As we approach Parshas Bihaloischo, the Oisvorfer begins with a special shout-out to his chaver Boruch Singer whom he met way back in 1975 and with whom he has enjoyed uninterrupted friendship since. Boruch will be celebrating the 47th anniversary of his own bar mitzvah this shabbis; mazel tov!
All new for 2013
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
Moishe and his wives, more than one? An 8 pager but you won’t be able to stop reading: It’s givaldig, amazing and more.
Soon we’ll zicher address that topic ober ershtens (firstly), a hartzikin dank (a heartfelt thank you) to all those who read at least the first paragraph of last week’s heylige Toirah, felt the Oisvorfer’s pain and responded with an array of eytzos (ideas). Mamish over 1,000 responses from all over the globe with more than a few very creative and interesting ideas on how to alleviate pain, or, at least forget temporarily, if you chap. A few suggested medicinal marijuana, others a double dose of scotch. Other suggestions included massages of every variety, a book written by Dr. Sarno and myriad other ideas. As you can only imagine, only a few can be reprinted here. In any event, it’s a week later; the MRI showed a pretty hefty herniation and treatment options are being explored. Lommer huffin that the RBSO will have some rachmunis (pity) and let the Oisvorfer heal fully without having to endure too much suffering.
Speaking of the RBSO having rachmunis, in this week’s more than amazing parsha of Behaloischo, make sure you read and chazir Perek yud aleph (aka: chapter 11). It’s efsher possible that this Chapter 11 was the forerunner of future reorganizations; certainly the Yiddin found themselves in some trouble and in need of some form or reorganization. In yud aleph, things begin to spiral a shtikel out of control. The RBSO gets incensed and shoin, that count we read about just two weeks ago, is no longer valid. The thinning out of the male population begins this week and will nebech continue for the next 38 years. Nu, the love was nice while it lasted.
Welcome to Parshas Behaloischo wherein we’ll be reading the first few of many unfortunate incidents and events which were to impact the Yiddin on their journey into the holy land. In Toirah time, we’re only in year two and avada you all zicher recall that it took the Yiddin a full 40 years to get to their destination ober an easy trek it wasn’t and seemingly their travails begin right here in our parsha. And what has all this to do with Moishe and his wife or wives? Ver veyst ober since the heylige Toirah saw fit to end the parsha with epes a shtikel Moishe controversy, avada we’ll have to dig further, ober noch nisht, halt zich eyn (keep your pants on).
Not too far back the Yiddin left Mitzrayim, witnessed open miracles mamish while the Mitzrim gave chase, arrived at Har Seenai and proclaimed in unison Na’seh Vi’nishma (we will do and then we will listen) before they received the heylige Toirah which we celebrated just last week over the YT of Shovuois while stuffing ourselves with givaldige treats. And they all lived happily after? Seemingly not! This week, they’re in the mood for Na’seh but are having difficulties with the Nishma part of the bargain; it’s been like that ever since, nebech. They will challenge Moishe’s leadership, he (Moishe) will complain to the RBSO about them, his owns siblings will complain to and about him, the wheels are about to become unglued. They seem to be in a shtikel rebellious mood. Sadly as we make our way through this most intriguing parsha, also famous for the two upside down Nuns which avada recalls our youth when we played the game of chumish, we will find that beginning with Perek Yud Aleph, and the mischief of at least a few, a downward cycle that was to last 38 years during which nearly every Yid that was counted just two weeks ago out of love from the RBSO, ended up dying in the Midbar. Yikes!
Zicher you know that just before we take out the sefer Toirah we recite the pesukim found in this week’s parsha beginning with ….. ויהי בנסוע הארון ויאמר משה קומה and if you look at your Chumish, you’ll taka notice that just before these words and immediately after, two backwards and upside down Nuns. What’s p’shat here? Yu’ve never noticed them? Nu- you are mamish an oisvorf. These upside down Nuns, which appear, to the best of the Oisvorfer’s knowledge, only in this parsha, are as you can only imagine, the subject of many midroshim; what else is new. Ober Raboyseyee, we covered this back in 2011, check out the archives. Today we have other vichtige inyonim (important topics) to discuss. Lommer unfangin (let’s begin).
And for those with severe ADD, here’s a roundup of the gantze parsha in one paragraph: Aharoin was instructed to light the Menoira; the Bechoirim (first born) were fired and replaced by the Lev’im who were consecrated into the temple service; we learn all about the laws of Pesach Shayni- taka a gittin Yom tov to all; matzo anyone? We also learn about the pillars- clouds and fire- how they functioned and when; Moishe was commanded to fashion two silver trumpets; The Yiddin began on what they thought was the final leg of their journey to the Promised Land- stay tuned for the episode of the Meraglim- coming soon; Yisroy (Moishe’s shver) turned down an offer to join the Yiddin in their conquest of the land; the RBSO got angry when the Yiddin complained about the rigors of traveling through the desert; the Yiddin complained about having to eat only Munn (Manna). Soon we’ll learn from the heylige Gemora and others that what really stuck in their craws were the newly imposed sexual restrictions- more on that below- avada; Moishe expressed his frustrations to the RBSO about dealing with the nation’s complaints. The RBSO instructed Moishe to assemble 70 elders as well as inform the people that they would have meat to eat- real meat; the assemblage taka prophesized; we’ll meet Eldad and Maydad (more about them in weeks to come) who prophesized that Moishe would give way to Yehoishua as their new leader; the quail descended upon the camp and the people were punished for their loss of faith and lack of appreciation; many died. And at the very end, the amazing story of Moishe, his siblings and some loshoin horo (badmouthing) spoken by them against and about Moishe and his Cushite rebbitzen (wife) followed by her instant punishment with tzora’as (leprosy). That incident follows Chapter 11 ober since we mentioned loshoin horo, like most, mistama you want to hear the story right now: here we go. Grada this topic is fresh on the Oisvorfer’s mind as he very recently heard a shtikel lecture on the private life of Moishe Rabaynu and given that this meyseh (story) appears in this week’s parsha, we’ll run with it. Nu, if your interest was piqued, let’s go veyter ober first this:
As the Oisvorfer rapidly approaches the end of year three in his heylige writings, just a few weeks back a chaver he grada respects and likes very much, one who only read his first installment of the Toirah in the last few weeks, reached out and excoriated the Oisvorfer to either stop writing or to cut out all chaps, if you chap. He suggested, almost guaranteed, that readership would not be affected negatively were the Oisvorfer to follow this path. Ober the Oisvorfer retorted and told him that in kimat all instances, he is only repeating what our holy Chazal (wise Sages) were thinking and also saying. Givald and gishriggin (OMG)! Is that taka emes? Is it even shayich (possible) that Chazal, our medroshim our holy scribners of the heylige Gemorah and, many others were taka thinking the worst of man, and in many many instances took regular words of the Toirah and laced them with sexual overtones? Ober following the request, the Oisvorfer decided to do more research and in this weeks parsha, will (again) bring proof positive that leyda (sadly) it’s taka emes: chazal knew that many of you (seemingly according to them, most) are taka not much more than Oisvorf chazerim. Not just in this generation but also going back many, and seemingly this is mamish a mesoira (heritage) handed down from generation to generation. And in this week’s parsha and in many others, we will provide proof positive. Avada this is not making fun of the Toirah, chas v’sholom; instead the Oisvorfer is merely pointing out that holy people in generations past had no issues looking at the words of the parsha and deciding on their own that instead of pshutoy-shel-mikra – the words are to be interpreted as they are written- they meant something else altogether, mamish. And in many cases, they related them to our base instincts of chapping. Lemoshol (by way of example only), let’s look at the events of Perek Yud Aleph, avada there are many others.
Shoin, featured prominently in chapter 11 are a chevra known as the Misonenim (the complainers). Says the heylige Toirah the the Yiddin wanted to eat meat, is that so giferlich? Suddenly, two years into the midbar trek, they remembered all the good delicacies they ate in Mitzrayim and bemoaned the fact that they were lacking those same foods here in the midbar. They said azoy: “All we have is this munn”. They longed for the onions and the garlic they ate in Mitzrayim. Says Rashi azoy: (Bamidbar 11:10): Moishe heard the people bochim l’mishpachosem (crying to their families) at the opening of their tents. What’s taka pshat? Nu, leave to Rashi who chapped everything to suggest azoy: ‘bochim l’mishpachosem’ means that the people would gather in family groups out in the open to publicize their complaints to one another. Everyone sat on their stoop or sat on their doorstep and publicly complained about the food situation. And hear this: Rashi citing the Sifri who quotes the heylige Gemora (Yuma 75) says azoy: the crying was “concerning the families” – namely they complained about the forbidden sexual relationships that the Toirah legislated for the Jewish nation. Seemingly they wanted meat ober of a different variety, if you chap. How the heylige Gemora associated meat one desired for another- also at times desirous shtikel meat- ver veyst. Zicher this pshat does not paint this group in a very good light.
Seemingly, and according to this rabbinic tradition, the main complaint was not about onions either. With the gift of the heylige Toirah came many sexual restrictions and prohibited marriages, a phenomenon that the Yiddin had epes a hard time letting go of. These relationships are called “Arayois” and efsher you recall that we covered these a few dozen weeks back. And what the Yiddin seemed to be complaining about were not onions, instead they meant “Arayois”. And says the heylige Gemora (Yuma 75a). when the Yiddin said, “We remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt for free” (v. 5). Was it sushi they were craving? Ver veyst and who knew Yiddin liked anything but Chinese until 15 years ago? On the surface they were only talking about fish, but in their minds they intended to complain about the marital prohibitions as well. Nu, efsher the fish was epes fresher, cleaner and leaner in Mitzrayim, if you chap. Ver veyst. Does the text of the heylige Toirah say any of this? Zicher nisht! Mistama (likely) you’re wondering why the Gemora would mistake onion, fish and meat cravings for forbidden relationships, are you? What’s taka pshat here?
And asks Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky azoy: How can we (the Gemora and others) put words into their mouths? The pasuk says they complained about the onions and the cucumbers. Why do the Rabbis interpret this to be something totally different than the simple reading of Scripture (p’shuto shel Mikra)? Taka an excellent kasha, one that’s bothered the Oisvorfer for many years. Ober Reb Yakkov was a genius mamish and offered this givaldige teritz (answer) to his own question. Said he (Emes L’Yaakov) azoy: this license to change the meaning of the words from their textual meaning is not that unusual a phenomenon and that there are many times in the heylige Toirah where Chazal put a far more sinister interpretation on what would otherwise seem to be innocent comments. You hear this? Shoin! In other words: chazal took license and decided to interpret words differently so as to have them penetrate their intended target- namely the oisvorf community which seemingly was just about everyone! Penetration was seemingly on their minds, if you chap, gishmak!
Though there are many such examples and we could easily veer off topic for pages, let’s discuss but one more going back to sefer B’ereishis and a colorful character named Loit who decided to settle in Sodom following his breakup with uncle Avrohom. Based on the simple meaning of the words in the text it appears that Loit’s decision was made on very practical grounds. He was a shepherd; the land surrounding Sodom was fertile and bountiful. Ober Chazal attribute his move to a darker side of his personality and suggest that Sodom was his set destination because of its reputation for lewdness and immorality. Sodom had, as you avada recall learning, and who wouldn’t, very loose morality and also efsher you recall that Loit offered his two virgin daughters out to the people who pressed up against the door. And according to the Rabbis (seemingly without support from the text), that is why Loit went to Sodom. Farming was taka on his mind but of a different variety, if you chap. And the question many may have is this: Why must we be led to believe that Loit had sinister thoughts, that he was a chazir looking for immorality in his backyard and why can’t we take Loit’s statement rationalizing his move to Sodom at its face value? Isn’t fertility a good enough reason to move anywhere?
Ober says Rav Frand summarizing Reb Yaakov azoy: Chazal do this because they descend to the depths of man’s psyche. They are telling us something very profound about human nature. Everyone has subconscious feelings and forces and desires that perhaps even the person himself is not completely aware of. Something goes on inside a person that is more than meets the eye. Chazal, either through ruach haKoidesh (divine spirit) or through their sensitive intuition of how human beings function, know that something deeper is going on. When people gather on their front doorsteps and cry out loud so that everyone will hear, they are not just crying about onions! People do not cry about onions. They are crying about something else. Likewise, there were other lush places for Loit to have pitched his tent. When Lot specifically picked Sodom – why did he do it? It is because whether he realized it or not there were subconscious motivations occurring within him. This happens in each and every person. A person must always introspect and check his motives. Shoin, guilty as charged and you’re all no-goodniks: case closed!
That is why Chazal repeat this approach over and over in their explanation of the Chumash narrative. How do they know that? They know it because they know and understand people. They were people too, if you chap. They are trying to tell us that this happens to each and every one of us. We each have hidden agendas and subconscious motives; chazal knew it and so does everyone else. Veyter:
Nu, earlier the Oisvorfer told you that he would epes shed some light on the very end of the parsha, here we go. Says the heylige Toirah azoy:1. Miriam and Aharoin spoke against Moishe regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only to Moishe? Hasn’t He spoken to us too?” And the Lord heard. 3. Now this man Moishe was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth.
Efsher you’re wondering why Miriam and Aharoin were talking about Moishe’s Cushite wife when the heylige Toirah tells us –biferush mamish (in the text) that he married a girl from Midyan? And efsher you’re wondering about the question and title on page one: did Moishe have a second wife? The gantze meyse makes epes no sense because the Rebbe never told you that it’s at all possible that Moishe had a second wife. The heylige Toirah does in fact tell us that Moishe, suddenly in Paroy’s crosshairs, skedaddled out of Mitzrayim, made his way to Midyan and eventually married Tzipoira. Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois Perek Beis) azoy: 15. Paroy heard of this incident, and he sought to slay Moishe; so Moishe fled from before Paroy. He stayed in the land of Midyan, and he sat down by a well.16. Now the chief of Midyan had seven daughters… 21. Moishe consented to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Tzipporah to Moishe. Shoin and case settled: Moishe married Tzipporah, definitely from Midyan. Is that what happened? Lommer lernin (let’s see).
That being the case shtlet zich di shaylo (the question arises) who is the woman that is described this week as “the Cushite woman he (Moishe) had married”? Didn’t we just learn that Moishe went to Midyan and married a local? Ok, noch- a-mol (one more time) and to clarify: Cush and Midyan are very different places. Cush is in Africa, (in the area of present day Sudan and Ethiopia) while Midyan is in the area of present day Jordan and Saudi Arabia. And if the heylige Toirah tells us that Moishe married Tzipporah from Midyan, where did this new cushite girl come from? Did he have epes a second wife on the side? And if yes, why were Miriam and Aharoin all stressed out about only the Cushite eishes chayil? And if he did have a second wife, so what? Men could have as many as they could handle and then some. Nu, lommer zeyn (let’s see). Miriam and Aharoin said something disparaging about their brother Moishe that concerned his Cushite wife. Ok- what’s going on here? Why is Moishe’s wife being called the Cushite woman? Could pshat be like we learned in Yeshiva? She was called Cushite because poshit pshat, cushite means black. Is that so giferlich?
Says the Rashbam azoy: The heylige Toirah does not tell us much about Moishe’s early life. We know that he fled Mitzrayim as a young man. We also know that he was 80 years old when the Yiddin were freed and left. That leaves a gap of about 60 years. We do know from the text that he skipped town and went directly to Midyan. Ober surprise surprise, there are midroshim that tell a different story. Says the Rashbam and the Yalkut Shemoni: Moishe did not go straight to Midyan. Instead he first went to Cush. Through a series of events recorded in the medrish (too long for here and now), he actually became the king of Cush and reigned for 40 years. He did? Givaldig and gishmak mamish. In fact, he also got married to a local Cushite!
Rashbam taka relies on this medrish to explain that the Cushite woman in our verses is not Tzipporah. Rather, she is an earlier wife of Moishe that he married when the people of Cush crowned him king. A king needs a queen and that’s what he got. Ober says the Rashbam, Moishe never (in the 40 years) had relations with his Cushite queen; seemingly a model to be emulated by many married people ad-hayoim-hazeh (until today). Simply stated, he didn’t chap, gornisht! Moreover, both Miriam and Aharoin knew about the Cushite wife, but did not know that Moishe had never had relations with her. And why would they? Wait, there’s more!
Says the Rashbam: the Cushite woman was a black woman descended from Chom (Noiach’s infamous son), remember him? Says the Medrish (Chronicles): Moishe pushed her away “and wedged a sword between her and himself”. This expression implies that although Moishe entered into a sacred matrimonial union with the Cushite woman he did not engage in a physical relationship with her. Nu, with a sword wedged, would you take a chance?
So why were Miriam and Aharoin all upset in this week’s parsha? Seemingly they thought that she – the Cushite queen- was not a suitable woman for Moishe to be intimate with, seemingly they didn’t approve of the shidduch. Efsher the first time that siblings didn’t approve, zicher not the last. But had they known that Moishe refrained from relations, they wouldn’t have spoken loshon horo: givaldig and gishmak mamish ober Rashi doesn’t agree. And says he: the Cushite woman is Tzipporah. What was bothering the siblings in our parsha and why they spoke loshoin horo was because Moishe has separated from his wife. Why was Moishe’s private life their business, ver veyst? How does the fact of Miriam and Aharoin being prophets fit into the story? Seemingly they were worried about their own issues at home and seeing that Moishe was now, as a prophet, separated from his wife Tzipporah, also thought that since they too were in touch with the RBSO though prophecy, they might need to follow suit. Seemingly, they had separation anxiety and were concerned.
Back to the black wife…. Miriam and Aharoin criticized Moishe for marrying this Cushite. The Rashbam is not alone as the Eben Ezra agrees that the Cushite woman is black. He doesn’t however buy into the entire queen story and the 40 year unconsummated marriage p’shat. Which black woman would put up with 40 years of celibacy? Instead he suggests that Moishe married Tzipporah as we learned way back in Parshas Shemois and that she- Tzipoirah was also black. Says the Eben Ezra: though Tzipoirah was from Midyan rather than Cush, her skin was black from the abundant sunlight there. Shoin! So Moishe liked and married a black woman or two, is that so giferlich? Was this the first time that Miriam and Aharoin laid eyes on her? Why this was considered loshoin horo and what happened next?
Seemingly not but what was bothering his siblings was not that she was black but that they had suspected him (Moishe) of not servicing her properly because she was homely. According to this pshat, they found her unattractive mamish. Taka a person should know that if you’re going to marry black, she should taka be a beauty; how else will you be able to explain yourself?
Ober (but) Rashi says farkert (the opposite) and associates the Cushite woman with Tzipporah on opposite grounds. Scripture calls her black to imply that all agreed as to her beauty, that she was taka a black beauty. Rashi says it’s but a metaphor and just as all agree as to the blackness of an Ethiopian, all agree that Tzipoirah was a beauty. In other words, though she was according to Rashi- black like the night- she was mamish a beauty. Veyter (let’s move on).
Seemingly what we have here is conflicting rabbinical traditions (chalukai midrashim). One source is explicit that Cushite is simply an appellation for Tzipoirah and the other source is explicit that Cushite is another woman. Rabbis and medroshim arguing with each other, different conflicting opinions, what else is new? It’s our way. Both views cannot be true, can they? Which explanation is historically correct, ver veyst? Seemingly the heylige Toirah is meant to be studied and enjoyed both ways.
Says the Medrish: the gematria (numerical value) of ‘Cushite’ is the same as that of ‘yifas mareh’ (beautiful of appearance). Another reason Rashi gives is that on account of her beauty, she was called “The Ethiopian,” meaning that just as a man calls his handsome son ‘black’ in order to thwart any potential harmful effect through an ayin hora (evil eye), so too, Tzipoirah is referred to as a cushi.
Anyway, the gantze mayseh (story) seems somewhat confusing and therefore we need to learn the text word by word to try to chap what went down here. In fact so confusing is this story that it’s one of the instances where the heylige Toirah sort of left a few blanks for us to fill in. But taka why does the Toirah discuss this issue so cryptically? Without Toirah she-baal peh (Oral Tradition) and sort of reading between the lines, there is absolutely no way we can make heads or tails of this story from a simple reading of the text. Why couldn’t the Toirah explicitly say what their complaint about Moishe was and how the RBSO defended him? Nowhere in the text does it mention anything about Moishe’s wife being separated from him. And if that is what their beef is, why does the Toirah leave out the main point of the story?
And taka efsher (just maybe), it’s stories like this that should convince non-believers and doubting Thomases to recognize that the Written Toirah, receipt of which we recently celebrated, was taka given together with Toirah she-baal- peh. And taka in many places, the written text leaves us bewildered without the commentary of the Oral Tradition.
Miriam and Aharoin spoke against Moishe because of the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. They said, has the RBSO indeed spoken only with Moishe? Hasn’t he spoken also with us? The RBSO heard them. Says the Toirah: Now the man Moishe was very humble, above all the men who were on the surface of the earth. The RBSO spoke suddenly to all three and summoned them to a meeting at the tent. Of course they attended. The RBSO came down in a pillar of cloud and as only the RBSO can, got the entire situation under control, though not before meeting out a shtikel punishment to Miriam in the form of leprosy.
A gittin shabbis-