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

Bihaloischo 2021: Deforestation, Manscaping & Grooming the Wilderness in the Wilderness

A few mazel tov shout outs. In no particular order, here we go.

A big mazel tov to our dear friends Ashley and Judah Charnoff upon the upcoming marriage -this coming Sunday- of their beautiful (and very funny) daughter Michelle upon her upcoming marriage this coming Sunday. Michelle will be marrying Brian Polay, he the son of Cheri and Gary Polay.  May the newlyweds to be merit to enjoy many happy decades together. Mazel tov to both extended families.

Mazel tov again to our very dear friends Sharon and Brian Duftler, upon the upcoming marriage -this coming Monday- of their son Mendy to Eliana Slomnicki, she beautiful daughter of Laura and Steven Slomnicki. Mazel tov to Mendy’s siblings Rachel, Aliza, and Boaz and to the entire extended Duftler and Silver families.  Mazel tov to the entire Slomnicki family. May Eliana and Mendy merit to build a beautiful life together and give their parents a slew of grandchildren. Omen!

Mazel tov to our friends Jenny and Joey Felder upon the birth, and bris this past shabbis of a new grandson born to their children Ethan and Shira Felder. Welcome to the world Jacob Wolf Felder. May you bring your parents, grandparents and great grandparents much nachas.

And mazel tov to our friends Rachel and Abe Abittan upon the birth and bris of a new grandson born to their children Mordechai and Deena Abittan. Welcome to the world Dovid Shmuel Abittan. and mazel tov to the extended Abitan family. May you bring you parents, grandparents and great grandparents much joy and nachas.


Deforestation, Manscaping & Grooming the Wilderness in the Wilderness

Let’s get right into the title with this question: What is manscaping? And before we answer, one more question. How and why is manscaping related to our parsha? Is it?

According to Merriam-Webster whose dictionary contains over 470,000 entries, manscaping means azoy: the trimming or shaving of a man’s body hair so as to enhance his appearance. Ober Dictionary.com goes a bit further and tells us azoy:  Manscape is a verb (used with or without object), man·scaped, man·scap·ing. (of a man) to remove (unwanted body hair other than scalp hair) by waxing, shaving, etc. And therein lies the great machloikes; does manscaping mean hair on the head? Or, does the term refer to all other hair but the head? We shall sort all this out below.

Shoin, it so happens that the Ois knows a number of men who despise hair. Not hair on their own heads -kimat all love hair on the head- 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? And why is the Ois discussing grooming habits? It’s taka emes that more and more people, both men and women are -bazman hazeh (in our times)- grooming, if you chap, ober, is there a 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 worth many points in the game “chumish” played in my youth), and for a few other very interesting but previously covered  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, ober ershtens (firstly), welcome to the dawn of a new grooming era, one where the modern gentleman takes pride in shaving below without succumbing to the public ridicule of coming off less manly. In plain English: hello to manscaping which has become the “it” trend and redefining the landscape, if you chap. The bottom line: In recent years, the term is more closely associated with the shaving and removing of hair below the head.  Another bottom line: men have taken to grooming. Sales of manscaping products which do their best work below, are making new highs. How, when, why, and where this trend began if of course subject to great debate and avada you can read more on the heylige internet which traces manscaping back tens of thousands of years. Oib azoy (if that’s so), what took so long for it to become trendy? Veyter.

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 been 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 this week’s parsha, they’re getting ready to leave the area and begin their travels towards the Promised Land, or so they thought. Unbeknownst to them, they will soon encounter headwinds and a 39-year delay; we will be reading that chapter and many others beginning next week.

Back in Parshas Nosi (last week), which you should avada recall, the heylige Toirah discussed the few in number, but very proud -with important ritual-centric jobs- Livi’im.  The bottom line: it’s good to be a Levi. Membership has benefits. We previously discussed 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. The livi’im, once chosen, needed to be initiated into the service. Ober, 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 le-myseh (in reality), before a Levi could serve in whatever Mishkan-related capacity assigned -they had several- they needed to be ritually purified from defilement. Who defiled them? How? We will get to that in a moment. Purification details are described in our parsha and entailed a multi-step process which included sprinkling, shaving, the offering of korbonos (sacrifices) – two of them- clothes washing, and a leaning in ceremony which was then followed by a waving and lifting exercise. We shall focus on shaving.

Ober one thing is zicher: Long before grooming took off, if you chap, going back to the year 2449, the RBSO in this week’s parsha of Bihaloischo, gave very specific manscaping instructions. Mamish? So happens that these instructions were specifically handed down regarding the Levi’im (Levites). Let us begin by reading a few relevant pisukim. Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 8:5-7), azoy:

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

קַ֚ח אֶת־הַלְוִיִּ֔ם מִתּ֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְטִהַרְתָּ֖ אֹתָֽם׃

Take the Levites from among the Israelites and cleanse them.

וְכֹֽה־תַעֲשֶׂ֤ה לָהֶם֙ לְטַֽהֲרָ֔ם הַזֵּ֥ה עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם מֵ֣י חַטָּ֑את וְהֶעֱבִ֤ירוּ תַ֙עַר֙ עַל־כׇּל־בְּשָׂרָ֔ם וְכִבְּס֥וּ בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם וְהִטֶּהָֽרוּ׃

This is what you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle on them water of purification, and let them go over their whole body with a razor, and wash their clothes; thus they shall be cleansed.

The Livi’im needed to be razored? By whom? How? With what? And where? Nu, as you can imagine, a number of exegetes even those a cut above others, were more than a shtikel perplexed by these instructions. Among the questions are these: who was supposed to take the Levi’im? Moishe? Aharoin? What’s pshat “let them go over their whole body with a razor”? How often? With what? Does this mean to shave their faces and heads? Their entire body mamish? Down below as well? And if yes, why? Was the razor shave a part of the consecration process? An absolute requirement? Says Rashi and we quote, azoy: I have found in the work of Reb Moishe Hadarshan (the Preacher) the following: Because they were made propitiatory substitutes for the firstborn who had worshipped the eygel (the Golden Calf), and it (idolatry) is called “offerings to the dead”, and the leper is also called dead), it (Scripture) requires them to shave their body like lepers. What? In plain English: lepers, as part of their cleansing ritual, must shave their entire body and by entire, we mean entire. And the Levi’im -seemingly innocent souls- are compared to the leper? What’s pshat? Let’s look at that Rashi one more time.

והעבירו תער על כל בשרם קודם הזאת שלישי ושביעי. כאן פרש״‎י מצאתי בדברי רבי משה הדרשן לפי שנתנו כפרה על הבכורות שעבדו עבודת כוכבים והיא קרויה זבחי מתים והמצורע קרוי מת הזקיקם תגלחת כמצורעים ולכך צריכים בעלי תשובה טבילה ותגלחת. והעבירו תער על כל בשרם,

Rashi mentions in his commentary here that he found in the writings of Rabbi Moshe hadarshan, that seeing that the Levites had functioned as the instruments of atonement for the firstborn who had been guilty during the episode of the golden calf, and that was called a זבחי מתים, “offering of the dead,” and the “leprous” (מצורעים) people also referred to as “dead,” the Levi’im too required shaving of all body hair as required from “leprous” people during their purification process after the priest has declared them as healed. Ober why taka are the Levi’im lumped together with the sinning bichorim and the leppers?

And just to make sure we read the instructions correctly, says Rabaynu Bechya azoy:  The instructions to pass a razor over the entire flesh of the Levites includes the beard and sideburns. In other words: over their entire flesh includes the hair on their heads; they were to be completely hairless, including down below. The Levites were required to shave just as one who is afflicted with tzora’as (Vayikro14:9), being that they replaced the firstborn who had previously functioned as priests. The firstborn had become disqualified from further service due to their involvement in the sin of the eygel, and were hence considered as having been associated with זבחי מתים, offerings addressed to the dead (as opposed to the RBSO, the living G-d). When someone is afflicted with tzora’as he is also considered as equivalent to the dead. The bottom line: for reasons not totally logical -to me- the Levi’im were lumped together with leppers and sinners. Why? Ver veyst? The bottom line: the instructions from the RBSO included this ritual and only afterwards -after purification and a good shave- could they commence their scared duties. Says the heylige Toirah, “after that the Levi’im may come and perform their service,” in connection with the Tabernacle.

In case you’re wondering how often the Levi’im needed to groom, says the Chizkuni azoy: “and let the cause a razor to pass over all their flesh.” They had to do this every time prior to the sprinkling of the ash in the water of the red heifer on the third and seventh day of their purification ritual. Were the Levi’im the only Yiddin to undergo a full body shave? Not! Says the Ibn Ezra, first in Hebrew, azoy:

והעבירו תער. לפי הפשט נרא’ לתקן את עצמן ולייפות את עצמן לבא לפני המלך להבדיל כמו ויגלח ויחלף שמלותיו ויבא אל פרעה אבל אין להעמידו כי גזירה שוה היא כנזיר שגילחו כל שיער שעליהם כדלעת וגזירה שוה נתנה בסיני ולהעביר כל צחנה מהם נצטוו כך:

There are three who must shave their hair, and their shaving of it is a commandment: the Nazirite, the metzoira, and the Levites. The metzoira afflicted with tzora’as, the Nozir (Nazirite) at the end of his term of naziriteship- a topic found in last week’s parsha, and the Levi’im when they were first dedicated to service.

The bottom line: The Levi’im – while traversing the midbar- were selected and assigned to various 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 mamish and not 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 Levi’im (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 heylige Ois can discern, here’s what went down, or off. 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, 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 to and from (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 Levi’im clean? Seemingly not.

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 Levi 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: how closely shaven were the Levi’im 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 Levi’im 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.  Says Merriam-Webster, 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 Levi’im, 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!

The final bottom lines: without a standing Beis Hamikdash and temple service, Levi’im are out of business; none are being consecrated. There is certainly no requirement to shave them hairless. That being said, manscaping seems to have caught on and in a recent study dug up (while researching this topic) by the heylige Ois, conducted between two public universities in the U.S., documented in an issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, we  came across these intriguing stats:

  • 49% percent of guys shaved below at some point in a month
  • 38% of all study participants claimed they were “typically hair free”
  • Roughly the same percentage of both sexes (76% women and 74% men) claim to shave below
  • 32% of men agreed that shaving down their made them feel cleaner

And we close with this gem from the Lubabitcher Rebbe (The Rebbe, Parshas Tazria-Metzorah, 1991): The heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 98b) tells us that Moshiach’s name might be Metzorah (meaning one who is plagued with the unusual malady of tzora’as) and he is sitting among the poor and suffering waiting to bring the redemption. This means that Moshiach is a real person, already among us, who is suffering the pains of exile and waiting with bated breath to reveal himself. The Moshiach’s is already here and his name is what? Let’s read the Gemora innaveynig:

Regarding the Moshiach, the heylige Gemora asks: “What is his name? The school of Rabbi Sheila says: Shiloh is his name, as it is stated: “Until when Shiloh shall come” (Genesis 49:10). The school of Rabbi Yannai says: Yinnon is his name, as it is stated: “May his name endure forever; may his name continue [yinnon] as long as the sun; and may men bless themselves by him” (Psalms 72:17). The school of Rabbi Ḥanina says: Ḥanina is his name, as it is stated: “For I will show you no favor [ḥanina]” (Jeremiah 16:13). And some say that Menacḥem ben Ḥizkiyya is his name, as it is stated: “Because the comforter [menacḥem] that should relieve my soul is far from me” (Lamentations 1:16). And the Rabbis say: The leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is his name, as it is stated: “Indeed our illnesses he did bear and our pains he endured; yet we did esteem him injured, stricken by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

The final bottom line: whatever his real name is, until the Moshiach makes an appearance and until the Temple is rebuilt, the ritual consecration is dead. On the other hand, deforestation -as a minhag among men and women- is seemingly alive and well.


A gittin Shabbis!


The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv


Yitz Grossman


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