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On Communing With The Reboinoisheloilum
This week I respond to a shailah from a chazer-eating-minuval who wants to know what Kavvannah to have when he is Davening:
Lichvoid Harav Hagoyn Moreinu Harav Reb Pinky Schmeckelstein Shlitah:
I have a very disturbing dilemma concerning my new status. As you know everyday in Davening we Daven (pray) three times a day that all the Apikursim and their friends the Modernisheh Mentchen should go to Gehenoim Bo'Uilm Hazeh UBo'Uilom Haboh. Since I am now an Apikuiros Lechatchiluh Lechol Hadeios (even according to the Briskers, Men Ken Mechaven Zein Of Mir), I was wondering if I have to pray for my own demise.
I cannot give peace to myself without knowing the correct Daas Toiroh. In the meantime I thought that Shev V'al Taiseh Odif, and I haven't Davened any weekday Tefilois that have the aforementioned Brachah. I only Daven on Shabbos.
Please Harav Hagoyn let me know what the true Das Toiroh is in this matter so I should be able to Daven all 5 (or is it 3, sorry my mistake) times a day.
Your Talmid, Acher Hakotoyn
Dearest Acher H.,
I answer you with the greatest pride and joy in my heart that you should ask such a gevaldikkah shailah. After all, your mother and I have been worried that you would grow up to be a shtickel Vilde Chaya, but now we see that you are a COMPLETE MINUVAL.
Let me ask YOU a shailah: Do you really think that Hakadoshboruchhu, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, who rescued His people from Mitzrayim with a long hand, an outstretched arm, a terrific curveball, and a mighty change up, cares a bit about the Davening of an Apikoiress? He doesn’t have other things to worry about? What, with the economy the way it is! Do you know how many millions He lost with Madoff? Did you know that a significant portion of His retirement portfolio was in banking and automotive stocks? I’ll tell you this: I would not want to be His financial advisor right now…
So, what kind of Mechutziff are you anyway?
No. Your shailah is proof that everyone can learn Toiras Moishe… just that most people don’t understand it. Indeed, your question is in essence about the nature of the Reboinoisheloilum’s interaction with our world, and, frankly, would have been insightful if I had asked it. But you – you are an Apikoress who CANNOT possibly have any Toirah insight, because ONLY a Toirah true Jew can have wisdom. How can someone who turned away from the gift of Toirah have any valuable insights whatsoever? Einstein – He learned everything he knew from his boyhood Rebbe, and never had the decency to give credit. Sir Yitzchak Newton stole the Vilna Goyn’s notes without Reshuss and published them as his own. Mozart – He copied all of his music from the long forgotten Chassidic sect led by the Groisseschvantze Rebbe.
But before I answer your shailah, I must address a key underlying issue. You identify yourself as an “Apikoress.” What’s pshat Apikoiress? Do you not believe in the Aimishteh? Do you have fundamental doubts about the Toirah, about creation, or about our Mesoirah being handed down directly from Har Sinai in Moishe Rebbeinu’s time to ArtScroll (R) in our day?
Or is your Apikorsus more about your dietary habits? Do you eat non-kosher pizza, chass v’sholom? Do you eat chazer mamesh with shellfish on the side? Or do you go out to Peter Lugers on occasion, order the steak on the bone, very rare, dripping with Lugers’ own special steak sauce, and accompanied by the house potatoes and creamed spinach on the side? Who ever heard of such a thing?
Or do you engage in other offensive practices? Do you not put on Tefillin every morning? Or, farkhert, do you put on both RASHI and Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin, but embezzle money from old ladies? Do you satisfy your own needs, but deny your wife her Makkeh BaPatish, if you know what I mean? Do you spill your seed while thinking of Mel Gibson? Or are you Mezaneh with underage goats while reading the Daily Znuss?
Or, worst of all, do you use a tea bag on Shabbos Koidesh without using a Klee Shanee, or did you vote Democratic in the last election, chass v’sholom??!!
It kind of makes a difference.
With regard to the nature of prayer, your Shailah is Mechavayn to a four way Machloikess that has bored…errr…enriched the lives of Talmidim for centuries. Reb Hai Goyn asks in the introduction to his Musar Haskel, “What is the nature of the Reboinoisheloilum’s engagement in the world? Does He listen to our prayers, or is He too busy smoking a Hookah?”
This question was first addressed by Reb Moishe Ben Yankif of Coucy, better known as the SMAG. In his lesser known work Toisfois Yeshainim, he suggests, “There is no Hakkadoshoruchhu. Meileh, how can I believe in some old man in the sky? It’s like believing in Santa Clause or Aunt Jemima.” The SMAG of course was subsequently banished from Coucy and was exiled to Argentina.
Rabbi Meir MiRothenberg (the MAHARAM), however, believes wholeheartedly in the existence of the Reboinoisheloilum, and in fact believes in the Aimishteh’s direct involvement in the affairs of the world. The MAHARAM is best know in Jewish history for his refusal to be ransomed from his prison tower in Alsace. But in his own day, he was held in high regard by the men of Lorraine for his Talmudic scholarship and his knowledge of card tricks, and was lauded by the women of Lorraine for his “disappearing snake” magic act.
The ROSH, like his Rebbe, the MAHARAM, believes in the existence of Hakadoshboruchhu. However, he views the Reboinoisheloilum as aware of the world, but distant from its everyday workings. Says the ROISH, “Who can blame Him? If I could choose between engaging in all the world’s problems or surfing the Internet, I would choose porn every time.”
Finally, The ROISH’s son, the Baal HaTurim, believes in the existence of the Aimishteh, but views Him as not involved, or even aware, of world affairs. Referring to the Crusades, the Baal HaTurim once noted that “Hakadoshboruchhu is either not at all aware of the supreme suffering of His chosen people in this world, or he is one very sadistic dude with some serious freaking issues.” Shoyn.
Now, my beloved Talmid, if we look at these four positions, we can almost equate the position of the SMAG (no Reboinoisheloilum) and the position of the Baal HaTurim (yes Reboinoisheloilum, but unaware of our world or our existence). In either of these views, your prayers are not heard, and can never be heard, unless you are one of those guys who Davens really loud and makes it difficult for the rest of us to talk to each other. So it is only according to the positions of the ROISH and the MAHARAM where your shailah is even relevant.
I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. The Chernobler Rebbe was once traveling in Poland on a trip to raise money for the local Museum of Jewish Fundraising. One Friday evening he settled in the village of Mogilov at an inn run by an old widow. Shabbos morning, after Shacharis, the Rebbe came down to the dining room. The old woman came out of the kitchen to serve him and asked him what he wanted. “I’ll take the creamed herring”, said the Rebbe.
“I’m sorry Rabbi, “ the woman responded. We are fresh out of creamed herring. But I can bring you shmaltz herring.”The Rebbe signaled that he would take the schmaltz herring instead. Moments later the old woman came out of the kitchen with a plate heaping with schmaltz herring.
Two hours later, the old lady came to the Rebbe’s room to clean. The Rebbe was sitting at a small table, reading the newspaper. Then the old lady noticed on the table that plate that she had given the Rebbe earlier, only now it was filled with creamed herring. “Rabbi,” she exclaimed, “it must be some kind of miracle!”
The Rebbe looked up from his paper. “No. It’s not a miracle. I creamed my own herring. And you would be amazed at what I can do with an ear of corn.”
So, my Talmid, you can choose to Daven for your own demise. Or not. The Reboinoisheloilum may or may not be listening. And if He is listening, He may not really care. However, by asking such a question, you reveal that you are not an Apikoress, but a Talmid Chacham who likes to eat chazer, which is about as conflicted as a Rebbe who creams his own herring.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess