Subscribe To My Weekly Drasha

Send a message to mailto:npoj8@yahoo.com with the word "subscribe"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On Toirah, Tefillin, and the Attack-Of-The-Erva

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================


On Toirah, Tefillin, and the Attack-Of-The-Erva


Rabboisai,

Klal Yisroel is under a threat like it has never been before in our 3,000 year history. Worse than the threat of the Mitzrim. Worse than the destruction wrought by the Assyrians and the Babylonians combined. Worse than the Persians, the Yevanim, and the Romans, Yemach Shemum. Worse than the Medieval persecutors in Western Europe, the Moslem persecutors in the Middle East, and the Crusaders, may they rot in Hell. Worse than the Shmad of the 20th Century and the marauding Islamic Fundamentalists committed to the destruction of Israel.

Klal Yisroel is under the Attack-Of-The-Erva.

Everywhere you turn, the Ervas are chipping away at Halachah. They started with wanting education – I spit on the Bais Yaakov Movement! They wanted the vote. Now they want to read from the Toirah and put on Tefillin. Next thing you know, they are going to want to pee standing up!

The role of women in Klal Yisroel is clear from the Sources:
-- “Praiseworthy is the one whose children are male and woe unto the one whose children are female” -- Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim, 65A
-- “May the words of Toirah be burned rather than transmitted to women” -- Jerusalem Talmud, Soitah 16A
-- “Whoever teaches his daughter Toirah teaches her obscenity” -- Babylonian Talmud, Soitah 21B
-- “Ecstasy when you are here with me, well; Girl it's ecstasy when you are here with me, uh huh” – Barry White

With the role of women so clearly defined, one must ask oneself why the Reboinoisheloilum even created them. In Beraishis we read how Chava was created from Adam HaRishoyn’s rib. There is a famous Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that suggests that the word “rib” is a euphemism, that indeed Hakadoshboruchhu created woman out of Adam’s Schvantzyl, and that she was originally meant to be a man, and we were all intended to be homosexual males. But an accident that occurred during the Bris Milah left the Aimishteh with no other choice than to cut the whole business off and leave an orifice. Lucky for all in attendance, the bagels, lox, whitefish and herring were spectacular that morning, so no one really cared.

Indeed, the female organ, the Erva, is a mysterious entity reminiscent of the Tohu VaVohu that existed before the Reboinoisheloilum created the universe. It is a site of mystery and wonder, as inexplicable as the Ein Soif Itself – the primordial matter from which all existence was created. The universe as we know it. The stars, the planets. The earth and the sky. Flora and fauna. Mankind itself. Yes, the Erva is like the unknowable source of all. No wonder it is so difficult to make it happy, and it is always full of surprises. In fact, one night when I was being Mekayaim the Mitzvah with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, I felt a blockage and found the remote control that had been missing for six months.

So how can so-called “Rabbis” seek to expand the role of women in traditional Judaism? As a man, every morning I proudly recite the Bracha, “Baruch Ata Adoishem, Eloikaynu Melech HaOylam, SheLoi Usani Ishah!” And I mean it!! Is this not the reflection of the broader perspective of Yiddishkeit on the status of women as Hakadoishboruchhu intended? And I have passed these very Traditional Jewish values on to my children. My two daughters proudly recite the corresponding Bracha for women, “Baruch Ata Adoishem, Eloikaynu Melech HaOylam, SheUsani Kirtzoinoi”. And they live their lives according to that very basic philosophy. My oldest daughter, Reizel Pudding, is 25 years old and already has eight children, Kenayna Harrah. I cannot even remember all of their names, so I call them “Hoishiya”, “Ess”, “Amechah”, etc. When she gives birth to her eleventh I am going to really be in trouble. And my younger daughter, Bracha Levatalah, will Imirtza HaShem be getting married soon, and will then Be’Ezras HaShem be having her first child. Hopefully in that order.

If we look at the “Rabbis” that are driving the Attack-Of-The-Erva, we can clearly see that they are driven by the most evil of motives.

“Rabbi” Avi Weiss was the first American “Orthodox” “Rabbi” to give “Smicha” to a “Rabbah”. I hear he also once let a cat Daven Mussaf, and last year gave Maftir Yoinah to a head of lettuce.

What could possibly possess someone with Rabbinic training to ordain a woman? No woman in the world can do what a man can do! Women cannot be doctors or lawyers or heads of state. They cannot be professors or teachers or accountants. They cannot be soldiers or race car drivers or pilots. They cannot be research scientists or investment bankers. Have you ever heard of a CEO who was a woman? What Narishkeit! My Aimishteh – my Bashert can barely clean our toilets, no matter how many times I order her to!!

I think the Israeli Rabbanoos was 100% correct in rejecting his authority as a so-called-“Orthodox Rabbi”. In the 1980s Avi Weiss was beaten up by a bunch of Polish thugs outside of Auschwitz while he was protesting the efforts of extremist Catholics to negate the Jewish connection to the death camp. Why should the Poles have all the fun? Good for the Rabbanoos! Well done!

And “Rabbi” Tully Harcsztark, so-called “Principal” of the so-called “Modern Orthodox” so-called “High School” located in so-called “Riverdale”. How can you possibly trust him? I have two rules in life: Never eat Korean food because you never know what the hell is in it. And never trust a guy whose name you cannot possibly spell without using a cheat sheet.

There are only two good things I can say about the guy. One: His name, translated, means… errr…. Double Shverkeit. No wonder all the women were crazy about him in college and that he is now being considered as the next spokesman for Viagra. And Two: His last name is worth 75 points in Scrabble. He would make one hell of a triple word score!

What is his logic in allowing girls to put on Tefillin in his school. Sure, it seems that RASHI, RAMBAM, Rabeinu Tam, Rabbi Zerachiya HaLevi, the RASHBA and possibly the Mechaber of the Shulchan Aruch allow it. But what did they know?

Clearly, there is a strong alternative position, as put forth by the MAHARAM, the Koil Boi, the RAMA, the Vilna Goyn, and Pope Pius the XII.

But the issue of women wearing Tefillin was decisively settled in the early 20th Century by the RAGAM, Reb Groucho Marx, when he famously Paskened, “Whatever it is, I’m against it!”

Of course, even those that believe a woman may choose to wear Tefillin differ on whether or not a woman who takes on a Mitzvas Asey SheHaZman Grammah – a time bound positive commandment, to which women are never obligated – is required to make a Bracha. This is a Shailah that I myself have researched extensively on a personal matter: Does my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, have to make a Bracha every time I tie her up with my Tefillin and whip her with my Gartel?

Ashreinu, lucky for Klal Yisroel, that we have great luminaries to protect us from the Attack-Of-The-Erva. On such matters, I look to my Rebbe Muvhaks, my principle teachers, to guide me. My first Rebbe Muvhak, Rabbi Herschel Goldwasser, has been strangely silent on this issue. But, thankfully, my other Rebbe Muvhak, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, has once again bravely stood up to defend Yiddishkeit and Klal Yisroel. Rabbi Pruzansky has courageously questioned the religious commitment and integrity of the so-called “girls” who have committed to wearing Tefillin every day. He has also incisively suggested that the motivation for allowing the girls to wear Tefillin was the search for tuition dollars.

These statements are consistent with the heroic stands that Rabbi Pruzansky has taken over the years in defense of Klal Yisroel. He brilliantly referred to any Jews who voted Democratic in the last US presidential election as “idiots”. He steadfastly supported Israel by trying to block a fundraiser for the Friends of the IDF in his Shul because he disagreed with the army following orders in implementing the withdrawal from Gaza. He brilliantly attacks every Israeli government for ever engaging in any form of negotiation in pursuit of peace. He has gallantly challenged the integrity of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, its leaders, and the Open Orthodoxy movement as a whole. He has bravely and consistently expressed contempt for all Jews who differ with his form of traditional Jewish observance. And he tenaciously criticized the many victims who suffered sexual abuse in MTA and YU for speaking out about their lifelong mental pain and suffering because the abuses are past the statute of limitations.

Rabbi Pruzansky has been a staunch defender of the Jewish Way, which is currently suffering the onslaught of the many other Jews who are not blessed with his Solomonic wisdom and prophet-like vision for Klal Yisroel. He has worked to protect all of us from the dark forces by attacking all the Jews who seek to undermine Yiddishkeit and Israel. Boruch Hashem, Artscroll is rumored to be preparing a collection of his most important essays in defense of Klal Yisroel, simply titled “My Struggle”. But to reflect the Traditional Jewish values that Rabbi Pruzansky protects, the book will be titled by its Yiddish translation: “Mein Kampf”.

Rabboisai, we are currently undergoing the Attack-Of-The-Erva. We must stay strong and steadfast, and remember that it was Chava’s weakness that cast us out of paradise. And if we let them succeed, the Ervas might just take over Klal Yisroel, and then they may decide to deny us the right to read from the Toirah, wear Tefillin, or worship the Reboinoisheloilum in a manner that reflects our sincerity and our conscience.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.


---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parshas Mishpatim

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================


Parshas Mishpatim


This week’s Parsha, Parshas Mishpatim, is my favorite Parsha in Kol HaToirah Kooloh. It has everything: Laws, holidays, oxen, Moishe teaching Toirah, big feasts of Israelite elders, slaves with earrings, and men seducing hot Israelite virgins. And all of this culminates with the famous commitment of Klal Yisroel, “Kol Asher Dibber Hashem NaAseh VeNishmah” – “Whatever the Lord spoke we will do and we will listen.” Mamesh, with this kind of excitement, who needs YouTube or the Superbowl?

Of course, the Parsha is quite detailed and features many, many shailahs asked by Chazzal after drinking double espressos at Starbucks while waiting for their wives to come back from their weekly visits to the sheitelmacher.

One key question focuses on the collection of laws in the Parsha. In a Gemarrah in Brachois, Rav Huna asks: Why are all of the laws in this Parsha delivered in a seemingly random order? Laws about slaves lead to oxen, followed by ethical rulings (i.e. the treatment of widows) and religious injunctions (warnings sprinkled throughout against the worshipping of other deities). What’s Pshat?

In answer, Rav Chisda cites a Medrish that suggests that the jumbled order of the Mitzvois is related to the rambling discussions between Moishe Rabbeinu and Hakkadoshboruchhu as they… err… were enjoying some exotic bsomim they bought from a Bedouin in Sinai. Notes the Medrish, the whole time they were writing down the laws they were giggling non-stop and snacking on six boxes of Entenmann’s doughnuts while listening to Led Zeppelin in the background.

However, Rabbi Chananya holds farkhert. Chass V’Sholom Moishe Rabbeinu and the Reboinoisheloilum were using illegal substances! Rather, he brings down a Braisah that suggests that the Aimishteh suffers from ADHD. As proof, the Braisah notes the fact that the Jews, Hakkadoshboruchhu’s “Chosen People”, have been cast across the world for 2,000 years and, despite Divine promises, have never been able to settle down in one place for very long. Shoyn.

The RAMBAM asks an altogether different, and more disturbing, question. Noting the similarities between the laws in Parshas Mishpatim and many of the social and economic laws in ancient Near Eastern legal codes such as The Code of Hammurabi, the RAMBAM asks, “If these sets of laws are so similar, how can we believe that the Toirah is Divine and was in fact given to Klal Yisroel on Har Sinai?”

Commenting on this question, the Ibn Ezra suggests that, quote, “The RAMBAM is a total mechutziff, and if he were here today, I would Hakheh his Shinuv!” The Ibn Ezra goes on to protest that “Of course the Toirah is Divine. Look, the Goyim certainly copied these laws from us, just like the Muslims copied our prohibition on eating pork and the Pope copied our Yarmulkas. So what if Hammurabi lived 500 years before Moishe Rabbeinu? He undoubtedly used an ancient time machine to travel to the future and plagiarize the Toirah!” As proof he cites a Possuk from Sefer Dianetics, Parshas L. Ron Hubbard.

However, the RAMBAN suggests that the laws in Mishpatim were actually later added to the Toirah by “R”, also referred to by scholars as the Biblical “Redactor”, as he edited the final version of Shmois while in exile in Babylon. The RAMBAN also suggests that the entire story of the Bnei Yisroel crossing the Yam Suf was actually a source text that originally came from “S”, also known in Biblical Criticism circles as “Surfer Dude”, who is believed to have lived in Eastern Hawaii around 1700 BCE.

The MAHARAL disagrees, insisting that these laws were indeed written down by Moishe on Har Sinai. However, he holds that Moishe was acting at the suggestion of the Reboinoisheloilum who told him, “They are an Am Kshey Oiref. Please make up some laws that will keep them out of trouble.” But because of tight deadlines, Moishe did not have time to write new laws, and instead copied these laws off the Internet as “filler”.

Finally, the Vilna Goyn denies that there is any linkage whatsoever between Parshas Mishpatim and the Code of Hammurabi and other ancient Near Eastern legal codes. As an example, he points to the “seeming” similarities between the following:

-- The Toirah: “If men are fighting and one hurts a pregnant woman so that her fetus comes out, yet no harm follows, he shall be punished according to the will of the husband, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay a life for a life…”(Shmois, Perek Chuff Aleph, Possuk Chuff Baiz-Chuff Gimmel)

-- An ancient Near Eastern legal code: “If… strikes the daughter of a man and causes her to lose her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver. If she dies, that man shall be killed” (Laws of Lipit Ishtar, ca 1930 BCE)

Says the Gruh, “Hey, these are common scenarios that any society would contemplate. I already accidentally caused the spontaneous abortion of three fetuses this morning alone!”

Perhaps the most fundamental question that we can ask about Parshas Mishpatim is how we should relate to these laws in our day. After all, so many of the Toirah’s rules reflect a different era, with different material concerns, social pressures and sensibilities. Do you and I have an ox? (To be honest, my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, has on more than one occasion told me that I am “hung like a buffalo”. Kenaiyna Harrah.) Do we have slaves, Jewish or otherwise? As best verbalized by the Pri Megadim, “Parshas Mishpatim tells us that we should not charge interest and that we should worry about the widow and the orphan, and twice states that we should not abuse the stranger that is in our land because ‘we were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.’ The next thing you expect the Aimishteh to do is raise taxes! Has He gone mad?”

The Tzitz Eliezer answers this question by suggesting that Moishe actually proposed these laws during an election year, but never had any intention of enforcing them. However, they were ultimately left in the Toirah as part of a budgetary compromise package with the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the Anshe Knessess HaGedoilah. And therefore we just have to live with them.

However, the Schvantz Mordechai suggests that these laws were put into place in order to address the disturbing shidduch crisis. If Klal Yisroel were to accept the presence of strangers in the land, the poor, etc., then there would be many more men available to marry Klal Yisroel’s growing number of educated, frum, unmarried women who are over-the-hill at the age of twenty-two.

I am reminded of a famous Moshal. There was once a king who lived on a very small plot of land. When his son grew old enough, he arranged a marriage with the zaftig princess of a neighboring kingdom because her father owned “great tracts of land.” But when his son refused to marry the girl next door, he disowned him, and adopted a local pauper, who was delighted to marry the princess and be in line to inherit a great kingdom. When asked how he could disregard his own genetic offspring, he answered, “I make the rules here. If my son doesn’t like it, he should start his own damn kingdom!”

Such is the nature of our special Bris with Hakkadoshboruchhu. Sure, some of these laws make no sense whatsoever, and you feel like a total schmuck doing them. But by subordinating your will to the Word of the Reboinoisheloilum, you demonstrate your faith and allegiance to Him. You demonstrate that His word is timeless, and rises above the day to day considerations of, so-called, modernische society. And you also give Him something to laugh about when He is off getting stoned with Moishe Rabbeinu.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Can All Chassidim in New York Please Check In

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================


Can All Chassidim in New York Please Check In


Rabboisai,

I recently saw a documentary on the National Geographic Channel on Chassidim. The documentary noted that Chassidim, particularly the males, naturally dress in black for for purposes of camouflage in the forest, as mandated by the Baal Shem Toiv.

However, in a large snow, such as we had in New York this week, Chassidim lose their natural camouflage. And they therefore become easy targets for predators like bears. And Misnagdim. Indeed, National Geographic points out, the wearing of Shtreimels is intended to confuse the bears - to make them think that Chassidim are one of them. And, indeed, Toldois Aharoin have evolved to wear light colored clothing, to fit into their natural physical landscape of Eretz HaKoidesh, also known in Chassidic circles as "Occupied Palestine".

According to National Geographic, Chassidic mating patterns have evolved to address these predatory threats: Because many of their young may be eaten by their natural predators bears and Misnagdim, Chassidim have evolved to have many young to ensure that their genes survive till the next generation. This was originally theorized by Charles Darwin, as he was developing evolutionary theory.

As is well know, Charles Darwin studied the finches of the Galapagos, suggesting that their beaks were differentiated, optimized for the food sources on the individual islands. In a lesser known analysis, Darwin later spent six months studying the Chassidim of Lublin. He associated the fur hats and Niggunim with the proximity to bears and the local Misnagid populations and Litvak Yeshivas.

However, what he failed to note is that we Misnagdim have evolved big noses that can smell Shlishkas and Yapchik and schmaltz herring from a distance of 500 meters away. Yes, we Litvaks are cunning predators.

So, Beloved Chassidim, please register that you are OK.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.
---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Modesty

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================



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 OLED television with direct access to Netflix and the Internet, and help us win in our upcoming defense against accusations of misappropriation of investment funds? In other words – are we, in our lives, embracing the Divine for cosmic purposes, or do we simply seek material benefits? Are we motivated by the Oilum Habah, or by the Oilum Hazeh?

This was the subject of a famous Machloikess between Rish Lakish and Rav Huna. As brought down in a Gemara in Baytzah, Rish Lakish suffered from a weight problem, Rachmana Letzlan. As he aged, he stomach grew, and when he turned fifty, his shul told him that they would charge him a double membership fee since he always took up two seats. According to Rish Lakish, this was a form of profiling and discrimination, and he refused to pay. Rav Huna, the President of the Shul, argued that Rish Lakish, while taking up two seats, was definitely Oiver on Baal Toisiph, likely Oiver on Baal Tashchis, and was probably a Baal Keri.

The essence of the Machloikess rested on the proper interpretation of the Passook, “Shma Bni Mussar Avicha, Ve-Al TiToish Toiras Imecha” (Mishlei, Perek Aleph, Pasuook Chess). “Listen my son to the instruction of your father, and do not abandon the teaching of your mother” (Proverbs, Chapter One, Verse Eight). Rav Huna understood the Passook as describing a man’s link to his tradition, his community, and common sense. Hence, Rav Huna felt that Rish Lakish was in error in taking up two seats in shul.

Rish Lakish had a different understanding based on an alternate reading of the Passook, applying alternative vowels and punctuation (substitutions highlighted): “Shma Bni, MOISAIR Avicha VE-AYL, TiToish Toiras Imecha.” “Listen my son, TURN OVER your father and the Reboinoisheloilum (to the authorities or your enemies); abandon the teachings of your mother.” In other words, one should pursue a course that is expedient to his individual needs, even if it stands in contrast to his heritage and common sense.

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 Ahmedinijad, the Turkish government, or the Democratic Party. So he must be an anti-Semite.

On the other hand, take the wearing of Sheytels by the Bnois Yisroel as an act of personal modesty. Sure, you might think that the wearing of a $3000 wig to cover one’s natural hair instead of using a $10 Shmata is an act of gross Gaivah. But you would be wrong. You might think that since wearing the hair of a Shiksa improves the aesthetic appeal of a woman, making her more attractive to men when she wears a Sheytel rather than less attractive, and that therefore a Sheytel is inconsistent with personal modestly. But this, again, highlights the fact that you are totally ignorant of the ways of the Toirah. No, a Sheytel is the greatest expression of Anivus. By wearing a Sheytel, a woman is signaling to the world that I, Ploinis Bas Ploinis, believe it is so important to cover my natural hair that I will do so even if it costs $3000 dollars and even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

Indeed, the Gemarra tells us that, “Darash Rav Avirah, BiSchar Nashim Tzidkaniyois SheHayoo BeOisoi HaDor Nigalu Yisroel MiMitzarayim,” “Rabbi Avivah explained that it was due to the merit of Jewish women that Klal Yisrael were rescued from Egypt” (Soitah, Daf Yu Aleph Amud Baiz/ Tractate Sotah, 11 B). How true and correct was Rav Aviyah! Although, truth be told, according to the Pnei Yehoishua, Rav Aviyah may only have been thinking with his Schvantzyl and was actually trying to get a little action from the Raish Gelusa’s wife while her husband was off traveling to Pumbedisa on business.

Consequently, we must emulate the actions of the Bnois Yisrael every day. Through our everyday actions we, too, must declare that we men are committed to the same kind of modesty exhibited by our wives and female neighbors. And how does one do that?

According to Rav Yoisaiph Katski, a man should emulate a woman’s modesty by copying her very actions! Men should wear Sheytlach just like women, which will address the multiple purposes of serving as Yarmulkes, covering up bald spots, and significantly improving the Gross Domestic Product of India. Also, if a large group of Jewish men have wigs, then Klal Yisroel will have many more candidates qualified to engage in secret operations in Dubai.

However, Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua disagrees. He says that men wearing wigs is a Dioraisa of Beged Isha, men wearing women’s garments, and a DeRabbanan of Lifnei Ivair, since if a man sees another man with an attractive Sheytel on he may come to commit an act of Mishkav Zachor, or even worse, steal his Styrofoam head.

So instead, Reb Shmiel insists, a man should not replicate the exact action of wearing a wig, but instead should emulate the spirit of that action. Just as a woman exhibits modesty before the Amishteh by covering her immodest, Ervadikkah hair while at the same time enhancing her appearance with an ostentatious Sheytel, so too a man should behave in that spirit. Consequently, even though a man is wearing pants to cover over his Bris Milah and Schvantzlach as a sign of modesty before Hakadoshboruchhu, he should also don a strap-on over his pants as a sign of true Anivus. At least on Shabbos and Yuntif, if not every day, a man should never leave the house without an artificial Bris Milah anchored at his Garter and his Makoim Hamilah.

And if he is having company such as an important Roisheshiva, or if it is a special day such as Shabbos or Yuntif, the man may want to wear a special, larger SheytSchvantz ™ for the occasion, perhaps in black. And if he is going to a large secular gathering like a Yankee game or a Republican fundraiser, he may even want to enhance his appearance, say, by wearing a strap-on with a foreskin.

As well, this Psak may create additional Parnasah opportunities in the community. Just as women have their wigs regularly attended to by a female Sheytelmacher, so too a man should have his SheytSchvantz ™ regularly serviced. It is not clear however, if the Schvantzelmacher need be a man, or may be a women, which would be my preference, of course.

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

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

What is more important is that we as a nation exhibit Anivus, true humility, even when it is not convenient or easy or profitable or guaranteed to make the headlines, just like Moishe Rebbeinu on Har Sinai, Rabbi Akiva being tortured by the Romans, and Monica Lewinsky on the floor of the Oval Office.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess
Posted by Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein at 10:30 AM No comments: Links to this post
Friday, December 14, 2012
On Modesty

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================



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 OLED television with direct access to Netflix and the Internet, and help us win in our upcoming defense against accusations of misappropriation of investment funds? In other words – are we, in our lives, embracing the Divine for cosmic purposes, or do we simply seek material benefits? Are we motivated by the Oilum Habah, or by the Oilum Hazeh?

This was the subject of a famous Machloikess between Rish Lakish and Rav Huna. As brought down in a Gemara in Baytzah, Rish Lakish suffered from a weight problem, Rachmana Letzlan. As he aged, he stomach grew, and when he turned fifty, his shul told him that they would charge him a double membership fee since he always took up two seats. According to Rish Lakish, this was a form of profiling and discrimination, and he refused to pay. Rav Huna, the President of the Shul, argued that Rish Lakish, while taking up two seats, was definitely Oiver on Baal Toisiph, likely Oiver on Baal Tashchis, and was probably a Baal Keri.

The essence of the Machloikess rested on the proper interpretation of the Passook, “Shma Bni Mussar Avicha, Ve-Al TiToish Toiras Imecha” (Mishlei, Perek Aleph, Pasuook Chess). “Listen my son to the instruction of your father, and do not abandon the teaching of your mother” (Proverbs, Chapter One, Verse Eight). Rav Huna understood the Passook as describing a man’s link to his tradition, his community, and common sense. Hence, Rav Huna felt that Rish Lakish was in error in taking up two seats in shul.

Rish Lakish had a different understanding based on an alternate reading of the Passook, applying alternative vowels and punctuation (substitutions highlighted): “Shma Bni, MOISAIR Avicha VE-AYL, TiToish Toiras Imecha.” “Listen my son, TURN OVER your father and the Reboinoisheloilum (to the authorities or your enemies); abandon the teachings of your mother.” In other words, one should pursue a course that is expedient to his individual needs, even if it stands in contrast to his heritage and common sense.

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 Ahmedinijad, the Turkish government, or the Democratic Party. So he must be an anti-Semite.

On the other hand, take the wearing of Sheytels by the Bnois Yisroel as an act of personal modesty. Sure, you might think that the wearing of a $3000 wig to cover one’s natural hair instead of using a $10 Shmata is an act of gross Gaivah. But you would be wrong. You might think that since wearing the hair of a Shiksa improves the aesthetic appeal of a woman, making her more attractive to men when she wears a Sheytel rather than less attractive, and that therefore a Sheytel is inconsistent with personal modestly. But this, again, highlights the fact that you are totally ignorant of the ways of the Toirah. No, a Sheytel is the greatest expression of Anivus. By wearing a Sheytel, a woman is signaling to the world that I, Ploinis Bas Ploinis, believe it is so important to cover my natural hair that I will do so even if it costs $3000 dollars and even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

Indeed, the Gemarra tells us that, “Darash Rav Avirah, BiSchar Nashim Tzidkaniyois SheHayoo BeOisoi HaDor Nigalu Yisroel MiMitzarayim,” “Rabbi Avivah explained that it was due to the merit of Jewish women that Klal Yisrael were rescued from Egypt” (Soitah, Daf Yu Aleph Amud Baiz/ Tractate Sotah, 11 B). How true and correct was Rav Aviyah! Although, truth be told, according to the Pnei Yehoishua, Rav Aviyah may only have been thinking with his Schvantzyl and was actually trying to get a little action from the Raish Gelusa’s wife while her husband was off traveling to Pumbedisa on business.

Consequently, we must emulate the actions of the Bnois Yisrael every day. Through our everyday actions we, too, must declare that we men are committed to the same kind of modesty exhibited by our wives and female neighbors. And how does one do that?

According to Rav Yoisaiph Katski, a man should emulate a woman’s modesty by copying her very actions! Men should wear Sheytlach just like women, which will address the multiple purposes of serving as Yarmulkes, covering up bald spots, and significantly improving the Gross Domestic Product of India. Also, if a large group of Jewish men have wigs, then Klal Yisroel will have many more candidates qualified to engage in secret assassination 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 Knicks game or a Republican fundraiser, he may even want to enhance his appearance, say, by wearing a strap-on with a foreskin.

As well, this Psak may create additional Parnasah opportunities in the community. Just as women have their wigs regularly attended to by a female Sheytelmacher, so too a man should have his SheytSchvantz ™ regularly serviced. It is not clear however, if the Schvantzelmacher need be a man, or may be a women, which would be my preference, of course.

--------

Rabboisai, we live in a time of moral confusion. When a rabbi is collecting money for a charity, but is really laundering money, we all have a problem. When fringe Ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh are attacking innocent children walking to school, and the broader Ultra-Orthodox establishment remains silent, and even attacks the media for publicizing this travesty, then we all have a problem. When a rabbi equates a woman's singing at a military event with idolatry and directs soldiers to disobey orders, causing additional social fragmentation in Israel, then we all have a problem. When an unlicensed counselor of children is convicted by a jury of multiple counts of rape and child endangerment and he is defended by his community, starting with his prominent Chassidic rebbe, and is excused by members of his community who suggest that even if he is guilty, he should not go to prison, then we all have a problem. When a rabbi persecutes a victim of sexual abuse and his family, and is retained as the #2 Posek of the Orthodox Union, the most prolific Jewish organizational network in the world, we all have a big problem.

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

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, January 10, 2014

Parshas Bishalach

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================


Parshas Bishalach


In this week's Parsha, Bishalach, the Bnei Yisrael pass unhindered through the Yam Suf, while the Mitzrim drown, those Vilda Chayas. Following this great miracle, Moishe Rabbeinu sings Az Yashir, the "Song of the Sea," surrounded by a chorus made up of Klal Yisroel, with musical accompaniment by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and with U2 serving as the opening act.

It's Gevaldik, man! Hey, somebody pass me the Bsomim!!

A Gemarrah in Chulin quotes Rish Lakish, who is troubed that Miriam Haneviya felt compelled to deliver her own song afterwards. What, Moishe Rabeinu's song wasn’t good enough? Suddenly women need to have equal time with men and copy everything that we do, including singing praises to Hakkadoshboruchhu?

I'm surprised that the Bnei Yisrael's sheep didn't feel left out and start singing a duet with the goats!

Asks Rish Lakish: What could Miriam have possibly been thinking?

According to the RIF, Miriam's motivation is purely philosophical: Miriam is fundamentally committed to the concept of equality between the sexes. He cites as proof a famous Medrish that notes that Miriam once burned her bra while preparing the Karban Pesach, the sacrificial Paschal lamb, and points out that Miriam used to always complain about getting paid 60% of what Aharaoin Hakoihain, the Menuval, was earning.

The RAMBAN argues Aderabbah -- Miriam was not interested in gaining gender equality at all! Rather, she was...err...more than happy to spend ALL of her time with women, if you know what I mean. He cites a Medrish that says that Miriam took six years off from her prophecy career to participate full time in the LPGA tour, and is frequently referred to in the Zoihar as "Big Butch Haneviya." She is in fact credited by most of CHAZAL for keeping Mishkav Nekaiyvah off the "Abomination" list and on the "Mitzvas Asei She'Hazman Grammah" list.

However, the Sifsey Chachomim hold Farkhert. They say that Miriam was solely focused on her singing career, and only performed following Moisheh Rabbeinu in order to attract interest in a three record album deal. They cite an MTV "Behind the Music" special that tells us that Miriam was always seen in a belly shirt, had a pierced navel, and was once engaged to Justin Timberlake for six months. Tragically, the Special tells us, her life spiraled out of control after an embarrassing "wardrobe malfunction", and when the Toirah says that Miriam spent two weeks outside of the encampment of Klal Yisroel due to leprosy, she was actually in rehab at the Betty Ford clinic.

Whatever the reason, Miriam's actions have bequeathed us a legacy. This is where we see the roots of Open Orthodoxy; Rabbahs -- Female Rabbis; Maharois – Female Almost-Rabbis; Yoi’atzois Halachah – Females with Rabbinic –level knowledge on Taharas Hamishpacha, menstruation, and orgasms, the Reform Movement, and the KKK. It is because of Miriam that women want to stop shaving their heads in Brooklyn, reveal an inch of their real hair in Monsey, have their own Minyan in Teaneck, have a “Partnership Minyan” with men in Manhattan, dance with the Torah in Lincoln Square, read from the Torah in Long Island, and bond with their sisters through membership in the Orthodykes. All because of Miriam.

Because of Miriam, women want to have jobs other than being teachers. They want to go to college, Chass V’Sholom. They want to drive, Rachmana Litzlan. And they even want the right to vote! All because of Miriam.

Miriam was the Shandah in the Midbar, and now Klal Yisroel suffers because our women want equality. They do not want to stay on their sides of the street or in the Ezras Nashim of the bus. All because of Miriam.

But that is not all. If Miriam would have stayed in the kitchen and had been watching the bread bake like she was supposed to instead of practicing make believe Chazzanus, we wouldn't have to spend a week and a half in constipated agony caused by eating nothing but Matzoh for eight days straight.

I would like to share a Maiseh Shehoyo: Last week I was at the Chassanah of the daughter of my insurance salesman. They had such wonderful schnapps that I got really Shikkur. In the morning, I was so hung over, I did Pisshin-Zein in the bathtub, gargled with my Neigel Vassar and flossed with my Tzitzis (which is quite efficient, since you can clean between sixteen teeth at one time).

My Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, could not join me at the Chassanah, since she said she needed to cook for Tisha Ba'Av and wax her head before going to the Mikvah. The next day she asked if I enjoyed myself, and I told her that other than being Mishtachaveh in the men's room for twenty minutes, I had a wonderful time. She wished me well as she went off to teach at the Bais Yankif, while I went back to bed to watch Dr. Phil and order in a pizza.

Such an Aishess Chayill. You should only be so lucky.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

NEW: On Reciting Kaddish

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

====================================================


On Reciting Kaddish


Yisgadal VeYiskadash Shmey Rabbah...


I have been saying Kaddish in recent weeks in the wake of the passing of my uncle, Reb Velvel Henach Naftali HaGadol, also known as the VELHUNG, most noted for his commentary on the shape of Rashi script. The VELHUNG passed away after a long battle with a terrible disease that robbed him of his Toirah, as well as his collection of baseball cards from the Lithuanian Baseball League of 1941.


Kaddish is a strange prayer. It is in Aramaic, and declares fealty to the sovereignty of the Reboinoisheloilum. It is said as part of Davening, and, of course, by mourners themselves. Daily. Multiple times a day. On days when I say Kaddish both as a mourner AND Daven for the Amud, I recite Kaddish about 400 times. It is perpetual. Then I go home and recite Kaddish in my sleep. In a store, when a clerk brings me what I asked for, I reply "Umayn". When a waiter comes to me in a restaurant and asks me for my order, I respond "Brich Hu". And when I achieve my... errr... Makka BiPatish with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, I declare "Yehei Shmey Rabbah Mevorach LeOilam U'LeOlmey Olmayah". Shoyn.


What is the history and purpose of this custom, which in many ways is an anchor in ritual and popular participation in the Jewish liturgical service? And why is it an Aramaic prayer rather than a Hebrew prayer?


There is a famous Braisah brought down in Gemarrah Yuma that suggests that Kaddish is said in Aramaic to ensure a special bond between Klal Yisroel and Hakadoshboruchhu, since the Malachim, the angels, do not speak Aramaic. This is according to Rabbi Meir. But according to Rabbi Yehuda, the prayer of Kaddish is explicitly addressed to the angels, who are keeping score as to how many times a person meets his responsibility to say Kaddish for a loved one. And according to a Medrish in Eichah Rabbah, the Angels have an office pool to bet on who will say the most Kaddishes during their year of Aveilus. Almost every year the winner comes from the Lubavitch community: Not only do they insert several additional Kaddishes at the end of their Tfillois, but they also say Kaddish after reciting the obligatory, "Yechi Moreinu VeRabbeinu Melech HaMashiach LeOilum Vo'ed" after key daily events: After Davening, after Benching after meals, after getting some poor schmuck in the street to put on Tefillin even though he is dressed in a Santa outfit, and after Teeth Brushing.


Indeed, there are many types of Kaddish - A fact you do not realize until you have to say it 400 times a day. They are:

-- Chatzi Kaddish: The Half Kaddish recited multiple times by the Shaliach Tezibur -- the leader of the prayer service – To punctuate different segments of the prayer service, as well as to enable congregants to engage in a quick conversation with the person standing next to them.

-- Kaddish Sholem: The Whole Kaddish, typically recited once every prayer service, towards the end of the service. According to a Pnei Yehoishua, the purpose of this Kaddish is so that when a Shaliach Tzibbur accidentally stops halfway though, thinking that a Chatzi Kaddish was in order, members of the congregation can take turns humiliating the Chazan by screaming, “Nu, Tiskabel!!!!” at him at the top of their lungs.

-- Kaddish Yasoim: The Mourner’s Kaddish. This is the “bread and butter” of the year of mourning. Literally. There are people like me who are constantly going to Shul to recite this many, many times a day. Yet others hire a Litvak Yeshiva Bochur or some Hairy Chussid looking to supplement his Welfare, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Section Eight by reciting Kaddish on behalf of someone who actually has a job.

-- Kaddish DeRabbanan: The Rabbi’s Kaddish. Like the regular Kaddish, it praises the Omnipresent and acknowledges Eternity. However, it also praises rabbinical scholars and their students, and the students’ students – essentially it is a prayer written by rabbis, praising rabbis. In other words, it is a bit like Congress voting to give itself a raise. This is also recited by a mourner, usually after content that includes rabbinic discourse, after a rabbinic lecture, or after an infomercial.

-- Kaddish D’Ischadasa: The Kaddish After Burial. This one is a lot of fun. Trust me. You have just buried a loved one, you are standing at the graveside, and then the rabbi asks you to recite this Aramaic tongue-twister in front of a bunch of crying relatives. About a half an hour before I needed to say this, the rabbi slipped me a Viagra; he said that “performance anxiety” was common the first time…

-- Kaddish Achar Hashlamas Masechta: Kaddish recited after completing a tractate of the Talmud. This is quite the opposite experience from the Kaddish After Burial. This comes at the end of a very long, complicated page of Aramaic, which, among other things, lists all of the sons of the Sage Rav Pappa. With that many children, it is a wonder he ever had time to get out of the house.

There are also a few lesser known forms of Kaddish

-- Kaddish D’Nittel: Special Kaddish recited on Christmas asking Santa for the most expensive gifts in the store.

-- Kaddish D’Gemoorrah: Kaddish recited after completion of a long cycle of events. This is typically said by Ashkenazim during half time of the Superbowl and during the seventh inning stretch during World Series games, and by Sephardim after the finals of a Soccer tournament.

-- Kaddish D’Kiddush: Kaddish recited upon completion of a bottle of good single malt Scotch or good tequila at a Kiddush after Shul on Saturday. When you can no longer pronounce the Aramaic without completely slurring your words (“Yehei Shmayay Robot… ummm… Robert…. Whatever…”) then it is time to go home and sleep it off.

Of course, the fundamental question one asks about Kaddish is “why?” Why do we say Kaddish in the first place? What is the purpose or intent of this tradition? To answer this properly, we need to review the history of prayer in general and Kaddish in particular.

Once upon a time, there was no Tefillah in Klal Yisroel. There – that is the truth. Worship was done by the priesthood on behalf of the nation and on behalf of individuals. This was the purpose of the first Bais Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, and all of the local Mikdashim. (Sure, you were told growing up that there were no other Israelite temples than the one in Jerusalem, but a quick trip to Arad and other archaeological sites will prove otherwise.) Perhaps there was an occasional festival that was celebrated by the broader populace, like Pesach – celebrated by the popular sacrifice of the Karban Pesach, Shavuois - celebrated by eating from the first fruits, and, of course, Shabboskoidesh, the weekly Sabbath, celebrated by refraining from work and trying to avoid being caught while checking in on Facebook.

However, during the Babylonian exile, the Jews needed to live religious life in Babylon, Alexandria and elsewhere without the Temple. Public reading of the Toirah, and likely prayer, became a part of the life of the common Jew. This phenomenon flourished during the Second Temple era, resulting in the emergence of the synagogue (itself a Greek word), and was more formally institutionalized after the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, reflecting the need to have a mechanism to engage the Divine, as well as a place to discuss politics, sports and the local Hot Chanies with your friends on Saturday mornings.

As Tefillah evolved over the centuries, the liturgy grew. First it was primarily comprised of Psalms and select Biblical writings. Later it incorporated Rabbinic compositions and then Piyut, liturgical poetry and prose. Among the compositions was the Kaddish. It is likely that Kaddish was originally composed to end a study session – hence composition in Aramaic, the Jewish lingua franca of the Talmudic period. However, at some point, Kaddish was adopted as a prayer for mourners to recite at the end of prayer services. The first extant documentation of a Kaddish for mourners is in the thirteenth century writings of the Or Zarua, who wrote that Kaddish should be inserted at the end of the Prayer book, right before the letters to the editor and the daily crossword puzzle.

Ironically, of course, Kaddish has no reference to death. It has no reference to the afterlife. It is actually an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the Divine in eternity. So why are mourners required to recite Kaddish? This is the subject of a famous Machloikess.

According to the Netziv, the Kaddish is recited in order to pronounce ultimate faith in the Divine by someone who suffered a personal loss – That no matter what happens in this world, the mourner acknowledges the Aimishteh’s ultimate mastery of the universe. Consequently, the Netziv holds that someone should recite the Kaddish in the months after losing a loved one, going bankrupt, or getting a permanent ink stain, ruining his favorite shirt.

However, according to the Netziv’s Rabbinic arch nemesis, the Brisker Ruv – Reb Yoisheh Ber Soloveitchik – Kaddish is recited by the mourner for a more spiritual purpose – to power the transition of the Niftar’s Neshama, the soul of the person who passed away, towards the afterlife in Gan Eden. It is like providing fuel for the travel of the soul. However, not all fuels are equal. For example, when I, a great Ruv, say Kaddish, it is like rocket fuel. When a Shmendrick like you says Kaddish, it is like unleaded regular at the local gas station. And when a Reform Jew says Kaddish, Chass V’Sholom, it is like lighting a couple of wet twigs on a cold winter day.

Given the complexity of fulfilling one’s responsibility to say Kaddish at the three different prayer services every day, CHAZAL struggled to find an appropriate metaphor to describe the commitment.

According to the Ba’al HaChavas Da’as, it is like visiting a hotel that has set meals, and making sure to construct your schedule around those meals.

According to the Ketzois HaChoishen, saying Kaddish is like trying to catch an airplane flight three times a day for eleven months straight.

However, according to the Chasam Soifer, it is like having to constantly report in to a needy girlfriend or wife, and it is for this reason that we only say Kaddish for eleven months instead of a full year, so that we can get that woman off our backs already, for Reboinoisheloilum’s sakes.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya about the Vilna Goyn and the Baal Shem Toiv. The Gruh and the BESHT were each traveling to collect money for their respective movements. One Shabboskoidesh they ended up in the same Shul in the town of Yapchik. When the Gruh looked up from his Davening and saw the BESHT walk in, he stormed over to him, screaming at the top of his lungs, “Hey, Charlie, don’t you people believe in Zman Kriras Shmah?!”

The BESHT stared at the Gruh for a moment and the said in a forceful voice, “Reboinoisheloilum! IT knows how to say something that was not written down on a piece of paper by his Rebbe!”

They argued vociferously until the end of Davening. But when it came time for Kaddish, they both stopped immediately and began to recite the Kaddish in unison. The BESHT was saying Kaddish for the passing of his mother. And the Gruh was saying Kaddish following the recent death of his beloved black Labrador Retriever, which unbeknownst to the Gruh, was the source for the fur on the BESHT’s Shreimel.

As Jews, there are many things that divide us. Some are serious and border upon the existential. Some relate to cultural shifts and the balance between tradition and modernity. And some relate to the painful tension between Mistvois Bain Adam LaMakoim and Mitzvois Bain Adam LeChaveiroi.

But Kaddish is one thing that unites us. It reminds us of how infinitesimally small we are. In the words of the Paytan:

“Muh Anu. Meh Chasdeinu. Mah Tzidkoisainu, Mah Yeshuoisainu, Mah Koichainu, Mah Gevuroiseinu

“Mah Nomar Lifanechah HaShem Eloikeinu V’Eyloikei Avoiseinu

“Halo Kol HaGiboirim KeAyin Lifanecha

“VeAnshey HaShaym KeLoi Hayu

“VeChachamim KiVli Madah, U’Nevoinim KiVli Haskel

“Kee Roiv Ma’aseihem Toihu, V’Ymei Chayeihem Hevel Lifanechah

“U’Moisar Ha’Adam Min HaBeheima Uyin

“Kee Hakol Hevel”

“What are we? What are our lives? What is our kindness? What is our righteousness? What is our salvation? What is our strength? What is our bravery?

“What can we say before you, Reboinoisheloilum our Hakadoshboruchhu, the Aimishteh of our ancestors?

“The mightiest of men are like nothingness before you, and the men of renown are as if they never existed

“Wise men are like people without knowledge, and the insightful are like people without any sense

“For the majority of their accomplishments are meaningless, and the days of their lives are nothingness before you

“And mankind’s supremacy over the animals is a fantasy

“Because all of existence is emptiness.”

---------

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

---------

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess