Nu, this week’s mailbag brought the following comment from a choshovo reader.
Dear Oisvorfer Ruv:
Since stumbling onto your Toirah some weeks back, I have become a chosid mamish- I love your toriah- it’s so real- it’s palpable- I can mamish feel and touch it. I have a question for you. I was wondering if you, like many Rebbes who immigrated to these great shores in the 1950’s, named yourself after the town that either you or your family came from. Can you please tell me where Oisvorf was? Was it on the Polish side or closer to the Hungarian side? I ask because my own family, no longer alive, came from a town in Hungry that sounded very much like Oisvorf and I was wondering if you or your family came from the same place.
Be well and may the almighty give you many years of health so that you can enlighten the masses. I have learned more parsha from you than I did from all my previous teachers combined.
Your Talmud and chosid-
Thank you for your kind words. In response to your question, I offer the following. Believe it or not, there was an Oisvorf both in Poland and in Hungry, if fact there were many. Most of them survived the war and made their way over to the U.S., mostly to Brooklyn and the Five towns. Since then, they have moved to many other neighborhoods.
Nu, time for Toirah. This week, in addition to enlightening p’shat, we’ll also be studying math and fractions, so halt kup (pay attention you idiots).
It’s finally over! After 210 years, the yiddin have finally been freed, they’ve left Mitzrayim and are on their way to Har Seenai to receive the heylige toirah. Their three day trip is about to get extended to 40 years. For the rest of their lives and ours, in all our prayers- be it the shema- the reciting of kiddish- the pesach seder, Hallel and oh so many other places, we shall always make reference to the fact that the RBSO took us out of Eqypt. The words zecher litzias mitzrayim and or, I am the lord that took you out of Egypt can be found throughout the siddur, the Machzor and is forever our strongest connection to the RBSO.
Anyway chevra, this week’s parsha is avada most famous for the song the b’ney yisroel, followed by Miriam and her band, sang after they witnessed perhaps the biggest miracle of all time. I refer avada to kriyas yam suf (splitting of the sea). Ober chap nisht: let’s not jump ahead- that doesn’t happen until the 4th aliya; let’s see if the parsha has any hidden treasures till then.
The parsha begins by telling us the exact travel route that the Yiddin took as they left Mitzrayim. It’s too bad there was no Mapquest or GPS back then- who knows- perhaps they would have shaved 39 years off their excursion. The heylige toirah tells us that following the Exodus, the RBSO did not lead the Yiddin on a direct route to the Promised Land, through the land of the Plishtim (Philistines). Why? Lest the Israelites have “a change of heart when they see war.”
Mistama (likely), because you were (and still are) an oisvorf, these words never bothered you but le-myseh (in reality), they should. Listen and pay attention and you too might be wondering as to which idiot would, after 210 years of back breaking slavery, want to return to Mitzrayim just because he or she saw war on the way. What’s p’shat here, who was at war and where? Says the midrash that there was no real war, it was already over. What they might have encountered were the remnants of war. What takeh happened? And the answer is: they would have seen the bones of 300,000 yiddin from the tribe of Ephraim, lying “in heaps on the road.” Say it’s not so! Another 300,000 dead yiddin? What’s p’shat here? How, when and why did we lose 300,000 members of this shevet (tribe)? Did anyone survive? Why is there no mention of such an event in the toirah, and when did such a massacre take place? Didn’t Ephraim get a special brocho from his Zeyde Yankiff?
Nu: tradition has it that having miscalculated the end of the 400 years of slavery which the RBSO prophesied to Avraham, they left Mitzrayim (Egypt) on their own, 30 years ahead of schedule, and were slaughtered by the Philistines. Exactly how they left on their own when they were slaves is not addressed and one has to wonder if they could leave on their own, why didn’t the rest, but let’s continue with the medrish. In any event, the RBSO elected to circumvent the scene of this tragedy. According to this p’shat, the RBSO reasoned that were the B’nei yisroel to behold the bones of the Ephraimites strewn in the path, they would return to Egypt. Mistasma (likely), you’re wondering if the RBSO could bring on the 10 plagues without much effort, would it be so difficult to remove 300,000 bodies from the road. This wasn’t Mayor Bloomberg, this was the RBSO – lehavdil elef alfay havdolois. Troubled by this? Me too! Ober Raboyseyee: let’s not ever forget that the RBSO wanted it that way, case closed! Mistama (likely) he had a good reason and who says He has to share it with us?
Now if you remember anything that we learned last week, you will zicher recall that we quoted a medrish which states that approximately 12 million yiddin died during makois Choishech (darkness) and that the RBSO specifically made it so dark in order to wipe out the bad seed among the Yiddin. 12 million bad seeds is quite a dramatic number and mistama more bad seed than you’ve spilled to date, but this isn’t about you. Let’s count the dead: we lost 12 million last shabbis and another 300,000 this week, is anyone still alive? Hellooooo!!!! Yet, according to this dramatic midrash, the yiddin weren’t spooked and left Mitzrayim anyway. One has to wonder why seeing a few thousands dead Epraimites would cause them to go back. Takah a gevaldige kasha. You want answers too?? Moreover, if this midrash is correct, it would seem that very few of us were alive by the time we actually arrived to har seenai. As backup, the midrash quotes the second possik of the parsha: let’s focus on the last six words only.
|So God led the people around [by] way of the desert [to] the Red Sea, and the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt.||יח. וַיַּסֵּב אֱ־לֹהִים אֶת הָעָם דֶּרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר יַם סוּף וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:|
As you just read, the heylige Toirah states that the yiddin left Mitzrayim ”chamushim.” A number of different explanations are given for the meaning of this word. Rashi writes that four-fifths of the Jews died during the plague of darkness, leaving only the remaining one-fifth that went out from Egypt. Hopefully you recall that we discussed this perplexing idea just last week and concluded that according to other midroshim, this simply did not happen. The Targum Yerushalmi understands the word differently and suggests that they went out armed with good deeds. This too is difficult. Our Chachomim (Sages) tell us that the Yiddin were devoid of good deeds before they left Egypt. So much so that the RBSO had to give them the two mitzvois – Pesach and Milah so that by virtue of having fulfilled those two, they would have the zechus (merit) to get out of Mitzrayim. Avada you recall from last week that Moishe and his assistants Aharoin and Yehoishua performed thousands of bris milas in order to allow the Yiddin to partake in the eating of the Korban Pesach. How could it be that just a few days prior to going out they were totally devoid of mitzvos, and now, they’re suddenly ‘armed with good deeds’? Quite a change in a few days.
Targum Yonason ben Uziel (my own favorite) perplexingly writes that each family went out with five children. But, didn’t we learn a few weeks back in parshas sh’mois that the Jewish women in Egypt gave birth to six, twelve and some say sixty children at a time? Where did the number five come from? And what happened to the rest of them?
Nu, How can these seemingly different explanations be reconciled? Mistama you’re wondering which good deeds are being referred to, and why did, according to Targum yoinoson, each family leave with exactly five children? All excellent questions. Answer: hock nisht in chinik (don’t bother me with silly questions). The medrish we learned a few weeks back was good for a devar toirah at the shabbis table for that parsha and this week’s, though completely contradictory, is good for this week. Who said they have to reconcile? Are you an accountant, an auditor? What difference does it make to you if we lost 300,000 on the road, another 12 million in mitzrayim and that the neshay chayil (women) had 6,12 or 60 at one time. None of this is your business! You like the p’shat, run with it. If not, there are plenty of others to pick from. Let’s go veyter (further).
Nu, stay calm, the medrish does not feel challenged by your concerns and avada offers answers. The fact that your farshtupta kup (stuffed head) cannot allow your imagination to run wild enough to grasp these elevated concepts, does not mean they’re not the absolute emes (truth). Then again, it certainly doesn’t mean that they are, it is after all just a medrish and avada we all know that even though every midrash is true, some stories just didn’t happen yet. Perhaps one day!
Anyway, the Be’er Yosef says azoy: all the answers are correct. How’s that possible? Halt kup (pay attention). Indeed 4/5ths died, that’s the 12 million. Also true is that before they left (died), they were armed with good deeds and they had 5 children- wow! Confused? Let’s try again. In fact, all three explanations are really one. It’s takah true that the wicked yiddin died during the plague of darkness. What made them wicked, do you recall? They seemed to have gotten wealthy while in Mitzrayim; in other words- money was evil. However, we also know that RBSO’s Heavenly Tribunal doesn’t punish a person until the age of 20. Accordingly, none of the children in Egypt died during the plague of darkness. But what about Rashi and his theory that four-fifths of the Yiddin died? Ahhhhh…Rashi refers only to the men as the children were spared, resulting in a tremendous number of orphans, think Oliver. The remaining adults were so overjoyed at being saved, both from Mitzrayim and from the fate of their brethren during the darkness that they ”adopted” the orphans from the four-fifths of the families which were now without parents. Got that? It was mamish a mouthful. Thus, in addition to their own biological children, each family went out with the children of another four families. The Targum Yoinoson doesn’t mean that each family had five children, but rather five families of children, and these are the good deeds referred to by the Targum Yerushalmi! Beautiful mamish, but true? Ver veyst?
Yet another look at the numbers: Another p’shat suggest that the average Jewish family in Egypt had 54 children. And since each surviving family adopted the children of the 4/5ths of those that didn’t make it, each family now adopted an additional 216 (4 x 54) bringing the grand total of the typical family to 270 children. Can you imagine the tuition bills? Ok- enough fractions, I always hated math.
Early in the parsha we learn that as the Jews were getting ready to leave and mamish on their way out- in a last minute gesture- they also took Yoisef’s bones out of mitzrayim. Says the heylige toirah azoy: Moishe took the bones of Yoisef with him…” Says the Midrash that as the Jews were getting ready to leave, they weren’t going empty-handed. Why? They needed gold, silver and jewels in order to have currency to go shopping and re-establish themselves. Some pocket money if you will. Perhaps they thought that a new mall was opening in the Midbar; efsher a Costco or Walmart. And while the yiddin were busy cleaning out their neighbors (the goyim) Moishe Rabaynuu was busy searching for the coffin of Yoisef in order to ensure that his remains be transported to Eretz Yisrael for burial. Why bother schlepping bones and digging them up from near the seabed? Avada you remember that Yoisef made his brothers swear (of course by holding onto that certain place to make the oath valid), that they would bring them along on the journey to the holy land. Now Moishe was fulfilling this oath.
The implication of this Midrash is that Moishe was busy with a mitzvah while the rest of Yiddin were self-indulgent, lining their coffers and suitcases with valuables. In other words, not busy with mitzvois. And didn’t we just learn that 12 million died because they became wealthy? Nu- that was last paragraph, a different medrish: don’t confuse me with the facts please. And the emes is, that’s exactly what happened but we shouldn’t jump to judgment chasv’sholom: do you like it when people judge you so quickly? The emes is that the yiddin had a mandate- they needed to leave wealthy in order to fulfill yet another promise, one made directly by the RBSO and zicher we all know that the RBSO delivers on all his promises. Way back in Parshas lech lecho, the RBSO said to Avraham azoy- eventually when the Yiddin leave, they will leave with great wealth.
|4. And also the nation that they will serve will I judge, and afterwards they will go forth with great possessions.||יד. וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל:|
Don’t you wish your other creditors made good like that? As it turns out, by permanently borrowing the Egyptians’ valuables the B’nei Yisroel were actually doing a mitzvah themselves, by fulfilling the wishes and commandment of the RBSO. You got to love that, mamish beautiful!
As mentioned above, the splitting of the sea remains mamish the biggest miracle of all time but is this the last time that anyone other than in Universal Studios and Disney World has split the sea? The heylige Gemara (Chullin 7a) tells of a great scholarly rabbi, Pinchas Ben Yair, who was able to make the sea split against its will. Apparently, the sea was allowed to split on at least one occasion other than Yetzias Mitzrayim. Doesn’t this story somewhat diminish the great miracle on water where we witnessed the RBSO showing that he alone is in full control?
Ober (but) listen to this: say the Yalkut Shimoni that when the Yiddin were crossing the Red Sea, the Malach Hamoves (prosecuting angel) argued that it was inappropriate for the RBSO to perform miracles on their behalf since they had worshipped idolatry in Egypt. This argument is difficult to understand, I never did like prosecutors. If their idolatrous practices represented a reason for them to perish, why did the malach wait until this point to make this argument instead of pressing his claim during Makas Choishech when he was already on the prowl and wiped out 12 million yiddin? Was he at his limit? Now listen to this gevaldige answer because it affects most of you disgusting chazerrim (pigs).
Says the Meshech Chochmah azoy: while in Mitzrayim, the yiddin, much as you are today, were steeped in the 49th level of spiritual impurity and worshipped idolatry just like the Egyptians. In fact, I happen know that some of you have already reached the 50th level, loi Olanuu (heaven forbid). Nevertheless, they had one saving grace, in that they dwelled peacefully and didn’t gossip about one another (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5)- no loshoin horah. You hear this? Can you imagine more than two yiddin and no loshoin horah? Anyway- seemingly this is what took place, or at least so I’d like to believe and as a result, the RBSO forgave their other communal sins and miraculously performed the ten makois (plagues) to bring about their salvation. Nonetheless, the prosecuting angel had grounds for his argument, but lost the case. Seemingly the lack of loshoin horah was such a nes (miracle) that the RBSO decided not to listen to the malach hamoves and instead repaid the Yiddin with a miracle of his own. Nu, need I say more? Unfortunately, such a miracle (no loshoin horah) is never again to be seen.
In case you’re wondering if all agree as to the events of the sea splitting, the answer is avada no, and like everything else, it’s the subject of a great machloikes (debate). Says the heylige Gemorah azoy (Sotah 36-37a). We are presented with a machloikes between two tanna’im (Rabbis of the Mishnah) regarding the inter-tribal debate that occurred on the banks of the Red Sea.
Rebbe Meir stated that the shivotim (tribes) argued with each other for primacy of position. Each tribe boasted that they would be the first to jump into the sea. Rebbe Yehuda says farkert and that Rebbe Meir is all wet. “Such was not the ma’aseh (story).” Rather, each tribe stated that they were not going to jump in first. Ultimately, Nachshon ben Aminadav (from sheyvet Yehdua) jumped in first. Let’s review: Before the moment for action arrived, each tribe boasted that they would jump into the Yam Suf first, and guaranteed courageous behavior. But when the actual moment of truth came, only the tribe of Yehuda stood up to the occasion. The others succumbed to the pressures of the reality they faced. It became apparent that they promised far more than they were capable of delivering, only Nachshon delivered. Talk is cheap! We are of course comforted in knowing that both rebbes agree that there was an argument between the tribes, who would believe otherwise?.
Efsher maybe, that’s why Yehuda’s tribe, despite the fact that Yehudah himself had epes (somewhat) of an illicit relationship with his daughter -in -law Tamar, was fit for kingship (my p’shat). Seemingly, the RBSO understands questionable relationships and other matters of znus, it’s loishon horah that irks more than anything. That can only be great news for most of you.
And finally, let’s not forget that bedsides Moishe Rabaynuu leading the Yiddin in song, there was his older sister Miriam, now well into her 80’s who, not just sang, but also played the drums. Did you just read that she had drums in the desert? Says the toirah: “Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took her drum in her hand and all the women went forth after her with drums and with dances. Miriam spoke up to them, “Sing to G-d for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.” Drums?!! Where on earth did the women get drums? Just days ago they were slaves running out of Egypt into the middle of the desert with not even enough time to bake challah and avada you all know that’s why we spend $20 a pound yearly to get farshtupped (constipated) eating matzoh for eight days – where and how could they possibly get a hold of a drums and a band to accompany their song? Was Lipa there as well?
Rashi, the preeminent commentator who avada knows everything, quotes the Midrash which tells us the most amazing thing: The Jewish women were so confident that the RBSO would perform miracles and save them from their captors, that they actually brought drums with them as they were packing up to leave Egypt!!!! Women are such planners! How do you like that? The men were busy packing gold and silver that the women had ‘borrowed’ and the women were packing drums! Nu, is it a wonder that women are from Venus?
A gitten Shabbis