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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Parshas Shmini


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://stores.lulu.com/rapas

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NOTE: Rabboisai: You are encouraged to offer comments on my Toirah. I spent thirty freaking years in Bais Medrish just so I could uplift your miserable souls on Shabbos Koidesh for 2 minutes. The least you can do is respond to the blog and offer praise, offer a donation, or at least offer to take out the trash at night. You are ungrateful Minuvals and an Am Kshe Oiref. Keep it up, and next week, I will make you stand at the blackboard and write "I will not be a Vilde Chaya" fifty times...



Parshas Shmini

In this parsha, Shmini, we read about traifus. Lots of it. Pigs. Camels. Flying insects. Eagles. Bottom-dwelling-non-finned-non-scaled-fish. Reboinoisheloilum, it makes my mouth water!

In fact I am currently lobbying the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the RCA, the OU, YU, JTS, the UJA, the ADL, the JCRC, the JDL, AIPAC, the WZO, the JNF, ARZA, the HUC, the Kof-K, the Triangle-K, and Amit Women to officially change the name of the parsha to "Parshas Mouthwatering". So far I have only heard back from two organizations: the Triangle-K, which wants to negotiate pricing, and the HUC, which thought the name of the Parsha actually is "Parshas Mouthwatering".

According to the RIF, the enactment of traifus restrictions is one of the ultimate tests of being a member of Am Yisroel. After all, it must be delicious! Indeed it is fair to assume that the Aimishteh created all of the taboo creatures with the delicious traifus-goodness baked right in. He must have taste-tested it too, to make sure he got the recipe just right.

Oy, what I wouldn't give to be a goy right now, so I could have no rules or restrictions! I would walk right into the local McTraifus, with my girlfriend Christine O'Reilly by my side, and order a bacon double lizard burger with deep fried owl, and wash it down with a vanilla milk shake. Actually, as long as I am immune from all of the commandments spelled out in the Toirah, make that my boyfriend Philip O'Reilly. We would eat the night away, and then go back to my place to worship Avoidah Zara, shave off our sideburns, and put on some shatnez.

But alas, Shver tsu zein a Yid, being a Jew comes with a price. WE have a covenant with the Reboinoisheloilum: We follow His rules, and keep His mitzvois, His chukim, and His mishpatim. And as a reward, we get to spend our entire lives being persecuted

However, what happens when we don't follow the rules? The parsha tells us of one such occurrence. Aroin Hacoihain's good-for-nothing sons offend the Aimishteh and get burnt to a crisp. But what was their aveirah?

RASHI cites one suggested explanation, that Nadav and Avihu had all the best of intentions: they simply added on to the Avoidah, because they thought it would be a nice thing to do. In other words, they were guilty of Baal Toisiph, and the Reboinoisheloilum struck them down for trying to be Hiddur Mitzvah. Hey, please remind me of this next time I want to spend an extra ten dollars on an Esrog!

But according to Toisfois, the brothers were minuvals who were horsing around in the Mishkan. There they were, doing the Avoidah, when Nadav thought it would be hysterically funny to dump the contents of the Kiyore on Avihu's head. Avihu responded by taking the Urim V'Tumim and smacking Nadav in the face, causing him to fall backwards into the Tayvah holding the Luchois. This got the Kruvim angry and...well...you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark -- you know what happens next.

However, the Vilna Goyn, looking elsewhere in the parsha, suggests that given the references to traifus at the end of the parsha, Nadav and Avihu must have been using the Mizbayach to barbecue ribs, anointing them with a Mesopotamian Smokey Grill marinade, on sale at the local supermarket as a two for one special. But he is uncertain if the brothers were punished for eating traif ribs, or simply for overcooking them.

The RAMAH vehemently disagrees with the Goyn. He insists that cooking and eating traifus, even in the Mishkan, does not bring about a chiyuv of missah, just so long as whatever was cooked and eaten conforms to the same halachois in place for the Korbonois. He cites a Beraisah in Yevamois that says the brothers had fully and successfully cooked their meal. But after eating they brought out a cake from which Avihu's wife had cut out a small wedge, "just to taste". Consequently they were chayuv missah for having brought a dessert with a mum into the Koidesh HaKedoishim.

In my humble opinion, I respectfully submit that the Goyn and the RAMAH have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. A maiseh shehoyo: When I was a young talmid I experimented with traifus, in the spirit of "Oiseh Maiseh Beraishis"; I felt compelled to sample all of His creations. Including dumplings. As I washed my first bites down at the Chinese restaurant, I waited. Would I be struck down by a bolt of lightening? Would I choke to death on a clump of traifus? No! The Aimishteh left it up to me to make my choices and live with them.

So did Nadav and Avihu, those minuvals. They saw the signs written on the walls of the Mishkan, yet chose to ignore them and paid the ultimate price. When will they ever learn? As the spring season arrives, we should all keep the bitter lessons of Nadav and Avihu in mind: Always keep the room well ventilated when grilling indoors.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Purim Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Purim Drasha

Rabboissai,

Today we gather together to celebrate the most joyous of all the Jewish Holidays, the holiday of Purim. On this holiday, we celebrate the salvation of the Jewish People through the exploitation of Esther's Hamalka's bisulta. We commemorate this miracle by getting stinking drunk and trying to be mezaneh with our chavrusa when he himself isn't off in a corner throwing up.

Chazal often contemplated the deeper meaning hidden within Megillas Esther, the text that details the story of Purim. Why, they ask, is the name of the Rebboinoisheloilum not mentioned throughout the Megillah, while in contrast, Haman Harasha's name is mentioned so many times that people constantly bang their heads against the wall?

According to the RASHBAM, the Aimishteh refused to have his name attached to the story, as he was repelled by the Machiavellian activities of Klal Yisroel. Such actions include:

-- Mordechai saves the life of the king and doesn't even collect a cash reward (What's pshat with that?)

-- Esther curries the favor of the king by taking hold of his extended staff

-- Once victory is achieved, Klal Yisroel doesn't stop until they have murdered Haman's allies, hanged his sons, and raped his horses.

Says the RASHBAM, Hakkadoshboruch didn't need any of the publicity, as He was still trying to live down the bad press from the whole Ten Plague thing.

The RITVA disagrees, noting that the RASHBAM dropped too much bsomim when he was in college and was prone to flashbacks while in the Bais Medrish. The RITVA suggests that the reason that the Rebboinoisheloilum is not mentioned is that Megillas Esther is simply not originally a Jewish story. Noting the similarity of the names of Mordechai and Esther to the Persian diety names of Marduk and Ishtar, the RITVA offers that Purim was really adapted from a pagan Persian holiday where Persians would traditionally drink heavily, exchange gifts of food, and kill their wives and replace them with younger women.

But the Toldois Aharoin disagrees with both the RASHBAM and the RITVA. The Toldois Aharoin suggests that the Melech Malchei HaMelachim didn't want his name included in the Megillah because he was perpetually annoyed by the fact that no one could ever get His name right.

The Toldois Aharoin cites a beautiful discussion from the Zoihar: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yoichai, sitting around a campfire with his followers, tells them that one must try to know the Ain Sof, the unknowable aspect of the Omnipresent, by giving it a name. "What would YOU call the Ain Sof?" he asks each of his followers.

One follower responds "Rebbe, I would call Him 'Fred' because that is a name I can relate to, since I once had a dog named Fred, and a dog is man's best friend."

Another follower says, "I will call Him 'Spike', because the Jewish People have a Bris with the Ain Sof, and that is what I nicknamed my Bris Milah when I was thirteen years old."

And so they went around the circle.

When the last of the followers had spoken, Rebbe Shimon addressed them. "You idiots," he said, "you cannot give the Ain Sof a proper name! He is unknowable. I spent 13 years in a freaking cave just to teach schmucks like you?" When Rabbi Shimon calmed down, he told them that the Ain Sof should be called the Aibishter, meaning in Yiddish "The One On High," since, according to Rabbi Shimon, "as He is unknowable, one would have to be high to think you can know Him."

As the rebbe's talmidim nodded in agreement, Rabbi Akiva joined the group, and, upon hearing the topic, began to berate Rabbi Shimon. "You would call the Ain Sof 'Aibishter'?" Rabbi Akiva asked. "Everyone knows that He should be called 'Aimishteh', which means in Aramaic 'Where is He when you really need Him?"

Says the Toldois Aharoin, as Hakadoshboruchhu didn't want to intercede directly in the argument, he decided to adopt a low key approach in the Megillah.

I, the RAPAS, would like to offer a new answer to this question. The Rebboinoisheloilum's name is obscured from the Megillah so Klal Yisroel will learn that some time we have to solve our own problems. We cannot always rely on a deus ex machina, an external solution, heavenly or otherwise, to resolve the most challenging issues of our day. We must use our own intelligence and creativity to devise and implement our best alternatives.

Take for example the issue of peace between Klal Yisroel and the Arab world. Some would say that we should give up all of the West Bank in exchange for peace. Others would say that we should not give up one inch.

I would like to humbly suggest that in exchange for real peace, we should be prepared to make sacrifices, even painful ones. However, it should be clear to all sides that not everyone will get what they want. But in the spirit of compromise, I am certain that we can reach an understanding.

Consequently, while I am not certain what we should do with the West Bank, in exchange for real peace we should be prepared to give Brooklyn to the Palestinians. And if calm prevails there, we can talk later about giving back other territories including the Five Towns, Teaneck, and Skokie.

A Freilichen Yuntif, You Minuval.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On the US Presidential Race

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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On the US Presidential Race


Rabboisai,

Over the last few weeks I have been asked by many of my Talmidim to offer a Rabbinic ruling on who is the best candidate in the current US presidential primary season.

Of course, this is a natural request, given my recent designation as Poisaik of the Year in Fortune Magazine, which focuses its profile on my recent Psak Halacha where I ruled that a man with one arm may put his Tfillin on his leg, though there is a machloikess between RASHI and Rabbeinu Tam on where exactly he should place his Shel Roish…

Another reason why the Buchrim have been reaching out to me on this topic is because I spent six years as Lieutenant Governor of Utah. I had high popularity ratings, but was forced to resign due to a public scandal – word got out that I had only one wife (my beloved Bashert, Feigah Breinah).

In any case, in order to evaluate all of the Goyim running for office, I employ three screens:

a) Is the candidate good for the United States? Does he or she have adequate experience, and a set of beliefs and perspectives that will help the country address its key challenges (such as mandatory Shatnez checks on all clothing imported from China)?

b) Is the candidate good for Klal Yisroel? Is he/she good for the Jews? After all, our sustained presence in the ghetto is based on the kind-heartedness of the President, who is liable to order pogroms at every turn, and who is capable of eliminating all US support for Israel without hesitation. Indeed, he/she may halt military and financial support to Israel, or, even worse, help Israel broker a peace agreement, chass v’sholom.

c) Does the candidate act in a manner consistent with Halacha? How many of the TARYAG Mitzvois does he or she keep? Can he/she serve as an example for our Kinderlach? Or will he or she be mezaneh with a White House intern, instead of cutting taxes and increasing spending the way the Reboinoisheloilum likes?

Using these three screens, I hope to take you through a discussion of each candidate, using lucid and rational arguments that will result in you mindlessly following every word I say. Shoyn.

Candidate # 1: Senator Barack HUSSEIN Oibama

a) Overall: Eppis, he is really smart and charismatic. He’s like Duvid HaMelech after a three week vacation to the Bahamas! Now, he has only been in the Senate for two years, and has abstained from many key votes. But he did serve in local government in Chicago, where he introduced critical legislation that would automatically qualify the Cubs for the World Series if they cannot get there on their own by 2015. He was also the Editor of the Harvard Law Review, and is a frequent contributor to Penthouse Letters.

b) Klal Yisroel: This is an area of great concern to Klal Yisroel. As has been pointed out by many, Senator Oibama is a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ, and his pastor is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who is an avowed critic of Israel who has made rants that border on the Anti-Semitic. In addition, Oibama has a longstanding relationship with Minister Louis Farrakhan, and is rumored to have shared a room with Minister Farrakhan in college for one semester. It is also well documented that while in college, Oibama spent summers overseas teaching munitions in a Midrassa in Iran.

Many have also pointed with great concern to his foreign policy team. The team includes Anthony Lake, the anti-Semite, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Soinay Yisroel with too many consonants in his last name, Samantha Power, who, frankly, no one has ever heard of before, and Adolf Eichmann.

Even more disturbing, however, are Senator Oibama’s own words. In an interview with Time Magazine in December, Oibama said that he was opposed to raising income taxes, but suggested, “there are lots of alternative ways to make up the deficit. We could use consumption fees, or charge an air usage tax linked to the size of each citizen’s nose.” And most alarming is what Senator Oibama told NBC’s Meet The Press in February, “I hate the fucking Jews. Those kike bastards have been stealing the pennies of my people ever since they brought us over on slave ships.”

c) Halacha: Finally, Senator Oibama clearly fails the Halacha test. According to joint research by the Newsweek, the American Medical Association, Blueboy Magazine, and Yated Ne’eman, Senator Oibama’s schvantzel is more than 2000 amois long when he gets a… errr… shverkeit. Consequently, every time he does the double mitzvah on Friday night he goes beyond the Tchum Shabbos*. And there is no evidence at all that he has ever made an Eiruv Techumim!

Candidate #2: Senator John McCain

a) Overall: This is an area of grave concern. Let’s face it: the guy spent 6 years in a wooden box monitored by his Viet Cong captors. How do we know what they did to him? Maybe they programmed him to be their sleeper agent. Indeed, John McCain could be the REAL Manchurian Candidate! (This is the exact same thing that happened with Moishe Rabbeinu. He spent a few days in a box, and then spent many years living the perfect life of a Mitzri. But when the right moment came around, BOOM, Hakadoshboruchhu activated Moishe, pulled him out of deep cover, and had him do exotic tricks with his “big magic staff” while Paroih’s advisors stuck dollar bills in his g-shtreimel.)

Of course, this is all conjecture. So how will we know if this is a real problem? Very simple: We should all keep our eyes on the Republican convention. If McCain gives his nomination acceptance speech in Vietnamese and starts off by thanking Chairman Mao, we know we’re in trouble.

b) Klal Yisroel: This is actually positive. John McCain did spend 6 years in a box, but the good news is that the box was made out of old Jaffa Orange shipping crates. As a result, McCain is believed to be sympathetic to Eretz Yisroel and Klal Yisroel.

We can also look at who he surrounds himself with. McCain’s foreign policy team includes: George Schultz, Reb Dovid Feinstein, Moishe Feiglin, Yoko Ono, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, and James Baker.

c) Halacha: This is another positive sign. McCain has clearly given a lot of attention to Halachic consideration in his daily life. Indeed, according to a recent article in the New York Times, McCain insisted that his lobbyist mistress go to Mikvah before they were Mezaneh. And McCain’s wife Cindy certainly wears a Shaytel. Have you seen that hair? Either it’s a wig, or she has so much hairspray on that it counts as a Chatzitza Gemoorah**.

Candidate #3: Senator Hillary Clinton

a) Overall: When I view Senator Clinton, I don’t see a woman simply dabbling in politics. In fact, with all those pantsuits, I’m not sure I see a woman at all.

In any case, Hillary Clinton has been a Senator for 8 years. Before that she was the First Lady of the United States, and before that she was the First Lady of Arkansas. In her career, she has been involved in many of the key issues facing the United States: In the Senate, she is on the Legislative Committee. In the White House she was involved in early efforts to address the Health Care crisis. And throughout the years she has been a strong advocate of Defense: She has worked day and night to prevent her husband from being frontally violated by power hungry bimbos, or, at minimum, from being caught.

Furthermore, Senator Clinton has demonstrated wisdom earned through years of experience. In her, the United States will have a president who is a tough negotiator, but who is also capable of painful, even personal, compromises if it will serve the greater good. Let’s face it: her entire career has proven that sometimes you have to stay married to someone you absolutely detest for 35 years in order to get what you really want.

b) Klal Yisroel: This is largely a binary, philosophical question. If you favor the actions taken by Former President Bill Clinton with regard to Israel and peace, then you are likely to favor Hillary. If you are against Oslo and the many subsequent efforts made by Clinton, then you are likely to oppose Hillary. But one thing is clear: Bill Clinton left his mark or Klal Yisroel, or at the minimum on Monica Lewinsky’s dress.

A number of people have expressed concern at a snapshot in time, the embrace of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton with Suha Arafat, even at a time when Suha made claims of blood-libel proportions. In Senator Clinton’s defense: 1) The US and Israel were in the midst of a peace process, and sometimes you have to “look the other way”; 2) This entire image is the result of media bias, only showing the world part of the picture. In truth, Hillary was actually the more restrained of the Clintons: While the cameras caught Suha embracing Hillary, they completely ignored that at that very moment, Yasser was on his knees in front of Bill...

So, one key question is: what role will Bill have in a Hillary administration? Will he be a key foreign policy advisor, even a Middle East envoy? Or will he be given a “safer” role, such as the manager of the White House Internship Program?

c) Halacha: This is not an obstacle in the case of Senator Clinton. According to a Gemarrah in Maseches Brachois, a Tumtum or Androginus is exempt from keeping Halacha. Therefore, as a she-male, Hillary has no Halachic responsibilities whatsoever. However, according to the Shulkhan Aruch, MiDeRabbanan she is required to bind the Ritzuouis of her strap-on on her left leg, but only if she is a right handed.
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So what’s a Ben Toirah to do in the current election season? If none of the three candidates are acceptable, who should we support?

Rabboisai, we needn’t look very far. In the White House today we have a president who is bold, who is motivated, and who acts with fortitude and purpose. A man who has proven his worth to Klal Yisroel. Of course, you are wondering how President Bush can continue to be president given that he is approaching the conclusion of his second term in office. But I ask you: Did Duvid HaMelech have term limits? Did Shloimoi HaMelech have to step down after serving eight years? What kind of Mishugass is that?

There are those of course who would argue that President Bush is a failure, that the war in Iraq is a quagmire, and that the economy is in shambles. But to them I say the following: It took Moishe Rabbeinu forty years to bring Klal Yisroel to the Promised Land. This president has not yet had time to complete his work. He needs one more term to complete his program.

In four more years, Iraq will no longer be a problem, since by then it will have merged with Iran. Oisama Bin Laden will no longer be a threat; on the contrary, he will favor a stable, peaceful United States, since his family by then will have bought a controlling stake in every bank in America to bail them out of the mortgage crisis. And with another term of President Bush, the economy will no longer be an issue. There will be no more unemployment; by that time, the dollar will be so cheap, the Indians will be outsourcing to us.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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* - Tchum Shabbos: The legal distance that one may travel on the Sabbath – approximately 2 miles beyond an established community.

** - Chatzitza Gemoorah: Complete (hair) covering.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Parshas Pikudei

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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Parshas Pikudei

In this week's parsha, Pikudei, the Toirah tells us that the Eiphod made by Am Yisroel was knitted out of gold thread, Techailess, Argomon, scarlet yarn, and fine linen. (In fact, I'm ready to convert to Yushka Pandra after all this Mishkan talk the last few weeks.) However, what is unusual is the rather graphic description of how the golden thread was manufactured. An obvious question arises: Why does the Toirah bother to tell us the graphic details of how to make the thread? Does the Aimishteh expect me to do this in my spare time? I can barely fold up my tallis by myself!

A gemmarah in Baba Basra discusses this and says that the Toirah uses this language to stress the male role in the Mishkan. If I only knew that there was sewing involved, I would have assumed that women had a critical role in the construction of the Mishkan. But since the possuk tells of "beating the gold...cutting it...working like a craftsman," I know that the real labor was done by men. Real men, who wore tallis and tefillin, learned sixteen hours a day, and still found time to work hard and make a living. The women simply had to do a little weaving, and didn't even get a mitzvah, since they were talking about soap operas the whole time. Shoyn.

But Maseches Bayuh (Baitzuh) brings down a medrish which offers a more complete version of the possuk. According to the medrish, as the Jews beat the gold, they developed a spool of thread that was long enough to circle the earth seven times. However, the amount of thread needed for all the sewing in the Mishkan was the length of one time around the earth. So what happened to the vast majority of the thread? Rav Chiyah holds that Aroin Hacoihain, the minuval, used it for the Eigel Hazohov. But Rav Ashi holds that Aroin embezzled it, using half to start a carpet business, and depositing the other half in a secret Babylonian bank account.

The Kutzker Rebbe had a beautiful interpretation of this possuk. The Kutzker would often tell his followers that we learn from this possuk that no matter how poor you are, even if you are a nomad living in the desert, you have to spend as much money as you possibly can to look better than your neighbors. If they wear Pierre Cardin, you wear Ralph Lauren. If they eat chicken on Shabbos, you eat roast beef. If they add on an extra room to their house, you knock down your own house and build the largest house on the block.

However, this possuk reminds me of a maiseh shehoya. Many years ago my more free spirited daughter, Rina Vashti, was knitting a yarmulkah for the goalie of the local yeshiva hockey team. I said to her, "Rinaleh, voos iz givehn a yarmulkah foon de shaygitz? First he will take the yarmulkah, then he'll try to take your bisulta!" She then assured me that while this was the first yarmulkah she was making for him, she had already made yarmulkahs for six other members of the team.

Very troubled, I called my Rebbe and told him I was concerned my daughter was becoming a pupke. He pointed out a story in the Zoihar about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who felt that because he had seven daughters, each married to a great tzadik, he was like a four cornered garment without tzitzis on it. This is understood to mean that any Ruv who does not have at least one slutty daughter has not ignored his family enough and has therefore not adequately met the needs of his congregants.

Happily, I returned home and asked my Bashert to make sure that my daughter went to live in the Stern College dorms, where she could put out as much as she wanted without getting my neighbors talking.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.