Appropriately named, this week’s heylige Toirah is dedicated to our fellow oisvorf Bo and his eishes chayil Mrs. Bo who are spending shabbis in Crown Heights at the ofruf of their future Eydim (son-in-law). Avada we wish them a hearty mazel tov on the upcoming chasunah this coming Sunday of their beautiful, elegant and multi talented tochter (daughter) Rebecca. Nu, one down and 3 more techter to go.
Among the many emails I receive weekly with comments and /or questions, was this one from a new choshovo reader (mistama but another oisvorf) who asked the following kasha (question):
Dear Oisvorfer Ruv: What and who is this midrash that you keep quoting and how could one possik be looked at in so many different ways? Takah an excellent question but avada (certainly) there’s a good answer. A Midrash looks for textual irregularities in the Toirah and then uses them as opportunities to either expand the narrative or solve the problem by comparing the text with other verses that use the same word or phrase. Got that? No? Had you paid attention in Yeshiva, you would have known this. Mistama (likely), you were in the bathroom with your chaver, or worse loi olanuu with your Rebbe and you missed this part. The Midrash is the form by which the text uncovers layers of meaning within the text.
Ok- let’s learn some Parsha. Did you know that Moishe Rabaynuu moonlighted as a Moiel? You will by the end of this shiur.
It’s year 210 and it’s just about time for the Yiddin to be redeemed from slavery. Mistama you recall that the RBSO commuted our sentence and had already inflicted the Mitrzim with 7 of the 10 makois coming their way (last week’s parsha). Let’s see what Parshas Boi has in store for them and us. The RBSO has seemingly saved the best for last. Paroy and the Mitzrim are about to absorb the last of the plagues and in the end will finally capitulate and not just release them, but virtually chase the yiddin out of Mitrayim.
Besides being about the redemption, this parsha is also notable because it’s the first in many that contains a number of mitzvois and of every variety. Let’s talk stats: Parshas Boi is the 15th of the 54 sedras; 3rd of 11 in Sefer Shemois and contains 20 mitzvois broken down azoy: 9 Ah-says (positive), 11 loi’s (prohibitions) ending a long run of Parshas without any. And to make you sound even more intelligent this shabbis, here’s some more: since we started learning Sefer Bereishis, and up until this point, only three mitzvois have been cited and they are: 1-to have children; 2- to perform circumcision and 3- not to eat the sciatic nerve in the hindquarter of an animal. Avada you remember the first two because they involve the Milah (penis), you chazzir.
In fact, going back to parshas Nitzavim, Vayeilech, Haazinu & V’zois HaB’racha, all of B’reishis, and Sh’mois & Vo’eira, we have but a total of 5 mitzvois. The other 36 sedras have the other 608! Avada you’re wondering how could this be, isn’t 608 and the 20 in this week’s parsha way more than the 613 you’ve always heard about? What I meant was that this week’s Parsha and the other 35, contain the balance of the 608. Zicher (certainly) you know that there’s a machloikes as to which mitzvois count and don’t towards the magical 613 number; we’ll leave that for another shiur. Ok- enough laytzonois (clowning around), let’s mamish learn some parsha.
Did you just read that there were but 3 mitzvois given in all of Sefer B’reshis? You did! Real p’shat is that the different Mitzvois given in Sefer Bereshis -were not given to the Jewish people, but to individuals.
Parshas Boi doesn’t just contain regular mitzvois – but the mitzvois commanded this week, specifically those of tefilin and Pesach, are among the most expensive to keep and have given birth to major kosher industries including hotel and travel, catering, bar mitzvah weekend celebrations and the entire kosher le’pesach food products industry. The RBSO understood our budgets might be stretched and also threw in two freebie mitzvois into the parsha: 1- the mitzvah of establishing a calendar and marking Roish Choidesh and 2- Kiddish levana.
In Boi, we are introduced to the first significant grouping of mitzvois and they deal with the many details associated with Pesach including eating restrictions during the Chag. Zicher, everyone knows the tremendous effort involved, not only regarding the food constraints, but in the preparation of the Seder on the first night(s) of Pesach; that was back then. Most of the stress bazman hazeh (in our times) revolves around choosing a hotel, booking flights and worrying if your parents or in-laws are going to sponsor you. And if they do, will you have to squeeze your entire mishpocho into one room or will they splurge and put you up in comfort. And if you’re the sponsoring parent, zicher you have other worries: which child do I take this year, will the others get pissed off and why do I have to pay for the bitch of a daughter-in-law that you can’t stand; every family has one of those (at least) .
Back in Mitzrayim, these weren’t issues, nor did the b’nei yisroel keep Pesach for seven full days. Did you just read that correctly – that back in Mitzrayim the very first Pesach, there was no seven day holiday? According to some authorities, the first Pesach was not designated as a yom toiv (festival), only the first day was to be celebrated, and even then, merely with the sacrifice and the meal. Isn’t the reason we keep seven days just to commemorate and remember that event? Another excellent kasha.!!
Is this what the RBSO had in mind when the toriah said we need to eat the Korban Pesach? Do you takah think that he had in mind that we fly to all parts of the world and spend tens of thousands of dollars to make Pesach? I have a feeling that if Moishe Rabaynuu were to see us poolside on yoim toiv in our bathing suits or how, what, and how much we eat on Pesach, he’d bring us back to Mitzrayim.
I always found this Parsha somewhat confusing and avada you’re wondering why. Nu, I’ll tell you. After years of enslavement and back breaking labor, we’re mamish weeks from freedom; we can taste it as we get ready to hear next week’s Parsha. The Parsha begins with plagues number 8 and 9 and dire warnings about the tenth, the big one- makas b’choirois. Ober, all of a sudden it’s period full stop and we’re off on a brand new subject: kiddish levono (sanctifying the new moon monthly). Grada (it so happens) that this is the first mitzvah given to the entirety of Israel. The RBSO has set the stage in Parshas Shemois and Vo’eira, the mitzrim have seen his hand – they believe, and just when they’re about to see the last of the Makois- the RBSO again stops the presses and introduces new ideas. How did this happen and why? Couldn’t we wait to hear about this after the job is done and we’re out of there? Nu- I’m just venting.
|2. This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year.||ב. הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה:|
Ober as always, the RBSO knows exactly what he’s doing and who are you to question his ways. Essentially, He is commanding the Yiddin to establish a proper calendar starting with the month of Nissan. How could Nissan be the first month when we celebrate Roish Hashono in the month of Tishrey (the seventh month- you idiots) – nu- another excellent kasha.
Now imagine for a moment that you’re the RBSO, a scary thought mamish!. You’re about to redeem the Yiddin after 210 years of slavery and provide them with a system of laws that will transform them into a holy nation, a people. It’s time for the first mitzvah, something inspirational perhaps. Any of the top ten would be expected, a sneak preview if you will. Efsher maybe a big one like shabbis or love thy neighbor, and maybe, after seeing open miracles, a belief in the RBSO. How about the laws of kosher, or maybe for you oisvorfs, a few introductory laws about forbidden relations, certainly you could use some review there..
Instead none of the top ten made it. But why roish choidesh and why here? The first mitzvah is to establish a calendar? What makes this Mitzva so important, what’s p’shat? Takah (understandably) the calendar is used as a school fundraiser and also monthly by the neshay chayil (married women) but how does roish choidesh and knowing when the Moiled is (birth of the new moon) serve as a foundation for the rest of a Jewish way of life? Another excellent kasha!
Grada (it so happens) that the Seforno has a shtikel answer and says azoy (like this). On the words “Hachodesh hazeh lachem” the RBSO was doing more than merely establishing the concept of Roish Choidesh. The RBSO was giving the greatest gift of all to an enslaved people: freedom of time. Grada, these days when a person gets time, its not so good, if you chap what I mean..
Interestingly, Roish Choidesh was one of three mitzvos banned by the Greeks during the time of the Chanukah story. They also banned bris Mila (circumcision) and Shabbis. What bothered them about an innocuous day like Roish Choidesh? Ver veys! Seemingly the reason Roish Choidesh posed such a threat to the Greeks was because they tried to abolish all Jewish festivals, and Roish Choidesh was the determining factor of when the festivals would take place. Says the heylige gemorrah that “Anyone who blesses the month in its proper time, it is as if he greeted the Divine presence” (Sanhedrin 42a). Nu, greeting the RBSO once a month without spending a penny in its observance is takeh unique. More unique is greeting the RBSO and still being alive the next month!
Ok way back two pages ago we learned that coming into this week Paroy had already witnessed 7 makois and early in this parsha, 2 more. One has to wonder what’s with this Paroy fellow, doesn’t he chap what’s going on? Doesn’t he by now mamish understand that the RBSO is fully in charge and it’s time to give it up? The water supply has been ruined and bloodied; insects had inflicted their own damage and the crops were already destroyed by hail. The Egyptian people had been subjected to lice, boils and darkness and have had enough. By now they’re convinced that there was a higher power calling the shots. Only Paroy the minuvil remained intransigent as if he was in a personal battle with the RBSO. Nu avada we all know that such a battle cannot be won, or at least you should. Yet the heylige toirah tells us that after 7 plagues, Paroy seems to be dug in. The emes is that the RBSO as the heylige toirah tells us, did make his heart heavy and seemingly forced the issue; payback is a bitch, isn’t it. Ok- veyter- we’ve exhausted this topic for content and humor.
Given time constraints, we’ll skip over the eighth plague of locusts and move right to number nine, the plague of choshech (darkness). Let’s first read the heylige toirah inside.
|21. The Lord said to Moses, “Stretch forth your hand toward the heavens, and there will be darkness over the land of Egypt, and the darkness will become darker.”||כא. וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה נְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמַיִם וִיהִי חֹשֶׁךְ עַל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְיָמֵשׁ חֹשֶׁךְ:|
|22. So Moses stretched forth his hand toward the heavens, and there was thick darkness over the entire land of Egypt for three days.||כב. וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת יָדוֹ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם וַיְהִי חֹשֶׁךְ אֲפֵלָה בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים:|
On the question as to why the RBSO brought this particular plague, Rashi states this amazing p’shat. He says that among the b’nei yisroel there were those who did not want to leave. The Yalkut adds that these people were bad, had collaborated with the mitzrim and had become wealthy. Since when is having a few dollars such a terrible sin, I don’t know. The RBSO did not want them at Har Seenai for the big event at the mountain but didn’t want the mitzrim to see them die. Perhaps they might suggest that the Israelites were no better than they. Nu- what to do? The RBSO brought total darkness and during this period this chevra died and were buried by the good guys. Ok- this is quite understandable as the RBSO wasn’t going out of his way to save some of the bad apples in the bunch, but how many bad people were there? Let’s see.
Says Rashi on these pissukim that four-fifths of the Jews died at this time. Say that again!? 4/5ths of the Jews died in three days? How was it possible to hide so many deaths from the Egyptians? Every day murderers have trouble hiding one body, how were the yiddin going to hide millions? Moreover, would the Egyptians not have noticed that the work force was epes thinned out? I mean the lights were about to come back on, hello!!!!! We’re talking 80% of the Jewish people (about 12 million souls) who (according to Rashi) died during the plague of darkness. One would think that an event of such magnitude would have received epes a shtikel mention in the toirah itself- but it’s not! A more disturbing kasha is- if this is emes how can the exodus be thought of as a time of great celebration? Why weren’t the yiddin in a state of shock and deep mourning? And yet another question that might come to mind is: How is it possible that fifty-five men who went down to Egypt with Yankiff could be the ancestors, over a 210 year period to 15 million people? Even if we believe that the women went to the mikveh, and afilu (even) if we buy into the p’shat that they were takah very fertile- but millions in 210 years? And another gevladige kasha is this: During the 10 plagues brought upon the mitzrim, the yiddin were always spared. How is it possible that the RBSO would have them die -and in such great numbers noch der tzee (to top it off)- during a plague that killed no Egyptians? Excellent questions, none of which I have answers for, perhaps one of you does.
Ober (but) chap nish, hold on, calm down, because there’s a simple yet elegant answer to all these questions- halt kup and don’t let your mind wander. The answer is azoy: Says Ibn Ezra a tremendous chiddush- “The whole thing is a derash; and don’t rely on it. In other words, it’s all made up, and don’t you feel much better knowing that the RBSO didn’t suddenly wipe out 12 million of us in three days while we left Mitzrayim in party mode, singing songs. Continues the Ibn Ezra and suggests that “Maybe the one who said it at the outset had a hidden reason (soid).” And you have to love that answer: p’shat doesn’t make sense – ok- it never happened, gevaldig! By the way, you shouldn’t chas’v’ sholom think that the Oisvorfer Ruv is such a genius, it so happens that Ibn Ezra also asks these questions on Rashi’s comments. Want another p’shat?
Rav Shimon Schwab argues that Rashi can’t literally mean that four-fifths of the Jews died, as this would cause mass mourning for the remaining Jews and a desecration of Hashem’s name among the Egyptians. Rather, he suggests that Rashi was just being colorful. As proof he cites that just as Rashi writes (Bereishis 4:10) that Kayin (Cain) was punished not only for killing Hevel but for all of Hevel’s offspring who would no longer be born, so too the relatively small number of Jews who died during the darkness were counted in terms of their total number of potential descendants. Clever! Let’s move on.
As I said earlier, the RBSO interrupted the onset of the final plague to dictate the laws of Pesach including who could eat it and when. Immediately after, the possik states (see below) that the Israelites did everything he said, beautiful mamish.
|50. All the children of Israel did; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.||נ. וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת מֹשֶׁה וְאֶת אַהֲרֹן כֵּן עָשׂוּ:|
Says the Yalkut that when the Israelites made the Paschal Lamb, many Egyptians who had joined them wanted to partake of the sacrifice, nu- they also like to eat.. The RBSO said no since “no outsider may eat it” and the Yiddin did exactly as God had instructed. Ober (but) listen to this bombshell!!!!.
On the same Possik the Yalkut adds: The Israelites also did as the RBSO had instructed in circumcising themselves. What, another mila? Weren’t the Yiddin already tipped off, if you chap what I’m saying? Answer: Seeing how the RBSO rejects the uncircumcised, they immediately decided to circumcise themselves en masse. Fathers, children, and even slaves were all circumcised. Even the Eruv Rav (mixed multitude) who were to leave with the Yiddin submitted to circumcision. While the lambs were roasting over the fire and giving forth a givaldige fragrant aroma, the RBSO told the Israelites that anyone who does not have the sign of Avrahom on his body cannot eat it. What to do? The Israelites immediately submitted to circumcision. As mentioned earlier, with the exception of sheyvet (the tribe) of Levi, all the Israelites had abandoned the rite of circumcision in Egypt, oy vey!
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught that Moishe himself performed the brisssim, Aharoin performed the peeling back of the foreskin (periah) and Yehoishua (Joshua) bandaged the wound, what a team! .Understandably, there were many Israelites who did not want to submit to circumcision and tried to hide. One cannot however outsmart the RBSO. He made the winds carry the fragrance of the Paschal Lamb to all corners of Egypt. Smelling the irresistibly delicious aroma, these Israelites begged Moishe to allow them to taste the lamb. He replied that he could not as long as they remained uncircumcised. As a result of the roasting lamb alone, many Israelites submitted to circumcision. Nu, what a frum person wouldn’t do for a decent piece of meat and a good meal.
A gitten shabbis!