The Collected Writings of Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Please excuse my mispellingz. I am writing this on my IPad as I sit here in
I have been out here for two and a half weeks with my comrades in arms, standing here in the cold, and the heat, of the
Rabboisai, there is a famous story about the Vilna Goyn. He once was sitting in his Bais Medrish learning Hilchois Tashmish HaBackSeatOfTheCar when two Talmidim of the Yeshiva broke into a loud argument, disrupting the studies of the entire Yeshiva. “Shah, you Minuvals!” the Goyn called out. But his students would not stop bickering, and he called them into his office. As they sat down on either side of him, sulking, he poured himself a double shot of single malt Shlivovitz.
“So you Vilde Chayas” the Goyn asked, “what is so important that you had to disturb my learning just when I was getting to the happy ending?”
Yechiel, his Talmid Muvhak, responded. “I found the jacket that I am holding.” With both hands he held onto a black wool coat trimmed with linen.
The other student, Oivadiah, held onto the other end of the coat and shouted “no, I found it!” Oivadiah was a new student in the Yeshivah whose tan complexion made him stand out from all the other pale students.
Yechiel argued, “No, it only belongs to me!”
“No, it only belongs to me!” Oivadiah replied.
The Vilna Goyn grabbed the coat out of both of their hands and declared “I will decide who this belongs to!” The students were immediately silent. An intense heat emanated from the Goyn’s eyes as he looked first at one and then the other. The few moments felt liked an uncomfortable abyss of solitude. Suddenly the Goyn spoke, in a soft but stern voice. “This coat belongs to Yechiel.”
“But Rebbe,” Oivadiah responded, “how can you declare that the coat belongs to that Mamzer? The Mishnah teaches us that in such a case, you have to divide the garment between the two of us.”
“That is true,” replied the Goyn. “But you are Sephardic, so I simply don’t like you. Now walk out of my office before I hand you over to the Cossacks!”
Rabboisai, this beautiful Maiseh Shehoya illustrates the conflicting emotions felt by all of us in these challenging days. On the one hand, the Goyn knew full well the prescription of the first Mishnah in Baba Metziah, that an object in dispute, with a shared claim of possession and no other external evidence, must be divided equally between the two parties. And this rule is a Halacha LeMoishe MiSinai, handed down to Moishe Rabbeinu by the Reboinoisheloilum Himself during a commercial break during an episode of Glee. On the other hand, the Goyn resented all Sephardim ever since a Yemenite girl would not let him get to third base on their first date.
Such is our dilemma. As we observe the happenings in
Having said that, the Jewish national enterprise has been blessed by thirty years without a true existential threat, thanks to the stability ensured by the Mubarak regime. There has been respect for the peace treaty and collaboration on many security related issues. We may be at odds internally and externally about the ultimate disposition of the West Bank and
Moreover, as members of Western countries, whether in the
So we are all conflicted by our core empathy for national liberty juxtaposed against the very rational fear of the long term implications for the West and for
With all of these deep challenges, we can be grateful that we are the Chosen People! Other nations would have to figure such things out for themselves, but we can turn to the Toirah for guidance and inspiration, and for Divine reasons to pay 50% extra for a basic meal.
The Toirah tells us about Yankif Avinu’s flight from his twin brother Eisav, and discusses his trepidation about remeeting him later in life. When that meeting occurs, Yankif Avinu prepares by surrounding himself by an outer ring of his concubines and their sons, with his wives and favored sons protected in the center. In the end, Yankif’s worst fears never materialize, as his brother embraces him and steals his wallet.
Whatever our personal preferences, on either side of the equation, it was never our place to determine the outcome of the struggle of the last two weeks. This was a historic movement operating under its own momentum. We must remember one key notion: This issue was never really about
It may hurt you to hear this, you Mechutziff, but most of what goes on in the world is not about Klal Yisroel. We complain when we are blamed for the ills of the world. And then we complain when we are not at the center of attention. We complain when we are the victims of anti-Semitism, and then we complain when we are treated like all the other nations of the world. The Toirah often calls us an “Am Kshey Oireph”, a “stiff necked people”. But we are also a tremendously narcissistic nation. The Jews are like a woman in a low cut dress who is upset when people stare at her cleavage, and is equally upset when no one tries to sneak a peek.
So the current events, which have the potential to have profound and dramatic impact upon us, were never really about us. There was never anything that we did or could do to impact the phenomenon that resulted in regime change in
But what we can do is determine how we respond, how we prepare, and how we react. Unlike our ancestors of 70 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago, we are a strong nation which has taken its fate into its own hands. We are not victims to the events of the world, but active players in the ongoing historical narrative.
Like the Egyptians in
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.