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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On The Conversion Issue in Eretz Yisroel



Rabboisai -- As this topic is related to the Leib Tropper issue,
I am reprinting this, in the hopes of educating ignoramuses like you, you Mechutziff. RPS


On The Conversion Issue in Eretz Yisroel


I would like to share with you a few thoughts as we march towards a historic confrontation with Amalek…err…celebrate the wonderful chumras put on the notion of gayruss, conversion, by our brilliant and insightfully myopic Gedoilei HaDor.

As we all know, the Rabbinical courts in Eretz Yisroel have retroactively cancelled the conversions of hundreds of people who adopted Yiddishkeit over the last 20 years. This impacts not only the converts themselves, but their spouses, children, children’s’ spouses, grandchildren, etc. – literally thousands of people. Baruch Hashem! It was getting so crowded at the mikvah that I was forced to wait until 11:00 pm for my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, to come home from the mikvah so I could put my carrot in the tzimmis, if you know what I mean.

This topic has been widely covered by the Israeli and Jewish media, has been the buzz of all the blogs, and has been featured on my favorite adult websites, alongside the “fetish of the month”.

In recent weeks, several people have asked me, “Reb Pinky, how should a Ben Toirah think about the conversion issue? Shouldn’t we embrace all people who want to adopt Ol Malchus Shamayim, or at least collect their application fees? Why wouldn’t we want to have more Jews in the world? This is a critical shailah that has trouble Chazal over the centuries, including RASHI, RAMBAN, the Maharal MiPrague, the Vilna Goyn, and Karl Marx.

The simple answer, of course, was given long ago by Reb Hai Goyn in very clear and simple terms. According to Reb Hai, quote, “The Reboinoisheloilum hates converts. What would happen if the whole world converted? We would have no Goyim to exploit…err… to educate about the loving ways of the Aimishteh.”

The RAMBAM holds farkhert, that we can accept converts, but only in a limited capacity. Says the RAMBAM, “I was walking past a Catholic Church in Cairo the other day, and they offered me a free toaster to recognize their (Messiah). The next day I was walking past a Mosque, and they offered me a free color television if I would embrace Allah. But we Jews are different! We are the Chosen People. We don’t give sign on bonuses. However, we do offer discounts in our gift shop.”

It is only the rare Rabbi who fully embraces the notion of conversion. In the previous century, Rabbi Rob Goldman of the Hebrew Union College came out with a definitive, positive statement on the issue. “The Almighty is open to all who seek Her. She is accepting of those who were born into our faith, but She particularly loves those who embraced the Hebrew faith on their own, such as my wife Bambi.”

So, it should come as no shock that the wise Rabbinic elders in Eretz Yisroel are trying to manage the inflation of Klal Yisroel’s ranks. According to Rabbi Avraham Sherman from the Ashdod Regional Rabbinical Council, “We suffer from too many Jews in our midst already who engage in practices that stand fully in contrast with the true Toirah Derech. Secular Jews who eat pork. Traditional Jews who drive on Shabbos Koidesh. Modern Orthodox Jews who actually work for a living. These so-called-Jews are ruining things for the rest of us!”

But it’s not what the Rabbinic elders want that matters of course. It is the will of Hakkadoshboruchhu. As He sits on His heavenly throne, He looks down and awaits our returning to the perfection of Har Sinai. Think about it: All of Klal Yisroel stood around the mountain and said in unison, “Na’aseh V’Nishmah”, “we will do and we will listen”. And as we know, it was not just that generation of Am Yisroel who stood there at Sinai, but the souls of every Jew. So I ask you: If your soul was not there, standing at Har Sinai, why should you be allowed to become a member of Klal Yisroel? Next thing, you’ll declare that you were at Woodstock, even though you were only born in 1982! What kind of mechutziff are you?

And even if we were to allow the occasional convert, we must enforce a strict screening process. After all – who in their right mind would want to become a Jew? Do you want to stop eating shellfish? Do you want to stop watching TV on Shabbos? Do you want to stop wearing Shatnez? Do you want to stop being mezaneh with every one you meet? Being a Jew is hard! Let’s face it: If someone wants to voluntarily become a Jew, we probably don’t want any of his DNA in our gene pool anyway. Nothing personal.

So what should a Shaygitz… err … gentile to do if he REALLY wants to convert? Here are a few suggested practical steps:

-- Machmir versus Meykel. Seek a religious authority who is Machmir. I must admit, I have not always abided by that sound piece of advice. In fact, many years ago, when I was a young man, I used to always seek out the girls who were Meykel. I would ask certain questions of the girl, and especially of my acquaintances, and if she were rumored to be Meykel, I would meet with her to try to get a quick psak, usually in the back of my father’s station wagon.

-- Education is key. Success as a member of the Bnei Yisroel involves awareness of all of our structures. It is for this reason that we all make tremendous sacrifices to educate our children. (Incidentally, I am currently working with a number of members of the Jewish community to create a school that takes advantage of available funds that will significantly supplement our steep Yeshiva Tuition bills. Specifically, we are working with the Catholic Archdiocese to leverage Church funds to heavily subsidize Jewish education. Beginning next fall, we expect to open our first boys school, “St. Moishe’s School for the Messianically Challenged”. And, if we stay on plan, the following fall we will open up our girls school, “Our Lady Queen of Shaytels”.)

-- Embrace Toirah with all your heart and all your soul and all your might. Yiddishkeit is not just a set of beliefs; it is a way of life, a lifestyle. One way to successfully embrace our lifestyle is to emulate the actions of our great elders. One should be like RASHI, who encouraged his daughters to wear Tfillin, like the Chofetz Chaim, who always traveled with a packed suitcase in constant preparation for the Moshiach, or like the Alter Skverer Ruv, who was arrested one Shabbos for fondling the Toirah instead of just kissing it.

Finally, one other aspect of the recent conversion issue requires comment: This is the notion that a Halachic decision can be retroactively revoked. Is this indeed possible?

I am reminded of a famous Braisah in which we are told that Rabbi Akiva ascended to the heavens along with Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, and Acher. This ascent, as understood by RASHI and others, was a mystical, meditative journey to sit at the foot of the throne of the Reboinoisheloilum. When, after many hours on their journey, they passed through the seventh level of heaven, they reached the gates of the Amishteh’s castle. But on the front gate was a sign which read, “No Jews Allowed”. Shocked and dismayed, they found a security guard walking the grounds. Rabbi Akiva asked him, “Excuse me, but we have travelled from Eretz Yisroel, through the seven levels of heaven. How come we are not allowed in to see Hakadoshboruchhu?”

The security guard paused for a moment, checked his clipboard, and then responded, “Oh, sorry. You are no longer welcome. Didn’t you get the memo? The Reboinoisheloilum has a New Covenant now, and they don’t accept Yids. It’s coming out in paperback soon, and it’s a great read. Now beat it before I call a cop.”

So, indeed, if the Aimishteh can change His mind on His everlasting covenant, so too can the Rabbinical Courts revoke Halachic rulings. And if you don’t like it, you minuval, you can always go and choose another religion. I hear that this month the Buddhists are giving away free I-Pods to all new members.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Adding Kedushah To Our Daily Lives


Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Adding Kedushah To Our Daily Lives


This week I respond to a Shailah from Yoinasan Phey, a Talmid Muvhak who lives in Eretz Yisroel:

“Rebbe - this past Shabbos Kodesh I witnessed something in my shul that horrified me, shook me to my core, and made me grateful for the big thick Mechitzah that separates the men from the women.

“As the holy Sefer Torah was being returned to the Aron before Mussaf, everyone scurried to reach it to touch and kiss it. Forget the health warnings about spreading swine flu, at the same moment two men leaned in to kiss the Paroket and did so with no regard for the other's presence. Then, in pulling back, they noticed one another and in a state of Kedushah or stupor, they leaned back in and kissed one another. No long deep passionate kiss, but it was on the lips and more than just a "Good Shabbos" greeting.

“I know that YU hosted a session about homosexuals in our midst, but I always thought that they'd keep it in the bedroom. Except for Reform Jews who openly celebrate these things and eat traif on our fast days, I never expected I'd see something like this in my life, in Shul no less, and without it being attached to an e-mail solicitation for something I never ordered.

“What do I do?

“Your devoted talmid and chassid, Yoinasan.”

Dear Yoinasan Phey,

You have indeed raised a relevant issue, a Groisseh Shverkeit that seems to arise more these days than in the past. It is a large and pulsating Shverkeit, engorged, with a burning need to be addressed, either orally, or through a more intimate form of exchange.

Your Shailah of course relates to one of the burning topics of our day, the issue of Mishkav Zachar. It also relates to issues such as public displays of affection, public health and safety, and, potentially, the treatment of birds. (“The treatment of birds” you ask? Well, you Minuval, you suggested that two men were leaning in to “kiss the paroket”; if you were suggesting that they were jointly expressing affection to a parakeet, then, Dude – that’s really weird!)

Of course, the first reference that comes to mind, especially to a simple mind such as yours, is the very famous Pasook, “Ve’Ish Asher Yishkav Ess Zachor Mishkavei Ishah Toaivah Asu Shneyhem Mos Yoomusoo Demayhem Bum” (Sefer VaYikrah, Perek Chuff, Pasook Yood Gimmel), “And if a man lie with a man in the way one lies with a woman, they have committed an abomination, they shall be out to death, their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus, 20:13). (There is a similar Pasook also in VaYikrah, Leviticus 18:22.)

So, what should we conclude from this Pasook? Do we indeed have license to put someone who has committed such an act to death? Is such an act indeed considered an “abomination”? And if homosexuals are indeed not welcome in our community, how will we ensure that our Shuls and Bussey Medrish have nice curtains and drapes, not to mention glory holes in the Shtenders?

More importantly, the key question that one must ask here is: Is the prohibition as stated in the Toirah indeed still in effect? Halacha LeMaiseh – do we hold according to the sentiment expressed in the Pasook? After all, The Toirah was given over three thousand years ago to Moishe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai. A lot has happened since then: Two Bussey Mikdash built and destroyed. Malchuss Bais Duvid established at the start of Bayis Rishoyn and then lost. At the end of Bayis Shanee, the adoption of Pharasaic Judaism -- Rabbinic Judaism -- over the alternatives: Sadducean Judaism, Essene Judaism, Early Christianity, and Scientology. The development of Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism, in the Middle Ages. Chassidism, less that 400 years ago. The State of Israel. The pet rock. And Shmuley Boteach. Do we really believe that this Pasook is still relevant?

After all, many Biblical injunctions have gone by the wayside. Since the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, we no longer perform animal sacrifice. And according to the RAMBAM we likely never will again, even in the time of the Moishiach. We no longer have a concept of leprosy, though the topic is thoroughly explored in the Toirah. We no longer have the death penalty, Rachmana Letzlan. We also no longer have the institution of slavery, except while cleaning for Pesach. And, last I checked, we do not understand as literally the Pasook “Ayin BaAyin, Shain BaShain, Yad BaYad, Regel BaRegel” (Sefer Devarim, Perek Yood Tess, Pasook Chuff Aleph), “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand for a hand” (Deuteronomy, 19:21). Our understanding, interpretation, and implementation of the Toirah has indeed evolved.

And at the same time, we have made many additions to Yiddishkeit since Zman Mattan Toiraseinu. Our path for engaging with the Reboinoisheloilum was once centered upon Karbanois. But now we have Tefillah. And those Karbanois were exclusively brought by Koihanim, the descendants of Aroin Hakoihain, the Minuval. Now every person in Klal Yisroel, even an Apikoiress Mechutziff like you who can barely fold his Talis by himself, can speak directly to Hakadoshboruchhu. Plus we have real hair Sheytels, undoubtedly a great advance over the hair coverings our female ancestors used to wear in the desert.

(Incidentally, there is a famous Machloikess Rishoinim on this topic. According to Reb Zev-Voolf Vladivostok MiFrankfurt HaLeyvee, the ZVUV-FLY, Miriam HaNeviya and the other women of Klal Yisroel covered their hair in the desert with a cactus tree, and had monthly sittings with their local Cactusmachers to style their cactus pricks. But according Reb Shmuel Yehoishua MiSlovakia HaKoihain-Priest, the SHEIS-KUP, the women of Klal Yisroel covered their hair with Sheytels made of Erva hair, and styled their Sheytels with either lemon juice or tartar sauce.)

Yes, Judaism has evolved. Yiddishkeit is not simply a set of Pasookim in the Toirah, it is an ever developing philosophy. And that philosophy centers around being a “Goy Kadoish”, a “Holy Nation”.

What, exactly, does it mean to be a “Goy Kadoish”? It means that we recognize the Aimishteh in every action that we take, every moment of our lives. When we are about to eat an apple, do we devour the fruit like some unthinking Behaimah? No! Before we take a bite of the apple, we deliberately take a moment to make a Bracha and thank the Reboinoisheloilum. Similarly, we do not spend our entire week working so we can eat, eating so we can sleep, and sleeping so we can work. Farkhert – we set aside a day to acknowledge Hakkadoshboruchhu through prayer, Toirah, and single malt scotch.

So, in essence, Yiddishkeit is about adding sanctity to the mundane, adding Kedushah to all of our activities in order to rise above our basic animal nature. It is about substituting deliberation for impulse and sanctifying our existence, thereby acknowledging our respect for and relationship to the Eternal.

So, it would be easy, even simplistic, to say that throughout nature, Tashmish HaMitah is performed between a male and a female because THAT IS HOW OUR BODIES ARE DESIGNED. “Birds do it, Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it” (HaRav Cole Porter, ZTL). But, you Minuval, you are not an insect and you are not a Behaimah. You are a human being and a member of Klal Yisroel who is capable of deliberate action and thought, so you MUST add Kedushah, holiness, to your every action. And what better way to overcome your basic animal nature than by engaging in Mishkav Zachar.

So, rather than express discomfort at what you witnessed in Shul, you should seek opportunities to emulate such Kedushah. For example, the next time you are learning Gemara with your Chavrusa, hold his hand. Instead of shaking his hand on Shabbos-Koidesh, give him a kiss. And when you finish Davening Shacharis on a weekday, instead of taking off you own Tefillin you should take off each others’ Tefillin, slowly, and don’t stop there…

Indeed, there is a famous Machloikess among the Baalei Toisfois about Mishkav Zachar. According to the RASHBAM, Mishkav Zachar is a Minhag BeYisroel, but not a Halachic requirement. Says the RASHBAM, “A man is not Chayuv to swing that way, Chass V’Sholom. Plus it leaves more hot man-on-man action for me.” But according to Rabbeinu Tam, Mishkav Zachar is a Mitzvas Asei, and must be pursued at every opportunity, especially before breakfast. It was for this reason that Reb Yankif Ben Meir was nicknamed “Rabbeinu Tam” – “Rabbeinu Tasty”. (Yes, someone from Brooklyn will likely point at the spelling of “Tam” as Tuff Mem” versus “Tess Ayin Mem”. Congratulations! You passed second grade Hebrew class. Shkoiyach, you Mechutziff.)

So, Reb Yoinasan, the next time you witness two men kissing in Shul, try to contribute to the Kedushah. It will link you to Eternity, and might just help you resolve that engorged Groisseh Shverkeit.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NEW: Glossary of Toirah Terms


Prepared by the Esteemed RABAM, SHLITA

NOTE – The RABAM is a noted scholar of Judaic studies, colonialism, and Chinese pop art. He is the Rosheshiva of the San Francisco branch of Yeshivas Chipass Emmess.

Definitions of terms used in the Dvar Toirahs. These are terms and topics which you really ought to know, you Minuval. Please read this -- you might learn something.

Am keshe-oref = A stiff-necked people. The classic description of the Jews, from Shemos (Exodus) 32:9.

Abaya = A sage from the Talmudic era, died 339 C.E. Successor and nephew of Rabba bar Nachman as head of the academy at Pumbedita in Bavel.

Acher = The Other, Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuya, a sage from the Tannaitic period who lost his faith. He is called ‘The Other’ because of his apikorsus (heresy). Note that “other” is also a way of referring to the evil one. The realm of mystical impurity is also “other” (“Sitra Achra” = the other side).

Achroinim = The Later Ones; post-mediaeval scholars.

ADL = Anti-Defamation League.

Agudas Israel (Agudas Yisroel) = One of the two factions in United Torah Judaism, an Ultra Orthodox political party in Israel.

Aimishteh = The Almighty “What is HE and where is HE when you really need him;” Hakkadoshboruchhu, HaShem, Ribbon Olam, Melech ha Mlachim. The actual Yiddish word is “Aibishter,” the Almighty.

Ain Sof = Without end, without limits; the utterly unknowable aspect of the Creator. The source of creation, knowable only through the Sefirois (tangible emanations of the Creator).

AIPAC = America-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Aish HaTorah = A global organization and Yeshivah in Israel dedicated to combating assimilation and reinvigorating Jewish religious practice.

Aishes Chayill = An accomplished woman; “Who can find such, her value is greater than rubies!”

ALIYAH = Every Sabbath one of 54 portions (Parshas) of the Torah (the Pentateuch) is read in synagogue. Each Parsha is divided into seven Aliyahs. For each Aliyah, one person is called up to consecrate (make a blessing on) the Torah reading (leyning).

Am haaretz = Ignoramus. Literally - a person of the land.

Amhoratzim = Plural of Am Haaretz

Am Yisrael = The People of Israel; the Hebrew nation.

Amit Women = Americans for Israel and Torah, women's branch. In Hebrew, AMIT means Irgun Misnadevos le ma'an Yisroel ve Torato = Organization of Volunteers for Israel and her Torah.

Amora, pl. Amoraim = A class of scholars in the Holy Land and Babylon who collectively created the Talmud. The Amoraim worked during the third and fourth century in Tiberias and Caesarea and the third through fifth century in Babylon. They were the successors to the Tannaim, six generations of scholars, from 10 C.E. to 220 C.E.

Anti-Semite = A Gentile who is resentful of the inherent sanctity of a priestly nation (or a person who does not agree with us.)

Apikores = A heretic; a Jew who has become an unbeliever. From the Greek word Epicure, meaning (in the Jewish sense) one who picks and chooses among the elements of the tradition.

Arba minim = The four species waved about on Sukkot (Tabernacles). Esrog: Citron. Lulav: Palm frond. Hadassim: Myrtle branches. Aravos: Willow branches.

Arizal = Rabbi Yitzhak Luria (1534 – 1572), The Ari (Lion) was a Kabbalist who lived in Tzafed. An innovator of mystical teachings, the Arizal developed Kabbalistic ideas including: “Gilgul Neshamot” (reincarnation) and the concept of Shevirat HaKeilim (the “Breaking of the Vessels”).

Aron HaKohain = Aaron the Priest, the minuval who was given the priesthood after creating the golden calf (eigel ha zahav).

ARZA = Association of Reform Zionists in America.

Aseres Yemai Teshuvah = The ten days of repentance and introspection that begin with Rosh HaShanah and end with Yom Kippur
Aveirah = Sin.

Avoidah = Service (in the Temple).

Avoidah zara = Idol worship; the service of heathen gods and values.

Avraham Avinu = “Our Father Abraham,” the first of the forefathers.

Ba’al Shem Tov, BESHT = Rabbi Yisroel Ben Eliezer (1698 – 1760), the master (Ba’al) of the good name (Shem-Tov), a mystic from the Carpathian mountains considered the founder of the Chasidic movement. The movement has evolved into several branches around the globe, most with semi-hereditary leadership. They include: Bobov, Breslov, Ger, Lubavitch, and Satmar.

Baal Toisiph = Adding to the Torah (Ba'al Tosef = acting by addendum). Since the Torah is complete, any addition is considered both a detraction.

Bahaima = Animal; beast; cow.

Bais madrish, Beis medresh = A house of study, a synagogue.

Baitzuh = Egg; tractate in the Talmud focused on animal sacrifice; Yiddish slang for testes.

Bais HaMikdash = The Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Babylonians destroyed the first Holy Temple in 586 BC. The Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple in 70 CE.

BALEBOSTE = Ball-ha-buster; from Baal (master) of the Beis (beis, beit = house, establishment), with a feminine post-fix; the wife. Beitza-brecher.

Bar mitzvah bochur = A boy of 13; an amateur. Does the phrase “today I am a man” mean anything?

Bas kol = A voice from heaven. A term occasionally referred to in the Talmud (often in a Deus Ex Machina function).

Bashert = One's destined mate. From mediaeval Germanic 'skhar', meaning both portion and one of a matched pair.

Bava Basra (Baba Basra, Bava Batra) = “The Final Gate,” one of three civil law tractates in the Talmud.

Bedikas chometz = Searching for and disposing of all traces of leaven before Passover. The Talmud, in Maseches Pesachim, goes into much detail.

BeDiyeved = From this one instance, ex post facto, after the fact; a more lenient position on a religious ruling.

Beis Knesset = “House of assembly;” synagogue (from Greek sunagoge, meaning bringing together); a shul (from the mediaeval German schul).

Beis medrish = A house of study, generally for study of the Talmud.

Beis Yosef = A famous work by Yoisef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch (1488 - 1575). Beis Yosef is a digest of laws (Halachot), often printed alongside the text of the Arba Turim (the Four Rows), a compilation in four sections of Halacha developed by Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher (1270 - 1340).

Bezalel = A descendant of the Tribe of Judah chosen to design the Tabernacle.

Bilaam = Bilaam the son of Be’or, the prophet mentioned in Parshas Chukass who was ordered by his king (Balak Ben Tzipper, Melech Mo’av) to curse the Jews, which he feared to do.

Birchas ha Torah = The blessings over the Torah, recited before reading an Aliyah portion in the Torah. It is customary that the first Aliyah be given to a Cohain (Priestly descendant), the second be given to a Levi (Levitical descendant), and the remainder be given to Yisroels (all others).

Bisulta = Virginity; a virgin’s maidenhead.

Biyur chometz = Burning chometz to dispose of it.

Blintzes = Rolled crepes filled with cottage cheese or preserves.

Bnei Levi = Descendents of the Tribe of Levi, who have a monopoly on Temple service, serving as Cohanim (priests) or Leviyim (aids in the Temple).

Bnei Yisrael = The Jewish People. Plural of Ben Yisrael, or descendant of Jacob, referring to all Israelites who came out of Egypt (and their descendants).

Bobover Rebbe = Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam (1906 - 2000), head of a Chassidic group named after Bobov, a town in Galicia (southern Poland).

Borer = To separate, select; a form of work banned on the Sabbath.

Boruch ha mavdil: Boruch = bless. HaMavdil = separation. Refers to the prayer of Havdalah (from the same root), which is the separation from the Sabbath. The Sabbath arrives as a queen, and departs as a trace of fragrance.

Boruch Hashem = “Blessed be the Name,” equivalent of “Thank G-d”.

Bracha = Situation-appropriate blessing; benediction.

Brachot, Brachos = Blessings; benedictae.
BEraisah = An authoritative written version of a law or rule supplementary to the Mishnah (discussions of which are the ground floor of the Talmud).

Bris Milah = Ritual circumcision.

Brisker Rov = Rav Yitzhok Zev (HaLevi) Soloveitchik, also known as ha Gaon Rabbi Yitzhok Zev and as Rebbe Velvel, son of Rabbi Chayim (Halevi) Soloveitchik (1853 - 1918).

Der Brisker fled the gathering storm in Europe and settled in the Holy Land. His brother Moishe (HaLevi) Soloveitchik went to America, where he became the rosheshiva of Yeshiva University. Moishe’s son is the famous Rabbi Yoisef Dov (HaLevi) Soloveitchik (1903 - 1993; the 'Rav' to his students), one of the all-time great luminaries of Yiddishkeit in the new world.

Bsomim, besamim = Spices; fragrances; slang for illegal drugs. Bsomim are part of the Havdalah ritual ending the Sabbath that separates the Sabbath from the remainder of the week. Evocative of profane delights, as the abundant mention of fragrant smells in the Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) attest. For instance, Songs 4:10 makes clear that they are far better than the standard nervous-system depressants when looking for a good time: "Ma-yaffa dodayeich achoti khallah! Ma tovu-dodayeich mi-yayin vereiyach sheman-ayech mi-kol-besamim” (“How fair is your love, my sister, my wife! how much better is your love than wine, and your fragrant unguents than all spices!”).

Chait ha Eigel = The sin of the golden calf.

Chametz = Leavened substances forbidden during Passover. It is forbidden to have chametz in ones possession during Passover, when one is charged with eating Matzoh (unleavened bread). Hence, many sell their leaven to a gentile.

Chamishay Chumshay TOIRAH = Five of five books of the Torah; the Pentateuch.

Chanukah = The feast of lights celebrating the overthrow of Greco-Syrian rule in Israel circa 166 BC. The holiday involves gorging on Latkes and spinning the dreidel.

Chas ve shalom = Literally: desist and peace; may we have peace; used like “Heaven forbid’. Interchangable with “Chass Ve Chalilah.”

Chassannah, khatUnah = Wedding.

Chavrusa = Study partner; learning companion; a fellow student with whom one debates the meaning of the text. Often, this would lead to a life long friendship between scholars, who, though they might disagree, rely upon the insights of the other person. And on Simchas Torah, they dance together.

Chazal = Chachmeinu Zichrono Levracha, the sages of blessed memory.

Chazzan = Cantor; the officiant who leads in prayer. This can be any man of good character, though one should be careful choosing a cantor, as there is much singing required. Best case scenario: an artist and a profound scholar. Worst case scenario: a bitchy drama-queen who brays like an ass.
Chaya = Wild animal.

Chayuv missah = Deserving of the death penalty.

Chillul Hashem = Desecration of G_d's name; heresy; gross sin.

Chiyuv = Requirement; obligation.

Chofetz Chaim = A Rabbinic master from Radin in Lithuania (Rabbi Yisroel Meyer Kagan HaKohen, 1839 – 1933), author of several works including Mishnah Berurah (a commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh) and Chafetz Chayim, a treatise against lashon hara (gossip, speaking ill others).

Cholent (pron: Tsho-lunt) = A heavy casserole containing meat, vegetables, lentils or beans, and fat or oil, which is cooked long and slow by putting it into the oven on Friday afternoon, before the start of the Sabbath, and leaving it to cook overnight for Saturday lunch (and so having a warm meal without breaking the injuction about labor on the Sabbath).

Chukim = Biblical laws whose purpose is not understood.

Chulin = Profane things; tractate in the Talmud that deals with dining habits and kosher laws.

Cocktail sauce = A condiment served with certain seafoods, and highly recommended for Shrimp and Crawdaddies. It usually consists of Ketchup and tomato paste (quarter cup each), mixed with a little chreyn, a squeeze of lemon juice, and dashes of hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Covenant = Bris; a contractual deal between two parties. Please refer back to Parshas Yisro in Shemos.

Daf Yoimi = The practice of studying one sheet of Talmud (daf) per day. It takes about seven and a half years to finish the entire Talmud this way. This tradition was started by Rabbi Meyer Shapiro in 1923.

Daven = Pray.

Divrei Hayamim = The Words of Ages; the Book of Chronicles.

Divrei Torah = Words elucidating the Torah; homilies; Rabbinic lectures.

E and P sources = Elohist and Priestly, two different strains within the text of the Toirah identified by the Documentary Hypothesis. (Of course, only an Apikoros would claim the Toirah was not handed down word for word by HakadoshBoruchHu to Moshe Rabbeinu in a monumental jam session at Sinai.)

EFod = The decorated smock of the high-priest, which contains a breastplate holding twelve semiprecious stones - one for each tribe. For reference, this garment was worn by the evil archeologist in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Eigel HaZahav = The golden calf which the Bnei Yisroel constructed while Moses was up on the mountain. Part of the sin of the calf is in each generation, just as part of the holiness of receiving the Torah (Matan Torah) is in each generation. The great sin of Aaroin HaCoihain, the Minuval.

Eini yodea ma hu, v’eini yodea ma milamdenu! = Ich veiss nit voss es iz, oych nit voss es for a musser hott geven.

Einiklach = Grandchildren.

Elul zeman = The height of summer, the month of Elul, starting forty days before Yom Kippur. Between eighty and a hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit.

Eretz Ha Kodesh = “The Holy Land.”

Eretz Yisrael = The land of Israel, being the land promised to the descendants of Jacob, whose name is Israel.

Erev Yom Kippur = The eve of the Day of Atonement.

Esrog = An overpriced lemon. The most expensive of the arba Minim.

Esther HaMalka = The niece of Mordechai in the Book of Esther; Melech Achasveroosh's main squeeze.

Exile = Golus. Anywhere outside of New York. Imagine a world with no bialys, boygels, lox, brisket, or mechetunim!

Farbissene = Farbisn: grim, bitter. The word means “one who is bitter.”

Farkert = Au contraire; Wrongo!

Farvoos = Why? (Yiddish).

Fruma = Pious, from old German “fruma,” cognate with Dutch “vroom” and old high Frisian “fremo,” original meaning: beneficial, profitable, worthy. By extension it came to mean bold, courageous, strong, and, later, pious.

Fruma yidden = Observant Jews.

Frummer = Comparative of Frum.

Fundraiser = Schnorer (Yiddish); or investment broker; politician, or girl scout (only if she has traif cookies).
Gaon: The Vilna Gaon = The Genius (Gaon) of Vilna (Vilnius - the capitol city of Lithuania, once the intellectual heartland of Yiddishkeit). Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, 1720 - 1797. He and his followers were called the Mitnagdim (opposers) because of their rejection of the Hasidic movement.

Gartel = A belt (same word as English ‘girdle’, Dutch ‘gordel’); usually the belt that keeps the long robe or caftan from flapping open like a flasher – a particular problem at Simchas Toirah. Used in Ultra-Orthodox circles to represent a physical separation between the upper and lower parts of the body.

Gaza = A territory inhabited by fish-demon worshipping cretins during biblical times. Currently, not a fun place to walk around in the middle of the night, especially if you are wearing a Kippah.

Gebruchts, gebrochts = Brokens, also called matzah sheruya (soaked matzah), meaning matzah meal or broken matzah used for puddings or matzo balls, soaked as a first step in their respective recipes. Not eaten on Passover by certain Ashkenazic groups.

GemaraH = Learning, addition (Aramaic, used both singularly and as a plural): an amplification of the material in the Mishnah, which is a series of written discourses on legal points. The Gemara also includes much anecdotal and legendary material.
GEMATRIA = The symbolism of the numerical value of Hebrew words.

Gerusha = A divorced woman; the word means 'exiled', 'exorcised'.

Goi Kadoish = A holy nation. As it says in Sefer Shmos, (Exodus) 19:6 “Ve atem tihyu li mamlechet kohanim, ve goi kadosh. Ele ha dvarim asher tedaber al bnei Yisroel." (“And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the sons of Israel”).

Goin = Gaon.

Golem = From Hebrew ‘unformed’. An artificial creature that lacks the power of speech and does not have a soul. Detailed instructions for making one are in the Sefer Yetzirah (book of creation), a Kabbalist document.

It is said that the Maharal MiPrague made a golem out of clay to protect the oppressed Jews of Prague. Once animated, it was nine foot tall, heldish, an echte gibor, until Rabbi Loew dis-animated it by erasing the first letter of ‘emess’ (truth) written on its forehead, leaving the word ‘mess’ (‘dead’).

Golus = Exile; dispersion. It will decisively end when the Moshiach comes. Be patient.
Goy = Gentile; non-Jew, from a word meaning 'nation'.

Ha'adamah = “The ground”; the benediction over vegetables (Boray Pri Ha’adamah).

hachnosas orchim (Mitzvah of) = The obligation to be kind to strangers and welcoming of guests. Avraham’s nephew Lot is the poster child of this, as is the old man from the hill-country of Efrayim who was settled in Gibeah (Judges 19:1 through 21:25). Both were willing to chuck their daughters out to the local yobbos so their guests would be left unmolested.

The mitzvah of hachnosas orchim is one of the things for which there is reward both in this world (olam hazeh) and the next (olam haba) – this explains the avidity with which many in shul will vie for the honour of putting up a guest for shabbos. Good food, good drink, and a comfortable bed.

Hakodoshboruchhu = The Holy One, Blessed Be He.

Halacha lemaise = The current ruling in the religious law (Halacha).

Halachois, halachot = Laws, rules, regulations.

Haman Harasha = “Haman the evil”, the villain from the Book of Esther.

HAMAS = An acronym for Harakat Al Muqawama Al Islamia (Islamic Resistance Movement)

Har Sinai = The mountain on which G-d spoke to Moses.

HAREIDI = Ultra-Orthodox. The groups that refer to themselves as Hareidi, meaning the ones who tremble (in awe of the Almighty), consider non-orthodox variants of Judaism to be eccentric and heretical.

Hiddur mitZvah = Embellishing the commandment; doing more than is required, above and beyond the strict definition of the law.

Hilchois Kiddush Club = The halacha that deals with the Saturday morning gathering of (predominantly) men for shots of booze and a bite to eat immediately following prayer or the reading of the Torah. Not to be confused with the more broadly attended “Kiddush,” during which excessive refreshments are served, and children leave paper plates and cups all over the floor, chased around by their mothers, while their fathers try to hide.

Hilchois Pesach = The laws (Halachot) of Passover.

Hisbodidus = Spontaneous non-rigidly structured personal prayer; establishing a sense of unity with the Almighty. Eppes, Chassidish!

HUC = Hebrew Union College.

Issur chometz = Prohibition against possessing leaven on Passover.

Issur d’oraisa = A prohibition that is in the Torah, rather than one determined by the Talmud. JCRC = Jewish Community Relations Council.

JDL = Jewish Defense League.

JTS = Jewish Theological Seminary.
Jephtah: Before battle with the Ammonites, Jephtah vowed that if the Lord would deliver the children of Ammon into his (Jephtah's) hand, he would make a burnt offering of whatever came first out of his house (Judges 11:30 - 31). Sadly, his daughter was the first living thing to come out of the door.

JNF = Jewish National Fund.

Ka'arah = The Seder Plate, on which three matzos, a roast egg, a lamb-bone, parsley, chreyn, charoses, and salt water are placed. All have a symbolic meaning: Matzos are the bread of our affliction, the lamb-bone recalls the Pascal sacrifice whose blood was spattered on our doors so that HaShem would spare us while slaughtering the first-born of Egypt, the parsley is the green of spring (the season of our redemption), the chreyn is the bitterness of our sojourn in Mitzrayim, the charoses is the mortar with which we built Pharaoh's monuments, and the salt water is our weeping in misery. The egg, which is rebirth and perfection, also represents the Yontef offering in the Temple.

Kabbalah = Jewish Mysticism. A mind expanding metaphysical philosophy that has influenced much Jewish thought in the last ten centuries. Teachings include meditation, numerology, symbology, and magic. Kabbalah was studied by small groups over the centuries. It is currently an affectation of shallow show-biz twits, much like EST was thirty years ago. Hey, it's a living.
Karbanos = Sacrifices. See entry under Korbanos.

Kavanah = The right intent for the action one is going to perform; a spirit of sanctity and holiness one must invest in one's tefillah and avoidah (prayer).

KEBEITSA = A quantity of volume equal to an egg.

Kehunah = Priesthood.

Kenaina harah = Kein ayn hara - (let there be) no evil eye.

kesubois = Tractate in the Talmud that addresses marital issues.

KEZEYIS = A quantity of volume equal to an olive.

Keseder = Steadfast, constant, persistent. According to customary practice.

Khreyn = Horseradish.

Kiddush = Sanctification; designating something for a specific purpose; the benediction over the wine on Sabbath and holidays.

Kiddush levanah = Sanctifying the new moon - The custom of kiddush levanah is an echo of Temple times when the Bet Din sanctified the beginning of each month. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the custom of kiddush levanah became common. The prayer implies that, just like the moon is renewed, so also will the Temple be restored.

Kiddushes = The gathering of a congregation for a celebratory meal which typically includes toasting with wine and single malt scotch, and eating Jewish soul food (cholent, kugel, gefilte fish, etc.)

KILAYIM: The prohibition against kilayim (the mingling of things which it is inappropriate to mingle). It says in Parshas Shoftim (Judges) in Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:19 "Et chukotai tishmoru behemteicha; lo tarbiya kilayim sadcha, lo tizra kilayim u veged kilayim shaatnez lo ya'ale aleicha" (“My statutes you shall guard; do not let your cattle mix-breed, do not sow your field with mixed seeds, and do not wear a garment of mingled cloth.”).

There are four categories of things that should not be mingled: plowing by cattle and asses in the same furrow, grapes grown with other crops in the same arbor, wool and linen in the same garment, and Jews and Midianites in the same world. According to the Rambam, these prohibitions promote peace.

Kiryas Arba = A town founded in 1971 on the outskirts of Hebron. Some of the more recalcitrant knit kippah crowd are among the residents.

Kishka = Stuffed derma; colloquially - intestines, guts.

Klal Yisroel = The Jewish people, the collective of the descendant of Israel (Jacob, after he struggled with G-d in the night).

Knitted yarmulka = Crocheted skullcap, the badge of ultranationalists. Sometimes worn as a tasteless style statement or by Grateful Dead fans. Having a knitted yarmulka hand crocheted by a girl is a form of “scoring” among the Orthodox teen crowd.

Kodesh HaKedoshim = The Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple.

KOF-K = Kof-K Kosher Supervision, an international organization that certifies food as kosher.

Kohainim = Priests. Singular: Kohen.

kol haschalos kashos = All beginnings are hard. (Mechilta Shemos 19, Parshas Yisro).

Kol haTorah kUlo = The whole Torah .

Kol Nidrei = A prayer customarily recited three times on the eve of the Day of Atonement. Literally - “All Vows,” a renunciation of all unfulfilled oaths and promises made by an individual over the past year.

Kolel = The modern-day equivalent of serving in the Temple, where married men may continue their studies after Yeshiva and be supported for a few years, or ideally until retirement age, and especially if they can get a deferment from the armed forces. It is a saintly thing.

Korbonois, kurbanot = Sacrifices. From a root which means to draw near. Korbonos are intended to bring the Divine nearer to man.

Kosher = From the root K.SH.R - Kaf Shin Resh, meaning proper, fit, suitable. Hence 'kashrus', the rules that define kosher, and 'heksher', a certification of that which is kosher. The concept is not, as many assume, related to health or hygiene, but instead relates to the need of a priestly people to exercise self-control and discrimination in order to maintain ritual purity and suitability, and by extension to not do as the other nations (goyim). Many mitzvos (commandments) have as their primary aim the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles, achieved by maintaining differences in food, dress, habits, cleanliness, morals and ethics (spiritual cleanliness!) and above all religious observances and practices. This is self limitation rather than mortification.

Kosher LaMehadrin = Strictly kosher to the fullest extent.

Krias Shema = Reciting the Shema Yisroel and its blessings. The Shema is the quintessential Jewish statement of faith, the battle-cry in hardship, the last comfort of the dying. Reciting the Shema fulfills the commandment to meditate on the laws ‘day and night’, as is written (Joshua 1:8): "…Ve hagita bo yomam va leila le maan tishmor la'ashoot ke chol ha katuv…" (“…that you consider it day and night, that you may obey all that is written in it…”)

When is the proper time to recite the Krias Shema in the morning? When it is light enough that you can tell the blue threads from the white in your Tallis.

Kutzker, Kotsker = The Rabbi of Kotsk, a reclusive Rebbe of the 19th century, known for brutal honesty and wit.

Labor Party = Principle left-of-center political party, political descendants of Ben Gurion and other early founders of the State of Israel. Vice Premier Shimon Peres and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were both leaders of the Labor Party.

Lecha Dodi = “Come, o beloved”- a prayer sung on Friday evenings to welcome the Sabbath. The prayer was first sung by the Kabbalists of Tzfat in the 16th century as they went into the fields to greet the onset of Sabbath at sundown on Friday night.

Lechatchilah = Initially; going forward; a preferred, more conservative approach to a religious law. Often used in contrast to a statement Bediyeved.

Lehachis = An act of annoyance; an act of defiance; an act of spite.

Lemaise = Actual; factual; according to the circumstances.

Leyning = The chanting of passages from the Torah during Sabbath services using the traditional musical notes.

Lifnei Iyver = An act of entrapment. Parshas Kedoshim, Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:14 "Lifnei iver lo titen michshol" (“You shall not place a stumbling-block before the blind”). The word blind is interpreted to mean anyone who is ignorant, unsuspecting, or even morally dense. One is not permitted to take advantage or tempt them to do wrong.

Lomdus = Understanding; profound knowledge; comprehension.

Luchois, luchos = The stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.

Lutherans = The first formal Protestant grouping not exterminated by Rome (unlike, for instance, the Cathars [Albigensians]).

Ma nishtana = Short for “Ma nishtana ha leila hazeh mi-kol ha leilot?” (“Farvoos is der nacht fun Peysach andisht fun alle nachten fun a yor?”). This is the question that introduces the Four Questions at the beginning of the Passover Seder.

Machlokes = Difference of opinion; Rabbinic debate.

Machonim = Institutions or scholarly programs; singular is “Machon”.

Maharal, Maharal Mi Prague = Rabbi Yehudah Ben Betsalel Loew of Prague (1525 – 1609), whose family originally came from Worms in Germany. Linked by legend to the creation of the Golem.

Maiseh shehoyo, Meiseh Shehoya = An anecdote based on an actual event; a true story.

Malchus = Kingship; monarchic dynasty. The only legitimate Jewish Malchus is the Davidic line, not that they were such a blessing (see Kings 1, 2).

Mamesh traifus = Totally treif; entirely treif; tangibly treif. Think: Bacon with cheese sauce, resting on a bed of shrimp.

Mamzer = A person born from a forbidden relationship (primarily incest). The Yiddish usage of the word “Mamzer” frequently stands in for the mediaeval French “bastard.”

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), an Augustinian monk after whom a sect is named, who nailed a screed to a church door (October, 1517), got excommunicated (cherem, xtian style, January, 1521), and became one more notable in a long line of farbissene anti-Semiten. Pope Leo the Tenth (1475 – 1521; the 217th Pope) characterized him as “a drunken Teuton who writes objectionable tracts; when he’s sober, he’ll change his mind”.

In a book published before his death, Luther recommended that synagogues, Jewish schools, and homes be destroyed, Jewish writings be seized, Jewish teachings be outlawed, and Jews be forced to become farmers or be expelled.

Maseches, Masechtah = Tractate in the Talmud.

Matan Torah = The receiving and accepting of the Torah. We are told that the Almighty chose us instead of any other people. The Jews were not the first candidates, but they were the only group who neither belly-ached about the responsibility nor demanded that any of the rules be waived.

It is also said that the souls of all Jews, past and future, were present at Sinai. How can this be? One answer is the concept of gilgulim – reincarnation. Imagine a bamboo forest - all stalks start at the ground, and rise up straight towards the sky. Each consists of sections closed one upon another, with each section representing another generation, of the stalk. So also with souls.

If so, how come some Jews are such lousy people? Weren’t they at Sinai? Well yes, they were in back, shooting craps instead of paying attention.

Matjes = A herring caught in mid to late summer, from Middle Dutch ‘maagdje’ (little virgin), modern Dutch demotic ‘maatje’ – in reference to their not having spawned yet

Mechutzeff = Rude person.

MEDRASH, Medrish = Derivational or expository narrative, with a moral or halachic lesson.

Megillah = A scroll, or rolled book, from 'galal'- to roll.

Mei Menuchos = An book by Rabbi Nachman Kahane, containing an explanation of commentaries and a phrase by phrase explanation on Tosafot. The name “Mei Menuchois” means “tranquil waters.”

Mei Raglayim = Urine.

Meidel = Girlie.

Meideleh = Girlie-pie; chickee.

Mekayim the mitvah of Tzedakah = Fulfilling the commandment of charity. We are commanded to be righteous and charitable to our fellow man – “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof”.

Melech Malchei HaMelachim = The King of All Kings; G-d.

Meraglim = Spies or scouts sent to survey the Promised Land. See: Bamidbar (Numbers) 13.

Meuras Hamachpelah, Maarat HaMachpelah = The cave of the patriarchs in Hebron. Acquired by Avraham from Ephron the Hittite, as detailed in Parshas Chayeh Sarah in Bereishis (Genesis). A key area of tension between Israelis and Palestinians, which both view as a revered site.

Mezaneh = What the French would call “vleselyke gemeenschap,” if we could understand them. Don’t ask, better let your husband explain it on your wedding night. Or show you on HBO on Thursday nights.

Midah keneged midah = Measure for measure.

MIDIAN = The nation of Yisro (Moishe’s father-in-law). Midianite tribes were also allied with the Moabites in the attempt to destroy the Bnei Yisroel.

Mikvah = A pool for the ritual cleaning or purifying of people (women, post menstruation, and men prior to prayer) and objects (cooking utensils!). Not just any puddle of water will do; it has to be Mayim Chayim - living water, water that moves. This includes rivers, lakes, streams, or pools of fresh rain water.

Mimunifsuch = Regardless; either way; with whatever consequence. A Yiddish phrase used during Talmud study that nobody really understands.

Minuval = Scoundrel. Literally – “garbage.” Term of abuse foisted on some Orthodox elementary and high school school students.

Mishkan = The portable sanctuary which housed the divine presence prior to the building of the Temple.

MISHKAV ZACHAR: Homosexuality. Prohibition written in Vayikra (Leviticus) 18:22 "V'et zachar lo tishkav mishkvei ishah to'evah hu” (“With a male do not lie down as with a woman - it is an abomination”). However, marrying the opposite sex is not for everyone. Why increase unhappiness in the world? Need I mention that men NEVER get nidah? Or accidentally pregnant. Plus, nothing says HOT like a big hairy streimel! It’s the epitome of geshmak. Ah, the joys of Kollel…

Mishneh Torah = The Rambam's masterpiece (also called the Yad HaChazaka - the strong hand), composed after Maimonides settled in Egypt. A detailed compendium of Halacha (religious law).

Mishpatim = “Judgments”; Parsha (Biblical reading) in Exodus.

Mishugayim = Fools, nutcases. From the same root as meshugge.

Mitzri = An Egyptian, a native of Mitzrayim.

Mitzrim = Egyptians. Plural of Mitzri.

Mitzvas Challah = The commandment to set aside a portion of dough during breadmaking as tribute to the Almighty. In the time of the Temple, the portion of dough was given to the priesthood. Nowadays, the portion is burned in the oven in memory of the destruction of the Temple.

Mitzvois = Commandments.

Mitzvois d'oraisah = Commandments inherent in the tradition; commandments stated in the Torah.

Mitzvois d'RABBANAN = Commandments clarified or codified by the Rabbinic sages.

Mizbayach, mizbe'akh = The altar.

Moishe Rabeinu = Moses our teacher.

Moitzei Shabbos = The day after shabbos, which starts after the sun has set on Saturday night.

Mordechai = The hero of the Book of Esther. Alternatively, Rabbi Mordechai Ben Hillel, a scholar and posseik who lived in Ashkenaz toward the end of the thirteenth century. One of the Rishonim (early sages), he and his entire family were slaughtered during the Rindfleish massacres in 1298.

Moshiach = The Messiah; the anointed one of the house of David, who will rebuild the Temple, ingather the Jews from exile, and judge among the nations.

Mosque = Masjid, from a word indicating an abnegatory act or position (sujud).

Mum =Defect. Plural - Mumim.

Nadab and Abihu: The elder sons of Aaron consumed in a fire in the Mishkan.

Nedarim = Vows; tractate in the Talmud, the third of the Seder (order) of Nashim (women).

Neshamas = Souls. In Kabbalistic belief, souls are considered to be Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama, each reflecting a different level of communion with G-d, with Nefesh originating at birth, Ruach joining in early teens (the beginning of adulthood), and Neshama coming after great effort to become worthy and wise.

Nidah = Ritual impurity of a woman during the menses or after giving birth; a menstrual woman. A woman remains unclean until she goes to the Mikveh.

og Melech Habashan = Og King of Bashan in his old age decided to fight the Israelites as they headed toward the Promised Land. Considered by Midrashic legend to be a giant 500 year old geezer (and last of the Nephilim).

Oineg Shabbos = The enjoyment of Shabbos, which is determined by the right frame of mind and harmonious observances. Away from home this is hard to do. Hence the admirable custom of Shabbos hospitality offered to travelers by members of local communities in much of Europe at one time.

Olam Haba = The world to come.

Oseh Maaseh Beraishis = “He who has made creation,” a benediction to be recited when seeing the wonders of nature, such as lightening or magnificent scenery.

OU = Orthodox Union.

Palestinian = I do not know what this word means.

Para Adumah = The red heifer, whose ashes are used as a purification from impurity rendered by contact with the dead. The birth of a red heifer is considered a sign of the coming of the Messiah.

Parsha = Section of the Torah. There are 54 such sections. One Parsha is recited per week (with an occasional doubling of Parshas) to complete reading the entire Torah every year.

PARSHAS, Parshiyois = Plural of Parsha.

Paskening = Rendering a Halachic decision, opinion, or judgement. Psak - in this context means judgement.

Pasuk, Possuk = Scriptural verse.

Perek = A chapter; a period in time or specific event.

Pesachim = The Talmud tractate which details the laws of Passover.

Peysach dishes = So that no chametz or even trace of chametz may be eaten, many people have a complete set of dishes used only at Peysach.

Pierre Cardin = Expensive shmatte.

Pirkei Avos = The Ethics of the Fathers, a 6 Perek section of the Mishnah containing a collection of maxims from the sages on behaviour and ethics.

Poskim = Halachic authorities.

Psak halacha = A legal opinion in Jewish law.

Pshat = Plain and literal meaning, as opposed to interpretation, speculation or Midrashic legend.

Pupke = Trollop.

Purim = Holiday celebration the victory recorded in the Book of Esther. An opportunity for Rabbinically sanctioned alcohol consumption.

RABBEHIM = Rabbis; those who teach the Talmidim in Yeshiva.

RABBEINU CHANANEL = Rabbeinu Chananel ben Chushiel, A native of Keruwan in North Africa, 11th century. His commentary is printed in the margin of the Vilna Shas.

RABBEINU NISIM GAON = A native of Keruwan in North Africa, died 1050. Authored the Sefer Ha Mafteach, a commentary printed in the margins of the Vilna Shas.

Rabbeinu Tam = Yaacov Ben Meir, a Talmud scholar who lived in France (1100 - 1171). He was the grandson of Rashi (1040 - 1105). Tam, which means straightforward or righteous, was the characteristic ascribed to Yaacov the brother of Esav, so Rabbeinu Tam translates as “our righteous rabbi.”

Rabbi Akiva = One of the greatest scholars of the Mishnaic period, credited by many with developing the organizational structure of the Talmud. As the leader of his generation, he declared General Bar Kokhba as the Messiah. He was put to death by the Romans following the Bar Kokhba Rebellion.

Rabbi Chayim Vital Calabrese (1543 – 1620): Son of Rabbi Yosef Vital, who wrote an incomplete commentary on the Zohar Ha Kadosh (The Holy Book Of Splendour). Part of the circle of the Ari in Tzfat.

Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher = The Baal HaTurim (1270 – 1340), Son of Asher Ben Jehiel (the Rosh, also known as Rabbeinu Asher, b.1250 or 1259 d.1328). His codification of Halacha (the Arba Turim) was long the standard, and his division of Halacha into four categories is still normative.

Rabbi MoIShe Alshich (1508 – 1593): Also known as the Alshich HaKadosh (the holy Alshich), Alshich was a student of Rabbi Yosef Karo and one of the leaders of the Bet Din of Tzfat. He wrote Midrashic commentary on Torah (Toras Moishe) which is still widely read.

RABBI Moishe Cordovero (the Ramak, 1522 – 1570): Was the teacher of Rabbi Chayim Vital Calabrese and a student of Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Shlomo AlKabetz) and the author of Or Yakar (Precious Light; a commentary on the Zohar) and Pardes Rimonim (The Pomegranate Garden; a compendium of Kabbalah). Part of the circle of the Ari in Tzfat.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef = A Baghdadi Jew, born 1920, who became Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel in 1973. He has much influence politically (he is the spiritual figurehead of the SHAS party).

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai = A Mystic from the Roman period who is mentioned as having taught secrets and mysteries. The Zohar is ascribed to him (though his actual authorship is disputed.).

Rabbi Shlomo AlKabetz = Born 1500 in Salonica, moved to Tzfat in 1535, died 1580. Author of Manot HaLevi, Bris HaLevi, Beis HaShem, Avodos Aheva, Ayalet Ahavim, and the song, Lecha Dodi (Come, o beloved), for which he is perhaps most famous. Part of the circle of the Ari in Tzfat.

Rabbi Yakov Beirav = (1474/5 – 1546) A Talmudic authority from Northern Africa who moved to Tzfat. He tried to reinstitute a Sanhedrin, of which smicha (ordination) was the first step. The intent was to continue the chain of transmission established by Moses in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. But there was much opposition, and he was compelled to return to Morocco. According to some he ordained one rabbi (Yosef Karo). According to others, he ordained four rabbis.

Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi = Judah the prince (135 - 219), redactor of the Mishnah; also called simply Rabbi, or Rabbeinu HaKadosh (our holy master). One of the major figures in Jewish history.

Rachmana litzlan = An appeal to mercy from the Aybishter. Similar to “Merciful Heavens.”

Radak = Rabbi David Kimchi (1157 - 1236), philologist, commentator, scholar, from Narbonne in France, who wrote books of grammar, a commentary on Tanach, and an etymological dictionary of Hebrew.

Raivid = Name of a Polish Talmud commentator, from his sefer ‘Ravid HaZahav’. Probably Reb Yisroel Dov of Yeshnitz, who studied under Rav Naftali Zvi Horowitz (the Ropshitzer Rov, 1760 – 1827).
Ralph Lauren = Extremely expensive shmatte.

RAMAH, REMAH = Rabbi Moshe Issurles (1530 – 1572), Ashkenic commentator on the Shulkhan Arukh whose writing appear in italics.

Rambam = Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, Maimonides (1135/8 – 1204), about whom it is said none was wiser save Moses Our Teacher (Mi Moishe ad Moishe, lo kam ki Moishe - From Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses). One of the all-time greatest Talmudic scholars, he is the author of the “Mishneh Torah”, a compendium of Jewish law meant to clarify religious practices, the “Sefer HaMitzvot”, and the “Moreh Nevuchim”, the Guide For The Perplexed, a philosophical work addressing elements of belief, a many responsa. A rationalist who integrated contemporary science with traditional belief, he was born in Cordova, moved to Fez and Israel, before eventually settled in Egypt where he was physician to the king and a leader in the Jewish community. He is buried in Tiberias. At one time his writings were banned and burned.

Ramban = Rabbi Moishe Ben Nachman Gerondi (1194 – 1270), a Talmudic exegete and Kabbalist from Spain. His religious disputation with the apostate Pablo Christiani got so out of hand that he had to flee Spain fearing for his life (in 1267), eventually ending up in Acre. He is buried in Haifa.

Ramchal = Rabbi Moishe Chayim Luzzato (1707 – 1746). Author of a series of Kabbalistically inspired texts. A native of Padua who moved to Amsterdam, he wrote “Mesillas Yesharim” in his early thirties, a work acclaimed generations later by misnagdim and chassidim. Throughout his life he was suspected of harboring messianic aspirations (similar to Shabtai Zvi).

RAN = Rav Nissim Ben Reuven, born in Spain in the late 13th or early 14th century. His Talmudic commentary is a supercommentary on the Rif's Sefer Halachot, both of which are printed in the back of the Gemara. He also wrote Drashos HaRan, a series of shiurim on the basics of Judaism.

RASHBA = Rabbeinu Shlomo Ben Avraham Aderet (d. 1310). A student of Rabbeinu Yonah and the Ramban, he authored several thousand responsa.

RASHBAM = Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meier (approx 1085 to approx 1174, exact years unknown), grandson and student of RASHI (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzhak), brother of the Rivam (Rabbeinu Yitzhak Ben Meier) and Rabbeinu Tam.

Rav = Rabbi; lord, teacher.

Rav Chai Gaon, Reb Hai Gaon = Chai Ben Sherira Ha Gaon (939 – 1038), a multifaceted scholar who spoke both Arabic and Persian as was necessary for leaders at that time in Bavel under the Abbasids. He was the last great head of the Babylonian Talmudic academies, where Jews were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their lives and intellectual standards in the face of Islamic persecution.

One of the key ideas advocated by Rav Chai was that Jews should avoid reading philosophy and the writings of the Goyim in order to maintain the discipline and faith necessary to be good Jews in an increasingly hostile world. He also opposed the use of names, amulets, and similar superstitious practices.

Rava = The study partner (chaver) and successor to Abaya as head of the academies in Bavel. Born circa 270, died 350. Rava and Abaya engage in extensive debate throughout the Talmud.
Ravad = Rabbi Avraham Ben David, 1125 – 1198, the ‘Baal Hasagot’ (master of critiques), Talmudic scholar from northern France.

Rav Chiya = Talmudic scholar.

Rav Saadya Gaon = Rabeinu Saadya Ben Yosef, b. 892, d.942, a grammarian, linguist, and Rosh Yeshiva, who is largely remembered for lambasting the Karaites. Probably best known for his “Kitab Al-Amanat Wa’l Itikadat” (“The Book of Doctrines & Beliefs”; in Hebrew “Sefer Ha Emunot Ve Ha Deot”). He wrote in Arabic; Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world at that time.

RCA = Rabbinical Council of America

Reb Akivah Eiger = The Posner Rov, 1761 - 1837, the father-in-law of the Chasem Sofer, and a legal authority of great repute in his time.

Rebbe = Respectful term for teacher or rabbi. Often the rabbi who leads a Chassidic sect. Derived, of course, from Rabbi.

Rebbe muvhak = The Rebbe who is the learner’s principal guide through the intricacies of Talmud-Torah, who is like a father to his talmidim. Muvhak = Special, distinct, well-known. The student of such a teacher is a talmid muvhak.

Rebbetzin = The wife of the rabbi. Always under the watchful eyes of the community.

Reboinoisheloilum = Ribono Shel Olam; Master of the Universe; G-d.

Reviyi = Fourth. The fourth person called up to read from the weekly Parsha (the fourth Aliyah).

Rice on Peysach = Ashkenazim avoid several varieties of kitniyos (legumes and rice) on Pesach which are acceptable to Sephardim.

RIF = Rabbi Yitzhak Al Fassi , Isaac of Fez (1013 – 1103). He studied in the Yeshiva in Kairuwan, but fled to Fez when Islamic fanaticism made life dangerous. In Fez he wrote the Sefer Halachot (a compendium of laws in a concise form) which made him famous, but also tangled with a powerful member of the Jewish community, necessitating his move to Cordoba in 1089. He later moved to Lucena, where he served as Rosheshiva. The RAN and the Rif are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers of Talmudic studies.

Rish Lakish = Rav Shimon Ben Lakish, a close friend and chavrusa of Yochanan Ben Zakai. Yochanan valued him because he challenged everything that Yochanan said. Rish Lakish had been a highway man (robber).

RITVA = Rabbi Yom-Tov Ibn Asevilli - head of the academy in Seville (Second half of the 13th Century to the first half of the 14th.Century). A Halachic authority and important commentator on the Talmud.

Ropshitzer = Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz (1760 – 1827), author of Zera Kodesh, Aliyah She Luchach.

Rosh = Head, as in head of the Yeshiva: Rosh Yeshiva.

Rosh Hashana = Head of the year, New Year.

Rosh Chodesh = Head of the month, New Moon.

ROSH, The = Rabbi Asher Ben Yechiel, 1250 - 1328, student of the Maharam (Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, 1215 - 1293). After the rampaging crusaders persecuted Jews in the Rhineland in 1306, Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel fled to Barcelona, then to Toledo, where he was appointed head judge of the Jewish community there. The Rosh represents the transition from the Ashkenazic Tosafists of France and Germany, whose age was ending, to the Torah and Talmud scholars of the Sephardic golden age in Spain.

Ruach HaKodesh = “The holy spirit”, but actually meaning inspiration or stimulation from the Divine.

Rugachuga = A town in Poland close to Rokhelplotz and Kakkenstock.

ROsheshiva = Rosh Yeshiva; head of the seminary; dean.

SANHEDRIN = The supreme court of religious and civil law in Israel in the period prior to the exile; tractate in the Talmud which discusses issues related to the Second Temple legal system.

Sarah's kever = Sarah's cave, where she was buried, in Hebron.

Second seder = The Seder held on the second night of Passover in Jewish communities outside of Israel.

Self-hating Jew = I don't know what this word means - it is contradictory.

SELLING CHOMETZ = It is customary to sell all leaven one owns to a gentile prior to Pesach, in order to make certain that one has no chometz in one's possession for the duration of the festival.

Sephardim = Jews exiled from the Iberian lands (Sepharad = Spain) who settled in North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and Amsterdam (whose air makes men wise). Not to be confused with Mizrahim (in Egypt, Iraq and Morocco), Italkim (descendants of the ancient Jewish community in Italy), Teimanim (Yemenite), Bukhari Jews and Parsim (Persians).

Shabbos = The Sabbath; the seventh day of the week, the day of rest and contemplation.

Shabbatai Zvi (Shabsai Zvi) = A Jewish mystic born in 1626 in Smyrna (modern day Izmir in Turkey), who persuaded himself and others across worldwide Jewry that he was the long awaited Messiah. After being declared the Messiah in 1665, gaining adherents, and propagating esoteric and eccentric mystical “teachings”, he went to Istanbul in 1666 and was imprisoned by the Sultan. He converted to Islam and died a Muslim in 1676.

To those who believed in him, his apostasy was a shattering experience, if not a disaster. Yet he had numerous followers even after his death (a small sect is rumored to still exist in Turkey). May his name be remembered as a warning.

Shabbos goy = Sabbath gentile, who strikes the fires, lights the lamps, and performs other tasks forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath but considered essential.

Shabbos Shabbosoin = “Sabbaths of Sabbaths”; a term used in the Torah to describe both Yom Kippor and the Sabbatical year (Shmita).

Shas = Acronym for the full collection of the Talmud, the Shishah Sidrei Mishnah (Six Orders of the Mishnah); also, a Sephardic ultra-Orthodox political party in Israel formed in 1984.

Shatnez = Mixture of wool and linen in a fabric or in a garment. Prohibited by Biblical injunction.

Shavuos = The holiday of Pentacost or “Feast of Weeks.” Also known as the Chag HaBlintzim due to the custom of eating dairy.

Shaygetz = A gentile male, and by connotation a bulvan; the type of Gentile even Gentiles don't want their daughters to marry.

Shayla = A question or problem, as in “Fregn a kasha”

Shechinah = The presence of the divine. Considered the female aspect of the Divine in Kabbalistic teachings.

Shehakol = The generic benediction that can be said over many foodstuffs.

SHEITLACH, SHEITELS = Expensive wigs worn by Hareidi women after marriage to hide their hair from public view as an act of modesty. The best are made with real human hair (low to medium four figures), inferior ones with heavens knows what (as cheap as a few hundred). No matter the expense, the effect is twixt old-country dowdy and New Jersey gangster wife stylish!

Shemini = Eight, because it was on the eighth day that Moishe called Aaron, his sons, and the elders of Israel together; a Parsha (weekly Torah reading) in the book of Leviticus.

Shiksa = A gentile female, which is something that my basherte will never hear abo…, urhgh, I mean, Baruch atta…. Oiseh Ma'aseh Bereishis!

Shiva = Mourning for seven days after a death. It is right to mourn.

Shiur of marror = The proper measurement of bitter herbs to consume at the Seder table.

Shlepper = My other brother in law who sells socks door to door, not the shaygetz investment banker.

Shlugn kapores = The waving of a live chicken (or money) over ones head prior to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to designate a charitable pledge in exchange for commuting punishment.

Shmendrick = Not quite a moron, but someone likely to tie his shoe laces together.

Shmiras ha mitzvos = Obeying the commandments.

Shtender = Lectern or bookrest. Often used as a standing desk during Talmud study.

Shtibul = Yiddish for a smallish room, typically a small neighborhood beis mesdresh or shul.

Shukkeling = Swaying back and forth (and even sideways) during prayer.

Shul = Synagogue. From mediaeval German, meaning school (a synagogue is also a house of study).

Shvantz = A Yiddish word for a private part of the male body.

Shver tsu zein a yid = “It is hard to be a Jew.”

Sifsey Chachomim = Also Siftei Chachamim (the lips of the wise), by Rav Shabsai (Shabtai) Bass (1641 – 1718), a scholar from Prague (Praha, Bohemen). His writing is precise, concise, and to the point. The Sifsei Chachamim is a supercommentary on Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. Rav Shabsai also wrote the Sifsei Yeshorim (the Lips of the Just), the first bibliography of Hebrew books; the name is consciously echoed in the title of a book by the Ramchal – Mesillas Yeshorim (the Paths of the Just).

Simchas ToRAH = “The celebration of the Law” at which we celebrate finishing the one year cycle of reading the full Torah. Celebrated with dancing, reading from the Torah, and drinking alchohol.

Slivovitz = A derivative (vicz) of plums, a fruity firewater from the Balkans and Central Europe.

Smicha = Rabbinic ordination. Literally, suggests the “placing of hands” on the ordained to signify the endowing of authority.

Sonay Yisroel, Soneh Israel = Hater(s) of Israel; anti-Semite(s).

Sonay Hashem = A hater of the Aibishteh (soneh = to hate).

Streimel = Variation of a Kulpak. A large flattish fur hat worn by many Chasidim on Sabbath and holidays. It is considerably broader than it is tall.

Sukkus, sukkot = The Feast of Booths.

Talking she-ass = The animal on which Bilaam rode in Parshat Balak.

Tallis = Prayer shawl, with white wool fringes (Tzitzit) on the corner. Some people have one blue thread colored by the dye of a crustacean, which would be a modern restoration of a lost ancient tradition.

Talmid = A student, from a root denoting knowledge (LMD). See Lomdus.

Talmedim = Students.

Taryag mitzvos = 613 commandments (248 positive commandments, 365 negatives). The Gematria (significance of a word based on the numerical value of the letters) of taryag is as follows: 400 (tav) plus 200 (reish) plus 10 (yod) plus 3 (gimel).

Tefillah = Prayer.

Tefillin = Phylacteries, work during weekday morning prayer. Two black leather boxes containing passages from the Torah; one is bound to the forehead, the other to the non-dominant arm.

Ten Sefirot = The ten emanations that constitute the aspects of the Divine which drive the world of perceptual reality. A key Kabbalistic concept.

Terumah = Offering.

Teshuvah = Repentance; also a response to a question or a responsum.

Tevah = Noah’s ark.

Tikkun Layl Shavuos = The practice of studying all night on the first night of Shavuot.

Tochacha – Rebuke. That section of Parshat Bechukotai in which we are told what will happen if we don’t observe the Torah. Not the most upbeat reading in the Torah.

Toisfois = Mediaeval commentators from France and Germany, whose works in the Talmud are often referenced as a collective. Generally the direct descendants of Rashi, they frequently debate with him.

Toisfois Yuntif = Rabbi Yomtov Lippman Heller (1579 – 1654), rabbi successively of Nikolsburg, Vienna, Prague, and Krakow.

Toldois Aharoin = Name of a Chassidic offshoot of the Satmar sect. Also the name of a Torah commentator.

Traifus = Non-kosher. Literally, torn (treifa), that which is torn (treifos), referring to the appearance of the organs of a slaughtered animal showing disease, puncture or injury, making the meat unfit for consumption. By extension, the term 'treif' came to mean anything that was not kosher.

Traifus is also food which has not been processed according to kashrus – for meat, a prescribed method of slaughter and an exclusion of flesh from unkosher animals; for bread, a separating of the portion for the priesthood; for grains and seedy things, an examination to separate out shrotzim; for the vessels and utensils used, separation of fleishedikkes and milchedikkes. Included in traifus are foods used in avoidah zarah (heathen religious ritual)!

Triangle-K = A kosher certifying organization headquartered in New York which is not always respected within the Orthodox community.

Tzadik = A saint. From “tzedek”- goodness, righteousness.

Tzitz Eliezer = Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, a modern day (deceased in 2006) posseik, reknowned for his great collection of responsa, the Teshuves Tzitz Eliezer. The name references the traditional accoutrements of the High Priest Eliezer in the Tabernacle.

Tzitzis = Wool fringes attached to four-cornered garments (eight fringes on each corner). Such fringes are worn on a tallis (prayer shawl), and on a garment worn under the shirt, the arba kanfos (arba kanfot = four corners; four-cornered garment), also known as a tallis katan (smaller tallis). Fringes are typically white, though some people have one blue thread colored by the dye of a crustacean, which would be a modern restoration of a lost ancient tradition.

Uchinvei = Och und vei (alas and sorrow!), an exclamation of distress.

UJA = United Jewish Appeal.
Urim V'Tumim = Stones inscribed with the Divine name kept within a fold of the breastplate of the High Priest. Rashi says they were parchments. Modern scholars suggest they were akin to dice. The Urim V’Tumim were used to seek input from the Divine to specific queries. (The Urim V’Tumim are referenced in the insignia of Yale University.)

Vaadim = Councils; unions; organizations.

Vayakhel = “And he assembled,” a weekly reading in the Torah.

Vayikra = “And he called,” a weekly reading in the Torah; Hebrew name for the book of Leviticus.

Vilde chayas = Wild beasts. Chaya = Animal.

Vilna Goyn = The Gaon of Vilna (1720 – 1797), Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, a Talmudist and Kabbalist who lead the opposition to the Chassidic movement.

Voss is geven a yarmulke for de shaygets? = What's with a kippah for that gentile?

Vort = Word. Hence a communication, a speech, a message, a lesson, a dvar.

WZO = World Zionist Organization.

Yad Vashem = The memorial to the six million, located in Jerusalem.

Yarmulka = Skullcap. In Hebrew it is a Kippah, hence Kappel in some dialects of Yiddish.

Yechezkel Rabbah = Literally, ‘Great Ezekiel’; an early commentary on the Sefer Yechezkel (Book of Ezekiel).

Yehoshua = Joshua the prophet, successor to Moses.

Yehuda = Judah; fourth son of Jacob, scion of a tribe whose descendants include the Davidic dynasty; the southern Kingdom led by the Davidic dynasty in First Temple times; the name of the Jewish self-governing entity in the Second Temple era (Judaea); the area southeast of Jerusalem.

Yeshiva = Jewish school or academy where Torah and Talmud are studied.
Yeshiva tuition = Only at Yeshiva Chipass Emess do you get what you pay for. Other yeshivas? Let us not gossip. Just whip out your checkbook…

Yetzer HaRa = The evil inclination.

Yetzer tov = The good inclination. Man has two inclinations; the Yetzer Tov, which inspires his most noble tendencies, and the Yetzer HaRa, which causes him to sin.

Yetzias Mitzrayim = The exodus (redemption) from Egypt.

Yetzias Mitzrayim, Mitzvah of celebrating = The commandment (mitzva) of celebrating the redemption (yetzias) from Egypt (mitzrayim) on Passover.
Yevamos = Tractate of the Talmud in the order of Women (Seder Nashim) focused on levirate marriage.

Yichus = Lineage; not only ancestry, but also the inheritance of a teacher’s knowledge and philosophy.

Yidden (singular: Yid) = Jews, people who are Jewish (Yiddish). Usually used in reference to Ashkenazic Jews; from Judah (Yuda), one of the tribes, and subsequently the name of the Southern kingdom in the Holy Land. Cognate with German 'Jude', Dutch 'Jood', and Arabic 'Yahood'.

Yiddishkeit = True Jewishness. Sacred cow of the Hassidim.

YirimayAHu = The prophet Jeremiah.

Yisro = Midianite Priest identified as the father-in-law of Moses. The title of the fifth Parsha in Shmos (Exodus). Yisro is credited with advising Moses on establishing a distributed legal system.

Yom Kippur = The day (Yom) of atonement (Kippur). The tenth day of Tishrei, which comes ten days after Rosh Ha Shana (Jewish New Year).

Yovel = The Jubilee year, being every fiftieth year

Yuntif, yontef = Yiddish word for Yom Tov denoting a holiday, such as Passover. The plural is Yomim Yovim.

YU = Yeshiva University.

Yushka = The deity of the Christians, from an affectionate Polish derivative of the name “Joshua”.

Zohar, Zoihar = “The Splendour,” a Kabbalistic masterpiece likely written by Moishe Shemtov DeLeon in Spain in the 13th century. The book (and legend) attribute’s its authorship to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a first century Tanna and Mystic. The Zohar describes events surrounding Shimon Bar Yochai and a group of students during Roman times. It holds a prominence not granted other Kabbalistic texts.

Zugos = Pair, from the Greek word for yoke, referring to two even loads or both sides of a pair of scales. The term refers to the pair of leaders who headed the institutions of Jewish life in the late Second Temple era – the Nasi, or president of the Sanhedrin, and the Ab-Beis Din, the chief of the court of law.



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Rabboisai – I am pleased to share with you a Mussar Shmooz prepared and delivered by the Esteemed RABAM, the Rosheshiva of the West Coast Branch of our Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chippass Emmess



I was recently 'asked' to give a farbrengen at a sehr shtrenge "facility" run by the government (the things one has to do as part of one's 'community service', oy!).

The administration of that institution may have been mistaken about the audience, though - unless those dear young boys in the front row were actually Mizrahi or Sfardim (but why would Sfardim sport tattoos that say 'Harley Davidson', a very Yiddishe nomen?). Maybe they were half-Jewish, even gerim?

But they really appreciated the visit, and many of them are sincere about teshuveh. You should have seen the joy in their innocent faces during the mussar shmuzn.

The text of my speech is reproduced below, for your edification.

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

Tayere yingerleit,

Our Torah sages have instructed us to build a wall around Toireh, to keep mitzvoyes, and to make our lives holy.

Can this be achieved in America? Can we stay on the derech?

America, in addition to turning many talmedim into koifers, is also responsible for wives dropping their husbands off in front of kollel each morning on their way to work. Appalling! It isn't enough that they waste time when they could be working, they have to distract the other kollel guys too?

Takka, driving itself is untzniusdik!

Our rabbonim have insisted that the open road is too dangerous for everyone, regardless of age or maturity, in all circumstances, unless it's absolutely necessary.

What if Chasvesholom unapproved retailers from outside the community are patronized?!?

Or suppose exposure to the outside world awakens a desire for new products?!? We see them on all those ads and colourful billboards alongside the road, advertised by shikses wearing not enough clothes they should know better a spanking solln sie bakumen.

Electronics, shtarke drinken, weiber meik-oif, hair dye, lacy panties, insurance, junk food - all of these lead directly to the sitra achra. And chasveshalom you should shop retail!

G-d forbid, that one even got a tayva for pizza mit treife salami - they certainly do look tasty on those signs, don't they.... Dense and juicy with meaty goodness.

Ober a frumme yid hot kashrusdikke buying habits - we do not buy such things.

Even Hebrew National salamis are treifus gamur, kalvechomer anything with hechsers from the following organizations: Association for Reliable Kashrus; Atlanta Kashrus Commission; Beis Din of Crown Heights Vaad Hakashrus; Blue Ribbon Kosher; Budweiser; California K Igud Hakashrus of Los Angeles; Chabad Lubavitch Arizona; Chabad of South Nevada; Chicago Rabbinical Council; Congregation Arugas Habosem; Congregation Kesser Israel; Congregation Yetev Lev D'Satmar; Coordinated Kosher Supervision; Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit (K-COR); Debraciner Rav; Diamond K; Double U Kashrus Badatz Mehadrin USA; Fishnet Stockings; Florida K and Florida Kashrus Services; Hows-about my cousin Tzippy you'd like her; Hisachdus Harabanim; Hisbodidus Fershizzle; International Kosher Supervision; Jersey Shore Orthodox Rabbinate; K'hal Adas Jeshurun; K'hal Adas Vishnitz; K'hal Chizuk Hadas of Flatbush; Kashrus Council of Lakewood N.J.; Kehilla Kosher; Kehillas Yaakov Pupa, Lemon Curry?; Monsey; Knesses Israel Torah Center; Kof-K Kosher Supervision; Kosher Certification Service; Kosher Shmosher as long as he loves a steak; Kosher Supervision of America (KSA); Kosher Supervisors of Wisconsin; National Kashrus (NK); Microsoft Windows(tm); New Square Beis Din of Kashrus; Orthodox Vaad of Philadelphia; Rabbinical Council of California (RCC); Rabbinical Council of Orange County & Long Beach (Orange K); Scroll K; South Palm Beach Vaad (ORB); SPAM(tm); Star-K Kosher Certification; The Kosher Food Council of Northern California; The Lehigh Valley Kashrus Commission (LVKC); The Nirbater Rav; The Organized Kashrus Laboratories (O/K); The OK Corral; The Udvarer Rav; The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU); The Volover Rav; Tofu For You; United Mehadrin Kosher; Vaad Hakashrus of Buffalo; Vaad Hakashrus of Denver; Vaad Hakashrus of K'hal Machzikei Hadas of Belz; Vaad Hakashrus of Kiryas Yoel; Vaad Hakashrus of Mechon L'Hoyroa; Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California; Vaad Hakashrus of Raritan Valley; Vaad Hakashrus of Rochester (VKR); Vaad Hakashrus of the Capital District; Vaad Harabanim of Flatbush; Vaad Harabanim of Greater Seattle; Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington; Vaad Harabanim of San Diego; Vaad Harabanim of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway; Vaad of Lancaster; Vaad Harabanim of Yehupecz; Young Israel of Plainview; Young Israel of West Hempstead.

Boruch Hashem, such things are not available in Heimishe neighborhoods.

If you're that desperate, eat Osem meals-on-the-go. You're a goy kadoish, for Christ's sake!

Women should drive only if there is someone in the car with them to make sure nothing goes wrong. And they should never take other people with them in the car who don't need to be exposed to the dangers of driving - goyishe billboards, hechsers other than ours, or women in short skirts and string halter tops. Such as my mother-in-law.

Better yet, stay home and read Sefer haChinuch on the two mitzvois relating to Amalek in order to have some good, clean, haymishe fun.

And be sure to hold the people around you to the same high standards.

If your neighbor drives on shabbes, inform the proper authorities - and everybody else: your mechutenista, your shverre, your rabbi, the guy in the laundromat, their children's teachers, and the vaad ha rabbonim. This is not lashon horo but your civic duty. It protects the community and maintains the sanctity of shabbes, you merachil - as the gemara says, 'chavrech chavra et lei' - friends have friends, and what are friends for?

A lashon chayim is one of the most precious tools. Why would you not tell someone to avoid an unqualified car mechanic instead of my cousin Shloime chas ve chollilleh.? Or that the doctor dating someone's daughter has a criminal past you know a recent graduate with a good future?

A real mentsh warns people away from danger, I'm just telling you because G-d forbid you should make a mis-step or inadvertently break the law.

The concept of lashon horo should not be degraded, but used wisely to protect our own community. Nor should it be limited - kol hamosif goreyah. To even suggest that there might be a problem is motzei shem rah. Now go to the beis midrash and say 40 hail marys (more is both bal toisif and hiddur mitzvah, und alles bemitzvos iz a brocheh).

As usual, we learn from our heilige rebbes about this, as in so many things. And their learning goes all the way back to Sinai.

Moishe Rabbeinu said, "wer kent Torah kent alles", thus proving that infallibility is NOT a Roman Catholic idea. As with so much, we invented it and who cares what the goyim think.

Really, don't even be concerned about anything other than what our gedoilim think (most of them went to the same yeshivos as we did, by the way).

The hechsher of being a gadol means more than just a seal of approval; a gadol is respected by his fellow Toireh scholars, such as the Tzerdrayter Rosh and the Farblondjeter Rebbe. If Agudah dinner rib steak eating rabbis you trust, better you should go live in Kiryas Yoel.

An echte gadol does not ever approve of anything that the Torah did not already specifically permit. He sets razor sharp boundaries which are clear, and understood by everyone, and places his reasoning on public display. To that end, our vaad ha rabbonim has a web-page you should consult, except of course erliche yeedn are not moreh heter leatzmo to use the internet.

Trust Gdoilim to pick everything from the best company for the sewer contract down to the best recipe for lokshn kugel.

Even from Chol Hamoed entertainment our gdoilim know - the 'Trip To The Past Ride' at Frumme Fantasy By The Bay Camp is a joy for the gonze mishpoche, a means to return all yeedn to shtettel life, and the 'Water World Adventure' has a didactic value that your kinderlech cannot afford to miss - it's just like Tohu veBohu.

Season tickets for Frumme Fantasy By The Bay Camp are available in the chancellor's office of YTC-West. It's both a metzia and tzedaka. All profits go support the Sabbatical Fund for Deserving Roshei Yeshivos.

Remember, sabbatical means "of the Sabbath". So it's a mitzvah. Trust me on this.

Imyirtzayshem by y'all. Peace out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On the Current Economic Situation

"The best book in print today" -- Bais Hillel

"The worst book in print today" -- Bais Shammai

You Decide:


On the Current Economic Situation


Before I begin my Drasha, I would like to apologize for being in a bit of a hurry. I got a late start this morning because I had to participate in an Upsherin in the family. Such simchas are always joyous occasions, but this one was special: My Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, got her annual bikini wax, since beach season is upon us, and she insisted that I stay home to perform a Seudas Mitzvah, if you know what I mean. Shoyn.

Yidden, we are living through challenging economic times. I don’t know about you, but the Yeshiva’s fundraising efforts are down by four percent year-over-year. I hate to say it, but if this keeps up, the Rebbehim are going to have their salaries cut. Mamish, we have tremendous expenses, what, with the costs of feeding the Talmidim, buying the latest Sforim, providing Yayin for Kiddush and Havdalah and Pas for Orchim, and paying for the expansion of my summer home… errr… Shtibul in Monte Carlo. We may not even be able to put in the Olympic size mikvah until next year.

But we are not the first generation of Klal Yisroel that has suffered though deprivation. Shtayt in Pasook: “Vayehee Ru’uv Bekhol Ha’aratzot, Oo’Bekhol Eretz Mitzrayim Hayah Lukhem”, “And there was a hunger in all the lands, and in all the land of Egypt there was sustenance (literally – bread)” (Beraishis, Perek Mem Aleph, Pasook Nun Daled).

There is a famous Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that features a discussion of this Pasook. According to Reb Yoichanan, the hunger referred to a famine caused by a lack of rain. Says Reb Yoichanan, Yankif Avinu did everything possible to end the drought: He was Mispallel to Shamayim. He brought Karbanois. He borrowed a plane from his father-in-law Lavan and tried seeding the clouds. He and his Chavrusa from Yeshivas Shame V’Ayver, put on feathered headdresses and performed an Apache rain dance. All to no avail.

However, according to Reb Chilkiah in the name of Reb Shimoin, the hunger was caused by a great pestilence created by a swarm of locusts. One night, Yankif Avinu prayed for three hours and then went into a deep sleep. The Reboinoisheloilum came to him and said “Yankif, Yankif”, and Yankif responded “Hineni”, Here I am”.

The Aimishteh asked, “What can I do for you, my son?” To which Yankif replied, “There is a great hunger in the land caused by a swarm of locusts. Can you please intercede and chase the locusts away so that I and my family and all of the peoples of the land may eat?”

Hakkadoshboruchhu paused a moment, the replied. “I would love to help you, but I cannot. I am powerless to stop this pestilence. I may be Almighty and All-powerful, but I am also afraid of bugs. They are icky, and have like sixteen legs each, and crunch when you step on them – Yuck! You are on your own.”

But according to Reb Yehudah Bar Ilai, the famine was actually the result of the crash of the Canaanite banking system, which was driven to the brink by excess leverage in the system caused by greedy mortgage lenders and short-sighted tent dwellers. This caused a liquidity crisis that resulted in a sharp decrease of cash in the economy, severely impacting demand for domesticated camels and bursting the bubble in the overheated speckled wool market. This drove people to earn their livings by subsistence farming, barter, roadside prostitution (See under: Yehuda and Tamar), and by selling low quality bootleg DVDs on the street.

Asks Reb Hai Goyn in his famous treatise “Sefer HaMashkoyn”, “How can Yankif Avinu have suffered from a famine in Eretz Yisroel, when we are told quite clearly by the Toirah “Vehaya Im Shamoyah…’, ‘If you listen (to the commandments of the Aimishteh) you will get rain, etc.’? So is Beraishis telling us that Yankif Avinu wasn’t a Tzaddik and did not deserve the bounty promised elsewhere in the Toirah? Or is the promise of a reward for listening to the Reboinoisheloilum’s commandments a lie, Chass V’Sholom?” Reb Hai Goyn, of course, later rejected Judaism and became an Anglican Priest so he could marry his hot shiksa girlfriend.

Now, the essential point for us, my beloved Talmidim, is that a Mechutziff like you will point out the parallels between the events surrounding Yankif and the famine in his time, and our current economic situation. Yet there are clear differences. For one thing, in Yankif’s day, Klal Yisroel had not yet received the Internet…errr….the Toirah, So post Sinaitic promises and strictures were not yet in effect. Case in point: Yankif was married to two hot sisters, while I have never even once been allowed to see my sister-in-law’s real hair underneath her wooly-mammoth-haired shaytel.

Further, it was never Yankif’s fate to possess the Promised Land. As had been revealed to his grandfather, Avraham Avinu, Yankif and his descendants were destined to be sent into exile in Mitzrayim, only to be brought back to Eretz Yisroel 400 years later. Sure, this makes no sense to you, you Minuval. You are thinking, “we were there already in Canaan, why not stay?” But this goes to show what an ignoramus you are! Had Klal Yisroel not been in Mitzrayim, there would never have been the opportunity to gel as a nation, to share a common moment of national foundation through Yetziyas Mitzrayim, to say “Na’aseh V’Nishma” at Har Sinai, or to follow Israel’s greatest leader, Moishe Rabbeinu, until he was banished from entering the Promised Land for bitch-slapping a rock. I do not understand why something this crystal clear is not obvious to a Minuval like you!

But if we return to the essential shailah raised by Reb Hai Goyn regarding the commandment of “Vehaya Im Shamoyah”, we cannot help but conclude that the current recession is indeed a punishment for our generation. The question is: What are we doing wrong? And who is to blame for our current economic travails?

According to Rav Shmiel Kalbasavuah, the Goyim are to blame, Yemach Shmum. He notes that their election of a dark skinned erudite leader who has roots in the Middle East is a clear violation of the Toirah’s commandment of “Ve’ahavta Lerayakha Kamoicha”, “Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself”. Asks Rav Shmiel: “How can you love this President? Eppis, he is a Communist, his middle name is Hussein, and your wife would like nothing better than to play 'Hakhnasas Orkhim' and 'Yetzias Mitzrayim' with his Makoim Hamilah over and over AND OVER again while he recites poetry, passages from the State of the Union Address, verses from the Koran, or excerpts from the General Motors bankruptcy filings in his crisp, lawyerly voice.”

Reb Yoisaiph Katzki holds farkhert. He says that the bad economy is the fault of the Liberals and the Secular. All they do is complain and eat Traifus. Do they add any value to the world? No! They are the Erev Rav living amongst us. They redistribute our hard earned dollars to illegal immigrants, and speak out against our right to defend ourselves, the Mamzerim. They are even trying to provide affordable healthcare to everyone, Chass V’Sholom! I would like to take every one of them and torture… errr, waterboard… errr, learn Toirah with them.

But according to Reb Betzalel Kupkayk, the bad economy is the fault of the Jews – yes, Klal Yisroel. How does he come to such a conclusion? Reb Betzalel cites a Medrish in Pesikta De Rebbi Kehana that describes the "End of Days”. Says the Medrish, “In a faraway place and time, the world as we know it will come to an end when all of Klal Yisroel unites. According to Rabbi Akiva, this refers to all of Israel keeping Shabbos. According to Rabbi Elisha Ben Erva, this refers to the Mitzvah of Leviyas HaMais. And according to Rabbi Yishmael, this refers to the Jews amassing large volumes of debt in order to send their kids to yeshiva, take out jumbo mortgages to pay from their large homes, buy minivans, send their kids to sleep away camp, and get their wives breast implants so that they will remind them of the hot shiksas they fooled around with in college that they should have married instead of the whiny Ballabusters that their wives have become.”

If indeed Reb Betzalel is correct, how are we to process this information. Here, Klal Yisroel sit in our homes doing the will of the Reboinoisheloilum, and yet He seemingly conspires against us at every turn. What’s Pshat?

I am reminded of a famous Pasook in Yishayahu, which was altered when it was converted into our daily Tefillah. Everyday we make a Bracha right after Borchu, “Yoitzer Ohr U’Voray Khoishekh, Oiseh Shaloim U’Voray Ess Hakol”, “Creator of light and darkness, maker of peace and creator of all”. However, the Pasook that this is based upon, Sefer Yishayahu Perek Mem Hey, Pasook Zayin, reads Azoy, “Yoitzer Ohr U’Voray Khoishekh, Oiseh Shaloim U’Voray Rah. Ani Hashem Oiseh Kol Eileh”, “Creator of light and darkness, maker of peace and creator of evil, I am the Lord who does all these things.” What does this mean, you Vildah Chayah? Is Hakadoshboruchhu stating that He is the source of evil as well as good?

I would like to share a famous Moshul that my Rebbe, the NPOJHARTHA, once told me. There once was a peasant who lived not far from the king’s castle. One day the peasant was walking and he saw a ragged old man at the side of the road. He asked the old man how he was feeling, and the old man told him that he was poor and had not eaten in days. Without hesitation, the peasant reached into his pocket and gave the old man the only coin he had. At that point, the old man revealed himself to be the king in disguise, and as a reward, promised to give the peasant the hand of his only daughter in marriage.

The next day the peasant arrived at the castle in his best clothing. He was ushered to the king’s court, which was filled with aristocracy and gentry. The wedding procession began. As the man waited under the canopy, four guards carried forth a veiled royal rickshaw -- a portable throne -- hoisted on their shoulders. The peasant’s heart was filled with anticipation, but his spirit was shattered when out from under the veiling jumped a pig, to the raucous laughter of everyone in the room.

“Where is the princess?” the peasant asked.

The king approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and replied, “Son, you are not only a sucker, but you are also a schmuck!”

Rabboisai, when we assume the benevolence of the Reboinoisheloilum we make a leap of faith. By the same token, when we take on debt, we also make a leap of faith. We believe that we will be able to repay our debt, and that the benefits of our borrowing – our expenditures and investments -- outweigh our liabilities.

Debt is like Hakadoshboruchhu. It can bring light and darkness, and it can also bring peace and evil. And yet the corollary is true as well: The Aimishteh is like debt. We believe we can influence him through learning Toirah, committing Mitzvois, and engaging in sound financial planning. But He behaves in a manner that is outside of our control and beyond our understanding.

The Reboinoisheloilum may indeed deliver us with blessing and benevolence. Or He may give us swine flu, bring famine and poverty upon us, exile us from our homeland, persecute us, or give us gout, herpes, or erectile dysfunction. We suffer and beg for mercy. But He does not hear us, because He is too busy listening to the latest Wall Street Journal report on His I-Pod, because He Himself lost 60% of His net worth invested in GM, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch. And He is sick and tired of His credit card companies calling Him repeatedly with heavily-Indian-accented women who claim to be named Barbara reminding Him of how late His payment is. If I were Him, I would smite a few million people just to feel better about Myself too.

So how do we appease Hakadoshboruchhu? Well, we continue to learn Toirah and do Mitzvois. But we also engage in acts to remind Him of our eternal bond,and attune ourselves to Him. We bury our dead in ceremonies that mourn the loss of the living and recognize the return of a soul to its eternal source. We celebrate marriage, with the coupling of man and woman intended to remind the Aimishteh of the desired union of Himself and Klal Yisroel. We commemorate historical moments like Yetzias Mitrayim and Matan Toirah. And we celebrate important life events such as the reaching of the age of religious responsibility by a Bar or Basssss Mitzvah, the first hair cutting of a three-year-old Ben Yisroel, and the annual bikini waxing of a middle aged Bas Yisroel.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval