Friday, March 14, 2014
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
Today we gather together to celebrate the most joyous of all the Jewish Holidays, the holiday of Purim. On this holiday, we celebrate the near destruction of the Jewish People and the exploitation of Esther's Hamalka's bisulta to enable their salvation by getting stinking drunk and trying to be mezaneh with our chavrusa when he himself isn't throwing up.
Chazal have often contemplated the deeper meaning hidden within Megillas Esther, the text that details the story of Purim. Why, they ask, is the name of the Rebboinoisheloilum not mentioned throughout the Megillah, while in contrast, Haman Harasha's name is mentioned so many times that people audibly bang their heads against the wall?
According to the RASHBAM, the Aimishteh refused to have his name attached to the story, as he was repelled by the Machiavellian activities of Klal Yisroel. Such actions include:
-- Mordechai saves the life of the king and doesn't even collect a cash reward (What's pshat with that?)
-- Esther curries the favor of the king by taking hold of his extended staff
-- Once victory is achieved, Klal Yisroel doesn't stop until they have murdered Haman's allies, hanged his sons, and raped his horses.
Says the RASHBAM, Hakkadoshboruch didn't need any of that, as He was still trying to live down the bad press from the whole ten plague thing.
The RITVA disagrees, noting that the RASHBAM dropped too much bsomim when he was in college and was prone to flashbacks while in the Bais Medrish. The RITVA suggests that the reason that the Rebboinoisheloilum is not mentioned is that Megillas Esther is simply not originally a Jewish story. Noting the similarity of the names of Mordechai and Esther to the Persian diety names of Marduk and Ishtar, the RITVA offers that Purim was really adapted from a pagan Persian holiday where Persians would traditionally drink heavily, exchange gifts of food, and kill their wives and replace them with younger women.
But the Toldois Aharoin disagrees with both the RASHBAM and the RITVA. The Toldois Aharoin offers that the Melech Malchei HaMelachim didn't want his name included since He was completely upset by the fact that no one could ever get His name right. He cites a beautiful discussion from the Zoihar: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yoichai, sitting around a campfire with his followers, tells them that one must try to know the Ain Sof, the unknowable aspect of the Omnipresent, by giving it a name. "What would YOU call the Ain Sof?" he asks each of his followers,
One follower responds "Rebbe, I would call Him 'Fred' because that is a name I can relate to, since I once had a dog named Fred, and a dog is man's best friend.". Another follower says, "I will call Him 'Spike', because the Jewish People have a Bris with the Ain Sof, and that is what I nicknamed my Bris Milah when I was sixteen years old." And so they went around the circle.
When the last of the followers had spoken, Rebbe Shimon addressed them. "You idiots," he said, "you cannot give the Ain Sof a proper name! He is unknowable. I spend 13 years in a freaking cave just to teach schmucks like you?" When Rabbi Shimon calmed down, he told them that the Ain Sof should be called the Aibishter, meaning in Yiddish "The One On High." since, according to Rabbi Shimon, "as He is unknowable, one would have to be high to think you can know him."
As the rebbe's talmidim nodded in agreement, Rabbi Akiva joined the group, and, upon hearing, the topic, began to berate Rabbi Shimon. "You would call the Ain Sof 'Aibishter'?" Rabbi Akiva asked. "Everyone knows that He should be called 'Aimishteh', which means in Aramaic 'Where is He when you really need Him?"
Says the Toldois Aharoin, as the Aimishteh didn't want to get involved in the argument, he decided to adopt a low key approach in the Megillah.
I, the RAPAS, would like to offer a new answer to this question. The Rebboinoisheloilum's name is obscured from the Megillah so Klal Yisroel would know that some time we have to solve our own problems. We cannot rely on a deus ex machina, an external solution, heavenly or otherwise, to resolve the most challenging issues of our day. We must use our own intelligence and creativity to devise and implement our best alternatives.
Take for example the issue of peace between Klal Yisroel and the Arab world. Some would say that we should give up all of the West Bank in exchange for peace. Others would say that we should not give up one inch. I would like to humbly suggest that in exchange for real peace, we should be prepared to make sacrifices, even painful ones. However, it should be clear to all sides that not everyone will get what they want. But in the spirit of compromise, I am certain that we can reach an understanding. Consequently, while I am not certain what we should do with the West Bank, in exchange for real peace we should give Brooklyn to the Palestinians. And if calm prevails there, we can talk later about giving back other territories including the Five Towns, Teaneck, and Skokie.
Ah Freilachin Yuntif, You Minuval
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess