Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Purim to All...

Good morning everyone.

It is a tradition at Purim to poke fun at most things.  In that regard, I have written a Purim teshuva.  A teshuva is the answer to a Jewish legal question.  Please note two things: it is a time-honoured tradition to give the great rabbis of history abbreviations based on either their names or their books.  Also, the family of ibn Jikatilia is a real family of exegetes.  I believe that they are from Spain around the 12th century.  I apologize that some of the Hebrew just will not be helped by translation.


Performance Enhancers in Jewish Law: From Proceedings of the CJLS, as recorded by Rav Sean Gorman 

With the recent controversy in sports swirling around Andy not-so Petite, Lance artificially Armstrong, and A-Roid on their use of performance enhancers, rumours have also surrounded several Rabbis.  The Rabbinical Assembly is thus concerned that a sizable number of our sizable colleagues, who shall remain nameless, have taken performance-enhancing substances before working with congregations. Questions pertaining to the permissibility of such substances have come before the CJLS (Committee of Jewish Law and Substances). Arguments have been strong, and a number of our colleagues have clobbered each other with the tenacity of their legal positions.

Rav Boaz Gershom ben Gamliel v'Yehudit, the BiG GuY, has commented that even though there are health implications to the use of such performance enhancers, they have not yet been deemed illegal according to Jewish Law. As such, their use in Rabbinics is available to all. It is unfair, he argues, to penalize those who use them because of the wimpy ones who choose not to partake. Furthermore, many of our colleagues have used them for more than three Shabbatot. As such, they have a Hazakah to use them.

Rav Ditza Meira bat Gal v'Dina, the DeMiGaD, argues that there may even be a hiyyuv (obligation) to use performance enhancers. The Shulchan Arukh (OH 1:1) states clearly that we are to "gain strength like a lion to stand in the morning." What else could help a person to gain strength more quickly than a performance enhancer? Is this any different from our morning cup of coffee?  The DeMiGaD even suggests that the proper blessing over one of these substances should be “ozer Yisrael bigvura - who girds us with strength.” Furthermore, she argues, for a Rabbi to use such performance enhancers is actually bringing his/her hopes for the congregation to the office every morning. It is stating that the congregation should gain strength like a lion.   Beyond only being a hiyyuv then, harei zeh mesubach.

Rav Dov Menachem ben Jokitilia, the DuM Jok, argues from a kal vachomer. Samson, the judge and part-time hair stylist, used his hair (actually, it was a toupe) as a performance enhancer. Surely, had he been alive in our day, he would have used something stronger.  If Samson used a performance enhancer, how much the more so the Rabbis of today can do the same. Interestingly, the DuM Jok, a graduate of 3080 Mulholland, was rather unimpressive as a beginning student. Over time, his teachers and classmates became rather impressed by the substance of his learning, and were amazed at how quickly he became a gadol.

A very weak argument opposing the use of performance enhancers was brought by Rav Vofsi ben Menachem Perach, the ViMP. He argues unconvincingly, stating that performance enhancers are for performers. Rabbis are not performers. As such, they should remain off limits to members of the RA.  However, he recommends strongly that the Cantors’ Assembly consider this issue immediately, and try not to give it a song and dance. 

Our colleague R. Chaim Menashe ben Pruta, also known as the CHuMP, concurred with the ViMP.  He held that there is no evidence that Moshe Rabbeinu took performance enhancers, and yet managed to maintain his strength up until his dying day.  No one really cared about this argument though, as the Torah is not a primary source.  A vote was taken amongst the members of the committee, and it was quickly concluded that the CHuMP should clean the room at the end of the deliberations.

Ruv Binyamin ben Ilan v’Shifra, the RuBISH, added a throwaway comment that all of the opinions lacked strength.  He did say why, but since the comment of the RuBISH was a throwaway comment, the secretary did not deem it worth adding into the record of deliberations.

By this point, Rav Kish ben Tarfon, the RoKeT, testified, I mean reasoned, before the committee that the ability to deliver a sermon in less than 20 minutes, or to say Musaf in less than 30 minutes, is critical to the success of the Klei Kodesh.  Performance enhancers provide the edge for those Rabbis and Cantors who cannot get the congregation out by noon.  The RoKeT’s barely-concealed rage exploded as he made his pitch.  He launched himself out of the room in a huff, punching two of our colleagues, and then jumping through a closed window.  He was last seen doing his daily five-minute, five-kilometre run at Earl Bales Park.  His behaviour is even now before the Va’ad Kavod (Ethics Committee) due to violation of displacement procedures.

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