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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Parshas Toldois




Parshas Toldois

In this weeks Parsha, Toildois, we learn how truly disfunctional Yitzchak Avinu's family was. Indeed, the Parsha tells us about the lies, the deception, the struggle of brother against brother. I swear, Toldois sounds more like General Hospital than an account of our holy forebears.

Take the account of Rivka Imainu. We learn right away that Rivka was barren. This leads to an obvious question pondered by Chazzal as they were standing behind the mikvah, trying to sneak a peek through the cracks in the wall: Why is it that 75% of the Imahois were barren? That includes Sarah, Rivka, and Rachel. (Leah Imainu, on the other hand was so fertile she had to be fitted with a chastity belt with a combination lock to keep her out of trouble.)

According to Rabbeinu Tam, there was actually nothing physically wrong with these women. It is just that the Avois were very, very holy. They were studying Toirah 20 hours a day, sitting in the Bais Medrish holding hands with their Chavrusa, never realizing they should be home having relations with their wives or their girlfriends. What Kedushah!

Indeed, according to the Chassam Soifer, the reason the Imahois were constantly telling people that their husbands were actually their brothers is because they were love starved and were looking for a little action. And if they could shack up with a local king they might even get a nice bauble out of the deal.

However, according to the RIF, we should go with the Pashut Pshat, the simple interpretation of the Toirah. It really was Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu who asked their wives to make believe they were their sisters whenever they would meet a head of state. However, the real reason was not that they were afraid for their lives. Rather, it is because they were both pretty kinky and were titilated by the thought of sharing a mate with powerful individuals. He cites as proof a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that says that Avraham Avinu was a cross-dresser, and that Yitzchak Avinu once asked Rivka to wear a strap-on.

Like any good soap opera, Parshas Toldois shares with us the full range and volatility of human emotions across the broad spectrum of human experience. A famous Medrish tells us that halfway through Parshas Toldois Rivka was diagnosed with depression. And who can blame her? The Toirah tells us that the Aimishteh told Rivka Imainu "Shnay Goyim BaVitnaych -- Two gentiles are in your womb" (Beraishis, Perek Chuf Hay, Pussook Chuf Gimmul). Hey, it's bad enough you have to put up with them at work. If you were told you had two of them in your stomach, you'd need Prozac too!


Of course, the two brothers that were in Rivka's womb grew up to be Ya'akov and Eisav, who through their descendants make up the nations of Klal Yisroel and Edom. We learn so many lessons from them:

-- From Ya'akov -- we learn to take advantage of people who are weak
-- From Ya'akov -- we learn to lie to our parents, and in doing so, to disrespect them, and by inference, disrespect the Reboinoisheloilum as well
-- From Yaakov -- we learn to covet that which belongs to another
-- From Ya'akov -- we learn to steal
-- From Eisav -- we learn to kill.

So, basically, from Eisav, and especially from Ya'akov, we learn to violate all 10 of the 10 Commandments. Thank Hakkadoshboruchhu! All those nasty restrictions were beginning to cramp my style.

As they grew up, Eisav and Ya'akov became very different people. The Toirah tells us that Eisav became a great hunter and a man of the fields. But Ya'akov did not. According to a Gemarrah in Sotah, while Eisav went off to hunt, Ya'akov went off to study ballet. No wonder Yitzchak didn't want to give him his blessing.

In that same Gemarrah, Rav Yoichanan asks -- why is it that Yitzchak couldn't tell the difference between Ya'akov and Eisav, his own sons?

According to Reb Hai Goyn, Yitchak spent so much time studying Toirah and coaching the basketball team at Yeshivas Shame V-Ayver that he was never home to see his kids.

But the accepted answer, according to RASHI, is that Yitzchak was blind. Indeed, the RI adds, Yitchak's eyesight disappeared as a coping mechanism for the fact that Rivka put on 300 pounds after giving birth and started to wear a bad shaytl.

This reminds me of a Maiseh Shehoya. I was on a fundraising mission in the Bahamas for my Yeshiva, Yeshivas Chipas Emmess. My wife Feigah Breinah and I were going snorkling, since, as everyone knows, major donors can often be found examining coral in its natural habitat. Suddenly, as we were about to descend into the water, my bashert announced to me that she could not go in, as she had that second become a Nidah. And, she continued, it is dangerous to go snorkeling in such circumstances since sharks are all drawn to the smell of blood.

I was greatly troubled by this: How could something so repulsive to all men be attractive to the common shark. And, farkhert, how can something so attractive to a shark be repulsive to all men.

This is the essence of Parshas Toldois. Ya'akov, so unattractive to Yitzchak Avinu, was the pride, the favorite of Rivka Imainu. And it was only through their combined guile, their deception, that Ya'akov was able to fullfill Hakkadoshboruchhu's plan for the world by stealing the birthright from Eisav and with it the foundational line of descent from Avraham which carried the Aimishteh's promise of future greatness for Klal Yisroel.

Hence, the Reboinoisheloilum's master plan is far from the obvious day-to-day issues that we can see. You may think you know what is right and wrong, but the truth is you are a worthless minuval who doesn't even know the right bracha to say on a pumpkin pie, let alone the ultimate truths that drive the universe and the future.

So, the next time your bashert is a Nidah, don't hide from her, as would be your first instinct. Don't reject her as Yitzchak did Ya'akov, and possibly drive her into the arms of a local king. Embrace her. For what may disgust you today may actually be laying the foundations of future greatness for Klal Yisroel. Short of that, it might lead to a nice but messy quickie.

Ah Gutten Shabbos you Minuval.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parshas Chayei Sarah



Parshas Chayei Sarah


I write this Dvar Toirah while on an international flight en route to an annual gathering in commemoration of this week's Parsha, Parshas Chayei Sarah. Thousands of people focus on the first half of the Parsha and gather in Chevroin every year to celebrate the burial place of Sarah Imainu. I, on the other hand, will be joining a group of people commemorating the second half of the Parsha, the marriage of Yitzchak Avinu to three-year-old Rivka Imainu, by traveling to Thailand to have relations with a group of underage girls.

This week's Parsha, of course, begins with the passing of our foremother, Sarah Imainu. RASHI tells us that Sarah died as a result of hearing that her husband, Avraham, had taken their only son to be slaughtered at the alter. The RAMBAM asks the question: Why should Sarah have been shocked? Where was her faith in the Rebboinoisheloilum? Was she not ready for the Aimishteh's test? Was she tempted by the Yetzer Harah, the Evil Inclination, to question her belief in the all knowing, rational and loving Hakkadoshboruchhu who expressed His divine love by suggesting that Yitzchak be grilled to perfection like ribs at a July 4th barbecue? Did she not want her son to be slaughtered, so he could die for all our sins? (OOPS, wrong religion. Sorry.)

Indeed, it was not Sarah who mentally snapped as a result of Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac, at the end of last week's Parsha. It was Avraham Avinu. According to a famous medrish in Beraishis Rabbah, this Parsha is testimony to that fact that Avraham completely lost his marbles after the Akeidah. Note the evidence of his nervous breakdown:

-- We are told, not once -- but twice, that Avraham bows down to the "Am Ha'aretz," the People of the Land, to express his humility and gratitude for their support (Beraishis, Perek Chuff Gimmul, Psukim Zayin and Yood Bayz). How can Avraham Avinu, our forefather, the man who discovered Hakadoshboruchhu, the man who invented string cheese and the iPad, prostrate himself before other human beings? Did he not realize that the only thing he should EVER bow down to was the Rebboinoisheloilum, the Melech Malchei Hamelliachim -- unless of course someone had dropped a quarter? However, the medrish quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying that at this point in his life, Avraham was so deluded and confused he would bow down to a cow every time he had a potato with a little sour cream on it. He would even bow down to his dry cleaner everytime he picked up his shirts.

-- Avraham Avinu barters to gain the right to bury his beloved Sarah in Meuras Hamachpeilah. Ephroin, the property's owner, gives Avraham the land and does not want payment. Avraham, however, insists upon counting out four hundred shekels of silver as payment to Ephroin. So what's pshat "payment"? Why didn't Avraham just chop off one his arms and present it to Ephroin, instead of giving away money for no reason? Maybe he should have given away his ATM card and his PIN code, while he was at it?

-- Avraham decides to send his manservant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son, Yitzchak. To secure his commitment, Avraham asks that Eliezer, his servant, put his hand "underneath Avraham's thigh." Wow. That is progressive. According to Rabbi Akiva, after the death of his wife, Avraham was so randy he was open to "all lifestyle alternatives." Indeed, there is a separate Braisah in Masechess Pesachim that suggests that following Sarah's death, Avraham Avinu joined a local S&M club, spent six months in a nudist colony, and made seventy five dollars a week posing for an art class at his local community college.

Avraham's mental state is of course balanced with the beautiful story of the discovery of Rivka. After being sworn to his commitment to find a wife for Yitzchak, Eliezer sets out on his quest. As he reaches a well, he decides that he will anticipate a divine sign: the appearance of a woman who will offer drink to both him and his camels. The RADAK asks the question: why did Eliezer choose a sign based on a woman's action, rather than a visual metaphor, such as a yellow ribbon on the woman's dress or a tattoo on the small of her back? The Toirah Temimah answers that, mamesh, Eliezer was indeed looking for such a sign: he was hoping that as the women bent down to fetch the water he would catch a glimpse of her cleavage. Says the Toirah Temimah, Eliezer had also committed to Avraham that the bride he would bring back to his master's son would have a Double-Daled cup.

Of course, all of these expectations were turned upside down when Eliezer saw Rivka for the first time. We are told specifically by the passook that Eliezer noticed her great beauty. We are also told that Rivka "was a virgin; she had known no man." An obvious question arises: why did the Toirah have to repeat itself -- wasn't this a redundant statement? RASHI tells us, however, that the local girls had strange sexual practices that enabled sexual activity without the surrender of one's maidenhead. (He really does say that, by the way. Look it up.) Who ever heard of such a practice amongst youth?!? But the RASHBAM disagrees. He suggests that the verse is telling us that while Rivka had not had a sexual relationship with a man, her femininity had been "totally awakened" as an active member of the LPGA tour, if you know what I mean.

And now the strangest part of the Parsha: nowhere in the Parsha are we told Rivka's age, but Rabbinic tradition has always deduced that Rivka was three years old when she was discovered by Eliezer and brought into Yitzchak's tent for consummation of their marital relationship. How can this be? Was Yitzchak some kind of pervert?

According to a Gemarra in Maseches Nidah, Yitzchak was indeed a pervert. Says the Gemarra, the reason that Yitzchak didn't marry until the age of forty is that as a counselor in Yeshivas Shame V'Eyver Basketball and Learning Camp, Yitzchak sexually abused three of his charges and spent the next twenty two years in prison. As proof, the Gemarra cites a Braisa that states that the reason Avraham insisted that Yitzchak, his son, not marry a local Canaanite woman was NOT because he wouldn't want one as a daughter in law. Adderabbah! It was because Yitzchak had to register with the local authorities as a convicted sex offender, and therefore no local woman was willing to date him.

But according to Rav Saadya Goyn, Yitzchak Avinu was no more perverted than any other man at that time. LeOylam, every man in those days married underage girls. As proof, he cites a medrish that says that Avraham Avinu married Sarah Imainu when she was one and a half, and Noiach married Mrs. Noiach when she was an aborted fetus.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Yisroel Salanter once traveled to Siberia to attend a celebrity golf tournament. As customary, he lodged at the home of a local eskimo. When it came time to go to sleep, the eskimo said to Reb Yisroel, "Nu, Reb Yisroel, we have a minhag here when guests stay over: Please take my wife to sleep with for the night."

Reb Yisroel looked at him sternly and responded, "That is unacceptable! Aishess Ish is a Dioraisa. However, do you have any children I can sleep with instead?"

To which the eskimo responded: "Rebbe, I knew you were here for a fundraiser, but I did not know it was a Yeshiva Toirah Temimah event. Please forgive me!"

So, unfortunately, a scant few members of our community still like to keep up the tradition of Yitzchak Avinu. So next time you are tempted to poke fun at Penn State University, hold your tongue until you have investigated your own community.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you pervert.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Life At Internet Speed




On Life At Internet Speed


I must share with you a bit of personal disappointment. I was in the running for a new role as the Menahel of a large religious institution - One on a grander scale than my Yeshivah, Yeshivas Chipass Emmess, with a bigger name and more recognizable global impact. I prepared for the interviews and discussions through extensive Toirah study. I reworked my resume, and participated in mock interview role plays. I engaged in Tefillah and Tzedakah. I even gave up Flexing the Flanken for a couple of weeks, if you know what I mean. But all to no avail.

Alas, it was Reb Ayman al-Zawahri who became the new leader of Al Qaida, and not me. Instead, I was offered the opportunity to serve as the Sandik at the Bris for Anthony Weiner's unborn child, but I was uncomfortable with the prospect of being charged with indecency for holding a little Weiner. So I opted to console myself by engaging in a three way with Sarah (Imainu) Palin and Michele Bachmann, while Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Moishe Katzav sat at the side, watching while reciting Tehillim and pleasuring themselves. Shoyn.

I share these tidbits with you as we are all swept up in the tide of information that overwhelms our society. Facebook. Tweeting. Blogging. Skype. E-Mail. One barely has time these days to engage in good old fashioned Loshon Harah and Rechiloos in Shul, at the Mikvah, or on line at the kosher Duncan Donuts on a Sunday morning.

How is one to function in a world where the old customs, practices, and behaviors break down, replaced by a new social order that is unfamiliar? How can we maintain age old traditions when the new generation speaks a different cultural dialect? How can we continue a communal Mesoirah when the fundamental understanding of the very nature of community is in the process of being redefined?

However, you Minuval, we are not the first generation to face such questions. Do you think that we live in such unique times, that all of history culminates in our day, and that Klal Yisroel never faced such challenges in the past? Do you think you are so special that the Toirah offers you no guidance, even about technologies that were not invented until last Tuesday? What kind of Am Haaretz are you anyway?

No. There is a famous Medrish that says that there were six worlds in existence prior to this one - Seven universes in total, seven eras of history, each one created after the previous world was destroyed. So this is not the first time we have faced this or any other challenge, you Mechutziff! Klal Yisroel subscribes to an eternal truth called Toirah, linked to the Reboinoisheloilum, the eternal Omnipresent, who exists outside of time and space. Everything that we experienced has happened before, perhaps not in the Oilum Hazeh, the world as we know it today, but at a different time and place. Perhaps not on earth, but in the Twelve Colonies prior to the nuclear attack by the Cylons, or on Planet Vulcan before its annihilation by the Romulan outcasts. It may have been a long, long time ago in a place far, far away, but we experienced it before.

Indeed, we are not living through the first "information revolution" since the giving of the Toirah on Har Seenai. For example, we traditionally do not refer to the Mishnah and Gemarrah as "Talmud"; we refer to them as Toirah Sheh Baal Peh, the Oral Law, since they were once exclusively passed down orally. It was at one time anathema to even consider putting Toirah Sheh Baal Peh into writing, since it was believed that this would harm the integrity of the transmission of Halacha, as well as take away good union jobs from the Amoraim, the guild charged with preserving the oral tradition. (Sadly, my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, is a Karaite, and does not subscribe to the oral tradition, no matter how much I beg. Rachmana Letzlan.)

But the introduction of a new communications medium did not harm the integrity of Toirah Sheh Baal Peh. Rather, it democratized the Talmud, making it accessible to the masses: At first in manuscript form in the early and middle ages; then, in the Renaissance, printed on the printing presses of Europe; and later, in the 1940s, published in a serialized version in the Saturday Evening Post, right next to pictures sketched by Normal Rockwell, the week's Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz, and the latest anti-Semitic tomes of Henry Ford.

The Gemarrah itself cites a famous Machloikess on the decision to write down the Mishnah. According to Abaya, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi, the Tanna Kamma, compiled the Mishnah in order to standardize Halachic traditions during a formative period in the history of Klal Yisroel. According to Rava, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi compiled the Mishnah in order to standardize Halachic practices throughout the world's Jewish communities located across the globe – from Rome and Britannia in the West -- to Eretz Yisroel and Bavel in the Center -- to Persia and India in the East. According to Rav Puppa, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi wanted to commit the Mishnah to writing so that he could get credit as the principal author, in order to earn royalties and secure the movie rights. But according to Rabbah, Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi canonized the Mishnah in order to impress a Mesopotamian stripper named Shayndel who he was secretly in love with.

In any case, the shift in format from oral to written served as a catalyst for increasing access to and fluency in our tradition. One no longer needed physical access to a center of study; one only needed to understand the language of the Talmud. Of course, this was not a trivial undertaking itself. The Talmud Bavli, the Babylonia Talmud, was edited in the Sixth Century CE with a light layer of redaction that added a modicum of structure, but was still a complex, meandering text written in the East Babylonian dialect of Aramaic. The Bavli had a special emphasis on prayer, holidays, and religio-legal issues. The Talmud Yerushalmi, compiled a century earlier under the duress of Roman persecution, had even less structure, and was written in the alternate Western dialect of Aramaic. The Yerushalmi was particularly interested in detailed laws related to the Land of Israel, such as Maaiser (tithing of crops) and Shmita (the agrarian sabbatical year). And the Talmud Koreani, compiled at the same time in Seoul during Samhan rule, prior to the invasion of the Goguryeo, was written in the Korean dialect of Aramaic, and had a particular focus on recipes for cooking dogs and cats.

The complexity of the Talmud was addressed head on by the RAMBAM, Maimonides, who in the twelfth century created a highly structured codification of Jewish law and beliefs, the Mishnah Torah, with the express intent of making Yiddishkeit more accessible to Klal Yisroel. His decade long achievement was celebrated within Klal Yisroel by the making of bonfires, in which some of his manuscripts were burnt by opponents. But the vast majority of scholars and communities welcomed his contribution, and his contribution is celebrated to this day in Israel during the annual "Maimunah", and in Iran on "National Turban Day".

The codification approach became the standard for Halachic transmission: The Arba Turim, the Shulkhan Arukh, the Mishnah Berurah, the Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh, Shmiras Shabbas Kehilkhesah, Conservative Judaism's "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice", the Reform Movement's "So You Think You Are a Hooknose", and the Reconstructionist Movement's "The Jewish Law Handbook: Hundreds Of Cultic Practices to Complicate Your Life and Leave You Dazed and Confused".

So, indeed, as information has become more accessible, Klal Yisroel has thrived. In truth, the fundamental challenge does not lie in the existence of the new forms of media themselves, but in how the new forms are used. Are they used for willy nilly gossip? Are they used for Tifloos? Are they used for Pritzus? Are they used for Latzanus, Chass V'Sholom? (Such a phenomenon would be deeply condemnable!) Or are they used for sharing the wealth of Toirah learning, doing Maisim Toivim, acts of loving kindness, and selling useless trinkets to the Goyim at a hefty profit?

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. In the 16th century the followers of the MAHARAL MiPrague came to him one day, proposing that they burn down the local printing press, since they had learned that in addition to publishing the MAHARAL's commentary on the Baba Kama and his biography of Mar Zutra, the printer had also published the Kama Sutra. The MAHARAL was deeply troubled by the news, but was also steadfastly committed to the principle of free speech. So the MAHARAL objected to the proposal, but as a compromise, he suggested that his students steal samples of ALL the publications produced by the printer, so that he could review them in his study with his personal secretary, Ingrid Bar Zanzibar.

Rabboisai, history does not flow at a steady pace. There are long periods of stability, which for Klal Yisroel have often been periods of wretched stasis. (Think back to the existence of most of our Ashkenazic ancestors in the Pale of Settlement for hundreds of years, or to our Sephardic ancestors living a second class, insecure existence across the Ottoman empire.) But there are also periods of great leaps – social, national, and technological.

We are indeed living in such a period. It is quite natural that we crave the stability and predictability of the past, of a simpler time. But the nostalgic longing for the past is frequently illusory. Who would want to return to the period of the Czars and the Pogroms? Who would want to return to a time of immense, unfathomable poverty? Who would want to return to a time when everyone was isolated, when a person could not see beyond his Daled Amois, his immediate sphere? Who would want to return to a time of less transparency, a time without peer awareness, a time when only a select few could raise their voices, while the teeming masses were silent, for wont of the ability to make their voices heard? Who would want to return to a period when all the lights are out and the curtains are completely drawn during Tashmish HaMitah?

Rabboisai, in order to forge a better tomorrow, we must embrace the future rather than fight it. There are indeed risks associated with the information revolution, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. And indeed, even if one tries to fight the information revolution, he is destined to fail. Such is the same for many social and national issues. Like skilled sailors, we must master the inevitable strong tides to secure our own interests and ensure our own benefit. And, most important, we must retain perspective and foresight, so as not to expose ourselves and our Wieners.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

Thursday, November 03, 2011

On Current Events (November, 2011) / On Social Upheaval



On Current Events (November, 2011) / On Social Upheaval


I am writing these words from my position in downtown New York. I have been sitting in sympathy with my brethren and sisteren at the Occupy Wall Street protest. I am looking at Marty now, carrying a placard calling for social justice. And Robin, banging drums. And Tommy, defecating behind a tent.

I have joined my colleagues in their cries for greater equality. I am not physically with them, of course, but I have a clear view of them from my perch in the Starbucks across the street from Zuccotti Park, as I sip from my Venti Triple Strength Upside Down Soy Chai Latte that only cost me $8.00.

I actually tried to sit with the Occupy Wall Street protesters three weeks ago, but it rapidly became apparent that there was a bit of a mismatch: I am a bearded Roisheshiva of an Internationally Renowned Rabbinic Institution, known for its Toirah Insight and commitment to Derech Eretz and Tikkun Oilum, who was recently enshrined into the Toirah Hall of Fame. And they are a bunch of homeless Mishugoyim protesting for…I am not quite sure we know what exactly.

It has indeed been a very busy year. I have been to protests in Oakland, Atlanta, Washington, and elsewhere. I have also been travelling the globe. In fact, I was in Libya up until a few weeks ago. Indeed, you may have seen me in one of the videos documenting Muammar Khadafy’s last hours on this earth. No, I am not the guy who pulled him out of the drain pipe. I am also not the guy who held him down on the hood of the truck. I am not one of the guys who kicked and pummeled him. I am not the guy who moved his head from side to side. I am not the guy who sodomized him with the barrel of an AK 47. I am not even the guy with the Yankees baseball cap who put three bullets in Khadafy’s head with his own 24 karat gold guy.

I am none of those. I am the guy who Skull-Mezanehed Khadafy after he was dead. (RASHI: Skull-Mezaneh = Biyuh with a human skull.) And do you know why? Because the late Muammar Khadafy screwed America, screwed the West, and screwed his own people simply because he could. So I Skull-Mezanehed him simply because I could. And I would do it again. (Yes, it is true. You thought that I am a 60 year old Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn, when I am in fact a 22 year old Libyan student from Misrata.)

Rabboisai, when I think of the current year of global protest in the United States, in Europe, in the Arab World, and even in Israel, I cannot help but be reminded of Klal Yisroel in the desert. There they were, the Dor of Yetziyas Mitzrayim, the Dor of Mattan Toirah, and every time they had a little problem, BAM!, all of the sudden they have to protest. What a bunch of Minuvals! No wonder the Reboinoisheloilum decided to let an entire generation pass before bringing the Jews into Eretz Yisroel – the last thing He needed there was perpetual conflict.

Rabboisai, when not traveling to the various Occupy Wall Street protests or travelling overseas, I have also spent significant time down south at the various Tea Party gatherings. And I have attended nearly every one of the Republican debates. I have still yet to decide how to cast my vote in the primaries. Who can choose between Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum? It’s a really tough decision! I may as well be asked to choose which is my favorite of the Arba Misois Bez Din – Skilah, Sraifah, Hereg, or Chenek. Whichever one you choose, the result is guaranteed to be dire.

Not that I am a big fan of President Baruch Oibama. Clearly he doesn’t understand macroeconomics. I guess they did not offer that class at his Midrassa in Indonesia.

In my travels I was also at the reception for the arrival of Gilad Shalit back to Israel. What a Naiss! Clearly Hakadoshboruchhu was directly involved in the freeing of Gilad! Because if the negotiations were in human hands alone, Israel would have given up at least 350 hard core killers as part of the 1,000 people traded, instead of only 300, including the masterminds and participants in the Sbarro massacre, the Park Hotel massacre and other such atrocities. Of course, if I had been the lead negotiator for Israel, I would have traded Gilad for a first round draft pick, $100,000 in cash, and four terrorists to be named later.

But, sadly, I did not get very many votes in the last Knesset elections. Even my own mother did not vote for me. What can I say? She has a thing for 80 year rabbis who wear turbans and large pairs of sunglasses.

Of course, if I were the lead negotiator for Hamas, I was have gotten them a better deal as well. I would have asked to get Denjmanjuk as part of the total package.

So it has been a very busy year of global discord. Everywhere one turns, there is social upheaval and unrest. America is at near double-digit unemployment. Europe is on the brink of economic collapse. Greece has even as part of its national austerity program decreased its government subsidy of KY jelly.

The current global political climate is reminiscent of one of the great Rabbinic debates of the eighteenth century. At the time, there was a great philosophical Machloikess between the Vilna Goyn and the Baal Shem Toiv. They were both responding to an implicit question raised by the ARI ZAHL in a previous generation. The ARI ZAHL identified the process of Tzimtzum as a cosmic explanation for the imperfections of the world, which was his approach to a fundamental question: Why did the Aimishteh create a world that is imperfect? If He was creating a universe ex nihilo, out of nothing, why did He create a world with pain and suffering and poverty, and social inequality? Why is the world fundamentally flawed?

The Goyn takes umbrage with the ARI’s question. According to the Goyn, the world is perfect, and “any suggestions to the contrary could only come from a rice eating Minuval who only created his own Siddur so he could sell more magical amulets and red bendella bracelets to the na├»ve superstitious Jewish camel jockeys of Tzfas.” Unquote.

The Goyn notes that the so-called imperfection of the world is addressed in an obscure RITVA commenting on a Toisfois on Misechta Sanhedrin, Daf Kuf Lamid, Amud Baiz, in which the RITVA notes that the earth is shaped like an pearl to ensure its perfection as it is orbited by the sun, and Hakadoshboruchhu committed to preserving the perfection of the earth in the Bris Ben Habesarim with Avraham Avinu, as well as through a complex credit default swap arranged through Lehman Brothers and MF Global. And anyone who fails to understand this is a complete Apikoiress.

The BESHT on the other hand acknowledges that the world may at first appear imperfect, “unless one is a dour Misnagid who is like a lemon from which all the juice has been squeezed”. However in order to see the true perfection of the Reboinoisheloilum’s creation, one must have six or seven vodkas to “clear the mind, loosen the senses, and serve as an emetic”.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Yisroel Meir HaKohen was working on the galleys (the pre-print master copy) of Sefer Shmirah HaLoshon, doing a final review prior to publication. As he was reviewing Perek Yud Daled, Chapter 14, on the topic of Zrizuss, zeal, he realized that he dedicated an entire chapter advocating against laziness, while at the same time he was an able bodied person supporting himself through Kollel funds, welfare, and food stamps. He had tremendous pangs of guilt.

That night the Aimishteh came to him in a dream. “What is troubling you Chofetz Chaim?” the Reboinoisheloilum asked.

“Hakadoshboruchhu, I feel as if I am engaged in hypocrisy. Maybe I should go out and get a real job?” the Chofetz Chaim replied.

“Reb Yisroel, the world was designed according to a perfect plan. There are builders and fixers and painters and plumbers. There are hunters and there are gatherers. But your role is to write books like Shmiras HaLoshon.”

“I feel much better now” the Chofetz Chaim responded. “I now understand that my role in life is to spread wisdom through my writings.”

“Wisdom, Shmisdom” the Aimishteh said. “Your books put people to sleep. Insomnia is a devastating disease, and your books help real people catch up their rest so they can be productive members of society.”

“And what will be my reward?” Reb Yisroel asked.

The Reboinoisheloilum thought for a moment. “Your reward is that you will one day have a Yeshiva named after you that will be known for its extreme diligence. Its students will be known as Buchrim who upon the start of each Zman take one month to get off the first Daf, and upon their marriages take one month to get off the first nipple.”

“And is that good?” the Chofetz Chaim asked.

“As long as they do use their tongues right. You know, Shmiras HaLoshon.”

Rabboisai, the world is not perfect. But as long as we find a nice, warm, safe place to hide, we can hope to survive to another day.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.