Two mazel tov shout outs on upcoming simchas by close friends, here we go.
Mazel tov to Joseph -now Yosef- Kestenbaum, son of our good friends Chani and Jay Kestenbam upon his upcoming aufruf this shabbis and wedding this coming Tuesday, to Rebecca Rauch (aka: Becca), she the beautiful daughter of Suzi and Steven Rauch. Mazel tov to the extended Kestenbaum, Rauch and Stahler families and a special shout out to the very proud grandparents on all sides. May Rebecca and Joseph merit to enjoy many decades of blissful marriage.
A big and exciting Mazel tov to Faye Stern, a friendship going back more than 45 years, who will be walking her beautiful daughter Shenya down the aisle this coming Monday where she will be wed to Shua Dany, son of Rachel and Chaim Dany. We remember as well Phil Stern, OBM, Fay’s beloved husband who is missed by all; he will zicher be spiritually in attendance at the chuppah. A Mazel tov to the extended Stern, Hauptman and Dany families. May Shenya and Shua enjoy each other and provide nachas to their respective families for decades.
And in a shameless plug for a chaver, the Oisvorfer is dedicating this space to promote a Pesach program here in Danbury CT, where Chef Flaum has advised the Oisvorfer and his guests of the following:
Hello everyone, I hope you and your family are all doing well. Due to the concern with the coronavirus I just wanted to update everyone on the precautions we are taking to ensure your safety. The hotel has placed purell dispensers throughout the hotel especially in all the common areas. They have also had a company come in to totally disinfect the entire hotel plus there will be extra staff on hand throughout pesach to ensure that these areas are constantly disinfected. To see the one page flier, click here.
We are also planning on limiting the amount of buffets we will have to limit large gatherings in regards of food. Please study all the recommendations which are being instructed by the cdc and health dept. I’m positive with all these precautions we will have a safe and amazing pesach program. If anyone has any questions please feel free to call me or email me. Thank you,
Oisvorfer commentary and plug: Afraid to fly during these turbulent corona times? No problem! Looking for a Pesach program close-to home? Also no problem! Looking to spend Pesach with a heimishe crowd? The Oisvorfer assumes that among his hundreds of thousands of readers all over the world, a few might fit this bill. If you do, check out “Pesach with Chef Flaum” where there are still some -not too many- rooms available at a great price.
Masks for Every Occasion
Shoin, in a year where most shuls banned Purim masks for security reasons, thousands of people all over the world are wearing them thinking they might offer full, or at least a modicum of protection against corona. Ober, long before surgical and Purim masks –in fact, long before the holiday of Purim was instituted either by Mordechai, by Mordechai and Esther, or by our sages -depending on whom you ask- and zicher generations before Yiddin –adopting a custom from the Catholics- began donning masks on Purim, the mask makes an appearance in this week’s parsha of Ki Sisa. We copied a goyishe custom? Yikes! Ober, it’s emes; more on that below!
Though our parsha is most famous for the recounting of the eygel caper during which the Yiddin -40 days into their newly minted marriage contract with the RBSO- cheated on Him by building a golden calf, as does every parsha, it also contains the story of Moishe and his mask. As an aside, many an exegete remains convinced that the RBSO never fully forgave the Yiddin for this indiscretion and that every generation suffers at some point as payback. Ring familiar?
As mentioned mamish just above, one Toirah character was seemingly the first person ever to wear a mask. We shall uncover the many who proffer ideas on why a mask was worn, and why the mask was worthy of being mentioned in detail in three consecutive pisukim as well as the three preceding verses. The heylige Toirah mamish discusses masks and who were one? Indeed so; we find the discussion in an area of the parsha most of you don’t review because the pisukim are near the very end, and in fact close out the parsha. Let’s begin by reading them. Says the heylige Toirah (Ki Sisa (34:29-35), azoy:
|29– And it came to pass when Moishe descended from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moishe’ hand when he descended from the mountain and Moishe did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while He had spoken with him||כטוַיְהִ֗י בְּרֶ֤דֶת משֶׁה֙ מֵהַ֣ר סִינַ֔י וּשְׁנֵ֨י לֻחֹ֤ת הָֽעֵדֻת֙ בְּיַד־משֶׁ֔ה בְּרִדְתּ֖וֹ מִן־הָהָ֑ר וּמשֶׁ֣ה לֹֽא־יָדַ֗ע כִּ֥י קָרַ֛ן ע֥וֹר פָּנָ֖יו בְּדַבְּר֥וֹ אִתּֽוֹ:|
|30– That Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moishe and behold! the skin of his face had become radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.||לוַיַּ֨רְא אַֽהֲרֹ֜ן וְכָל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־משֶׁ֔ה וְהִנֵּ֥ה קָרַ֖ן ע֣וֹר פָּנָ֑יו וַיִּֽירְא֖וּ מִגֶּ֥שֶׁת אֵלָֽיו:|
|31– But Moishe called to them, and Aaron and all the princes of the community returned to him, and Moishe would speak to them.||לאוַיִּקְרָ֤א אֲלֵהֶם֙ משֶׁ֔ה וַיָּשֻׁ֧בוּ אֵלָ֛יו אַֽהֲרֹ֥ן וְכָל־הַנְּשִׂאִ֖ים בָּֽעֵדָ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר משֶׁ֖ה אֲלֵהֶֽם:|
|32– Afterwards all the children of Israel would draw near, and he would command them everything that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.||לבוְאַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֥ן נִגְּשׁ֖וּ כָּל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיְצַוֵּ֕ם אֵת֩ כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה אִתּ֖וֹ בְּהַ֥ר סִינָֽי:|
|33– When Moishe had finished speaking with them, he placed a covering over his face.||לגוַיְכַ֣ל משֶׁ֔ה מִדַּבֵּ֖ר אִתָּ֑ם וַיִּתֵּ֥ן עַל־פָּנָ֖יו מַסְוֶֽה:|
|34– When Moishe would come before the Lord to speak with Him, he would remove the covering until he left; then he would leave and speak to the children of Israel what he would be commanded.||לדוּבְבֹ֨א משֶׁ֜ה לִפְנֵ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אִתּ֔וֹ יָסִ֥יר אֶת־הַמַּסְוֶ֖ה עַד־צֵאת֑וֹ וְיָצָ֗א וְדִבֶּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְצֻוֶּֽה:|
|35– Then the children of Israel would see Moishe’ face, that the skin of Moishe’ face had become radiant, and [then] Moishe would replace the covering over his face until he would come [again] to speak with Him.||להוְרָא֤וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י משֶׁ֔ה כִּ֣י קָרַ֔ן ע֖וֹר פְּנֵ֣י משֶׁ֑ה וְהֵשִׁ֨יב משֶׁ֤ה אֶת־הַמַּסְוֶה֙ עַל־פָּנָ֔יו עַד־בֹּא֖וֹ לְדַבֵּ֥ר אִתּֽוֹ:|
After reading these pisukim, mistama you have questions, let us mention a few of them. Moishe’s face shines with such brilliance that the people are frightened to approach him? What’s pshat? Why was his face shining? How are we to understand this story? What was the source of his radiance? How long did it last? Did this radiance stay with him over the next forty years? Was Moishe veiled from that moment on? And a few more. Who told him to wear a mask? Who made it for him? Did it also protect him against any potential virus outbreaks? Is it but a coincidence that we read this parsha just before, or more typically, just after Purim when for decades people have been dressing up in costume and also wearing masks? As the Oisvorfer tells you weekly, when the heylige Toirah is stingy on a specific detail, and leaves a few out –in certain narratives, many- Rashi and many others weigh in with their own ideas. Let’s find out what a few had to say and let us begin with the goyim (the gentiles).
And before we get to what Rashi and others suggest as rationale for Moishe covering his face with a veil or mask, let’s quickly cover this alarming factoid: is it but a coincidence that Purim and Ki Sisa coincide? There is, so our rabbis teach us, no halachic basis for dressing up on Purim –especially with masks- nor is it a mesora (accepted tradition) for the Yiddin to do so. Oib azoy (if that’s so), if dressing up on Purim does not originate from Moishe’s mask, where, and why did this minhag begin? Now hear this: it appears that this aspect of the celebration might have a more dubious origin, it might have originated among communities in Catholic countries over 100 years ago, say it’s not so please. To be more specific, the practice of masquerading may be rooted in medieval Italy. Shoin, how Batman, Ninja warriors, police officers, and many other heroes and superheroes made their way into Purim and the story of how Esther’s willingness to touch the royal scepter saved the Yiddin from certain doom, ver veyst? Ober, for reasons we don’t chap or have to, the practice of costumes and masks on Purim does somehow trace back centuries to medieval times and the fact that Purim tends to coincide with Mardi Gras on the calendar. Shoin, no wonder the RBSO’s name does not appear. He plays no overt role in saving the Jews of ancient Purim, the miracle which Purim celebrates. Avada we all chap that He was maneuvering behind the scenes; hiding behind the scenes, or in our days, the donning of a mask or costume, seems to have become the Purim theme. Grada, many of us wear proverbial masks daily in our dealings with others, ober that for another paragraph as we close out this week’s review. Hint: read the entire review!
Why do certain Yiddin abhor the Purim mask? Because the Eve of Lent festivities include excessive alcohol consumption, food intake other forms of debauchery, if you chap, and most predominately, dressing up in costumes and masks to disguise those who are performing such “chapping” activities. Shoin! They believe that dressing up on Purim might constitute the breaking a specific halocho. Which one? Does not the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 20:23) tells us azoy: “We may not follow the statutes of the idolaters or resemble them in their [style] of dress, coiffure, or the like?” It does! That being said, like most other rules, not all follow them and avada they have their own reasons why Purim is exempted from the prohibition. So happens that an Italian based poisek (halachic decisor) by the name of Rav Yehudah Mintz in his Responsum #17 tells us azoy: there is no prohibition involved in dressing up on Purim. Moreover, one can even dress up or down like a woman. Why? Said the good rabbi -efsher an investor in a costume and mask business, ver veyst- azoy: those dressing up or cross dressing on Purim are doing so for joy and simcha, not for immoral purposes, meaning not for reasons that would violate rules found in the heylige Toirah. So happens that his theory is quoted by later sages. The bottom line: the violation of a Toirah precept -at least at times- depends not on one’s actions but instead by what that person had in mind. Good to know! Too bad the RBSO knows what we really had in mind. Shoin! Purim goes on notwithstanding the fact that it looks more and more like celebrations preformed around the world under different names like Carnival, Mardis gras, Khamis el sakara, Fat Tuesday etc.
The bottom line: if the Yiddin stole masks and costumes from the goyim, so be it! The goyim stole enough from us, especially our holidays! Shoin! Whatever went down, ver veyst, but another bottom line is this: based on the words of the heylige Toirah, it appears that Moishe, while walking through the Jewish camp, had his face covered –at least at times- with either a veil of sorts, or with a mask. Why? Because his face was radiant. And why was it glowing? Let’s find out.
And before we delve further into this matter, let’s properly set the scene. Moishe received the two tablets containing the Asers Hadbrois and descended from the mountaintop. In shock –though the RBSO forewarned him- from seeing the reveling around the eygel (golden calf), Moishe threw them to the ground where they shattered. After begging the RBSO not to wipe out the Jews, he’s invited back up where he spends 40 days and forty nights without food and water. We assume he also forgot to bring sunscreen. He comes back down on Yom Kippur carrying the newly minted, second edition tablets. But this time, he’s a new man; his face is glowing and radiant. The parsha ends with the six pisukim we read above describing what took place when Moishe came back down, and our rabbis of yore had many questions and even more answers about Moishe, his shine, and his response to becoming aware that he now looked different than did the rest of the people.
What taka caused Moishe’s face to radiate and what compelled him to wear a mask? What happens to a person who spends forty days and forty nights talking to the RBSO on a mountaintop? Was Moishe’s face but sunburned? Why taka was his face suddenly luminescent? And one more question: the heylige Toirah in pisukim 33-35 above told us that that Moishe wore a “masve” ober how do we know that masve is a mask? Most commentaries agree that a “masve” is some sort of physical covering, though they disagree on precisely what type of covering it was. Of-course they do. Says Rashi, quoting Unkelis: the masve is a face covering with room for the eyes, essentially a mask.
Ober says Targum Yoinoson (and the Yerushalmi) that Moishe wore a talis and used it to cover his face. And says the Toirah Shelaima (Ki Sisa, Simin Vov): if Moishe taka wore a talis it would not have been at all out of the ordinary that he would cover his face in this fashion, as many people do so for a variety of reasons. Shoin, Moishe did not wear a mask; instead he covered his face with a talis. Avada many can relate to this type of covering though a few might wonder why he wore a talis all day before davening was ever instituted. Shoin! Ober says the medrish as well as commentators such as the Radak, azoy: the masve was a special headscarf, whose purpose was to cut down on the concentration of sunlight filtering onto a person’s face. What was the masve? Ver veyst?
And with that question settled, let’s move on and address these questions: what was the purpose of the mask? Did Moishe wear it at all times? If the RBSO caused or allowed Moishe’s face to radiate, efsher we can kler that’s davka how the RBSO wanted Moishe to be seen. And if that’s the case, why did Moishe decide to cover his face? Again, a number and variety of answers are proffered; let us read a few; you then decide which one talks to you.
One pshat tells us that Moishe taka veiled his face at all times in his interaction with the people, even when teaching them the heylige Toirah. And they point to these words found in posik 35 where it says azoy: “Moishe would then put the veil back on his face until he went in to speak with Him”. In plain English: Moishe removed his veil only before the RBSO and wore it all other times. The logic is simple. After all, was the nation not terrified when they saw his appearance? It makes sense for Moishe to veil his face before the people. At the sight of him, they would turn aside; they could not approach him otherwise. If he wanted to have contact with his flock, he would have to veil his face. The heylige Toirah tells us that Moishe covered his face because the Yiddin were frightened when they saw his radiance.
What was the source of Moishe’s facial glow? And what was the nature of this brilliance that the Yiddin saw? Was it the effect of direct contact Moishe had had with the RBSO? Our Sages offer a number of explanations as to the source of this ray of light. Says the medrish (Midrash Tanchuma) a shtikel cryptically azoy: the dimensions of the Luchois (Tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed) were 6 handbreadths long. And? So…Moishe held onto 2 handbreadths, the RBSO held onto 2 handbreadths, and Moishe took the radiance from the middle 2 handbreadths. You got that? Veyter! And says Rav Chaim Kanievsky on this medrish, azoy: the heylige Toirah and Mitzvos can be divided into three categories. First is the easy part which can be understood by anybody, and that is represented by the 2 handbreadths held by Moishe. Second are the secrets of the Toirah which the human mind cannot comprehend, and those are represented by the handbreadths held by HaShem. Third are the parts of Toirah which can only be understood with lots of effort and toil. Moishe’s face started to radiate when he attained an understanding parts of the Toirah via his hard work and effort. When a person puts in effort to attain wisdom, the wisdom becomes intertwined with his physical makeup and he truly glows. Gishmak!
Ober asks the medrish (Midrash Rabba) azoy: “Where did Moishe receive the beams of majesty?” Rashi, referencing the medrish says azoy: the light was radiant and brilliant like a horn. From where did Moishe merit these ‘horns’ of glory? Our rabbis teach, ‘from the light that G-d’s hand transmitted to Moishe’s face, as it is said, ‘and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by'” (Shmois 33:22). For Rashi and the medrish he quotes, Moishe’s radiance is derived explicitly from the “touch” of the RBSO experienced when Moishe requests to see G-d’s presence. Given that Moishe is proscribed from seeing G-d’s face (the heylige Toirah tells us, one cannot see G-d’s face and live), a compromise is made and Moishe is allowed to see G-d’s back, albeit protected by G-d’s sheltering hand. It is this protective, intimate encounter that illuminates Moishe. In plain English: Moishe’s face begins to glow as the RBSO passed him –whatever that means- and remains radiant. Says Rabbeinu Bachya, for these reasons, Moishe’s glow never left him: “And this light which shone forth from his face never left him from the time that he was on Mt. Sinai. It was with him all his life.”
Another view: Said Rav Shimon Ben Lokish, when Moishe was writing the original Sefer Toirah which the RBSO dictated, there was a little drop of ink left over. The RBSO took that ink and rubbed it on Moishe’s head. The beams of light that shone forth from Moishe’s head were the result of that drop of ink. How are we humanoids to chap how this went down, ver veyst? How is it shayich (remotely possible) that the RBSO had left over ink? Avada He knew just how much ink was needed and avada this pshat must have Kabbalistic meanings which are mistama over our heads and none of our business. Are you a mikubil? Not! Therefore, you don’t need to chap and understand how ink glowed and how some was left over, just enough to rub on Moishe’s forehead. The bottom line: it’s a nice pshat. Another bottom line: the Toirah tells us his face was shining and that he –at times at least- did put on and take off his mask.
The Ohr HaChaim knowing how simple minded we are and how we have difficulties chapping the RBSO’s workings gives us this to chew on: In human endeavors there are always surplus raw materials. When ordering materials for a project, for example, bricks for a building, it is impossible to plan the exact number that the project requires, down to the last brick and inevitably there will be bricks remaining. Ober when the RBSO is preparing to write a Sefer Toirah and He prepares the ink, He knows exactly how much ink is necessary, down to the last drop, so how could it be that there was ink left over? And if that’s the case, how was it taka that some extra ink was left over? Says the Ohr HaChaim azoy: the source of the extra ink can be found in Parshas Behaloischa where we read of Miriam’s bout with toz’ra’as (skin condition) as a result of some loshoin horo she spoke about her brother Moishe. Miriam questions Moishe’s actions with regard to his marital relationship, she admonishes Moishe for withholding sexual favors from his wife Tzipoirah. The RBSO rebukes and punishes Miriam and says that Moishe is the humblest man who ever lived. In that verse, Moishe, in his great humility, did not write the full word for humble, עניו, instead he left out one letter, the “yud.” Form the word. The result? A droplet of leftover ink which the RBSO rubbed on Moishe’s head and shoin.
The bottom line of Moishe and his on-and-off masked face is azoy: from the words the heylige Toirah uses to tell us the story, it appears azoy: Moishe did not wear the mask when he was in direct contact with the people; while speaking to them, advising them, and teaching them the Toirah, he was mask-less. He also did not wear it when he was in dialogue with the RBSO. At all other times he had the mask, or veil, at the ready. It was worn as needed.
And the final bottom line for the week is this: when talking to the RBSO, or doing His bidding, we don’t need and should not have masks. Transparency and authenticity are key if we want a response. There is no hiding; He knows the score, oy vey! There are however times in life when masks are permitted, even required; a good mask can improve sholom bayis in more ways than one, if you chap. Masking what we really think and feel can prevent people from getting insulted, and can also help prevent arguments.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv