Thursday, August 07, 2008
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
This week we begin Sefer Devarim -- the Book of Deuteronomy, as the goyim and the Reform call it. With this, we officially begin the countdown to a day a few months from now when men will dance with other men, hand in hand, to celebrate the completion of the cycle of the reading of the Toirah. (I can't wait; I have a date with a talmid named Yerachmiel. I hope I get lucky.)
Saadia Goyn, a minuval in his own time, asks why we even bother with Sefer Devarim, which is largely a restatement of the preceding books of the Toirah. Why not jump straight into Beraishis?
According to the RAN, the repetitive nature of Devarim is directly related to its being read in the summer months, during which we customarily are relegated to repeat episodes of all of our favorite shows. Indeed, the RAMBAM, in his famous introduction to Hilchois Depreciation, suggests that to keep the Toirah fresh, we should pre-empt the entire Sefer Devarim and replace it with an original dramatic anthology series on famous Jewish tax evaders. We don't hold like the RAMBAM, however, because even if we had new episodes every five minutes, we wouldn't have enough time over the summer to do justice to the topic.
The RASHBA agrees completely. In his shtetl one year he preempted the entire Sefer Devarim with a new reality series entitled "Who Wants To Marry a Sheitelmacher." The series was cancelled after one season, however, as there was little interest in marrying a woman with the hair of a hot shiksa and the body of Moby Dick.
So we do read Sefer Devarim. In it, we are witness to Moishe Rabbeinu standing before Klal Yisroel in the desert as he is about to exit the stage of history, summarizing Klal Yisroel's achievements, reviewing rules and regulations, and basically reminding the Bnei Yisroel that they are a bunch of rebellious good for nothing minuvals.
A Gemmarah in Pesachim asks why Moishe didn't simply distribute a pamphlet in order to save time and the expense of organizing a large gathering of all of Klal Yisroel.
According to Rav Yehuda, Moishe simply liked the power of the stage, and relished the opportunity to lead one last political rally.
But according to Rav Ashi, Moishe really milked this thing into a big money maker: He charged for attendance, got a piece of the food concessions (five dollars for a kosher hot dog in the desert), and sold licensed products such as Moishe Rabbeinu golf shirts, stuffed Toirahs for the kids, and big orange sponge hands saying "We're Number One". He also set up a website and internal satellite network and charged for pay-per-view access.
This week, in the first Parsha of Devarim, we focus on the sojourning, the travels, and the battles of the previous forty years.
According to Rabbeinu Tam, of all his achievements, Moishe rabbeinu was most proud of his beating Oig Melech Habashan, which is why there is so much detail of their encounters in this week's Parsha.
According to a famous medrish, Moishe was twenty amois high, he held a stick twenty amois high, and he jumped twenty amois high, and he only reached Oig's ankle. Yet he was able to knock Oig down to the ground, and then proceeded to cut off Oig's private parts, which he used as a tent on family camping trips.
But a different medrish tells us that Moishe and Oig really settled their disputes through arm wrestling. After much struggle, Moishe won the match, and in turn received all of the land east of the Jordan River on behalf of Klal Yisroel. While Oig, upon losing his kingdom, was forced to work as a telemarketer and sell Amway products in his spare time.
The MAHARAL has a beautiful interpretation of this event. He suggests that Moishe Rabbeinu never actually fought Oig. Indeed, he never met him, though did read an article about him once. Rather, Moishe created this legend to build excitement about the prospects of entering the Eretz Yisroel, to unify the people, and to make people forget about the whole "Persia is developing weapons of mass destruction" fear.
Indeed, just as the Jews stood on that mountain overlooking the Promised Land, we too, in our generation, stand at a critical juncture in our history. Do we push forward, or step backward? Do we move into the future, or recede into the past? Our wives are relying on us to make the right decisions, as are our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
So you owe it to them: Stop having children, for Reboinoisheloilum's sake! Get that vasectomy already! The last thing you need to do is to start with those midnight feedings again. And more yeshiva tuition? No -- save some money for the strip clubs and traifus. You're not getting any younger, you know. Moishe knew that the only choice was to move into the future. We should all embrace his wisdom.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval