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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
In this week's Parsha, Koirach, once again a portion of Klal Yisroel rebels against the Reboinoisheloilum's rule. A group led by Koirach challenges Moishe Rabbeinu's appointment as the Aimishteh's personal representative and business manager. After returning to their tents, Koirach and his minions are swallowed up whole into the ground.
How stupid are these Mishugayim anyway? How many times do they have to be told that they should shut up and study Toirah instead of asking for food and the right to return to Mitzrayim to visit the pyramids and eat Traifus? And how much abuse does Hakodoshboruchhu have to tolerate before he smites all the minuvals down like cockroaches with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and a really big shoe?
I know you were asking these questions, you good-for-nothing Amhaaretz, but they are actually stupid questions. I mean, we read this same Parsha every year. It hasn't changed since the Redactor compiled the text in Babylon -- OOPS -- I mean since the Aimishteh dictated the Toirah to Moishe on Sinai.
No, the real question isn't why the people keep on rebelling. Rather, it is: Why do we, and our wise Rabbinical predecessors, continue to look back at the generation of the Exodus as the paradigm of Jewish virtue, when in truth they were a bunch of Vilda Chayas? Compared to them, a band of marauding rabid water buffalo are cooperative.
Indeed, this paradox is highlighted in the following Maiyseh Shehoyo: In the late 1950s, the Bobover Rebbe was sitting in first class on an airplane next to the famous playwright Arthur Miller. The playwright observed the care and reverence with which the Bobover Chassidim escorted their Rebbe through the airport, got him settled on the plane, and checked on his well-being periodically. Miller turned to the Rebbe and asked, "Rabbi, how come it is that when I lecture at a university, a pillar of secular knowledge, I am treated casually by the students, even with disrespect, while you, teaching an archaic tradition, are treated with respect, almost as a beloved surrogate parent, by your followers?"
The Rebbe smiled, and replied, "It is very simple -- you, a secular person, tell your students that they are descended from monkeys, so when they look at you, they see a person one generation closer to their primitive ape past. We tell our students that they are descended from the generation at Sinai, so when they see me, they see a person one generation closer to the face to face encounter with the Aimisheh."
Arthur Miller stroked his chin and thought for a moment. And then he responded, "That may be true, but I am sleeping with Marilyn Monroe, so who cares?"
The Bobover Rebbe, recognizing that he had lost the argument, never traveled by airplane again.
The Tanna Kamma alludes to this question in a Mishnah in Maseches Nidah, Perek Gimmul. He suggests that the reason the Aimishteh enacted restrictions on "relations" with one's wife during her natural cycle (Zman Nidasa) is so that 50% of Klal Yisroel will always be so frustrated they will be ready to go to war over a missing paper clip.
However, The Zoihar tells a tale of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai sitting around a campfire with his female students and giving them life advice. He said, "When your husband calls you an idiot, it is the best news you have had all day." This is understood as a reference to the Kabbalistic understanding of the relationship between the Aimishteh and Klal Yisroel. The Aimishteh is seen as the groom, and the Jews as the bride. And what what could be more natural, or even healthy, than occasional bickering, or even a good knock-down-drag-out argument over who takes out the garbage or whose turn it is to do the dishes. Or in the case of Klal Yisroel, dancing around the Eigel Hazahav while eating traifus. Rather than leading to divorce, this keeps the marriage vibrant and stimulates the senses.
I am reminded of my own wedding day to my Bashert, Feige Breinah. As I stood under the Chuppah waiting for her to join me, I wished that the earth would open underneath my feet, just as it had for Koirach. Would I be a good husband? Could I manage a strong Jewish household? Would I be able to consummate my marriage that night without the ritual twenty minutes of begging?
The moment of introspection was broken by my bride. As she walked down the aisle and circled me seven times, she softly whispered, "wipe that stupid look off your face; the video camera is running!!"
So a little tension between bride and groom is quite healthy. Klal Yisroel in the desert understood this, which is why they frequently rebelled, about leadership, about idols, about what to eat, and about leaving the comforts of Egypt.
In honor of the generation of the Exodus, we too must keep the vibrance and energy of the relationship with the Aimishteh alive. Consequently, we are compelled to eat the occasional Traifus and watch the occasional game on Shabbos. We are supposed to have unclean thoughts and covet the property of others. For if we do not, we will fail to live up to the heritage of our forefathers.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess