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Friday, May 13, 2011

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On The Identity of the Almighty

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On The Identity of the Almighty

Rabboisai,

This week I answer a Shailah from an unusual Talmid located somewhere in Middle America:

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Rabbi Schmeckelstein,

I was sitting here this morning on the internet and somehow I got to a Jackie Mason video web site. Not being Jewish and watching Mr. Mason for about two hours, I have to wonder if Jackie Mason is in fact… God? Please let me continue. Having been brought up as a Christian with both of my Grandfathers as Baptist Ministers -- yeah, fire and brimstone guys (they are likely spinning in their graves if they know what we kids have done) -- I know that Jews are God’s chosen people, it says so in our Book you know. My question to you is… drum roll please… is Jackie Mason God? I know you guys know who is who in the Jewish community. If Mr. Mason is not God I think we should put him on the ballot for the job. What are you thoughts? Thank you for your response.

John Francis A.

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Reb John…. or shall I address you rather as Pastor John,

Thank you so much for your deep and insightful question. It is a delight to receive such inquiries from someone of the Gentile persuasion. After all, we’re usually hiding from you guys in an attic or under the floorboards somewhere. And, indeed, I am thrilled in the knowledge that you undoubtedly wrote your question on a computer for which you paid retail – Thank the Rebboinoisheloilum… errr…. Jehovah for people like you!

I would also like to remind you that, of course, Jesus himself/ Himself was a Jew. And while there are indeed historical questions about the role of the Jews in his/His crucifixion, please allow me to point out three things:

1) The Romans had sovereignty over ancient Judea, so the Jews could not have pronounced or enforced a death penalty through our Sanhedrin, which was about as impactful at that point in time as the British royal family is today. As well, crucifixion was a Roman form of punishment – The Jewish form of death penalty involved beating someone over the head with a large volume of the Talmud or an oversized gefilte fish while berating him for eating an unpeeled orange that has not been certified kosher by a rabbi;

2) Per the Christian view of the world, in order to rise to the level of divinity Jesus had to die. So holding the Jews responsible for his/His death is like eating delicious fresh produce but being angry at the sky for raining, or being angry at your significant other because your… errr… romantic encounter has … ummm… reached its natural culmination, if you know what I mean;

3) The crucifixion was carried out almost two thousand years before I was born. So I was nowhere near there – and have plenty of eyewitnesses. So please do not persecute me!!!

With regard to your question, this is at the root of key theological differences between Judaism and Christianity. Christianity believes that a component of the Divine is bound up in an earth-focused hypostasis identified with Jesus the Son, while the Old Testament Diety/ Jehovah/ Hakadoshboruchhu (“The-Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He”) is identified with the Father. In addition, Christianity also believes in a third component of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, which, quite frankly, I have never been able to understand, although I believe I used to watch cartoons about him/ Him when I was a child.

Judaism, on the other hand, believes in a singular Diety which you may call Jehovah or the Reboinoisheloilum (“The-Master-Of-The-World”) or El or the Big Guy Upstairs or many other names. And I must tell you that since we have an older Diety who is simpler to understand, our understanding of the Divine must be superior to yours. One is better than Three. So there.

However, the traditional Jewish understanding of the Divine also includes the mystical tradition of the Sfirois, or the elements of the Godhead. They are ten elements which represent aspects of Divinity (similar to hypostases) and include such components as: Kesser (the Crown), Chochmah (Knowledge), Binah (Understanding), Chesed (Kindness), Gevurah (Bravery/ Severity), Tiferess (Beauty), Netzach (Eternity), Hoid (Splendor), Yesoid (Foundation), and Malchus/ Shechinah (Kingdom). And, doing the math, Ten is a larger number than Three, so we must be better off.

So either we have two less than you guys, or seven more than you guys. Either way, WE WIN! Unless of course you run the government and have all the guns, in which case you win, and we will be happy to do whatever you want, be it become moneylenders, practice medicine, or do your accounting. Just please don’t ask us to do physical labor – you will be very disappointed.

Now, Christianity has a clear understanding of how the Divine connects directly with the human realm – and that is through the embodiment of the Divine on earth in the physical body of Jesus. Judaism, other the other hand, believes that the Divine engages directly with humanity through the Shechinah, the embodiment of the Divine on earth. In the desert following the Exodus, the Shechinah rested above the Jewish People as a protective cloud. In the era of the First and Second Temples, the Shechinah resided in the Temples’ Holy of Holies. However, following the destruction of the Second Temple, the Shechinah went into exile with Israel.

According to a Gemarrah in Brachois (a reference in the Talmudic tractate that focuses on prayer and benedictions), the Shechinah took on human form and lived in Babylon with the Jews in the person of Rish Lakish (Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish), a bandit-turned-scholar. The Talmud tells us that Rish Lakish was “hung like a Parah Adumah” (or, according to a Medrish in Vayikrah Rabbah, “hung like a Paroichess”), and it is for this reason that all of the eligible women of Pumbedisa used to say, “a night with Rishy is like heaven on earth!”

Some suggest that in the Middles Ages the commentator RASHI was the embodiment of the Shechinah. After all, he was the most prolific of religious commentators, had a successful wine business, and was always jolly. According to the RALBAG, this is proof that RASHI was the earthbound representative of the Divine. However, according to Rabbeinu Tam, this simply reflects the fact that RASHI was a workaholic who was constantly sampling the merchandise. He cites as evidence the fact that RASHI’s writing always came out crooked*.

Hundreds of years later, the ARI Zahl may have been the embodiment of the Shechinah. He contributed great mystical insights and revolutionized the Jewish prayer liturgy. He had many followers who would go out with him on Friday nights in Tzfas to pray on a field, singing and dancing to welcome in the Sabbath. They would then drop acid, and wake up the next day during Musaph (the late morning additional service) naked and hung-over.

So the key question which you ask, and which is on everyone’s mind is: Who in our day represents the embodiment of the Divine on earth?

You suggest that Jackie Mason is in fact the Reboinoisheloilum. I have looked long and hard throughout the contemporary Rabbinic sources and have been unable to find any such Rabbinic position. At most, the Rabbis hold that Jackie Mason is the Gilgul, the reincarnation, of Yirmiyahu Hanavi, the Prophet Jeremiah, who similarly underwent multiple stages in a long and memorable career. However, unlike Jackie Mason, Yirmiyahu Hanavi was never banned from The Ed Sullivan Show, though he was banned for a year and a half from the Holy Temple for giving the High Priest the finger.

According to Rabbi Shmiel Kalbasavua, the Shechinah is embodied in our generation in the person of Binyamin Netanyahu. After all, as the Prime Minister of Israel, he is the leader of the Jewish People. As proof, Reb Shmiel points out Netanyahu’s supernatural capabilities: He has been married to three different women and is rumored to have slept with half of the women living in the State of Israel. However, this may be less of a display of superhuman libido, and merely a reflection of Netanyahu’s capacity for making multiple parties happy – He has never hesitated to fondle the Schvantlach of Reb Oivadiah Yoisaiph while performing Metzitzah BiPeh on Reb Yoisaiph Eliashiv and at the same time taking it Sheloh KeDarkoh from Avigdor Lieberman in order to keep his coalition intact. However, that is not a supernatural talent; rather, it is a required skill for every prime minister of Israel, from either the right or the left.

However, according to Reb Yoisaiph Katzsky, the Reboinoisheloilum is embodied in the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jacob (Jack) Lew. He is the most powerful Jew in the most powerful country in the world. His name “Jacob” recalls the forefather who spent a night struggling with God (and a lifetime hiding from his hairy twin brother). And like the Reboinoisheloilum in the Toirah, Lew is absolutely obsessed with details and minutiae. However, unlike the Aimishteh, Emanuel works directly for a Jeremiah-Wright-loving Muslim-Christian who hates Jews, wants to redistribute our wealth, plans to strip us of our healthcare, and wants to take away our guns which he will happily hand over to the Taliban fighting American forces to take over Afghanistan, which is undoubtedly where he was actually born. So it is hard to believe that Jack Lew is the embodiment of Hakadoshboruchhu in our world.

According to Reb Betzalel Kupkayk, Hakadoshboruchhu is embodied in the person of Sarah Palin. After all, the Reboinoisheloilum is the Deity of all, so who is to say that He must be a Jew? Indeed, if we look at the immense following for Sarah Palin has built up in a relatively short period of time, one must indeed suspect the hand of the Divine. Of course, she is not only a MILF, she is a GILF. But how else can you explain how a controversial moose-hunting two-year-governor from the least populous state in the Union, with no foreign and limited domestic experience, who seems to be of limited intelligence, has been able to Tweet her way to becoming the Queen of the Tea Party, all the while planning the wedding… errr… breakup… I mean… wedding… ummm… reality TV career of her teenage daughter?

But I would like to suggest that the Shechinah is embodied in the person of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. After all, he proudly presents a heavenly view on the world. He also sees the good in people – Only someone with Divine insight could possibly come to the defense of that pedophile Michael Jackson. Plus, like Hakadoshboruchhu, Reb Shmuley is a best selling author who has his own show on cable. In addition, Reb Shmuley has insightful pronouncements on life issues. And like the Reboinoisheloilum, he abhors having his name taken in vain – You may use his name all you want, but just make sure he gets a royalty every time...

Finally, I would like to address a serious question about the perceived dwindling presence of the Divine in our everyday lives. Within the Toirah itself, the Reboinoisheloilum threatens that if the Jewish People disobey His commandments, He will “hide His face”. Some have suggested that the seeming absence of Hakadoshboruchhu in is, in fact, proof of heavenly punishment for human sin. But this is far from the truth. He is indeed with us, living among us. According to the Zoihar HaKadoish, the Reboinoisheloilum safeguards His identity on earth either by disguising Himself as a mild-mannered reporter in a major metropolitan newspaper or as a skinny Yeshiva Bochur shuckling away in the corner of the Bais Medrish. However, when the appropriate time comes to reveal Himself, the Aimishteh changes into a bright purple spandex uniform with a big “G” emblazoned on the front and leaps into the air to rescue the Jews in moments of dire need.

In ancient times, this secret change of identity was typically performed in a tent or a Roman bathhouse. In the twentieth century, this was typically done in a phone booth. Nowadays, Rachmana Letzlan, in the era of the ubiquitous cell phone, there are very few phone booths for the Reboinoisheloilum to use for His quick change. Consequently, His presence on earth has diminished. So it is only through prayer and good deeds that we can bring an end to the evil mobile and broadband networks that have suppressed the presence of the Almighty and return His glory to our world. Either that, or we should pray for the establishment of a network of public bathrooms, so that the Divine can once again reign supreme and deliver Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

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*Note: As a Gentile you would not be aware that the commentary of the medieval Biblical commentator RASHI (Rabbi Shlomo Yitchaki) is traditionally published alongside Biblical and Talmudic text in a distinct, highly italicized font with multiple variants of the traditional block Hebrew letters. Sadly, these are the kinds of critical facts of which you were deprived in your own Gentile education system, preventing your intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. It is a terrible shame, for which you have my sincerest sympathies.


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