Thursday, July 17, 2008
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
This week's Parsha, Parshas Pinchas, is named after me. After all, Moishe Rabbeinu certainly had Ruach Hakoidesh and could easily foresee the day, 3500 years in the future, that a full bearded white man wearing a long black coat and big, black felt hat would use electronic pulses to share deep insights on the words of the Reboinoisheloilum with people like you – minuvals who need an occasional five minute break from surfing porn. Isn’t it obvious? No wonder Moishe Rabbeinu was always so optimistic about the future of Klal Yisroel!
Ironically, this week’s Parsha also opens with the celebration of Pinchas Ben Elazar -- the grandson of Aroin Hacoihain, the minuval -- who at the end of last week's episode emulated the rich, warm, personal connection of the Aimishteh and Klal Yisroel by slaughtering an Israelite man and his Midianite girlfriend with a spear, initiating a plague in which 24,000 people died.
Reb Hai Goyn asks the question: Who were these 24,000 people? Was inter-dating such a widespread activity for the holy Dor Mattan Toirah? What’s pshat?
According to Rabbeinu Tam, the 24,000 included not only people who dated Midianite women, but also various cross-dressers, insurance salesmen, fundraisers, lawyers, and telemarketers.
But the Mordechai disagrees. He holds that none of the group who died in the plague were dating Midianite women. Rather, all were members of Klal Yisroel who were also Amway representatives.
Yet the question about the centrality of Midianite women to this Parsha does fall away that easily. A Gemarrah in Chulin asks the question: Why was Moishe Rabbeinu immune to the plague targeted at all members of Klal Yisroel involved with Midianite women? Indeed, Moishe’s wife was the daughter of a Midianite priest!
Rav Ashi points out that we learn from this the halacha that while interdating is banned, intermarriage is acceptable, as long as the marriage represents a step up in social class. He goes on to point out that Midian was considered to be the crème de la crème of Late Bronze Age Near Eastern society. According to Rav Moishe Feinstein, in our age this ruling would apply to Episcopalians, Lutherans, and wealthy Republicans.
But Rish Lakish holds farkhert. He holds that interdating is not only acceptable, it is encouraged. And it is intermarriage that is not permitted, even when the woman converts. However, Rish Lakish notes, chazzal tell us that Mrs. Moishe was exempt from this restriction since even after her conversion she maintained several of her… err…goyisha practices, in particular one that I cannot get my bashert to do no matter how much I beg.
There is a medrish, however, which tells us that the plague did not really kill 24,000. Rather, only 4,000 people died. However, the Toirah improperly counted an extra 20,000 people who were projected to die during the remainder of the year. This, however, resulted in an accounting scandal and a significant decline in Market Value for which Moishe Rabbeinu was held responsible. And, according to this medrish, the real reason that Moishe was not able to enter the Promised Land was that as a result of this episode, he had to spend 25 years in a minimum security penitentiary for white collar crimes and pay $2 million shekels in fines and back taxes. Shoyn.
The M'EERIE asks a question on a different part of this Parsha: Why is the story of Pinchas juxtaposed with a listing of the clans of the tribes of Israel, followed by a discussion of property and inheritance rights highlighted in the story of the Bnois Tzeluphchud. The daughters of Tzeluphchud request the right to inherit their father's property, given that he had no sons to receive the inheritance. After consulting with the Aimishteh and several leading estate lawyers, Moishe Rabbeinu accepts their argument. So, what does one story have to do with another?
The Bais Yoiseph suggests that the Toirah put the stories together to teach us that if a parent dies and you argue over the inheritance with your siblings, you are allowed to drive a spear through their stomachs, as Pinchas did.
But the Nair Havdalah (born 1938; died 1969 at Woodstock of a bsomim overdose) suggests that farkhert, the reason that Klal Yisroel, still in the desert at this point, were even focused on property and inheritance, even before entering Eretz Yisroel, is that they were beginning to process their mortgage applications. And the story of Pinchas tells us that whenever you prepare to purchase real estate, you should always show up to the closing prepared for the worst.
I, the RAPAS (Rav Pinky Schmeckelstein), would like to suggest an alternative explanation for the episodes being presented together. If we contemplate the logical result of the petition of the Bnois Tzeluphchud -- these young Bas Yisroels, Bais Ya’akov girls I imagine, were instantly considered desirable. Even if they had one eye and seven arms between them, they were women who owned property, and that made them nice catches. This Parsha comes to teach us that this applies to Midianite women as well: A Midianite woman who eats pork, worships idols and is regularly mezaneh with farm animals is also desirable, as long as she owns property.
So if you are going to marry out, at least marry rich.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval