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Friday, September 09, 2016

Parshas Shoiftim


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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Parshas Shoiftim


Rabboisai,

Reading this week's Parsha, Shoiftim, left me confused and bleary eyed. So many topics to cover, so little time. True testimony. False testimony. True prophets. False prophets. Magicians. Conquest. Egla Arufa. Moishe Rabbeinu must have had one too many cappuccinos that morning. I suspect he might have even been on speed, Chass V'Sholom.

In this week’s Parsha, Moishe Rabbeinu tells us that a defendant can be convicted of a crime through the testimony of either two or three witnesses. But the Parsha tells us this law in two separate places. What's Pshat?

According to a Mishnah in Yuma, Moishe repeated himself because he was showing signs of early Alzheimer’s.

But according to a Gemarrah in Yevamois, the first mention of the rule about witnesses refers to legal testimony and the judicial system. But the second mention of the rule is brought down by the Toirah to teach us something not about law, but about marital relationships: While marital relations between two people, a husband and a wife, are sanctified in the eyes of the Aimishteh, He doesn't mind if every once in a while you bring in a third partner to "spice up the cholent."

Commenting on this Gemarrah, Toisfois points out that the second reference in the Parsha to the rule requiring two or three witnesses is juxtaposed to the rules of conquest: In the section immediately following the second mention of the rule, the Toirah tells us that when you conquer a foreign land, you should slay all the males, but keep the women and children for yourselves. Says Toisfois, the Parsha wants to teach us an important lesson: When you do have a third person join you in your marital relations, the Toirah suggests she be a hot shiksa. And the Toirah teaches this within the context of discussing military conquest so we will know that a little Bondage and Discipline is okay.

The RIF, however, holds, that a little S and M may be in order as well, as long as it does not lead to bloodshed, which would instantly raise up a Chashash of Nidah and spoil all the fun, Chass V'Sholom.

However, the Bais Yoiseph holds that the entire Gemarrah of Yevamois must have been written when the Amoraim were having a "bad day," and that Toisfois and the RIF were too busy thinking with their Bris Milahs.

The Bais Yoiseph holds that the reason the Toirah repeats itself on the rule about witnesses is to warn us that if we hire two false witnesses to testify in our favor during a tax fraud hearing, we should always hire an extra witness, just in case one of the witnesses turns states evidence. He brings as proof the whole, strange Halacha of the Egla Arufa.

As the Toirah states, if an unidentified dead body is found between two towns, and a murderer is not identified, the elders of the towns must sacrifice a lamb as part of a proclamation of the towns' innocence. According to the Bais Yoiseph, this is clearly a situation involving a cover up, and the Toirah is encouraging you to have some false witnesses up your sleeve who are willing to testify against some unwitting scapegoat.

But the Hesech Hadaas (B. 1280 -- D. ?) states that the Egla Arufa has no link whatsoever to any other topic in Parshas Shoiftim. Indeed, he holds that the Egla Arufa really belongs in Shmois, following the drowning of the Egyptian Army in the sea. He holds that the Egla Arufa symbolizes the random victimhood that characterizes human existence. The Jews in Egypt. The Egyptians in the sea. Klal Yisroel. Amalek. Midian. Basically, all of humanity. According to him, the Egla Arufa is a reminder that life is one big crap shoot. One day you are lying on the beach with a beautiful woman at your side. The next day you are stuck in some Bais Medrish studying Gemarrah with a bearded guy named Laizer who hasn't quite figured out how to use deodorant and who showers once a week whether he needs to or not...

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoyo. Many years ago I was traveling to China with my Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. We were on a mission to determine if the messages in fortune cookies were written by a wise elder Kabbalist residing in inner Mongolia, or a seventeen year old complete ignoramus. As we traveled though the wilds of Lanzhou Province, we were approached by the army of the Communists, who were in the midst of their war against the Nationalist army. "Fight on our behalf, or die" we were told, the muzzles of their rifles pointed at our faces. I wanted to resist, but was reassured by my Rebbe that everything would turn out alright.

One evening, as the troops sat around the campfire drinking homemade slivovitz and eating General Tso's cocker spaniel, Reb Shmuley began a Niggun. He sang slowly at first, and more loudly as the Communist troops learned the tune and joined in. After 45 minutes, Reb Shmuley and I went to the side to Daven Maariv.

Suddenly the Nationalist forces launched a surprise attack against our comrades. But the spirit of Chairman Mao was upon us that day, and we repelled the capitalist dogs, routing them to the last man.

After the fighting subsided, Reb Shmuley and I were imprisoned for cowardice, since we Davened in our bunker throughout the battle. I asked Reb Shmuley, "Why does the Aimishteh punish us so? We were Davening, fulfilling His commandments, yet we are forced to suffer."

"Fool!" Reb Shmuley Boteach responded. "Do you think He hears our prayers? We are in the middle of freaking nowhere, surrounded by a billion pagans. What do you think He has, radar?"

Just as we were randomly punished, so too the Egla Arufa is a response to a random crime against an anonymous victim. Not so that the Aimishteh is mollified, but so that we can feel a little less guilty after rummaging through the dead man's pockets and stealing his wallet and personal effects.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, September 02, 2016

On Our Mindset in Elul


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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Dear Talmid,

As you may imagine, I have thousands of Talmidim around the world who based their lives on my Toirahdickah insights. However... I do occasionally get a but of negative feedback, even hate mail, via e-mail, blog post responses, and Facebook posts. And, I must confess, it upsets me so much that I cry myself to sleep, especially after a good whipping by one of my Dominatrix Talmidois.

But for fun, I wanted to share an anonymous response I received to last week's Drasha. It reads, "Your fake and silly attribution of a vulgar and , disgusting comment to R. Jonathan Rosenblatt is itself vulgar, disgusting, and not even funny. "

Oh my gosh. Is the reader offended that I made "a fake and silly attribution", or that I attributed the comment to RABBI Jonathan Rosenblatt, a man who was fired for unprofessional behavior around boys and young men, that involves showering together with them in very close quarters -- even minors!! -- and going to the steam room with them for "deep discussions".

So -- the reader has taken offense at silly satiric humor, but still honors a quasi-sex offender with the title of "rabbi"? Does the reader not find Rosenblatt's behavior "vulgar and disgusting"? I guess not...

Fucking moron.

Seriously, you people do not pay me enough to do this job.

Pinky

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On Our Mindset in Elul


Meyreh V'Rabboisai,

I have received numerous comments about my focus in recent Drashas on contemporary political issues. People are concerned that as a rabbi I have limited insight into nuclear weapon technology, Iran, Israel, the United States, Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Gentiles, anti-Semitism, etc. What they fail to understand in their ignorance is that my encyclopedic knowledge of the Gemarrah has prepared me for everything in life. That is why this morning I will be performing cardiac surgery, this afternoon I will be meeting with the leaders of the Federal Reserve Bank to discuss how to flag up the US and global economy in the wake of the precipitous slowdown of the Chinese economy, and this evening I will be replacing the transmission on my vintage Ford Town and Country station wagon with the artificial wood siding. And my critics should all of course go take a Flying Tashmish HaMitah.

However, it is Elul, and excessive focus on the external world is indeed a distraction from our internal souls, our Neshamas, at a time when we anticipate standing in front of the Reboinoisheloilum, the Sutun prosecutor, the angels, and The Three Stooges - Avraham ("Moe") Avunu, Yitchak (Larry) Avinu, and Yankif (Curly) Avinu, although Eisav ("Shemp") Avinu sometimes puts in an appearance. Moishe Rabbeinu will, of course, be at the roulette table, Aroin HaKoihain - the Minuval, will be at the blackjack table, and Duvid HaMelech will be in a private room playing high stakes poker.

It should be noted that not one of the judges, prosecutors, jurors or others at the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), which also includes Heavenly Guards, Celestial Bailiffs, and Holy Court Reporters, is a women. There is a reason for this: "Nashim Daason Kalois" - women have weaker minds. And vaginas. Therefore the recent experiment with teaching women Gemarrah should perhaps be reassessed. They demonstrate that they of simple minds have such a poor ability to understand Talmud, now they want to become Rabbis and take the jobs of some of the men... errr.... Want to lead other women astray from being barefoot and pregnant, which is what Hakadoshboruchhu intended.

We are so grateful to Rabbi Mordechai Willig for having shared this Chiddush. He wrote this a year ago in an article that has been celebrated the world over, usually by women burning an effigy of Rabbi Willig,

It is wonderful that Rabbi Willig is once again taking a critical leadership role in Klal Yisroel. Why, it is already 27 years since he allegedly blew the Bais Din assigned to evaluate the actions of Baruch Lanner. In was an unsuccessful Bais Din, essentially exonerating Lanner, who went on to sexually abuse young women and physically abuse young men for another ten years. Many believe that it was Willig who swayed the other judges to disregard the testimony of those students who spoke against Lanner.

And even this past week Rabbi Willig refused to sign a proclamation signed by over three hundred Modern Orthodox Rabbis, including many of the leaders of YU, the RCA, and the OU, calling for significant improvement in preventing sexual abuse of children in the Jewish community and aggressive engagement of law enforcement in addressing sexual abuse.

But I see no Stirah, no contradiction, here. Rabbi Willig clearly believes that it is acceptable for rabbis to sexually abuse women, just so long as they do not teach them Gemarrah.

I myself have been a big supporter of educating women in the ways of the Aimishteh/ Aibishter. That is why four years ago I opened my own Yeshiva for women, Y-CEF, Yeshivas Chippas Emmess for Females. Here the women learn Gemarrah, Mishnah Halacha, Machshavah, Kabbalah and Chassidus. However, in the spirit of the old Lithuanian Yeshivas, we do not teach them TANACH; the novels they are reading these days have much better sex scenes.

The role of an educator and rabbi is varied. We lead. We teach. We Paskin Shailois. I just Paskined on a leopard patterned thong. Either the woman was still seeing Mei Nidah, or the leopard had just gotten into a nasty fight with a wildebeest, Chass V'Sholom.

We also mentor. When the Mishnah teaches us "Asel Lechah Rav, U'Knai Lecha Chaver", this does not refer to Toirah scholarship; rather, it refers to living by example and finding the appropriate communal role models.

For me, that is an important component of my role. It was really at the top of my agenda when I opened the boy's yeshiva 35 years ago. I used to mentor the Buchrim in many ways. I would learn Toirah with them. Speak to them in my office. Go for kosher pizza or Starbucks with them. Play sports with them. Anything to bond with them. However, I did draw the line: One day one of the Buchrim, after a nice workout, suggested that we go take a shower together and sit in the Schvitz and talk a little. I told him "no thank you", as it says in the Gemarrah that a student should never see his rebbe naked, as it is not appropriate behavior. Besides, someone might see us and think we are gay, Chass V'Sholom.

However, seeing no conflict about someone potentially making that error when I mentor women, I regularly bond with some of my female students in all the ways mentioned above, plus, after a nice game of volleyball, I will take a shower with them. Nothing sexual, of course, after all I AM a rabbi! So we will stand inches away from each other, naked in the shower, dripping wet. Them we might wrap ourselves in towels and go to the Schvitz and talk about their careers, their aspirations, their boyfriends, and what makes them feel good after a long stressful day and a few glasses of wine.

Now, some people have suggested that my actions are very similar to those of Jonathan Rosenblatt, the former rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center. Rosenblatt, after revelations of his showering and naked Schvitzing with tens or hundreds of naked young men and boys as young as the age of twelve over the past twenty years or more, refused to step down from his pulpit, which resulted in a splitting of the Shul and, ultimately, a buy-out of Rosenblatt's contract, both of which have left the Shul on the verge of bankruptcy.

Well, my actions are quite different from his. His victims... errr... Talmidim are all males, and, consequently, they are prone to having long term effects of inappropriate exposure to an authority figure who exploited his position to engage in a form of sexual abuse. Abuse comes in many forms: Touching is just one of them, as is sexual penetration. But other forms include voyeurism and exhibitionism. Sexual abuse can simmer for years, so the "special male bonding" Rosenblatt initiated may only bear fruit years later, as some of his victims experience PTSD, professional and personal dysfunction, relationship problems, substance abuse, etc. later on in life.

However, my mentoring of women is not at all comparable. Women will not be subjected to PTSD and other post stress manifestations, since Nashim Daason Kalois, so their intellectual and emotional needs are, frankly, not of concern to Toiradickah Yidden. And, may I point out, at least I am not gay, Boruch HaShem.

So as we focus on our Ruchniyus, our individual spirituality, during this Choidesh of Elul, we need to step back from the news headlines and contemplate our own existential standing. Have we used our time wisely, focusing on becoming better human beings? Or have we behaved selfishly? Have we focused only on Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, commandments regarding the Divine and man, but not concerned ourselves with treating others with respect, or worrying about those less fortunate than us or different than us? Have we been arrogant and focused only on our egos? In other words, have we acted like Donald Trump?

Or have we also concerned ourselves with Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, commandments regarding man and man, helping the unfortunate, the poor, the single mothers, the widows and orphans, the socially isolated, the hungry, the weak, the victims of abuse, and the abandoned, and even those that do not look like us, act like us, share our religious beliefs, or share our sexual orientation? And have we made certain that in the process we do not humiliate or exploit them to satisfy our own egos or sexual desires?

There is a famous story about the Kutzker Rebbe. The Kutzker was teaching his Talmidim about the importance of modesty, chastity, and poverty in becoming closer to the Reboinoisheloilum. Suddenly, one of his Talmidim, Beryl Markovitz, came running into the Bais Medrish excitedly, declaring, "Rebbe, My family just won the lottery! We are no longer poor!"

To which the Kutzker replied, "you Beryl, and your entire family, are now Oisgefucked."

"Why would you say such a thing?" asked Beryl.

The Kutzker adjusted the Yarmulke on his head and responded slowly. "Berylchic, we enter this world naked and helpless. And we leave this world in shrouds and helpless. That is how Hakadoshboruchhu created us and wants us to be. If the Aimishteh wanted us to spend all of our waking hours collecting resources, focusing on Gashmiyus, materialism, He would have created us with pockets, like kangaroos."

Beryl understood the wisdom of his rebbe, and convinced his family to donate the entire lottery winnings to support the Kutzker's Yeshiva.

That Roish HaShana the Kutzker came before the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), and with the large donation in his pocket, was given a seat at Dovid HaMelech's private poker game. However, he lost the entire fortune in several hands, and, as is well known, shortly afterwards lost his mind and lived the last twenty years of his life isolated in one room in his home, watching reruns of Friends and Arrested Development.

Beryl, on the other hand, left the Yeshiva, shortened his last name and met a friend, Friederich Engels, with whom he collaborated on two books - The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. And every year he took the proceeds of his book sales and spent the entire Aseres Yemai Teshuvah as a paid guest at the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), where he sat next to Moishe Rabbeinu and had a lot of luck at the roulette wheel, especially when he bet on red.


Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess