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Friday, April 26, 2013

On the Reboinoisheloilum’s Relationship with Klal Yisroel

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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On the Reboinoisheloilum’s Relationship with Klal Yisroel

Rabboisai,

I have a splitting headache. Yoimum VaLailah, day and night, I study Toirah, all so I can educate you ungrateful Minuvals. And what is the thanks I get? You talk during my classes, you doze off while reading my Divrei Toirah, you fall asleep on the floor during my Shiurim, and you don't even write me a check. How am I supposed to keep the lights on in the Yeshivah, provide Yayin for Kiddush, Ner for Havdalah, Pas for Orchim, and Condoms for all of my Talmidim?

In a world with a challenging economy, we must all pitch in. The world is changing. Newspapers are disappearing. Retail stores are going out of business. Technology is evolving rapidly. But none of this should affect Klal Yisroel, since Toirah is timeless.

We are told in the Mishnah "Asey Lechah Rav, U'Kne Lecha Chaver" - "establish for yourself a Rabbi, and acquire a friend". What's Pshat "kney", "acquire", as in “purchase”? In this Mishnah there is a Kal V'Chomer, an implicit derivative command: If you are to acquire a friend, how much more must you spend on establishing a Rabbi!

So by reading this e-mail/ blog you acknowledge that you have selected me as your Rabbi. And I expect a little compensation. Monetary compensation. Buy my books. Send me flowers. If you’re a hottie, maybe send me your Gatkes to inspect, Eppis. But even more so, pass along my Toirah to others, write me a check. Seek my advice, write me a check. Get my input on a real estate deal, write me a check. Get a quick Psak from me, write me a check. Have me make a few phone calls to get your son out of prison, write me a check.

I am now preparing my third book, scheduled for the spring. I am struggling with the title and would like the input of my beloved Talmidim. Here are a few options:

-- Toirah MiSinai - The Thread of Tradition From Antiquity To Our Day

-- Etz Hadaas - The Blossoming Tree of Divine Wisdom

-- Moishe Emess VeSoirasoi Emess - How Following the Path of Moses Will Make You Irresistible to Women

-- David Melech Yisroel Chai Vekayam - Using King David's Method to Sustain Larger Erections and Great Staying Power

Please offer your input. And as you do, write me a check.

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Rabboisai

We live in a very confusing time. Our ancestors, may they rest in peace, lived much simpler lives. Most were poor. Most were uneducated. They worked very hard for the little they had. Some aspired to Toirah greatness, but most were satisfied with following the rules, the Halachah, as they understood it. Some sought input from local rabbis or prominent rabbis or itinerant rabbis. But most led simple lives – Davening three times a day, keeping Shabboskoidesh, not eating pork – no matter how inexpensive and tasty it was, and howling at the moon once a month.

Many had exposure to the Gentile world. Depending on the time and place, the relationship was largely commercial. We sold them eggs. We bought their produce. We ogled their hot farm girls. Occasionally anti-Semitism reared its ugly head, in business interactions, in interpersonal relations, or in pogroms. But our ancestors struggled through their simple, but imperfect lives. Until it all ended with a mighty, cosmic “wham bam thank you ma’am” delivered with a German accent.

Jump to today. The post Holocaust generation has become enamored of its own self-righteousness. The State of Israel has become confused by its own formidable strength juxtaposed with its continued vulnerability. Toirah has become not a luxury for the very few but the forced course of the many. The teachings of the itinerants have become mainstream, as people have embraced the eccentric as normative. The irrational and the mystical have too often won out over nuanced common sense.

Rabboisai, it is time that we have that talk I have been meaning to have with you.

Have you ever wondered why Klal Yisroel is still here? If our ancestors kept their loyalty to the Reboinoisheloilum, despite all the hardships, despite the poverty, despite the pogroms, what happened to the simple Biblical equation and contract with Hakadoshboruchhu: We keep His Mitzvois, and in exchange He does not send in the Cossacks, the Moroccans, the Crusaders, or send us to the gas chambers? And if the Aimishteh’s intent was to destroy us, once and for all, why can’t He just get it over with, for Reboinoisheloilum’s sakes? Why do we continue to exist as a People and a Nation? What does it all mean?

Even further: Why do we continue to worship Him? Why SHOULD we continue to worship Him? After the destructions, the expulsions, the massacres, the persecutions, the pogroms, and the Shoah, why should we offer Him our thanks? Does He really deserve our thanks? Does He deserve our praise? How can we in our right minds and good conscience declare “Hodoo LaShem Kee Toiv Kee leOilm Chasdoi”?

These fundamental questions are the core essence of the existential Machloikessin debated by Chazal, accompanied by side bets, smoking Bsomim, and late night runs to KFC for chicken nuggets and gravy to help take care of the munchies.

-- According to the ARI ZAHL, Hakadoshboruchhu is not directly involved in human affairs and cannot be held accountable for anything that happens, ever. He, or rather, It, is a complex entity made up of different forces, the Sephirois, which have their own interactions, elements and personalities, as well as limitations. Through the act of Tzimtzum – Divine withdrawal – the force that is the Aimishteh created a space for humanity to exist. In addition to housing humanity, that space has a gym, a pool, and a party room, though you typically have to reserve it a month or so in advance.

-- According to Reb Yisroel Salanter, however, the Reboinoisheloilum is indeed involved in the activities of the world. But He is not trying to kill us all, just to torture us. Reb Yisroel would often tell his Talmidim in Bais Medrish: “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport” (a quote from King Lear, you ignoramus). However, according to Reb Yisroel, Hakadoishboruchhu’s murderous rampages against Klal Yisroel are not without reason. We read in Tehilim Nun Tess (Psalms 59) a plea for deliverance from Israel’s enemy, and a curious plea to the Aimishteh: “Al TeHargaim, Pen Yishkachu Ami; HaNiamoi B’Chaylcha V’Horidaimoi, Maginaynu Adonoi.” “Slay them not, lest my people forget, make them wander to and fro by Thy power, and bring them down, O Lord our shield” (Pasook Yud Baiz, Verse 12).

According to Reb Yisroel, the Reboinoisheloilum is punishing Klal Yisroel for rejecting Christ, His Messiah, and we are destined to remain the “wandering Jews”, an example to all the nations of the punishments that await those who do not accept Christ as their Lord and who do not write checks to Jimmy Swaggart, contribute money to Joel Osteen, or engage in… errr… Biyuh Sheloi KeDarkoh with a local Catholic Priest who likes to give “private lessons” to naughty little boys. Reb Yisroel, of course, made this declaration as he was dating a red headed Hungarian beauty named Christine. He later foreswore this position, and insisted that Klal Yisroel was being punished for not drinking Cholov Yisroel endorsed by his Hashgacha.

According to Reb Levi Yitzchak MiBardichev, Hakadoishboruchhu is indeed trying to kill us all. He detests our arrogance and our money lending and our collecting of interest. He hates our political and social involvement, our pride in achievement, and self-absorption with which actors, models, athletes, politicians and other public figures are Jewish, or might have a Jewish parent, or might have once given Metzitza BiPeh to a Jew. He has had it up to HERE!

So, according to Reb Levi, the Aimishteh has decided to… ummm… have adult relations with us, and has employed Hitler, Stalin, the Cossacks, Ahmedinijad and all of our other tyrannical persecutors to hold His…. ummmm…Bris Milah throughout the process.* However, the Reboinoisheloilum is losing His touch. He is trying to destroy us all, but every time He gets close to wiping us out we get taken in by a nice Gentile family who raises us as their own and protects us, those anti-Semitin.

-- On the other hand, Reb Shomo Kluger holds Farkhert. According to Reb Shlomo, the Aimishteh is actually rewarding us for our loyalty! All of the nations who are evil and who deny His dominion and who are not MeKayaim the Sheva Mitzvois B’Nei Noiach are the ones who will suffer when they are sent to Gehenim to have their Schvantzels used as wicks in the Menoirah of the Third Bais Hamikdash and their Makoim Ervahs used as Bsomim holders. But we, Klal Yisroel, His chosen people, will all sit alongside the Reboinoisheloilum in Shamayim, partaking in His Toirah, eating of the Levyoson, and drinking shots of Schlivovitz. But to earn our seats at His table we must have all of our sins expunged from our records. So it is to our benefit that we are tortured and expelled and persecuted. Sticking our ancestors in the gas chambers was an act of Divine mercy and kindness. Thank you, Hakadoshboruchhu!

-- However, Rav Shimon Schkop holds that this question is not legitimate, as it is the product of Jewish self-obsession. Surely we have a history of being persecuted, suffering through oppression, pogroms, and outright massacres, massacres that defined cruelty in the twentieth century. And if indeed Jewish history were unique, we would have no right to thank the Reboinoisheloilum and praise Him and sing “Hoidu Lashem Kee Toiv Kee Leoilum Chasdoi”. If indeed we were singled out like no other nation, then we could truly conclude that the Aimishteh has made a mockery of us.

But the harsh reality is that we are not the only people, the only nation, the only ethnic group, the only religious group who has suffered – through both human hands and the cruel fate of nature. Here are a few examples:

-- In the middle ages there was the terrible Black death, the Bubonic Plague, during which 30% of China and 50% of Europe died, all in all 100 million people.

-- The Native Americans – a group that encompassed 100 million people before the incursions of Westerner settlers – lost over 90% of its population through massacre and disease.

-- The Turkish Genocide following World War One targeted not only Armenians, but Assyians and Greeks as well. The result was the murder of over 1,000,000 Armenians, 750,000 Assyrians (Assyro-Chaldeans), 350,000 Anatolian (Turkish) Greeks, and 70,000 Turkish Kurds, with many more dispossessed, driven from their homes, and sent into exile.

There are indeed many other examples. Why, in the last twenty years alone there have been genocides, in Bosnia Herzegovina and Rwanda. And there have been fearsome natural disasters.

So, what should we make of this, and how should this fact influence our own relationship to the Reboinoisheloilum?

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Aharoin Kutler was learning in the Bais Medrish in Vilna with his father in law, Reb Isser Zalman Meltzer. One of his their students came running in declaring, “The Nazis are coming! You must run and hide.” Alarmed, Reb Isser Zalman began to gather his Gemarras and other Sefarim and run for shelter. But Reb Aharoin did not get up.

“Aharoin”, Reb Isser Zalman said, “Why aren’t you getting up to run into hiding with me?”

Reb Aharoin replied, “All my life I have wanted to be like Rabbi Akiva, who waited all his life to be Mekayaim the Mitzvah of dying Altz Kiddush Hashem.”

“Then you are a Schmuck” Reb Isser Zalman said. “Rabbi Akiva only knew of the Toirah Shebichsav and the early learnings of the Toirah She’Baal Peh. You, on the other hand have the benefit of much more wisdom: The Mishnah, the Gemarah, the Rishoinim, the Acharoinim, and most importantly, the writings of Charles Darwin. Even in a world permeated with Kedushah, we are still subject to the laws of Survival of the Fittest. So get your ass out of that chair before Adolph turns you into a lampshade.”

Recognizing his father-in-law’s wisdom, Reb Aharoin ran into hiding, and was later smuggled to America in a case of matjes herring.

Klal Yisroel are indeed the children of the Reboinoisheloilum, as are all other human beings. Yet our physical and cultural survival over the millennia is unique. We are not immune to the rules of nature or the evil impulses of mankind. But we are still here. We are like Hakadoishboruchhu’s teddy bear: He sometimes walks around with us under His arm, He sometimes drops us, and He sometimes forgets us. But we can still hope that when He goes to sleep at night He will tuck us in right next to Him, so that we can live to see another day.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval,
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* Rashi: In Provantz – “God is fucking us, and Hitler, Ahmejinidad etc... are only holding His dick.



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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Parshas Acharei Mois

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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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 disagree with one Biblical 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.



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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ask Rabbi Pinky – On the Wearing of Shaytels (Wigs)

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Ask Rabbi Pinky – On the Wearing of Shaytels (Wigs)


Rabboisai,

This week’s shailah comes from my esteemed rabbinic colleague, the RAGU:

Dear Rabbi:

A non-Jewish colleague at work told me that I should convert to Christianity. His view is that Jews are being punished with cancer because they have not accepted Jesus as their savior. He says that the proof is that so many Jewish women wear wigs because Jesus's father has punished them with cancer and they lost all their hair during chemotherapy.

What do you recommend I should respond to him?

Your humble follower, the RAGU.

Eppis, this is a most disturbing shailah, and a difficult choice! Worship the Rebbonoisheloilum, eat lettuce and tuna out of a can at the finest restaurants, and sleep with a woman who is constantly reminding you of what a disappointment you are as a husband; OR adopt Yushka Pandra, eat shrimp and lobster, and get hot shiksa action every night. Hmmm, now THIS is a tough call…

Before we can responsibly address this shailah, we should review the basis for head covering in women and the significance of the mitzvah of wearing a shaytel. As background, we should probably also go out for a little traifus and surf porn on the internet, just so we can better understand our alternatives.

Shtatyt in Possuk – it says in the Toirah -- in Bamidbar, Perek Hay, Pussook Yud Khess, that when a Koihain is preparing to place a woman through the process of Soitah to see if she has cuckolded her husband, the Koihain should “Parah” the woman’s hair. There is great debate over the meaning of this term, but it is largely viewed as the presumptive basis for head covering.

Moreover, a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah suggests that when Chava causes for herself and Adam to be cast out of Gan Eden, it is not because she ate of the Pri Etz HaDaas, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Rather, it is because she uncovered her hair, that miserable slut, which caused the snake to extend fully, if you know what I mean.

Similarly, RASHI tells us that the reason that Rachel Imainu could not conceive is because she would walk around with her hair exposed, causing the Reboinoisheloilum to punish her by making her gain ten pounds in her butt, leaving her unattractive to Yankif Avinu, who was, to quote Rashi, “not into the whole Hispanic ‘Big Ass’ thing.” Shoyn.

So what is the essence of hair covering? A Mishnah and Gemarrah in Kesubois address the varying halachois requiring a woman to cover her hair, but the underlying reasoning is discussed by the Rishoinim. According to the TUR, hair is considered to be a form of Erva. Says the Tur, if a man sees a woman’s exposed hair, it is as if he sees her nakednedness. And if a man sees a woman naked, it is as if he has been mezaneh with her. And if a man sees a woman’s hair, and sees her naked, it is as if he is mezaneh with her twice in one day, an act which I have not been able to perform in thirty years.

The RAMBAM, however, disagrees. He holds that LeOylum, a woman’s hair is not Erva. If the issue was one of modesty, then all women, unmarried and married, would be required to cover their hair. Rather, women are encouraged by the Toirah to cover their hair so that they will not waste their husband’s money on fancy hairstyles. Says RAMBAM, yeshiva tuition is costly enough, and men should save whatever money they have left to buy single malt scotch and to pay for flowers for their pilegesh.

Which brings us to the issue of shaytlach, wigs. In our Toirah-true lifestyle, we know that shaytels are the essence of Yiddishkeit. Indeed, according to the Sifsey Chachomim, the mitzvah in the Asesres Ha Dibrois, the Ten Commandments, ordering us not to covet another man’s wife actually refers to the woman’s shaytel, not the woman herself. Says the Sifsey Chachomim, “the wife talks back, argues, and never knows when to shut the gehennim up, but the shaytel always sits there on the styrofoam head, ready to lend an uncritical, sympathetic ear. Who wouldn’t covet that?” So, according to the Sifsey Chachomim and many Poiskim, wearing a wig is a Dioraisa, and is indeed comparable to Aishess Ish, making it YeHuraig VeAll Yaavor, a mitzvah for which one should be willing to sacrifice his or her life.

However, this is nisht azoy pashoot, it is not so simple, you ignoramus. Because, there are many Poiskim who are in fact against the wearing of a shaytel, suggesting that this circumvents the basic intent of hair covering. This includes: Reb Yankif Emden, the Vilna Goyn, Reb Shloimoi (Big Hank) Kluger, the Chassam Soifer, the Maharshal, and none other than Oivadiya Yoisaiph before he became an oiver-buttel farbisseneh. (This is all true, by the way. Look it up, you michutziff.)

However, the Brisker Ruv was dismissive of this position, suggesting that any man who opposes women wearing shaytels is a chashash of Mishkav Zachor, a man who perhaps likes to spend a bit too much time in the mikvah every morning before davening checking REALLY, REALLY CLOSE to see if the other men have chatzitzahs on their schvantzels. His shita is supported by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Reb Moishe Feinstein, and Pat Robertson.

So Halacha LeMaaseh, the vast majority of Poiskim support the notion that a true Bas Toirah covers her hair in a shaytel. According to the Tzitz Eliezer, the shaytel should preferably be made of real hair and come from a hot shiksa. In the words of the Tzitz, “a Yiddishe woman should adorn herself in the finest coverings, to match the beautiful neshamah given her by Hakadoshboruchhu, and should cover her hair with the magisterial flaxen locks of a gentile woman, to complement the generous proboscis provided by the Reboinoisheloilum.”

However, the Schvantz Mordechai holds farkhert. If the purpose of hair covering is to ensure modesty, he asks, then what is the logic of a woman covering her hair with a shaytel that looks real, perhaps even better than the woman’s natural hair? And, he continues, if a Jewish woman parades before a Ben Toirah showing off the hair of an idol worshipping shiksa, could this not lead a Jewish man to intermarriage and idol worship? Or even worse, paying retail? Says the Schvantz Mordechai, wearing a real hair shaytel “makes about as much sense as waving a live chicken over your head.”

Rather, the Schvantz Mordechai holds that a woman should indeed wear a wig, but one that is easily distinguishable as a substitute for real hair. Citing a Gemarrah in Sukkoh, he suggests that women wear wigs made out of that stuff that Esroigs used to come wrapped in or out of leftover Hoishaiynois.

And this brings us to your question. Clearly, it is troubling that a goy, a shaygitz, an Oivaid Alilim, should infer that faithfulness to the Aimishteh is bringing a plague of cancer upon Klal Yisroel. Is this indeed true? And if it is not true, should we not still be worried about what the goyim are saying, for, as it says in Tehillim, “Lamah Yoimroo BaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nah Elohayhem?’”

Well, to be honest, we cannot address this shailah without speaking with leading experts in the medical field. So I spoke to the guy who sits next to me in shul, and his brother in law knows someone who once worked as a nurse’s aide in Brooklyn Community Hospital, which is a really decent institution. And she insists that there is no link between shaytels and cancer, at least in lab mice. And that is good enough for me.

So as this allegation is not true, there are several options we should consider. Perhaps every Bas Yisroel should walk around with her hair uncovered, like a street shiksa. At the same time, maybe she should eat a ham sandwich and carry a flashing neon sign that says in bright letters, “I AM A SHIKSA – COME BE MEZANEH WITH ME!!!” I should think this is NOT an option, chass v’sholom!

Or perhaps we should ignore the taunting of the goyim. Let your colleague think that shaytels are a sign of cancer. Maybe this will get Klal Yisroel discounts on groceries and better seats on the subway, as well as select government subsidies. But, of course, Yiddishkeit is all about proclaiming the majesty of the Rebboinoisheloilum, and we would not want the shkutzim to think that Yiddishkeit causes cancer. We must go about our everyday lives, not by ignoring the goyim, but by leading them, so that in Yemois HaMashiach they will continue to follow us around while holding our tzitzis.

So the best mode of action for your wife, and for every Bas Yisroel, is to adopt the wearing of a burka. After all, this is a form of tzniyus that is consistent with the Toirah’s concerns for feminine modesty. The gentiles will no longer suspect that Bnois Yisroel have cancer because they will not be able to see any of them. This will prevent Aishess Ish because, Aimishteh knows, no one will be attracted to a woman underneath her burka garb. And this will remove the need for real hair shaytlach, leaving hair on the heads of the hot shiksas, the way Hakkadoshboruchhu originally intended.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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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 good-for-nothing 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 is 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

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess