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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