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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Parshas Kee Seesah



Parshas Kee Seesah

This week's seminal parsha features the creation of the Eigel Hazahav by Aroin Hacoihain, after Am Yisroel panics when Moishe Rabbeinu doesn't return after receiving the Luchois.

What were these am haratzim thinking? The Rebboinoisheloilum delivers them from Egypt with an outstretched arm, but Moishe hits a little traffic and POOF! "Let's worship Yushka Pandra!"

And Aroin Hacoihain, the meshumid, why did he have to go so far as to create the Eigel? If the people needed to rebel, why not start slowly? First, start with some traifus. Maybe a nice lobster. Sure, it's a big cockroach, but in the midbar you take what you can get. Or maybe he should have distributed Skittles or Hostess Twinkles to Klal Yisroel.

But instead, straight to the Eigel. No wonder the Melech-Malchei-Hamlachim wanted to wipe out Klal Yisroel.

However, He chose to spare them.

RASHI quotes a Gemarrah in Sanhedrin that says that instead of striking the minuvals down on the spot, Hakkadoshboruchhu renders the punishment on all subsequent generations of Klal Yisroel. When any generation suffers a punishment, the Shechinah ensures that there will be an added element attributable to the Eigel.

Consequently, in our day, even in times of relative affluence and success, we continue to suffer the Chayt HaEigel. Current sufferings include frigid wives, Macaroons, Kiddush Levanah in the middle of winter, the wait to get into Le Marais on a Sunday night, and the fact that Woody Allen is a Jew.

Yet despite his aveirah of inciting Klal Yisroel to worship the Eigel, Aroin retained the Kehunah. Farvoos?

The common answer among Chazzal is that Aroin was a tzadik who was trying to distract and delay Klal Yisroel. Consequently, it was only natural the he remain in charge of filling the paper towel dispensers, sweeping up, and turning out the lights in the Koidesh HaKedoishim.

But the MAHARAL disagrees, declaring that it is a whitewash to say that Aroin was really a tzadik. Says the MAHARAL, this makes about as much sense as waving a live chicken over your head to take away your sins.

Farkhert. The MAHARAL feels that Aroin was the ultimate Machiavellian figure who had clear aspirations to usurp the position of Moishe Rabbeinu. However, continues the MAHARAL, Moishe was smart enough to see this, and used it to his advantage. Moishe realized that every organization needs both a hero for leadership and vision, and a despot to keep everyone in line and "take the heat". And Moishe used Aroin as that despot.

The political machinations are clear. What was the first thing Moishe did when descending from the mountain? He broke the Luchois that the Aimishteh had made with His own two hands. And what did Moishe do next? He recruited Aroin and the Leviyim to slaughter 3,000 people. I personally would not have questioned Moishe's breaking the Luchois after that. Neither would you, you mechutzeff!

According to the RADAK, One of Moishe Rabbeinu's great aveirahs was his obsession with looking good. Hence, he kept his farbissineh brother around to be his goon. That way he could keep up his good image and capture future book deals and licensing revenues. (I personally have a new Moishe Rabbeinu Chia Pet in my Bais Medrish.)

We can even see signs of Moishe's obsession with his image in his discussions with Hakkadoshboruchhu. Following the Chayt HaEigel, one of Moishe's pleas to prevent the destruction of Am Yisroel is that if the Aimishteh were to destroy Klal Yisroel, the Mitzrim would say that the Jews were delivered from Egypt only to be killed in the desert. In essence, Moishe's argument is: "What will the Goyim say." What will the Goyim say? Since when does a Jew, Moishe Rabbeinu no less, worry about Goyisheh public opinion? Who does he think he is – Ehud Olmert?

I am reminded of a Maisseh Shehoya, when I was a Talmid with my Rebbe, the NPOJHARTHA. Many years ago we were traveling by horse and buggy through rural San Francisco to raise money for his Yeshiva. When it became evening, we stopped at a local lodge to eat. "But Rebbe," I asked, "the lodge serves traifus. How can we eat here?" "Sha, you minuval!" the NPOJHARTHA patiently responded, "we can eat whatever we want, and then sneak out the door. As long as we don't pay for it there is no aveirah." Years later, the NPOJHARTHA recognized that his sin had caused a stinging punishment: He is currently exiled to the wilds of West Virginia, not because of eating traifus, but because he didn't order the most expensive items on the menu.

Such is the fate of Moishe. Hitting the rock kept him out of Eretz Yisroel. But the Chayt HaEigel instigated by his minuval brother lost him his copyrights and much associated revenue on the Chamishei Chumshay Toirah. Rachmana Litzlan.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Parshas Tetzaveh



Parshas Tetzaveh

In this week's parsha, Parshas Tetzaveh, the Aimishteh commands Moisheh Rabbeinu to appoint Aroin Hacoihain and his sons to serve as the priests of the Jewish People. A serious question arises immediately: Why would Hakkadoshboruchhu appoint the minuval conspirator who built the Eigel Hazohov to lead the religious rituals of the Mishkan and the Bais Hamikdash?

Please don't try to figure this one out, you michutzeff – you might hurt yourself and have to take the rest of the day off.

According to the Bais Yoseph, Hakkadoshboruchhu singled out Aroin so that he and his luch-in-kup sons would do all the dirty work of Klal Yisroel, so that Moisheh would have more time for speech therapy. And what was the dirty work? Primarily it was slaughtering the cows, sprinkling the blood, smoking the Parah Adumah, etc.

Clearly the Bnei Yisroel are obsessed with cows. Why this obsession? We sacrifice them, we eat them, we drink their milk (provided the proper Cholov Yisroel supervision), and we put their pictures on overpriced cartons of ice cream.

In India, where I once was a talmid, people are also obsessed with cows. Bessie walks around the streets, treated with respect and reverence. This is because the cow community is viewed as the model form of society. Unlike Am Yisroel, cows are friendly, cooperative, and never speak on their cell phones while in a movie theatre. In other words, they make the Jewish People look bad. Consequently, it is a Chiyuv Dioraisa to walk into Kosher Delight, ask for a double beef burger, fries, and a coke. And, Pirkei Avos tells us, whoever eats an overstuffed pastrami sandwich is guaranteed a place in Olam Habbah. (Indeed, according to the Rabbeinu Tam, the Aimishteh banned the eating of pigs solely so we will rid the world of more cows.)

Picking up on this logic, the RASHBAM asks a further question: If Aroin Hacoihain and his minuval sons no longer have a Bais Hamikdash to serve as their base of exploitation... err, in which to lead the Avoidah, who is charged with doing the Jewish People's dirty work in our day?

According to the Toisfois Yom Tov, in our day, it is the Rabbi who is charged with doing the dirty work. Cohanim are relegated to playing Casper the Friendly Ghost at the front of the shul on holidays (or everyday in Eretz Yisroel or amongst the Sephardim, those Am Haratzim).

The TUSH disagrees vehemently, suggesting that the Toisfois Yom Tov was busy picking the crumbs out of his beard and not paying attention to all the sources. He holds that shul caterers are charged with the dirty work, pointing out that cleaning up half eaten plates of cholent and Kishka after a big kiddush is the equivalent of handling the fat of the Egla Arufah with your bare hands.

I believe that both the Toisfois Yom Tov and the TUSH were completely off target. I think that the dirty work of the Jewish People is today done by the Gabbai. After all, who likes the guy? He stands up there on the Bimah acting like he is the Rebboinoisheloilum, hands out Aliyois to all his friends, and absolutely loves to correct the errors of the pimple faced Bar Mitzvah kid who is barely tall enough to read from the Torah.

Come to think of it, he also likes to humiliate underage children by forcing them to go to the front of the shul to lead Adon Olam and Anvim Zmirois. I ask you: Is it a right of passage, or child abuse?

In my kehillah, I love the Gabbai because he makes me look good. Every Shabbos, all the mishugayim stand at the front of the shul and argue with him over whose turn it is to daven musaph for the amud. Meanwhile, I can slip to the back and find out what the Yankees did the night before. (Boruch Hashem we have some am haratzim who watch TV on shabbos.) When there is too much talking, I let the Gabbai shush the kehilla. They may be talking about Torah, but then again they may be talking about sports or how the whole insurance in scandal is very reminiscent of most Yeshiva raffles.

In any case, the Gabbai of today is just like the Coihanim of yesterday. If he calls your name you better go quickly -- you won't get another Aliyah for the next three years. But be careful: He just might have an Eigel Hazohov up his sleeve.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Parshas Teruma



Parshas Teruma

Last week I was away on a business trip, traveling to the Bahamas to dedicate a local mikvah. No one invited me, of course, but given that it was a "business trip", it is tax deductible. Well, after my Bashert went to the mikvah, we got back to our hotel room and dedicated the mikvah. Twice.

Which brings us to this week's Parsha, Parshas Teruma. Teruma of course refers to the contributions made in the midbar by Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People, in setting up the Mishkan. The ARI ZAHL asks an obvious question: why was Am Yisroel, while traveling in the desert for forty years, probably not having showered, so privileged as to be able to donate the materials for the Mishkan, while we, in our day, don't have a similar opportunity?

The ARI ZAHL offers a beautiful answer. In a time of spiritual unification between the Rebboinoisheloilum and His bride Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People express our closeness to the Aimishteh by funding spiritual endeavors. But in a time when Klal Yisroel is separated from Hakkadoshboruchhu, trapped within the realm of the mundane as scattered sparks, we can only aspire to emulate this divine behavior by cheating on our taxes.

Well, I would like to suggest that in our generation, we are again in a state of closeness to the Rebboinoisheloilum. In fact, you sitting out there, reading this in shul instead of peaking into the Ezras Nashim, are blessed with a gevaldik opportunity to cling to the Aimishteh. Like Klal Yisroel in the midbar, you too have the chance to give tzedakah, and cling to Hakkadoshboruchhu through performing a big mitzvah.

Minuval, how much money do you waste every week on narishkeit? Movies, cable television, Playstation, gym membership, mortgage, rent, 401K, income taxes, bread, health insurance, cholesterol medication, anti-depressants, birth control (Rachmana Litzlan). You should be spending your money on real items that will make the world a better place and reserving your spot in Olam Haba, the afterlife. And at the same time, you can provide me... err… rabbinic scholars an appropriate standard of living.

You read this commentary every week. Did it ever occur to you that I don't do this for my health? No, I do this to help your neshama, you ungrateful vilda chaya! And now, just as the Jewish People did in the desert, you have to pay.

I want you to take out your check book right now and start making out a check to "Yeshivah Chipass Emmess/ NPOJ International -- Tuition".. (Incidentally, we do accept credit cards with a nominal 52% surcharge.)

"And why should I?" you are asking, you good-for-nothing? I'll tell you. When you contribute to NPOJ International, you help to preserve the Jewish People. Our yeshiva and movement are critical in the struggle against assimilation. And of course, our philosophy embraces modernity and the integration of modern cultural ideas.

We are against the peace process in Eretz Yisroel, but are also in favor of a just and lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Your contribution helps to fight anti-semitism. We are also resoundly against Jewish xenophobia, and also oppose the Jewish cabal bent on dominating the media and implementing world government.

In other words, whatever it is, we're against it. Unless you're in favor of it, in which case we're in favor of it too. Just so long as you write us a check. Make that checks. Because in Parshas Teruma we read of a multi-level contribution structure that is echoed and commemorated in our own fundraising model.

The Reboinoisheloilum commanded the Jewish People to contribute gold for the Mishkan. This is equal in our day to the Yeshiva tuition that you must pay. He also commanded them to donate:

-- Silver, which is equal to the building fund
-- Brass, which is equal to the family obligation
-- Techayless, which is equal to the journal ad
-- Argaman, which is equal to the dinner
-- Toalas Shani, which is equal to the Rabbi's discretionary fund.

Additional commandments are equivalent in our day to the Passover candy drive, the book fair, and, of course, scrip. So this week, as you read this, don't read my name as "Schmeckelstein" but as "Shekel-stein".

A beraisah in Sanhedrin brings down a debate among the chachomim on how much money one should contribute. Rav Yehudah Hanassi said you should give until it hurts; Rabbi Yoichanan said you should give beyond it hurting, until it begins to feel good. But the Chachomim held that you should give until you cannot afford groceries and have to appear before the scholarship committee.

While lechatchilah we hold like the Chachomim, bedeeyeved you don't have to go so far. Just so long as you donate enough so that next month my Bashert and I can go and dedicate a new mikvah in Hawaii.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Limud Toirah


Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Limud Toirah


This week I address the topic of Limud Toirah.

The following shayla is a from an aspiring Toirah scholar with a apikoresdikka Greek name:

Anonymous writes:

Rebbe, please forgive me for disturbing your monitoring of the evils of the modern world (for what other reason, except to keep your faithful flock away from the yetzer hora, would you be need to simultaneously monitor all of the most recent X-rated DVD releases and surf the internet for pornography?). Only a man of your kedusha could directly enter the realm of the yezter hora and emerge intact (and I'll bet that hot little pilegesh you've been using to "take out your frustrations" helps too - don't worry, I'd never tell the Rebbetzin). But I thought I should bring this to your immediate attention:

Based on the minhag described in the email copied below (as practiced at our local pseudo-charedi fake yehsiva-ish self-hating modern orthodox shteibel), I have been able to precisely characterize the relative value of a newborn Jewish girls and boys in this community. One "baby girl kiddush" runs about $2000 and is sponsored by about 10 families, compared to a bris which is sponsored by one family and runs $5000, we find that boys are worth about 25 times as much as girls.

So, being a very entrepreneurial bochur (who happens to be out of work since they started cracking down on my other honored and respected means of earning a parnaso - scamming Pell grants, engaging in insurance scams, selling Regents exams…)I was wondering if it would be permissable to offer prenatal sex screening to shtetl (I mean Brooklyn) families, with the option of terminating the pregnancy if, G-d forbid, it turns out to be a girl…

If, Rebbe, you have problems with the whole abortion thing, maybe I can have a goyishe partner in the business? Or maybe I can sell the business to a goy for the procedure then buy it back afterwards? Or maybe a Beis Din can buy the business from me during the procedure, and sell it back to me after? There must be some heter for this. I'm begging you Rebbe, this is my last hope - if this scam doesn't work, I may have to give up learning Toirah in my kollel and have to get a job in chinuch (G-d forbid! though at least I could have some fun beating the crap out of those little cheder boys). And don't forget, should you in your great wisdom and Toirah learning find a way to not crush my hopes and dreams, there will be a healthy kickback transfered directly to your Swiss account - er, I meant contribution made directly to your holy Yeshiva.

…I'm no scholar of your stature, Rebbe, but don't you think maybe it is lifnei ever for you not to give me a heter?


> From:
We are interested in making a kiddush in honor of the birth of our baby girls. Does anyone else want to join us to make a "group" kiddush to celebrate the birth of your baby girls? We are hoping to coordinate this kiddush and make it happen during the next few shabbosim (before the yomim tovim).

Reb Anonymous,

Thank you so much for your learned shayla. First, let me compliment you on your detailed question. Your highly detailed question. Your extraordinarily detailed question.

Your question was like great chazzanus – it reflects amazing mesiras nefesh, it inspires tremendous kedushah, and it is a wonderful testament to a centuries old art form. But better that I go to Vasikin, alone, unarmed, at the Mearas Hamachpelah during Ramadan than have to listen to such chazzanus. Or better yet, maybe I should sleep in and watch Spongebob, Chass Vesholom.

In any case, your shayla touches upon a number of critical topics to Klal Yisroel. Let me restate the two key issues, as I see them.

1) What is the proper profession for a Ben Toirah?

2) What is the halachic position on “Happalah”?

To your first question, many worthy Bnei Toirah such as yourself have pondered this issue while in the course of their Reboinoisheloilum ordained daily activities – while wearing talis and tefillin during shacharis, while sitting in the bais medrish, while immersing in the mikvah, while driving in the cars donated to their Rabbinic institutions for tax purposes, and while on line for lottery tickets.

According to Ben Hay Hay in Perek Yood of Pirkei Avois, the preferred parnassah of a Ben Toirah is to be supported by the father of his kallah. And if the kallah is a meeskeit, Rachmana Letzlan , then Ben Toirah is also entitled to a healthy bonus equal to 1,000 zuzim for every maiyseh biyuh, plus 10,000 options redeemable in five years at a strike price equal to the cost of a mid-sized Esroig from Bavel at Rosh Hashanah time the following year, as established by the S&P (Sura and Pumpedisa) index.

However, Rabban Gamliel disagrees. He suggests that a Ben Toirah not rely on handouts from his father-in-law, chass v’sholom, but that he be put on the books of his father-in-law’s business, and is chayav mi-Dioraisah to come into the office once a week to look at his mail, as well as check out the cleavage on the hot shiksah receptionist.

And what if his wife’s father is dead? Or even worse, her father is not wealthy? The Gemarrah discusses this at length in Masechess Kesubois, Perek 401K. According to Rav Huna, all is permitted in order to support one’s family. He brings as an example the scholar Ben Drusoy, who was part-time chef, part-time thief, and full time Kollel Bochur.

Rav Ashi holds farkhert. He holds that one may not steal from an individual, but may indeed steal from an institution, since his thievery is considered to be battul be-shishim. As proof, Rav Ashi cites a Braisah that details how Rebbi Elazar Ben Azariah used to claim senior citizen discounts even though he was only eighteen years old.

Rav Ashi’s position is the basis for the position of most Reshoinim and Acharoinim. The following are some practical suggestions from some of the greatest Rabbinic minds.

1) According to the RASHBAM, the wife of a Ben Toirah should keep up her part of the marital bargain. While her husband is strenuously devoting all of his precious life energies to harbotzas ha-Toirah, she must do her fair share. Rather than selfishly complain about the strain of raising six children in a one bedroom apartment, she should “get off her Tuchus,” says the RASHBAM, and get a job teaching or working in the local grocery or working as a sheitelmacher. But to really express Yirass Shamayim, she should overcome the Yetzer by emulating her husband’s grueling three chavrusas a day and taking on all three jobs.

2) Rabbeinu Tam suggests that a Ben Toirah should always apply for food stamps, welfare and other government related social benefits. After all, better WE should get this money than the goyim, who irresponsibly go have seven children without any means of supporting themselves. The lazy mamzerim.

3) The RAMBAN goes one step further, citing the example of Tamar from Sefer Beraishis. He suggests that a true Bas Yisroel should claim unwed mother status whenever she gives birth. This allows her to maximize her earnings potential and enable her husband to continue to dedicate his life to Limud Toirah with a modicum of self respect. What a Kiddush Hashem!

4) The Chassam Soifer makes a suggestion that is more relevant to the modern day. He recommends that a Ben Toirah and his wife start a successful home business. In particular, he advocates that they open a porn telephone hotline business. The money is great, and the time requirements are quite flexible: The wife can work the afternoon shift providing telephone services to straight men, while the Kollel bochur can take a few calls from gay men when he gets home after evening seder. NOTE: He must just be careful to disguise his voice, lest he be recognized if his rebbe dials into the hotline.

5) A related initiative was adopted by an enterprising young Toirah scholar:

6) Many Bnei Toirah have unfortunately been oiver by making false health and property damage claims to insurers. According to Reb Elchanan Wasserman, this violates on the principle of Dinah D’Malcusa Dinah, and even worse, raises our insurance fees. Rather, a Ben Toirah should take on the respectable role of insurance broker. Specifically, he should broker insurance claims for others who cannot file the claims themselves – for example, people that have been dead since the Nixon Administration.

7) Rav Avraham Shapira suggests that if all else fails, a Ben Toirah should make the ultimate sacrifice and take on a union job. According to Reb Avrum, after one week on the job he should make certain to “have an accident” severe enough to entitle him to workman’s compensation and subsidized Toirah study for the rest of his life. Hey, you only need one hand to flip a page in a Gemarrah.

Now, my beloved Anonymous, with regard to your second question: According to the Toirah, can one engage in Happalah?

As is well known, a child is not considered viable until 30 days after it is born; if a newborn child dies before then, there is no standard period of mourning.

However, one must ask whether this calculation is equally relevant to both the male and the female. A male can of course potentially father tens or even hundreds of children from a multitude of mothers. A woman, however, is restricted to birthing approximately one child for each of her child bearing years. Say, a total of twenty children per woman.

Now, as established above, a man is biologically capable of procreating with hundreds of women. Such activity is permitted MiDioraisa whether he is married or not, as long as he does not commit an act of Biyuh with a married woman.

However, once a woman marries, she may not give in to her Yetzer Harrah and commit the Dioraisa of Gilui Arayois. Such an abominable act would deem her a Soitah, and she would be Chayav Misah (along with the man with whom she engaged in the illicit extramarital relationship). And since every Bas Yisroel should be married at the age of eighteen at the latest, a woman is banned MiDioraisah from having relations with anyone save her husband for the vast majority of her life. Yet while a married woman cannot always surround herself with Toirah, she is always surrounded by temptation. Consequently every woman is automatically a chashash of Soitah.

As a result, a life of a woman CANNOT be equal to that of a man, for at the age of 30 days and up, she may decide to engage in Gilui Arayois and is potentially Chayav Misa. Consequently, her life is worth far less than a man’s.

Therefore, if a fetus is a Nekaiyvah, chass v’sholom, one is certainly permitted to engage in induced miscarriage prior to the birth. Moreover, it may indeed be a mitzvah De-Rabbanan to commit a retroactive abortion after a girl has been born, in order to prevent the issur Dioraisa of Gilui Arayois and to prevent the girl from playing the temptress and causing another to sin before the Aimishteh.

So, as you can see, Hakadoshboruchhu provides for those who dedicate their lives to studying Toirah. While others waste away the limited time they have on earth by focusing on gashmiyus, you should remain committed to the derech and never compromise, especially with your wife.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval