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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Pesach Drasha

Rabboisai -- Before I begin this week's drasha, I must share with you my latest experience in modern day Mechiras Chometz. I used my twitter account to increase the bidding on the Chometz I sold on e-Bay.

Mamesh, I had followers and bidders from all over the world. Nir Hussein Moussavi, the leader of the opposition in Iran, offered to buy my Chometz for three goats and a mule, but I refused to settle for less than four goats. President Barack Oibama bid six hundred dollars, with annual payments set to begin in 2014, after the implementation of a Leaven Tax. Sarah (Imeinu) Palin offered me eternal Christian salvation, as well as a loaded shotgun and a printout of the addresses of local abortion clinics.

I finally sold my Chometz to Tiger Woods in exchange for his oversized wooder putter and a couple of his balls; I hope some of his talent rubs off so I can have greater success with my putts.

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Why is this night different from all other nights? Ma nishtana? Farvoos iz de nacht foon Pesach foon alla nacht foon a gantz yur?

Why don't we ask this question on other holidays? Yom Kippur for example: Why am I starving half to death while missing game two of the World Series? Sukkus: Why does the Aimishteh insist I sit outside and have flies pick at my kneidlach? Shavuos: If I have to stay up all night, why must it be with overweight, bearded men? And Chanukah: Why am I celebrating the rise of the despotic regime that stole Malchus Bais Dovid, the monarchy historically assigned to the Davidic lineage, when I should be out drinking eggnog and making out with hot shiksas under the mistletoe?

We don't ask these questions on those other nights because there is something sacrilegious about the whole idea.

You: Oh Aimishteh, why should I do your Mitzvois?

Aimishteh: Shut up you minuval before I make your wife be mezaneh with the Mikvah lady (chass v'sholom).

You: But Rebboinoisheloilum, I am really curious.

Rebboinoisheloilum: What do I look like, Google?

No. We don't ask this question the rest of the year. But on Pesach, paradoxically, we do ask such a burning shayla. And we do this because the answer is more shocking than the question.

On Pesach we celebrate assimilation.

Once upon a time our ancestors sat in bondage in Egypt. By day, they labored over brick and mortar -- dressed in the flimsiest of work clothing, while cowering under the harsh supervision of a sadistic taskmaster named Ahmed. By night, they labored over other, more colorful tasks -- dressed in black leather, a spiked collar and a muzzle, while cowering under the the harsh supervision of a sadistic dominatrix named Fatima.

In this state of subordination, both our bodies and our souls were denied independence. We spent years dominated under the harassment of a cruel and unsympathetic power, which cared not for our daily struggles or basic needs. This resulted in a psychological state of inferiority, as well as recurring insomnia and frequent impotence. (Indeed, this whole thing sounds uncomfortably similar to the average marriage.)

Indeed, it took a great leader to end this harsh cycle and lead our people to freedom, a leader who was insulated from the travails that had beaten down all of his brethren from Klal Yisroel, a leader who was, in fact, very much assimilated.

Moishe Rabbeinu grew up not as a slave, but as an Egyptian prince. No doubt he grew up the typical Egyptian prince: MTV, smoking in the pyramids, Yetzer Harrah. But had he not lived like a Mitzri, the Aimishteh would not have chosen him to lead the Bnei Yisrael. Look at his brother, Aron Hacohain. He was raised amongst Klal Yisroel, suffering their same fate, yet ultimately his job was to hold Moishe's stick, speak for him on occasion and take his messages. In essence, he was a schlepper.

So we celebrate assimilation on Pesach, even more than on Purim, which commemorates a time when Esther HaMalka curried the favor of the king by giving up her Bisulta.

And because we celebrate assimilation, we must also realize that the opportunity that confronted Moishe Rabbeinu can happen to any of us, in any generation. You can be sitting in your office, minding your own business, eating traifus and reading Golf Digest, but you never know, you might be called upon to save Klal Yisrael. Or even worse, you might be asked to donate money to a Yeshiva that has more rabbehim than talmidim.

Yet, it is with trepidation and discomfort that we embrace assimilation. Sure, you would LOVE to be learning in the Bais Medrish and wearing Tfillin all day, but who would get your salary, draw on your expense account, and get your frequent flyer miles?

So to echo and enforce the discomfort of our ambivalence, we eat matzo every day for eight days.

We start off enthusiastically, consuming our share of Matzo under the rigorous guidelines set forth by Chazzal, in their deepest learned malevolence. We reenact the struggles of our ancestors, in an effort to internalize their travails.

Yet as the days progress, our yearning for freedom grows. It builds up inside us, more and more each day. This sought after passage into freedom is not like a quick everyday event, but grows. With every bite of matzo, we feel the pressure and yearn to explode, free at last.

And finally, when that release and freedom does come, perhaps with a little help of fruit compote, we celebrate freedom itself and wipe the sweat off our brow.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you minuval.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach (Passover)

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach (Passover)


Rabboisai,

In anticipation of the upcoming Yuntif, I would like to address an issue related to Hilchois Pesach

"The Anonymous Minuval" writes:

Rav Pinky,

Am I allowed to perform oral favors on my wife on Pesach if she has a yeast infection?

Well, my beloved, gutter-minded talmid, this is a delightful question that I have been asked several times before, all by members of the Ashkenazic tradition, since, as everyone knows, Sephardic Jews have not subscribed to this approach to marital fulfillment since the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

With regard to your question, yeast is not in and of itself chometz (leaven), but is in the category of chometz-related matter. Hence, Chazal would certainly hold that you could NOT perform oral favors on your wife, though you are not required to dispose of her during Pesach.

However, if you are of the practice of performing oral favors on your wife with the aid of a chometzdikkeh food, say -- pudding, the issue becomes more complex. BeDiyeved, there are those that say that the Halacha would view this as similar to yeast, or a kli (a cooking utensil), and, therefore, you may keep your wife in your possession, as long as you do not perform oral favors on her during the course of Pesach.

Lechatchilah, however, if we consider a wife's private parts as food, and therefore, having been exposed to the chometz, the privates take on the nature of chometz, since chometz is not battul afilu be'elef (is not considered insignificant, even if it is an infinitesmal fraction of the food in question), then you must dispose of the chometz prior to Pesach, preferably by burning.

However, in our day, our Rabbis have determined an alternative approach, as we use with other valuable chometz investments. You are allowed to sell your wife's Erva to a gentile, provided you not benefit from it for eight days. And, of course, you have to provide access to the gentile at any time that the gentile so chooses to take possession of the chometz.

How is this contractual arrangement made? There are those that are more lenient, and say a verbal sales agreement is enough to drive the exchange of possession. However, the majority of Achroinim hold that there has to be a symbolic physical transfer of possession. In real estate sales, this is typified by a kinyan sudor, or exchange of possession using as handkerchief as a proxy. In this instance, however, an exchange of your wife's underwear would be the preferred mode.

As well, the Rabbis note, it is customary the night before Pesach to include your wife's Erva when performing Bedikas Chometz in your home. Your wife will certainly welcome the feather, but be careful with that wooden spoon!

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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Do you have a halachic question or a philosophical query on Yiddishkeit? Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein is willing to indulge your ignorance by responding to your shailas, kashas, shver inyunim, and basic misconceptions.

Please e-mail me your questions with the subject: Ask Rabbi Pinky. Select questions (sans questioner name) and responses will be shared for purely "educational" purposes.

Parshas Tsav

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Parshas Tsav

This week's parsha, Tsav, is a complete repeat of Parshas Vayikrah. If you made it to shul last week, you should seriously consider sleeping in (unless there is a good kiddush).

The ROSH asked why the major elements of Vayikrah are repeated this week: animal slaughter, laws pertaining to specific rituals conducted by the Koihanim,etc. He concludes that Aron Hakoihain, that minuval, was trying to take advantage and get people to pay twice for the same services, much like Roish Hashanah seats for members.

The RIFF vehemently disagrees. He says that the repetition stems from the fact that Tsav is based on "J" text sources, while Vayikrah is based on a mixture of "E" and "P" sources. I have no idea what he means -- I think this was written during the RIFF's famous apikoress phase.

The RADAK disagrees with both. He suggests that the Torah's repetition here is due to fact that the Parsha is typically read in March, right after the February sweeps are over. As is pointed out is Maseches Kesubois, we can expect many repeats after February until the May sweeps period, where in addition to totally new Parshiyois, we can also expect a Cosby Show reunion special and more best-of highlights from the Carol Burnett Show.

Finally, the RAN takes a different approach entirely. The RAN of course is famous for his benevolent attitude, as well as his facial ticks. He says the Torah repeated itself here to teach us that we should never give up on stupid people. No matter how much they don't understand a damn word we say, we should repeat ourselves again and again. I SAID: No matter how much they don't understand a damn word we say, we should repeat ourselves again and again.

I would humbly like to suggest a new pshat. It is said that the Rugachuga Rebbe once came to a town over Shabbos, and accidentally went to the wrong shul, an early Reform temple in the shtetl. After the Bas Mitzvah girl finished leyning the parsha, which happened to be Tsav, the Rugachuga was first on line at the shrimp table. When asked about the episode later, he replied that the Aimishteh, in his mysterious ways, had designed a different path for all of us to follow. Though two paths appear to be nearly identical, they often have different meanings and different trajectories. (That morning, his path led him to a place abundant in cocktail sauce.)

In our day, this divergence of personal choices and destinations could not be more stark. Take, for example, two principal apikoress institutions -- the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University. YU, you ask? Well, as is well known, it is a great irony that everyone who attends Yeshiva University, a so-called Orthodox institution, either wants to go to Wall Street or become a lawyer. But everyone who attends JTS, a Conservative institution, wants to become a rabbi, and is also likely to date his/her chavrusa.

So while it might seem that the institutions are similar, graduates of both are each going about making the world a worse place in very different ways. The investment bankers and traders on Wall Street are harming the economy in the name of creating value (for themselves); the lawyers -- need I say more?

And the Conservative Rabbis? They oversee local institutions that are consistently responsible for the worst kiddushes on a Shabbos morning. Have you ever been to one? Cold bagels. Egg salad. Looking for cholent at a Conservative kiddush is like trying to find dirt under the Rebbetzin's nails before she goes the the Mikva. Try as you might, it's just not there.

So if you do decide to go hear the Parsha this week, just make sure you go to an Orthodox shul. Or a Reform Temple. But if you do make it to a Reform Temple and there is a kiddush, be sure to be first in line, before the Rugachuga and his spiritual descendents eat up all the good stuff.

Ah gutten Shabbos, you Minuval

Monday, March 22, 2010

On a Yeshiva Retreat

Rabboisai,

Many of you have asked where I have been the last few weeks. "Caught up in a Gevaldik Toisfois" some suggested. "In Eretz Yisroel, trying to negotiate peace between the Gerrer and and the Belzer Chassidim" other have said.

Well, in truth, you are all wrong. At the behest of my Bashert, Feige Breinah, I have been on a special Rabbinic retreat designed to make Roishay Yeshivois better husbands. In addition to learning twelve hours a day, I have also taken lessons on horticulture, cooking, and eating gefilte fish, if you know what I mean. Let's face it: Pesach is coming, the Einiklach will all be asleep halfway through the Seder, the children will be debating whether "Hakheh Ess Shinuv" applies to children with braces, so we might be able to sneak away for a little Layl Shimurim adult activities.

I do plan to be back from retreat prior to Yuntif so that I can enliven your Seder table without putting Gebrokchkchkhchsssssss on the table, Chass V'Sholom.

Pinky

Friday, March 05, 2010

BONUS: Tzadakah Opportunity

Rabboisai,

I received the below Tzadakah opportunity via e-mail, and felt it Chshuv enough to pass along. I cannot take credit for this Gevaldikkah effort.

Pinky

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Hello -

My name is Rabbi Olabamu Wabatunji and I am the Morah D ' Asra of Lagos , Nigeria . Thank G-d, we are now forming a New Kollel for over 30 yungerleit and their families, to be known as Kollel Yirei Areeos. We have collected significant funding for the new building, and obtained the services of the well know architect Moishe Ben-Pil, whose study of the first prakim of Shmos has made him an expert on construction using mud bricks. Our funds currently exceed 13.5 million US dollars, which we must convert into Nigerian Nairas (NGN 1,822,500,000)

Due to your well know honesty and tzidkus, we are pleased to offer you an opportunity to take part in this great mitzvah. Since we must deposit this money in an American bank account to begin the currency conversion, we will gladly give you 10% of this money ($1,350,000) if you will let us use yours.

Simply reply to this email and send us the following information:

Your social security number

The name of your bank, and your account number

The name of your next of kin

Your yichus

Your hat size

How long you wait after eating fleishigs

Parshas Kee Seesah

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Parshas Kee Seesah

This week's seminal parsha features the creation of the Eigel Hazahav by Aron Hakoihain, after Am Yisrael panics when Moishe Rabbeinu doesn't return after receiving the Luchois.

What were these am haratzim thinking? The Rebboinoisheloilum delivers them from Egypt with an outstretched arm, but Moishe hits a little traffic and POOF! "Let's worship Yushka Pandra!"

And Aron Hakoihain, the meshumid, why did he have to go so far as to create the Eigel? If the people needed to rebel, why not start slowly? First, start with some traifus. Maybe a nice lobster. Sure it's a big cockaroach, but in the midbar you take what you can get. Or maybe he should have distributed Skittles or Hostess Twinklies to Klal Yisrael.

But instead, straight to the Eigel. No wonder the Melech-Malchei-Hamlachim wanted to wipe out Klal Yisrael.

However, He chose to spare them.

RASHI quotes a Gemarrah in Sanhedrin that says that instead of striking the minuvals down on the spot, Hakkadoshboruchhu renders the punishment on all subsequent generations of Klal Yisroel. When any generation suffers a punishment, the Shchinah ensures that there will be an added element attributable to the Eigel.

Consequently, in our day, even in times of relative affluence and success, we continue to suffer the Chayt HaEigel. Current sufferings include frigid wives, Macaroons, Kiddush Levanah in the middle of winter, the wait to get into Le Marais on a Sunday night, and the fact that Woody Allen is a Jew.

Yet, despite his aveirah of inciting Klal Yisroel to worship the Eigel, Aron retained the Kehunah. Farvoos?

The common answer among Chazzal is that Aron was a tzaddik who was trying to distract and delay Klal Yisrael. Consequently, it was only natural the he remain in charge of filling the paper towel dispensers, sweeping up, and turning out the lights in the Koidesh HaKedoishim.

But the MAHARAL disagrees, declaring that is a whitewash to say that Aron was really a tzaddik. Says the MAHARAL, this makes about as much sense as waving a live chicken over your head to take away your sins.

Farkert. The MAHARAL feels that Aron was the ultimate Machiavellian figure who had clear aspirations to usurp the position of Moishe Rabbeinu. However, continues the MAHARAL, Moishe was smart enough to see this, and used it to his advantage. Moishe realized that every organization needs both a hero for leadership and vision, and a despot to keep everyone in line and "take the heat". And Moishe used Aron as that despot.

The political machinations are clear. What was the first thing Moishe did when descending from the mountain? He broke the Luchois that the Aimishteh had made with His own two hands. And what did Moishe do next? He recruited Aron and the Leviyim to slaughter 3,000 people. I personally would not have questioned Moishe's breaking the Luchois after that. Neither would you, you mechutzeff!

According to the RADAK, One of Moishe Rabbeinu's great aveiras was his obsession with looking good. Hence, he kept his farbissineh brother around to be his goon. That way he could keep up his good image and capture future book deals and licensing revenues. (I personally have a new Moishe Rabbeinu Chia Pet in my Bais Medrish.)

We can even see signs of Moishe's obsession with image in his discussions with Hakadoshboruchhu. Follwing the Chayt HaEigel, one of Moishe's pleas to prevent the destruction of Am Yisrael is that if the Aimishteh were to destroy Klal Yisrael, the Mitzrm would say that the Jews were delivered from Egypt only to be killed in the desert. In essense, Moshe's argument is: "What will the Goyim say." What will the Goyim say? Since when does a Jew, Moishe Rabbeinu no less, worry about Goyisheh public opinion? Who does he think he is -- Benjamin Netanyahu?

I am reminded of a Maisseh Shehoya, when I was a Talmud with my Rebbe, the NPOJHARTHA. Many years ago we were travelling by horse and buggy through rural San Francisco to raise money for his Yeshiva. When it became evening, we stopped at a local lodge to eat. "But Rebbe," I asked, "the lodge serves traifus. How can we eat here?" "Sha, you minuval!" the NPOJHARTHA patiently responded, "we can eat whatever we want, and then sneak out the door. As long as we don't pay for it there is no aveirah." Years later, the NPOJHARTHA recognized that his sin had caused a stinging punishment: He is currently exiled to the wilds of West Virginia, not because of eating traifus, but because he didn't order the most expensive items on the menu.

Such is the fate of Moishe. Hitting the rock kept him out of Eretz Yisrael. But the Chayt HaEigel instigated by his minuval brother lost him his copyrights and much associated revenue on the Chamishay Chumshay Torah. Rachmana Litzlan.

Ah gutten Shabbos, you Minuval