Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Ki Sovoy 2020: Healing Stones

A few more mazel tov shoutouts, here they are. This coming Monday, Labor Day mamish, we’re off to Englewood, New Jersey where  we will be joining our dear friends  Naomi and Howie Berg and to participate in the wedding of their beautiful daughter Elizabeth  who will be marrying Josh Sasouness, he the son of Sophie and Baruch Sasouness. Mazel tov to Elizabeth and Josh, to Naomi and Howie Berg – ashiduch the Oisvorfer arranged more than 30 years back- totheir married daughters and their spouses, and of course to Ari, still available. May Elizabeth and Josh enjoy many decades of marital bliss.

Just last night the Oisvorfer and eishes chayil participated  in sheva brochis  tendered in honor of Ariella and Ari Einhorn, and another mazel tov shoutout to Ari and Ariella and to our friends Chani and Schmeel Einhorn. Mazel tov to the extended Einhorn and Weisbrod families.

Last shabbis we participated in sheva brochis hosted by our friends Autumn and Bruce in honor of the wedding of Sara and David Schwartzman. One more mazel tov shout out to the entire Mael and Schwartzman families.

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Raboyseyee and Ladies:

Healing Stones

Of late, shuls around the country are circulating letters of warning -a recent one signed by many doctors- about lax behavior during corona times. As you know from previous reviews of this parsha, Ki Sovoy is not for the faint of heart. As with potential side effects of most medications, the paying attention in shul, or the learning this parsha on your own, can cause great risk to your mind, body and soul. You might suffer from night sweats, bedwetting and thoughts about joining another less punishing religion. Therefore, if you feel like skipping shul or whatever backyard minyan you saunter into these days, or if you prefer talking throughout the entire laining, you won’t be alone. The good news:  Yom Kippur is just around the corner; the RBSO will surely forgive you after you plead guilty with an explanation and promise to pay attention next year. Of course, you won’t! Thankfully broken promises is what Yom Kippur is partially about anyway.  Veyter.

According to the Concordance, there are 304,805 letters in the 79,976 words and  5,888 or 5,845 pisukim in the heylige Toirah. Of course, there are other opinions.

 

And we begin with these stats why? Davka because in this week’s parsha of Ki Sovoy which is most well-known for the 98 curses and admonitions Moishe warns the Yiddin to expect for bad behavior, we also find these incredible and inexplicable instructions. Says the heylige Toirah (Devorim 27:1-8), azoy:

“Moishe and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying: Observe all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you this day.  On the day that you cross the Jordan into the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you, you shall erect large stones and coat them with plaster.  You shall inscribe upon them all the words of this Torah when you cross over, so that you may enter the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the G-d of your fathers, promised you.  Upon crossing the Jordan, you shall set up these stones about which I charge you this day, on Mount Eval, and coat them with plaster.  There you shall build an altar to the Lord your G-d, an altar of stones. Do not wield an iron tool over them.  You must build the altar of the Lord your G-d of unhewn stones.  You shall offer on it burnt offerings to the Lord your G-d, and you shall sacrifice their offerings of well-being and eat them, rejoicing before the Lord your G-d.  And on the stones, you shall inscribe all the words of this Torah most distinctly.” 

In plain English: Moishe tells the Yiddin they are commanded -upon entering the Promised Land- to inscribe all the words of the heylige Toirah onto large stones. Ober how was that to happen? Shoin, long before Art Scroll envisioned the Stone Edition of the Chumash, stones of many varieties played a significant part in the heylige Toirah.

Avada you recall that Yaakov gathered a few and used them as a pillow. The heylige Toirah (Bereishis 28:11) describes how Yaakov took stones (in plural form) to put under his head as a pillow. Another posik refers only to the stone, in singular form, that Yaakov placed. Which was it? This apparent discrepancy brings our sages to the conclusion that the twelve stones that Yaakov placed under his head on his way to Choron fused into one stone. He also rolled a big stone off the well.

Shoin. And let’s avada not forget that the Ten Commandments came down on two tablets made of stone. Ober, where else have we read about stones?Let’s roll the Toirah back to SeferShmois where following redemption from slavery and just after Revelation, we learned this about stones.Twelve stones,one for each of the 12 shevotim  (tribes of Israel), with their names engraved on each stone, were to adorn the Choishen (breastplate) worn by Aharoin the KoihenGodol. An impressive vestment it was. Let’s read those instructions as found in Shmois 28:17-21.

 

17.  And you shall fill into it stone fillings, four rows of stones. One row: odem, pitdah, and bareketh; thus shall the one row be.   יזוּמִלֵּאתָ֥ בוֹ֙ מִלֻּ֣אַת אֶ֔בֶן אַרְבָּעָ֖ה טוּרִ֣ים אָ֑בֶן ט֗וּר אֹ֤דֶם פִּטְדָה֙ וּבָרֶ֔קֶת הַטּ֖וּר הָֽאֶחָֽד:
18. The second row: nofech, sappir, and yahalom.   יחוְהַטּ֖וּר הַשֵּׁנִ֑י נֹ֥פֶךְ סַפִּ֖יר וְיָֽהֲלֹֽם:
19. The third row: leshem, shevo, and achlamah.   יטוְהַטּ֖וּר הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י לֶ֥שֶׁם שְׁב֖וֹ וְאַחְלָֽמָה:
20. And the fourth row: tarshish, shoham, and yashpheh; they shall be set in gold in their fillings.   כוְהַטּוּר֙ הָֽרְבִיעִ֔י תַּרְשִׁ֥ישׁ וְשֹׁ֖הַם וְיָֽשְׁפֵ֑ה מְשֻׁבָּצִ֥ים זָהָ֛ב יִֽהְי֖וּ בְּמִלּֽוּאֹתָֽם:
21. And the stones shall be for the names of the sons of Israel twelve, corresponding to their names; [similar to] the engravings of a seal, every one according to his name shall they be, for the twelve tribes.   כאוְ֠הָֽאֲבָנִ֠ים תִּֽהְיֶ֜יןָ עַל־שְׁמֹ֧ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל שְׁתֵּ֥ים עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה עַל־שְׁמֹתָ֑ם פִּתּוּחֵ֤י חוֹתָם֙ אִ֣ישׁ עַל־שְׁמ֔וֹ תִּֽהְיֶ֕יןָ לִשְׁנֵ֥י עָשָׂ֖ר שָֽׁבֶט:

All we are told about those mistama smaller stones is the color of each but not the exact type of stone to be used. In fact, even the color is hidden from us , ober says the medrish (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7), azoy: each tribe’s stone on the breastplate matched the background color of its flag under which the tribe camped throughout their midbar journeys. And even if some doubt exists with regard to the scientific classification of the gems themselves, we can still be certain as to their appearance based on the Midrashic description of their colors. And listen to this amazing factoid which mistama continues to fuel the sale of precious and semi-precious stones: Says the Sefer Gematrios (43a-44b): each stone adorning the breastplate had certain healing or fortune properties, magic stones if you will. Mamish? How all that worked, ver veyst, ober in case you are a seller of precious or semi-precious stones, this is what you should be telling potential clients.

Says Rabaynu Bechaye (Shmois 28:10) azoy: each stone had a deep and direct connection to the history and inner characteristics of its associated Tribe.He astoundingly implies that the connection between the tribes and their stones are profound. As a public service, should you need help in any of the following areas, you may find relief or salvation from the stones listed below which are -according to Rabaynu Bechaya(and others), associated with the following:

  1. Reuvain: Oidem. Reuvain’s ruby assists with fertility and the prevention of miscarriage.
    2.  Shimon: Pitda (Chrysolite/emerald). Cools the body.
    3.  Levi: Barekes (Onyx/topaz). Enlightenment.4.  Yuhudah: Noifech (Malachite/carbuncle). Overpowers enemies.
    5.  Yissachar: Sapir (Lapis-Lazuli/sapphire). Helps eyesight and promotes healing.
    6.  Zevulun: Yahalom (Zircon/diamond). Helps sleep.7.  Dan: Leshem (Jacinth/zircon).
    8.  Naftali: Shvo (Agate). Helps riding.
    9.  Gad: Achlamah (Amethyst). Bravery.10.  Asher: Tarshish (Topaz/aquamarine). Helps digestion.
    11.  Yoisef: Shoham (Beryl/onyx). Perceived well by all.
    12.  Benyomin: Yashpeh (jasper). Helps blood-clotting.

Shoin, is there ever a reason to see a doctor? Who needs medical insurance when we have magic stones? Moreover, the healing capabilities of stones, and these in particular is referred to in both the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 16b) and in the Zoihar. According to some, our zeyda (forefather) Avrohom had a healing stone which hung around his neck with which he was able to heal people. Did all this happen? Ver veyst! Marketing! The bottom line: exactly how, when, and why the RBSO used stones, and or employed them, is widely discussed and this week we will try to chap what He wanted when instructions were given to schlep them and inscribe them with the words of the heylige Toirah.

Ober before you click onto one of the myriad sites that sell stones, we ask azoy: do these stones mamish work? And the answer is no! Why don’t they work if Rabaynu Bechaya and others (as found in the kabolo) say they do? Taka a good question, ober let’s also remember that Rabaynu Bichaya said azoy: stones interact based on a person’s spiritual level. And while attributing different properties and powers to a variety of stones is common to many ancient cultures (and some New Age groups), in order for the power of these stones to be effective, the user must be ritually pure. He warns that if a person is not ritually clean, the stones will be either ineffective, or even harmful. Yikes! Shoin, of course there was a catch and that’s it. As an aside, it’s the same concept when you seek out a brocho (for big money) from a charlatan mikubil. Why didn’t the brocho work?  Seemingly, going to the mikveh (ritual bath) is one way. Are you ritually clean? Have you – despite your current level of impurity most days of the year- immersed into a  mikveh? Case closed.

Ober, what exactly did Moishe mean? What’s pshat in the instructions to write upon them “all” the words of this Toirah?” Was it, and is it possible to reduce to writing the nearly 80,000 words that are contained in the heylige Toirah onto a few -maybe 12- stones? What exactly were the Yiddin to do? When was this to happen? How many stones were involved? Where did these stones come from, and many more questions are raised by the instructional pisukim.  Nu, as you can only imagine, these passages were the subject of many sagacious discussions and machloikes between many in the heylige Gemora and other places. What were they arguing about? About real pshat in the instructions which can of course lead to some confusion and many interpretations. Welcome to the heylige Toirah; is it a wonder some say the Toirah has 70 faces?

And because you tune out of this parsha -who can blame you- and because all  you know about stones is how to play with them, if you chap, let us learn what a few had to say. Lets’ chazir: Moishe and the elders commanded the people, that upon crossing the Jordan River (Yehoishua would lead them following Moishe’ passing), the very first mitzvah they were to perform was to pick up twelve large stones from the river bed (one stone corresponding to each tribe) and carry them into the Promised Land and start writing. Does everyone agree that there were 12 stones? Of course not! And says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 34a) azoy: there were three sets of stones, each consisting of twelve stones, and not just one. Shoin, whether there were 12 or 36 stones, ver veyst. Let’s go veyter.

Once there, they were to take them to Har Gerizim and Har Eival, two mountain tops, construct a Mizbei’ach (altar) with the stones and then lime them. Next: They were to write or inscribe them. Write what? Let’s see those words again: the instructions were “and write on them all the words of this Toirah,” ober which words? All the words? Some words and which words? How many words can fit onto 12 or even 36 stones? How large were the stones and what were they using for writing instruments? How were such large stones transported? So many excellent kashas, none of which you likely recall learning answers to. Let the Oisvorfer enlighten you with a few potential answers. Of course, these are only potential answers because few agree on any one detail and welcome to Toirah learning 101.

Nu, some are of the opinion that the entire heylige Toirah was to be written or etched into the stones. Others say that’s nothing: the entire heylige Toirah, in all 70 languages of the people, needed to be inscribed so that all of mankind and maybe also womankind, would be able to read the stones. In how many languages? Some say 70 and some say 71. Why these numbers? Nu, efsher you recall that the RBSO, following the tower of Bavel incident, dispersed the people into 70 nations each with their own unique language. And the 71st? That would be loshoin koidesh (holy script, our very own language). Of course, this didn’t sit well with others who asked how that was possible? How could 12 or 36 stones fit all this information? Not to worry because says the Ramban azoy: One possibility was that only the 613 mitzvis were written, not the entire Toirah. Another view suggests that taka the entire Toirah, from the first letter in Sefer Bereishis to the very last in SeferDevorim, was recorded, but how? Is that your business? If the RBSO said to do it, mistama He had a plan even if that plan was miracle dependent. Can the RBSO not perform miracles? So pshat is like this. Either the stones were enormous and avada we can chap that big stones are sometime better than little stones, or it was a neys mamish (miraculous scribal feat) that allowed this to happen. Why not? Didn’t the RBSO perform other miracles that you seem to accept without questioning? Veyter!

Why would the RBSO require that His Toirah be etched into stone in 70 or 71 languages? How long would that take? Who knew these languages and which of the non-Jewish nations would care about the RBSO’s Toirah? Ver veyst! Moreover, the Yiddin have yet to agree on one unified translation of the heylige Toirah, how were they going to etch it into 70 languages? Ver veyst? In any event, the heylige Gemora does present one logical argument on how this could have happened, ober first let’s review a few options.

According to the Abarbanel, only the Ten Commandments were etched into the stones. The Rasag is of the opinion that only a list of the 613 commandments was inscribed onto the stones, while the Ralbag suggests that only the blessing and curses, appearing in our parsha were engraved. Finally, the Ramban raises the possibility that the entire heylige Toirah was inscribed in stone.

How many stones were there? Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 34a) azoy: there were taka three sets of stones, each consisting of twelve stones, and not just one. That’s 36 stones. The first set contained the words of the Toirah in all languages and was erected by Moishe in Arvos Moi’av (plains of Moiav) when he re-established the covenant that the Yiddin had broken and nullified with the eygel (golden calf) incident. The second set, at the behest of Yehoishua, were placed in the Yarden (Jordan River) itself as the Yiddin crossed over. For what purpose you may be wondering? Says Rabaynu Bechaya, the function of this set was for the Kohanim (priests) who stood their ground holding the Aron (Holy Ark) whilst the people crossed, until the water returned to its original course. They stood on the stones to avoid having to stand in the mud. This makes it unlikely for the Toirah to have been written on them, though in any event, there is no indication that it was. Gishmak. And the third set was initially erected on Har Eival in the form of a Mizbei’ach, as we explained, and then, after sacrificing on it, they took it apart and carried the stones to Gilgal, where they spent their first night in the holy land, and where they re-erected them. Got all that?

One Medrish will tell us that at least two miracles occurred in connection with these stones. Ershtens, both mountains, Har Gerizim and Har Eival were a distance of sixty Mil (one and a half days walking distance). Yet the Yiddin traveled there, set up the stones, wrote the entire Toirah on them in all seventy-one languages (70 plus the original Toirah language) and went through the entire ceremony described in this parsha and returned, all before nightfall. Why not? Ober says the Ramban, based on his assumption that the stones were not that gigantic, azoy: the Yiddin were able to write the entire Toirah on them seventy-one times, with all the Tagin (crowns) and that was a miracle too. In the end, of course there is no consensus. How large were the stones? The heylige Gemora (Soitah 34a) tells us that the volume of each stone was forty Sa’ah (one Amah by one Amah by three Amos. And how large is that? The measurement of a minimum size Mikveh. Next time you find yourself impure, check it out.

Ober, where are these stones today? Seemingly, the stones were not designed to serve as permanent monuments. Why not? Ver veyst? Mistama, that’s  what the RBSO wanted all along. Says Rav Shamshon Rephoel Hirsch: and that’s why the RBSO ordered for the text to be inscribed on a layer of lime. Lime does not withstand the elements as stone does.Moreover, our traditions are not tied to or  perpetuated by marble or granite monuments.

And the bottom line? In the end, we accept that if the RBSO ordered that His Toirah be etched into stone, be it on the original set which Moishe brought down with the Ten Commandments, or the second replacement set following a shtikel debacle, or, on the 12 or 36 stones referenced in our parsha, there must be a good reason. Exactly what that reason was, is hotly debated and of course none of our business. During this time of year, it’s the RBSO asking questions about what we’ve been doing with our own stones, if you chap.

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman