HE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
BONUS DRASHA: Ask Rabbi Pinky: Searching for Divine Wonders on Shabbos Koidesh
This week’s Shailah comes from a Minuval Talmid living in the great community of London, a place where classical Koisher British cuisine is only rivaled by the succulent creativity of Indian and Pakistani feasts, with their delectable mélange of diverse flavors and odors that recall what the Bais Hamikdash must have smelled like every week before Shabbos Koidesh.
Harav Hagoin Reb Pinky
I have a question none of the Menuval Rabbonim in Golders Green can answer (they keep saying it’s Assur – whatever that means), and I’m sure with all your learning you’d be able to help.
My Bashert “Yentyl with the Groisse Boobellech” bought me Eppes a Moderne Sach called a “Kindle”, something that helps you read. She bought it for me for a Hailiger St. Valentine’s Yomtiff present. My question is, am I allowed to read from it or to surf porn on Shabbos Koidesh, Rachmana Litzlan?
Please help me.
Oy, Reb Mordechele, I am so pleased and honored that you have graced me with this Shailah which your local Moireh D’Asra is not equipped to address. A chicken with a nick in its neck, he can handle. (“Traiffus!”) A psak on Nidah, he can deliver. (“No soup for you, two weeks!”) Even a complex understanding of Toirah, he can interpret. (“How is it that Avraham Avinu served his guests milk, butter and freshly slaughtered meat at the beginning of Parshas VaYayrah? Why, the milk was soy of course, and the butter was Pareve margarine!”)
But your Shailah calls for a more nuanced understanding of the roots of Halacha, and requires deep insight into the human condition. So who else could you reach out to besides me? After all, it was I who advised Sir Paul McCartney to once again marry a Jew, if only because her proud heritage and professional stature enable her to stand on her own two feet.
In any case, to address this question, we must break the Shailah down into its commensurate parts:
-- Shabbosh Koidesh – Can electricity be used?
-- Pornography – Is this a mortal sin, or a reward for putting in a long day at the office?
But first I must ask you a simple question about this St. Valentine’s Yuntif – Is this a Yuntif identified by the Gemarrah? I am not familiar with it. Is it from the Rishoinim? But they were too busy running from the Crusaders to declare a new holiday. So I guess this must be a Sephardic Minhag of which I am not aware. I am not sure why they would have created a Yuntif named after a mediocre Major League Baseball manager. But Nisht Gerferlech. Ah Gutten Yuntif to you!
(Of course, you are British and will not understand the reference to American baseball. Suffice it to say – It is a sport like cricket, only an individual game [match] lasts two hours instead of two days. It’s kind of like the difference between a quick Mussaf, and a Chazzan who Dreys on and on and on until you pray to Hakadoshboruchhu to open up the ground underneath your feet like He did with Koirach, Yemach Shemoi, so that the suffering can end already. So there is a much lower level of Tircha DeTzibburah. Shoyn.)
So your Zaftig Bashert wife purchased for you a Kindle, Eppis. On the one hand, you are concerned that this device runs on electricity, and may be Assur DeRabbanan to use on Shabbos Koidesh. On the other hand, the device itself is called a Kindle, and, of course, Licht Benchen, kindling candles in honor of Shabbos, is a Dioraisa. So certainly a Dioraisa outweighs a DeRabbanan. So Avadah, what greater Mitzvah can you possibly have than using a Kindle on Shabbos Koidesh?
Next, we must address the Shailah of pornography. There is a famous Machloikess in Masechess Baba Kama Sutra between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel on whether a Jew may look at pornography. According to Bais Shammai, pornography is never permitted, unless someone is located in a prison with a bunch of other men, in which case pornography is considered to be for “medicinal purposes”. But according to Bais Hillel, pornography is always permitted. The Gemarra goes onto explain: “Bameh Devarim Amurim?”, “When were these words said?”, when discussing a married man. But “Kooley Alma Loi Pligi”, everyone agrees”, that an unmarried man may look at pornography all day and all night. According to Rav Sheshess, “Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee, You can try to make it Assur, but no one is going to listen to you anyway. So why bother.”
The Gemarra further cites the reasoning of Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Says Rav Pappa, the reason that Bais Shammai holds that a married man may not look at pornography is because it might lead him to be Moitzee Zerah LeVatalah, it might lead him to spill his seed outside of coitus, Chass V’Sholom.
However, says Rav Pappa, Bais Hillel holds Farkhert “out of respect for marriage”. What does this mean? Rav Pappa says a beautiful Vort: When a newly married couple is alone in the same room, they see each other’s physical beauty, and they have a Taivah to engage in marital relations. It is a Mitzvah, and an enactment of the will of the Aimishteh. However, after a man and woman are married for twenty years, when they look at one another, they do not see each others’ physical beauty, even when their looks have been preserved. The man and woman look at each other and see the person whose flatulence they have smelled every night for the last twenty years. They look at one another and see tuition bills, tax bills, credit card bills, the upcoming Bar Mitzvah bills, bills for replacing the roof, car lease bills, wedding bills not too far in the distance, etc. They see aging, infirm parents and rebellious teenagers. They see the schmuck across the street doing construction, and the putz up the block who leases a new Lexus every two years.
So if looking at pornography helps a man forget his current woes and returns the Taivah for his wife, if only for six minutes or so, then it is not only NOT Assur, but it is a Mitzvas Asey SheHazman Grammah. (It goes without saying, of course, that since looking at pornography is a Mitzvas Asey SheHazman Grammah, women are exempt from this Mitzvah, and while their husbands are surfing porn on the Internet, women should be reciting Tehilim , baking rugelach, or being Mafrish Challah.)
Now I know that some of my Talmidim, the stubborn pain-in-the-ass ones, will not be convinced by my Psak. For them, they see Halacha through a black and white filter. So I would like to illustrate the flexibility of the Gedoilim in applying Halachic rulings to modern day problems. Yiddishkeit, of course, is not Roman Catholicism; ours is not a religion with a central doctrine filtered through an infallible Pope. Rather, Yiddishkeit is a decentralized structure in which legitimate Rabbinic figures may have differing opinions and Halachic positions, and yet they continue to coexist as a singular cohesive Klal Yisroel.
So let us look at the different approaches taken to address a not-uncommon challenge in everyday life. As we all know, one may not tear toilet paper on Shabbos Koidesh because of a Toldah of Koirayah. But what does one do if he forgets to tear toilet paper on Shabbos and does not have any tissues?
According to the Tzitz Eliezer, in such an instance one may tear toilet paper because of Kvoid HaBriyois, out or respect for the human dignity of the individual.
According to the Schvantz Mordechai, one must not tear the toilet paper, but may use the toilet paper without tearing it, depositing the soiled toilet paper in the toilet without tearing it off of the unused roll. Indeed, there is a famous Maiseh Shehoya about the Schvantz Mordechai. One Shabbos Koidesh, in his home in Bnei Brak, the Schvatz Mordechai forgot to set aside tissues or pre-cut toilet paper. When he woke up on Shabbos morning, he had to… ummm… do his morning Asher Yatzar. Since he did not have pre-cut toilet paper, he used the regular toilet paper, but did not remove the soiled toilet paper from the roll. But he also forgot to discard the paper in the toilet. So after redressing , he walked to Shul, inadvertently dragging along a 200 foot Charmin tail.
Because of this risk, there are a number of Gedoilim who in principle do not use either toilet paper or tissues on Shabbos Koidesh.
Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah goes outside to relieve himself, and has one of his Talmidim clean up after him.
Reb Yoisaiph Katsky, on the other hand, has a designated private area in his home where he goes to relieve himself, and his Drek is cleaned up after Shabbos Koidesh.
Reb Betzalel Kupkayk goes outside to relieve himself in obscure places, so that no one should Chass VeSholom step in his filth.
Finally, the Pooper Ruv occasionally relieves himself in obscure places in other peoples’ homes, much to the dismay of the Chief Rabbi’s family. VeHamayvin Yavin.
In other words, there is room for debate within Yiddishkeit. Ours is a religion of tolerance. So while your Ruv in Golders Green may not permit the use of a Kindle on Shabbos Koidesh, you should proudly use it for Oineg Shabbos, if only to prepare you for six minutes or so of Oilum Habbah with your Bashert “Yentyl with the Groisse Boobellech”.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess