ventilated when grilling indoors.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ask Rabbi Pinky – On Death and the Afterlife

Rabboissai,

This week, Richard G. asks: On Yom Tov, a time of holiday and celebration, what kind of simcha is it to say Yizkor? Or does it have to do with fundraising?

Richard G.

Reb Richard,

Thanks very much for your insightful question. But before I address your question, I must ask YOU a shailah: So, what kind of Yiddesheh numen is Richard, anyway? Are you so ashamed of your heritage that you have to wave your arms at the world as if to say, “I AM A SHAYGETZ! PLEASE LET ME INTO YOUR COUNTRY CLUB!?” Have you no shame, you mechutziff? I haven’t seen such self-hate since Moishe Rabbeinu married a shiksa in the desert! I guess your Hebrew name of Reuven or Yerachmiel was a bit “too Jewish” for you. Let me ask: Have you also had a nose job? Did you have a new foreskin grafted onto the tip of your Schvantzl?

For your sake, I hope that at least your wife engages in certain “goyishe practices” that I have been begging my wife to do for years, if you know what I mean. At least that would make it all worth it…

Nisht gerferlach.

You indeed touch upon a profound topic that is deeply rooted within the Jewish tradition. Your question, more than anything else, is about Klal Yisroel’s attitudes towards death and the notion of an afterlife. How are we to understand the end of life from a Yiddishe perspective? How should a shtarkah Yid relate to end of life, be it of a stranger, a friend, a loved one, or one’s own life? Beyond receiving an inheritance, cashing in on a life insurance policy, or taking over a deceased’s coveted seat in shul (right near the aisle, out of sight from the Rabbi), how else should we view the impact of the Great Inevitable on out lives? Is there an afterlife? You know, easy questions…

Of course, we look to the Toirah for this wisdom. In Toiras Moishe, we can see multiple characterizations of the moment of death. They include:

-- Avraham Avinu: “VaYigvah VaYamuss Avraham BeSayvah Toivah Zakain VeSaveyah VaYahaseif El Amuv.” – “And he expired and Avraham died, with good fulfillment, old and satisfied, and was gathered to his people.” (Beraishis, Perek Chuff Hay, Pasook Khess)

-- Yankif Avinu: “VaYokhal Yaakov LeTzavois Ess Bunuv VaYe’esoif Ragluv El HaMitah VaYegavah VaYayasaif El Amuv.” “And Yankif finished issuing directives to his sons, and he gathered his feet into the bed, and he expired, and he was gathered to his people.” (Beraishis, Perek Mem Tess, Pasook Lamud Gimmel)

-- Moishe Rabbeinu: “VaYumuss Shum Moishe Eved Hashem Ba’Eretz Moiav Al Pi Hashem…Va Moishe Ben Mayah Va’Esririm Shanah BeMoisoih, VeLoi KuHatuh Einuv, VeLo Nuss Likhyeh.” “And Moishe, the servant of the Reboinoisheloilum, died there in the land of Moiav, at the word (literally – mouth) of Hakadoshboruchhu…And Moishe was 120 years old at his death, and his vision did not fade and his strength had not gone. (Devarim, Perek lamed Daled, Pasookim Hey, Zayin )

I ask you, you mechutziff, what does the Toirah tell us about the afterlife? Nothing. Shoom Davar. Goornisht. Bupkis. All it says is “gathered to his people”. That can mean anything. It can mean that he joins the dust in which all his people rest eternally; that he goes to Shamayim to eat the Levyasoin -- deep fried in beer batter -- and washes it down with a nice Heineken; or that he gathers with his people at a Stones concert and drops acid. We do not know; it is not clear. (Mamesh, who wrote this stuff, anyway? Could He at least have taken some sort of writing class, or had a good editor do a quick review?)

In reality, we have to look to the later writings, to the Neviim and especially to the Kesuvim, to find a solid reference to the notion of an afterlife. However, since you are typically too busy drinking scotch during the Haftoirah, you Nevailah, I will not cite those references. Rather, I will focus on the writings of the Rabbis.

Chazzal were clearly troubled by the ambiguity surrounding death and the afterlife. As a consequence, they developed a very broad set of perspectives on Oilum Habah, fleshing out the idea of the World to Come, while at the same time taking out life insurance policies on all of their elderly relatives.

According to Chazzal, there are many things that entitle one to Oilum Habah. A Mishnah in Avois tells us, “If one saves a life, he gains a Chaylek (a share) in Oilam Habah.” A Braisah in Eiruvin tells us, “If one checks the Eiruv before Shabbos, he gets a share of Oilum Habah, plus an option to buy five shares of Google at the average closing price of the last six months.” And a Gemarrah in Kesubois tells us, “If a man brings his wife to her,” errr…, “fulfillment before he achieves his, he is entitled to Oilum Habah. And if he is really lucky, sloppy seconds.”

Essentially, the Rabbis aligned their views with the Pharasaic notion of an afterlife linked to reward and punishment. In their quest to understand the ways of the Reboinoisheloilum, they confronted the ultimate truism of life: Life is fundamentally not rational. And, Chazzal deduced, if life, and human society, and experience on earth, are not rational due to unfair individual fates, plagues, war, etc., there must be an unseen part of the equation that provides balance to the inequities of the fragile human experience. And if that balance is not in this life, Oilum Hazeh, it must exist in another dimension, Oilum Habah.

And who can say they were wrong, you minuval? You can’t even tie your own shoes without reading the Shulchan Aruch! Meilah, there are many things in the world that are invisible to the human eye. If I told you a hundred years ago that our bodies are governed by DNA, strands which are shaped like double twisted staircases (or like Duvid HaMelech consummating his special “personal treaty” with Yehoinasan on HaMelech Shaul’s couch) would you have believed me, you mechutziff? No, you probably would have checked my brain for Shatnez!

No. Rational thought, as represented by what we can observe with the naked eye, or, in the modern day, by science, can only take us so far. Science can explain to us the “how” and the visible. But it cannot explain to us the “why” and the invisible. Consequently, no matter how rational you think you are, you vilda chaya, you still don’t have all the answers.

So Chazzal, struggling with these issues, built upon earlier ideas in Tanach and other insights (often borrowed from the wisdom of other cultures) to imbue in our tradition an appreciation for the unseen, a speculation about how everything in the rational universe, including humanity, is part of a greater whole. Much like a cholent, there are many ingredients mixed together and simmered in a crock pot for twenty hours, yet are individually recognizable as their original form when removed from the pot. Yet they contain the flavor, and contribute to the essence, of the entire recipe. And whether or not they are the meat or the potatoes or the barley or the beans, they all cause the same flatulence.

In considering this topic, Reb Shimoin Bar Yochai suggested that we are all connected to the Reboinoisheloilum through the Ten Sfirois, the ten attributes of the Aimishteh, which link on one end to the Ain Soif, the unknowable aspects of Hakkadoshboruchhu, and on the other end to the universe as we see it and experience it.

As the Kabbalists understood, within the Ten Sfirois, there are multiple factors in play that impact life on Earth. Picture the Sfirois as the Reboinoisheloilum’s body – whatever happens in His body has an effect on the world. When there is a blockage between Din and Chesed -- BOOM! -- chest pains, which result in a earthquake in our world. If Bina gets hit, Chochma also hurts, resulting in a landslide or a plague. And when Keter has a headache, Yesoid doesn’t function the way it used to when the Reboinoisheloilum was fifteen years old, if you know what I mean, resulting in erectile dysfunction for all of Klal Yisroel, chass v’sholom.

“So what does this have to do with attitudes towards death?” you ask, you impatient Neveilah. Well, when someone leaves this world, their essence returns to the broader whole. Yes, part of their essence is the observable matter, the physical body that becomes the dust in the ground and the nourishment in a worm’s belly. But, in our tradition, we also acknowledge the unseen part of a person’s essence. It is not clear what that means, whether after death one retains his individual identity or simply becomes part of a broader collective consciousness. But he exists in some other dimension. And, in our tradition, we acknowledge that unseen essence in numerous ways, including through the reciting of Yizkor.

So when do we recite Yizkor? Four times a year – on Yoim Kippur, Sukkois, Shavuois, and Pesach. Farvoos? We recite Yizkor to call upon the unseen essence of our loved ones in order to appease the Reboinoisheloilum, as embodied in the Ten Sfirois, so that we will enjoy the Aimishteh’s benevolence. Or at least not be blown into little bits though global nuclear destruction resulting from Hakkadoshboruchhu’s cosmic indigestion.

What does this mean? On Yoim Kippur, originally the only day when Yizkor was recited, after 20 hours of fasting the Reboinoisheloilum gets a little cranky. And who can blame Him? How do you feel by Mincha time, you Mamzer? So we pray on behalf of our dear departed to influence the cholent that is the collective, so that the Aimishteh’s empty belly doesn’t cause Him to crush us like ants because he finds our howling at dusk completely disingenuous.

On Sukkois, by the fifth day the Reboinoisheloilum is getting tired of eating his afternoon snack of pretzels and juice in the cold Sukkah. So we say Yizkor so that the chill within the Ten Sfirois does not translate into a chilly reception for Klal Yisroel. Similarly, on Shavuois we worry about the Amishteh’s crankiness due to lactose intolerance. And on Pesach, we worry that Hakkadoshboruchhu is in a horrible mood because He is completely backed up. After all, He MUST be an Ashkenazi, and would certainly never eat Kitniyois!

With regard to your final question, about whether Yizkor is all about fundraising – such a suggestion is a total shandah! You should be ashamed of yourself, you minuval! However… as you are preparing for Yizkor you should always remember Yeshivas Chipass Emess, especially by buying copies of my book at
www.lulu.com/rapas to donate to your shul. After all, what better way to guarantee a spot in Oilum Habbah?

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.


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Do you have a halachic question or a philosophical query on Yiddishkeit? Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein is willing to indulge your ignorance by responding to your shailas, kashas, shver inyunim, and basic misconceptions.

Please e-mail me your questions with the subject: Ask Rabbi Pinky. Select questions (sans questioner name) and responses will be shared for purely "educational" purposes.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pesach Drasha II

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Rabboisai,

I start today's drasha with a sad and embarassing admission -- my own personal viduy in front of you, you minuval.

Over Chol Hamoed Pesach I was driving my einiklach to the pick up spot for the rabbinically sanctioned avoidah zorah -- idol worship -- known as Six Flags Great Adventures. Along the way, I dropped a quarter in the car. Since it is a Chiyuv Dioraisa, a biblical requirement, to pick up loose change, I reached down to the floor to retrieve the quarter, and behold -- I found half an M&M. It was this moment of temptation that started off a terrible cycle of sin and debauchery not unlike being mezaneh with an underage Parah Adumah.

Yes, at that moment, I was taken by an incessant urge to bite into the forbidden delicacy and indulge in the chometz delights of a treat that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and unlikely to lead to hours of painful stomach cramps. And as you know so well, you mamzer, Aveirah Goreres Aveirah, one evil deed begets another...

One M&M, of course, is never enough. After dropping off the einiklach, I got down on my hands and knees and prostrated myself on the floor of the station wagon with the same fervor with which I had cleaned out the car one week earlier, searching for just one small bite of chometz. Boruch Hashem I found two crushed Cheerios in the ashtray, which I consumed immediately.

Alas, the Yetzer Harrah caught me on a weak day.

Still craving the delicious taste of chometz, I rushed home, and Boruch Hashem, no one was there. I headed straight for the kodshei hakadoishim of chometz, the vacuum cleaner. Would the bag containing all the crumbs of recent weeks of cleaning still be inside? I prayed to the Aimishteh for it -- and it was so. My Bashert, so busy spending her days teaching a class in Bais Yankif, her evenings serving as the mikvah lady, and her nights working at the 24 hour Kinkos, had forgotten to remove the last vestiges of chometz. The careless bitch.

With great satisfaction I dove into the vacuum bag. Breadcrumbs! Leftover pieces of cookie! It was the most fun I've had committing an aveirah since my chavrusa and I studied the true meaning of "abomination" for extra credit back in high school, if you know what I mean. The utter joy of eating straight from the bag was only slightly tempered by the big lump of lint that got stuck in my throat.

After coughing up the fuzz ball, I became deeply troubled. I needed more chometz! I wouldn't dare go down to the basement to attack the food storage, since the goy who bought the chometz might show up at any moment and demand that which he rightfully paid for. The anti-Semite.

I had one more chance. I knew that with with all of the pre-Yuntif mayhem, my Bashert likely forgot to vacuum the upholstered dining room chairs. I rushed to the dining room, got on my hands and knees next to the first chair, and positioned my head above the crack between the seat cushion and the wood chair-back.

And that's when my wife walked in. She shrieked in her loudest Ball-ha-Buster voice, "Pinky, how many times have I told you not to put your tongue in a strange place??!!"

So went my Chol Hamoed Pesach.

This maiseh shehoyo is indeed reminiscent of a halacha brought down by the Kley Yukkur in his seminal work, Tzeddek Tzeddek Tirdoif," loosely translated as "Never miss an opportunity to judge others."

As he points out, it is indeed ironic that on a holiday dedicated to the celebration of freedom, we adopt an additional layer of stringencies to our already complicated lives. The Kley Yukkur goes on to tell us that in designing many Mitzvois, the Reboinoisheloilum is not testing our complicity with His will; rather, He is testing our common sense when commanded to do the nearly impossible.

Ah gutten Yuntif, you (Pey) Tzaddik.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Sunday, April 01, 2007

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Print this to read at your family seder. Then use it to write down the names of everyone who doesn't finish the full shiur of marror.


Pesach Drasha

Rabboisai -- Before I begin this week's drasha, I must share with you a new experience I had this year. This year, instead of selling my chometz to a shaygitz down the block, I used a new approach, taking Hilchois Pesach into a new millenium. I sold my chometz on the Internet -- via E-Bay.

Ich vais, you should have seen -- every goy in America was putting in a bid. 50 cents. 60 cents. I tell you, Klal Yisroel can make a killing this time of year. Next year, in addition to selling my chometz, I am also going to try to get rid of those old shaytels that my bashert, Feige Breineh, has lying around.

----------------------

Why is this night different from all other nights? Ma nishtana? Farvoos iz de nacht foon Pesach foon alla nacht foon a gantz yur?

Why don't we ask this question on other holidays? Yom Kippur for example: Why am I starving half to death while missing game two of the World Series? Sukkus: Why does the Aimishteh insist I sit outside and have flies pick at my kneidlach? Shavuos: If I have to stay up all night, why must it be with overweight, bearded men? And Chanukah: Why am I celebrating the rise of the despotic regime that stole Malchus Bais Dovid, the monarchy historically assigned to the Davidic lineage, when I should be out drinking eggnog and making out with hot shiksas under the mistletoe?

We don't ask these questions on those other nights because there is something sacrilegious about the whole idea.

-- You: Oh Aimishteh, why should I do your Mitzvois?
-- Aimishteh: Shut up you minuval before I make your wife be mezaneh with the Mikvah lady (chass v'sholom).
-- You: But Rebboinoisheloilum, I am really curious.
-- Rebboinoisheloilum: What do I look like, Google?

No. We don't ask this question the rest of the year. But on Pesach, paradoxically, we do ask such a burning shayla. And we do this because the answer is more shocking than the question.

On Pesach we celebrate assimilation.

Once upon a time our ancestors sat in bondage in Egypt. By day, they labored over brick and mortar -- dressed in the flimsiest of work clothing, while cowering under the harsh supervision of a sadistic taskmaster named Ahmed. By night, they labored over other, more colorful tasks -- dressed in black leather, a spiked collar and a muzzle, while cowering under the the harsh supervision of a sadistic dominatrix named Fatima.

In this state of subordination, both our bodies and our souls were denied independence. We spent years dominated under the harassment of a cruel and unsympathetic power, which cared not for our daily struggles or basic needs. This resulted in a psychological state of inferiority, as well as recurring insomnia and frequent impotence. (Indeed, this whole thing sounds uncomfortably similar to my marriage.)

Indeed, it took a great leader to end this harsh cycle and lead our people to freedom, a leader who was insulated from the travails that had beaten down all of his brethren from Klal Yisroel, a leader who was, in fact, very much assimilated.

Moishe Rabbeinu grew up not as a slave, but as an Egyptian prince. No doubt he grew up the typical Egyptian prince: MTV, smoking in the pyramids, Yetzer Harrah. But had he not lived like a Mitzri, Hakadoshboruchhu would not have chosen him to lead the Bnei Yisrael. Look at his brother, Aron Hacohain. He was raised amongst Klal Yisroel, suffering throught the same fate, yet ultimately his job was to hold Moishe's stick, speak for him on occasion and take his messages. In essence, he was a schlepper.

So we celebrate assimilation on Pesach, even more than on Purim, which commemorates a time when Esther HaMalka curried the favor of the king by giving up her Bisulta.

And because we celebrate assimilation, we must also realize that the opportunity that confronted Moishe Rabbeinu can happen to any of us, in any generation. You can be sitting in your office, minding your own business, eating traifus and reading Golf Digest, but you never know: You might be called upon to save Klal Yisrael. Or even worse, you might be asked to donate money to a Yeshiva that has more rabbehim than talmidim.

Yet, it is with trepidation and discomfort that we embrace assimilation. Sure, you would LOVE to be learning in the Bais Medrish and wearing Tfillin all day, but who would get your salary, draw on your expense account, and get your frequent flyer miles?

So to echo and enforce the discomfort of our ambivalence, we eat matzo every day for eight days.

We start off enthusiastically, consuming our share of Matzo under the rigorous guidelines set forth by Chazzal, in their deepest learned malevolence. We reenact the struggles of our ancestors, in an effort to internalize their travails.

Yet as the days progress, our yearning for freedom grows. It builds up inside us, more and more each day. This sought after passage into freedom is not like a quick everyday event. It grows. With every bite of matzo, we feel the pressure and yearn to explode, free at last.

And finally, when that release and freedom does come, perhaps with a little help of prunes or fruit compote, we celebrate freedom itself and wipe the sweat off our brow.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you minuval.