Of magic and sorcery:
See Mazel Tov shout-outs below
Hard as it is to believe, this week’s Parsha, as mistama you recall from last year, is named after a goy, mamish. It’s taka emes that the Yiddin have been in some serious trouble these last few weeks and that thousands were condemned and taka did perish during this Midbar trek, ober had they sunk so low that the RBSO couldn’t find one decent Yid to name a Parsha after? What’s taka pshat here? Who named them? Ver veyst but we have a tradition that it wasn’t the RBSO, not even Moishe and efsher one day we’ll find out how a few Goyim merited that Parshas be named after them. Then again, efsher like it is today, the names were for sale and went to highest bidder?
Welcome to July and Parshas Bolok, one of the most fascinating in the gantze (entire) Toirah kula (entire Toirah). Why so, you ask? Because the story we’ll hear this coming Shabbis, unlike many others throughout the heylige Toirah, is told in very graphic detail, nothing left out. Whereas many other Toirah stories have gaping holes and many questions left open even after a complete reading and therefore we have to rely, as I said last week, on oral traditions which is a avada enjoyable – interestingly enough, punkt (specifically) this particular parsha of Bolok describes in very colorful detail every move and attempt in the conspiracy by the central characters to curse the Yiddin. And for that reason alone Parshas Bolok is perhaps the most fully developed story and storyline in the gantze Toirah kula. It’s screenplay ready. There’s really not much left to the imagination until we get to the last 9 pisukim of the parsha where epes a man from Shevet Shimoin has an open and unusual salacious entanglement with a hot shiksa named Kosbi ober chap nisht; that’s what he did and his life was spared, mamish.
Nu, the Oisvorfer has an admission to make: in advance of writing this week’s parsha review, he took a peek at his own archives, and guess what? The writing on Parshas Bolok from last year is mamish givaldig, brilliant, informative, educational, insightful and avada also laced with the typical Oisvorfer humor and sarcasm. What to do? Rewrite the Toirah? Avada nisht. Moreover, the Oisvorfer was quite busy this past week with simchas galore, still fighting poison ivy from a bush encounter, if you chap, is attending not one but two weddings tonight and also speaking at shabbis sheva brochos. So for the first time since Parshas Voeschanan way back in 2011, when the first issue was sent to a total but of one reader, this week’s Toirah is a repeat though avada updated, most of it. Shoin! There you have the emes. That’s the bad news. And the good news: mistama a number of you didn’t really read it cover to cover or forgot it altogether. Enjoy.
Nu, speaking of simchas…this week we wish a hearty mazel tov ershtens (firstly) to our friends Beth and Yehudah Honig on the marriage this past Sunday of their mamish beautiful tuchter Keren to Eyal Greenberg. We’ve had the pleasure of hosting Eyal at our home for a number of Shabossim during the past two years and mamish, he’s taka a givaldike catch. Just under 25 years ago the Oisvorfer and his eishes chayil danced with Beth and Yehudah at their own wedding and shoin, in an oigenblick mamish (blink of an eye), here we were at the wedding of their second child. Nu, may they have much joy from the new couple.
Later this afternoon, we’ll be dancing at the chasuna of Tova Weinstein who is set to become an eishes chayil, a cook and a Kook mamish as she’ll be marrying Michael Kook and we taka wish a big hearty mazel tov to our good chaverim Esther and Baruch Weinstein, to the grandparents on all sides and to the gantze mishpocho. We know Tova mamish since birth and lucky is the young man getting this fantastic catch. Nu, more on the Weinstein wedding next week, for now, lommer lernin some parsha please.
Though named Bolok, the story is really about Bilam, a prophet according to some, a sorcerer according to others, who is hired by Bolok, the Moabite king, to curse the Yiddin. Parshas Bolok stars two anti-semitten kings who disliked each other but united for a common cause. They both hated the Yiddin; what else is new. In the co-starring role, we find an ass (a she donkey) that gets a speaking role, mamish. Moreover, a favorite part of the davening, a part that we say each and every morning, a part that the Siddur’s codifiers saw fit to include, is found in this week’s parsha and was originally spoken by yet another sheygitz – one of the central goyim in the parsha. Moreover this goy seems to have direct contact with the RBSO. What the hec is going on here? Did the heylige Toirah chas v’sholom (say it’s not so) run out of Yiddin to talk about? What’s p’shat here? Why do these two clowns; Bolok and Bilam taka get so much play and mamish occupy 7/8ths of the gantze parsha when other choshova Yiddin barely got a shout-out?
Not much going on in the Parsha in terms of mitzvois, it has none of the 613, but it certainly does contain two amazing stories, and you won’t want to miss them. The first, a plot to defeat the BNY (Yiddin) with the help of some magical powers, and the other which takes up all of 9 pisukim, is about Yiddin, hookers, sex and idol worship. And with that tidbit, zicher you’re paying attention; let’s learn some parsha.
Lest you think that the Yiddin had a good week and flew below the radar of the Ananay Hakovoid (the clouds of glory), nu- also in this week’s parsha, but all the way in the end, the Yiddin find yet another way to anger the RBSO, and guess what? It’s not a happy ending and another 24,000 will perish before we get to maftir. Be sure to be in attendance for this part: you’ll feel mamish left out if you miss it. It’s but one week later and the restless incorrigible Yiddin have found yet another way of getting into trouble, resourceful bunch that they were. This time they’re not hungry or thirsty and they’ve seemingly forgotten about all the requests they made for exotic fruits, including pomegranates, just last week. This week, the object of their desires is the hot shiksa Midianite and or Moabite women, depending on which pshat you like. Avada givist (of course), these encounters did have happy endings followed immediately by a less than pleasant one, if you chap. Mistama (likely), now you chazerrim want to hear more. Of course you do ober ershtens (but first) let’s check in on Bilam and Bolok and their nefarious plot to hurt the Yiddin.
Bikitzuer (in short) here’s what went down: Bolok ben Tzipor, the king of Moiav and a warrior himself, hears that the BNY defeated Emor while on their way to the Promised Land. He becomes frightened and thinks he’s next to go down. He consults with the good people of Midyan (where Moishe spent some time – first as a fugitive from Egyptian justice, then after finding a wife, as the shepherd to his shver’s sheep- nu, also a profession) about trying to come up with a plan to defeat the Jews. They tell him he’s got one shot only: he has to find this Bilam character since he, Bilam, has special powers to curse, and if he curses the BNY, all will be good for Bolok and his nation of Moiav. Chap all this? Most of the parsha is about the plan, its execution, its failure and some suddenly speech empowered ass that belonged to Bilam. A talking ass, you wonder?
Taka it happened that once upon a time a choshovo Yid had trouble deciphering this parsha and asked his Rabbi how it was possible that an ass could suddenly begin talking. Answered the Rabbi azoy: that he too had trouble understanding this parsha until he had to deal with his balabatim during a Shul meeting over his contract and there he saw many asses talking. Ok- a shtikel Rabbi joke. If you’re having a difficult time believing that an ass can suddenly talk, you’re not alone. Rambam, one of my favorite commentators, suggests that this entire incident was but a prophetic vision and none of it happened, ver veyst? Grada this is a big statement as it challenges words of the heylige Toirah mamish. was this epes a special donkey or can any ass talk? Seemingly it was. Shoin!
Says the Medrish azoy: Bilam’s donkey was the same animal that our Zeyda Avrohom Oveenu rode to Har Hamoriyo (Mount Moriah) to sacrifice his favorite and only son Yitzchok, and it’s the same donkey that will eventually carry the Moshiach. Says Perkei Ovois: the talking donkey was made on day 6 of Creation, before Shabbis. This is one of the miracles of Nature that was provided for in advance as part of the cosmic plan. Nu, isn’t it obvious to you how the RBSO take care of every detail, mamish? Obviously this no ordinary donkey. Ober who is this Bilam character?. According to a famous Medrish Bilam was one of the advisors who told Paroy the minuvil to toss Yiddishe boy babies into the water. In any event, not the nicest guy and zicher no friend of the Yiddin.
Veyter: Bolok hires Bilam to curse the Yiddin, and in scenes reminiscent of ‘the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,’ Bilam is unable, for various reasons, to curse the Yiddin. Along the way the RBSO, first through his Malach and then seemingly Himself, has an encounter or two with Bilam and warns him against cursing the RBSO’s favorite people- us the Yiddin. Mistama and avada you’re wondering why the RBSO is epes having meetings with this fellow- so am I. Hey: aren’t we the chosen people? Of course Rashi, who else, covers this by explaining that the RBSO didn’t want the other nations of the world to complain that we the Jews had Moishe and therefore we’re so well behaved and they had no one to provide leadership and guidance. Seemingly the RBSO didn’t want to hear them whining jealously about the fact that they didn’t have good representation. Accordingly He selected Bilam the goy sorcerer, despite his personal character flaws which you will zicher enjoy reading about in the next paragraph, infused him with some ruach hakoidesh (holy spirit) which, according to many, came to him only during the night and had meetings and conversations with him. I understand that many of you also have spirits at night; unfortunately they’re less than holy. Chap all that? Ok- veyter.
Want to hear more about Bilam? Who was he and what’s the story with him and his talking donkey? Yes you do, and since you’ve all advanced in your learning this past year, we’ll learn some Gemora. Here goes. And before we begin, let me tell you azoy: when you get done with this shtikel Gemora, you’re mamish going to feel bad that you cut all those classes or didn’t pay attention when you did show up because this stuff cannot be made up. Says the heylige Gemora in Sanhedrin 105 azoy:
The Gemora lists several degrading qualities about Bilam which are hinted to in his name. The verse calls him “Ben Be’or” — “the son of Be’or” (Bamidbar 22:5). The word “Be’or” means donkey. The Gemora explains that he had intimate relations with his donkey. Yes, you read that correctly. Bilam was riding the donkey in more ways than one. Does the Gemora mean that Bilam’s father, Be’or, had relations with his donkey, or that Bilam, the son of Be’or, committed this act? Taka an excellent question and it has several possible answers, let’s learn.
(a) The Yad Ramah says that the Gemora refers to Bilam, whom the verse alludes to as a “Ben Be’or” — “a son who had relations with a donkey.” The Gemora later (105b) indeed says that Bilam’s donkey implied as much in its conversation with Bilam. The donkey said to Bilam, “I am your donkey which you rode on me… have I ever put you in danger (ha’Hasken Hiskanti) to do this to you?” (Bamidbar 22:30). The Gemora explains that word “Hasken” is used in reference to Avishag, who was brought in to keep Dovid ha’Melech warm in his old age and mistama she rode him as well, if you chap. The Gemora understands that Bilam’s donkey was referring to its similar companionship and relationship with Bilam. In other words: it wasn’t a ride in the park, if you chap.
(b) Alternatively, the Yad Ramah explains that the Gemora refers to the reason why Bilam’s father was called Be’or. It was Be’or, Bilam’s father, who had relations with a donkey.
(c) The MELO HA’RO’IM quotes the SHELAH who explains that Be’or and Bilam were actually the same person. The Shelah is so certain of this explanation that he asserts that there must be a printer’s mistake in the text of Rashi which states that Be’or was the father of Bilam.
Want another view? Let’s try this one. Bilam is presented to us as a total contradiction. He is described as “Knowing the mind of G-d”, and we are told in the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 14; 20) that his level of prophecy surpassed even that of Moishe Rabaynu. Yet his personal habits and character traits were the most despicable that we can imagine. In fact, says the heylige Gemora (Avoda Zara 4b,) we can derive from the donkey’s conversation with Bilam that he used to have sexual relations with it. How could someone simultaneously be on such a high level, and still remain such a chazir of a human being? Nu, mistama many of you can answer this question yourselves, if you chap. And as to why the RBSO chose Bilam and gave him Ruach Hakoidesh after he was intimate with his donkey, nu, Rashi above covers this subject. And if you’re not happy with that pshat, too bad. Who says we have to understand everything the RBSO does? And as I always say: the RBSO knows what He’s doing and it’s not for us to question.
Other sages suggest that since Bilam had relations with his donkey, he is no longer considered to be a great prophet, no kidding! Some say that Bilam began to behave in this way (deviant behavior) only once he decided to curse the BNY. Others maintain that he was always a minuvil and had always engaged in such behavior, but he was nevertheless given prophecy as a gift from the RBSO; seemingly there is hope for some of you. Ober once he became an adversary of the Yiddin, he lost that gift (but kept the donkey).
Nu, whichever pshat talks to you, it does appear that either Bilam and or his dad, were sexual deviants. Veyter: After a series of blunders and failed attempts to curse the Yiddin and after the RBSO warns him not to, this is what comes out of Bilam’s mouth as he gazes into the tents of the Yiddin.
“How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisroel. They stretch forth like streams, like gardens by the river, like the aloe trees that Hashem has planted; like cedar trees by the water. Water flows out from his buckets, and his seed will have an abundant flow; his king will be greater than Agag and his monarchy shall be uplifted. G-d Who has brought him out of Egypt, has shown His great strength to him; He will consume His enemy nations, crushing their bones and dip His arrows (in their blood). He crouches and lies like a lion, and, being a lion, who would dare rouse him? Those who bless you are blessed, and those who curse you are cursed.”
Did you hear that blessing? These are the words of Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov, translated here for all of you giferliche oisvorfs who haven’t a clue what you’ve been saying all your lives.
Here was Bilam gazing into the tents of the Yiddin and this is what he saw? Or, was he suffering from sun stroke in the hot desert? Efsher we can posit that he was delirious after being mezaneh with his donkey because not one possik later, the heylige Toirah tells us the following story; another side of the events that were unfolding in the same tents of the Yiddin. Halt kup: it doesn’t get better on the tumidikkee (treif) internet, if you chap.
Following Bilam’s colossal failure to curse the Yiddin, he goes home and the BNY settle in Shittim where all hell seems to break loose. Nu what could be so giferlich, what could they have already done? What’s so special about Shittim? Chazal tell us that just before Bilam left for home, he came up with one last plot, an oldie, but time tested and kimat (nearly) always guaranteed to work. It involved Chasiddim…er I mean Yiddin and hookers- a deadly combination! There are many versions of the story, let’s try one or two so you can chap the scene. Oh, and before you start calling the Oisvorfer all sorts of names, let me remind you that I didn’t make this stuff up. I’m merely repeating the Medrish, but first let’s quote the heylige Toirah which says azoy:
And Israel dwelled in Shittim. And the people began to go astray after the daughters of Moab (25:1).
What does dwelling in Shittim have to do with the Yiddin going astray and epes getting involved with Moabite shiksas? Says the Medrish Rabbah: Some fountains rear strong men and some weaklings, some handsome men and some ugly men, some chaste men and some men who are steeped in lewdness. The fountain of Shittim promoted harlotry and it was the one that watered Sedoim. Because this fountain was cursed, the RBSO will, in the future, cause it to dry up and then renew it, as it is written (Joel 4:18): “And a fountain shall come forth of the house of G-d, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” Not since the days of Avrohom had any Jew broken loose in whoredom; but as soon as they came to Shittim and drank its waters they succumbed to whoredom. You hear this medirsh? Blame the water, why not? Why else would the heylige Yiddin get involved is such dastardly acts of minuvilikite? Say it’s not so, loi olaynu pu pu pu! So what taka happened? The suspense is killing you, isn’t it?
Says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 106a) azoy, and listen carefully. Bilam told his newfound friend Bolok to ensnare the children of Israel with Moabite girls. Bilam explained that the RBSO hates promiscuity and that the Yiddin are very partial to linen. Come, and I will advise you what to do. Erect for them tents enclosed by hangings, and place in them zoinas (harlots), old women outside, young women within, to sell them linen garments.
So he (Bolok) erected curtained tents from the snowy mountain (Hermon) as far as Beth ha-Yeshimoth, and placed zoinas (harlots) in them — old women on the outside, younger ones inside. And when an unsuspecting Yidil ate, drank, and was merry, and took a shpatzir (walk) in the market place, the old women would say to him, “Do you desire linen garments?” The old women offered it at its current value, but the young ones, for less. This happened two or three times. After that she would say to him, “You are now like one of the family; sit down and choose for yourself.” Gourds of Ammonite wine lay near her, and at that time Ammonite and heathen wine had not yet been forbidden. Said she to him: “Would you like to drink a glass of wine?” Having drunk, his passion was inflamed and he exclaimed to her, “Yield to me!” Thereupon she brought forth an idol from her bosom and said to him, “Worship this.”
Nu, when a man is in a compromising position, surrounded by beautiful linens, and at the last second the service provider demands that he worship an idol, is he not going to succumb? And how was this worship manifested? Alarmingly it went something like this. The girls had an idol called Ba’al Peor and the worship procedure required the worshipper to defecate on the idol. I know this makes little sense but this is what the heylige Gemora tells us. Grada, I never chapped what part the linens played; wouldn’t the Yiddin also have succumbed to the hot shiksa Moabites with just food and wine? Or wine alone? Or just for cash? And since when does taking a good dump constitute idol worship?
Sanhedrin 64a says that there was once a gentile woman who was very ill, and who took the following vow: If this woman recovers from her illness, she will go and worship every idol in the world. She recovered, and proceeded to worship every idol in the world. When she came to Peor, she asked its priests: How is this one worshipped? Said they to her: One eats greens and drinks beer, and then one defecates before the idol. Said she: I’d rather that this woman return to her illness than worship an idol in such a manner.
Anyway, I wasn’t there, neither were you but let’s go with the Gemora story of sex and idol worship: seemingly a number of Yiddin did both! As expected, the RBSO is not very happy and decides to dump the giferliche minuvullim who took part in the festivities; in fact before the plague is over, 24,000 exactly will be laid again, this time to rest. And how does the plague taka end? With this even more amazing story. Ober, this story will take us into next week’s parsha, so I’ll leave out the details and only tell you what happened before Pinchas the zealot stopped the plague.
Introducing Zimri: who’s he? Zimri was the Nosi (prince) of Shayvet Shimon and the most prominent individual to take part in the midbar orgy. What did he do? Zimri brought a Midianite shiksa named Kosbi into the Camp of the Yiddin, had sex with her before The Assembly (read: in public view).
So what really went down here besides the Moabite girls on the unsuspecting Yiddin? Seemingly, the Moabite and Midianite kings had learned they could defeat the Yiddin by turning them away from the RBSO, by tempting them to commit sexual sins, the oldest trick in the book. In fact so deep was the hatred for the Yiddin from the Midianites, that one of their chiefs recruited his own daughter into prostitution to lure the Yiddin into sin. Says the Medrish Rabbah (2 1: 3) that this one chief (Tzur) aimed to seduce the Israelite leaders by using his daughter, Kosbi, to entice Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Shimoin. Rashi tells us that Kosbi and other young Midianite women seduced thousands of Yiddishe men into the worship of their god Ba’al Peor by holding out the goodies, which avada the aroused participants wanted: sex sells.
With all that going on, this Zimri fellow brought a Midianite woman (Kosbi) to Moishe and asked if she was forbidden to him (for sexual relations). And he’s klerring (thinking) azoy: If Moishe tells me she’s forbidden, then I’ll remind him (Moishe) that his own wife Tzipoira is from the same place. Ober Moishe drew a blank; let’s not forget that he’s a shtikel older- maybe 120, and at that age one can easily forget such halochois and of course shoot a blank, if you chap. As an aside, the Medrish tells us that Tzipoira converted making her mutir (permissible) to Moishe. Another medrish says that avada Moishe married Tzipoira before Matan Toirah and yet another says (not really) that because she was black and beautiful she didn’t have to be Jewish. Veyter: The halacho (law) of what to do in the case of Zimri and the Midianite woman was concealed from Moishe, so the Bnei Yisrael cried. Zimri’s rationale: Efsher he wanted to show the Yiddin that there was no reason to go hunting for action at the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar where the co-habitation was an enticement, but came with avoidah zora to the Ba’al Pe’or. Maybe his intentions were pure? Of course this topic is hotly debated, but we must move along. The bottom line: Bilam’s scheme to seduce Jewish men to avoidah zora by way of immorality and cohabitation with these women resulted in a death sentence for 24,000. Is anyone still alive to enter the land? Nu, can you blame the poor Yiddin? After waiting nearly 40 years to enter the Promised Land, seemingly they were easily distracted and were prepared to enter other territories, if you chap.
The Maharsha, through some calculation, proves that Zimri was at least 250 years old when he publicly ridiculed Moishe Rabaynu and showed up with this younger Midianite woman. Pretty impressive! One also has to wonder how Zimri was able to perform at 250.
What happened next? When Pinchas, the son of Elazar, saw the public display of Zimri and Kosbi, he was mamish disgusted (wouldn’t you be if you chapped a 250 year old with a teen?) and told Moishe that he remembers the halocho (law). A person having sex with a shiksa is to be executed during the act (only if she’s ugly) but not before or after. Without seeking counsel, he took his spear and stabbed them in their male and female organs, a direct hit. In other words: while Zimri was mounted on Kosbi, Pinchas, who seemingly had but one spear, took aim, piercing them both in the genitalia; X marks the spot! Immediately thereafter, and after 24,000 died, the plague stopped. Only a real religion would share such information about its leaders: the Toirah is real!
Oh and what happened to bilam? Bilam was killed by BNY during the battle of Midyan prior to their entering the land. Says the Medrish (Matois 31:8 Rashi and Targum Yonoson Ben Uziel) that when the Yiddin captured Bilam, he used sorcery to raise himself and the five kings of Midyan high in the air and disappear from sight. Though the powers of impurity can only be summoned while standing on the ground, once the sorcery is initiated, the subject could use the powers to levitate off the ground for a period of time. Shoin. Thousands of years later, books and movies based on this subject, made J.K. Rowling a multimillionaire: yet another gisheft (enterprise) born right right here in this week’s Parsha. Pinchas, the grandson of Aharoin, flew after him by uttering the divine name or, according to others, by directing the name of the RBSO written on the tzitz (frontlet) of the koihen gadol towards the airborne Midyanites counteracting Bilam’s powers of magic. Bilam and the kings immediately fell to the ground and were then easily killed by the Yiddin. Bilam’s decaying body and tarnished soul transformed into evil spirits, snakes and scorpions, the result of the impurity with which they had been saturated during his lifetime, or so says the Sefer Kav Hayoshor (Ch 28). Harry Potter anyone?
A gitten shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv