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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parshas Lech Lecha

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Parshas Lech Lecha

This week we read the Parsha of Lech Lecha, where, for the first time, the Aimishteh promises the gift of Eretz Yisroel to Avraham Avinu our forefather, and by extension, to us. In this Parsha, we also read about the Bris Bain Habesarim, the Covenant Between the Pieces. We read about Sarah's being temporarily taken as a wife by the Pharoah of Egypt. And we read about Avraham's ritual circumcision at the ripe old age of ninety.

The RAMBAM asks an obvious question on this Parsha regarding the giving of the Land of Israel to Klal Yisroel: MAMESH, WHAT COULD HAKKADOSHBORUCHHU HAVE POSSIBLY BEEN THINKING!? Of all the inhospitable rocks He could possibly have selected, why did He have to choose an arid land filled with deserts, thorn bushes and scorpions, lacking in fresh water, and populated with the most unfriendly, close minded, hostile, self absorbed people you can possibly encounter -- Chassidim. Err..., I mean the indigenous inhabitants of The Land -- The Canaani, the Chivi, the Yevussi, the Girgashi, and a few others.

According to Rashi, the Reboinoisheloilum actually instructed Avraham to go east, not west, and indeed meant to give him all of China. However, Avraham was holding his map upside down while practicing using chop sticks, and ended up walking in the wrong direction.

However, according to the Sifsey Chachomim, Avraham actually wanted to go to Eretz Yisroel because he dug Yevussi chicks, who were all blond, a foot taller than him, and renowned for their beauty. Indeed, the Sifsey Chachmomim cite a Medrish that tells us that after entering into Eretz Yisroel, Avraham Avinu went around telling every woman he met that he is a producer and would put her in his next film, if she would only audition in his tent.

The Tzitz Eliezer points out that Avraham actually loved The Land that the Aimishteh promised him -- with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might. He was really very attached to it, running through the trees, walking through the fields, and, especially, lying on the grass, for hours on end. In fact, he may have loved the land a little bit too much -- not unlike his great grandson Onen, if you know what I mean. In fact, according to a Brasiah in Baba Kamma, Avraham and Sarai couldn't conceive because Avraham had a low sperm count. Says the Tzitz, the reason that Hakkadoshboruchhu commanded Avraham to cut off the tip of his Makom Hamilah was so that he would give it a rest for a week or two.

The Schvantz Mordechai holds farkhert. He says that Avraham was ambivalent about the Land of Israel, but was committed to fulfilling the agreement consecrated at the Bris Bain HaBesarim.

How are we to understand this strange practice? Take a cow, cut it in quarters, add some spices, and BAM!, eternal covenant. In a famous Mishnah in Nezikin, Rabbi Tarfon complains that for the miniscule sliver of land the Jews received, it would have been more appropriate had the covenant been consecrated by cutting up a miniscule animal, such as a gerbil. In fact, a related Braisah conveys that every year on Yom Ha'atzmaut the same Rabbi Tarfon would have a special ceremony commemorating Eretz Yisroel with a gerbil, one select student, and a nice merlot.

A Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah actually recounts that two hundred years before Avraham Avinu was born, the Reboinoisheloilum consecrated an agreement similar to the Bris Bain HaBesarim with a different nation by cutting up a Chilean Sea Bass. Unfortunately, that other nation was Atlantis, so we don't like to talk about it.

Another Medrish tells us that cutting up a cow was Avraham's second choice. His first choice was an S.U.V., so he could make a killing on the spare parts.

In our day, we live up to our covenants with Hakkadoshboruchhu in three ways: We keep the Toirah and Mitzvois; We perform our own "Bris" on our male children. And we live in Eretz Yisroel despite the sectarian violence, the high taxes, the monotonous Jerusalem stone architecture, the yellow journalism, the political corruption, the secular extremists, the religious zealots, the naive left, the fanatical right, and the uncommitted center. Basically, there are too many people in Eretz Yisroel -- it is intensely overcrowded. When the Reboinoisheloilum promised Avraham Avinu in this week's Parsha that his descendants would be like the dust of the earth, we thought He meant only the Jews; we didn't know He actually meant ALL of Avraham's children!

What Eretz Yisroel needs today is more space -- land enough for all its inhabitants -- Israeli and Arab, Jew, Christian, and Moslem. Indeed, many of our latter day sages believe that this very same Parsha holds the key to solving our territorial dilemma.

According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we can look to the story of Bris Milah for our solution. Just as we remove a very slight but symbolically significant portion of ourselves in order to make us "completely Jewish", so too we should remove any elements from Eretz Yisroel that prevent us from being "completely Jewish."

Rav Ovadiah Yoseph, on the other hand, points to the Bris Bain Habesarim for the answer. The Aimishteh and Avraham Avinu cut up a cow into equal portions in order to consecrate an agreement. So too must we be prepared to cut up the Land in order to reach an agreement.

I, the RAPAS, would humbly like to suggest another option, also suggested by this week's Parsha. This week we read how along their travels, Avraham and Sarah come to Egyptian territory. Avraham pleads with Sarah Imainu to tell the Egypians the she is his sister, and she subsequently shacks up with the Pharoah. Meanwhile, in next week's Parsha, at Avraham's urging, Sarah once again masquerades as Avraham's sister and hooks up with another national leader, this time with Avimelech of Canaan. According to Rabbeinu Taam, this revolutionary sharing of Sarah Imainu is the first instance in history of the time share.

And it is using this approach whereby we may find the solution to our overcrowding problem. Here is how it works. We get Eretz Hakoidesh two weeks out of the year. We plan ahead, bring the kids, the in-laws, everyone. The local staff ensures that the refrigerators are filled with our favorite foods. We can even use all the facilities, for a nominal fee. After we leave, the Palestinians can use the place for two weeks, eat all the falafel they want, and tour around every part of the country. After their two weeks are up, the gypsies get it for two weeks -- Aimishteh knows they need a homeland.Then the Basque. And so on.

To make sure that the Eretz Yisroiel Time Share Enterprises (TM) is fully utilized, we will do some aggressive marketing. Telemarketing to people in their homes when they are in the middle of Biyuh is a good start. We will give away cheap electronics to nations willing to come over and have a look. We will invite them for a low cost weekend and have them stay in Gaza, promising that the place is being redecorated and, trust us, the whole area will look just like Savion in eight months. And we will remind them: a time share can be shared with friends, it can be passed down in a Last Will and Testament to subsequent generations, and is much less expensive than setting up their own homeland.

All this discussion of overcrowding reminds me of a Maiseh Shehoyo. 300 years ago in the town of Berditchev, the one shul which stood at the center of town, Temple Ahavas Achiyois, was filled every week wall to wall with mispallelim. It became a hardship for the Gabbai to physically go through the shul every week and get the Hebrew names of all the guests in order to call them up to the Toirah. Reb Chaim MiBerditchev, the Gadol Hador -- the great sage of his generation -- came up with an alternative custom: Instead of calling people by the standard convention -- Hebrew name BEN father's Hebrew name, they would call people in a descriptive manner, not requiring specific names.

The first week went very well. "Ya'amoid the guy in the second row, three seats from the left, Shlishi." It worked like a charm for all seven Aliyois plus Maphtir. However, problems began the second week. "Ya'amoid, the guy in the back row who is secretly gay, Chamishi." Three men stood up. It was particularly embarassing because one was the rabbi's son. The third week was the clincher, though. "Ya'amoid, the guy in the shul with the really hot wife, Shishi." Nobody stood up.

Reb Chaim decided that for Shalom Bayis reasons the new custom was a mistake. He ruled that the shul should revert to the old method, and also founded the Rolodex Corporation that very week.

So not every solution to overcrowding works. At least Reb Chaim didn't introduce any ceremonies requiring a gerbil.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Parshas Noiach

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Parshas Noiach

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Noiach, we read of the great flood that destroyed the entire civilized world. It rained. It poured. Forty days and forty nights. People forgot to wear their boots. All the umbrellas turned inside out in the wind. The newspaper got soaking wet and couldn't be read. Uchinvei.

An obvious question arises: what did human society do that was so bad that the whole world deserved to be destroyed by the Reboinoisheloilum? This is a topic that is frequently addressed by Chazzal in their many, many ancient writings, e-mail discussion groups, and IM chats.

According to a famous medrish in the Sifre, the people of the world had all of the sudden become completely evil. They were killing each other right and left. They became depraved: Men were sleeping with sheep. Women were sleeping with well hung goats. Horses were sleeping with flounder. Businessmen were surfing porn during the work day. Children were discussing sports in shul. People were stealing each others' parking spaces. It was a real mess.

However, the Sifsey Chachomim rejects this medrish, calling it "the stupidest thing since Giuliani Presidential Campaign". According to the Sifsey Chachomim, the people of that generation were no better or worse than they are today. Rather, the Aimishteh, after creating the world, was watching its every move, staring at the world for hours on end, and interacting with it whenever necessary; He was tracking the evolution of society, shaping its progress towards ultimate redemption (and a 50,000 point bonus). But just as the Moshiach was about to arrive on screen, the phone rang. And as the Reboinoisheloilum picked up the phone, He reached over to press "pause." But the system crashed and He was forced to hit the reset button. Damn that Microsoft!

But the Da'as Zekainim disagrees. According to the Da'as Zekainim, Hakkadoshboruchhu actually decided to destroy the world on the second week of the New Year since the previous week, immediately following the Holiday cycle of Roish Hashanah, Yoim Kippur, Sukkois, and Simchas Toirah, half the shul didn't show up to hear Parshas Beraishis, staying home to overcome "shul fatigue". And while He was somewhat perturbed that the people threw their phony Teshuvah (repentance) out the window, He was completely incensed that they let half of that good Kiddush go to waste.

Some other suggested reasons:

-- According to the Toirah Temimah, the people deserved to die because they insisted on paying retail.

-- According to the RI, the people regularly ate food with Triangle K supervision, and once had a cup of coffee at a place with no rabbinical supervision whatsoever. (If this pshat is true, global destruction was too good of a punishment for them!)

-- The RITVAH suggests that the Reboinoisheloilum was actually upset that the people weren't murderous enough. Sure, they were killing, but they weren't doing it "lishmah". He cites this as proof that Israel should elect an Ultra-Orthodox, Ultra Nationalist Taliban-like government in the next election.

Finally, the REEBOK takes a totally different approach. He says that the world wasn't really destroyed. It was simply made to look that way so that the Aimishteh could collect on the insurance.

It is often pointed out by academic scholars that the Toirah's story of Noiach is paralleled by similar tales in Mesopotamian lore and other Near Eastern texts. The most famous of these is the epic of Gilgamesh. However, in Misechta Baba Basra, Rav Ashi was actually the first to note the extreme similarity between the story of Noiach and another epic cultural touchstone, Gilligan's Island.

Like Gilligan, Noiach initially set out for a three hour tour. But before he knew it, he was forced to reestablish the human society he once knew. And like Gilligan, Noiach was set adrift in the company of a small group of people.

The RAN asks: Who in the Gilligan story is the true counterpart of Noiach? I would have thought that it would be the Skipper, who piloted the boat, in which case the epic tale should be called Skipper's Island. But the RAN points to the conclusion of the Parsha, which alludes to Noiach being violated by his son, Chum, and suggests that just as Noiach was violated by his son and the Parsha is named after him, so Gilligan was frequently violated by the Skipper, and therefore the epic tale is named after him. This, the RAN points out, is the reason Gilligan always insisted upon sleeping on the top bunk.

(A separate machloikess -- Rabbinic debate -- between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rav Yoinasan on who was hotter -- Ginger or Marianne -- need not be discussed here.)

In our day we are forced to ask: If the Aimishteh brought global destruction before, why can't it happen again? We are evil. We have terrorism and endless war. We have tax fraud and embezzlement. We have political corruption. We have moral inconsistency and selective application of the law and ethical values, tinged with religious self-importance. Are we not worthy?

I am reminded of a maiseh shehoya. The Rabbeinu Tam was in downtown Lublin, delivering a shiur on the subtleties of Smicha, rabbinical ordination. As he was elucidating in great detail on the various religious laws, a middle aged man wearing train conductor overalls called out, "But Rabbi, what about ordaining women as rabbis -- can we do that?"

The Rabbeinu Tam glowered down at the man and responded, "Son, ordaining women as rabbis is like getting a PHD out of the phone book. Just please don't tell my wife I said that." His wife, of course, was the Cantor at the Hebrew Institute of Prague, who was pulling down six figures so that the Rabbeinu Tam could go around writing Tfillin that no one wanted to buy.

Are we truly better or worse than our ancient ancestors? Is our stated quest for peace a value or a fault? Is the changing role of women progress or moral corruption? Is near-total freedom of expression liberation or tyranny? Is our preparedness for war self defense or self destruction? I get cross-eyed just thinking about it; now I have to lie down.

So, are we no less worthy than our ancestors to have the full loving attention of the Aimishteh manifested by having the world destroyed in one fell swoop? Well, judging by the latest headlines, we may indeed be worthy in the eyes of the Lord. So if I were you, I would stay home from shul this week, order in some traif Chinese, and spend the day watching that new 52 inch high definition LCD TV you'll pick up on the way home. Just be sure to put it on your Visa or American Express card. Based on how things are looking these days, I don't think you will have to worry about paying the bill.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parshas Beraishis

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Parshas Beraishis

In this weeks Parsha, Parshas Beraishis, we once again start the cycle of readings from the Toirah by reading the two creation epics. The first is a methodological, step by step process drawn out over seven days starting with the creation of the sky, dry land, etc., then vegetation and animals, culminating in the creation of man on the sixth day, and concluding with a day of rest on the seventh. Immediately after, we read the Disney version, where Adam is created out of clay, much like a dreidel, and only afterwards are animals created.

Rabbi Yitzchak asked: Why does the Toirah bring side by side two diverse stories that conflict so much?

According to Rabbeinu Tam, the first creation epic is from a P source text and the second is from an E source text, and they were later brought together by R after a long night of drinking and carousing with J. But he wrote this AFTER he had contracted Altzheimers, so no one in Yeshiva quite knows what he is talking about.

According to the RADAK, the first creation epic provides the macro view, while the second epic is a focused version of the events of the sixth day during the creation of man. He attributes the second instance of the creation of animals, etc. as a prime example of corporate waste and mismanagement, and calls for a federal investigation as well as the addition of two outsiders to the Board of Directors.

The ROISH, on the other hand, attributes the duplication to editorial error. At press time, the Aimishteh forgot to hit the "delete" button on his first draft. After all, who is going to believe some story about a man made of mud, his silly wife made of his rib, a talking snake, and a magic tree? Come now, my little einikel in second grade can do better than that!

According to the CHADAN (a scholar of the 19th century also known as Reb Charles Darwin), the Toirah teaches us that living creatures started as simple beings, emerged from the sea to become land creatures, and finally evolved into man. He suggests, based on a Gemarrah in Chulin, that Adam was a "damned dirty ape" who couldn't keep his hands off of the forbidden fruit because it was actually a banana. He also suggests that Chava was an Australopithecus Afarensis who walked on two feet, dragged her knuckles on the ground, and who once denied Adam biyuh for two weeks because she didn't like the color scheme in his cave drawings.

The SAGAF, on the other hand (that is, another famous scholar, Rav Sigmund Freud), notes that Chava was both attracted to and repelled by the snake, owing to her discomfort with heterosexuality and repressed memories of her brother's attraction to farm animals. He also suggests that Adam's ambivalence towards the Etz Hadass, the Tree of Knowledge, stems from his deep felt longing for his boyhood wet nurse.

Of course, the Kabbalists in the middle ages were not bothered by any of these questions. The Zoihar points to the confusion around the act of creation as a cosmic struggle between the Sefira of Yesoid, the male aspect of the Reboinoisheloilum, and the Sefira of Malchuss, the female aspect, also referred to as Shechina.

The male aspect naturally wants to describe a story, in this case creation of the universe, in a linear, fact based, structured, no-nonsense approach. The female side, however, likes to focus on creativity and feelings. What kind of fig leaf was Adam wearing? What did he dream about when he was in a "deep sleep"? Was the snake really evil, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was Chava the tool of historical male dominance in a patralineal society, struggling to emerge as a "modern" woman by attending local lectures while Adam works 12-14 hour days, just so the three kids can go to some overpriced Yeshiva?

In other words, the first creation story was from Mars, and the second was from Venus.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. One Friday morning the RITVA was walking down the street, head down, as he was trying to find pennies on the floor. As he was not looking in front on him, he accidentally bumped into the wife of his Rebbe, the RASHBA, who was on her way home from the market. The impact knocked the challas and take out deli and kugels out of her hands and on to the floor. “Rebbetzin RASHBA,” the RITVA said, “I am so sorry! How can I make it up to you?”

Rebbetzin RASHA responded, “Oh, please do not worry about it. Just help me pick up my groceries.” As the RITVA bent down to pick up the food items, Rebbetzin RASHBA beat him on the head with her thirty pound purse, and after he lay motionless on the floor, she stood over his body, stole all his money and left the scene. She arrived home with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment

When the RITVA finally stirred, he rose to his feet with a smile on his face. He thought to himself, “‘Ashrey Ha’Ish’, ‘Happy is the man’ who can peek up the skirt of his Rebbe’s wife for the cost of only a few pennies.”

The RITVA and Rebbetzin RASHBA both had a happy Shabboskoidesh, each feeling that they had glimpsed a bit of Oilum Habbah.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Apikoiress.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Simchas Toirah Drasha

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Simchas Toirah Drasha

Rabboisai,

This week we celebrate the conclusion of Sukkois and the completion of the annual cycle of Kriyas HaToirah by getting stinking drunk and dancing with members of the same gender.

Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato asks: Why do we dance with other men, which is a clear violation of Lifnei Iver for Mishkav Zachor, an unacceptable temptation that may lead to playing “bury my Sukkah pole in your Schach,” if you know what I mean?

There is a famous machloikess that addresses this question. Reb Yisroel Salanter comments that the completion of the Toirah cycle is meant as an Ois, a microcosm, of Oilum Habbah. With the completion of the Chamishei Chumshei Toirah, we experience a moment that is a foreshadowing of Biyas HaMashiach and Oilum Habbah, the dawning of the Messianic era and the World to Come. As such, we know that when Moshiach comes, many of the Halachic restrictions of Oilum Hazeh will fall away. Just as Tisha Ba’Av will shift from being a day of somber mourning to our greatest day of celebration, Biyuh SheLo KeDarko with another man will shift from being an “abomination” to a “Mitzvas Asei SheHazman Grummah.” It will also be a great way to reward your Chavrusa for knowing all the latest dance steps to “Zara Chaya VeKayama.”

Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov proposes a similar approach. He suggests that we do not dance in celebration of completing the annual cycle of reading the Toirah, since in ancient times much of Klal Yisroel followed a triennial cycle, completing the Toirah in three years. Rather, Rebbe Nachman states that we dance with other men to signal the end of the long holiday season. He writes in his famous treatise Likutei MoHaran that “Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Toirah clarify the essential differences between men and women. At this time of year, while men are busy trying to eke out a living without being fired for missing work, building the Sukkah, preparing the Arba Minim, etc., their wives are constantly calling them with requests, such as:

-- ‘Reuvain, can you please pick up bok choi on your way home from work’

-- ‘Shimoin, I don’t think we have enough dessert for the fourth meal we are hosting; can you pick up some brownie mix?’

-- ‘Layvee, I have to stay late at the office; can you come home early to give the kinderlach a bath?’”

Says Rebbe Nachman, “If I can trade being called fourteen times a day by my wife and being incessantly hen-pecked in exchange for engaging in Mishkav Zachor with another man, I will gladly play catcher in Biyuh SheLo Kedarko with a big sweaty Yeshiva Bochur named Lazer.”

However, the Vilna Goyn suggests that Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato and Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov probably spent a bit too much time hanging out at the Mikvah on Erev Yoim Kippur. He writes farkhert in Chuddushe HaGruh, “In Klal Yisroel, we don't have homosexuals. We don't have that in our Kehillah. In Yiddishkeit, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.”

Instead, the Gruh points to the seasonal nature of Shaloish Regalim as the true reason we celebrate on Simchas Toirah. He notes that just as Peysach is Chag HaAviv – the Spring Festival, and Shavuois is Chag HaBikurim – the Harvest Festival, Shmini Atzeres -- and especially Simchas Toirah -- celebrate something critical in the calendric cycle of Klal Yisroel and of Kol HaOilam Kooloh in general.

To make his point, the Gruh cites a famous machloikess. The Tur asks, “What is the most important Aliyah during Kriyas HaToirah?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the most important Aliyah is Rishoyn, the first Aliyah, since it is the Aliyah reserved for the Koihayn, the representative of Klal Yisroel designated by the Reboinoisheloilum to bless His chosen People.

According to the Bais Yoisaiph, the most important Aliyah is the second Aliyah, the Aliyah of the Layvee, since he silently enables the holy activities of the Koihayn by washing the Koihayn’s filthy hands and smelly feet.

According to the Keseph Mishnah, the most important Aliyah is the third Aliyah, since it is typically reserved for the biggest tzaddik in the room. Or, more frequently, it goes to the guy who writes the biggest check to the shul, even though everyone knows he frequently schtupps his hot shiksa secretary while eating pork, and makes his money by selling variable mortgages to eighty year old widows who live off of Social Security.

However, the Shulkhan Arukh holds that the fourth Aliyah is the most important one. His reasoning: Unlike the first, second, or third Aliyahs, the fourth Aliyah is an RBI position. He is batting clean up, while the others simply have the responsibility of getting on base. He has to drive them home, an awesome responsibility. As proof, the Shulkhan Arukh cites the fact that the last Aliyah is typically reserved for a Bar Mitzvah boy or a light hitting shortstop. Or for a pitcher in the National League, Chass v’Sholom. These mamzerim are likely to get out anyway, so we may as well put them in a position where they can’t do any damage.

Continues the Goyn: On Simchas Toirah, we echo the external calendar and combine the completion of the Toirah cycle with the completion of the Major League Baseball season. Consequently, there is a strong Minhag for men to dance together and jump on top of each other in victorious celebration. There is even a Minhag amongst the Sephardim to pour champagne over each others’ heads, although us real Jews celebrate by drinking scotch and making Mei Raglayim in the Ezras Nashim.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Elchanan Wasserman once took a break from the Simchas Toirah celebrations at his Yeshiva and ran home for a quick snack. When he arrived, the house was empty. No one was in the kitchen and no one was in the living room. He went upstairs, opened the door to his bedroom, and to his surprise, he found his wife Chraindie naked, rolling around in bed with the wives of his three Talmidei Muvhak, his leading student protégés. In shock, he asked his wife, “Voos Tootzuch Mit Der Gefilte Fish Party”?

His wife Chraindie responded, “Elchi, you are off in Yeshiva celebrating the end of the Toirah cycle, while we are here celebrating the end of our cycles.”

Pausing for just a moment, Reb Elchanan told his wife, “You are indeed an Eishess Chayil!” He then ran back to the Yeshiva, passed through the Bais Medrish amidst all of the Freilechin dancing and singing, and joined his three Talmidei Muvkak in his private study off the Bais Medrish. Together the four of them intently watched a playoff game on TV for the next hour and a half.

Ah Freilechin Yuntif, You Minuval.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sukkois Drasha

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Rabboisai,

I ran into a Talmid this morning during my morning commute to the Yeshiva, following Shachris, Daf Yoimi, a three course breakfast, and a quick mitzvah with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, if you know what I mean. He told me that he recently met another Talmid, who said that while he is appreciative of my "special brand" of Toirah, he felt that I sometimes "cross the line".

Rabboisai -- It is written in the Toirah that we should not engage in Gilui Arayois with our sisters, our aunts or our father's wife. We are directed by the Toirah not to be Mezaneh with animals. We are commanded to commit Cheirem upon certain towns during the initial Keebbush of Eretz Yisroel. We are told that Duvid HaMelech, THE GREAT Duvid Hamelech, viewed Bass-Shevah bathing naked on her roof, committed Gilui Arayois with her, and sent her husband, a great and loyal soldier, to his death in order to get him "out of the way". And, of course, the Toirah details how Shloimoi HaMelech embraced idol worship towards the end of his life.

So, in other words, while Toirah is timeless and beautiful, it is not always pretty.

So if you are looking for a life philosophy that is always pretty, is always inoffensive, is never challenging, and never makes you feel uncomfortable, then I suggest you become a Buddhist. Or a Bresslover Chassid. Or move to Switzerland. Or drop Besomim.

Ah Gutten Yuntif.

RPS


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Sukkois Drasha

On this holiday, the yuntif of Sukkois, we wave fresh fruit at the sky for seven days, and eat in an open air beehive. We cap it off by dancing cheek to cheek with a bunch of bearded men. (I have a date with a talmid named Yerachmiel; I hope I get lucky!)

According to Chazzal, Sukkois is the time when Moshiach will come. And according to Reb Hai Goyn, it is the holiday when you are supposed to separate yourself from the secular world. He cites as proof the fact that you are forced to take off so many work days right before end of year reviews, you might as well start polishing up your resume.

The RI holds that Sukkois is actually a celebration of homosexuality. When Klal Yisroel were preparing for the long winter, planting in the fields by day and sleeping in huts at night, at the end of a long day they would sit down bichavrusa (in pairs) and study a little Talmud. One minute they are on daf yud baiz, amud alef, and the next minute they are on the floor, committing Mishkav Zachor. And who can blame them? I get excited by a gevaldik Toisfois myself!

The RI cites various Sukkois practices as proof for his position:

- We wave our phallic lulavim on the faces of all the other men, boasting about how ours is the biggest in the shul;

- Alongside our lulav is our esroig, where the gemarrah tells us that the more bulbous and full of veins, the better;

- We commit a sadomasochistic act with a handful of willow branches;

- We dance around the Toirah with other men, our fingers firmly entwined with others' hot, sweaty, hairy hands.

However, most Rishoinim disagree with the RI, referring to his rather abrupt departure from his position as director of the all boys Orthodox summer camp in Northern Lithuania (although they settled out of Baiz Din, so no one can prove a damn thing).

The RIF points to the beauty of the Sukkah celebration as a unique mitzvah within Yiddishkeit. Fresh fruit. The outdoors. Many Rishoinim hold that you should live in the Sukkah for eights days. It says in the Gemmarah that Rish Lakish would move into the Sukkah, and use it as an excuse for not having to deal with his mother in law all week. Rav Ashi, on the other hand, insisted that his mother in law sleep in the Sukkah, and take one or two of the kids with her.

The Sukkah offers many opportunities to be Hiddur Mitzvah, to go above and beyond the letter of the commandment. It is customary to decorate the Sukkah with pictures and other decorations. (Vooz iz givehn plastic fruit, anyway? I understand the Reform decorate their Sukkahs with shrimp.)

According to Rabbeinu Tam, it is actually a Mitzvah Dioraisa to buy Christmas decorations in January at fifty percent off, to be used in decorating the Sukkah the following year: Flashing lights. Ornaments. Candy canes. Indeed, one year the Vilna Goyn decorated his Sukkah with a nativity scene he bought for six dollars.

There are other things that one can do with a Sukkah. A Braisah brings down a story of Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, who, as a teenager, had the roof removed from his family's minivan so that he could drive down to the beach and be mekayaim the mitzvois of pleasuring his girlfriend and eating in the sukkah at the same time. What a tzaddik!

Yet the most beautiful element of Sukkois, and the aspect most shrouded in mystery, is the mitzvah of esroig. I still can't figure it out. It looks like a lemon. It smells like a lemon. It even tastes like a lemon. But it costs as much as heroin. How come it is easier to buy fresh peaches from Antarctica than it is to buy an esroig at a reasonable price?

And how many times in your life have you heard of esroig jelly. I bet you have heard of it all your life, but have NEVER seen it. You know why? Imagine this boast to your friends and neighbors: "I took 100 esroigim that last week retailed for a total of $5,000, mixed them up with a little sugar and pectin, and now it's worth about $1.50." Really impressive.

For this reason, I have a personal minhag. Two days before Sukkois, I buy 5 pounds of lemons in the supermarket, take them home, and then take a baseball bat to them. After about ten minutes of beating the crap out of them, I have plenty esroigim for myself and the kinderlach, and sell the remainder in the shul. With the extra money I buy some cologne, so I can smell nice for my dancing partner on Simchas Toirah night.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you Minuval.