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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
As is well known, Rav Shimon Bar Yochai spent fourteen years of his life living in a cave. Less well known is the reason: he was trying to make some sense out of this week's Parsha, Parshas Vayechi. Of course, his efforts were ultimately fruitless; the only thing he was able to get out of this Parsha was a massive migraine.
Given Rav Shimon's lack of success, far be it from me to attempt to provide insight. However, given 2000 years of Chazzal's tradition, advanced literary research techniques, computer based analysis, oh, AND THE FACT THAT I DON'T LIVE IN A FREAKING CAVE, I will do my best. (Incidentally, I too, like Rabbi Shimon, once lived a cave, but promptly moved out once that meeskeit I once privately instructed on how to properly perform Metzitzah BiPeh stopped calling me at home.)
The focus of Rabbi Shimon's contemplations was Yankif Avinu's deathbed prophesies. Rabbi Shimon was obsessed with interpreting these ancient poetic predictions to gain insight into events in his own day, a technique referred to as "Pesher" in the writings discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ultimately, he determined that there was no present day relevance, only the hope that we should all be zoicheh to benefit from similar final blessings from reverential Toirah figures lying on their deathbeds, as well as a little extra sympathy from the hot shiksa nurse.
The MAHARAL takes issue with this suggestion. Asks the MAHARAL: How can anyone possibly want to receive anything akin to the dour deathbed words and actions of Yankif? For example:
-- On his deathbed, Yankif Avinu scolds Reuven the Tzaddik, his eldest son, for having had sex with Bilhah, one of the Imahois. (In case they skipped over that Perek in fourth grade, you minuval, you can look it up in Beraishis, Perek Lamed Hay, Possuk Chuf Bayz.) You would think that Yankif, at the end of his life, would stop holding a grudge already. After all, according to the Medrish Rabbah, Bilhah was a dead ringer for Angelina Jolie.
-- Similarly, Yankif berates Shimon and Layvee for their violent lifestyles and actually curses them on his deathbed. And all they had done was wipe out the entire city of Shchem, a bunch of goyim! From the way Yankif speaks, you would think they had done something really bad, like watch TV on Shabbos, or make tea on Shabbos from a Kli Reshoiyn!
-- When blessing Menashe and Ephrayim, Yankif reverses his hands so that his right hand rests on the head of the younger child instead of on the head of the elder, as a signal that the younger will excel over his older brother. (There is even a famous Medrish that says that at that exact moment Yankif went cross-eyed and used his right eye to look to the left, and vice versa.) I will say only one thing about this Bracha: Chass V'Shalom I should have to pay those psychologist bills.
The bottom line, according to the MAHARAL, is that if a beloved elder ever calls you over to give you one last Bracha, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Get on a plane to Argentina. Go visit old friends in Afghanistan. Or go off to live in a freaking cave.
The RIF is less troubled by the Brachois of Yankif in the Parsha. After all -- why would the brothers care about Yankif's opinion when he is about to die? Aimishteh knows they weren't too damn worried about his opinion when he was alive.
Rather, the brothers were obsessed with the Yerushah, the inheritance. This is why Yankif pleads repeatedly throughout the Parsha to be buried in Meuras Hamachpaylah next to his father and grandfather. He did not trust his sons: He knew the shfatim, the twelve tribes, couldn't wait to get their grimy hands on the deed to set up a falafel stand for all the tourists.
Which leads us back to the essential question Rav Shimon Bar Yochai was trying to address: How in our day are we to interpret and understand prophesies which are billed, in the words of the Parsha itself, as a reflection of "Acharis Hayamim", the end of days?
If one looks around, modern reality in Rav Shimon's day or in our own time does not synch with Yankif Avinu's prophesies.
A famous Medrish addresses this, saying that Yankif Avinu did in fact intend to reveal the future of Klal Yisroel, but the Reboinoisheloilum blocked his Ruach Hakoidesh so he wouldn't give away Halikeh Soidois. So instead Yankif ended up repeating some of the plot lines he has seen on the soap opera One Life To Live earlier that day.
The RI takes an alternative approach. He suggests that the texts, including the prophesies, were clearly developed by J text sources, reflecting the post-United Monarchy perspective, and edited within a non-priesthood textual school. I have no idea what this means, but it was this comment that led to the RI being put in chayrem by the community for his heresy. He was only allowed back into the fold after fasting for 30 days, repenting for three years, and writing a $3,000 donation to the Chief Rabbi's Discretionary Fund.
The Tzitz Eliezer insists that all of Yankif Avinu's prophesies for the future of the shfatim were indeed accurate and perfect predictions -- for the native tribes of Bora Bora. He notes that they are the true descendants of Klal Yisroel, while we, alas, are actually descendants of the Chivi, the Yevussi, and Martian invaders.
But the Schvantz Mordechai insists that the Brachois of Yankif were NEVER intended to be taken literally. He points out that Yankif spoke openly and freely, predicting failure as a warning to his sons to stay on the straight and narrow path. This teaches us that it is a big mitzvah to always remind our own children what miserable failures and disappointments they are.
Finally, the ARI ZAHL looks upon Yankif's works as the secret key that will unlock the arrival of the Moshiach. Only when we stop judging others and realize that we ourselves, like the shfatim before us, are minuvals and Vilda Chayas in the eyes of Hakkadoshboruchhu will Klal Yisroel be worthy of Biyas Hamashiach. Until then, I will just have to suffer in the Gallus until the rest of you Am Haratzim realize how worthless you truly are and change your Minuveldicka ways.
But when the time comes and you do finally begin to repent, a natural first step would be to buy my book, or write a check to NPOJ Intl. - Yeshivas Chipass Emmess. For a donation of one hundred dollars or more, you will even receive an autographed copy of my new CD, "Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein's Yuletide Greetings," which includes the hit single remake, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" a duet I recently recorded with my good friend, Mel Gibson.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval