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Thursday, October 31, 2013

On and Off The Derech

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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This week's Drasha is dedicated to Ari Mandel AKA Rachmuna Litzlan, an atheist ex Chussid who will be observing Shabboskoidesh and delivering a Shiur on Chassidus in order to raise money for Chai Lifeline. To donate, go to:

http://www.teamlifeline.org/israel/my/Arimandel4


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On and Off The Derech

Rabboisai,

I would like to share my great news with you as I bid farewell to my role as Rosheshiva of Yeshivas Chipass Emess. This will be my last Drasha, since I just made twenty million dollars on the stock market yesterday. Those shares I bought a couple of weeks ago have shot up, putting me on easy street. Yessirree! All the Mitzvois, I have been doing all these years, all those selfless acts designed to rescue the Holy Sparks from the Sitra Acha. My commitment to the Reboinoisheloilum has finally paid off, big time!

So no more wasting my time writing Toirah for ungrateful Schmucks like you in exchange for your meager pennies! Go get your Toirah from Aish, or Chabad, or Pat Robertson, or Joel Osteen or Glenn Beck for all I care... So long, suckers!

Oy Vey! My stock holdings just fell in value by twenty million dollars. Since I am totally without sin, it is as clear as day that Hakadoshboruchhu has decided to bring punishment on the innocent because of the Aveirois of you Mamzerim. Damn you all to Gehennim!

Ummm… needless to day, I was joking a minute ago when I called you Schmucks and Mamzerim. I was testing you, and you clearly passed the test. Congratulations, my beloved Talmidim!

Rabboisai, we live in a volatile world. Stocks go up, stocks go down. Regimes rise and fall. Yet Klal Yisroel is a constant. The Democrats hold the Presidency and the Senate, and the Republicans own the House and a majority in the Supreme Court, but Klal Yisroel is a constant. The Likud is in power today, and no one knows who will lead the next coalition. However, Klal Yisroel is a constant. Mubarak and Khaddafi are unchallenged autocratic rulers one day, and then sit in a cage, or in some hole somewhere hunted like an animal the next. Yet Klal Yisroel is a constant. The skies are sunny and clear one day, and we are pumping water from our basements and Bussay Medrish the next. But Klal Yisroel is a constant. My Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, on any given day may have a Taivah to be Mezaneh like a rhesus monkey, or, alternately, may have one of those combination locks from the Aron Koidesh on her Erva for the next week and a half. But Klal Yisroel is a constant.

What does it mean that Klal Yisroel is a constant? Is it because the Aimishteh has preserved us as His Chosen People? Yet, according to the Tzitz Eliezer, the Reboinoisheloilum tried his best to kill us in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, but simply failed because He ran out of quarters. And now He is trying to finish us off one bombing or missile or stabbing attack at a time.

Perhaps Hakadoshboruchhu preserved us as a form of public punishment and humiliation, as has been suggested over the centuries by numerous Christian theologians. Yet here we stand today as a people, strong economically relative to others, with our own State after two thousand years, with an outsized positive social and cultural influence well beyond our numbers. (And, you Minuval, can you PLEASE stop sending around those idiotic chain e-mails that proudly proclaim that Stalin, Khaddafi, Sarah Palin, and Shmuley Boiteach are all descendent of Jews. If these allegations are in fact true, it is a badge of shame, you moron!)

Many of us remain loyal to our heritage, yet only a fundamentalist buffoon refuses to recognize the human hand in the development of Yiddishkeit: From the formation of the Toirah from numerous texts written by multiple authors, to the gradual evolution of centralized monotheism at the end of Bayis Rishoyn and in Galus Bavel, to the emergence of Halacha through a long process of Biblical exegesis and philosophical debate, to the standardization of traditions and the creation of new practices and beliefs in the middle ages, to the adoption of the secret Kohanic handshake by the Planet Vulcan.

So, given the human role in the development of the faith, why do we even bother? Why don’t we just go after working out at the JCC on Saturday morning and eat some nice Traifus, perhaps some Chazer and overgrown cockroaches, washed down with some pig’s blood and a nice merlot? Maybe we should all marry hot Shiksas and worship that Sheygitz hanging from the Tzeylim in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or the white bread and mayonnaise eating Goy worshiped by Michelle Bachmann? Or perhaps we should abandon religion altogether and believe in an eternity that is without meaning, save for survival of the fittest or simplistic feel-good humanistic mantras concocted by angry vegans on acid?

Schmuck, if you think it’s all complete bullshit, why are you even reading this?

I know you believe that you are the first Jew to ever ask such questions, and are enamored of your own brilliance. Shkoiyach! But, rest assured, you are a total ignoramus. From time immemorial Klal Yisroel has struggled with our faith, with our relationship to the Reboinoisheloilum, with the general nature of the Divine, and with our Jewish wives’ primal opposition to performing Metzitzah Bipeh once the glass has been broken under the Chupah.

So, the fundamental question is: Is Judaism worth preserving? Is there indeed some intrinsic value to Yiddishkeit that justifies our actions and sacrifices: economic, social, and – dare I say – historical? Or is our heritage simply the historical baggage of the Opiate Of The Masses, a theological and cultural handcuff that tells us what to eat, instructs us how to behave, and demands that we cut off the tips of our Schvantzyls? (Although in my case that still leaves nine and three quarters inches. No wonder Feigeh Breinah is always invoking the “gag reflex” defense.)

These were in fact fundamental questions raised by Chazal almost two thousand years ago. According to Rav, there is nothing worth preserving about Judaism, and we should walk away from it and let it die the deaths of the ancient religions of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, etc.

But according to Shmuel, Yiddishkeit is indeed worth preserving, if only because without Judaism, hot Shiksas would lose their “specialness”.

So it really depends upon whom we hold by, Rav or Shmuel. But if we hold like Shmuel, and believe that there is something about Judaism that should be preserved, then we need a model that offers existential meaning to us and is able to sustain our heritage for future generations.

I am reminded of a Mashal, a parable. There was once a family with three children. One day, the parents decided to go out to shop for a new three thousand dollar Sheytel. Before leaving , the parents instructed the children not to leave the house. An hour after the parents left the house, there was a fire, Rachmana Letzlan. The first child panicked and ran far away, never to be seen again. The second child went out looking for help, but got lost, and did not bring help until it was too late. And the third child followed his parents’ instructions to the letter, did not leave the house, and perished in the fire.

To what is this compared? To the three mainstream Jewish movements.

The first child is the Reform movement, whose efforts to modernize and restructure have left the movement without an essential core. Without an established educational platform, or core set of fundamental tenets, the movement is gradually disappearing, despite a grand tradition of innovation and scholarship, as well as the hottest female Rabbinical students around.

The second child is the Conservative movement. The movement prides itself on its thoughtfulness towards synthesizing tradition and reason – preserving a core loyalty to the Rabbinic process while embracing key aspects of modern sensibilities and scholarship. Yet years of centralization and ideological meandering have left it a confusing mix of competing philosophies, leaving all but its die hard membership confused and ambivalent. And if you don’t believe me, go and attend an average Conservative service on a Friday night – you are likely to find more Jews at a Klan meeting or a Hamas fundraiser.

Finally, the third child is the Orthodox movement. What can I say? Nearly every family has a child with special needs. The following is an absolutely true story: I recall in the late 1970s debating a friend outside my black hat Shul about who was a better baseball team, the Yankees or the Mets. Of course, the Yankees were two-time World Champions at that time, and the Mets were consistently the worst team in baseball, and I was a Yankee fan. However, my friend, the son of a well respected rabbi, tried to argue through the use of convoluted Rabbinic logic how the Mets were a far superior team. That is the weakness of Orthodoxy: Most are incapable of balancing their passion and commitment with logic and rationalism. As such, they support a grand monument – a broad and rich tradition built over millennia by a diverse set of creative and occasionally brilliant thinkers, living in both ordinary and extraordinary times – with a foundation made of ice cubes: One warm wind, one obvious and completely logical question, one misuse of power, or one indefensible action by an authority figure, and the monument often comes crumbling down for the impacted individuals because of Orthodoxy’s tenuous foundation.

Rabboisai, many of our colleagues have chosen to go “Off The Derech”, but that in itself is a term that has a multitude of meanings. To those who have decided to reject faith and any form of Jewish identify completely, I offer only the best of wishes. But to those who struggle with their Jewish identities – with the nature of the Reboinoisheloilum, with the significance of Halachic practice, with the meaning of their heritage to them, I can only offer six words of wisdom: “Black and White” and “Shades of Gray”. What’s Pshat, you complete ignoramus?

In a digital world, the world of computers and other such Narishkeit, the underlying principle is the binary choice. Any individual data point is defined by either a one or a zero, a yes or a no. This is the true world of “Black and White”. In other words – There is a Reboinoisheloilum who dictated the Toirah to Moishe Rabbeinu on Sinai, who took notes using a full package of Bic ball point pens he bought at Staples (it was 40 days and 40 nights, you know). Hakadoshboruchhu sits in Shamayim wearing Tefillin all day, learning Toirah and reading the Jewish Press and the Algemeiner Dzournal while deciding who to reward and punish by measuring who said what Bracha, who went to Mikvah, who Davened with Kavannah (with no regard for whether or not he cheated on his taxes), etc. At the same time, the Aimishteh plots ways to give Klal Yisroel full control of all of Eretz Yisroel, so there may be an eventual return of all of Klal Yisroel to live in a Jewish theocracy led by Malchus Bais David and a Kehunnah descendent of Tzadok Ben Pinchas Ben Elazar Ben Aaroin HaKoihain, the Minuval, where we can all slaughter sheep and goats and doves when we are not busy learning Toirah 23 hours a day. Or there isn’t, and it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

Then there is the world defined by “Shades of Gray”. In this world we have a tradition, but this tradition encompasses a wide spectrum of ideas. The tradition has changed and evolved over time; it has sought to define the Divine and how we should relate to Him/Her/It. It has been a living tradition, an Aitz Chayim, that has had to respond to the often traumatic circumstances of our collective history, and has spawned revolutionary ideas that have impacted the world, as well as incorporated innovations and influences from other cultures. How one relates to this complex, nuanced world is a very personal calculus. There are rulebooks: The Toirah, the Talmud, the Shulkhan Aruch, but in truth, their relevance is subjective: Only you or I can decide what has meaning to each of us, and what we choose to do or not to do. You can go out and eat pork today—I guarantee you that you will not be struck down by lightening.

Similarly, you can decide to believe in a Diety that is All-Knowing and active in the affairs in the universe, or one that is somewhat constrained in Its ability to directly impact our world, as imagined by Lurianic Kabbalists (that is the circle of the ARI ZAHL, you ignoramus). Or you can believe in God as a force of nature, as envisioned by Einstein. Or in none at all. Or anywhere in between.

As well, it is within your power to decide what laws to subscribe to. If you believe that you relate to the All Knowing Reboinoisheloilum by wearing the hair of a hot Shiksa, Gezunteh Hait. But don’t do it because you are afraid of your husband or your father or your father-in-law or your brother or your sister or your children or your neighbors. Do it because it has relevance to you. The same goes for Tefillah, Shabbos Koidesh, Kashrus, and Shiluach Hakan.

Rabboisai, ours is a diverse tradition, defined in nuanced “Shades of Gray”. If Judaism offers no meaning to you, then absolutely walk away. Life is too short. But if there are elements that you personally find relevant, or which address a longing for spiritual fulfillment, then the heritage of your ancestors may offer answers, though not in the simplistic, binary, “Mickey Mouse” form in which many of us were raised.

I am reminded of a famous story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was once planning his Messianic mission when one of his aides brought in a secular Jew for a one on one meeting. “How can I help you?” the Rebbe asked.

“I would like to ensure my reward in the world and the next” the Jew answered.

“Then you must pray three times a day and keep the Sabbath, your wife must light Shabbos candles and go to Mikvah, and you must drink a lot of chilled vodka” the Rebbe replied.

“But I am not prepared to alter my lifestyle” the man responded.

“Then you should make a sizeable donation to Lubavitch International” the Rebbe said. “And I will take care of everything else. Guaranteed.”

The man then took out a big wad of cash, and handed the Rebbe twenty thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills.

That night the Lubavitcher Rebbe took Rebbetzin Chaya Mushke and a few members of his inner circle out to celebrate. They all had the $9.95 all-you-can-eat special at the Red Lobster in Crown Heights, where the Rebbe passed around lobster claws as Shirayim. They then went back to 770 and topped off the night with vodka shots, as the Rebbe’s followers sang out “Yechi Moreinu VeRebbeinu Melech Hamashiach”, declaring him the Messiah King.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Parshas Chayei Sarah

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Parshas Chayei Sarah


Rabboisai,

I write this Dvar Toirah while on an international flight en route to an annual gathering in commemoration of this week's Parsha, Parshas Chayei Sarah. Thousands of people focus on the first half of the Parsha and gather in Chevroin every year to celebrate the burial place of Sarah Imainu. I, on the other hand, will be joining a group of people commemorating the second half of the Parsha, the marriage of Yitzchak Avinu to three-year-old Rivka Imainu, by traveling to Thailand to have relations with a group of underage girls.

This week's Parsha, of course, begins with the passing of our foremother, Sarah Imainu. RASHI tells us that Sarah died as a result of hearing that her husband, Avraham, had taken their only son to be slaughtered at the alter. The RAMBAM asks the question: Why should Sarah have been shocked? Where was her faith in the Rebboinoisheloilum? Was she not ready for the Aimishteh's test? Was she tempted by the Yetzer Harah, the Evil Inclination, to question her belief in the all knowing, rational and loving Hakkadoshboruchhu who expressed His divine love by suggesting that Yitzchak be grilled to perfection like ribs at a July 4th barbecue? Did she not want her son to be slaughtered, so he could die for all our sins? (OOPS, wrong religion. Sorry.)

Indeed, it was not Sarah who mentally snapped as a result of Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac, at the end of last week's Parsha. It was Avraham Avinu. According to a famous medrish in Beraishis Rabbah, this Parsha is testimony to that fact that Avraham completely lost his marbles after the Akeidah. Note the evidence of his nervous breakdown:

-- We are told, not once -- but twice, that Avraham bows down to the "Am Ha'aretz," the People of the Land, to express his humility and gratitude for their support (Beraishis, Perek Chuff Gimmul, Psukim Zayin and Yood Bayz). How can Avraham Avinu, our forefather, the man who discovered Hakadoshboruchhu, the man who invented string cheese and the iPad, prostrate himself before other human beings? Did he not realize that the only thing he should EVER bow down to was the Rebboinoisheloilum, the Melech Malchei Hamelliachim -- unless of course someone had dropped a quarter? However, the medrish quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying that at this point in his life, Avraham was so deluded and confused he would bow down to a cow every time he had a potato with a little sour cream on it. He would even bow down to his dry cleaner everytime he picked up his shirts.

-- Avraham Avinu barters to gain the right to bury his beloved Sarah in Meuras Hamachpeilah. Ephroin, the property's owner, gives Avraham the land and does not want payment. Avraham, however, insists upon counting out four hundred shekels of silver as payment to Ephroin. So what's pshat "payment"? Why didn't Avraham just chop off one his arms and present it to Ephroin, instead of giving away money for no reason? Maybe he should have given away his ATM card and his PIN code, while he was at it?

-- Avraham decides to send his manservant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son, Yitzchak. To secure his commitment, Avraham asks that Eliezer, his servant, put his hand "underneath Avraham's thigh." Wow. That is progressive. According to Rabbi Akiva, after the death of his wife, Avraham was so randy he was open to "all lifestyle alternatives." Indeed, there is a separate Braisah in Masechess Pesachim that suggests that following Sarah's death, Avraham Avinu joined a local S&M club, spent six months in a nudist colony, and made seventy five dollars a week posing for an art class at his local community college.

Avraham's mental state is of course balanced with the beautiful story of the discovery of Rivka. After being sworn to his commitment to find a wife for Yitzchak, Eliezer sets out on his quest. As he reaches a well, he decides that he will anticipate a divine sign: the appearance of a woman who will offer drink to both him and his camels. The RADAK asks the question: why did Eliezer choose a sign based on a woman's action, rather than a visual metaphor, such as a yellow ribbon on the woman's dress or a tattoo on the small of her back? The Toirah Temimah answers that, mamesh, Eliezer was indeed looking for such a sign: he was hoping that as the women bent down to fetch the water he would catch a glimpse of her cleavage. Says the Toirah Temimah, Eliezer had also committed to Avraham that the bride he would bring back to his master's son would have a Double-Daled cup.

Of course, all of these expectations were turned upside down when Eliezer saw Rivka for the first time. We are told specifically by the passook that Eliezer noticed her great beauty. We are also told that Rivka "was a virgin; she had known no man." An obvious question arises: why did the Toirah have to repeat itself -- wasn't this a redundant statement? RASHI tells us, however, that the local girls had strange sexual practices that enabled sexual activity without the surrender of one's maidenhead. (He really does say that, by the way. Look it up.) Who ever heard of such a practice amongst youth?!? But the RASHBAM disagrees. He suggests that the verse is telling us that while Rivka had not had a sexual relationship with a man, her femininity had been "totally awakened" as an active member of the LPGA tour, if you know what I mean.

And now the strangest part of the Parsha: nowhere in the Parsha are we told Rivka's age, but Rabbinic tradition has always deduced that Rivka was three years old when she was discovered by Eliezer and brought into Yitzchak's tent for consummation of their marital relationship. How can this be? Was Yitzchak some kind of pervert?

According to a Gemarra in Maseches Nidah, Yitzchak was indeed a pervert. Says the Gemarra, the reason that Yitzchak didn't marry until the age of forty is that as a counselor in Yeshivas Shame V'Eyver Basketball and Learning Camp, Yitzchak sexually abused three of his charges and spent the next twenty two years in prison. As proof, the Gemarra cites a Braisa that states that the reason Avraham insisted that Yitzchak, his son, not marry a local Canaanite woman was NOT because he wouldn't want one as a daughter in law. Adderabbah! It was because Yitzchak had to register with the local authorities as a convicted sex offender, and therefore no local woman was willing to date him.

But according to Rav Saadya Goyn, Yitzchak Avinu was no more perverted than any other man at that time. LeOylam, every man in those days married underage girls. As proof, he cites a medrish that says that Avraham Avinu married Sarah Imainu when she was one and a half, and Noiach married Mrs. Noiach when she was an aborted fetus.

I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya. Reb Yisroel Salanter once traveled to Siberia to attend a celebrity golf tournament. As customary, he lodged at the home of a local eskimo. When it came time to go to sleep, the eskimo said to Reb Yisroel, "Nu, Reb Yisroel, we have a minhag here when guests stay over: Please take my wife to sleep with for the night."

Reb Yisroel looked at him sternly and responded, "That is unacceptable! Aishess Ish is a Dioraisa. However, do you have any children I can sleep with instead?"

To which the eskimo responded: "Rebbe, I knew you were here for a fundraiser, but I did not know it was a Yeshiva Torah Temimah event. Please forgive me!"

So, unfortunately, more than a few members of our community still like to keep up the tradition of Yitzchak Avinu.

So next time you are tempted to poke fun at the Catholic Church, hold your tongue until you have investigated your own institutions. Whether it is Yeshiva University. Or Satmar. Or Camp Dora Golding. Or Lakewood. Or the OU. Or CHABAD. Or....

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on...

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It is time to take back Judaism.

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Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, October 18, 2013

Parshas Vayayrah

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Parshas Vayayrah


Rabboisai,

I am writing a brief introduction to weekly Drasha on my favorite Parsha in order to share some personal thoughts.

You know, one critical difference between Klal Yisroel and the Evanglical Christian community is the degree of literalism that the groups attribute to the Toirah. Historically, Evangelicals take every word in the Toirah literally: The world was created 6,000 or so years ago, there were Nephilim (giants), Chava was made from Adam’s rib, Yushka Pandra was resurrected from the dead, etc.

Klal Yisroel, on the other hand, are a bit less literal. When the Toirah says “an eye for an eye”, CHAZAL tell us that this is metaphorical, and the payment should be monetary. When the Toirah describes the sin of David HaMelech in arranging the death of Uriyuh Hachiti, CHAZAL tell us that the sin was washed away by other acts. When the Toirah makes no judgment on who a member of the Bnei Yisroel should marry – essentially, allowing us to marry any hot shiksa we want (even men may marry an Ammoniya or Moaviya, as in the case of Roos), CHAZAL spoils it for all of us by coming to tell us that, no, the Toirah wants us to marry another Jew, and enables conversion as a means of ensuring communal consistency.

So, in essence, we, in our aspiration for strict Toirah observance, do not follow the exacts words of the Toirah literally. Shocking! Even the Evangelicals are Frummer than we are!

We do make some exceptions, of course. I am writing these words during one of my regular trips to my apartment in Eretz Yisroel, in downtown Chevroin. Sure, there are only a few hundred of us surrounded by 150,000 Palestinians. But the Toirah tells us about how important Chevroin was to Avraham Avinu, and we must emulate, in a literal fashion, his commitment to the city.

But there are other aspects of Avraham’s life that we do not emulate as successfully. And some of these points exist in this week’s Parsha. For example, in Perek Yud Chess, Pasook Chess, we are told, “VaYiKach Chemah VeChalav OoVen HaBakar Asher Ussuh VaYitain Lifneihem VeHoo Oimaid Aleihem Tachas HaEitz VaYoichelu,” “And (Avraham Avinu) took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared and served it to (the three messengers of the Reboinoihseloilum), and he stood alongside them under the tree as they ate.”

OK Rabboisai. So what is the Pshat here? Avraham Avinu serves Traifus Mamish, Bussur Bichaluv, to his guests!!! So if we believe in following the actions of Avraam Avinu literally, then we should plan to wash down our Shabbos chicken with a glass of milk. I certainly plan to eat my cholent tomorrow with a chocolate milkshake.

Similarly, how should we think about the Akeidah? When I was younger, my son, Boruch Gedalia Pesachya Issur Simcha Schmeckelstein, also know as the BIG PISS, was once incessantly listening to his loud Rock and Roll music, Rachmana Letzlan. That night, Hakadoshboruchhu came to me and asked me to go slaughter my son. In the morning, I just assumed that this vision was metaphorical, and went to the doctor to adjust my medication. But if I decide to approach the Toirah more literally, then I should now look at the Akeidah as an example, and potentially as a legal defense. So next time my grandson, Feivel Yisroel Shmuel Eliyahu Rabbah, aka the Little PISHER, spends too much time on his X-Box, he’d better watch out…

And finally, I would like to point out how Avraham Avinu cast out Hagar into the desert when it was no longer convenient to the family to have her and Yishmael hanging around. Next time my Bashert, Feige Breinah, is in Nidah, Chass V'Sholom, rather than me hiding in the Beis Medrish for a week, I might just demand that my Bashert pack up her bags and leave the house, never to return again, as Avraham Avinu would undoubtedly have done.

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This weeks Parsha, Parshas VaYayrah, features many critical fables, er..., I mean true stories that lie at the heart of Yiddishkeit. The Parsha includes:

- The birth of Yitzchak. The angels come down to visit Avraham bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Oops -- wrong story. The angels come to Avraham and tell him that a child will be born to him and his barren wife, Sarah Imaynu (our matriarch). Upon hearing the news, Sarah chuckles disbelievingly at the Aimishteh's promise to enable her to conceive.

An obvious question arises: why didn't the Reboinoisheloilum simply kill Sarah due to her disrespect? According to a famous medrish, Hakkadoshboruchhu had indeed decided to kill her, referring to her in an internal Heavenly memorandum as an "ungrateful wench". However, Sarah took out a "personal insurance policy" while living in the palace of the Pharoah -- or was it Avimelech (I always get confused between those two identical stories) -- playing "hide the kishka" with the Pharoah while Avraham pretended to be her brother. She made photocopies of critical incriminating evidence relating to Avraham, the Aimishteh, a missing $500,000 in cash, and several off-balance sheet liabilities, and left specific instructions to send the documents to the Canaanite Gazette should anything happen to her. Hey, she may have been barren, but she sure wasn't stupid.

- The exile of Yishmael. Sarah, who sounds more and more like my mother-in-law throughout this entire Parsha, decides that now that Yitzchak is born, there is no reason to have Yishmael hanging around smoking the family water pipe (according to RASHI, "bong" in Provence). So she orders Yishmael and his mother Hagar (the Horrible) to be cast into the desert.

Little did she realize, Yishmael was destined to be Father of the Arab Peoples. Those guys LOVE the desert! I know -- I saw Lawrence of Arabia. Twice. I once even had ice cream in a Bedouin tent in Beer Sheva, where a Bedouin Chief offered me two goats and a chicken for my eldest daughter, Bracha Levatala. He would have had a deal if he had only agreed to include his lucky pen.

Well, as a result of Sarah exiling Yishmael, the Arabs have had it in for the Jews ever since. This hostility has resulted in wars, terrorism, and high oil prices. Gee, thanks Sarah! Life wasn't complicated enough.

- The destruction of Sodom. Once again, the Aimishteh showed his mercy and lovingkindness by completely obliterating a population. To Avraham's credit, he tries to haggle for the life of the city. "If there are 50 righteous men...40...30...20...10." The RASHBA asks: why did the Aimishteh let Avraham go on haggling for twenty minutes if He knew the outcome was not about to change? According to the RITVA, this proves that haggling over price is a Mitzvah Dioraisa, a Biblical commandment, even if this means haggling over a Ben and Jerry's ice cream bar at a tourist stop in Nevada in August (trust me, this is a maisah shehoya). And Hokkodoshborochhu is undoubtedly proud of the fact that this is one mitzvah in which Klal Yisroel excels.

- The Akaidah -- the binding of Yitzchak. The Reboinoisheloilum commands Avraham to bring his beloved son to be sacrified at the alter. Avraham reveals his true leadership and intellectual independence by not questioning the order for one second.

A Gemmarah in Kesubois brings down a Braisah which quotes a Medrish referring to a Tosefta relating to a Mishnah commenting on a Possuk, which refers to a famous machloikess (Rabbinic debate) between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Bais Shammai holds that the eagerness with which Avraham embraces the commandment to cook his son at the alter reveals his true identity: Hannibal Lechter. Bais Shammai cites as proof the fact that at the beginning of the Parsha, Avraham serves his surprise desert guests a meal of fava beans and a nice chianti. Bais Hillel holds farkhert; since the Aimishteh apparently loves to devour his own creations, he must be the true Hannibal Lechter.

On the episode of the Akaidah, the RAN asks: why would the Reboinoisheloilum ask Avraham such an unseemly request, to kill his own son; why doesn't He put Avraham to a cleaner yet equally challenging test, such as to pay retail? The RAN answers that Hakkadoshboruchhu wanted to once and for all scare the crap out of Avraham, and this was the best way, short of sending in ghosts to haunt his tent.

The Tzitz Eliezer, on the other hand, offers a beautiful interpretation. The ultimate challenge for a father, or a Rebbe, is to bear witness to the estrangement of a son. By bringing Yitzchak to the alter, Avraham had to overcome his fear of causing Yitzchak to hate him for the rest of his life (all two hours of it). The Aimishteh, too, risked alienating Avraham, the progenitor of the Chosen People. So the true challenge brought down in VaYayrah is of staying committed to one's idealogy, even at the risk of losing the loyalty of the successors of the next generation.

I too know this feeling. I was once away on business, traveling to Cancun to open up a new Bais Medris. That week, I asked my Talmid Muvhak (my principal student protege, also known in Yiddish as my "Bitch") to prepare my weekly Parshas Hashavua drasha. In his drasha, my Talmud Muvhak, Dr./Rabbi Sterling/ Shmiel Tyler/Tanenbaumowitz, shared with my beloved Talmidim his tendency towards Biblical Criticism; that is, ignoring the literal interpretation of the Toirah and trying to understand the underlying authorial strands and original Near Eastern context of the text. In short, he is both an Apikoress and a Minuval.

However, if Reb Sterling ever calls you to solicit funds, I strongly encourage you to take his call. Deep inside him is a lost Jewish soul. As SVP of Yeshivas Chipas Emmess, Sterling/ Shmiel is responsible for helping to keep our doors open, our lights on, and our students out on bail...I mean, in the Bais Medrish. Consequently, I beg of you, show him that glimmer of your true Yiddishe Neshama (Jewish soul). If he asks you for money, write him a bigger check than he asks for. If not for the Yeshiva, do it for him -- this might help bring him back to the true path. If not for him, then for yourself, you selfish good-for-nothing Mamzer.

And if not for yourself, do it for me; I'd like to open up a new Bais Medrish in Honolulu around Christmas time.

Ah Gutten Shabbos you Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On Intelligent Design

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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On Intelligent Design


Rabboisai,

I would like to share with you news about a contribution I recently made to a worthy cause: I am pleased to say that a few days ago I gave a sizeable sum to Chevron.

I was in Brooklyn on Roish Choidesh meeting for hours with a small group of Talmidim and supporters. And as I was on my way home, I sensed a real void, an emptiness. So I pulled over and filled up my ’73 Pontiac Safari station wagon with $54 dollars worth of unleaded at my nearest Chevron. That’s three times Chai. Or nine times the cost of the average meal at Burger King. Shoyn.

I share this story with you because you are my Talmidim, my beloved students, and even though you are worthless, good for nothing Minuvals, I still teach you, because Chass V’Sholom you should end up in a so-called-yeshiva that teaches Apikursus, such as evolution. Or English literature.

So what’s Pshat that we are descendant from apes, anyway? Ich vais, my Bashert, Feigeh Breinah, is, of course, on her father’s side… But how can people believe that the Gevaldik wisdom that defines this world is somehow the result of a continuous process of transformation? Only a Mechutziff would believe that the universe is older than 6,000 years, or that the dinosaurs did not die in the Mabul, or that Chava, Adam’s mate, wasn’t created out of Adam’s rib, or that Bradley, Adam’s other mate, wasn’t created out of one of his Schvantzlach.

Let me ask you: Did you ever see a DNA? Voos iz givehn ah double helix? Did RASHI write about DNA? As everyone knows, he had Ruach HaKoidesh, so if RASHI did not mention it, it must not exist! Did the RAMBAM write about DNA? And he was a doctor, for Reboinoisheloilum’s sakes. As everyone knows, he studied medicine for six years while sitting in the Bais Hakeesay!

Let me ask you: If you took a bottle of ink, shook it up, and threw it on a blank sheet of paper, would it give you the Talmud Babli? Would it give you the writings of Shakespeare? Would it give you the twelve volume collected works of Penthouse letters?

Of course not! So how can you say the world “evolved”? How can you say that Hakkadoshbaruchhu did not create the world in six days?

Perhaps you will say that it does not really matter…

-- I can choose to believe in Shayshess Yemai HaMaaseh or I can believe that Beraishis is not meant to be taken literally. Does it really matter?

-- I can keep strict kashrus, or I can choose to drink coffee at a Hooters, Chass V’Sholom. Does it really matter?

-- I can choose to believe in the Aimishteh who led us out of Egypt, or I can believe in His only son who He sent to Earth to die for our sins. Does it really matter?

Well, it matters, you Minuval. This world is defined by change. But Yiddishkeit has never changed and must never change! The way we worship the Reboinoisheloilum is word for word consistent with the Toirah given to Moishe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai by Hakadoshboruchhu.

And how did it happen? Klal Yisrael fasted and prayed for forty days and forty nights as Moishe Rabbeinu ascended the mountain, the fur on his Shtreimel shimmering in the wind throughout his long climb, his dangling Payis bobbing up and down with each step. Moishe did not wear leather shoes, as he was standing in a place of holiness. Instead, he wore rubber soled sneakers bought from Lands End – which luckily came in white.

Up the mountain Moishe Rabbeinu climbed, weighed down by his supplies – papyrus, writing implements, and food and water. The Medrish Tanchumah tells us that to conserve space, Moishe took up energy bars, but he also ate some local vegetation, for roughage. He also carried a small bag of toiletries, to tend to his human essential. Hey, forty days and forty nights is a long time.

At the top of the mountain the Aimishteh began to dictate: “Beraishus Barah Me Ess HaShamayim V’Ess Ha’Aretz”…”Heenay HaEitz Ve’Heitzim, W’Ayeh Haseh LeOilah”…”Loi Sevashel Gedi beChaleiv Imoi”…”Shma Yisroel I am your Reboinoisheloilum, I am Echadddddduh.”

As the Gemmarah in Taainis tells us, this first text-based component took ten days to complete. Moishe would have to take occasional breaks because his hand hurt. Or he would momentarily run out of ink and need to refill.

The next twenty days were focused on pure Halacha, which was memorized. How would Klal Yisroel know what was banned as work on Shabbos Koidesh? Hakadoshboruchhu patiently explained that the laws of work are derived from the activities used in building the Mishkan. He continued with Halacha LeMaaseh, explaining how electricity is like fire and/or Makeh BaPatish in that it closed circuits, opened circuits and lit the electrons in the TV when someone turned on “VEEP” on HBO on a Shabbos, and therefore that was considered a Melacha.

The Reboinoisheloilum patiently explained that women must cover their hair for the sake of modesty, and that the best way to do that is by donning the aggregated displaced real hair of some Caucasian non-pagan woman to cover one's own natural Prusta locks.

Yes, Moishe received the Toirah from the Aimishteh on Sinai, and we keep His words as delivered that day, never turning neither right nor left. I know this must be true, because this is what my Rebbe told me, and his Rebbe told him before that, and his Rebbe told him before that. And my Rebbe would never lie.

Unless, of course, he was on trial for embezzling from the government.

Or he was protecting a child molester.

Or he was trying to deny custody to a divorcing parent who was no longer observant.

Or he was using his access to women coming to him for marital or personal advice to seduce and rape them.

Or he was running a mafia-like operation in which he extorted money from desperate women and their families to force their husbands to give them a Get by kidnapping them and putting cattle prods to their genitals.

Then he might perchance find motivation for a teeny, tiny little lie…

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It is time to take back Judaism.

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Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Sunday, October 06, 2013

On Living in the Image of the Divine

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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On Living in the Image of the Divine


Moideh Ani Lifanecha Melech Chai VeKayam SheHechezarta Bi Nishmasi BiChemla Rabbah Emunasecha.

Thank you Reboinoisheloilum for returning me to normal life, after many weeks of intense interruption caused by the Yoimim Toivim that left me of the brink of being fired for missing so many days of work, for breaking my normal regimen, and for distracting all of my beloved donors… err … Talmidim from writing me checks… err… doing Mitzvois and supporting Limud Toirah.

Rabboisai,

I was delighted to hear Parshas Beraishis last week as we read that humankind, all of humanity, was created Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine. What does that mean?

According to Abaya, being created Betzelem Eloykim means that we were created very tall, very smart, very good looking, with the most beautiful perfectly curled Payis that one could ever imagine.

According to Rava, being created Betzelem Eloykim means that we were created to be intense and unpredictable, one day loving our children, and the next day smiting them with a plague or two, or a Schtickel famine. One day we speak of our undying commitment to our “bride” Klal Yisroel, and the next day we cut up her credit card, take away her car keys, and trade her to the Babylonians for $50,000 in cash, a utility infielder, and a nation to be named later.

But according to Rav Ashi, Abaya and Rava spent too much time at the “bummy” Shul and drank too many shots at Kiddush. Says Rav Ashi, mankind was created Betzelem Eloykim in the sense that we, mankind, were given free will. Unlike the plants and the animals, the other living inhabitants of this earth, we are not trapped to fulfill a very basic purpose as part of an ecosystem: To capture sunlight and convert it into energy, likely a plant. To consume plants in order to survive, like an herbivore. Or to eat herbivores while the National Geographic or Discovery Network cameras are rolling, like a carnivore. No, we have a purpose beyond our basic material needs. We have large brains. We have logic that allows us to exceed our animalistic kill-or-be-killed nature. We have opposable thumbs, and tools. We have writing and communications. We have the Internet. We have NPR. We have Sitcoms. We have Netflix. And some of us even have the Toirah.

We have the ability to build airplanes and grand buildings and write poetry and perform scientific research. We have the ability to do good deeds and help others. But we also have the ability to lie and cheat and steal. And kill. We have the ability to wage war against the guilty and the innocent, and to murder on an industrial scale.

And how do we determine what to do, as individuals, as part of a community, or as part of society as a whole? We have free will. Betzelem Eloykim.

Shoyn.

It is no coincidence that we read Parshas Beraishis following the long cycle of the Yumim Toivim, including Roish Hashanah and Yoim Kippur. On these days, and throughout the entire Aseres Yemai Teshivah, we ask Hakadoshboruchhu for acceptance, despite our inherently imperfect human natures. And why should He listen to us? “Kee Anu Amecha, VeAtta Eloykaynu; Anu Banecha, VeAtta Avinu.” “Because we are Your nation, and You are our Lord; We are Your children, and You are our father.” We are human beings. We do not always live up to the Reboinoishloilum’s expectations. But nevertheless we want Him, we pray to Him, to accept us as we are. We are complex. We are not all alike. We have diverse human natures and preferences and habits. Why? Because we have free choice. Because we were created Betzelem Eloykim.

And where does free will manifest itself? Well I am hungry right now, and I can decide to go to the kosher pizza place around the corner, have two slices and a coke, for the total price of $25. Or I can walk three blocks to McDonalds, Chass V’Sholom, and feed myself, my wife, my children, and my Einiklach, for the same $25. I can chose to keep Shabboskoidesh. Or I can desecrate Shabboskoidesh, violating the Word of Hakadoishboruchhu and risk really pissing Him off by turning on a light switch, Rachmuna Litzlan. I can choose to go to sleep at night by counting sheep (Hoyshiyah. Esss.. Amecha.. U’Varaiych…….. Esss……….. .ZZZZZZZ), or I can put myself to sleep by kneading the challah while thinking about Miley Cyrus, Claire Danes, George Clooney, or Rabbi Shmuley Boiteach, if you know what I mean.

But all of these examples are Bain Adam LaMakoim; They relate to religious commandments, rules and customs between man and the Aimishteh. But what of Bain Adam LeChaveiroi, actions that are between man and his fellow man? Whether they are actions dictated by the Toirah, or common rules of basic humanity, of society? Again, we are guided by our fundamental nature of being created Betzelem Eloykim. We have free will. We have free choice.

Rabboisai, when we look at the Eseres Hadibrois, the Ten Commandments, it is easy to discern that they are roughly divided between Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, and Mitzvois Bain Adam LeChaveiroi. Klal Yisroel has the Toirah NOT ONLY to teach us how to relate to the Divine, but also to teach us the proper ways to engage with our fellow man. Kabayd Ess Avicha ViEss Imecha – Respect your father and your mother. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not covet the spouse of another. Do not covet the property of another. These are the basic foundations of a functional society.

One need not be a Chassidic Rebbe or a Rosheshiva (like me) or a Rebbetzin with a three thousand dollar Sheytel, or even to believe in an anthropomorphic Reboinoisheloilum who engages with humankind though history in order to appreciate the centrality of these basic societal laws. Yes, even an Am Haaretz like you, my beloved Talmid, understands that if we do not answer to a basic human moral compass, all of society will break down. And one need only look 70 or 80 years back in our collective Jewish history to understand what happens when all of society breaks down – when there is confiscation of assets and enslavement and forced division of families and rape and medical experiments on human beings and gas chambers and mass murder. Klal Yisroel, of all Peoples, understands the importance of an orderly and just society.

But let us say, for arguments sake, that all of society does break down? What happens? Well, as we know from Parshas Noiach, Hakadoshboruchhu was once so disgusted, He decided to destroy the whole world, save Noiach, his family, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary-Anne, and two of every kind of animal. But in the aftermath of the Mabul, the Great Flood, the Aimishteh makes a treaty and a vow never to destroy the world again. The Reboinoishloilum exercises His free choice to create the world. And then destroys the world. And then ultimately pledges to never destroy the world again.

Humankind may be flawed. Humanity may not always live up to Hakadoshboruchhu’s plans, but He is fundamentally committed to tolerance and acceptance. “Kee Anu Amecha, VeAtta Eloykaynu; Anu Banecha, VeAtta Avinu.”

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Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. There is a plague impacting pockets of the Orthodox community, particularly in Ultra-Orthodox, Chareidi, circles.

When spouses differ on what color to paint their walls, they usually find a compromise. When they differ on what to name a new baby, they usually compromise or take turns, allowing one parent to name the child and assigning naming rights to the next child to the other parent.

But when spouses break up, and especially when the breakups are driven by religious differences, it has become all-too-common for a parent, typically the parent that has chosen to remain observant, to try to gain full custody of the children. Rather than seek compromise, common cause with their ex-spouse on ways to raise the children in a mutually acceptable fashion, they try to “steal the children”. They often do this by defaming the integrity of the former spouse, or his or her sanity, or his or her fundamental ability to serve as a functional parent. They are often supported financially by their own families and Chareidi communities, in an effort to “save the children’s souls”. They often even try to turn the children against the other parent.

Rabboisai, this is not an action that is Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine. Human beings have free choice, and even when we do not agree with such choices, we have to tolerate and accept them. Children have TWO parents biologically, and other than in extreme cases where the children themselves are in danger of physical or emotional harm, they are best off having two parents, even when the parents are no longer together.

Divorce is a painful experience – I have seen this up close. But seeking sole custody, denying access, poisoning the minds of the children, or publically defaming the name of the former spouse is NOT the fulfillment of ensuring Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim. It is a terrible violation of Bain Adam LeChaveiroi.

We are living in dark times. We are living in an era when many in the Orthodox community, including many in the Orthodox leadership, have placed all of their emphasis on Bain Adam LaMakoim, and have set aside a basic commitment to Bain Adam LeChaveiroi. In the name of Toirah – but really in the name of maintaining their own hegemony and power and control – they are breaking up families; they are ignoring sexual abuse; they are causing humiliation and pain; they are even causing death.

Rabboisai, Judaism is not the exclusive purview of the Chassidic Rebbes or the Rabbis or the synagogue presidents. It is not the exclusive domain of the Askanim, the power brokers, or of the wealthy. WE WERE ALL created Betzelem Eloykim, in the image of the Divine.

Rabboisai, we are living in dark times. Judaism has a cancer. It is time to take Judaism back.

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This Drasha was written in memory of Deb Tambor A’H.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess