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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer

Baruch Ata Idon’tknow,

Heywhereareyou Melech HaOilum,

Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvoisav Vetzivanu,

Al Sfiras HaOimer.

HaYoim Shmoinah Esrei Alaphim U’Masayim Chamishim Yoim,

SheHaym Alpayim Shaish Maois Va’Sheva Shavuois, VaEchad Yamim LaOimer.

Rabboisai,

Unlike you, you Minuvals, I have not lost count of the Oimer, ever since I was a Kleinikel. I count Sefirah with a Bracha every day, never missing except for that one time in college when I got lucky with that hot shiksa (Boruch Hashem for tequila!). But, thankfully, I was able to count Sefirah the next morning without a Bracha, as I was putting on my Tefillin in Christine’s apartment.

Which brings us the Shailah I address this week:

Yoineh Vuv asks:

“Rav Pinky -- May a woman shave her Makom HaErva during Sefirah?”

Yoinelah – This is a Gevaldikkah Shailah! You are Mechavayn to the exact question asked by the RALBAG, the great Medieval Talmidist, Mathematician, and dispenser of at-home Brazilian services to the housewives of Avignon, France.

Before I address your Shailah, Halacha Lemaiseh, I would like to address the overall topic of Sefiras HaOimer.

What is Sfiras HaOimer? We know that from the perspective of the Toirah, we are required to count seven weeks from Pesach to calculate the start of Shavuois, Zman Matan Toirasainu. According to Rabbi Yoichanan, cited in a Braisah brought down in a Gemara in Makkois, this is because 49 days is the length of time required for matzah constipation to be flushed out of the system, so we can be fully prepared for the lactose intolerance brought on by cheesecake on Shavuois. But according to Rabbi Yishmael, as mentioned in a Tosefta in Moiaid Kattan, seven weeks is the amount of time it takes for a man to be able to come home from a hard day’s work without having to worry about his wife waiting at the door, barking orders at him about bringing those last three pieces of stray Pesach china up to the attic.

The Oimer was originally grounded in the agrarian cycle of Eretz Yisroel. Later, it came to represent the period of time between Yetzitas Mitzrayim, the Exodus, and the giving of the Toirah. But of course it has also taken on a whole latter day symbolism of semi-mourning. A Gemara in Avoidah Zorah tells us that during Sefirah, we mourn the deaths of 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva. There is, however, a machloikess as to why they died.

According to Rav Huna, they died of a plague brought upon them because they lacked Derech Eretz – they did not respect each other. They insulted each other with harsh words and dismissive language, the kinds of things you do all the time, you Minuval Vilda Chayas.

However, according to Rav Sheyshess, Rabbi Akiva’s students actually died fighting in the failed Bar Kochba Revolt, the second rebellion against the Romans from 131-135 CE. Rabbi Akiva is quoted in the Yerushalmi in Tainis as pronouncing Bar Kochba to be the Moishiach (this is true, by the way). Many of his students enlisted to support the military effort, and to get the government sponsored tuition assistance needed to pay for Rabbi Akiva’s Yeshiva, Yeshivas Ohr HaMaskoiret.

Finally, Rav Puppa holds that the students died in an unfortunate accident. LeOilum, in reality, the Reboinoisheloilum only put in an order to kill 1,000 students. But due to a programming glitch in Hakadoshboruchhu’s Persecution Trading System (PTS), the kill off swelled to 24,000 dead before the system’s safeguards kicked in. A similar thing happened in 1938, but due to a weak regulatory environment, the safeguards did not automatically kick in until there were much heavier losses in the market.

So, to commemorate the deaths of so many of Rabbi Akiva’s Talmidim, we take upon ourselves some of the rituals of mourning. There was great debate amongst the Rishoinim about which Sefirah-related proscriptions an individual should follow. During Sefirah:

-- The Roish would not shave

-- The Ran would not bathe, except on Erev Shabboskoidesh

-- The RIF would not go to the bathroom. This also enabled him to save a lot of money on food and toilet paper.

These differences of Minhag are reflected in the various Sefirah practices in place in the modern Yeshiva World:

-- In Yeshivas Punuvitch in Eretz Yisroel, the Talmidim do not attend live musical performances

-- In the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, the Talmidim do not listen to music, live or recorded

-- In Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Queens, the Talmidim do not read or write or speak to each other; they just say Tachanun all day and play with the buttons on their little Hatzalah walkie talkies

-- In Yeshivas Toiras Yoisiaph Smith in Utah, the Talmidim do not drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, and are not Mezaneh with more than three of their wives on any given night.

With regard to your specific Shailah, Reb Yoineh, this is linked to a Pesak of Reb Moishe. Reb Moishe ruled that while the laws of Sefirah requires a man to abstain from shaving as a sign of mourning, if someone makes his Parnassah in the professional world, and his situation requires him to be well groomed, then he isn allowed to shave. Notes Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua: We can apply this same rule to women as well. A woman should not shave her Erva during Sefirah. However, if she is required to be well groomed for professional reasons, for example, is an exotic dancer or a Victoria’s Secret model, then she is indeed allowed to shave.

Reb Yoiseph Katski is even more Meikel. He agrees that in principle, a woman should not shave her Erva during Sefirah. However, this should not in any way interfere with any aspect of her life, professional or personal. States Reb Yoisaiph, “If a woman’s overgrown forest is harming her normal patterns of marital activity because her husband cannot find a path through the trees in order to launch his canoe, then she is indeed entitled to clear a path to the lake, though must be careful not to engage in complete deforestation.” Unquote.

Rabboisai, the laws of Sefirah are not simple ones. And too many people in our community do not pay the proper attention to observing this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the Aimishteh by counting to forty nine and looking like a vagrant. At a cosmic level, Oimer makes us closer to the Reboinoisheloilum by preparing us for the Kedushah of Kabbalas HaToirah. How does the Oimer do this? I admit that I cannot tell you exactly. But this is a point of Mesoirah – it is our tradition of 3,500 years, handed down over many generations, as a Halacha Le-Art Scroll MiSinai.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

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http://rabbi-pinky.blogspot.com/

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Second Pesach Drasha

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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 Yuntif

Monday, April 18, 2011

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. Moamar Qaddafi called me from his bunker and offered to buy my Chometz for three thousand goats and a mule, but I refused to settle for less than four thousand 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, April 14, 2011

Parshas Acharei Mois

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Parshas Acharei Mois

In this week's parsha, Acharei Mois, the Aimishteh commands Klal Yisrael regarding forbidden relationships: " The nakedness of your father's wife you should not expose...your father's sister...your mother's sister...a woman and her daughter...two sisters..." And so on.

Oy vey. I must tell you, I am a little uncomfortable with this week's Parsha. In fact, I am downright sickened by the suggestion of having relations with one's own mother. And I am completely nauseated with the thought of having gilui arayois with my aunts; both my father's and my mother's sisters have beards, as well as shaytals that look far more titilating on the styrofoam heads sitting on the dresser.

So by the time the parsha gets around to talking about doing it with two sisters, I am totally not in the mood.

An obvious question arises about the wording of the possuk: Why does the Toirah speak of "not exposing nakedness"? How should we understand this term? One answer offered by the RAMBAN is that the Toirah chose to speak in loshoin nokiyus in order to avoid the parsha receiving an "R" rating, so that children under the age of seventeen, an important demographic, can read the parsha without being accompanied by a parent.

The RIF holds that the possuk clearly means to include actual biyuh, but the use of the term "exposing nakedness" is chosen to include voyeurism, digital photography, and Twitter. But the RAN holds farkhert -- you can have relations with anyone you want, so long as the lights are dim, in order to ensure deniability.

A more serious question is why is it that the halochois of all of these forbidden relationships are addressed to men? Shouldn't women be concerned about these issues as well? RASHI answers that since women come so late to shul, they miss the leyning anyway, so they are not included. But the ARI holds that this parsha is proof that in the time of the Moshiach, our frigid wives will put out the way they have been promising to for years.

But with all of these forbidden relationships, the one which receives the most attention, especially in our days, is the ban on male homosexuality. How are we to understand this biblical pronouncement, especially in modern society?

Reb Shlomo Kluger, living a century ago, spoke of the growing evidence that the homosexual inclination is a result of nature, not nurture. Reb Shlomo, who insisted that the buchrim in the bais medrish refer to him as "Big Hank", felt that our understanding of gay nature should evolve, much as halacha's attitude toward blind and deaf people has evolved as overall society has developed a more inclusive approach to people with these conditions. (I personally am strongly in favor of this line of thought. Indeed, I was born with a particular condition myself -- I lust after twenty-three year old red heads named Christine.)

In truth, this whole issue comes down to a question of public versus private. When I am standing at my shtender in shul delivering the weekly drasha, as I look down at the kehilla, I know that the room is full of people who commit aveiras of all sorts. I am certain that ten percent of the kehilla privately watches TV on Shabbos (Boruch Hashem somebody has the latest sports scores!) Some of the women don't always make it to mikvah. Some of the men, especially while their wives are in nidah, "take matters into their own hands", if you know what I mean.

Even I too have sinned on occasion -- I admit it -- I sometimes put the hot water ON the teabag on Shabbos, not the other way around. But in the great tradition of Chazzal, we should not stand around and look to punish people. We don't peek inside their homes, their refrigerators, or their cars. Chazzal tell us that in the time of the Sanhedrin, it was almost unprecedented that someone would be put to death. Between the conditions of drisha and chakirah and other requirements, it was virtually impossible that the human realm would come to pass judgment on other human beings -- that is the purview of the Aimishteh.

What becomes more complicated is the aspiration of some to embrace a more public profile for the gay Orthodox lifestyle. Rather than reject this, I suggest we at least consider the possibility. Indeed, we should move to accommodate all who seek to be frum, though struggle with one individual tenet or another. We should create shuls for these particular interest groups. The Young Israel of Men Who Like to Be Mezaneh With Each Other. Congregation Bnei Avraham Who Like To Eat A Little Traifus Once in a While. Khal Adas I Like To Watch The News and Get the Latest Scores. Lincoln Square I Sometimes Spill My Seed on the Floor Synagogue.

As long as someone wants to indentify as being frum, who are we to deny them that right? As long as they subscribe to the three basic principles of Ol Malchus Shomayim: Overall acceptance of the Torah, pass judgement on everyone else, and consider everyone who disagrees with you to be either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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

A Few Thoughts On Pesach Preparation

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A Few Thoughts On Pesach Preparation

(Shamelessly lifted from my Pulitzer Prize winning Drasha on Parshas Emor)


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 Pesach 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.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

On Schar V'Oinesh (Reward and Punishment)

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On Schar V'Oinesh (Reward and Punishment)

Rabboisai,

I must begin this week’s drasha with a statement and a plea for forgiveness. Allow me to read a brief statement prepared by my attorney, Reb Gedalia Geltshtupper:

“Last Moitzee Shabbos Koidesh, in the hours before Aliyas HaShashachar, I irresponsibly left my home without completing my Neigel Vassar. This regrettable act caused me to crash my 1987 Chevy Impala into the support posts of the elevated subway station near my home in Borough Park. (In my defense, however, I did honk.) I regret any embarrassment this may have caused my family, and any inconvenience I may have caused the riders of the F Train.

“I would in particular like to thank my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, for rescuing me from my vehicle by breaking through the back windshield with my prized leather-bound volume of Yoireh Dayah. My Bashert is my life partner, and she should not be distracted by any allegations or hearsay she may have read about me and the local Mikvah attendant Yankel in the Algemeiner Journal. Damned-Liberal-Yiddisheh-Media.”

Shoyn.

Rabboisai, we live in very trying times. The economic situation is not getting better. Healthcare costs are continuing to rise while millions remain without healthcare, but no one, not the Democratic Administration nor the Republican Congress, has presented a comprehensive solution for solving this decades-old problem. And the war in Afghanistan continues, threatening to become a quagmire. (Incidentally, I do not know what this word means. What’s Pshat ‘Quagmire’? It is often used in the newspaper when referring to military involvements, or marriage. But it is has two syllables and a “q” and is worth more than 50 points in Scrabble under the right circumstances, so at least using it makes me look smart.)

Luckily, we are all members of Klal Yisroel. We are the Chosen People who have a special relationship with the Reboinoisheloilum. So none of these issues or concerns have any relevance to us.

No. We need only concern ourselves with Toirah and Mitzvois, Chookim and Maaisim Toivim. Yes, we all have to make a Parnassah, but thanks to some very generous friends in the investment community and my Yeshiva’s tax deductible status. I am all set. You, however, may have some problems, but please don’t be selfish by ruining it for the rest of us.

No. We needn’t be distracted by Gashmiyus, materialism. We must always aspire to the higher spiritual plane of Ruchniyus. No matter where our physical bodies reside, even if in a four bedroom house that costs $1000 more a month than we should really be paying, we must aspire to raise our spiritual selves to the level of Hakadoshboruchhu. Because it is at that level that the Aimishteh monitors our actions, tracks our deeds, determines our rewards and punishment, and in general toys with our very existence as if we were small amphibians in the hands of a four year old child.

There is a famous machloikess in Mesechta Roish Hashashah that discusses the system whereby the Reboinoisheloilum tracks our every action and calculates Schar V’Oinesh, reward and punishment.

The Gemara cites a Braisah that states that according to Rabbi Akiva, Hakadoshboruchhu keeps track of individuals’ good deeds and sins in an Excel spreadsheet. Upon the commitment of a Mitzvah or an Aveirah, the Aimishteh, or His assistant Sally, enters a mark in a large spreadsheet. Says Rabbi Akiva, “the Reboinoisheloilum absolutely LOVES presenting a person’s Mitzvois in a pie chart because it reminds Him of the Lechem Hapanim.”

But, according to the Rabbi Yoise, Hakkadoshboruchhu uses an Access database. It is a simple tool that took Him just a few hours to learn, but now He loves to run reports on how Klal Yisroel is performing against the other Umois Ha’oilum.

However, Abaya quotes a different Braisah that quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying that the Aimishteh uses a robust SQL database that is open source. He used to use Access, but it crashed during the Mabul and He had to rebuild it from scratch. He is much more confident in His current system, which He and the Mal’achim can now access from any internet browser.

So how is this possible? We have an unbelievable Steerah! How can Rabbi Akiva have held two such conflicting positions? Which is the database that Rabbi Akiva actually holds is used by the Reboinoisheloilum??!!

But, the Gemara answers, this is not a problem. According to Rava, Kooley Alma Loi Pleegey, everyone agrees, that Hakadoshboruchhu uses an open source SQL database to track Schar V’Oinesh. So what are they arguing about? Says Rava, they are arguing about the operating system. According to Rabbi Akiva, Hakadoshboruchhu runs Windows, and He accesses the Schar V’Oinesh Database (SVO db [TM]) from a browser, though the actual SVO db is stored on a server in an offsite datacenter. And, adds Rabbi Akiva, every once in a while He will pull data into Excel to do some custom graphical reporting.

But according to Rabbi Yoise, the Aimishteh actually uses a powerful workstation running Linux, which also houses the SVO db. But not to worry, since the Reboinoisheloilum has a complex remote backup system, which ensures redundancy and 98% uptime. And, by the way, this is the same system that He uses to ensure world peace.

In such a beautiful Oilum, how can we think of anything besides Toirah? It is for this reason that we infuse Kiddushah into everything we do at any time and in any place. When we are at the Bais Medrish. When we are at work. And when we are at home. Because, as the Shulchan Aruch tells us, we have to remember that Hakadoshboruchhu is always in the room with us. He is always watching us. In short, He is a stalker. And the reason why the Shulchan Aruch tells us which shoe the Aimishteh wants us to put on first is because the Reboinoisheloilum also has a foot fetish.

However, children under the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah are exempt from Schar V’Oinesh because the Hakadoshboruchhu does not stalk them. Dude – that’s really weird, even for Him.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. The Vilna Goyn was once leading a rally against the Ba’al Shem Toiv, marching at the head of a crowd of hundreds of Misnagdim carrying torches, spears, and pitchforks. “Besht, you Minuval!” he called out in front of the castle where the Ba’al Shem Toiv was getting a makeover from three local homosexuals, “You are leading our people astray! If they follow your ways, they will become heretics!”

Suddenly, a small voice rang out from the middle of the mob. “But Reb Grah, what if the Besht’s ways lead members of Klal Yisroel to keep the mitzvois? Won’t that be better in eyes of the Reboinoisheloilum than if they become non-believers?”

The Goyn turned around to face the crowd. He called out, “Whoever made such a statement should step forward!” The crowd split and a very short young man stepped forward.” “What is your name, son?” the Goyn asked in a soft voice.

“Reuvain” the youth answered.

“Where are you from?”

“The town of Shklov.”

The Goyn suddenly raised his voice. “And is that where you learned that you should argue with the Gadol HaDor in front of an angry mob??!! Allow me to teach you a bit of Derech Eretz!” With that the Goyn thrust his pitchfork into the student’s body, impaling and disemboweling him in front of his hundreds of followers. “Score one point for our team!” he called out to the Misnagdisheh mob. “Now let’s go and find some Chassidic women and shave their heads!”

Rabboisai, we often feel like we are in a unique era of moral ambiguity. We often ask ourselves, “What should I do? What should I not do? What is the right thing to do in the eyes of the Aimishteh? How do I ensure my Schar in the Oilum Ha’Emes, or at least ensure that my Bashert doesn’t smash my head in with my SHAS while I am sleeping?”

When Klal Yisroel stood at Har Sinai and said “Na’aseh Va’Nishma” did it represent an eternal commitment, fixed in time and never changing? Some would say yes, but they would be disregarding the Eigel Ha’Zahav created by Aroin HaKoihain, the Minuval, when Moishe Rabbeinu hit a little traffic on the Cross Sinai Expressway. With that, Klal Yisroel’s eternal commitment was violated even before the ink could dry.

But Hakadoshboruchhu gave us another chance, and another chance, and another chance, over centuries and millennia. In between, he exiled us, and tortured us, and flayed the flesh of our faces, and burnt us in fire and sent us to the gas chamber. And yet we remain loyal to Him, and, we believe, He to us.

So it is clear that Klal Yisroel, and Yiddishkeit, are not chained to a single moment in time fixed at Sinai more than three thousand years ago that somehow becomes weaker and less relevant with the passing of each generation. On the contrary. Yiddishkeit seeks to renew and redefine our relationship with the Reboinoisheloilum in each generation. It is a living philosophy. Eitz Chayim Hee.

However, many of Klal Yisroel choose to see the Toirah as a dry, withering Sefer gathering dust in the back of the Bais Medrish. They prefer to focus on the type of fur that is halachically acceptable on a Shreimel, the proper religion of the Shiksa whose hair is used in a Sheytel, or the optimum height of the hilltop on the outskirts of Shechem on which to put up a trailer home. Or the minimum Shiyur that a wife must swallow in order to be called an “Eishess Chayill”. Yes, Rabboisai, some of you Mamzerim see the Toirah as a handcuff, rather than as a living Mikvah of insight.

Rabboisai, I invite you, my beloved Talmidim, to join me in diving into that Mikvah, to seek new sources of Toirah Truth. It will be a rewarding experience, and for an extra twenty bucks, Yankel the Mikvah attendant is sure to provide you with a happy ending.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.