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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Parshas Mishpatim

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Parshas Mishpatim

This week’s Parsha, Parshas Mishpatim, is my favorite Parsha in Kol HaToirah Kooloh. It has everything: Laws, holidays, oxen, Moishe teaching Toirah, big feasts of Israelite elders, slaves with earrings, and men seducing hot Israelite virgins. And all of this culminates with the famous commitment of Klal Yisroel, “Kol Asher Dibber Hashem NaAseh VeNishmah” – “Whatever the Lord spoke we will do and we will listen.” Mamesh, with this kind of excitement, who needs YouTube or the Superbowl?

Of course, the Parsha is quite detailed and features many, many shailahs asked by Chazzal after drinking double espressos at Starbucks while waiting for their wives to come back from their weekly visits to the sheitelmacher.

One key question focuses on the collection of laws in the Parsha. In a Gemarrah in Brachois, Rav Huna asks: Why are all of the laws in this Parsha delivered in a seemingly random order? Laws about slaves lead to oxen, followed by ethical rulings (i.e. the treatment of widows) and religious injunctions (warnings sprinkled throughout against the worshipping of other deities). What’s Pshat?

In answer, Rav Chisda cites a Medrish that suggests that the jumbled order of the Mitzvois is related to the rambling discussions between Moishe Rabbeinu and Hakkadoshboruchhu as they… err… were enjoying some exotic bsomim they bought from a Bedouin in Sinai. Notes the Medrish, the whole time they were writing down the laws they were giggling non-stop and snacking on six boxes of Entenmann’s doughnuts while listening to Led Zeppelin in the background.

However, Rabbi Chananya holds farkhert. Chass V’Sholom Moishe Rabbeinu and the Reboinoisheloilum were using illegal substances! Rather, he brings down a Braisah that suggests that the Aimishteh suffers from ADHD. As proof, the Braisah notes the fact that the Jews, Hakkadoshboruchhu’s “Chosen People”, have been cast across the world for 2,000 years and, despite Divine promises, have never been able to settle down in one place for very long. Shoyn.

The RAMBAM asks an altogether different, and more disturbing, question. Noting the similarities between the laws in Parshas Mishpatim and many of the social and economic laws in ancient Near Eastern legal codes such as The Code of Hammurabi, the RAMBAM asks, “If these sets of laws are so similar, how can we believe that the Toirah is Divine and was in fact given to Klal Yisroel on Har Sinai?”

Commenting on this question, the Ibn Ezra suggests that, quote, “The RAMBAM is a total mechutziff, and if he were here today, I would Hakheh his Shinuv!” The Ibn Ezra goes on to protest that “Of course the Toirah is Divine. Look, the Goyim certainly copied these laws from us, just like the Muslims copied our prohibition on eating pork and the Pope copied our Yarmulkas. So what if Hammurabi lived 500 years before Moishe Rabbeinu? He undoubtedly used an ancient time machine to travel to the future and plagiarize the Toirah!” As proof he cites a Possuk from Sefer Dianetics, Parshas L. Ron Hubbard.

However, the RAMBAN suggests that the laws in Mishpatim were actually later added to the Toirah by “R”, also referred to by scholars as the Biblical “Redactor”, as he edited the final version of Shmois while in exile in Babylon. The RAMBAN also suggests that the entire story of the Bnei Yisroel crossing the Yam Suf was actually a source text that originally came from “S”, also known in Biblical Criticism circles as “Surfer Dude”, who is believed to have lived in Eastern Hawaii around 1700 BCE.

The MAHARAL disagrees, insisting that these laws were indeed written down by Moishe on Har Sinai. However, he holds that Moishe was acting at the suggestion of the Reboinoisheloilum who told him, “They are an Am Kshey Oiref. Please make up some laws that will keep them out of trouble.” But because of tight deadlines, Moishe did not have time to write new laws, and instead copied these laws off the Internet as “filler”.

Finally, the Vilna Goyn denies that there is any linkage whatsoever between Parshas Mishpatim and the Code of Hammurabi and other ancient Near Eastern legal codes. As an example, he points to the “seeming” similarities between the following:

-- The Toirah: “If men are fighting and one hurts a pregnant woman so that her fetus comes out, yet no harm follows, he shall be punished according to the will of the husband, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay a life for a life…”(Shmois, Perek Chuff Aleph, Possuk Chuff Baiz-Chuff Gimmel)

-- An ancient Near Eastern legal code: “If… strikes the daughter of a man and causes her to lose her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver. If she dies, that man shall be killed” (Laws of Lipit Ishtar, ca 1930 BCE)

Says the Gruh, “Hey, these are common scenarios that any society would contemplate. I already accidentally caused the spontaneous abortion of three fetuses this morning alone!”

Perhaps the most fundamental question that we can ask about Parshas Mishpatim is how we should relate to these laws in our day. After all, so many of the Toirah’s rules reflect a different era, with different material concerns, social pressures and sensibilities. Do you and I have an ox? (To be honest, my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, has on more than one occasion told me that I am “hung like a buffalo”. Kenaiyna Harrah.) Do we have slaves, Jewish or otherwise? As best verbalized by the Pri Megadim, “Parshas Mishpatim tells us that we should not charge interest and that we should worry about the widow and the orphan, and twice states that we should not abuse the stranger that is in our land because ‘we were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.’ The next thing you expect the Aimishteh to do is raise taxes! Has He gone mad?”

The Tzitz Eliezer answers this question by suggesting that Moishe actually proposed these laws during an election year, but never had any intention of enforcing them. However, they were ultimately left in the Toirah as part of a budgetary compromise package with the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the Anshe Knessess HaGedoilah. And therefore we just have to live with them.

However, the Schvantz Mordechai suggests that these laws were put into place in order to address the disturbing shidduch crisis. If Klal Yisroel were to accept the presence of strangers in the land, the poor, etc., then there would be many more men available to marry Klal Yisroel’s growing number of educated, frum, unmarried women who are over-the-hill at the age of twenty-two.

I am reminded of a famous Moshal. There was once a king who lived on a very small plot of land. When his son grew old enough, he arranged a marriage with the zaftig princess of a neighboring kingdom because her father owned “great tracts of land.” But when his son refused to marry the girl next door, he disowned him, and adopted a local pauper, who was delighted to marry the princess and be in line to inherit a great kingdom. When asked how he could disregard his own genetic offspring, he answered, “I make the rules here. If my son doesn’t like it, he should start his own damn kingdom!”

Such is the nature of our special Bris with Hakkadoshboruchhu. Sure, some of these laws make no sense whatsoever, and you feel like a total schmuck doing them. But by subordinating your will to the Word of the Reboinoisheloilum, you demonstrate your faith and allegiance to Him. You demonstrate that His word is timeless, and rises above the day to day considerations of, so-called, modernische society. And you also give Him something to laugh about when He is off getting stoned with Moishe Rabbeinu.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Parshas Yisro

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Parshas Yisro

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Yisro, we read of the giving of the Aseres Hadibrois, the Ten Commandments, to Klal Yisroel. We are automatically struck with two obvious questions -- or at least they would be obvious to you if you were paying attention, you Minuval:

Question One: Why are there Ten Commandments? How come the Goyim get seven, in the Sheva Mitzvois Bnei Noiach, the seven Noahite laws, but we get more? Did we really need more? Were we required to PAY MORE!? (Frankly, I've got my hands full; these days I have to work twice as hard to embezzle...err… to make a living.)

Question Two: Why does the Parsha that features the essence of the Jewish faith, the giving of the Aseres Hadibrois, carry the name of a Goy? A priest no less? What, Moishe Rabbeinu was such a self-hating Jew he needed to make the Parsha sound more Goyyishe? Or were he and the Reboinoisheloilum smoking some kind of exotic bsomim on Sinai and not paying attention to what they were writing down?

I defy you to give me an answer, because whatever you say, you won't know what you are talking about, you Am Ha'aretz.

Regarding the first question, the RAIYVID points out that of the original Sheva Mitzvois Bnei Noiach, the seven Noahite laws, two were completely dropped and do not appear in the Ten Commandments.

The first dropped mitzvah is the commandment not to eat the flesh of a living animal. The RAIYVID quotes a Mishna in Hoirayois that explains that this mitzvah was dropped because Moishe Rabbeinu didn't want to be seen as a hypocrite. Do you think he had time to start doing cooking when he was receiving the Toirah on Sinai? There he is, up on Har Sinai for forty days and forty nights, face to face with Hakkadoshboruchhu, and do you expect him to say, "excuse me Aimishteh, I have to go pop a pizza bagel in the Microwave -- please give me five minutes"?

Of course not. Moishe ate the flesh of living creatures, and he enjoyed it! And who can blame him -- while up on the mountain, the Reboinoisheloilum supplied Moishe with His delicious bounty. Birds flying around. Mountain goats. Grasshoppers. Aimishteh Almighty, just thinking about it makes my mouth water!

However, Moishe did use paper plates and plastic forks while eating because he didn't fully trust Hakkadoshboruchhu's Hashgacha (kosher certification). After all -- the Rebboinoisheloilum did create pigs too, as well as horses, frogs, and Skittles. Who is to say that the Aimishteh wouldn't slip a little bacon into Moishe's meal while Moishe was intensely carving out the Luchois. I mean, when it comes down to it, can we really trust Him?

The second dropped mitzvah is the commandment to establish a legal system. A Beraisah in Baba Kamma Sutra tells us that this commandment was dropped so that Moishe Rabbeinu could set up his father in law in a nice racket...err...I mean...engage Yisroi's expertise in crafting the legal system of Klal Yisroel. (According to a Medrish in Shmois Rabbah, Moishe was getting a 20% "mitzvah fee" on the contract, plus equity.)

So indeed, that leaves us with five mitzvois (7 commandments - 2 commandments = 5 commandments). Yet Klal Yisroel received Ten Commandments? That is double what everyone else received. What's Pshat?

This is explored in a famous machloikess in a Yerushalmi in Soitah.

According to Bais Shammai, Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People, received Ten Commandments because we are like the Rebboinoisheloilum's first born child. As such, we are entitled to twice the inheritance of everyone else, twice the Land, twice the money, twice the mitzvois, and twice the persecution. I personally would have preferred half the mitzvois, half the persecution, and a date with the Olsen twins, but please don't think I am complaining, chass v'sholom.

However, according to Bais Hillel, Klal Yisroel was actually only supposed to receive Toirah Sheh-Baal-Peh, the Oral Law, on Sinai, and nothing in writing, in order to ensure deniability in the event of an SEC investigation. So what happened? Well, Tzippoirah, Moishe's wife, had instructed Moishe to bring back souvenirs for the kids since he was going away on a long business trip. And given that he had two sons, he was planning to give each son one Lucha (tablet) with five commandments each. But when Moishe descended from the mountain things got a bit out of hand. Says Bais Hillel, we all would have been much better off if Moishe had come down with two T-shirts that said "My father spent 40 days and 40 nights face to face with the Rebboinoisheloilum, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"

So that answers our first question. However, our second question still remains: How could the Parsha detailing Klal Yisroel's receiving of the Toirah have been named after Yisro? Eppis, Yisro is a Galach! (This reminds me of the Yeshivas that give winter vacation during Kratzmach week. It's a slippery slope, you know: one day it's teaching Gemarrah to girls, the next day it's Yushke Pandra.)

The RASHBA addresses this question. He says that the naming of the Parsha after Yisro comes to imply a critical mitzvah: Since Yisro was the father in law of Moishe Rabbeinu, and the Parsha that includes the Ten Commandments carries Yisroi's name, then an eleventh commandment must be implied: Thou shalt marry a Shiksa, so long as her father is socially prominent.

The RIF wholeheartedly disagrees: he says that if you want to marry a Shiksa, especially one who is hot, who cares about her father?

In our day, the RAPAS disagrees with both of them. That's me, by the way – Rav Pinky Schmeckelstein (one of my Einiklach once called me the Raw Piss, and I had to break one of his fingers). I say that both the RASHBA and the RIF were too busy thinking with their Bris Milahs.

The real reason why the Parsha carries Yisroi's name is to teach us an important lesson. Even if we keep the Torah, the Mitzvahs, Shabbos, Aishess Ish, we still don't get any of the credit. We get leftover Cholent on Tuesdays while the Goyim get lobster. We get persecution, they get membership in exclusive country clubs. We get Barbara Streisand and Dr. Laura, they get Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton.

Shver Tzu Zeineh Yid.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Synthetic Kashrus

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Synthetic Kashrus

Rabboisai, this week I address a Shailah from a Talmid who was Mechavayn to a similar Kashah posed by the RITVAH on a Teshuvah made by RAMBAN while traveling with Rebbeinu Tam and the Roish to an Agudah Convention held on Rigel VII, which was discussed over Kiddush with the Chief Rabbi of Ferengi and the Sgan Chacham of the Klingon Empire.

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Dear Reb Pinky,

I have this friend and we were talking about what is Treif and what isn’t, and as we came up with a real Halachic dilemma, I volunteered to find an answer, and I couldn't think of any Chacham Gadol other than you who might be able or willing to give a Teshuvah to such an important Shailah, so here goes: We are both major Star Trek fans and we are wondering if bacon that was made by a replicator would still be Treif? Or any other food currently Treif, for that matter. Reb Pinky, please help us put our minds at rest. I figure that only the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Chippass Emmess, a man that surely sits at the very top of the pantheon of Chachamim Gdolim of the Talmud and Halacha, would be able to render such a ruling.

Thanks in advance.

Your loyal Talmid

Wood Maven

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Reb Wood, thank you for your kind and Erlicheh words. You are indeed everything that a Rebbe looks for in a Talmid: You are polite, you are gracious, and you are willing to blindly follow every word I say.

Your Shailah touches upon an issue at the heart of Yiddishkeit: What is the fundamental essence of an object: Its appearance, or its internal nature? Is a Sefer Toirah holy because of the words it contains, or because of the beautiful pink velvet cover with the sterling silver schvantzlach hanging off of it? After reading Masechess Nidah, can you immediately go for a quick Mitzvah, or do you have to go to the Mikvah and take the rest of the week off from marital Shuckling? Can you count as the tenth in a Minyan a man with a long black beard and Payis that reach the floor, even though he has a swastika tattooed on his foreskin? Does that real-hair-blond-headed-Shiksa-Sheytel that your wife wears make up for the last thirty-five year of her being a Groisseh Ballhabuster?

Well, you Mechutziff, I ask you: When the Reboinoisheloilum chose Klal Yisroel to receive His Toirah and keep his Mitzvois, did he pick the tallest nation, or the most beautiful nation, or the nation with the best recipes for lobster, Chass V’Sholom? No! He picked a simple nation, the Jews, because of their sweet Neshamas, their inner beauty, and their ability to deliver a ten percent annual return on a minimum investment of $100,000, guaranteed.

So when we look at an object, or a person, we look at their essence. That is the Jewish way. This point was brought out in a famous Medrish in Luke Rabba. Tells the Medrish, Rav Huna was once walking in Rome looking for a place to put on his Tfillin. Upon finding a secluded area, he began to don his Shel Yad. As he was putting on his Shel Roish, he was surrounded by the Roman Centurion Intelligence Agency (RCIA), who suspected him of having a bomb. After explaining what Tfillin are, how they contain holy scriptures that link the wearer to the Reboinoisheloilum, and how the Battim and Retzuois are hand crafted Leshaim Shamayim, the RCIA, very impressed, brought Rav Huna to meet the Roman Emperor, Constantine.

Constantine was so inspired by the notion of Tfillin and the ideas of Yiddishkeit in general that he offered to convert to Judaism and bring along with him the entire Roman Empire. Rav Huna, delighted at the suggestion, offered to personally convert everyone in the Empire through his organization, the EJM (Eternal Jewish Mafia…errr…Mishpacha), for the nominal fee of 100 pieces of gold per person. But after Rav Huna insisted that he have the right to be Mezaneh with all of the women in the Roman Empire, Constantine decided to convert the Roman Empire to Christianity instead, since its leaders were charging only 50 pieces of gold per conversion and were willing to settle for being Mezaneh with only the children.

Rabboisai, it was because of external factors, gold and physical considerations, Gashmiyus in other words, that Klal Yisroel missed the unique opportunity to take over the Western World…errr… was fortunate enough to preserve our identity as a minority who has intellectually influenced and inspired the world through our religious ideas, our philosophy, our art, and our approaches to structured finance. We stayed true to our essence, our core, and look at us now: We have sovereignty over only one precious, tiny little country, precariously surrounded by our enemies, while the rest of the world is run by a bunch of Mishugayim. And if we weren’t in control of the world financial system and the global media, things would really be intolerable.

Reb Wood, Klal Yisroel’s commitment to fundamental essence is present in every aspect of our lives – including how we behave, where we go, what we do, and who we engage with in Tashmish HaMitah. Which brings us back to your original Shailah about Traifus Mamish that is artificially replicated. Indeed, there was an important Machloikess in the last century that is very relevant to your question.

Reb Moishe was once asked whether one may eat artificial shrimp. According to Rav Moishe, the Ikkur Issur of eating shrimp is based on the Pasook, “VeChol Asher Ain-Loi Snapir VeKaskeset, BaYamim U’VaNachalim, MiKol Sheretz Haaretz U’MiKol Nefesh HaChayah Asher BaMayim, Sheketz Haim Lachem” (VaYikrah, Perek Yood Aleph, Pasook Yood), “And all that do not have fins and scales (that live) in the seas and in the rivers, of all that swarm in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are a detestable thing unto you” (Leviticus 11,10). So eating a shrimp or an oyster or a lobster is detestable. However, eating something that looks like a shrimp but is made of pollack or flounder, or eating something that tastes like crab but is made out of whitefish, or eating something that smells like a clam but is fleshy and surrounded by short, curly hair, especially when it is properly groomed, is expressly permissible, and possibly a Mitzvas Asey.

Reb Aroin, on the other hand, holds that while a food item may be Traifus based on strict Halacha, there are certain instances when even Traifus Mamish may be permissible to eat. For example, a Gemarrah in Nezikin tells us that when one is at war, he may eat anything in order to sustain himself, so long as he eats it with a Shinui, such as bring the food to his mouth with his toes rather than with his fingers.

Similarly, according to a Toisefta in Baba Basra cited by Reb Shrirah Goyn as referenced in RAMBAM’s Mishnah Toirah, one may eat Traifus as long as he does not own it. Consequently, you may NEVER, EVER have pork or shrimp or Kraft cheese or Chalav Stam or cut vegetables from the Korean fruit store or non-certified bottled water in your house. But if you are at a business dinner and the client is paying and there is a Chashash, a concern, that you might insult the client Chass V’Sholom, or, even worse, look like a freaking idiot eating cold salad off a paper plate while using plastic cutlery, you are allowed to order the New York cut of steak, medium rare, with the house potatoes and the creamed spinach, and wash it down with a nice Austrian Shiraz. Shoyn.

So whether you hold like Reb Moishe or Reb Aroin, you may eat synthesized food created on a replicator on a starship, so long as the underlying nutritional source is not Traifus. However, if the underlying protein in fact comes from a Traif animal, you can be Soimaich on the Sheetah of Reb Aroin so long as you do not have exclusive ownership of the starship. And if you are under attack from two Romulan warbirds and possibly others that you cannot see because of their cloaking devices, Koolay Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that you should dig in and enjoy, because this is probably your last meal anyway.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Modesty

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On Modesty

Rabboisai,

I am writing these words while on a trip to Africa, where have I traveled to provide a professional opinion on whether researchers have found, at long last, a kosher pig. I traveled here initially by plane, then took a river boat into the depths of the continent, and finally traveled by elephant and on foot to the Munpuku province of the Republic of Zambia. There I found my sponsoring party, a research team from the firm of Cohen, Goldberg, Goldberg, Feinstein and Schvantzkup LLP, standing over a young swine. A close look revealed that it had the expected split hooves, but what appeared to the simpletons as signs of cud chewing and regurgitation were in actuality the combination of a the Chazer chewing a pack of Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum while suffering from a simple case of reflux.

No big loss for Klal Yisroel. The pig did not taste that good anyway.

I share this story with you as I tee up a very sensitive topic in our time. We all pray three times a day for the Reboinoisheloilum to bring about our redemption, or at least to bring a marvelous bounty on the farm this year, which will be incredibly useful to me in my two bedroom apartment in Boro Park. And to curry favor with Hakadoshboruchhu, we give Tzedakah, do Mitzvois, and in general engage in behavior that is conducive to our spiritual existence. This is why I wear a wool suit and long Bekesheh in 95 degree weather, and why my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, wears a $3000 Shaytel, and a thong made out of my old Tallis bag.

But what is the end result that Klal Yisroel really seeks from the Aimishteh? Do we actually want Him to descend to the earth, to take up residence in His temple in Yerushalayim Ir Hakoidesh? Do really we want Him to gather all of Am Yisroel from the four corners of the earth, including the lost tribes, which include the Bnei Menashe from India, the Bnei Dan from Africa, the Navaho from America, and the Taliban from Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or do we simply want Him to give us health, make us wealthy, give us a 52 inch LED backlit LCD television with direct access to Netflix and the Internet, and help us win in our upcoming defense against accusations of misappropriation of investment funds? In other words – are we, in our lives, embracing the Divine for cosmic purposes, or do we simply seek material benefits? Are we motivated by the Oilum Habah, or by the Oilum Hazeh?

This was the subject of a famous Machloikess between Rish Lakish and Rav Huna. As brought down in a Gemara in Baytzah, Rish Lakish suffered from a weight problem, Rachmana Letzlan. As he aged, he stomach grew, and when he turned fifty, his shul told him that they would charge him a double membership fee since he always took up two seats. According to Rish Lakish, this was a form of profiling and discrimination, and he refused to pay. Rav Huna, the President of the Shul, argued that Rish Lakish, while taking up two seats, was definitely Oiver on Baal Toisiph, likely Oiver on Baal Tashchis, and was probably a Baal Keri.

The essence of the Machloikess rested on the proper interpretation of the Passook, “Shma Bni Mussar Avicha, Ve-Al TiToish Toiras Imecha” (Mishlei, Perek Aleph, Pasuook Chess). “Listen my son to the instruction of your father, and do not abandon the teaching of your mother” (Proverbs, Chapter One, Verse Eight). Rav Huna understood the Passook as describing a man’s link to his tradition, his community, and common sense. Hence, Rav Huna felt that Rish Lakish was in error in taking up two seats in shul.

Rish Lakish had a different understanding based on an alternate reading of the Passook, applying alternative vowels and punctuation (substitutions highlighted): “Shma Bni, MOISAIR Avicha VE-AYL, TiToish Toiras Imecha.” “Listen my son, TURN OVER your father and the Reboinoisheloilum (to the authorities or your enemies); abandon the teachings of your mother.” In other words, one should pursue a course that is expedient to his individual needs, even if it stands in contrast to his heritage and common sense.

Shoyn.

The essential ambivalence between satisfying short term versus long term needs was addressed is a famous Toisfois in a Gemara in Nezikin. The Gemara talks about the penalties demanded from the owner of an ox who has gored someone’s mother-in-law. Toisfois ask why we even demand a penalty -- shouldn’t a man be pleased that his mother-in-law has been gored? Perhaps the man himself should be giving money to the owner of the ox, and not the other way around? By Toisfois answers in a Gevaldik fashion: LeOilum, of course the man is happy that his mother-in-law has been gored, but his wife probably isn’t. And since her husband is going to hear about it ad nausium for the next year, the ox owner is required to compensate him.

So we see that our choices and actions are often complex and layered. At times, what seem like a position of Anivus – humility, which is modesty in behavior – may in fact be a position of Gaivah, boisterousness and pride. And what seems like Gaivah may be the greatest act of personal humility in the history of mankind.

Take for example a man like Warren Buffett, who has such nicknames as “the Oracle of Omaha”, “ the Navi of Nebraska”, and “the Cornhusker Shaygitz”. He has committed to giving most of his billions away to charity, leaving a few single digit million dollars for his children, since he says that he does not believe in inherited wealth. You might think that this man is a great Annav – a man of modesty – who is also a Groisse Baal Tezekah. But you, of course, are a complete ignoramus. In reality, he is Rashah: He has not returned any of my calls asking for donations to the Yeshivah, and he has not condemned Ahmedinijad, the Turkish government, or the Democratic Party. So he must be an anti-Semite.

On the other hand, take the wearing of Sheytels by the Bnois Yisroel as an act of personal modesty. Sure, you might think that the wearing of a $3000 wig to cover one’s natural hair instead of using a $10 Shmata is an act of gross Gaivah. But you would be wrong. You might think that since wearing the hair of a Shiksa improves the aesthetic appeal of a woman, making her more attractive to men when she wears a Sheytel rather than less attractive, and that therefore a Sheytel is inconsistent with personal modestly. But this, again, highlights the fact that you are totally ignorant of the ways of the Toirah. No, a Sheytel is the greatest expression of Anivus. By wearing a Sheytel, a woman is signaling to the world that I, Ploinis Bas Ploinis, believe it is so important to cover my natural hair that I will do so even if it costs $3000 dollars and even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

Indeed, the Gemarra tells us that, “Darash Rav Avirah, BiSchar Nashim Tzidkaniyois SheHayoo BeOisoi HaDor Nigalu Yisroel MiMitzarayim,” “Rabbi Avivah explained that it was due to the merit of Jewish women that Klal Yisrael were rescued from Egypt” (Soitah, Daf Yu Aleph Amud Baiz/ Tractate Sotah, 11 B). How true and correct was Rav Aviyah! Although, truth be told, according to the Pnei Yehoishua, Rav Aviyah may only have been thinking with his Schvantzyl and was actually trying to get a little action from the Raish Gelusa’s wife while her husband was off traveling to Pumbedisa on business.

Consequently, we must emulate the actions of the Bnois Yisrael every day. Through our everyday actions we, too, must declare that we men are committed to the same kind of modesty exhibited by our wives and female neighbors. And how does one do that?

According to Rav Yoisaiph Katski, a man should emulate a woman’s modesty by copying her very actions! Men should wear Sheytlach just like women, which will address the multiple purposes of serving as Yarmulkes, covering up bald spots, and significantly improving the Gross Domestic Product of India. Also, if a large group of Jewish men have wigs, then Klal Yisroel will have many more candidates qualified to engage in secret operations in Dubai.

However, Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua disagrees. He says that men wearing wigs is a Dioraisa of Beged Isha, men wearing women’s garments, and a DeRabbanan of Lifnei Ivair, since if a man sees another man with an attractive Sheytel on he may come to commit an act of Mishkav Zachor, or even worse, steal his Styrofoam head.

So instead, Reb Shmiel insists, a man should not replicate the exact action of wearing a wig, but instead should emulate the spirit of that action. Just as a woman exhibits modesty before the Amishteh by covering her immodest, Ervadikkah hair while at the same time enhancing her appearance with an ostentatious Sheytel, so too a man should behave in that spirit. Consequently, even though a man is wearing pants to cover over his Bris Milah and Schvantzlach as a sign of modesty before Hakadoshboruchhu, he should also don a strap-on over his pants as a sign of true Anivus. At least on Shabbos and Yuntif, if not every day, a man should never leave the house without an artificial Bris Milah anchored at his Garter and his Makoim Hamilah. And if he is having company such as an important Roisheshiva, or if it is a special day such as Shabbos or Yuntif, the man may want to wear a special, larger SheytSchvantz ™ for the occasion, perhaps in black. And if he is going to a large secular gathering like a Yankee game or a Republican fundraiser, he may even want to enhance his appearance, say, by wearing a strap-on with a foreskin.

As well, this Psak may create additional Parnasah opportunities in the community. Just as women have their wigs regularly attended to by a female Sheytelmacher, so too a man should have his SheytSchvantz ™ regularly serviced. It is not clear however, if the Schvantzelmacher need be a man, or may be a women, which would be my preference, of course.

Rabboisai, we live in a time of moral confusion. When a rabbi is collecting money for a charity, but is really laundering money, we all have a problem. When a rabbi, who holds himself up as a global paragon for family values, for which he is reaping millions of dollars, and yet is the public defender for a (deceased) (alleged) pedophile, then we all have a problem. When Ultra-Orthodox in Emanuel are protesting and going to prison for the right to segregate their Ashkenazi daughters from their Sephardic counterparts in a government-supported public school, we all have a problem. When a multi-million dollar national kosher slaughterhouse is operated with myriad legal and human abuses, and the defendants hide behind a veil of frumkeit, then we all have a problem. We have a problem because the rest of us aren’t getting our cut. But we also have a problem because so many in Klal Yisroel are obsessed with Oilum Hazeh, expedient and short term benefit, rather than Oilum Habah.

It is not enough when we cast the appearance of modestly, yet beneath our external facade we are filled with Gaivah. That is the act of a kosher pig. What is more important is that we exhibit Anivus, true humility, even when it is not convenient or easy or profitable, just like Moishe Rebbeinu on Har Sinai, Rabbi Akiva being tortured by the Romans, and Monica Lewinsky on the floor of the Oval Office.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Friday, January 07, 2011

On Rabbinic Authority

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On Rabbinic Authority

Rabboisai,

Before I begin today’s Drasha, I would like to give instructions that you must follow TO THE LETTER – guidance on an important Mitzvah that I consider to be a Dioraisa, a Biblical requirement. This Moitzee-Shabbos-Koidesh at the start of the second watch (about 2:00 am) you are instructed to awaken from your slumber and Daven Tikkun Chatzois, which is meant to align Klal Yisroel and the Shchinah, the Reboinoisheloilum’s earthly presence, which is itself linked to the other nine Sefirois and the Ain Soif, the unknowable source of ALL. Following Tikkun Chatzois, you should go outside to gaze at the Levanah, to align your Kavvanois with the natural world and hasten the arrival of world peace. Then, in order to ensure Klal Yisroel’s dominance over all earthly creatures as promised in Parshas Beraishis, you should sneak into your neighbor’s house and be Mezaneh with his cocker spaniel.

I do not make this pronouncement based on my own Halachic authority, Chass V’Sholom. As we all know, there is of course no individual mandate for Halachic innovation. All Toirah is MiSinai, passed down through a chain from Rebbe to Talmid. Indeed, a true Talmid Chacham must be an Unuv, a modest person, who is a link in that chain. And any pronouncements made by a Rabbinic Authority about Halachic, personal, or political issues can only be authentic and binding when delivered to an ignoramus like you by a brilliant person such as myself.

In Pirkei Avois we read, “Yehoishua Ben Perachyah Oimer: Asey Lecha Rav, Ukney Lecha Chaver”, “Rabbi Yehoishua Ben Perachyah said: Assign for yourself a Rav (Master) and purchase for yourself a friend” (Pirkei Avois, 1, 6). Reb Saadya Goyn interprets this as guidance to ensure that your needs for a leader are addressed by a respected Rabbinic figure, and that your needs for companionship are addressed by a local prostitute (though there is a Machloikess between the RASHBAM and the ROISH on whether Reb Saadya was referring to a male or a female prostitute).

Reb Hai Goyn disagrees. He holds that, indeed, “Asey Lecha Rav” refers to identifying a trusted Rabbinic figure to serve as a leader and mentor, but he notes that “Kney Lecha Chaver” cannot refer to a prostitute, since that would require “Schirah”, rental, versus “Kniyuh”, which clearly refers to a purchase. Rather, Reb Hai suggests that “Kney Lecha Chaver” must refer to either a slave, or a large dog.

The RIF, however, holds that “Kney Lecha Chaver” actually refers to a human being who is an actual friend, and that the use of the word “Kney”, “purchase”, implores you to acquire gifts for your friends to secure their loyalty, such as a pair of Tzitzis for Shabbos, an engaging Sefer before a voyage (such as my book Igrois Pinky), or a nice honey glazed ham for Yuntif.

But while the proper understanding of “Kney Lecha Chaver” remains a bit obscure, Koolay Alma Loi Pligee, everyone agrees, that it is manifestly important that one designate a Rabbi to serve as a spiritual guide.

But this leaves open two obvious questions that you may ask:

1) In a world view that conveys authority to individual human beings – Rabbis – what is to serve as a check against potential abuses of that authority?

2) In the post modern age of rationalism and pluralism, of information transparency and media ubiquity, how are we to understand the pronouncements and actions of Rabbis, some of whom are authority figures, especially when they contrast with our own sensibilities?

Well, you Minuval, if you are asking such questions, then it reveals what a Mechutziff Apikoiress you actually are! For one thing, you are a self-hating Soinay Yisrael who is unfit to sit at the same table as Woody Allen, Noam Chomsky, or the Niturei Karta. For another, you are a complete ignoramus. For the very same Pirkei Avois also warns us, “Shmayah Oimer: Ehav Ess HaMelachah, Oo’Snah Ess HaRabanuss, V’al Tissvadah LaRashuss”, “Shmayah said: Embrace work, hate the (Rabbinic) leadership, and do not get engaged with the government” (Pirkei Avois, 1, 9).

Clearly CHAZAL anticipated the potential ills that can come from concentrating power within a narrow authority. For that reason, since the time of the Tanaim, Klal Yisroel has had a culture of debate, with members of CHAZAL empowered – encouraged – to disagree with each other, without reliance upon or surrender to a single, central authority. Our ONLY central authority is Hakadoshboruchhu, the Melech-Malchei-HaMelachim, and, of course, His pet miniature pig, Vanilla.

So, as we gaze at some of the extreme abuses and outlandish pronouncements emanating from Rabbinic circles in our current generation, we should not be hesitant to respond to them or to question our own right to challenge Rabbinic Authority. Rabbinic Authority is designed around an almost organic system of checks and balances: Bais Hillel versus Bais Shammai; Rav versus Shmuel; Abaya versus Rava; RASHI versus all of his miserable, good-for-nothing grandsons; the Baal Shem Toiv versus the Vilna Goyn; Moe versus Larry, Curly, Shemp, and the others that no one ever remembers.

Such excesses in the modern day that MUST be addressed include:

-- Rabbi Leib Tropper, a man who, while publically promoting strict rules of conversion to Judaism, allegedly* abused his role to extort sexual favors

-- Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a man who allegedly* molested children in his school for over thirty years; as in many such cases, the accusations were abundant, but the surrounding community never wanted to raise questions about Rabbi Kolko’s authority, or its own

-- Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who as head of the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva, called upon soldiers to disobey direct orders should they be asked to evacuate Jewish settlements. The Hesder community has grudgingly acted to disavow his position. Whatever side one is on regarding the future borders of the State of Israel, a call for direct insubordination is a call to undermine the army of the State of Israel. And without an army there can be no State of Israel

-- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has published yet another book on the his personal muse Michael Jackson. Need I say more about this media whore?

In Rabbinic tradition, there are only three ways to address such abuses of authority:

1) Handling the matter completely internally, through public statements, disavoals, and Cherem (censure and/or excommunication)

2) Cooperating with the local and national authorities, especially on criminal matters

3) Handing the abusers over to the Romans for crucifixion.

While I personally prefer the latter option, the first two are probably most relevant in the present day, especially since crucifixion is probably too good for Rabbi Shmuley.

I am reminded of a famous story. A wealthy man was once participating in a large gathering of Jews from around the world. He had a million dollars that he wanted to donate to one good cause, so he went from person to person seeking advice for where to give the money. He first went to the Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua, who suggested he donate the money to the poor. He went to the author H.A. Rey, who suggested donating the money to children. And he went to the Rabbi S.A. Halevy, who suggested that the man donate the money to him, because he is the Reboinoisheloilum’s personal representative on earth. When asked for proof, Halevy pointed to his own synagogue membership, saying, “Hey, do you think those schmucks would have kept me as their rabbi all these years without divine intervention?”

Rabboisai, when the Aimishteh created human beings on the sixth day of creation, evolving them from apes right after His lunch break, He gave us consciousness, reason, and free will. Surrendering these innate gifts, gifts that distinguish us from the animal kingdom, is an affront to Hakadoshboruchhu. Ours is not a faith that ascribes infallibility to its leadership. That is a core philosophical difference between Yiddishkeit on the one hand, and Catholicism and Lubavitch on the other. But if you insist on blind followership, you can always follow Rabbi Shmuley. We have the Mesoirah from Sinai, but he has been endorsed by Oprah!

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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* NOTE: I use the term “allegedly” at the advice of my attorney. For more information on these cases, go to:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/tal_mood_for_love_6f0OJMppsB6fGSrhG5vq7M

http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/Kolko_Yehuda.html

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