Thursday, January 14, 2016
On Rabbinic Discretion
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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Rabbinic Discretion
I am writing this post from the nerve center of Yeshivas Chipass Emmess - The video control room that monitors the Yeshiva's Mikvah, Showers, and Shvitz.
It is from here that I manage the multiple cameras that shoot video from many angles: In the evenings, to record the many women who use the Mikvah to fulfill their Dioraisa of going to the Mikvah to purify themselves from bleeding from their disgusting Ervas for a week without dying; and in the mornings, to capture the views of boys and young men who come to work out, take a shower, and expose themselves literally and emotionally, in the sauna.
I feel like Hakadoshboruchhu, Baruch HaShem! The Toirah teaches us that we, humanity, were created in His image. And since He gets to see everyone naked, why can't I?
Rabboisai, it is terribly troubling to me how the media and the Am Haaratzim, not to mention the anti-Semitic American government, have vilified some of my closest colleagues for the leadership they have provided their communities. Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Freundel and Rabbi Jonathan (Yoinoison) Rosenblatt are both great leaders of our community, people we should aspire to emulate. They have shown such Mesiras Nefesh by video recording and staring at the Reboisheloilum's creations, all in the name of Kiddush HaShem. And anyone who does not see this is not fit to walk in their shoes... unless their feet happen to be the same size.
Such is the nature of leadership: We, the rabbis of this community put ourselves out, week in and week out, only to be criticized by the common man who cannot understand our actions and our motives. But that is why we are rabbis, and you Minuvals are simpletons who cannot count to twenty one without using all ten fingers, all ten toes, and that little appendage that Rabbi Rosenblatt likes to see after a nice game of racquetball.
Such is the nature of the masses of Klal Yisroel. You are Am Kshei Oref, a Stiff Necked People. We rabbis, however, do not have stiff necks; we prefer it when other body parts are stiff.
Rabboisai, since you are undoubtedly a complete ignoramus, I would like to teach you the Toirahdicka way of examining both of these situations that my close colleagues find themselves in. And then, when you realize that you are Choisaid BiKeshayrim, suspicious of the innocent, you will understand that you are slanderers who should be expelled by the rest of Am Yisroel. "VeLamalshinim Al Tehi Tikvah"... unless of course you have a lot of money and would like to make a nice donation.
So let us understand what really happened in each of these two cases.
My dearest friend Rabbi Barry Freundel is committed to the perpetuation of Yiddishkeit in its purest form. And what better tool is there to ensure purity than the Mikvah? So Rabbi Freundel set out on a one man mission to ensure that women who used his Mikvah would do so in a proper way. And since it would be inappropriate to attend in person to observe the women getting undressed, preparing for the Mikvah, sitting on the toilet, showering, going into the Mikvah, getting out of the Mikvah, drying off, and getting dressed, he decided to video tape all of these actions. Why? Not to ogle at women, Chass V'Sholom!! But to ensure that the each woman prepared properly for the Mikvah, removed every hair that might be a Chatzitza, wiped properly while sitting on the toilet, immersed completely, and emerged from the Mikvah once her Tevilah, her dunking, was adequate, and had satisfied the will of the Aimishteh.
And how did he know when a women's Tevilah was Koisher? Just like the Butterball Turkey™ that has a little button that pops out when the turkey is fully cooked, Rabbi Freundel, when reviewing the video, would wait to see if a congregant's nipples were erect when emerging from the Mikvah, at which point, at his desk in his rabbinic office, he would slap his right hand down on his desk and shout "KOISHER!", all the while using his left hand to spank something else...
And to ensure true preparedness for the Mitzvah of Mikvah, Rabbi Freundel would encourage women, including his converts and even non-Jewish students who might one day sleep with a Jew after having one too many tequila shots, to engage in "Practice Dunks". RAMBAM was a great Halachic innovator, as was the Vilna Goyn. Rabbi Freundel was simply following in that tradition. Baruch HaShem.
And now, for the first time, The Rabbi Freundel Complete Video Collection™ is available for purchase, for six easy payments of $69.95. And if you are among the first hundred Minuvals to call, we will drop one of those payments, and add a set of Ginsu knives as our special gift to you.
My other close rabbinic colleague, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, is a true Bucky BiSHAS. He has extensively studied the importance that mentorship plays in Klal Yisroel, particularly between a Rebbe and his Talmidim. And he too was inspired to walk in the path of the Reboinoisheloilum. Just as Hakadoshboruchhu formed Adam HaRishoyn from wet clay, Rabbi Rosenblatt set out to shape his students while they were sitting wet in the Shvitz. And just as the Aimishteh molded Adam out of dirt, out of nothingness, Rabbi Rosenblatt liked molded his students by removing all extraneous barriers from his Talmidim, such as clothing, self esteem, and self-respect.
What would motivate a middle aged rabbi to want to bathe naked and sit in the sauna with students, some as young as twelve years old, and engage in intimate discussions with them? Some of you Mechutzuffim might say that Rabbi Rosenblatt has a disease, a fatal flaw, a predilection that, while not clearly illegal, is an abuse of his rabbinic authority that crosses ethical and moral boundaries. But if this is what you believe, you are completely wrong! Chass V’Sholom! Rabbi Rosenblatt is a Tzaddik who likes to take students under his wing. We are told by RASHI, commenting on a Gemarrah in Kiddushin, about how Rabbi Meir, in order to illustrate to one of his students that “Nashim Da’ason Kalois”, “women are of simple minds”, asked the student to seduce Rabbi Meir’s wife Beruriah. After a few failed efforts, the student succeeded. So great was Rabbi Meir that he would compel his beloved wife and his student to engage in an act of Eishes Ish that, according to the Toirah, would be worthy of the death penalty, but for Rabbi Meir, it was a pedagogical device. Mi KeAmcha Yisroel!!
So the essence here, the commonality, actually, is the notion of going Lifnei Meshuras HaDin, going beyond the letter of the law, going beyond basic Halacha, in order to serve the Reboinoisheloilum.
I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya told to me by Rav Yarden in the name of Rabbi Freddy. The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the Rugachuger Rebbe were staying in the same village in the Ukraine for Shabbos to attend a poker tournament. As they were running to Shul on Friday night, they bumped into each other. “Good Shabbos, Rebbe” said one. “Good Shabbos, Rebbe” said the other. Then the Rugachuger looked at the Tzemach Tzedek and asked, “Tell me, Reb Menachem Mendel, what for you constitutes a ‘Good Shabbos’?”
The Tzemach Tzedek looked back at the Rugachuger and replied, “For me a good Shabbos starts with going to Shul on Friday night, going home, having some chicken soup and a meal, then leading a Tisch with my Chassidim, then going to bed. Then on Shabbos morning, I get up, I go to Shul and Daven, then have Kiddush and lunch with Cholent and Kugel and hand out Shirayim. Then my grandchildren come over and I play with them. Then I take a nap, go back to Shul, learn a little, Daven Mincha, and then go home for Shallashudis. That for me is a ‘Good Shabbos’. Tell me Rebbe, what is a ‘Good Shabbos’ for you?”
The Rugachuger paused for a moment, and then responded. “For me, a ‘Good Shabbos’ starts on Friday morning, when I get in a carriage and set out for Moscow. When I arrive in Moscow, I check into a hotel, and then order up a steak to the room, a bottle of scotch, and a Kurva. Then we Shtup all night. The next morning I go down to the hotel’s casino, gamble for a couple of hours, then go back to my room, order up another steak, another bottle of scotch and another Kurva. Then we Shtup all afternoon. That for me is a ‘Good Shabbos’.”
The Tzemach Tzedek looked at the Rugachuger Rebbe, his face frozen in a serious expression. The Tzemach Tzedek then poked his finger on the Rugachuger's chest and replied, “Rebbe, let me correct you. That is not a ‘Good Shabbos’. THAT IS A ‘GREAT SHABBOS’!”
The Tzemach Tzedek understood that the Rugachuger believed in not simply observing basic Halachic and social norms, but in going Lifnei Meshuras HaDin.
In our day, how does one know when someone is going Lefnei Meshuras HaDin? That, you ignoramus, is where rabbinic expertise comes in.
You might believe that a rabbi is committing gross crimes and violations that humiliate, denigrate, and victimize women in the case of Rabbi Barry Freundel and boys and young men in the case of Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, potentially leaving the victims scarred for life. But you would be wrong. Since Reb Barry and Reb Jonathan are rabbis, they, and the rest of us rabbis, are the only ones who are qualified to determine what is abuse, and what is a gesture that goes Lifnei Meshiras HaDin.
And anyone of you Menuvals who disagrees with me or would like to know more about my rabbinic ruling is invited to come to visit the Yeshiva next week. We can play a game or two of racquetball, and then discuss over a shower and a Shvitz. And if you bring your teenage son with you, I promise to give you a discount on The Rabbi Freundel Complete Video Collection™.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess