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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Parshas Emor

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Parshas Emor

I strongly suggest you read this parsha at your own risk. "Why?" you ask, you minuval. Because a month hasn't even passed, and we are back at Pesach again. Reboinoisheloilum, I am still recovering from throwing my back out while removing the car seats from the mini van. It's a good thing too I cleaned under the seats in the car -- my Yetzer Hara might have tempted me to break into the car after the second Seder to snack on the two crushed M&Ms on the floor.

Why do we prepare so intensively for Pesach? According to Rabeinu Tam, we commemorate slavery in Egypt by spending six hours marching up and down the stairs to the attic to bring down the Pesach dishes while our wives stand over us barking orders (those amharatzois).

Meanwhile, rachmana litzlan, our wives absolutely exhaust themselves watching the cleaning lady prepare for Pesach.

The RAMBAM in Mishnah Torah asks an incisive question: Instead of selling our chametz to a goy, why can't we just temporarily sell our religion to a goy? This way, he can have the opportunity to get the mitzvah of celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim, while we get to eat a little traifus, paint easter eggs, and have relations with a hot shiksa for seven days (eight days in Chutz La'aretz). But the RAMBAM concludes that if a goy had to eat Matzah for eight days, he would end up hating the Jews even more than he already does.

In truth, why do we stop our Peshach cleaning at our abode and our cars? A Gemarrah In Masheches Peshachim daff chuff aleph, amud baiz asks: Why don't we clean out our bodies of the Chometz we pump into them 51 weeks a year? Indeed, Rav Ashi holds that this is the reason that bechorim fast Erev Pesach, and that to get the full mitzvah, people should stick their finger's down their throats during bedikas chometz.

But further in the Gemarra, Rav Yosi disagrees, saying that since the food is already eaten, we hold that food cannot be eaten a second time, so there is no such requirement. However, Rav Yosi does go on to tell a story of how one year he told his wife that he needed her help cleaning for Pesach, since halacha required him to expel ALL possible bodily fluids. And due to her extreme gullibility, she helped him three times that night. What an Aishess Chayill. Unfortunately, he slept through much of the seder the next night, so he never dared to do it again.

My personal belief is that celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the einiklach. Beyond cleaning, you get the mitzvah of preparing the matzois and the ka'arah. During the Seder you are unified with all of Klal Yisroel in celebration. And after the Seder, while cleaning up, you lament the fact that your damn mother-in-law wasn't accidentally left in Mitzrayim.

But the timing of this week's Parsha raises a key question about the overall structure of the parshiyois of the Toirah: Why don't they follow a more intutive order? Why does the Toirah place individual sections out of chronological order, as well as offer multiple repetitions of various episodes and sections?

The standard answer, given by Rashi, is that Moishe Rabeinu, like any good representative of Klal Yisroel, never went anywhere without his cellphone. And as the Reboinoisheloilum was dictating the Toirah, his menuval brother Aron Hacoihain kept on calling. "Moishe, should I have the people pray?" "Moishe, should we circle Har Sinai?" "Moishe, white makes me look fat; can you ask the Aimishteh to change the color of the Koihain Gadol's garments?" Well all of these constant distractions threw Moishe off, and he got the order of the Reboinoisheoloilum's dictation all confused.

I would humbly like to offer a new pshat. I remember as a young talmid I asked my rebbe muvhak, the NPOJHARTHA, why we learned mussar in the morning, gemarra all day, and NACH with mepharshim at night -- shouldn't we study in the reverse order, reflecting the development of Toirah and lumduss? The NPOJHARTHA glowingly gave me a hug, led me by the hand to the front of the bais medrish, and then slammed my head against the top of his shtender. "Until you know the answers yourself, don't ask me such stupid questions, you vilda chaya" he then said.

After pondering this comment for thirty years, I now understand my rebbe's wisdom. Mimunifshuch, if everything in life made sense, we wouldn't have to daven three times a day. Life is confusing. And those of us who don't fall into the trap of seeing everything in black and white must spend our lives struggling with shades of gray. So the Toirah has a few mysteries. If everything was crystal clear, faith wouldn't be a challenge.

The Reboinoishelolum wants to keep us guessing and asking questions. And at the same time, he intends the Toirah to serve as our road map. So don't complain next time you have to vacuum the inside of the car and don't know why. At least as a member of Klal Yisroel you are never expected to change a tire by yourself.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On the Blessed Event

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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On the Blessed Event

Rabboisai,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ask Rabbi Pinky – On Tefillah BiTzibbur (Communal Prayer)

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Ask Rabbi Pinky – On Tefillah BiTzibbur (Communal Prayer)


Rav Pinky,

I need the benefit of your wisdom and experience.

We have recently started a Hashkama minyan in my shul, much to the Rav’s dismay. I personally wonder why we should spend 3 hours doing what only takes 1.5 hours, unless of course you are talking about being fruitful and multiplying.

My question to you, Rav Pinky: Is that extra hour and a half spent in the main minyan bitul Torah?

Thank you for your help in clarifying this troubling question.

Your talmid,

Reb Yankel
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Dear Reb Yankel,

Thank you for your critical and insightful question.

Eppis, Tefillah BiTzibbur is a tremendously important and misunderstood mitzvah, so I am glad at least one of my talmidim asks about it, instead of the usual shailah about apikorsus or sexual innuendo, chass ve’sholom. Sadly, there is too much focus on sex in our Dor. When you are sitting in your house, and when you are traveling on your way. When you lie down, and when you get. Too much. It’s dirty. Ichh! Now I need to go the the mikvah with some 300 pound cholent-fressers to get the thought out of my mind…

Now, I would actually characterize your question into a couple of subordinate questions: Does length really matter? And is a little variation good for the relationship? Err… I mean… When it comes to davening, do we care how long the davening is? And how should we consider the occasional aspiration to be Poiraish Min Hatzibur, separating oneself into a different Kehillah, spinning off as a Hashkama minyan, or a chulent-kugel minyan, or a woman’s minyan chass v’sholom, or a “young marrieds” minyan, or a youth minyan, or a gay minyan, or a local chassidishe shtibul, or a Sephardic minyan, etc.

To answer these questions, we will of course begin by looking to our Avois in the Toirah for the principal clues. I ask you, when Avraham Avinu stopped at Ur Hakasdim to daven Shacharis, was it a quick, meaningless Shacharis, like you do everyday, you miserable minuval? Or did Avraham take his time to put on his Tefillin, have the proper kavannah, recite the Karbanois, and make sure not to skip anything? When Yitzchak Avinu davened Mincha, did he mumble through Tachanun? Or did he make sure to say every word, especially when referring to himself during Shmoineh Esray? Did Yankif Avinu, while studying in Yeshivas Shame V’Eyver, skip an occasional Maiyriv to spend a bit more time on the basketball court or to surf porn or the Internet? Or did he daven with Yiras Shamayim even though it was nine o’clock at night and he was missing his favorite TV show? What kind of vilda chaya are you to ask such questions anyway?

No. Tefillah has always been the cornerstone of Yiddishkeit. Even in the desert, Moishe Rabbeinu led Klal Yisroel in Tefillah BiTzibbur. A Medrish in Shmois Rabbah describes the beauty when all of Klal Yisroel surrounded Har Sinai, shuckling in unison during the Shmoineh Esray. There they stood, united in kavvanah, at the height of their communal holiness. Indeed, according to the Medrish, the Aimishteh planned to bring about the redemption right there on the spot, erasing the need for forty years of wandering the desert and for Kibbush Eretz Yisroel. But just as Hakkadoshboruchhu was about to reveal himself, someone in Kehilas Yankif broke wind, offending the Reboinoisheloilum and the rest of the congregation, thereby delaying the Geulah for many millennia.

Even during the period of the Malchuss Bais Duvid, Tefillah was the essence of Klal Yisroel’s relationship with Hakkadoshboruchhu. Sure, there were Koihanim who brought sacrifices in the Bais Hamikdash for spare change; but their trade was established because, nebech, they studied for too many years in yeshiva and couldn’t hold down a real job. So it was either karbanois or selling cell phones.

But for the rest of Klal Yisroel, there was davening. Why else did Duvid HaMelech write all those Tehillim? Not to write silly poetry, you MeChutziff! What do you think he was -- some kind of left-wing homosexual Arab loving college educated self-hating Soinay Yisroel? No! He was a groisseh tzaddik, and when he wasn’t busy studying Toirah, he was cutting off Philistine foreskins (except for when he was busy being Mezaneh with the wives of his generals.) Yes, even back then, Klal Yisroel, Kehilas Yankif, regularly reached out to commune with the Reboinoisheloilum through the fundamentally mystical act of prayer, as well as through IM.

So what is the essence of Tefillah? Tefillah is more than just an act of individual unity with Hakadoshboruchhu. Were it only that, there would be no special inyun, no higher value, to the notion of Tefillah BiTzibbur. But Tefillah is also about the joining of the voices of Klal Yisroel. Essentially, it is about the power of community.

As a communal act, prayer is not only about the recitation of liturgy. It is also about acts of prayer, the trappings including:
-- Having a Shaliach Tzibur lead Shacharis
-- Having a chazzan schlep on and on and on during Mussaf until you are ready to ingest that cyanide pill sewn into your Talis Katan
-- Having some Bar Mitzvah boy read from the Toirah while three sadists in the minyan drool in anticipation as they wait for him to make a mistake so they can correct him in the ultimate act of Toirah-inspired humiliation.

But Tefillah is also about the social exchanges within a congregation. After all, throughout the Galus, as much as Klal Yisroel preserved Yiddishkeit, Yiddishkeit preserved Klal Yisroel. While our ancestors were cast across the furthest reaches of the globe, scrounging about for a living and to find some solace from millennia of persecution, they were able to maintain their unique identities through the institution of Tefillah in the Bais HaKnessess, the synagogue. Now, if all they had done during davening is daven, I assure you that you and I would now be speaking Latin or Arabic while sleeping with hot shiksas. However, they also used their time to build strong social bonds during davening by discussing chiddushim on Toisfois, linkages for business, insights on sports, perspectives on politics, and assessments of the talent on the other side of the Mechitza. Tefillah -- and in particular talking during davening -- became the cornerstone for the survival of the Jewish People.

Consequently, whenever the is a lull in the action – silence between aliyas, a pause while waiting for the Chazzan to recite a Bracha, an insignificant or boring part of the davening, it is a mitzvah for a Ben Toirah to talk to his neighbor in shul and perpetuate the social bonds that are the essence of Klal Yisroel. Indeed, according to the RAMBAM in Hilchois Tefillah, when one talks during davening, it is as if he has saved a life. Consequently, the RAMBAM holds that talking during davening is a Chiyuv Dioraisa, a requirement mandated by the Toirah.

As such, we all know that one must be Marbim BeMitzvois, one must spend as much time as possible engaged in fulfilling the commandments. So given the importance of davening, the longer the better, and one should always include a healthy dose of talking. And on Shabbos, a day we are charged with sanctifying, we should must add special sanctity to morning Tefillah by speaking extensively throughout the davening with other members of the Tzibbur.

I am reminded of a famous story about Rabbi Yitzchak Meyer Alter, the first Gerrer Rebbe. The Rebbe was once traveling to collect funds for the sect’s Shaytel G’Mach. One night he stayed in a lodge run by a Polish woman and her three daughters. As it was time to retire for the evening, the woman asked the Rebbe, “Rabbi, would you like anything before I turn in for the night?”

The Rebbe responded, “Well, you should turn in at once, but I would like for your three daughters to come and visit me in my bedroom.”

Shocked, the woman asked, “All three daughters! How can a devout man like you have such bad intentions?”

The Rebbe smiled and looked the woman right in the eyes. He then spoke, “Let me ask you, when you cook, do you cook for only yourself, or for the entire lodge?”

“The whole lodge of course, guests and all” she whispered tersely.

“My good woman, if I go back to my room by myself, I will end up bringing joy to myself. Why should I not share the joy with all three of your daughters?”

Satisfied at the answer, the woman asked to go back to the Rebbe’s room as well, to which he agreed on the condition that she would wear a bag over her head. Shoyn.

Now, with regard to your other shailah regarding establishing a second minyan, Chazzal are very much divided on this topic. According to a Yerushalmi in Orla, “anyone who splits up a congregation, it is as if he brought about the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. Or even worse, drank a cup of coffee without a Hashgacha.” However, according to the Roish, commenting on a Gemarrah in Nezikin, “A community must maintain a multitude of congregations just as a rich man maintains a multitude of oxen.” So which position is correct?

On this I would like to offer a very practical solution. You should explain to your rabbi that a Hashkama minyan is not an effort to take away from the centrality of the main minyan, but represents an attempt to broaden the appeal of the shul to a wider target audience. Who knows, maybe some guy who lives in the neighborhood, eats traifus and sleeps with farm animals will find out about the early minyan, attend one day, and do a full and complete Teshuvah. And who is your rabbi to stand in the way of a lost soul returning to the fold of Yiddishkeit?

If that doesn’t work, you can also donate a couple hundred dollars to the rabbi's discretionary fund. Throughout the millennia of Diaspora, that's always helped too.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you minuval.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Parshas Shmini

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://stores.lulu.com/rapas

====================================================


Rabboisai,

I have been asked by many of my Minuval talmidim why I publish reruns of Divrei Toirah I have shared in the past. I point out every time to these Meshugaim that if you do not complain to the Baal Koiray every week about rereading a Parsha you just heard last year, then you should not complain about these Divrei Toirah.

Incidentally, if you must know the truth, the reason why you are not receiving a new Dvar Toirah this week is because you did not Daven with the proper Kavvanah last week. Hakadoshboruchhu was watching your every move, you Vilda Chaya. He saw you joking around with your friends in Shul and sneaking a peak into the Ezrass Nashim to check out the visiting talent. He also saw you eat that sucking candy without making a Bracha, you Chazer.

Consider this a warning. The next time you violate the Toirah, the Aimishteh may send transcripts of your Facebook conversations with some hot shiksa to your wife. You may not fear the Reboinoisheloilum, but I know you are terrified of your Ballhabuster.

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Parshas Shmini

In this parsha, Shmini, we read about traifus. Lots of it. Pigs. Camels. Flying insects. Eagles. Bottom-dwelling-non-finned-non-scaled-fish. Reboinoishelolum, it makes my mouth water!

In fact I am currently lobbying the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the RCA, the OU, YU, JTS, the UJA, the ADL, the JCRC, the JDL, AIPAC, the WZO, the JNF, ARZA, the HUC, the Kof-K, the Triangle-K, and Amit Women to officially change the name of the parsha to "Parshas Mouthwatering". So far I have only heard back from two organizations: the Triangle-K, which wants to negotiate pricing, and the HUC, which thought the name of the Parsha actually is "Parshas Mouthwatering".

According to the RIF, the enactment of traifus restrictions is one of the ultimate tests of being a member of Am Yisrael. After all, it must be delicious! Indeed it is fair to assume that the Aimishteh created all of the taboo creatures with the delicious traifus-goodness baked right in. He must have taste-tested it too, to make sure he got the recipe just right.

Oy, what I wouldn't give to be a goy right now, so I could have no rules or restrictions! I would walk right into the local McTraifus, with my girlfriend Christine O'Reilly by my side, and order a bacon double lizard burger with deep fried owl, and wash it down with a vanilla milk shake. Actually, as long as I am immune from all of the commandments spelled out in the Toirah, make that my boyfriend Philip O'Reilly. We would eat the night away, and then go back to my place to worship Avoidah Zara, shave off our sideburns, and put on some shatnez.

But alas, Shver tsu zein a Yid, being a Jew comes with a price. WE have a covenant with the Reboinoishelolum: We follow His rules, and keep His mitzvois, His chukim, and His mishpatim. And as a reward, we get to spend our entire lives being persecuted

However, what happens when we don't follow the rules? The parsha tells us of one such occurence. Aron Hakoihain's good-for-nothing sons offend the Aimishteh and get burnt to a crisp. But what was their aveirah?

RASHI cites one suggested explanation, that Nadav and Avihu had all the best of intentions: they simply added on to the Avoidah, because they thought it would be a nice thing to do. In other words, they were guilty of Baal Toisiph, and the Reboinoisheloilum struck them down for trying to be Hiddur Mitzvah. Hey, please remind me of this next time I want to spend an extra ten dollars on an Esrog!

But according to Toisfois, the brothers were minuvals who were horsing around in the Mishkan. There they were, doing the Avoidah, when Nadav thought it would be hysterically funny to dump the contents of the Kiyore on Avihu's head. Avihu responded by taking the Urim V'Tumim and smacking Nadav in the face, causing him to fall backwards into the Tayvah holding the Luchois. This got the Kruvim angry and...well...you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark -- you know what happens next.

However, the Vilna Goyn, looking elsewhere in the parsha, suggests that given the references to traifus at the end of the parsha, Nadav and Ahvihu must have been using the Mizbayach to barbecue ribs, anointing them with a Mesopitamian Smokey Grill marinade, on sale at the local supermarket as a two for one special. But he is uncertain if the brothers were punished for eating traif ribs, or simply for overcooking them.

The RAMAH vehemently disagrees with the Goyn. He insists that cooking and eating traifus, even in the Mishkan, does not bring about a chiyuv of missah, just so long as whatever was cooked and eaten conforms with the same halochois in place for the Korbonois. He cites a Braisah in Yevamois that says the brothers had fully and successfully cooked their meal. But after eating they brought out a cake from which Avihu's wife had cut out a small wedge, "just to taste". Consequently they were chayuv missah for having brought a dessert with a mum into the Koidesh HaKedoishim.

In my humble opinion, I respectfully submit that the Goyn and the RAMAH have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. A maiseh shehoyo: When I was a young talmid I experimented with traifus, in the spirit of "Oiseh Maiseh Beraishis"; I felt compelled to sample all of His creations. Including dumplings. As I washed my first bites down at the Chinese restaurant, I waited. Would I be struck down by a bolt of lightening? Would I choke to death on a clump of traifus? No! The Aimishteh left it up to me to make my choices and live with them.

So did Nadav and Avihu, those minuvals. They saw the signs written on the walls of the Mishkan, yet chose to ignore them and paid the ultimate price. When will they ever learn? As the spring season arrives, we should all keep the bitter lessons of Nadav and Avihu in mind: Always keep the room well ventilated when grilling indoors.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you minuval.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Second Pesach Drasha

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I HOPE YOU HAVE MY BOOK TO READ DURING SHIR HASHIRIM. OTHERWISE YOU WILL BE STUCK LISTENING TO EARLY ISRAELITE SOFTCORE WHILE WEARING A TALLIS OVER YOUR HEAD

IGROIS PINKY -- THE SECOND COLLECTION OF
THE WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://stores.lulu.com/rapas
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Second Pesach Drasha

Rabboisai,

I start today's drasha with a sad and embarassing admission -- my own personal viduy in front of you, you minuval.

Over Chol Hamoed Pesach I was driving my einiklach to the pick up spot for the rabbinically sanctioned avoidah zorah -- idol worship -- known as Six Flags Great Adventures. Along the way, I dropped a quarter in the car. Since it is a Chiyuv Dioraisa, a biblical requirement, to pick up loose change, I reached down to the floor to retrieve the quarter, and behold -- I found half an M&M. It was this moment of temptation that started off a terrible cycle of sin and debauchery not unlike being mezaneh with an underage Parah Adumah.

Yes, at that moment, I was taken by an incessant urge to bite into the forbidden delicacy and indulge in the chometz delights of a treat that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and unlikely to lead to hours of painful stomach cramps. And as you know so well, you mamzer, Aveirah goreres Aveirah, one evil deed begets another...

One M&M, of course, is never enough. After dropping off the einiklach, I got down on my hands and knees and prostrated myself on the floor of the station wagon with the same fervor with which I had cleaned out the car one week earlier, searching for just one small bite of chometz. Boruch Hashem I found two crushed Cheerios in the ashtray, which I consumed immediately.

Alas, the Yetzer Harrah caught me on a weak day.

Still craving the delicious taste of chometz, I rushed home, and Boruch Hashem, no one was there. I headed straight for the kodshei hakadoishim of chometz, the vacuum cleaner. Would the bag containing all the crumbs of recent weeks of cleaning still be inside? I prayed to the Aimishteh for it -- and it was so. My Bashert, so busy spending her days teaching a class in Bais Yankif, her evenings serving as the mikvah lady, and her nights working at the 24 hour Kinkos, had forgotten to remove the lest vestiges of chometz. The careless bitch.

With great satisfaction I dove into the vacuum bag. Breadcrumbs! Leftover pieces of cookie! It was the most fun I've had committing an aveirah since my chavrusa and I studied the true meaning of "abomination" for extra credit back in high school, if you know what I mean. The utter joy of eating straight from the bag was only slightly tempered by the big lump of lint that got stuck in my throat.

After coughing up the fuzz ball, I became deeply troubled. I needed more chometz! I wouldn't dare go down to the basement to attack the food storage, since the goy who bought the chometz might show up at any moment and demand that which he rightfully paid for. The anti-Semite.

I had one more chance. I knew that with with all of the pre-Yuntif mayhem, my bashert likely forgot to vacuum the upholstered dining room chairs. I rushed to the dining room, got on my hands and knees next to the first chair, and positoned my head above the crack between the seat cushion and the wood chair-back.

And that's when my wife walked in. She shrieked in her loudest Ball-ha-Buster voice, "Pinky, how many times have I told you not to put your tongue in a strange place??!!"

So went my first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach.

This maiseh shehoyo is indeed reminiscent of a Halacha brought down by the Kley Yukkur in his seminal work, Tzeddek Tzeddek Tirdoif," loosely translated as "Never miss an opportunity to judge others."

As he points out, it is indeed ironic that on a holiday dedicated to the celebration of freedom, we adopt an additional layer of stringencies to our already complicated lives. The Kley Yukkur goes on to tell us that in designing many Mitzvois, the Reboinoisheloilum is not testing our complicity with His will; rather, He is testing our common sense when commanded to do the nearly impossible.

Ah Gutten Shabbos Und Ah Gutten Moiaid, You Minuval