I’ve have had it up to here!
In the year 2448, just days after the Yiddin left Mitzrayim a certain individual uttered the words ‘I’ve had it up to here.’ And if those weren’t his exact words, they were certainly meant convey that message.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the term “had it up to here” is used when someone has suffered because of someone or something and is no longer able to bear with the issue. The Urban dictionary gives this example for the expression “I’ve had it up to here.” It is usually used to describe when one has lost all patience for a situation or a person. Moreover, an exaggerated hand movement is commonly used alongside this expression, in other words: the expression comes with a hand gesture. I’ve had it up to here means and conveys that one has reached the end of one’s endurance or tolerance. The bottom line: the idiom “have had it” means azoy: to be frustrated to the point of exasperation (with someone or something). In this usage, the phrase can be followed with “up to here” as an intensifier.” When one has “had it up to here” one is completely worn out. One is exhausted with the situation. And taka that’s how many of us feel with this farkakte corona virus which continues to disrupt our lives. Daily, the governor of New York treats us to the numbers; we get to see the count of those newly infected, those on ventilators, those who expired since yesterday’s count, those expired since the onset of the virus, and a few other numbers. Local politicians and the media provide the gory details.
And it’s emes: for the most part, people have taka had it up to here. People want their lives back. Families want to reunite. Yiddin want their shuls open and there are at least three different views on how this may one day happen. Avada it’s not surprising that rabbis do not agree; what is surprising is that there are but three opinions. Ober not to worry; more are zicher coming; it’s what rabbis do. Yet more opinions, proposed rules and regulations will surely follow. Soon we’ll be busy arguing over which rabbi to follow, who was right, and which shul to attend once open. Grada this is quite relevant as mamish hours ago, New York’s governor announced that beginning Thursday –tomorrow mamish, religious gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed statewide if they are practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Seemingly, even at the state level, the importance of a minyan is not lost. Will we be making shul reservations? Buying tickets on-line? Pre-assigned seating? Just a few months ago, most shuls sent out notices that masks were verboten; my how the times have changed. Veyter.
Speaking of numbers, avada we should mention that this week we begin reading (laining when shuls are open) Sefer Bamidbar, also known as the Book of Numbers. Why numbers? Because as the parsha (also aptly named Bamidbar) opens, mamish in the second posik (Bamidbar 1:2), we are treated to numbers. The RBSO orders a count, the third census in under two years. He wants stats; how many men are there in each tribe over twenty years old, how many are fit to bear arms. Numbers and flag formations account for most of the parsha and shoin that ends our review of the parsha. We will be back with expanded parsha coverage soon.
In last week’s posting, somewhere on page one, we were bemoaning the fact that few, if any of us, know anyone by the name Yochai, the father of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai whose life was commemorated and celebrated on Lag b’oimer. We also mentioned Kolave ben Yifuneh, another great gentleman, one much loved by the RBSO as his name too was never popularized. Why? Ver veyst? Interestingly, the goyim do name their kids Kaleb, a name the Oisvorfer only heard back in the 60’s when watching shows like He-Haw. Ober, in our circles, can you name even one Kolave, Caleb or Kaleb? Mistama not!
Anyway, we’re back with another edition of ‘why aren’t there more people with that name’? This week we begin with, and efsher also end –unless the Ois has an epiphany and another topic pops into his head while stroking the keyboard- with this very topic. Grada it has some relevance to the parsha as we will explain below. We will remember a gentleman, a good guy, efsher even a frontline hero, by the name of Nachshoin ben Aminodov. Who was he? Why are we shouting him out in Parshas Bamidbar? Doesn’t his story take place in Bishalach? What was his story? And the key question are: what words de he supposedly utter? How are his related to our world of today?
Let us begin here. Nachshoin’s story, if emes -and why shouldn’t it be- does take place in Parshas Bishalach, back in Sefer Shmois, ober for reasons which are a shtikel unclear, even mysterious, there is no mention of him being on the scene. His name is mentioned but once in the entire Sefer Shmois, ober not in connection with any heroics. Shoin, while the media –print, radio and TV are busy, and correctly so, shouting out frontline workers for their heroism during the pandemic, our good rabbis of the heylige Gemora and medrish, told us that back in the year 2448, approximately a week after the Yiddin left Mitzrayim, Nachshoin was mamish a hero to the Yiddin. He too was on the frontlines. So happens that he gets a total of five Toirah shout-outs, as well as two more in Tanach. He is shouted out in this week’s parsha, and three more times, all in Sefer Bamidbar. In fact, he will be shouted out next week during the Yom Tov of Shovuis when his name appears in Migilas Rus (the book of Ruth), a book all should read at home. Ober why are we discussing his heroics here in Parshas Bamidbar which –as mentioned above- is mostly about counting the Yiddin? And before we answer that question, we may as well mention that the Yiddin were instructed -in our parsha- to count men only. Moreover, none of the counts ordered by the RBSO included girls or women. Why not? Ver veyst? Efsher the counts were intended for military preparedness and women –back then- were not to be on the front lines. Their fronts needed to be protected at all times, if you chap. In any event, why women were never counted is avada way over the Oisvorfer’s pay grade. It has certainly angered progressive women over the years, ober the Ois abides by this one rule: he does not question the RBSO. One day when it’s time to meet Him in person, you should all feel free to ask any questions on your mind. Be prepared however: He too may have questions on a few, if not many, of your decisions and actions Need more be said?
Shoin, if you went to yeshiva, and even if you were but a bum –most of us were- and though the monies spent by our parents for our educations could easily be classified as “aroisgivorfine gelt” (money in the toilet), we all recall a myseh involving this fellow Nachshoin ben Aminodov. He was the hero, the one fellow whose belief in the RBSO was strong, the man who took action by jumped into the sea, the man the RBSO may have heard just before He caused it to split. He was the man! Bikitzur (in short), here is the Nachshoin story:
He was the Nusee (prince) of Sheyvet Yehudah (the tribe of Judah). He is shouted out by name as the brother-in-law of Aharoin, the koihen godol. It’s taka a rear occasion when someone is shouted out in this unusual manner. The heylige Toirah tells us azoy in Shmois 6: 23: Aharoin took as a wife Elisheva, daughter of Aminodov and sister of Nachshoin, and she bore him Nodov and Avihu, Elozor and Isomor. Note that we are not told who Elisheva’s mother was. Ober our sages weren’t all that upset about the missing mother’s name; instead they were focused on the brother and were wondering why Nachshoin got a shout out. Was Aharoin interested in Elisheva davka because her brother was this Nachshoin fellow? Was he not going to marry Elisheva if her brother was not Nachshoin? One medrish believes that to be the case. Nu, as we all know, if the RBSO chose to shout him out and specifically where in the ordinary course of events we’d be hearing about the girl’s mother, there had to be a good reason. What that reason was, the RBSO did not tell us. He must have been a VIP and taka our sages of the medrish filled in the blanks. Let us find out how he earned his shout out.
The heylige Toirah tells us that seven days after leaving Mitzrayim, the Yiddin found themselves trapped between a raging sea and the vengeful Egyptian army. The RBSO gave Moishe a command that seemed impossible to fulfill: “Speak to the people of Israel; they shall travel.” This command is found in Shmois 14 posik 15. The order was given to go forward, sea or no sea. But who would make the first move? At that moment, Nachshoin’s devotion and bravery came to the fore. As expected, there are several versions of what went down, and how and when the sea split. The medrish (Mechilta, Beshalach 5; Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 42; Shmois Rabbah 13; and others) are all over this story of a man who responded and took action. The heylige Gemora (Soitah 37a) tells us azoy:
When Israel stood facing the Sea of Reeds, and the command was given to move forward, each of the shvotim (tribes) hesitated, saying, “we do not want to be the first to jump into the sea.” Nachshoin saw what was happening—took action and jumped into the sea. His action left an indelible mark on our nation and of course on the RBSO. Ober, there’s one thing wrong with the story: this part is nowhere to be found in the heylige Toirah and I mean nowhere. Was my (and everyone else’s) hero Nachshoin ben Aminodov but a buba myseh (a fable)? Oy vey! Say it’s not so please.
As mentioned above, Nachshoin gets another shout out in this week’s parsha, one next week and his final appearance will be in parshas Bihaloscho. Not one however mentions his sea-jumping call to action story. Ober not to worry because the heylige Gemora (Soitah 37a) tells us azoy:
R’ Yehuda said to [R’ Meir]: That is not what happened; but each tribe was unwilling to be the first to enter the sea. Then sprang forward Nachshoin the son of Aminodov and descended first into the sea; as it is said, Ephraim compasseth me about with falsehood, and the house of Israel with deceipt; but Yehuda yet ruleth with G-d . Concerning him it is stated in Scripture, Save me O G-d, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing etc. Let not the waterflood overwhelm me, neither let the deep swallow me up etc.
The heylige Gemora, quoting a posik from Tihilim has Nachshoin uttering these very famous words: “the waters are come in unto my soul.” In plain Hebrew and as translated by many a medrish, Nachshoin’s words were “bo’u mayim ad nofesh” – the waters have reached my soul. In plain English, they have often been translated azoy: “I’m in over my head.” Or, I’ve given it my best shot but now need help.
Let us see the Michilta’s version of Nachshoin’s words and how he translates them. Says the Mechilta DiRabbi Yishmael (BiShalach- Masechta Vayehi Parsha 50), azoy:
…..since they (the Yiddin) were standing and taking advice/debating/arguing (over what course of action they should take), Nachshoin ben Aminodov jumped (into the Red Sea) and he fell into the sea. The posik says: “Save me, O G-d, for water has come up to my soul,” (Tehillim 69:2). And he said, “I have sunk in muddy depths and there is no place to stand; I have come into the deep water, and the current has swept me away.” (Ibd. 69:3)…
Exactly what went down, besides the Mitzrim into the sea- at that time, ver veyst? The heylige Toirah lays all that out. What we do know is that Nachshoin is credited for having taken action when others would not and for jumping into the raging sea to show his belief in the RBSO. He then yelled out that the waters had reached his soul and that it was time for the RBSO to take over. He did! We all grew up using Nachshoin’s words -in every version- “I’ve had it up to here,” I can’t take it anymore! And that’s exactly where we stand today. We have -for the most part- listened, discussed, argued within our own families, social distanced, quarantined and separated from family members. It’s been rough. We’ve made many adjustments but are frustrated.
Nachshoin was taka a real frontline hero, and was handsomely rewarded by the RBSO for his actions. As mentioned, over Shovuis, as the Book of Rus comes to a close, we will come across these words in the last pisukim (Chapter 4:18-22):
(18) This is the line of Peretz: Peretz begot Chetztoin, (19) Chietzroin begot Ram, Ram begot Aminodov, (20) Aminodov begot Nachshoin, Nachshoin begot Salmon, (21) Salmon begot Boaz, Boaz begot Oved, (22) Oved begot Yishai, and Yishai begot David, as in King David.
Was Nachshoin rewarded for his bravery? For taking action while others were but arguing? For breaking the inertia? Medrish lists five rewards; pick one or more that talk to you. The medrish (Shmois Rabbah) lists two: his name was Nachshoin davka because he jumped into the waves of the ocean. He merited having five incredible descendants: Dovid, Daniel, Chananiya, Mishael and Azariyah. The heylige Gemora and the Michilta tell us his rewards included kingship as his tribe, (Yehudah) was given kingship forever. Moreover, the Moshiach will come from him. As well. Nachshoin was the first of the Nisi’im to bring a korban in the Mishkan.
The bottom line: Nachshoin displayed leadership qualities. Mistama for his actions, Nachshoin is a very famous character in the medrish though he is barely mentioned in the heylige Toirah Torah. When others were frozen in place and arguing next steps, he took bold actions. Leadership comes with risks; not all decisions are popular with all constituents. He didn’t fear polarization. He chose action over silence. It does appear that local rabbis, wherever you find yourselves, will be facing similar decisions; let’s hope they make good ones.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv