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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Our Mindset in Elul
I have received numerous comments about my focus in recent Drashas on contemporary political issues. People are concerned that as a rabbi I have limited insight into nuclear weapon technology, Iran, Israel, the United States, Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Gentiles, anti-Semitism, etc. What they fail to understand in their ignorance is that my encyclopedic knowledge of the Gemarrah has prepared me for everything in life. That is why this morning I will be performing cardiac surgery, this afternoon I will be meeting with the leaders of the Federal Reserve Bank to discuss how to flag up the US and global economy in the wake of the precipitous slowdown of the Chinese economy, and this evening I will be replacing the transmission on my vintage Ford Town and Country station wagon with the artificial wood siding. And my critics should all of course go take a Flying Tashmish HaMitah.
However, it is Elul, and excessive focus on the external world is indeed a distraction from our internal souls, our Neshamas, at a time when we anticipate standing in front of the Reboinoisheloilum, the Sutun prosecutor, the angels, and The Three Stooges - Avraham ("Moe") Avunu, Yitchak (Larry) Avinu, and Yankif (Curly) Avinu, although Eisav ("Shemp") Avinu sometimes puts in an appearance. Moishe Rabbeinu will, of course, be at the roulette table, Aroin HaKoihain - the Minuval, will be at the blackjack table, and Duvid HaMelech will be in a private room playing high stakes poker.
It should be noted that not one of the judges, prosecutors, jurors or others at the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), which also includes Heavenly Guards, Celestial Bailiffs, and Holy Court Reporters, is a women. There is a reason for this: "Nashim Daason Kalois" - women have weaker minds. And vaginas. Therefore the recent experiment with teaching women Gemarrah should perhaps be reassessed. They demonstrate that they of simple minds have such a poor ability to understand Talmud, now they want to become Rabbis and take the jobs of some of the men... errr.... Want to lead other women astray from being barefoot and pregnant, which is what Hakadoshboruchhu intended.
We are so grateful to Rabbi Mordechai Willig for having shared this Chiddush. He wrote this in an article that has been celebrated the world over, usually by women burning an effigy of Rabbi Willig,
It is wonderful that Rabbi Willig is once again taking a critical leadership role in Klal Yisroel. Why, it is already 26 years since he allegedly blew the Bais Din assigned to evaluate the actions of Baruch Lanner. In was an unsuccessful Bais Din, essentially exonerating Lanner, who went on to sexually abuse young women and physically abuse young men for another ten years. Many believe that it was Willig who swayed the other judges to disregard the testimony of those students who spoke against Lanner.
But I see no Stirah, no contradiction, here. Rabbi Willig clearly believes that it is acceptable for rabbis to sexually abuse women, just so long as they do not teach them Gemarrah.
I myself have been a big supporter of educating women in the ways of the Aimishteh/ Aibishter. That is why four years ago I opened my own Yeshiva for women, Y-CEF, Yeshivas Chippas Emmess for Females. Here the women learn Gemarrah, Mishnah Halacha, Machshavah, Kabbalah and Chassidus. However, in the spirit of the old Lithuanian Yeshivas, we do not teach them TANACH; the novels they are reading these days have much better sex scenes.
The role of an educator and rabbi is varied. We lead. We teach. We Paskin Shailois. I just Paskined on a leopard patterned thong. Either the woman was still seeing Mei Nidah, or the leopard had just gotten into a nasty fight with a wildebeest, Chass V'Sholom.
We also mentor. When the Mishnah teaches us "Asel Lechah Rav, U'Knai Lecha Chaver", this does not refer to Toirah scholarship; rather, it refers to living by example and finding the appropriate communal role models.
For me, that is an important component of my role. It was really at the top of my agenda when I opened the boy's yeshiva 35 years ago. I used to mentor the Buchrim in many ways. I would learn Toirah with them. Speak to them in my office. Go for kosher pizza or Starbucks with them. Play sports with them. Anything to bond with them. However, I did draw the line: One day one of the Buchrim, after a nice workout, suggested that we go take a shower together and sit in the Schvitz and talk a little. I told him "no thank you", as it says in the Gemarrah that a student should never see his rebbe naked, as it is not appropriate behavior. Besides, someone might see us and think we are gay, Chass V'Sholom.
However, seeing no conflict about someone potentially making that error when I mentor women, I regularly bond with some of my female students in all the ways mentioned above, plus, after a nice game of volleyball, I will take a shower with them. Nothing sexual, of course, after all I AM a rabbi! So we will stand inches away from each other, naked in the shower, dripping wet. Them we might wrap ourselves in towels and go to the Schvitz and talk about their careers, their aspirations, their boyfriends, and what makes them feel good after a long stressful day and a few glasses of wine.
Note: I do acknowledge that I have taken such showers with young Bat Mitzvah girls at the age of 12 or a little bit older. But once my Board of Directors suggested that I no longer do that, I have halted such activities, except for on Yom Tov Sheni Shel Goliyois, Isru Chag, Tu Bishvat, and when their parents are out of town.
Now, some people have suggested that my actions are very similar to those of Jonathan Rosenblatt, the rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center. Rosenblatt, despite revelations of his showering and naked Schvitzing with tens or hundreds of naked young men and boys as young as the age of twelve over the past twenty years or more, refuses to step down from his pulpit, and is being retained by his synagogue, apparently after the Chair and President of his Board overrode a Board vote to remove him from his role. And even in the face of his synagogue splitting, he is set on remaining in his position.
Well, my actions are quite different from his. His victims... errr... Talmidim are all males, and, consequently, they are prone to having long term effects of inappropriate exposure to an authority figure who exploited his position to engage in a form of sexual abuse. Abuse comes in many forms: Touching is just one of them, as is sexual penetration. But other forms include voyeurism and exhibitionism. Sexual abuse can simmer for years, so the "special male bonding" Rosenblatt initiated may only bear fruit years later, as some of his victims experience PTSD, professional and personal dysfunction, relationship problems, substance abuse, etc. later on in life.
However, my mentoring of women is not at all comparable. Women will not be subjected to PTSD and other post stress manifestations, since Nashim Daason Kalois, so their intellectual and emotional needs are, frankly, not of concern to Toiradickah Yidden. And, may I point out, at least I am not gay, Boruch HaShem.
So as we focus on our Ruchniyus, our individual spirituality, during this Choidesh of Elul, we need to step back from the news headlines and contemplate our own existential standing. Have we used our time wisely, focusing on becoming better human beings? Or have we behaved selfishly? Have we focused only on Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, commandments regarding the Divine and man, but not concerned ourselves with treating others with respect, or worrying about those less fortunate than us or different than us? Have we been arrogant and focused only on our egos? In other words, have we acted like Donald Trump? Or even worse, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky?
Or have we also concerned ourselves with Mitzvois Bain Adam LaMakoim, commandments regarding man and man, helping the unfortunate, the poor, the single mothers, the widows and orphans, the socially isolated, the hungry, the weak, the victims of abuse, and the abandoned, and even those that do not look like us, act like us, share our religious beliefs, or share our sexual orientation? And have we made certain that in the process we do not humiliate or exploit them to satisfy our own egos or sexual desires?
There is a famous story about the Kutzker Rebbe. The Kutzker was teaching his Talmidim about the importance of modesty, chastity, and poverty in becoming closer to the Reboinoisheloilum. Suddenly, one of his Talmidim, Beryl Markovitz, came running into the Bais Medrish excitedly, declaring, "Rebbe, My family just won the lottery! We are no longer poor!"
To which the Kutzker replied, "you Beryl, and your entire family, are now Oisgefucked."
"Why would you say such a thing?" asked Beryl.
The Kutzker adjusted the Yarmulke on his head and responded slowly. "Berylchic, we enter this world naked and helpless. And we leave this world in shrouds and helpless. That is how Hakadoshboruchhu created us and wants us to be. If the Aimishteh wanted us to spend all of our waking hours collecting resources, focusing on Gashmiyus, materialism, He would have created us with pockets, like kangaroos."
Beryl understood the wisdom of his rebbe, and convinced his family to donate the entire lottery winnings to support the Kutzker's Yeshiva.
That Roish HaShana the Kutzker came before the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), and with the large donation in his pocket, was given a seat at Dovid HaMelech's private poker game. However, he lost the entire fortune in several hands, and, as is well known, shortly afterwards lost his mind and lived the last twenty years of his life isolated in one room in his home, watching reruns of Friends and Arrested Development.
Beryl, on the other hand, left the Yeshiva, shortened his last name and met a friend, Friederich Engels, with whom he collaborated on two books - The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. And every year he took the proceeds of his book sales and spent the entire Aseres Yemai Teshuvah as a paid guest at the Trump Heavenly Court and Casino (TM), where he sat next to Moishe Rabbeinu and had a lot of luck at the roulette wheel, especially when he bet on red.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess