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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Simchas Toirah Drasha

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Simchas Toirah Drasha

Rabboisai,

This week we celebrate the conclusion of Sukkois and the completion of the annual cycle of Kriyas HaToirah by getting stinking drunk and dancing with members of the same gender.

Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato asks: Why do we dance with other men, which is a clear violation of Lifnei Iver for Mishkav Zachor, an unacceptable temptation that may lead to playing “bury my Sukkah pole in your Schach,” if you know what I mean?

There is a famous machloikess that addresses this question. Reb Yisroel Salanter comments that the completion of the Toirah cycle is meant as an Ois, a microcosm, of Oilum Habbah. With the completion of the Chamishei Chumshei Toirah, we experience a moment that is a foreshadowing of Biyas HaMashiach and Oilum Habbah, the dawning of the Messianic era and the World to Come. As such, we know that when Moshiach comes, many of the Halachic restrictions of Oilum Hazeh will fall away. Just as Tisha Ba’Av will shift from being a day of somber mourning to our greatest day of celebration, Biyuh SheLo KeDarko with another man will shift from being an “abomination” to a “Mitzvas Asei SheHazman Grummah.” It will also be a great way to reward your Chavrusa for knowing all the latest dance steps to “Zara Chaya VeKayama.”

Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov proposes a similar approach. He suggests that we do not dance in celebration of completing the annual cycle of reading the Toirah, since in ancient times much of Klal Yisroel followed a triennial cycle, completing the Toirah in three years. Rather, Rebbe Nachman states that we dance with other men to signal the end of the long holiday season. He writes in his famous treatise Likutei MoHaran that “Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Toirah clarify the essential differences between men and women. At this time of year, while men are busy trying to eke out a living without being fired for missing work, building the Sukkah, preparing the Arba Minim, etc., their wives are constantly calling them with requests, such as:

-- ‘Reuvain, can you please pick up bok choi on your way home from work’

-- ‘Shimoin, I don’t think we have enough dessert for the fourth meal we are hosting; can you pick up some brownie mix?’

-- ‘Layvee, I have to stay late at the office; can you come home early to give the kinderlach a bath?’”

Says Rebbe Nachman, “If I can trade being called fourteen times a day by my wife and being incessantly hen-pecked in exchange for engaging in Mishkav Zachor with another man, I will gladly play catcher in Biyuh SheLo Kedarko with a big sweaty Yeshiva Bochur named Lazer.”

However, the Vilna Goyn suggests that Rav Moishe Chaim Luzzato and Rebbe Nachman MiBreslov probably spent a bit too much time hanging out at the Mikvah on Erev Yoim Kippur. He writes farkhert in Chuddushe HaGruh, “In Klal Yisroel, we don't have homosexuals. We don't have that in our Kehillah. In Yiddishkeit, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.”

Instead, the Gruh points to the seasonal nature of Shaloish Regalim as the true reason we celebrate on Simchas Toirah. He notes that just as Peysach is Chag HaAviv – the Spring Festival, and Shavuois is Chag HaBikurim – the Harvest Festival, Shmini Atzeres -- and especially Simchas Toirah -- celebrate something critical in the calendric cycle of Klal Yisroel and of Kol HaOilam Kooloh in general.

To make his point, the Gruh cites a famous machloikess. The Tur asks, “What is the most important Aliyah during Kriyas HaToirah?

According to Reb Yoisaiph Karo, the most important Aliyah is Rishoyn, the first Aliyah, since it is the Aliyah reserved for the Koihayn, the representative of Klal Yisroel designated by the Reboinoisheloilum to bless His chosen People.

According to the Bais Yoisaiph, the most important Aliyah is the second Aliyah, the Aliyah of the Layvee, since he silently enables the holy activities of the Koihayn by washing the Koihayn’s filthy hands and smelly feet.

According to the Keseph Mishnah, the most important Aliyah is the third Aliyah, since it is typically reserved for the biggest tzaddik in the room. Or, more frequently, it goes to the guy who writes the biggest check to the shul, even though everyone knows he frequently schtupps his hot shiksa secretary while eating pork, and makes his money by selling variable mortgages to eighty year old widows who live off of Social Security.

However, the Shulkhan Arukh holds that the fourth Aliyah is the most important one. His reasoning: Unlike the first, second, or third Aliyahs, the fourth Aliyah is an RBI position. He is batting clean up, while the others simply have the responsibility of getting on base. He has to drive them home, an awesome responsibility. As proof, the Shulkhan Arukh cites the fact that the last Aliyah is typically reserved for a Bar Mitzvah boy or a light hitting shortstop. Or for a pitcher in the National League, Chass v’Sholom. These mamzerim are likely to get out anyway, so we may as well put them in a position where they can’t do any damage.

Continues the Goyn: On Simchas Toirah, we echo the external calendar and combine the completion of the Toirah cycle with the completion of the Major League Baseball season. Consequently, there is a strong Minhag for men to dance together and jump on top of each other in victorious celebration. There is even a Minhag amongst the Sephardim to pour champagne over each others’ heads, although us real Jews celebrate by drinking scotch and making Mei Raglayim in the Ezras Nashim.

I am reminded of a famous Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Elchanan Wasserman once took a break from the Simchas Toirah celebrations at his Yeshiva and ran home for a quick snack. When he arrived, the house was empty. No one was in the kitchen and no one was in the living room. He went upstairs, opened the door to his bedroom, and to his surprise, he found his wife Chraindie naked, rolling around in bed with the wives of his three Talmidei Muvhak, his leading student protégés. In shock, he asked his wife, “Voos Tootzuch Mit Der Gefilte Fish Party”?

His wife Chraindie responded, “Elchi, you are off in Yeshiva celebrating the end of the Toirah cycle, while we are here celebrating the end of our cycles.”

Pausing for just a moment, Reb Elchanan told his wife, “You are indeed an Eishess Chayil!” He then ran back to the Yeshiva, passed through the Bais Medrish amidst all of the Freilechin dancing and singing, and joined his three Talmidei Muvkak in his private study off the Bais Medrish. Together the four of them intently watched a playoff game on TV for the next hour and a half.

Ah Freilechin Yuntif, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Learned response to the Annual Sukkois Drasha

Rabboisai,

The following is an actual response from a member of "The Yeshiva" who also happens to be an ordained and practicing Reform congregational Rabbi:


"I understand the Reform decorate their Sukkahs with shrimp" (from the annual Yeshivas Chipass Emmess Sukkois Drasha)

Dear Rebbe,

From my vantage point as a yoreh yoreh yadin yadin of Reformic Judaism, I wanted to let you know that this is indeed correct, that we do in fact decorate our booths or Tabernacles with shrimp.

The authority for this custom is based on the g’matria of שרץ from Parshat Bereshit, which is 590, and equivalent to ציצת of Parshat Shelah. There in Parshat Tzitzit they are told to install fringes upon their garments and wear them so they won’t follow their lustful urges.

The origin of the custom is that apparently some years back one Reform Temple Youth Group held a Sukkot event where the high school aged boys and girls spent the night lay-shaving in the sukkah. It – so goes the legend – turned in to a group grope (mind you these were kids aged 15-17). Thus, to prevent future such orgiastic behavior, it was decided that shrimp should decorate the sukkah so they would be reminded not to be lustful. This was needed because:

1) They didn’t know Parshat tzitzis, because it was absent from the Reform liturgy from 1894-2008 (and only in ’08 as an option if you turn the page);

2) They didn’t have talitot, or as you might say, taleisim, in their houses of worship; and

3) They figured the smell of rotting shrimp would deter lustful thoughts. (What they determined in later years was actually that the smell of stale shrimp covered up the smell of lust, if you know what I mean).

As an outgrowth of this, it became customary in certain Reform Sunday Schools to string together crab leg shells as decorations for their sukkahs and/or Hanukkah bushes.

I am pleased that I can provide this background to you, lichvod he-chag.

May your festive waving of the long thing next to the shrived up thing bring the Divine Wetness in its season.

מועדים לשמחה

Rabbi Daniel C.

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Tizku LeMitzvois

Pinky

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sukkois Drasha

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Rabboisai,

I ran into a Talmid this morning during my morning commute to the Yeshiva, following Shachris, Daf Yoimi, a three course breakfast, and a quick mitzvah with my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, if you know what I mean. He told me that he recently met another Talmid, who said that while he is appreciative of my "special brand" of Toirah, he felt that I sometimes "cross the line".

Rabboisai -- It is written in the Toirah that we should not engage in Gilui Arayois with our sisters, our aunts or our father's wife. We are directed by the Toirah not to be Mezaneh with animals. We are commanded to commit Cheirem upon certain towns during the initial Keebbush of Eretz Yisroel. We are told that Duvid HaMelech, THE GREAT Duvid Hamelech, viewed Bass-Shevah bathing naked on her roof, committed Gilui Arayois with her, and sent her husband, a great and loyal soldier, to his death in order to get him "out of the way". And, of course, the Toirah details how Shloimoi HaMelech embraced idol worship towards the end of his life.

So, in other words, while Toirah is timeless and beautiful, it is not always pretty.

So if you are looking for a life philosophy that is always pretty, is always inoffensive, is never challenging, and never makes you feel uncomfortable, then I suggest you become a Buddhist. Or a Bresslover Chassid. Or move to Switzerland. Or drop Besomim.

Ah Gutten Yuntif.

RPS

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Sukkois Drasha

On this holiday, the yuntif of Sukkois, we wave fresh fruit at the sky for seven days, and eat in an open air beehive. We cap it off by dancing cheek to cheek with a bunch of bearded men. (I have a date with a talmid named Yerachmiel; I hope I get lucky!)

According to Chazzal, Sukkois is the time when Moshiach will come. And according to Reb Hai Goyn, it is the holiday when you are supposed to separate yourself from the secular world. He cites as proof the fact that you are forced to take off so many work days right before end of year reviews, you might as well start polishing up your resume.

The RI holds that Sukkois is actually a celebration of homosexuality. When Klal Yisroel were preparing for the long winter, planting in the fields by day and sleeping in huts at night, at the end of a long day they would sit down bichavrusa (in pairs) and study a little Talmud. One minute they are on daf yud baiz, amud alef, and the next minute they are on the floor, committing Mishkav Zachor. And who can blame them? I get excited by a gevaldik Toisfois myself!

The RI cites various Sukkois practices as proof for his position:

- We wave our phallic lulavim on the faces of all the other men, boasting about how ours is the biggest in the shul;

- Alongside our lulav is our esroig, where the gemarrah tells us that the more bulbous and full of veins, the better;

- We commit a sadomasochistic act with a handful of willow branches;

- We dance around the Toirah with other men, our fingers firmly entwined with others' hot, sweaty, hairy hands.

However, most Rishoinim disagree with the RI, referring to his rather abrupt departure from his position as director of the all boys Orthodox summer camp in Northern Lithuania (although they settled out of Baiz Din, so no one can prove a damn thing).

The RIF points to the beauty of the Sukkah celebration as a unique mitzvah within Yiddishkeit. Fresh fruit. The outdoors. Many Rishoinim hold that you should live in the Sukkah for eights days. It says in the Gemmarah that Rish Lakish would move into the Sukkah, and use it as an excuse for not having to deal with his mother in law all week. Rav Ashi, on the other hand, insisted that his mother in law sleep in the Sukkah, and take one or two of the kids with her.

The Sukkah offers many opportunities to be Hiddur Mitzvah, to go above and beyond the letter of the commandment. It is customary to decorate the Sukkah with pictures and other decorations. (Vooz iz givehn plastic fruit, anyway? I understand the Reform decorate their Sukkahs with shrimp.)

According to Rabbeinu Tam, it is actually a Mitzvah Dioraisa to buy Christmas decorations in January at fifty percent off, to be used in decorating the Sukkah the following year: Flashing lights. Ornaments. Candy canes. Indeed, one year the Vilna Goyn decorated his Sukkah with a nativity scene he bought for six dollars.

There are other things that one can do with a Sukkah. A Braisah brings down a story of Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, who, as a teenager, had the roof removed from his family's minivan and replaced with schach, so that he could drive down to the beach and be mekayaim the mitzvois of pleasuring his girlfriend and eating in the sukkah at the same time. What a tzaddik!

Yet the most beautiful element of Sukkois, and the aspect most shrouded in mystery, is the mitzvah of esroig. I still can't figure it out. It looks like a lemon. It smells like a lemon. It even tastes like a lemon. But it costs as much as heroin. How come it is easier to buy fresh peaches from Antarctica than it is to buy an esroig at a reasonable price?

And how many times in your life have you heard of esroig jelly. I bet you have heard of it all your life, but have NEVER seen it. You know why? Imagine this boast to your friends and neighbors: "I took 100 esroigim that last week retailed for a total of $5,000, mixed them up with a little sugar and pectin, and now it's worth about $1.50." Really impressive.

For this reason, I have a personal minhag. Two days before Sukkois, I buy 5 pounds of lemons in the supermarket, take them home, and then take a baseball bat to them. After about ten minutes of beating the crap out of them, I have plenty esroigim for myself and the kinderlach, and sell the remainder in the shul. With the extra money I buy some cologne, so I can smell nice for my dancing partner on Simchas Toirah night.

Ah Gutten Yuntif You Minuval


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yoim Kippur Drasha

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Yoim Kippur Drasha

You good for nothing Minuval, you have sinned all year long, and now you are going to pay for it!

From Kol Nidrei at sundown until the blowing of the Shofar, you will be cramped into an overcrowded room surrounded by unshowered, unshaven men whose empty stomachs are growling louder than the chazzan. But look at the bright side: at least you get your exercise. Between the frequent and incessant beating of your chest and the four instances of full kneeling, you have become a Moslem Tarzan. Shkoiyach.

Chazzal spent many, many hours contemplating the true meaning of Yoim Kippur, while awaiting the horses to reach the finish line. There is a famous machloikess (rabbinic debate) in Yuma on the subject between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Bais Shammai holds that the true commandment of the Toirah is that you should sin all year long, and then repent on Yoim Kippur. Bais Hillel, on the other hand, holds that you should strictly avoid sin all year long, and then enjoy a nice honey glazed ham right after Kol Nidrei. Of course, this is one of the fourteen instances when we hold like Bais Shammai (along with such critical issues as not using toilet paper on Shabbos and the infield fly rule.)

The Reshoinim struggled to define the metaphor by which we can understand how the Jewish People should look upon a single day in which they can redeem themselves for past mistakes and plan for the next year without the aid of a good tax advisor or financial planner.

According to the Rabbeinu Tam, Yoim Kippur is like an all day telethon, where the Aimishteh is raising funds and support for the coming year, and you are asked to contribute of your soul. The ROISH disagrees, using the same metaphor, but reversing it. Says the ROISH, YOU are hosting the telethon, and are appealing to the Rebboinoisheloilum for his support, and you refuse to go off the air until He is ready to write you a check. (And if He pledges 75 dollars or more, you'll send Him an autographed CD of Luciano Pavoratti in concert.)

The RIF holds that the true metaphor for Yoim Kippur is that of the annual performance review. Hakkodoshboruchhu is your manager, and at review time, He reaches out to your colleagues, your superiors, your subordinates, and your clients, soliciting feedback on your performance. He looks at your numbers. He checks how often you have been absent or late to shul. He then synthesizes the information and decides your fate. Will you be terminated? Will you get a raise? Will you get a better bonus? Will you get a hot new secretary?

But how can you protect yourself as the Aimishteh's employee? How can you best ensure a positive year? According to the Pas Akum, this metaphor explains one of the age old questions, which is: Why does Sukkois so closely follow Yoim Kippur? Say the Aimishteh decides to terminate you. What can you do? Can you prove wrongful dismissal? Says the Pas Akum, we stand before Hakkodoshboruchhu four days after Yoim Kippur and wave our phallic looking palm branches at heaven as if to say, "if you terminate me, I'll sue you for sexual harassment!" And in the current politically correct environment, even He has to be careful.

We prepare for this holiest day of days with the greatest degree of sobriety. We set aside Ten Days Of Atonement for spiritual introspection. We say Selichois, special prayers beseeching the Aimishteh for forgiveness. We blow the shoifar, which is intended to strike an internal chord of repentance. And we wave a live chicken over our heads.

In the time of the Second Temple, there was a great debate over this strange practice. The Prushim (Pharasees) held that before Yoim Kippur, every Jewish male should take a chicken by the legs, wave it over the heads of his loved ones, as if to absorb their sins, and then send the chicken off to slaughter. We have recently learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Essenes, on the other hand, held that before Yoim Kippur every Jewish male should choke the chicken, if you know what I mean. Given that the Essenes are not doing too well these days, I guess that was the wrong approach.

There is a famous story of Rabbi Chaim MiVerlozhin. Reb Chaim was traveling from town to town in Inner Mongolia, trying to raise money for his Yeshiva's IPO. When Yoim Kippur came, Reb Chaim went to the only shul in town just in time for Kol Nidrei. "We're sorry," he was told, "but you can't get in without a ticket." Not having purchased a ticket in advance, Reb Chaim was sent away, denied the opportunity to daven on Yoim Kippur in a minyan.

The next morning, as Reb Chaim went downstairs in the small hotel in which he was staying, the host greeted him saying, "Rabbi, please join us. The missus just made up a huge breakfast, including a fresh batch of muffins." Reflecting on his experience the night before, on his rejection at the shul and at the prospect of having to daven for the next sixteen hours by himself, Reb Chaim took off his yarmulke, sat down at the table, and began to serve himself.

That night, the Aimishteh came to him. "Reb Chaim," the Aimishteh said, "why did you sin today?"

"I'm sorry, Aimishteh. I was so drained by the ticket thing I just had to grab a bite to eat," Reb Chaim responded.

"No, you fool," the Aimishteh replied. "Why did you let all that nice bacon go to waste?"

Repentance, and sin, are somewhat in the eye of the beholder. So when you are standing before the Melech Malchei Hamelachim at Neilah, don't just mouth the words; picture it as a conversation, one on one. Before you beg for forgiveness, establish rapport. Tell a couple of jokes. Ask the Aimishteh how He's doing. Ask about the wife and kids. Sure He's busy, but a little brown-nosing never hurts.

Gmar Chassima Toivah, You Minuval

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess


Ask Rabbi Pinky: On The Identity of the Almighty

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On The Identity of the Almighty

Rabboisai,

This week I answer a Shailah from an unusual Talmid located somewhere in Middle America:

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Rabbi Schmeckelstein,

I was sitting here this morning on the internet and somehow I got to a Jackie Mason video web site. Not being Jewish and watching Mr. Mason for about two hours, I have to wonder if Jackie Mason is in fact… God? Please let me continue. Having been brought up as a Christian with both of my Grandfathers as Baptist Ministers -- yeah, fire and brimstone guys (they are likely spinning in their graves if they know what we kids have done) -- I know that Jews are God’s chosen people, it says so in our Book you know. My question to you is… drum roll please… is Jackie Mason God? I know you guys know who is who in the Jewish community. If Mr. Mason is not God I think we should put him on the ballot for the job. What are you thoughts? Thank you for your response.

John Francis A.

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Reb John…. or shall I address you rather as Pastor John,

Thank you so much for your deep and insightful question. It is a delight to receive such inquiries from someone of the Gentile persuasion. After all, we’re usually hiding from you guys in an attic or under the floorboards somewhere. And, indeed, I am thrilled in the knowledge that you undoubtedly wrote your question on a computer for which you paid retail – Thank the Rebboinoisheloilum… errr…. Jehovah for people like you!

I would also like to remind you that, of course, Jesus himself/ Himself was a Jew. And while there are indeed historical questions about the role of the Jews in his/His Crucifixion, please allow me to point out three things:

1) The Romans had sovereignty over ancient Judea, so the Jews could not have pronounced or enforced a death penalty through our Sanhedrin, which was about as relevant as today’s British monarchy. As well, crucifixion was a Roman form of punishment – The Jewish form of death penalty involved beating someone over the head with a large volume of the Talmud while berating him for eating uncut fruit that has not been certified kosher by a rabbi;

2) Per the Christian view of the world, in order to rise to the level of divinity Jesus had to die. So holding the Jews responsible for his/His death is like eating from freshly picked crops while being angry at the sky for raining, or being angry at your significant other because your… errr… romantic encounter has … ummm… reached its natural culmination, if you know what I mean; and

3) I was not born at the time. So I was nowhere near there – and have plenty of eyewitnesses. So please do not persecute me!!!

With regard to your question, this is at the root of key theological differences between Judaism and Christianity. Christianity believes that a component of the Divine is bound up in an earth-focused hypostasis identified with Jesus, while the Old Testament Diety/ Jehovah/ Hakadoshboruchhu (“The-Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He”) is identified with the Father. In addition, Christianity also believes in a third component of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, which, quite frankly, I have never been able to understand, although I believe I used to watch cartoons about him/ Him as a child.

Judaism, on the other hand, believes in a singular Diety which you may call Jehovah or the Reboinoisheloilum (“The-Master-Of-The-World”) or El or the Big Guy Upstairs or many other names. And I must tell you that since we have an older and more intuitive Diety, our understanding of the Divine is superior to yours. One is better than Three. So there.

However, the traditional Jewish understanding of the Divine also includes the mystical tradition of the Sfirois, or the elements of the Godhead. They are ten elements which represent aspects of Divinity and include such components as: Kesser (the Crown), Chochmah (Knowledge), Binah (Understanding), Chesed (Kindness), Gevurah (Bravery/ Severity), Tiferess (Beauty), Netzach (Eternity), Hoid (Splendor), Yesoid (Foundation), and Malchus/ Shechinah (Kingdom). And, clearly, Ten is better than Three.

So either we have two less than you guys, or seven more than you guys. Either way, WE WIN! Unless of course you run the government and have all the guns, in which case you win, and we will be happy to do whatever you want us to do, be it become moneylenders, practice medicine, or do your accounting. Just please don’t ask us to do physical labor – you will be very disappointed.

Now, Christianity has a clear understanding of how the Divine connects directly with the human realm – and that is through the embodiment of the Divine on earth in the physical body of Jesus. Judaism, other the other hand, believes that the Divine engages directly with humanity through the Shechinah, the embodiment of the Divine on earth. In the desert following the Exodus, the Shechinah rested above the Jewish People as a protective cloud. In the era of the First and Second Temples, the Shechinah resided in the Temples’ Holy of Holies. However, following the destruction of the Second Temple, the Shechinah went into exile with Israel.

According to a Gemarrah in Brachois (a reference in the Talmudic tractate that focuses on prayer and benedictions), the Shechinah took on human form and lived in Babylon with the Jews in the person of Rish Lakish (Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish), a bandit-turned-scholar. The Talmud tells us that Rish Lakish was “hung like a Lulav” (or, according to a Medrish in Vayikrah Rabbah, “hung like a Paroichess”), and it is for this reason that all of the eligible women of Pumbedisa used to say, “a night with Rishy is like heaven on earth!”

Some suggest that in the Middles Ages the commentator RASHI was the embodiment of the Shechinah. After all, he was the most prolific of religious commentators, had a successful wine business, and was always jolly. According to the RALBAG, this is proof that RASHI was the earthbound representative of the Divine. However, according to Rabbeinu Tam, this simply reflects the fact that RASHI was a workaholic who was constantly sampling the merchandise. He cites as evidence the fact that RASHI’s writing always came out crooked*.

Hundreds of years later, the ARI Zahl may have been the embodiment of the Shechinah. He contributed great mystical insights and revolutionized the Jewish prayer liturgy. He had many followers who would go out with him on Friday nights in Tzfas to pray on a field, singing and dancing to welcome in the Sabbath. They would then drop acid, and wake up the next day during Musaph (the late morning additional service) naked and hung-over.

So the key question which you ask, and which is on everyone’s mind is: Who in our day represents the embodiment of the Divine on earth?

You suggest that Jackie Mason is in fact the Reboinoisheloilum. I have looked long and hard throughout the contemporary Rabbinic sources and have been unable to find any such Rabbinic position. At most, the Rabbis hold that Jackie Mason is the Gilgul, the reincarnation, of Yirmiyahu Hanavi, the Prophet Jeremiah, who similarly underwent multiple stages in a long and memorable career. However, unlike Jackie Mason, Yirmiyahu Hanavi was never banned from The Ed Sullivan Show, though he was banned for a year and a half from the Holy Temple for giving the High Priest the finger.

According to Rabbi Shmiel Kalbasavua, the Shechinah is embodied in our generation in the person of Binyamin Netanyahu. After all, as the Prime Minister of Israel, he is the leader of the Jewish People. As proof, Reb Shmiel points out Netanyahu’s supernatural capabilities: He has been married to three different women and is rumored to have slept with half of the women in Israel. However, this may be less of a display of superhuman libido, and merely a reflection of Netanyahu’s capacity for making multiple parties happy – He has never hesitated to fondle the Schvantlach of Reb Oivadiah Yoisaiph while performing Metzitzah BiPeh on Reb Yoisaiph Eliashiv and at the same time taking it Sheloh KeDarkoh from Avigdor Lieberman in order to keep his coalition intact. However, that is not a supernatural talent; rather, it is a required skill for every prime minister of Israel, from either the right or the left.

However, according to Reb Yoisaiph Katzsky, the Reboinoisheloilum is embodied in Rahm Emanuel. He is the most powerful Jew in the most powerful country in the world. His name “Rahm” means “thunder” in Hebrew, a metaphor used within the Toirah to describe the Aimishteh’s power. And of course, his last name literally means “Hakadoshboruchhu is with us”. And like the Reboinoisheloilum in the Toirah, Emanuel reportedly has a fierce temper, highlighted by the frequent use of four-Ois-words. However, unlike the Aimishteh, Emanuel works directly for a Jeremiah-Wright-loving Muslim-Christian who hates Jews, wants to redistribute our wealth, plans to strip us of our healthcare, and wants to take away our guns which he will happily turn over to the Taliban fighting American forces to take over Afghanistan, which is undoubtedly where he was actually born. So it is hard to believe that Rahm Emanuel is the embodiment of Hakadoshboruchhu in our world.

According to Reb Betzalel Kupkayk, Hakadoshboruchhu is embodied in the person of Sarah Palin. After all, the Reboinoisheloilum is the Deity of all, so who is to say that He must be a Jew? Indeed, if we look at the immense following for Sarah Palin built up in a relatively short period of time, one must indeed suspect the hand of the Divine. Of course, she is not only a MILF, she is a GILF. But how else can you explain how a controversial moose-hunting two-year-governor from the least populous state in the Union, with no foreign and limited domestic experience has been able to Tweet her way to becoming the Queen of the Tea Party, all the while planning the wedding… errr… breakup… I mean… wedding… ummm… reality TV career of her teenage daughter?

But I would like to suggest that the Shechinah is embodied in the person of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. After all, he proudly presents a heavenly view on the world. He also sees the good in people – Only someone with Divine insight could come to the defense of Michael Jackson. Plus, like Hakadoshboruchhu, Reb Shmuley is a best selling author and has his own show on cable. In addition, Reb Shmuley has insightful pronouncements on life issues. And like the Reboinoisheloilum, he abhors having his name taken in vain – You may use his name all you want, but just make sure he gets his royalties.

Finally, I would like to address a serious question about the perceived dwindling presence of the Divine in our everyday lives. Within the Toirah itself, the Reboinoisheloilum threatens that if the Jewish People disobey His commandments, He will “hide His face”. Some have suggested that the seeming absence of Hakadoshboruchhu in our world is, in fact, proof of heavenly punishment for human sin. But this is far from the truth. According to the Zoihar HaKadoish, the figure embodying the Reboinoisheloilum on earth safeguards His identity by disguising Himself as a mild-mannered reporter in a metropolitan newspaper, or as a skinny Yeshiva Bochur shuckling away in the corner of the Bais Medrish, or in some other benign fashion. However, when the appropriate time comes to reveal Himself, the Aimishteh changes into a bright purple spandex uniform with a big “G” emblazoned on the front, and leaps into the air to rescue the Jews or others in moments of need.

In ancient times, this secret change of identity was typically performed in a tent or a Roman bathhouse. In the twentieth century, this was typically done in a phone booth. Nowadays, Rachmana Letzlan, in the era of the ubiquitous cell phone, there are very few phone booths for the Reboinoisheloilum to use for His quick change. Consequently, His presence on earth has diminished. So it is only through prayer and good deeds that we can bring an end to the evil mobile and broadband networks that have suppressed the presence of the Almighty and return His glory to our world. Either that, or we should pray for the establishment of a network of public bathrooms, so that the Divine can once again reign supreme and deliver Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

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*Note: As a Gentile you would not be aware that the commentary of the medieval Biblical commentator RASHI (Rabbi Shlomo Yitchaki) is traditionally published alongside Biblical and Talmudic text in a distinct, highly italicized font with multiple variants of the traditional block Hebrew letters. Sadly, these are the kinds of critical facts of which you were deprived in your own Gentile education system, preventing your intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. It is a terrible shame, for which you have my sincerest sympathies.

----

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

=====

http://rabbi-pinky.blogspot.com/

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

On Teshuvah

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On Teshuvah


Rabboisai,

In the interest of Tefillah, Teshivah, and KEEPING YOU SANE OVER THE THREE DAY YUNTIF, I am posting an extra bonus Drasha.

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There is a famous story in the Zoihar Hakadoish that describes the ritual in Shamayim whereby the Ain Soif delivers an annual report immediately prior to Roish Hashanah before a joint session of the Sefirois, the Malachim, the Tzaddikim, and the Neshsamois of the unborn. The Zoihar also reports that one year, during this annual gathering, Hakadoshboruchhu noted that the world was expected to have a peaceful year, without any additional persecution directed at Klal Yisroel. Suddenly, the spirit of Nosson HaNavi shouted out, “You lie!” towards the Aimishteh. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon forcibly removed Nosson HaNavi from the room, and after numerous apologies to the Reboinoisheloilum and his Chief of Staff, the Buddha, he was banished to Eretz Yisroel, where he is fated to spend all of eternity as one of the guys who do random ticket inspections on Egged busses.

There is also a Medrish in Medrish Tanchuma that talks about the annual PYW (Pumbedisa Yeshiva World) Awards. One year Rava was honored with the “Chiddush of the Year” award for his “Yeyush Shehlo Mida’as Loi Havei Yeyush” insight. As he was standing at the Shtender to accept his award, Rav Huna burst onto the Bimah and screamed out to the crowd of Yeshivah-Yingeleit, “Sure, Rava, your Chiddush was okay. But Rav Ashi really deserved the award for his ‘Yoim Toiv Shaynee Shel Goliyois Does Not Apply In Antarctica’ Chiddush. No offense, Dude.” After being booed off the Bimah and having a sandal thrown at his head, Rav Huna apologized for his outburst and blamed his behavior on the Besomim-laced mead he had been drinking all day, and also on the fact that he had not been adequately molested by his Rebbe when he was a teenager.

Finally, there is a famous story in a Gemarrah in Gittin that describes the detailed ruling associated with the Bavel Open, the annual sporting contest where leading Rabbis would throw turbans at each other across the Bais Medrish in Sura. The Gemara notes how one year Rav Chisda was disqualified in the quarterfinals against Rav Pappa by the line judge, Mar Zutra, when he threatened to “ram his turban so far up Mar Zutra’s ‘Bor’ that Mar Zutra would have to make an Eirev Chatzayrois every time he needed to go to the bathroom on Shabbos-Koidesh.” He later explained that he had been misunderstood, and that he really meant that Mar Zutra would need to make an Erev Tavshilin before eating on a Shabbos following a Yoim Toiv. But Rav Chisda finally apologized to Mar Zutra after Rav Shayshess threatened to make him pay a fine of thirty thousand zuzim and three goats. Shoyn.

I share this collection of stories as we engage in the spiritual exercise known as Teshuvah – repentance. Every year, after a full twelve months of being Mezaneh with hot shiksas -- at least in your mind you Minuval, after eating pork or shrimp or lobster, or cottage cheese that’s not Cholov Yisroel, Chass V’Sholom, or after murdering your neighbor for 12 dollars in loose change, cutting up his body into little pieces, and burying the pieces in the backyard between the rose bushes and the apple tree, near where you once buried the bunny rabbit that your cat had killed just to shut your children up already, Reboinoisheloilumdammit…. Ummm…sorry. After a year of committing Aveirois, you get in front of Hakadoshboruchhu, and ask Him for forgiveness.

But, as in the famous stories in the Gemarrah and the cosmic history recorded in the Zoihar, you must ask yourself, “Is my Teshuvah sincere? Do you mean it when you say “Selach Lee Kee Pushahtee”, “Forgive me for I have sinned”, and by implication, you will never do it again? Are you in fact sincere in your Teshuvah, or are you simply reciting a medieval liturgical formula, simply biding your time until the Chazzan finishes reciting the sections where the Aron Koidesh is open, so you can finally sit down and rest your aching feet already?

RAMBAM addresses this question in Hilchois Teshuvah of Mishnah Toirah. He notes that sincerity is a prerequisite for real Teshuvah, and he advises all his followers “MiSpharad Ad Mitzrayim”, from Spain to Egypt, to engage in penitence through prayer and acts of mortification, such as fasting and self-flagellation. He states, however, that the Jews of Eastern Europe should, quote, “not bother doing Teshuvah, as Hakkadoshboruchhu can never grant forgiveness to people who have names like Yankel, Berrill, Shprintze and Chraindie, and sing songs with the lyrics ‘Ai Digi Digi Dai’”.

The RAMBAN, living in the golden age of Kabbalah, writes that Teshuvah can only be achieved when the Sefirois are aligned, with Kesser, Chochmah, Chessed, Netzach, and Yesoid on one side, and Binah, Da’as, Tiferess, Gevurah, and Malchus on the other. In that way, the cosmic aspects of the Aimishteh are in perfect balance and may collectively engage in the act of forgiveness in the human realm, as well as participate in a pick-up basketball game.

The MAHARAL, however, disagrees with the RAMBAN, and suggests that before writing his opinion, the RAMBAN must have popped some of the pain killers he always carried in his medical bag for house calls. He suggests that real Teshuvah emanates from purposeful introspection joined with concrete actions. He points to the liturgical reference in the Nesaneh Toikeff on Roish Hashanah and Yoim Kippur “Oo’Seshuva, Oo’Sefillah, Oo’Tzedakah Ma’Avirin Ess Roiyah Hagezeyrah”, “And repentance, and prayer and charity deter the evil decree.” The MAHARAL notes that the juxtaposition of the three words connected by the term “and” highlights the underlying belief that the actions cited must be combined – It is not enough to commit Teshuvah OR Tefilla OR Tzedakah. But to have real impact, they must be committed by a human being as complementary acts of repentance emanating from the soul, prayer emanating the heart, and charity emanating from the bank account (Ed. Note: Preferably in a check made out to “Yeshivas Chipas Emmess”).

The Abudraham argues farkhert, that repentance is an inner process, enabled by inward contemplation, prayer, and uniting with the Reboinoisheloilum through Hisboidedus. But he notes that Teshuvah is quite separate from Tzedakah, stating that “The act of giving Tzedakah is an outward gesture, absent the soul. Nu, Bernie Madoff gave lots of Tzedakah, and trust me, you don’t want to be where he is going.”

So when we examine the words of Chazal, we discover a range of ideas centered on the notion of exorcizing sin from the soul, of sincere Teshuvah as inner commitment. Even prayer is not a substitute for inward change – at best it is a catalyst. This point is clear when we examine the actual words of the liturgy. On Yoim Kippur we spend hours in the Viduy, the Jewish form of “confession”. But do we say “I sinned, I committed Act Aleph, Act Baiz, or Act Gimmul?” No, you ignoramus! We frame our confession in the form of the plural collective: “Ashamnu”, “Al Chaiyt Shechatahu Lifanecha” – “We have sinned”, “(We repent) for the sins which we have committed before You.” The listed sins are formulaic, and include many sins that most of us would never commit, unless we got really lucky. So reciting the formulas cannot be equated with personal repentance. Rather, Viduy, listing and repeating these sins again and again and again, is itself an act intended to inspire a mood, to incite an action, to encourage a behavior. It is like porn, but for Yoim Kippur.

So how else can we ensure sincerity in our Teshuvah? I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Issur Zalman Meltzer, the Even HaEzel, was once walking home from the Central Synagogue in Slutsk when he was accosted by a group of three Communist youths. “Rabbi”, they teased him, “Who were you just praying to – the boogieman?” They then held Reb Issur Zalman down and forced him to listen to the first two chapters of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. With every word he heard, Reb Issur Zalman became more incensed. When the brutes finally let him go and turned around to walk away, Reb Issur Zalman attacked them from behind. Using his Masechta Baba Kamma, he crushed the skull of one of his assailants, killing him instantly. He used his Yoireh Dayah to break the jaw and knock twelve teeth out of the mouth of the second assailant. And as the third assailant ran away, Reb Issur Zalman threw his Mikraois Gedoilois at him, hitting his spine, and crippling him for life.

That night the Reboinoisheloilum came to him in a dream. “Issur Zalman”, Hakadoshboruchhu called. “What do you have to say for yourself?!!”

Reb Issur Zalman replied, “Oy, Aimisteh, I am so sorry. I did not mean to really hurt those boys. But all that talk about the redistribution of wealth really upset me.”

“No, you schmendrick” the Reboinoisheloilum retorted. “I am not upset that you killed one of those thugs and mortally wounded the others. But you let my holy Toirah fall on the floor. And for that you will lose your Christmas bonus this year!”

“That’s ok,” Reb Issur Zalman said, his ears turning red with anger, “as long as you share it with the underprivileged Proletariat hordes, you Opiate of the Masses!”

Rabboisai, real Teshuvah is not easy. If it were, we would not have ten days dedicated to repentance, as well as many long hours in shul that perhaps could have been better been spent learning Toirah, doing Maiysim Toivim, or surfing porn. But our mission at this time of year is to become better human beings. But we cannot become better people simply through empty apologies, no matter how many times they are repeated, and wherever they are repeated – even in Shul or on Oprah.

When we talk about Teshuvah, we are talking about real change, which is ultimately a function of humility. We must realize that we are all fallible, especially you, you Michutziff. We are all simple grains of sand passing through the winds of time. As written by the Paytan, “Kee Heenay KeChoimer BeYad HaYoitzer”, “We are like clay in the hands of the potter.” And only when you realize your true insignificance will you be able to undergo real Teshuvah, real change, and perhaps become a bit more tolerable for the rest of us.

Gmar Chassima Toivah, You Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Roish Hashanah Drasha

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Roish Hashanah Drasha

I have recently returned to the Bais Medrish in my Yeshiva, where our talmidim are studying twenty-two hours a day in preparation for the Yomim Noraim (High Holidays), as well as for their upcoming Real Estate license exams.

This week we will celebrate and embrace Roish Hashanah, the New Year, pray for forgiveness of our past sins, and moan about the need to pay extra for seats when we are already spending too much as it is on annual synagogue membership.

In a famous Mishnah in Masechta Roish Hashanah, Rabban Gamliel asks why synagogues charge for seats on the High Holidays -- shouldn't they embrace all who attend services and not put up any potential barriers to their participation? In the Gemarrah, Rav Pappa builds on this question, pointing out that Jewish communal responsibilities also include Yeshiva tuition, kosher food and paying off the annoying schnorrers who show up at our doors uninvited. So why must shuls engage in Lifnei Iver and chase away any returnees to the faith?

Toisfois offers a gevaldik answer to this question, based on lessons we learn from Yaakov and Eisav. As Eisav returns from a day of hunting empty handed and hungry, Yaakov tricks Eisav into surrendering his birthright by giving him a bowl of lentil soup in exchange. Says Toisfois, we must choose to be like one or the other -- either fiscally bankrupt like Eisav, or morally bankrupt like Yankif Avinu. And clearly most shuls in our day choose the latter.

This rabbinic shakuvetaria (discourse) very much helps to define and capture the essence of our existential quandary at this time of year. The question really is: why do we have one special point in the year for repentance and renewal; are we not always encouraged, and even invited, to improve ourselves, or to at least make a healthy donation? Indeed, what is the nature of the choice that confronts us? How does Roish Hashanah help us along a new path?

(And an additional key question is: why was I assigned THAT seat, next to that guy I can't stand, and so far from the aisle that I may as well pee in my pants during mussaf?)

The classical answer is that the sound of the shoifar-- the ram's horn -- is intended to awaken within us our innate desire to embrace the Aimishteh through repentance and the fulfilling of Kol HaToirah Kooloh. Clearly, whoever came up with this response never heard the shoifar blown in the Yeshiva where I received Smicha (rabbinical ordainment), where, to insure that each shofar note is 100% koisher, they repeat the blows again and again. And again. And again. It's enough to make the Rosheshiva himself pray to Yushka for salvation.

Reb Hai Gaon offers an alternate answer, suggesting that Roish Hashanah is like a woman getting a facial. Sure she can put on makeup every day, but the act of spending eighty-five dollars to get her pores cleansed makes the meeskeit at least FEEL prettier.

Rabbi Akiva Eigar points to the three central themes of the Roish Hashanah liturgy as providing the answer: Malchiyois, Zichroinois, and Shoifrois. Malchiyois represents the father, Zichroinois the son, and Shoifrois the holy ghost. Of course, Reb Akiva is known for his secret affinity for Catholicism and his attraction to hot nuns.

But the Chassam Soifer points to the same three themes. He says that Malchiyois, the theme of the Kingdom of heaven, is like your father, who, no matter how successful you have become, is always ready to tell you what a disappointment you are. Zichroinois, the theme of heavenly remembrance, is like your mother, who, no matter how old you are, will always remind you of how you used to wet your bed. And Shoifrois, the theme of the sound of the shofar, is like your mother-in-law, whose constant talking and picking and nagging and complaining leaves a mind-numbing, deafening ringing in your ears.

Of course, we set the pattern for the coming year on Roish Hashanah. My alter zeidey used to tell me not to sleep on Roish Hashanah because that would cause me to have a farshlufinah year. I have always taken that lesson to heart. Consequently, I have a personal minhag to ride my bashert, Feigah Breinah, like a shtender in the afternoon of Roish Hashanah, in order to guarantee a new year with LOTS OF HOT ADULT ACTION. All the while, the einiklach and kinderlach are out poisoning the fish with leftover challah from last week.

It is also critical that our Teshuvah be sincere and complete, not like your usual insincere prayers, you Vilda Chaya, when you anxiously await the guy who knows all the sports scores to show up at shul. We need to commit to renouncing sin in our everyday lives in order to be true Bnei and Bnois Toirah. A few suggestions for the coming year:

-- Stop buying from Macy's. Macy's sells shatnez, and if you continue to buy there, someone may mistakenly assume you are buying shatnez, and believe it is okay to buy shatnez too.

-- Start using your 500 dollar set of Shass more. If not for learning, at least for the benefit of lifting those heavy books. Reboinoisheloilum knows, you can stand to lose a few pounds.

-- Don't let your wife distract you from Toirah. You should seek every opportunity to go into the other room and pick up a Chumash, or go to your weekly shiur. Watching your twelve kids so your wife can have a ten minute break and go to the Bais HaKeesay is no excuse for Bittul Toirah!

-- Grow your payiss to be long enough to have monkeys swing from them. You never know when you'll be at a Chassanah at the zoo and you'll have the chance to be Mesamayach the Chussen and Kallah.

-- Next time you sneak out for a little traifus, remember to make a Shehakol on your pork. After all, the Aimishteh created it too.

-- When you are in the middle of being mezaneh with your wife, instead of delaying your passion by thinking of baseball players, think of famous Chassidic masters instead. Unless, of course, you get excited by bearded men with shaved heads. In which case, stick with the baseball players.

In taking these measures, we will greet the new year with a deeper commitment to making the world a better place and embracing all mankind, in order to maximize our tax deductions, improve interest rates in the coming year, and bring peace between the Eskimos and the Mongolians.

A Chessiva V'Chasima Toivah, you Minuval.


Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein

Rosheshiva

Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Friday, September 03, 2010

Parshas Nitzavim

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Parshas Nitzavim

“Atem Nitzavim Hayoim Koolchem Lifnei Hashem Eloikaychem, Roishaychem, Shivteichem, Zikneichem, Veshoitreichem, Kol Ish Yisroel. Topchem, Neshaychem, Vegerchah Asher Bekerev Machanechah, Mechoitayv Aytzim Ad Shoiyayv Maymechah.” “Behold you are standing here before Hashem your Deity, your leaders, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel. Your children, your women, and the stranger which is amongst your camp, from the woodcutter to the one who draws your water.”

So begins this week’s Parsha, as we rapidly approach the end of Sefer Bamidbar, and mentally prepare ourselves for the many hours spent in Shul over the coming holidays, praying to the Reboinoisheloilum for a positive future, asking Hakadoshboruchhu for forgiveness for our past sins, and pleading with the Aimishteh to help us survive the many hours of amateur Chazanus, self righteous speeches, high pressure financial appeals, and poorly ventilated body odor emanating from multiple congregants sittings within a radius of ten seats.

When looking at this Parsha, Chazal posed many key questions that are still keeping us awake at night:

Rabbi Akiva asks in a famous Medrish: Why does the Toirah refer to Klal Yisroel as “standing”? He answers that the Parsha actually refers to anyone who has legs and is capable of standing, whether they are indeed standing or not. But the Toirah’s terminology comes to exclude people who have less than two legs and cannot stand on their own. Such people are either to be expelled from the Jewish People for ten generations, or traded to the Mariners for $50,000 in cash, a utility infielder in Double A ball, and a player to be named later.

A Gemarrah in Baitzah features a famous Machloikess between Abaya and Rava on this very Medrish. According to Abaya, the Medrish does not automatically exclude a member of Klal Yisroel who has no legs. Says Abaya, we are first required MiDioraisa to examine his assets, and if he is wealthy we consider him “as if” he has legs, and he is invited to return to the fold of Kehilas Yisroel in exchange for a large donation and a 20 percent restocking fee.

Rava holds Farkhert, suggesting that the requirement for legs must indeed be enforced quite literally. And he goes further: He cites a Braisah suggesting that Rabbi Akiva actually said that the Parsha excludes not only people who are missing a leg, but also excludes people who are missing toes. According to Rava, “Afilu Etzbah Achass”, “even the lack of a single toe,” disqualifies someone from Klal Yisroel. It also makes wearing Roman sandals or other open toed shoes a bit embarrassing.”

Reb Hai Goyn builds upon this theme, suggesting that while Rabbi Akiva’s use of the term ‘Etzbah” may indeed be interpreted as referring to toes, the word also refers to the more common use of the term, meaning fingers. Hence, the lack of any digit, be it on the hand or foot, can disqualify someone from Klal Yisroel. Says Reb Hai Goyn, “the Reboinoisheloilum blessed Klal Yisroel with generous noses. If a Jew is missing a finger and therefore cannot pick his sizeable proboscis, it is an insult to Aimishteh, as it is equivalent to a rejection of Ol Malchus Shamayim.”

Shoyn.

A more critical question is the reference in the Passuk to “Vegerchah Asher Bekerev Machanechah,” “the stranger which is amongst your camp”. Rav Huna asks in Masechess Baba Metzitza, “Maiy Taimah”, “what is the reason that the Toirah talks about a ‘stranger’”? What’s pshat a “stranger”, which is universally understood to refer to a Gentile who lives amongst the Jews? Why would Moishe Rabbeinu include local Gentiles as he delivers his final address to Klal Yisroel? Is he some sort of self hating Jew?

According to Rav Papa, Moishe Rabbeinu was of course not a self hating Jew! He loved all Jews, especially hot divorcees. However, for tax purposes, Moshe also wanted to include the foreign workers who did all of the physical labor in the community. Rav Papa points to the end of the Passuk which refers to “the woodcutter and the one who draws your water.” Asks Rav Papa, “Can you possibly believe that this refers to a Jew?”

However, in the modern context, how are we relate to this notion of Gentiles living amongst us? In a situation of prolonged war and hostility, of distrust and the potential for violent acts, especially terrorism, how should we relate to the question of Goyim living in Eretz Yisroel? Was the Toirah wrong, in its assumption that there would be “Vegerchah Asher Bekerev Machanechah”? Is the Toirah “out of touch”? It the Toirah an anachronism that is not suited to the currently realities in which we all live, Chass V’Sholom? How can you suggest such a thing, you ignorant Minuval?

No. We are fortunate to be the chosen people, who can always turn to the eternal Toirah Emmes as our guide on contemporary questions of law, morality, ethics, medicine, business, science, and great dinner locations that cost less than $20 a person.

The RAMBAM addresses the particular topic of “Vegerchah Asher Bekerev Machanechah in detail in his Mishnah Toirah. According to the RAMBAM, Moishe’s inclusion of non-Jews in his speech indeed reflects a general assumption that Gentiles will always live alongside Jews in Eretz Yisroel. However, their residence is predicated on four conditions:

1) That they pledge loyalty to the chosen government, and not act in a hostile manner towards it, even if they are not always in agreement with it;

2) That they contribute to the security of the country by serving in its armed forces;

3) That they contribute to the finances of the country, without cheating on their taxes;

4) That they participate in the broader social fabric of their communities by having their children engage in public educational institutions.

In short, the provisions for their continued presence of Gentiles in Eretz Yisroel are exactly those conditions that are violated by the Ultra Orthodox of Israel every single day.

Rabboisai, I am reminded of a famous story about the Menachem Mendel of Cracow, who survived Europe and moved his Chassidic sect to Alabama in 1947. Menachem Mendel and his family survived the war by being hidden by their neighbor, Piotr Christianowics, underneath the floorboards in the Christianowics home, at great personal risk to Piotr Christianowics and his family.

One day, after the Nazis conducted a routine search of the area and had gone, Piotr whispered down to the floor, “Menachem Mendel, I am so sorry that all of this is happening to your people. I look forward to the day when you and I and our families can sit together and eat as free men.”

There was a pause. Then Menachem Mender quietly responded through the floorboards, “Don’t kid yourself, Piotr. I would never break bread with a Shaygitz.”

Rabboisai, like Klal Yisroel on that very day, many millennia ago, we too are standing before the Reboinoisheloilum at a critical juncture in our nationhood. We can either retreat into our shell of Jewish isolationism, or we can come to terms with the reality that we are fated to coexist with others. Gentiles, members of all other faiths and creeds, were also created by the Reboinoisheloilum. The details are not always easy – some people indeed are our enemies, as we once again were bitterly reminded this week in the area of Chevroin. But most people are not our enemies. Yes, it is not always easy to protect our interests and identify who our friends are. But as long as our Gentile neighbors are willing to live side-by-side in peace with us, are willing to pay retail, or are hot shiksas, then they are okay in the eyes of the Toirah, and they are ok by by me.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.