Thursday, June 04, 2009
Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Rabbinic Calendar
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
YES, IT IS COMING SOON --
IGROIS PINKY: THE SECOND COLLECTION OF
THE WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Rabbinic Calendar
This week I respond to a critical and timely shayla:
Yoinison K. writes:
Dear Rabbi Schmekelstein,
As one of your loyal Talmidim and Chasidim I would like to bring to your attention a discriminatory injustice.
I am a resident of Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, and until recently, I was able to share your beautiful words of Torah at my Shabbat Table with my wife and children.
We would often discuss your words for many hours. Once, we were so engrossed with your torah gems that we ended up being interrupted by my neighbor, Mohammad, who said: "Rabboysai – Higia Z'man L'Kriyas Shema Shel Shacharis". We weren't sure what he meant, but we notified the authorities immediately and had him targeted by the IDF the following day…
In any event, due to some inexplicable phenomena, your Parsha emails are coming to me a week late. Here in the Holy Land, we are a week ahead in the weekly Parsha, and therefore, we can no longer benefit from you Divrei Toirah. There are a few solutions to this problem.
1)You can forget the poor assimilated Jews in Galus and get on the right schedule as your brethren in the Holy Land.
2)You can appeal to the high Rabbinical courts to unify the reading of the same Parsha for all of Klal Yisroel.
3)You can prepare your Parsha email a week early and send it to me and other Chassidim a week earlier than to the minuvalim in golus.
4)You can completely disregard this email and not respond at all.
Your humble talmid,
Thanks so much for your inspired question. I am delighted that at least one of my minuval talmidim has the fortitude to go on the Internet and ask me such a shayla, WHEN INSTEAD HE SHOULD BE BUSY STUDYING TOIRAS MOISHE RABBEINU!
Incidentially, your maiseh shehoyo about your neighbor Muhammad is indeed mechavayn to a famous machloikess in Maseches Eiruvin. According to Rav Ashi, if your Palestinian neighbor interrupts your Shabbos meal with religious or fundraising solicitations, you should target him for military action. This is the position that you cite. However, Rabbi Meir holds that you should expel him from his home, and confiscate all of his belongings except for his tzitizis and his AK-47. But Reb Yossi holds farkhert – He holds that you should unilaterally give him your living room and second bedroom, in the hopes that he will let you eat dessert in peace.
In truth, we hold like none of these positions. As brought down by Toisfois, we treat him with respect, because unbeknownst to him -- and to your wife -- you are secretly dating his sister, who is capable of making such noises in the throes of passion that it could cause the walls of Jericho to fall. Shoyn.
I break your question into its constituent parts:
-- How does Jewish prayer, liturgy and practice bind Klal Yisroel into a unified whole?
-- The conflict between the weekly Toirah reading in Eretz Yisroel and Chutz La’Aretz is the result of the celebration of a second day of Shavuous outside of Israel several weeks ago, which put the Jewish calendar out of synch. So, what’s Pshat with Yoim Toiv Shenu Shel Goliyois? Isn’t that about as stupid as nipples on men?
Once upon a time, in an era when the Bnei Yisroel were closer to Hakkadoshboruchhu and chronologically closer to Zman Matan Toiraseinu, we would worship the Reboinoisheloilum by slaughtering sheep in his honor and paying the Koihain to sprinkle blood on the mizbayach while dressed like the Moslem Halal butcher in Chevroin, adorned all in white and looking like a big tampon, chass v’sholom.
However, beginning with the Golus in Bavel, and growing throughout the creeping corruption of the priestly institutions during the course of Bayis Shaynee, the role of Kriyas HaToirah and Tefilla grew. And with the destruction of the Second Temple, prayer and practice completely succeeded Karbanois (and also saved the lives of numerous innocent sheep, pigeons and red heffers).
Through Tefillah, Jewish worship was democratized. The Jewish form of worship was whisked out of the monopolistic hands of corrupt Koihanim, and instead was placed into the caring, always just, fair, and completely balanced hands of our rabbinical leadership. You know, the ones who employ blackmail to squeeze the ever-tightening vise of kashrut certification, who systematically ignore sexual abuse of children when it is inconvenient, who distribute vials of “holy oil” in exchange for political donations, who embrace ignorance in place of intellectual pursuit, and who passed the religious ruling that compels you to…errr…flog the flanken two weeks out of every month. Yes, those balanced and even handed guys.
As a result of this process, worship was no longer something that took place only within the context of the Bais Hamikdash or in the proximity of the Koihain. The service of the Aimishteh became increasingly embedded in our everyday lives. With all our actions, our words, our thoughts, we sanctify His Name. When we sit and eat at our table, when we conduct commerce in the market, when we ogle His creations in a strip club, we celebrate His glory. Incidentally, this is why I deduct ALL my daily activities on my annual tax return. Boruch Hashem the IRS honors the “Contribution of Bodily Fluids” as a religious expense.
And since all of Klal Yisroel has used this form of workshop as our common language for two-thousand years, this is what binds us as a People, religiously and culturally. Yes, your attending shul on Shabbos is not just an opportunity to sit in the back, talk sports and business, and check out the hotties in the Ezras Nashim, you Michutziff!
With regard to the second part of your question, it has been customary for communities outside of Eretz Yisroel to keep two days of Yuntif instead of one, in case word of the breaking of the new moon is delayed in arriving to Bavel from Eretz Yisroel. There are some who would have the gall to suggest that such a practice is an anachronism since:
1) Klal Yisroel has a adopted the calendric calculations of Hillel (not, not that one, but his great, great, great, great grandson) to determine our calendar, thereby negating the necessity to manually spot the moon, determine the state of the month, and forward the news to the Jewish masses;
2) There are no longer any Jews in Bavel, save Saddam Hussein’s accountant and Ahmad Chalabi’s allergist; and
3) If we really wanted to allow time for news of the new moon to be passed via manual signals to all far-flung contemporary Jewish communities, such as the Kehilas in the United States, Argentina, and Australia, we would need to institute celebrating Yuntif for an extra six days instead of adding just one day.
But celebrating the extra day in Chutz La’aretz is a critical mesoirah that can never be cancelled, no matter how insanely idiotic it is. This indeed was a subject of discussion in the famous Disputation at Barcelona between the RAMBAN and Pablo Christiani in 1263. The public debate before the Spanish royal court featured the convert-to-Christianity Pablo Christiani challenging the RAMBAN on a number of topics including the interpretation of specific verses in Yishayahu and the status of the Messiah as discussed in the Talmud. He also challenged the RAMBAN on the notion of Yoim Toiv Sheni Shel Goliyois, asking, “Reb Moishe, if it plays no practical purpose in the current age, why wouldn’t Judaism simply excise the custom from the body of Halacha?”
The RAMBAN, who had been withstanding all of Christiani’s taunts for hours, took a deep breath and glared at the former-Jew-turned-Dominican-Priest. “Reb Feivel,” the RAMBAN said, using Pablo Christiani’s Jewish name. “You are now a priest in the Church of Yushka. Is that correct?”
“Of course!” Christiani replied proudly.
The RAMBAN continued. “And you have taken a vow of chastity, is that also correct?”
“Yes” Christini answered, his voice beginning to reveal annoyance. “So what is your point?”
“Well,” the RAMBAN answered, “you are no longer using your Makom HaMilah. Why don’t you just excise the useless appendage from your body?”
Pablo Christiani, having lost the Disputation, subsequently had the RAMBAN expelled from Spain.
So of course Yoim Toiv Sheni Shel Goliyois plays no purpose whatsoever in the modern day. However, this is a tradition that is fixed in the religious practice of the majority of Klal Yisroel. According to the Netziv, we should address the occasional calendar conflicts by embracing the Halacha of Acaharei Rabim Lehatois – we should follow majority rule, and since the majority of Klal Yisroel keeps two days of Yuntif, people in Eretz Yisroel should keep two days as well. That way they too can get twice the kedushah, twice the brachois, and twice the opportunity to relax during the long, lazy Yuntif afternoon and use their Makom Hamilahs while the kids are outside playing.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.