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

Bihaloischo 2024: Abstinence, Even at Home!

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Abstinence,  Even at Home!

Let us begin with some local news: Here in heylige 5 Towns, specifically Lawrence, the race for Mayor featured not one, but two shomer Shabbis candidates who collectively spent a small fortune vying for a nonpaying job. Amazing! In the end, Shlomo Nahmias was elected by 25 votes in a hard-fought campaign. The heylige Ois wishes him and his team only success. By the same token, this is also a good time to acknowledge Paris Popack for all her efforts on behalf of the village over many years. Very active and productive she has been and she should be proud of all she has accomplished. Veyter and we move forward.

The great Yom Tov of Shovuois is finally over and for the severely lactose intolerant, not a moment too soon. Though the heylige Ois’s research turned up 19 different reasons why many have the minhag (custom) to eat milichigs (dairy) on Shovuois, the emes is that none were overly impressive; most were underwhelming. Does the heylige Toirah tell us to eat cheesecake? Not! Next year we will dig tiffer (delve) into this minhag which seems more logically to have been started by the dairy farmer’s association more than anyone else. Nu, they’re also entitled to make a living, why not?

And just like that it’s Thursday afternoon again and taka lommer unfangin with the parsha. Settle in raboyseyee; the adventures -or, efsher more accurately stated- the misadventures of the Yiddin begins in earnest this coming Shabbis when we will be reading Parshas Bihaloischo.

Let’s roll back the Toirah clock to one year earlier. The Yiddin, as we read over Shovuis, were happily celebrating the receipt of the newly minted heylige Toirah. Back then, in unison, they were spontaneously chanting ‘Na’aseh Vi’nishma’ (we will do all that RBSO commands of us and then listen to why). The euphoria did not last very long and as Bihaloischo opens, it’s mamish one year later. All hell is about to break loose. The marriage is about to get very rocky. In fact, over the coming few shabbosim, the Yiddin will be spiraling out of control mamish, as they continually anger and test the RBSO. One can never do well on this test. The RBSO will respond by eliminating tens of thousands of bad actors and thinning out the population of men. Coming attractions include the meraglim (spies) and the mikoishesh eytzim (shabbis wood chopper) both of whom we will meet next week. They will be followed in two weeks by Koirach’s rebellion, the incident where Moishe abused his staff in the famous ‘hitting of the rock’ incident which resulted in the cancelation of his visa into the promised land. You won’t want to miss later events which include some ugly myseh (incident) where the Yiddin, some of them anyway, got involved with and were chapping from and with hot shiksa Midianite, Moabite and other meydlich while also succumbing to some avoido zoro (idol worship) to boot. The RBSO abhors mamish this combination. One must wonder just why the RBSO picked us from all other umois-ho’oilom (nations of the world)? Can you even imagine what they were up to?

Ober what about this week? Besides the two famous upside down nunns -each worth 500-1000 points in the game of chumish we played alts-kinder (back in our youth) instead of davening, and after a slow start which includes instructions on the lighting of the menoira, putting the Liviyim to work for all of 20 years before mandatory retirement, the introduction of Pesach Sheni for those that were -for reasons previously discussed- impure during the real Pesach, Moishe asking his shver (father-in-law) Yisroy to accompany the Yiddin as they sojourned towards the Promised Land, and Yisroy’s refusal, the action picks up in earnest when a group of Yiddin begin to complain about their steady diet of Mun.

Ober this year, as we near completion of year fourteen of weekly parsha posts, there is only time to review but one topic and it’s found at the very end of the parsha where we’ll find one of the most enigmatic narratives. The heylige Toirah will tell us that Miriam and Aharoin were involved in a loshoin horo incident that resulted in Miriam being kicked out of the camp and also coming down with a case of tzora’as (some say leprosy or a similar skin condition). Is that true? Is that what the Toirah tells us? Were Miriam and Aharoin taka bad mouthing Moishe? Not exactly: what’s zicher is that the heylige Toirah does not tell us that. Ober, leave it up to Rashi and myriad others to tell us what went down, or in this case, what didn’t, if you chap. What did happen? Let’s find out.

And taka every year this time, a few rabbis will remind us about the perils of loshoin horo and how Miriam was stricken with leprosy for her participation in the loshoin horo caper. Ober what about Aharoin? Does the heylige Toirah not tell us that Miriam and Aharoin were talking? It sure does. Did Aharoin get a free pass? Maybe so and we shall  address that below.

Let’s revisit with Rashi who had this to tell us: Tzipoirah, Moishe’s wife, upon hearing of the introduction of two new prophets into the Jewish community, exclaimed: “Woe is to their wives, who will have to be separated from their husbands, now that they are prophets, in the same manner that Moishe separated from me.” Ober, was Moishe separated from Tzipoirah? Was their marriage on the rocks? Details are needed here. This is what we know: Miriam overheard her sister-in-law Tzipoirah bemoaning the fate of women who are married to prophets. Miriam took Moishe to task reminding him that aside from the mitzvah of peru urvu (being fruitful and multiplying), the heylige Toirah is adamant about a man’s obligation to a woman’s conjugal needs for intimacy.

And what do we know so far? It appears from the text that back then -at least- Jewish women may taka have had such needs. They wanted their husbands to service them, such service calls being obligatory. That was then, ober today, fuhgeddaboudit! Miriam and Aharoin told Moishe that he cannot divorce himself from his wife forever, rather only when he was to speak with the RBSO. And they said, “has the RBSO indeed spoken only with Moishe?”  Hasn’t He spoken also with us?” Meaning, both of us also receive prophecy and yet we do not leave our spouses without proper booty calls.

Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 12:1) azoy: “…because of the Kushite woman, whom he had married, for he had married a Kushite woman.” Bikitzur (in short), Miriam and Aharoin said something disparaging about their brother Moishe concerning his Kushite wife. Ok- what’s going on here? Were they referring to Tzipoirah as we read above or to Moishe’s Kushite wife? Was Moishe leaving them both wanting? What is a Kushite woman, why is Moishe’s wife being called the Kushite woman? Wasn’t she, his wife, a Midianite? Says Rashi that she is called a Kushite because she was black! Was Rashi thinking ahead to Juneteenth? Is that clear enough? Ober, was Moishe married to a darkish or even a black woman? Not that there is anything wrong with that, ober is that emes?

Says the Rashbam: the Kushite woman was indeed a black woman descended from Cham, the minuvil son of Noiach who was epes involved in a rape, castration, or both, ver veyst. Remember him?  Such nachas! And how was it that Moishe, leader of the Yiddin, handpicked by the RBSO, ended up with a Kushite wife? The medrish will fill in the blanks -or make up a story, or both- and tell us azoy: When Moishe reigned over the land of Kush for forty years; he married the queen of Kush but never consummated the marriage. He was the king of Kush? He went 40 years without sex? Was this the forerunner of the typical orthodox mam? Yikes and vey-iz-mir! Is any of this found in the heylige Toirah? Not! Says the medrish (Chronicles) azoy: Moishe pushed her away “and wedged a sword between her and himself.” A sword mamish? This expression implies that although Moishe entered into a sacred matrimonial union with the Kushite woman he did not engage in a physical relationship with her. One medrish tells us that Moishe didn’t consummate because she refused to convert. Nu, if this medrish is to be taken literally -and of course aren’t they all?- es-farshteytzich (it’s clearly understood) that with a sword between them, Moishe wasn’t going to take chances of being Bobittized, if you chap and are old enough to recall what happened to that poor guy.

Ober taka how can it be that Moishe, then the king of a land called Kush, would be married for 40 years without consummating the marriage? Did she efsher have the longest headache in recorded history? What good is the entire kingship if one cannot have a harem at one’s beck and call? We all chap that being a mayor might not come with such benefits, ober which king remains celibate for 40 years? Moreover, we know that Moishe was previously married to Tzipoirah, daughter of Yisroy whom he met when he arrived in Midian.  Who takes a second wife, or replaces the first, for less intimacy than one had in the first marriage? Doesn’t one typically choose a second wife davka because the first wife withheld her favors for extended period of times? And what is the significance of her being black? What do Miriam and Aharoin have to do with Moishe and his wives?  Nu, so many questions; let’s see if we can make some sense of the gantze myseh.

Said Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher, and grada the first known scholar to make explicit the idea that Moishe’s pursuit of divine wisdom and inspiration -his closeness to the RBSO-  was incompatible with an active sex life, azoy: Moishe was pure mind, paying no attention to all things sensory and sexual. Once Moishe was appointed leader and needed to meet with the RBSO on a regular basis -any time and place- he either lost interest, or stam azoy, was too busy for his wife. As well, Moishe wanted to remain pure; seemingly sexual relations -even at home- comes with some level of impurity.  Philo also emphasized how the needs of the flesh, if you chap, can distract from the pursuits of the mind. Avada we all know this to be 100% emes. The bottom line: According to Philo and many a medrish, sexual relations- even when sanctioned- seem to interfere with real closeness to the RBSO. Is that why Moishe had separated from Tzipoirah? Ober, did Moishe act on his own? Or, did the RBSO specifically tell Moishe that he needed to abstain from sexual relations, even with his own wife, or wives?  Let’s go back to Matan Toirah -as we did over Shovuis- and read how Moishe got the people ready for Revelation.

In preparation for the theophany at Sinai, the RBSO instructed Moishe to consecrate the people and have them wash their clothes. Let’s read the posik:

שׁמות יט:י וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הוָ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵךְ אֶל הָעָם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּם הַיּוֹם וּמָחָר וְכִבְּסוּ שִׂמְלֹתָם. יט:יא וְהָיוּ נְכֹנִים לַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי כִּי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי יֵרֵד יְ־הוָ לְעֵינֵי כָל הָעָם עַל הַר סִינָי.

And Hashem said to Moishe, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready by the third day”; 19:11 for on the third day Hashem will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people….

Moishe descended and consecrated the people and they washed their garments:שׁמות יט:יד וַיֵּרֶד מֹשֶׁה מִן הָהָר אֶל הָעָם וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת הָעָם וַיְכַבְּסוּ שִׂמְלֹתָם.

Moishe went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people and they washed their garments.

After they have been consecrated, Moishe added a new instruction; the people were not to approach women:

שׁמות יט:טו וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל הָעָם הֱיוּ נְכֹנִים לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים אַל תִּגְּשׁוּ אֶל אִשָּׁה.

And he said to the people, “Be ready by the third day; do not go near a woman.”

Ober, did the RBSO so demand? That the Yiddin separate from their wives? No sex for three days? Manish no one? Not! Ober Moishe seemingly interpreted the RBSO’s instructions that the people “be ready” (posik 10) to include avoiding sexual intercourse. A good number of medroshim built on Moishe’s own interpretation to argue that he himself chose to separate from his wife to always be ready to receive the RBSO’s word.  Says the medrish (Avos de Rebbi Noson) that Moishe’s celibacy was a decision that he made of his own accord in order to put a fence around the heylige Toirah:

אבות דרבי נתן א פרק ב איזו סייג שעשה משה לדבריו הרי…. פירש מן האשה והסכימה דעתו לדעת המקום כיצד אמר מה אם ישראל שלא נתקדשו אלא לפי שעה ולא נזדמנו אלא כדי לקבל עליהם עשרת הדברות מהר סיני אמר לי הקדוש ברוך הוא לך אל העם וקדשתם היום ומחר

What fence did Moishe  make to his words?… He separated from his wife, and the RBSO agreed with his logic. How was this? He said, “[Consider] Israel, who was but sanctified for but a brief moment and not prepared except to receive the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. The Holy One, blessed be He, told me to go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow”

ואני שאני מזומן לכך בכל יום ויום ובכל שעה ואיני יודע אימתי מדבר עמי או ביום או בלילה על אחת כמה וכמה שאפרוש מן האשה והסכימה דעתו לדעת המקום.

“But I, who am always prepared every moment and every day so that I do not know when he will speak to me, day or night, how much more should I separate from my wife?” And the RBSO agreed with his reasoning.

The bottom line: whatever Moishe was thinking and doing ver veyst? What we know is that Miriam and Aharoin criticized him for marrying this Canaanite woman. Many suggest that what they were gossiping about was the fact that Moishe was withholding the goodies from his wife, the Kushite. Seemingly, the Kushite wife who was apparently black, complained to Miriam that Moishe was an absentee husband, if you chap. Miriam then repeated this loshoin horo to Aharoin and shoin, soon enough, the RBSO heard the rumor as well. As all well know, rumors spread fast; rumors involving sexual matters spread even faster. As an aside, the Ibn Ezra agrees that the Kushite woman is black. He doesn’t, however, buy into the entire queen story and the 40-year unconsummated marriage pshat. Which second wife -and which black woman- would put up with 40 years of celibacy? How about 40 minutes? Instead, he suggests that Moishe married Tzipoirah as we learned way back in Parshas Shmois and that she -Tzipoirah- was also black. Says the Ibn Ezra: though Tzipoirah was from Midian rather than Kush, her skin was black from the abundant sunlight there. Shoin! So Moishe liked and married a black woman; is that so giferlich? Was this the first time that Miriam and Aharoin laid eyes on her? Why was this considered loshoin horo and what happened next?

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 looking. And taka, a person should know that if you’re going to marry black, she should be a beauty; how else will you be able to explain yourself? Ober Rashi says farkert (the opposite) and associates the Kushite woman with Tzipoirah on opposite grounds. Scripture calls her black to imply that all agreed as to her beauty, 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.

One medrish suggests that the gematria (numerical value) of ‘kushite’ 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 horo (evil eye), so too, Tzipoirah is referred to as a Kushi. In any event, regardless of whether the Kushite was a second wife or a girlfriend or if Tzipoirah was referred to as ‘The Kushite Woman,’ the question still remains as to what fault Miriam and Aharoin found in the relationship between Moishe and his wife and why the RBSO got so angry at their idle gossip.

The bottom line: The gantze myseh (story) seems somewhat confusing and therefore we need to learn the text word by word to try to chap what went down here. And taka since shabbis isn’t over until after 9:15PM, it wouldn’t be so giferlich were you to pick up the Chumish and learn this amazing myseh. 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? And the answer is azoy: Without Toirah she-ba’al peh (oral tradition) to help us chap what went down, or didn’t, there is absolutely no way we can make heads or tails of this story from a simple reading of the text. Why doesn’t the heylige Toirah explicitly state 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 was their beef, why did the Toirah leave out the main point of the story?

Ober raboyseyee, efsher we can kler (posit) that stories like this one concerning Miriam, Aharoin, loshoin horo and a black or beautiful girl, are told to convince non-believers to recognize that the written Toirah, receipt of which we celebrated just last week by sleeping like babies during the overnight lectures and stuffing our faces with cheesecake and other macholim after grabbing a few hundred calories at the shul kiddush, was given together with Toirah she-ba’al peh (the Oral tradition). And taka in many places, the written text makes little no sense without the commentary of the Oral Tradition. And taka, just yesterday while the heylige Ois was out for a 5 mile walk, a friend suggested that Moishe, if he didn’t come down with the entire Toirah she-baal peh, did come down with the tools necessary to figure out the missing narrative. And given the gaping hole in the narrative, the Medrish, Rashi and myriad others, had license to go to town and give us a few interesting ideas to ponder about our man Moishe. Did he have one wife or two, ver veyst? Was he on the run from Paroy, and also the king of Kush where he married a black beauty? Ver veyst? One thing is zicher: the RBSO loved him dearly and spoke to him peh-el-peh (mouth to mouth). All others who received prophesy, got so in a dream.  We are taught that koihanim who duchin for us on holidays, get 1/60th of prophesy.

The final bottom lines: What we do know for sure? Miriam and Aharoin were gossiping which seemingly led to loshoin horo; doesn’t it always? The RBSO made an appearance and personally admonished them. Miriam was punished, so says the heylige Toirah. She was taka stricken with Tzora’as (leprosy), sent out of the camp and the Yiddin waited for her to heal before they moved to the next encampment. As to Aharoin- well, there is no mention of him being punished at all. Though he was involved in the Eygel myseh (caper) and though the heylige Toirah tells us Miriam -and he- were in discussions together about Moishe’s wife, be she black or white, be she Tzipoirah or the Queen of Kush, seemingly Aharoin was made of Teflon. The charges didn’t stick and he was exonerated. Efsher we can kler that his reputation and role as peace maker -as an oihave sholom v’roideph sholom- was so critical during his days, that the zichusim (merits) he earned, overshadowed his involvement in other misdemeanors. Does the RBSO give a pass to those who go about their lives peacefully and avoid machloikes? So it would appear from our man Aharoin. Elections are over; time to live peacefully with one another.

A gittin Shabbis!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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