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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
First, I must acknowledge all the people who reached out to me last Sunday. Phone calls. Faxes. E-Mails. Fundraising letters. "Why was there no drasha from Rabbi Schmeckelstein for Shabboskoidesh?" they all asked.
You would think that with all the Toirah on the Internet you could find a substitute for a week. Perhaps a Dvar Toirah from Aish Hatoirah. Or a Vort from Har Etzion. (But don't bother looking for an e-mail from Chofetz Chaim. They don't believe in computers. I'm not even sure they know how to read and write.)
Well, truth be told, you Amha'aretz, I was doing research for the commentary on this week's Parsha, Bahaloischa. This Parsha, no less than any other in the Toirah, is all about rebellion, primarily against the Aimishteh. The Bnei Yisroel complain about the poor menu selection in the Midbar. Moishe rebels against the Reboinoisheloilum when asked why Klal Yisroel is rebelling. Aron Hacoihain, the Minuval, and Miriam Haneviyah, the Yentah, also rebel by seeking to share the limelight of leadership with Moishe, or at least receive an equivalent number of stock options with a very low strike price.
What is it about human nature that causes us to rebel, even against the Melech Malchei Hamelachim Hakadoshboruchhu, who, according to the Kabbalistic teachings of the Ari Zahl, can easily crush you with his Almighty, oversized feet? (According to the Vilna Goyn, the Aimishteh wears size 613 Nikes, but according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, He wears size 770 Skechers.)
In order to get to the heart of the matter, I traveled to Latin America, the Middle East and Western Europe to try to develop an understanding of the very basic nature of rebellion.
In Latin America, I met with countless rebel movements. They each claimed to be largely motivated by a lack of economic equity and opportunity, compounded with a feeling of being locked out of their political systems. In addition, they were clearly impacted by excessively spicy food. (Voos iz givehn an Enchilada?)
In the Middle East, those Anti-Semitic, Jew Hater, Arafat loving, Soinay Yisroels sitting in the opposition with their big hats and long, luxurious Payis, as well as the current Knesset coalition members, tend to agree that the essence of rebellion is a natural response mechanism motivated by the ever changing human condition, as well as the ever-important financial support given to the Ultra Orthodox sector, despite them not serving in the army or paying taxes, and all the while multiplying like bunny rabbits wearing Shtreimels.
In the Arab world, the sense of rebellion, which is manifested through ongoing civil wars and general unrest, as well as continued anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment, is driven by an overall deep frustration over a lack of freedom of expression, a lack of political self determination, a lack of economic equity, and a lack of political access.
Finally, in Western Europe, the rebellious human tendency is driven by a sense of too much freedom of expression, too much political self determination, too much economic equity and too much political access.
In other words, the only common theme is that everyone is basically unhappy.
According to Rabbeinu Tam, the general malaise of the human spirit emanates from a lack of rules and boundaries. Says the Rabbeinu Tam, this is why Klal Yisroel received the Toirah, have Halachah, and are therefore perfect AND BETTER THAN THE GOYIM!
But the Mordechai holds Farkhert: Pointing at this week's Parsha, he notes that Klal Yisroel, even after receiving the Toirah on Har Sinai and keeping the TARYAG mitzvois, as they most certainly did, were still a bunch of Vilda Chayas.
According to the Toisfois Yuntif, the reason that Klal Yisroel is so rebellious in Parshas Bahaloischa is that in this week's Parsha, they reached their teenage years. Born as a nation, they grew up in Mitzrayim, and reached the age of Mitzvois at Har Sinai. Now, they are like a fourteen year old with raging hormones, who has recently smoked his first marijuana cigarette (Chass V'Sholom).
Indeed, if we look at all the dissatisfaction in the world, one must reach one of two conclusions: According to Bais Hillel, the Aimishteh created a perfect world, and humans simply don't know how to appreciate it. But according to Bais Shammai, the Aimishteh created a horrible, imperfect world, and we are all victims of His creation.
While I am personally inclined to agree with Bais Shammai on this one, this opinion would not be good for me professionally, so I am forced to reject it. Yet the basic thinking does offer the roots of an answer, which comes to light in a famous Chassidic tale.
There once was an egg merchant in the town of Shklov whose entire inventory was destroyed one day by a heat wave. The merchant went to the Baal Shem Toiv and asked why he was singled out for such a miserable fate. The BESHT responded by pulling out a bottle of Slivovitz, drinking down three shots with the man, and then pulling out a mirror which he held up to the man's face. He then said, "Look -- you are so ugly, no one would have bought eggs from you anyway!"
The truth is, the world IS an imperfect place. But if you spend too much time focusing on the imperfections, you are likely to get leprosy, like Miriam, the Yentah, or have a nervous breakdown. Instead, one must focus on the positive. And if you have trouble seeing the positive, three shots of Slivovitz might help bring it into focus.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess