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Friday, January 26, 2018

NEW: Dayenu

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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky
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NEW: Dayenu


Rabboisai,

I have no sense of humor this week. No silly sophomoric jokes. No rabbinical quotes, real or faux. 

I am a little tired of all of your Reboinoisheloilum-damned complaining about Yeshivah tuition. Really people. Just suck it up. Or send your kids to public school. Or move to Israel. Do something besides complaining. Seriously. 

You were fortunate enough to have been born a Jew. Do you know what that means? YOU were granted the Toirah at Har Sinai. YOUR Neshama was there. Your ancestors were led out of Egypt. They walked through the wilderness and were given the Promised Land. They settled there and were granted one, then two separate kingdoms. They were given the Bais Hamikdash!!! Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

But the first kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians and its citizens were sent into exile. Then the second kingdom was defeated by the Babylonians and its inhabitants were sent into exile. Then the Persians conquered the Babylonians. Then your ancestors were granted the right to return to the Holy Land and were given autonomy by the Persians. And they were granted the right to build a second Bais Hamikdash. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

But the Greeks came and Hellenic culture began to corrupt the Judean society and the Priesthood. And the Chashmonaim rose up to create a true, free, independent Judean Country for your ancestors to live and worship as free men and women. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

But then the Chashmonaim usurped the Kehuna, the Priesthood, and then established their own Malchus, their own kingdom. And your ancestors now lived under corrupt Judean leadership. They even called in the Romans to halt a civil war and bring peace. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

But your ancestors wanted it all: Freedom from Jewish oppression and freedom from Roman oppression. So they fought a civil war and two wars of rebellion against the Romans, both lost, with the Second Temple destroyed and Jews banned from living in Jerusalem. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

But then a Jew by the name of Yushka inspired a movement that paved a new sensibility around the world, and your ancestors were not viewed as the origin and people of Yushka, but, rather, as his oppressors and his murderers. And they had to run into exile throughout the four corners of the earth, settling for a century or two of peace and acceptance before the next wave of persecution. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

But every time they were attacked and expelled, the survivors ran and found new homes. And it lasted for one or two or three hundred years. And Toirah study and Jewish thought blossomed. Rather than disappear under the blade of persecution, intellectual Jewish thought flourished, influenced by the great disruptions and the contemporary evolving non-Jewish thought and culture. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And then Jews began to be accepted. First Spinoza abandoned Toirah to create a model for ethical humanism. Then Mendelssohn enriched Toirah by blending it with modern thought, and slowly Jews began to achieve social equality in Western Europe. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And then came the grand experiment... America!! The trickle of arrivals in the new land from the Sephardic lands of Europe was followed by a steady flow from Ashkenaz, and then a flood from the impoverished Pale of Settlement in Russia, Poland, Belarus Ukraine, etc. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And in parallel the great Lithuanian rabbinic schools emerged along with Chassidism and the Haskalah and Communism, and the early settlement of the ultra-Orthodox pioneers and the impoverished victims of pogroms and poverty began in Eretz Yisroel, followed by the birth of Jewish Nationalism. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And then came the tumultuous transition of Europe from kingdoms and aristocracy to a realignment of powers and allies in WWI, that included the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine and the ascent of British rule and the Balfour Declaration. The Jewish settlers drained the swamps, but the indigenous Arabs began to resent the Jewish influx, and Arab-Jewish strike and counter strike grew, from isolated communal violence to armed, warring camps, with Jews armed and empowered to strike back. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And then came 1933. And 1939. And 1941. The unthinkable. The indescribable. Expulsion and loss of rights followed by public persecution. Then invasion. Every town and village and city. Many gathered in ghettos. Then came the mass murders, thousands of them, in the towns and villages where your ancestors lived, lined up naked at pits with bullets put in their heads, to be followed by the next group and the next group and the next. Others were put on trains with the promise of relocation, only to be but on a line where they were sent to the left or the right, the left or the right, the left or the right, day after day, day after day. Six million or more. Your parents and your grandparents and your great grandparents and your cousins and their cousins and their cousins, and some whole families and communities left with no one to remember them. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough. 

Shouldn’t that have been enough?

And then the war ended, and the refugees rebuilt their lives, sometimes where they were, and often when they could escape to, the grand experiment of America, the New Jewish State, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, Australia. Mourning the dead and building new lives and communities. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And you now sit in your bourgeois homes and communities in Israel and America and Western Europe and everywhere where Jews reside. You fight over whether women should have equality in the synagogue. You ignore or cover up sexual abuses because they are “inconvenient truths”. You argue over whether and how Israel should make peace with its neighbors. You stay in your own community and mock the next community. You eat in expensive restaurant and view your hard-earned equality as a form of superiority above others, both Jew and gentile. You make partner with white supremacists because it is politically expedient, because someone named Trump publicly acknowledges a fact on the ground, without pondering the price of your pandering and self-deceit. You mock the immigrant, and forget that your parents or grandparents or great grandparents were poor, uneducated immigrants too. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And then you argue about Yeshiva tuition. You want Jewish children, but the costs are prohibitive, and the aggregate community has other priorities, such as the next settlement in Israel or the next self-aggrandizing facade. Meanwhile, in other communities you deny basic education and perpetuate a cycle of poverty, based on a twisted corruption of the history of pre-war Eastern Europe. Had it only been those things, then Dayenu! That would have been enough.

And I too am guilty of much of the above. We all are.

Reboinoisheloilum, when will it be enough?

If we are indeed the Chosen People, when will it be enough? 

When will we stop fighting amongst ourselves? 

When will be able to stop fighting others? 

When will it be enough?

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Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

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