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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach


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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach


Rabboisai,

In anticipation of the upcoming Yuntif, I would like to address an issue related to Hilchois Pesach


The Anonymous Minuval" writes:

"Rav Pinky,

"Am I allowed to perform oral favors on my wife on Pesach if she has a yeast infection?"

Well, my beloved, gutter-minded talmid, this is a delightful question that I have been asked several times before, all by members of the Ashkenazic tradition, since, as everyone knows, Sephardic Jews have not subscribed to this approach to marital fulfillment since the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

With regard to your question, yeast is not in and of itself chometz (leaven), but is in the category of chometz-related matter. Hence, Chazal would certainly hold that you could NOT perform oral favors on your wife, though you are not required to dispose of her during Pesach.

However, if you are of the practice of performing oral favors on your wife with the aid of a chometzdikkeh food, say -- pudding, the issue becomes more complex. BeDiyeved, there are those that say that the Halacha would view this as similar to yeast, or a kli (a cooking utensil), and, therefore, you may keep your wife in your possession, as long as you do not perform oral favors on her during the course of Pesach.

Lechatchilah, however, if we consider a wife's private parts as food, and therefore, having been exposed to the chometz, the privates take on the nature of chometz, since chometz is not battul afilu be'elef (is not considered insignificant, even if it is an infinitesmal fraction of the food in question), then you must dispose of the chometz prior to Pesach, preferably by burning.

However, in our day, our Rabbis have determined an alternative approach, as we use with other valuable chometz investments. You are allowed to sell your wife's Erva to a gentile, provided you not benefit from it for eight days. And, of course, you have to provide access to the gentile at any time that the gentile so chooses to take possession of the chometz.

How is this contractual arrangement made? There are those that are more lenient, and say a verbal sales agreement is enough to drive the exchange of possession. However, the majority of Achroinim hold that there has to be a symbolic physical transfer of possession. In real estate sales, this is typified by a kinyan sudor, or exchange of possession using as handkerchief as a proxy. In this instance, however, an exchange of your wife's underwear would be the preferred mode.

As well, the Rabbis note, it is customary the night before Pesach to include your wife's Erva when performing Bedikas Chometz in your home. Your wife will certainly welcome the feather.

But just be careful with that wooden spoon!


Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Parshas Tsav


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Parshas Tsav

This week's parsha, Tsav, is a complete repeat of Parshas Vayikrah. If you made it to shul last week, you should seriously consider sleeping in (unless there is a good kiddush).

The ROSH asked why the major elements of Vayikrah are repeated this week: animal slaughter, laws pertaining to specific rituals conducted by the Koihanim,etc. He concludes that Aron Hakoihain, that minuval, was trying to take advantage and get people to pay twice for the same services, much like Roish Hashanah seats for members.

The RIFF vehemently disagrees. He says that the repetition stems from the fact that Tsav is based on "J" text sources, while Vayikrah is based on a mixture of "E" and "P" sources. I have no idea what he means -- I think this was written during the RIFF's famous apikoress phase.

The RADAK disagrees with both. He suggests that the Torah's repetition here is due to fact that the Parsha is typically read in March, right after the February sweeps are over. As is pointed out is Maseches Kesubois, we can expect many repeats after February until the May sweeps period, where in addition to totally new Parshiyois, we can also expect another Saturday Night Live anniversary special and best-of highlights from Dancing With The Stars.

Finally, the RAN takes a different approach entirely. The RAN of course is famous for his benevolent attitude, as well as his facial ticks. He says the Torah repeated itself here to teach us that we should never give up on stupid people. No matter how much they don't understand a damn word we say, we should repeat ourselves again and again.

I SAID: No matter how much they don't understand a damn word we say, we should repeat ourselves again and again.

I would humbly like to suggest a new pshat. It is said that the Rugachuga Rebbe once came to a town over Shabbos, and accidentally went to the wrong shul, an early Reform temple in the shtetl. After the Bas Mitzvah girl finished leyning the parsha, which happened to be Tsav, the Rugachuga was first on line at the shrimp table. When asked about the episode later, he replied that the Aimishteh, in his mysterious ways, had designed a different path for all of us to follow. Though two paths appear to be nearly identical, they often have different meanings and different trajectories. (That morning, his path led him to a place abundant in cocktail sauce.)

In our day, this divergence of personal choices and destinations could not be more stark. Take, for example, two principal apikoress institutions -- the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University. YU, you ask? Well, as is well known, it is a great irony that everyone who attends Yeshiva University, a so-called Orthodox institution, either wants to go to Wall Street or become a lawyer. But everyone who attends JTS, a Conservative institution, wants to become a rabbi, and is also likely to date his/her chavrusa.

So while it might seem that the institutions are similar, graduates of both are each going about making the world a worse place in very different ways. The investment bankers and traders on Wall Street are harming the economy in the name of creating value (for themselves); the lawyers -- need I say more?

And the Conservative Rabbis? They oversee local institutions that are consistently responsible for the worst kiddushes on a Shabbos morning. Have you ever been to one? Cold bagels. Egg salad. Looking for cholent at a Conservative kiddush is like trying to find dirt under the Rebbetzin's nails before she goes the the Mikva. Try as you might, it's just not there.

So if you do decide to go hear the Parsha this week, just make sure you go to an Orthodox shul. Or a Reform Temple. But if you do make it to a Reform Temple and there is a kiddush, be sure to be first in line, before the Rugachuga and his spiritual descendents eat up all the good stuff.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, March 20, 2015

NEW: On Modern Day Miracles



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On Modern Day Miracles


Rabboisai,

We have been witness this week to a Nais Min HaShamayim!!

Despite the global conspiracy to overthrow the elected King of Israel, the people have spoken and rallied, and we will once again enjoy the brave leadership of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for another ? number of years.

Binyamin Netanyahu. Just the name itself says it all:

- Bin-Yamin - "The son of my right (hand)"

- Netanyahu - "Given by the Reboinoisheloilum"

He is the right hand given to us by Hakadoshboruchhu! He is the gift of the Aimishteh! He is the instrument of our national masturbation.

Gosh, it's so satisfying. It feels so good! We are so able to pleasure ourselves when we are all alone. But then we are left with a deep sense of emptiness.

With miraculous aplomb, Prime Minister Netanyahu has guided us through the myriad dangers facing Klal Yisroel:

- The nasty Arab citizens of Israel exercising their right to vote. Over the years I read all of the declarations that "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East", and I believed it. But luckily Bibi stood up to protect the Jews from the Arabs citizens of Israel going to the polls!

- President Barack HUSSEIN Oibama. I understand that Oibama was funding the Zionist Union, Meretz, Yesh Atid, The United Arab Party, HaBayit Ha Yehudi, SHAS, the Kahlua Party, Yisroel Beiteinu, the Judean People's Front, the Popular Front for Judea (Splitters!!) and the Democrats against Israel. But thankfully Prime Minister Netanyahu had the strength of spirit to lead and not succumb to such external influences. He has proven a great leader for Israel. And for the Likud. And for the Republican Party. Thank you Sheldon Edelson.... Errrr... Reboinoisheloilum!

- The left. The media. The leftist media. The left wing Jews. In fact, anyone who is a self-hating Jew... errr... anyone who did not vote for Netanyahu.

Yes, it is a Modern Day Miracle - Rabbim BeYad Me'Atim.

However, how can you blame Israelis for re-electing King Bibi? They are living under the actual threat of terrorism and war, while we in America and elsewhere are armchair quarterbacks. Our "skin in the game" is emotional, not practical. Most of our children do not serve in the Israeli army. We do not pay taxes to the Israeli government.

So we are like the Chareidim. Except we do not demand money from the State.

And, frankly, who else did Israelis have the opportunity to choose from? Buji? The guy has the name of a cat. Tzippy? That word mean "bird". Israel needs a leader, not a house pet. Lieberman? A crime boss gets appointed, not elected. Kahlua? That is a drink best mixed with warm milk. Shas? Etc,

Now, there is no shortage of real existential challenges to Israel. And clearly the majority of the Israeli populace view Prime Minister Netanyahu as the man they trust most at such a dangerous time.

But a worst case scenario has Israel continuing to be absorbed within itself, and to increasingly ignore its needed inter connectivity with the outside world.

-- That means continued settlement policy, without giving thought to the inevitable long term coexistence with the Palestinians, whatever form that arrangement eventually takes.

-- That means alienating Israel's closest allies, starting with the U.S. "Fiction!" you say, "Oibama is the enemy". But those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. I remember Reagan, who accused Menachem Begin of "committing a Holocaust" in Lebanon, who layed a wreath at a Waffen SS cemetery in Bitburg, Germany - a unit of Nazi soldiers that killed more Jews in one productive day than were killed in all of Israel's wars combined, and who established diplomatic relations with the PLO. I remember Bush I, who in an unprecedented fashion explicitly referred to "East Jerusalem" when referring to the "Occupied Territories", and whose Secretary of State is rumored to have said "Fuck the Jews; they don't vote for us anyway". I remember Bush II, who pressured Israel to allow elections in Gaza, resulting in the rise of Hamas, and whose military activity in Iraq has led to the mess we are in now. So those who believe that the Republicans represent the panacea of a pressure-free Israel are in for a very rude awakening should a Republican be elected the next president.

-- That means facing increasing economic pressures, as the BDS movement goes mainstream.

Let's not forget as well that there will be continued pressures to settle Judea and Samaria, the traditional heartland of Eretz Yisroel, and continued pressures to increase the religious character of the State, so that all of Klal Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel will keep all the Mitzvois of the Toirah, including Shabbos, Koisher, and Shiliach HaKan. Boruch HaShem! These will be combined with growing global economic pressures, leading Israel to set aside its export based Tech orientation, and in its place develop a subsistence based agricultural economy.

In other words, Medinas Yisroel will be restored to the glorious lifestyle of First Temple Judea.

A Modern Day Miracle indeed.

Bimhayrah Bitameinu, Umayn!

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Jewish Values


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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Jewish Values


Rabboisai,

I write these words as I sit awaiting my bail hearing.

I was… ummm… invited to give a drasha this morning by some rotten antisemmiten… errr… nice police officers, after offering to sell my neighbor’s kidney to a Tzaddik Gammur who was willing to pay $80,000 for it. And now, because of these Soinay Yisroel in blue, my neighbor, Rachmana Letzlan, who recently lost his job at the Chrysler factory, will never get the $500 I was going to pay him.

Indeed, I am often amazed at how the federal government invades the privacy of all of us Reboinoisheloilum-fearing-Americans. Hakadoshboruchhu-damned federal government! It’s that Barack HUSSEIN Oibama trying to legislate our every step. Oy, how I long for the civil liberties of the Cheney administration!

I share this story because of the many letters I have received in recent weeks regarding the unfortunate arrests of several Gedoilei HaDor, Bnei Toirah whose sole interest is serving Klal Yisroel, as well as investing in prime real estate property at a 20-plus percent return per year. Now they will be serving 10-20 years in a medium security Yeshiva with Chavrusas names Butch. For their sakes, I only hope they are part of the pro-Metzitza BiPeh crowd.

Among the shailahs asked was the following from Baruch Kuff, which arrived during the first nine days of the month of Av:

“It is fairly clear that during the 9 days routine laundering and washing are impermissible. But the Shulchan Orech seems to refer to washing involving clothing and the body. What about money laundering? During the 9 days we are permitted to do even new business if it would result in a significant monetary loss to not do the deal. What is the application to the Syrian community? Is there any significance to one of the towns having the name “Deal”? Is it true that there is an implied exception to Brooklyn?”

This is the only thing Baruch had to worry about Erev Tisha Ba’Av?! Well, I could not bother to answer his shailah at the time, because, frankly, on Erev Tisha Ba’av I was on the floor with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, as she was busy having a quick Seudas Hamafsekess on a Baytzah…

Other shailahs related to the rabbinic profile of the accused: Shouldn’t we look past the alleged crimes of these men, given all of the good they have done for their communities, such as Chinuch, Bikur Choilim, and bringing pleasure to hot divorcees?

And finally, I received the following from a Talmid named Menachem Nun.:

“Dear Rabbi Pinky,

As an Orthodox Jew living in New Jersey, I was very upset recently at the arrest of several prominent Rabbis in an undercover sting operation. They stand accused of laundering money in various ways. So now I am deeply bothered that such holy men could do such a thing. Are we not supposed to be holier than the other nations and live by a much higher standard? Or were all the prophets right? Are we doomed to fail as a people because the bar is set too high? Or are we just fundamentally flawed human beings who are destined to fail miserably at every test Hakadoshboruchhu lays at our feet?”

Rabboisai, these are indeed the kinds of questions Chazal asked two thousand years ago when trying to understand the injustices and tribulations of their own world. A famous Medrish in Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer records a story of how Shammai and Hillel were once arrested for shoplifting from the local pork store in Jerusalem. Under questioning, Shammai claimed that he has stolen and eaten the pork to prevent a fellow Jew from committing a Dioraisa. Hillel, on the other hand, claimed that he has stolen the pork to feed his own family.

Asks Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman, “Why did Shammai and Hillel give different answers? Did they indeed each steal to meet different objectives?” Answers Rabbi Shimoin Ben Yehoitzadak, “One is Yankif Avinu, and one is Moishe Rabbeinu.” With that the Medrish changes topics altogether, and engages in a lengthy discussion about the multicolor spandex uniform worn by the Aimishteh as He led Klal Yisroel out of Egypt.

Asks the RAMBAN in the Mishnah Toirah, Hilchois Cure For The Common Cold, “What’s Pshat ‘One is Yankif Avinu and one is Moishe Rabbeinu’? Had Rabbi Shimoin Ben Yehoitzadak taken too much Nyquil at the time he made this statement?”

Answers the RAMBAM, the key difference suggested by the mention of Yankif Avinu and Moishe Rabbeinu is their physical relationship to Eretz Yisroel. Yankif, who lived much of his life in Eretz Yisroel, was Chayuv on the Mitzvois Hatlooyois Ba’aretz, the commandments linked to the Land of Israel. These include Shmita, Maisser Shaynee, throwing rocks at moving cars on Shabbos Koidesh, and burning down bus shelters with advertisements featuring scantily clad women. Moishe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, never entered Eretz Yisroel, so he had no obligations with regard to the Land, and hence viewed the Mitzvois as, in RAMBAM’s words, “polite suggestions, akin to wiping around the sink in an airplane lavatory for the courtesy of the next passenger.”

The RAMBAM explains that this means that Shammai was concerned about a member of Klal Yisroel eating pork in Eretz Yisroel, especially if it was not properly cooked. Consequently, he deemed it better that he should steal the pork and use it with a Shinui in order to turn a Dioraisa to a D’Rabbanan. (RAMBAM suggests that the Shinui that Shammai employed was to repackage the pork and sell it in his brother-in-law’s kosher butcher shop in Monsey.) Hillel, however, believed that feeding his hungry family was Doicheh any Halachic constraints on food consumption, even a Dioraisa like eating swine. Consequently, like Moishe, he viewed such proscriptions as voluntary.

RAMBAN, however, vehemently disagrees, suggesting that the RAMBAM’s turban was on too tight. According to the RAMBAN, the distinction between Yankif Avinu and Moishe Rabbeinu comes down to ethics and honesty.

Yankif Avinu, the progenitor of all of Klal Yisroel, the father of the twelve Shfatim, the husband of two hot sisters and their maidservants, was also a paradigm of dishonesty and poor ethics. Yankif’s brother Eisuv comes back from the field and asks for a bit of soup, and what does Yankif do? Does he give him Tzedakah? Does he help him relax by bringing him hot cocoa and popping a movie into the DVD? No! He sells Eisuv lentil soup in exchange for his birthright. Later, Yankif disguises himself in his brother’s clothing, misrepresents himself to Yitzchak Avinu, his poor blind father, and then steals the blessing intended for Eisuv. In essence, Yankif is a cheap con man willing to lie to his own father in order to make a buck. If your son behaved like Yankif Avinu, you Minuval, I guarantee you would either disown him, or send him to live with the Niturei Carta.

Moishe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, is a paragon of modesty. He is hesitant to approach Paroah because he is afraid his voice won’t be heard. He steadfastly stands up for Klal Yisroel as their solemn representative, even when Hakkadoshboruchhu is offering to wipe them out and establish a new Chosen People descended from Moishe. He delivers the Toirah, twice. In other words, he leads Klal Yisroel from Egypt and through the desert, at the expense of his own gains and benefits. And after a lifetime of selfless servitude, he is denied access to Eretz Yisroel because he had not filled out the proper visa form,

Says the RAMBAN, in the story in the Medrish, Shammai is like Yankif Avinu. He is willing to steal, and when confronted, lie about it. He is interested solely in the benefits of the here-and-now. He gives little thought to moral responsibility or the long term consequences of his actions or the example that he is setting for others. In other words, he is a groisseh Vilda Chaya.

Hillel, however, is an honest person in a difficult situation. His family is hungry? What should they eat? And when confronted with his actions, he does not lie. On the contrary, like Moishe Rabbeinu himself, he is willing to accept the consequences, even if they are disadvantageous to him. Says the RAMBAN, “Hillel, like Moishe Rabbeinu, is a bit of a schmuck, but I would be happy to let him date my daughter.” Shoyn.

Rabboisai,

It is at times like these that we have to ask ourselves fundamental questions: What does it mean to be a Jew when it comes to human behavior? What are Jewish Values? What is the definition of a Ben Toirah? Are honesty and ethical behavior fundamental to the Jewish notion of Bain Adam Lachavaeiroih, guiding principles to how man must behave towards his fellow man?

Clearly, the Medrish raises two significant archetypes that are fundamental to the Jewish sense of identity: Yankif and Moishe.

If we walk in the footsteps of Yankif, honestly is indeed selectively applied. Like Yankif, we may steal when it is convenient. We may be dishonest, even to our own parents. We may marry sisters and their hot shiksah maidservants. But we must be aware of the examples that we set and the consequences of our actions. Ten of Yankif’s sons kidnap the eleventh and sell him into slavery. They subsequently lie to Yankif, saying that their brother had died. And Yankif ends his life in exile, far away from his homeland, his investment properties, and the Canaanite buddies that he used to go out drinking with every Saturday night.

However, if we emulate the behavior of Moishe Rabbeinu, we take upon ourselves a mode of behavior that is characterized by integrity. Moishe does not lie to Hakadoshboruchhu or Klal Yisroel. His behavior towards the Egyptians is defensive, not aggressive. He is the conduit for the laws of the Toirah, includes laws against stealing, bearing false witness, coveting someone else’s precious possessions, and being Mezaneh with farm animals on Yoim Kippur.

What is the basis for the fundamental differences between Yankif and Moishe? We must of course remember that Yankif Avinu lived before Matan Toirasainu – before the giving of the Toirah. He lived before Yetzias Mitzrayim. He lived before the Mishkan. If the giving of the Toirah establishes the modern era for Klal Yisroel, then Moishe Rabbeinu was our first modern male, and Yankif was a primitive, a Neanderthal. In fact, according to Reb Saadya Goyn, Yankif stood at four foot two, was as hairy as an ape, and when he wasn’t lying to his father or stealing from his brother, he was busy drawing pictures on the walls of caves. And you expect honesty and ethical behavior from such a creature?

So, when I look at the alleged actions of the New Jersey and Brooklyn based defendants, or Bernie Madoff, for that matter, I do not see people touched in their souls by more than three thousand years of Jewish tradition. I do not see people informed by the Toirah that was given at Sinai and handed down through generations, shaped and defined as a guidebook towards living an ethical life alongside other human beings. On the contrary, I see the actions of primitive cavemen, who must satisfy their whims and impulses, even at the expense of others.

These people do not deserve our defense or our mercy. If anything, they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, I would advocate leniency for each defendant, in exchange for one of his kidneys. And if he demonstrates good behavior, I will kick in an extra $500 for his legal defense fund.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, March 05, 2015

On the Current Economic Situation


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On the Current Economic Situation

Rabboisai,

Before I begin my Drasha, I would like to apologize for being in a bit of a hurry. I got a late start this morning because I had to participate in an Upsherin in the family. Such simchas are always joyous occasions, but this one was special: My Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, got her annual bikini wax, since beach season is upon us, and she insisted that I stay home to perform a Seudas Mitzvah, if you know what I mean. Shoyn.

Yidden, we are living through challenging economic times. I don’t know about you, but the Yeshiva’s fundraising efforts are down by four percent year-over-year. I hate to say it, but if this keeps up, the Rebbehim are going to have their salaries cut. Mamish, we have tremendous expenses, what, with the costs of feeding the Talmidim, buying the latest Sforim, providing Yayin for Kiddush and Havdalah and Pas for Orchim, and paying for the expansion of my summer home… errr… Shtibul in Monte Carlo. We may not even be able to put in the Olympic size mikvah until next year.

But we are not the first generation of Klal Yisroel that has suffered though deprivation. Shtayt in Pasook: “Vayehee Ru’uv Bekhol Ha’aratzot, Oo’Bekhol Eretz Mitzrayim Hayah Lukhem”, “And there was a hunger in all the lands, and in all the land of Egypt there was sustenance (literally – bread)” (Beraishis, Perek Mem Aleph, Pasook Nun Daled).

There is a famous Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah that features a discussion of this Pasook. According to Reb Yoichanan, the hunger referred to a famine caused by a lack of rain. Says Reb Yoichanan, Yankif Avinu did everything possible to end the drought: He was Mispallel to Shamayim. He brought Karbanois. He borrowed a plane from his father-in-law Lavan and tried seeding the clouds. He and his Chavrusa from Yeshivas Shame V’Ayver, put on feathered headdresses and performed an Apache rain dance. All to no avail.

However, according to Reb Chilkiah in the name of Reb Shimoin, the hunger was caused by a great pestilence created by a swarm of locusts. One night, Yankif Avinu prayed for three hours and then went into a deep sleep. The Reboinoisheloilum came to him and said “Yankif, Yankif”, and Yankif responded “Hineni”, Here I am”.

The Aimishteh asked, “What can I do for you, my son?” To which Yankif replied, “There is a great hunger in the land caused by a swarm of locusts. Can you please intercede and chase the locusts away so that I and my family and all of the peoples of the land may eat?”

Hakkadoshboruchhu paused a moment, the replied. “I would love to help you, but I cannot. I am powerless to stop this pestilence. I may be Almighty and All-powerful, but I am also afraid of bugs. They are icky, and have like sixteen legs each, and crunch when you step on them – Yuck! You are on your own.”

But according to Reb Yehudah Bar Ilai, the famine was actually the result of the crash of the Canaanite banking system, which was driven to the brink by excess leverage in the system caused by greedy mortgage lenders and short-sighted tent dwellers. This caused a liquidity crisis that resulted in a sharp decrease of cash in the economy, severely impacting demand for domesticated camels and bursting the bubble in the overheated speckled wool market. This drove people to earn their livings by subsistence farming, barter, roadside prostitution (See under: Yehuda and Tamar), and by selling low quality bootleg DVDs on the street.

Asks Reb Hai Goyn in his famous treatise “Sefer HaMashkoyn”, “How can Yankif Avinu have suffered from a famine in Eretz Yisroel, when we are told quite clearly by the Toirah “Vehaya Im Shamoyah…’, ‘If you listen (to the commandments of the Aimishteh) you will get rain, etc.’? So is Beraishis telling us that Yankif Avinu wasn’t a Tzaddik and did not deserve the bounty promised elsewhere in the Toirah? Or is the promise of a reward for listening to the Reboinoisheloilum’s commandments a lie, Chass V’Sholom?” Reb Hai Goyn, of course, later rejected Judaism and became an Anglican Priest so he could marry his hot shiksa girlfriend.

Now, the essential point for us, my beloved Talmidim, is that a Mechutziff like you will point out the parallels between the events surrounding Yankif and the famine in his time, and our current economic situation. Yet there are clear differences. For one thing, in Yankif’s day, Klal Yisroel had not yet received the Internet…errr….the Toirah, So post Sinaitic promises and strictures were not yet in effect. Case in point: Yankif was married to two hot sisters, while I have never even once been allowed to see my sister-in-law’s real hair underneath her wooly-mammoth-haired shaytel.

Further, it was never Yankif’s fate to possess the Promised Land. As had been revealed to his grandfather, Avraham Avinu, Yankif and his descendants were destined to be sent into exile in Mitzrayim, only to be brought back to Eretz Yisroel 400 years later. Sure, this makes no sense to you, you Minuval. You are thinking, “we were there already in Canaan, why not stay?” But this goes to show what an ignoramus you are! Had Klal Yisroel not been in Mitzrayim, there would never have been the opportunity to gel as a nation, to share a common moment of national foundation through Yetziyas Mitzrayim, to say “Na’aseh V’Nishma” at Har Sinai, or to follow Israel’s greatest leader, Moishe Rabbeinu, until he was banished from entering the Promised Land for bitch-slapping a rock. I do not understand why something this crystal clear is not obvious to a Minuval like you!

But if we return to the essential shailah raised by Reb Hai Goyn regarding the commandment of “Vehaya Im Shamoyah”, we cannot help but conclude that the current recession is indeed a punishment for our generation. The question is: What are we doing wrong? And who is to blame for our current economic travails?

According to Rav Shmiel Kalbasavuah, the Goyim are to blame, Yemach Shmum. He notes that their election of a dark skinned erudite leader who has roots in the Middle East is a clear violation of the Toirah’s commandment of “Ve’ahavta Lerayakha Kamoicha”, “Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself”. Asks Rav Shmiel: “How can you love this President? Eppis, he is a Communist, his middle name is Hussein, and your wife would like nothing better than to play 'Hakhnasas Orkhim' and 'Yetzias Mitzrayim' with his Makoim Hamilah over and over AND OVER again while he recites poetry, passages from the State of the Union Address, verses from the Koran, or excerpts from the General Motors bankruptcy filings in his crisp, lawyerly voice.”

Reb Yoisaiph Katzki holds farkhert. He says that the bad economy is the fault of the Liberals and the Secular. All they do is complain and eat Traifus. Do they add any value to the world? No! They are the Erev Rav living amongst us. They redistribute our hard earned dollars to illegal immigrants, and speak out against our right to defend ourselves, the Mamzerim. They are even trying to provide affordable healthcare to everyone, Chass V’Sholom! I would like to take every one of them and torture… errr, waterboard… errr, learn Toirah with them.

But according to Reb Betzalel Kupkayk, the bad economy is the fault of the Jews – yes, Klal Yisroel. How does he come to such a conclusion? Reb Betzalel cites a Medrish in Pesikta De Rebbi Kehana that describes the "End of Days”. Says the Medrish, “In a faraway place and time, the world as we know it will come to an end when all of Klal Yisroel unites. According to Rabbi Akiva, this refers to all of Israel keeping Shabbos. According to Rabbi Elisha Ben Erva, this refers to the Mitzvah of Leviyas HaMais. And according to Rabbi Yishmael, this refers to the Jews amassing large volumes of debt in order to send their kids to yeshiva, take out jumbo mortgages to pay from their large homes, buy minivans, send their kids to sleep away camp, and get their wives breast implants so that they will remind them of the hot shiksas they fooled around with in college that they should have married instead of the whiny Ballabusters that their wives have become.”

If indeed Reb Betzalel is correct, how are we to process this information. Here, Klal Yisroel sit in our homes doing the will of the Reboinoisheloilum, and yet He seemingly conspires against us at every turn. What’s Pshat?

I am reminded of a famous Pasook in Yishayahu, which was altered when it was converted into our daily Tefillah. Everyday we make a Bracha right after Borchu, “Yoitzer Ohr U’Voray Khoishekh, Oiseh Shaloim U’Voray Ess Hakol”, “Creator of light and darkness, maker of peace and creator of all”. However, the Pasook that this is based upon, Sefer Yishayahu Perek Mem Hey, Pasook Zayin, reads Azoy, “Yoitzer Ohr U’Voray Khoishekh, Oiseh Shaloim U’Voray Rah. Ani Hashem Oiseh Kol Eileh”, “Creator of light and darkness, maker of peace and creator of evil, I am the Lord who does all these things.” What does this mean, you Vildah Chayah? Is Hakadoshboruchhu stating that He is the source of evil as well as good?

I would like to share a famous Moshul that my Rebbe, Reb Herschel Goldwasser, once told me. There once was a peasant who lived not far from the king’s castle. One day the peasant was walking and he saw a ragged old man at the side of the road. He asked the old man how he was feeling, and the old man told him that he was poor and had not eaten in days. Without hesitation, the peasant reached into his pocket and gave the old man the only coin he had. At that point, the old man revealed himself to be the king in disguise, and as a reward, promised to give the peasant the hand of his only daughter in marriage.

The next day the peasant arrived at the castle in his best clothing. He was ushered to the king’s court, which was filled with aristocracy and gentry. The wedding procession began. As the man waited under the canopy, four guards carried forth a veiled royal rickshaw -- a portable throne -- hoisted on their shoulders. The peasant’s heart was filled with anticipation, but his spirit was shattered when out from under the veiling jumped a pig, to the raucous laughter of everyone in the room.

“Where is the princess?” the peasant asked.

The king approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and replied, “Son, you are not only a sucker, but you are also a schmuck!”

Rabboisai, when we assume the benevolence of the Reboinoisheloilum we make a leap of faith. By the same token, when we take on debt, we also make a leap of faith. We believe that we will be able to repay our debt, and that the benefits of our borrowing – our expenditures and investments -- outweigh our liabilities.

Debt is like Hakadoshboruchhu. It can bring light and darkness, and it can also bring peace and evil. And yet the corollary is true as well: The Aimishteh is like debt. We believe we can influence him through learning Toirah, committing Mitzvois, and engaging in sound financial planning. But He behaves in a manner that is outside of our control and beyond our understanding.

The Reboinoisheloilum may indeed deliver us with blessing and benevolence. Or He may give us swine flu, bring famine and poverty upon us, exile us from our homeland, persecute us, or give us gout, herpes, or erectile dysfunction. We suffer and beg for mercy. But He does not hear us, because He is too busy listening to the latest Wall Street Journal report on His I-Pod, because He Himself lost 60% of His net worth invested in GM, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch. And He is sick and tired of His credit card companies calling Him repeatedly with heavily-Indian-accented women who claim to be named Barbara reminding Him of how late His payment is. If I were Him, I would smite a few million people just to feel better about Myself too.

So how do we appease Hakadoshboruchhu? Well, we continue to learn Toirah and do Mitzvois. But we also engage in acts to remind Him of our eternal bond,and attune ourselves to Him. We bury our dead in ceremonies that mourn the loss of the living and recognize the return of a soul to its eternal source. We celebrate marriage, with the coupling of man and woman intended to remind the Aimishteh of the desired union of Himself and Klal Yisroel. We commemorate historical moments like Yetzias Mitrayim and Matan Toirah. And we celebrate important life events such as the reaching of the age of religious responsibility by a Bar or Basssss Mitzvah, the first hair cutting of a three-year-old Ben Yisroel, and the annual bikini waxing of a middle aged Bas Yisroel.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess