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Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Road to Redemption



On the Road to Redemption


What a long week this has been!

On Sunday I was out in Brooklyn raising money for my Yeshiva, offering donors of $100 or more some magical Bsomim that would help them see the Reboinoisheloilum’s Merkava and commune with the Shchinah, as well as give them a Taiva for Maichel afterwards (“give them the “munchies” BLA”Z).

On Monday I cracked the code on bringing Toiras Moisheh to the masses: My investors and I had looked into opening a kosher sports bar in Teaneck, with 18 life size high definition screens carrying sporting events from all over the world that customers could watch while drinking beer and eating Spicy Bnei Brak Wings (Vos iz Pshat Ah Buffalo?). However, we were told that sports is “Nisht Azoy Ah Yiddisheh Zach”. So after being denied a Hashgacha from the local Teaneck Kashrus board, the OU, the Kuff K, and even the Triangle K, which I understand is run by a former Reform Rabbi who is now a leader in the Church of Scientology, we decided to change our business model. So we translated the sports bar concept into something more in synch with Yiddishkeit, and on Monday we opened up the first ever Beis Medrish Bar and Grill, featuring 18 life size Rabbis telling over all sorts of Divrei Toirah, while diners eat burgers, fries and drink Shlivovitz from little plastic shot glasses. Not only did the Mashgichim approve the Hechsher, they insisted that their son-in-laws be allowed to deliver Shiurim for tips!

On Tuesday I finished writing my latest Sefer, Di Chusin Oon Di Chavrusa Mit Di Shverkeit, an engaging tale about an unusual love triangle, loosely based on the life of Reb Shlomo Kluger, Reb Akiva Eiger, and Queen Victoria. It is available as an e-book, or wherever Bantam Paperbacks are sold.

On Wednesday I held office hours and Farhered numerous Talmidim on Hichois Karban Toidah. I am proud to say that when the Bais Hamikdash is rebuilt, Bimhairah BiYamaynu, there will be no shortage of impoverished twenty-something-year-old Yeshiva students living on Welfare and Food Stamps who never worked a day in their lives, who will be prepared to slaughter goats on behalf of Klal Yisroel.

On Thursday I opened my doors to the public and welcomed a bunch of Sucker Am Haaratzim …. errr…. I mean… Heimisheh Baal HaBusim who in exchange for me handing them dollar bills handed my secretary checks for $50, $100, and even $1,000 a piece. Gemilas Chassadim does indeed deliver returns multifold! Boruch HaShem.

It was during this session that I learned something astounding. One of the Baal HaBusim mentioned that Klal Yisroel is at war! I of course agreed, and reminded him that the war against the Yetzer Harrah is a constant battle, and we can never let our guards down.
And then he took out his newspaper and showed me that Eretz Yisroel is under attack! Did any of you Minuvals know that? And if yes, why didn't you tell me?

So, as it turns out, Medinas Yisrael is fighting a battle against the Hamas, who are being supported by the Iranians, who are also supporting the Iraqis, who are fighting a war against ISIS, who are also fighting against the Syrians, who are supported by the Russians, who are supporting the Ukrainian rebels, who are fighting against the Ukrainians, who are allied with the Western Europeans, who are supported by the Americans. You see, I told you Barack HUSSEIN Oibama was an anti-Semite!!!

As I began to read up on the current battles, I learned of the horrific deaths of Israeli citizens and soldiers, and the constant barrage of missiles being directed at Klal Yisroel.

Sad to say, this is something I warned about in a Drasha five years ago: If the women of Klal Yisroel refuse to dress Tzniusdick, Hakadoshboruchhu will bring down His wrath tenfold. In addition, if Jewish men refuse to put on Tefillin, the Reboinoisheloilum will deliver His wrath from the North. If little Jewish children engage in mixed swimming, Eretz Yisroel will face a devastating attack by the Australian Aborigines. And if all of Klal Yisroel does not stop with this Internet, iPhone, and Facebook Shtussim, the Aimishteh will bring about an attack by the mermaids and mermen who live in Atlantis, under the Mediterranean Ocean.

Luckily, I had a dream last night that restored my hope. In my dream, my father-in-law, the Shmutzedikkah Rebbe, came to me to tell me that if every family in Klal Yisroel sends me $100, Moshiach will finally arrive. Redemption at last. No more wars. No more famine. No more Arab Israeli conflict. No more anti-Semitism. Peace and joy and good will towards all mankind. And the opportunity to study Toirah night and day, day and night, together, in our ancestral homeland: Slobodka.



As has been pointed out many times, our ancestors faced few of the challenges that we face as a Nation today. Klal Yisroel were perpetual victims for nearly 2,000 years. Our very presence in the Israel, the United States, France, Argentina, Russia, the UK, Germany, and across the globe is a reflection of the wandering nature of our People. We are all the descendants of refugees; our nation has indeed been The Wandering Jew.

But today, for the first time in two millennia, we have our own State, whose borders must be defended, whose economy must be sustained, and whose population must be cared for from cradle to grave. We have to live side by side with other nations, some of whom are friends and some of who are mortal enemies.

As such, when we have no choice, we are forced to wage war, with all of its pain. We have the challenge of sending sons and daughters into battle, an act whose consequences are interlocked with tragic outcomes. We have to worry about the Israeli civilian population. We also have to defeat the enemy, who have embedded themselves amongst civilians, who themselves become casualties. It is a cycle of violence of a Hundred Years War.

We are taught in the Gemarrah: “Four entered the Pardes. They were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them, "When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, 'Water! Water!' for it is said, 'He who speaks untruths shall not stand before My eyes' (Psalms 101:7)". Ben Azzai gazed and died. Regarding him the verse states, 'Precious in the eyes of G-d is the death of His pious ones' (Psalms 116:15). Ben Zoma gazed and was harmed (went insane). Regarding him the verse states, 'Did you find honey? Eat as only much as you need, lest you be overfilled and vomit it' (Proverbs 25:16). Acher cut the shoots (became a heretic). Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and left in peace.” (Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 14b).

But what is the peace that Rabbi Akiva returned to? A life of academic achievement, followed by a torturous death. But his mark remains, through his teachings and the teachings of his student, which are foundational to Jewish thought.

Redemption is not granted to those who sit around and wait; it is earned. It is not a Bais Hamikdash that descends magically from the sky. It is a great enterprise, whose foundation is embedded in the ground, and built from the ground up with blood, sweat and tears.

And in time, redemption will be achieved when we have achieved security and peace, peace and security. Bimhairah BiYamaynu.

Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, July 18, 2014

Parshas Matois



Rabboisai, before I begin this week's Drasha, I would like to say a few words about current events.

Yesterday, Israel sent ground forces into Gaza. This follows more than a week of insidious rocket attacks by Hamas on the Israeli civilian population, and comes on the heels of the horrendous kidnap and murder of three Israeli students. Israel of course has been retaliating militarily, with a high casualty rate, which includes civilians. And of course, there was also the barbaric murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.

100 years ago, many of our ancestors lived in Eastern Europe, and were fated to fall prey to the whims of the czar, the local strongmen, the Church, or other groups that led pogroms against which we had no defense. Our only response was to run.

We will no longer run.

While there is ongoing debate about what the final status of the political arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians, or Israel and the Arab countries for that matter, should be, there is a given: There is a Jewish State. We will not be victims. We need to maintain self control and a rational approach in our response, and remember the lessons of history because, as we are so often reminded in the Toirah, "We ourselves were strangers in Egypt". But Jewish life is not cheap.

In the words of the Jew Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, "If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

Our focus is not and should not be revenge. It is the insurance of safety for the population of Israel.

Let us hope and pray that the day will soon come when missiles and bullets are replaced by dialogue, violent exchanges are replaced by economic exchanges, and mutual casualties are replaced by mutual collaboration.


Parshas Matois

In this week's Parsha, Matois, Klal Yisroel strives to emulate the benevolent, merciful, forgiving nature of the Reboinoisheloilum by slaughtering all the nations of Midian.

Like last week, we are faced with a question regarding Klal Yisroel's relationship with Midian: How is it that the nation of Yisro, the man who helped develop Am Yisroel's legal system, so soon became a mortal enemy to be pillaged and plundered, killed to the last man, with all its wealth taken away? According to the Mei Menuchois, the Toirah here is coming to teach an important lesson to lawyers: they are to pledge allegiance to the legal system, but are then encouraged to exploit it, abuse it and devour it like locusts, so long as they are not disbarred.

However, the Sifsey Chachomim focuses on an even more fundamental question on the Parsha: Why, after Klal Yisroel killed all the adult males of Midian, did Moishe Rabbeinu insist that they kill all the adult females as well?

According to the Baal Haturim, Moishe's motivation was that he was a mysogonist. Indeed, a Gemarra in Nedarim attributes to Moishe the Halacha that women can never enter the inner areas of the Bais Hamikdash, not because they were banned from bringing sacrifices, but because of the strict MEN ONLY rules in the Temple's health club.

But the RAN disagrees, referring in his commentary to the Baal Haturim as "Shvantz for Brains." The RAN holds that Moishe Rabbeinu actually loved women, perhaps a little too much. He cites a medrish that says that the reason it took Moishe so long to return to Klal Yisroel from Sinai was that he went three blocks out of his way, where no one he knew would see him, to buy "marital aids." Indeed, the RAN holds that Moishe had the adult women of Midian killed because they "lacked passion", and he didn't dare risk making the Israelite wives any more frigid than they already were, chass v'sholom.

But according to the MAHARAL, Moishe ordered the killing of the Midianite women for as grand a reason as to help Klal Yisroel finally reach the Promised Land.

Klal Yisroel was originally supposed to enter Eretz Yisroel in a matter of weeks after receiving the Toirah on Sinai. However, every time the Jews had a spare moment to make some progress toward reaching The Land, their wives always came up with new chores for them to do. "Moishe, fold the laundry, the Aimishteh can wait." "Aron, go next door to borrow the lawn mower. I don't care if we are moving our tent tomorrow. TODAY the place looks a mess." "Kulayv, watch the children for the next three hours while I get my nails done." "Yehoishua, you can't meet Moisheh to discuss conquest strategy this afternoon; we have a guy coming in to give us an estimate on redoing the kitchen."

Since Moishe didn't want the males of Am Yisroel to become any more whipped than they already were, he had all the Midianite women put to death.

I am reminded of a famous story told of the ARI ZAHL. He was once addressing his students in Tzfas, expounding on new, insightful interpretations of the Zohar, and using his deep understanding of the interrelationships of ten Sefirot to bring about the coming of the Moshiach and end Israel's state of exile.

Suddenly, the back door of the Bais Medrish opened, and his eight year old son Pesachya stuck his head in. "Tahti, come home quickly, Mommy needs you right away!" Fearing some horrible disaster, the ARI ended his treatise mid-sentence and ran home. His wife anxiously greeted him at the door. "I need you to do car pool. Shayndl next door is sick, and I have an appointment with the Shaytelmacher." The ARI held his temper and faithfully picked up his daughter Fruma from day camp.

That night the Reboinoisheloilum came to him in a dream. "ARI, you were about to crack the code and bring about Israel's redemption. Why did you choose your wife over the Moshiach?"

"Aimishteh," the ARI answered, "if the Moshiach doesn't come now, he'll come soon. Maybe in ten years, maybe in one hundred, maybe in one thousand. And then we will sit at Your throne and joyfully worship You. But if I piss off my wife, she'll make me miserable for all eternity." The Aimishteh praised the ARI's wisdom and rewarded him by bringing a plague that ended the ARI's life.

In our day we too are confronted by a similar choice: Lifelong dedication to the Reboinoisheloilum, or splitting loyalty between Him and a wife. Many spiritual groups have different approaches to managing this challenge. The Moslems marry many women in order to counter the aggregation of power by a single wife. The Episcopalians and the Reform allow their wives to become clergy and manage the family's relationship with the Aimishteh, thereby freeing up time for the husbands to play golf. And the Catholics don't marry, but take matters into their own hands, or into the hands of their alter boys, if you know what I mean.

But a true Ben Torah accepts his fate, secure in the fact that while his wife wastes her time on such insignificant tasks as supporting the family, paying the rent, filling out school registration forms, planning carpool, packing school lunches, cooking, cleaning, and worrying about birth control, he is off doing the Aimishteh's work by learning in Kolel and contemplating his reward in the World to Come.

Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, July 11, 2014

On Current Events In Israel



On Current Events In Israel


Numerous talmidim have reached out to me over the past week asking what a Ben Toirah’s position should be regarding the current war in Israel. “Rebbe” some say, “I want to travel to Eretz Yisroel to contribute to the war effort. Can I go to an army base and peel potatoes, so soldiers assigned to kitchen duty can be deployed to Gaza to peel potatoes for Hamas?” “Rebbi, can I go to a bomb shelter to teach children critical survival skills, such as first aid or Hilchois Tzitzis?” “Rebbi, can I travel to Eilat to ensure that the topless Scandinavian women tourists are "fully satisfied" with their visit, if you know what I mean?”

More introspective Talmidim ask how a Ben Toirah should relate to the troubling geopolitical realities that Israel faces. We capture territories; they attack us. We retain territories; they attack us. We redeploy from territories; they attack us. What should we do, for Reboinoisheloilum’s sakes?

Frankly, you Minuval, today’s challenges are not unique in the history of Klal Yisroel. When Am Yisroel left Mitzrayim, crossed the Yam Suf, and said “Na’Aseh V’Nishmah,” were we greeted by comfort and ease? Did Hakadoshboruchhu give us a break after 400 years of slavery, persecution, and high interest rates? No! The Bnei Yisroel faced food shortages, water deprivation, armed combat, internal strife, sorcerers’ curses, erectile dysfunction, and limited broadband availability.

In a famous Gemarrah in Kesubois, Rav Ashi asks why the Aimishteh always makes life difficult for Klal Yisroel, and then when we rebel or express doubt, He smacks us with an outstretched fist. Asks Rav Ashi, “Isn’t the Reboinoisheloilum guilty of the Issur of Lifnei Iver,” placing us in a position where we are entrapped into sin?

There is a Gevaldikkah Machloikess Rishoinim on this topic.

According to the RAN, Hakadoshboruchhu is indeed guilty of Lifnei Iver, and the RAN suggests that we put Him in Cherem until He changes His behavior.

But the RIF disagrees, suggesting that Rav Ashi was not thinking clearly, probably because it was not “hunting season” in the Ashi boudoir, if you know what I mean. Rather, argues the RIF, the Aimishteh loves Klal Yisroel, and He is only challenging us so that we can glorify His name. And therefore, the right words, the right steps, and the right actions are just at our finger tips, awaiting our discovery of the proper formula.

Indeed, the great Kabbalists of Tsfas held like the RIF, and they dedicated themselves to finding the right formula to achieve success in the eyes of the Reboinoisheloilum. Yes, the ARIZAHL, Reb Yoiseph Karo, and others delved into the deep mysteries of existence and finally came up with an answer: Through Tefillah, Ruach Hakoidesh, reading tea leaves, and the use of a Magic Eight Ball, they were able to recover the Shaym Hamefoirush, the ineffable name of the Aimishteh which gives special magical powers to all who use it. It was the Shaym Hamefoirush that:

-- Avraham Avinu used at the age of 99 to raise his Bris Milah from the dead so that he could father Yitzchak

-- Moishe Rabbeinu used to split the sea and raise the bones of Yoisaiph Hatzadik

-- Shloimoi Hamelech used to give life to the inanimate lions guarding his throne

-- The Koihain Gadol used to bring forth fire from the Mizbayach in the Bais Hamikdash.

In fact, there is a famous Medrish that says that Yushka Pandra had the Shaym Hamefoirush written on his arm, which enabled him to magically walk on water, mysteriously change water into wine, and miraculously get Mary Magdalene to provide access to her… err… ummm.... Yam Suf...

So if Klal Yisroel has used this awesome power in the past, why can't Klal Yisroel use this magical capability now? Why doesn’t the Prime Minister use the Shaym Hamefoirush today to defeat Hamas? Why can’t the Chief Rabbi climb up to the tallest mountain in Eretz Yisroel, raise his arms, and like Moishe Rabbeinu keep them up in the air until our foes are vanquished? Why can’t the leading Rosheshivas pray with fervor until the current threats disappear?

I am reminded of a famous story about the Kutzker Rebbe. At the end of one summer, the Kutzker was forced to stay home and watch the children because camp was over, school had not yet begun, and his wife had a full schedule of patients at her Speech Therapy practice. After a week of taking the kids to the pool and trying to get work done, with Spongebob blaring in the background, the Kutzker decided he had had enough, so he headed upstairs to argue with his wife.

Climbing up the steps, the Kutzker cautiously kept his distance as he asked his wife to please stay home for a few days, but she completely ignored him. Looking at the back of her head, as she quietly sat in the bedroom, he raised his voice, complaining how she was responsible for his Bittul Toirah. No response. Then the Kutzker raised his voice even more and berated her loudly, yelling at her in his worst street Yiddish. Still nothing. Finally, he stormed over to where she was sitting to argue with her face to face. To the Kutzker's great surprise, he discovered that he had been arguing for 25 minutes with her Shaytel, which was sitting atop a Styrofoam head on the dresser. Alarmed, he calmed himself down by using the Styrofoam head to perform an act of Metzitzah Bipeh on himself.

Rabboisai, in the world of reality, we do not have a secret formula, so we must to find a path for ourselves through our words, our prayers and our actions. Perhaps we are using the wrong words or taking the wrong actions. Or perhaps we are being tested by the Reboinoisheloilum for endurance, as in a marathon, or on a long Mikvah night in the winter time.

Fate has determined that we have a State surrounded by many enemies. But it is our State, the culmination of a great national effort. And the self determination that we have today sadly comes with a heavy, painful price.

So we roll up our sleeves and suck in our gut, secure in the knowledge that one day soon we will ascend from our collective bomb shelters and return to our homes to argue about such critical issues as the color of the wallpaper, the Yankees’ starting lineup, and whether or not you are required to make a Bracha on Tzitzis while putting on a four cornered leather S&M outfit at night with your glasses fogged on a Tuesday.

Ah Gutten, Peaceful, Shabbos You Minuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, July 04, 2014

Parshas Balak



Parshas Balak

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Balak, we are provided a welcome respite from the usual rigmarole of the Toirah -- no Moishe Rabbeinu, no Aharoin the minuval, no vilda chaya Klal Yisroel -- until the very end of the Parsha. No regulations regarding sacrifices or other Priestly responsibilities. No critical laws that continue to enrich our lives until today, such as the prohibition against eating creeping insects while having relations with your father's wife on Yoim Kippur.

The RAMBAN asks the obvious question: why does the Toirah veer away from focusing on Klal Yisroel, the Chosen People, the Goy Kadoish, and focuses instead on Bilaam, Balak, and a talking she-ass? What’s Pshat?

The Tzitz Eliezer suggests that the Rebboinoisheloilum was suffering from writer's block, and was forced to plagiarize a script he found on the Internet in order to meet His tight deadline.

But the Schvantz Mordechai vehemently disagrees, saying that the Aimishteh was renowned for delivering his scripts on time, but that union issues with the Screen Actors Guild resulted in a walk out by Moishe and the rest of Klal Yisroel, requiring some quick rewrites and recasting with low cost fill ins ("scabs" in Yiddish). By Parsha's end, of course, the strike was settled, just in time to enjoy the usual hijinks of Klal Yisroel being smitten by a plague that killed twenty-four thousand. He cites as proof a medrish in Yechezkel Rabbah suggesting that the reason Moishe wasn't allowed into Eretz Yisroel was because his affinity for labor was expected to make Yehoshua's right-wing coalition unstable.

So what of Bilaam and Balak? The Gemarrah, in discussing this Parsha, notes how strange it is that Bilaam is portrayed by the Toirah as having a personal relationship with Hakkadoshboruchhu, referring to him by name, and mentioning several times that Bilaam had His personal cell phone number.

Says the Gemmarah, according to a Bas Kol (a voice emanating from heaven), Bilaam was in fact not associated with the Rebboinoisheloilum at all. Says the Bas Kol, "The Aimishteh denies that any alleged contacts with Mr. Bilaam took place at any time, and expresses that any alleged leaks were certainly unintentional and not a violation of Federal law. As well, Hakkadoshboruchhu has engaged a private counsel, and will have nothing else to say on this matter at this time."

Rav Huna rejects the Bas Kol, citing credibility issues arising from previous high level leaks that took place following the "Golden Calf" affair. Instead, he suggests that the Bilaam story is actually a legend created by the author of the E text in order to support Israelite claims of manifest destiny over Moabite territories by referring to Bilaam, a historical Near Eastern shaman. Unfortunately, Rav Huna disappeared without a trace before he could prove his theory.

Rav Ashi suggests, however, that Bilaam did indeed have a relationship with the Rebboinoisheloilum, but tried to exploit that relationship in order to develop his own following and offer an alternative religion, a substitute to Toiras Moishe. He points to a medrish that says that Bilaam was supported by a band of nerdy looking teenagers who were always doggedly handing out deceptive looking fliers in the subway during rush hour advocating membership in “Bedouins for Bilaam.”

Indeed, this interpretation points to a paradox at the heart of Yiddishkeit. Judaism itself is an alternative, a substitute for the pagan beliefs and rituals pervasive in society until the time of Avraham Avinu. As such, we have from time immemorial lived side-by-side with others, yet remained committed to alternative philosophies and approaches based upon our conception of monotheism and the practices inspired by our core belief set.

Yes, Judaism is dedicated to the concept of being unique, both in our faith and in our material existence. Take food, for example. We separate ourselves from the animals and the anti-Semite nations of the world by our dietary practices. Others eat pig; we do not. Other mix milk and meat; we consecrate our lives by putting non-dairy creamer in our coffee.

Take aesthetic habits. The women of other nations expose their hair as they prostitute themselves; we, on the other hand, assert our holiness and superiority by wearing $3000 dollar wigs.

A maaseh shehoyo: The Pri Megadin was once at a bachelor party for his brother in law, the Eliyahu Rabbah. After going out for steaks, they eventually ended up at the best strip club in all of Lithuania. One of the exotic dancers, Ruchel, came over to the Pri Megadin and whispered in his ear, "Rebbe, I have always been inspired by your commentaries. Would you like a lap dance?" The Pri Megadin looked at her closely, leaned forward, and replied to her, "Meideleh, I don't fraternize with shiksas."

"But Rebbe," she said, "I am as Jewish as your wife!"

"You don't show it. My aishess chayil projects her Jewishness with her elaborate hair covering, separates herself through her elegant-though-modest mode of dress, builds upon the Devine's creation with her delicate rhinoplasty, and truly distinguishes herself with her double-D implants."

The Pri Megadin then puked and passed out at the bar, and spent the night sleeping on the floor until it was time for Shacharis.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

On the Reboinoisheloilum’s Relationship with Klal Yisroel



On the Reboinoisheloilum’s Relationship with Klal Yisroel


It has been a tremendously disturbing week on a national scale. The terrible news about the three boys found dead has ripped at the soul of Klal Yisroel in a way that has garnered national heart-rending. Perhaps it is because the terrible news comes after two weeks of waiting, and hope. Perhaps it is because people believed, even hoped, that worldwide Jewish recitation of Tehilim and lighting candles would have a tangible impact in our corporeal world.

And the tragic reality has led to sadness, anger, and many other emotions. For some, the news contributes to a broader theological dilemma. I addressed this in last week's Drasha:

But as much as one is driven to anger against the Divine and doubts of His existence -- myself included -- I would like to share another perspective.

I began this week visiting two Concentration Camps. I stood in the room where the original industrialization of mass murder occurred. I saw the remaining foundation of the first death camp building -- where victims were walked along a corridor of death, to climb a ramp, into gas trucks, where they were asphyxiated to death in 20 minutes, 200 at a time. I walked the remains of the crematoria, stepping on the green fields that have grown above the ashes of 200,000 of our ancestors.

In each of the Concentration Camps there was a memorial book. Guests are encouraged to write their thoughts, their names, and the dates of their visits.

My inscription was simple, in Hebrew: "Am Yisrael Chai". "The Nation Of Israel Lives".

Whatever our terrible history, or our troubling reality, we are still here. We are strong. We have our own country. We have seen many national and individual achievements. The State of israel and our communities around the world face many external and internal challenges. But we are still here, and are not going anywhere.

Am Yisrael Chai.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval,

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


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess