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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ask Rabbi Pinky: Mishkav Zachor Position




Ask Rabbi Pinky: Mishkav Zachor Position


This week I respond to a Talmid in Eretz Yisroel who was apparently so upset by last week's Drashah, he could barely wait for Havadalah before sending me a burning Shailah

Binyomin W. writes:

Subject: disillusioned

Harav Pinky,

It hurts me to be writing this email to my Rebbe but I feel I must express my disappointment. Over the years I have become an avid reader of your divrei emess. Sometimes when I get a groisse cheyshek to do aveiros like breaking shabbos, having hot shikse sex or eating skittles i turn to your website for chizuk (although not on shabbos chas vesholom).

Today though I was eagerly anticipating your dvar toirah on parshas voeiro and all i get was a load of nonsense about mishkav zochor being a mitzva. Rav Pinky, as they say in Eretz Yisroel - yesh gevul. Please can you publish an apology and make it clear that you were only joking. Otherwise, i'm afraid some of your talmidim might take matters into their own hands the mechutziffs.

Ah guten voch from your number one minuval



Reb Binyomin,

You are such a Minuval! You would question a Psak from your Rebbe? This is a Shandah for all of Klal Yisroel. I may have to call up a couple of the boys in Bais Shemesh to throw shit at you and scream obscenities at your underage children.

Clearly, Avirah Da'Aretz has confused you -- I am assuming that you have actually confused satire with literalism... although if someone would like to stick his Bris Milah in some guy's Male Ervah, Gezuntah Heyt. Not my thing, but whatever. I personally will stick to hot Shiksas who are well trimmed, if you know what I mean ("Brazilian" BeLa'Az).

I am sure that you have heard many of your Rabbeihim over the years talk about the Gadluss of Klal Yisroel: When we sit down to a meal, we don't just simply pick up our food and eat LIKE ANIMALS, which would be perfectly natural; instead, we pause and contemplate the food before us and its ultimate source, and the make a Brachah so as to add on Kedushah to the everyday act of eating, going above and beyond our natural instincts. In other words, we celebrate the role of Hakadoshboruchhu in our lives by consuming our food Sheloh Kedarkoh.

So it is not a big stretch to apply this concept to other areas of life...

But, you are a Mechutziff, and are probably busy curling your Payis right now as you learn all day, while you collect funds from the State (which you are opposed to) as your wife cares for your 18 children. All very natural.

I am certain that your parents are having lots of Nachiss from you, as they support you monetarily, despite the fact that your are an able bodied 45 year old living in a one million dollar apartment. Shkoyach, I wish I could get a piece of that action.

In any case, if you do decide to experiment with Mishkav Zachor with a non-Jew, at least wear a Kishka skin. We need to set a good example for the Gentiles. You know, Ohr LaGoyim.

Ah Gutten Shabbos and a Frask in Peh, you Minuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Parshas Bo




Parshas Bo

This week we again read of the great plagues, the Esser Makkos. Ten plagues, from Blood all the way to the Killing of the First Born. Some, like the Killing of the First Born, are very frightening. Others, like the frogs, sound more like Moisher Rabbeinu got stoned on Bsommim and was acting on a dare from Kulaiv Ben Yefuneh (Voos iz givehn tzfardayah?)

According to a Tosefta in Makkois, the reason the severity of the plagues was so inconsistent is that, truth be told, the Aimishteh should have had better input from his political advisors. Moishe Rabbeinu and Aron Hacoihain should have made a suggestion or two, backed up by data and a business case presented in Powerpoint. (For example, my Rebbe Muvhak, the NPOJHARTHA, is always open to new ideas; just last Shabbos he agreed with my suggestion that one small package of bacon added to a large pot of cholent would be Battul B'Shishim, and would help bring out a delicious smokey flavor. Boruch Hashem.)

I'm sure the Aimshteh would have welcomed some new thoughts. But Moishe was likely off making a little extra cash by doing magic tricks with his Makkel at a bachelorette party. And Aron Hacoihain was probably too busy polishing the gold for the Aygel Hazahav.

So here are a few suggestions for some new plagues to bring upon the Egyptians, three and a half thousand years too late: New Plague #1 -- Ingrown toe nails. New Plague #2 -- Excessive flatulence. New Plague #3 -- Jock itch. New Plague #4 -- Having to listen to Rick Perry respond during a political debate.

But even with these latter day suggestions, the plagues must still conclude with the most horrific plague of all, Makkas Bechoirois, the Killing of the First Born. Which leads to a key question posed by the RASHBAM: Why did the Reboinoisheloilum choose to kill the first born? Why didn't He kill the youngest? Or the ugliest? Or the dumbest? Or even better, the ones with the hottest wives?

The RADAK adds on to this question: What does Hakkadoshboruchhu have against the eldest anyway? Look at the pattern:

- Plague #10 -- Killing of the First Born;

- Yitzchak Hatzadik becomes the favored son over Yishmael, the Anti-Semite;

- Yankif Avinu gains the birthright over his hairy elder twin, Aisav the Mamzer;

- Moishe Rabbeinu leads Klal Yisroel out of Mitzrayim to the Promised Land, while Aron Hakoihain, the Minuval, has to support himself by slaughtering sheep for tips.

To answer this question, the Toldois Aharoin quotes a tremendously obscure Medrish that tells us that the Aimishteh Himself had an older brother who used to beat Him up all through high school, and who even stole His high school sweetheart. As a result, the Rebboinoisheloilum has it in for all first born sons. And He started His cycle of revenge with His own older brother -- According to the Medrish, the Reboinoisheloilum got back at His brother by inducing him to give up his birthright in exchange for a bowl of lentil soup and a McDonald's Happy Meal.

But, the MAHARAL asks, Adderabbah, were the plagues even necessary in the first place? Why be so harsh on the Egyptians? Was it necessary to wreak violent havoc across the whole of Mitzrayim in order to take revenge? Why not just charge them more interest and processing fees, and refuse to discount off the retail price for at least six months?

The MAHARAL goes on to answer that the Aimishteh acted with such wrath because the Egyptians hated the Jews so much. Those Antisemittin! And what did we ever do? Just because we used their baby's blood in our Matzoh -- It was for an old family recipe, passed on for generations...

But it was their incessant Anti-Semitism that bound us together as a cohesive nation, so that we could be rescued and delivered to the Promised Land.

And to this day, Anti-Semitism is what keeps us together.

A Maisseh Shehoyo: Just a few weeks ago I went to the Bronx, the first time I had been back since the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees in eight games. I'm walking down a busy street, black velvet yarmulke prominently displayed, waiting to be attacked by a shaygitz. Nothing. I've got my payis hanging down, my tsitsis flying in the breeze, and I'm collecting interest on my IRA. Still nothing. So I scream out, "Goyim, am I too frum to be hated?!" Still nothing.

The whole incident upset me so much I had to step into the nearest restaurant, sit down, and order some traifus.

To be honest with you, without Anti-Semitism I worry for the Jewish people. To quote the motto of the A.D.L., rampant Anti-Semitism is a horrible thing; but a little Anti-Semitism is good for business.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Adding Kedushah To Our Daily Lives




Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Adding Kedushah To Our Daily Lives


This week I respond to a Shailah from Yoinasan Phey, a Talmid Muvhak who lives in Eretz Yisroel:

“Rebbe - this past Shabbos Kodesh I witnessed something in my shul that horrified me, shook me to my core, and made me grateful for the big thick Mechitzah that separates the men from the women.

“As the holy Sefer Torah was being returned to the Aron before Mussaf, everyone scurried to reach it to touch and kiss it. Forget the health warnings about spreading swine flu, at the same moment two men leaned in to kiss the Paroket and did so with no regard for the other's presence. Then, in pulling back, they noticed one another and in a state of Kedushah or stupor, they leaned back in and kissed one another. No long deep passionate kiss, but it was on the lips and more than just a "Good Shabbos" greeting.

“I know that YU hosted a session about homosexuals in our midst, but I always thought that they'd keep it in the bedroom. Except for Reform Jews who openly celebrate these things and eat traif on our fast days, I never expected I'd see something like this in my life, in Shul no less, and without it being attached to an e-mail solicitation for something I never ordered.

“What do I do?

“Your devoted talmid and chassid, Yoinasan.”

Dear Yoinasan Phey,

You have indeed raised a relevant issue, a Groisseh Shverkeit that seems to arise more these days than in the past. It is a large and pulsating Shverkeit, engorged, with a burning need to be addressed, either orally, or through a more intimate form of exchange.

Your Shailah of course relates to one of the burning topics of our day, the issue of Mishkav Zachar. It also relates to issues such as public displays of affection, public health and safety, and, potentially, the treatment of birds. (“The treatment of birds” you ask? Well, you Minuval, you suggested that two men were leaning in to “kiss the paroket”; if you were suggesting that they were jointly expressing affection to a parakeet, then, Dude – that’s really weird!)

Of course, the first reference that comes to mind, especially to a simple mind such as yours, is the very famous Pasook, “Ve’Ish Asher Yishkav Ess Zachor Mishkavei Ishah Toaivah Asu Shneyhem Mos Yoomusoo Demayhem Bum” (Sefer VaYikrah, Perek Chuff, Pasook Yood Gimmel), “And if a man lie with a man in the way one lies with a woman, they have committed an abomination, they shall be out to death, their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus, 20:13). (There is a similar Pasook also in VaYikrah, Leviticus 18:22.)

So, what should we conclude from this Pasook? Do we indeed have license to put someone who has committed such an act to death? Is such an act indeed considered an “abomination”? And if homosexuals are indeed not welcome in our community, how will we ensure that our Shuls and Bussey Medrish have nice curtains and drapes, not to mention glory holes in the Shtenders?

More importantly, the key question that one must ask here is: Is the prohibition as stated in the Toirah indeed still in effect? Halacha LeMaiseh – do we hold according to the sentiment expressed in the Pasook? After all, The Toirah was given over three thousand years ago to Moishe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai. A lot has happened since then: Two Bussey Mikdash built and destroyed. Malchuss Bais Duvid established at the start of Bayis Rishoyn and then lost. At the end of Bayis Shanee, the adoption of Pharasaic Judaism -- Rabbinic Judaism -- over the alternatives: Sadducean Judaism, Essene Judaism, Early Christianity, and Scientology. The development of Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism, in the Middle Ages. Chassidism, less that 400 years ago. The State of Israel. The pet rock. And Shmuley Boteach. Do we really believe that this Pasook is still relevant?

After all, many Biblical injunctions have gone by the wayside. Since the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, we no longer perform animal sacrifice. And according to the RAMBAM we likely never will again, even in the time of the Moishiach. We no longer have a concept of leprosy, though the topic is thoroughly explored in the Toirah. We no longer have the death penalty, Rachmana Letzlan. We also no longer have the institution of slavery, except while cleaning for Pesach. And, last I checked, we do not understand as literally the Pasook “Ayin BaAyin, Shain BaShain, Yad BaYad, Regel BaRegel” (Sefer Devarim, Perek Yood Tess, Pasook Chuff Aleph), “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand for a hand” (Deuteronomy, 19:21). Our understanding, interpretation, and implementation of the Toirah has indeed evolved.

And at the same time, we have made many additions to Yiddishkeit since Zman Mattan Toiraseinu. Our path for engaging with the Reboinoisheloilum was once centered upon Karbanois. But now we have Tefillah. And those Karbanois were exclusively brought by Koihanim, the descendants of Aroin Hakoihain, the Minuval. Now every person in Klal Yisroel, even an Apikoiress Mechutziff like you who can barely fold his Talis by himself, can speak directly to Hakadoshboruchhu. Plus we have real hair Sheytels, undoubtedly a great advance over the hair coverings our female ancestors used to wear in the desert.

(Incidentally, there is a famous Machloikess Rishoinim on this topic. According to Reb Zev-Voolf Vladivostok MiFrankfurt HaLeyvee, the ZVUV-FLY, Miriam HaNeviya and the other women of Klal Yisroel covered their hair in the desert with a cactus tree, and had monthly sittings with their local Cactusmachers to style their cactus pricks. But according Reb Shmuel Yehoishua MiSlovakia HaKoihain-Priest, the SHEIS-KUP, the women of Klal Yisroel covered their hair with Sheytels made of Erva hair, and styled their Sheytels with either lemon juice or tartar sauce.)

Yes, Judaism has evolved. Yiddishkeit is not simply a set of Pasookim in the Toirah, it is an ever developing philosophy. And that philosophy centers around being a “Goy Kadoish”, a “Holy Nation”.

What, exactly, does it mean to be a “Goy Kadoish”? It means that we recognize the Aimishteh in every action that we take, every moment of our lives. When we are about to eat an apple, do we devour the fruit like some unthinking Behaimah? No! Before we take a bite of the apple, we deliberately take a moment to make a Bracha and thank the Reboinoisheloilum. Similarly, we do not spend our entire week working so we can eat, eating so we can sleep, and sleeping so we can work. Farkhert – we set aside a day to acknowledge Hakkadoshboruchhu through prayer, Toirah, and single malt scotch.

So, in essence, Yiddishkeit is about adding sanctity to the mundane, adding Kedushah to all of our activities in order to rise above our basic animal nature. It is about substituting deliberation for impulse and sanctifying our existence, thereby acknowledging our respect for and relationship to the Eternal.

So, it would be easy, even simplistic, to say that throughout nature, Tashmish HaMitah is performed between a male and a female because THAT IS HOW OUR BODIES ARE DESIGNED. “Birds do it, Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it” (HaRav Cole Porter, ZTL). But, you Minuval, you are not an insect and you are not a Behaimah. You are a human being and a member of Klal Yisroel who is capable of deliberate action and thought, so you MUST add Kedushah, holiness, to your every action. And what better way to overcome your basic animal nature than by engaging in Mishkav Zachar.

So, rather than express discomfort at what you witnessed in Shul, you should seek opportunities to emulate such Kedushah. For example, the next time you are learning Gemara with your Chavrusa, hold his hand. Instead of shaking his hand on Shabbos-Koidesh, give him a kiss. And when you finish Davening Shacharis on a weekday, instead of taking off you own Tefillin you should take off each others’ Tefillin, slowly, and don’t stop there…

Indeed, there is a famous Machloikess among the Baalei Toisfois about Mishkav Zachar. According to the RASHBAM, Mishkav Zachar is a Minhag BeYisroel, but not a Halachic requirement. Says the RASHBAM, “A man is not Chayuv to swing that way, Chass V’Sholom. Plus it leaves more hot man-on-man action for me.” But according to Rabbeinu Tam, Mishkav Zachar is a Mitzvas Asei, and must be pursued at every opportunity, especially before breakfast. It was for this reason that Reb Yankif Ben Meir was nicknamed “Rabbeinu Tam” – “Rabbeinu Tasty”. (Yes, someone from Brooklyn will likely point at the spelling of “Tam” as Tuff Mem” versus “Tess Ayin Mem”. Congratulations! You passed second grade Hebrew class. Shkoiyach, you Mechutziff.)

So, Reb Yoinasan, the next time you witness two men kissing in Shul, try to contribute to the Kedushah. It will link you to Eternity, and might just help you resolve that engorged Groisseh Shverkeit.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Friday, January 13, 2012

On Modesty




On Modesty


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 her grandfather's Tallis.

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 we really 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 new 55 inch OLED 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.


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 holds himself up as a global paragon for family values, for which he is reaping millions of dollars, and yet is the public defender of a (deceased) (alleged) pedophile, then we all have a problem. When fringe Ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh are attacking innocent children walking to school, and the broader Ultra-Orthodox establishment remains silent, and even attacks the media for publicizing this travesty, then we all have a problem. When a rabbi equates a woman's singing at a military event with idolatry and directs soldiers to disobey orders, causing additional social fragmentation in Israel, then we all have a problem.

We have a problem because so many in Klal Yisroel are obsessed with Oilum Hazeh, expedient and short term considerations and benefit, rather than Oilum Habah. They cast the appearance of modesty, yet beneath their external facade they are filled with Gaivah and pettyness, with greed for money and influence at the expense of the law and social well being. That is the act of a kosher pig.

What is more important is that we as a nation exhibit Anivus, true humility, even when it is not convenient or easy or profitable or guaranteed to make the headlines, 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.

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Parshas Vayechi





Parshas Vayechi

As is well known, Rav Shimon Bar Yochai spent fourteen years of his life living in a cave. Less well known is the reason: he was trying to make some sense of this week's Parsha, Parshas Vayechi. Of course, his efforts were ultimately fruitless; the only thing he was able to get out of this Parsha was a massive migrane.

Given Rav Shimon's lack of success, far be it from me to attempt to provide insight. However, given 2000 years of Chazzal's tradition, advanced research techniques, computer based analysis, oh, AND THE FACT THAT I DON'T LIVE IN A FREAKING CAVE, I will do my best. (Incidentally, I too, like Rabbi Shimon, once lived a cave, but promptly moved out once that meeskeit I was tutoring in how to satisfactorily perform Metzitza BiPeh, if you know what I mean, stopped calling my home.)

The focus of Rabbi Shimon's contemplations was Yankif Avinu's deathbed prophesies. Rabbi Shimon was obsessed with interpreting them to gain insight into events in his own day, a technique referred to as "Pesher" in the writing discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ultimately, he determined that there was no present day relevance, only the hope that we all should be zoicheh (fortunate enough) to benefit from similar final blessings from reverential Toirah figures in our own lifetimes, as well as a little extra sympathy from the the hot shiksa nurse.

The MAHARAL takes issue with this suggestion. Asks the MAHARAL: How can anyone possibly want to receive anything akin to the dour deathbed words and actions of Yankif? For example:

- On his deathbed, Yankif Avinu scolds Reuven the Tzaddik, his eldest son, for having had sex with Bilha, one of the Imahois. (In case they skipped over that Perek in fourth grade, you minuval, you can look it up in Beraishis, Perek Lamed Hay, Pasook Chuf Bayz.) You would think that Yankif, at the end of his life, would stop holding a grudge already. After all, according to the Medrish Rabbah, Bilhah was a dead ringer for Kim Kardashian.

- Similarly, Yankif berates Shimon and Layvee for their violent lifestyles and actually curses them on his deathbed. And all they had done was wipe out the entire city of Shchem, a bunch of goyim! From the way Yankif speaks, you would think they had done something really bad, like watch TV on Shabbos!

- When blessing Menashe and Ephrayim, Yankif reverses his hands so that his right hand, instead of resting on the head of the elder, rests on the head of the younger, as a signal that he will excel over his older brother. (There is also a famous medrish that says that at that moment Yankif went cross-eyed, and used his right eye to look to the left, and vice versa.) I will say only one thing: Chass V'Shalom I should have to pay those psychologist bills.

The bottom line, according to the MAHARAL, is that if a beloved elder ever calls you over to give you one last bracha, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Get on a plane to Argentina. Or go off to live in a cave.

The RIF is less troubled by the brachois of Yankif in the Parsha. After all -- why would the brothers care about Yankif's opinion when he is about to die? Aimishteh knows, they weren't too damn worried about his opinion when he was alive. Rather, the brothers were obsessed with the yerushah, the inheritance. This is why Yankif pleads repeatedly throughout the the Parsha to be buried in Meuras Hamachpaylah next to his father and grandfather. He knew the shfatim, the twelve tribes, couldn't wait to get their grimey hands on the deed and set up a falafel stand for all the tourists.

Which leads us back to the essential question Rav Shimon Bar Yochai was trying to address: How in our day are we to intepret and understand prophesies which are billed, in the words of the parsha itself, as a reflection of "Acharis Hayamim", the end of days? If one looks around, modern reality in Rav Shimon's day or our own does not synch with Yankif Avinu's prophesies.

A famous medrish addresses this, saying that Yankif Avinu did in fact intend to reveal the future of Klal Yisroel, but the Reboinoisheloilum blocked his Ruyach Hakoidesh so he wouldn't give away halikeh soidois. (In other words, He put a big crack in Yankif's crystal ball.)

The RI takes an alternative approach. He suggests that the texts including the prophesies were clearly developed by J text sources, reflecting the post-United Monarchy perspective, and edited within a non-priesthood textual school. I have no idea what this means, but it was this comment which led to the RI being put in chayrem, being ostracised by the community, for his heresy. He was only allowed back into the fold after fasting for 30 days, repenting for three years, and writing a sizable donation to the Chief Rabbi's Discretionary Fund.

The Tzitz Eliezer insists that all of the prophesies of the future of the shfatim by Yankif Avinu were indeed accurate and perfect predictions -- for the native tribes of Bora Bora. He notes that they are the true descendants of Klal Yisroel, while we, alas, are actually descendants of the Chivi, the Yevussi, and alien invaders.

But the Pri Ha'adamah insists that the brachois of Yankif were NEVER intended to be taken literally. He points out that Yankif spoke openly and freely, predicting failure when appropriate. This teaches us that it is a big mitzvah to always remind our own children what miserable failures and disappointments they are.

Finally, the ARI ZAHL looks upon Yankif's works as the secret key that will unlock the arrival of the Mashiach. Only when we stop judging others and realize that we ourselves, like the shfatim before us, are minuvals and vilda chayas in the eyes of Hakkadoshboruchhu, will Klal Yisroel be worthy of Biyas Hamashiach.

Until then, I will just have to suffer in the galus until the rest of you Am Haratzim realize how absolutely worthless you truly are. But when the time comes and you begin to repent, a natural first step would be to write a check to NPOJ Intl. - Yeshivas Chipas Emess. For a donation of one hundred dollars or more, you will even receive an autographed copy of my new CD, "Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein's Yuletide Greetings," which includes the hit single remake, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" a duet I recently recorded with my good friend, Ron Paul.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.