THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Gay Marriage and Mel Gibson
This week I was traveling with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, to San Francisco for the Chassanah of her cousin Yerachmiel Guttvuch to Rebbetzin Morris Goldenbergsteinowitzsky. Under the Chuppah, Rebbitzin Morris walked in circles around Yerachmiel six times, but on the seventh circle tripped on his Gartel, which looked a lot like something out of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.
So went our entry into the newly transformed world of institutionalized Mishkav Zachor.
Later that day, my Bashert and I returned to our hotel, and after a quick mitzvah involving fur-lined handcuffs and a rider's crop, we decided to order in a little Traifus and watch a movie on Netflix. We thought we were ordering up some soft core porn, Chass V’Sholom, so imagine my shock when “The Passion of the Christ” started: I looked up at the screen and saw Yushka Pandra, Koihanim, Am Haratzim, long haired Apikorsim, torture, and Tzailems.
Ich Vais -- what a disappointment! Two and a half hours of R Rated Hollywood magic, and not even a hint of skin! It was enough for me to open my laptop and dig up my downloaded pictures of Rebbetzin Kutler engaging in Zumba!
The whole episode poses a series of disturbing questions about our changing world:
- What should a Ben Toirah's attitude be towards gay marriage overall?
- How should we relate to a film written and directed by Mel Gibson about Yushka Pandra that may raise the specter of age-old anti-Semitism and deprive us of discounts on goods and services?
- If you watch "The Passion of the Christ" and you eat cholent, popcorn, or fried Chazer knuckles, can you make a Bracha, or will the Aimishteh get insulted and think you are praying to someone else, if you know what I mean?
- What's Pshat in an R rated movie with less hot Shiksa action than a benign exercise regimen?
I am reminded of a famous Medrish in Eichah Rabba about Hillel and Shammai. Hillel and Shammai were best friends who shared everything. Hillel was the Nasi, the Patriarch of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel, and Shammai was the speaker of the Sanhedrin. They lived together in a small Tudor style house, where Shammai loved to tend the garden on weekends. Once, while on a business trip to Chevroin on a Friday they realized that it was nearly Shabbos, and decided to be Toivel Zein in the river. Shammai wanted to go in first, insisting that because he was older, that was his right. Hillel wanted to go first, insisting that he was entitled because he was the Nasi. This was an argument that shattered their relationship.
When it became time to divide their physical assets, neither wanted to give up his share of the house. So they divided the house in two. Shammai got the dining room, the kitchen and one of the bedrooms, while Hillel got the living room, the office, and two bedrooms. However, whenever they talked about the house, each one referred to it as his own, so Hillel's half became known as Bais Hillel, and Shammai's half became know as Bais Shammai. Shoyn.
The Medrish tells us that when dividing their joint property, Hillel and Shammai approached the assets as business partners, but had Yoichanan the Koihain Gadol serve as mediator. This all brings to mind the question: Is a same gender partnership like a marriage? How do chazzal resolve these issues, given that they knew everything, had Ruach HaKoidesh, and were completely infallible, except when it came to avoiding persecution?
A famous Gemarrah in Tainis teaches us about the Talmudic principle of Hekesh, a juxtaposition of verses or opinions that imply a connection between two seemingly disparate ideas. This rule, applied to our new world, has some profound implications.
The biggest opponents of gay marriage in America are also the biggest proponents of the movie "The Passion of the Christ". Which clearly means that to oppose gay marriage is to support the evangelical view of the world, Christ's death, Jewish culpability, the Resurrection, Eretz Yisroel Hashleimah and the 700 Club.
To oppose the film, however, means that you would like Mahmoud Abbas as your next door neighbor, and suggests that the reason you like to stay until 1:00 am in the Bais Medrish with your Chavrusa is NOT because you are really fascinated by that Gevaldikah Toisfois, if you know what I mean.
Indeed, the entire history of Klal Yisroel is filled with similar confusing paradoxes of logic and circumstance. Esther HaMalkah saves Klal Yisroel by playing "hide the scepter" with Achashveiroish. Aron Hacoihain, the Minuval, leads Klal Yisroel into worshipping Avoidah Zorah, yet gets a promotion. King David, Dovid Hamalech, is Mezaneh with his most loyal soldier's wife, and subsequently has the soldier killed, yet still accumulates residential apartment buildings and other valuable investment properties.
At the same time, Moishe Rabbeinu touches a rock and is punished like a three year old child. Yoishiyahu Hamelech leads a significant return to Toiras Moishe, and is rewarded with an arrow through the heart. Rabbi Akiva develops the category structure for Toirah Sheh Baal Peh that we still use today, but later becomes the tragic subject of somber dirges read by starving people twice a year.
Of course, Yushka Pandra was perceived, is perceived, by his followers to be the Moshiach. We ourselves have also longed for salvation. It was that same Rabbi Akiva who once declared Bar Koichba to be the Moshiach. And who is to say he was wrong? (Well, actually the Romans, come to think of it.) The Lubavitcher Rebbe apparently thought that he himself was Moshiach, and years after his death, he lives on, Boruch Hashem, through the infighting of his followers.
Come to think of it, I may be the Moshiach. Follow the logic: I have more Toirah in my Payis than you have in your whole head of hair, you Vilda Chaya. I have never said that I am NOT the Moshiach. And can you think of anyone in our generation more qualified to be the Moshiach than me?
So life is fundamentally complicated and makes no sense to simple minded people like you, you Am Ha’aretz. And if you don't like it, go take it up with the Hakadoshboruchhu.
So how can we possibly understand this complex world?
The Ari Zahl explains the complexities of the world through his conception of the secret workings of the universe. He describes our world as originally designed by the Reboinoisheloilum to be perfect; however, through some cosmic accident, the world became fundamentally flawed. And our mission in the Oilam Hazeh is to rescue the lost bits of Kiddushah, the "holy sparks," that have been scattered throughout the cruel nether underpinnings of the world.
And how do we capture these sparks? By doing Mitzvois. By giving Tzedakah. By focusing not only on Bain Adam LaMakoim, but also on Bain Adam LeChaveiro. By helping old ladies across the street. By being Mezaneh with fat chicks that no one else is willing to sleep with. By opening up your home and your heart to others, even when they are different than you. By helping the widow and the orphan, the single parent and the foresaken child.
Who are we to reject the feelings, the physical needs, or the emotional needs of the Aimishteh’s creations, ALL of His creations, whatever their creed or color or gender or economic status or sexual orientation? So what's a little Mishkav Zachor or Mishkav Nekayvah between friends? This is OUR world, the real world, created by the Melech Malchei HaMelachim, Hakadoshboruchhu, not some fictional construct created out of someone’s imagination.
Indeed, good can come from strange places. Take crucifixion for example. It was the cruelest form of punishment developed by the evil Roman Empire. It was designed to spread fear and intimidation. It killed people slowly, as they suffered from hunger, thirst, and the impact of the elements. However, if I can ever get a hold of Mel Gibson, I've got a big Tzailem in my backyard with his name on it.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess