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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parshas Bahaloischa



Parshas Bahaloischa

First, I must acknowledge all the people who reached out to me last week. Phone calls. Faxes. E-Mails. Fundraising letters. "Why was there no drasha from Rabbi Schmeckelstein?" they all asked. You would think that with all the Toirah on the Internet you could find a substitute for a week. Perhaps a Dvar Toirah from Aish Hatoirah. Or a Vort from Har Etzion. (But don't bother looking for an e-mail from Chofetz Chaim. They don't believe in computers. I'm not even sure they know how to read and write.)

Well, truth be told, you Amha'aretz, I was doing research for the commentary on this week's Parsha, Bahaloischa. This Parsha, no less than any other in the Toirah, is all about rebellion, primarily against the Aimishteh. The Bnei Yisroel complain about the poor menu selection in the Midbar. Moishe rebels against the Reboinoisheloilum when asked why Klal Yisroel is rebelling. Aron Hacoihain, the minuval, and Miriam Haneviyah, the yentah also rebel by seeking to share the limelight of leadership with Moishe, or at least receive an equivalent number of stock options with a very low strike price.

What is it about human nature that causes us to rebel, even against the Melech Malchei Hamelachim Hakadoshboruchhu, who, according to the Kabbalistic teachings of the Ari Zahl, can easily crush you with his Almighty, oversized feet? (According to the Vilna Goyn, the Aimishteh wears size 613 Air Jordans, but according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, He wears size 770 Skechers.)

In order to get to the heart of the matter, I traveled to Latin America, the Middle East and Western Europe to try to develop an understanding of the very basic nature of rebellion.

In Latin America, I met with countless rebel movements. They each claimed to be largely motivated by a lack of economic equity and opportunity, compounded with a feeling of being locked out of their political systems. In addition, they were clearly impacted by excessively spicy food. (Voos iz givehn ah Fajita?)

In the Middle East, those Anti-Semitic, Jew Hater, Arafat loving, Soinay Yisroels, as well as their coalition partners from the Labor Party, tend to agree that the essence of rebellion is situational, a natural response mechanism motivated by the ever changing human condition, as well as the ever-important support of the Shas Party and Agudat Yisrael.

In the Arab world, the sense of rebellion, which is manifested as anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment, is driven by an overall deep frustration over a lack of freedom of expression, a lack of political self determination, a lack of economic equity, and a lack of political access.

Finally, in Western Europe, the rebellious human tendency is driven by a sense of too much freedom of expression, too much political self determination, too much economic equity and too much political access.

In other words, the only common theme is that everyone is basically unhappy.

According to Rabbeinu Tam, the general malaise of the human spirit emanates from a lack of rules and boundaries -- which is why WE received the Toirah, have Halachah, and are therefore perfect AND BETTER THAN THE GOYIM!

But the Mordechai holds farkhert: pointing at this week's Parsha, he notes that Klal Yisroel, even after receiving the Toirah on Har Sinai and keeping the TARYAG mitzvois, as they most certainly did, were still a bunch of vilda chayas.

According to the Toisfois Yuntif, the reason that Klal Yisroel is so rebellious in Parshas Bahaloischa is that in this week's Parsha, they reached their teenage years. Born as a nation, they grew up in Mitzrayim, and reached the age of Mitzvois at Har Sinai. Now, they are like a fourteen year old with raging hormones, who has recently smoked his first marijuana cigarette (chass v'sholom).

Indeed, if we look at all the dissatisfaction in the world, one must reach one of two conclusions: According to Bais Hillel, the Aimishteh created a perfect world, and humans simply don't know how to appreciate it. But according to Bais Shammai, the Aimishteh created a horrible, imperfect world, and we are all victims of His creation.

While I am personally inclined to agree with Bais Shammai on this one, this opinion would not be good for me professionally, so I am forced to reject it. Yet the basic thinking does offer the roots of an answer, which comes to light in a famous Chassidic tale. There once was an egg merchant in the town of Shklov whose entire inventory was destroyed one day by a heat wave. The merchant went to the Baal Shem Tov and asked why he was singled out for such a miserable fate. The BESHT responded by pulling out a bottle of Slivovitz, drinking down three shots with the man, and then pulling out a mirror which he held up to the man's face. He then said, "Look -- you are so ugly, no one would have bought eggs from you anyway!"

The truth is, the world IS an imperfect place. But if you spend too much time focusing on the imperfections, you are likely to get leprosy, like Miriam, the yentah. Instead, one must focus on the positive. And if you have trouble seeing the positive, three shots of Slivovitz might help bring it into focus.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shavuois Drasha



Shavuois Drasha

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what does all of this have to do with eating dairy?

In a gemarrah in Maseches Soitah, Abaya suggests that we eat dairy lehachis, because it is almost summer and the goyim have all started to barbecue in their backyards, and WE DO NOT ACT LIKE THE GOYIM!!!

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

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

Was it that they were inherently evil? Was it that they didn't understand its significance? Was it that they were ungrateful, "stiff-necked" good-for-nothings like you, you amhaaretz? No! They really wanted the Torah, but they found it too much to handle. Indeed, they craved it, looked forward to it, and viewed it as the capstone, the "dessert" if you will, of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt. But, alas, they found it difficult to digest.

Sadly, this is how many of us are with dairy products. And therefore, to commemorate our experiences at Mattan Toirah, we eat blintzes, cheescake, and all things dairy.

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

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Soliciting Toirah Insights on the Oral Law



Soliciting Toirah Insights on the Oral Law


I would like to solicit your help in gathering Toirah insights on key Halachic shailahs of our day.

It is said that B’Chol Dor VaDor, in every generation, there is one true light of Toirah born. This is an Ilui, a genius, whose contribution to the understanding of the divine wisdom of Yiddishkeit is measured not just in the answers that he provides, but in the deep and complex questions that he raises for the benefit of all Klal Yisroel.

And so it is with our generation. After 65 years of my personal quest to discover this individual, the Ilui has been found. HOWEVER -– and you had better sit down for this one, you minuval – this Ilui is actually a woman, not a man. Shocking, I know. But while the Reboinoisheloilum set aside all the Neshamas destined to add Toirah and intelligence for the males of the species, apparently one slipped through to the assembly line for females (alongside the Neshamas destined to focus on sheyltels, prayer circles, and bedikah cloths). Hey, even He can make a mistake every once in a while…

You may recall several weeks ago an insightful shailah raised by a meideleh named Virginia. Since that time she has revealed her true nistor self (and I have pictures!) as the Ilui of our generation. She has reached out to me with a very detailed set of shailahs that frame a broad understanding of issues related to the application of the Oral Law in the Yiddishe household. Rather than answer the question Al Regel Achas, on one very firm leg, I have decided to reach out to you, my beloved Talmidim, for your thoughts and answers on the shailahs below. Please submit your Toirah in the comments section of my blog, you mamzerim, or I won’t give you recess for a month!



Again I must seek your guidance and sage advice. My husband recently informed me (quite joyfully) of the results of a medical research study concerning a specific behavior. This act, when practiced regularly, apparently reduced the risk of breast cancer in women.

In a nutshell, the study found that women who performed fellatio (Metziza BePeh) once or twice weekly and swallowed, had a 1.9% incidence of breast cancer, as opposed to 10.4% in those who did not.

I read the reference that my bashert gave me very carefully. My husband has generously offered to assist me in this application of "VeNishmartem LeNafshoseichem", the Biblical principle obligating one to do virtually any act to save one's life.

The issues here are many. I will list but a few.

1. If indeed the twice weekly schedule is critical, then when my husband is away, is he supposed to arrange "coverage", or am I expected to improvise? Is it a mitzvah for others to take his place, as needed?

2. Women who breast feed and also have day jobs frequently pump their breasts and store the material for later. With nursing infants, the breast milk is the critical material rather than the breast suckling itself. Should he "pump" in advance of his absence?

3. How about if I substitute "Avodat Yad" (literally - hand work) for lip action?

4. If only the fluid is critical, maybe there is no benefit to me doing the pumping at all? Let him do the work alone.

5. If we could identify the "active ingredient", maybe a pharmaceutical company could just create a supplement that I could take twice a week, and be forever spared further gagging.

6. What's this obsession with us swallowing? If he doesn't like my turnip leek soup, I don't insist that he keep swallowing it! Anyway, post-squirt, what does it matter whether I swallow or spit it out and then promptly rise with Listerine! Several daquiris or margaritas beforehand would also help. Mary Poppins had a good point with her "Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down."

7. The Torah teaches us that an adulteress (Sotah) was given "bitter water" by the Kohen (priest) to prove her innocence or guilt. Now I have no idea how much experience you and your talmidim have in this area, but let me assure you that it would be extremely difficult to find a more bitter and less palatable drink. Maybe the descendants of Aaron knew a secret that has been lost? Maybe the incense (Ktores) and their priestly diet rich in cream of wheat with olive oil actually improved their male flavor?

We must keep in mind that those priests had to deal with the daily hordes of repentant women who threw themselves at the priests in order to jump the line and get their pair of doves grilled or their lamb made into schwarma early, so they could spend the rest of the day at Herrods, Alexander's or getting mud/spa treatments at Ein Gedi or Masada? It was probably some of those same women who were later dragged by jealous husbands to those identical priests. Imagine if those descendants of Aaron decided who got the "spiked" drink based, at least in part" on the individual woman's secret Kohanim score cards, fitness reports and performance evaluations? Those priests might have been the originators of our modern managerial techniques. This view was actually originally expressed by Rabbi Zeyra. (In light of our current topic, I have always wondered how he acquired that name…)

8. What about the kashrut issue? The Torah tells us that we may only eat pure and kosher animals. Male Homo sapiens clearly do not qualify as either. I asked my husband about possibly using sheep or ox fluid. He got very irate, especially after I suggested to him that he go and personally collect the "specimens."

9. I did some research on breast cancer and discovered that 1% of breast cancer victims are male. I showed that data to my husband and suggested to him, that he too must reduce his risk. I offered to do what he asked, if he did the same to some other guy. Is this not a literal example of the biblical principle of: "What's good for the goose is indeed good for the gander?"

10. I am aware of the Torah prohibition barring a man from spilling his seed upon the ground and do my best to prevent this terrible transgression. However, Rebbe, I must ask, does the same prohibition not also apply to walls, sheets, shower stalls, sinks, drains...

11. What Bracha does a woman say before performing this act? A friend of mine has advised the "She'asani Kirtzono" (Literally - that he has created me to suit his purposes.) My husband clearly would need to say the "She'hecheyanu!" (He would be so excited that he would probably sing the complete Hallel too, WITH a Bracha!)

12. If this practice becomes widespread among frum women, then it will be a new experience for most of us, (except those on JDate). Hopefully, no woman would gag and accidently perform a "Bobbit" on the member. (Might that be what the Torah really refers to as "Karet"?) If a man is with an "inexperienced" woman" and is thankfully spared that fate, should he not also say bench “Gomel" (Special prayer of gratitude)?

13. The older women, especially those with removable dentures, might have an easier time with this. As older women are also more health conscious, we might start the stamp-out breast cancer campaign by having the husbands "volunteer" to help save our nursing home population, or be the keynote feature at local Hadassah meetings.

14. Incidentally, if a woman did accidentally perform a Bobbit on her mate, then after calling 911 and letting the paramedics treat him, does she then say the "Boruch She'Patrani?" (Blessed be he who has rid me of the punishment from this one!)

Thank you for considering this subset of the Oral Laws.


So, Rabboisai, as you can see, Virginia is indeed wise beyond compare. It will be a great mitzvah and example of Harbatzas HaToirah for you to contribute to this essential dialogue.


Parshas Bamidbar



Parshas Bamidbar

In this week's Parsha, Bamidbar, there isn't all that much that happens. You may want to take advantage and catch up on your sleep, so long as your snoring isn't louder than the Rabbi's.

In the Parsha, the tribes are counted, one by one -- all the males -- as the Bnei Yisroel's ability to make war is gauged. But the Bnei Layvee, we are told, are not to be counted amongst the rest of the nation, as they shall not be soldiers, but should instead serve as the spiritual frontline through their activities within the Priesthood.

Now I know where the ultra-Orthodox in Israel get the inspiration! Certainly, the Reboinoisheloilum intends that one tribe should tend to the moral fiber, maintain the facilities, carry out the practices of the spiritual institutions, and suck up all the booty in the national coffers, while the rank and file get shot at.

Based on the Haluchois of Milchemess Mitzvah as understood by the RAMBAM, I personally believe that the ultra-Orthodox should never be exempt from serving in the army. Indeed, the Aimishteh needs every possible warrior in Eretz Yisroel, since the Toirah is opposed to any sort of compromise with our enemies. No political agreements are possible. And even if we could, why should we?

In fact, we must never compromise with any of our enemies anywhere. We are surrounded by them. Our neighbors. Our co-workers. The guy in the gas station. The bus driver. The newsman on TV. That little kid sitting in the shopping cart on line in front of you at Gristedes. They are either members of your Shul, or they are anti-Semites or self-hating Jews!

How much more so in Eretz Hakoidesh. So I intend to start a letter campaign from here in my office in New York at Yeshivas Chipass Emess. No exemptions! We here in the golus will provide the spiritual safeguarding of the State, while our brethren in Eretz Yisroel must be prepared to fight to the last man.

Indeed, it would not be unprecedented if we were to take over the role of spiritual safeguard. Because, also in this week's Parsha, we see the descendants of Aron Hacoihain appointed as the principal Priests of Klal Yisroel, while Moisheh Rabbeinu's descendants are relegated to support positions. Why does Aron Hacoihain get to steal away the the spiritual leadership of the nation from Moisheh?

According to Reb Hai Gaon, Aron was able to engineer a boardroom takeover after securing support of several key institutional investors. But Rabeinu Tam holds that Aron won the Kehunah during the regular Wednesday night poker game in which Aron, Moisheh, Yehoshua, and Kulayv Ben Yefuneh were members.

But according to the RAMBAM, the Reboinoisheloilum gave Aron the Kehuna to keep him out of trouble. The last thing Klal Yisroel needed was for Aron to get involved in complex decisions. According to the Medrash Rabbah, he couldn't even program his own VCR.

Of even more concern, Aron Hacoihain led the Bnei Yisroel into the Chayt HaEygel. He was also a poor spokesman for Moisheh who never kept his rolodex up to date with key press contacts. The idea was to put the minuval in a position where he couldn't cause too much damage to himself. Or to Klal Yisroel.

But, unfortunately, things did not quite work out as planned.

Case in point: the descendants of Aron finally did steal the malchus, the political leadership embodied by the kingdom of Israel, during the days of the Chashmonaim, and the result was the most corrupt regime in the history of the sovreignty of Klal Yisroel. In the generations after the miracle of Chanukah, the regime was corrupt and brutal: They abused their power, persecuted the Pharisees (the precursors of Rabbinic Judaism), and forced the religious conversions of neighboring peoples (including the father of the later-despised King Herod). These actions ultimately led to the Romans being invited into Eretz Yisroel by the opponents of the Chashmonaim.

Which brings us back to the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. The best thing you can say about them is they have nice, full beards. And some of those women look really hot with their heads shaved. But they don't serve in the army, they don't pay taxes, they have fourteen kids each (kenaina harah), and they use every opportunity to use their political power to their own community's advantage.

Perhaps we here in the golus should emulate their activities, rather than criticize them. We should refuse to pay our taxes. We should apply for every possible state benefit because they are available: welfare, medicaid, affirmative action, farm subsidies, nuclear waste management, needle exchange programs, and free school lunches (even if they are traifus!)

Because what matters most is not the here and now -- the Oilam Hazeh. What matters most is the Oilam Habbah -- the world to come. And since none of the amhoratzim of the world -- including you, you shaygitz -- will be priveleged to join the Aimishteh in Gan Eiden, they just don't count. Only I and my closest associates will have earned the right to sit next to the Reboinoisheloilum on His heavenly throne. And if He doesn't behave Himself, we'll throw Him out too.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Friday, May 11, 2007

Parshas Bechukoisai



Parshas Bechukoisai

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Bechukoisai, we read about the reward and punishment promised us by the Reboinoisheloilum for fulfilling, or violating, His commandments. RASHI asks a pertinent question: Why does the Aimishteh offer us only ten quick Pesukim (verses) of promised reward, while He gives us three times that -- over thirty graphic Pesukim -- warning of harsh consequences? Aren’t we under enough pressure? What’s pshat, for Hakadoshboruchhu’s sake?

According to the Rabbeinu Tam, on the morning when this parsha was written, the Reboinoisheloilum was having a bad day. As the Medrish Rabbah tells us, when He was not busy studying Toirah, the Aimishteh kept Himself busy doing day trading. And on that morning, He had taken a strong position on a networking stock based on a rumor of a takeover, only to find out that there were serious accounting and reporting errors by the auditing firm of Goldberg, Aronowitz and Schwartz. So He wasn’t feeling that sympathetic to Klal Yisroel. And who can blame Him? Believe me, He lost more money that day than you earn in a whole year, you Minuval!

However, according to the RASHBAM, Hakkadoshboruchhu had no ill will for Am Yisroel that day – or any day for that matter. No, says the RASHBAM, on the contrary -- the Reboinoisheloilum loves us! We are His beloved nation, His chosen, His betrothed. However, we learn from this Parsha that the Aimishteh is really into S&M. “I will smite you sevenfold for your sins” (Perek Chuff-Vuv, Pasuk Chuff Daled) is the Toirah's equivalent of Hakkadoshboruchhu handcuffing us to the bed and whipping us with His tfillin.

As proof, the RASHBAM points out that the end of the section includes the Reboinoisheloilum telling us ,”Even with all this, with you dwelling in the land of your enemies, I will not despise you… to nullify my covenant with you… I will recall my covenant with your forebears … to be your Lord…” (Perek Chuff-Vuv, Pasukim Mem Daled – Mem Hey). According to the RASHBAM, the Aimishteh is telling us ‘stop crying, you little bitches – you know you like it rough. Let me rub the pain away with my velvet yarmulke.’

The Toisfois Yuntif, however, disagrees with the RASHBAM, who he refers to as a “groisse pervert”, pointing out that upon moving to Lithuania, the RASHBAM was compelled to register as a sex offender. Rather, says the Toisfois Yuntif, the Parsha teaches us that it is hard to be a Jew. If we look at all the Mitzvois Asey and Loi Sa’asey, they are hard to keep. Which comes more naturally to you on a Saturday morning? Turning on the TV and opening a beer, or getting into a suit, putting on a tie, and walking twelve blocks up a hill with your screaming kids only to sit next to some guy in shul who is shukkeling so much you would think he was going to drill a hole through the floor, when all the while his dandruff is the only thing coming between you and his unbrushed shabbos morning breath? Ich vais, how many of us can stand up to that challenge? Of course, we are all three times as likely to violate the commandment!

With this in mind, chazzal has over the years developed a series of strategies to increase the odds of our success, guaranteeing happiness in this life and the World To Come. According to a famous Mishna in Perek Zayin of Pirkei Avois:

• Rabbi Galileo use to always carry extra money with him, so that whenever a beggar would come his way, we would always be able to be mekayim the mitzvah of tzedakah.

• Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah always kept a fully stocked bar, so that he was always ready to perform the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim.

• Rabbi Akiva was concerned that he would be too distracted to kiss the mezuzah every time he went into a room. So, after trying mezuzahs made of silver, gold, Jerusalem stone, pottery, and glass, he had one custom built that looked like his wife’s Erva, which he was always sure to kiss as he went into the room. Indeed, a Beraisah in Nezikin tells us, after he put on a lot of weight in his later years, Rabbi Akiva discovered that if he spent a little extra time kissing the mezuzah, it made it much easier for him to get through the door.

However, the Baal Shem Toiv vehemently disagrees with this approach. According to the BESHT, “the Toirah is here to inspire us and guide our thinking, not to be taken literally.” Consequently, he points out, the mitzvois in the Toirah should be viewed as “voluntary guidelines,” rather than laws, and the threats of punishment should be read as poetry for “spiritual contemplation purposes only”. He adds that to enhance one’s meditation on the text and Hisboidadus with the Shechina, his Chassidic followers should drink a minimum of five shots of vodka, while Misnagdim should drink the same quantity of single malt scotch.

But the Vilna Goyn vehemently disagrees. He insists that you MUST take EVERY WORD in KOL HATOIRAH KOOLOH literally. In discussing Parshas Bechukoisai specifically, he notes that the Toichacha, the Rebuke and warnings of punishment, should be taken quite literally.

But the Goyn doesn’t stop there. He notes the references in the early Pesukim to Klal Yisroel’s divinely driven success on the battlefield: “And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall beside you by the Cherev. And five of you shall chase one hundred, and one hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall beside you by the Cherev” (Perek Chuff-Vuv, Pasukim Zayin – Khess). Pointing at the Pasuk, he insists that the use of the term “Cherev”, sword, MUST be taken literally. Consequently, says the Goyn, for AM Yisroel to maintain the favor of Hakkadoshboruchhu, the Israeli army should follow Parshas Bechukoisai, set aside all of its advanced weapons, and arm its soldiers with swords ONLY. Any reliance on more modern weapons reflects a complete lack of faith, for which we should be banished “and sent back to Miami Beach” says the Goyn. Shoyn.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. The Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Shloimo Amor, was in New York, attending an important business meeting at a Korean massage parlor. As he walked into his special “meeting room,” who should he bump into but the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Yoina Metzger. After their respective happy endings, they sat down for coffee. They began to engage in a machloikess as to whether or not someone in New York may drink the tap water due to the risk of ingesting microscopic crustaceans. They both cited Toirah sources, Rabbinic teachings, and the broad body of Halachic tradition. It became clear that Rabbi Amor had the better constructed teshuvah. At that point Rabbi Metzger blurted out, “ you may be better at reaching a Psak Halacha, but I am a much more accomplished felon!” He went on to cite his impending indictment for illegally accepting free hotel stays.

Rabbi Amor responded sharply, “no, you michutziff, I am the more accomplished felon. Just because my wife and son have been indicted for arranging the beating of my daughter’s boyfriend, it doesn’t mean I am innocent! I instigated the whole thing!”

At that, Rabbi Metzger stroked his beard slowly, and then exclaimed, “at least I don’t eat rice on Pesach, you shaygitz!”

So we should certainly take the Toirah literally. I know I do. In fact, after Shabbos this week, I plan to go home and emulate the Parsha by handcuffing my bashert to the bed and whipping her with my gartel.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Parshas B-Har



Parshas B-Har

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Parshas Emor



Parshas Emor

I strongly suggest you read this parsha at your own risk. "Why?" you ask, you minuval. Because a month hasn't even passed, and we are back at Pesach again. Reboinoisheloilum, I am still recovering from throwing my back out while removing the car seats from the mini van. It's a good thing too I cleaned under the seats in the car -- my Yetzer Hara might have tempted me to break into the car after the second Seder to snack on the two crushed M&Ms on the floor.

Why do we prepare so intensively for Pesach? According to Rabbeinu Tam, we commemorate slavery in Egypt by spending six hours marching up and down the stairs to the attic to bring down the Pesach dishes while our wives stand over us barking orders (those amharatzois)like the Egyptian Sarei Missim.

Meanwhile, rachmana litzlan, our wives absolutely exhaust themselves watching the cleaning lady prepare for Pesach.

The RAMBAM in Mishnah Torah asks an incisive question: Instead of selling our chometz to a goy, why can't we just temporarily sell our religion to a goy? This way, he can have the opportunity to get the mitzvah of celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim, while we get to eat a little traifus, paint easter eggs, and have relations with a hot shiksa for seven days (eight days in Chutz La'aretz). But the RAMBAM concludes that if a goy had to eat Matzah for eight days, he would end up hating the Jews even more than he already does.

In truth, why do we stop our Pesach cleaning at our abode and our cars? A Gemarrah In Masechess Pesachim daff chuff aleph, amud bais asks: Why don't we clean out our bodies of the Chometz we pump into them 51 weeks a year? Indeed, Rav Ashi holds that this is the reason that bechorim fast Erev Pesach, and that to get the full mitzvah, people should stick their finger's down their throats during bedikas chometz.

But further in the Gemmarah, Rav Yosi disagrees, saying that since the food is already eaten, we hold that food cannot be eaten a second time, so there is no such requirement. However, Rav Yosi does go on to tell a story of how one year he told his wife that he needed her help cleaning for Pesach, since halacha required him to expel ALL possible bodily fluids. And due to her extreme gullibility, she helped him three times that night. What an Aishess Chayill. Unfortunately, he slept through much of the seder the next night, so he never dared to do it again.

My personal belief is that celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the einiklach. Beyond cleaning, you get the mitzvah of preparing the matzois and the ka'arah. During the Seder you are unified with all of Klal Yisroel in celebration. And after the Seder, while cleaning up, you lament the fact that your damn mother-in-law wasn't accidentally left in Mitzrayim.

But the timing of this week's Parsha raises a key question about the overall structure of the parshiyois of the Toirah: Why don't they follow a more intuitive order? Why does the Toirah place individual sections out of chronological order, as well as offer multiple repetitions of various episodes and sections?

The standard answer, given by Rashi, is that Moishe Rabbeinu, like any good representative of Klal Yisroel, never went anywhere without his cell phone. And as the Reboinoisheloilum was dictating the Toirah, his minuval brother Aroin Hacoihain kept on calling. "Moishe, should I have the people pray?" "Moishe, should we circle Har Sinai?" "Moishe, white makes me look fat; can you ask the Aimishteh to change the color of the Coihain Gadol's garments?" Well all of these constant distractions threw Moishe off, and he got the order of the Reboinoisheloilum's dictation all confused.

I would humbly like to offer a new pshat. I remember as a young talmid I asked my rebbe muvhak, the NPOJHARTHA, why we learned mussar in the morning, Gemmarah all day, and NACH with mepharshim at night -- shouldn't we study in the reverse order, reflecting the development of Toirah and lumduss? The NPOJHARTHA glowingly gave me a hug, led me by the hand to the front of the bais medrish, and then slammed my head against the top of his shtender. "Until you know the answers yourself, don't ask me such stupid questions, you vilda chaya" he then said.

After pondering this comment for thirty years, I now understand my rebbe's wisdom. Mimunifshuch, if everything in life made sense, we wouldn't have to daven three times a day. Life is confusing. And those of us who don't fall into the trap of seeing everything in black and white must spend our lives struggling with shades of gray. So the Toirah has a few mysteries. If everything was crystal clear, faith wouldn't be a challenge.

The Reboinoisheloilum wants to keep us guessing and asking questions. And at the same time, he intends the Toirah to serve as our road map. So don't complain next time you have to vacuum the inside of the car and don't know why. At least as a member of Klal Yisroel you are never expected to change a tire by yourself.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval