We begin this week with a refuah shilaymo (full and speedy recovery) shout out to chaver Jeff Rosenberg, dedicated Oisvorfer follower and reader. While riding his bike, Jeff was his hit by a car. Yes he was wearing his helmet and yes, he is on the mend. Chazak!
And a shout out to Ben Liechtung, son of our friends Aliza and Shloime Liechtung who is marking the 7th anniversary of his bar mitzvah fell on parshas Acrei Mois- Kidoishim back in 2012. Go Ben!
Raboyseyee & Ladies
The Most Challenging Mitzva of Them All & Mistaken Identity:
Shoin: after counting (still with a brocho this year), day number 16 of the Omer earlier this week– that’s sifiras ho’omer- sefira observance has finally kicked in for real. Though we are to temper our happiness during the sefira count (49 days in all), and we -used to- do this by refraining from certain activities including live music, making weddings, taking haircuts and several other such examples of mourning for the 24,000 students that Rebbe Akiva lost during these days –according to some- in our times, such observances have been reduced to a more manageable 18 or so days. Just this past Sunday and Monday as we observed Rosh Choidesh Iyar, 15 days into the count, the Oisvorfer tried reaching his brother. Ober a text message was instead received stating that he was at a wedding. Rosh Choidesh trumps sefira as do -for most- the post Pesach days up to and including Rosh Choidesh. Oh, and let’s not forget Lag Bo’oimer and the shloishes yimay hagbolo (3 days just before Shovuis); they all trump the mourning restrictions. The bottom line: though sefira is longest mitzvah in the heylige Toirah – a full 49 day mitzvah, its connection to Rebbe Akiva’s students and the curtailment of happiness is a shtikel murky.
Why taka did Rebbe Akiva lose 24,000 –according to some the number is actually 48,000- students who seem to have perished during the days between Pesach and Shovuis? Some say they didn’t get along, didn’t show respect one for another. That’s it? Nu, imagine how many Yiddin should be dead for that sin. Is that even possible? Not one of his students got along with the others? Did they not talk things out in an attempt to resolve their issues? We shall explore that topic below. In previous posting – see archives www.oisvorfer.com – we delved into Rebbe Akiva and his students, ober this year, let’s briefly discuss a quote for which he is most well-known, and how the words of the quote conflate with the tragedy which befell his students, and of course, with a few words found in this week’s parsha. Let’s see if we can tie them all together.
We are taught that the heylige Toirah contains 613 mitzvis which are broken down between positive and negative commandments. The list of thou-shall-not- do’s numbers 365; a few of the big one’s were delineated in last week’s parsha of Achrei Mois. Of course they were all sexual in nature. This week the RBSO is back with the punishment list for those who violate the no-touch list. Many of you have violated –over and again- a good number of these; oy vey!
If you’re reading this review over in the holy land, your parsha of the week does not match ours, you are one-week ahead. And why is that? Nu, avada you all know that some 2000 plus years back, the rabbis making up the Sanhedrin during 2nd Temple times, established by means of a gizeyro (decree) what we not so affectionately refer to and call ‘yom tov sheynee shel goliyos’ (a second day of holiday observance here in the Diaspora), and shoin, since then, and until the Moshiach makes an appearance, or until some very daring and courageous rabbi -unafraid of having his beard and payis lit on fire, being stoned and worse- declares that there is no longer a need for the second day, should the last day of Pesach –meaning the 8th day- fall on a shabbis, we here in golus (in the States) lain what has been designated for the Yom Tov reading. Over in Israel, where they observe but one day of every Yom tov (except for Rosh Hashono), the Yom tov is over –after day seven- and they read the parsha of the week. In other words and in plain English: we and our brothers and sisters over in Israel are one parsha behind them; we are not in synch. We synch back up in a few weeks as we approach the next yom Tov of Shovuis. Why we -here in golus- don’t catch up at the first opportunity, and instead wait weeks to synch up, ver veyst!? That topic for another day. Veyter.
In any event, this week’s parsha instructs the Yiddin to be holy, and one of the ways to stay holy – so we learn in this week’s parsha, is to avada stay away from certain holes, front and rear, if you chap. A list of the forbidden was provided last week; this week, the RBSO tells us what lies ahead after one lies down and violates. Standing up is also forbidden. A happy ending it’s not. Ober let’s not go there: ever! Let’s instead focus on what may be -efsher is be- the most difficult to observe mitzvah in the entire heylige Toirah? In fact, there are two commandments –one positive and one negative that sort of go together; both are all but impossible to properly observe. What are they? Lommer lernin.
|17. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your fellow, but you shall not bear a sin on his account.||יזלֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֨יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹֽא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא:|
|18. You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.||יחלֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵֽעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹֽה:|
Let’s begin with posik 18 where we read “….v’ohavta l’reiacha komoicho” (you are to love thy neighbor as thyself). Some say the words mean that one must love his fellow Jew like one loves himself. Ober, is that possible? Can a person really love another person –his fellow Jew- as much as one loves himself? Mistama not! Many don’t like their neighbors, some even despise them. How does one go about loving his fellow Jew as he loves himself? How are we to love this “neighbor?” And who is this “neighbor” we are commanded to love? Is it one specific neighbor? All? Are we required to love all Yiddin? A tall order for sure. Seemingly, the exact interpretation of these words is different and depends on which chumish one is reading as there seem to be subtle differences in the translations. And before we delve into real meaning of loving one’s neighbor, let’s first make sure you all chap that his neighbor is not married to your chaver, or anyone else for that matter.
Let’s re-read the beginning of posik 17 which tells us that it is forbidden for us to hate our brothers in our hearts and to 18 where the RBSO forbids us from taking revenge or even holdings a grudge in our hearts. You hear this Raboyseyee? We are commanded not to take revenge and not bear a grudge? On the other hand, the posik specifically commands us to “rebuke your friend.” Are we supposed to let things slide? Or, are we to rebuke when we feel wronged? The next instruction tells us “do not hate your friend in your heart,” and also “do not bear upon him sin”. What’s pshat, and what are we supposed to do when angered by a friend’s actions? A few more questions: while the heylige Toirah tells us not to hate our friends in our hearts, is it forbidden to hate them in other ways? Can we take action to let them know we’re pissed off and mad as hell? Are all the instructions in this posik connected? How? And what’s pshat in the final instruction where we are taught “do not bear upon him sin?”
Let’s find out, ober is this at all possible? Is not the entire heylige Toirah, and by extension we include Tanach (the Prophets) replete with stories of bearing grudges and taking revenge? Indeed it is! Did Avsholom –after carrying hatred in his heart for two years not arrange to have Amnon murdered? Indeed he did. Was a grudge not held by Yoisef’s brothers who out of sheer jealousy mercilessly threw him into a pit before selling him into slavery? Did he not harbor ill will and remember what they did to him? Did he not -when the opportunity arose- play emotional games with them? Did Eisav not plot and eventually also pursue his brother Yaakov just because he made a bad deal and sold him his bichoira (birthright)? Ok- Yaakov also may have tricked him out of his father’s brochis, ober, so what? Was Kayin not resentful –also out of jealousy- to a point where he committed capital murder just because the RBSO accepted his brother’s sacrifice? As an aside, the first ever capital offense was committed by one of ours; yikes! Is the Novee not laden with mysehs about hate and revenge? It is. The examples are many. How are we to overcome natural feelings of anger, and thoughts of revenge when hurt by others?
On the other hand, the heylige Toirah instructs us not to take revenge, and not to bear a grudge against a member of your people. Yikes! Instead we are to “love thy neighbor; ” is there any commandment more well-known? On the other hand, there are at times reasons aplenty to hold a grudge, and or, to seek revenge. People do real bad things to one another. And for a number of people –the haters- being angry and plotting revenge, gives them life. Ober for most, it’s an exercise in futility; those carrying the grudge walk around angry while the people they are angry with, have mamish no clue that someone is at all angry. In other words: being angry and plotting revenge is mamish a waste of energy and koichis if the angry –or aggrieved (at least in the mind of the person), does not share his feelings and discuss the issues with the person against whom he has hard feelings. It’s mamish a gilechter (farcical).
Nu, as the Oisvorfer has told you over and again, the RBSO knew what He was instructing, it’s efsher our tafkid (mission) to figure it all out. Let’s try to chap what these instructions taka mean. Can the various instructions found in these two verses square up? Are they efsher not mutually exclusive? And guess what: several luminaries pondered these very questions –mistama as they were angry with one another over some narishkeyt (silliness) which caused them to get pissed off at each other, as may have been the case with Rebbe Akiva’s students who all perished as a result of petty and efsher baseless hatred.
Several commentaries suggest that the words of these pisukim are to be taken literally: the heylige Toirah davka does not want us hating in our hearts. We are not meant to keep things bottled up. Efsher it causes stress and heart attacks, ver veyst. The specific forbidden hatred is davka focused on what’s in one’s heart, and likely excludes hatred which is expressed during conversations. In other words: talk it out! Don’t yell it out, don’t curse it out, don’t make a spectacle of embarrassing one publicly, ober do efsher talk it out. Say what’s on your mind and don’t carry it in your heart for days, weeks, months, and even years. In fact, the heylige Toirah is telling us that it is a mitzvah – a good thing- to talk it out and efsher admonish your friend for his/her wrongdoing. Voicing displeasure avoids hating in one’s heart. Avoiding the discussion leads to hatred in one’s heart and such hatred is what is specifically forbidden. Says the Chinuch (Sefer HaChinuch), azoy: internal hatred is worse than revealed hatred, and that is why the heylige Toirah included such behavior on His forbidden list. And he says: “the root reason for this mitzvah; because hatred in one’s heart causes great evil between people, causing permanent conflict between brothers and friends… and it is the lowest and most disgusting trait which is the most reprehensible in the eyes of people with common sense.” Says the Ralbag: had Avsholom spoken to Amnon about what happened, the hatred would have dissipated. Instead it only grew to the point where Avshalom had Amnon murdered two years later. Avshom and Amnon? Who are they and what happened? Shoin, that for another day, ober the bottom line is that sex and rape were involved. All this can be found in the Novee (2 Shmuel 13:1-2). This sordid story is part of the disintegration of Dovid Hamelech’s (King David’s) family after his sin with Bathsheva. In short, Amnon was the half-brother of Tamar, as they shared the same father, Dovid. Tamar is described as a virgin and “beautiful,” and Amnon was highly attracted to her. The rest? Take out the Novee you chazir and read it.
The bottom line: The RBSO, aside from all His other magnificence, is also a therapist, an expert on human relations. Even though Amnon clearly committed a grave sin, and Avshalom seemingly had every right to be furious with him for what happened, nonetheless, he is taken to task for not speaking to Amnon and letting the hatred fester with terrible consequences. Nu, a good post rape discussion can be helpful.
And with that, we can also chap the continuation of the verse which tells us “rebuke your friend”. The commentaries explain that in addition to referring to the standard rebuke that is required when one sees another person sinning; this mitzvah also includes situations in which one is hurt by his fellow. The Torah instructs us, do not hate your fellow in your heart by keeping it to yourself, rather you must speak to him about it – that is the rebuke that the Torah refers to. The Ohr HaChaim explains that there are two likely consequences of speaking to him in a reasonable manner about the pain he has caused. Either he will explain his actions showing that in fact he did not commit a sin and that there was some kind of misunderstanding. Or, he will admit that he did behave incorrectly, and now that he realizes that damage that he caused, he will apologize and vow not to do it again. The Ohr HaChaim then explains the meaning of the final clause in the verse “do not bear upon him sin”. It means that when someone hurts you, you should not immediately assume that he sinned, rather you should judge him favorably, and assume that he perhaps did not sin at all, and even if he did, that he would gladly repent if he realized the damage that he caused.
The Oisvorfer interrupts this review to tell a myseh she’ho’yo (a true story, mamish). It is abridged a shtikel and the name of the party is omitted, ober the facts are 100% emes. They are mamish a life lesson from our parsha. Back in 2015, the Oisvorfer accidentally became aware that a certain individual had a beef with him. As soon as he found out, he called the person to verify what he had heard. He asked the person if there was an issue. The person responded in the affirmative to which the Oisvorfer asked how long the issue had been festering. “How long have you been angry at me” I asked. And the response: 23 years. OMG! After schmoozing on the phone for kimat 40 minutes, the person realized that the anger was misplaced. It wasn’t the Oisvorfer that the anger was supposed to be directed at, it was a case of mistaken identity and so the person finally understood.
Moreover, we easily excuse our own bad behavior because we are tired, annoyed, or distracted. Shouldn’t we be as charitable in judging others? When we bear a grudge or take revenge, we do not allow other people to say they are sorry and fix their mistakes. We do not give them the chance to try again. Wouldn’t we want to be given another chance? The bottom line: had the person confronted the Oisvorfer 23 years back, it could quickly have been discerned with 100% certainty that the anger was misdirected. Instead, the burden was carried for 23 years. The heylige Ois had no clue, while the supposedly aggrieved party carried the anger for 23 years. Efsher that’s what the posik is telling us. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. Schmooze it over and hug it out.
Says The Ohr HaChaim so gishmak, azoy: there are two likely consequences when people talk things out: One party will either realize that the other is innocent, it was mamish but a misunderstanding, –efsher mistaken identity, efsher other exculpatory factors came into play, or the person will admit poor behavior, realize that damage was caused, and apologize and vow not to repeat the offensive behavior. The Ohr HaChaim then explains the meaning of the final clause in the verse “do not bear upon him sin”. It means that when someone hurts you, you should not immediately assume that he sinned, rather you should judge him favorably, and assume that he perhaps did not sin at all, and even if he did, that he would gladly repent if he realized the damage that he caused. Mamish gishmak and a life lesson to keep in mind daily. Bottom line: the faster we learn to drop our emotional dead weight, the more room we create for better stuff.
Shoin, let’s get back to Rebbe Akiva’s famous saying. Rashi citing the medrish (Medrish Sifra), on the mitzvah of loving your neighbor friend, said: ‘This is a major concept in the heylige Toirah, it’s all embracing. So happens that Rebbe Akiva’s words are beautiful and have been set to song by several jewfish artists, ober what do they really mean? As an aside, the Oisvorfer came of age singing The Rabbi’s Sons edition of this song popularized on their first album in 1967 and later by other singers and groups? Listen to this still classic and most beautiful version by clicking here https://rsa.fau.edu/album/40997.
And let’s get real: do we, and can we really love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Don’t we come first? And does not the heylige Gemora so teach us? It does? Where? The heylige Gemora brings a case of two Yiddin stranded in the desert, with only enough water for one of them to survive. One is holding the bottle of water. Rabbi Akiva’s opinion is that the ‘water carrier’ should drink the water himself, and not give the water to his friend, because ‘your life takes precedence.’ Surely this opinion of his does not conflate with his famous quote of ve’ohavta lerei’acha kamocha. What’s taka pshat? Must we love our neighbors only at certain convenient times? Says the Ramban: this proves his view that ve’ohavta lerei’acha komoicha never meant that one must love someone else to the same extent that one loves themselves. Instead, it means to want good for others, for one always tends to love themselves more than one loves most people (and so one may drink the water, because ‘your life takes precedence’).
Ober says the RambaM (hilchos de’os 6:3), azoy: ‘it is a mitzvah [incumbent] upon each person to love each and every Jew like himself, as it says ve’ohavto lerei’acha komocha.’ Same words, different result and interpretation. Shoin! In other writings (Sefer Hamitzvos, positive mitzvah 206), he says ‘we have been commanded to love each part of us (I.e. of our nation) like we love ourselves, and our love and pity/mercy for our brother(s) is to be like our love and pity/mercy for ourselves…’
Does everyone agree? Not! Says the Sforno, and so also say RambaN (as mentioned just above , the Chizkuni, Sefer Hachinuch, Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch, and the Netziv, azoy: the mitzvah is not to have the same love for others as you do for yourself; this is impossible! Because we were created with a natural love for ourselves which cannot be matched by love towards other people. In other words: as written and plainly interpreted, this mitzvah is impossible to observe. Fartig! Would the RBSO command of us that which is impossible? Let’s see: He did command us regarding various other chapping restricting; do we not struggle with those, if you chap? On the other hand: our sages have taught that He does not so command the impossible. If He included this precept in His heylige Toirah, it must be able to be observed. Ober how?
Efsher it obligates us to want good things to happen to other people just like we would want good things to happen to ourselves. And taka this view has support from the posik (verse) itself, and so taka do the Ramban and Chizkuni point out. A careful look at the words and translated literally might mean that we do not have to love our friend as ourselves (ve’ohavta es re’acha kamocha), but rather love to your friend as yourself (ve’ahavta lere’acha komoicha), which means not that one has to really have the same love for others as one has for oneself, but rather that one is to show love to others by wanting good things to happen to them.
And the bottom line? Do the words of ve’ohavta lerei’acha komoicha obligate one to have the same love for others as for oneself? It depends on whom you ask. Though Rebbe Akiva stated it’s a great rule of the heylige Toirah, another of his rulings may state otherwise as recounted in the water story. The heylige Gemora (Buba Metzia 62a recounts the following: two Yiddin were stranded in the desert, with only enough water for one of them to survive, and one of them is currently holding that bottle of water. Rabbi Akiva’s opinion is that the ‘water carrier’ should drink the water himself, and not give the water to his friend, because ‘your life takes precedence.’ Quite logical ober how does this Gemora and rebbe Akiva’s opinion square up with the commandment? Nu, the Ramban argues that this shtikel Gemora proves his view that ve’ahavta lere’acha komocha was never intended to mean that one must love someone else to the same extent that one loves themselves. What does it mean? We are commanded to want good for others, but one always tends to love themselves more than one loves most people (and so one may drink the water, because ‘your life takes precedence. Let’s get real!
A gittin Shabbis
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv