One more reminder to those within walking distance of either Beth Sholom or YILC: Both Shuls are having Scholars in residence this coming Shabbis.
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
Paroy: soft and hard
Nu, just last week, we learned that the RBSO had rachmunios (mercy) on the Yiddin and decided to redeem them from slavery after but 210 years. Ober, were the Yiddin tizfridden (satisfied)? Not for long. Soon enough we’ll learn that the RBSO does get angry from time to time and a short trek through the Midbar (wilderness) was suddenly elongated from a couple of days to 40 years when the Yiddin lost faith and sent spies to check out the land. Moreover, the entire Sefer of Bamidbar was written to recount the travails of the Yiddin during that time period. Ober let’s cut them some slack; they were mamish efsher still tzibrochen and traumatized and lommer nisht loyfin (let’s not run) all over the place and let’s stay focused.
Nu, at long last, the Yiddin are on their way and before we check in on them, let’s quickly do a shtikel chazoro on last week’s Parsha where most of the action took place. Avada you recall that after experiencing seven Makois in Parshas Vo’eiro, the RBSO saved the best for last and schmeissed Paroy the minuvil and the Mitzrim with three more including the big one; we’ll pick up the action there. The Mitrzim were struck with Choishech (blackout) and Makas Bechoirois (plague of the firstborn). Though hardened all along, Paroy goes soft and agrees to allow the Yiddin to leave; in fact he chases them out. With little time to prepare or pack, they forgo bread, opting for matzo instead- a moment in time that ad hayoim hazeh (until today), costs us thousands of dollars each year as we recall this event more than any other in Jewish history, and decided to pack gold, silver and other valuables they could use on the Midbar. They left and headed towards the wilderness. Actually, this makes perfect sense to me: with gold and silver, one can mamish buy bread but zicher one cannot buy gold and silver with a loaf of bread. On the other hand…soon enough, that may change with a box of hand-baked shmurah matzohs or anything else by hand, if you chap.
Welcome to Parshas Bishalach, also avada known as Parshas Shira, one of the most riveting and emotional Parshas in the gantze Toirah. The Yiddin have left town. The RBSO is not pleased that Paroy has softened and hardens him (his heart- you chazir) once again. Invigorated and hardened, he pursues the Yiddin and you avada know the rest. The Yiddin get to the Yam Suf (Red Sea), the biggest neys (miracle) of all time unfolds right before their eyes: the sea split, the Yiddin crossed over or through or around or whatever, and the Mitzrim all drowned. Paroy and his army are destroyed, some say he alone survived. The Yiddin sing, followed by the women who bang away (at the drums) and all are happy; not for too long. Yiddin are seemingly never too happy for too long.
So joyous with their good fortune at having survived the ordeal at sea, were the Yiddin, they begin to sing but avada only the men. Chas v’sholom the women should sing with the men as this could chas v’sholom efsher/ avada have led to mixed dancing, swimming and worse- what could be worse? Says The Vilna Gaon: that the women could not say Shira (sing with the men) because Kol B’Isha Erva (a woman’s voice turns men on) and it was not Tzanua (modest) for them to sing, especially with the men. Said Miriam: “You sing Shira while the women will play the Tupim.” Nu, not to feel bad for the women: they were doing the banging (on the drums) and participating in their own way. In fact, we are taught that the heylige froyin (women) were the reason that the Yiddin were redeemed altogether. Says the Medrish: “Bis’char Noshim Tzidkoniyois SheHayu BiOsoi HaDoir Nigalu”, they (the men) were redeemed in the merit of the righteous women.
After Moishe sang his still number one single of Oz Yoshir, Miriam and the women sang and banged. Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Ahroin, took a drum in her hand; and all the women went out following [Miriam] with drums and dancing. Says the Medrish: Moishe asked Miriam how she and the women should happen to have had drums with them, when they had to flee in such haste that they didn’t even have time to let the bread rise! Said Miriam: “We packed our musical instruments because we knew we would need them to sing our heart song after the deliverance.” The women believed God and came prepared to celebrate.
Lots going on, many questions- even more answers and imaginations run wild. Let’s learn some Parsha and take a closer look at what went down and we begin with one possik; seemingly the limit for most of you on page 1.
|The RBSO 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 in Hebrew, the heylige Toirah states that the Yiddin left Mitzrayim ”chamushim.” A number of different explanations are given for the meaning of this word. Says Rashi quoting the Medrish: the word ‘chamushim’ means 1/5: that approximately 12 million Yiddin nebech died during makas Choishech (darkness) last week. Nu, mistama you thought that the Makois only affected the Mitzrim ober according to this pshat; veyst tzich ois andirsht (seems otherwise). The RBSO specifically made it so dark in order to wipe out the bad seed among the Yiddin; nuch a mazel (your good fortune) you weren’t there! Nu, 12 million bad seeds is quite a dramatic number and mistama more bad seed than you’ve spilled in the dark, if you chap, but luckily this isn’t about you. Let’s count the dead: we lost 12 million last Shabbis and soon we’ll learn that another 300,000 died way before they even left Mitzrayim; is anyone still alive? Hello!! 12,300,000 dead Yiddin not mentioned in the heylige Toirah? What taka happened to them? Nu, halt zicheyn (have some patience), we’ll get to them soon.
Four-fifths of the Yiddin died during the plague of darkness, leaving only the remaining one-fifth that made it out alive? Yikes and taka very sad and perplexing, but not to worry. Says another Medrish: it’s all bubamayses (bs) and this simply didn’t happen. Shoin! Says Targum Yerushalmi that the word ‘chamushim’ means something else entirely: ‘chamushim’ means that they went out armed with good deeds. The Yiddin left with good deeds, so to speak, in their mitzvah accounts? Aren’t these the same Yiddin that had worshipped Avoido Zoro, had sunk to the lowest levels of impurity and also enjoyed the hot shiksa Mitzri women from time to time, loi olanu (heaven forbid)? Is this the mehalech (pathway) to good deeds? What’s pshat here? Say our Chachomim (Sages) that taka the Yiddin were devoid of good deeds before they left Mitzrayim. So much so that the RBSO had to give them the two mitzvois – Pesach and Milah, both in last week’s Parsha: one to spend money on, the other to hold onto, if you chap and by virtue of having fulfilled those two, they would have the zechus (merit) to get out of Mitzrayim; gishmak mamish! Efsher (perhaps) you recall from last week that the triumvirate of Moishe and his assistants Aharoin and Yehoishua performed thousands of brissim in order to allow the Yiddin to partake in the eating of the Korban Pesach.
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 Mitzrim. In fact, I happen to 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). What? Hundreds of thousands of Jews living together and no loshoin horo? It’s easier to believe the Medrish! Can you imagine more than two Yiddin and no loshoin horo? Seemingly this is what took place, do I know? Anyway, let’s make believe it did and as a result, the RBSO forgave their other communal sins, of which there were many and miraculously performed the ten makois (plagues) to bring about their salvation. Seemingly the lack of loshoin horo was such a nes (miracle) that the RBSO decided not to listen to the malach hamoves (Prosecuting Angel) who argued that the Yiddin were not worthy of salvation at the Red Sea and instead repaid the Yiddin with a miracle of his own. Nu, need I say more? Unfortunately, such a miracle (no loshoin horo) between Jews was never again to be seen. 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 the change in a few days; nu, ver veyst? Targum Yoinoson 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? Was five the limit? 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? Givaldige kashas, all of them but what’s really pshat? 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, the Medrish is avada good for this week. Who said they have to reconcile? Are you an accountant, an auditor? Are you always reconciled-you Oisvorf? 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! Your job is to learn the heylige Toirah and love the RBSO. You like the medrish – run with it. If not, there are plenty of others to pick from. Let’s go veyter (further).Nonetheless, the Medrish is givaldig (great) 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 medrish is true, some stories just didn’t happen yet. Perhaps one day!
Says the Be’erYosef azoy (like this): all the answers are correct. How’s that possible? Halt kup (pay attention). Indeed 4/5 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 taka 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 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, nebech. 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?
Another pshat suggests that the average Jewish family in Egypt had 54 children. And since each surviving family adopted the children of the 4/5 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. Ok, I see you chap that 12 million either died or didn’t and that the Yiddin left with many kids; seemingly either their own or adopted.
Says another medrish that many Yiddin taka perished during Choishech (darkness) and the stated and only reason was because they didn’t have the desire to leave; they had slave mentality and were happy to stay put. In other words: they weren’t bad seed, and were perhaps even good and righteous people. They listened to and may have even believed Moishe when he said it was time to go, but were happy with their lot. Nu, these people died nebech.
12 million are gone and that was all last week. As the Parsha opens, we are taught that another 300,000 also died, what taka happened to them? And who and how many were left to receive the heylige Toirah on Har Seenai? Let’s see: 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 led them on a circuitous route, not 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 pshat here? Who was at war and where? Says the medrish that there was no real war, it was already over. What they might have encountered were the remnants of war. What taka happened? Seemingly, they might 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 pshat 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, through sleight of hand, get a special brocho from his Zeyde Yankif?
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 pshat, 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. Mistama (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. 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?
Nu, if these medroshim are correct, it would seem that very few were alive by the time they actually arrived to Har Seenai. Veyter. Ober not to worry…seemingly the Yiddin, depleted in numbers, came up with a solution and we are taught that as they left Mitzrayim they brought along the Erev Rav. Who were they? Says the Ohr HaChaim: they were spies sent along by Paroy to sow seeds of dissension among the ranks of the Yiddin. They were the rabble-rousers, and though they may not have been successful at making the BNY return to Mitzrayim (though they almost did), they were the cause of Moishe’s failure to enter The Land. Some say, that the Erev Rav is still among us and that the Yiddin are not a pure blooded nation, oy vey. But were they Jewish?
How many Yiddin taka left Mitzrayim in the great Exodus? Ver veyst, the numbers are all over the place and as we just read, there are at least several medroshim using different numbers but one thing is zicher: The heylige Toirah tells us that the count includes 600,000 men over the age of 20. Now let’s add the overly active and heylige females who were seemingly pregnant the entire 210 years, and their kinderlach and presto. Add those all up and we can quickly get to a number of between 2-3 million and taka many traditional commentators accept this unaudited figure.
It’s also les man dipolig (no one argues) that an additional number of non Yiddin took the opportunity to sneak out of Mitzrayim during the Exodus and bet on the newly liberated Yiddin. Ober who were they and do we know how many? Some say that these guys are the Erev Rav (mixed multitude) and they were mamish the low-lifes, the lowest of the low of Egyptian society; a mixed bag of the drek of society, war captives and debtors whose only options were to live out their lives in slavery, or to follow the slave revolt and take their chances with the Yiddin and their Bashefer (RBSO) in the wilderness. But were they Jewish?
Others say that the Erev Rav were Egyptian converts who joined the Yiddin as they left Mitzrayim. According to this understanding, they were Geyrim, taka Jewish. This group got to join the Yiddin at the splitting of the Sea and were at Har Seenai because they had a burning desire to see what the RBSO would do for His people. And so strong was that desire that they left their homes immediately after the last plague; lucky for them, they weren’t firstborn. They merited to join the Yiddin and Israel forever; lucky for them.
Says Rashi that the Erev Rav were a bunch of troublemakers, rabble-rousers and worse, and blames them for everything that went wrong for the Yiddin from the time they left Mitzrayim until they entered the land 40 years later. Says the AriZal: the Erev Rav were Egyptian converts to Judaism. What they converted to, I have no idea since all this went down before Matan Toirah but let’s roll with it, why not? They lived in a community of their own and did not behave like the rest of the Egyptians around them. Paroy felt that they would return back to Egyptian ways after the Yiddin had been dispensed with. And he says that the Erev Rav were not only troublemakers, but holds them up as the very model of insincere converts who only joined with the Jews for material or social advancement rather than out of genuine faith. He notes that these “first converts” were the instigators of the incident of the Eygel (golden calf), showing how easily they fell back into their pagan ways. Their insincerity and lack of faith caused all types of problems for the Yiddin and their false values are seen as the cause of the spiritual descent of the Israelites. Oy vey!!
Says the Likutim HaGRA even worse: The Erev Rav come from the evil part of Odom (Adam), that they belong to the level of evil that was discarded from the sons of Adam, that came from the semen wasted in vain, which is called RA (Evil). How many times have I begged you not to waste seed? And as proof, he cites the possik (Bereishis 38:7): “And Er the son of Yehuda was evil (RA) in the eyes of Hashem”. Nu, we all know what he did. What all that means, I have no idea but epes it doesn’t sound too good.
Let’s chazir: were the Erev Rav good or bad guys? Jewish, converts or what? And what happened to them? Some say they were the first ever true converts and great Jews; ver veyst? Others: that they were goyim mamish. Nu, some assume that, over the forty years of wandering in the Midbar, they blended in with the others, established relationships and shoin- they married our daughters and forever we are a shtikel mixed breed. Some say that since that time we can never say that there is any sort of Jewish “racial purity”. Nu, so much, as I’ve said many times before, for Yichus!!
A gitten shabbis