Monday, July 17, 2023

On Hillel and Shammai


I am srry if there are a few misspellngs in this week’s Drasha. I have been busy the last few days paying… ummm… friendly visits to the local Arab villages in the Shoimroin, engaging in… errr… diplomatic outreach to our neighbors and engaging in pro bono remodeling of houses, interior design, auto work, and ummm… medical activities. I have also been engaged in…. errr… editorial work, ripping the pages from Islamic holy books. 

I feel very comfortable doing these activities, as I am following the playbook of the Ukrainian heroes who committed a Pogrom on my grandparents’ Shtetyl in 1902. Those guys really knew how to scare the… ummm… Gedoilim out of people.

I thank the Reboinoisheoilum that the Israeli governing coalition includes Proud Boys…. err… Proud Jews willing to bravely stand up for Israel and its citizens by attacking the homes and cars of random civilians. What a Kiddush HaShem!

We are now subject to the outcry of the self hating left and the hypocritical Americans, as well as the anti-Semitic leftist Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who ordered the Administrative Detention of a few “sweet boys” from the settlements. Administrative Detention — being held without charges -- is a British Mandatory form of temporary imprisonment used against so-called-Palestinians, not against the citizens of the State of Israel! What do they think: That we are Jews in Eastern Europe? That we are Indians under British rule? That we are the residents of the planet Tatooine living under the rule of the Galactic Empire?

Throughout Jewish history Jews have celebrated acts of violence. 

Every year we recall Shimon and Levy committing a massacre in Shchem. All of Klal Yisroel celebrate the drowning of the Mitzrim in the Yam Suf — while getting inebriated and spilling Kneidlach on your Tashmish Hamitah-ing brother-in-law who won’t stop asking Klutzkashes all night while you are desperate to get on with the meal after smoking some Bsomim while everyone else was busy singing every. single. verse. of Dayenu.

What are we commanded to do to Amalek — Timcheh Ess Zaycher Amalek or Timcheh Ess Zecher Amalek? Which one is it? Yushka Pandra! We want to kill Amalek so badly we say it in twice - just in case the Reboinoisheloilum is not as smart as we think He is.

And then, of course, we have the conquest of Eretz Yisroel. We are commanded to commit extensive acts of violence against Cana’an and the various nations. 

Why did Shaul lose the Meluchah - the monarchy of Israel? Because he was not brutal enough. What activity spread the fame of David HaMelech prior to his becoming King of the United Kingdom? How was the future leader of the United Monarchy celebrated by Klal Yisroel? As a man of Hakadoishboruchhu? As David Ben Yishai, Avedecha Meshichechah, the present and future Messiah? As a spectacular musician trending on Spotify? No! He was celebrated for being a man of violence:

“VaTa’anena HaNashim HaMesachaKois VaToimarna, ‘HeeKah Sha’ul Ba’Alaphuv, V’Duvid B’Rivoisuv’.” (Shmuel Aleph, Perek Yud Chess, Pasook Zayin)

“The women danced and sang, chanting ‘Shaul kills by the thousands, and David kills by the tens of thousands’.” (Samuel 1, Chapter 18, Verse 7)

We are a people who sing about violence and the spilling of blood! Three thousand years ago the predecessors of our grandmothers were cheering on the brutality of King David by handing out pastries to hungry villagers, passing out candies to little children, and taking out their false teeth and providing “in-kind” services to soldiers returning from war and to needy town elders.  

And yet… I am embarrassed to admit that there are many self-hating Jews who oppose using force, whose defeatism has left us in a fragile state. They have forgotten what it means to be a Jew!

Take Avraham Avinu for example. The Aibishter sends messengers to tell him that He plans to destroy Sodom and kill all the Sodomites. And what does Avraham do? Does he volunteer to go and kill Sodomites himself? Does he offer to level the homes of the Sodomites and in their place bring in caravans, automatic weapons, electricity, and a Mikvah? Does he start marching with billboards that say, “A Good Sodomite is a Dead Sodomite”? No! Avraham Avinu negotiates with the Reboinoisheloilum to spare their lives. What the Tashmish HaMitah?!

“VaYoimer Hakadoishboruchhu, Za’akas Sdoim V’Amoirah Kee Rubbuh Ve’Chatoisum Kee Chuvhuh Me’oid.” (Beraishis Perek Yud Chess, Pasook Chuff) “VaYigash Avraham VaYoimar, Ha’af Tispeh Tzadick Im Rasha?” (Pasook Chuff Gimmul)

“Ooly Yaish Chamishim Tzadikim BeSoich Ha’Ir…” (Pasook Chuff Daled “…Ooly Yimtza’un Shuhm Arba’im…” (Pasook Chuff Tess) “…Ooly Yimtza’un Shuhm Shloishim…” (Pasook Lammid) “…Ooly Yimtza’un Shuhm Essrim…” (Pasook Lammid Aliph) “…Ooly Yimtza’un Shuhm Esser’…” (Pasook Lammid Beiz)

Shocking, I know. For you AmHaratzim, here it is in English:

“And the Reboinoisheloilum said, ‘the outburst of Sedoim and Amoirah is soi… errr… so great, and their sins are very severe’.” (Genesis Chapter 18, Verse 20) “And Avraham came forward and asked, ‘will you destroy the righteous along with the evildoers?’” (Verse 23)

“Perhaps there are fifty righteous people within the city.” (Chapter 18, Verse 24) “…perhaps there are forty…” (Verse 29) “…perhaps there are thirty…” (Verse 30) “…perhaps there are twenty…” (Verse 31) “…perhaps there are ten…” (Verse 32)

Oh my Hakadoishboruchhu! Did Avraham Avinu lose his mind? Does he not know what it means to be a self respecting Jew? Was he smoking too much hookah in the cool desert evenings?

CHAZAL of course address this very question. A beautiful Gemara in Tainiss tells of a Machloikess on the topic of Avraham Avinu’s motive in negotiating to prevent the destruction of Sodom. According to Rish Lakish, Avraham was a self-hating leftist and a traitor to his nation. Asks Rish Lakish, “You issued a message about saving Sodomites? Who do you think you are? The Wagner Group?”

But Rav Yoichanan disagrees. He suggests that Avraham Avinu tried to save Sodom because he owned a large apartment there that he frequently visited, accompanied by his Man-Servant. As proof he notes that Avraham frequently insists that Damesek Eliezer put his hand “under my thigh”, and cites a Medrish that says that Eliezer began his career as an exotic dancer at a club in Sodom under the stage name “Domestic Eliezer” before Avraham won him at an auction, and they were inseparable ever after.

The Gemara also cites an unnamed Mahn D’Umar who suggests that Avraham was sincere in trying to prevent bloodshed. But as not to embarrass the self hating Amoira who made that idiotic and naive suggestion, the Gemara kept him anonymous. (I personally think that the Amoira should have been named, and that he and his family should have been sent death threats. But Ravina and Rav Ashi, the editors of the Talmud, clearly were also leftists.)

Yankif Avinu is another one of our so-called “forefathers” who was a leftist and a self hating Jew. In the incident with Shchem, it was Shmoin and Levy who were Proud Jews, while Yankif himself opposed the violence. He tells his sons, “Achartem Oisee L’Havishaynee B’Yoisaiv Ha’aretz, BeCana’ani U’VaPreezee, V’Ani M’say Mispar V’Ne’esfu A’laiy V’Heekoonee V’Nishmadtee Ani OoVaysee”. (Beraishis, Perak Lamed Daled, Pasook Lamed) “You have made trouble for me and made me hated among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzi; and I am few in number, and they will unite against me and attack me, and I and my household will be destroyed.” (Genesis, Chapter 34, Verse 30)

Who the Gehennim does Yankif Avinu think he is? Benny Gantz or Ahmed Tibi? Just because Yankif is the father of the twelve Shvatim, the twelve tribes, and is the person who the nation of Israel is named for, that does not give him the right to express his defeatist, left-wing opinion. Concessions to Shchem one day will lead to concessions in Be’er Sheva the next day, and who knows where else. Lakewood could be next!

Is Yankif Avinu really worried about the destruction of his family? Does he not believe that the Aibishter will protect him? Does he not have Bitachoin? (Note: That means “faith”, not ‘Bitcoin”.) Yankif Avinu is clearly a card carrying atheist in addition to being a leftist.

But the worst is Moishe Rabbeinu. Seriously, I do not know why the Reboinoisheloilum chose such a Nebach to lead Klal Yisroel. I mean, sure, he got off to a good start by killing that Mitzri, but it went downhill from there. How many times does he plead with Hakadoishboruchhu for the lives of Klal Yisroel? After the Cheyt HaEigel, after the Cheyt HaMeraglim, Ich Vais how many more times... I say, “They sinned? Let ‘em die!”

By the way, I’m surprised that the Aibishter could even understand him through that horrible speech defect.

But can you imagine, standing before Klal Yisroel on the cusp of entering Eretz Yisroel, and he commands Klal Yisroel to seek peace?  “Kee Sikrav El Ir Le’Hilachaym Alehah Vakarasa Aylehah LeShaloim.” (Devarim, Perek Chuff, Pasook Yud) “When you approach a city to attack it, you shall offer it terms of peace.” (Deuteronomy, Chapter 20, Verse 10) Of course, this did not apply to the Seven Nations. But still - Peace?!?!

It’s no wonder that Moishe Rabbeinu was not allowed to enter into Eretz Yisroel. He would have pursued a policy of national suicide.

Sadly, there were others. There’s a good reason why we skipped over NACH in Yeshiva. 

David HaMelech, when he wasn’t killing Phillistines, was fighting alongside them. Shloimoi HaMelech made peace with many surrounding nations, and even gave away territory to another nation, though in his case he was not a self-hating leftist, Chass V’Sholom, but a pervert who aspired to add the daughter of every head of state he met to his harem. Meileh, some people collect stamps…

And do not get me started on this so-called Yeshayahu HaNavi. This self hating left wing pacifist causes us so much aggravation to this day. Wolf lying with the lamb? Are they kidding? The next thing they’re going to say is that there are more than two genders!


Klal Yisrael has forgotten what it is to be Proud Jews. Do you know who I blame? The Reboinoisheloilam Himself. He dictated the Toirah to Moishe Rabbeinu on Sinai, and not a letter was added or taken away according to Rabbi Akiva. So why exactly did He write: 

“VeGair Loi Sichatz V’Atem Yedatem Es Nefesh HaGair, Kee Gairim Heyeesem B’Eretz Mitrayim.” (Shmois, Perek Chuff Gimmul, Pasook Tess)

“Do not oppress a stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus, Chapter 23, Verse 9)

Rabboisai, this one Pasook is bad enough. But the Aibishter does not stop there. There are multiple similar Psukim in Shmois, Vayikra, and Devarim! And there are similar references elsewhere in TANACH. What the Tashmish HaMitah is Hakadoishboruchhu’s problem? I only wish that He loved Klal Yisroel as much as He loves “the stranger”; maybe He would persecute us a bit less.


Rabboisai, how did Klal Yisroel get so many self-hating leftists? OK, some may have been inspired by self-haters like Avraham, Yankif and others, and took them seriously. Some may have read the Reboinoisheloilum’s leftist propaganda and taken it literally. 

But we are surrounded by enemies. We are targeted by enemies. If they commit terror, should we not do the same?

There is a famous quote in the Gemara, “Leoilum Yehei Adam Anvatan KeHillel, V’Al Yehei Kapdan KeShammai”, “A person should always be moderate/ modest/ patient (עַנְוְותָן) like Hillel and not impulsive/ short-tempered/ impatient (קַפְּדָן) like Shammai.” (Shabbos, Daf Lamed Amud Baiz, Shabbat, Page 30, Side B)

I would suggest that our left wing self haters hold like Hillel, who also famously described the essence of Kol HaToirah, all the Toirah, as distilled while standing on one foot, “That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is commentary. Go study.” (Shabbos, Daf Lamed Aleph Amud Alepg, Shabbat, Page 31, Side A)

I imagine that our left wing self haters would suggest that Israel, as the sovereign entity, is entitled to engage in State mandated military and police operations, but is also responsible that such actions be mandated by the elected authorities, not random Israeli actors. Even in the early days of the fragile State of Israel, the retaliatory strikes led by Arik Sharon and many others were ultimately acts of the State, not random actors.

Perhaps our left wing self haters will suggest that Israel and the Palestinians are fated to live side by side - wherever the border is and whoever is in control. Perhaps our left wing self haters might also suggest that our ancestors were persecuted through random acts of violence, so in our own State we want to reflect the values that we aspire to.

Perhaps our left wing self haters will quote Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein, the co-leader of Yeshivat Har Etzion, as describing the recent events as “acts of revenge by lost and misbegotten souls” that are “a moral stain that taints us all”. (

But, unlike these left wing self haters, I do not hold like Hillel. I hold like Shammai who famously said, “Whoever stands by a just cause cannot possibly be called a terrorist”.

No, wait. That wasn’t Shammai. That was Arafat.

Never mind.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein


Yeshivas Chipass Emmess



Wednesday, June 28, 2023

On Revisiting Our Assumptions


In the history of Klal Yisroel, all of our national heroes were complex. 

I know, I know… that is not what you were taught in Yeshiva. You were taught that Avraham Avinu was a pure Tzadik, as were his son Yitzchak Avinu and his grandson Yankif Avinu. Avraham invented monotheism, circumcision, and the incandescent lightbulb. Yitzchak was so holy he never left Eretz Yisroel, though he did once take Rivkah Imeinu on a long weekend to Cyprus for their tenth anniversary, along with a hot Shifchah, two pairs of Tefillin and a Gartel. Yankif fathered twelve sons, Kenainah Harrah, and only one daughter, Baruch Hashem, which is exactly why they named a network of girls’ Yeshivois after him. 

Moishe Rabbeinu was a Groisse Anav, a very modest person, who spoke with a speech impediment and was married to a woman who looked like Lizzo wearing a Shpitzyl. Aroin HaKoihain fathered the entire Kehuna, the traditional priestly class, who till this day insist on having their hands washed by others before getting up in the front of the Shul and casting spells like Harry Potter, Hermione Ginsberg, Ron Weaselstein and Rosheshiva Dumbledore. (“Avadah Kedavrah V’Yishmarechah!”) 

Miriam HaNeviya was such an inspiring figure that more than a millennium later the Reboinoisheloilum dated someone named after her. And together they had a son...

Duvid HaMelech was the founder of the royal dynasty that held the monarchy of Yehuda, Judah, throughout the First Temple period, whose name we invoke as we pray for the arrival of the Moshiach, a central pillar of Jewish consciousness and culture for two millennia. How many times does his name appear in Davening every single day? Between the Shmoineh Esrei and various Tehillim, recitation of the name “Duvid” permeates the Davening. And how about the licensing and the merchandise? And don’t forget the naming rights. Can you imagine what kind of royalties his estate gets?

His son Shlomoi HaMelech was uniquely wise and successful. Brilliant. With his renowned wisdom he even invented an innovative non-invasive method of birth control - the Retroactive Abortion: Take a live baby and cut it in half using an AR-15. Ad HaYoim HaZeh, until this day, this remains the one form of abortion that the Republicans approve of and even encourage.

They were all picture-perfect role models.

Unless, of course, you actually bother to read the Toirah when you are sober, you Menuval! Then you discover that the reality is Nisht Azoy Pashut, it is not so simple. The truth can be jarring and uncomfortable. It is very much like the time you found out that your sweet, very Frum mother who always wears a big Shaytel once had a serious boyfriend whom she almost married instead of your father because he was better at finding her Gimmel-Spot.

When we really read about the Avois, Moishe, Aroin and Miriam, and Duvid and Shloimo, and examine the text with open eyes, we discover that these heroes were far from perfect. The Toirah details, almost shouts, the flaws and errors of the individual heroes, even as it tells us an idealized national narrative. 

Avraham of course was the founding figure of Klal Yisrael. He also prostituted his wife with two political leaders and attempted to slaughter his own son. Hey, it may make for a great metaphor on Rosh Hashana, but if anyone in your family starts talking about hearing God’s voice telling them to slaughter their child… you had better call the police right away and try to have the individual committed to Ted Kaczynski’s psychiatric institution; I hear there is an opening.

Yitzchak is the most amorphous, least three dimensional major character in all of the Toirah. He is largely a reactive figure whom some Apikursim would go so far as to suggest was invented to serve as a bridge between Avraham, who is presented as the “patron saint” of the territories in the South, AKA Mamlechess Yehuda, the Southern Kingdom, and Yankif-Yisroel/ Yosaiph HaTzadick/ Menashe & Efrayim, who are the foundational figures of the Northern Kingdom, AKA Mamlechess Yisrael. 

So what did Yitzchak accomplish? According to the Toirah, he basically did three things: He consummated his marriage the moment Eliezer arrived with Rivkah to their camp. According to CHAZAL Rivka was 3 years old, so Yitzchak was either a pedophile or CHAZAL were into really disturbing deviant child pornography. (Yes, there is a De’ah, a position, that suggests that Yitzchak and Rivka became engaged when Rivka was 3 years old, but the marriage was only first consummated when she got her first NidahTzait. But that suggestion is in direct contrast with what is written in the Passook.) Like his father, Yitzchak also prostituted his own wife with a local leader. And Yitzchak, the Alter Kacker Fryer, is regarded as a sucker for all eternity because he was so easily made a patsy by his Mechutziff youngest son.

And that youngest son, Yankif Avinu… Honestly, I do not know where to begin. While the Toirah suggests that his name reflects his holding Eisav HaRasha’s ankle (EKV) as they were emerging from their mother’s Erva, it has been hypothesized that the name Ya’akov may have been the name used in early Israelite oral folklore to represent a figure who so blatantly behaves in an underhanded or backhanded (EKV) manner. Yankif cheats his brother out of his rights as a first born. Yankif blatantly lies to his blind father. Yankif also uses trickery to maximize his gains at the expense of his father-in-law Lavan. (Take my advice: Do not ever hold up Yankif Avinu to your kids as a positive example of Kabeid Ess Avicha V’Ess Imecha. It will not end well for your family.)

Does the Toirah deny these abuses? On the contrary - Yankif is punished Midah Kineged Midah, in like fashion, for his behavior. He fools his father by disguising himself as his older sibling. In turn, he is fooled by Leah who feigns being her younger sister in their wedding tent. And Yankif is fooled by the bloodied Coat of Many Colors into believing that his favorite son was killed and eaten by either wolves or Fressers at a local Thursday night Scotch and Cholent Party. As RASHI notes quoting the Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah, “Payback is a bitch”. 

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Toirah’s extreme ambivalence about Yankif’s behavior is reflected in his being renamed after wrestling with a ManAngelAibishter figure. From that day forth, instead of being known as Ya’akov, EKV, “underhanded”, he is now known as Yisroel, translated by the Toirah as “Hakadoishboruchhu Perseveres”. I would suggest that perhaps the name originally meant “Yashar El”, “The Reboinoisheloilum is Direct/ Honest”. Sure, it is basic rebranding. But it worked for the stock performances of Philip Morris, now Altrea, and Facebook, now Meta. As pointed out by the RAMBAN, early in His career Hakadoishboruchhu — who has an MBA from Harvard Business School — spent two decades working in advertising and product marketing and was a big believer in both qualitative and quantitative market research. So He knew what He was doing. 

Moishe Rabbeinu of course had anger management issues, which resulted in his not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. Aron HaKoihain, the Minuval, never missed an opportunity to stab his brother in the back, be it in the Maiseh HaEygel, the episode of the Golden Calf, or in badmouthing Moishe Rabbeinu’s wife because she was a Cushite AKA African-Israelite AKA black. And of course, Miriam’s participation in that episode resulted in her getting Tzuhra’as, leprosy, being temporarily cast out of camp, and losing her sneaker deal with Nike, which RASHI describes as “‘Being Kanseled’ B’LA’AZ”.

Duvid HeMelech had a penchant for marrying women whose husbands died mysteriously, except for Bas Sheva’s husband, who was sent to battle with a one way map. Similarly, political rivals also died mysteriously, first and foremost Shaul HaMelech, for whom the Toirah provides a rock-solid alibi for Duvid, proving he was nowhere, nowhere(!) at all near the massacre of Shaul and Yoinasan, even though at that point he was allied with the Plishtim and the text tells us explicitly how Duvid kills the Amalaiki who was the sole witness to their deaths. Says the current Lubatcher Rebbe, Vladimir Putin is a direct descendant of Duvid HaMelech because Maiseh Avois Siman LaBanim - his “leadership style” is similar to Duvid’s, implying a familial relationship. Plus Duvid was known to manically isolate himself from Coivid Yud Tess and to rely heavily on the military support of the Craysee, the Playsee, and the Wagner Group.

Shloimoi HaMalech has ten Perakim dedicated to his good deeds in Sefer Melachim, the Book of Kings (Kings 1). But I suggest you read Chapter 11, Perek Yud Aleph. After you read that, you may start looking for the nearest church or mosque to ask for an application. In the words of the TANACH itself:

“Min HaGoyim Asher Amar Hakadoishborchhu El Bnei Yisrael Loi Savoi’oo BaHem, Va’Haim Lo I Yavoi’oo Bachem,mu Uchayn Yatoo Es Levavchem Acharei Eloheihem, Bahem Duvak Shloimoi Le’Ahava.” (Passook Baiz)

“Vayehee Le’Ais Ziknas Shloimoi, Nashav Heetoo Ess Levavoi Acharei Eloihim Acheirim, V’Loi Hayah Levavoi Shaleim Im Hakadoishboruchhu Eloihav Kilvav Duvid Uhviv

“VaYeilech Shloimoi Acharei Ashtoiress Eloihei Tzidoinim, Ve’Achareim Milkoim Shikutz Amoinim.” (Pesumkim Daled and Hay)

“Uz Yivneh Shloimoi Bamah Le’Chemoish Shikutz Moi’av BaHar Asher Al Pnei Yerushalayim, VeLaMoilech Shikutz Bnei Amoin.” (Passook Zayin)

“VaYissssanaph Hakadoishboruchhu BiShloimoi, Kee Nutuh Levavoi Mei’Im Hakadoishboruchhu Elohei Yisrael. ..” (Passook Tess)

“From the nations of which the Reboinoisheloilum had said, ‘do not join them, and they should not join you lest they turn your heart to follow their deities’, such Shloimoi clung to and loved.” (Verse 2)

“And in Shloimoi’s old age, his wives turned his heart to follow other deities, and his heart was not fully dedicated to the Reboinoisheloilum as his father’s heart had been.

“And Shloimoi followed after Ashtoiress the deity of the Sidonites (Phoenicians), and after Milkom the abomination of the Amonites.” (Verses 4 + 5)

“Then Shloimoi built an altar for Chemoish, the abomination of Moi’av, in the mountain facing Jerusalem, and to Moilech, the abomination of Amoin.” (Verse 7)

“And the Reboinoisheloilum was angry with Shloimoi because his heart turned away from the Reboinoisheloilum, the deity of Klal Yisrael…” ( Verse 9)

Boom! Mike drop. I bet you did not spend too much time discussing this Perek when you were in Yeshiva.  Looks like Shloimoi was about as loyal to the Reboinoisheloilum as Trump was to his many wives and Mike Pence. 

We are of course not the first generation to ponder these questions.  CHAZAL discussed them in the Gemara, and they were a frequent subject of interpretation. They were occasionally the subject of debate with the Sadducees, the Christians, the Karaites and Lubavitch, who would often use the Pashut Pshat, the simple interpretation, to debate the Pharisees/ the Rabbis. Consequently, CHAZAL de-emphasized Pashut Pshat as part of traditional Toirah study. There was a heavy emphasis placed on Drash. There were some, like Ibn Ezra, who preferred to engage with the text directly, but most studied the text through the interpretation of RASHI, which heavily leverages Medrish and frequently turns sophisticated adult text and concepts into an ArtScroll coloring book for developmentally delayed children. 

In the modern era, with the advent of the restoration of Hebrew as a colloquial language and advances in linguistics, archaeology, sociology and biblical scholarship, it is impossible to ignore the biblical details that have been patiently waiting for us. They are there in the text, and to ignore them is to declare that it is a beautiful day when it is raining outside, that blue is actually yellow even though it is obviously blue, or that Hunter Biden is innocent.

Based on the teachings of Saadia Goyn, we are meant to apply a rational approach to reviewing tradition, and if a claim does not stand up to reason, we need to reassess it. Why do you think that divorce lawyers are so busy?

What should we do when we discover that reality is complicated, that we have been indoctrinated with an idealized view of our national heroes, and that some of our early history has been presented in a glorified fashion? Should we reject our beliefs because our underlying assumptions are wrong? Or is it possible to replant our beliefs informed by our new fact base and yet still retain our basic values.

Or, to paraphrase Reb Yerachmiel Yoisaiph Yishayahu Jessup HaCoihain, can we handle the truth?


I am reminded of a beautiful Maiseh Shehoya. The MAHARAL and his wife were once woken up by the president of the MAHARAL’s Shul, the Young Israel of Prague, banging on the door in the middle of the night. “Rabbi, rabbi!” The president shouted, “we heard that there is a pogrom coming in a few days. We need you to activate the Goilem!”

“I will look into it tomorrow” the MAHARAL called back without opening the door, as he was only wearing boxer shorts, his Arba Kanfois, and a black Homburg.

When the president went away, Rebbetzin MAHARAL asked her husband, “Yehudalah, what was that man talking about?”

“Nothing important” the MAHARAL replied. “I paid that 6 foot 8 Sheygitz from down the block a couple of dollars to chase away some Schnorrers, and now people think I have some sort of Frankenstein’s monster on the Shul payroll. Schmucks.”

“So why don’t you tell them the truth?” asked his wife.

“Are you crazy? Ever since that Goilem rumor started, Schnorrers no longer ask me for money, Baalhabatim no longer criticize my Drashois, my Talmidim are afraid to fall asleep in Gemara class, and donations to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund are up 32 percent!”

Rebbetzin MAHARAL scratched her head. “Nee, but what about the pogrom?”

“Very simple” the MAHARAL responded. “One of three things will happen. Either the pogrom never comes, or the pogrom starts but we survive, in which case people will thank the magical Goilem that no one has ever seen. Or we will all die. After all, we are Jews, and this is Central Europe.”

“Besides” the MAHARAL continued, “ever since the Goilem legend I have become famous. I am now a major influencer. I even have six million followers on TikTok!”



Religion is Divinely inspired and fashioned by man. “Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee”; as understood by the Talmud, stewardship of our tradition lies in the hands of humanity. If the Toirah was written to tell us that people are complex, let’s accept those lessons, not deny them. Let us not whitewash our history and be afraid to ask difficult questions and follow those answers wherever they may lead.

We can handle the truth.

Our faith is based on our intellectual traditions, experiential customs, and cultural heritage. It is rich and complex and nuanced, and far more vibrant than any ArtScroll Mickey Mouse cartoonish portrayal of simplistic, one-dimensional caricatures of the leaders that the Toirah actually describes.

Yes, the Midrash exaggerates. But Midrash is a mix of ancient legends and traditions combined with speculative and highly creative conjecture. Be we do not Paskin by a Medrish, you Mechutziff — we do not consider Midrash to be legally binding or to be of equal historical authority as the text of the Toirah itself.

We are similarly not trapped in relying exclusively on the opinions or suggestions of CHAZAL, be they Tanaim, Amoiraim, Rishoinim, Acharoinim, intense Chassidim or cold-as-a-dead-fish Litvaks. We are allowed to entertain other ideas, old and new, as the Toirah is a living tradition, not a relic that died at Auschwitz or in the mass execution pits of Europe.

There is an infamous quote attributed to Charles Duell, the head of the US Patent Office, in 1898 “Whatever can be invented has been invented”. There are two problems with this quote. The first is that the statement is Tashmish HaMita-ing stupid. The second is that the quote is apocryphal and was never actually said. It is a form of circular logic designed to perpetuate a status quo and is disproven every single day. Kal V’Choimer, let us not be trapped in similar circular thinking, but be open to new understandings and new ideas even as we maintain our traditions and heritage, because “Toirah Loi BaShamayim Hee”.    


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein


Yeshivas Chipass Emmess