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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Parshas Bahaloischa

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Parshas Bahaloischa

First, I must acknowledge all the people who reached out to me last Sunday. Phone calls. Faxes. E-Mails. Fundraising letters. "Why was there no drasha from Rabbi Schmeckelstein for Shabboskoidesh?" they all asked.

You would think that with all the Toirah on the Internet you could find a substitute for a week. Perhaps a Dvar Toirah from Aish Hatoirah. Or a Vort from Har Etzion. (But don't bother looking for an e-mail from Chofetz Chaim. They don't believe in computers. I'm not even sure they know how to read and write.)

Well, truth be told, you Amha'aretz, I was doing research for the commentary on this week's Parsha, Bahaloischa. This Parsha, no less than any other in the Toirah, is all about rebellion, primarily against the Aimishteh. The Bnei Yisroel complain about the poor menu selection in the Midbar. Moishe rebels against the Reboinoisheloilum when asked why Klal Yisroel is rebelling. Aron Hacoihain, the Minuval, and Miriam Haneviyah, the Yentah, also rebel by seeking to share the limelight of leadership with Moishe, or at least receive an equivalent number of stock options with a very low strike price.

What is it about human nature that causes us to rebel, even against the Melech Malchei Hamelachim Hakadoshboruchhu, who, according to the Kabbalistic teachings of the Ari Zahl, can easily crush you with his Almighty, oversized feet? (According to the Vilna Goyn, the Aimishteh wears size 613 Nikes, but according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, He wears size 770 Skechers.)

In order to get to the heart of the matter, I traveled to Latin America, the Middle East and Western Europe to try to develop an understanding of the very basic nature of rebellion.

In Latin America, I met with countless rebel movements. They each claimed to be largely motivated by a lack of economic equity and opportunity, compounded with a feeling of being locked out of their political systems. In addition, they were clearly impacted by excessively spicy food. (Voos iz givehn an Enchilada?)

In the Middle East, those Anti-Semitic, Jew Hater, Arafat loving, Soinay Yisroels sitting in the opposition with their big hats and long, luxurious Payis, as well as the current Knesset coalition members, tend to agree that the essence of rebellion is a natural response mechanism motivated by the ever changing human condition, as well as the ever-important financial support given to the Ultra Orthodox sector, despite them not serving in the army or paying taxes, and all the while multiplying like bunny rabbits wearing Shtreimels.

In the Arab world, the sense of rebellion, which is manifested through ongoing civil wars and general unrest, as well as continued anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment, is driven by an overall deep frustration over a lack of freedom of expression, a lack of political self determination, a lack of economic equity, and a lack of political access.

Finally, in Western Europe, the rebellious human tendency is driven by a sense of too much freedom of expression, too much political self determination, too much economic equity and too much political access.

In other words, the only common theme is that everyone is basically unhappy.

According to Rabbeinu Tam, the general malaise of the human spirit emanates from a lack of rules and boundaries. Says the Rabbeinu Tam, this is why Klal Yisroel received the Toirah, have Halachah, and are therefore perfect AND BETTER THAN THE GOYIM!

But the Mordechai holds Farkhert: Pointing at this week's Parsha, he notes that Klal Yisroel, even after receiving the Toirah on Har Sinai and keeping the TARYAG mitzvois, as they most certainly did, were still a bunch of Vilda Chayas.

According to the Toisfois Yuntif, the reason that Klal Yisroel is so rebellious in Parshas Bahaloischa is that in this week's Parsha, they reached their teenage years. Born as a nation, they grew up in Mitzrayim, and reached the age of Mitzvois at Har Sinai. Now, they are like a fourteen year old with raging hormones, who has recently smoked his first marijuana cigarette (Chass V'Sholom).

Indeed, if we look at all the dissatisfaction in the world, one must reach one of two conclusions: According to Bais Hillel, the Aimishteh created a perfect world, and humans simply don't know how to appreciate it. But according to Bais Shammai, the Aimishteh created a horrible, imperfect world, and we are all victims of His creation.

While I am personally inclined to agree with Bais Shammai on this one, this opinion would not be good for me professionally, so I am forced to reject it. Yet the basic thinking does offer the roots of an answer, which comes to light in a famous Chassidic tale.

There once was an egg merchant in the town of Shklov whose entire inventory was destroyed one day by a heat wave. The merchant went to the Baal Shem Toiv and asked why he was singled out for such a miserable fate. The BESHT responded by pulling out a bottle of Slivovitz, drinking down three shots with the man, and then pulling out a mirror which he held up to the man's face. He then said, "Look -- you are so ugly, no one would have bought eggs from you anyway!"

The truth is, the world IS an imperfect place. But if you spend too much time focusing on the imperfections, you are likely to get leprosy, like Miriam, the Yentah, or have a nervous breakdown. Instead, one must focus on the positive. And if you have trouble seeing the positive, three shots of Slivovitz might help bring it into focus.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

BONUS DRASHA: On the Performance of Teshuvah

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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BONUS DRASHA: On the Performance of Teshuvah


Rabboisai,

I come before you with Viduy, confession, for a sin I caused my entire Kehillah.

I was Davening Shacharis for the Amud last week, leading the prayer service in honor of the Yuhrtzeit for my long departed cat Baruch Shepatrani, when, as I was finishing Chatzi Kaddish immediately prior to Shmoineh Esrei, a fly landed on the Shtender at which I was Davening. Instinctively, I smacked hard on the Shtender, killing the fly. Unfortunately, this confused all 250 of my congregants, who as a result all recited Yaaleh VeYavoh, even though it was not Roish Chodesh or any other holiday. After Chazaras HaShatz half of the congregants began reciting Hallel. And ten members of the Kehilla ended up manically running home to build their Sukkahs, even though it is the middle of winter.

I mention this story out of a sense of guilt, guilt for causing the Reboinoisheloilum’s name to be said in vain by the entire Shul.

Guilt is a terrible burden. We are told of Moishe Rabbeinu that “Loi Kum B’Yisroel K’Moishe Oid”, no other person was ever able to achieve the greatness of Moses – The only man who ever saw God “Panim El Panim”, face to face. And yet the guilt associated with a minor transgression, the smiting of a rock instead of talking to it as commanded by the Aimishteh, was enough to keep Moishe out of the Promised Land, as well as deny him full pension benefits and healthcare for life.

Sin and guilt are strong components of our Jewish tradition. Guilt runs deep in the psyche. It is a part of the human experience and cycle of behavior: appreciation of wrongs we have committed, and their implications, in order that we may do Teshuvah, perform penitence for our wrongdoings.

And how does one do penitence?

BiZman SheBais HaMikdash Hayah Kayum, at the time that the Temple stood in Jerusalem, penitence was done through animal sacrifice. Someone would commit a sin – say, be MeChallel Shabboskoidesh, violate the Sabbath – and he would repent by engaging a priest to bring a Karban Chatusssss, a penance offering, on his behalf. He would also customarily tip the priest 20 Zuzim and an Apple I-Tunes gift card.

But after destruction of the Temple when we no longer have animal sacrifice, a man must commit penitence through prayer and fasting and the giving of charity. So, for example, if you, my dear reader, missed Zman Kriyas Shema, you should be Mispallel to Hakadoshboruchhu, fast next Monday, and buy three of my books at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky (and not the goddamned e-books either).

Bameh Devarim Amurim – When does this apply? When we are dealing with sins that are Bain Udum LaMakoim – sins that trespass on the precepts of the Reboinoisheloilum. Rules, so to speak, that are linked to the religious cult, but have no impact on other human beings. However, when we discuss Bain Udum LeChaveiroi – sins of man against his fellow man -- bringing a Karban or saying a few prayers is not enough. One cannot say “I am sorry” to Hakadoshboruchhu in order to be forgiven for his sins against another human being. That is like engaging in Tashmish HaMitah and not… errr… completing the Makeh BaPatish. It is an incomplete action – woefully inadequate.

A Gemarrah in Baba Kamma describes the formula of payments that one must make in order to compensate for damages to another human being. They are: Nezek, Tza’ar, Ripuy, Shevess, and Boishes – Compensation for 1) the actual physical damage caused; 2) pain and suffering; 3) medical expenses resulting from the damage; 4) the loss of time associated with the recovery; and 5) embarrassment and humiliation. Toisfois suggests that a sixth element should be added – compensation for being forced during recovery to stay home and watch Dr. Phil.

There are of course many types of sins, and many types of sinners. And there are also different kinds of guilt. The RASHBA identifies three kinds of guilt: The guilt of one who commits a crime; the guilt of one who enables a crime; and the guilt of the bystanders who do not help the victim and look the other way, even after the crime has been committed. According to the RASHBA, each of these archetypes must do Teshuvah.

There is a famous Gemarrah in Moed Katan that tells the story of a Maaseh Shehoya in Sura in ancient Babylonia. In the town of Sura, Reb Baruch was known among his Talmidim as a despot. In his Yeshiva, which had both boys and girls, her would violently abuse the boys by, among other things, kicking them in the schvatzlach. And he would sexually abuse the girls, by allegedly grabbing their…ummm…. Double Daked Tzitz, and doing things like going into their purses, pulling out their Nidah rags, and waving them at the boys in an effort to sexually humiliate the girls. He also perpetually used the abusive and foul Aramaic language instead of the Loshon HaKoidesh expected of someone of his stature.

One day Reb Baruch was brought before a Bias Din in which many of his Talmidim testified against him. He was, however, supported by many of the Amoraim, his rabbinical colleagues. He was ultimately exonerated of all of the charges, and the RCB (the Rabbinical Council of Babylon ) declared that , “The Bias Din determined that the overall portrayal of Baruch was false, and that many of the charges were great exaggerated or distorted… In light of the P’Sak of the Bias Din, we, the members of the RCB, wish Rabbi Baruch continued success as Rav and Educator.” Shoyn. What a Kiddush Hashem!

The only problem was that ten years or so later, the Judean Peoples Weekly published an expose on Rabbi Baruch, based on the testimony of many, many former students. An investigation by the Babylonian authorities ultimately led to Rabbi Baruch going to prison for 3 years. So, it turned out, all of the initial allegations against Reb Baruch were in fact true. The original Bias Din was completely mishandled.

The Gemarrah goes on to discuss the culpability and Teshuva of all of the members of the Bias Din and the Amoraim who supported Reb Baruch, as well as the impact of the findings on many of his Talmidim.

Of the members of the Bias Din, Reb Yoisaif did full Teshuvah. He dedicated the rest of his life towards rooting out abuse of children and young adults throughout all of Babylonia. Reb Aaron, upon learning of the tragic error of the Bias Din, expressed extreme regret and died shortly afterwards of a broken heart. And Reb Haman, whom the Gemarrah suggests was allegedly responsible for swaying the initial outcome of the Bias Din, made a public apology after much pressure, and acknowledged that mistakes were made in the trial and that the Bias Din was ultimately flawed since no members of the Bias Din were experts in abuse.

However, Reb Haman was later involved in another controversial Bias Din trial in which he had a personal conflict of interest. In addition, when a new Rosheshiva that he did not approve of was appointed at the Yeshiva in Sura, he led many Talmidim of the Yeshiva in Sura in saying Tehillim. Nice guy. According to a separately Medrish in Vayikra Rabbah, after 120 year, Reb Haman was sent straight to Gehennim, had a large skewer shoved up his male Erva, had an apple stuck in his mouth, and was roasted over a fire for 1600 years and served to Adolph Hitler for Christmas dinner.

The Amoraim, too, varied in their forms of Teshuva. Reb Yossi expressed regret in front of his congregation and oriented his own Yeshiva towards operating in a manner where no abuses would be tolerated. Reb Shmuel allegedly denied any knowledge of the case, even though he was a signatory of the RCB letter and was its Sgan Nasi. According to RASHI, Reb Shmuel had perhaps forgotten his involvement in the case. Maybe he smoked Bsomim every day before Shacharis (Duuuuude)? Otherwise, it would be hard to account for such a memory loss. Finally, Reb Binyamin not only did not do Teshuvah, he opened his home to Reb Baruch for an extended period after Reb Baruch’s conviction, and later performed Reb Baruch’s second marriage. The Medrish in Vayikra Rabbah reports that after 120 years, Reb Binyamin went straight to Gehennim and spent the next 1000 years performing Metzitza BiPeh on syphilitic, uncircumcised Romans.

And what of the Talmidim? Many went on to become the Gedoilim of the next generation, despite their traumas. But some, like Reb Shabtai, lost his faith, and instead of having the joy of learning Toirah all day, was forced to work in a Madison Avenue medical practice and make seven figures every year, Rachmana Litzlan.

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Rabboisai, Klal Yisroel, and in particular Klal Yisroel in America, is going through its Catholic Church moment: All elements of the Orthodox community, from the Chassidic community on one end of the spectrum to the Modern Orthodox community on the other end, are being inundated by reported cases of sexual abuse of minors. But instead of confronting this scourge, much of the community continues to ignore it and has entered into a “circle the wagons” mentality, perhaps to protect their friends, perhaps to protect their institutions. Even the great Yeshiva University, which holds itself up as the paragon of modern thought, is hesitant to publicize an internal investigation about two of its former faculty, and as a result is on the brink of losing what little credibility it has left on this issue. Without casting the light of day on ALL the details, on identifying the guilty, on encouraging victims to step forward, there is no real Teshuvah.

And what of the victims --those who have stepped forward, and the many who have remained in the shadows? Where is their Nezek, Tza’ar, Ripuy, Shevess and Boshess? And even worse, what of the future victims? For sexual abusers of minors are serial predators, and every abuser left teaching in a classroom or working in a camp or other such institution is always seeking out more victims.

Rabboisai, a community and a Rabbinate that does not change its behaviors is a community and a Rabbinate that has not done real Teshuvah. They can Klop as many Al Chayts as they want. They can recite Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Dibarnu Dofi from today until tomorrow, but the Reboinoisheloilum will be as deaf to them as they are to the cries of the past and future victims. They can keep Shabbos and Daven three times a day and keep kosher and say as many Brachois as they want and learn Toirah Yoimum VaLailah – day and night -- but they are simply reciting Hakadoshboruchhu’s name in vain.

And as a result, like Moishe Rabbeinu, they too will never truly reach the Promised Land.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Shavuois Drasha

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Shavuois Drasha

On this holiday, the yuntif of Shavuois, we celebrate two things: the giving of the Toirah by the Aimishteh, and lactose intolerance.

Why do we stay up all night to learn Toirah -- also known as Tikkun Layl Shavuois? According to RASHI, we do this to commemorate the fact that Klal Yisroel stood earnestly at the bottom of Har Sinai as Moishe Rabeinu met the Reboinoisheloilum face to face at the top of the mountain, and all that could be heard were bolts of lightling, claps of thunder, the rustle of the wind, and the sounds of concessioners looking to make a buck: "Hot dogs, get your kosher hot dogs!" "Get your program -- Mattan Toirah commerative program!" "Bring home a stuffed Toirah to you kids! One of a kind! They'll never be available again!"

But according to the Bais Yoiseph, Shavuois is essentially a test of Klal Yisroel's commitment to Toirah values. And to celebrate this, we stay up all night to cram for the test.

And as you stay up all night, you had better pay attention. A braisah in Bubba Basra tells a story of the Tannah Kamma, who was learning all night in the bais medrish with his students. Suddenly, one of the talmidim pointed out the window and said, "Look -- it is light outside. It is time to recite the Keriyas Shma!" The Tannah Kammah, with a very serious look on his face, rushed over to the window where his student was standing, grabbed him by the ear, and twisted it until it started to bleed. "Stop looking out the window during my shiur, you schmendrick!" the Tannah Kamma declared. He then forced the student to recite Pesukai Dezimrah in front of the congregation for a week.

The RADAK has a beautiful interpretation of Tikkun Layl Shavuois, which takes a completely different approach. According to the RADAK, Shavuois night gives us the opportunity to initiate an extramarital affair, continue it over the summer while your family is away in the bungalow colony, and break it off just in time to repent on Rosh Hashana.

As proof, the RADAK cites a medrish in the Medrish Tanchumah that tells how Rabbi Akiva used to "visit" the wives of his talmidim at their homes on Shavuois night, while the talmidim were up all night listening to a shiur delivered by his assistant rabbi on exactly which shoe to put on first every morning.

But what does all of this have to do with eating dairy? In a gemarrah in Maseches Soitah, Abaya suggests that we eat dairy lehachis, because it is almost summer and the goyim have all started to barbecue in their backyards and WE DO NOT ACT LIKE THE GOYIM!!!

Rava disagrees. He suggests that we eat dairy to commemorate the miracle of Yehudis killing an enemy general by seducing him, giving him salty cheese to make him thirsty, getting him drunk, and then cutting his head off. (On this itself there is a disagreement of interpretation. RASHI holds that the general was killed because he was an enemy of the Jews; but TOISFOIS holds that Yehudis killed him because he left her "unsatisfied" at the end of their encounter, if you know what I mean. Rachmanah letzlan.)

But according to the Brisker Ruv, there is actually a direct correlation between the receiving of the Toirah at Har Sinai and our preference for dairy on the holiday. 3500 years ago our ancestors longingly stood at Har Sinai, as Moisheh ascended the mountain to receive the Toirah from the Reboinoisheloilum. As the time whiled away and Moisheh did not return, the Jews began to panic. To help resolve the crisis, Moishe's minuval brother, Aron Hacoihain, demonstrated his loyalty by inciting Klal Yisroel to worship the Eigel. In other words, just as they were receiving the Toirah, the Jews were immediately rejecting it.

Was it that they were inherently evil? Was it that they didn't understand its significance? Was it that they were ungrateful, "stiff-necked" good-for-nothings like you, you amhaaretz? No! They really wanted the Torah, but they found it too much to handle. Indeed, they craved it, looked forward to it, and viewed it as the capstone, the "dessert" if you will, of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt. But, alas, they found it difficult to digest. Sadly, this is how many of us are with dairy products. And therefore, to commemorate our experiences at Mattan Toirah, we eat blintzes, cheesecake, and all things dairy.

But we should look at this as a blessing, not a curse. After all, if we eat some nice, light dairy meals, along with a small salad, we might lose a couple of pounds, which will put us in a better position to keep up that affair all summer long.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Parshas Bamidbar

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Parshas Bamidbar

In this week's Parsha, Bamidbar, there isn't all that much that happens. You may want to take advantage and catch up on your sleep, so long as your snoring isn't louder than the Rabbi's.

In the Parsha, the tribes are counted, one by one -- all the males -- as the Bnei Yisroel's ability to make war is gauged. But the Bnei Layvee, we are told, are not to be counted amongst the rest of the nation, as they shall not be soldiers, but should instead serve as the spiritual frontline through their activities within the Priesthood.

Now I know where the ultra-Orthodox in Israel get the inspiration! Certainly, the Reboinoisheloilum intends that one tribe should tend to the moral fiber, maintain the facilities, carry out the practices of the spiritual institutions, and suck up all the booty in the national coffers, while the rank and file get shot at.

Based on the Haluchois of Milchemess Mitzvah as understood by the RAMBAM, I personally believe that the ultra-Orthodox should never be exempt from serving in the army. Indeed, the Aimishteh needs every possible warrior in Eretz Yisroel, since the Toirah is opposed to any sort of compromise with our enemies. No political agreements are possible. And even if we could, why should we?

In fact, we must never compromise with any of our enemies anywhere. We are surrounded by them. Our neighbors. Our co-workers. The guy in the gas station. The bus driver. The newsman on TV. That little kid sitting in the shopping cart on line in front of you at Shop Rite. They are either members of your Shul, or they are anti-Semites or self-hating Jews!

How much more so in Eretz Hakoidesh. So I intend to start a letter campaign from here in my office in New York at Yeshivas Chipass Emess. No exemptions! We here in the golus will provide the spiritual safeguarding of the State, while our brethren in Eretz Yisroel must be prepared to fight to the last man.

Indeed, it would not be unprecedented if we were to take over the role of spiritual safeguard. Because, also in this week's Parsha, we see the descendants of Aron Hacoihain appointed as the principal Priests of Klal Yisroel, while Moisheh Rabbeinu's descendants are relegated to support positions. Why does Aron Hacoihain get to steal away the the spiritual leadership of the nation from Moisheh?

According to Reb Hai Gaon, Aron was able to engineer a boardroom takeover after securing support of several key institutional investors. But Rabbeinu Tam holds that Aron won the Kehunah during the regular Wednesday night poker game in which Aron, Moisheh, Yehoshua, and Kulayv Ben Yefuneh were members.

But according to the RAMBAM, the Reboinoisheloilum gave Aron the Kehuna to keep him out of trouble. The last thing Klal Yisroel needed was for Aron to get involved in complex decisions. According to the Medrash Rabbah, he couldn't even program his own iPhone.

Of even more concern, Aron Hacoihain led the Bnei Yisroel into the Chayt HaEygel. He was also a poor spokesman for Moisheh who never kept his rolodex up to date with key press contacts. The idea was to put the minuval in a position where he couldn't cause too much damage to himself. Or to Klal Yisroel.

But, unfortunately, things did not quite work out as planned.

Case in point: the descendants of Aron finally did steal the malchus, the political leadership embodied by the kingdom of Israel, during the days of the Chashmonaim, and the result was the most corrupt regime in the history of the sovreignty of Klal Yisroel. In the generations after the miracle of Chanukah, the regime was corrupt and brutal: They abused their power, persecuted the Pharisees (the precursors of Rabbinic Judaism), and forced the religious conversions of neighboring peoples (including the father of the later-despised King Herod). These actions ultimately led to the Romans being invited into Eretz Yisroel by the opponents of the Chashmonaim.

Which brings us back to the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. The best thing you can say about them is they have nice, full beards. And some of those women look really hot with their heads shaved. But they don't serve in the army, they don't pay taxes, they have fourteen kids each (kenaina harah), and they use every opportunity to use their political power to their own community's advantage.

Perhaps we here in the golus should emulate their activities, rather than criticize them. We should refuse to pay our taxes. We should apply for every possible state benefit because they are available: welfare, medicaid, affirmative action, farm subsidies, nuclear waste management, needle exchange programs, and free school lunches (even if they are traifus!)

Because what matters most is not the here and now -- the Oilam Hazeh. What matters most is the Oilam Habbah -- the world to come. And since none of the amhoratzim of the world -- including you, you shaygitz -- will be privileged to join the Aimishteh in Gan Eiden, they just don't count. Only I and my closest associates will have earned the right to sit next to the Reboinoisheloilum on His heavenly throne. And if He doesn't behave Himself, we'll throw Him out too.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Parshas Bechukoisai

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Parshas Bechukoisai

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Bechukoisai, we read about the reward and punishment promised us by the Reboinoisheloilum for fulfilling, or violating, His commandments. RASHI asks a pertinent question: Why does the Aimishteh offer us only ten quick Pesukim (verses) of promised reward, while He gives us three times that -- over thirty graphic Pesukim -- warning of harsh consequences? Aren’t we under enough pressure? What’s pshat, for Hakadoshboruchhu’s sake?

According to the Rabenu Tam, on the morning when this parsha was written, the Reboinoisheloilum was having a bad day. As the Medrish Rabbah tells us, when He was not busy studying Toirah, the Aimishteh kept Himself busy doing day trading. And on that morning, He had taken a strong position on a networking stock based on a rumor of a takeover, only to find out that there were serious accounting and reporting errors by the auditing firm of Goldberg, Aronowitz and Schwartz. So He wasn’t feeling that sympathetic to Klal Yisroel. And who can blame Him? Believe me, He lost more money that day than you earn in a whole year, you Minuval!

However, according to the RASHBAM, Hakadoshboruchhu had no ill will for Am Yisroel that day – or any day for that matter. No, says the RASHBAM, on the contrary -- the Reboinoisheloilum loves us! We are His beloved nation, His chosen, His betrothed. However, we learn from this Parsha that the Aimishteh is really into S&M. “I will smite you sevenfold for your sins” (Perek Chuff-Vuv, Pasuk Chuff Daled) is the Toirah's equivalent of Hakadoshboruchhu handcuffing us to the bed and whipping us with His tfillin.

As proof, the RASHBAM points out that the end of the section includes the Reboinoisheloilum telling us ,”Even with all this, with you dwelling in the land of your enemies, I will not despise you… to nullify my covenant with you… I will recall my covenant with your forebears … to be your Lord…” (Perek Chuff-Vuv, Pasukim Mem Daled – Mem Hey). According to the RASHBAM, the Aimishteh is telling us ‘stop crying, you little bitches – you know you like it rough. Let me rub the pain away with my velvet yarmulke.’

The Toisfois Yuntif, however, disagrees with the RASHBAM, who he refers to as a “groisse pervert”, pointing out that upon moving to Lithuania, the RASHBAM was compelled to register as a sex offender. Rather, says the Toisfois Yuntif, the Parsha teaches us that it is hard to be a Jew. If we look at all the Mitzvois Asey and Loi Sa’asey, they are hard to keep. Which comes more naturally to you on a Saturday morning? Turning on the TV and opening a beer, or getting into a suit, putting on a tie, and walking twelve blocks up a hill with your screaming kids only to sit next to some guy in shul who is shukkeling so much you would think he was going to drill a hole through the floor, when all the while his dandruff is the only thing coming between you and his unbrushed shabbos morning breath? Ich vais, how many of us can stand up to that challenge? Of course, we are all three times as likely to violate the commandment!

With this in mind, chazzal has over the years developed a series of strategies to increase the odds of our success, guaranteeing happiness in this life and in Oilum Habah, the World To Come. According to a famous Mishna in Perke Zayin of Pirkei Avois:

-- Rabbi Gamliel use to always carry extra money with him, so that whenever a beggar would come his way, we would always be able to be mekayaim the mitzvah of tezedakah

-- Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah always kept a fully stocked bar, so that he was always ready to perform the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim

-- Rabbi Akiva was concerned that he would be too distracted to kiss the mezuzah every time he went into a room. So, after trying mezuzahs made of silver, gold, Jerusalem stone, pottery, and glass, he had one custom built that looked like his wife’s Erva, which he was always sure to kiss as he went into the room. Indeed, a Braisah in Nezikin tells us, after he put on a lot of weight in his later years, Rabbi Akiva discovered that if he spent a little extra time kissing the mezuzah, it made it much easier for him to get through the door.

However, the Baal Shem Toiv vehemently disagrees with this approach. According to the BESHT, “the Toirah is here to inspire us and guide our thinking, not to be taken literally.” Consequently, he points out, the mitvois in the Toirah should be viewed as “voluntary guidelines,” rather than laws, and the threats of punishment should be read as poetry for “spiritual contemplation purposes only”. He adds that to enhance one’s meditation on the text and Hisboidadus with the Shchina, his Chassidic followers should drink a minimum of five shots of vodka, while Mis-Nagdim should drink the same quantity of single malt scotch.

But the Vilna Goyn vehemently disagrees. He insists that you MUST take EVERY WORD in KOL HATOIRAH KOOLOH literally. In discussing Parshas Bechukoisai specifically, he notes that the Toichacha, the Rebuke and warnings of punishment, should be taken quite literally.

But the Goyn doesn’t stop there. He notes the references in the early Pesukim to Klal Yisroel’s divinely driven success on the battlefield: “And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall beside you by the Cherev. And five of you shall chase one hundred, and one hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall beside you by the Cherev” (Perek Chuff-Vuv, Pasukim Zayin – Khess). Pointing at the Pasuk, he insists that the use of the term “Cherev”, sword, MUST be taken literally. Consequently, says the Goyn, for AM Yisroel to maintain the favor of Hakadoshboruchhu, the Israeli army should follow Parshas Bechukoisai, set aside all of its advanced weapons, and arm its soldiers with swords ONLY. Any reliance on more modern weapons reflects a complete lack of faith, for which we should be banished “and sent back to Miami Beach” says the Goyn. Shoyn.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. The Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Shloimo Amor, was once in New York, attending an important business meeting at a Korean massage parlor. As he walked into his special “meeting room,” who should he bump into but the Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel, Yoina Metzger. After their respective happy endings, they sat down for coffee. They began to engage in a machloikess as to whether or not someone in New York may drink the tap water due to the risk of ingesting microscopic crustaceans. They both cited Toirah sources, Rabbinic teachings, and the broad body of Halachic tradition. It became clear that Rabbi Amor had the better constructed teshuvah. At that point Rabbi Metzger blurted out, “ you may be better at reaching a Psak Halacha, but I am a much more accomplished felon!” He went on to cite his indictment for illegally accepting free hotel stays.

Rabbi Amor responded sharply, “no, you michutziff, I am the more accomplished felon. Just because my wife and son have been indicted for arranging the beating of my daughter’s boyfriend, it doesn’t mean I am innocent! I instigated the whole thing!”

At that, Rabbi Metzger stroked his beard slowly, and then exclaimed, “at least I don’t eat rice on Pesach, you shaygitz!”

So we should certainly take the Toirah literally. I know I do. In fact, after Shabbos this week, I plan to go home and emulate the Parsha by handcuffing my bashert to the bed and whipping her with my gartel.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Parshas B-Har

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rabbi_Pinky

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Parshas B-Har

In this week's parsha we learn of various laws regarding Shmita and Yovel, the Sabbatical and Jubillee years. At the root is the issue of property ownership. All property ownership is temporary -- land in Eretz HaKoidesh may only be sold temporarily; it can never be truly owned. As well, slaves are never truly owned -- they go free at Yovel. You cannot charge interest when lending money. Etc.

RASHI asks: Is this really Toras Moishe? What's pshat you can't charge interest? Next thing you know, we won't be able to use fresh gentile baby's blood in our matzoh!

According to the RAMBAN, all these laws prove that the Reboinoishelolum is really a Communist. To illustrate his point, he interprets Yetzias Mitzrayim as the first instance in the history of the world where the proletariat masses overthrow the bougious minority ruling class in legitimate political struggle of class vs. class.

But the Bais Yoiseph scoffs at the suggestion. He says that, farkhert, the Aimishteh's business model requires that property keeps on reverting to its original owner in order to encourage turnover of real estate and a constant cash flow stream from brokers fees. And He discourages interest simply because He favors equity over debt instruments.

Ironically, as the Toirah discusses Shmita, it uses the term "Shabbos Shabbosoin" -- a term used elsewhere in the Toirah only in reference to Yoim Kippur. According to the Zohar, in the realm of the Ayn Sof, the Kabbalistic term for the unknowable aspects of the Aimishteh, one year in the human realm culminating in Aseres Yemai Teshuvah equals the seven year cycle of the earth ending in Shmita.

This was erroniously intepreted by the false messiah Shabtai Zvi as equating earth years and dog years, and the reason he insisted that his followers eat Alpo immediately following Kol Nidrei. However, the true accepted interpretation was offered by the MAHARAL, who suggested that just as we walk around starving on Yoim Kippur and pray for a good year, during Shmita we should walk around starving and pray for reasonable prices on imported produce.

On a simpler level, we practice our own form of Shmita every week with our celebrating Shabbos Koidesh on the seventh day. The common theme, of course, is the commandment to refrain from any sort of commerce. Once a week we commit not to participate in commercial activity, or even activity which APPEARS to be commerce, such as giving gifts. And, as is well known, when all of Klal Yisroel celebrates one Shabbos completely, Moshiach will come.

Yet according to the Ari Zahl, the Moshiach has not yet come for one reason and one reason alone: The violation of commerce on Shabbos is transgressed in every shul in the world by one person who is single-handedly responsible for keeping us all in the golus -- the shul candy man.

Note the sins and temptations he brings on all Klal Yisroel:

- He insults the very authority of the Reboinoisheloilum. What child wouldn't rather have a sucking candy than listen to a crackly-voiced bar-mitvah bochur or self-absorbed amateur Chazzan? And when did you ever see one of those rotten kids make a bracha?

- He entices children to worship idols. Indeed, lollipops become their own form of Avoidah Zarah, especially when they bear the pictures of Disney characters. And Gummi Bears? The are the modern equivalent of the Eigel!

- He entices children to participate in multiple violations on Shabbos: He engages them in commerce-like activity on Shabbos. He causes children to seperate good candy from bad, an issur Diyoraisa of borer. He causes children to tear candy wrappers. Etc.

- He causes children to disrespect their parents, since they never observe the candy consumption limits put before them.

- Children often steal to get more candy. They lie. They covet ("I don't want my blue lollipop, I want her red lollipop")

In short -- with his devious, seemingly benign presence, the candyman causes children to violate five of the Ten Commandments every Shabbos.

What is the source of this evil incarnate? First of all, in 96% of all shuls, the candyman is older than the Aimishteh himself. On a visit to the Shtetl in Detroit, I once met a shul candyman named Junior -- he was 72 years old. Second of all, what does he want from these little boys and girls anyway? He is likely a pervert. Or even worse, a fundraiser.

The Ari proved through Kabbalistic sources that the candyman is actually the agent the Sutun. This is implied by the other principle sin he causes the children to commit: eating traifus. Ask yourself: Is the candy really kosher? How do you know? According to a medrish in Bubba Basra, Acher, before completely abandoning the faith, started out by handing out Skittles.

And just like Acher, the candy man sees his actions as the opportunity to plant the seeds of evil in the neshamas of unsuspecting children. He knows that thirty years in the future, those children, all grown up, won't remember the Rabbi's speech or the Chazzan's davening. They'll fondly recall that Charms lollipop they once ate in shul, as they drive up on Friday night to the takeout window at the drive-through McDonalds to pick up Shabbos dinner.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.



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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess