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Friday, January 05, 2018

NEW: Parshas Shmois Drasha

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NEW: Parshas Shmois Drasha


Rabboisai,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoyn.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, December 29, 2017

Chadash Assur Min HaToirah

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Chadash Assur Min HaToirah


Rabboisai,

This week I had been planning to share with you the ultimate key to bringing Moishiach, the Shaym HaMephoirash, the ineffable name of Hakadoishboruchhu that has been passed down in my - MY - family, as I am the direct descendant of Moishe Rabbeinu, Eli HaKoihaon, and Yirmiyahi HaNavi. And in invoking the Name in this Drasha, in this large virtual Kehillah, I was going to trigger the Yemai HaMashaich, the Messianic Era and the End Of Days. It's about time, don't you think?

In my role as President Donald Trump's Advisor For Spiritual Afffairs this week, I discussed my plan with President Trump SHLITA, and he though the idea was "Terrific!" He even wanted to know if we could brand the Third Bais HaMikdash as the "Trump Temple".

However. President Trump inadvertently shared the Shaym HaMephoirash with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador a week ago, and as they tried to use this ultimate weapon in their Zil limousines on the way back to the Russian Embassy, they upset the Reboinoishoilum, who only allows the use of the Shaym once in a generation. So Moshiach-Tzeit, the era of the Moshiach, will have to wait.

Damn.

But the good news is that some of my investments in Canadian real estate, the defense industry, and privately run prisons will now have time to grow in value. Baruch HaShem.

Shoyn.

----

We start today's Drasha with a series of questions. Please bear with me; I know that you have the attention span of a Goilem who just drank six Espressois... errr... espressos.

----

-- The Mishnah asks: "Ma'Amusai Koirin Ess Kriyas Shma Ba'Arvin?" From what point can we start reciting Kriyas Shma at night? I am not going to recite to you the entire Machloikess; if you are not intimately familiar with this very basic Mishnah, you should probably stop calling yourself a Jew and start worshipping Yushka, since you are an Am Ha'Aretz and add no value to Klal Yisroel whatsoever. Unless of course you are willing to write a big check, and then we will praise your value as a supporter of Toirah and Klal Yisroel and as a communal leader. Kenayna Hurrah!!

-- We also have an adage in Klal Yisroel that begins, "Tuhdeer V'She'einoi Tuhdeer..." - When one has to prioritize the order of a liturgy, which comes first - the common or the uncommon? Again, I am not going to tell you the answer. You should know the answer, otherwise you should not be reading this Drasha, because you are not qualified to be a Jew. Instead, you should be fixing cars and doing projects that require sheetrock.

-- When someone has a son, he has the opportunity to engage in the greatest Mitzvah in Klal Yisroel - LeHachnisoi Ess Bnei LeBrisoi Shel Avraham Avinu - to connect his son to the eternal covenant that Avraham Avinu forged with the Reboinoisheloilum. How does one do this? By having a Moihel perform a Bris, a circumcision, on the eighth day of life, or as soon after as possible in the event of medical complication. And what does the Bris include? The key ingredients are: Circumcision, Metzitza BiPeh, and and serving bagels and lox.

You may raise concerns about the practice of Metzitza BiPeh, a practice during which the Moihel draws blood from the site of the circumcision with his mouth. Opponents of this practice point to several incidents in which a Moihel with oral herpes passed along this minor disease to the eight day old baby who has no immune system. This has occasionally resulted in the deaths of such children. You may argue that this practice should be waived and possibly be ruled illegal in civil law. But whoever would argue such a thing is either an agent of Yishmael or the embodiment of the Amalek in our day.

-- When a boy or a girl on the Kehillah is sexually abused by a rabbi or a respected community member or even a member of their own family, we must express sympathy for the victim. And we must do everything in our power - EVERYTHING - to make certain that the perpetrator is not reported to the police. After all, "Lama Yoimru BaGoyim, Ayeh Nuh Eloikaichem". What will the Goyom say?

So what if the abuser goes out and abuses again and again? Hey, the kids will get over it! Or maybe they will leave the community or even commit suicide. That will make the problem go away!

And let's face it, there are a lot worse Aveirois than sexual abuse. Such as Shatnez, shaving with a blade, and, of course, using a smartphone, especially during Chazarass HaSHATZ.

-- When a married person loses his or her faith, Chass V'Sholom, what should we as a community do? How should we respond to someone who goes - what is the expression? - OTB?

Well, we must of course show sympathy and understanding as a community, by banding together socially and economically and ensuring that the Frum parent gets sole custody of the children, and that the non-Frum parent gets visitation, of course - a half an hour a week, max, supervised.

And what if the Frum parent is physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive, or denies giving an Off The Derech wife a Gett? These our not our concerns, as the well being of the children in the Oilum HaZeh is pure Gashmiyus, materialism; as Frummah Yidden we must only worry about Ruchniyus, the Neshamas of the children in Oilum HaBah. And if the Frum parent's treatment of the children leads to their suffering, descent into despair, substance abuse, and early death, why that only means that they will be able to join the Aimishteh in Gan Eden sooner that they otherwise would have. What a Mitzvah we can do as a community!!

You're welcome.

-- Why did the Holocaust happen? Why, that is simple: Because the Reboinoisheloilum was punishing Klal Yisroel. And we know this because the punishment is foretold in the Toirah. Why did Hakadoishboruchhu slaughter all our ancestors? Once again, if you are asking such an obvious question, you do not belong as a member of Klal Yisroel.

The general point is as follows: If you do not agree with such "normative" definitions and prescriptions, you are a Menuval; even worse, you are a self hating Jew. In fact, you are more like a Judenrat. Or even worse, a Democrat.

Had you been in Egypt, you would not have been let out. Your sons would today be members of ISIS, and your daughters would be belly dancers.

---

Rabboisai - We are suffering from a plague. What is this plague? People thinking for themselves.

This is a terrible thing which undermines rabbinic political and economic power.. errr... which undermines belief in the Reboinoisheloilum and Hashgacha Pratis, Divine engagement in the world.

Rabboisai, the advent of people having access to the internet on their personal phones echoes the earlier introduction of the internet, which followed the phenomenon of television, the invention of radio, and the root of all evils, the printing press. In general, literacy is causing people to do Aveirois -- that is: Exchange ideas,  develop questions, and seek answers. This sometimes leads to people going OTD, or becoming a Meshumad, or leading a secular lifestyle, or being a secular humanist, or affiliating with the Reform or Conservative movements.

Or, the worst, remaining engaged in the Orthodox community and challenging the community to address areas of concern on the philosophical, theological, social, practical, and Halachic dimensions.

Our nation is called "the People of the Book". What book does this refer to? I assure you, it refers to Toirah Moshe Rabbeinu, not the works of Darwin or Einstein or Watson and Crick, or Marc Shapiro, or The Economist, or National Geographic, or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. It refers to the writing of RASHI and Toisfois, not The Toirah.Com. It refers to the publications of ArtScroll, not to the publications or the Hebrew Union College or the Jewish Theological Seminary, or Koren Publishing or Yeshivasssss Choivevei Toirah, Chass V'Sholom.

Orthodox Judaism is called "Orthodox Judaism" because is contains "orthodoxies", basic beliefs. And if you do not  subscribe to those basic beliefs, especially as espoused by me and my rabbinic colleagues, then you may as well by building the next Auschwitz because you are promoting questioning which will lead to efforts to change our way of life, to assimilation, and to Shmad. Assimilation is the Holocaust in our generation; I know so, because I saw on Facebook that some rabbi said so. So it must be true.

How does one confront this challenge to the religious hegemony of our Gedoilim? There is a Machloikess on this:

According the Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua, such voices must simply be ignored. Unless of course the proponents of new ideas do not look or smell like us, in which case they should be challenged to a pissing contest, typically next to a fire hydrant.

Reb Yehoishaphat Catahoula, a rising rabbinical star, holds that we should attack anyone and anything that blocks our path, and tear away at their foundations of credibility as if we were ripping out the insoles of their shoes with our teeth, pulling out their stuffing, and biting at them to make them harmlessly squeak.

Maharat Avigail Katievsky holds Farkert, that we should sit calmly around such people, but strike at them with outstretched claws when they least expect it.

But her brother Reb Asher Katievsky believes that we should keep our community as far away from such influences, protecting ourselves and our community as much as possible by hiding in hard-to-find places, though occasionally coming out to engage as long as we are properly acknowledged by being stroked behind the ears.

Finally, Reb Betzalel Kupkayk holds that we should observe such people by lying in wait, quietly and stealth-fully, until we POUNCE and capture those annoying creatures, torture them, kill them once we get bored, and leave their carcasses on the front steps of the Rebbe's house, as a gift.

----

Rabboisai, Shloimoi HaMelech once wrote that "Ein Chadash Tachassss HaShemesh", "There is nothing new under the sun". So who are these people who would have the Chutzpah to argue with Shloimoi HaMelech?

Some may suggest that there are many factors that should be considered in the modern era that should influence our approach in practicing our faith, such as:
-- Knowledge of science, including modern medicine
-- Modern social perceptions, such as the recognition of the fundamental equality of the intellectual capabilities of women
-- Better understanding of the behavior and the brain, including the lifelong negative impact of trauma
-- The rapid evolution of technology and communications.

People who cite such factors may be proud of themselves. They probably overheard conversations while sitting in a public Bais HaKeesay or while on line to register for welfare and unemployment benefits.

But we know better.

As the Chassssam Soifer said, "Chadash Assur Min HaToirah", nothing new is permitted by the Toirah. And he knew what he was talking about. He was a modern man, a man of our world; why, he died only a couple of years ago. In 1839. Compared to him, Einstein had the mind of a child, and Mark Zuckerburg was a shoemaker.

"Chadash Assur Min HaToirah" means that there have been zero changes in Yiddiskeit since Moishe Rabbeinu drank Espressois with Hakadoshbaruchhu on Har Sinai. He Davened using the liturgy of today, out of an Art Scroll Siddur. He wore a Shtreimel. He used filters on his water tap to keep out microscopic organisms. He used three filters on his iPhone, which he of course needed for professional purposes. He had two dishwashers in his kitchen, plus had a second kitchen for Pesach. He refused to sit next to women every time he sat on a plane. And he had a Nidah App on his iPhone to monitor his wife’s cycle and Mikvah habits.

And while according to the Toirah he preached the importance of honesty in judges and testimony, he made sure that such judges would always favor sexual abusers over their victims, and would deny parental access to children if a male parent decided that he liked to shave with a blade, or a female parent liked to eat Tarfus.

"Chadash Assur Min HaToirah."

So next time you hear of radical ideas, or have philosophical or theological questions, or worry about the well-being of human victims of Orthodox fundamentalism, get those ideas out of your mind. You have better things to be concerned about, such as Zman Kriyas Shma, which Shmineh Esrei to say first when reciting a Tashlumim, or how much suction to use when performing Metzitza BiPeh.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, December 21, 2017

NEW - On Making Peace With Reality

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On Making Peace With Reality


Rabboisai,

I am writing this in my office within the White House, in my role as Senior Religious Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, SHLITA.

Товарищи, позвольте мне рассказать вам о последних событиях, происходящих в Белом доме.

Oops. Sorry. I meant to send that to someone else. Well, no one really. Please ignore it. My keyboard was broken. I have never spoken to Putin in my life. Or the Russian ambassador. Or any Russian, ever. Or anyone descended from a Russian. Shit, I haven’t ever spoken to my own mother because she is from Brighton Beach. Not once. 

In any case, we are having a terrific level of impact in the White House over the last few weeks. The Tax Bill is a terrific achievement! We are cutting business taxes, and many residential taxes. Because of limits on the mortgage deduction, home owners in New York are likely to pay higher taxes. But that won’t impact Klal Yisroel, since everyone that I know has their house registered as a Shul. In fact, in my house back in Boro Park, after Maariv tonight we will be hosting Bingo Night sponsored by my Bashert Feigeh Breinah’s chapter of Amit Women - Ultra Orthodox Division, where all of the publications and material have had the faces of all the women blacked out.

Rabboisai, we just finished Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. The SHEISS-KUP asks an important Shailah - Why do we light candles and say Brachois about a magical miracle about the Staying Power of oil that only appears in a Braisah hundreds of years after the actual miraculous war for liberation of Judea in 160 BCE, knowing that the miracle story is likely a fictional legend?

The MALOMAR Shteyts a beautiful Vort: That the oil miraculously lasting eight days is a metaphor for the Staying Power of Klal Yisroel. Through exile and suffering, the Reboinoisheloilum stayed with us and sustained us. We even survived eight years of Oibama because Hakadoishboruchhu never abandoned us, other than His annual vacation to His Bungalow in the Catskills. The MALOMAR is of course known for using an eclectic mixture of influences from both Chassidic thought and Fox News in his Divrei Toirah.

I, the RAPAS, however, would like to interpret the miracle of the Chanukah candles in a different way. We must recall that CHAZAL had a great challenge facing them after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash by the Romans, and the disastrous Bar Kochba rebellion two generations later. They could not have a holiday focused on overthrowing a sovereign entity in the Land of Israel. So they de-emphasized the political struggle for independence that is at the core of Chanukah, and focused the holiday on a miracle story that addresses the personal challenge faced by many of us. And the miracle for each of us, the Chanukah message for all men in Klal Yisroel, is that though good deeds and the help of the Aimishteh, we have have Staying Power that is eight times the normal, as long as we use the right, ummm... special oil.

This special oil, by the way, is available at a low introductory rate of $99 per tube of the new: “Doc Schmeckel’s Chanuka Love Oil”, available in flavorless, jelly donut flavored, and latkah flavored. And believe me, your spouse or significant other will be singing along with you for hours, or your money back (minus shipping and handling charges, of course). And if you are one of the first hundred callers, we will give you a second tube of “Love Oil” for one dollar extra, and add a fur lined egg beater absolutely free as our gift to you. 

Shoyn.

The other big achievement for the Administration in the last few weeks, and a major personal achievement, I might add, is the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol. It is a Nais!!! It is a miraculous achievement! It signals that one country in the world finally recognizes the fact that Jerusalem IS Israel’s capitol. 

Not that we care what the Goyim think, of course. Ever! 

I want you beloved Talmidim to know that it was I, Rabbi Pinchas J. Schmeckelstein III, who lobbied the President on this issue, day in and day out. “Why is it so important?” the President kept asking. “The State Department keeps on telling me that this would be disruptive to the Peace Process, a robust process that is running so smoothly in the background you can hardly notice it is there. And the Arab countries warn me that it would force their hand to not make public peace with Israel, just as they were all lining up to sign peace agreements — any day now. In addition, our allies are against such a move. And the Israeli security establishment is worried about the possible violent repercussions. Maybe we should just wait?”

And I would look at the President and say, “Mr. President, the State Department are all a bunch of anti-Semites. The Arab countries - anti-Semites. Our ally countries - anti Semites. The Israeli security establishment - anti Semites!!! You, Mr. President, can be a catalyst for change!” We had this discussion again and again, but President Trump would not budge. Until I came up with the magical argument that finally convinced him. “Dad... errr... Mr. President, think of the property values, they will shoot way up. Plus I think we can get the Israelis to rename the Kotel area as ‘The Trump Plaza’.” That sealed the deal. 

Next, I will start lobbying President Trump to recognize the Palestinians as a species of flightless migratory birds, and then all of Klal Yisroel’s problems will magically go away.

I am reminded of a beautiful story about the Baal Shem Toiv. The BESHT was once traveling to a border town between Ukraine and Russia when he came to a Shul on Friday night. Already famous, members of the Community greeted him effusively outside the Shul. But when they asked him to come in and Daven, the BESHT refused, stating that the Shul was too full for him. 

“But Rebbe”, one of the younger community members protested, “there is barely a Minyan in there, and we would like you to join us for Kabbalas Shabbos”.

“I am not talking about people. There is a lot trapped in there.”

The young man looked with wonder at the BESHT, as if a light bulb turned on in the man’s head. “Do you mean to say that we are Davening without Hisboidedus, without real feeling and passion, so that our prayers are trapped in the Shul because they are not reaching Shamayim?” asked the townsman. “What a beautiful Vort, Rebbe, We will change our ways!”

“Errrrr.... yeah. That’s kind of what I mean. Right!”, replied the Baal Shem Toiv. “Sure. good job!!”

This is the version of the story that most people know. But my Alter Zeidy, who was himself a descendant of the BESHT, told me the lost remainder of the story.

That night the Baal Shem Toiv went to bed after having a light dinner an the inn, followed by a big slice of Ukrainian Lime Pie. Once settled in the bed, he began to meditate. And then the Rebboinoisheloilum came to him in a vision.

“BESHTELEH, Voos Machst Dee?” (“Beloved BESHT, what’s up my Brother?) asked Hakadoshboruchhu.

“Well, I am feeling guilty. I told those guys that the synagogue was full and that I could not go in. They came up with some wacky religious interpretation, and I did not want to shake their faith. But that little Shul smelled like one massive fart. I could not breathe.” 

“BESHTELEH, Di Bigast Rukhniusdikkah Emmes Vos Ir Darfn Tsu Gedenken Iz: Shit Happens. Aumetum. Aun Mir Alleh Hobn Tsu Makhn Shalum Mit Im, Afilu Aoyb Mir Hobn Tsu Bakumen Tsu Dem Umbakvemkayt. Mir Zol Afilu Arumnemen Es.” (“Beloved BESHT, the biggest spiritual truth that you need to remember is: Shit happens. Everywhere. And we all have to make peace with it, even if we have to get used to the discomfort. We should even embrace it.”)

And the BESHT knew then what he had to do.

The next morning the BESHT showed up for Shabbos morning Davening. Pesukai D’Zimrah. Barchu. Kriyas Shma. The Amidah. Leyning.

During the HafToirah, he snuck out with the Kiddish Club and had some Slivovitz and Cholent. And, almost magically, he no longer hated the aroma, he began to like it, and to contribute his own. What was once foreign and uncomfortable was now natural and a part of the essence of the little Shul.

The BESHT knew that peace meant recognizing that the Tzelem Eloikim, the Divine spark, exists in everyone. Even in humans that do not look like us, sound like us, eat the same foods as us, or smell like us. Societies may clash, but the diversity of peoples and cultures is the ultimate human commonality. 

And you must know that that town was actually the town of Mezeritch, And that young man who engaged in dialogue with the Baal Shem Toiv outside the Shul was none other than Doiv Bear, who would later become the BESHT’s principal follower known to the world as the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Rabboisai - This is an important lesson for all of us, not just in the religious and political realms. The world was created with its imperfections. Society has its imperfections. Our everyday lives have their imperfections. Jewish history is filled with, perhaps defined by, its imperfections. We of course are tasked with trying to repair those imperfections by recovering the holy sparks, the Nitzoitzin, from the dross, the unholy broken shards of cosmic existence. But we must also come to terms with the imperfections of the broader world, and in our own lives. For if we spend all of our time contemplating what is wrong, we will never appreciate what is good.

And when we do Mitzvois to rescue the holy sparks, and we also accept that not all imperfections will go away, and we make peace with them, we bring about the Geulah, the redemption. Perhaps for the entire world, perhaps for Klal Yisroel, perhaps just for ourselves, or,  perhaps, for a single innocent Tzaddik... such as Shalom Rubashkin.

Yes, I am responsible for that one too. Many hours were spent persuading President Trump on that one. So please send me your checks so I can keep up my good work. And if you act now, I’ll toss in a couple of samples of “Doc Schmeckel’s Chanuka Love Oil” as a free gift. 

BiMehairah BiYameinu. Umayn. 

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On the Passing of a Tzaddik

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On the Passing of a Tzaddik


מִי-הָאִישׁ, הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים;    אֹהֵב יָמִים, לִרְאוֹת טוֹב.

“Who is the living being who seeks life, who loves the days of his life, to see good”

Rabboisai,

We are gathered here to offer our respects at the passing of one of the Gedoilei HaDor, the leaders of the generation, Reb Betzalel Kupkayk. Reb Betzalel left this world the same way he lived it - Enjoying the wonders of nature, the world created by Hakdoishboruchhu.

How do we sum up the life of a Tzaddik? We, of course, are discouraged by CHAZAL, our sages, from offering Hespedim, eulogies, for a Tzaddik. However, we are encouraged to celebrate and remember, and discuss the lessons of a life well spent, learning Toirah, doing Mitzvois, and killing small animals.

Reb Betzalel was born under challenging circumstances. We know little about his early childhood, but we do know that he was instinctively drawn to Toirah. My Bashert Feigeh Breinah immediately recognized his potential and encouraged that he be taken in by the Yeshiva, even though we had agreed not to bring in any more wards of the Yeshiva, Reboinoisheloilumdammit. When I first learned of Reb Betzalel’s arrival, I was concerned that he would be a bad influence on the other Lamdunim. But in this one, solitary thing, this one time, ever, my Bashert was right. Reb Betzalel was very special and brought great wisdom and insight into the Yeshiva.

Reb Betzalel’s early days were spent learning BiChavrusa with Reb Yoisaiph Katsky, ZTL, often in animated Machloikesin that occasionally led to knocking items off the table and the shelves. Both Reb Yoisaiph Katzky and his protege Reb Betzalel Kupkayk were particularly fond of Shabbos, and every week waited patiently at the Yeshivah Shabbos table for Shirayim of chicken or fish.

But the most profound relationship that Reb Betzalel had was of course with Reb Shmiel Kalbasavuah, SHLITA. They spent years as Chavrusas and constant companions, learning Toirah and taking walks together. Indeed, their mutual affection mirrored that of Dovid HaMelech and Yehoinasan. And it is true that Reb Shmiel was known to occasionally exhibit physical affection for Reb Betzalel, but as it was consensual, we need not discuss it here. (And, no, we are not removing Reb Shmiel from his current position at the Yeshiva. He is neither Matt Lauer nor Charlie Rose.)

Pirkei Avois tells us “Asei LeCha Rav, U’Knei LeCha Chaver”, assign yourself a Rabbi, and acquire for yourself a friend”. People have forever wondered what the latter part of the phrase means. Does it refer to an actual “purchase”? Most people hold that, no, it is metaphorical for personal engagement and commitment, for investing value in the relationship. The relationship between Reb Betzalel and Reb Shmiel was indeed a synthesis of both aspects of this equation.

Legendary are the long walks shared by Reb Shmiel and Reb Betzalel, with Reb Shmiel often running ahead to ensure that Cossacks, Nazis, or squirrels were not waiting around the corner. On their walks they would often discuss the intricacies of Halacha. What is the earliest one can light candles on Friday night? When laying Tefillin, can you respond to text messages, or does that count as a Hesach HaDaas? When you find scraps of food on the street, do you need to check Hashgacha, or should you eat them immediately, lest this be the last morsel of food you will ever eat?

While Reb Shmiel is the better known Poisayk, rendering Halachic decisions across a broad range, Reb Betzalel himself, in his own quiet, modest way, established a territory in which he shared his Halachic output. He is particularly respected for his expertise on the Halachois regarding the Schechting of small birds, and on trapping, torturing, and killing small rodentia.

Reb Betzalel was unique in his warmth and tolerance. He showed the same patience and acceptance of little children as he did of Talmidei Chachamim. Because unlike most of us, he never forgot his modest roots.

Like many of our sages, Reb Betzalel Kupkayk had supernatural Kabbalistic legends associated with him. His head, facial, and body hair were a mix of black and white, and it is said that his hair was a reflection of the cosmic status of Klal Yisroel. When Klal Yisroel acted in a way that found favor in the eyes of the Aimishteh, Reb Betzalel’s black hair dominated. But when Klal Yisroel acted in a manner disappointing to the Reboinoisheloilum, his white hair dominated. And, sadly, at the end of his life, between Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Louis CK, the deep tax cheating and fiscal corruption scandals plaguing Lakewood, the communal cancer impacting much of the Chassidic world featured in the Netflix film One Of Us, and the continued ineptitude and failure of moral leadership by the leadership of Yeshiva University, Reb Betzalel was largely white.

Reb Betzalel was not only a great Talmid Chacham, but he was a man of the world. He followed the news very closely, as he was always on alert for threats to Klal Yisroel. At times he could become passionate about current events. During the 2016 campaign, once the video footage leaked of Donald Trump talking about “grabbing them by the pussy”, Reb Betzalel would hide under the bed every time he heard Donald Trump’s voice on the TV or radio. And who can blame him?

Reb Betzalel carried himself with measured dignity, even at the end. Despite his spreading illness he went on with his life, never complaining and never compromising on his daily routine. Even when he had lost 1/3 of his body weight, he continued to soldier forward. He even ignored the taunting of the newer generation of Talmidim and Yeshiva Loimdim, tolerating Reb Yehoishaphat Katahoula’s high energy confrontations, the disrespect shown by Reb Asher Katievsky, and the complete bitchiness of Maharat Avigail Katievsky.

Only in his very last days did his pain and suffering catch up with him. And his life ended the way it was lived, with steadfast independence and personal pride. 

How do we measure a life well spent? It is a mistake to focus on the final days of pain and suffering. More important, we focus on the Mitzvois, the good deeds, and the personal contributions to everyone touched, as well as to Klal Yisroel and the the broader world. Death may be an end of life in this world, but as the soul is reunited with Hakadoshboruchhu, hopefully, just maybe, the essence of a life well spent is integrated into the fabric of the Ein Soif, the Unknowable Divine, contributing to the positive aspects of an often cruel and distant universe.

I envision Reb Betzalel today, right now, sitting in Gan Eden at the feet of Reb Moishe Feinstein, Moishe Rabbeinu, Reb Yehuda HaNasi, RASHI, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe SHLITA, learning Toirah with them, eating from the Levyoson with them, and curling up and sleeping next to Eliyahu HaNavi. Believe me, Shamayim no longer has a mouse problem.

Reb Betzalel Kupkayk has certainly earned a great reward in the Oilum HaBah for a life well lived in the Oilum HaZeh.

Yehi Zichroi Baruch, May his memory be for a blessing.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess