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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Rabbinic Calendar


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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Rabbinic Calendar

This week I respond to a critical and timely Shayla:

Yehoinason K. writes:

Dear Rabbi Schmekelstein,

As one of your loyal Talmidim and Chasidim I would like to bring to your attention a discriminatory injustice.

I am a resident of Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, and until recently, I was able to share your beautiful words of Torah at my Shabbat Table with my wife and children.

We would often discuss your words for many hours. Once, we were so engrossed with your torah gems that we ended up being interrupted by my neighbor, Mohammad, who said: "Rabboysai – Higia Z'man L'Kriyas Shema Shel Shacharis". We weren't sure what he meant, but we notified the authorities immediately and had him targeted by the IDF the following day…

In any event, due to some inexplicable phenomena, your Parsha emails are coming to me a week late. Here in the Holy Land, we are a week ahead in the weekly Parsha, and therefore, we can no longer benefit from you Divrei Toirah. There are a few solutions to this problem.

1)You can forget the poor assimilated Jews in Galus and get on the right schedule as your brethren in the Holy Land.

2)You can appeal to the high Rabbinical courts to unify the reading of the same Parsha for all of Klal Yisroel.

3)You can prepare your Parsha email a week early and send it to me and other Chassidim a week earlier than to the minuvalim in golus.

4)You can completely disregard this email and not respond at all.

Your humble talmid,

Reb Yehoinason

Reb Yehoinason,

Thank you so much for your inspired question. I am delighted that at least one of my Minuval Talmidim has the fortitude to go on the Internet and ask me such a Shayla, WHEN INSTEAD HE SHOULD BE BUSY STUDYING TOIRAS MOISHE RABBEINU!

Incidentially, your Maiseh Shehoya about your neighbor Muhammad is indeed Mechavayn to a famous Machloikess in Maseches Eiruvin. According to Rav Ashi, if your Palestinian neighbor interrupts your Shabbos meal with religious or fundraising solicitations, you should target him for military action. This is the position that you cite. However, Rabbi Meir holds that you should expel him from his home, and confiscate all of his belongings except for his Tzitizis and his AK-47. But Reb Yossi holds Farkhert – That you should unilaterally give him your living room and second bedroom, in the hopes that he will let you eat dessert in peace.

In truth, we hold like none of these positions. As brought down by Toisfois, we treat him with respect, because unbeknownst to him -- and to your wife -- you are secretly dating his sister, who is capable of making such noises in the throes of passion that it could cause the walls of Jericho to fall. Shoyn.

I break your question into its constituent parts:

-- How does Jewish prayer, liturgy and contemporary Jewish practice bind Klal Yisroel into a unified whole?

-- The conflict between the weekly Toirah reading in Eretz Yisroel and Chutz La’Aretz is the result of the celebration of a second day of Yuntif outside of Israel, which puts the global Jewish calendar out of synch. So, what’s Pshat with Yoim Toiv Shenu Shel Goliyois anyway? Isn’t that about as stupid as nipples on men?

Rabboisai, once upon a time, in an era when the Bnei Yisroel were closer to Hakkadoshboruchhu and chronologically closer to Zman Matan Toiraseinu, we would worship the Reboinoisheloilum by slaughtering sheep in his honor and paying the Koihain to sprinkle blood on the Mizbayach while dressed like the Moslem Halal butcher in Chevroin, adorned all in white and looking like a big tampon, Chass V’Sholom.

However, beginning with the Golus in Bavel, and growing throughout the creeping corruption of the priestly institutions during the course of Bayis Shaynee, the role of Kriyas HaToirah and Tefillah grew. And with the destruction of the Second Temple, prayer and other individual religious practices completely succeeded Karbanois (and also saved the lives of numerous innocent sheep, pigeons and red heffers).

Through Tefillah, Jewish worship was democratized. The Jewish form of worship was whisked out of the monopolistic hands of corrupt Koihanim, and instead was placed into the caring, always just, fair, and completely balanced hands of our rabbinical leadership. You know, the ones who employ blackmail to squeeze the ever-tightening vise of kashrut certification, who systematically ignore sexual abuse of children when it is inconvenient, who distribute vials of “holy oil” in exchange for political donations, who embrace ignorance in place of intellectual pursuit, and who passed the religious ruling that compels you to…errr…flog the flanken two weeks out of every month. Yes, those balanced and even handed guys.

As a result of this process, worship was no longer something that took place only within the context of the Bais Hamikdash or in the proximity of the Koihain. The service of the Aimishteh became increasingly embedded in our everyday lives. With all our actions, our words, our thoughts, we sanctify His Name. When we sit and eat at our table, when we conduct commerce in the market, when we ogle His creations in a strip club, we celebrate His glory. Incidentally, this is why I deduct ALL my daily activities on my annual tax return. Boruch Hashem the IRS honors the “Contribution of Bodily Fluids” as a religious expense.

And since all of Klal Yisroel has used this form of worship as our common language for two-thousand years, this is what binds us as a People, religiously and culturally. Yes, my beloved Talmid, your attending Shul every Shabboskoidesh is not just an opportunity to sit in the back with your friends, talk sports and business, and check out the hotties in the Ezras Nashim, you Michutziff! It is your contribution to the unity of Klal Yisroel. Shkoiach! Your mother should be proud!

With regard to the second part of your question, it has been customary for communities outside of Eretz Yisroel to keep two days of Yuntif instead of one, in case word of the breaking of the new moon is delayed in arriving to Bavel from Eretz Yisroel. There are some who would have the gall to suggest that such a practice is an anachronism since:

1) Klal Yisroel has long ago adopted the calendric calculations of Hillel (not, not that one, but his great, great, great, great grandson) to determine our calendar, thereby negating the necessity to manually spot the moon, determine the state of the month, and forward the news to the Jewish masses;

2) There are no longer any Jews in Bavel, save Saddam Hussein’s accountant and Ahmad Chalabi’s allergist; and

3) If we really wanted to allow time for news of the new moon to be passed via manual signals to all the far-flung contemporary Jewish communities, such as the Kehilas in the United States, Argentina, and Australia, we would need to institute celebrating Yuntif for an extra six days instead of adding just one day.

But celebrating the extra day in Chutz La’aretz is a critical Mesoirah that can never be cancelled, no matter how insanely idiotic it is.

This indeed was a subject of discussion in the famous Disputation at Barcelona between the RAMBAN and Pablo Christiani in 1263. The public debate before the Spanish royal court featured the convert-to-Christianity Pablo Christiani challenging the RAMBAN on a number of topics including the interpretation of specific verses in Yishayahu and the status of the Messiah as discussed in the Talmud. He also challenged the RAMBAN on the notion of Yoim Toiv Sheni Shel Goliyois, asking, “Reb Moishe, if it plays no practical purpose in the current age, why wouldn’t Judaism simply excise the custom from the body of Halacha?”

The RAMBAN, who had been withstanding all of Christiani’s taunts for hours, took a deep breath and glared at the former-Jew-turned-Dominican-Priest. “Reb Feivel,” the RAMBAN said, using Pablo Christiani’s Jewish name. “You are now a priest in the Church of Yushka. Is that correct?”

“Of course!” Christiani replied proudly.

The RAMBAN continued. “And you have taken a vow of chastity, is that also correct?”

“Yes” Christini answered, his voice beginning to reveal annoyance. “So what is your point?”

“Well,” the RAMBAN answered, “you are no longer using your Makom HaMilah. Why don’t you just excise the useless appendage from your body?”

Pablo Christiani, having lost the Disputation, subsequently displayed his remorse by having the RAMBAN expelled from Spain.

So of course Yoim Toiv Sheni Shel Goliyois plays no purpose whatsoever in the modern day. However, this is a tradition that is fixed in the religious practice of the majority of Klal Yisroel. According to the Netziv, we should address the occasional calendar conflicts by embracing the Halacha of Acaharei Rabim Lehatois – we should follow majority rule, and since the majority of Klal Yisroel keeps two days of Yuntif, people in Eretz Yisroel should keep two days as well. That way they too can get twice the Kedushah, twice the Brachois, and twice the opportunity to relax during the long, lazy Yuntif afternoon and use their Makom Hamilahs to get a little hot adult action with their wives while their kids are happily playing outside.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer


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Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer

Baruch Ata Idon’tknow,

Heywhereareyou Melech HaOilum,

Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvoisav Vetzivanu,

Al Sfiras HaOimer.

HaYoim Shmoinah Esrei Alaphim U’Masayim Chamishim Yoim,

SheHaym Alpayim Shaish Maois Va’Sheva Shavuois, VaEchad Yamim LaOimer.


Unlike you, you Minuvals, I have not lost count of the Oimer, ever since I was a Kleinikel. I count Sefirah with a Bracha every day, never missing except for that one time in college when I got lucky with that hot shiksa (Boruch Hashem for tequila!). But, thankfully, I was able to count Sefirah the next morning without a Bracha, as I was putting on my Tefillin in Christine’s apartment.

Which brings us the Shailah I address this week:

Yoineh Vuv asks: “Rav Pinky -- May a woman shave her Makom HaErva during Sefirah?”

Yoinelah – This is a Gevaldikkah Shailah! You are Mechavayn to the exact question asked by the RALBAG, the great Medieval Talmidist, Mathematician, and dispenser of at-home Brazilian services to the housewives of Avignon, France.

Before I address your Shailah, Halacha Lemaiseh, I would like to address the overall topic of Sefiras HaOimer.

What is Sfiras HaOimer? We know that from the perspective of the Toirah, we are required to count seven weeks from Pesach to calculate the start of Shavuois, Zman Matan Toirasainu. According to Rabbi Yoichanan, cited in a Braisah brought down in a Gemara in Makkois, this is because 49 days is the length of time required for matzah constipation to be flushed out of the system, so we can be fully prepared for the lactose intolerance brought on by cheesecake on Shavuois.

But according to Rabbi Yishmael, as mentioned in a Tosefta in Moiaid Kattan, seven weeks is the amount of time it takes for a man to be able to come home from a hard day’s work without having to worry about his wife waiting at the door, barking orders at him about bringing those last three pieces of stray Pesach china up to the attic.

The Oimer was originally grounded in the agrarian cycle of Eretz Yisroel. Later, it came to represent the period of time between Yetzitas Mitzrayim, the Exodus, and the giving of the Toirah. But of course it has also taken on a whole latter day symbolism of semi-mourning. A Gemara in Avoidah Zorah tells us that during Sefirah, we mourn the deaths of 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva. There is, however, a machloikess as to why they died.

According to Rav Huna, they died of a plague brought upon them because they lacked Derech Eretz – they did not respect each other. They insulted each other with harsh words and dismissive language, the kinds of things you do all the time, you good-for-nothing Minuval Vilda Chayas.

However, according to Rav Sheyshess, Rabbi Akiva’s students actually died fighting in the failed Bar Kochba Revolt, the second rebellion against the Romans from 131-135 CE. Rabbi Akiva is quoted in the Yerushalmi in Tainis as pronouncing Bar Kochba to be the Moishiach (this is true, by the way). Many of his students enlisted to support the military effort, and to get the government sponsored tuition assistance needed to pay for Rabbi Akiva’s Yeshiva, Yeshivas Ohr HaMaskoiret.

Finally, Rav Puppa holds that the students died in an unfortunate accident. LeOilum, in reality, the Reboinoisheloilum only put in an order to kill 1,000 students. But due to a programming glitch in Hakadoshboruchhu’s Persecution Trading System (PTS), the kill off swelled to 24,000 dead before the system’s safeguards kicked in. A similar thing happened in 1938, but due to a weak regulatory environment, the safeguards did not automatically kick in until there were much heavier losses in the market.So, to commemorate the deaths of so many of Rabbi Akiva’s Talmidim, we take upon ourselves some of the rituals of mourning.

There was great debate amongst the Rishoinim about which Sefirah-related proscriptions an individual should follow. During Sefirah:

-- The Roish would not shave

-- The Ran would not bathe, except on Erev Shabboskoidesh

-- The RIF would not go to the bathroom. This also enabled him to save a lot of money on food and toilet paper.

These differences of Minhag are reflected in the various Sefirah practices in place in the modern Yeshiva World:

-- In Yeshivas Punuvitch in Eretz Yisroel, the Talmidim do not attend live musical performances

-- In the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, the Talmidim do not listen to music, live or recorded

-- In Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Queens, the Talmidim do not read or write or speak to each other; they just say Tachanun all day and play with the buttons on their little Hatzalah walkie talkies

-- In Yeshivas Toiras Yoisiaph Smith in Utah, the Talmidim do not drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, and are not Mezaneh with more than three of their wives on any given night.

With regard to your specific Shailah, Reb Yoineh, this is linked to a Pesak of Reb Moishe. Reb Moishe ruled that while the laws of Sefirah requires a man to abstain from shaving as a sign of mourning, if someone makes his Parnassah in the professional world, and his situation requires him to be well groomed, then he is allowed to shave. Notes Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua: We can apply this same rule to women as well. A woman should not shave her Erva during Sefirah. However, if she is required to be well groomed for professional reasons, for example, is an exotic dancer or a Victoria’s Secret model, then she is indeed allowed to shave.

Reb Yoiseph Katski is even more Meikel. He agrees that in principle, a woman should not shave her Erva during Sefirah. However, this should not in any way interfere with any aspect of her life, professional or personal. States Reb Yoisaiph, “If a woman’s overgrown forest is harming her normal patterns of marital activity because her husband cannot find a path through the trees in order to launch his canoe, then she is indeed entitled to clear a path to the lake, though must be careful not to engage in complete deforestation.” Unquote.

Rabboisai, the laws of Sefirah are not simple ones. And too many people in our community do not pay the proper attention to observing this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the Aimishteh by counting to forty nine and looking like a vagrant. At a cosmic level, Oimer makes us closer to the Reboinoisheloilum by preparing us for the Kedushah of Kabbalas HaToirah. How does the Oimer do this? I admit that I cannot tell you exactly. But this is a point of Mesoirah – it is our tradition of 3,500 years, handed down over many generations, as a Halacha Le-Art Scroll MiSinai.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On Diversity


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On Diversity


I come to you at this somber time of the year with the most devastating news that has shaken me to my very core.

This past week I Davened in a Shul not far from my own, in honor of the Goldbergowitz Bar Mitzvah. It was a little Shtibul, crowded with Chassidim and Misnagdim, as well as one or two Mormons. They Davened Nusach ARI, the order of the liturgy ascribed to the ARI ZAHL, the 16th century scholar, Kabbalist and sultry jazz singer Rabbi Yitchak Luria. And... lo and behold... They put Hodoo in the wrong place! Not only that, their got the works of Keddushah all wrong! And in Kaddish, they added silly words like "Vayatzmach Pirkunei V'Kerayv Meshichei"! What language is that anyway? I did not know that CHAZAL spoke Chinese! I mean - It was like I had entered an entire alternate Davening universe! I felt like I was Captain Kirk when he beamed onto an alternate Starship Enterprise where Spock had a beard and Sulu was into dudes!

The day before, I was asked to inspect the Gatkes of a woman from the local Sephardi Shul, Bais Abu Mussa Ibn Yisaschar Jihad HaKoidesh. I joined the Minyan for Shacharis, and can you believe it, they had the Koihanim Duchening on a regular day, not a holiday, in the United States? In addition, some of the Nigunim they were singing sounded like the Saudi national anthem. Plus, when they brought out their Toirah, it was encased in a missile. I was certain I had accidentally entered an ISIS meeting!

Finally, I was sitting in Shul on Chol HaMoed wrapped in my Tefilin, looking like the star of an S&M film. And… AMAZING… half of the men had Tefillin on, and the others did not! And this was Shacharis in an Ashkenazi Orthodox Shul!! Have half of all Jewish men forgotten the Mitzvah of “V’Samtem LeOis Al Yadechu, V’Hayoo LeTotafois Bain Einecha”?

What the Tashmish HaMitah is going on?!


Rabboisai - Klal Yisroel has clearly fallen since receiving the Toirah on Har Sinai. Once upon a time we had the Mesoirah from Moishe Rabbeinu and we all worshipped Hakadoshboruchhu in the same fashion. We all wore black felt Borsalinos, black suits, and white shirts. We all Davened out of the same Siddurim, and had the same Minhagim.

But all of you Shkutzim screwed it up:

-- The Chassidim won't eat Gebruchhhhhhts on Pesach

-- The Sephardim will eat rice and beans on Pesach, as well as the occasional grasshopper

-- The Conservative allow women to serve as rabbis

-- The Reform believe that one is not Mekayaim the Mitzvah of attending a Bar Mitzvah without eating a Kazayis of shrimp.

Meanwhile, it is only we, the Ashkenazic Jews of Lithuanian descent, who are the true bearers of Moishe Rabbeinu's legacy. It is we who are the holders of the True Path of the Aimishteh. We are the last bastion of unadulterated Holyness. We are the true believers, and are bathed in the protective light of the Reboinoisheloilum. Which is probably why our wives are so frigid.

Rabboisai, I believe that much of Klal Yisroel have lost their way and may as well be worshipping Yushka or Allah or one of the thirteen million deities of the Hindu Pantheon. Uchinvei.

However, others would point out that these variations simply reflect a natural diversity in our tradition.

When we think about it, Klal Yisroel were cast across the world over a period of two and a half millenia. Even in the time of Bayis Shaynee, in addition to the presence of Klal Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel, there was also a significant presence of Jews in Babylon/ Persia and in Alexandria, Egypt, and there were pockets of Jewish communities throughout the Near East as well as in Rome.

What is perhaps amazing, then, is that despite physical distance, philosophical divides, and influences of local cultures, our liturgy and practice have remained remarkably similar across our different communities. As such, communal efforts advocating homogeneity -- such as Satmar Chassidim living in Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel, Modern Orthodox Jews living in Teaneck and the Upper West Side, and Jews for Jesus... Err ... believers in the Rebbe living in Crown Heights -- may not be a source of strength. They are perhaps a source of weakness. Our diversity is perhaps our greatest strength, the collective inspiration of more than 2000 years, scattered across the globe, all coming together to make a holistic whole.

Klal Yisroel is not a pure bred animal, whose beauty is in its genetic purity but whose genes are so inbred that they lead to disease. Rather, Klal Yisroel is like a Cholent, all of whose various favors come together to achieve delight and perfection, and whose aftermath is an environment that reverberates across the house for days on end, ensuring that the kids dare not enter Mommy and Tatti's bedroom for at least 24 hours without a gas mask.


I am reminded of a meeting of the Global Union of Rabbis that took place in 1919, following the end of World War One. It was the largest gathering of rabbis from across the world and was convened to address the critical changes facing Klal Yisroel across the globe:

-- Many Jews had been killed fighting as soldiers on all sides of the conflict. (The following is true: In Germany, Jews were among the strongest supporters of the war effort. This was the first time that Jews were allowed to be commissioned as officers in the mighty German army. When one visits an old Jewish cemetery in Germany or former parts of Germany – e.g., places like Poland, you see the graves of Jewish boys who fell fighting for their homeland – Jewish tombstones decorated with the roman helmets that identify those who had fallen in battle. Little did anyone know the catastrophe that would begin in 1933 and culminate in the Shoah…)

-- Borders had shifted throughout Europe

-- Old line monarchies had fallen, and new government structures had arisen

-- Russia had become Communist, with a large component Jews who had tossed away their faith playing national and local leadership roles

-- The Ottoman Empire had collapsed, leaving the growing Jewish community in Palestine under British control

-- Many Jews had tossed away religious practice in exchange for new ideologies, including Communism, Socialism, Secular Yiddish culture and secular Zionism

-- The Chicago White Sox had intentionally lost the World Series, enabling people to make money on gambling on baseball… and the Jews never got a piece of the action!!!! (“Say it ain’t so, Yoisaiph!!!)

So the greatest rabbis of the world gathered together at this particular moment of tectonic shifts to chart the course for the future of Klal Yisroel. There were great Litvak rabbis like Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Reb Chaim Ozer, and the Chofetz Chaim; there were great Chassidic rabbis like Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn – the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum – the first Satmar Rebbe; there were rabbis from the Middle East including Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Palestine), the Baba Sali (Morocco), and Chacham Refael Aharon Ben Shimon (Egypt); and there were great rabbinic figures from the Western powers including Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz (UK), Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevy Herzog (Ireland), Rabbi Louis Ginzberg (Conservative), Rabbi Stephen Wise (Reform), Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan (Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist), Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplain, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

The Oilum started with an open dialogue about the key issues of the day, and the discussion quickly turned into a prioritization exercise. In the few days of meetings, what great challenge to Klal Yisroel would the group focus on resolving?

The Chofetz Chaim suggested that the gathering address the critical issue of Loshon Harrah, which he claimed was responsible for the spread of cancer. However, he was voted down. And behind his back all of the other rabbis joked about how silly he looked is his bowtie, and discussed the rumors they had heard about the Chofetz Chaim’s romantic attraction to Swedish water fowl.

Rav Kook insisted that the group focus on Shivas Tziyoin, bringing mass Jewish immigration to Palestine. However, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Rabbi Aron Kotler and the other Europeans shouted Rav Kook down, stressing how Toirah had reached untold heights in Eastern Europe, and how immigration would strain the flourishing Jewish communities of Lithuania, Poland, the Ukraine, Byelorrussia and other territories, where Jews were the most secure they had been ever since the time of Shloimoi HaMelech…

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach suggested that the gathering focus on how to help the Bnois Yisroel achieve better orgasms. But no one else in the room had a clue what he was talking about.

Finally, the group decided to focus on one topic: Ensuring the continuity of Klal Yisroel, given the shortage of men following the military casualties of the Great War. Discussion quickly turned to how the remaining Jewish men should select the best women of Klal Yisroel as brides to help them rebuild the community. But who were the most desirable Jewish women?

-- Reb Chaim Ozer suggested that Litvak women were the most desirable women since they had the finest Midois, which more than made up for the fact that the average Litvak woman looked like a yak with a broken nose.

-- Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum insisted that Hungarian women were the most desirable women because they were the most beautiful Jewish women in the world, and also had the largest testicles.

-- Chacham Refael Aharon Ben Shimon protested that North African Jewish women were the most desirable because they were more beautiful than Hungarians, cared for their husbands’ every need, and knew how to scare the Goyim away by ululating like a wounded hyena.

-- Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn suggested that the Russian women of CHABAD were the most desirable women, because as their husbands were trying to put Tefillin on passing strangers they would selflessly block the paths of people trying to walk around their husbands with their large Russian… ummm… Zaftigkeits.

-- Finally, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan insisted that all Jewish women were equally desirable, so long as they put on Talis and Tefillin, meditated on existence, and donned a strap on.

At the end of the session the Oilum voted, and issued a formal statement featuring recommendations for the women who were best suited to meet specific marital needs:

-- Hungarian women were recommended for men who wanted many children. They are fertile like bunny rabbits, and are born with pelvises that can accommodate a grand piano

-- Russian women were recommended for men who needed wives who could do manual labor in the fields. They have arms like truck drivers and, at appropriate moments, can curse the way Rabbi Akiva did the time Rabbi Tarfon stepped on his foot in the Mikvah

-- Yemenite women were recommended for men obsessed with beauty, charm, and an attraction to Ella Fitzgerald

-- British women were recommended for men who had very good dental insurance policies

-- Litvak women were recommended for men with bad eyesight

-- Karlin Stolin women were recommended for men who are hard of hearing, due to the women's… ummm…. pronounced passion for Mitzvois

-- Klausenberger women were recommended for men hung like a Pitum

-- And Syrian Satmar women were recommended for men who needed a bit more drama in their lives. VeHamayvin Yavin.

As such, the Global Union of Rabbis specified that the common theme across all communities is that all Jewish women can make wonderful Yiddisheh Veiber as long as they are a good match for the specific needs of their husbands. (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach tried to add a clause that Jewish women should also be able to suck a golf ball through a garden hose. But the other rabbis still did not understand a word he was saying.)


So how is it possible that we can have such diversity, and yet still remain a singular community? Like the Shvatim traveling through the desert and settling in Eretz Yisroel, diversity in descent and tradition reflect a rich strength grounded in the notion that what unites us is far greater than that which divides us. And that which divides us, those differences, make for a grand exchange of ideas and traditions.

We are one Klal Yisroel, whether we live in Israel, the US, the Ukraine, Australia, or anywhere else. We are one Klal Yisroel, whether we are Democrat or Republican, Likud or Labor. We are one Klal Yisroel, whether our skin is white as snow or dark as night. We are one Klal Yisroel, whether we are observant or secular, whether we are Ashkenazic or Sephardic, whether we are Misnagdim or Chassidim. We are one Klal Yisroel, with a common history, a common present, and a common future.

We are one Klal Yisroel. And that even includes you, you good for nothing Menuval.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Pesach Drasha


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Pesach Drasha


I am preparing this Drasha as I pack for my departure to serve as the officiating rabbi on a Pesach vacation. After resisting many such offers for years – hotels in the Catskills, Florida, Arizona, Cancun, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Antarctica, I was asked to fill in for a colleague on one of these Pesach getaways. My good friend, Rabbi Shloimee Glandolowitzberg, was committed to a venue, but had to cancel at the last minute because he had something caught in his throat. So I will now serve as the official rabbi on the Roy Cohn Kosher LePeysach Gay Cruise to the Greek islands.

Strangely, the organizers have suggested that I come without my Basherte, Feigeh Breinah, insisting that I will have a lot more fun that way. So she will be with the Kinderlach and Einiklach, while I sacrifice by bringing Toirah to a community of Erlicheh Yidden. Indeed, I had originally declined the offer, since I was planning to be in Eretz Yisroel for Yuntif. I explained to the organizers that Pesach is Klal Yisroel’s celebration of exiting Egypt and traveling to Eretz Yisroel, which, as the Toirah tells us, is “Eretz Zuvass Chuluv U’Dvash”, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. But they responded that the cruise will be quite similar: It will be flowing with something that looks like milk, and something else that almost has the texture of honey, but comes out of a tube. I do not know what they mean, but I look forward to being Mekayaim a new Mitzvah!

In addition, they told me that there were some additional Minhagim on the annual cruise that I would find interesting. Apparently, instead of dipping only two times – Ein Mol In Zatlz Vasser, Un Ein Mol in Charoisess – they dip a third time, after the Afikomen and Chad Gad Yuh, and suggested that I might enjoy it. Again, I am not familiar with such a Minhag; perhaps it is a Sephardic custom. But I can certainly appreciate the Mesiras Nefesh of maintaining a local Minhag.

Pesach is a time of different behaviors and liturgy and cuisine. We spend more time preparing for Pesach that we do actually celebrating it. Great credit goes to our wives for their commitment to creating Butey Ne’eman BaYisroel, good Jewish homes. In my own home, my wife takes charge of all of the Pesach preparation. She does all the planning. She does all the shopping. And even if she does not do all of the cleaning herself, she makes certain it is all completed. What a Tzadeykess! I knew last Moitzee Shabbos she was preparing to turn the entire kitchen over for Pesach when, immediately after Havdalah, she began ironing her Gestapo uniform. By the time we had Kashered the stove, the sink, and the counters, put all the Chometz dishes away, and brought down all of the Pesach dishes from the attic, I was ready to throw myself against a electrified barbed wire fence.

But, as we know, Pesach is not simply a personal or a family celebration. It is a communal one. Ashrenu that in our generation we can embrace Pesach in a way that previous generations could not. Why, a hundred years ago our great grandparents certainly had Matzoh, Marror, wine and Charoisess. Perhaps they had a little chicken or meat, some potatoes and eggs, and if their were Misnagdim, Kneidlach. Our grandparents and parents may have already had some semblance of Koisher LePesach cakes and cookies. But we in our generation have a much greater variety of choices. Koisher LePesach mustard. Koisher LePesach rolls. Koisher LePesach beer. And my favorite: Koisher LePesach breakfast cereal. During the rest of the year we make do with all of the Goyyishe cereals, as long as they have a proper Hashgacha, of course. But on Pesach we are Zoicheh to eat breakfast cereals that are made Lishmah, expressly for Zman Chayruseinu. My favorite is Sugar Frosted Kikee-Ohs, although my Einikel Binyamin Soirer U’Moireh loves Choco Aleph Baizes.

It is an ironic thing, of course: These cereals cost $28 a box before Pesach, but the day after Pesach the stores cannot give them away. I heard that last year the local Toimchei Shabbos was collecting unopened Pesach food for the poor: Cans, Matzoh, cocoanut covered marshmallows, etc., but had a big sign on their collection bin, “No Kosher For Passover Cereals, Please. Our Recipients May Be Needy, But They Are Not THAT Desperate”.

But what we have done in our generation is not that different from the actions of our predecessors. “B’Chol Dor VaDor Chayuv Udum Lirois Ess Atzmoh Ke’Iluh Hoo Yutzuh MiMitzrayim.” “In every generation, a person is required to view himself as if he (himself) escaped from Egypt.” The strength of our tradition has been the ability of our nation to seek relevance in each generation and make the Yuntif, and the ideas it represents, “their own”. Sometimes those additions have resulted in additional guidelines and restrictions that we find a source of annoyance, such as Kitniyois. Sometimes those additions have added strictures that many of us ignore, such as Gebruchs. And sometimes those additions have made Jewish lives so intolerable that CHAZAL had to find a back door to nullify their impact, such as Chometz She-Avar Uluv Al HaPesach, which led to the institution of Mechiras Chometz, symbolic selling of Chometz to a Gentile.

Like with so many other examples in Yiddishkeit, every generation and every community has left its mark on our grand tradition. In doing so, we do not abandon the notion of the Divine to the distant, irrelevant, somewhat unknowable past, but seek to embrace the Divine in our own lives. We pursue active engagement with the Reboinoisheloilum to satisfy our own spiritual cravings, as well as to have an excuse to take a few days off from work at the beginning of Spring.

I am reminded of a Ma’aseh Shehoya. One year the Vilna Goyn was leading the Seder at his Yeshiva, surrounded by his family and hundreds of his Talmidim. He had just made Kiddush on the first cup of wine and began to recite the Hagaddah, “Kol Dichfin Yaysay V’Yaychol, Kol Ditzrich Yaysay V’Yifsach”, “All who are hungry should sit down and eat; all who are needy should sit down and partake of the Karban Persach.” At that point, a homeless man dressed in tattered clothing entered the Yeshiva dining room and pulled up an empty chair to the table.

“Sir, what do you think you are doing?” asked the Gruh.

“Well, Mr. Goyn, I am hungry and needy, and I am taking up your offer to join your Seder” responded the man.

“Schmuck!”, the Goyn screamed, “Do you think I really mean this stuff that was written over 1,500 years ago? Next thing you know, you will expect me to believe that 600,000 people left Egypt! How the hell could 600,000 males, plus their families, live in the desert for forty years?! What were the Jews, a group of people, of a bunch of camels?!!”

At that point the vagrant revealed himself to be Eliyahu HaNavi. “Reb Goyn”, he said, “you are indeed wise. The miracles did not really happen the way the Toirah and Hagaddah describe, but we celebrate them anyway, to give meaning to our everyday lives. But you have rejected someone genuinely in need, and for that you will be punished by being known throughout history as a heartless Misnagid who has about as much spirit in him as a twice squeezed lemon has juice.” The man then took away all of the Afikoman presents left under the tree and left the building.

That night, the Goyn was very disturbed. He was wrought with guilt and confusion. Finally, Hakadoshboruchhu came to him in a dream. “Goyn, what is the problem?” He asked.

“Your messenger Eliyahu HaNavi showed me tonight what a selfish person I am, and told me I will be punished for all eternity as a result.”

The Aimishteh laughed a hearty laugh. “Goyn, that was no Eliyahu HaNavi! That was the Baal Shem Toiv playing a practical joke on you. He even took all of your Afikoman Tchatchkees to sell in order to buy vodka for his followers.”

“You mean I am not punished?!!” asked the Goyn, relieved.

“Well, you are a cold Misnagid. That is punishment enough, since you can only see what is in front of you. But I guarantee that the Baal Shem Toiv is also punished, since he can only look under the surface and cannot see obvious truths in front of him. Until you learn to live together, you will both be lost.”

Excitedly, the Goyn asked, “And at that point, will we be Zoicheh to witness the Geulah Shelaymah?”

“Well, not exactly. But your respective descendants will happily go on Gay cruises together.” With that the Reboinoisheloilum departed the dream, and went off to visit with some worshipers at a Hindu temple.

So every generation finds new ways to instill spiritual meaning and relevance. For one generation, it was Kitniyois. For another, it was Gebruchs. For countless others, it was the development of new creative recipes and additions to the Pesach liturgy. And for some in our day, it is the recreation of “a land flowing with milk and honey”, hopefully using proper precautions, if you know what I mean. Ashrenu that in our generation Klal Yisroel can embrace Pesach in ever more creative ways!

Ah Zissen Yuntif, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess