Mamish moments ago, our friends Lisa and David Zaslowsky walked their amazing son Steven (Stev-e as he is known to all his friends and to us in our home where he spent much time in his formative years) down the aisle where he married his kallah Orlee, she beautiful daughter of Rina Rebibo and Daniel Rebibo. A big mazel tov to Stev-e and to his wife Orlee, to Lisa and David, to David’s father Danny Zazlowsky and to his eishes chayil Charlotte, and to the extended Zazlowsky families. From Arizona to New York and mistama to Israel, Mazel tov to all the Rebibos. May the new couple merit to enjoy many decades of marital bliss.
Also this week we begin with mazel tov wishes of another variety. Manny Grenader has recently opened a rather large and easy to shop in liquor store in Valley Stream New York by the name of Liquor & Wine Warehouse.
And while it’s quite rare for the Oisvorfer to give endorsements, the next time you find yourselves on the way to Home Depot in Valley Stream, or any other store in its vicinity, make it your business to stop by the Liquor & Wine Warehouse located at 22 W Circle Drive in Green Acres. Not in the enclosed mall, but on Circle Drive. You will be blown away by the help you get, the very impressive selection of kosher wines, and anything else you may enjoy making a l’chaim on.
Disclaimer: the Oisvorfer knows nothing about wine or liquor – he does not drink, and that being said, should you need wine or spirits, or should you be having company, Manny differentiates himself by having a full-time in-house expert on kosher wines and believe me, when a neophyte comes in, it’s quite helpful to have someone show you around. Moreover, after consulting with chaverim -wine and spirit connoisseurs mamish- it turns out that Manny’s prices are more than competitive; they are downright cheaper than other establishments. Who doesn’t enjoy paying less?
While the car was being loaded, the Oisvorfer chapped a tiny schmooze with Manny and learned that he is more than a storeowner: he hails from Minsk, Belarus (former USSR), and immigrated to the US with his family in 1992. He holds several degrees and is active in several Jewish causes. An overall good guy!
The bottom line: the store is large and beautiful, parking is plentiful and free, prices are cheap, the selection incredible and the management is very knowledgeable and amazingly helpful. Try it!
Liquor & Wine Warehouse
22 W Circle Drive
Green Acres Mall
(Located opposite of Walmart, Home Depot and BJ’s; around the corner from Men’s Wearhouse)
Water Inspired Songs:
What is it about water that inspired the Yiddin and its leaders to spontaneously break out into song? We shall explore that below.
As previously discussed, the Oisvorfer belongs to four different shuls. One of them, YILC, recently installed Rabbi Yaakov Trump as its new spiritual leader. One of his first actions -still ongoing, is a listening tour. What’s pshat listening? He has invited membership of the shul to stop by to discuss what’s on their minds: how their opinions can help improve the shul by hearing communal visions, aspirations and concerns of the membership. Listening is taka a good idea!
So happens that listening, or rather not listening, is what gets Moishe into a heap of trouble in this week’s parsha of Chukas. Told to “talk to the rock,” he instead struck it twice. His passport into the Promised Land will be revoked, he’s suddenly on the designated ‘do not cross over’ list. He’s not alone: the Yiddin too, continue in our parsha to have listening issues, and will again find themselves in trouble. Ober, it gets worse! How so? Chukas also features the passing of Miriam and Aharoin, they making up 2/3ds of the triumvirate who managed the affairs of the Yiddin for the past 40 years. We have previously discussed Miriam and Aharoin in depth and will instead this year, focus on songs and singing. Songs and singing in the parsha? Indeed so; ober unlike the famous Oz Yoshir single composed by Moishe and then also sung by the Yiddin – check out parshas Bishalach for the famous Shiras HaYam (Song of the Sea), this week’s parsha contains the lyrics to a not so well-known song, one performed by all the Yiddin, this time without Moishe. Mamish? And why is that kimat no one knows this song? Taka an excellent question and let’s find out.
Early in the parsha, we read how the Yiddin complained once again to Moishe and Aharoin: Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 20:5), azoy: “Why did you make us leave Mitzrayim to bring us to this wretched place, a place with no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates? There is not even water to drink!” Once again water, rather the dearth of water, is on their minds; water is zicher a central theme of the entire midbar experience and specifically in a parsha which features not one, but two different water crises. When else did they complain? Nu, let’s chazir the three water crises the Yiddin experienced and their reactions to each.
The first occurred mamish three days after the Yiddin left Egypt and crossed the Yam Suf. That one, as described in parshas Bishalach (15:23-26) was solved when Moishe threw a stick into the bitter water and it becomes sweet. Soon after, (same parsha but two chapters later (17:1-6), we read the second water crisis: the Yiddin are so desperate for water Moishe fears the people will stone him. This situation was averted when the RBSO told Moishe to hit the rock, which he did; water appeared. The third water crisis is found in our parsha (Chukas 20:2-11) a full forty years after the first two incidents. Vyst zich ois (It does then appear) that following the 2nd crisis, water was plentiful for the next 38 years. Welcome to year 40, the Yiddin are finally weeks from entering the Promised Land.
Ober listen to this amazing Rashi quoting the medrish avada, which tells us that the rock Moishe hit after the second water crisis became Miriam’s well. And that well, that very rock, sustained the Yiddin in the desert until she died. Seemingly it remained obedient once hit. Welcome then to our parsha wherein the heylige Toirah provides great detail of the Yiddin’s complaints about water and Moishe’s efforts to pacify them. The ensuing pisukim describe Moishe’s efforts to obtain water for the Yiddin. Sadly, in the process of doing so, he failed to follow the RBSO’s very specific instructions: this time, He seemingly wanted Moishe to use his mouth and not his hands. Why the RBSO instructed Moishe to take his staff if all he was to do was talk, ver veyst? Was Moishe being tested for his restraint? The bottom line: avada we must learn when to use our mouths vs. our hands, if you chap, and especially so. There are always circumstances for hand abuse and especially so if one’s staff comes into play without permission. Learning the heylige Toirah and lessons taught, could efsher have helped those caught up in the #MeToo movement. Thousands of years earlier, it gave fair warning: use your staff as directed! On the other hand, we might argue that in the end, it was all part of the master plan. The RBSO avada knew just how Moishe would react. The good news: Later in the parsha, the Yiddin will have better success with water: they will discover a wellspring of fresh water, a miraculous blessing from the RBSO. And taka, it’s at that point when the Yiddin will break out into song, the very song referenced above.
Our sages teach us that there were ten great events in Jewish history which produced ten great shiras (songs), each sung or to yet to be sung to the RBSO. And listen to this: they also teach that nine have already occurred, and the tenth, is the big one, the one we wait for daily, the coming of the Moshiach. Where are these songs to be found and why don’t most of you know them? We will address that below.
So happens that our parsha contains one of those song events, the third shira, and its title is the ‘Shiras Ha’Be’er’ (song of the well). Did we learn about this song in yeshiva? The Oisvorfer did not. Not because he was already suspended by that time; he never got suspended when school was on recess. My guess is that it has more to so with the fact that back then, yeshivas never taught Sefer Bamidbar while in yeshiva. For reasons which continue to baffle, many -specifically those in the chasiddishe world- continue to teach Sefer Vayikoro which is all about korboins (sacrifices) instead. Why? Ver veyst! Have any of you seen a Beis Hamikdash in your travels? Veyter.
Ober, what the hec is the shiras HaBe’er? Let’s start reading innaveynig (the words of the text). Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 21:17-20), azoy:
|17. Then Israel sang this song: “‘Ascend, O well,’ sing to it!||יזאָ֚ז יָשִׁ֣יר יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את עֲלִ֥י בְאֵ֖ר עֱנוּ־לָֽהּ:|
|18. A well dug by princes, carved out by nobles of the people, through the lawgiver with their staffs, and from the desert, a gift.||יחבְּאֵ֞ר חֲפָר֣וּהָ שָׂרִ֗ים כָּר֨וּהָ֙ נְדִיבֵ֣י הָעָ֔ם בִּמְחֹקֵ֖ק בְּמִשְׁעֲנֹתָ֑ם וּמִמִּדְבָּ֖ר מַתָּנָֽה:|
|19. From the gift, to the streams, and from the streams to the heights.||יטוּמִמַּתָּנָ֖ה נַֽחֲלִיאֵ֑ל וּמִנַּֽחֲלִיאֵ֖ל בָּמֽוֹת:|
|20. From the heights to the valley in the field of Moiov, at the top of the peak, that overlooks the wastelands.”||כוּמִבָּמ֗וֹת הַגַּיְא֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ בִּשְׂדֵ֣ה מוֹאָ֔ב רֹ֖אשׁ הַפִּסְגָּ֑ה וְנִשְׁקָ֖פָה עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַיְשִׁימֹֽן:|
Says the Bechor Shor so gishmak, azoy: the lyrics describe the very practical message of this song as follows: Israel sang the song… – Out of happiness that they had been taken from death to life, for they had feared they would die of thirst, they and their cattle.
ישיר ישראל. מחמת שמחה כי נהפכו ממות לחיים כי היו יראים למות בצמא הם ומקניהם.
Nothing too complicated: A simple song about a well – the tale of how it was first dug, and a call for it to give water again. The basic concerns of everyday life, recorded in what appears to be a folk song about thirst in the midbar, the struggle to survive; a careful accounting of people, and even livestock.
Shiras Ha’Be’er was composed and sung in the desert. When? Just after the Emorim (Amorites) were killed. When was that? Seemingly, after plotting an ambush of the Yiddin. What happened next? Says Rashi: the Amorites waited in the mountains to ambush the Yiddin. The RBSO moved the mountains to crush them. Their remains -their blood- was seen in the stream that flowed from the well and the people signaled this miraculous victory with a song as they were about to enter the Promised Land. What that means exactly, ver veyst. You hear this raboyseyee? When the RBSO is on your side, mountains move. In this case, the mountains crushed them. Their blood came up through the Be’er (the well), a nays (miracle) mamish, another in the long list of miracles the Yiddin witnessed since before leaving Mitzrayim. In reality, for this generation, it may have been among the first miracles they were to witness and that because -according to the medrish and others- all the Yiddin who were designated for death in the midbar, had already passed away during the past 38 years. And since we mentioned this factoid, now is a good time to remind you that while the parsha begins with the red heifer – a rather puzzling event described in year two of the midbar experience, as the parsha continues, the heylige Toirah skips ahead a full 38 years and by the time we read of the passing of Miriam and Aharoin, and the Be’er song and we are suddenly in year 40. Shoin, lets’ get back the song.
As we read above, the song of the well is but four pesukim found near the end of the shishi aliya. Tradition holds that we have ten such songs in Tanach. We do? Where? Three are in heylige Toirah (one in our parsha, and the other two are; the Oz Yoshir, and one over in parshas Ha’azinu. The other six are found in the heylige Novee (Prophets). We will close with the entire list. And the tenth? Seemingly its words will be composed only when the Moshiach arrives. For the moment, Jewish music and lyricists and composers continue to give us songs with words about his arrival. When is he coming? Ver veyst. Ober says the Oisvorfer: he’s only coming when the RBSO sends him and mistama not for good behavior by the Yiddin. Not one day before or after; not to worry.
What distinguishes these from other songs where we regularly thank the RBSO for His largess? Seemingly, the nine songs all recall and mark key historical moments the Yiddin experienced. Says the Zohar: the singing evidenced a moment of union between the higher and lower spheres, whatever that means. Efsher pshat is azoy: the singing of this song at this time came about spontaneously as the Yiddin finally chapped how the RBSO makes things happen so miraculously.
Asks Rashi quoting the medrish (Tanchuma) so gishmak, azoy: Didn’t the well begin giving water at the beginning of the forty-year journey? Why did the Yiddin only start singing its praises now? Why not at the first sight of water from a well. Wasn’t a well in the midbar magical and reason enough to sing? They waited 40 years? Moreover, why isn’t Moishe’s name mentioned here? Did he not sing? Lead them in song? And if he didn’t, why not? This question heightened by the fact that at Shiras Hayam, Moishe sang the Oz Yoshir; he led! Why was Moishe silent this time? Let’s compare the two events and songs side by side.
To do so, let’s harken back to parsha Bishalach for a moment and the shira Moishe did sing. There the song began with these words: “Then Moishe and the Yiddin sang this song to the RBSO.” At the crossing of the sea, it was Moishe who led the Yiddin in song, and the song was addressed to the RBSO. Ober in this week’s parsha, neither Moishe nor the RBSO are mentioned. The Yiddin are on their own, without Moishe. They celebrate the discovery of water but do not recognize the role the RBSO played in that life-saving discovery! What taka happened? Says the medrish (Yalkut), azoy: why is there no mention of Moishe? Because Moishe had met defeat because of water, and no one praises the source of his great failure. Moishe, having failed earlier in our parsha to provide water for the people in precise compliance with the RBSO’s very specific instructions, was incapable of singing joyously at this new and unexpected discovery of water. Instead, water was the cause of his tragic frustration. He was thus unable to appreciate the wonder of this well in the wilderness. Moishe, the great spiritual guide, was not available to the people to lead them in song, to help them appreciate the RBSO’s great favor, and so they sang on their own, and failed to attribute the discovery of the well to the RBSO’s delivery of yet another miracle. The bottom line: without Moishe’ guidance, the Yiddin forgot to praise the RBSO; oy vey! Leadership is key.
Another view: In our parsha, the well produced streams of drinking water to over two million people. Moreover, says the medrish, so long as Miriam was alive, the well-rock rolled along with the Yiddin and from that very well, they drank for 40 years. Ober the Oisvorfer recalls his rebbe teaching him –while beating him with his stick or otherwise trying to abuse him with this staff, azoy: the well water was granted in the zichus (merit) of Miriam. It ceased giving water with her passing. Moishe taka brought it back, the water. Ober, his means were questioned by the RBSO. Accordingly, when the outpouring of praise for the well gave birth to the new song, (so Rashi tells us) Moishe did not join in.
And says Rabaynu B’chaya quoting a medrashic approach, azoy: avada Moishe was the composer of the well song, and certainly the Yiddin wanted to praise the RBSO for the great miracle of wiping out the Amorites and also for providing water. Oib azoy (if that’s the case), why are neither mentioned? Moishe, as mentioned above, is not mentioned because he already knew that his mission had been aborted; he lost his visa into the Land. It would not have been befitting to directly refer to such matters in a song of thanksgiving. Ober what about the RBSO? Says the medrish so gishmak, azoy: the heylige Toirah was sensitive to Moishe’s plight and decided to omit the RBSO’s name from the song, although it was zicher sung to Him.
Some say azoy: this portion of our parsha takes place in year 40, with the Yiddin mamish close to entering the Land. The wells’ mission is coming to a close. The Jordan River was in sight, they could likely drink its waters. Says the medrish so gishmak, azoy: As the Yiddin approached Moiov, the well was no longer necessary because they could now drink from the Jordan River. That being the case, the rock’s mission was over. What happened to the rock? It returned to be amongst the other stones. Some say that the stone didn’t join its sister stones; instead, it rolled into the Jordan River. Why? Though it looked like a rock, its essence was still water;, accordingly, it returned to its own source. And the singing at this time? Efsher it reflected the gratitude the Yiddin had to the RBSO and to the well for providing them water these past four decades. It was time for a final thank you, a send-off of the rock that served them so faithfully. Ober Moishe did not feel like singing at this point, knowing that as soon as the Jews were gearing up to enter, he was to remain and pass on in the designated mountain top.
The bottom line: the Yiddin did sing the well’s praises ober should have avada thanked the RBSO for providing safety and for the well. Maybe they did, maybe not, ver veyst? The bottom line: it’s always good for us to reflect and be thankful to all those who have given assistance during our times of need, especially the RBSO. We close with this: throughout our history, there were Yiddin -individuals and as a collective, that at times recognized the RBSO’s greatness and broke into song. They are listed below.
1) Shiras Adam – The song Odom (Adam sang after Creation was completed: Mizmor-shir-l’yoim- hashabbos.
2) Shiras HaYam – The song at Yam Suf (Beshalach)
3) Shiras Ha’Be’er – Song of the Well in the Desert
4) Shiras Ha’azinu
5) Shiras Ha’Givon in Sefer Yehoshua when the sun remained up throughout the night to help Yehoshua in his battle.
6) Shiras Devorah in Sefer Shoftim
7) Shiras Chana in Sefer Shmuel
8) Shiras Dovid – Tehilim 18
9) Shir Ha’Shirim of Shlomo Ha’Melech
10) Shir HaGeulah – This song has not yet been sung.
Does everyone agree that the list above represents the ten times the Yiddin already sung and will sing the last song? Of course not: As expected there are different versions of this list presented by other medroshim.
Another version of the list: the song sung on the night of the Exodus from Mitzrayim (Isaiah 30:29), the “Song at the Sea” (Shmois 15:1-21), the “Song at the Well” (Bamidbar 21:17-20), Moishe’s song upon his completion of writing the heylige Toirah (Devorim 32), the song with which Yihoishua stopped the sun (Joshua 10:12-13), Shiras Devorah (Judges 5), King David’s song (II Samuel 22), the song at the dedication of the Beis Hamikdash (Psalms 30), and King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) extolling the love between the Divine Groom and His bride Israel. The tenth song, says the Midrash, will be the Shir Chodosh (the new song) of the ultimate redemption: a redemption that is global and absolute.
The bottom line: some express themselves and let their voices be heard through speech, others through the written word. Others speak and let us know how they fell by means of their posture and other gestures. Voices can also be expressed through song.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv