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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Making Peace With Reality
I am writing this in my office within the White House, in my role as Senior Religious Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, SHLITA.
Товарищи, позвольте мне рассказать вам о последних событиях, происходящих в Белом доме.
Oops. Sorry. I meant to send that to someone else. Well, no one really. Please ignore it. My keyboard was broken. I have never spoken to Putin in my life. Or the Russian ambassador. Or any Russian, ever. Or anyone descended from a Russian. Shit, I haven’t ever spoken to my own mother because she is from Brighton Beach. Not once.
In any case, we are having a terrific level of impact in the White House over the last few weeks. The Tax Bill is a terrific achievement! We are cutting business taxes, and many residential taxes. Because of limits on the mortgage deduction, home owners in New York are likely to pay higher taxes. But that won’t impact Klal Yisroel, since everyone that I know has their house registered as a Shul. In fact, in my house back in Boro Park, after Maariv tonight we will be hosting Bingo Night sponsored by my Bashert Feigeh Breinah’s chapter of Amit Women - Ultra Orthodox Division, where all of the publications and material have had the faces of all the women blacked out.
Rabboisai, we just finished Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. The SHEISS-KUP asks an important Shailah - Why do we light candles and say Brachois about a magical miracle about the Staying Power of oil that only appears in a Braisah hundreds of years after the actual miraculous war for liberation of Judea in 160 BCE, knowing that the miracle story is likely a fictional legend?
The MALOMAR Shteyts a beautiful Vort: That the oil miraculously lasting eight days is a metaphor for the Staying Power of Klal Yisroel. Through exile and suffering, the Reboinoisheloilum stayed with us and sustained us. We even survived eight years of Oibama because Hakadoishboruchhu never abandoned us, other than His annual vacation to His Bungalow in the Catskills. The MALOMAR is of course known for using an eclectic mixture of influences from both Chassidic thought and Fox News in his Divrei Toirah.
I, the RAPAS, however, would like to interpret the miracle of the Chanukah candles in a different way. We must recall that CHAZAL had a great challenge facing them after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash by the Romans, and the disastrous Bar Kochba rebellion two generations later. They could not have a holiday focused on overthrowing a sovereign entity in the Land of Israel. So they de-emphasized the political struggle for independence that is at the core of Chanukah, and focused the holiday on a miracle story that addresses the personal challenge faced by many of us. And the miracle for each of us, the Chanukah message for all men in Klal Yisroel, is that though good deeds and the help of the Aimishteh, we have have Staying Power that is eight times the normal, as long as we use the right, ummm... special oil.
This special oil, by the way, is available at a low introductory rate of $99 per tube of the new: “Doc Schmeckel’s Chanuka Love Oil”, available in flavorless, jelly donut flavored, and latkah flavored. And believe me, your spouse or significant other will be singing along with you for hours, or your money back (minus shipping and handling charges, of course). And if you are one of the first hundred callers, we will give you a second tube of “Love Oil” for one dollar extra, and add a fur lined egg beater absolutely free as our gift to you.
The other big achievement for the Administration in the last few weeks, and a major personal achievement, I might add, is the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol. It is a Nais!!! It is a miraculous achievement! It signals that one country in the world finally recognizes the fact that Jerusalem IS Israel’s capitol.
Not that we care what the Goyim think, of course. Ever!
I want you beloved Talmidim to know that it was I, Rabbi Pinchas J. Schmeckelstein III, who lobbied the President on this issue, day in and day out. “Why is it so important?” the President kept asking. “The State Department keeps on telling me that this would be disruptive to the Peace Process, a robust process that is running so smoothly in the background you can hardly notice it is there. And the Arab countries warn me that it would force their hand to not make public peace with Israel, just as they were all lining up to sign peace agreements — any day now. In addition, our allies are against such a move. And the Israeli security establishment is worried about the possible violent repercussions. Maybe we should just wait?”
And I would look at the President and say, “Mr. President, the State Department are all a bunch of anti-Semites. The Arab countries - anti-Semites. Our ally countries - anti Semites. The Israeli security establishment - anti Semites!!! You, Mr. President, can be a catalyst for change!” We had this discussion again and again, but President Trump would not budge. Until I came up with the magical argument that finally convinced him. “Dad... errr... Mr. President, think of the property values, they will shoot way up. Plus I think we can get the Israelis to rename the Kotel area as ‘The Trump Plaza’.” That sealed the deal.
Next, I will start lobbying President Trump to recognize the Palestinians as a species of flightless migratory birds, and then all of Klal Yisroel’s problems will magically go away.
I am reminded of a beautiful story about the Baal Shem Toiv. The BESHT was once traveling to a border town between Ukraine and Russia when he came to a Shul on Friday night. Already famous, members of the Community greeted him effusively outside the Shul. But when they asked him to come in and Daven, the BESHT refused, stating that the Shul was too full for him.
“But Rebbe”, one of the younger community members protested, “there is barely a Minyan in there, and we would like you to join us for Kabbalas Shabbos”.
“I am not talking about people. There is a lot trapped in there.”
The young man looked with wonder at the BESHT, as if a light bulb turned on in the man’s head. “Do you mean to say that we are Davening without Hisboidedus, without real feeling and passion, so that our prayers are trapped in the Shul because they are not reaching Shamayim?” asked the townsman. “What a beautiful Vort, Rebbe, We will change our ways!”
“Errrrr.... yeah. That’s kind of what I mean. Right!”, replied the Baal Shem Toiv. “Sure. good job!!”
This is the version of the story that most people know. But my Alter Zeidy, who was himself a descendant of the BESHT, told me the lost remainder of the story.
That night the Baal Shem Toiv went to bed after having a light dinner an the inn, followed by a big slice of Ukrainian Lime Pie. Once settled in the bed, he began to meditate. And then the Rebboinoisheloilum came to him in a vision.
“BESHTELEH, Voos Machst Dee?” (“Beloved BESHT, what’s up my Brother?) asked Hakadoshboruchhu.
“Well, I am feeling guilty. I told those guys that the synagogue was full and that I could not go in. They came up with some wacky religious interpretation, and I did not want to shake their faith. But that little Shul smelled like one massive fart. I could not breathe.”
“BESHTELEH, Di Bigast Rukhniusdikkah Emmes Vos Ir Darfn Tsu Gedenken Iz: Shit Happens. Aumetum. Aun Mir Alleh Hobn Tsu Makhn Shalum Mit Im, Afilu Aoyb Mir Hobn Tsu Bakumen Tsu Dem Umbakvemkayt. Mir Zol Afilu Arumnemen Es.” (“Beloved BESHT, the biggest spiritual truth that you need to remember is: Shit happens. Everywhere. And we all have to make peace with it, even if we have to get used to the discomfort. We should even embrace it.”)
And the BESHT knew then what he had to do.
The next morning the BESHT showed up for Shabbos morning Davening. Pesukai D’Zimrah. Barchu. Kriyas Shma. The Amidah. Leyning.
During the HafToirah, he snuck out with the Kiddish Club and had some Slivovitz and Cholent. And, almost magically, he no longer hated the aroma, he began to like it, and to contribute his own. What was once foreign and uncomfortable was now natural and a part of the essence of the little Shul.
The BESHT knew that peace meant recognizing that the Tzelem Eloikim, the Divine spark, exists in everyone. Even in humans that do not look like us, sound like us, eat the same foods as us, or smell like us. Societies may clash, but the diversity of peoples and cultures is the ultimate human commonality.
And you must know that that town was actually the town of Mezeritch, And that young man who engaged in dialogue with the Baal Shem Toiv outside the Shul was none other than Doiv Bear, who would later become the BESHT’s principal follower known to the world as the Maggid of Mezeritch.
Rabboisai - This is an important lesson for all of us, not just in the religious and political realms. The world was created with its imperfections. Society has its imperfections. Our everyday lives have their imperfections. Jewish history is filled with, perhaps defined by, its imperfections. We of course are tasked with trying to repair those imperfections by recovering the holy sparks, the Nitzoitzin, from the dross, the unholy broken shards of cosmic existence. But we must also come to terms with the imperfections of the broader world, and in our own lives. For if we spend all of our time contemplating what is wrong, we will never appreciate what is good.
And when we do Mitzvois to rescue the holy sparks, and we also accept that not all imperfections will go away, and we make peace with them, we bring about the Geulah, the redemption. Perhaps for the entire world, perhaps for Klal Yisroel, perhaps just for ourselves, or, perhaps, for a single innocent Tzaddik... such as Shalom Rubashkin.
Yes, I am responsible for that one too. Many hours were spent persuading President Trump on that one. So please send me your checks so I can keep up my good work. And if you act now, I’ll toss in a couple of samples of “Doc Schmeckel’s Chanuka Love Oil” as a free gift.
BiMehairah BiYameinu. Umayn.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess