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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Noise and Silence
I am not in a joking mood, and I have nothing funny to write about.
There is upheaval in Eretz Yisroel. Palestinians are committing acts of terror, using knives and guns. Israelis are trying hard to defend themselves, but it is difficult to defend against "unorganized" terror activities, including knife attacks by 13 year old boys. And of course the global discourse and the media have largely missed the Israeli side, since "man bites dog" tends to get the better headlines.
As always, the Palestinian leadership is leading its people down a false path, playing up a fiction about Al Aqsa and the Temple Mount, and making blood curdling statements and accusations, rather than focusing on building the foundations of an independent state, an economy, and an education system designed to encourage coexistence with Israel, in preparation for that inevitable day when a political arrangement is reached that separates the Palestinian Arabs from the Jews, the divorce of an arranged marriage that never quite worked out.
But rather than focus on the future, the Palestinians have played the victim card, again. And again. And again. And there is only so long and so many times and a limited set of circumstances when their foundational narrative of exile and identification as a minority deprived of voting rights can serve as a response or justification for brutal acts of terror against civilians, including babies. There are only so many times that the Palestinians can play the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card of their narrative of victimhood. There are only so many times that Mahmoud Abbas can compare the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis to the Holocaust without losing all credibility for the Palestinian cause.
I am reminded of the behavior of my close colleague, Rabbi Shmiel Kalbasavuah. Every morning I make sure to take him out for a walk. In his advancing years, he needs his exercise and exposure to fresh air, and fire hydrants.
Every so often, as we are walking outside and talking about the weekly Parsha or a difficult Toisfois, a large truck will drive past, and Reb Shmiel will follow his natural impulse to chase the truck. Now, what he would actually do with that truck I do not know, and he refuses to tell me. But he is vastly outweighed by any truck, and a direct confrontation could never end well.
Reb Shmiel cannot help himself. As a youth he was forced to eat dog food, and was tormented by children who constantly tickled him on his belly and between his ears, and was unwittingly hounded by Postal Carriers and UPS delivery men, so he has certain natural instincts of self-preservation. In that sense, he is like a dog.
I contrast this behavior to the actions of the Israelis, who are once again forced to lead their lives under the threat of terror. There is an inherent tension between the urge for restraint, a natural survival instinct that by definition must include self-defense and prudent preventative measures, and an inclination for revenge. We too carry a nationalist and even messianic impulse, but we have historically largely tempered it, as our society can understand tolerance and coexistence, "Kee Gerim Hayinu Be'Eretz Mitzrayim", because, as we are often reminded of often in the Toirah, the Israelites, the Jews, were strangers in the land of Egypt; we were the victims of minority status, and we must never forget what it feels like to be on the receiving end of being a minority. The Torah at its core, teaches tolerance and acceptance of the minority; not suicide, not self-destruction, not aggressive action, but tolerance, "Kee Gerim Hayinu Be'Eretz Mitzrayim".
It is in this context that Klal Yisroel needs to look to our tradition to determine an adequate response to the very practical challenges that face us at a national level.
It is against this background that I shake my head in confusion at the words of Benjamin Netanyahu. I do not know what he is smoking, but believe me, you do not want to touch any of that shit.
Israel is under attack. There is a wave of terror. Israel is being condemned in largely useless forums, such as the UN. Israel's story of being twisted through both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda. Israel is subject to the whims of a lazy, sensationalist media And there is a growing economic boycott movement that is largely marginal for the moment, but will only get worse as the demographic time bomb explodes within five years - when Arabs, including Israeli Arabs, constitute a majority of the people between the River and the Sea.
So what does genius Netanyahu do? Does he come up with political initiatives? Does he cultivate moderate Palestinian alternatives? Does he show any creativity?
No. He invokes the Holocaust. He blames Haj Amin Al Husseini, the extremist Mufti of Jerusalem of 75 years ago for the Holocaust.
Huh? What the Tashmish HaMitah?!?!
As any student of Holocaust history knows, the Final Solution, established formally in 1941 by the Nazi regime, was the culmination of years of anti-Semitic policies and persecution. After the Nazis rose to power in 1933, they progressively persecuted the Jews and created a network of concentration camps for all of their political enemies - Jews, Communists, members of the previous government, priests, and even Nazis who has fallen out of favor. They created ghettos in Poland upon invasion in 1939, and committed pogroms. They introduced euthanasia of undesirables, such as the mentally ill, and later applied those techniques in Chelmno, the first death camp, once they realized that they had millions of Jews who were in no position to emigrate from Europe. These atrocities were developed by Hitler and his SS, and were later refined in the more "efficient" factories of death such as Auschwitz. These atrocities were committed in parallel with other Nazi atrocities, such as starving millions of Soviet POWs to death.
Hitler did not need the help of Haj Amin Al Husseini to develop his hatred for the Jews. It was laid out in full in Mein Kampf, written by Hitler in prison in 1925, 16 years before meeting Al Husseini.
Whether Haj Amin Al Husseini hated Jews or not, he did not come up with the Final Solution. And Netanyahu, the son of historian, and a very intelligent man himself, knows his history.
But Netanyahu has a knack for invoking the Shoah when it is politically expedient for him. A few weeks ago, he compared the pending deal with Iran to "Czechoslovakia in 1938". Now... no one loves the Iran deal, but Israel is a nuclear power and has a very strong army, and is not defenseless.
So why does Netanyahu practice historical revisionism and invoke the Holocaust? Because, for him, it is his "Get Out Of Jail Free Card" invoking the Jewish narrative of victimhood. But this is an insult to the intelligence of every Jew, and of every gentile. It is a cynical exploitation of our martyred ancestors. And it is ultimately an embarrassment to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. Imagine this: The Germans spoke out this week and had to remind the Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish State, that it was they who were responsible for the Holocaust. Thank you Bibi. We had all forgotten.
The Jewish National Cause, the State of Israel, is not rooted in the Shoah; it is rooted in the Land in which our Nation was founded, it is the one land to which we are indigenous. And my grandmother did not die, six million were not murdered, in order to serve as a rhetorical device for any politician. Not for Ben Carson on gun rights. Not for Mahmoud Abbas. And not for Bibi Netanyahu.
I would like to share a Moshul.
The once was a prince named Shlomo. He lived in the Land of Zevulun, and had the finest Payis in all the land. He had a brother named Yitchak, and another brother named Abe. All had beautiful Payis, but conceded that Shlomo's Payis were the most beautiful.
One day, Yitzchak woke up and decided that it was actually he who had the finest Payis in all the land - "Super Payis". And he began to grow jealous of his brother. And the hate built up in his heart.
Finally, Abe began to feel that he had the most beautiful Payis. And the more he thought about it, the more he began to seethe.
Finally, one day it all exploded while all three were learning a Givaldickah Toisfois together on Pidyoin Shevuyim, redeeming Jews who are taken hostage. One second they were debating who had the better Shitah... and the next they were screaming at each other. As push came to shove they cut each other’s' Payis off.
That night the king can home to the castle after work, and discovered the has three sons had cut each other’s' Payis off, and had therefore become Misnagdim. He then banished them from the Land of Zevulun and never saw them again.
The moral of the story: Every Chussid has Payis. It is a core characteristic. But it is more important focus on practical efforts, like figuring out the difficult Toisfois on how to save lives, and stop being distracted by your Payis. Seriously.
Sometimes you just need to know when to Shut The Fuck Up and focus on real issues.
Ah Gutten, Peaceful Shabbos, You Minuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess