Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Bamidbar – Shouvuis 2015

GREATRaboyseyee and Ladies

The longest marriage in the world

The Oisvorfer had occasion this past week, to speak at two sheva brochos.  Last shabbis one speech was given in honor of the wedding of Tali Herenstein to Noah Kolatch and this past Monday evening, in honor of the wedding of Josh Blisko to Ellie Rubinfeld. And this information is being repeated why? Ershtens, to give yet another mazel tov shout-out to Josh and his lovely bride Ellie, to our friends on both sides, Carole and Shloime Blisko and to Tina and Stuie Rubinfeld and also to Tali and Noah and to the entire extended Herenstein- Kolatch- Kirschner and Gross families.

The information was also repeated because all this wedding talk got me thinking about marriage and in particular those that are long lasting. And taka this coming Sunday and also Monday here in golus, as we celebrate the great holiday of Shovuis, the Yom Tov when the RBSO gave us His heylige Toirah, we will be marking yet another anniversary. This one,  of the longest ever recorded marriage.  We speak avada of a wedding that took place over 3300 years ago, more specifically of a wedding -maybe of the shotgun variety-  that went down 3327 years ago this coming Sunday when the Yiddin got married under some unusual circumstances to the RBSO. Somehow and maybe against all odds it has endured, ober like most marriages, it has not been easy! Not long after the wedding, the Yiddin were already cheating with an eygel (golden calf) and Sefer Bamidbar which we begin reading this shabbis, will recount their misdeeds. There were many. On more than one occasion, the RBSO wanted us all dead. Zicher, many a wife and even a few (million) husbands have had similar thoughts.  He wanted to dissolve the marriage, annul it and mamish do away with His partnership. How this union has lasted 3327 years, ver veyst.

Welcome then to Sefer and Parshas Bamidbar which will recount the travails of the Yiddin, following Matan Toirah. In the next 10 weeks we will follow the Yiddin as they – much like Gilligan, his captain, the Professor, Ginger, Marianne, and a few others, set off on a short journey which was suddenly elongated. The Yiddin set out from Mitzrayim to the Promised Land but instead, due to poor judgment by 10 spies, wound up spending 40 years traversing the Midbar. Shoin, with little to do to keep themselves busy, many made their own entertainment, if you chap, some of which the RBSO mamish abhorred. At certain stops we will be revisiting in the coming weeks, they partied hearty with hot Midianite and Moabite shiksas while also bowing to, or efsher worse, performing other dastardly acts of Avoido Zoro (idol worship) -always a lethal combination- in order to chap the girls. At other resting places, they were just stam azoy bad. Why? Because it was still in their nature to be bad. Let’s not forget they were slaves for 210 years in a land of immorality. Nu, some of  it rubbed off, they did some of their own rubbing, if you chap, and, as a result, had dropped down to the 49th level of tumah, whatever that means. Interestingly enough, it’s a woman of Moabite descent, Rus,  that is the heroine of this Yom Tov as we read the very touching and emotional story of Rus (Ruth) who some for reason decided to convert to Judaism. Hard to believe and maybe even harder to chap is how welcoming the Yiddin were to her conversion and to her; times have certainly changed. More on her below.

In Sefer Bamidbar, the RBSO’s anger will flare from time to time and He will take these opportunities to thin out the population before escorting His chosen people over to the Promised Land. We will also say au-revoir to a few of our most prominent leaders including Moishe, Aharoin, Miriam, Chur and many others. Not to worry, though long deceased, they come back yearly. Ober before we discuss the parsha, its relevance to the great Yom Tov of Shovuis and a few other related topics, we have a number of windows to open and then in true Oisvorfer fashion, we will attempt to close each one. Ober ersthens (firstly)……a shtikel review of inyonay diyoimo (current events).

It so happened that at Josh Blisko’s aufruf this past shabbis, that the Oisvorfer was sitting two seats to the right of a young gentleman –let’s call him Jeff because that is his name-  and observed something he had never before seen. Where some have the minhag (custom) of standing during the laining (reading) of the parsha and only sit down between aliyos and while the greater majority sit throughout the entire reading, Jeff had a rather unusual minhag. He, like most, sat through the laining but stood up only for the brochos (blessings) before and after each aliya. Shoin for a moment, I thought I was over in Chelm, ober, when I asked the fine gentlemen if my eyes were deceiving me or not, he answered by advising that his minhag is rooted in halocho. It was, he stated, the law! When further questioned, he agreed to find me a source for his minhag and taka this past Tuesday evening, an email arrived wherein he quoted his source for this rather unusual and zicher not much practiced halocho.

Jeff’s email said to “check out the Mishna B’rurah 146:18-20. There you have 1. Standing vs. not standing for krias hatorah, and 2.Standing for Barchu by krias hatorah. See Baer Heitiv 146:5 who quotes Magen Avraham that one should stand for birchos hatorah as well (and see the Shaar HaTziyun 146:20 who disagrees).” But is Jeff standing on firm or even frum ground? Is this really a rule or a custom? Is it either? And if it is, why he the only person the Oisvorfer has witnessed doing this?

And it so happens that this coming Sunday, in honor of the anniversary, we will be reading the Ten Commandments, the very wedding vows given on Har Sinai 3327 years ago. They are found in parshas Yisroy. The entire congregation will be standing up in unison to hear them. Or will they? They remind us that we are still married. Seemingly, all the Yiddin were standing at the wedding on Har Sinai. Ober, in our times, is it taka emes that everyone stands up and does everyone agree that we are to stand up for this reading? And why is that some stand weekly for every reading and others don’t?  Are the sitters’ bad people? Do the standers also stand on Mondays and Thursdays? So many questions. Nu, in honor of Jeff and the coming Yom Tov, and because we have previously covered this not very eventful parsha four times, let’s dig a shtikel further into this subject. One thing is zicher: halocho or not, most people, whether sitting or standing, are doing some at least some talking or whispering during the laining ober that discussion for another day.

Does standing during laining make one frum, more frum? Is standing an obligation? For the reading? For the brochis? For both? Nu, believe it or not, when it comes to sitting or standing for either the laining or the brochos or both, there is no one universally accepted custom and there are certainly differences of opinion on what is law and isn’t. Shoin, no big surprise here; what in our beautiful tradition doesn’t have at least a few differing positions? Can they all be right? Ober which is the correct way for shabbis and the coming Yom Tov? Shoin: avada it depends on whom you ask. And before we answer that let’s examine a few of the more prevalent practices.

  • A large majority sit during the entire laining. You will soon be pleasantly surprised to hear that other luminaries, not just oisvorfs, follow this custom.
  • As it turns out, Jeff is not alone and there seemingly is a custom, maybe even a halocho (rule) allowing one to sit for the reading but to stand while the brochis are being recited. And FYI, the brochis begin with the words ‘Barchu…….” This group stands for the brochis only.
  • A minority in every shul stands during the entire laining but does sit down between aliyos.

Taka, the Shulchan Aruch (146) (Code of Jewish law) discusses whether one has to stand for the entire laining. And says the Mishna Birura in a note, azoy: According to all, one must stand during “Borchu” and “Boruch Hashem Hamvoiroch L’oilom Voed”. He says nothing about standing for laining or for the actual blessings themselves, either one. That being said, why do some taka stand for the laining? Surely there must be other views and of course there are.

Says the Mogen Avrohom and the Taz azoy: One must stand for all “D’varim-Shebi’-kedusha”  (holy words), ober, as expected, they disagree as to which parts of the ritual constitute the  D’varim Shebi’kedusha. Says the Taz as does the Mishne Birurua azoy: one must only stand for Barchu and Baruch Hashem Hamvoirach L’oilom Voed. Ober says the Mogen Avraham that all brochos on the heylige Toirah constitute Dvarim- Shebi’-kedusha (even the brocho following the laining). Does anyone stand for this last  brocho? Not!

And the bottom line? Seemingly all agree that Jeff is correct and that one should or must stand for Borchu and Boruch Hashem Hamviorach-L’oilam-Voed. Ober the reality is that ruba diruba (most people), including most rabbis, do not. Are we all bad? Are we all hell bound? We are, but not for that reason. And if by chance you find yourself in hell and punishment is being meted  out for not standing at the proper time in shul during laining, be comforted in knowing that you are likely at the very end of your beatings. Ober the question remains azoy: if it is halocho, why are so many ignoring this rule while Jeff stands almost alone?

Seemingly some important rabbis came along some time ago and decided that this law was not for them. Shoin, many of us do that daily, if you chap. And taka says the Pischei Teshuvis azoy: there is indeed a makor (basis) for not standing for either the reading or the brochis. Shoin and erleydigt (settled) because no lesser a Toirah giant than Reb Chaim Vital stated that his Rebbe (the Arizal), would sit from the beginning of the laining until the end. He didn’t stand at all?  Seemingly not even for the for the blessings! Avada we don’t ever argue with the Arizal, the great kabbalist because anyone brave enough to dip into the coldest mikveh on earth, had to know what he was doing! In other words: if the Arizal sat for both the laining and the brochis, perhaps we should too. Are you the  michutizf (wisenheimer) that wants to challenge the Arizal? And to quote the Chayei Odom: “Raui-lamoid”; it is merely nice and maybe proper to stand for Barchu, etc., ober it’s maybe not mandatory.

And the bottom line according to many, maybe even most? It’s seemingly permissible to sit during Kriyas HaToirah and such is the generally accepted minhag. Of course, some are machmir (strict) and stand as did the Yiddin when they received the heylige Toirah 3327 years ago on the little mountain. As to standing before, during and after the blessings, there are sources that state we should, however many don’t and those that don’t, will not seemingly burn in hell for that infraction because bigger and better people, prominent rabbis and kabbalists, also sat for the blessings. Ober the Oisvorfer did come across one interesting ruling or minhag  which states azoy: If one is in a shul where the rabbi is sitting, one should also sit. One may not stand in a shul where the local rabbi sits because his doing so is an act of arrogance. On the other hand, if one’s minhag is to sit but he finds himself in a shul where everyone is standing, one should either stand or find another more comfortable shul. Ober says the Oisvorfer azoy: if your rabbi is already arrogant, don’t worry about insulting him by doing the opposite of what he does.  Veyter!

Shoin, earlier we asked about standing this coming Yom Tov as we read the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments) and the answer goes like this. It depends if you are Ashkenazic whose minhag is to stand for the reading of the Aseres Hadibrois, or, if you are Sephardic whose minhag is not to stand for them.

Everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-Shavuot-cheesecake…-458x320As to the parsha, efsher you forgot or mistama because you didn’t pay attention you never knew that Parshas Bamidbar is always read just before Shovuis and so says the Shulchan Aruch, Oirach Chaim (428:4). Shoin!  And how was this arranged so perfectly? Much ink has been spilled trying to chap why our sages had this arranged ober bikitzur (in short), our wise chachomim (sages) somehow designed the cycle for the weekly readings to ensure this order. Ober why? Says Toisfis, the great medieval school of commentators on the heylige Gemora (Megillah 31b) azoy:  Chazal (our sages) wanted to “buffer” last week’s Parsha which contained stern warnings for the wayward bunch of Yiddin that just left Mitzrayim a few weeks back (just under seven) and its curses (that the chazzan reads in an undertone so that we don’t hear them all that well) in case they were to sin, and the “Yoim HaDin” of Shovuis. Hey, isn’t Yoim Hadin, another name for Yom Kippur? What’s it doing here in May on Erev Shovuis when we’re about to celebrate our anniversary with cheesecake and lactaid? What’s pshat? How and why is Shovuis considered a Yom HaDin? Ober says the heylige Gemora (Rosh HaShono 16a): on Shovuis the RBSO determines yield, an accounting term, not of humans, but of fruit trees. Ober, how is the fruit tree connected to the parsha and Shovuis? Nu, halt kup: the answer is that by placing Parshas Bamidbar between Shovuis and the Toichocho (admonitions), we metaphorically say to the RBSO that “The curses should apply to the previous year’s fruit crop and not affect the coming year.”  Why the poor innocent fruit tree needs to suffer for our behavior, ver veyst,  but that’s what it says and our job is to believe. Who says you have to chap everything? Thus, parshas Bamidbar acts as the stop gap between Bechukoisai and Shovuis to avoid any mention of our misdeeds, (of which, by this time of year, there are plenty).  Got that? Veyter.

Nu, if ever you wanted to take a shabbis off from listening to the laining whether standing or sitting, you might consider this parsha. Other than counting people, first all males above the age of 20 from every sheyvait (tribe) but Levi, and then a separate count for the liviyim, not much else going on. Why the livyim merited their own count is avada the subject of many a discussion ober the bottom line is that all the other shevotim participated in the creation of the eygel (golden calf); only the tribe of Levi had clean hands. But wasn’t Ahroin also from that tribe? He was ober he seems to have gotten a pass. When the RBSO likes you, all is good. In any event, as a shtikel reward, the RBSO counted us (Oisvorfer included) separately and designated us for special assignment in the midbar. Yet another reward was that we get to wash the hands of the koihanim. Oh and one more reward: For being such faithful Jews, the RBSO declared that we don’t get to own any land in Israel and had to instead schnoor off the other shevotim. Efsher the RBSO did not want to burden us with land ownership, maintenance, real estate taxes, having to plow and all other giferliche burdens of ownership, ver veyst. Is plowing bad?

Ober let’s quickly look at the first few pisukim. The parsha opens with the RBSO’s  command that a census be taken of the Yiddin, the first of  three  such counts taken in the first thirteen months following the Exodus from Mitzrayim.  As to why the RBSO wanted the Yiddin counted, why three counts in such close succession and the differences between them, ver veyst.  Of course Rashi knows and suggests that the RBSO counted the Yiddin because He loved them. “Because they (the Children of Israel) are dear to Him, He counts them all the time: When they went forth from Egypt He counted them; when they fell because of (the sin of)  the Eygel  (Golden Calf) , He counted them; when He was about to make His presence dwell amongst them (i.e., in the Tabernacle) He counted them. For on the first of Nissan the Tabernacle was erected, and on the first of Iyar (the next month) He counted them.” Seemingly this love fest didn’t last all that long  and it  so happens that kimat all the Yiddin counted  in the first  and second counts will have died in the coming 40 year trek through the Midbar, but that for another day; let’s stay focused.  The RBSO ordered a count and that’s what Moishe, Aharoin and their 12 assistants did.

Interestingly enough, the words of the heylige Toirah in commanding the census are quite ominous. Said the RBSO that Moishe should “count the heads” (1:2) of all the households,  ober the Hebrew word used for the counting  instructions “Se-u” could also mean, “Lift the heads”. Why would the Toirah use such ambiguous language? Or can we kler (ponder) that lifting their heads actually meant ‘off with them’ and that is  exactly what would befall  a great majority of them throughout Sefer Bamidbar for their less than exemplary behavior which avada the Oisvorfer will cover in great detail in the coming weeks. Also, why were they to be counted according to their households, which had never been done in the past? Says Rashi: that prior to the census each Yiddile (Jew) brought the records of his/her pedigree and birth certificate, so that each one could trace his genealogy to a tribe. Each was required to produce a yichus-breef (book of his/her lineage) and adds the medrish that producing this book was also a prerequisite for each person to receive the heylige Toirah. Yikes!  Ober says the medrish, (Tanchuma, Ki Sissa, 9 and other places), so gishmak azoy: The Yiddin were only counted a total of nine times until today, and the tenth, will be the final count, when the Moshiach arrives.


And speaking of being uplifted, said Rav Moshe Feinstein, A’H so gishmak azoy: The RBSO’s usage of the word ‘se’u’ when instructions were given to conduct a census, (Bamidbar 1:2) is not insignificant. The heylige Toirah is teaching us that everyone was uplifted by this count. The awareness that everyone was counted and reckoned equally before the RBSO, gave each Jew a heightened sense of meaning, significance, and self-respect. Efsher we can kler azoy. No matter where one finds himself, even in his own personal midbar, in his/her own wilderness, going about life aimlessly, every person has value. Each was counted as much as the next in this divinely ordained census. In the RBSO’s eyes each Jewish person is a valued member of His tribe and army. He/she is no less than any other person who might outwardly seem to be superior in spiritual or other accomplishments. Those who have given up hope and believe that they cannot elevate themselves or make it through a funk or others of life’s daily battles, should learn this lesson: Everyone counts in the eyes of the RBSO. Of course this is not reality but still a nice vort!

also goodShoin earlier we mentioned that we will be reading the great book of Rus (Ruth), ober why? How long will it be before a few of today’s Taliban rabbis decide that we should not be reading the books of Rus and Esther as their reading  could lead to mixed dancing and chazerish thoughts? Mistama not too far. Ober while we are enjoying these great books, lommer lernin a few reasons brought down as to why the book of Rus is read over Shovuis. Some say, the great story of how Boaz treated Rus, gives us a picture of how the poor, during the harvest season, were treated with sympathy and love. Rus was poor, Boaz was rich. A match made in heaven or in this case, on the field, when Rus lay down next to Boaz. Ober listen to this blow-away pshat. Rus tells the story, in vivid detail, of the perfect and sincere convert. She mamish felt it. She wasn’t converting because she had a Jewish boyfriend whose parents wouldn’t allow him to marry her until she converted. She felt the RBSO in her bones. And on the Yom Tov of Shovuis, the Yiddin en masse –after being threatened with a mountain over their heads, according to some- entered this covenant with the RBSO by willingly accepting His Toirah. And with the receipt of the heylige Toirah, or as we say during davening (in the Hallel), the “Time of the Giving of Our Law,” we too – all the Yiddin- were like converts. We pledged, as did Rus, to accept the Toirah and to fulfill its 613 commandments.

Another pshat (Yalkut Shimoni) goes like this. We read Rus to teach us that the heylige Toirah is acquired only through affliction and suffering.  And said Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov (The Book of our Heritage) azoy: This makes it possible to explain why we recall Dovid (King David) through reading the story of Rus on this Yom Tov. To teach us that a person can become a tool for the purpose of Heaven on this earth only through affliction and suffering. For both Rus and Dovid had to go through the same path of affliction. And says the Oisvorfer: Of course Dovid was afflicted; he had 18 wives. Moreover, according to many, Shovuis is the yurtzeit (anniversary of the death, some say also the birthday) of Dovid Hamelech), and it’s in last few pisukim of Rus where the birth of Dovid and the genealogy of the House of David are delineated. Dovid Hamelech was the great-grandson of Rus and Boaz. Avada we should also give a shout-out to Yehudah and Tamar, who though long dead, had generations back, somehow gotten together in a roadside incident from which came forth the seedlings of the House of David. Gishmak.

One of the more quoted reasons for its reading on Shovuis is because  Rus’s arrival to Israel took place around the time of Shovuis, and her acceptance into the fold is analogous to the acceptance by the Yiddin eople of the RBSO’s Toirah. Here are a few more. Let’s learn a shtikel gematria (numerical values). The Hebrew spelling of Rus comes to 606. On Shovuis the Yiddin received 606 new commandments in addition to the 7 that were previously given to Odom and Chava, thereby now accepting a total of 613. Also up for consideration is this pshat. Shovuis is also known as Chag Hakotzir (the harvest festival). Migilas Rus, as stated above, gives us a picture of the harvest, and how the poor were treated in the harvest season with sympathy and love. The story, we are told, took place Shovuis time at the time of the spring harvest.

Though many of the events as related in the Rus story, seem at least farfetched, if not somewhat bizarre, it was the hand of the RBSO at work. Seeing how Rus had pure intentions, that she mamish felt Him in her bones, He led her in directions that resulted in this very gishmake story that we enjoy reading every year. And if that meant that a Toirah rule of not allowing a Moabite into our fold had to be amended so that only men were excluded, yet women are allowed entry, so be it.

On the other hand, our rabbis taught us that it was the beis din (religious court) led by Boaz, who seemingly had his eyes and later himself on Rus, if you chap, which ruled that this prohibition applied only to male Moabites, but not to females.


A gittin shabbis and yom tov-

The Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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