Thursday, September 22, 2022

NEW Rosh Hashana Drasha – Akeidas Yitzchak In Our Time

NEW Rosh Hashana Drasha – Akeidas Yitzchak In Our Time



I have come out of my retirement to offer thoughts during these trying times for Klal Yisroel in the United States. The timing of these challenges, right before the Aseres Yemei Teshuva – the Ten Days of Penitence – screams the significance of the moment.

This is no time for debate over whether one can eat cheese with vegetarian rennet, Chass V’Sholom, whether women can wear trousers or not, Rachmana Litzlan, or whether one is permitted to keep one day Yuntif when visiting Eretz Yisroel, as absurd at that may sound. Such issues, rooted in Halachic concerns, reflect Chumras that have emerged over the years and speak to the practical challenges of living in the Oilum Hazeh, a world constantly changing and evolving. While I do not personally approve of any of the above practices, they are, in our day, akin to “strong Minhagim”. I would not eat at the homes of anyone engaged in such practices and would discourage my children and grandchildren from entering their homes. Yet I would count such people in a minyan, especially if they are big donors.

However, last week, many core issues were raised to the level of public discourse, critical issues facing Klal Yisroel, issues that are so basic they are existential and may be classified as Yehuraig V’Al Ya’Avor – better to give up one’s life than to make such compromises. For unlike the Halachic questions above, these topics threaten the very future of Klal Yisroel.

I am of course talking about the hateful cover article written by the New York Times, Yemach Shemum, suggesting that the Chassidic Yeshiva educational model should undergo reform, and about the pressure the State of New York is putting on Yeshiva University to embrace Mishkav Zachor, homosexuality.

Klal Yisroel is facing a trial akin to nothing less than Akeidas Yitzchak. Will we succumb to the temptation of “public pressure”, society, or “the left-wing media”, Chass V’Sholom, and ignore the will of Hakadoshboruchhu? Or will we stand strong in our faith in the Melech Malchei HeMelachim and live our principles as defined by our Toirah given to Moishe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai?


The report in the New York Times detailed concerns about the poor performance of a cluster of boys’ schools in the Chassidic community on a series of standardized tests in English and Math given by the state. This data was presented alongside numerous interviews with “survivors” of the Chassidic school systems who have struggled in their adult lives. Also cited were allegations of corporal punishment.

The report also focused on the funds received by our Yeshivois from the government, and suggested that our Chassidic leaders, the intellectual — and often genetic — descendants of the holy BESHT, must be compelled to teach more secular subjects.


As we prepare to bring in the new Yuhr, our people are facing Shmad, utter destruction. As is well known, the genocidal intentions of Haman and Achashveiroish in Persia — recognized by the Yuntif of Purim — are considered to be a lesser evil than the actions of the Yevunim who brought Avoidah Zorah into the Bais HaMikdash, when efforts at forcing Helenism onto Klal Yisroel led to a rebellion that culminated in independence — commemorated by the Yuntif of Chanukah. After all, the Persians, Yemach Shemum, only wanted to kill us, which would deny us life in the Oilum Hazeh; the Greeks, on the other hand, wanted to destroy our Neshamas, denying us our Oilum Habbah. That is what we face today.

The article in the self-hating, anti Semitic New York Times implies that the Chassidic schools are failing because of very poor performance on basic English exams relative to the average across the general population and to every other demographic sub-segment. This claim reflects the cultural biases of a majority population trying to force its world view onto our Torah-abiding children. Do we force Latinos to adopt English as their communal language? Do we compel Chinatown to operate in English? While the boys attending these skills have poor English language skills, I am confident that if there was standardized testing in Yiddish language skills, these students would outperform all other schools.

Underlying the article is the premise that basic English, Math and Science knowledge are necessary for success in life. That is a false premise. Moishe Rabbeinu did not speak English. Reb Yehuda HaNasi did not read English. RASHI translates unclear words in the Torah into Old French, never into Old English. The RAMBAN never studied science. The BESHT never took a standardized math test. And yet they all changed the world.

The New York Times cobbles together numerous anecdotes about individuals in the community who blame their adult struggles on their Chassidic education. And yet there are myriad examples of professional success stories that were never shared. There are many entrepreneurs in the Chassidic community who have built successful business in the worlds of real estate, technology, and auto leasing. A significant number of Chassidic entrepreneurs have developed very successful Amazon stores. There are even large numbers of Chassidim involved in healthcare - In insurance, nursing homes, home health care, home medical supplies, medical billing, speech therapy, and Hatzalah.

Yes, there are almost no “doctors” emerging from Chassidic community, but that title is a misnomer. As is well known, RAMBAM never went to medical school, but learned everything he knew from the Gemara and Kabbalah, and he was renowned inside and outside the Jewish world. Indeed, in the last two and a half years we witnessed the fallacy underlying the biased premise: While the Goyisheh Velt struggled with the Covid epidemic, Chassidic medical experts provided alternate approaches to medical care — such as gargling with salt water, lemon water, or garlic water, using a hair dryer to blow hot air down one’s throat, and changing Mezuzas — and as a result there were no casualties from Covid in the Chassidic community. In essence, the Chassidic community led the country and the world on Covid: Biden recently declared the Covid crisis to be over; but in the Chassidic community Covid was over two years ago. Why was this fact withheld by the New York Times?

Finally, let us pause and consider what we want for our children and grandchildren most of all. That is: To be Menschen. In comparing Chassidic schools to all other schools and demographics, the New York Times ignores key facts about the Chassidic community: There is no drug problem. There are no teen age pregnancies. There is no poverty — reports to contrary notwithstanding. The Chassidic community is self-sufficient. Chassidic families are self-sufficient. There are very few on any form of public assistance be it Medicaid, Welfare, Food Stamps, or Section 8. There is also no crime — when was the last time you heard of a Chassid going to jail for any reason other than being persecuted for being a Jew?


And now we turn to Washington Heights. Yeshiva University is under enormous pressure from the government, spurred on by the Left, to allow the so-called “Pride Community” to host a student club on campus, receive school funds, and be recognized and legitimized despite their commitment to a lifestyle of “abomination” in the eyes of the Reboinoisheloilum. The new “woke” lifestyle unleashed by the Liberals has caused children to go astray and explore the Sitra Achra. Never in the history of Klal Yisrael were there such things as homosexuals. The Toirah never tells us about individuals who engaged in Mishkav Zachor because they did not exist. You won’t find an example in all of TANACH of even one homosexual. Similarly, the Gemara never tells us about any Jew in the time of the Tanaim and Amoraim who was engaged in homosexuality. They did not exist.

Why, when I was growing up in Brooklyn, there were no so-called homosexuals in the Jewish community. They did not yet exist.  Homosexuality only began to appear in the Jewish community in the last thirty years, following the return of the Democrats to the White House.

“And yet”, you ask, “if there was no such thing as a homosexual in the time of the Toirah, why does the Toirah warn us of the Aveirah?” The Toirah is a timeless set of teachings, never changing, without a letter being added or taken away. Hakadoshboruchhu anticipated this generation of Sodom in Washington Heights and provided us with His guidance at Har Sinai.

And what of the so-called homosexuals in Yeshiva University? Well, if they insist on maintaining their unnatural lifestyle, why do they want to study in Yeshiva University? There are hundreds of other universities they can attend. YU is a religious institution. They are no more entitled to have their Mishkav Zachor club than if a group of individuals requested to open a Chazer eating club at YU. I imagine that the Chazer eaters, upon being told that they cannot convene their club, will complain about discrimination, about mental health issues, about identity crises, about the high suicide rates of people forced to eat Chazer in secret, and about the broader awareness and understanding of the nature of eating Chazer in 2022. The Chazer eaters may talk about their deep commitment to Klal Yisroel and to Toirah. They may tout their own accomplishments in learning Toirah and in doing Gemilas Chassadim. But if they abandon the faith by eating Chazer, they should be removed from their families and our community. They have surrendered their Yiddesheh Neshamas.

Similarly, so-called homosexuals should be cast away from our community. They should be given the boot, not their own club. They should not be allowed to bring Chazer into the Bais HaMikdash  like the Yevanim. While we may feel personal sympathy at an individual level, we must emulate the call that we make to Hakadoshboruchhu at this time of year – We must temper mercy with justice. 

The homosexuals – all LGBTQ -- should be sent away so that they can no longer proselytize their destructive alternative lifestyles amongst the innocent and unsuspecting. In fact, from a Toirah-true perspective they have the status of Rodaiph. From a Halachic perspective we have a Mitzvah to kill every Rodaiph. But, Rachmana Letzlan, we cannot put these Roidphim to death because it is against the law. Once again, we are being persecuted by a majority population trying to force its world view onto our Toirah-abiding community.


So what should our communities do if they are pressured by the government to compromise Toirah values?

During these days when we greet Roish Hashana and Yoim Kippur with prayer and penitence, we recite Selichois, constantly. Many of these Selichois were written by early Baalei Toisfois. To cite one meaningful Kapitul recited this week:

“Ooly Yerachaim She’eyris Yoisaiph

Shephalim V’Nivzim, Pesuchei Sheseph

Shevuyei Chinum Mechurei BeLoi Kesef

Shoi’agim Bitfilah Umevakshim Rishayoin

Ooly Yahchois Ahm Unu VaEvyoin, Ooly Yerachaym”

“Perhaps He (the Aibisher) will have mercy on the remnants of Yoisaiph

Lowly and disgraced, torn to shreds

Enslaved without ransom, sold for no money

Who cry out in prayer and plead for permission

Perhaps He will have mercy on a poor, persecuted nation, perhaps He will have mercy.”

This Selichah was authored by Reb Shmuel HaKohain, who lived in the eleventh century in Mainz. He was murdered during the First Crusade, along with his wife and children. The First Crusade was a turning point in Jewish history - when relative coexistence with the Goyim was shattered by hatred rising up from the masses, at times against the will of the Christian and local leadership and residents, many of whom tried to protect Jews from the rabid hoards. During this period of mass slaughter, many Jews were forced to covert or die. And many died the death of martyrs. Rather than succumb to the persecution of the violent masses and accept baptism or be viciously slaughtered, some chose to take their own lives. There were families who took their own lives together. There were even mothers who killed their own children, some reciting a Bracha, rather than surrender their children to forced conversion.

Rather than have the will of the majority population forced upon them, they chose to end their own lives and those of their children. Better to be slaughtered in the Oilum Hazeh than to lose one’s Oilum Habbah.

We must emulate that generation of Tzaddikim. If the United States government tries to force our community to change our approach to education, our community should be prepared to sacrifice our own lives and, especially, those of our children. We are being persecuted by the uncompromising masses - the anti Semites and self haters, who want nothing less than to take away our Toirah. The Toirah tells us that there are three circumstances under which the a Jew is commanded Yehuraig V’Al Ya’Avor, to sacrifice one’s life: Avoidah Zorah, Gilui Arayois and Shephichas Damim - idol worship, adultery, and murder. Kal V’Choimer we should employ the same approach in response to the Sitra Achra teachings such as English, Math, and Science.

As we usher in Rosh Hashana, the Aseres Yemei Teshuva and Yoim Kippur, we must hold steadfast as a community to our Toirah values. The Toirah is timeless, not changing even one iota in the 3,500 hundred years since Har Sinai. It was conceived in Shamayim and given to Klal Yisroel long before the world was created. 

The Toirah teaches us “U’Vachartah B’Chaim” — we should choose life. But if not, we should choose death.

Ah Gutten Yuhr

Friday, June 12, 2020

On Impulse and Divinity

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






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

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






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

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






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