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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Parshas Re-Aiy

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Parshas Re-Aiy

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Re'Aiy, the Deuteronomistic author (D) continues to pronounce the laws that define the Josianic reforms of the late First Temple period in Judea. ERRR..., I mean, Moishe Rabbeinu continues to lecture on the mountain overlooking Eretz Yisroel, as Klal Yisroel grows increasingly impatient and start checking their e-mails on their Blackberries and playing games on their Palm Pilots. (Boruch Hashem it was a dead zone for cell phone reception or they would have gotten totally out of control with their new iPhones.)

Early in Parshas Re-Aiy, Moishe Rabbeinu tells Klal Yisroel, "Loi Sevashel Gedee BeChalaiyv Emoi" -- The lamb should not be cooked in its mother's milk. By strange coincidence I prepared this week's Drasha on an airplane, contemplating the meaning of the Parsha and Chazzal's understanding of it while eating my dinner at 30,000 feet. Rachmana Litzlan, due to some nearly unavoidable circumstances, the airline was unable to get me a kosher meal. Hence, out of fear of sakonas nefashois -- mortal danger of starvation -- and out of concern for wasting the Aimishtah's creations, I was forced to eat a Philly cheese steak with a shinui while reviewing the source possuk banning such behavior.

Why did the Reboinoisheloilum preclude our eating of dairy and meat together? Indeed, meat comes from animals, the ultimate source of milk, and they are both His creations. What is the logic of this paradox?

The Rabbeinu Yoinassan asks this exact question. He responds that just as a human would never eat his own child, so too a sheep would never want to be consumed with its own child. However, amongst sheep, as amongst humans, verbal abuse, infliction of guilt, and the occasional confiscation of the keys to the car are all permitted, even encouraged.

The RASHBA, however, argues that the Toirah was not speaking literally. The RASHBA insists that the possuk was actually meant as a warning against "having relations" with your slutty girlfriend and her hot divorcee' mother at the same time. Though you can "cook the lamb," if you know what I mean, and you can "drink of her mother's milk," you are not permitted to do both at the same time, chass v'sholom.

The Vilna Goyn disagrees, and indeed takes the possuk quite literally. The GRUH believes that the prohibition in the Toirah of eating milk and meat together stemmed from the lack of good restaurants in Moishe's time. But in our day, Boruch Hashem, there are many good restaurants, and as a result, eating Swiss on corn beef on a Sunday evening is a delicious mitzvas asei she-hazman grummah!

Indeed, the Chofetz Chayim builds upon the comments of the GRUH. He suggests that the juxtaposition of this rule with the references at the end of the Parsha to the three holidays of the cycle of Shaloish Regalim -- Pesach, Shavuois, and Succois -- are clearly intended to provide culinary direction. Consequently, the Chofetz Chayim uses this Parsha to prove that according to the Toirah, there is no better way to bring together the subtle flavors of matzoh balls and chicken consommé than by sprinkling a little freshly ground parmesan on top. Shavuois, he held, should no longer be dominated by cheesecake, but instead should be the holiday of pastrami and onion quiche. And finally, what better way to commemorate Klal Yisroel's sojourning in the desert than by dining on cheeseburgers and beer in the Sukkah.

So why don't we hold like the Goyn, other than when we are in transatlantic flights in Business Class?

There is a famous story about the Rugachugah Rebbe. He was making his way by ship from Poland to Singapore to visit his in-laws when suddenly, in mid-ocean, his boat was surrounded by bandits. As the criminals gathered all the money and jewels of the passengers, the Rugachugah turned to the head bandit and challenged him to a Slivovitz drinking competition. "As long as we can drink over dinner" the bandit replied.

The Rebbe sat down at the table opposite the heavily armed bandit. The other bandits brought over a bottle of Slivovitz and their leader's dinner, a fresh Maine Lobster. After the eighth shot of Slivovitz, the bandits failed to notice as the lobster began to move its pincers. In a miracle reminiscent of the splitting of the Red Sea, the lobster grabbed the shaygitz by the nose, threw him against the wall, and vanquished all of his minions, while the Rebbe sat back and watched the proceedings.

When asked about this, the Rugachuga explained to his followers aboard the ship that as much as the Jews have kept kosher laws, kosher laws have preserved the Jews. Sometimes by safeguarding their cultural identity, but more often, by preventing them from eating overgrown insects and too much fast food.

The Rugachagah Rebbe then took the loot gathered by the bandits and used their pirate ship to escape, never to be seen from again.

In our day, you too must see the relevance of not mixing milk and meat to your lives. You must be well grounded in the Rebboinoisheloilum's rules, though you fail to understand many of them, you am ha'aretz: the separation of milk and meat, tzitzis, tfillin, shiluach ha'kan, taharas hamishpacha (family purity), and waving a live chicken over your head. These rules are the essence of Yiddishkeit. Though you may feel foolish doing them, rest assured, you look foolish as well.

However, at the end of 120 years, you will reap your reward -- true joy at the Aimishteh's side. All day you will sit around a long table learning Toirah with Hakkadoshboruchhu and Moishe Rabbeinu. In the evening you will dine as a group, feasting on the levyasan, which will be good preparation for your night-time activity -- waiting for you in your room will be 72 virgins, wrapped in tfillin, and eating cheeseburgers.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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