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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
I am publishing this week's drasha late, nuch Shabbos-Koidesh, for two reasons:
-- Because you should realize, you minuval, that Toirah should eb studies all week, not just on Shabbos, while you are waiting for your Bashert to get out of the bathroom already, so you can engage in the double-mitzvah;
-- Because unlike you, I HAVE A YESHIVA TO RUN! Over the past week, I have been busy preparing the end of year evaluations and determining how much Kollel money each of the Yungeleit are entitled to in the coming year. It is an awesome responsibility, you mechutziff. So stop complaining already!
Have a Gut Vuch, you mechutziff!
In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayiggash, we read of the culmination of the Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, where Yoisaiph Hatzadick exposes himself to his brothers, as well as to numerous underage bystanders.
Not long after, of course, Yankif Avinu is told that his beloved son Yoisaiph is indeed alive, ending his years of mourning. The Toirah is silent about how the wonderful news is told to Yankif. However, a famous Medrish tells us that the news was gently broken to Yankif by his granddaughter Serach Bas Asher.
Serach Bas Asher was respected amongst her family as a talented singer and a musician. The Shfatim were concerned that breaking the news outright to Yankif would cause him to have a heart attack. So instead, they employed Serach to gently sing to her grandfather while playing the harp, and embed in her song the news that Yoisaiph was alive. The Medrish goes on to say that Serach’s reward for performing this great expression of Kibud Av VaAim was eternal life.
Unfortunately for Serach, her gift of eternal life was not accompanied by a matching gift of a trust fund or a professionally managed pension fund to support her financially for eternity. Consequently, she was dirt poor, and had to spend the next thousand years working as an exotic dancer in a Mesopotamian strip club.
Whatever became of Serach Bas Asher? There is a famous machloikess on this topic in a Gemarrah in Megillah.
-- According to Abaya, Serach prayed for the Reboinoisheloilum to end her life as she witnessed the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash and the descent of Klal Yisroel into the Babylonian exile.
-- According to Rava, Serach lived though Golus Bavel, returned to Eretz Yisroel with Ezra and Nechemia, and lived for several hundred more years. But as Sinas Chinum overtook Klal Yisroel in the years before the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, Serach could no longer withstand her role as eyewitness to all of Jewish history, and prayed to the Aimishteh to be taken to the Oilum HaEmmes.
-- However, according to Rav Shayshess, Serach Bas Asher is indeed still alive, and she currently lives in Wisconsin and runs an online porn site (SerachWILD.Com).
-- Rav Puppa concurs that Serach is still alive, but is neither engaging in pornography, Chass V’Sholom, or living in obscurity. Farkhert, he holds that she is leveraging her years of wisdom and experience to make the Reboinoisheloilum’s world a better place by engaging in public service, and is none other than Hillary Clinton. In addition, Rav Puppa holds that Barak Oibama is really Culaiv Ben Yefuneh, Rudy Giuliani is actually Shloimoi Hamelech, and Mitt Romney is in reality Yeruvum Ben Nevut.
A different Gemarrah in Shabbos focuses on Yankif Avinu’s response to the revelation of Yoisaiph’s whereabouts. According to Rav Chisda, upon hearing the news that Yoisaiph was alive, Yankif looked up to Shamayim and recited Hallel “at having lived to see the handiwork of the Etzbah Eloikim.” However, according to Rabba Bar Bar Channa, Yankif Avinu first looked down to the floor and took a moment to reflect on the enormity of the information. Then he turned around and bitch-slapped Yissaschar and Zevulun in the head, and then kicked Naftali in the Schvantzlach.
RASHI, however, is not at all troubled by the confusion raised by the total lack of any real information in these stories. He states in Perek Chuff Baiz, Passuk Yud Aleph that the entire Parsha of Vayigash should not be taken literally anyway, but should be read as a complete metaphor… for Parshas Miketz, which makes even less sense than Parshas Vayigash. Consequently, every year at this time, to coincide with Chanuka, RASHI would take a break from writing his commentary and travel abroad to sample the new wines being developed in Sonoma County. He would stay at a boutique hotel in downtown San Francisco and take day trips to the wineries where he would drink enough, he writes, “until I can no longer tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabarnet, or between a woman names Chris and a cross-dresser named Christine.” Shoyn.
As we sit here in our modern world, how are we to relate to the entire Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, and, in fact, to the entire Yankif Avinu cycle? Did we even need the brave actions of Yoisaph Hatzadick to begin with? Would we not have been better off had Klal Yisroel not descended to Egypt? Why did Hakkadoshboruchhu have to put our ancestors through hundreds of years of suffering the stinging horrors and humiliations of slavery, only to return to Eretz Yisroel through bitter conquest? Could we not have just stayed there in the first place and survived the famine by taking government subsidies?
Indeed, this is a reflection of a broader existential quandary – linked to one of the ultimate questions facing Klal Yisroel: Why is our history so twisted and tinged with challenge and tragedy? If we are indeed the Aimishteh’s chosen people, could we not have had it a bit easier, like, say, the Norwegians? Who is at fault for our having such a convoluted and tortured fate?
According to Reb Yoisaiph Katski, this is indeed the fault of Hakadoshboruchhu Himself, Bichvoidoi UbiAtzmoi. He points to the Akeidah and notes that just as Yitzchak’s life is spared when a lost little lamb is sacrificed in his stead, the Reboinoisheloilum constantly looks at the world, is tempted to destroy it, remembers His oath to Noiach, and then uses Klal Yisroel as His punching bag to take out His frustrations.
According to Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah, it is of course not the Aimishteh’s fault! He loves us the same way a child lives his pet hamster. Rather, we should blame our parents. If they had only loved us a little more as we were children, and bought us that thing that we really wanted, and let us watch a little more TV, and helped us more with out homework, and not favored our younger brother, and has not been so critical about our bisomim smoking friends, we would have had all the needed confidence to succeed in our every endeavor. Yes, it is our parents who are at fault for our failure for going down to Egypt, for us being exiled, and for all of our other failings. Indeed, the fact that we are 3,000 years old and still wet our beds proves that our parents never really cared about us!
However, according to the RASTA, it is neither the fault of Hakadoshboruchhu or of our parents, but the fault of the liberal media. Case in point: Did we really have to know that Yoisaiph had actually been sold into slavery by his brothers, and then lied to Yankif Avinu and maintained the lie for the next two decades? Is it that big a deal? Every nation has its little internal arguments, and exposing this disagreement only plays into the hands of our enemies.
Similarly, we would never have been exiled from Eretz Yisroel if the liberal media was not always talking about how corrupt the kings of Israel were. They should really love the country, otherwise they should keep their mouths shut. And did the liberal media need to tell us that idolatry has been introduced into the Bais Hamikdash? These were a few isolated events, blown totally out of proportion.
And so what if there were poor members of Klal Yisroel being ignored by their fellow man? They were probably illegal immigrants anyway.
Yes, it was the liberal media that undermined the position of Malchis Bais David, the Malchus of the Chashmonaim, and later, the leadership of the Nasi in the post Temple period. By the actions of the liberal media, our enemies have been given constant reason to hate us and to persecute us. Reboinoisheloilum-Damned-Liberal-Media!
I am reminded of a famous Machloikess in the medieval period. The RIF and the RAN got into a disagreement with the RALBAG and the RITVAH over who had the bigger shtender, Moishe Rabbeinu or Aaroin HaKoihain, the minuval. The RIF and the RAN insisted that Moishe’s shtender was bigger, as we are told that Moishe was the greatest Navi that ever lived, and how can you imagine Navi with an inferior shtender? The RALBAG and the RITVAH, however, refer to the fact that the descendents of Aharoin HAKoihain get the Kehunah as proof that Aharoin had a bigger shtender. After all, they argue, “only someone with a groisse shtender has earned the right to appoint his descendants to the institutional leadership of future generations.
I would like to suggest a different approach. LeOilum, this debate isn’t really about the size of ones shtender. After all, size doesn’t matter, or so my Bashert, Feige Breineh, tells me. Rather, it is the scope of one’s influence that really counts. Moishe Rabbeinu was the greatest Navi, but his descendants were more interested in learning Toirah, and less focused on addressing the everyday needs of Klal Yisroel. Aroin Hakoihain was indeed a minuval, what, with the designing of the Eigel and the speaking Rechilus about Moishe. Yet his children were committed to serving Klal Yisroel, even if that meant giving of their private time, sacrificing commitments to their children, violating their marital vows, or taking of the collected wealth of Klal Yisroel. As a result, they established the paradigm of the future religious leadership of Klal Yisroel.
Similarly, Yoisaiph Hatzadick, and the cycle of stories that surround him, do not represent some perfect era of Klal Yisroel’s history. On the contrary, they tell us that the nature of the relationship between Klal Yisroel and the Reboinoisheloilum is not at all clear. In fact, it is downright convoluted. Yet, what is clear from the story of Yoisaiph is that Klal Yisroel is best served when we hide our own identity, marry shiksas, work for the goyim, and abuse our brethren. Only then can we be in a strong position to help bring about the Geulah Shlaimuh. Umayn.