THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
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