18 Minutes, Twilight and Gabbaigate
Mazel tov! This past Tuesday (Monday over in Israel), the Yiddin completed yet another cycle of the heylige Toirah. Though the heylige Toirah, gifted to the Yiddin in the year 2448 is over 3300 years old, it seems that we never tire of reading it, and this coming shabbis, we begin anew with Sefer and parshas Bereishis (the book of Genesis). Toirah personalities we said good-bye to last year come alive again as we revisit the story of creation, man, woman, the snake and their collective involvement in the first sin. A number of rabbis tell us that we are still paying for that sin. Hevel, long dead having been killed by his jealous brother Kayin makes a brief appearance this week and there is so much more. Let’s begin our 9th review of this parsha, ober….before we do, let’s start where we do from time to time: the Yiddin are a difficult people and do not like one another.
We are taught that Yom Kippur forgives sins between Odom Lamokom (between the RBSO and man). Ober, no matter how many times we beat our collective chests, or attempt transferring our sins over to unsuspecting chickens, or even a body of water, when it comes to sins between man and man, one must seek direct forgiveness from the aggrieved party. Of course in our modern times, this can be accomplished via text, email, What’sApp, and various other outlets. Ober what happens when one man, seemingly angry at the shul’s gabbai, sins immediately Yom Kippur? Is he worthy of honor? Let’s find out. On the shabbis just before the joyous holiday of Sukkis, davening -as it does in most shuls- began at 9:00AM. By 10:00 it was time for kriyas haToirah (reading of the weekly portion). The shul’s gabbai went to his gabbai toolkit, a small box containing 3×5 index cards, each listing the member’s name, the names of a spouse, kids, parents, as wells other useful information. So happens that the gabbai is meticulous about maintaining his records. Weekly, he updates the cards to reflect who has received an aliya the previous shabbis. The box is rather full. Ober, on this particular shabbis, just two days after Yom Kippur, while the box itself was found in its usual place, it was all but empty. All the cards but one were gone! Fartig! How could cards disappear? They cannot! At least not on their own. The cards went missing because someone took them and either hid them, or threw them out. Who would to that and why? Who are the suspects?
And the likely answer is: only an aggrieved party, one pissed off at the gabbai would have the motive to upset the gabbai and send him a massage. And who might that be? Orthodox readers avada know that Yom Kippur features many kibudim (honors). The Oroin Koidesh (Ark) is opened and closed dozens of times, and of course there are other honors which may be bestowed upon certain people. These include six who receive aliyas in the morning (those called to the Torah), three more in the afternoon, including an honor known as Maftir Yonah where we read the story of Iyov (Job), and of course, efsher the superbowl of all honors, the opening of the Ark for Tfilas Nila. Many shuls sells these honors and in a number of them, each -specifically the honors of certain Ark openings, as well as aliyas- goes for many hundreds of dollars. Bidding is real and competitive. At times, it separates the men from other men. In certain Sephardic and Lebanese shuls, these honors typically sell for thousands, at times even tens of thousands.
At the shul where the Oisvorfer was davening this year, such honors were not sold, instead they were doled out by the gabbai. And what happens when one person decides he is entitled to a certain honor but does not get it? How does he react? It’s simple: he seeks revenge by disrupting the gabbai’s routine, by emptying the gabbai’s toolkit. By either hiding or discarding the gabbai’s most valuable possession, his 3×5 index cards. The bottom line: Yiddin, even two days after Yom Kippur, let their egos, which in the case at bar matched the size of one member’s stomach, get in the way of commons sense and humility. Can Moshiach be on his way? Not if his arrival is dependent -in any way shape or form- on the good behavior beyn odom lichavayroi (between man and his fellow man). Mamish a shanda! Shoin, having ranted, let’s begin.
My orthodox readers- men and women alike- know that no matter what time shabbis begins, even at 8pm during the summer months, there aren’t enough minutes in the day to get all ready for shabbis. For reasons which remain inexplicable – seemingly but one of life’s rules- we cannot get our acts together; there are always last minute things to get done. Azoy geyt es (that’s how it is). Ober, what has that do with this week’s parsha? Halt zich eyn (keep your pants on): something the nochosh (snake) should have done instead of seducing Chava (Eve) in efsher the first case of sexual harassment ever recorded. Is it a wonder the RBSO decided to chop its legs off? Without legs, the snake no longer had pants to remove.
While most Oisvorfer’s readers are, or should be more than familiar with the six days of creation, this year we shall shine some light on what the RBSO was doing late on Friday afternoon on that very day. Let’s begin with day six. Avada you all know that it was on this auspicious day that the RBSO created all the behaymis and vilde chayis, the entire animal kingdom. Also that very day, He said -mistama to one off His angels: Let us make man. Shoin, and that’s where it all began to fall apart. Efsher we can kler that many a man, women too (and let’s not in today’s #MeToo times forget to give them equal billing) have at times, and continue with regularity, to act like behaymis and vilde chayis, if you chap. Is it because they share a birthday with the animal kingdom? They were born under the same astrological signs and efsher man likes to roam about because that’s precisely what animals do? Not a terrible thought. Shoin, let’s stay focused.
Over Simchas Toirah as we were closing out parshas V’zois Habrocho, we came across a number of pisukim which described the passing and burial of Moishe Rabaynu. In fact let’s read a few of the pisukim innanveynig. Why? Because these are read after most have made kiddush at least once, and many of you are no longer in shul. Many are busy schmoozing or complaining about the never ending Yom tov. Says the heylige Toirah (Devorim 34: 5-6), azoy:
|5. And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there, in the land of Moab, by the mouth of the Lord.
|הוַיָּ֨מָת שָׁ֜ם משֶׁ֧ה עֶֽבֶד־יְהֹוָ֛ה בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מוֹאָ֖ב עַל־פִּ֥י יְהֹוָֽה:|
|6. And He buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe’or. And no person knows the place of his burial, unto this day.||ווַיִּקְבֹּ֨ר אֹת֤וֹ בַגַּי֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מוֹאָ֔ב מ֖וּל בֵּ֣ית פְּע֑וֹר וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע אִישׁ֙ אֶת־קְבֻ֣רָת֔וֹ עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה:|
Says Rashi something quite extraordinary. Moishe’s casket, grave, or whatever he was buried in by the RBSO Himself, was created on the sixth day of creation. It was? Well, not exactly on day six but at twilight or what the heylige Gemora calls “beyn hashmosis” late on Friday. What the hec is a bein hashmosis you ask? Shoin, to make a long story short, beyn hashmoshis or twilight, is defined as the period of time which begins just after shkia. In other words: twilight begins once the sun has set. In fewer other words: bein hashmosis begin at sunset. When is that? When the disk of the sun disappears below the horizon. Come again!? And when is shkia and what is it? On Fridays, shkia begins 18 minutes after candlelighting and following shkia or shkias ha’chama (its full name) as described in the heylige Gemora, and for you Larry David fans, also on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
If you’re wondering how it came to be the accepted practice to light shabbis candles eighteen minutes before sunset, shoin, that too is a story ober not for today. The bottom line: it wasn’t always eighteen minutes. Ober, bazman hazeh (in our times) eighteen has been universally accepted. Of course, those traveling to Yirusholayim (Jerusalem) will find that candle lighting there is approximately 45 minutes before sunset. Veyter.
Thankfully, our rabbis (those who went to school and studied other subjects in addition to the heylige Gemora) sat down and created calendars which tell precisely what time daylight, sunrise, sunset, and many other times -including but not limited to the last time we may recite the Shema, the earliest times to daven Mincha and other times we need to know during the day. As an aside, not everyone agrees that beyn hashmosis begins after sunset and the Rabaynu Taam – who also has a pair tifilin named after him, asserts that there is a second sunset which occurs later than the sunset we are all accustomed to. His views and how they affect mostly chasiddim (when they begin and end shabbis) are for another day. For today, what you need to know is that on the first ever Friday afternoon, sometime after shkias hachama and during beyn hashmosis, a time when we ordinary humans all make Shabbis and are no longer permitted to do work of any sort, the RBSO was still busy working. In fact, says the Mishneh (Ovois 5:6) that during this time period, the RBSO was not just working, but He was quite busy. Says the Mishneh: He created 10 different things during that time period. He did? What ten things? Let’s find out. Says the Mishneh, azoy: Ten things were created by the RBSO on erev Shabbis at twilight (at the end of the sixth day of creation). They are:
1 – the opening of the earth, which swallowed Koirach and his followers. We will encounter them next year in sefer Bamidbar.
2- the opening of the well (that provided water for the Yiddin in the desert).
3- the mouth for Bilam’s donkey.
4- the rainbow that appeared after the mabul (the great flood during Noiach’s times).
5- The munn (mann) the Yiddin ate while sojourning the desert.
6- the mateh (stick) Moishe used to perform miracles and which he seemingly abused by hitting the rock.
7- the shamir worm used to cut stones used to build the Beis Hamikdash.
8- the letters (written shape of the letters of the Hebrew Alef Beis).
9- the engraved writing of the of the luchis (Tablets).
10 – the luchis (the first set of the Ten commandments).
Ok- and what does all that have to do with Moishe’s burial, with creation and with running out of time each and every Friday? Everything! How so? Ah…because the Mishneh continues and says…”and some say that also created on day six at twilight, were: Moishe’s grave, and the ram that Avrohom Ovenu slaughtered at the very last minute instead of his son Yitzchok. Mamish gishmak! Moishe’s grave which we read about on Simchas Toirah a few days back, was prepared by the RBSO on day six, late on Friday afternoon during beyn hashmosis. Shoin…what do we learn from this Mishneh: that weekly on Fridays, we -as was the RBSO- are always busy with last minute things. We are busy with narishkyet ober, He was busy with last minute creations.
Ober wasn’t it already shabbis? Doesn’t beyn hashmosis begin after sunset? At a time when work is forbidden? Not so fast you oisvorfs. Why not? Because the RBSO avada knew exactly – to the mili mili second or whatever time interval He was using at that time- what time shabbis began, and if He was still busy creating things -including Moishe’s grave- than it wasn’t yet shabbis. Ober, us mortals cannot be that precise. Accordingly, we are forbidden to do any work past sunset. Got all that? Shoin, now it all makes sense. Even chasiddim who follow the Rabaynu Ta’am, he the good man who says that the period of beyn hashmosis either begins later and certainly ends later, do not do mooch (work) during beyn hashmosis.
Speaking of things He created during those few seconds or minutes, the heylige Gemora (Pisochim 54A) goes on and tells us azoy: “And there are those who say that also created on that first erev shabbis at beyn hashmosis (twilight), was Aharoin’s staff with its ripening of almonds and its sprouting of blossoms.” We have previously (in parshas Koirach) covered his shtekin and the entire flowering miracle. Let’s move on. The Gemora continues “and there are those who say that the destructive spirits were also created at that time.” Why would He create these spirits? Ver veyst! Finally, there are those who also include Odom’s garment on the list of last minute items the RBSO was busy with in those last ticks of some clock before shabbis arrived. Another shtikel Gemora tells us that the RBSO also created the first ever set of tongs during beyn-hashmosis. As an aside, thongs, with all together another purpose, would not be invented until the late 1900’s. Veyter. Efsher you’re wondering why the RBSO decided to create “mazikim,” evil and destructive spirits, are you? Ver veyst: ober says the achroin Rabbi Art Scroll in his notes to the Gemora, azoy: After creating Odom and Chava as a conjoined unit (Adam & Eve) on Friday, He created many other spirits, ober they were all bodyless. Why? Seemingly the shabbis arrived before He gave them bodies. And since the RBSO ceased all creative work as of the heylige shabbis, these spirits, known as “sheydim” (demons) remained for all times as spirits without physical form. And says the Meiri: these spirits are the many forms of the yetzer horo (evil inclination) who cause us to go astray. What chances do we humans who share a birthday with the animal kingdom have to overcome the RBSO’s own last minute before shabbis creations? Zero! The demons remain ever so powerful. Thankfully, He also gave us many opportunities to repent and begin the cycle all over again as we do with the reading of parshas Bereishis this shabbis.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv