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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Parshas Kee Suhvoh

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Parshas Kee Suhvoh

This week's Parsha, Parshas Kee Suhvoh, features the most acidic chapter in the entire Toiras Moishe: the Toichecha, or Rebuke, in which Moishe Rabbeinu lays out the negative consequences of Klal Yisroel disobeying the Rebboinoisheloilum. The punishments include death, insanity, poverty, exile, children taken away from parents, and significantly higher taxes.

Let's be perfectly frank -- You do not want to go to Shul this week to hear the Parsha! Stay home, put your feet up, watch a pay-per-view, do a little mitzvah with your wife, do a little work in the garage, unstop the toilets, change the cat litter, clean for Pesach eight months early -- anything to not have to listen to this Parsha. And if you do you go to shul, bring plenty of reading material.

Why, the stuff in this Parsha is so harsh, it can even get my mother-in-law to stop talking for a few minutes, Imirtza Hashem.

A Gemarrah in Baba Metzia cites a Braisa in which Rabbi Akiva asks: Why is Hakadoshboruchhu so damn angry at Klal Yisroel all the time? Rav Huna answers that when we were young, the Aimishteh once sent us to the store to buy eggs, but we never gave Him back all the change, and he has held a grudge ever since.

However, Rabbi Abba suggests that the Rebboinoisheloilum’s anger is linked to the definition of the Jews being the "Chosen People." Rabbi Abba cites the traditional view of Shir HaShirim in which the male Hakadoshboruchhu sees Klal Yisroel as the nation chosen to be His wife. And when a Jew is unfaithful and does something against a direct command, such as worshiping idols or eating fish and meat with the same plastic fork at a Kiddush, He gives in to His uncontrollable jealous temper and smacks us around a bit. Rabbi Abba goes on to say that we really did deserve it, and promise not to tell the neighbors how we got our black eye, just He should please not do it ever again.

Rabbi Abba quotes a beautiful Medrish that says that in the heavenly realm of the Aimishteh, where He sits on His throne of fire surrounded by angels playing harps, violins, flutes and accordions, as the human world recites this Parsha once a year, after each Passuk the Rebboinoisheloilum responds "One of these days Alice, one of these days! POW, right in the kisser!"

Rava disagrees. He suggests that indeed Klal Yisroel was chosen, but not as a wife. Rather, we were chosen to be a pet dog. And just like a pet dog, we require discipline whenever we go on the carpet. And we shouldn't complain, because if He ever really tires of us we might get dropped off at the local pound.

Abaye agrees that we are like pets. However, he suggests that we are more like a pet goldfish. We are surrounded by other fish, some larger and some smaller. We get fed once a day if we're lucky. We have little or no real interaction with our benefactor. Other fish are constantly nipping at out tailfins. There is poop on the bottom of the tank and algae building up on the walls. The filter breaks down once in a while. And the best we can hope for is that at the end of 120 years we will die a natural death and be flushed down the toilet. Says Abaye, this Parsha is the best reason yet to convert to Catholicism. The only reason he doesn't is because he would rather have someone nipping at his tails than fondling his fins, if you know what I mean.

Commenting on this Gemarra, Reb Saadya Goyn offers a completely different interpretation. He suggests that the Rebboinoisheloilum would never threaten Klal Yisroel with such hostility as we read in this Parsha. And neither would Moishe. Rather, it was the fault of one of Moishe's speechwriters. Moishe told him, "hey, I gotta make a speech, and make it dark." Moshe was referring to adding in some elements that would appeal to his constituency in the olive skinned tribe of Naphtali. But the speechwriter thought he meant thematically dark, and the rest is history. (Meyla, this is the same writer who, years earlier, when told by Moishe that he had seen a burning bush in the desert, thought that Moishe was telling him that he had spotted a hot red head skinny dipping at an oasis.)

The RAMBAM takes a completely separate approach. He suggests that indeed Hakkadoshboruch did mean to make the threats as written. And the reason He takes such a tough stand is that he is obviously a Republican. Look at the facts: He is tough on Law and Order, He takes a no-compromising stand against the Babylonians, and He favors using the death penalty as frequently as possible. Sums up the RAMBAM: the Aimishteh wants us to stop behaving like "stiff-necked Israelite Girly-men."

The RASHBAM disagrees, suggesting that the RAMBAN had probably taken to sampling items in his medicine bag when no one was looking. The RASHBAM holds farkert -- the Rebboinoisheloilum is actually a card carrying Democratic. As proof he points to the key social legislation mentioned elsewhere in this week's Parsha: The insistence that we care for orphans and widows, that we set aside a portion of our Maiser, our tithing, for their benefit (Welfare? In the Toirah? Am I reading this correctly?); The concern for the integrity of the legal system (What's pshat you can't give a bribe?); The recognition and care that we grant to the Gair, the non-Israelite/ non-Jewish resident who lives among us. The RASHBAM concludes that the harsh words of the Toichecha simply point out once again that, at the end of the day, Hakadoshboruchhu is a "pessimistic flip-flopper." To back up his point, the RASHBAM cites a Medrish which says that the Aimishteh didn't even split the sea during the exodus from Egypt -- It split through natural causes, but He has tried to claim credit ever since.

However, the RALBAG has a much simpler answer. LeOilum, he holds that the Rebboinoisheloilum did make all the threats mentioned in the Toichecha. And the reason that Hakadoshboruchhu speaks so harshly is simply because He is an anti-Semite. Let's examine the facts: He asks us to do the impossible and complains when we cannot achieve it; He treats us differently than He treats others; He singles us out for persecution; He casts us into exile and then gets angry when we assimilate; He gives us a geopolitical conundrum and places obstacles at every potential solution.

In short, the Aimishteh is an anti-Semite. He doesn't like Jews with our hook noses and penny counting, the horns on our heads, our control of the media, or our aspiration for setting up a world government. He in particular is angry at us for rejecting Christ, Mohammed, the Buddha, the Hindu Pantheon, and L. Ron Hubbard.

I am reminded of a famous story about the Dubner Maggid. One Shabbos afternoon he sat in shul surrounded by both children and adults as he regaled them for three hours with inspirational stories of the great sages, and shared wise parables that explained the cosmic, loving relationship between the Rebboinoisheloilum and Klal Yisroel. At one point a five year old boy asked him, "But mister Maggid, if Hakadoshboruchhu loves the Jews so much, why must we spend our lives in exile?"

At that, the Dubner Maggid stopped speaking. After a long, uncomfortable pause, he replied in a very low voice that was almost a whisper, "Oh shit. I never thought of that one." The very next day he shaved his long beard and opened up a shoe store.

Indeed, this week's Parsha highlights the complexity of religion and the price of faith. While some view their faith, and its rewards, with the cup half full, other view them as half empty. However, I think that they are both wrong. If you look at the chapter of the Toichecha, Perek Chuff Chess in Devarim, only the first 14 (of 68) Pesukim talk about the potential rewards of faithfulness. However, the VAST majority -- the next 54 Pesukim -- speak in awful detail of the potential punishments. So, rounding out the numbers, one should either see the cup at one fifth full, or four fifths empty. I personally don't like 5 to 1 odds against, so I suggest we consider betting on a different horse.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, you Minuval

Friday, August 20, 2010

On The Role of the Synagogue President

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On The Role of the Synagogue President

Rabboisai,

I was sitting at home the other day learning Toirah – specifically, the linkages between Hilchois Nashim and Hilchois Makkos Arbaim, based on some recent educational materials starring Rebbetzin Jenna Jameson and Rabbi Yerachmiel Schneiderman (more popularly known as Rick the Schlong) -- when the phone rang. After thoroughly performing Netilas Yadayim, I picked up the phone to hear the shrill voice of the President of my Kehilla, asking my input on whether it was OK for the Shul to substitute blended scotch for single malt for the weekly Kiddush club. After berating the Minuval for interrupting my Limud Toirah for such Narishkeit, I pointed to a Gemarrah in Nezikin which brings down a Braisah where Rabbi Elazer Ben Azariah castigates Ben Hey Hey for serving “Sheissmead” at Kiddush instead of Yayin Shaychur.

The President should have known better. Last year he called me about delaying the start of our main Minyan so that several members of the Kehilla wouldn’t miss their Pilates classes.

What is this role of President of a synagogue? What is the basis of this role, which clearly violates the Toirah’s intentions of the Rabbi having complete authority over all of Klal Yisroel during every second of the day?

As best as can be determined, the role of the Shul President was established by Reb Yankif Emden, as a response to the Shabsai Tzvi phenomenon. In his siddur, Ka’as Shel Yaakov, Reb Yankif includes a prayer for the well being of the Shul President, and in an introduction to the prayer notes the importance of balancing the sacred guidance of the Rabbi with popular support of the President and the Board on all issues of consequence, “especially the year prior to contract renewal,” unquote.

The importance of the Shul President is not addressed extensively until relatively recent times. The topic does, however, receive detailed attention in the She’alois V’Tshuvois of the 1950s. Reb Moishe Feinstein responds to a letter in 1952 from “Curious in Connecticut” asking whether Shuls need Presidents, as well as Vice Presidents, Treasurers and Secretaries of Defense. Reb Moishe states that while he is not personally in favor of Shul Presidents, “recent circumstances highlight the need to acknowledge secular concerns and monitor current events, since the Reboinoisheloilum is certainly asleep at the wheel.”

Commenting on Reb Moishe’s Teshuvah, Reb Aaron Kutler notes his agreement with Reb Moishe’s position. Writes Reb Aaron, “I would not have agreed with this position in 1935; but given our recent history, it’s probably a good idea.” According to Reb Aaron, reliance on Rabbinic leadership for religious guidance inherently assumes that there is a God, and “given that my entire family in Europe was turned by the Nazis into a box of overcooked Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, I can no longer subscribe to any ideology that requires the existence of Hakadoshboruchhu. Either that, or He is a total dick.”

Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky, however, disagrees vociferously, referring to Reb Aaron as a “Shaygitz with a nice hat.” He insists that there is in fact an Aimishteh, but that the decimation of the Jews is not a reflection of the Reboinoisheloilum’s intent, since there is “free will.” These comments were made in a Teshuvah where Reb Yankif declared it a requirement MiDioraisa for a man to always carry a couple of “Kishka skins” in his wallet, since one never knows when the opportunity might arise to exercise free will in the backseat of an Oldsmobile.

The Steipler Ruv builds upon Reb Yaakov Kaminitsky’s position, noting that the existence of free will necessarily implies that Hakadoshboruchhu is not involved in the activities of the world, for if there is total free will for all human inhabitants, how can the Aimishteh influence their activities? Consequently, according to The Steipler, there can be no consequences, reward or punishment, good or bad, delivered to this world by any human agent, since, by definition, all of humanity acts through free will, not at the whim of the Reboinoisheloilum. Therefore, says The Steipler, the only ways that Hakadoshboruchhu can influence this world are through disease, natural disaster, and aliens from other planets. And since disease and natural disaster randomly affect all humanity including the innocent and children, then we must conclude that they too cannot function as agents of the Aimishteh, otherwise, in the words of The Steiper, “He is one pretty twisted Dude.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe acknowledges the positions of Reb Moishe, Reb Aaron, Reb Yankif, and The Steipler, referring to them as “my dry Misnagid brothers, who have about as much spirituality in them as an oversqueezed lemon has juice.” He cites the Kabbalistic principle of Tzimtzum in explaining the role of the Reboinoisheloilum in the world. Tzimtzum, originally described by the Ari ZAHL, refers to the Divine withdrawal of a part of His own essence in order to create space for the physical world. Notes the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Hakadoshboruchhu’s act of self limitation is not merely a physical description of time and space, but also applies to His involvement in the world. In creating the world, He chose to withdraw from direct engagement in world affairs, and therefore is not the source of human suffering, Jewish or otherwise. At most, comments the Rebbe, the Aimishteh’s involvement in the world is akin to “a child looking at the fish tank while waiting for her appointment at the orthodontist, moderately interested until she picks up the most recent edition of People magazine.”

However, Reb Oivadia Yoisaiph holds Farkhert to all of the above positions. Says Maran, there is in fact a Reboinoisheloilum, and He is fully engaged in the activities of the world. With regard to the tragedy that befell European Jewry, he states, “…People are upset and ask why was there a Holocaust? Woe to us, for we have sinned… All those poor people in the Holocaust…we wonder why it was done. There were righteous people among them. Still, they were punished because of sins of past generations" (an actual quote from a speech made in the year 2000). Of course, Reb Oivadia has made similar comments about a variety of topics in recent years, exemplifying the fact that after a certain number of years, even a great mind, like a fine steak, eventually turns to excrement.

This broad debate about the role of Hakkadosboruchhu in the world leaves us, all of us, with fundamental questions regarding how we, in our world, should relate to the Aimishteh, and what role should synagogue life play. If He does not exist, then why waste our time? If He is evil or sadistic, then why bother? If He is playing for another team, and indeed punished Klal Yisroel for rejecting Christ, Joseph Smith, Shariah, Buddha, Baal, or Jim Jones, then why not switch teams? But if He does exist, and He is accessible to our tradition, what is the purpose of prayer and fulfilling the Mitzvois?

This complex set of questions lies at the core of synagogue life, and is at the heart of the delicate balance between the roles of the Shul President and the Rabbi. The synagogue President is a lay leader representing Gashmiyus to the Rabbi’s Ruchniyus. The President represents the congregants, while the Rabbi represents the voice of tradition. The President represents the blank page, while the Rabbi represents the ink and the letters. The President represents the velvet cloth, while the Rabbi represents the embroidery. The President represents the pasta, while the Rabbi represents the sauce. The President represents the water, while the Rabbi represents the Kool-Ade. The President represents the tonic water, while the Rabbi represents the gin. The President represents the eggs, while the Rabbi represents the bacon. I think you know what I mean.

For those of us who have not rejected the Reboinoisheloilum despite rational arguments and bitter historical experience, we sit in prayer, worshipping a Diety that we cannot begin to understand, using forms and words and practices that are bound in tradition, even when they make little sense to us. The role of the Rabbi is to balance our reality with a proud tradition, synthesizing texts and philosophies with practical considerations. But it is the role of the President to serve as a counterbalance against Rabbinic excesses. If the Rabbi enforces excessive measures of Kashruth beyond rational or economic considerations, the President must speak out. If the Rabbi suggests an overly stringent form of Sabbath laws, the President must speak out. If the Rabbi engages in extramarital affairs, the President must speak out. If the Rabbi coerces a woman whom he is overseeing through the conversion process into having an affair with him, then the president must speak out. If the Rabbi condemns a Kiddush in his synagogue honoring the IDF, whom he had previously compared to Nazis, then the President must speak out. If the Rabbi engages in improper relationships with children or adolescents, male or female, then the President must speak out.

For if the President does not hold up his (or her) end of the equation, then Jewish communal life falls off kilter, and we may as well skip Shul and make Rabbinic decisions for ourselves, using the latest educational materials from Rebbetzin Jameson and other Gedoilei HaDor.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Parshas Shoiftim

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Parshas Shoiftim

Rabboisai,

Reading this week's Parsha, Shoiftim, left me confused and bleary eyed. So many topics to cover, so little time. True testimony. False testimony. True prophets. False prophets. Magicians. Conquest. Egla Arufa. Moishe Rabbeinu must have had one too many cappuccinos that morning. I suspect he might have even been on speed, Chass V'Sholom.

In this week’s Parsha, Moishe Rabbeinu tells us that a defendant can be convicted of a crime through the testimony of either two or three witnesses. But the Parsha tells us this law in two separate places. What's Pshat?

According to a Mishnah in Yuma, Moishe repeated himself because he was showing signs of early Alzheimer’s.

But according to a Gemarrah in Yevamois, the first mention of the rule about witnesses refers to legal testimony and the judicial system. But the second mention of the rule is brought down by the Toirah to teach us something not about law, but about marital relationships: While marital relations between two people, a husband and a wife, are sanctified in the eyes of the Aimishteh, He doesn't mind if every once in a while you bring in a third partner to "spice up the cholent."

Commenting on this Gemarrah, Toisfois points out that the second reference in the Parsha to the rule requiring two or three witnesses is juxtaposed to the rules of conquest: In the section immediately following the second mention of the rule, the Toirah tells us that when you conquer a foreign land, you should slay all the males, but keep the women and children for yourselves. Says Toisfois, the Parsha wants to teach us an important lesson: When you do have a third person join you in your marital relations, the Toirah suggests she be a hot shiksa. And the Toirah teaches this within the context of discussing military conquest so we will know that a little Bondage and Discipline is okay.

The RIF, however, holds, that a little S and M may be in order as well, as long as it does not lead to bloodshed, which would instantly raise up a Chashash of Nidah and spoil all the fun, Chass V'Sholom.

However, the Bais Yoiseph holds that the entire Gemarrah of Yevamois must have been written when the Amoraim were having a "bad day," and that Toisfois and the RIF were too busy thinking with their Bris Milahs.

The Bais Yoiseph holds that the reason the Toirah repeats itself on the rule about witnesses is to warn us that if we hire two false witnesses to testify in our favor during a tax fraud hearing, we should always hire an extra witness, just in case one of the witnesses turns states evidence. He brings as proof the whole, strange Halacha of the Egla Arufa.

As the Toirah states, if an unidentified dead body is found between two towns, and a murderer is not identified, the elders of the towns must sacrifice a lamb as part of a proclamation of the towns' innocence. According to the Bais Yoiseph, this is clearly a situation involving a cover up, and the Toirah is encouraging you to have some false witnesses up your sleeve who are willing to testify against some unwitting scapegoat.

But the Hesech Hadaas (B. 1280 -- D. ?) states that the Egla Arufa has no link whatsoever to any other topic in Parshas Shoiftim. Indeed, he holds that the Egla Arufa really belongs in Shmois, following the drowning of the Egyptian Army in the sea. He holds that the Egla Arufa symbolizes the random victimhood that characterizes human existence. The Jews in Egypt. The Egyptians in the sea. Klal Yisroel. Amalek. Midian. Basically, all of humanity. According to him, the Egla Arufa is a reminder that life is one big crap shoot. One day you are lying on the beach with a beautiful woman at your side. The next day you are stuck in some Bais Medrish studying Gemarrah with a bearded guy named Laizer who hasn't quite figured out how to use deodorant and who showers once a week whether he needs to or not...

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoyo. Many years ago I was traveling to China with my Rebbe, the NPOJHARTHA. We were on a mission to determine if the messages in fortune cookies were written by a wise elder Kabbalist residing in inner Mongolia, or a seventeen year old complete ignoramus. As we traveled though the wilds of Lanzhou Province, we were approached by the army of the Communists, who were in the midst of their war against the Nationalist army. "Fight on our behalf, or die" we were told, the muzzles of their rifles pointed at our faces. I wanted to resist, but was reassured by my Rebbe that everything would turn out alright.

One evening, as the troops sat around the campfire drinking homemade slivovitz and eating General Tso's cocker spaniel, NPOJHARTHA began a Niggun. He sang slowly at first, and more loudly as the Communist troops learned the tune and joined in. After 45 minutes, NPOJHARTHA and I went to the side to Daven Maariv.

Suddenly the Nationalist forces launched a surprise attack against our comrades. But the spirit of Chairman Mao was upon us that day, and we repelled the capitalist dogs, routing them to the last man.

After the fighting subsided, NPOJHARTHA and I were imprisoned for cowardice, since we Davened in our bunker throughout the battle. I asked NPOJHARTHA, "Why does the Aimishteh punish us so? We were Davening, fulfilling His commandments, yet we are forced to suffer."

"Fool!" NPOJHARTHA responded. "Do you think He hears our prayers? We are in the middle of freaking nowhere, surrounded by a billion pagans. What do you think he has, radar?"

Just as we were randomly punished, so too the Egla Arufa is a response to a random crime against an anonymous victim. Not so that the Aimishteh is mollified, but so that we can feel a little less guilty after rummaging through the dead man's pockets and stealing his wallet and personal effects.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Friday, August 06, 2010

You Tube Channel: Amitnira

Rabboisai,

I would like top draw your attention to a You Tube channel featuring weekly drashois very much in the spirit of Yeshivas Chipass Emmess:


The drashois are delivered in Hebrew by a Rebbetzin who is well schooled in the areas of Toirah, Yiddishkeit, religious anthropology, and sarcasm.

Please study these drashois all weekend. There may be a pop quiz next week.

Pinky

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Post Tisha Ba’Av Drasha

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Post Tisha Ba’Av Drasha

Rabboisai,

We are standing here mere weeks after Tisha Ba’Av, the commemoration of all the unspeakable tragedies that impacted Klal Yisroel, including the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash in 587 BCE, the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash in 70 ACE, the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, and the Treifing up of the kitchen in Grossingers in 1966. Like our ancestors before us, we seek to make this a time of year for individual contemplation, collective mourning, a chance for group prayer, and the opportunity to check out all the hot shiksa cleavage on these sweaty summer days.

One constant of Klal Yisroel’s collective experience, reaching back to at least Second Temple times, is the aspiration and yearning for the Moshiach, the Messiah. In this context, the era of the Messiah is anticipated as the period when oppression of the Jews subsides, and, perhaps, when world history as we know comes to an end and the universal clock is reset at a new beginning. This anticipation reflects a spiritual and emotional response for those who have suffered persecution and general misfortune. It has also been the particular hope for the many of Klal Yisroel who are awaiting trial for embezzlement, have built up extensive credit card debt, or have engaged in pre-marital experimentation without using an… errr… kishka wrapper … and now have to explain to their Tatties and Mommies that there may be a little Einikel on the way.

This anticipation of the Moshiach, the longing and expectation, helped to justify in the minds of Klal Yisroel the actions, or inactions, of the Reboinoisheloilum in our deepest times of need. Why did Hakadoshboruchhu stand back and let our Bais Hamikdash burn, or let our people be murdered, or let our nation be expelled? Perhaps, one might suggest, He willed it as a punishment upon us for sinning. Of course, this idea poses dangerous philosophical and theological dilemmas: How can the Aimishteh, the fair and almighty, allow innocents – including children – to be slaughtered or tortured or expelled or punished in other terrible ways? Is He cruel? Is He uncaring? Is He impetuous and moody, like a four year old child?

Or, perhaps, is He indeed truly benevolent, but limited in His powers? As understood by Lurianic Kabbalah (the teachings of the Ari Zahl, you Minuval ignoramus), perhaps He exists within specific constraints and is not quite as almighty as your second grade Rebbe told you He was.

One reflexive approach of Jewish theology commonly interpreted the various tragedies of Klal Yisroel as “Chevlei Moshiach” – the birth pangs of the Messiah. The logic went as follows: As we in our era (whatever era it was) believe that the Moshiach is impending, the tragedies we face are a necessary suffering that paves the way for the Messiah. This explanation was used in the time of the RAMBAM, as it was in the time of the expulsion from Spain, as it was in the time of the Chmelnitzky massacres. Indeed, one Tanna was quoted in a Braisah in Sanhedrin as follows, “Amar Rabbi Yoichanan, ‘Im Ra’isa Dor SheTzarois Rabbois Baois Alav KeNahar, Chakeh Loi, SheNe’emar, “Kee Yavoi KeNahar Tzar Ve’Ruach Hashem Noisasah Boi,” VaSumich Lei, “U’va LeTzioin Goiel.”’” “Rabbi Yoichanan said, ‘When you see a generation that has suffered many troubles like (the flood of) a river, wait for him (the Messiah), as is written, “When suffering shall come like a river, and Spirit of Hashem shall be aligned against it,” which is followed by, “And the Redeemer will come to Zion.”’” (Sanhedrin, 98a).

So, the message is, the Moshiach is on his way, and we must bear the terrible suffering that will shortly come to an end. And yet, the Moshiach has never arrived. Or has it?

On order to answer this question, one must have a clear understanding of what, in fact, is the very nature of the Messianic era. This is Nisht Azoy Pushit, not so simple, you Minuval. There are many, many ideas and speculations as to what will constitute the Messianic era:

-- OPTION ONE: According to the RAMBAM, the Messianic era will be reached when the Jews regain their independence and all return to the Land of Israel, led by a Messiah king descended from the Davidic monarchy. This will usher in a period of global peace and harmony. This era will be followed by the “end of days”, when all will live in a disembodied spiritual existence.

-- OPTION TWO: According to the RAMBAN, the Messianic era will be the Shabbos-Koidesh of creation, after which will begin an era of spirit-infused physical existence.

-- OPTION THREE: According to the RASHBA, the Messianic era will start with a period when everyone in the world learns Toirah and performs Mitsvois. This will be followed by an era of pure spiritual bliss, which he compares to “perpetual acts of Maisei Beyuh with beautiful women.”

-- OPTION FOUR: According to Rabbi Yoisaiph Gikatilla, the Messianic era will be a period when we are no longer required to learn Toirah and perform Mitzvois. Rather, all that was forbidden before will now be permitted. Tisha Be’Av will change from a fast day involving mourning to a festival day involving excessive eating. Instead of eating Matzois on Pesach we will all eat Hostess Twinkies. And we will enter a era of pure joy where every man will be entitled to engage in Maisei Biyuh with 72 virgins, 7 strapping, well endowed Yeshivah Bochrim, and 3 nice fluffy goats.

-- OPTION FIVE: The MAHARAL holds quite like Reb Yoisaiph Gikatilla, except that instead of 72 virgins, he suggests that real Moshiach-tzeit will be like doing it with one very talented, very experienced, toothless Pupkeh.

-- OPTION SIX: The RIVAM holds that Moshiach-tzeit will neither be like engaging in Biyuh with one Nafka nor with 72 virgins. Rather, it will be like one man engaging with 7 beautiful women at once, with one woman reading to him from Tehillim, one woman serving as the remote control for the 3,000 channel, 65 inch HD television set, one woman sitting on the man’s face, one woman focusing on his Petzel, two woman focusing on his Schvatzlach, and the last woman available to run to 7-11 to get single malt Slurpies.

-- OPTION SEVEN: The ROISH suggests that the Messiah will be ushered in by the ascent of a skinny, bearded rabbi who will lead a new movement towards a more progressive embrace of the Reboinoisheloilum’s love and munificence, as part of a process that leads to global peace and prosperity.

Rabboisai, if we look at these various visions for the Moshiach, we can certainly understand the yearning of our ancestors: How could they, in their times of need, ever believe that they had reached the era of the Moshiach. However, in our day, many of these visions of the Messiah have indeed come to pass:

-- There is Jewish sovereignty for the first time in two millennia. In fact, we just got ourselves a new Supreme Court Justice. (In addition, there is also an independent State of Israel, although we would hardly term that as “Jewish sovereignty”, what, with its secular, Arab loving government, its busses and movie theaters running on Shabbos Koidesh, its efforts to draft poor helpless Yeshiva Buchrim into the army, its requirement for frum people to pay taxes, its naked women on bus station posters, and its forced integration of holy Ashkezi and sinful Sephardi girls in State run religious schools. It’s like the Spanish Inquisition all over again.)

-- There are indeed periods of joyful bliss. In fact, last night, as I lay in bed, I had my Bashert, Feigeh Breineh, dance the Kazatske on my face while two billy goats grazed at the Gan Eden surrounding my Makoim HaMilah. If that’s not Moshiach-tzeit, you tell me what is!

-- There is indeed a man, a rabbi in fact, who has been put on this earth to bring love and kindness and peace. He has been known to perform miracles, and has brought many to believe in him. And when he suffers, it is so that the rest of us will be redeemed. Indeed, it is said that many of us are blind to The Truth, that the Messiah has indeed come, and his name is… Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Even greater than turning water into wine or loaves into fish or curing lepers (or whatever the New Testament miracles were – Hakadoshboruchhu knows I never learnt them in Yeshivah while I was growing up), Rabbi Shmuley performed the miracle of helping restore a burned out pedophile into an international icon. And all for the sake of… hmmm… money.

Yes, for many, the Moshiach has come, in the shape of prosperity. Unlike many of our ancestors who lived in filth and poverty, and turned to superstition for solace, we live in prosperity. We no longer need to look towards the idealized future for salvation. In fact, we no longer need the Aimishteh or the End of Days. We no longer need to help others, or think of the greater good. We no longer need to worry about investing in the long term, or making education more affordable, or fixing healthcare, or managing the deficit. We have it all today, in the form of nice new homes, shiny new cars, and wives with liposuction and $3000 sheytels, and that’s all that matters. What could possibly go wrong?

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.