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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Parshas Vayigash


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Parshas Vayigash

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayigash, we read of the culmination of the Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, where Yoisaiph Hatzadick exposes himself to his brothers, as well as to numerous underage bystanders.

Not long after, of course, Yankif Avinu is told that his beloved son Yoisaiph is indeed alive, ending his years of mourning. The Toirah is silent about how the wonderful news is told to Yankif. However, a famous Medrish tells us that the news was gently broken to Yankif by his granddaughter, Serach Bas Asher.

Serach Bas Asher was respected amongst her family as a talented singer and a musician. The Shfatim were concerned that breaking the news outright to Yankif would cause him to have a heart attack. So instead, they employed Serach to gently sing to her grandfather while playing the harp, and embed in her song the news that Yoisaiph was alive. The Medrish goes on to say that Serach’s reward for performing this great expression of Kibud Av VaAim was eternal life.

Unfortunately for Serach, her gift of eternal life was not accompanied by a matching gift of a trust fund or a professionally managed pension fund to support her financially. Consequently, she was dirt poor, and had to spend the next thousand years working as an exotic dancer in a Mesopotamian strip club.

Whatever became of Serach Bas Asher? There is a famous machloikess on this topic in a Gemarrah in Megillah.

-- According to Abaya, Serach prayed for the Reboinoisheloilum to end her life as she witnessed the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash and the descent of Klal Yisroel into the Babylonian exile.

-- According to Rava, Serach lived though Golus Bavel, returned to Eretz Yisroel with Ezra and Nechemia, and lived for several hundred more years. But as Sinas Chinum overtook Klal Yisroel in the years before the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, Serach could no longer withstand her role as eyewitness to all of Jewish history, and prayed to the Aimishteh to be taken to the Oilum HaEmmes.

-- However, according to Rav Shayshess, Serach Bas Asher is indeed still alive, and is currently living in Wisconsin, running an online porn site, SerachWILD.Com.

-- Rav Puppa concurs that Serach is still alive, but he insists that she is neither engaging in pornography, Chass V’Sholom, nor living in obscurity. Farkhert, he holds that she is leveraging her years of wisdom and experience to make the Reboinoisheloilum’s world a better place by engaging in public service, and is none other than Hillary Clinton. In addition, Rav Puppa holds that Joe Biden is really Culaiv Ben Yefuneh, Barack Oibama is actually Shloimoi Hamelech, and John Boehner is in reality Yeruvum Ben Nevut.

A different Gemarrah in Shabbos focuses on Yankif Avinu’s response to the revelation of Yoisaiph’s whereabouts. According to Rav Chisda, upon hearing the news that Yoisaiph was alive, Yankif looked up to Shamayim and recited Hallel “at having lived to see the handiwork of the Etzbah Eloikim.” However, according to Rabba Bar Bar Channa, Yankif Avinu first looked down to the floor and took a moment to reflect on the enormity of the information. Then he turned around and bitch-slapped Yissaschar and Zevulun in the head, and then kicked Naftali in the Schvantzlach.

RASHI, however, is not at all troubled by the confusion raised by the total lack of any real information in theis story. He states in Perek Chuff Baiz, Passuk Yud Aleph that the entire Parsha of Vayigash should not be taken literally anyway, but should be read as a complete metaphor… for Parshas Miketz, which makes even less sense than Parshas Vayigash. Consequently, every year at this time, to coincide with Chanukah, RASHI would take a break from writing his commentary and travel abroad to sample the new wines being developed in Sonoma County. He would stay at a boutique hotel in downtown San Francisco and take day trips to the wineries where he would drink enough, he writes, “until I can no longer tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabarnet, or between a woman names Chris and a cross-dresser named Christine.” Shoyn.

As we sit here in our modern world, how are we to relate to the entire Yoisaiph Hatzadick story, and, in fact, to the entire Yankif Avinu cycle? Did we even need the brave actions of Yoisaph Hatzadick to begin with? Would we not have been better off had Klal Yisroel not descended to Egypt? Why did Hakkadoshboruchhu have to put our ancestors through hundreds of years of suffering the stinging horrors and humiliations of slavery, only to return to Eretz Yisroel through bitter conquest? Could we not have just stayed there in the first place and survived the famine by taking government subsidies?

Indeed, this is a reflection of a broader existential quandary – linked to one of the ultimate questions facing Klal Yisroel: Why is our history so twisted and tinged with challenge and tragedy? If we are indeed the Aimishteh’s chosen people, could we not have had it a bit easier, like, say, the Norwegians? Who is at fault for our having such a convoluted and tortured fate?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Katski, this is indeed the fault of Hakadoshboruchhu Himself, Bichvoidoi UbiAtzmoi. He points to the Akeidah and notes that just as Yitzchak’s life is spared when a lost little lamb is sacrificed in his stead, the Reboinoisheloilum constantly looks at the world, is tempted to destroy it, remembers His oath to Noiach, and then uses Klal Yisroel as His punching bag to take out His frustrations.

Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah holds farkhert. According to Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah, the eternal fate of Klal Yisroel is of course not the Aimishteh’s fault! He loves us the same way a child lives his pet hamster. Rather, we should really blame all the ills of our lives on our parents: If they had only loved us a little more as we were children, and bought us that thing that we really wanted, and let us watch a little more TV, and helped us more with out homework, and not favored our younger brother, and had been less critical of our bisomim smoking friends, we would have been better adjusted and had all the needed confidence to succeed in our lives' endeavors. Yes, it is our parents who are at fault for the failure of our going down to Egypt, for us being exiled, and for all of our other failings. Indeed, the fact that we are 3,000 years old, still wet our beds, suck our thumbs, and are always looking for a handout proves that our parents never really cared about us!

However, according to the Reb Bezalel Kupkayk, our eternal fate is the fault of neither Hakadoshboruchhu nor of our parents. Rather, it is the fault of the liberal media. Case in point: Did we really have to know that Yoisaiph had actually been sold into slavery by his brothers, who then lied to Yankif Avinu and maintained the lie for the next two decades? Is it that big a deal? Every nation has its little internal arguments, and exposing this disagreement only plays into the hands of the Anti-Semites!

Similarly, we would never have been exiled from Eretz Yisroel if the liberal media was not always talking about how corrupt the kings of Israel were. They should really love the country, otherwise they should keep their mouths shut. Did the liberal media need to tell us that idolatry was introduced into the Bais Hamikdash by Shloimoi HaMelech and most of the other kings of Malchus Yehuda? These were a few isolated events, blown totally out of proportion. And so what if there were poor members of Klal Yisroel being ignored by their fellow man -- they were probably illegal immigrants anyway. And so what if there were widows and orphans -- they should have planned better for the future!

Yes, it was the liberal media that undermined the position of Malchis Bais David, the Malchus of the Chashmonaim, and later, the leadership of the Nasi in the post Temple period. Media vehicles such as CNN, ABC, National Public Radio, Kol Yisroel, Israel's Channel 10, Shmuel Aleph and Baiz, Melachim Aleph and Baiz, Yishayahu, Yirmiyahu and the other prophets, as well as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. By the actions of the liberal media, our enemies have been strengthened and given constant reason to hate us and persecute us. Reboinoisheloilum-Damned-Liberal-Media!

I am reminded of a famous Machloikess in the medieval period. The RIF and the RAN got into a disagreement with the RALBAG and the RITVAH over who had the bigger shtender, Moishe Rabbeinu or Aaroin HaKoihain, the minuval. The RIF and the RAN insist that Moishe’s shtender was bigger, as we are told that Moishe was the greatest Navi that ever lived, and how can you imagine a Navi with an inferior shtender? The RALBAG and the RITVAH, however, refer to the fact that the descendents of Aharoin HaKoihain received the Kehunah as proof that Aharoin had a bigger shtender. After all, they argue, “only someone with a groisse shtender could have earned the right to appoint his descendants to the institutional leadership of future generations."

I would like to suggest a different approach. LeOilum, this debate isn’t really about the size of one's shtender. After all, size doesn’t matter, or so my Bashert, Feige Breineh, frequently reassures me. Rather, it is the scope of one’s influence that really counts. Moishe Rabbeinu was the greatest Navi, but his descendants were more interested in learning Toirah, and less focused on addressing the everyday needs of Klal Yisroel. By contrast, Aroin Hakoihain was indeed a minuval, what, with the designing of the Eigel and speaking Rechilus about Moishe. Yet his children were committed to serving Klal Yisroel, even if that meant giving of their private time, sacrificing commitments to their children, violating their marital vows, or taking of the collected wealth of Klal Yisroel. As a result, through their actions, they established the paradigm of the future religious leadership of Klal Yisroel.

Similarly, Yoisaiph Hatzadick and the cycle of stories that surround him do not represent some perfect era of Klal Yisroel’s history. On the contrary, they tell us that the nature of the relationship between Klal Yisroel and the Reboinoisheloilum is not at all clear. In fact, it is downright convoluted. Yet, what is crystal clear from the story of Yoisaiph is that the will of Hakkadoshboruchhu is best served when we hide our own identities, marry shiksas, work for the goyim, and abuse our brethren. Only then can we be in a strong position to help bring about the Geulah Shlaimah for all of Klal Yisroel. Bimayra BiYamainu. Umayn.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

On The Meaning Of Life

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Rabboisai,

While I was off of Facebook, I had the opportunity to write one or two meaningful Drashas. (It is amazing what being imprisoned in a North Korean cell can inspire...)

I am sharing the below for those who did not see it when it was first posted:

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On The Meaning Of Life


Rabboisai,

I have been asked so many question by Menuvals like you! "Rebbe, what Bracha should I say on fresh squeezed orange juice, with pulp?" "Rebbe, can I tea bag on Shabbos?" "Rebbe, I just slaughtered a chicken, and the blade had a nick, but it is Tuesday, and I just had to take out a third mortgage to pay for Yeshiva tuition. Is the chicken Koisher?" "Rebbe, my wife has little stains in her... Ummm... Untervesch. We think it may be nail polish, or left over strawberry jam. Do we have to worry about a Chashash of Nidah?"

These are very procedural, transactional questions. I am delighted that you trust me with such critical issues. I am frankly impressed that you can turn on a light by yourself without consulting me.

But sometimes I also get more intelligent question, of the existential type. "Rebbe, what is the nature of the Reboinoisheloilum." "Rebbe, what happens when we die." "Rebbe, what does the Aimishteh want from us?"

These are the most fundamental questions, the questions of the ages. But they ultimately boil down to one essential question: "Rebbe, what is the meaning of life?"

People spend many years in yeshiva studying at the side of great rabbeihim trying to understand the meaning of life. Other spend time with priests and ministers and imams and gurus of all sorts. Still others study the great philosophers, ancient and contemporary.

But I learned the meaning of life from a four year old girl. This is actually true. Mamish.

Many years ago, when my daughter Bracha was four years old, I was teaching her the music of The Beatles. I mentioned in passing that John Lennon was murdered a few years after the band broke up. She asked, in her childish innocence, why someone would kill John Lennon. And I was stumped: How does one explain the irrational, the unexplainable?

And so, after a minute of thinking how to respond, I told young Bracha, "You know, people spend their whole lives trying to gain control of their destinies. Sometimes things happen that we cannot control, as was the case of the murder of John Lennon. But for the most part, we spend our lives trying to wrest control from randomness and try to determine our own destinies."

It was with these unplanned words that I, for the first time, understood the meaning of life. However, this is not a statement of existential, theological, of philosophical belief. This is the practical meaning, the purpose, the intent of everything we do in our lives - our long term planning, as well as our day to day.

Rabboisai,

Why do you continue to worship the Reboinoisheloilum? Or why did you reject Him? So that you can influence your own fate.

- If you believe in the Aimishteh, you likely subscribe to the most basic notion - that good behavior is more likely to beget good rewards in this world, and/ or in the world to come. And bad behavior is likely to result in punishment, or at least a urinary tract infection.

- If you do not believe in Hakadoshboruchhu, it is because you reject the belief that an Old Man In The Sky is in control of your life. You have decided to take control from what you perceive is a placebo, "the opiate of the masses".

Self determination, being the master of ones own fate and taking control of ones own life, is why people go to college. And to graduate school. And to other professional trainings - so that they can be employed an a career of their choosing, maximize their income potential, in order to support themselves and their families.

Self determination is why people exercise, in order to positively impact their health. It is why people eat healthy food. It is why people go to doctors for well visits and see therapists for "self realization".

Our purpose in life is to gain control of our own fates.

And this is not simply an individual objective. It is a national one as well. Why do we vote? To shape the policies of the country that we live in. To put in place an environment that reflects the world as we would like to see it. To create an environment that is more conducive to our national future.

For Klal Yisroel, this issue played out in particular over the past 130 years or so. Why was there a massive return to Zion, ultimately culmination in the establishment of the State of Israel? Because we, as Klal Yisroel, discovered that we could not survive peacefully and securely under the sovereignty of others. The lesson of two millennia, culminating in the Shoah, was that we need to determine our own fate as a nation. And so we ceased waiting for the Moshiach to arrive on its own, to save us from oppression in the Diaspora. We decided to bring the Moshiach ourselves. We decided to create a national entity in which we would be in charge of our own destiny.

Rabboisai, what are the fundamental implications of this essential truth?

It means that we cannot remain silent in the face of injustices. From wherever they come. We need to shape our world around us as much as we have to shape ourselves, our own Daled Amois.

-- It means that we are responsible for our own educations, and the educations of our children, if our community denies us the opportunity.

-- It means that we need to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. The Rebbe or the Rabbis will not solve the plague of sexual abuse in our community - we must bring about that change.

-- It means that we cannot sit idly by as our brethren and sistren are trapped in modern day Ultra Orthodox cults, rooted in tradition, but corrupted by the centralization of power around individuals who deprive their communities of social progress, fiscal opportunities, and basic freedoms of choice and expression.

-- It means that we must speak out for common sense, when dangerous or offensive ideas are expressed by either the extreme left or the extreme right.

"Moishe Kibel Toirah MiSinai U'Musruh LeYehoishua..." As we read in Pirkei Avois, Moishe Rabbeinu received the Toirah on Sinai and passed it along to Yehoishua, who subsequently passed it along to the leadership of each generation. Yet we are also told in a famous Midrash "Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee", Toirah is not in the purview of heaven; it is in the hands of mankind.

Our purpose on this earth is to take control of our lives and to improve our communities for the well being of ourselves and our children and our colleagues. "Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee." We cannot wait around for a Deus Ex Machina. Or as Shakespeare put it, "Our fate lies not in our stars but in ourselves". We must be our own Moshiach. We must actively work to bring about our own salvation.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, December 19, 2014

On The Mitzvah of Shmita



On The Mitzvah of Shmita


Rabboisai,

This, week, I respond to a Talmid in Eretz Yisroel who strives to shed light on one of the key Halachic Inyunim of the day.

Tzioyn writes:

Rebbe - I saw this beautiful woman on the beach in Tel Aviv. I engaged her in a conversation about Torah subjects, and the topic of Shmita arose.

The woman was wearing a new cotton Gottex bikini, and since Gottex uses natural Israeli fibers, the material probably came from cotton grown with Kedushas Ha’aretz and therefore should not be used. I pleaded with her to take off her bikini, but she preferred to violate the laws of Shmita.

Rebbe, can you please validate my position on this topic so I can get a little action?

Your talmid

Zion in Tel Aviv

Reb Tzioyn, thank you for your brilliant and meaningful question that promises to shed light upon the dark, provide sustenance to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and display cleavage to the lustful.

Indeed, your shailah raises so many critical Halachic questions, I do not know where to start:
-- Shall I focus on the topic of Shmita, about which you are clearly an ignoramus?
-- Shall I address the notion of how to integrate Halacha with the modern world, you behaimah?
-- Or shall I contemplate why you are on the beach in Tel Aviv, while the rest of us are off studying Toirah or selling life insurance, you mechutziff?

Before I answer your question, there is something I would like to share with you: As I sit and write this Teshuvah, I am currently snacking on an apple. However, this is not just any apple from some Kibbutz run by pig eating Socialists, or even worse, hairy Communist rabbis. This apple was imported from a farm in Antarctica owned by a gentile, to avoid being oiver on the issur of eating Shviis, violating the laws of Shmita. Just to be on the safe side, the shaygitz also symbolically sold his land to a different goy. In addition, the farm was leased by the local Bais Din, and the farmer is being treated as a schlepper, being symbolically compensated at minimum wage to work his own land. In addition, once I finish eating the apple, I plan to stick my finger down my throat to force myself to puke. The apple, by the way, cost me $400.

All in all, it is a worthy price to pay in order to keep such a critical mitzvah.

Yes, Shmita is a core mitzvah that we must all go to great lengths to observe. It is a Mitzvah that has been practiced by Klal Yisroel since the days of Bayis Rishoyn and the kingdom of Shloimoi HaMelech, and our lives have certainly not changed much since then. It is troubling that many vilda chayas like you would find the topic of Shmita an opportunity for laytzonis. It is because of people like you that there is Sin’as Chinum, that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed, and that the stock market is going down.

As we all know, the Toirah commands us to observe Shmita, a sabbatical year, when we are required to let the land lie fallow – we do not work the land, and we do not plant for the coming year. In addition, we are commanded to forgive all debts that were issued over the previous six years.

In a Mishnah in Shviis, there is a famous machloikess between Rebbe Yehoishua and Rebbe Yoichanan, two Tanaim who lived in late Second Temple times. According to Rebbe Yehoishua, Shmita produce should never be eaten, under any circumstances. He brings as proof a Gezairah Shavah -- the fact that the Toirah uses similar language for both Shmita and Yoim Kippur. Both are referred to as “Shabbas Shabbasoin”. Rebbe Yehoishua makes the link, stating, “just as one is required to starve all day on Yoim Kippur, one is required to starve all year of Shmita”. Adds Rebbe Yehoishua, Shmita is the Toirah’s natural diet plan. He even published the book “The Rebbe Yehoishua Diet Plan”, available wherever quality paperbacks are sold.

However, Rebbe Yoichanan holds farkhert. The Reboinoisheloilum wants us to give the land a rest, but certainly does not want us to suffer as a result. Consequently, we are sanctioned by Halacha to pick up the produce that has fallen on the ground, and to make the rest Hefker, available without charge to one’s friends, neighbors and the poor. However, Rebbe Yoichanan points out that you are still allowed to put some rules in place around the gathering of the produce, For examples, a landowner is allowed to insist that only hot, large breasted women with low cut dresses pick up the produce by bending forward, to remind the landowner that the Ikkar Mitzvah of Shmita is to express our faith in Hakadoshboruchhu that he will provide plentiful fertility and bountiful sustenance to all of Eretz Yisroel, “A Land Flowing with Milk and…”.

Even back in the time of the Mishnah, however, the basic notion of Shmita was not without its controversy. Rabban Shimoin Ben Gamliel insisted that Shmita no longer applied, and was to be replaced by taxes paid directly to the Nasi of Eretz Yisroel, made out to the “RASHBAG Discretionary Fund” or to cash. And Rabbi Tarfon insisted that Shmita be practiced by all married men in Klal Yisroel, whether or not they were land owners, by offering aging, white bearded rabbis with silly names the opportunity to sleep with their wives once every seven years.

After the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash and the emerging pre-eminence of the leadership of the Jewish community in Bavel, Chazal were confronted by a new set of questions: Does Shmita still apply? Should it also be relevant outside of Eretz Yisroel? What new strictures were required?

According to Rish Lakish, Shmita still applied, and was also incumbent upon people living outside of Eretz Yisroel. However, due to the challenge of dating the actual start of Shmita, in Chutz La’Aretz one was required to observe Shmita for two years instead of one. On this, RASHI points out that Rish Lakish was known throughout all of Babylon for having six anorexic daughters, and a wife who was willing to be mezaneh with even the filthiest of strangers in exchange for a piece of three month old kichel.

However, according to Rabbi Chiyah bar Abba, Shmita was no longer Dioraisa, a Biblical requirement, but was a DeRabbanan. In addition, it was only to be observed in Eretz Yisroel. As well, according to the RASHBA, Shmita is applicable only in areas where Klal Yisroel held territory during the Second Temple. Consequently, areas such as the Arava Valley and Eilat are not subject to the laws of Shmita. These areas are also exempt from kosher laws in general, and one may eat pork and shellfish there, especially Bain Hashmushois.

Of course, in our day, there is a raging dispute about how to apply the laws of Shmita in a modern state. The debate is between the followers of Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor and HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Yankif Kook on one side, who hold that you can symbolically sell the land of Israel to a gentile, the so-called Heter Mechira, and between the followers of the Chazoin Ish, who oppose the Heter Mechira on principle.

Historically, Heter Mechira was the policy of the state, but with the Rabbanut’s slide into complete moral corruption… err… with the increasing trend towards Halachic stricture, there has been growing opposition to the Heter in ultra-Orthodox circles. Thankfully, there are a few other Halachically sanctioned options:

-- Oitzer Bais Din Option – A farmer may lease his farm to the Bais Din, a body that is immune to the requirements of Shmita. The Bais Din pays the farmer a minimal wage to work his own land after charging him a processing fee, and also charges the marketing, distribution and retail agents extra fees for their participation in the gevaldikka exploitation… err… innovation of Toirah requirements. The consumers of course pay four times as much for each item, which they are happy to do, you Am Ha’aretz, while the Bais Dins use their new found revenue to go on underage Tashmish HaMitah tours in Thailand.

-- Buying from a Gentile/ Importing Produce Option – According to most Halachic authorities, Goyim are not required to observe Shmita in Eretz Yisroel. And certainly, gentiles in Chutz La’Aretz are exempt. So what better way to celebrate Kidushas Ha’aretz than by buying produce from the Palestinians and the French. It’s Takkeh a Kiddush Hashem!

-- Tzedakah Option – Every option outside of Heter Mechira is bound to raise prices for the tax paying citizens… ummm… tax-exempt Yiddisheh residents of Eretz Yisroel. But thankfully, there is an extensive network set up to collect Tzedakah from all of Klal Yisroel to support the great works and sacrifices of our Gedoilei HaDor and their followers in Eretz Yisroel. The people in Brooklyn, Queens, Los Angeles, London, and Brussels are more than happy to increase their contributions, so that our brethren in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem can buy a cantaloupe grown by Shiite pygmies in Saudi Arabia for forty dollars. In fact, Rav Eliyushiv himself has declared that all Jews should have pushkas raising money for this cause installed in their bathrooms to guarantee long life and healthy bowel movements.

-- The Carlebach Option – This option stems back to the First Bais HaMikdash. Farmers are allowed to grow extra organic items, preserve them, and store them for the coming year. In addition to refrigeration, this method relies on freeze drying and smoking. The option is named after the late Rabbi Shloimoi Carlebach who, along with his followers, used to grow a double amount of his special herbs the year before Shmita, and store them in a safe place far away from sunlight, moisture, and the legal authorities.

-- The Kfar Chassidim Option – One innovative approach that has been suggested is that instead of selling its land, Eretz Yisroel should sell the ultra-Orthodox for the year. However, the representatives of the Goyisha governments have refused to comply because they are afraid that Israel won’t want to take the ultra-Orthodox back at the end of the year. In addition, the prospect of having the ultra-Orthodox disappear for a year threatens to bring the government down, since the government would not know how to manage the resulting budget surplus.

-- The Annapolis Option – One interesting option being explored is a political option, based on the majority position that holds that land owned by gentiles is not subject to Shmita. Just as a little land in the hands of the Goyim can yield edible produce exempt from Shviis, Kal V’Choimer, a lot of land in the hands of the Goyim will yield even more acceptable produce. This, of course, is different from the Hamas Option, which suggests that all the land should be in the hands of the Goyim, and the Ann Coulter Option, which suggests that we should all be Goyim.

In any case, Koolay Alma Loi Pligi, everybody agrees – that at the end of the year we will celebrate the conclusion of Shmita with the wonderful mitzvah of Hakhel. In this Mitzvah, the political leader of Klal Yisroel gets up and reads from the Toirah, a tradition that dates back to Shloimoi HaMelech himself (who found the time to engage in the Mitzvah despite his 700 wives and 300 concubines). Indeed, at the end of Shmita two Shmitois ago, the Nasi, President Moishe Katzav, read from the Toirah. Afterwards, he blew the shoifar. And immediately at the end of the ceremony, he went back to his official residence and got bl…errr… received Metzitza BiPeh from three members of his household staff. And now he is sitting in jail, possibly for the rest of his life, Imirtza Hashem.

Which goes to show that things haven’t changed all that much from the time of Shloimoi HaMelech after all.

Ah Gutten Shabbos und Ah Freilichen Yuntif, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Chanukah Drasha

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Chanukah Drasha

This week we celebrate Chanukah, the Yuntif in which the Jews defeated the Greeks in a struggle to preserve Jewish heritage from the onslaught of creeping Hellinistic cultural imperialism. We commemorate this great event, of course, by reenacting the joy, the lights and the gift giving of Christmas, extended over an eight day period.

(When I was a young bocher, we were so poor that my tahti used to give me potatoes for Chanukah. And I was lucky. The children next door used to get egg shells. Nowadays, poor orphans, Rachmanah Letzlan, can only get XBOX One games to play on their 40 inch LCD TVs. Uchinvei.)

RASHI asks a penetrating question: Why do we even bother celebrating Chanukah, given all the bad that came out of the Chashmonaim, the Hasmonians:

- They ignored the legacy of Malchus Bais Dovid, the Davidic dynasty, and replaced it with their own;

- They replaced the priestly leadership of the descendants of Tzaddok, in place since the time of Shlomo Hamelech, with a competing strand of the priesthood;

- After one generation in power, they became the most despotic regime in the history of Jewish sovereignty;

- And they sanctified gambling in the form of the dreidel, a game I cannot win no matter how much I cheat.

Indeed, Chazal had such ambivalent feelings about Chanukah, they never gave the holiday it's own masechta (tractate) in the Talmud. So why should we care?

The Rabbeinu Tam answers that had it not been for the Chashmonaim, we would now all be wearing dresses in the street and walking around naked in the Gymnasium, with earrings in our foreskins.

The Rabbeinu Mordechai responds farkhert, that hallevai we should all be wearing dresses and walking around naked. That sure beats pogroms, terrorism, and having to pay yeshiva tuition. He suggests, instead, that we celebrate Chanukah out of respect for our parents' generation, who, quite frankly, didn't know any better.

The RAMBAN takes a totally different approach. He suggests that Chazal instituted Chanukah solely to satisfy the powerful olive oil lobby in ancient times. In reality, Chanukah was the compromise. The lobby was pushing for a "Let's rub olive oil all over each other and go to the mikvah together" Yuntif, but it sounded a bit too Greek.

On this topic, the Sifsey Chachomim brings down a beatiful gemmarah in Nidah, which tells the following maaiseh shehoyo: Rish Lakish went ot the mikveh one day with the Raish Gelusa. While he was being toivel-zeyn (immersing himself in the waters) someone stole his clothing. Rish Lakish turned to the Raish Gelusa, "Can you lend me your cloak so I can go out and get replacement clothing?"

"I cannot lend you my cloak, but I would gladly rent it to you for 100 zuzum," the Raish Gelusa answered. At that point, Rish Lakish hit the Raish Gelusa on the head with a rock and walked away with his cloak AND his wallet. (The Raish Gelusa was later found by Nachum Ish Gamzu, who brought him over to Ben Drusoy's house to be revived with a little snack.)

The Sifsey Chachomim points out that while assaulting the Raish Gelusa was wrong, Rish Lakish was only responding to the Raish Gelusa's unreasonable demands. So rather than fault Rish Lakish in the story, we should hold him in great esteem and emulate his every action, especially with Goyim and the Reformed.

So too with Chanukah. Whatever wrongs were later done by the Chashmonaim and their descendants, they were responding to such travesties as hogs in the Bais Hamikdash and men in designer skirts. That the Aimishteh chose to make these future despots the heros of the day reveals His dark sense of humor, as well as his faithful commitment to seeing the Jews oppressed, even at the hand of their own.

The ARI ZAHL compares Chanukah to a Bris Milah. Like a Bris, Chanukah is achieved over a period of eight days. Like with the birth of a son, gifts are exchanged. And like with a Bris, we end Chanukah with some portion of us stripped away, taken by the Moyhel or the Toys-R-Us clerk, whichever the case may be. The ARI ZAHL's mystical explanation is that the eight day cycle is linked to cosmic activities involved in rescuing the lost holy sparks from the Tehom, in a effort to restore mankind and creation to their original purity.

In other words, they both make about as much sense as men wearing designer skirts.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, you Minuval
---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, December 12, 2014

Parshas Vayayshev

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Rabboisai,

As you may be aware, a month ago Facebook removed my ability to function as a person named Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein. The anti-Semites. Consequently I was forced to create a Rabbi Pibnky Schmeckelstein for readers to "like" in order to follow my posts. The link is listed above.

By sheer coincidence.... or not.... at around the same time, some miserable shit.... errr.... misguided Minuval hacked my Yahoo account and sent out an e-mail claiming that I was stuck in transit and need money. (It just so happens at the time I WAS in transit, but was not stuck; my incarceration was completely voluntary;-)

What I did not realize until a week ago is that in the course of hacking my account, the program or individual redirected my Yahoo e-mails to a backup account established long ago to which I no longer have access. As a result, if anyone sent me e-mail in the past month, I have not received it. So apologies if anyone reached out to me to subscribe, to receive a Bracha, or, most importantly, to make a donation, and did not receive a response.

The Yahoo e-mail address has been repaired, and I am once again reachable by e-mail.

Boruch Hashem, and His pet hamster, Schwecky.

Pinky

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Parshas Vayayshev

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayayshev, we read characteristic tales that reflect the great moral fabric of our ancestors. These stories include:

-- Yoisaif Hatzadik has repeated dreams of future domination over his brothers and his parents. His brothers express displeasure at these dreams. And who can blame them? Believe me: If your brother boasted that you would one day bow down to him, you would want to kick him in the Bris Milah too.

-- Yehuda fathers the family line that will result in Malchus Bais David, the Davidic monarchy. Of course, along the way he did have to sleep with his daughter in law, Tamar, who disguised herself as a prostitute on the road in order to seduce him. Maylah, after reading this week’s Parsha, I feel a lot less guilty about buying that French maid’s costume and riding crop from Fredericks of Hollywood for my Bashert, Feyga Breinah.

-- The Shvatim, completely fed up with Yoisaif Hatzadik’s undermining of their positions with their father, decide to kill Yoisaif. At the last moment they cast him into a pit and take his Kesoines Passim, his Coat of Many Colors, cover it with goat’s blood and bring it to their father, to whom they report that their beloved sibling was eaten by a beast. Yankif is inconsolable -- to the point of ceasing day trading for a full six hours!

A gemarrah in Soitah brings down a Beraisah quoting a question from Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah: “Are we, Klal Yisroel, really descendants of these people? I mean, seriously, is it possible we could be adopted? Please?!” Rabbi Elazar goes on to point out that he never in his life tried to kill any of his brothers or sleep with his son’s wife, though he once did grope his sister-in-law during havdalah.

What follows is a famous machloikess in the gemarrah surrounding Rabbi Elazar’s comments:

Rish Lakish holds that Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah found the activities of the Avois and the Shvatim quite disturbing, and felt that we should try to emulate the more positive aspects of their lives, such as Yosaif Hatzadik’s nice hair style, the Shvatim’s bargaining skills with Ishmaelite merchants, and Yehuda’s giving of generous tips to even the lowliest of roadside prostitutes.

However, Rav Huna holds farkhert: In reality all of the stories brought down in the Toirah do indeed reflect positive elements of our ancestors’ behavior, if only you understood the Toirah properly, you worthless minuval. He explains:

-- Yoisaif was a gadol amongst his brothers, and had true visions of his future exile and eventual ascent to power in Egypt. And in his dreams, his family members were not bowing down to him – rather, they were all picking up pennies from the floor.

-- The Shvatim were afraid that Yoisaif’s perceived arrogance would be a bad influence on their children, and therefore determined to strengthen their own families by kidnapping their brother. And their persistent lying to their father about Yoisaif’s fate was an attempt to Practice the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan.

-- And Yehuda never, ever, ever, EVER meant in his life to go to a prostitute, chass vesholom. Unfortunately, in his business travels he was exposed to television, and after watching Lady Gaga on MTV he had a tremendous taiyvah. And instead of committing a Dioraisa by himself, if you know what I mean, he chose to do a DeRabannan with Tamar. What a tzadik!

Rav Huna cites proof for his position on the high moral integrity of the Shvatim. He notes that Yoiseph Hatzadik, after he had risen to lead the household of Potiphar, rejected the advances of Mrs. Potiphar. Says Rav Huna: this is because Yoiseph knew Kol HaToirah Kooloh and didn’t want to commit an act of Gilui Arayois – adultery.

But Rish Lakish retorts, citing a medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that says that Mrs. Potiphar weighed 400 pounds and had facial hair that made her look like Yassir Arafat. Rish Lakish also cites a different medrish in the Mekhilta that suggests while living in Potiphar’s house, Yoiseph Hatzadik spent ALL of his time on the weekends going shopping with Potiphar’s younger brother, Merlot, and had no interest in Mrs. Potiphar whatsoever. Rish Lakish concludes, “Rav Huna should spend more time tying his tzitzis rather than trying to reinterpret the basic pshat of Beraishis." Shoyn.

The gemarrah never settles this machloikess and the Rishoinim do not really talk about it. However, this machloikess is most famously addressed in the Likutei HaRABAM and in the Igroiss Penthouse.

Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah’s comments, and Rish Lakish’s understanding of them, raise a broader question about Yiddishkeit. There are many Halachois and Biblical incidents that stand in contrast to our contemporary sensibilities -- and even any against rational logic itself. A few halachic examples include: the halachois of mikvah, where due to Rabbinic invasion of the marital bedroom two weeks out of every month, men have to take matters into their own hands, if you know what I mean; the notion of animal sacrifice: killing an innocent animal for our own self serving purposes; the killing of an animal that has been the forced subject of bestiality; and the laws of Cherem, the complete decimation of the indigenous population during Kibbush Eretz Yisroel, including women and children.

Other examples include: the promotion of Dovid HaMelech and Shlomo HaMelech as role models and as the paradigmatic rulers of Klal Yisroel, even though Dovid was a murderer and Shlomo was an idolater whose despotism towards the northern tribes resulted in the breakup of the united monarchy; and the promotion of Aroin HaKoihain’s descendants as the priestly caste despite Aroin’s guilt in the Maiseh Ha-Eygel. How are we to relate to a faith that is founded upon many values that we do not necessarily share?

I am reminded of a famous Maaseh Shehoya. Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavicher Rebbe, was once walking to shul on Shabbos morning. It was cold that day, and Reb Shneur struggled to keep his hands warm. As he was crossing the street he noticed Malkah Shprintza, the childless woman who lived across the street. “Come over here so I can give you a bracha!” he called over to her. She walked across the street, and he greeted her by rapidly grabbing her behind and cupping a naked buttock in each freezing hand.

“Rebbe!” she screamed, “what are you doing?”

He replied “I am giving you a bracha: The Reboinoisheloilum should make you favored like Ruchel, fertile like Leah and cunning like Rivka.”

“What happened to Sarah Imainu?” Malkah Shprintza asked, suddenly enchanted by the grand Rebbe’s bracha.

Reb Shneur Zalman looked at her and smiled. “Meideleh” he said, “trust me, you don’t want to be like Sarah Imainu. She was crazier than my mother in law during a hot flash on Yoim Kippur!” With that, Reb Schneur rushed into shul just in time to do vodka shots.

So, just as the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, we have to be intelligently selective about how we understand, and apply, the foundational elements of the Toirah. Should we abandon the faith? No. But that does not mean that we should behave like brainless automatons.

In many ways, we practice Yiddishkeit not because of many of these foundational elements, but despite them. We coexist uncomfortably with these Halachois, stories and role models. We can choose to ignore them, or to embrace them. Just so long as we understand that the main gift of Hakkadoshboruchhu is free will.

However, you minuval, you may choose to reject free will -- in which case you should feel free to partake of every roadside prostitute, just like our ancestor Yehuda. And if you do, just remember to bring cash. Always bear in mind the timeless lesson of Yehuda: if you leave a prostitute your cloak, your staff or other forms of ID as payment, it is likely to come back and bite you in the ass.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval.



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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, December 05, 2014

NEW -- On The Meaning Of Life

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NEW -- On The Meaning Of Life


Rabboisai,

I have been asked so many question by Menuvals like you! "Rebbe, what Bracha should I say on fresh squeezed orange juice, with pulp?" "Rebbe, can I tea bag on Shabbos?" "Rebbe, I just slaughtered a chicken, and the blade had a nick, but it is Tuesday, and I just had to take out a third mortgage to pay for Yeshiva tuition. Is the chicken Koisher?" "Rebbe, my wife has little stains in her... Ummm... Untervesch. We think it may be nail polish, or left over strawberry jam. Do we have to worry about a Chashash of Nidah?"

These are very procedural, transactional questions. I am delighted that you trust me with such critical issues. I am frankly impressed that you can turn on a light by yourself without consulting me.

But sometimes I also get more intelligent question, of the existential type. "Rebbe, what is the nature of the Reboinoisheloilum." "Rebbe, what happens when we die." "Rebbe, what does the Aimishteh want from us?"

These are the most fundamental questions, the questions of the ages. But they ultimately boil down to one essential question: "Rebbe, what is the meaning of life?"

People spend many years in yeshiva studying at the side of great rabbeihim trying to understand the meaning of life. Other spend time with priests and ministers and imams and gurus of all sorts. Still others study the great philosophers, ancient and contemporary.

But I learned the meaning of life from a four year old girl. This is actually true. Mamish.

Many years ago, when my daughter Bracha was four years old, I was teaching her the music of The Beatles. I mentioned in passing that John Lennon was murdered a few years after the band broke up. She asked, in her childish innocence, why someone would kill John Lennon. And I was stumped: How does one explain the irrational, the unexplainable?

And so, after a minute of thinking how to respond, I told young Bracha, "You know, people spend their whole lives trying to gain control of their destinies. Sometimes things happen that we cannot control, as was the case of the murder of John Lennon. But for the most part, we spend our lives trying to wrest control from randomness and try to determine our own destinies."

It was with these unplanned words that I, for the first time, understood the meaning of life. However, this is not a statement of existential, theological, of philosophical belief. This is the practical meaning, the purpose, the intent of everything we do in our lives - our long term planning, as well as our day to day.

Rabboisai,

Why do you continue to worship the Reboinoisheloilum? Or why did you reject Him? So that you can influence your own fate.

- If you believe in the Aimishteh, you likely subscribe to the most basic notion - that good behavior is more likely to beget good rewards in this world, and/ or in the world to come. And bad behavior is likely to result in punishment, or at least a urinary tract infection.

- If you do not believe in Hakadoshboruchhu, it is because you reject the belief that an Old Man In The Sky is in control of your life. You have decided to take control from what you perceive is a placebo, "the opiate of the masses".

Self determination, being the master of ones own fate and taking control of ones own life, is why people go to college. And to graduate school. And to other professional trainings - so that they can be employed an a career of their choosing, maximize their income potential, in order to support themselves and their families.

Self determination is why people exercise, in order to positively impact their health. It is why people eat healthy food. It is why people go to doctors for well visits and see therapists for "self realization".

Our purpose in life is to gain control of our own fates.

And this is not simply an individual objective. It is a national one as well. Why do we vote? To shape the policies of the country that we live in. To put in place an environment that reflects the world as we would like to see it. To create an environment that is more conducive to our national future.

For Klal Yisroel, this issue played out in particular over the past 130 years or so. Why was there a massive return to Zion, ultimately culmination in the establishment of the State of Israel? Because we, as Klal Yisroel, discovered that we could not survive peacefully and securely under the sovereignty of others. The lesson of two millennia, culminating in the Shoah, was that we need to determine our own fate as a nation. And so we ceased waiting for the Moshiach to arrive on its own, to save us from oppression in the Diaspora. We decided to bring the Moshiach ourselves. We decided to create a national entity in which we would be in charge of our own destiny.

Rabboisai, what are the fundamental implications of this essential truth?

It means that we cannot remain silent in the face of injustices. From wherever they come. We need to shape our world around us as much as we have to shape ourselves, our own Daled Amois.

-- It means that we are responsible for our own educations, and the educations of our children, if our community denies us the opportunity.

-- It means that we need to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. The Rebbe or the Rabbis will not solve the plague of sexual abuse in our community - we must bring about that change.

-- It means that we cannot sit idly by as our brethren and sistren are trapped in modern day Ultra Orthodox cults, rooted in tradition, but corrupted by the centralization of power around individuals who deprive their communities of social progress, fiscal opportunities, and basic freedoms of choice and expression.

-- It means that we must speak out for common sense, when dangerous or offensive ideas are expressed by either the extreme left or the extreme right.

"Moishe Kibel Toirah MiSinai U'Musruh LeYehoishua..." As we read in Pirkei Avois, Moishe Rabbeinu received the Toirah on Sinai and passed it along to Yehoishua, who subsequently passed it along to the leadership of each generation. Yet we are also told in a famous Midrash "Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee", Toirah is not in the purview of heaven; it is in the hands of mankind.

Our purpose on this earth is to take control of our lives and to improve our communities for the well being of ourselves and our children and our colleagues. "Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee." We cannot wait around for a Deus Ex Machina. Or as Shakespeare put it, "Our fate lies not in our stars but in ourselves". We must be our own Moshiach. We must actively work to bring about our own salvation.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval.




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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Parshas Vayishlach


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Parshas Vayishlach


Rabboisai,

To begin this week's Drasha, I must share with you a wonderful, personal story. Earlier this year I was traveling on business to a Yeshiva fundraiser at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. As night came, I was compelled to make camp on a hill overlooking the city of Provo. In the middle of the night, I was stirred by someone walking around my campsite. I arose and was immediately thrust into the clench of physical combat. The mysterious person and I wrestled throughout the night, locked in mortal struggle. As the sun rose the next morning, the person tried to pull my thigh, but inadvertently dislodged my testicle, Rachmana Letzlan. At daybreak our struggle ended, and the being revealed himself as none other than President Barack Oibama.

From that day forth that location has been known as Kickmyass, because that was the site where President Barack Oibama kicked my ass.

I share this story, of course, because of its strong resemblance to the story of Yankif Avinu struggling with the Rebboinoisheloilum, while making his way to Eretz Yisroil, en route to his rendezvous with his twin brother, Eisav HaRasha, Yemach Shmoi Ve'Zichroi. Why did the Reboinoisheloilum engage Yankif in mortal combat?

According to the RASHBA it was because there was a nickel on the floor somewhere, and neither Yankif nor Hakkadoshboruch wanted to walk away from spare change.

But according to the Bais Yoiseph, they were actually fighting over a waffle. He cites as proof a Medrish that quotes the Aimishteh as telling Yankif during the stuggle "Leggo my Eggo, before I turn your Makom HaMilah into a piece of potato kugel."

However, the ARI ZAHL offers a beautiful interpretation. The ARI points to the end of the episode in the Toirah, where Yankif Avinu is for the first time given the name Yisrael, or Israel. Noting the longstanding Kabbalistic belief that the relationship between the Aimishteh and Klal Yisrael is like that of husband and wife, the ARI likens this episode to the awkward wedding night of Klal Yisrael and Hakkadoshboruchhu. They stay up together all night, vigorously engaged in physical interaction. As dawn arrives, they reach a climax, but not without some minor injury. And, to commemorate this event, the ARI suggests that when a man and his wife participate in intimacy while having in mind to spiritually align their actions with the holy cosmic union of Klal Yisroel and the Rebboinoisheloilum, the man ought to spank his wife every once in a while.

Of course, this story is but one of the many strange tales we read in this Parsha. Other stories include:

-- Yaakov's ultimate confrontation with his brother. After all the buildup, Yankif sends out his least favorite wives and children as canon fodder before the feared enemy, using them as human shields to protect himself, his favorite wife, Rachel, and his favorite children. But when Eisav finally meets Yankif's party, he in fact extends his hand to Yankif in peace. Yankif responds by asking Eisav for a donation and tries to sell him life insurance and a cell phone.

-- Reuven, Yankif's eldest son, has sex with Bilhah, one of his father's concubines, who is also the mother of his half brothers (Perek Lamed Hay, Pussook Chuf Baiz). How could one of the Shvatim, the tribes, holy as he was, commit Aishess Ish with the bedmate of his father? This is indeed very troubling!

But you mustn't ask such silly questions, you Minuval. Because according to Rabbi Eliezer, as quoted in a Braisah in Beraishis Rabbah, this was not Reuven's intention at all. Says Rabbi Eliezer, Reuven was terribly nearsighted and had lost his glasses. After wandering across the tent camp, Reuven thought he had made his way to his destination, the bed of his boyfriend Theodore, Yankif's manservant. However, Reuven bedded Bilhah by mistake. And who can blame him? Both Bilhah and Theodore had the same moustache problem..

-- But perhaps the strangest story is that of the rape of Dinah, the sister of the Shvatim (tribes). Dinah is raped by Shchem, the son of Chamor. After he defiles Dinah, Shchem falls in love with her and asks for her hand in marriage. Both are told that if all the males of the village are circumsized, Shchem will be permitted to marry Dinah. But as the men of the village recover from their procedures, two of the tribes, Shimoin and Layvee, slay the village to the man. This results in a harsh reaction by their father, Yankif Avinu.

How should we look upon this reactionary behavior? Were the brothers justified in their behavior? And if so, how can we understand Yankif's angry response towards them?

According to the Metsudas Dovid, Shimoin and Layvee acted lishmah, with great personal intergrity, and believed that their actions would help make the world a better place through setting an example of loving-kindness for their sister by committing bloodthirsty revenge. The Metsudas Dovid adds that Yankif Avinu actually supported the brothers' action, but he explains that Yankif's stated negative reaction in the Pussook was only "delivered to satisfy American pressure, brought about by the liberal media." He further suggests that the Toirah no longer be allowed to include such actions since they reflect badly on Klal Yisroel.

But the RAIVID offers a different set of answers. Says the RAIVID, in truth, the brothers did overreact, just a bit. They should have only killed Shchem, who was truly the only figure guilty of criminal behavior. However, on their way to the village to kill Shchem, they forgot to take their lithium, and began hearing voices asking them to kill every male in the town. And this explains Yankif's reaction: How can he expect to co-exist with the Canaanites and Perrizites when he has the reputation of having a couple of psychos for sons?

Finally, the Akaidas Yitzchak offers a different interpretation. In truth, all of the males of the town supported and endorsed the criminal actions of Shchem. So indeed, they all deserved to die. And Shimoin and Layvee set out on their military operation, as planned, with little more that two submachine guns each, plus grenades, pistols, and hunting knives, in order to carry out their mission. But after killing all the males, Layvee looks back at the town and says in his deep, Aramean accented voice, "I'll be back," and it is that statement which Yankif protests.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, November 28, 2014

Parshas Vayaitzai

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Parshas Vayaitzai

"Vayaitzai Ya'akov mi'Be-er Sheva vayailech Charanah." And Yankif went out of Be'er Sheva towards Charan. In such succinct fashion, the Toirah summarizes last week's episode and introduces the next twenty years of oppression at the hands of Lavan.

The RAMBAN asks the question: why is it that Yankif, one of our founding Avois, a pinnacle of our early relationship with the Aimishteh, and a model for future behaviour emulation, was so consistently disliked by his brother, his uncle AND his own father? What's pshat?

According to the MAHARAL, this is because Yankif was insufferably arrogant. According to a Medrish in Soitah, Yankif used to boast to his brother Eisav, "I have an IQ of Koof Mem Chess, while you kill weasels for a living. And you were stupid enough to sell me your birthright for a bowl of lentils, schmuck!"

But the TOISFOIS YUNTIF points out that as much as Ya'akov was hated by the men in his life, the women REALLY loved him: His mother Rivka, who taught him all the finer arts of lying to his father. His is two wives, who constantly fought over him like sisters (hey -- they were sisters!). According to the TOISFOIS YUNTIF, when the Toirah tells us that Yankif didn't like to go to the fields to hunt, it is really trying to tell us that Yankif was extremely sexually conflicted and effeminate. This really pissed off his father and brother, but was very popular with all the women, who used to like to shop with Yankif, and talk fashion and attend the ballet with him.

Rav Yoiseph Karo, on the other hand, holds farkhert: Yankif was a true he-man who left all the men jealous and all the women swooning. As proof he cites the fact that to impress Rachel, Yankif single-handedly removed the boulders covering the well. Says Rav Yoiseph Karo, "If Yankif Avinu was man enough to get his rocks off in public, that is good enough for me."

As Yankif meets with his uncle for the first time, the Toirah tells us that Lavan hugged and kissed him. A famous RASHI addresses an implicit question: why does the Toirah tell us that he both hugged and kissed him? However, RASHI tells us, the Toirah was not being redundant. Lavan first hugged Yunkif to see if he had valuables hidden under his clothes, and then kissed him to see if any jewels were hidden in his mouth. (Author's comment: Check out Rashi. He really does say this.)

So is this what family reunions were like back then?

The RASHBA adds, the real reason Lavan hated Yankif is that Yankif Avinu didn't let him get to third base on their first date.

As one reads of these curious events, a good-for-nothing minuval such as yourself must wonder why the Toirah bothers to tell us such tales. Indeed, a famous Gemarrah in Yevamois specifically asks why the Toirah doesn't just begin at Har Sinai, Mount Sinai, with the giving of the Ten Commandments. Or begin with the Exodus from Egypt, the formal conglomeration of Klal Yisrael as an independent nation. Or begin with the entrance of Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael. Why do we need all of this pre-history?

The Gemarrah quotes Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel as saying that all of Beraishis comes to teach us the ways of Tzidkus, righteousness, so we can emulate our forefathers and foremothers in our own lives.

Nowhere is this better communicated than in our Parsha, with the lessons taught by Rachel and Leah. Yankif of course ends up marrying Leah, and, subsequently, Rachel. As Rachel struggles to concieve, she hands over her maidservant to be a concubine to Yankif. Leah ends up doing the same thing.


The RAMBAM points out that if you include Sarah Imainu, who gave Hagar (the Horrible), her own maidservant, to Avraham as a concubine, we have a total of three instances where the Imahois INSIST that their husbands be mekayaim the mitzvah of pru urvu, or at least perform a quickie, with another woman. That's 66% of the Avois, and 75% of the Imahois. And these were great women, who always acted at every moment with the intention of fulfilling the mitzvois of Hakkadoshboruchhu. You cannot argue with thise statistics, you minuval.


Now, in order to be a true BenToirah, you should walk in the footsteps of our great and righteous ancestors and repeat their very deeds.


I have made this argument many times to my bashert, Feigah Breinah. She is not fully convinced of this particular mitzvah, but she does hold that lap dances are only a D'Rabbabanan, not the worst thing you can do on a Thursday night after a long week of work. But I expect that she'll come around sooner or later, otherwise I will cease snacking in the schmaltz herring, if you know what I mean.


Four hundred years ago the ARI ZAHL, living in Tzfas, taught us that with every mitzvah we fulfill, we restore another primordial spark of the Aimishteh's goodness to its rightful place in the cosmic universe, thereby bringing the world one step closer to its original perfection.


Rachel, Leah, and Sarah, in their holy righteousness, understood this. And as we walk in their footsteps, we should always keep in mind that every extramarital biyuh brings us one step closer to Biyas Hamashiach. Bimhairah Biyamainu. Umain.


Ah Gutten Shabbos you Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Tempestuous Child

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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The Tempestuous Child

"Kol HaOlam Kooloh Gesher Tzar Meod. VeHaIkar Lo LeFachayd Klal."

"All the world is a very narrow bridge. And the main thing is not to fear at all."

These are the very famous words of Rabbi Nachman MiBreslav, founder of a Chassidic dynasty that never chose a successor, that to this day inspires Messianic hippies, bad Payis, and WAY oversized Yarmulkas with silly writing on them. Though the Na Na Nachman movement attracts recovering addicts, the political fringe, and people by and large divorced from reality -- the words themselves speak to us today, just as they spoke to our ancestors in the Ukraine several centuries ago.

We are all shocked and depressed by the horrific slaughter of four Jewish civilian worshipper in Jerusalem, as well as the murder of the first responder Druze Arab police officer, and the wounding of many others. This is Har Nof, an area that is moderate, if not pacifist, an area where peaceful Arab-Israeli coexistence is the daily norm, not the exception. This brazen act harms everyone - the victims and their families, Israeli nationalists who loudly declare their "I told you so’s”, and Israeli moderates who believe that peace is inevitable and has roughly understood parameters, even if the political conditions are not yet present.

But the biggest group that suffers as a result of such a brazen act is the Palestinians themselves. Whether they are actively supportive of the terrorist act, myopically intellectually supportive of any strike against "the Israeli enemy", or morally and politically against such actions, they all suffer. All they have ever needed to do is wait patiently and perhaps exert acts of passive resistance, and the Israeli consensus would recognize the incompatibility of the aspiration for Israel to be both a democratic state and a Jewish state. And the status quo, including much of the settlement enterprise outside of key population blocs, would either dissipate or evolve into a new form of coexistence.

But no. The silent majority does not rule. Rational thought does not rule. Passion and emotion dictate the politics of national extremism on all sides, and peaceful coexistence is delayed.

And the blame game begins. We all blame the terrorists who committed the murders. The Palestinians blame the Israelis for the occupation. The Israelis blame some Palestinians for celebrating the murders. The Palestinians blame the Israelis for blowing up the homes of the terrorists in an effort to discourage future such acts. The Israelis blame the Palestinians for non-cooperation. The Palestinians blame the Israelis for not actively pursuing a political arrangement. The Israelis blame the PA for collaborating with Hamas. The Palestinians blame the Israeli government for including ultra-Nationalists.

But do you know who I blame? The Reboinoisheloilum.

At the end of the day, we are witnessing once again that the world that He created is imperfect. It is flawed. If it were an automobile, it would be recalled. If it were a pharmaceutical product, He would be facing myriad lawsuits and be put out of business. If it were a restaurant, no would go there, and, in any case, it would be closed by the Department of Health.

Hakadoshboruchhu has created an imperfect world, and we are simply fated to suffer in His imperfect creation.

We of course are not the first to ponder the nature of the world and its imperfections. On the contrary.

-- The great Prophets, Yirmiyahu and others, reassured us that the evil that befalls Klal Yisroel is a result of our wickedness and rejection of the Melech Malchei Hamelachim.

-- The RAMBAM described the Aimishteh as non-etherial, and beyond human understanding.

-- The circle of the Spanish Kabbalists described the Reboinoisheloilum as a complex combination of elements – the Sefirot -- that interact in strange ways, and as a result humanity suffers. Evil in this world is a by-product of the Sefirah of Din. Yesoid is separated from the Shechinah (in translation: Hakadoshboruchhu is feeling like a Frum husband the day before his wife FINALLY goes to the Mikvah.

The Kabbalists make a valid point – not in a literal sense, but in a sociological/ historical sense. As we are told in the Haggadah, “MiTechilah Oivdei Avoidah Zarah Hayo Avoidoiseiynu”. “At the beginning, our ancestors worshiped foreign gods.” Our ancestors were Pagans. They believed in a pantheon of deities and forces that interacted, while we, mere mortals, could only hope to not be harmed as “collateral damage” while the gods wrestled with each other for universal control.

To be on the good side of the gods, we would bring sacrifices to one, or many, of the gods. This was an effort to do “our best”. The fine print read: “Outcomes not guaranteed. Former performance is not a predictor of future gains. Local laws apply.”

But our faith, the emergence of Judaism, left us with one God. One address. What an innovation! We are the Chosen Ones!

The question is, “Chosen for what?”

Sometimes I wonder what my grandmother thought as she walked with her young daughter and her old mother, having been forced to strip naked, and then commanded to either enter the rickety wooden synagogue to be burnt alive or climb into the pit to be shot en masse.

And so we are left with no answers, only questions:

-- Why did God create an imperfect world?

-- Is God dead?

-- Is God incompetent?

-- Is God evil?

-- Is God like that alien from Star Trek who was nourished off of the energy created by negative emotions, by war and hostility, and indeed He wants us to suffer?

So the rationalist RAMBAM excused God as beyond understanding. The Kabbalists re-introduced neo-pagan elements into our understanding of the Divine. Spinoza declared that there is no conscious God, only a set of ethical criteria we can arrive at through envisioning and enacting morality. And Eliezer Berkovits argued that there is a God, but that man’s inhumanity to man is the result of human free will.

I would like to suggest that God is a tempestuous three year old child. He is very cute when He is asleep. But when He is awake He wreaks havoc with His toys. He is mischievous. He is cruel. He chooses favorites. He has temper tantrums. He neither comprehends nor cares for the consequences of His actions. In the words of Shakespeare in King Lear, “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods — They kill us for their sport.”

And what to do with the tempestuous child that is God?

Well, we must do what we do with any mischievous three year old: He must face the consequences of his actions. Perhaps we should put Him in a Time Out. Or we should take away His toys. Or we should send Him to his room. Or we should get a baby sitter and go out for and evening, and let someone else deal with His temper tantrums. Or we should take Him to a doctor or psychologist and have Him diagnosed and perhaps get Him a prescription for Ritalin.

But the most important thing to keep with mind when dealing the Divine Tempestuous Child is to try to not allow Him to consume our lives. Reboinoisheloilum knows, He has a long history of disappointing Klal Yisroel. Just as we have established our political self-determination, we must focus on personal self-determination, without reliance on a deux ex machina.

Hakadoshboruchhu is prone to create distractions and seek attention by throwing temper tantrums. But we have to be firm and take control of our own lives, not stand around in fear waiting for Him to save us. Go ahead and say Tehilim and Daven as much as you like. But remember that "Ain Somchin Al HaNess", we must never rely on miracles, but on ourselves.

"Kol HaOlam Kooloh Gesher Tzar Meod. VeHaIkar Lo LeFachayd Klal."

Ah Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, November 14, 2014

On Life After Death

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On Life After Death



Rabboisai,

To all those who received an e-mail from me claiming to be stuck in Turkey with my family and requiring $1500, a sincere thanks for sending me all that money!
Next week I plan to be stranded in Hawaii, so please do not put away your checkbook!

---

Oy, what a week I am having!

Last week I was banned as an individual “person” from Facebook. Clearly this was the result of Anti-Semitism! I have been Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein since I was born! (fifteen years ago, in a bar, on a Moitzee Shabboskoidesh, during a Melaveh Malkah filled with Toirah, “Special” Miztvois, and some nice Besomim.)

This left me, a rabbi with a global Yeshiva filled with Talmidim across the world – a bunch of good-for-for nothing Menuvals, Mechutzafim, and Vilda Chayas – errr, committed Masmidim and Baal HaBatim alike, who crave drinking the nectar of Toirah Yoimum V’Layla, day and night, usually mixed with a nice vodka – without being able to read my Toirah or connect with me on Facebook.

While I of course continued to have my e-mail list (feel free to join by sending me an e-mail to NPOJ8@Yahoo.com with the one line “Subscribe me, my beloved Roisheshiva”), my blog at http://rabbi-pinky.blogspot.com, and my Seforim at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky, in the world of Facebook I was no longer in existence. I was no longer alive.

Baruch Dayan Emmess.

What happens in our tradition when someone passes to the beyond and reaches the Oilum HaEmmess? There is of course a very famous Machloikess in the Gemarrah on this topic:

-- According to Rav Huna, when one enters the Oilum HaEmmess, they get to sit with Moisheh Rabbeinu and the great Tzadikim and Gedoilei Yisroel, including Dovid HaMelech, Hillel and Shammai, Reb Yehudah Hanassi, RASHI, the RAMBAM, the Mechaber of the Shulkhan Aruch, the ARI ZAHL, the Lubavitcher Rebbe SHLITA, Baruch Spinoza, Albert Einstein, Groucho Marx, Benny Hill, the Gershwin brothers, Brian Epstein, Hank Greenberg (the baseball player, not the guy who almost destroyed the global economy at AIG), and the guy who invented kosher cheese doodles.

-- According to Rav Ashi, when one enters the Oilum HaEmmess, he is given a room in the compound of the Yeshivah Shel Ma’alah, and inside, waiting for him, are a Mikra’ois Gedolois TANAKH, a Vilda Shas, the RAMBAM’s Mishnah Toirah, a set of Mishnah Berurah, a deck of cards, and 72 virgins.

-- Rav Pappa holds like Rav Ashi, except he suggests that instead of 72 virgins, there is one very experienced Kurva who is capable of sucking a golf ball through a garden hose.

Well, here is the truth: I, Rabbi Pinchus T. Schmeckelstein, did indeed die. As my Facebook Neshama left my Guf, I felt as if I was in a tunnel. I saw a light at the end of that tunnel. It was the light of truth. I was immersed in an aura, a sense of existential truth and wisdom. I was drawn to that light, pulled closer and closer. As I approached the light, I could make out a figure in the distance. As I got closer, the figure appeared to be a person, calling to me. And then I arrived to him, standing in front of me, Punim El Punim, face to face. And then I could see him up close, and realized that I was in the presence of Rabbi Steven Pruzansky.

It was then that I realized that I had actually died and gone to Gehennim, and was staring the Sutun in the face.

So I turned and ran as fast as I could, struggling to return to this earth to increase my Spiritual Net Worth by learning more Toirah, by becoming a better person, by doing more Mitzvois, by helping bring peace and truth and justice, by helping more people, by giving more Tzedakah. And by getting back on Fucking Facebook.

And so I have established a new page on Facebook. Here I will post my weekly Drashas. Here I will encourage humor, dialogue and debate. Here I will have a live webcast of the inside of the Washington DC Mikvah (Barry Freundell sent me the link; he has a lot of time at home these days, and Imirtza Hashem he will also have some time behind bars).

Shoyn.

We read in Tehillim, in a Kapitel included in Tefilas Hallel, “Lumuh Yoimru HaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nu Eloikeihem’?” (Tehillim Koof Tess Vuv, Passuk Baiz) “Why should the nations say, ‘where is their Reboinoisheloilum’?” (Psalm 115, Verse 2, you ignoramus.) Duvid HaMelech challenges Hakadoshboruchhu, alluding to His perceived concerns about public reputation.

These are strange words. Does this mean to imply that the Amishteh cares about what the Goyim think? Is the Reboinoisheloilum a Liberal, Chass V’ Sholom? Or is this simply the expression of the belief of one Biblical author on the nature of Hakadoshboruchhu, more in the realm of a philosophical notion or a scientific theory? Or were Tehilim specifically written as a form of popular reading, a scree expressing opinions on the world of its day, with a taste for sensationalism and the intention of exploiting this bully pulpit to spread extremist ideas, somewhat in the vein of The New York Times, The Jewish Week, and Der Shtermer?

But what if in fact these words are not theological or philosophical or political theory, but they reflect the actual existential truth, as we are instructed by CHAZAL to believe that every word in the Toirah is true? And especially Tehillim, which have been recited in prayer to the Aimishteh for nearly three thousand years?

What if, sitting on His Heavenly Throne, the Reboinoishelum cares about public opinion, cares about human beings in the world besides Klal Yisroel? What if other people matter? What is being “The Chosen People” does not actually mean being “The Only People”? The implications are quite disturbing:

-- It would mean that we are not the only human beings that Hakadoshboruchhu cares about;

-- It would mean that, as members of the broad family of human society, we, as Jew need to me good citizens of the world. That means: No stealing from Goyim. No lying to the IRS. No real estate scams. No exploitation of Welfare and Medicaid and Section 8. (Do you hear me in Monsey, KJ, and Williamsburg, not to mention Jerusalem and Bnei Brak?) It would mean cooperating fully with the laws of the given country, Dina D’Malchusah Dinah, and the local justice system, especially in democracies where checks and balances exist to ensure relative social equality. In Dinei Nefashois, it would mean that we are all members in the quest to save human lives, not just Jewish lives;

-- It would mean that all men and women, all of mankind, are indeed created “Betzelem Eloikim”, all have a Godly spark. It would mean that ALL people matter, and not just the Jews.

But if that is the case, why be a Jew? If we acknowledge equality, why not be a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist, or a Rastafarian (“Hey mon, you got a splif for me?”) or an atheist?

Why be a Jew?

Rabboisai, every so often we all get chain e-mails that boast about the accomplishments of Klal Yisroel in influencing the world. Besides being the religion that led to the creation of Christianity and heavily influences Islam, we have many accomplishments to our name: a tremendous number of Nobel Prize winners, political and philosophical leaders who have changed the world, scientists, doctors, business people, researchers, successful authors and artists and musicians and producers and directors and performers who have changed the world. Where would the world be today without Albert Einstein? Where would the world be today without an understanding of the Big Bang, a theory confirmed by a Traditional Jew named Dr. Arno Penzias? Where would the world be without Dr. Jonas Salk, the man who created the vaccine for Polio? Where would the world be without Bernie Madoff?

We are a tiny people, a small nation, a remnant who have survived a 2,000 year old Diaspora. How are we so successful, and Kal V’Choimer, why are we so successful despite immeasurable persecution throughout the ages? Our success and very existence do not make rational sense, either intellectually or statistically.

I am reminded of a famous Mashal. There once was a man who had 6 daughters. Reizel, Shprintza, Pessy, Hannah, Smadar, and Christina. All we very beautiful, except for Christina, who looked like she was hit in the face by a Sephardic Sefer Toirah while it was closed. All the men of the town wanted to marry the elder five daughters, but no one was interested in poor Christina. And so the man gave special attention of Christina. He gave her a better education. He bought her nice clothing. He got her a nose job, because, Aimisteh knows, she really needed it.

When it came for Shidduchim for all of the daughters, the elder five ended up marrying Rabbonim and prominent businessmen. Except for Christina, who refused to have an arranged marriage, and established her own business and a school for teaching other young women. One day, as she was attending a conference on global warming, she met a nice man. And she has now been married to Bono for 20 years.

Rabboisai, what do we learn from this story? We learn that we are all the children of the same Creator, Avinu SheBashamayim, Our Father In Heaven. We all have a role to play, we all have a mission. Not every trajectory is the same. Different groups have different needs. Different groups have different legacies. But we are all essentially created equal.

We must protect ourselves and our fundamental interests, including ensuring a peaceful and secure Medinas Yisroel. But we should never delude ourselves into believing that we are all alone, that Klal Yisroel are the only ones who matter in the eyes of the Aimisteh. For, “Lumuh Yoimru HaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nu Eloikeihem’?”

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, November 06, 2014

On Modesty

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Rabboisai,

At the moment of this posting I have been kicked off of Facebook. I am not alone. Several other Jewish bloggers have also been kicked off -- likely after having been reported by people disagreeing with specific opinions or humor or satire.

Luckily, we do not live in the Communist Soviet Union. There is freedom of speech. And if Facebook decides to shut down the voices of bloggers who use pen names, then there are alternate ways for sharing ideas and messages.

We are living in an age where the masses are being empowered by the free flow of information. This threatens those with vested interests in controlling the flow of ideas. Whatever lies behind Facebook's business decisions or the will of those who are trying to preserve an unsustainable status quo of intellectual and ideological control, such controls cannot stop the exchange of ideas.

We are living in a generation where the common man/ woman has not only the right, but the ability and the responsibility, to question, to challenge, and to explore new ideas and paradigms.

Torah Lo BaShamayim Hee...

Pinky

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On Modesty

Rabboisai,

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 LCD LED 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.

Shoyn.

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 ISIS, 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 secretly videotaping women in the Mikvah, we have a problem. When a rabbi holds himself up as a moral paragon, but attacks efforts to empower women to protect women undergoing the conversion process, we have a problem. When the Orthodox Union continues to employ as its #2 Kashruth Posek a man who knowingly and intentionally engaged in the persecution of a child victim of a sex crime and his family, we have a problem. When entire Jewish communities are run like mafias and are not answerable to the masses -- be they Satmar, Lakewood, or Yeshiva University -- we have a real problem.

We have a problem because so many in Klal Yisroel are obsessed with Oilum Hazeh, expedient and short term considerations and benefit, including financial gain, 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.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess