Subscribe To My Weekly Drasha

Send a message to with the word "subscribe"

Friday, January 05, 2018

NEW: Parshas Shmois Drasha

To subscribe, send an e-mail to NPOJ8@YAHOO.COM with the word "Subscribe"





NEW: Parshas Shmois Drasha


I would like to start this week’s Drasha by reminding you that we have started a new Sefer with this week’s Toirah reading, Sefer Shmois. I know you probably forgot, as you were likely checking out the talent in the Ezras Nashim last week while the rest of the Shul shouted together “Chazak Chazak VeNisschazayk!!”. You Mechutziff!

I always found it ironic that Sefer Beraishis, a single book, covers history from the dawn of creation, four billion years ago... err... six thousand years ago, rather, but then is followed by four long, action packed books that primarily focus on Yetzias Mitzrayim - the exodus from Egypt - and the wandering of Klal Yisroel in the Midbar, roughly a period of forty years.

What’s Pshat? Avraham Avinu was not as important as Moishe Rabbeinu? Yankif Avinu wasn’t as important as Aharon HaCoihain, the Minuval? Miriam wasn’t as nasty and deceptive as Rivkah Imainu?

Seriously, shouldn’t the Toirah have taught us a bit more about the hooliganism... err... acts of Chessed of the Shvatim and a bit less about the colors of the paint on the undersides of the bolts used for holding the Mishkan together on the second Tuesday in Sivan in an Ibbur Yuhr?Couldn’t we have had a bit more action that would justify a sequel to Sefer Beraishis? Maybe we could have had a little Mishkav Zachor between Adam HaRishoyn and the snake? Maybe we could learn a bit about the cruise entertainment on Noach’s Teyvah? Were there featured singers and comedians? Were there plumbing issues. Maybe Avraham Avinu ultimately decides to slaughter someone else’s son? Maybe the Shvatim could have sold another of their brothers into slavery in place of some of the laws the Baal Koireh Leyns from the Toirah ad nauseam as we are trying to have a good conversation with our friends?

Rabboisai, this is indeed the opposite question than what is posed by RASHI when he asks why the Toirah does not start with the first Mitzvah in the Toirah instead of feeding us Bubbah Maisahs about talking snakes, towers built into the sky, and several generations of brothers who constantly try to screw each other over.

The RASHBA responds to RASHI, noting that Sefer Beraishis is included as the first Sefer Toirah specifically to warn us to never trust any of our brothers, whether they come from different mothers, or are even hairy identical twins. Our brothers will screw us over every time, so we better make like Yankif Avinu and steal from our brothers first and run away at the first possible moment. The RASHBA notes that this understanding of Beraishis is critical in order for us to comprehend why it is that Moishe Rabbeinu leads Klal Yisroel out of Egypt, through the desert, and to the brink of the Promised Land, but Aharoin HaCoihain, Moishe’s back stabbing brother, gets the Kehunah for his descendants for all eternity. Instead of trying to read his compass while wandering the desert, Moishe should have taken a half hour to review the lessons of Beraishis and made sure that Aharoin, tea Menuval, mysteriously “disappeared” while searching for his golf balls in the sand trap at the Sinai Desert Classic.

But the Sifsei Chachamim hold Farkert. LeOilum, in reality, Beraishis teaches us absolutely nothing about relationships between brothers. Rather, Sefer Beraishis warns us about nasty wives and mothers. Sarah Imainu forces Avraham Avinu to send Hagar and Yishmael to die in the desert. Rivka Imainu prompts Yankif Avinu to lie to his blind father, steal his brother Eisav’s birthright, and borrow his father’s Lexis without permission. And Rochel and Leah: Where do I start? Let’s just say that the subsequent Halacha against one man marrying two sisters was inspired by this very bad idea...

But the RAMBAN holds that Sefer Beraishis is actually a critical preface to the remaining four books of the Toirah. Sefer Beraishis begins with the creation of the world. The sky. The water. The land. Trees. Insects. Animals. Human beings. But missing from either of the two creation stories at the beginning of the Sefer: Any reference to Klal Yisroel. The world is created by the Aibishter for the benefit of all of its creations. Even when we talk about the Avois and Imahois, we see them living side by side with others, in coexistence. Avram Avinu teams up with four kings to take on five other kings in a game of full court basketball. Egypt, Mitzrayim, is a place of refuge that opens its doors to others, to refugees, during a time of famine. In sum, the world is a place that seeks harmony. I am so inspired by this notion, that If you were here right now, you Vilda Chaya, I would give you a hug.

However, Sefer Shmois begins with a very different view of the world. The open door policy of Egypt accepting Klal Yisroel with open arms turns into enslavement. A Pharoah arises that “knows not Yoseph”; instead of coexistence we have the opposite: Oppression. Antagonism. Hostility.

Says the RAMBAN, if the Toirah only began with Sefer Shmois, we would believe that the world was created for Klal Yisroel and Klal Yisroel only. We would believe that other human beings do not count. We would believe that other elements of the Reboinoisheloilum’s creations - the sky and water and the animals - are unimportant. We would believe that the world is solely ours for the taking. In other words, we would be Republicans.

But, according to the RAMBAN, Sefer Beraishis serves as a counterbalance to the rest of Chamishei Chumshei Toirah. Sefer Beraishis reminds us that all humanity was created in Hakadoishbiruchhu’s image, even you, you Minuval. If Sifrei Shmois, Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim teach us the importance of safeguarding our own Yiddisheh society, Sefer Beraishis reminds us that we are not alone on this earth. The eagle and the heron are our brothers (five points if you identify the reference). The Bnei Yishmael are our cousins. And Hagar, Bilhah and Zilpah are hot Shiksas that we can shack up with, as long as our wives agree. In other words, Sefer Beraishis reminds us that it is OK to be Reform Jews. Or even Democrats, Chass V’Shalom.

I am reminded of a beautiful Maiseh Shehoya about the Chernobler Rebbe. The Chernobled was giving Shirayim to his Chassidim on a Friday night. He was taking scoops of potato kugel with his hands and tossing them down to his Chassidim sitting around the long table, moving clockwise. As he made his way around the table, he noticed that the next person in line to receive the Shirayim was not a Chassid, but the Shul’s handyman and groundskeeper Piotr Christianovitch. Without hesitation, he scooped up the next bit of potato kugel and tossed it to Piotr.

Afterwards, his key aide, Reb Menachem Shmaaser, asked him, “Rebbe, how come you have a piece of the holy kugel to the groundskeeper. Isn’t that wasting some of the divine blessing on a non-Jew.”

A big smile emerged on the Chernobler’s face, and put his arm around Reb Menachem and have him a hug. He then walked him towards the front door of the Shul, and in an unexpected mood, shoved Reb Menachem out the door, into the frigid -20 degree weather.

“Tell me Reb Menachem”, the Chernobler mockingly asked, “how does it feel outside without the Shabbos Goy to turn on the heat? Do you think that Klal Yisroel can do that ourselves? We cannot even change a light bulb.”

Reb Menachem responded. “What’s the big deal about turning on the heat. It’s not like if I did it wrong it can cause a nuclear accident...”

And so, Rabboisai, as we begin Sefer Shmois, let us remember the words “Chazak Chazak VeNisschazeyk”. Our strength is not only grounded in our community, but is also grounded in our collaboration and coexistence with the broader world.


Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

1 comment:

Mair Hyman said...

Of course, brilliant, Rebbe.

Beautifully written and funny. Inspiring.

With humour and derision you hit it on the head once again.