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Friday, June 12, 2020

On Impulse and Divinity

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On Impulse and Divinity

Baruch Ata Idoin’tknoi Eloiheinu Melech HaOilum Boirei Pri Ha-Etz!

I hope you said “Umayn” after I finished my Bracha and was biting into my kiwi. Otherwise you are an Am Ha’aretz who just missed out on an easy Mitzvah. And you can rest assured that the Reboinoisheloilum has noted down your behavior, you Mechutziff!

We are grateful to HaKadoishboruchhu for the opportunities to have such Mitzvois to engage in and in exchange collect Mitzvah Stamps (TM). (I am planning to redeem mine for the new ArtScroll Erotica series.) As we all know, Boruch HaShem, part of being a Jew, a member of Klal Yisroel, the Chosen People, is that the world affords us opportunities every day to sanctify His name and make His world a better place through specific actions.

And what actions are we talking about? There are many sorts of acts, but the common denominator: These actions reflect our recognition that the world is the Aibishter’s creation, and we sanctify His eminence over all existence through small acts that acknowledge His sovereignty. (We akso acknowledge his sovereignty by paying tens of thousands of dollars in Yeshiva tuition, Shul membership, Yomi Noraim seats, summer camp, trips to Israel, Pesach cruises, etc.)

Case in point: Eating a kiwi. A Sheygitz can eat a Kiwi. So can a child who is a SheEinoi Yoideiyah Lish’ol - too young to understand the cosmic implications of his actions. Or a dog. Or, in the case of a kiwi, a kangaroo. They see it, they grab it, they bite into it, they swallow it. Shoyn!! That is the “unthinking” approach.

However, that approach is not what a Jew does! A Jew lives in the world — HaKadoishboruchhu’s world that includes all matter, energy, space, time, and physical laws — and adds actions or words that turn even the most basic act such as eating a kiwi into an acknowledgement of the Omnipresent. We look at nature as something to build upon, not something to simply accept. We are not animals; on the contrary, we were created “BiTzelem Eloikim”, in the image of HaKadoishbiruchhu.

This of course is the essence of the concept of Tikkun Oilum. This concept is based on the teachings of the Ari ZAHL, who describes a cosmic accident at the time of creation that scattered Divine sparks which became mixed with the worse aspects of existence. Our mission is to recover those missing holy sparks, one by one, through good deeds and acts of kindness - Mitzvois - and through individual and collective acts aimed at making the world a better place - Tikkun Oilum.

This basic philosophy of purpose extends well beyond reciting a Bracha before the eating of a kiwi. We kill our food before we eat it (one of the Sheva Mitzvois B’Nei Noiach) so that an animal should not excessively suffer. We create legal systems and are commanded by the Toirah to adhere to such legal systems, as that is the essence of a functioning society. How many times does the Toirah warn us about the dangers of “false judges” and the importance of honest witnesses? We do not simply say or do anything that meets our immediate need of the moment, that satisfies our hunger, that temporary responds to our impulses. We are not animals; on the contrary, we were created “BiTzelem Eloikim”, in the image of HaKadoishbiruchhu.

And so, it is important that we apply this philosophical construct consistently across all aspects of our lives. We do not eat pork or shellfish. They are plentiful, and YUMMY! But we have self imposed limits. We are not animals...

In this spirit we must address the myriad challenges that we face today. The Toirah was not given three thousand years ago to be simply placed on a shelf and dusted off once a week. It is a guidebook to life that we must bear every single day, either through learning with a Chavrusa in Bais Medrish, reading from a printed copy in spare moments, or listening to Daf Yoimi on a smartphone, Chass V’Sholom.

Let us start with Coivid Yud Tess. Setting aside the political overtones that too often grab the headlines, there is no perfect clarity about what should happen next. Should we open schools and businesses, and if so, how slowly or quickly? Will there be a second surge and how bad? If someone has antibodies, will it protect them? Should we be rushing back to Shul (those of you who have not been attending underground outdoor Minyanim three times a day, like, ahem... me)?

What is nature telling us to do? And how do we build upon, and improve upon, nature?

Here is an interesting thought experiment. Imagine we lived before modern medicine. How many people would have died from Coivid Yud Tess?

Somewhere between 40 and 100 million people died during the Influenza of 100 years ago. What if Coivid was around 400 years ago? Perhaps 30% of people who contracted the virus would have died without modern medicine. The saving grace would have been the lack of global inter connectivity that we have today, so perhaps 30% of the local, national or continental population might have died. But it would not have had the global reach we have now.

Let’s say we actually listen to nature. Perhaps nature is telling us that human society has expanded like a swarm of locusts and it is time for a population adjustment. Forests have natural forest fires; it is part of nature’s cycle of balance and renewal. Perhaps nature is engaging in a normal cycle of destruction for the sake of balance and renewal. Painful but necessary, like trimming one’s Payis.

So the Shailah is Azoy: How should we respond to this reality as a society? How should we respond as Jews?

Should we consider the Machalah Coivid Yud Tess to be the will of the Reboinoisheloilum and let nature take its course? Or should we see this as a cosmic imperfection in which holy sparks are scattered and embedded, and view this as an opportunity to rescue the holy sparks through actions designed seek cures and prevent casualties?

(This is known as a rhetorical question, you Mechutziff, so please do not wait around for a direct answer. I have dinner plans.)

The answer is of course an obvious one, but the debate - and challenge - lies in the details.

Another question: How should we think about the unrest that has broken out across the United States following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis who was photographed resting his full weight on the Floyd’s neck for eight minutes after Floyd had already been restrained? There have been massive protests across the country and, in fact, across the world, following this latest example of a black man being killed through excessive force, which this time was captured on video.

While there have been worldwide statements of revulsion and calls for large scale change, there are also many who would rather ignore or dismiss this latest example of brutality directed at someone who did not pose a physical threat. Many of those people voice partisan positioning. And many in our own community repeat those words and those sentiments.

How should we respond to this reality as a society? How should we respond to this as Jews?

Perhaps we should listen to nature. What is nature telling us? We need only look at societies around the world to understand that majorities often mistreat minorities. What nation knows this lesson than Klal Yisroel? Perhaps we should accept this sad reality as an inevitability, just as we know that night follows day and that gravity keeps all of us anchored to the ground.

But... we are not animals; on the contrary, we were created “BiTzelem Eloikim”, in the image of HaKadoishboruchhu. We do not simply surrender to primal impulses; we do not simply “eat the kiwi”. We do not pursue the “unthinking approach”.

I am reminded of a true story told to me by a friend. This friend, who studied with me in Yeshiva many years ago, once shared that he was scheduled to attend a professional event hosted by a Catholic organization. He recalled how when speaking to his father, he spoke dismissively of priests and nuns, echoing the tone that many of us grew up with in our strictly religiously observant upbringing. To his surprise, his father screamed at him, “DON’T YOU EVER SPEAK LIKE THAT AGAIN!”

His father is a survivor of the Shoah, and like many survivors (including my own late father), apparently preferred not to talk about his experiences, perhaps to avoid the pain of revisiting the horrifying nightmare of his youth.

As it turns out, his father and other family members, running from the Nazis and their collaborators, were sheltered within a Catholic School and Church complex. Catholics - Priests and Nuns and others - risked their lives to save them - for the Nazis systematically murdered people who protected Jews.

If we were those Priests and Nuns and others, would we have reconciled ourselves to the Nazi terror and refused to shelter Jews, accepting the systematic gathering and murder of the Jews as the sad nature of social reality at that juncture in time? Would we perhaps have turned in the Jews for a reward? Would we have posted memes and articles mocking Jews? Would we have posted pictures of Jewish criminals and suggest that all Jews were tantamount to criminals? Or would we have acted like those brave souls, risking their lives to save some unknown innocents whose only crime was being born into this world as Jews?

We are told in the Gemarrah, “Kol HaMekayaim Nefesh Achat, Ma’aleh Alav HaKatuv KeEelu Eebayd Oilum Mallei”. “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 22a) The same sentiment appears numerous times in the Midrash.

Nature often tells us to destroy, or to look the other way. But the Toirah tells us that even in the bleakest places and at the bleakest moment there are holy sparks to be rescued.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein


Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Monday, April 13, 2020

On The Essence Of Leadership

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On The Essence of Leadership


I am writing this Drasha in my Shul. No, not my big Shul and Yeshiva on Thirteenth Avenue. That building was closed under the orders of the anti-Semites in the Board of Health and their allies in the Democratic Party. But in my new Shul, located in the basement of my apartment building where we hold Minyan three times a day… unless someone sees a cop. It gets a little crowded at times, especially around Layning. But it is a real time saver; if I get to Shacharis early I can pop a load in the wash and have it ready by Aleinu.


I would like to begin our Chol HaMoed Drasha with a very basic question, one which you have undoubtedly heard before: Why is it that the Hagaddah is silent about the role of Moishe Rabbeinu in Yetzias Mitzrayim? How come during the Seder we speak about Yankif Avinu and Lavan HaRasha, we speak in great detail about the oppression of Klal Yisroel in Mitzrayim, including the Egyptian enforced impact on Derech Eretz – a euphemism for sexuality between husband and wife, and we speak in a granular fashion about the Exodus itself – the plagues, the expulsion, the splitting of the sea, etc. – DAYENU! – but we have no mention of Moishe Rabbeinu’s role in the Exodus, and only passing mention of his name in quoted Pesukim? What’s Pshat you Mechutziff?

The typical response is posed in many places. The RADAK, Reb Dovid Kimche, for example, suggests that CHAZAL were concerned that if the Haggadah emphasized the role of Moishe Rabbeinu, Klal Yisroel might be seduced into believing in a personality cult, attributing Yetzias Mitzrayim and the working of miracles to a man, a human being, flesh and blood, and might be tempted to deify Moishe, Chass V’Sholom, making him the subject of worship and, essentially, a form of Avoidah Zarah.

But that is not the only response provided by CHAZAL. Many other responses are offered. The RADAT SHLITA has his own suggestion. He suggests that the Hagaddah is meant to present the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim in the most incredibly authentic fashion EVER, without distortions coming from Fake News or political conspiracies: The Reboinoisheloilum is the greatest, He was responsible for Yetzias Mitzrayim, and His performance of Nissim, miracles, was the greatest EVER, and were seen by more Egyptian households than the annual SuperUrn and the 100,000 Shekel Pyramid combined! Moreover, the only reason why Klal Yisroel was in Egypt was because of the lack of foresight by Yankif Avinu (“Lock Him Up!”), the poor economic policies put in place by Yoishaph HaTzadick (“I would have grabbed Eishess Potiphar by the Erva”, wrote the RADAT), and the “loser attitude” of Klal Yisroel. According to the RADAT, Moishe Rabbeinu deserves no credit as he should have gotten Klal Yisroel out of Mitzrayim through better negotiation skills. Says the RADAT, “’Mild Manned Moishe’ could not lead a Girl Scout Troop to sell cookies to a group of hungry old ladies who just smoked Besamim and have the munchies”.

I personally find these Terutzim and many others to be unsatisfying. After all, the Hagaddah may not speak of the role of Moishe Rabbeinu, but the Toirah does – Yetzias Mitzrayim and the role of Moishe are the subject of half of Sefer Shmois and are referenced throughout TANACH many times. Moishe’s involvement in the Exodus is no secret: We read of it every year, and read more about Moishe through the rest of Sefer Shmois and in Sifrei Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim. Four fifths of the Chamishei Chumshei Toirah focus on Moishe Rabbeinu, so if any people were looking for deify Moishe they could find many reasons. As well, the Toirah portrays Klal Yisroel as “victims”, not “losers”, and repeatedly reminds Klal Yisroel to be tolerant of strangers “Kee Gerim Hayinu Ba’Eretz Mitrayim”, we were strangers in the Land Of Egypt. There is no suggestion in the Toirah that Mitzrayim was the wrong place to go during the famine. Farkhert - it was our home. Until it was not.

Before suggesting an answer to this Shailah, I would like to pose a separate but related question: Six months from now we will celebrate Roish Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As is well known, the Toirah does not speak of the New Year at all – It only speaks of a Yoim Teruah, a day of horn blows, at the beginning of the seventh month. And what is the focus of Kriyas HaToirah on Roish Hashanah? Do we read extensively about Karbanois, animal sacrifices? Do we read about Moishe Rabbeinu setting up a justice system? Do we read rules and regulations about property or morality or religious worship? No, you Mechutziff, do not even bother looking it up! We read about Avraham Avinu. One might think that we should read about Avraham at the Bris Bain HaBesarim, the Covenant he makes with Hakadoshboruchhu regarding the future of Klal Yisroel. Or we should read about the Aimishteh’s commandment to Avraham that he trim 20% off of his “package”, if you know what I mean.

But no. We read about the Akeidah, the “Binding of Yitzchak”, the commandment by the Reboinoisheloilum to Avraham Avinu to sacrifice his beloved son Yitzchak as a sign of his fealty. “VaYoimer, Kach Lecha Ess Bincha Ess Yechidecha Asher Ahavta Ess Yitzchak VaLech Lecha El Eretz Hamoiriyah, Ve”Ha’aleihu Shum LeOilah Al Achad HaHarim Asher Oimar Eilecha” (Beraishis, Perek Chuff Baiz, Passuk Baiz). “And Hakadoishboruchhu said, take your son, the one son that you love, Yitzchak, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him as a sacrifice on one of the hills that I will direct you to.”

How does Avraham respond to this? Does he hesitate for one second? Does he offer himself as a substitute? Does he try to bargain with the Aimishteh the way he haggles over the fate of the city of Sodom? Does he even ask a clarifying question, such as “Hey, Melech Malchei HaMelachim, have You gone out of your Self-Damned mind? Or are you trying to get me committed to Arkham Asylum?”

No, you Menuval, he has faith! The Toirah does not mention any resistance on the part of Avraham, it simply reports that the next morning Avraham set out with his two lads and his son Yitzchak. It does not even mention that they ate breakfast, although a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah notes that they stopped for coffee at a Starbucks, which caused a delay because Yishmael refused to order a simply drip coffee, opting for a Grande Vanilla Latte with oat milk and three Truvia and a dash of nutmeg. My favorite!

How does Avraham Avinu’s behavior compare with that of Moishe Rabbeinu? Well, the Toirah tells us that the Reboinoisheloilum comes to Moishe in a burning bush and reports that He has heard the suffering of Klal Yisroel in Mitzrayim and He plans to take them out of Egypt and deliver them to the promised land. Hakadoshboruchhu continues, “V’Atta, Lecha V’Eshlachacha El Paroi, V’Hoitzei Ess Ami Bnei Yisroel MeMitzrayim” (Shmois, Perek Gimmul, Passuk Yud). “And now, go where I will send you, to Pharaoh, and take out My nation, the Children of Israel, from Egypt.”

How does Moishe respond to the Aimishteh’s instruction? Does he thank the Reboinoisheloilum for the confidence expressed in him? Does he pack his bags for the road? Does he fill up his tank? Does he download the latest podcasts to keep him busy during the ride? No, he starts to argue incessantly, like a Mechutziff:

-          “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and that I shall take Klal Yisroel out of Mitzrayim (Perek Gimmul, Passuk Yud Aleph)

-          “And when I come to Klal Yisroel and say that the Hakadoshboruchhu of your fathers sent me, and they will ask me ‘What is His name’, what will I say to them?” (Passuk Yud Gimmul)

-          “They (Klal Yisroel) will not believe me, and not listen to me, for the will say ‘the Aimishteh has not revealed Himself to you”. (Perek Daled, Passuk Aleph)

-          “Reboinoisheloilum, I am not a man of words, and never have been, for I am slow of speech and have a heavy tongue”. (Passuk Yud)

-          “Please, my Lord, send someone else”. (Passuk Yud Gimmul).

At that point the Reboinoisheloilum loses his temper, destroys a few small cities in Mesopotamia, makes a few species of dinosaur go extinct, and then orders Moishe Rabbeinu to enlist his brother, Aroin HaKoihain, the Menuval, to serve as his spokesman.

Rabboisai – What can we learn we learn from the juxtaposition of Avraham Avinu and the Akeida with Moishe Rabbeinu at the burning Sneh?

For one thing, we learn that humanity is fundamentally flawed. Avraham Avinu waits nearly a hundred years for a child, and when Hakadoshboruchhu asks him to slaughter his son, he says thank you. Perhaps he is some kind of maniac who likes to commit acts of cruelty to children like Stephen Miller. Moishe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, when commanded by the Aimishteh to lead his nation to freedom, to serve as a quasi-messianic figure, argues. He complains. He kvetches. In fact, he sounds a bit like Chuck Schumer.

It is no wonder that the Hagaddah does not talk about Moishe Rabbeinu. Does the Reboinoisheloilum want to entrust such an existential challenge – negotiating the exit of Klal Yisroel from the greatest power in the world -- through appeals, threats and violence – to a human being, who -- by definition of being a human being -- is fundamentally flawed? No – And that is why the Hagaddah tells us,

“ V’Avarti B’Eretz Mitzrayim BaLayla Hazeh, Ani V’Loi Malach;

V’Heekasee Kol Bechor B’Eretz Mitzrayim – Ani V’Loi Saraph;

U’VeChol Eloihei Mitzrayim Eh-Ehseh Shfatim – Ani V’Loi HaShaliach.

Ani Hakadoshboruchhu – Ani Hoo. V’Loi Acher.”  

“And I passed through the land of Egypt on that night – I, and not a representative;

And I smote the first born in the land of Egypt – I, and not an angel

And I delivered justice to all of the gods of Egypt – I, and not a messenger.

I am the Reboinoisheloilum. I am He, and none other.”



We live at a time when the folly of human leadership is on display for all to see. We are facing a global crisis, a health scare that is a one in a hundred-year event. Without modern science and modern medicine, the casualty rate would be at a minimum twenty percent of the population; that is the approximate rate at which people diagnosed with the virus require hospitalization. Let’s play out the numbers: Out of 100 people, 20 people would die. Out of one million, two hundred thousand. Out of ten million, two million people. And out of five billion people, one billion.

And who are we relying upon to get us through this moment? Many of us are relying upon scientists and doctors and mathematicians, the deepest experts on the topics. They are not perfect, by any means. But they walk in the footsteps of the RAMBAM, spending their entire lives in laboratories and hospitals and universities trying to understand the very nature of the world that Hakadoshboruchhu created. They use knowledge of the human genome, data, unique chemical compounds, math, and statistics to identify strategies and solutions to end the pandemic, or at least slow it down to give society more time to learn, to treat, to heal, and to binge watch Netflix.

But others are relying on people who are unskilled and untrained, and who wear their ignorance on their chests like a badge of honor. They were quick to dismiss the risks of social distancing, and continued to encourage their followers, their families, and their friends to attend Minyan en masse and participate in weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, and to this day even participate in packed funerals. They are the same leaders who provide cures to the Covid 19 virus including (I am not making any of this up):

-          Consuming lemon water. Seriously. How did Fauci miss this one?

-          Consuming garlic water. I do not know if this will prevent Covid 19, but perhaps will serve as a form of birth control, which is not a bad thing in Chareidi communities.

-          Women should stop wearing wigs with long hair, or wigs in general, and instead should wear Shpitzlach. A Shpitzel (singular) is a bit of a cross between and oversized swimming cap and the emptied rind of a cantaloupe. It is another form of birth control.

-          Placing cut up onions around one’s bed. Looks like Fauci missed this one as well. Clearly he has a Goyyisheh Kup.

-          Pointing a blow dryer at one’s open mouth and blasting hot air down the throat. I swear: I cannot make stuff like this up. Honestly.

-          Consuming ginger tea. Apparently there is a recipe for it in the Zoihar. However, I never saw it there myself; I never got past the sports section.

Who are these people who make such pronouncements, who lead their flocks to follow in their paths? These are the same people who have ensured that generations of Ultra Orthodox are cheated out of receiving a basic secular education and are condemned to a life of economic struggle and government handouts. These are the same people who encourage children to get married as teenagers and produce babies at an industrial rate. These are the same people who tolerate all forms of sexual and emotional abuse of children and adults, as long as the perpetrators keep up a semblance of religious appearances; if you do not believe me, Google “Malka Leifer”.

These so-called leaders would have you believe that they bring Divine Truth through Daas Toirah, when in fact they have led their followers into an alleyway with no exit. Are they evil? That may not be their intent, but as we now know, the outcome is evil. The high rates of illness and death in communities such as Williamsburg, KJ, Bnei Brak, and Lakewood are the absolute testimony to their folly.

Our leaders, all of our leaders -- religious, political, and cultural – are all human beings. They are all flawed. We are all flawed.

However, we can change. By following these human beings who claim Divine Insight into the abyss, we have missed the critical teachings of Pesach: Loi Al Yadei Malach. Loi Al Yedei Seraph. Loi Al Yedei Shaliach. Such people have failed their followers, and in fact are dangerous. They have caused people to die, and insofar as they continue to advocate false cures, they are dangerous. Some might even say that they are Rodphim, people who constitute a mortal threat to others. But at a minimum, they are Avoidah Zarah, and continued followership is nothing less than idol worship.

How difficult will it be for communities to pursue a new path? Well, almost overnight I replaced my Yeshivah and Shul with my apartment’s basement, and my Shtender with the building’s washing machine. And my clothing has never been cleaner!

But – you may ask --- what of the Rabbis, the elders who led these communities for decades: How can we replace such people? A very wise man once told me the answer many years ago, “The cemeteries are filled with people who were irreplaceable.”

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Menuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein


Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, April 03, 2020

Epistle For a Mentch

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Epistle For a Mentch,

Shtayt in the Gemarrah, “Hamevoreich Ess Chaveiroi BiPharhesia, KeilIlui Boirei Ess HaOilam Kooloi”. The Talmud states, “One who blesses his friend in public, it is as if he has created the entire world”.

I would like to share a few words about a Gadol as we approach his first Yahrtzeit. A Talmud Chacham, a friend, a loyal companion, his presence always made others feel spiritually, emotionally and physically secure, except when he was distracted by the occasional passing truck. Or a squirrel.

As is the Minhag with every great Ben Toirah, we do not offer a Hespaid at the funeral, but wait until at least the Shloshim to share remembrances. So, now, nearly one year later, in the midst of a global health crisis that likes of which has not been seen in one hundred years since the Spanish Influenza of 1918, we celebrate his life and try to find meaning and inspiration for ourselves.


Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah was born in the Deep South. His father was a Tzaddik, a Lamud Vuvnik and a Goimel Chessed, who had a very full beard and a spectacular sense of smell. And his mother was a short haired bitch.

Reb Shmiel spent his youth with his Sephardic family. When tensions arose after the family ate Kitniyois on Shavuos, young Reb Shmiel increasingly spent his time in Bais Medrish. He spent many hours a day in the company of other Talmidim, Shteiging together. In addition to becoming masters in Toirah, they proved themselves to be committed and obedient students. He enjoyed his time there: It was Mamish Gevaldik to watch him with other Talmidim, going back and forth throughout the day pursuing issues large and small. And his commitment was recognized and rewarded; after completion of his studies, Reb Shmiel was certified with Smicha in Yora Yora, Yadin Yadin, and Roll Oiver.

When Rebbetzin Feigeh Breinah and I first met Reb Shmiel, he was looking for a place to settle. “Lech Lecha, MeArtzecha”, he had left his home to venture north to the heart of the Promised Land: Boro Park.

Our initial meeting was awkward. Reb Shmiel seemed hesitant when I first approached him. We met in a public area. I walked slowly, my large beard blowing in the wind, my Payis swinging side to side. He looked nervous and anxious, like a Bar Mitzvah Bochur before reciting Kriyas HaToirah or a Kallah Meidel before her wedding night,

Reb Shmiel and I came to know each other over time and had many deep discussions over long walks: Parshas Hashavuah. Gemarrah BeIyun. Daf Yoimi. Hilchois Shabbos. RAMBAM. The RAMBAN. The ROISH. The RI. The RIF, The RUFF. And then some light topics like the Mishnah Berurah, Igrois Moishe, and Art Scroll’s Illustrated Halacha Series For Children Hosted By Heshy, the Magical Flying Parah Aduma. But also current events.

Sometimes we would meet others, and Reb Shmiel made a few friends. His studious and serious demeanor could at times be perceived as humorless and austere. But at his core he had a warm soul, even if what most people saw was a cold nose.

Reb Shmiel had many interests. He liked to learn Toirah, and to do acts of Gemilus Chassadim. He loved to learn BiChavrusa, but was also comfortable being alone. He loved nature, as it made him feel closer to the Aimishteh. His favorite Mitzvah, perhaps the one that he has most remembered for, was his commitment to sustainability. He hated waste, and his personal mission was to prevent Baal Tashchis; he hated when even a morsel or scrap or food would go to waste. So he always ate everyone’s leftovers. He even once ate a bagel on Pesach that he found in the street in one bite. Yes, he was Oiver in a Dioraisa, but his intention was Biyur Chometz, the destruction of the offensive food; Achilah was purely incidental. What Mesiras Nefesh! What a Tzaddik!

Reb Shmiel was knowledgeable about many areas of Toirah. He loved learning Halacha as well as Gemara. He also loved learning TANACH with traditional and modern scholarship. In his learning, he excelled at understanding complex ideas expressed as very simple statements. For example - Reb Shmiel never needed to prepare for Shabbos with the same fanfare as other Talmidim. One word was always enough, especially if the word was “sit”.

Reb Shmiel was a true Buckie, a deep expert, in Halachois associated with smells. “When I open a bottle of peppercorns, am I allowed to smell them without saying a ‘Boirei Minei Besamim?’” “Is that a new smell? Shall I make a SheHechiyanu?” “Was there someone here before?” “Are there leftovers nearby that I can save from going to waste?” “Did someone pee on that tree?”

Reb Shmiel was once walking with my daughter Bracha Levatala when they were accidentally hit by a car driven by our neighbor, Rabbi Schwartz. As Bracha was on the ground, Reb Shmiel, his Tfillin hand mutilated, stayed with Brachalah until the local Hatzolah ambulance came to her aid. Reb Shmiel then underwent complicated surgery and experienced a full recovery. Always a Tzaddik, Reb Shmiel quickly forgave Rabbi Dr. Schwartz for the accident, although he would occasionally make Pishvasser on his shrubbery.

Reb Shmiel is perhaps best remembered for his dynamic Machlokessin with Reb Yoissaiph Katzky. They often took very opposite approaches in their Halachic philosophies. For example, Reb Shmiel believed that on Sukkois, one should spend every possible waking moment in the Sukkah, as long as there was food on the table. Or on the floor. But Reb Yoisaiph believed that one should minimize his presence in the Sukkah to just the Sha’as Mitzvah, the momentary opportunities to engage in a Mitzvah such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and killing invading baby squirrels.

Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah and Reb Yoisaph Katzky were not friends, but had a grudging respect for each other. Often, when one was learning Toirah the other looked on from a distance, not making a sound. But when they debated it could be raucous. More than one onlooker suggested that when their engaged in Machloikess they debated like cats and dogs.

Reb Shmiel had a different type of relationship with Reb Betzalel Kupkayk, in many ways quite the opposite of his relationship with Reb Yoisaph. Reb Shmiel was a mentor to Reb Yehoishaphat, instructing him in the intricacies of Toirah SheBichsav and Toirah SheBaalPeh. Shmiel and Reb Betzalel spent much time together learning, and also took many long walks together. They were so close, they even on occasion made Mei Raglayim under the same tree.

What can we learn from the life of such a Tzaddik?

There is an often quoted Mishnah in Avois that tells us, “Asei Lecha Rav, U’Knei Lecha Chazer”, “Establish for yourself a Rebbe, and purchase for yourself a friend”. What does that mean? Does the Mishah want us to construct an idol out of clay that we can follow blindly, or hire a Kirva to keep us company?

Rabboisai, at this complex time in human history, it seems that the Mishnah is giving us a lesson in essentials. There are many who lead. There are many who aspire to lead. There are some who take on leadership roles, but only reluctantly so. Can you follow every leader? What if a leader gives advice that does not make sense to you, such as attending Shul or a Simcha during the Coivid 19 epidemic? Should you follow simply because the person is your elder or an authority figure or was the Rebbe to your parents going all the way back to Europe??

Of course not. The Mishnah tells us “Asei Lecha”, “Establish for yourself”. Following a leader is not presented as a passive exercise. You do not simply follow someone because he has a long beard or nice Payis or a beautiful Arba Kanfois. Following a leader is an active exercise - you mast use your brain, your choice, your free will as to who you follow. If your Rebbe told you to eat Chazer, would you do it? If your Rebbe told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do it? If your Rebbe told your wife to wear a Sheytel with long hair, would she do it? If your Rebbe told you to use a smart phone, would you do it? No - you would get another Rebbe! So if your Rebbe tells you to meet with a densely populated group of people during a global pandemic, do you listen? Or do you use your Reboinoisheloilum-given brain and establish for yourself a different Rebbe, one who does not have his head all the way up his Bor.

Similarly, when it comes to choosing friends, are we supposed to be friendly with everyone we meet, as if we are putting Tfillin or perfect strangers on the street? Should we follow the crowd, especially if the crowd is encouraging you to act in ways that do not make logical sense? Should we engage in social activities because it is easier socially to conform? Or should we be more discerning, and if necessary, be willing to invest in the right friendships and relationships?

Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah was indeed thoughtful in terms of how he spent his time and who he spent his time with. He was a figure of few words, but deliberate actions. When he spoke, people heard him. When he took action, people noticed. He was loyal and thoughtful. He was a grand companion. He was a scholar. He was an excellent Chavrusa. And he was a Mentch.

Reb Shmiel entered Shamayim quietly, as was his way. Proud and stubborn, slowly being eaten away by a combination of mortal ailments, even in his last days he was willing to gather his last energies to prevent someone from being Oiver on Baal Tashchis, Chass V’Sholom. Flesh is fleeting, life is fleeting, but the good that one does remains as a testament and model for others in this and future generations.

Yehi Zichroi Baruch

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Menuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein


Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, March 20, 2020

On Coivad Yud Tess

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On Coivad Yud Tess


The Goyim are having a Mageifah, and as a result are persecuting Klal Yisroel. They are struggling with a so-called virus named after a beer, the Vilda Chaya Shikkurs, and now we are being forced to shut our Moisdois and our Shuls, Rachmuna Litzlan. There go the anti-Semites again, blaming the Yidden.

How did we get here?


In this week’s Parsha, Vayakhel Pikudei, we read about the directive of the Reboinoisheloilum to build the Mishkan in the Midbar. Klal Yisroel gathers together gold and silver and copper and skins of animals and yarn and build an elaborately decorated tent, with multiple rooms, a Mizbeyach, a Kiyyor, and flushing toilets. Plus 5G. All in the middle of the freaking desert.

Well, you Mechitziff, how do you think that Klal Yisroel got all that gold and silver and copper and skins of animals and yarn in the middle of the desert?

From the Goyim, of course.

We read earlier in Sefer Shmois, Perek Yood Bais, Passuk Lamid Hei:,

 וּבְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל עָשׂ֖וּ כִּדְבַ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַֽיִּשְׁאֲלוּ֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִםכְּלֵי־כֶ֛סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָ֖ב וּשְׂמָלֹֽת׃

“And Klal Yisroel followed Moishe Rabbeiniu’s direction and borrowed objects of silver and gold, and clothing from the Mitzrim.”

Why would the Mitzrim, those Ganuvim, lend their precious belongings to a hated minority? Were they charging our ancestors interest? Were they expecting Klal Yisroel to escape with their jewelry, after which the Mitzrim planned to file an insurance claim? Or, perhaps, did the Mitzrim not hate Klal Yisroel as much as we thought? Perhaps the Mitzrim were kind of into us, and were giving us jewelry in an effort to get into our Gatkes.

Well,you Shmendrick, the Toirah actually tells us the answer in the very next Passuk:

 וַֽיהוָ֞ה נָתַ֨ן אֶת־חֵ֥ן הָעָ֛ם בְּעֵינֵ֥י מִצְרַ֖יִם וַיַּשְׁאִל֑וּם וַֽיְנַצְּל֖וּ אֶת־מִצְרָֽיִם׃

“The Reboinoisheloilum made the Mitzrim favorably inclined to Klal Yisroel, and they loaned their objects to the Yidden, who took advantage of Mitzrayim.”

Just like that. Hakadoishboruchhu snaps His large, hairy fingers, and the Mitzrim handed us their possessions. Maybe, if we had asked nicely, they would have given us their houses and their country clubs, and then they could have had the Groiseh Mitzvah wandering in the desert for forty years like a group of overeducated nomads.

What were the circumstances that preceded Klal Yisroel reaching the grand heights of Yetziyas Mitzrayim, taking oynership of the Mitzrim’s possessions, receiving the Toirah on Har Sinai, walking through the Midbar, and entering Eretz Yisroel?

All of this happened following a pandemic that killed the first born sons of all of Egypt -- Makkas Bechoirois, the Plague of the Firstborn, when the Mitzrim died while Klal Yisroel went free.

What can we learn from this Parsha, you Menuval?

The Toirah is teaching us that Klal Yisroel is immune to the Mageifois that plague the Goyim. The world must hide, the world must engage in Social Distancing, the world must worry about a 3% mortality rate. But Klal Yisroel is immune, perhaps even strengthened, by continuing to go to Minyan three times a day, by continuing to learn in Bais Medrish, and by continuing to hold Simchas attended by the young and old, especially when the band has already been paid for.

Sure, we can quarantine ourselves... but only if we believe the lies of the left, the hoax of the media. You can choose to stay at home learning Toirah while your Bashert is home since the local Bais Yankif was closed down by the anti Semites and the self-hating Mamzeirim who called for the closure of all that is holy to us truly Frum Jews:

-       Shuls, where we spend our mornings Davening with two pairs of Tfillin, two pairs of Tzitzitz, and two smartphones to text on during Shmoineh Esrai;

-       Yeshivois, where we spend our days Shteiging in Bais Medrish, toiling over a Gevaldika Toisfois, while the lazy Am Haratzim idle away engaging in Bittul Toirah at their jobs;

-       Simchois, where we spend our evenings sharing in the joy of others by eating their food, drinking their alcohol, and complaining about their speeches; and

-       Freilechah Hoizelach, where we spend our nights Shuckeling with the Kurvahs.

We true believers go about our lives, secure in the knowledge that Klal Yisroel cannot possibly be affected by a disease that has already killed thousands of Goyim around the world. We survived the Mitzrim and the Babylonians and the Persians and the Greeks and the Romans and the Poles and the Germans and Oibama, so we will get through Coivid Yud Tess Machalah just fine.

I am reminded of a story about Reb Chaim Bouillabaisse, the Chief Rabbi of Strassburg during the Bubonic Plague that killed half of the population of Europe between 1648 and 1651. Reb Chaim was trying to teach a Shiur on the proper size of the knife used to slaughter the Para Adumah, the Red Heffer, during the time of the Bais Hamikdash. His Talmidim listened patiently as Reb Chaim quoted the Talmid Bavli, the Yerushalmi, Reb Sherira Goyn, the RAMBAM, the RAMBAN, the RIF, the ROISH, the RAN, the ROE, the RABBIT, and the R-Squared, citing their debates on the size of the handle, the sharpness of the blade, and the famous Machloikess on whether or not the Koihain Gadol can use an electric chainsaw Bishas Hadchak.

Suddenly, a young Talmid in the second row named Jacques raised his hand, “Rebbe, why are we discussing the technical details of an obscure ritual that has not been performed in almost 2,000 years while people are dying everyday and the Jewish People are being scapegoated and persecuted?”

Reb Chaim paused, and then, after looking at the ceiling for a moment, responded. “Yankel, do you ever tell you father the tailor how to sew clothing?”

“No, Reb Chaim, Jacques responded. “My Papa studied clothing design at the Sorbonne. He knows better than me.”

“Yankel, do you every tell your mother how to cook for Shabbos?”

“No, Reb Chaim, Mother studied cooking with some of the finest chefs in Paris. She does not need my advice.”

“So why do you think you should tell me how to teach my class?”, Reb Chaim asked.

Jacques got out of his chair, went up to Reb Chaim, beckoned Reb Chaim to lean down, and then whispered something into his ear. He then promptly left the classroom.

Another Talmid, Pierre, raised his hand and asked, “Rebbe, what did Jacques say, and why did he leave?’

Reb Chaim responded. “Pierre… all of you Kinderlach, Yankel excused himself to go home. He did not have any Emunah. I say ‘Good Riddance’! Now let’s all take a break and eat some frogs legs and baguettes, and meet back here in twenty minutes.” After the students left the room to take their break, Reb Chaim walked over to the desks of each of Talmidim, coughed on their Gemarras, and spat all over their pencils and pens.

When the students returned Reb Chaim announced, “Kinderlach, I want to reassure you that you are perfectly safe from the Goyyisheh Mageifah. There is a Gemarrah that promises us that Hakadoshboruchhu will never take the souls of the innocent. I just sent Him a personal reminder of what He has to lose if He allows the Machalah to spread.”

And, in fact, Reb Chaim did save the children from dying a senseless death in the Bubonic Plague. That Shabboskoidesh, the Reboinoisheloilum confirmed His commitment to not harm the Strassburg Jewish community with a pandemic disease. Instead, he mercifully sent the fearful, superstitious Goyim of the town to slaughter all the Jews of the city – every man, woman, and child -- in an effort to prevent the plague from reaching the city. But the joke was on the locals and their Goyisheh Kups: They all got the Bubonic Plague anyway and died three weeks later.

Rabboisai, Now is the time to show our Emunah by declaring our faith. We do not need to hide in our homes! While the Goyim and the nonbelievers try to hide from the so-called germs, we should all go to our Shuls to recite a Heimisheh Hallel to Hakadoshboruchhu:

“Thank you Reboinoisheloilum for watching over Klal Yisroel. The Goyim use Webex and Zoom and watch Netflix, while we sing Your praises. The Goyim stockpile toilet paper, while we engage in Avoidas HaShem. The Goyim show their lack of faith, while we demonstrate our Emunah. Just please make sure that we get some of that handout money the Government is planning to send. After all, we have many mouths to feed, Kenayna Harrah, and the Goyim not including us in their wealth redistribution scheme would be a terribly selfish and myopic thing for them to do.”

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Menuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein


Yeshivas Chipass Emmess