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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Tikkun Olam
I am sorry if we are a little confused today while developing this Drasha. I just came out of a Colonoscopy and the anesthesia is still wearing off. The good news: They found no polyps, but they did find a few gold coins, my car keys and that remote control that has been missing for two years. The bad news: The gerbil is dead. Baruch Dayan Emmes.
While we are discussing a distasteful but real, and important, medical procedure, I cannot help but be reminded of a basic concept in Lurianic Kabbalah - the Kabbalah of the ARI ZAHL. The ARI envisions a cosmic accident that occurred in creation known as "Shviras HaKelim", the "Shattering of the Vessels", which left sparks of holiness scattered in the "dross", the filth that was meant to be expunged from the universe during the act of creation - or more specifically, the act of the Divine to create space for the universe within Itself, also known as Tzimtzum. And the role of Klal Yisroel, and humanity as a whole, is to rescue those holy sparks from the "dross" through good deeds and acts of kindness. That is referred to as "Tikkun Olam", the "Fixing of the World".
Rabboisai, if we were to assess how we are doing in this score, I am not sure whether we are finding holy sparks these days, or simply more "dross", more filth that threatens to encompass our fragile existence.
In the political realm, we are faced by many imperfect realities, whether we are discussing the Iran deal, the hundred-years-war that is the Arab-Israeli/ Israeli- Palestinian conflict, or the seemingly growing tide of anti-Semitism. Let's face it. Our existence as Jews is perpetually tenuous.
But let's look at it from a different angle: Jews are not at the center of the universe; I am sorry to break it to you - it is not all about YOU, you Menuval! (I hope you were sitting down for that one, you Mechutziff.)
There is a civil war in the Arab world - while its reverberations are felt by Israel, the United States, the U.K., Australia and other countries throughout the world, it has nothing to do with Israel. If anything, this is a Kulturkamph, an internal political, religious, and cultural struggle that has been simmering since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its temporary colonial successors. Similarly, all of Sub Saharan Africa is a disaster. The Jewish community in South Africa and the small communities in Kenya and Zimbabwe are fundamentally irrelevant to the gangland and mercenary leadership of a continent left bleeding by post colonial anarchy. And I am not even going to talk about Russia and the Ukraine, China, or the drug wars of Mexico and Columbia, and the poverty and inequities elsewhere across the globe.
Let's face it: The world is Farfucked.
Our Jewish experience is just one fragment of a world that is quaking. So while our existence as Jews is perpetually tenuous, our existence is still far more secure and self determined than it was 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago. Plus we have Facebook.
So while we MUST always vigilantly protect our National and Tribal Jewish interests, we should also occasionally Shut The Fuck Up and realize that we are but a tiny fraction of the imperfect reality that we call human existence.
In the social realm, the rich get richer - which is OK in my book, but the middle class and poor are being left behind. Such are the seeds of social upheaval. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are not surging in a vacuum. So the U.S. is either about to become Socialist or to be turned into one big Trump casino. In either case, we are headed for bankruptcy.
And, of course, the Jewish world is a reflection of the broader trends.
I, Baruch HaShem, make a nice living, though, selling crystal meth, which subsidizes many Buchrim in their efforts to become the next generation of communal leaders. This year, Kenayna Hurrah, we have the largest class of Talmidim entering our Yeshiva! Consequently, we have even added some new classes to fit the modern rabbinate: President Richard Joel of YU will be teaching a class on "The Art Of Losing A Billion Dollars But Still Keeping Your Job"; Yisroel Belsky of the OU and Torah V'Daas will be teaching a course on "The Intricacies Of Kashrusss Supervision And Cover Ups Of Child Sexual Abuse"; And Jonathan Rosenblatt will be teaching a course entitled "Personal Hygiene - Up Close and Personal".
There are of course many less privileged members of our community. However, they clearly have not Davened to Hakadoshboruchhu with the right Kavvanah, are secretly putting bacon in their Cholent, or are being punished because some so-called-Jews are designating some so-called-women as so-called-rabbis. As the Toirah tells us, the Reboinosheloilum is an angry Aimishteh. Do not mess with Him. Trust me on this one; a few decades ago He took one look at Reform Jews in Germany and killed six million Jews without breaking a sweat. And, believe me, you do NOT want to hear about the time that the dinosaurs rebelled...
I am reminded of one of the great philosophical debates in history: Tzaddik V'Ra Loi - Why do bad things happen to good people. This question is age old. The book of Iyoiv - Job, as the Episcopalians and the Open Orthodox call it - struggles with that question. The Talmud as well. And the later religious philosophers and theorists.
The classic explanation is that man is rewarded for his good deeds and punished for his bad deeds. But as the book of Iyoiv states, Dos Iz Nisht Azoy Pashut - it is not so simple.
Others try to create alternate rationales for evil and suffering in the world. The RAMBAM rejects the notion of the Reboinosheloilum's involvement in human affairs. According to the RAMBAM, the world was created with its own rules, and Hakkadoshboruchhu does not intercede, save for a special few Jews from Egypt - including a Rabbi Doctor Philosopher who lived a thousand years ago, and the Frum owner of a beer factory who invested in a race horse which went on to win the Triple Crown, and is now going to make millions selling the horse's Zerah.
However, the Kabbalists sought mystical explanations for the counterintuitive nature of the universe. According to some, the different elements that comprise the Godhead - the ten Sephirois - interact in different ways. The Sephira of Din, or Justice, is the source of evil - essentially, evil is Justice gone awry in response to stimulus from other Sephirois.
However, there is an alternate explanation. The Ain Soif - the incomprehensible Source Of All - in order to create space for our world, withdrew into Himself. As It created sacred space, It moved the negative energies of the world into the space. As It was transferring some pure divinity in clay vessels, the vessels fell to the ground and shattered, scattering the holy sparks mentioned in the Reisha of this Drasha.
So Rabboisai and Rebbetznoisai, are we doing all we can to rescue the holy sparks? Is Judaism a garment we wear that we take off when no one is around? Or it is a way of life? Do we only care about Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, or do we care about Mitzvois Bain Adam KeChaveiroi? Are we the gold coins? Or are we the shit that lies beneath?
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess