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Thursday, June 22, 2017

On Unity and Division in Klal Yisroel

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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On Unity and Division in Klal Yisroel


Rabboisai.

I am writing a special Drasha for you this week in light of the current circumstances in Klal Yisroel.

I was eating a salad yesterday that I bought from a Glatt Koisher restaurant when I ran into one of my colleagues, Rabbi Herschel Schachter, who suggested that because there was broccoli in my salad, and broccoli may contain microscopic bugs, I am like Zimri Ben Salu HaShimoinee, leading to a perversion of Klal Yisroel. And only he, in the role akin to Pinchas Ben Eliezer, has the courage to halt my sinful actions by disemboweling me with a spear through my midriff.

I responded to Reb Herschel that by pointing out such an inconsequential Narishkeit, he is like Yeruvum Ben Nevat, splintering Israel into a separate communities, and in doing so is creating false idols reminiscent of the Kruvim on top of the Aroin HaKoidesh, only with larger Schvantzyls. And I suggested that Hakadoishboruchhu is destined to take His revenge on Reb Herschel and his male descendants, probably by ruining their Tzitzis in the washing machine and by making their Shmaasers wilt on Mitzvah night.

Rabboisai, we are living at a time when Achdus Yisroel Einenah, the unity of Israel is no more. Once upon a time Klal Yisroel stood united around Har Sinai to receive the Toirah from Hakadoshboruchhu. There was thunder. There was lightning. There was music. U2 opened, followed by Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Then came Lady Gaga and Lipa Shmeltzer. Then Joe Cocker and the Miami Boys Choir, followed by the Toronto Pirchei. And then Jimi Hendrix brought down the house with his psychedelic guitar rendition of "Zarah Chayah V’Kayamah".

After saying "Na'aseh V'Nishmah" Am Yisroel waited together for Moishe Rabbeinu to ascend the mountain, and stayed encamped at the base of Har Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. Klal Yisroel was connected as never before. Men learned Toirah all night. Women recited Tehilim. Kids played card games. The was hookah. Local Sinaitic Besomim were passed around, and lots of Leytzonois V’Simcha Dioraisa, A.K.A. LSD. Free love reigned. Six months later thousands of couples got married, Boruch Hashem. And three month after that thousands of babies were born, Kenayna Hurrah! It was a time of peace, love, and understanding, Man!!!

But not today. Look around at the divisiveness that defines Klal Yisroel:

The secular in Israel are trying to force their evil will upon the Ultra Orthodox by compelling the Chareidim to contribute to the State through participating in military or national service and pursuing employment. The Ultra Orthodox are resisting a change in the status quo and believe that due to their Toirah study and piety, they are entitled to have large families, be exempt from the army, refrain from secular education, and be supported by the State that most of them are ideologically opposed to.

The progressive Orthodox are trying to expand the role of women within traditional frames of reference, while the traditional Orthodox are opposed to innovation, and see such changes as outside the scope of tradition.

In Israel, the left seeks to make territorial concessions in exchange for a political arrangement with the Palestinians. The right seeks to preserve Jewish sovereignty over the traditional territories identified with ancient Israel.

We are at odds with each other as never before. There is tension. There is political debate. There are street demonstrations. There is name calling. And there are lots of discussions on Facebook, at least among the people who apparently have nothing better to do all day.

Is there not one thing we can all agree upon that unites us? Why cannot Klal Yisroel be perfectly united the way we were throughout our 4000 year history?

I mean... Of course throughout there might have been the occasional internal disagreement...

-- As noted above, the Kingdom of Israel in the north split from the Kingdom of Judah in the South. The Toirah suggests that political ambition led to the split. Biblical scholars suggest that the split resulted from exploitation, forced labor policies and other inequalities implemented by the HaMelech Shloimoih on the northern tribes of the Israelite confederation. I guess the wise King Solomon was not so Reboinoisheloilum-damned smart after all. And the Metzudas Tziyoin suggests that the north split off because they thought their cable bill was too high, plus they wanted a better selection of TV channels.

-- Within the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, there was an ongoing theological competition between the supporters of the Aimishteh, AKA Yahweh, and the supporters of the pagan pantheon. Even King Shlomo introduced idolatry into the Bais HaMikdash. But on the plus side, according to the Medrish Tanchuma, he also built a health club for the Koihanim within the Bais Hamikdash itself, which included cardio vascular equipment, a weight room, and a Svitz. But the Koihanim were always angry that they had to pay extra to use a trainer or get a massage.

-- Hillel must have thought that Shammai was a total ass. I mean, they disagreed on EVERYTHING, and Hillel typically won all the arguments. And yet, they sat together on the Sanhedrin as one of “The Pairs”, convening the institution on a daily basis. (A Yerushalmi in Brachois tells us that despite their differences, they were regular Sunday morning racquetball teammates, and they participated in a weekly poker game with Reb Elazar Ben Azariah, Elisha Ben Abuyah AKA Acher, and Ben Heyhey.)

-- Other famous “debaters” of the Talmidic period include Rabbi Yehuda and Reb Jose, Rav and Shmuel, and Abaya and Rava. To the best of my knowledge, none ever referred to the other as Koirach, although in a heated moment Rava did once say to Abaya, “hey, buddy, your wife looks like “a Persian howler monkey, and not one of the cute ones”.

-- RASHI, perhaps the ultimate commentary on the Toirah and a critical commentary on the Talmud, is ceaselessly debated and challenges by Toisfois, a broad school of scholars that followed in his footsteps in Western and Central Europe, some of who were his own grandsons. And did he express disappointment in their constant Minuvaldickah arguments on minutiae? Well, he might have, but he was dead. Kind of hard to debate or to deliver a Psak Halacha from the grave. Unless you are the Lubavitcher Rebber

-- The RAMBAN debates ceaselessly with the RAMBAM, considered by many to be the single most influential Jewish thinker since Jesus….errr…. since Rabbi Akiva.

And so on…

And what were these people debating about? Theoretical topics about the color of Moishe Rabbeinu’s Yarmulke? The number of goats that Yankif Avinu had? Whether the world is 6,000 years old or 6 billion years old? NO, YOU MECHUTZIFF! They were debating practical matters: What type of Tefillin should people wear -- RASHI or Rabbeinu Tam? What constitutes acceptable activities on Shabboskoidesh? What Bracha do you make on strawberry ice cream? Etc.

And in our own day we have considerable variation on core religious practices. For example:

-- Different Nusachichim of Davening/ variants of prayer – Between Ashkenaz, Sephard, Nusach Ari/ Lubavitch, Sephardi/ Edot HaMizrach, Roman, Yemenite

-- Yoim Toiv Shaynee Shel Goliyois versus one day of Yuntif in Eretz Yisroel

-- Chassidic practice versus Misnagdischeh practice

-- Kitniyois eaten by Sephardim

-- Gebruchts eaten by Misnagdim

So diversity is built into the culture of Klal Yisroel! There are different Minhagim. There are even different approached to Halachah. And to this the Gemarrah says, “Ilu V’Ilu Diverei Eloikim Chaim ”, alternate positions in a debate are all expressions of the living Reboinoisheloilum.

So if diversity is so inherent in our culture, why have contemporary debates deteriorated into pugilistic name calling and physical protests?

I am reminded of a Ma’aseh Shehoya. The Volna Goyn was once Davening for the Umid on the Yahrtzeit for his poodle. As he was about to recite Kedushah, a group of Chassidim came into the Shul to protest. The Gruh immediately stepped out of his Chazaras HaShatz and called the Czar’s police to arrest the Chassidim for loitering.

That night Hakadoshboruchhu came to him in a dream. “What did you have those Chassidim arrested?” asked the Aimishteh.

“Because they are perverting Your religion” replied the Gruh.

“MY RELIGION!?” screamed the Reboinoisheloilum. “Dude, I am a Hindu, for My-sakes. Plus I love the Payis.”

And from that day forth, the Goyn stopped persecuting the Chassidim and started persecuting the Reformed.

Rather than focusing on issues of true importance, the Jewish community has become self-absorbed as never before. Perhaps the existence of a modern State of Israel has exacerbated a hunger for political and economic power. Perhaps the advent of news and social media has created a quest on the part of some for controlling ideas, beliefs, and practices.

But we are not a group of former slaves camped out at Har Sinai waiting for the Good Word from On High. We have the power to think for ourselves. The Jewish ghetto of Eastern Europe is no more. And those that try to recreate it in our modern society are bound to fail, because there is not now, nor has there ever been, a singular Jewish doctrine. “Toirah Lo BaShamayim Hee.” “Ilu V’Ilu Diverei Eloikim Chaim.”

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, June 16, 2017

Parshas Shlach

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN


http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky
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Rabboisai,

Before I deliver my weekly Drasha, I would like to respond to several comments sent my way over the last two weeks. "Why" people have asked, "have you not published in the last two weeks? Have you become a Meshumid, or even worse, a Reform Jew?"

Well, truth be told, there is a simple answer: I WORK FOR A LIVING!!

And do you know why? Because you, my beloved Talmidim, are a bunch of good-for-nothing Mamzerim! How many of my books have you bought? How much have you contributed to my Yeshivah? It breaks my heart, especially when I read about the great wealth accumulated by several charlatans... err... great Rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/forbes-presents-the-richest-rabbis-in-israel-1.435748

http://www.forbes.co.il/rating/list.aspx?en6v0tVq=EE

Rebboinoisheloilumdammit! I expect you Talmidim to be buying my books and sending me checks left and right so can make this list next year!

Otherwise I will no longer pray to Hakkadoshboruchhu on your behalf, hand out magical amulets, or give out Red Bendeleh strings to wear around your Schvantzyls (or your wrists, if you are a woman, Chass V'Sholom). Instead, I will daven for you to have erectile dysfunction or sagging Tzitzim.

Pinky

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Parshas Shlach

This week's parsha, Shlach Lecha, is one of the most confusing Parshiyois in Kol Hatoirah Kooloh. Takkah, I had to read it three times to make sure it wasn't the latest issue of the National Enquirer. Or even worse, a Medrish.

Moishe Rabbeinu sends twelve spies into Eretz Yisroel to determine the fertility of the land, the vulnerability of the local populations, and the volatility of interest rates. The Meraglim come back and claim at first that the land is fertile, but the locals are too intimidating. They later change their story to say that the land itself does not provide adequate sustenance. Why can't they make up their minds, those Mishagayim? Only Yehoshua and Culayv are optimistic about Klal Yisroel’s ability to conquer the land.

Confusing point #1: What could these people have been thinking? I mean, why would Yehoshua and Culayv be interested in Eretz Yisroel? How about Madagascar? Or Dubai? What about Miami Beach? Or Brooklyn?

Also, as the spies were surveying the Promised Land, why didn't the Meraglim note that the hotels are overpriced; the people are rude; it's hard to find a decent kosher meal in Tel Aviv; oh, and HALF THE POPULATION WANTS TO FREAKING KILL YOU!!!!

Takkah, according to a Medrish in Divrei Hayamim Rabbah, the Meraglim never even made it into the heartland of Eretz Yisroel. Unbeknownst to Moishe Rabbeinu and the Bnei Yisroel, the spies secretly went down to Eilat and spent seven days on the beach ogling at the topless Scandinavian women.

Confusing point #2: When Klal Yisroel, those Behaimas, panic and long to return to Egypt, the Reboinoisheloilum decides to kill them all. Moishe Rabbeinu pleads for their lives by using a somewhat surprising argument: (Bamidbar, Perek Yud Daled, Possuk Tess Vuv-Tess Zayin) “... if you (the Aimishteh) shall destroy this People in a single instance, the nations (of the world) which have heard of you will say, 'Hakadoishboruchhu slaughtered this People in the desert because He was unable to bring them into the Land which he swore to them...'"

In other words, "What will the Goyim say?"

What will the Goyim say?!!! Who does Moishe think he is – Bibi Netanyahu or Ivanka Trump? Since when does Moishe Rabbeinu worry about the Goyim? Since when does any Jew worry about the opinions of the Goyim, those anti-Semites? Why, as is well known, in the world to come, the GOOD Goyim will walk around all day holding onto my Tzitzis. And the BAD Goyim are going to be my "bitches", since, according to the Ari Zahl, when Moshiach comes there will no longer be a prohibition of Mishkav Zachar.

No wonder Moishe was never let into Eretz Yisroel! If he likes the Goyim so much, he should learn to play golf and shave with a blade.

The RAIVID, when looking at this episode, suggests that Moishe was secretly trying to anger Hakkadoshboruchhu in order to be released from his contract. The Mesopotamians were offering him 50% more per year to be their leader, six weeks of vacation, plus unlimited use of the corporate magic carpet.

However, the RAMBAN holds that Moisheh made the defensive argument in earnest. And, remarkably, the Aimishteh ultimately relented and did not destroy Klal Yisroel (although He did raise management fees by 50 basis points).

What is going on here? I am reminded of a famous story in Gemarrah Yevumois about Rabbi Tarfun. Once, at the end of a three day Yuntif, Rabbi Tarfun went to put out the last of his garbage bags. However, he found that all the garbage cans outside of his house were full. He was about to put the bags into the cans of his Gentile neighbors, when his wife stopped him, and insisted that he get permission first. "Why?" he asked her, as she painted the toe nails of their thirteen daughters.

She responded, "you never know when you are going to need a Gentile's help." And it came to pass that three weeks later, as he tried to assemble his children’s' new swing set, the Gentile next door was the only person in the entire neighborhood who knew how to change the head of a socket wrench.

This theme is also addressed in a famous story in the Zoihar. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was sitting in the cave where he hid from the Romans for 14 years. After spending an afternoon meditating, Rabbi Shimon fell asleep. Using his deep Kabbalistic knowledge and the pureness of his soul, he summoned the presence of the Reboinoisheloilum. "What do you want, Reb Shimon? I'm on another call," Hakkadoshboruchhu asked.

"Aimishteh," Rabbi Shimon responded, "I am getting tired of living in this filthy cave. Can you please take me away from all this suffering, and reward me with land and wealth and lots of spare time for Toirah and day trading? Why do the Goyim have it so good, while I, one of your chosen few, continue to struggle?"

The Reboinoisheloilum paused for a moment, and then responded in a low monotonous tone that was little above a whisper. "Reb Shimon, how many people in the world are there?" He asked.

"Why, about six billion" Rabbi Shimon slowly responded.

Hakkadoshboruchhu continued. "And how many Jews are there in the world?"

Again, Rabbi Shimon answered, this time quickly, and with more confidence in his voice. "I would guess about twenty million."

The Aimishteh then raised His voice. "So do you think that in a world of six billion people, all reality revolves around the actions and the fate of 20 million people, three tenths of one percent of the global population? What kind of reefer are you smoking in that cave, you Michutziff??"

So the truth is, whether we like it or not, world opinion does matter. This may not make sense to you, you Am Haaretz, but neither does Shatnez or yeshiva tuition.

It also doesn't make sense that after witnessing all of the miracles of the exodus from Egypt, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, and receiving the Toirah, Klal Yisroel continues to rebel against the Reboinoisheloilum at every turn. But they should get over it already, and so should you.

Life doesn't make sense. And if you don't like it, you can always quit the religion and convert to Hinduism. Reboinoisheloilum knows there are a lot more of them. 

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

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