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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Parshas Va-Eyrah

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Parshas Va-Eyrah

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Va-Eyrah, the Aimishteh commands Moishe Rabbeinu to declare independence from the Egyptians and go to Eretz Yisroel, first and foremost so Am Yisroel can stop paying rent and begin to build up equity in their own homes. Moishe at first refuses, responding that he is an "Arel Sefasayim," someone with "uncircumcised lips."

Chazzal pondered at the meaning of this phrase. Pashut Pshat (the simple explanation) is that Moishe was using a metaphor for being shy and uncomfortable when speaking publicly, and was therefore not the best choice to serve as representative of Klal Yisroel.

On the other hand, a famous Medrish tells us that as a young boy, Moisheh was tested by the Egyptians regarding his greed. To prevent Moishe from being discovered as the future prophet of the global diamond industry, an angel pushed Moishe's hand onto a pile of burning coals. Moishe immediately drew his burnt hand into his mouth, scarring his tongue and leaving him with a speech impediment. (I must tell you -- I spent 6 years of my life trying to figure out this medrish. I imagine that someone must have fallen off an elevated chair dancing at a Chassanah and banged his head on the floor in order to come up with this one.)

According to a Gemarrah in Avoidah Zorah, Rava holds that Moishe is actually referring to the fact that he had a cleft palate. Indeed, Rav Ashi goes even further, suggesting that Moishe was also a hunchback. As proof, Rav Ashi cites a Braisah that says that though formally named "Moishe," his nickname was actually "Quasimodo."

Finally, Reb Hai Goyn suggests that Moishe, using the words "uncircumcised lips," was perhaps referring to certain "experimentation" in college with one of his gentile roommates, if you know what I mean, making him unfit to lead Klal Yisroel. But in the following Possuk (verse), the Reboinoisheloilum immediately made clear his "don't ask don't tell" policy, rendering the whole issue moot.

Beyond this dispute over semantics, there is a fundamental question which arises in this Parsha: If the Aimishteh loved the Jews so much, why didn't He just give us Egypt? We were running the place anyway. The Egyptians could have gone; there were twenty-one other Arab countries waiting to welcome them. And the Jews could have done really well with tour packages to the pyramids.

But instead, it was the Jews who were compelled to leave. Which leads to another, no-less-important, question. Moshe, instead of taking the Jews north, should have gone south. Was Moishe's compass broken, or was he simply suffering from heat stroke? Or did he drink too much at the Kiddush Club that week?

Klal Yisroel could have had the whole continent of Africa. Beautiful beaches, diamond mines, glatt kosher safari tours, giraffe meat in our cholent. But no. Moshe went north, to a desert wasteland. (I swear, sometimes I think that Moishe Rabbeinu's Tfillin were on a little too tight.) So we are now left with this tiny country with little more to offer than ceaseless geopolitical conflict, rampant corruption, and really rude hotel staff. (Thank the Aimishteh for the topless beaches in Eilat or I would never visit.)

And we are trapped in our current dilemma.

But rest assured, we are not the only ones to struggle with these thorny issues. The status of Eretz Yisroel is of course one of the key areas of disagreement between the RAMBAN and the RAMBAM.

According to the RAMBAN: Whoever is the most extreme, right wing, fundamentalist, xenophobic political figure in the country, he's our man. The government -- Labor, Likud, whoever -- they don't know what they're doing. Only by sheer force can we expel all the Arabs, as well as all the leftists and non-religious and anyone else we don't like, in order to build the society Hakkadoshboruchhu always intended. (That would leave about 200,000 people in the country -- which is about all He needs, apparently.)

RAMBAM on the other hand holds farkhert: We should give the Palestinians as much land as viably possible. All our Arab cousins want is a little bit of dignity and a little bit of land, so they can live their lives as we live ours, in harmony, side by side. Then we can develop a common economic zone, open our borders, and hold Israeli-Palestinian dance mixers every Saturday night. (I bid twenty dollars for a slow dance with Fatima, by the way.)

However, thankfully, the RAMBAN and RAMBAM do agree on one critical point. They both hold that in the event that a treaty is signed with an Arab country, a true Ben-Toirah is the first on line to get a visa in order to bring back souvenirs from the Shuk and show pictures to everyone in shul of himself sitting on a camel, visiting a local archaeological dig, and spending time with his new best friend, Fatima. And if he's lucky, she'll have "circumcised lips."

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Parshas Shmois

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Parshas Shmois

This week’s Parsha is all about names. Big names and little names. That why it starts with "Ve-eyleh Shmois".

I remember a Rebbe I had in Cheder. He had such a name, Velvel. What kind of name is that? It sounds like a cross between a fabric softener and the latest car from Chrysler.

On the other hand, I was sitting in Shul the other day next to three guys named Brandon, Matthew and Corey. Maybe next week they'll bring their chavrusas Sting, Friar Tuck and Captain Kangaroo.

Names are important. We are told by the Zoihar that in the center of the Reboinoisheloilum's front garden, right next to the bird feeder, sits a tree that determines the names of every member of Klal Yisroel. Every moment that a Jew is born, a leaf blossoms on the tree, and on that leaf is the name of the new soul. Mazel Toiv. And when the leaf gets rained upon, the person is blessed with wealth and happiness. When the leaf dries on the vine, the person is stricken with sadness and melancholy.

And when the leaf falls off the tree, it means his e-mail address somehow gets on a spam list and he will be targeted with offers to refinance the size of his Bris Milah through multi-level marketing and hot shiksas named Amber.

The Zoihar also tells us that when one of these leaves is deformed, it means that the person will have a particularly silly name. Take me for example. My parents, with the best of intentions, gave me the name Pinchas. It sounds a bit like a side dish in a Mexican restaurant. Pinchas, of course, was also the grandson of Aharoin Hacoihain, the Minuval, who when he wasn't making the Eigel was busy rifling through Moishe Rabbeinu's personal effects.

Or, take the name of my bashert, Feige Breina. Silly name, I agree. But in Yiddish it means "can suck a golf ball through a garden hose." Boruch Hashem.

There are names that are acceptable to the Aimishteh: Adam, Aharon, Mark, Chaim, Eric, Josh, Jeff, Lenny, Moishe, Steven, and Shlomo.

Yet there are names that Hakkadoshboruchhu frowns upon: Douglas, Avigdor, Paul, Yerachmiel (too many syllables) and Scott. He especially dislikes transgender names. According to the RIF, the Reboinoisheloilum would rather a Rosheshiva show up to work in a bra and panties than a man should be named Leslie, Rene, or Adrian.

One thousand years ago the Cherem D'Rabbeinu Gershom laws were established, decrees adopted universally by Ashkenazi Jewry. These critical laws are still in place today, including: A man may have only one wife; one should not open up someone else's mail; a man may not divorce a woman without her consent. One of the lesser known decrees of Rabbeinu Gershom was the banning of androgynous names. As proof for his ruling, Rabbeinu Gershom specifically referred to Parshas Shmois. Commenting on the names of Shifra and Pooah, Rabbeinu Gershom suggested that the names of the Hebrew midwives in Egypt have been responsible for three and a half thousand years of gender confusion, which has led to cross dressing, male nurses, and womens’ prayer groups.

If you are not sure about a name, listen to the beginning of Parshas Shmois. That's why it’s called "Names." Reuvain. Shimon. Layvee. Yehudah. Yisaschar. Zevulun. Dun. Naftali. Gad. Asher. Menashe. Ephrayim. Binyamin. The names of the Shvatim, the twelve tribes, are the prototypical masculine names. They carry boldness and confidence, strength and vigor. They elicit images of broad shoulders and large, sweaty muscles. They ring with testosterone. The names are so gevaldik, it actually excites me a little, if you know what I mean.

I think I need to go sit in a nice, cold mikvah.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Christmas Drasha

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Christmas Drasha

Rabbi Yoichanan Ben Zakai, in a Braisa brought down in Maseches Airuvin, asks: What is the true mitzvah of Christmas? Is it to share the joy, the festivities, the gift-giving, and the spirit of good will towards all men? Or is it to go to a matinee, pay half price, and stay the hell off the street until the goyim sober up?

This line of questioning echoes a story of Eliyahu Hanavi, as he faced down the priests of Baal on Har Carmel. As they each brought sacrifices and rejoiced in their Avoidah Zarah, Eliyahu chose to sit on the side and clip coupons, rather than participate. And when it came time to show the power of the Aimishteh, Eliyahu chose to consume all the priests with fire, rather than pay to provide refreshments for everyone.

According to the RAN, this story captures the essential dilemma of ambivalence we all feel at this time of year. All year long we function as a part of external secular society, with our own traditions and peculiarities accepted in an air of viva la differance. But at Christmas time we are not Battul BeShishim; we stand out as the minority that we are.

Yet, we needn't abandon this Yuntif entirely, given our myriad connections to it:

- Jesus was, of course, a Jew. Indeed, a medrish in Matthew Rabbah refers to him using a cell phone in a movie theatre and taking Mary Magdolyn on a shidduch date for drinks at the local Marriot;

- Christmas tree lights are a modern day expression on the ancient Germanic festival of lights commemorating the winter solstice. This, in itself, is partly reflected in the lighting of the Chanukah candles;

- Christmas is a celebration of...RETAIL. According to the RAMBAM's Mishnah Toirah, one of the key Mitzvois Asei SheHazman Gerammah is the raising of ALL prices by 20% between December 10th and December 24th. Boruch Hashem for Kratzmach -- this Yuntif pays for my kids' Yeshivah tuition! Indeed, all of my talmidim are encouraged to contribute to a Christmas fund for families who cannot afford toys, the Kratzmach Gemach, so that Jewish merchants will not suffer because the Goyim are in the middle of a recession.

- There is a famous Mishnah that states that just as Roish Hashanah is the New Year for the universe and Tu BiShvat is the New Year for trees, Christmas is the New Year for big, fat, bearded white guys. And I know many Rabbanim in our community who should therefore celebrate this Yuntif too.

There is a famous Maiseh SheHoya about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In an effort to raise money for vodka for his Chasidim one year, he dressed up as Santa Clause and stood in front of the local Bloomingdales, pretending to be from the Salvation Army. Who should walk by, but his archenemy, the Satmar Rebbe.

"So, Menachem-Mendel," the Satmar Rebbe declared in a loud voice, "Your movement truly has evolved into another religion."

"Not at all," the Lubavitcher Rebbe calmly replied. "We simply never miss an opportunity to find joy. What do you say you and I do a couple of shots, sing a niggun, and make-up underneath the mistletoe?"

The Satmar Rebbe was so upset by the confrontation that day, he insisted that all of his followers use reindeer meat in their cholent that shabbos.

Meanwhile, the Lubavitcher Rebbe raised enough money to keep his Chasidim drunk through the end of the month of Tayvais. That night, the Reboinoisheloilum came to him in a dream. "Rebbe," the Aimishteh said, "Have I not given you enough to celebrate in Yiddishkeit? Why are you and your followers embracing another religion?"

"But Hakkadoshbaruchhu," the Lubavitcher Rebbe responded, "we have not strayed from Yiddishkeit. It's not as if any of my Chasidim will ever embrace the concept of resurrection or anything like that."

So we have a lot more in common with Christmas than we originally thought. We should therefore neither ignore the holiday nor treat it with disrespect. Rather, we should treat it as the money making opportunity that it truly is.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you Minuval

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Parshas Vayigash

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Parshas Vayigash

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayigash, we read of the culmination of the Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, where Yoisaiph Hatzadick exposes himself to his brothers, as well as to numerous underage bystanders.

Not long after, of course, Yankif Avinu is told that his beloved son Yoisaiph is indeed alive, ending his years of mourning. The Toirah is silent about how the wonderful news is told to Yankif. However, a famous Medrish tells us that the news was gently broken to Yankif by his granddaughter, Serach Bas Asher.

Serach Bas Asher was respected amongst her family as a talented singer and a musician. The Shfatim were concerned that breaking the news outright to Yankif would cause him to have a heart attack. So instead, they employed Serach to gently sing to her grandfather while playing the harp, and embed in her song the news that Yoisaiph was alive. The Medrish goes on to say that Serach’s reward for performing this great expression of Kibud Av VaAim was eternal life.

Unfortunately for Serach, her gift of eternal life was not accompanied by a matching gift of a trust fund or a professionally managed pension fund to support her financially. Consequently, she was dirt poor, and had to spend the next thousand years working as an exotic dancer in a Mesopotamian strip club.

Whatever became of Serach Bas Asher? There is a famous machloikess on this topic in a Gemarrah in Megillah.

-- According to Abaya, Serach prayed for the Reboinoisheloilum to end her life as she witnessed the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash and the descent of Klal Yisroel into the Babylonian exile.

-- According to Rava, Serach lived though Golus Bavel, returned to Eretz Yisroel with Ezra and Nechemia, and lived for several hundred more years. But as Sinas Chinum overtook Klal Yisroel in the years before the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, Serach could no longer withstand her role as eyewitness to all of Jewish history, and prayed to the Aimishteh to be taken to the Oilum HaEmmes.

-- However, according to Rav Shayshess, Serach Bas Asher is indeed still alive, and is currently living in Wisconsin, running an online porn site, SerachWILD.Com.

-- Rav Puppa concurs that Serach is still alive, but he insists that she is neither engaging in pornography, Chass V’Sholom, nor living in obscurity. Farkhert, he holds that she is leveraging her years of wisdom and experience to make the Reboinoisheloilum’s world a better place by engaging in public service, and is none other than Hillary Clinton. In addition, Rav Puppa holds that Joe Biden is really Culaiv Ben Yefuneh, Barack Oibama is actually Shloimoi Hamelech, and John Boehner is in reality Yeruvum Ben Nevut.

A different Gemarrah in Shabbos focuses on Yankif Avinu’s response to the revelation of Yoisaiph’s whereabouts. According to Rav Chisda, upon hearing the news that Yoisaiph was alive, Yankif looked up to Shamayim and recited Hallel “at having lived to see the handiwork of the Etzbah Eloikim.” However, according to Rabba Bar Bar Channa, Yankif Avinu first looked down to the floor and took a moment to reflect on the enormity of the information. Then he turned around and bitch-slapped Yissaschar and Zevulun in the head, and then kicked Naftali in the Schvantzlach.

RASHI, however, is not at all troubled by the confusion raised by the total lack of any real information in theis story. He states in Perek Chuff Baiz, Passuk Yud Aleph that the entire Parsha of Vayigash should not be taken literally anyway, but should be read as a complete metaphor… for Parshas Miketz, which makes even less sense than Parshas Vayigash. Consequently, every year at this time, to coincide with Chanukah, RASHI would take a break from writing his commentary and travel abroad to sample the new wines being developed in Sonoma County. He would stay at a boutique hotel in downtown San Francisco and take day trips to the wineries where he would drink enough, he writes, “until I can no longer tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabarnet, or between a woman names Chris and a cross-dresser named Christine.” Shoyn.

As we sit here in our modern world, how are we to relate to the entire Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, and, in fact, to the entire Yankif Avinu cycle? Did we even need the brave actions of Yoisaph Hatzadick to begin with? Would we not have been better off had Klal Yisroel not descended to Egypt? Why did Hakkadoshboruchhu have to put our ancestors through hundreds of years of suffering the stinging horrors and humiliations of slavery, only to return to Eretz Yisroel through bitter conquest? Could we not have just stayed there in the first place and survived the famine by taking government subsidies?

Indeed, this is a reflection of a broader existential quandary – linked to one of the ultimate questions facing Klal Yisroel: Why is our history so twisted and tinged with challenge and tragedy? If we are indeed the Aimishteh’s chosen people, could we not have had it a bit easier, like, say, the Norwegians? Who is at fault for our having such a convoluted and tortured fate?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Katski, this is indeed the fault of Hakadoshboruchhu Himself, Bichvoidoi UbiAtzmoi. He points to the Akeidah and notes that just as Yitzchak’s life is spared when a lost little lamb is sacrificed in his stead, the Reboinoisheloilum constantly looks at the world, is tempted to destroy it, remembers His oath to Noiach, and then uses Klal Yisroel as His punching bag to take out His frustrations.

Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah holds farkhert. According to Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah, the eternal fate of Klal Yisroel is of course not the Aimishteh’s fault! He loves us the same way a child lives his pet hamster. Rather, we should really blame all the ills of our lives on our parents: If they had only loved us a little more as we were children, and bought us that thing that we really wanted, and let us watch a little more TV, and helped us more with out homework, and not favored our younger brother, and had been less critical of our bisomim smoking friends, we would have been better adjusted and had all the needed confidence to succeed in our lives' endeavors. Yes, it is our parents who are at fault for the failure of our going down to Egypt, for us being exiled, and for all of our other failings. Indeed, the fact that we are 3,000 years old, still wet our beds, suck our thumbs, and are always looking for a handout proves that our parents never really cared about us!

However, according to the Reb Bezalel Kupkayk, our eternal fate is the fault of neither Hakadoshboruchhu nor of our parents. Rather, it is the fault of the liberal media. Case in point: Did we really have to know that Yoisaiph had actually been sold into slavery by his brothers, who then lied to Yankif Avinu and maintained the lie for the next two decades? Is it that big a deal? Every nation has its little internal arguments, and exposing this disagreement only plays into the hands of our enemies.

Similarly, we would never have been exiled from Eretz Yisroel if the liberal media was not always talking about how corrupt the kings of Israel were. They should really love the country, otherwise they should keep their mouths shut. Did the liberal media need to tell us that idolatry was introduced into the Bais Hamikdash by Shloimoi HaMelech and most of the other kings of Malchus Yehuda? These were a few isolated events, blown totally out of proportion. And so what if there were poor members of Klal Yisroel being ignored by their fellow man -- they were probably illegal immigrants anyway. And so what if there were widows and orphans -- they should have planned better for the future!

Yes, it was the liberal media that undermined the position of Malchis Bais David, the Malchus of the Chashmonaim, and later, the leadership of the Nasi in the post Temple period. Media vehicles such as CNN, ABC, National Public Radio, Kol Yisroel, Shmuel Aleph and Baiz, Melachim Aleph and Baiz, Yishayahu, Yirmiyahu and the other prophets, as well as the Associated Press and Al Jazira. By the actions of the liberal media, our enemies have been strengthened and given constant reason to hate us and persecute us. Reboinoisheloilum-Damned-Liberal-Media!

I am reminded of a famous Machloikess in the medieval period. The RIF and the RAN got into a disagreement with the RALBAG and the RITVAH over who had the bigger shtender, Moishe Rabbeinu or Aaroin HaKoihain, the minuval. The RIF and the RAN insist that Moishe’s shtender was bigger, as we are told that Moishe was the greatest Navi that ever lived, and how can you imagine a Navi with an inferior shtender? The RALBAG and the RITVAH, however, refer to the fact that the descendents of Aharoin HAKoihain received the Kehunah as proof that Aharoin had a bigger shtender. After all, they argue, “only someone with a groisse shtender could have earned the right to appoint his descendants to the institutional leadership of future generations."

I would like to suggest a different approach. LeOilum, this debate isn’t really about the size of one's shtender. After all, size doesn’t matter, or so my Bashert, Feige Breineh, frequently reassures me. Rather, it is the scope of one’s influence that really counts. Moishe Rabbeinu was the greatest Navi, but his descendants were more interested in learning Toirah, and less focused on addressing the everyday needs of Klal Yisroel. By contrast, Aroin Hakoihain was indeed a minuval, what, with the designing of the Eigel and speaking Rechilus about Moishe. Yet his children were committed to serving Klal Yisroel, even if that meant giving of their private time, sacrificing commitments to their children, violating their marital vows, or taking of the collected wealth of Klal Yisroel. As a result, through their actions, they established the paradigm of the future religious leadership of Klal Yisroel.

Similarly, Yoisaiph Hatzadick and the cycle of stories that surround him do not represent some perfect era of Klal Yisroel’s history. On the contrary, they tell us that the nature of the relationship between Klal Yisroel and the Reboinoisheloilum is not at all clear. In fact, it is downright convoluted. Yet, what is crystal clear from the story of Yoisaiph is that the will of Hakkadoshboruchhu is best served when we hide our own identities, marry shiksas, work for the goyim, and abuse our brethren. Only then can we be in a strong position to help bring about the Geulah Shlaimah for all of Klal Yisroel. Bimayra BiYamainu. Umayn.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Parshas Vayayshev

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Parshas Vayayshev

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayayshev, we read characteristic tales that reflect the great moral fabric of our ancestors. These stories include:

-- Yoisaif Hatzadik has repeated dreams of future domination over his brothers and his parents. His brothers express displeasure at these dreams. And who can blame them? Believe me: If your brother boasted that you would one day bow down to him, you would want to kick him in the Bris Milah too.

-- Yehuda fathers the family line that will result in Malchus Bais David, the Davidic monarchy. Of course, along the way he did have to sleep with his daughter in law, Tamar, who disguised herself as a prostitute on the road in order to seduce him. Maylah, after reading this week’s Parsha, I feel a lot less guilty about buying that French maid’s costume and riding crop from Fredericks of Hollywood for my Bashert, Feyga Breinah.

-- The Shvatim, completely fed up with Yoisaif Hatzadik’s undermining of their positions with their father, decide to kill Yoisaif. At the last moment they cast him into a pit and take his Kesoines Passim, his Coat of Many Colors, cover it with goat’s blood and bring it to their father, to whom they report that their beloved sibling was eaten by a beast. Yankif is inconsolable -- to the point of ceasing day trading for a full six hours!

A gemarrah in Soitah brings down a Beraisah quoting a question from Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah: “Are we, Klal Yisroel, really descendants of these people? I mean, seriously, is it possible we could be adopted? Please?!” Rabbi Elazar goes on to point out that he never in his life tried to kill any of his brothers or sleep with his son’s wife, though he once did grope his sister-in-law during havdalah.

What follows is a famous machloikess in the gemarrah surrounding Rabbi Elazar’s comments:

Rish Lakish holds that Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah found the activities of the Avois and the Shvatim quite disturbing, and felt that we should try to emulate the more positive aspects of their lives, such as Yosaif Hatzadik’s nice hair style, the Shvatim’s bargaining skills with Ishmaelite merchants, and Yehuda’s giving of generous tips to even the lowliest of roadside prostitutes.

However, Rav Huna holds farkhert: In reality all of the stories brought down in the Toirah do indeed reflect positive elements of our ancestors’ behavior, if only you understood the Toirah properly, you worthless minuval. He explains:

-- Yoisaif was a gadol amongst his brothers, and had true visions of his future exile and eventual ascent to power in Egypt. And in his dreams, his family members were not bowing down to him – rather, they were all picking up pennies from the floor.

-- The Shvatim were afraid that Yoisaif’s perceived arrogance would be a bad influence on their children, and therefore determined to strengthen their own families by kidnapping their brother. And their persistent lying to their father about Yoisaif’s fate was an attempt to Practice the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan.

-- And Yehuda never, ever, ever, EVER meant in his life to go to a prostitute, chass vesholom. Unfortunately, in his business travels he was exposed to television, and after watching Britney Spears on MTV he had a tremendous taiyvah. And instead of committing a Dioraisa by himself, if you know what I mean, he chose to do a DeRabannan with Tamar. What a tzadik!

Rav Huna cites proof for his position on the high moral integrity of the Shvatim. He notes that Yoiseph Hatzadik, after he had risen to lead the household of Potiphar, rejected the advances of Mrs. Potiphar. Says Rav Huna: this is because Yoiseph knew Kol HaToirah Kooloh and didn’t want to commit an act of Gilui Arayois – adultery.

But Rish Lakish retorts, citing a medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that says that Mrs. Potiphar weighed 400 pounds and had facial hair that made her look like Yassir Arafat. Rish Lakish also cites a different medrish in the Mekhilta that suggests while living in Potiphar’s house, Yoiseph Hatzadik spent ALL of his time on the weekends going shopping with Potiphar’s younger brother, Merlot, and had no interest in Mrs. Potiphar whatsoever. Rish Lakish concludes, “Rav Huna should spend more time tying his tzitzis rather than trying to reinterpret the basic pshat of Beraishis." Shoyn.

The gemarrah never settles this machloikess and the Rishoinim do not really talk about it. However, this machloikess is most famously addressed in the Likutei HaRABAM and in the Igroiss Penthouse.

Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah’s comments, and Rish Lakish’s understanding of them, raise a broader question about Yiddishkeit. There are many Halachois and Biblical incidents that stand in contrast to our contemporary sensibilities -- and even any against rational logic itself. A few halachic examples include: the halachois of mikvah, where due to Rabbinic invasion of the marital bedroom two weeks out of every month, men have to take matters into their own hands, if you know what I mean; the notion of animal sacrifice: killing an innocent animal for our own self serving purposes; the killing of an animal that has been the forced subject of bestiality; and the laws of Cherem, the complete decimation of the indigenous population during Kibbush Eretz Yisroel, including women and children.

Other examples include: the promotion of Dovid HaMelech and Shlomo HaMelech as role models and as the paradigmatic rulers of Klal Yisroel, even though Dovid was a murderer and Shlomo was an idolater whose despotism towards the northern tribes resulted in the breakup of the united monarchy; and the promotion of Aroin HaKoihain’s descendants as the priestly caste despite Aroin’s guilt in the Maiseh Ha-Eygel. How are we to relate to a faith that is founded upon many values that we do not necessarily share?

I am reminded of a famous Maaseh Shehoya. Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavicher Rebbe, was once walking to shul on Shabbos morning. It was cold that day, and Reb Shneur struggled to keep his hands warm. As he was crossing the street he noticed Malkah Shprintza, the childless woman who lived across the street. “Come over here so I can give you a bracha!” he called over to her. She walked across the street, and he greeted her by rapidly grabbing her behind and cupping a naked buttock in each freezing hand.

“Rebbe!” she screamed, “what are you doing?”

He replied “I am giving you a bracha: The Reboinoisheloilum should make you favored like Ruchel, fertile like Leah and cunning like Rivka.”

“What happened to Sarah Imainu?” Malkah Shprintza asked, suddenly enchanted by the grand Rebbe’s bracha.

Reb Shneur Zalman looked at her and smiled. “Meideleh” he said, “trust me, you don’t want to be like Sarah Imainu. She was crazier than my mother in law during a hot flash on Yoim Kippur!” With that, Reb Schneur rushed into shul just in time to do vodka shots.

So, just as the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, we have to be intelligently selective about how we understand, and apply, the foundational elements of the Toirah. Should we abandon the faith? No. But that does not mean that we should behave like brainless automatons.

In many ways, we practice Yiddishkeit not because of many of these foundational elements, but despite them. We coexist uncomfortably with these Halachois, stories and role models. We can choose to ignore them, or to embrace them. Just so long as we understand that the main gift of Hakkadoshboruchhu is free will.

However, you minuval, you may choose to reject free will -- in which case you should feel free to partake of every roadside prostitute, just like our ancestor Yehuda. And if you do, just remember to bring cash. Always bear in mind the timeless lesson of Yehuda: if you leave a prostitute your cloak, your staff or other forms of ID as payment, it is likely to come back and bite you in the ass.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Parshas Vayishlach

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Parshas Vayishlach

Rabboisai,

To begin this week's drasha, I must share with you a wonderful, personal story. Earlier this year I was traveling on business to a Yeshiva fundraiser at an exotic dance club in Nevada. As night came, having used up all my singles, I was compelled to make camp on a hill overlooking the city of Reno. In the middle of the night, I was stirred by someone walking around my campsite. I arose and was immediately thrust into the clench of physical combat. The mysterious person and I wrestled throughout the night, locked in mortal struggle. As the sun rose the next morning, the person tried to pull my thigh, but inadvertently dislodged my testicle, Rachmana Letzlan. At daybreak our struggle ended, and the being revealed himself as none other than Harry Reid.

From that day forth that location has been known as Kickmyass, because that was the site where Harry Reid kicked my ass.

I share this story, of course, because of its strong resemblance to the story of Yankif Avinu struggling with the Rebboinoisheloilum, while making his way to Eretz Yisroil, en route to his rendezvous with his twin brother, Eisav HaRasha, Yemach Shmoi Ve'Zichroi. Why did the Reboinoisheloilum engage Yankif in mortal combat?

According to the RASHBA it was because there was a nickel on the floor somewhere, and neither Yankif nor Hakkadoshboruch wanted to walk away from spare change.

But according to the Bais Yoiseph, they were actually fighting over a waffle. He cites as proof a Medrish that quotes the Aimishteh as telling Yankif during the stuggle "Leggo my Eggo, before I turn your Makom HaMilah into a piece of potato kugel."

However, the ARI ZAHL offers a beautiful interpretation. The ARI points to the end of the episode in the Toirah, where Yankif Avinu is for the first time given the name Yisrael, or Israel. Noting the longstanding Kabbalistic belief that the relationship between the Aimishteh and Klal Yisrael is like that of husband and wife, the ARI likens this episode to the awkward wedding night of Klal Yisrael and Hakkadoshboruchhu. They stay up together all night, vigorously engaged in physical interaction. As dawn arrives, they reach a climax, but not without some minor injury. And, to commemorate this event, the ARI suggests that when a man and his wife participate in intimacy while having in mind to spiritually align their actions with the holy cosmic union of Klal Yisroel and the Rebboinoisheloilum, the man ought to spank his wife every once in a while.

Of course, this story is but one of the many strange tales we read in this Parsha. Other stories include:

-- Yaakov's ultimate confrontation with his brother. After all the buildup, Yankif sends out his least favorite wives and children as canon fodder before the feared enemy, using them as human shields to protect himself, his favorite wife, Rachel, and his favorite children. But when Eisav finally meets Yankif's party, he in fact extends his hand to Yankif in peace. Yankif responds by asking Eisav for a donation and tries to sell him life insurance and a cell phone.

-- Reuven, Yankif's eldest son, has sex with Bilhah, one of his father's concubines, who is also the mother of his half brothers (Perek Lamed Hay, Pussook Chuf Baiz). How could one of the Shvatim, the tribes, holy as he was, commit Aishess Ish with the bedmate of his father? This is indeed very troubling!

But you mustn't ask such silly questions, you Minuval. Because according to Rabbi Eliezer, as quoted in a Braisah in Beraishis Rabbah, this was not Reuven's intention at all. Says Rabbi Eliezer, Reuven was terribly nearsighted and had lost his glasses. After wandering across the tent camp, Reuven thought he had made his way to his destination, the bed of his boyfriend Theodore, Yankif's manservant. However, Reuven bedded Bilhah by mistake. And who can blame him? Both Bilhah and Theodore had the same moustache problem..

-- But perhaps the strangest story is that of the rape of Dinah, the sister of the Shvatim (tribes). Dinah is raped by Shchem, the son of Chamor. After he defiles Dinah, Shchem falls in love with her and asks for her hand in marriage. Both are told that if all the males of the village are circumsized, Shchem will be permitted to marry Dinah. But as the men of the village recover from their procedures, two of the tribes, Shimoin and Layvee, slay the village to the man. This results in a harsh reaction by their father, Yankif Avinu.

How should we look upon this reactionary behavior? Were the brothers justified in their behavior? And if so, how can we understand Yankif's angry response towards them?

According to the Metsudas Dovid, Shimoin and Layvee acted lishmah, with great personal intergrity, and believed that their actions would help make the world a better place through setting an example of loving-kindness for their sister by committing bloodthirsty revenge. The Metsudas Dovid adds that Yankif Avinu actually supported the brothers' action, but he explains that Yankif's stated negative reaction in the pussook (verse) was only "delivered to satisfy American pressure, brought about by the liberal media." He further suggests that the Toirah no longer be allowed to include such actions since they reflect badly on Klal Yisroel.

But the RAIVID offers a different set of answers. Says the RAIVID, in truth, the brothers did overreact, just a bit. They should have only killed Shchem, who was truly the only figure guilty of criminal behavior. However, on their way to the village to kill Shchem, they forgot to take their lithium medication, and began hearing voices asking them to kill every male in the town. And this explains Yankif's reaction: How can he expect to co-exist with the Canaanites and Perrizites when he has the reputation of having a couple of psychos for sons?

Finally, the Akaidas Yitzchak offers a different interpretation. In truth, all of the males of the town supported and endorsed the criminal actions of Shchem. So indeed, they all deserved to die. And Shimoin and Layvee set out on their military operation, as planned, with little more that two submachine guns each, plus grenades, pistols, and hunting knives, in order to carry out their mission. But after killing all the males, Layvee looks back at the town and says in his deep, Aramean accented voice, "I'll be back," and it is that statement which Yankif protests.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Parshas Vayaitzai

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Parshas Vayaitzai

"Vayaitzai Ya'akov mi'Be-er Sheva vayailech Charanah." And Yankif went out of Be'er Sheva towards Charan. In such succinct fashion, the Toirah summarizes last week's episode and introduces the next twenty years of oppression at the hands of Lavan.

The RAMBAN asks the question: why is it that Yankif, one of our founding Avois, a pinnacle of our early relationship with the Aimishteh, and a model for future behaviour emulation, was so consistently disliked by his brother, his uncle AND his own father? What's pshat?

According to the MAHARAL, this is because Yankif was insufferably arrogant. According to a Medrish in Soitah, Yankif used to boast to his brother Eisav, "I have an IQ of Koof Mem Chess, while you kill weasels for a living. And you were stupid enough to sell me your birthright for a bowl of lentils, schmuck!"

But the TOISFOIS YUNTIF points out that as much as Ya'akov was hated by the men in his life, the women REALLY loved him: His mother Rivka, who taught him all the finer arts of lying to his father. His is two wives, who constantly fought over him like sisters (hey -- they were sisters!). According to the TOISFOIS YUNTIF, when the Toirah tells us that Yankif didn't like to go to the fields to hunt, it is really trying to tell us that Yankif was extremely sexually conflicted and effeminate. This really pissed off his father and brother, but was very popular with all the women, who used to like to shop with Yankif, and talk fashion and attend the ballet with him.

Rav Yoiseph Karo, on the other hand, holds farkhert: Yankif was a true he-man who left all the men jealous and all the women swooning. As proof he cites the fact that to impress Rachel, Yankif single-handedly removed the boulders covering the well. Says Rav Yoiseph Karo, "If Yankif Avinu was man enough to get his rocks off in public, that is good enough for me."

As Yankif meets with his uncle for the first time, the Toirah tells us that Lavan hugged and kissed him. A famous RASHI addresses an implicit question: why does the Toirah tell us that he both hugged and kissed him? However, RASHI tells us, the Toirah was not being redundant. Lavan first hugged Yunkif to see if he had valuables hidden under his clothes, and then kissed him to see if any jewels were hidden in his mouth. (Author's comment: Check out Rashi. He really does say this.)

So is this what family reunions were like back then?

The RASHBA adds, the real reason Lavan hated Yankif is that Yankif Avinu didn't let him get to third base on their first date.

As one reads of these curious events, a good-for-nothing minuval such as yourself must wonder why the Toirah bothers to tell us such tales. Indeed, a famous Gemarrah in Yevamois specifically asks why the Toirah doesn't just begin at Har Sinai, Mount Sinai, with the giving of the Ten Commandments. Or begin with the Exodus from Egypt, the formal conglomeration of Klal Yisrael as an independent nation. Or begin with the entrance of Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael. Why do we need all of this pre-history?

The Gemarrah quotes Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel as saying that all of Beraishis comes to teach us the ways of Tzidkus, righteousness, so we can emulate our forefathers and foremothers in our own lives.

Nowhere is this better communicated than in our Parsha, with the lessons taught by Rachel and Leah. Yankif of course ends up marrying Leah, and, subsequently, Rachel. As Rachel struggles to concieve, she hands over her maidservant to be a concubine to Yankif. Leah ends up doing the same thing.

The RAMBAM points out that if you include Sarah Imainu, who gave Hagar (the Horrible), her own maidservant, to Avraham as a concubine, we have a total of three instances where the Imahois INSIST that their husbands be mekayaim the mitzvah of pru urvu, or at least perform a quickie, with another woman. That's 66% of the Avois, and 75% of the Imahois. And these were great women, who always acted at every moment with the intention of fulfilling the mitzvois of Hakkadoshboruchhu. You cannot argue with thise statistics, you minuval.

Now, in order to be a true BenToirah, you should walk in the footsteps of our great and righteous ancestors and repeat their very deeds.

I have made this argument many times to my bashert, Feigah Breinah. She is not fully convinced of this particular mitzvah, but she does hold that lap dances are only a D'Rabbabanan, not the worst thing you can do on a Thursday night after a long week of work. But I expect that she'll come around sooner or later, otherwise I will cease snacking in the schmaltz herring, if you know what I mean.

Four hundred years ago the ARI ZAHL, living in Tzfas, taught us that with every mitzvah we fulfill, we restore another primordial spark of the Aimishteh's goodness to its rightful place in the cosmic universe, thereby bringing the world one step closer to its original perfection.

Rachel, Leah, and Sarah, in their holy righteousness, understood this. And as we walk in their footsteps, we should always keep in mind that every extramarital biyuh brings us one step closer to Biyas Hamashiach. Bimhairah Biyamainu. Umain.

Ah Gutten Shabbos you Minuval.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New "The Knish" Featuring Two Articles By Me






Rabboisai,

My Minuval colleagues at "The Knish" have published new edition:


The new edition includes two artcles written by me:

1) New Archaeological Discovery In Israel A Real Headturner


2) Rabbis Debate Updating The Halachic Rules of Engagement


If you enjoy the articles, please send me wads of cash!

Pinky


Parshas Chayei Sarah

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Parshas Chayei Sarah

Rabboisai,

I write this Dvar Toirah while on an international flight en route to an annual gathering in commemoration of this week's Parsha, Parshas Chayei Sarah. Thousands of people focus on the first half of the Parsha and gather in Chevroin every year to celebrate the burial place of Sarah Imainu. I, on the other hand, will be joining a group of people commemorating the second half of the Parsha, the marriage of Yitzchak Avinu to three-year-old Rivka Imainu, by traveling to Thailand to have sex with a group of underage girls.

This week's Parsha, of course, begins with the passing of our foremother, Sarah Imainu. RASHI tells us that Sarah died as a result of hearing that her husband, Avraham, had taken their only son to be slaughtered at the alter. The RAMBAM asks the question: Why should Sarah have been shocked? Where was her faith in the Rebboinoisheloilum? Was she not ready for the Aimishteh's test? Was she tempted by the Yetzer Harah, the Evil Inclination, to question her belief in the all knowing, rational and loving Hakkadoshboruchhu who expressed His divine love by suggesting that Yitzchak be grilled to perfection like ribs at a July 4th barbecue? Did she not want her son to be slaughtered, so he could die for all our sins? (OOPS, wrong religion. Sorry.)

Indeed, it was not Sarah who mentally snapped as a result of Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac, at the end of last week's Parsha. It was Avraham Avinu. According to a famous medrish in Beraishis Rabbah, this Parsha is testimony to that fact that Avraham completely lost his marbles after the Akeidah. Note the evidence of his nervous breakdown:

-- We are told, not once -- but twice, that Avraham bows down to the "Am Ha'aretz," the People of the Land, to express his humility and gratitude for their support (Beraishis, Perek Chuff Gimmul, Psukim Zayin and Yood Bayz). How can Avraham Avinu, our forefather, the man who discovered Hakadoshboruchhu, the man who invented string cheese and the iPhone, prostrate himself before other human beings? Did he not realize that the only thing he should EVER bow down to was the Rebboinoisheloilum, the Melech Malchei Hamelliachim -- unless of course someone had dropped a quarter? However, the medrish quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying that at this point in his life, Avraham was so deluded and confused he would bow down to a cow every time he had a potato with a little sour cream on it. He would even bow down to his dry cleaner every time he picked up his shirts.

-- Avraham Avinu barters to gain the right to bury his beloved Sarah in Meuras Hamachpeilah. Ephroin, the property's owner, gives Avraham the land and does not want payment. Avraham, however, insists upon counting out four hundred shekels of silver as payment to Ephroin. So what's pshat "payment"? Why didn't Avraham just chop off one his arms and present it to Ephroin, instead of giving away money for no reason? Maybe he should have given away his ATM card and his PIN code, while he was at it?

-- Avraham decides to send his manservant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son, Yitzchak. To secure his commitment, Avraham asks that Eliezer, his servant, put his hand "underneath Avraham's thigh." Wow. That is progressive. According to Rabbi Akiva, after the death of his wife, Avraham was so randy he was open to "all lifestyle alternatives." Indeed, there is a separate Braisah in Masechess Pesachim that suggests that following Sarah's death, Avraham Avinu joined a local S&M club, spent six months in a nudist colony, and made seventy five dollars a week posing for an art class at his local community college.

Avraham's mental state is of course balanced with the beautiful story of the discovery of Rivka. After being sworn to his commitment to find a wife for Yitzchak, Eliezer sets out on his quest. As he reaches a well, he decides that he will anticipate a divine sign: the appearance of a woman who will offer drink to both him and his camels. The RADAK asks the question: why did Eliezer choose a sign based on a woman's action, rather than a visual metaphor, such as a yellow ribbon on the woman's dress or a tattoo on the small of her back? The Toirah Temimah answers that, mamesh, Eliezer was indeed looking for such a sign: he was hoping that as the women bent down to fetch the water he would catch a glimpse of her cleavage. Says the Toirah Temimah, Eliezer had also committed to Avraham that the bride he would bring back to his master's son would have a Double-Daled cup.

Of course, all of these expectations were turned upside down when Eliezer saw Rivka for the first time. We are told specifically by the passook that Eliezer noticed her great beauty. We are also told that Rivka "was a virgin; she had known no man." An obvious question arises: why did the Toirah have to repeat itself -- wasn't this a redundant statement? RASHI tells us, however, that the local girls had strange sexual practices that enabled sexual activity without the surrender of one's maidenhead. (He really does say that, by the way. Look it up.) Who ever heard of such a practice amongst youth?!? But the RASHBAM disagrees. He suggests that the verse is telling us that while Rivka had not had a sexual relationship with a man, her femininity had been "totally awakened" as an active member of the LPGA tour, if you know what I mean.

And now the strangest part of the Parsha: nowhere in the Parsha are we told Rivka's age, but Rabbinic tradition has always deduced that Rivka was three years old when she was discovered by Eliezer and brought into Yitzchak's tent for consummation of their marital relationship. How can this be? Was Yitzchak some kind of pervert?

According to a Gemarra in Maseches Nidah, Yitzchak was indeed a pervert. Says the Gemarra, the reason that Yitzchak didn't marry until the age of forty is that as a counselor in Yeshivas Shame V'Eyver Basketball and Learning Camp, Yitzchak sexually abused three of his charges and spent the next twenty two years in prison. As proof, the Gemarra cites a Braisa that states that the reason Avraham insisted that Yitzchak, his son, not marry a local Canaanite woman was NOT because he wouldn't want one as a daughter in law. Adderabbah! It was because Yitzchak had to register with the local authorities as a convicted sex offender, and therefore no local woman was willing to date him.

But according to Rav Saadya Goyn, Yitzchak Avinu was no more perverted than any other man at that time. LeOylam, every man in those days married underage girls. As proof, he cites a medrish that says that Avraham Avinu married Sarah Imainu when she was one and a half, and Noiach married Mrs. Noiach when she was an aborted fetus.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Yisroel Salanter once traveled to Siberia to attend a celebrity golf tournament. As customary, he lodged at the home of a local eskimo. When it came time to go to sleep, the eskimo said to Reb Yisroel, "Nu, Reb Yisroel, we have a minhag here when guests stay over: Please take my wife to sleep with for the night."

Reb Yisroel looked at him sternly and responded, "That is unacceptable! Aishess Ish is a Dioraisa. However, do you have any children I can sleep with instead?"

To which the eskimo responded: "Rebbe, I knew you were here for a fundraiser, but I did not know it was a Yeshiva Toirah Temima event. Please forgive me!"

So, unfortunately, a scant few members of our community still like to keep up the tradition of Yitzchak Avinu. So next time you are tempted to poke fun at other religious groups, hold your tongue until you have investigated your own youth organizations.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Parshas Vayayrah

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Parshas Vayayrah


Rabboisai,

I am writing a brief introduction to weekly Drasha on my favorite Parsha in order to share some personal thoughts.

You know, one critical difference between Klal Yisroel and the Evanglical Christian community is the degree of literalism that the groups attribute to the Toirah. Historically, Evangelicals take every word in the Toirah literally: The world was created 6,000 or so years ago, there were Nephilim (giants), Chava was made from Adam’s rib, Yushka Pandra was resurrected from the dead, etc.

Klal Yisroel, on the other hand, are a bit less literal. When the Toirah says “an eye for an eye”, CHAZAL tell us that this is metaphorical, and the payment should be monetary. When the Toirah describes the sin of David HaMelech in arranging the death of Uriyuh Hachiti, CHAZAL tell us that the sin was washed away by other acts. When the Toirah makes no judgment on who a member of the Bnei Yisroel should marry – essentially, allowing us to marry any hot shiksa we want (even men may marry an Ammoniya or Moaviya, as in the case of Roos), CHAZAL spoils it for all of us by coming to tell us that, no, the Toirah wants us to marry another Jew, and enables conversion as a means of ensuring communal consistency.

So, in essence, we, in our aspiration for strict Toirah observance, do not follow the exacts words of the Toirah literally. Shocking! Even the Evangelicals are Frummer than we are!

We do make some exceptions, of course. I am writing these words during one of my regular trips to my apartment in Eretz Yisroel, in downtown Chevroin. Sure, there are only a few hundred of us surrounded by 150,000 Palestinians. But the Toirah tells us about how important Chevroin was to Avraham Avinu, and we must emulate, in a literal fashion, his commitment to the city.

But there are other aspects of Avraham’s life that we do not emulate as successfully. And some of these points exist in this week’s Parsha. For example, in Perek Yud Chess, Pasook Chess, we are told, “VaYiKach Chemah VeChalav OoVen HaBakar Asher Ussuh VaYitain Lifneihem VeHoo Oimaid Aleihem Tachas HaEitz VaYoichelu,” “And (Avraham Avinu) took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared and served it to (the three messengers of the Reboinoihseloilum), and he stood alongside them under the tree as they ate.”

OK Rabboisai. So what is the Pshat here? Avraham Avinu serves Traifus Mamish, Bussur Bichaluv, to his guests!!! So if we believe in following the actions of Avraam Avinu literally, then we should plan to wash down our Shabbos chicken with a glass of milk. I certainly plan to eat my cholent tomorrow with a chocolate milkshake.

Similarly, how should we think about the Akeidah? When I was younger, my son, Boruch Gedalia Pesachya Issur Simcha Schmeckelstein, also know as the BIG PISS, was once incessantly listening to his loud Rock and Roll music, Rachmana Letzlan. That night, Hakadoshboruchhu came to me and asked me to go slaughter my son. In the morning, I just assumed that this vision was metaphorical, and went to the doctor to adjust my medication. But if I decide to approach the Toirah more literally, then I should now look at the Akeidah as an example, and potentially as a legal defense. So next time my grandson, Feivel Yisroel Shmuel Eliyahu Rabbah, aka the Little PISHER, spends too much time on his X-Box, he’d better watch out…

And finally, I would like to point out how Avraham Avinu cast out Hagar into the desert when it was no longer convenient to the family to have her and Yishmael hanging around. Next time my Bashert, Feige Breinah, acts up, rather than me going to hide in the basement, I might just demand that my Bashert pack up her bags and leave the house, never to return again, as Avraham Avinu would undoubtedly have done.

------------

This weeks Parsha, Parshas VaYayrah, features many critical fables, er..., I mean true stories that lie at the heart of Yiddishkeit. The Parsha includes:

- The birth of Yitzchak. The angels come down to visit Avraham bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Oops -- wrong story. The angels come to Avraham and tell him that a child will be born to him and his barren wife, Sarah Imaynu (our matriarch). Upon hearing the news, Sarah chuckles disbelievingly at the Aimishteh's promise to enable her to conceive.

An obvious question arises: why didn't the Reboinoisheloilum simply kill Sarah due to her disrespect? According to a famous medrish, Hakkadoshboruchhu had indeed decided to kill her, referring to her in an internal Heavenly memorandum as an "ungrateful wench". However, Sarah took out a "personal insurance policy" while living in the palace of the Pharoah -- or was it Avimelech (I always get confused between those two identical stories) -- playing "hide the kishka" with the Pharoah while Avraham pretended to be her brother. She made photocopies of critical incriminating evidence relating to Avraham, the Aimishteh, a missing $500,000 in cash, and several off-balance sheet liabilities, and left specific instructions to send the documents to the Canaanite Gazette should anything happen to her. Hey, she may have been barren, but she sure wasn't stupid.

- The exile of Yishmael. Sarah, who sounds more and more like my mother-in-law throughout this entire Parsha, decides that now that Yitzchak is born, there is no reason to have Yishmael hanging around smoking the family water pipe ("bong" in Yiddish). So she orders Yishmael and his mother Hagar (the Horrible) to be cast into the desert.

Little did she realize, Yishmael was destined to be Father of the Arab Peoples. Those guys LOVE the desert! I know -- I saw Lawrence of Arabia. I once even had ice cream in a Bedouin tent in Beer Sheva, where a Bedouin Chief offered me two goats and a chicken for my eldest daughter, Bracha Levatala. He would have had a deal if he had only agreed to include his lucky pen.

Well, as a result of Sarah exiling Yishmael, the Arabs have had it in for the Jews ever since. This hostility has resulted in wars, terrorism, and high oil prices. Gee, thanks Sarah! Life wasn't complicated enough.

- The destruction of Sodom. Once again, the Aimishteh showed his mercy and lovingkindness by completely obliterating a population. To Avraham's credit, he tries to haggle for the life of the city. "If there are 50 righteous men...40...30...20...10." The RASHBA asks: why did the Aimishteh let Avraham go on haggling for twenty minutes if He knew the outcome was not about to change? According to the RITVA, this proves that haggling over price is a Mitzvah Dioraisa, a Biblical commandment, even if this means haggling over a Ben and Jerry's ice cream bar at a tourist stop in Nevada in August (trust me, this is a maisah shehoya). And Hokkodoshborochhu is undoubtedly proud of the fact that this is one mitzvah in which Klal Yisroel excels.

- The Akaidah -- the binding of Yitzchak. The Reboinoisheloilum commands Avraham to bring his beloved son to be sacrified at the alter. Avraham reveals his true leadership and intellectual independence by not questioning the order for one second.

A Gemmarah in Kesubois brings down a Braisah which quotes a Medrish referring to a Tosefta relating to a Mishnah commenting on a Possuk, which refers to a famous machloikess (Rabbinic debate) between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Bais Shammai holds that the eagerness with which Avraham embraces the commandment to cook his son at the alter reveals his true identity: Hannibal Lechter. Bais Shammai cites as proof the fact that at the beginning of the Parsha, Avraham serves his surprise desert guests a meal of fava beans and a nice chianti. Bais Hillel holds farkhert; since the Aimishteh apparently loves to devour his own creations, he must be the true Hannibal Lechter.

On the episode of the Akaidah, the RAN asks: why would the Reboinoisheloilum ask Avraham such an unseemly request, to kill his own son; why doesn't He put Avraham to a cleaner yet equally challenging test, such as to pay retail? The RAN answers that Hakkadoshboruchhu wanted to once and for all scare the crap out of Avraham, and this was the best way, short of sending in ghosts to haunt his tent.

The Tzitz Eliezer, on the other hand, offers a beautiful interpretation. The ultimate challenge for a father, or a Rebbe, is to bear witness to the estrangement of a son. By bringing Yitzchak to the alter, Avraham had to overcome his fear of causing Yitzchak to hate him for the rest of his life (all two hours of it). The Aimishteh, too, risked alienating Avraham, the progenitor of the Chosen People. So the true challenge brought down in VaYayrah is of staying committed to one's idealogy, even at the risk of losing the loyalty of the successors of the next generation.

I too know this feeling. I was once away on business, traveling to Cancun to open up a new Bais Medris. That week, I asked my Talmid Muvhak (my principal student protege, also known in Yiddish as my "bitch") to prepare my weekly Parshas Hashavua drasha. In his drasha, my Talmud Muvhak, Dr./Rabbi Sterling/ Shmiel Tyler/Tanenbaumowitz, shared with my beloved Talmidim his tendency towards Literary Deconstructionism; that is, taking the Toirah out of its original context, and viewing it as relevant solely from a contemporary perspective. In short, he is both an apikoress and a minuval.

However, if he ever calls you, I strongly encourage you to take his call. Deep inside him is a lost Jewish soul. As SVP of Yeshivas Chipas Emmess, Sterling/ Shmiel is responsible for helping to keep our doors open, our lights on, and our students out on bail...I mean, in the Bais Medrish. Consequently, I beg of you, show him that glimmer of your true Yiddishe Neshama (Jewish soul). If he asks you for money, write him a bigger check than he asks for. If not for the Yeshiva, do it for him -- this might help bring him back to the true path. If not for him, then for yourself, you selfish good-for-nothing mamzer. And if not for yourself, do it for me; I'd like to open up a new Bais Medrish in Honolulu around Christmas time.

Ah Gutten Shabbos you Minuval.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

SPECIAL BAR MITZVAH DRASHA: On the Blessed Event

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SPECIAL BAR MITZVAH DRASHA: On the Blessed Event

Rabboisai,

This week's special Drasha is dedicated in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Moishe-Chaim-Boruch. Mazel Toiv to his parents Bill Gates and Betty Boop and to the entire Gates-Boop Mishpachah and friends. There will be a Kiddush immediately following shul, hopefully with lots of booze. Umain.

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Rabboisai,

I was on my way to the Lower East Side last Sunday when I decided to take respite from my journey and stopped to engage a roadside Kedaishah. Under other circumstances, my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, would have responded by carving her initials on my Bris Milah with a Challah knife. However, given that following my brief encounter (at which, I should note, I left behind neither my staff nor my signet ring, only my Gold Card) I successfully completed my errand, and all was forgiven. And what, you may ask, was my task? Well, I went to the Lower East Side to pick up the gold-lame-and-sequin-covered Bentchers for the Bar Mitzvah of my Einikel, little Feivel.

What is the source of the Mitzvah of the Bar Mitzvah, and what is the Ikkar Mitzvah upon which we are Metzuveh? I bet you have wondered this your whole life, you ignorant Shaygitz, but never made an effort to ask because it would have required you to get up from the television for five minutes.

Well, the source of the Bar Mitzvah is discussed explicitly in a Gemarrah in Kesuvois. According to Rav Ashi, the Bar Mitzvah is conducted to commemorate the bond between the Reboinoisheloilum and Klal Yisroel. And the reason why it requires a boy to celebrate at the age of thirteen is Zecher L’Yishmael, to commemorate the age at which Yishmael, that other son of Avraham Avinu, had his Bris Milah. And we emulate the removal of Yishmael’s foreskin by emasculating our sons in front of an audience of 400 Shul-goers.

But Rabbi Chiya holds Farkhert: Making a thirteen year old Leyn in front of family, friends, and strangers is not at all like a Bris Milah, since the scars of Bris Milah heal within a week. Rather, Rabbi Chiya argues, a Bar Mitzvah is more like Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. The fear and loathing of reading the Parsha in Shul and being corrected by a handful of self-righteous perfectionist misanthropes can only be compared to sending your own son to slaughter, only this time with a sushi bar and a Viennese table. And the resulting emotional scars indeed echo the deep psychological trauma that undoubtedly plagued Yitzchak Avinu throughout his entire life.

How is one required to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah? A different Gemarrah in Eiruvin notes that Rish Lakish, when not learning for twenty six hours a day in the Bais Medrish, supported himself by working as a photographer at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, divorces, and the occasional Baptism. The Gemarrah quotes Rish Lakish as saying, “Three is better than one, but six is better than three.” According to Reb Saadya Goyn, Rish Lakish was referring to Ma’aisei Biyuh on the weekend. But according to Reb Hai Goyn, Rish Lakish was referring to members of a band playing at a Bar Mitzvah, noting that “a one man band at a Bar Mitzvah is like a flat-chested woman. The equipment may work, but it’s never your preference.”

There is a Machloikess Reshoinim that emanates from this Gemarrah between RASHI, Toisfois, and the ROISH regarding how a thirteen year old boy should commemorate his Bar Mitzvah. Koolay Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that a Bar Mitzvah boy should mark his becoming a man by reading from the Toirah. So where do they argue? They debate regarding what should follow Kriyas HaToirah. According to RASHI, after successfully reading his Parsha, a Bar Mitzvah Bochur should go into the Bais Medrish to recite Hallel. According to Toisfois, a thirteen year old boy should follow up his reading of the Toirah by going to the kitchen to eat a hearty breakfast. But according to the Roish, after finishing his Maftir and Haftoirah, a Bar Mitzvah boy should be escorted from the main sanctuary by a group of his friends, singing and dancing, and should be led to the Yichud room for a half hour session with his Tahtee’s “special friend”, Bambi.

There is an interesting historical debate regarding another important Bar Mitzvah custom – the throwing of candy at the Bar Mitzvah boy. What is the source of this custom? According to the ARI ZAHL, the practice was established by the MAHARAM MiRothenburg during the persecutions of 1275 in order to beat away the dark Klipois from the body of the child, leaving only the Holy Sparks. However, according to Reb Moishe Cordovero, the custom of throwing candy was introduced by the RAMBAM during the recession of 1194 in order to drum up business by raising the level of diabetes in the community.

How much should one spend on a Bar Mitzvah? This question has been a source of deep Toirah discussion, Talmudic discourse, marital debate, and bankruptcy hearings for the past 700 years.

According to the Shulchan Aruch, a person should not spend more than would be required to feed guests “KeBaitzah”, about an egg’s volume of food. However, he believes that the Bar Mitzvah should be a celebratory event open to the entire community and neighboring communities, costing no less than two months of the average household income, as defined by the KY (Klal Yisroel) Index based on the average income of all Jews for the twelve months prior to the event.

The RAMAH, however, disagrees, referring to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the Mechaber of the Shulkhan Aruch, as a “swarthy cheapskate”. The RAMAH holds that one is required to feed every guest “KeTarnegol”, a volume of food equivalent to the size of a chicken. In addition, the RAMAH points out, one must have at least one live band, or, at a minimum, a DJ accompanied by motivational dancers. As well, suggests the RAMAH, one is required to hand out Tchatchkees (“little toys from China” in English) to all of the children to bring home, so that their parents will be reminded to begin planning for their own blessed events by serving a one dollar box of pasta at every meal for the next year, except for Shabbos Koidesh, when they are permitted to serve Traif meat since it is a quarter of the price of Koisher. The cost of the Bar Mitzvah should be no less than six months of average household income according to the KY Index, or half of the family assets, whichever is the larger number.

Finally, the Mishnah Berurah holds that one must feed every guest “KeEigel”, a volume of food equivalent to a small cow. The food should be varied and should include no less than four courses, including fresh sushi served by a Mexican chef who sort-of looks Asian. Further, it is a Mitzvah to have a half hour of speeches and a video montage, so that the guests will have an opportunity to take a brief nap between courses. In addition to Tchatchkees, there is a requirement to have novelty photo booths and games for the children to play. There should also be adult activities for the parents and grandparents – a makeup artist for the women, so they can experiment with different eye shades and colors of nail polish, and lap dances for the men, preferably delivered by the hot Shiksa motivational dancers. The Mishnah Berurah also holds that it is a Hiddur Mitzvah, a preferred additional Mitzvah, to have jugglers, Chassidic guys who can dance with bottles on their heads, and elephants. The minimum cost is equivalent to half of the value of the family home or ten times Yeshivah tuition, whichever is the larger number.

I spent much time going through these Halachois with my own son, Reb Boruch Gedalia Pesachya Issur Simcha Schmeckelstein, regarding the planning of the Bar Mitzvah for my Einikel, Feivel Yisroel Shmuel Eliyahu Rabbah. My son, of course, is known by his Rabbinic acronym, the BIG PISS, while my grandson is known as the Little PISHER. After a detailed discussion of the religious laws, as well as a forensic review of our family finances, we determined to spend somewhere between the position of the Shulchan Aruch and the RAMAH. However, we agreed that the more important component of the Bar Mitzvah was the reading of the weekly Toirah portion.

To ensure that the Little PISHER would not feel excessive family pressure, we hired an outside Bar Mitzvah teacher. For $50 a lesson, he taught little Feivel the week’s Parsha. For an extra $25 a lesson, he taught him the Haftoirah. And for another $20 a lesson, he also taught Feivel the week’s New Testament reading, which is from Mark, Perek Chuff Baiz, where we read about how Jesus kills an abortion doctor, and how John The Baptist is reassigned by the Church to teach in a school for children that can neither speak nor write.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. The Chernobler Rebbe, the Meor Einayim – Reb Menachem Nachum Twersky, was once delivering a Drasha on the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan, the chasing away of a mother bird before taking the baby birds to eat. The Toirah, of course, promises the same reward for this Mitzvah as the reward promised for honoring one’s parents. The Cherlobler suggested that the Mitzvois of Shiluah HaKan and Kahbaid Ess Avicha are comparable because they are two sides of the same coin: The purpose of a parent is to raise a child to become an adult, and we must respect that role, even once the children have left the nest. Suggested the Chernobler, “We make a Bar Mitzvah celebration to commemorate the children’s leaving the nest. This is a celebration for the benefit of the parents, for which they receive great joy.”

After Shul was over, a boy of thirteen came over to the Rebbe and asked, “Rebbe, why is the Bar Mitzvah a celebration for the parents when it is the son who does all the work?”

The Rebbe looked down at the boy, smiled warmly, and said, “Son, at your age, you have a lot of joy. You wake up in the morning, and you have joy. You are in front of your classroom, writing at the board, and you have joy, to your great embarrassment. You are riding in the school bus and feel a bit of a vibration, and you have joy, whether you want it or not. You even get a little joy when you look at the three hundred pound secretary in your Yeshiva. And when you are alone in your room and have a few minutes to yourself, you are overflowing with joy, I am sure. I know I was when I was your age – at least twice a day.”

The Chernobler continued. “But your parents don’t have all that much joy anymore. If they are lucky, they have joy maybe once a week. So if the Bar Mitzvah gives them a little more joy, it can only help the marriage. At least until their house is repossessed.” With that, the Rebbe went off to do vodka shots, fondle Mrs. Goldberg, and take a nap.

Finally, I would like to address one related Shailah that many of my Talmidim ask me. Whenever I discuss this topic, they ask, why do I only focus on the Bar Mitzvah of a boy, and never discuss a Bat Mitzvah? The answer is quite simple: Girls are not supposed to have big celebrations when they reach the age of Mitzvois. According to the RIF, the most a girl should have is a party when she gets her first… err… Oirach KaNashim. At that party the parents should serve hard boiled eggs and hand out feminine protection to all the girl’s friends as party favors. After all, if the Reboinoisheloilum wanted girls to have a big party, read from the Toirah, put on Tfillin, be counted in a Minyan, be required to Daven three times a day, get equal pay for equal work, have the right to vote, be allowed to drive, etc., He would have given them a penis.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

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 Facebook 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 reject this medrish, calling it "the stupidest thing since the Christine O'Donnell candidacy". 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 Shabbos, 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 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 -- why can't 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 rabbi 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 ever 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 60 inch high definition 3-D 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.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess