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Thursday, February 18, 2016

On Diversity


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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On Diversity


Rabboisai,

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.

Shoyn

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 Menuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, February 04, 2016

On the Twin Hills of Jerusalem




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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky
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On the Twin Hills of Jerusalem


Rabboisai,

Before I begin this week’s Drasha, I would like to address a very serious question: How can we engage in humor at a time when Klal Yisroel is under attack? Nearly every day there is a terrorist incident in Israel: A mother is killed in front of her children in her own home; a student is murdered in a random drive by shooting; a nineteen year old soldier is killed not on the battlefield, but on the streets of Jerusalem; and so on. How can we go on with our daily lives, let alone engage in humor?

The answer is quite simply the secret to the survival of the Jewish People. Our ancient predecessors left Egypt with little on their backs, yet in subsequent generations settled The Land, either through conquest (according to Sefer Yehoshua) or gradual settlement combined with shifting alliances and wars involving the Shvatim, the Twelve Tribes, amongst themselves and with other local nations (according to Sefer Shoiftim). Klal Yisroel continued to sustain despite the successes and ultimate collapse of the United Monarchy of Dovid HaMelech and Shlomo HaMelech, the treachery of wicked kings, and the destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel and near destruction of the southern kingdom of Judah by the Assyrians. Klal Yisroel survived the destruction of Bayis Rishoyn and Galus Bavel and rebuilt Bayis Sheni, which would fall hundreds of years later. We survived exile and persecution throughout the world, including the Spanish Inquisition and the Shoah.

The simple answer is: Klal Yisroel is a nation of survivors.

Many of us are descended from Holocaust survivors. Many of us have lost family, close or distant, to Israel’s wars or terror attacks. Most of us are descendants of people who were refugees, if not one generation ago, then two or three or six generations ago. We are a People who have survived death and despair and poverty and who have instead of putting our suffering at the center of our national narrative, have kept it as a preface or footnote to our rebuilding in Eretz Yisroel, in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in France, in Australia, in many other countries, and yes, even in Germany.

Ours is a Nation that looks forward far more than it looks backward. So we acknowledge our pain, we remember our losses, but we rebuild and look forward. We do not hide under our beds, afraid to come out, but we embrace life and the future. We cry, but we also laugh.

We are survivors. And that is why Am Yisroel Chai.

----

Rabboisai,

This week I address a Shailah from one Shimoin HaSoifer:
“Rabbi Pinky, is breast augmentation surgery Assur because of Baal Toiseph?"

Reb Shimoin, when I first read your question I just assumed you were a fourteen year old Menuval from Boro Park who has not yet been allowed to watch Netflix without your mother in the room, but as I began to look at the writings of the Gedoilim, I saw that you were actually Mechaveyn to a Shailah posted by Reb Larry Flint in Mishpacha magazine in 1984. So you are indeed walking in the footsteps of the Gedoilim. Unfortunately, I cannot report back to you on Reb Larry’s answer to that Shailah, as the pages where the Shailah is addressed in the copy of the periodical in the Yeshiva’s library are stuck together.

But, indeed, you ask a Shverer Kasha. And the more I contemplate the Kasha, the Shverer it becomes…

Fortunately, there is much literature on this topic in the writings of Chazal. There is a Mishnah in Whoreyois where Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel address the question of what is the preferred size of a woman’s… errr… Boobelach. Bais Shammai holds that a woman should have a Baiz Cup, as a Zaicher to Har HaMoriah and the hills around Yerushalayim. Bais Hillel holds that a woman should have a Daled Cup, as a Zaicher to Har Sinai.

It is based on this Mishnah that Rav Yoisie suggests that a small Boobelached woman should stuff her… err… Eiphod with dates or pomegranates to make herself appear larger, so as to satisfy both the Shitahs of Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. And what should a large Boobelached woman do? According to the Rav Sheyshess, such a woman should bind her torso tight like a Sefer Toirah, and try her best not to breathe.

However, according to Rav Puppa, there is no real debate about the size of a woman’s Boobelach. According to Rav Puppa, Kooley Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that a woman must accept her fate, whatever the size of her Boobelach. But, adds Reb Puppa, the Reboinoisheloilum shows His love for each Bas Yisroel by enabling her Boobelach to grow every time she gets pregnant. And that is why whenever we have a Siyum on a Misechta of Shas, we recite the names of all 20 of Rav Puppa’s sons; he always made sure that his wife was pregnant. He LOVED Toirah, and wanted to be reminded of Har Sinai every time he looked up from a Sefer and gazed at his wife while she was cooking, changing diapers, cleaning, changing diapers, sewing clothing for the children, changing diapers, paying bills, changing diapers, changing diapers, and changing more diapers. What a Tzaddick!

So what is the Machloikess, according to Rav Puppa? It is over the proper size of a woman’s Nipplach. To his understanding, Bais Shammai holds that a woman’s Nipplach should be KeZayis, like the size of an olive, while Bais Hillel holds that they should be KeBeytzah, the size of an egg.

Shoyn.

Of course, all of these issues relate to the preferences of Chazal, but not to your Shailah of augmentation. For that, we need to consult modern medical authorities. Which means we must start with the RAMBAM, since his knowledge of medicine, while 900 years old, is still better than anything that these fake doctors in our days can ever come up with. The Am Haaratzim.

Says the RAMBAM in Mishnah Toirah, “We should not tamper with the creations of Hakadoshboruchhu. He created the world, with all of its imperfections. And since we cannot perfect a woman’s fundamental flaw by slapping a penis on her, why would we ever want to ‘augment’ her other imperfections?” Unquote. So according to the RAMBAM, it is not even a Shailah of Baal Toiseph; it is a Shailah of Baal Tashchis: Why should a man spend good money on his wife’s Boobelach augmentation when, for a quarter of the price, he can buy a nice new turban?

However, the RAMBAN holds Farkert. He declares that all human beings, men and women, are created in the Aimishteh’s image. Each has an element of the Reboinoisheloilum in his or her soul. So according to the RAMBAN, one may indeed engage in Boobelach augmentation for his wife the way that one may spend extra money on an Esroig, as it is Hiddur Mitzvah. And unlike an Esroig, which loses its significance at the end of Sukkois, this form of Hiddur Mitzvah is the “gift that keeps on giving”.

The Mechaber of the Shulkhan Aruch Paskins like the RAMBAM, and cites his position as the Halachah. However, this of course applies primarily to the Sephardic world. The RAMAH provides the Ashkenazic approach. Says the RAMAH, “the tradition in our countries is not to focus on a woman’s Boobelach, but on her Middois.” Comments the Vilna Goyn on this RAMAH: The body is just a shell; it is utilitarian – it serves a purpose. But Middois are part of a person’s Neshamah, man or woman, and the Neshamah is eternal.

Because the GRUH believed that the body is utilitarian, he made certain that his personal practices reflected his philosophy. So when the Gruh would be Mekayaim the Mitzvah of Pru Urvu with his wife, so as not to be Mevatel Toirah he would always bring a Sefer with him, and he would use his wife’s Boobelach as a Shtender for holding his Sefer in place whilst engaging in The Mitzvah. When he and his wife were younger, the Sefer was usually small, like a copy of Pirkei Avois. But as they both aged and his wife’s Shtender became larger, he would use the Shtender to hold a full sized volume from the Vilna Shas. (There is a separate debate between Reb Chaim Verlozhen and Reb Yankif Emden about whether the Gemarrah was from the Talmud Babli or the Talmud Yerushalmi.)

Of course, in our day, we must contemplate such issues in light of modern understandings and sensitivities. In our day, we do not look at women as “objects” and their body parts as topics for academic discussion. Women are as educated as men and as successful as men in all secular fields. The only area where women trail men is in the area of Toirah scholarship, because, as we well know, women can never, ever become rabbis, because there is a rich Mesoirah that denies their ability to become rabbis because of a fundamental lack of a penis.

So it is really up to a woman to decide what she prefers – Big, small, medium sized, etc. I am told that in our generation, in a single day a woman can actually design such things on an App, see what they will look like, create custom implants using a 3-D printer, have the operation done laparoscopically, and be home in time to watch The Housewives Of Boro Park while their husbands relax by drawing in adult coloring books.

And how should a Ben Toirah respond to his wife’s new “size”?

On this issue there is a rich tradition inspired by the Toirah. As we read in Beraishis, Chava, the primordial woman, is described as Adam’s “Eizer Kinegdoi”, his “help mate”. We also know that woman is to man like water is to all human beings – an element necessary for life. And we know from the travails of Moishe Rabbeinu that he was punished for striking a rock to get it to produce water, rather than speaking politely to the rock, asking nicely, perhaps taking the rock out for dinner and a show.

And if that does not work, a Ben Toirah can always rely upon the age old Jewish form of foreplay – twenty minutes of begging.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Menuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess