Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
Yiddin must be near and have food regularly available to them! Poshit giredt (simply stated): Yiddin like to eat and are afraid mamish of being without. Yiddin pack food wherever they go. Why? Just in case. Just in case of what, ver veyst ober azoy iz-iz. Yiddin have been suffering from food insecurity for thousands of years. Yiddin also chap the importance of a good shul Kiddush; they love it. Certain shuls are known and remain popular just because they serve a nice hot kiddush following davening. Shuls on the decline often use the hot kiddush as a marketing tool to drive membership. Seemingly it works. Moreover, a shul can sustain itself without a rabbi, even with a poor one, if you chap, ober, no shul can make it long term without a Kiddush. Yiddin need to see food and no matter the time of day they arrive to shul, by the time laining is over, their stomachs start rumbling and gurgling as if they had fasted for 24 hours; like at the zoo, they eagerly await the next feeding. It’s taka emes. And no matter what minyan one belongs to or frequents, it’s plainly understood that it must culminate with some sort of food. Though most live only a few minutes from shul, and though most wives slave away in their kitchens preparing the shabbis meal, the thought of shul ending and going home without first tasting or gouging at the Kiddush is unacceptable and abhorrent to most. And taka why is it that food plays such a prominent role in the life of the Yid? Are we mamish out of control chazerim that need to be fed regularly? What’s taka pshat?
And what has all this to do with Parshas Chukas which we will be reading this coming shabbis? Nu, in just a minute we will clarify. Seemingly, Yiddin’s obsession with food goes back to their days and years in the midbar. It does? Is it efsher Holocaust related? Shoin, let’s expound ober ershtens, be aware that parshas Chukas is mamish action packed and contains several quite amazing and puzzling storylines. Besides the strange laws of the Poro Aduma (red heifer), this week, we will say goodbye (until next year) to Miriam and Aharoin, co-leaders mamish of the Yiddin these last 40 years; their visas into the Promised Land were, for a variety of reasons, though we can barely understand them, cancelled. Moishe won’t fare any better; his passport, too, is rescinded due to shtekin abuse. Seemingly the RBSO chapped that shtekin abuse is to be dealt with seriously. Unfortunately it would take a few thousand years before it dawned on our own generation that shtekin abuse, if you chap, especially by those preying on the vulnerable and insecure, is a serious offense. That entire episode known as mei miriva (waters of strife) is found in our parsha. Time permitting; we will revisit this amazing story of the shtekin. If not, we previously covered all of the major storylines in the parsha; you are avada urged and reminded to visit www.oisvorfer.com
where you can check out the archives on this depressing parsha.
Later in the parsha, other shtekins will appear; those in the form of slithering snakes. They will kill a bunch of Yiddin though no number is given. And when no number is given, the news cannot be good. Says the heylige Toirah azoy: “the RBSO sent venomous snakes and they bit the people and many people died.” Interestingly enough, in previous incidents where the RBSO’s anger flared and He wiped out hundreds or
thousands, the number of dead is usually provided. In our parsha, we are left to guess, ober, as we said; the term used to describe the number of dead is ‘roiv’. How many is roiv? We don’t know but the word connotes a majority or, at least a lot. Why the RBSO sent snakes to kill and bite, we’ll efsher explore below. Moishe, under instruction from the RBSO, will build a copper serpent that will act to save those Yiddin that were snake
bitten but still alive. How that worked and why, ver veyst ober if the RBSO gave instructions, certainly He had a plan.
Biderech klall (generally speaking) when the snake makes an appearance, it’s not a good thing, if you chap. As stated above, Chukas a smorgasbord of amazing stories you will mamish enjoy; check it out. When we first met the snake way back in parshas Bereishis, he was up to no good and seduced Chava; some say in more ways than one,
if you chap, which some say he did. Certainly he had the equipment, if you chap. Back in sefer Shmois, we met the snake again, two of them. According to the medrish, they swallowed up Moishe from top to bottom and from bottom to top, leaving only his own snake exposed, if you chap. Efsher you recall the myseh where Tzipoirah, one of Moishe’s wives, according to some, took a sharp stone, became the first ever female
moi’eles, performed a bris on their son and only then did the snakes spit Moishe out. Did this happen? Ver veyst?
Ober it appears that the Yiddin’s food obsession is not a new machla (disease); seemingly they were suffering from this malaise ever since leaving Mitzrayim. And it further appears that the lack of food and water, at least in their minds, is what led to most of the demonstrations and complaints by the Yiddin during their midbar trek. Unfortunately, their complaining also led the RBSO to get quite angry; He will do so
again this week. Just two weeks back, the RBSO told Moishe that the not quite ready for prime time Yiddin, tested Him ten times. More than half that number entailed their kvetching about food and water. Big believers they weren’t and when they were, it didn’t last very long.
Welcome to Parshas Chukas where it’s suddenly year 40 since they left Mitzrayim. The Yiddin are marching towards the Promised Land. Where were they just last shabbis, one parsha back? Nu, believe it or not, last week, they were back in parshas Koirach and it was but year 2 since leaving Mitzrayim. What happened to the 38 intervening years and how is that they went by without any Toirah mention? Ver veyst and talk
about lacunas, a word we introduced to many just last week, have you ever seen a bigger hole in the narrative? The emes is we have; Moishe disappeared from Mitzrayim as a young man and returned at 80. We lost track of him for over 40 years. Some call the missing years the black hole.Can a black hole keep one busy for 38 years? Ver veyst? Seemingly it worked for Moishe, if you chap.There are many other examples. Still, a 38 year lacuna is a big hole. A hole so large that many pontificated by offering different views of why they weren’t Toirah mention worthy. What really happened? Ver veyst? Zicher no one knows because the RBSO didn’t tell us and if He chose not to tell us or include them in His heylige Toirah, mistama it’s none of your or our business. In fact, the RBSO would be more than pleased if you studied the words He did tell us and not concern yourself too much with what He left out. Shoin: let’s move on.
Nu, as mentioned above, it’s year 40 and this week’s parsha remains most widely known because it contains the biggest chok of all – the laws pertaining to the Poro Aduma (red heifer)- which grada make no real sense no matter how many times one looks at them. What’s a chok? Of course we previously covered this topic as well ober bikitzur (in short), a chok is a law given by the RBSO without rhyme or reason. Just do it! Do it because the RBSO said so and if the RBSO says so, who are we to argue? One day when you get up to see Him, you can ask all the questions you want. In fact, so confusing is this entire chapter on that even Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men stated that he remained confused by these laws. Nu- if you want to read more about the Poro Aduma because your interest has been piqued- check out archives atwww.oisvorfer.com
And because it’s year 40, we all zicher remember learning that the Yiddin were finally getting ready to enter the Promised Land. Since the heylige Toirah is quiet about the 38 year lacuna, many medroshim have concluded that the Yiddin were on their best behavior; the RBSO was happy with His Chosen People. Moreover, we would also assume that this new generation of Yiddin, the so called second generation, weren’t going to be the same wisenheimers their fathers were. As an aside, zicher you recall that the previous generation was doomed, they were to die in the midbar as a result of their consistently bad behavior with the meraglim, the eygel, the avoido zoro incident (next week) and their constant complaining about food and water. Ober we’d be assuming wrong. Because just after the Yiddin arrived to the wilderness of Zin ,in the first month of the fortieth year, all hell broke loose one more time.
Once again, as in the previous generation, the Yiddin complained about food and water. Says the heylige Toirah azoy:(Bamidbar 20:5) “why have you brought the congregation of the RBSO to this desert so that our livestock should die there? Why have you taken us out of Mitzrayim to bring us to this evil place; it is not a place for seeds, or for fig trees, grapevines, or pomegranate trees, and there is no water to drink.”
And a few pisukim later (Bamidbar 21:5) once again the people spoke against the RBSO and Moishe. “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the desert, for there is no bread and no water, and we are disgusted with this rotten bread?” They were referring to the steady diet of Munn they had been consuming, free of charge and delivered daily, free of charge as well. Was collecting it at the front door so challenging? They were complaining about the magical food that tasted like anything one could imagine; food that never left them either constipated or running. Says the Medrish: the Munn did not turn into waste in their bodies. And as we have said in the past, the Midbar was a magical wonderland: everyday there were open miracles including a traveling well, clouds of fire and many other goodies.
In response to the Munn complaint, the RBSO unleashed the snakes, you know what happened next. Ober efsher you’re asking yourself why snakes? How does the punishment fit the crime? What happened to mida-ki’neged-mida; why was the lowly snake sent out to punish and kill the offender? Was complaining so giferlich a crime?
Ober says the Targum Yoinoson Ben Uziel so gishmak azoy: said the RBSO to the Yiddin…..I redeemed you from slavery, took you out of Mitzrayim and gave you the munn and you complain? Look at the poor snake: way back since I chopped off its legs, it spends its days eating dust and has no complaints. Therefore, the complainers should be bitten by the one that does not complain.
Was this new generation of Yiddin no different than their predecessors? Did we not hear similar complaints just after they left Mitzrayim? Indeed we did and the Toirah recounts each one of them in great detail. Shtlelt zich di shaylo (the question arises), was this generation of Yiddin any better than the last? Or did the RBSO just give up and say, they were not as giferlich as the first generation that emerged from slavery. He had already determined that the first wasn’t ready for prime time; they were not Promised Land worthy. And in the end, though Moishe, Aharoin and Miriam were great leaders, efsher we can kler that their leadership was intended for that generation only. New leadership would need to emerge that would follow the next generation, and that’s how it went down as we will be learning in a few more weeks.