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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: Al Sfiras HaOimer



Baruch Ata Idon’tknow,

Heywhereareyou Melech HaOilum,

Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvoisav Vetzivanu,

Al Sfiras HaOimer.

HaYoim Shmoinah Esrei Alaphim U’Masayim Chamishim Yoim,

SheHaym Alpayim Shaish Maois Va’Sheva Shavuois, VaEchad Yamim LaOimer.


Rabboisai,

Unlike you, you Minuvals, I have not lost count of the Oimer, ever since I was a Kleinikel. I count Sefirah with a Bracha every day, never missing except for that one time in college when I got lucky with that hot shiksa (Boruch Hashem for tequila!). But, thankfully, I was able to count Sefirah the next morning without a Bracha, as I was putting on my Tefillin in Christine’s apartment.

Which brings us the Shailah I address this week:

Yoineh Vuv asks: “Rav Pinky -- May a woman shave her Makom HaErva during Sefirah?”

Yoinelah – This is a Gevaldikkah Shailah! You are Mechavayn to the exact question asked by the RALBAG, the great Medieval Talmidist, Mathematician, and dispenser of at-home Brazilian services to the housewives of Avignon, France.

Before I address your Shailah, Halacha Lemaiseh, I would like to address the overall topic of Sefiras HaOimer.

What is Sfiras HaOimer? We know that from the perspective of the Toirah, we are required to count seven weeks from Pesach to calculate the start of Shavuois, Zman Matan Toirasainu. According to Rabbi Yoichanan, cited in a Braisah brought down in a Gemara in Makkois, this is because 49 days is the length of time required for matzah constipation to be flushed out of the system, so we can be fully prepared for the lactose intolerance brought on by cheesecake on Shavuois.

But according to Rabbi Yishmael, as mentioned in a Tosefta in Moiaid Kattan, seven weeks is the amount of time it takes for a man to be able to come home from a hard day’s work without having to worry about his wife waiting at the door, barking orders at him about bringing those last three pieces of stray Pesach china up to the attic.

The Oimer was originally grounded in the agrarian cycle of Eretz Yisroel. Later, it came to represent the period of time between Yetzitas Mitzrayim, the Exodus, and the giving of the Toirah. But of course it has also taken on a whole latter day symbolism of semi-mourning. A Gemara in Avoidah Zorah tells us that during Sefirah, we mourn the deaths of 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva. There is, however, a machloikess as to why they died.

According to Rav Huna, they died of a plague brought upon them because they lacked Derech Eretz – they did not respect each other. They insulted each other with harsh words and dismissive language, the kinds of things you do all the time, you good-for-nothing Minuval Vilda Chayas.

However, according to Rav Sheyshess, Rabbi Akiva’s students actually died fighting in the failed Bar Kochba Revolt, the second rebellion against the Romans from 131-135 CE. Rabbi Akiva is quoted in the Yerushalmi in Tainis as pronouncing Bar Kochba to be the Moishiach (this is true, by the way). Many of his students enlisted to support the military effort, and to get the government sponsored tuition assistance needed to pay for Rabbi Akiva’s Yeshiva, Yeshivas Ohr HaMaskoiret.

Finally, Rav Puppa holds that the students died in an unfortunate accident. LeOilum, in reality, the Reboinoisheloilum only put in an order to kill 1,000 students. But due to a programming glitch in Hakadoshboruchhu’s Persecution Trading System (PTS), the kill off swelled to 24,000 dead before the system’s safeguards kicked in. A similar thing happened in 1938, but due to a weak regulatory environment, the safeguards did not automatically kick in until there were much heavier losses in the market.So, to commemorate the deaths of so many of Rabbi Akiva’s Talmidim, we take upon ourselves some of the rituals of mourning.

There was great debate amongst the Rishoinim about which Sefirah-related proscriptions an individual should follow. During Sefirah:

-- The Roish would not shave

-- The Ran would not bathe, except on Erev Shabboskoidesh

-- The RIF would not go to the bathroom. This also enabled him to save a lot of money on food and toilet paper.

These differences of Minhag are reflected in the various Sefirah practices in place in the modern Yeshiva World:

-- In Yeshivas Punuvitch in Eretz Yisroel, the Talmidim do not attend live musical performances

-- In the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, the Talmidim do not listen to music, live or recorded

-- In Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Queens, the Talmidim do not read or write or speak to each other; they just say Tachanun all day and play with the buttons on their little Hatzalah walkie talkies

-- In Yeshivas Toiras Yoisiaph Smith in Utah, the Talmidim do not drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, and are not Mezaneh with more than three of their wives on any given night.

With regard to your specific Shailah, Reb Yoineh, this is linked to a Pesak of Reb Moishe. Reb Moishe ruled that while the laws of Sefirah requires a man to abstain from shaving as a sign of mourning, if someone makes his Parnassah in the professional world, and his situation requires him to be well groomed, then he is allowed to shave. Notes Reb Shmiel Kalbasavua: We can apply this same rule to women as well. A woman should not shave her Erva during Sefirah. However, if she is required to be well groomed for professional reasons, for example, is an exotic dancer or a Victoria’s Secret model, then she is indeed allowed to shave.

Reb Yoiseph Katski is even more Meikel. He agrees that in principle, a woman should not shave her Erva during Sefirah. However, this should not in any way interfere with any aspect of her life, professional or personal. States Reb Yoisaiph, “If a woman’s overgrown forest is harming her normal patterns of marital activity because her husband cannot find a path through the trees in order to launch his canoe, then she is indeed entitled to clear a path to the lake, though must be careful not to engage in complete deforestation.” Unquote.

Rabboisai, the laws of Sefirah are not simple ones. And too many people in our community do not pay the proper attention to observing this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the Aimishteh by counting to forty nine and looking like a vagrant. At a cosmic level, Oimer makes us closer to the Reboinoisheloilum by preparing us for the Kedushah of Kabbalas HaToirah. How does the Oimer do this? I admit that I cannot tell you exactly. But this is a point of Mesoirah – it is our tradition of 3,500 years, handed down over many generations, as a Halacha Le-Art Scroll MiSinai.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Second Pesach Drasha


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Second Pesach Drasha


Rabboisai,

I start today's drasha with a sad and embarassing admission -- my own personal viduy in front of you, you minuval.

Over Chol Hamoed Pesach I was driving my einiklach to the pick up spot for the rabbinically sanctioned avoidah zorah -- idol worship -- known as Six Flags Great Adventures. Along the way, I dropped a quarter in the car. Since it is a Chiyuv Dioraisa, a biblical requirement, to pick up loose change, I reached down to the floor to retrieve the quarter, and behold -- I found half an M&M. It was this moment of temptation that started off a terrible cycle of sin and debauchery not unlike being mezaneh with an underage Parah Adumah.

Yes, at that moment, I was taken by an incessant urge to bite into the forbidden delicacy and indulge in the chometz delights of a treat that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and unlikely to lead to hours of painful stomach cramps. And as you know so well, you mamzer, Aveirah goreres Aveirah, one evil deed begets another...

One M&M, of course, is never enough. After dropping off the einiklach, I got down on my hands and knees and prostrated myself on the floor of the station wagon with the same fervor with which I had cleaned out the car one week earlier, searching for just one small bite of chometz. Boruch Hashem I found two crushed Cheerios in the ashtray, which I consumed immediately.

Alas, the Yetzer Harrah caught me on a weak day.

Still craving the delicious taste of chometz, I rushed home, and Boruch Hashem, no one was there. I headed straight for the kodshei hakadoishim of chometz, the vacuum cleaner. Would the bag containing all the crumbs of recent weeks of cleaning still be inside? I prayed to the Aimishteh for it -- and it was so. My Bashert, so busy spending her days teaching a class in Bais Yankif, her evenings serving as the mikvah lady, and her nights working at the 24 hour Kinkos, had forgotten to remove the lest vestiges of chometz. The careless bitch.

With great satisfaction I dove into the vacuum bag. Breadcrumbs! Leftover pieces of cookie! It was the most fun I've had committing an aveirah since my chavrusa and I studied the true meaning of "abomination" for extra credit back in high school, if you know what I mean. The utter joy of eating straight from the bag was only slightly tempered by the big lump of lint that got stuck in my throat.

After coughing up the fuzz ball, I became deeply troubled. I needed more chometz! I wouldn't dare go down to the basement to attack the food storage, since the goy who bought the chometz might show up at any moment and demand that which he rightfully paid for. The anti-Semite.

I had one more chance. I knew that with with all of the pre-Yuntif mayhem, my bashert likely forgot to vacuum the upholstered dining room chairs. I rushed to the dining room, got on my hands and knees next to the first chair, and positoned my head above the crack between the seat cushion and the wood chair-back.

And that's when my wife walked in. She shrieked in her loudest Ball-ha-Buster voice, "Pinky, how many times have I told you not to put your tongue in a strange place??!!"

So went my first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach.

This maiseh shehoyo is indeed reminiscent of a Halacha brought down by the Kley Yukkur in his seminal work, Tzeddek Tzeddek Tirdoif," loosely translated as "Never miss an opportunity to judge others."

As he points out, it is indeed ironic that on a holiday dedicated to the celebration of freedom, we adopt an additional layer of stringencies to our already complicated lives. The Kley Yukkur goes on to tell us that in designing many Mitzvois, the Reboinoisheloilum is not testing our complicity with His will; rather, He is testing our common sense when commanded to do the nearly impossible.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pesach Drasha


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Pesach Drasha


Rabboisai,

I am preparing this Drasha as I pack for my departure to serve as the officiating rabbi on a Pesach vacation. After resisting many such offers for years – hotels in the Catskills, Florida, Arizona, Cancun, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and Antarctica, I was asked to fill in for a colleague on one of these Pesach getaways. My good friend, Rabbi Shloimee Glandolowitzberg, was committed to a venue, but had to cancel at the last minute because he had something caught in his throat. So I will now serve as the official rabbi on the Roy Cohn Kosher LePeysach Gay Cruise to the Greek islands.

Strangely, the organizers have suggested that I come without my Basherte, Feigeh Breinah, insisting that I will have a lot more fun that way. So she will be with the Kinderlach and Einiklach, while I sacrifice by bringing Toirah to a community of Erlicheh Yidden. Indeed, I had originally declined the offer, since I was planning to be in Eretz Yisroel for Yuntif. I explained to the organizers that Pesach is Klal Yisroel’s celebration of exiting Egypt and traveling to Eretz Yisroel, which, as the Toirah tells us, is “Eretz Zuvass Chuluv U’Dvash”, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. But they responded that the cruise will be quite similar: It will be flowing with something that looks like milk, and something else that almost has the texture of honey, but comes out of a tube. I do not know what they mean, but I look forward to being Mekayaim a new Mitzvah!

In addition, they told me that there were some additional Minhagim on the annual cruise that I would find interesting. Apparently, instead of dipping only two times – Ein Mol In Zatlz Vasser, Un Ein Mol in Charoisess – they dip a third time, after the Afikomen and Chad Gad Yuh, and suggested that I might enjoy it. Again, I am not familiar with such a Minhag; perhaps it is a Sephardic custom. But I can certainly appreciate the Mesiras Nefesh of maintaining a local Minhag.

Pesach is a time of different behaviors and liturgy and cuisine. We spend more time preparing for Pesach that we do actually celebrating it. Great credit goes to our wives for their commitment to creating Butey Ne’eman BaYisroel, good Jewish homes. In my own home, my wife takes charge of all of the Pesach preparation. She does all the planning. She does all the shopping. And even if she does not do all of the cleaning herself, she makes certain it is all completed. What a Tzadeykess! I knew last Moitzee Shabbos she was preparing to turn the entire kitchen over for Pesach when, immediately after Havdalah, she began ironing her Gestapo uniform. By the time we had Kashered the stove, the sink, and the counters, put all the Chometz dishes away, and brought down all of the Pesach dishes from the attic, I was ready to throw myself against a electrified barbed wire fence.

But, as we know, Pesach is not simply a personal or a family celebration. It is a communal one. Ashrenu that in our generation we can embrace Pesach in a way that previous generations could not. Why, a hundred years ago our great grandparents certainly had Matzoh, Marror, wine and Charoisess. Perhaps they had a little chicken or meat, some potatoes and eggs, and if their were Misnagdim, Kneidlach. Our grandparents and parents may have already had some semblance of Koisher LePesach cakes and cookies. But we in our generation have a much greater variety of choices. Koisher LePesach mustard. Koisher LePesach rolls. Koisher LePesach beer. And my favorite: Koisher LePesach breakfast cereal. During the rest of the year we make do with all of the Goyyishe cereals, as long as they have a proper Hashgacha, of course. But on Pesach we are Zoicheh to eat breakfast cereals that are made Lishmah, expressly for Zman Chayruseinu. My favorite is Sugar Frosted Kikee-Ohs, although my Einikel Binyamin Soirer U’Moireh loves Choco Aleph Baizes.

It is an ironic thing, of course: These cereals cost $28 a box before Pesach, but the day after Pesach the stores cannot give them away. I heard that last year the local Toimchei Shabbos was collecting unopened Pesach food for the poor: Cans, Matzoh, cocoanut covered marshmallows, etc., but had a big sign on their collection bin, “No Kosher For Passover Cereals, Please. Our Recipients May Be Needy, But They Are Not THAT Desperate”.

But what we have done in our generation is not that different from the actions of our predecessors. “B’Chol Dor VaDor Chayuv Udum Lirois Ess Atzmoh Ke’Iluh Hoo Yutzuh MiMitzrayim.” “In every generation, a person is required to view himself as if he (himself) escaped from Egypt.” The strength of our tradition has been the ability of our nation to seek relevance in each generation and make the Yuntif, and the ideas it represents, “their own”. Sometimes those additions have resulted in additional guidelines and restrictions that we find a source of annoyance, such as Kitniyois. Sometimes those additions have added strictures that many of us ignore, such as Gebruchs. And sometimes those additions have made Jewish lives so intolerable that CHAZAL had to find a back door to nullify their impact, such as Chometz She-Avar Uluv Al HaPesach, which led to the institution of Mechiras Chometz, symbolic selling of Chometz to a Gentile.

Like with so many other examples in Yiddishkeit, every generation and every community has left its mark on our grand tradition. In doing so, we do not abandon the notion of the Divine to the distant, irrelevant, somewhat unknowable past, but seek to embrace the Divine in our own lives. We pursue active engagement with the Reboinoisheloilum to satisfy our own spiritual cravings, as well as to have an excuse to take a few days off from work at the beginning of Spring.

I am reminded of a Ma’aseh Shehoya. One year the Vilna Goyn was leading the Seder at his Yeshiva, surrounded by his family and hundreds of his Talmidim. He had just made Kiddush on the first cup of wine and began to recite the Hagaddah, “Kol Dichfin Yaysay V’Yaychol, Kol Ditzrich Yaysay V’Yifsach”, “All who are hungry should sit down and eat; all who are needy should sit down and partake of the Karban Persach.” At that point, a homeless man dressed in tattered clothing entered the Yeshiva dining room and pulled up an empty chair to the table.

“Sir, what do you think you are doing?” asked the Gruh.

“Well, Mr. Goyn, I am hungry and needy, and I am taking up your offer to join your Seder” responded the man.

“Schmuck!”, the Goyn screamed, “Do you think I really mean this stuff that was written over 1,500 years ago? Next thing you know, you will expect me to believe that 600,000 people left Egypt! How the hell could 600,000 males, plus their families, live in the desert for forty years?! What were the Jews, a group of people, of a bunch of camels?!!”

At that point the vagrant revealed himself to be Eliyahu HaNavi. “Reb Goyn”, he said, “you are indeed wise. The miracles did not really happen the way the Toirah and Hagaddah describe, but we celebrate them anyway, to give meaning to our everyday lives. But you have rejected someone genuinely in need, and for that you will be punished by being known throughout history as a heartless Misnagid who has about as much spirit in him as a twice squeezed lemon has juice.” The man then took away all of the Afikoman presents left under the tree and left the building.

That night, the Goyn was very disturbed. He was wrought with guilt and confusion. Finally, Hakadoshboruchhu came to him in a dream. “Goyn, what is the problem?” He asked.

“Your messenger Eliyahu HaNavi showed me tonight what a selfish person I am, and told me I will be punished for all eternity as a result.”

The Aimishteh laughed a hearty laugh. “Goyn, that was no Eliyahu HaNavi! That was the Baal Shem Toiv playing a practical joke on you. He even took all of your Afikoman Tchatchkees to sell in order to buy vodka for his followers.”

“You mean I am not punished?!!” asked the Goyn, relieved.

“Well, you are a cold Misnagid. That is punishment enough, since you can only see what is in front of you. But I guarantee that the Baal Shem Toiv is also punished, since he can only look under the surface and cannot see obvious truths in front of him. Until you learn to live together, you will both be lost.”

Excitedly, the Goyn asked, “And at that point, will we be Zoicheh to witness the Geulah Shelaymah?”

“Well, not exactly. But your respective descendants will happily go on Gay cruises together.” With that the Reboinoisheloilum departed the dream, and went off to visit with some worshipers at a Hindu temple.

So every generation finds new ways to instill spiritual meaning and relevance. For one generation, it was Kitniyois. For another, it was Gebruchs. For countless others, it was the development of new creative recipes and additions to the Pesach liturgy. And for some in our day, it is the recreation of “a land flowing with milk and honey”, hopefully using proper precautions, if you know what I mean. Ashrenu that in our generation Klal Yisroel can embrace Pesach in ever more creative ways!

Ah Zissen Yuntif, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Ask Rabbi Pinky: On the Laws of Pesach


Rabboisai,

In anticipation of the upcoming Yuntif, I would like to address an issue related to Hilchois Pesach


The Anonymous Minuval" writes:

"Rav Pinky,

"Am I allowed to perform oral favors on my wife on Pesach if she has a yeast infection?"

Well, my beloved, gutter-minded talmid, this is a delightful question that I have been asked several times before, all by members of the Ashkenazic tradition, since, as everyone knows, Sephardic Jews have not subscribed to this approach to marital fulfillment since the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

With regard to your question, yeast is not in and of itself chometz (leaven), but is in the category of chometz-related matter. Hence, Chazal would certainly hold that you could NOT perform oral favors on your wife, though you are not required to dispose of her during Pesach.

However, if you are of the practice of performing oral favors on your wife with the aid of a chometzdikkeh food, say -- pudding, the issue becomes more complex. BeDiyeved, there are those that say that the Halacha would view this as similar to yeast, or a kli (a cooking utensil), and, therefore, you may keep your wife in your possession, as long as you do not perform oral favors on her during the course of Pesach.

Lechatchilah, however, if we consider a wife's private parts as food, and therefore, having been exposed to the chometz, the privates take on the nature of chometz, since chometz is not battul afilu be'elef (is not considered insignificant, even if it is an infinitesmal fraction of the food in question), then you must dispose of the chometz prior to Pesach, preferably by burning.

However, in our day, our Rabbis have determined an alternative approach, as we use with other valuable chometz investments. You are allowed to sell your wife's Erva to a gentile, provided you not benefit from it for eight days. And, of course, you have to provide access to the gentile at any time that the gentile so chooses to take possession of the chometz.

How is this contractual arrangement made? There are those that are more lenient, and say a verbal sales agreement is enough to drive the exchange of possession. However, the majority of Achroinim hold that there has to be a symbolic physical transfer of possession. In real estate sales, this is typified by a kinyan sudor, or exchange of possession using as handkerchief as a proxy. In this instance, however, an exchange of your wife's underwear would be the preferred mode.

As well, the Rabbis note, it is customary the night before Pesach to include your wife's Erva when performing Bedikas Chometz in your home. Your wife will certainly welcome the feather, but be careful with that wooden spoon!

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Parshas Acharei Mois

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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Parshas Acharei Mois

In this week's parsha, Acharei Mois, the Aimishteh commands Klal Yisrael regarding forbidden relationships: " The nakedness of your father's wife you should not expose...your father's sister...your mother's sister...a woman and her daughter...two sisters..." And so on.

Oy vey. I must tell you, I am a little uncomfortable with this week's Parsha. In fact, I am downright sickened by the suggestion of having relations with one's own mother. And I am completely nauseated with the thought of having gilui arayois with my aunts; both my father's and my mother's sisters have beards, as well as shaytals that look far more titilating on the styrofoam heads sitting on the dresser.

So by the time the parsha gets around to talking about doing it with two sisters, I am totally not in the mood.

An obvious question arises about the wording of the possuk: Why does the Toirah speak of "not exposing nakedness"? How should we understand this term? One answer offered by the RAMBAN is that the Toirah chose to speak in loshoin nokiyus in order to avoid the parsha receiving an "R" rating, so that children under the age of seventeen, an important demographic, can read the parsha without being accompanied by a parent.

The RIF holds that the possuk clearly means to include actual biyuh, but the use of the term "exposing nakedness" is chosen to include voyeurism, digital photography, and Twitter. But the RAN holds farkhert -- you can have relations with anyone you want, so long as the lights are dim, in order to ensure deniability.

A more serious question is why is it that the halochois of all of these forbidden relationships are addressed to men? Shouldn't women be concerned about these issues as well? RASHI answers that since women come so late to shul, they miss the leyning anyway, so they are not included. But the ARI holds that this parsha is proof that in the time of the Moshiach, our frigid wives will put out the way they have been promising to for years.

But with all of these forbidden relationships, the one which receives the most attention, especially in our days, is the ban on male homosexuality. How are we to understand this biblical pronouncement, especially in modern society?

Reb Shlomo Kluger, living a century ago, spoke of the growing evidence that the homosexual inclination is a result of nature, not nurture. Reb Shlomo, who insisted that the buchrim in the bais medrish refer to him as "Big Hank", felt that our understanding of gay nature should evolve, much as halacha's attitude toward blind and deaf people has evolved as overall society has developed a more inclusive approach to people with these conditions. (I personally am strongly in favor of this line of thought. Indeed, I was born with a particular condition myself -- I lust after twenty-three year old red heads named Christine.)

In truth, this whole issue comes down to a question of public versus private. When I am standing at my shtender in shul delivering the weekly drasha, as I look down at the kehilla, I know that the room is full of people who commit aveiras of all sorts. I am certain that ten percent of the kehilla privately watches TV on Shabbos (Boruch Hashem somebody has the latest sports scores!) Some of the women don't always make it to mikvah. Some of the men, especially while their wives are in nidah, "take matters into their own hands", if you know what I mean.

Even I too have sinned on occasion -- I admit it -- I sometimes put the hot water ON the teabag on Shabbos, not the other way around. But in the great tradition of Chazzal, we should not stand around and look to punish people. We don't peek inside their homes, their refrigerators, or their cars. Chazzal tell us that in the time of the Sanhedrin, it was almost unprecedented that someone would be put to death. Between the conditions of drisha and chakirah and other requirements, it was virtually impossible that the human realm would come to pass judgment on other human beings -- that is the purview of the Aimishteh.

What becomes more complicated is the aspiration of some to embrace a more public profile for the gay Orthodox lifestyle. Rather than reject this, I suggest we at least consider the possibility. Indeed, we should move to accommodate all who seek to be frum, though disagree with one Biblical tenet or another. We should create shuls for these particular interest groups:

-- The Young Israel of Men Who Like to Be Mezaneh With Each Other

-- Congregation Bnei Avraham Who Like To Eat A Little Traifus Once in a While

-- Khal Adas I Like To Watch The News and Get the Latest Scores

-- Lincoln Square I Sometimes Spill My Seed on the Floor Synagogue.

As long as someone wants to indentify as being Frum, who are we to deny them that right? As long as they subscribe to the three basic principles of Ol Malchus Shomayim: Overall acceptance of the Torah, pass judgement on everyone else, and consider everyone who disagrees with you to be either an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew.

Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

Friday, April 04, 2014

On the Performance of Teshuvah

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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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.

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 Shabbos, you Minuval.


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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess

A Few Thoughts On Pesach Preparation


THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN

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

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A Few Thoughts On Pesach Preparation


(Shamelessly lifted from my Pulitzer Prize winning Drasha on Parshas Emor)

Why do we prepare so intensively for Pesach? According to Rabeinu Tam, we commemorate slavery in Egypt by spending six hours marching up and down the stairs to the attic to bring down the Pesach dishes while our wives stand over us barking orders (those amharatzois).

Meanwhile, rachmana litzlan, our wives absolutely exhaust themselves watching the cleaning lady prepare for Pesach.

The RAMBAM in Mishnah Torah asks an incisive question: Instead of selling our chametz to a goy, why can't we just temporarily sell our religion to a goy? This way, he can have the opportunity to get the mitzvah of celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim, while we get to eat a little traifus, paint easter eggs, and have relations with a hot shiksa for seven days (eight days in Chutz La'aretz). But the RAMBAM concludes that if a goy had to eat Matzah for eight days, he would end up hating the Jews even more than he already does.

In truth, why do we stop our Pesach cleaning at our abode and our cars? A Gemarrah In Masheches Peshachim daff chuff aleph, amud baiz asks: Why don't we clean out our bodies of the Chometz we pump into them 51 weeks a year? Indeed, Rav Ashi holds that this is the reason that bechorim fast Erev Pesach, and that to get the full mitzvah, people should stick their finger's down their throats during bedikas chometz.

But further in the Gemarra, Rav Yosi disagrees, saying that since the food is already eaten, we hold that food cannot be eaten a second time, so there is no such requirement. However, Rav Yosi does go on to tell a story of how one year he told his wife that he needed her help cleaning for Pesach, since halacha required him to expel ALL possible bodily fluids. And due to her extreme gullibility, she helped him three times that night. What an Aishess Chayill. Unfortunately, he slept through much of the seder the next night, so he never dared to do it again.

My personal belief is that celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the einiklach. Beyond cleaning, you get the mitzvah of preparing the matzois and the ka'arah. During the Seder you are unified with all of Klal Yisroel in celebration. And after the Seder, while cleaning up, you lament the fact that your damn mother-in-law wasn't accidentally left in Mitzrayim.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.

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Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Rosheshiva
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess