A big hearty mazel tov to our friends Debby and Shlomie Ross whose daughter Ayelet gave birth to her first daughter.
Mazel tov to Sandy and Ed Klar on the birth of a granddaughter born to their children Beth and Bogie.
Last week, while discussing the high fashion Bigdey Kihuna (koihen’s wardrobes) and the various skill sets required to source materials, mix colors and fabrics, sew, weave and create the perfect line, the Ruv forgot to mention that his own cousin Sharon Duftler has inordinate talent and innate abilities to design and create the most beautiful wedding gowns typically worn by all family besides the bride. You imagine and she’ll create it. If you can’t imagine it, she will. Find her at 516 476 1110.
Earlier in the week, the Oisvorfer sent out a special edition with a link to a short clip showing how Israel treats its citizens, Jewish or not. While most loved the link, one reader wrote azoy: “If you want to show naked girls I can find you a better link!”
Oisvorfer response: still waiting for your link!
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes
Ershtens (firstly) Happy Purim to everyone! Tonight and tomorrow we’re supposed to be happy as we celebrate this great holiday ober come shabbis, or moods will quickly change as we read parts of parshas Ki Sisa and soon you’ll chap why. But wait, did the Oisvorfer just begin by wishing you a happy Purim though Purim is still four weeks away? Indeed he did and that’s because tomorrow we will mark a holiday known to some, but not too many, as Purim Koton (mini Purim). What the hec is Purim koton and why didn’t we hear of this holiday as youngsters? Nu, believe it or not, this holiday is discussed in the Shulchan Aruch (the code of Jewish law) which as kids governed our lives. Today our lives are governed by the orthodox version of the Taliban who come up with restrictions not found in any of the good books. Are there mamish two Purims? Seemingly yes but not always and just how often and why, is for another day. Of course this greatly affects birthdays, bar mitzvahs, yurtzeits and more. And as you can only imagine, there are many opinions and disagreements as to which reigns supreme. The bottom line: there are two Purims during a leap year, and we’re in one right now. Taka why? Because during a leap year we have not one, but two Hebrew months of Adar. The calendar is referred to as being pregnant and carrying a second month of Adar. What are our obligations on this day? None! There are no specific and unique mitzvois; we’re just supposed to be happy, sounds easy! Says the Yerushalmi: the year the actual Purim story unfolded, was in fact, also a leap year and Purim was celebrated in Adar #1. And if that’s the case, why do we taka call the 14th of Adar Rishoin (#1) the mini or minor Purim? Ver veyst and all this for another day; Veyter.
Welcome to Parshas Ki Sisa and forget the joy you had yesterday celebrating Purim. On shabbis as we read the parsha, your mood will quickly change and therefore we begin with a big oy vey, efsher the biggest in the gantze Toirah. Oy vey is taka in order as we’re about to read how the Yiddin, due to a miscount, spiraled out of control mamish. The stage is set. It’s a mere 40 days since the Yiddin accepted the big heylige Toirah on the little mountain and already they’re way off the derech (path). Stay tuned for more of their foibles as we make our way through the parshas. For a moment in time, just a few parshas back, the Yiddin were unified and answered Na’aseh V’nishma (we shall do and we shall listen) in response to Moishe’s charges – not once but at least twice. Seemingly they taka meant it. This week, there will be lots of na’aseh (doing), unfortunately, it was of the wrong variety. All hell is about to break loose in Ki Sisa where the Yiddin committed a giferliche sin, maybe the worst ever. The creation and worship of the Eygel (golden calf) loi olainu- chas vsholom (say it’s not so please) is retold, no detail omitted. An orgy would have been better and zicher more fun, and mistama (likely) more easily forgivable by the RBSO, but the Yiddin chose an Eygel? Why would an orgy be better you ask and avada you do? Because the RBSO understands sexual desires; maybe He’s not so happy with that chazerish behavior but still, He allows for t’shuvah and isn’t that what Yom Kippur and all that klapping is for? Avoida Zoro (idol worship), that’s the big one! Ober (but) chap nisht (keep your pants on), zicher the Oisvorfer is not suggesting that you go out and join an orgy.
Parshas Ki Sisa is avada most famous for the entire ugly Eygel myseh from which, according to some, the Yiddin never fully recovered. No big surprise here, the RBSO absolutely abhors, more than anything, avoida zoro (idolatry) Says one medrish: the RBSO forgave the Yiddin but never forgot. It’s the sin that keeps on giving. That being said, the first few words of any parsha typically hint to what the parsha is all about and the words Ki Sisa refer to a count or census: It’s time to count the Yiddin. Not all the Yiddin of course because many will have already died for their Eygel transgression though this story comes up only later, two chapters later, in the parsha. Of course we don’t count dead ones, that only happens in Chicago or efsher over in Beit Shemesh during elections, ver veyst. In other words, the instructions to count the Yiddin were given only after a healthy number of Eygel participants were already dead. Why not count the dead ones, wouldn’t that be easier? Good question, soon we’ll posit an answer. In case you’re wondering why the parsha opens with a census that only takes place two chapters later, you are not alone. That too is taka an excellent question, one that gets the typical answer of eyn-mukdam-umachar ba’Toirah (the heylige Toirah is not necessarily chronological). And if the RBSO decided to lead with the count though the actual count actually took place later in the parsha that was His prerogative. Shoin and erleydigt (settled)! Let’s go Veyter.
As our parsha opens, Moishe Rabaynu is getting bookkeeping and accounting lessons; yet another Toirah inspired Jewish profession.This education will come in handy in two weeks when an audit will be conducted of all the monies and materials raised for the Mishkan project. The RBSO is giving specific instructions about the way to count the Yiddin. Out is the standard One… two… three… four… as adopted years later by the AICPA; that’s good for counting goyim, your own money, and the number of friends you can count on when you need them. To count the Yiddin, Moishe is told azoy: Every male Jew, age 20 and above must line up and hand Moishe a silver coin weighing 1/2 a Shekel. Instead of counting the people, the coins will be counted, each representing one person. Mistama (likely), there were even more men but as we well know when it comes to giving a shekel or even a machtzis (1/2), not all Yiddin like to be counted. Also, a few threw in a quarter and some even less. Some say that one or two zicher threw in a check and took out the cash; nu, what can you do. We can speculate that some Yiddin decided to sit out the count altogether if it wasn’t free. Ober, poor Moishe didn’t know what this coin looked like and let’s keep in mind that it’s 3000+ years before Google images. What to do? Says Rashi quoting the Medrish Tanchuma: The RBSO concluded the class with a fiery visual aid of a ½ shekel coin so that Moishe will know what to look for. What happened to these coins once the count was over? What really happened to the money? Ver Veyst. Stay tuned for parshas Pikudai where a few accused Moishe of pocketing a few shekels. Nu, it wouldn’t be the first time that building campaign money suddenly disappeared, if you chap. Zicher not the last.
Speaking of counting the Yiddin, efsher you remember that way back in yeshiva, the rebbe, when taking attendance or stam a count to see who ran away (after his advances), wouldn’t stam yell out 1-2-3-4. Instead we were counted using the words of a long popular song that makes an appearance each year at Simchas Toirah. The words come from the song known as Hoisheoh, es, Amehcho which grada has but 10 words. And why is this being mentioned? Because as we stated just above, the instruction Moishe was given was not to count the Yiddin by counting people. Instead, his instructions were to take a half shekel coin from each Yid and then count the coins, so that “there will not be a plague among the Jews as they are counted” (Shemois 30:12). And believe it or not, this is the source mamish for the well-known law that we can’t count Yiddin by numbers. Instead, we count them through an object – such as the ½ shekel coin mentioned above. Later on when King Shaul ordered a count of his soldiers, he asked each one of them to bring a kid goat as better described in the Novee (Prophet) (Shmuel I Chapter 15). Later on Dovid Hamelech (King David) did a manual count with disastrous results, many died. Avada you should pick up the Novee, dust it off properly and then read the story, also in Shmuel II, Chapter 24 which described the giferliche plague that ensued following the count. Counting can be dangerous and it’s efsher no wonder that the heylige Toirah allows the Yiddin to save themselves by contributing the 1/2 shekel. It’s a life saver.
Of course this isn’t the only census the RBSO will order of the Yiddin while in the Midbar. It so happens that the RBSO ordered several censes and Rashi over in parshas Bamidbar will tell us that He counts us because He loves us. Ober judging by when two of the counts are ordered, each following some major catastrophe when many Yiddin died, we might need some convincing. As just stated, the RBSO will order yet another two counts and later in history, Kings Shaul and Dovid too will order their own. One thing is unique to this week’s count: the wording of the instructions. What’s pshat? Interestingly enough, each of the other instructions uses similar terminology to order the count. The verbiage of the count instruction in Ki Sisa is different and unique. It stands alone. Says the heylige Toirah azoy: “When you take a census of the Children of Israel..” or ,more literally translated… ‘when you lift the heads of the children of Israel… .’(30:12)
The first time the Yiddin were counted was when they traveled to Mitzrayim (Egypt). At that time, they totaled 70. Miraculously, by the time they left, some 210 years later, they grew in number to 600,000. And that’s after the RBSO wiped out 4/5th of them, according to some. And how did they grow into that number under giferliche back breaking slave conditions? Says the Medrish: the neshei chayil (women of valor) used mirrors to seduce and arouse their husbands into intimacy and were extremely prolific giving birth to multiples with each pregnancy. They did what? Shoin, while most people thought that mirrors used to arouse can only be found on the ceilings of pay-by-the-hour hotels, if you chap, seemingly it’s a time tested and Toirah tradition. Gey veys (go know)! And what exactly did the women do? Though their men were mamish tzibrochen, tired and limp mamish after a hard day’s work (shout out to the Beatles upon their 50th– mazel tov), the women used their mirrors to perk them up, if you chap. In fact the heylige Gemora has an entire discourse as to the exact wording of their seductive schemes, efsher we’ll cover that later. And why did we veer off course from counting to mirrors and seduction? Nu, it so happens that those very mirrors make an important appearance in this week’s parsha and time permitting we’ll get back to the creative ways the neshei chayil used them and what ultimately happened to them. Are we suggesting that the very mirrors used to seduce the men, made their way into the heylige Toirah? Moreover, into the Mishkan project? And the answer is a big yes! It’s mamish gishmak and of course you want to hear it. Halt zicheyn (keep your pants on), space permitting, we’ll quote the heylige Gemora and Medrish and avada you know when it comes to Medrish, everything goes and comes. And if we run out of space, not to worry. The mirrors will get another mention in next week’s parsha
Anyway, back to the count. The count in this week’s parsha seems to have taken place on the eleventh of Tishrei 2448, following the big sin of the Eygel Hazahav (Golden Calf). It was time to be counted and the RBSO ordered that the count be held using a coin called the machtzis- hashekel (a half shekel) depicted on page one. In other words, to be counted, each person needed to ante up. The tachlis (purpose) seems to have been to see how many were left following the debacle. And while typically a count is taken to tally items and to determine the total, at times it could also mean – to have merit, importance or value – as in, every little bit of help counts. Soon we will taka learn that efsher the count was more for the latter pshat. In case you’re wondering, the next count, on the first of Iyar, 2449, will take place but seven months after the second count; we’ll cover that in Parshas Bamidbar (less than seven months from now).
Nu as we were saying the wording of the count instruction was quite unusual. Instead of using the Hebrew word that mamish meant to “count”, a word used for all of other counts, the RBSO says to Moishe “When you raise the heads of B’nei Yisrael.” What does the raising of heads have to do with counting? Of course, you are not the only one to notice this unusual wording and taka says the holy Ohr HaChaim azoy: This very first census following redemption was taken, as we said earlier, following the sin of the Eygel, and subsequent wipe out (slaying) of many (not all) of the transgressors. The rest will die during the 40 year Midbar stint. Efsher you’re wondering why the RBSO didn’t just order Moishe to count the dead. Zicher this count would not have taken as long as there were zicher fewer dead than alive. Ober listen to this mamish gishmake pshat. It’s shabbis tish worthy. This count served two purposes, maybe three. Ershtens, it was a count of the survivors. And the count itself served as atonement for the Yiddin. And even more gishmak, some suggest that allegorically, a sinner is viewed as having his head down toward the ground, symbolizing shame and lowliness. A tzaddik, on the other hand, holds his head high, signifying his lofty spiritual level, and that he’s proud of his deeds.
Says the Ohr HaChaim: this count was different because it helped the Yiddin do teshuva, it was about more than mere numbers. This count lifted the Yiddin from the depths of sin to the heights of purity. Thus, it’s referred to as “lifting their heads,” because spiritually speaking, that’s exactly what it did. The Yiddin were uplifted in repentance for the aveirah of the golden calf. Moreover, by being counted, the RBSO demonstrated the preciousness of each individual. Although they had been severely tainted, He counted each person to express His love and forgiveness. Gishmak but there’s more and maybe even a lesson for today. By counting and lifting their heads the RBSO allowed them to move on from their sins, they were back. Sinners can come back and be counted.
Oh and let’s not forget the most important reason of all, this part not said by the Ohr HaChaim. Earlier we discussed that in order to be counted the RBSO ordered that every person being counted give ½ shekel, for his atonement. Had they only counted the dead, no money would have been raised; it’s hard to collect from live people, we call these people deadbeats. Real dead ones were zicher not contributing to the cause. Shoin, the count was a win win. People felt good and a few dollars were raised as well.
But this still begs the question: why half a shekel? Why not a whole shekel? Ober said the Slonimer Rebbe azoy: the collection of the half-shekel teaches us that none of us is whole by ourselves. In order to be complete, he says, we need to be part of a community.
Interestingly enough, not everyone was counted. Who wasn’t? Those under 20 and the neshei chayil, the women. In other words, the count wasn’t really a complete count. Why were the women left out? Ver veyst? In a parsha where the women rose to the occasion, and where the story of how their equipment – their mirrors you chazir- helped their men also rise to the occasion, if you chap, is retold, one would think they should have been included. And taka says the medrish (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 45): the neshei chayil (the good women) objected mamish to the idolatrous project and refused to donate their jewelry to the frenzy. Sadly they lacked the power to intervene. Their chazerish husbands physically ripped their earrings from their earlobes. And as the Yiddin began spiraling out of control, seemingly the women were but innocent bystanders, helpless. Moreover they were bereft of their prized jewelry, yet another crisis. Can we kler that had the women been listened to or allegorically speaking- been counted in the community- that the entire Eygel myseh wouldn’t have happened? Ver veyst? On the other hand, it’s a dovor yoduah (widely and avada understood) that women weren’t giving up their jewelry even if Moishe were late by a month. Women don’t do that. Women make and collect jewelry, if you chap, they just don’t stam contribute it to a cause. On the other hand, the mirrors, they did contribute.
Efsher you’re wondering as to what’s so terrible about conventional counting. Isn’t that what numbers are all about? Ober says the heylige Toirah azoy: “And the number of children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which shall neither be measured nor counted.” And why is that? Simply stated because that’s what the RBSO said, He’s in charge. Who says we have to chap every reason for every mitzvah? That however didn’t stop others from proffering a rationale and says the heylige Gemora azoy: blessings are not found “in something that has been weighed, nor in something that has been measured, nor in something that has been counted, only in something that is hidden from the eyes.”
Says Rebbe Bachya Ben Asher azoy: we do not count separate individuals in order to avoid singling them out which can bring judgment upon them. Instead we count as a community and although there may be judgment within, the good deeds that are done by us as a whole outweigh the judgment(s) and are therefore found worthy of the RBSO’s mercy.
Says the heylige Gemora Buba Basra 10b) azoy: a conversation ensued between Moishe and the RBSO. Asked Moishe “With what will the Yiddin be lifted?” answered the RBSO “with Ki Sisa”, by lifting their head. Says the Rambam (Maimonides) azoy: the obligation to give the half shekel coin is so strong, that even a person who is destitute and supported by charity is obligated to give it. He must sell his clothes or borrow money in order to give the half shekel coin.
Efsher you’re wondering why davka one must be counted through the ½ shekel. Would it be so giferlich if a few, as typically happens during a fund raiser, would like to give a full shekel, or a thousand shekels? For this collection everyone was the same. Seemingly the message of the ½ shekel was this: In the eyes of the RBSO every Jew is the same! The rich, the poor, the scholar, the ignoramus, the strong, the weak and even the sinner – everyone is beloved by the RBSO. This is taka pshat in the words Ki Sisa, it’s mamish uplifting to know that with a ½ shekel, one can be counted like the rest.
A gitin shabbis and a freylichen Purim.
The Oisvorfer Ruv