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

Bihaloischo 2017: Leaning In & Grooming

This week we have the pleasure of beginning with big and hearty mazel tov wishes to our dear friends Anne and Shelly Golombeck upon the engagement of their son David, to Sarah Shevchuk, the daughter of Irina and Sergei Shevchuk of Fairlawn, New Jersey. Mazel tov to both extended families, and may David and Sarah merit to enjoy only happy times as they begin their lives together.

Raboyseyee and Ladies:

Leaning In & Grooming


Back in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote a book titled ‘Lean In’.  It was a rallying cry for women to lean in; it was a bestseller, millions of copies were sold. Sheryl is taka a nice Jewish woman who efsher has some background, ver veyst. Did she ever learn the heylige Toirah? Ver veyst. Was she the first to tackle this subject of leaning in? Not! Who was? The RBSO! And in the week’s parsha, as we will be reading mamish just below, the RBSO gives specific leaning instructions to Moishe and Aharoin; the Yiddin are to perform a mass lean-in on the Liviyim.  That lean-in was to be followed by another where the Leviyim were to lean-in on the animals.  Why was everyone leaning in?  We shall cover that subject, ober ershtens…


The Oisvorfer knows a number of men who despise hair. Not hair on their own heads, but all other hair. These men shave their underarms, their arms, legs, chest, and also other hair, if you chap. All means all! Why they hate hair, ver veyst? Ober, why is the Oisvorfer discussing their grooming habits? And while it’s taka emes that more and more people, both men (and especially so gay, bi-sexual and metro sexual men) and women are bazman hazeh (in our times) grooming, if you chap, what is the connection between personal grooming habits and this week’s parsha of Bihaloischo which is otherwise most famous for containing two upside down letters (the Hebrew letter nunn), and for a few other very interesting but previously covered by the Oisvorfer topics including Pesach Shaynee, the Misoininim (the complainers) who said they were craving meat but were efsher instead craving now forbidden relationships (so says Rashi and myriad others), and even more? Let’s find out!


As it turns out, long before women, and of late, also men, began grooming, if you chap, it appears that such grooming may have been prescribed and described in the heylige Toirah. It was?  Mamish? Where? In our parsha! Let’s set the scene: It’s the 1st of Nissan in the year 2449. The Yiddin are still at the foot of Har Sinai where they have hanging out since their arrival in anticipation of becoming a nation and receiving the heylige Toirah.  It’s 10 months later. By this time, they had already built and worshipped the eygel (golden calf), were nearly wiped out as the RBSO’s anger flared, and were forgiven. In our parsha, they are finally getting ready to leave the area and begin their travels into the Promised Land, or so they thought. Unbeknownst to them, they will soon encounter a 39 year delay; we will be reading those chapters next week.  Among other topics, parshas Bihaloischo describes in great detail, the consecration of the Liviyim.


Last week, if you recall, we discussed the few and the proud Liviyim. We concluded that it’s good to be a Levi: certainly, membership has a few benefits. We covered their ascension, how the RBSO chose them to replace the bichoirim (firstborn) who fell out of favor. The bichoirim (firstborn) fell out due to their participation in the eygel (golden calf) fiasco. And this week, once chosen, they needed to be initiated into the service. Vus meynt dus (what does that specifically mean)? How did a Levi go about becoming initiated and consecrated? Wasn’t birth into the tribe the only entrance ticket required? Ober limyseh (in reality), before a Levi could serve in whatever Mishkan-related capacity, (they had several), they needed to be ritually purified from defilement. Who defiled them? How? We will get to that in a moment. Purification entailed a multi-step process which included sprinkling, shaving, the offering of korbonos (sacrifices) – two of them- and clothes washing, and a leaning in ceremony which was then followed by a waving and lifting exercise.


The Liviyim need to be shaved? By whom? How? With what? And where? And what’s pshat leaning and lifting? Nu, in order to begin to chap exactly what took place, we must first read a few -ok, maybe 15 or so- pisukim innaveyning (the text) and let’s taka do just that. Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 8:5-20) azoy:

5.  The Lord spoke to Moishe saying: הוַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:

6 . Take the Levites from among the children of Israel and cleanse them.

וקַח אֶת הַלְוִיִּם מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְטִהַרְתָּ אֹתָם:

7.  This is what you shall do to them so as to cleanse them: sprinkle them with cleansing water and pass a razor over all their flesh; then they shall wash their garments and cleanse themselves.

זוְכֹה תַעֲשֶׂה לָהֶם לְטַהֲרָם הַזֵּה עֲלֵיהֶם מֵי חַטָּאת וְהֶעֱבִירוּ תַעַר עַל כָּל בְּשָׂרָם וְכִבְּסוּ בִגְדֵיהֶם וְהִטֶּהָרוּ:

8.  Then they shall take a young bull with its meal offering of fine flour mingled with oil. And you shall take a second young bull as a sin offering.

חוְלָקְחוּ פַּר בֶּן בָּקָר וּמִנְחָתוֹ סֹלֶת בְּלוּלָה בַשָּׁמֶן וּפַר שֵׁנִי בֶן בָּקָר תִּקַּח לְחַטָּאת:

9.  You shall bring the Levites in front of the Tent of Meeting, and you shall gather the entire congregation of the children of Israel.

טוְהִקְרַבְתָּ אֶת הַלְוִיִּם לִפְנֵי אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְהִקְהַלְתָּ אֶת כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

10.  You shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lean their hands upon the Levites.

יוְהִקְרַבְתָּ אֶת הַלְוִיִּם לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה וְסָמְכוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת יְדֵיהֶם עַל הַלְוִיִּם:

11.  Then Aaron shall lift up the Levites as a waving before the Lord on behalf of the children of Israel, that they may serve in the Lord’s service.

יאוְהֵנִיף אַהֲרֹן אֶת הַלְוִיִּם תְּנוּפָה לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה מֵאֵת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהָיוּ לַעֲבֹד אֶת עֲבֹדַת יְהֹוָה:

12.  The Levites shall lean their hands on the heads of the bulls, and make one as a sin offering and one as a burnt offering to the Lord, to atone for the Levites.

יבוְהַלְוִיִּם יִסְמְכוּ אֶת יְדֵיהֶם עַל רֹאשׁ הַפָּרִים וַעֲשֵׂה אֶת הָאֶחָד חַטָּאת וְאֶת הָאֶחָד עֹלָה לַיהֹוָה לְכַפֵּר עַל הַלְוִיִּם:

13.  You shall present the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and lift them as a waving before the Lord.

יגוְהַעֲמַדְתָּ אֶת הַלְוִיִּם לִפְנֵי אַהֲרֹן וְלִפְנֵי בָנָיו וְהֵנַפְתָּ אֹתָם תְּנוּפָה לַיהֹוָה:

14.  Thus shall you set apart the Levites from the midst of the children of Israel, and the Levites shall become Mine.

ידוְהִבְדַּלְתָּ אֶת הַלְוִיִּם מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהָיוּ לִי הַלְוִיִּם:

15.  Following this, the Levites shall come to serve in the Tent of Meeting. You shall cleanse them and lift them as a waving.

טווְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יָבֹאוּ הַלְוִיִּם לַעֲבֹד אֶת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְטִהַרְתָּ אֹתָם וְהֵנַפְתָּ אֹתָם תְּנוּפָה:

16.  For they are wholly given over to Me from among the children of Israel; instead of those that open the womb all the firstborn of Israel I have taken them for Myself.

טזכִּי נְתֻנִים נְתֻנִים הֵמָּה לִי מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תַּחַת פִּטְרַת כָּל רֶחֶם בְּכוֹר כֹּל מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָקַחְתִּי אֹתָם לִי:

17.  For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine whether man or beast since the day I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt; I have sanctified them for Myself.

יזכִּי לִי כָל בְּכוֹר בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּאָדָם וּבַבְּהֵמָה בְּיוֹם הַכֹּתִי כָל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם הִקְדַּשְׁתִּי אֹתָם לִי:

18.  And I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel.

יחוָאֶקַּח אֶת הַלְוִיִּם תַּחַת כָּל בְּכוֹר בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

19.  I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to perform the service for the children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting and to atone on behalf of the children of Israel, so that the children of Israel will not be inflicted with plague when they approach the Sanctuary.

יטוָאֶתְּנָה אֶת הַלְוִיִּם נְתֻנִים | לְאַהֲרֹן וּלְבָנָיו מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲבֹד אֶת עֲבֹדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּלְכַפֵּר עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא יִהְיֶה בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶף בְּגֶשֶׁת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ:

20.  So Moishe, Aaron, and the entire congregation of Israel did [this] to the Levites; the children of Israel did [in accordance with] all that the Lord had instructed Moishe regarding the Levites.

כוַיַּעַשׂ משֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן וְכָל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לַלְוִיִּם כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה אֶת משֶׁה לַלְוִיִּם כֵּן עָשׂוּ לָהֶם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:


Shoin halt kup (pay attention): let’s try and wrap our arms, and or, our heads, around what we just read. Ober before we do, be aware that the Oisvorfer has been excoriated by his eishes chayil on many an occasion for his usage of the expression ‘wrapping his arms’ around something. Says the eishes chayil that he’s dead wrong: the correct expression is to wrap ‘one’s head’ around something. Stating that one needs to wrap his ‘arms’ around an issue is dead wrong. Especially so if one is wrapping his arms around someone else’s’ eishes chayil, if you chap. Ober, says the Oisvorfer that it’s physically impossible to wrap one’s head around something. Ober, it’s quite possible, and even logical, to wrap someone’s arms around something or even someone. In any event, like most marital disputes, and though the Oisvorfer’s on-line research confirms that both expressions may be used, and are, the matter cannot be resolved. Shoin and veyter! Back to the shaving, leaning and lifting of the Liviyim. What’s taka pshat in these rituals? What’s pshat that the Liviyim needed to be waved? Who waved at them? Were they marching? Who lifted them? How many guys did it take to lift each Levi? What the hec is going on here with this ceremony?


Says the heylige Toirah azoy: Although the Liviyim were selected and assigned to various tasks (while in the Midbar, these tasks all entailed carrying the Mishkan and its accoutrements), none were permitted to begin performing their respective duties before undergoing the initiation ceremony which was seemingly centered around a purification process made necessary as a result of their earlier defilement as a result of ‘tumas hamais’, contact with a corpse. We assume this to mean they had contact with a real dead person, other than their wives, who may have been alive and well, but only acted dead, if you chap. Says Rashi and who knew more about this ceremony than did he, azoy: In step one, Moishe was instructed (as we read above) to bring all the Liviyim (all 22,000 that were counted last week) to the Oihel Moied (the Tent of Meeting). There he was to tell them just how fortunate they were to have been selected to be the RBSO’s servants. That part went well. What happened next?


As best the Oisvorfer can discern, here’s what went down, or off, next. On day three of the purification, all hair on the Levi’s body was to be shaven clean. And by all hair, the heylige Gemora (Soitah 16a) tells us, it meant all; mamish! Hair from his head, eyebrows, arms, legs, between the legs, if you chap, and any other hair on his body. Mamish? Just about: only the hair in his nostrils was left; seemingly such hair was either necessary, or left for them to pluck while driving (isn’t that when most pick their noses and pluck?), or to trim on their own, ver veyst. Who did the shaving? Moishe? Aharoin? Together? Or, was it self service? And the answer is that we don’t know.  And why don’t we know? We don’t because the heylige Gemora and most others are rather eerily silent on this topic. Not totally silent, ober absent are the myriad colorful medroshim we are accustomed to finding which do avada add beautiful color in most cases. Did they drop the ball, if you chap, on these rituals? Did they not want us to know who had the honor of shaving the Liviyim clean? Seemingly not.  Ober, where have we come across this practice before?  Nu, if we hearken back to parshas kedoishim, mistama you will recall reading that the Metzoira, the leper, also required, as part of his purification process, to be shaven clean.  Any and all hair was removed.


As an aside, though the Yiddin have previously been instructed not to use a razor on at least certain parts of their faces (a total of five), a commandment still prevalent in our times (hence the birth of the entire electric shaving industry), the heylige Toirah in the case of the leper (the Metzoira), and in the case of the Liviyim, tells us bifeirush (explicitly) that a razor (however it manifested in those days), was to be used. What did razors look like in those days? Were they supplied by Harry’s or the Dollar Shave Club? How did those charged with the shaving ensure that every single hair was removed without accidentally cutting into, or worse, removing other parts, if you chap?  We don’t know.


Ober the shaylo (question) is azoy: Why were they shaven in a manner the heylige Toirah previously described for lepers? Were the Liviyim lepers? Say it’s not so. Says Rashi: the Liviyim served the RBSO instead of the firstborn. And? If you recall, the firstborn were guilty of having participated in the eygel caper, they had seemingly brought sacrifices to the eygel. The eygel was of course an idol and idols are considered dead. By bringing sacrifices to the eygel, it was considered as if they (the firstborn) had brought an offering to the dead. Lepers too are considered to be dead people. Whatever all that means, and the Oisvorfer readily admits he does not know, the bottom line was this: the Liviyim who now stood in place of the sinning firstborn, were suddenly temporarily categorized as ‘dead people’ and were then shaven as were lepers.  Ober, let’s get real: how closely shaven were the Liviyim to be?  Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 16a), azoy: in the case of the leper, the purification entailed a shave down until the Metzoira was as smooth as a gourd.  And since the heylige Toirah, for purification purposes, considered the Liviyim to be dead lepers (as a result of them stepping tint the shoes of the firstborn), they too needed to be shaven down until all the areas were as smooth as the gourd.  How smooth is a gourd? Seemingly very.  According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the gourd family includes the cucumber, squash, melon, and others. Ober, what do they have in common? On the outside, they are all smooth to the touch. The skin of the Liviyim, post shave-down, needed to be just as smooth. In other words: no hair at all; and, no peach fuzz as found on the peach from time to time.  Nice!


On the third and seventh day of the inauguration process, each Levi was sprinkled with the waters of the Poro Aduma (Red Heifer). These waters were also meant to purify them from any contact they might have had with a dead body. Whether they were shaven on the third and on the seventh is not clear, at least not to the Oisvorfer. Following the sprinkling, each Levi offered his respective korban (sacrifice). Each Levi was required to offer both a korban Oilo and a Chatos, a sin offering. The sin offering we are told, was meant to atone for the idol worship of the bichoirim. What next?


All the Yiddin then gathered -efsher millions of them- for the next part of the ceremony which as best as the Oisvorfer can discern, was a mass lean-in ceremony. Exactly what that means, ver veyst. Why were all the Yiddin gathered for the great lean-in? Again Rashi will fill in an answer which goes like this. The Yiddin, seemingly all of them, performed a ‘smicha’ of sorts, a leaning-in on the Liviyim. We have previously been taught that when a person brings a korban, he must first place his hands on the korban. That part is known as the ‘smicha.’ This part of the ritual, the placing of hands on the 22,000 Liviyim, is referred to in our parsha as the leaning-in part of the ceremony. And the purpose? Rashi tells us that the service of the Liviyim would atone on their behalf (the Yiddin), just as regular sacrifices brought by others are meant to atone for sins of the donors. But wait: there was one additional ritual to be performed before the Liviyim were ready to serve.


In the final step of the process, Aharoin the Koihen Godol needed to lift each Levi off the ground and then to wave him up and down and back and forth. He did what? Indeed you read that correctly in the pisukim above. In the final step, Aharoin, and according to some, perhaps Moishe and Aharoin on separate occasions, needed to physically lift and then wave (think shokel) each Levi. After being shokeled, each Levi was purified and good to go. Why each Levi was required to be shokeled as we do a lulav (palm fond), ver veyst. Seemingly shokeling helps bring about purification and perhaps that’s why many shokel while davening (praying), ver veyst.


Now if you recall, 22,000 Liviyim were inaugurated on the same day meaning that Aharoin and or Moishe, or perhaps in tandem, needed to physically lift and wave 22,000 Levites on that day. Says the Chizkuni: from here we learn just how strong Aharoin was. Did Aharoin mamish lift 22,000 Liviyim off the ground before waving each of them as we do a Lulav in our times? Is that even shayich (at all possible)?  All in one day?  Ober, let’s recall posik 20 (back a few pages) wherein we read that Moishe, Aharoin and the Yiddin did all that the RBSO had commanded of them in connection with the inauguration of the Liviyim. And if the RBSO so commanded and so willed, who are we or you to question?


Ober why taka were the Leviyim lifted and waved? Rashi tells us the lifting and waving was symbolic in nature. In our beautiful religion, one can acquire something by making a kinyan, and we make a kinyan by lifting the item. Those of you who have the tradition of selling your chometz (leaven) to the goy before Pesach and who use your local rabbi as your chometz agent, are avada familiar with this routine. After the rabbi takes down all your information and after you slip him an envelope with his agent fees, he will have you lift either a handkerchief or in more modern times, a pen. The lifting of the item makes the kinyan and shoin, the deal is sealed. Similarly, as Aharoin lifted the Liviyim, he acquired them as his assistants where they remain ad hayoim hazeh (until today). As an aside, Leviyim began their apprenticeship at the age of 25, worked as interns for five years, and began work for pay at age 30. The good news: mandatory retirement was at 50.




A gittin Shabbis!


The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv


Yitz Grossman


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