This week we begin with four shout-outs -only one of the mazel tov variety- to our friends Rachel and Abe Abittan upon the engagement (and amazing li’chaim/ engagement party) of their givaldige son Mordechai, to Deena Hochbaum, she the beautiful daughter of Lisa and Peretz Hochbaum. Mazel tov to both extended families and may Mordechai and Deena merit to enjoy many decades together and to be a source of great pride and joy to their respective families.
And the other three? To Ronia (as we go to press, we don’t have her last name yet), her uncle -not real but acts like a good one, Steven Schwartz, and to Avi Klein of the Klein Group -specializing in due diligence on companies and people, also a private investigator who can be reached here: kleingroupllc.com or here firstname.lastname@example.org. And they are being shouted out why? The story is mamish amazing, let’s begin.
Doing the Right Thing!
From a discussion on crushed stones last week, to special instructions on the handling of very large stones this week, when all is said and done, and when one reads this week’s parsha of Ki Sovoi, most famous for containing a litany of 98 admonitions, even curses which may befall the Yiddin should they misbehave, the bottom line of the parsha is this: in Ki Sovoi, mamish days before Moishe will pass away, he reminds the Yiddin over and again that the RBSO wants them to be good people. Not once, and not twice, but at least three of maybe even four times in the parsha, Moishe reminds the Yiddin to; be good Jews, follow in the ways of the RBSO, follow His commandments –of every variety- and to do the right things. Though Merriam-Webster defines the word admonition to mean 1- gentle or friendly reproof; 2- counsel or warning against fault or oversight, the 98 curses coming our way for bad behavior are anything but gentle; they are downright scary; a careful read, could lead one to seek out a friendlier religion. Let’s read the pisukim together. Says the heylige Toirah (Devorim 26:16-18):
|16. This day, the Lord, your G-d, is commanding you to fulfill these statutes and ordinances, and you will observe and fulfill them with all your heart and with all your soul.||טז הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מְצַוְּךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה–וְאֶת-הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים; וְשָׁמַרְתָּ וְעָשִׂיתָ אוֹתָם, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ.|
|17. You have selected the Lord this day, to be your G-d, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and to obey Him.||יז אֶת-יְהוָה הֶאֱמַרְתָּ, הַיּוֹם: לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים וְלָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו, וְלִשְׁמֹר חֻקָּיו וּמִצְוֺתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו–וְלִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ.|
|18. And the Lord has selected you this day to be His treasured people, as He spoke to you, and so that you shall observe all His commandments,||יח וַיהוָה הֶאֱמִירְךָ הַיּוֹם, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה, כַּאֲשֶׁר, דִּבֶּר-לָךְ; וְלִשְׁמֹר, כָּל-מִצְוֺתָיו.|
And if that weren’t enough reminder, a few pisukim later, Moishe in Devorim 27:1 says: “Moishe and the elder of Israel commanded the people saying “observe the commandments that I commend you this day.” And in 27: 10 we find these words: you shall hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d and you shall perform all of His commandments and decrees which I command you today.” And then a few pisukim later (ibid 28:1), noch a mol (one more time) with these words: It shall be that if you hearken to the voice of Hashem your God to observe, to perform all of His commandments that I command you this day. The bottom line: Moishe wants them to do the right thing. We shall discuss doing the right things mamish just below.
The parsha also contains a number of pisukim which discuss the erection of an altar made of large stones, stones they will schlep put of the Jordan river on their way into the land, as well as instructions on what to do with these large stones. Space permitting, we will look into these stones.
Ober this week, in our tenth time around this parsha, instead of medrish, I want to talk about doing the right thing and share with you this myseh- she-ho-yo (a true story). Not that medrish isn’t emes; some just didn’t happen yet!
Of the Oisvorfer’s five children, one is currently residing in Los Angeles, CA. Let’s call her Alex. Approximately four weeks ago –give or take a few days in either direction- she exchanged her 2016 Honda CRV for a 2019 edition. Everyone is avada elated to get a new car, what could be bad? Veyter. Ober, one week ago today, she called to tell me the car would not start. The steering wheel was locked. She was calling to ask if I knew how to unlock it. Shoin: in the old days, we knew to yank on the steering column until it clicked into place and then the car would typically start. Ober these days, there are no keys and no locking mechanism for the steering wheel. By the time she called, she had already been on YouTube looking at various videos, ober a nechtiger tug (nothing was working). She gave up, called Honda who came and towed the car. On Friday she called again to report that Honda ran diagnostics and did not know what’s wrong. The car was toit (dead). Scary! Then called again and said she needed to authorize a $150 payment so that they could further investigate. She called the heylige Oisvorfer was busy making hachonis (preparations) for the heylige shabbis, ober when a daughter calls, one must avada listen.
The Honda call sounded epes fishy; a brand-new car in need of further diagnostics and not covered by the dealership? What’s pshat? I asked that she patch me in to Honda and during the call, the very friendly person related that the mechanic reported that perhaps the car not starting might be related to damage it sustained after being hit. Being hit? Alex knew nothing about being hit, she wasn’t hit. I then asked the Honda rep to go back and send us pictures of the damage. And guess what? A few moments later, she sent three images. Two were of damage sustained by the car and the third was a yellow sticky (the RBSO should avada bless the good people at 3M who invented these givaldige and ever ubiquitous little pads. On that sticky – see image – these words were written:
OMG! The car had been hit while parked, damage was sustained, the car would not start and someone left a note? Who was this person? We did not know. When I enlarged the image, I was able to read the phone number but no name. I called the number; it went to voice mail. Unbeknownst to me, Alex also called but did get through. The person said she would need to get back to Alex. She did not. Perhaps she was busy running pre-shabbis errands. Alex called twice more, again only voice mail. What to do? I tired the number again after shabbis, voice mail only.
At this point, we digress and go back to Thursday. On that day the heylige Oisvorfer answered a call from a fellow by the name of Avi Klein. When one hears Avi Klein, one imagines an old school, or camp friend. Perhaps a solicitation. The caller had a 202 number; efsher he was calling on behalf of the President; Jason Greenblat did just resign, was there an opening? Not! Avi went on to tell me that he does due diligence on behalf of his clients, on companies and individuals. He’s also a private investigator. He called to ask me information about a gentleman I meet in 2005 or earlier, ver veyst. A gentleman I did not like very much and so I told Avi. Shoin, we spoke for a while and established a shtikel rapport. By the time we concluded our call, we had discussed the one kosher restaurant in San Francisco where he is based, different hotels I stayed in and lots more. Following the call, Avi sent over a thank you note and of course a brochure and rate sheet. Who knew we’d be talking again two days later?
Back to Motzie shabbis. Scrolling though the menu of shows on demand, it suddenly hit me that I knew a guy who had databases, access to information. The Oisvorfer decided to email Avi and ask for help. We had a number and first name and that’s it. Mamish minutes later Avi answered and wrote that he would look into the matter on Sunday morning. And so he did. Using tools the average layman does not have, by midday I knew that the cell number was associated with a particular nursing home in Los Angeles. A real lead ober still no name. I called the nursing home several times that day, a waste of time mamish. Those answering the phones on Sunday knew nothing, spoke little English. Frustration was setting in.
Ober at 6PMish, just as the Oisvorfer was getting ready to attend the li’chaim of Mordechai Abitan – or was it a wedding rehearsal- mamish amazingly beautiful – the phone rang. Alex tells me she’s patching me into a call. On this call, I was introduced another fine gentleman by the name of Steven Schwartz who went on to say azoy:
I am the uncle of the person who hit your car. She’s but 16 years old, religious and wanted to do the right thing; she did by leaving the note. Because she’s young and hit a car, she was in a shtikel panic –and who amongst us hasn’t been that person way back when? She reached out to her uncle after getting the calls from Alex. Steven Schwartz, a complete stranger tells us that he owns a body shop and other businesses. He is willing to have the car picked up, and to restore it to its new condition. And in typical Jewish fashion, after schmoozing for 20 minutes, the degrees of separation are identified. His granddaughter was taught by Alex, his son-in-law is the son of a very close friend. We agreed to his plan. Update: he has since had the car picked up and went a step further: he offered to, and made arrangements for Alex’s car rental. I have since learned that Steven is not a real uncle by blood, but certainly acts like one. Likely better.
So today and this week we shout out Ronia, Steven Schwartz, and Avi Klein. She was raised correctly. We also shout out her family and school. She could easily have hit the car and left, no one was there. Instead, she stopped, wrote a note, placed in under the windshield wipers and then left. Why wasn’t the note noticed? Because it slipped under the hood where it was discovered by the technician when he wanted to conduct further diagnostics. Lessons learned: this young girl is mature, had a good upbringing and is to lauded by her family, school and friends for doing what the heylige Toirah asks of in the parsha: she did the right thing. Her uncle Steven, well, he too did the right thing. Not only did he call, he offered to have the car towed on a flatbed, repair it, and to rent Alex a car while repairs are underway. Good stock all around.
And a shout out to Avi Klein. He responded to my email, did not ask to get paid, felt the plight and was there. Should you ever be in need of due diligence, or a private investigator, call Avi. Here is a link to his website.
May they all be blessed in the coming year and forever.
Shoin: let’s spend the next few paragraphs discussing the role of stones, large and even smaller ones, in the heylige Toirah. Let’s recall the Moishe came down from Har Saini carrying two stones upon which were written or carved the Ten Commandments. Those didn’t last very long as Moishe -upon witnessing how the Yiddin were reveling with the golden calf, and their own stones, if you chap, threw them to the ground.
Going back, we learned in Bereishis how Yaakov Ovenu, tired from his travels, stopped, gathered stones and made himself a bed. We also learned how the stones placed under his head argued amongst themselves and somehow -with the RBSO’s help- melded into one larger stone. Precious and semi-precious stones were also called for as part of the ensemble of the koihen godol. Back to Yaakov, lets also recall how he and Rochel met, how he rolled the large stone covering the well, and shoin, the rest is history. We will find stones in use throughout the heylige Novee; let’s recall the battle between a young Dovid (later to become Kind David) and Goliyas (David and Goliath); there are many others involving stones. The bottom line: stones are good. At times, it’s good to have larger ones, if you chap, but zicher not always. Dovid did just fine with a rather small one.
In our parsha, Moishe give the Yiddin specific instructions about “great stones” meaning large stones. Says the heylige Toirah (Devorim 27: 2-3), azoy: “And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy G-d giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster. And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; so that thou mayest go in unto the land which the Lord thy G-d giveth thee.”
In plain English as we understand the instructions: Moishe and the elders commanded the Yiddin to -while crossing the river into the land- pick up twelve large stones from the river bed (one stone corresponding to each tribe) and carry them into the land. And then? Once there, they were to take them to Har Gerizim and Har Eival (two mountains not near each other, construct a Mizbayach (altar) with them and to lime them. On the Mizbayach they were to write the entire heylige Toirah in Loshon Koidesh (Hebrew letters) as well as in the seventy universal languages), after which, they would sacrifice peace-offerings on it. Nu, as you can only imagine these instructions have been the subject of many a great dispute among many of our sages and later exegetes. Space does not permit the covering of each and every dispute biarichus (in length and in detail), ober, let’s whet our respective appetites.
Does everyone agree that twelve stones were called for? Of course not! In fact, these stones, their size, roles they played, what was written on them, in what languages, how many stones were actually used, and so much more, is -as mentioned mamish just above- hotly debated by many an exegete.
Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 34a) azoy: forget the twelve stones we read about; instead, there were three sets of stones, each consisting of twelve stones. In other words: a total of thirty-six stones were involved. Does everyone agree on their size? Also not! Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 34a): they were large, very? How large? The volume of each stone was forty Sa’ah (each s’ah being one Amah by one Amah by three Amos with each amah being between 18 and 24 inches depending of course on which sage to believe. In other words: the stones were quite large and so logic might dictate if the entire heylige Toirah was to written on them and in seventy universal languages. Ober says the RambaN, he a logical thinker: the stones were not that large.
Shoin , whatever their real size, the Yiddin were instructed to schlep them out, move them about, and for the Toirah to be written on them? How would the entire heylige Toirah with its 79,847 words, and 304,805 letters fit onto twelve stones? Is that what happened? What taka was written? Nu, this too is a matter of a sagacious dispute. Says the heylige Gemora (ibid 35b): the entire biblical text was inscribed upon the tablets. Ober says Reb Saadiah Gaon as quoted by the Ibn Ezra and who agrees with him: only the 613 mitzvis were inscribed. Which was it? Ver veyst? The heylige Gemora also teaches us that the stones were inscribed in all seventy languages known at that time, ober, says the RambaN quoting at least one midrashic source, azoy: the stones were inscribed only in Hebrew. And says the Ramban: the Hebrew letters were adorned with the same crowns that appear in today’s Toirah scroll. Moreover, the crowns in the script of the Toirah scroll originated with these tablets. Gishmak!
Why did the RBSO want stones to be used? Why couldn’t the heylige Toirah be written on parchment as it is today? Vusepes stones? Nu, let’s avada recall that the Toirah was first given on a set of stones; seemingly the RBSO had a master plan. Here too, according to many, the entire Toirah was to appear on stones. Let’s recall that stone is made to last, it does not rot and is also not subject to tumah (impurities). Stones are good! Size seemingly matters as well.
The bottom line: the handling of these stones, getting them from place to place -according to some, at least one set was in at least two different locations, entailed at least two miracles. Ershtens (firstly), the distance between Har Gerizim and Har Eival was sixty Mil, or one and a half days walking distance. Yet the Yiddin got there, set up the stones, wrote the entire Toirah on them in all seventy-one languages and went through the entire ceremony described in our parsha and returned!? And all this before nightfall? How as this possible? The RBSO! Are you questioning His abilities? Especially now in the days leading up to Rosh Hashono, the aseresyimaytshuva and Yom Kippur? Woe is to you! And according to the Ramban who suggests that the stones were not really supersized, a second miracle took place. What was it? Somehow, the Yiddin were able to write the entire heylige Toirah on them seventy-one times, and the writing included all the Tagin (crowns). What are Tagin you ask? They are crowns which adorn certain letter in the heylige Toirah; next time you -my male readers- get an aliya, look into the heylige Toirah and you will see them. How was this possible? The RBSO! Only He can transcend time, and place. Gishmak!
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv