It’s the season for Mazel Tovs, and this week we give a shout out to our friends Mindy and Gerald Gartner on the wedding, earlier this week, of their beautiful daughter Batya to Michael Schaffer. May they have much nachas and joy from the young couple and may Batya take full advantage of Michael’s culinary and other talents.
How time flies:
Just last shabbis, while Koirach and his gang were rabblerousing with disastrous effects, it was year two for the Yiddin in the Midbar. Guess what. It’s one heylige Shabbis later and it’s year 40; welcome to Parsha Chukas, one of the most depressing in the gantze Toirah kula (in the entire Toirah) and soon enough you’ll chap why. And how do we know that 38 years went by though the heylige Toirah does not specifically state so? Because that’s what Chazal (our Sages) teach us, based on oral tradition and their understanding of the events that took place in the parsha. Veyter. Who can argue with the oral tradition?
And taka, what happened to the Yiddin in the past 38 years, and why no mention of them in the heylige Toirah? Could they have gone for 38 years without a scandal or two? Is it possible that they behaved nicely without another eygel meyseh, a few more rebellions, and a few hundred (thousand) illicit relationships just out of boredom mamish and proximity to neighbors in the midbar, ver veyst? Seemingly the RBSO decided not to let us know, mistama it’s none of our business and we shouldn’t go digging too hard. Then again, in a few weeks when we read Parshas Massei, we will be provided with their entire itinerary, each and every encampment and stopping point along the way. Nu, until then, let’s focus on what went down in this week’s parsha of Chukas and why the Oisvorfer is mamish tzibrochen (heartbroken) and depressed from the plethora of bad and sad news.
And while many of you recall that the Parsha got its name because it describes the entire Poro Aduma (red heifer) mitzvah and procedure, which we are taught is the ultimate Chok (a decree without reason) given by the RBSO, this parsha is action packed mamish and you won’t want to miss it. Taka why? Because it’s in this parsha that we bid a fond farewell to Miriam, Moishe’s eltere shvester (older sister), to Aharoin, his older brother, and we get mamish giferliche news about Moishe Rabaynu himself. Stay tuned because this Parsha features yet another installment of the Yiddin’s lack of faith while under the direct care of the RBSO and His magical clouds that afforded them protection day and night. Protection is avada always good. Ober vart a bissel (wait just a minute), there’s more, much more: The Yiddin are again thirsty for water, they whine about the Munn ( again), have travel fatigue, and once again, as they have in the last few Parshas, find themselves in a heap of trouble. Want more? Poisonous snakes suddenly appear and take a bite and end the life of a few thousand Yiddin, the image of the copper serpent saves more Yiddin, war games and even Moishe’s shteken (staff) makes a tragic appearance. Raboyseyee, do not miss the laining this week, it’s riveting and givaldig. On the other hand, and as the Oisvorfer asked you last year: Is this a Parsha you want to learn? A snake and the shteken in one parsha is mamish a recipe for disaster, if you chap. Either one can, and typically does, cause trouble: together they’re deadly!
And avada one of the lowlights includes the very sad and well-known water crisis known as Mei Miriva (the waters of contention, the episode which many, kimat (nearly) but not all, say is the root cause of both Moishe and Aharoin being stripped of their passports into the Promised Land.) Nu, lomer lernin what shrekliche chatoim (shocking transgressions) Moishe and Aharoin committed that caused such a moiridik oinesh (mind boggling punishment) from above ober ershtens (firstly), what is a ‘chok’ and why is the Poro Aduma called the ultimate in Chukim?
Because you’re an oisvorf, mistama you no longer recall that way back in Sefer Shemois, the heylige Oisvorfer taught you all about Chukim. Which Parsha? Nu, you think I recall so far back? Avada nisht, so let’s start over. Ershtens (firstly), Chukim are not “laws without reasons”; rather their logic is Divine. In other words: I’ts none of our business what the reason is. They are what the RBSO wants us to do or not to do, no questions asked. Shoin and settled! Some say, though exactly who I don’t know, that the greatest among our people were able to understand some of them.
And the laws of the Poro Aduma where the ashes of some red cow purify those who are Tomay (impure) and make Tomay those who come in contact with it, are avada divinely inspired because avada they make absolutely no sense to me or anyone the Oisvorfer knows. We can klerr (posit) that the rationale behind the laws of the poro adumah were divinely revealed to Moishe, zicher we don’t know for sure. And some say that Shlomo Hamelech, who researched the reasons behind the all the mitzvois and found explanations for all others, professed that this mitzvah was incomprehensible. Nu if he weren’t so busy chapping and tending to his 1000 veyber (wives), efsher he would have figured this one out as well. Said he: “I thought I would get wisdom, but it (the mitzvah of poro adumah) is far from me (Koiheles 7:23). And to be mekatzer (make a long story short), this is what the Poro Aduma does: Its ashes work as a magical potion used to purify someone who has become Tomay from contact with (or being under the same roof as) a dead body. What’s wrong with being Tomay? Aren’t we all Tomay these days? Don’t many of us regularly come into contact with dead bodies under our own roofs, if you chap? Avada the answer is yes, ober this Poro Aduma seemingly has one specific purpose and that is to purify the Koihan after coming into contact with a dead person. As to the rest of you, nu, you’re on your own, if you chap. Figure it out or cope! Got that? Of course you do, so let’s move on.
Ober before we do, mistama you’d like to know that being Tomay is not a sin, ober eating certain sacred foods and other things are strictly verboten if one is Tomay, and therefore the RBSO in His magnificence, for sure didn’t want the Koihanim to go hungry, and efsher for that and other reasons, He gave us the Poro Aduma, magic mamish. Here’s how it works:
It must be completely red without any blemish, and never have been placed in a yoke. It shall be slaughtered outside of the sanctuary, and some of its blood sprinkled in the direction of the sanctuary. It shall then be entirely burnt, and cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson thread thrown into the fire. The Kohain who performs this ceremony becomes Tomay (ritually impure). The ashes should be gathered and placed outside the camp for safekeeping. The person who gathers the ashes also becomes Tomay. Anyone who comes into contact with a corpse becomes Tomay, and must purify himself by being sprinkled with water containing the ashes of the Red Heifer on the third and seventh day of the purification process. The person who sprinkles the ashes becomes Tomay. Anyone who enters the Temple without undergoing this purification process will receive kareis (spiritually cut off). If there is a dead body in a room, any person or thing that is in that room or enters into it, becomes Tomay, and requires purification with the ashes of the Red Heifer.
And the bottom line on Chukim is this: though many posit different ideas as to what they are and why, the real answer is we just don’t know why the RBSO wanted us to do or not to do them. If He did tell us why- hec- they wouldn’t be chukim after all, would they? Moreover, says Rashi quoting the heylige Gemora (Yuma 67b) and who chapped better: “The Toirah referred to it as a “decree.” I have decreed it, and you are not permitted to question it. Case closed. Veyter.
Next in the Parsha: Miriam dies so let’s say goodbye to Moishe’s older sister. Says the Medrish based on the words “Miriam died there” (20:1): that Miriam was the only woman among those who left Mitzrayim to die in the desert. Why wasn’t she allowed to enter the promised land? One answer given is that as long as she lived, the water well would not be taken from the Yiddin. According to this medrish, not only was the loss of the well caused by her death, but it was for the purpose of removing the well that Miriam had to die. It would seem that phasing out miracles and adjusting to natural life is of such centrality at this time for the Yiddin, that it justified the death Miriam, pious as she was. In other words: it was the will of the RBSO, case closed. She was, after all, a good and decent person, perhaps the only reason that Moishe was born lechatchila (to begin with) when she urged her parents to remarry and have children. You forgot the gantze mayseh from parshas Shemois? Oy vey iz mir. Stop what you’re doing and proceed immediately to www.oisvorfer.com and check out the archives. Learn how Miriam accomplished what many children of divorced parents try to, yet are not successful. Learn how she convinced her parents to remarry by suggesting “who knows if the redeemer might come from your union.” And taka her father took the bait, and the rest, as they say, is history mamish. And the Yiddin taka missed her as we learn immediately following her passing. Grada without Miriam, the course of history might look very different.
Seemingly her only aveyro in life was some loshoin hora about Moishe’s black and beautiful or just beautiful and maybe not black, eishes chayil- err I mean Kushite wife (depending on which pshat talks to you). And is loshoin horo so giferlich? Don’t we speak it daily? Seemingly for great people like Miriam, this was the big one, her passport to the promised land, also revoked. The good news: for most of us, loshoin horo (bad mouthing) seems to be the smallest avayro (sin) we transgress, nebech. Anyway it’s not nice to speak ill of the departed so let’s move along.
Avada as kids, we were excited to hear that Moishe had a tinkele veyb (black wife); we were happy that while on the run from Paroy, he settled in and found a nice girl that loved him. We chapped and we understood. Seemingly as we get older, we are introduced to new medroshim which claim that she wasn’t black, only beautiful, ver veyst? Was I there? Were You? Were the writers of the Medrish?
As we learned above, the rest of the Parsha seems to have occurred mamish right after the last members of the previous generation, those previously condemned to death a few weeks back in the meraglim incident, all finished dying out. Nu, wouldn’t you expect those lucky enough to have survived this debacle to be on their best behavior? Of course you would, but you’d be dead wrong, as will many Yiddin be as you read the Parsha. Though mamish making final war preparations to conquer and take over the holy land that had been promised, going way back to Avrohom Oveenu, seemingly they still had a few (thousand) wisenheimers among them. What’s with these clowns? Didn’t they see enough in the last 38 years? Just last week they witnessed the earth open its mouth wide to swallow up Koirach and his gang, followed by another 14,000+ dead Yiddin. Hey: wake up and smell the coffee. It’s not such a good idea to anger the RBSO. Moreover, thousands more continued to die each year, not all naturally. And they’re at it again? Will they ever learn? Will you? Is it a wonder that the RBSO is always on the precipice of wiping them out and starting over again? Oy vey! Efsher you’re thinking to yourself….. compared to them, you’re mamish tzadikkim. Well maybe some of you are but zicher not all. A good number of you are zicher worse.
Because you are mystified that the RBSO dealt so harshly with Moishe and Aharoin, leaders mamish of the Yiddin since their last days in slavery and throughout their 40 year sojourn in the Midbar, and especially so, after all they had to endure while trying to mange this new nation and because it must send shivers down your spine knowing what could be coming your way from the RBSO for your giferliche chatoim (transgressions) all these years, including likely even earlier today, let’s re-learn what taka happened to them.
The real actions picks up as we begin Perek Chof (chapter 20) just before Shlishi, so if you’re a bit late to Shul, nisht giferlich. Bikitzur (in short), the Yiddin are thirsty, nu, it is a Midbar and mistama it was difficult to get Poland Spring to deliver. They want water. Ober what happened to the water supply? Efsher you recall that when Miriam died, the well of water that accompanied the Yiddin throughout their travels dried up. Nu, a dry well is taka not so good, if you chap. Says the heylige Gemora: The water was in the zechus (merit) of Miriam, the munn people ate, in the merit of Moishe, and the ananay hakovoid (clouds of glory), in the merit of Aharoin. This week, they lost 2 of the 3. When the Yiddin complained about the drought, the RBSO told Moishe to take his staff, the same one that’s been doing magic tricks since Mitzrayim, and to gather all the Yiddin around the rock. Moishe got more instructions: speak to the rock, which will then give forth water.
Grada we’ve heard this story before way back in Parshas Beshalach (Perek 17), and it’s a similar story this week (Bamidbar 20, 3-13). In both instances the Yiddin complained to Moishe that they were thirsty and in both instances the RBSO instructed Moishe to gather the nation, and take along his shteken (stick). In Beshalach, Moishe is instructed to hit the rock, while in Chukas, he is told to only speak to the rock. Ober did he listen? Seemingly not, and after losing his temper, according to some, he hit the rock not once but twice, the rock produced, and the RBSO was not very pleased about the misuse of the shteken; seemingly that’s an issue for many, if you chap. One must have full control of his temper and shteken, if you chap.
Says the heylige Toirah “And Moishe raised his arm and struck the rock…” (20:11). You hear this news? Moishe struck the rock. Not once but twice! The Toirah records that Moishe and Aharoin sinned, however, the exact nature of the transgression is not specified in the verses. Says Rashi that Moishe’s sin was a result of striking the rock to bring forth water rather than communicating with it. How does one communicate with a rock? Nu, those who are married often ask the same question if you chap ober avada one thing is certain: unless specifically instructed, it appears that hitting was not and is not the solution. Still one might ask and taka many do: what giferliche avayro did Moishe really commit, what’s real pshat here?
Asks The Ramban mamish gevaldig: if the RBSO instructed Moishe to take the staff from the Holy of Holies and bring it with him, what was Moishe to think? Was Moishe set up, entrapped efsher? Let’s review the facts: the RBSO told Moishe to take his stick. Nu if he’s told to take his stick, the same stick he’s been using for many years, the stick that split the sea and did other wonders including producing water the last time it was needed, wouldn’t Moishe be led to believe that this same stick will be used to make water again? Wasn’t it ok for Moishe Rabaynu to think that it’s ‘the old hit the rock with the stick routine’ all over again?
Lemoshol (by way of example), if I invited you to my house and told you to bring a bathing suit, would you not expect to go swimming? On the other hand, if the Rebbe invites you to the mikveh, do not automatically assume it’s for holy purposes, if you chap. Nonetheless, if I invited you over to my house Friday night following shul, would you not expect dinner? What’s pshat here? Why did the RBSO get so angry with Moishe when he used his stick? Moishe and Aharoin had been preparing themselves and the Yiddin for over 40 years in the Midbar in order to enter into EY (Israel). How are we to chap that these two great people, by losing themselves for that one moment of frustration, had their dreams disappear in a flash? And though he (Moishe) beseeched the RBSO, the best he got, despite his greatness, was a glimpse in all four directions? Does this episode not scare the living daylights out of you and make you consider some form of Tshuva, or do you figure that you’re no Moishe Rabaynu, not even Aharoin, and the RBSO has bigger fish to fry?
Of course there are answers, none of which impress me, and one day when the Moshiach arrives, I will surely ask this question, assuming I get the chance.
Nu, as you can only imagine, hundreds of pages have been written on this episode, each with its own twist as to what went wrong, why the RBSO dealt so harshly with the two brothers, our heroes mamish. And based on what happened to them, can you only imagine what’s in store for us? As an aside, why did Aharoin get the boot, zicher there is no mention of him hitting the rock or even holding onto his shteken? Was he an accessory or just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Ver veyst!
And to make you look good at the shabbis tish, something the Oisvorfer does every week, and just in case you’re invited out and asked to say a few words, here’s all you need to know about the myriad theories surrounding Moishe’s harsh treatment from the RBSO for what seems to be a minor infraction. Zicher every one of you has done much worse with rocks, if you chap. The heylige Ohr HaChaim compiled this list of Moishe’s heinous crimes.
- Rashi: the RBSO told Moishe to speak to the rock, but he hit it. We must always bear in mind that properly speaking to someone will accomplish more than physical contact, even something hard as a rock.
- Ibn Ezra: Moishe did not have the right concentration when he hit the rock because he was distracted by the nation’s bickering and complaining that they were thirsty. In other words: when pounding the rock, one needs kavono, if you chap.
- Ibn Ezra: He was only supposed to hit the rock once, because that constituted speaking to it, but he hit it twice. Sometimes a “potch” may be necessary, but it must be exact: Over hitting is verboten.
- Ibn Ezra: the BNY should have sung a song of thanks to the RBSO. Was Moishe a choir leader as well?
- Ibn Ezra: Moishe called the Yiddin ‘rebels’. In other words: he insulted them.
- Rambam: Moishe got angry leading the Yiddin to think that the RBSO was angry at them as well, which was not the case this time.
- Rabbeinu Chananel: Moishe made it sound as if he and Aharoin were bringing out the water, and not the RBSO.
- R”M Kohen: Moshe made it sound like it was impossible for the RBSO to make water come from the rock.
- R”Y Albo (Ikrim): Moishe and Aharoin should have brought the BNY water before they even had to complain; he should have had water bottles ready as has become the minhag at chasunas (weddings) during dancing.
- Maaseh Hashem: The BNY and Moishe were arguing and Moishe threw his stick onto the rock in anger.
In any event, my understanding is that for whatever reason, which is none of our business, the RBSO had previously decided that neither Moishe nor his siblings were promised land-worthy. Why? Ver veyst? It’s all part of the master plan; we are but puppets. Did Moishe do something so giferlich? Let’s just say it wasn’t bashert and move on. Efsher the generation entering the Promised Land needed a new leader, efsher Moishe’s mission was over and who better to decide his fate than the RBSO Himself? Efsher the Yiddin needed some younger blood to take over; he was, after all, a mature 120. Did he have the koiach (strength) to walk the hills of Yerusholayim? Could he have made it up the hill from the Kotel to the hotels? And as to Aharoin, well, when lehavdil, the president loses office following an election, does the VP stay on? Shoin, case closed.
Not much later the Yiddin are at it again, more complaining to Moishe. “Why have you brought us up from Egypt for there is no food and there is no water and our soul is disgusted with the Munn. This time the RBSO took exception to the constant whining and sent venomous snakes and serpents, and they bit the people and many of the nation perished. You hear all this?
Next: The people came to Moishe, confessing their sin. They begged that he pray to the RBSO for their forgiveness and, as always (except in the Koirach incident,) Moishe did just that and the RBSO gave him the snakebite antidote, luckily it didn’t involve suction, a method first introduced by a Rebbe in Yeshiva, if you chap.
Efsher you’re wondering why the RBSO sent poisonous snakes, and so was the Medrish which suggests an answer: Snakes have no taste buds and all food tastes the same to them. When the snake is asked why he bites without getting any pleasure, he merely replies, “And what physical pleasure does the slanderer receive?” The measure-for-measure punishment for complaining about the munn – which tasted as anything one desired, was to be bitten by a snake – to which all food tasted the same. Gishmak mamish!
The RBSO told Moishe to make a model of a fiery serpent out of copper, place it on a pole and advise the people suffering from snake bites to stare at it. Anyone who is bitten should look at the serpent and they will live. Moishe avada followed orders, and made the serpent (Nachash) out of copper. Asks the Mishneh in Rosh HaShono (29a): “does the (copper) snake kill or cure? Answer: when the Yddin lifted their eyes (toward the snake on the pole) they looked heavenward toward the RBSO, their Father in Heaven and this cured them; otherwise they withered away.” In other words, the farkakte snake was powerless and useless, as it has been since the garden of Eden story; only by looking up to the RBSO could one be cured. The heylige Gemora tells us that hundreds of years later, the king Chizkiyahu destroyed the copper serpent, because the people were idolizing it and losing their faith in the RBSO. (18:4).
Now you’ll have to admit that from all the stories we read in the Toirah, this one about fiery snakes and then the copper serpent wrapped around the pole sounds epes like a Steven Spielberg production and not words we’d typically read in the Toirah ober that’s exactly what happened. This is not medrish or the imagination of others: this is Toirah mamish!!
Some say that the universal symbol of the medical profession today is the caduceus, the winged staff with two intertwined snakes. It comes from this week’s parsha: “They shall gaze at the copper snake and live.” Grada last year at this time, one reader sent a note suggesting that this information was wrong but in true Oisvorfer fashion, the note has been misplaced.
Finally, the Yiddin arrived at Har Hohor (Mount Hor) where the RBSO instructed Moishe to lead Aharoin and Elozor, his son, up the mountain. Moishe dressed Elozor in Aharoin’s priestly robes, and Aharoin died there. A big proponent of sholom and a peace maker all his life, the entire nation mourned Aharoin’s death for 30 days. We still miss him. Are you depressed yet?
A gitten shabbis-