Could the Moshiach be on his way? Why not? If the New York Mets, not picked by anyone to make it into the world series find themseves mamish there- and mazel tov to them and all their fans, including this writer- why can’t we belive that the arrival of Moshiach might just be looming? Nu, lommer huffin (let’s hope).
We begin this week with a very hearty mazel tov to Aliza and Avi Blisko upon the birth this past shabbis and the upcoming bris this coming shabbis of their new arrival. Tip off after davening; all are welcome. A special mazel tov shout out to the entire Blisko mishpocho and to the very proud and happy grandparents Faye and Steve Kollander.
And….another big mazel tov to our friends Susie and Ari Friedman upon the wedding earlier this week of their son Moshe to Rebeccah Wasserman, she the daughter of Anne and Mark Wasserman of New Rochelle, NY. May they share many years of marital bliss together. Mazel Tov to all the grandparents and a special mazel tov to Mrs. Blanche Lerer.
And a very happy second anniversary to the Oisvorfer’s children Ariella and Zachary Grossman, which was happily marked with a beautiful dinner at Prime Grill and a Mets win.
Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Did Avrohom Worship Idols?
Many generations and unique characters have come and gone since the RBSO decided to create Man. With the exception of Noiach, it appears that they were all bad. In the last two Toirah readings we met the original Adams mishpocho (Odom, Chava, and their givaldige kinderlach) and got to know the Noiachs; we won’t hear from or about them for the rest of the Toirah though we will avada encounter a few more snakes as we move along. And here we are in Parshas Lech Lecho. It’s time to meet Avrohom (Avrom at the time) Oveenu (our forefather) who takes center stage, and we’ll be covering his life in the next three parshiois (weekly readings). Many consider Avrohom to be the first Yid. Was he? Was he the first of the Chosen people, and did the Chosen nation start with him? Moreover, since Avrohom (and all the forefathers) lived well before Yitzyas Mitzrayim (exodus from Egypt) and the giving of the heylige Toirah on Har Sinai—two seminal events in our glorious Jewish history, mamish, how can he really be considered Jewish? Was he the first Yid before there were Jewish people, what’s pshat here?
In previous posting, we learned how his wife was taken to the king’s palace, how she was barren for many decades, how he was forced to relocate to yet another country where again his wife was taken, how he was instructed to perform a bris on himself at the age of 99 and his troubles at home as a result of taking in a concubine, marrying her and having a child named Yishmael. Raboyseyee, all these topics can be found in this week’s parsha, check it out.
There are several mind boggling storylines in Lech Lecha, and given that this is our sixth time around the parsha – we have previously covered most of the major and even minor storylines – especially the text and medroshim that try valiantly to chap why Avrohom – then still known as Avrom – would, in an attempt to save his own life, concoct a plan that might or did put his eishes chayil Soro – then known as Sorai – into harm’s way, we will focus on but one topic this week. Avada you are encouraged to check out previous givaldige postings at www.oisvorfer.com.
And each year as Lech Lecha comes around, the Oisvorfer begins to ask questions all over again. Ober what’s bothering him this year? Nu, we don’t have enough time and space for the answer to that last question; let’s instead focus on the parsha. Ershtens (firstly), though we meet most major Toirah personalities at birth – think Odom, Yitzchok, Yaakov and Moishe, we will be introduced to Avrohom here in this parsha when he is already a robust 75 years old. His birth was taka mentioned last week but nothing else. Not that 75 years is old ober where was this man until now? What do we know about his childhood, his teens, and the ensuing decades? Nothing! Did he go to yeshiva? Which one and how many? And when the heylige Toirah is silent and leaves us with a big lacuna about his life and experiences, the medrish is good to go. It and others have literary license to imagine and fill in the blanks with whatever tickles their fancy. Who can argue? It’s shayich (possible) that some of what they posit could be emes. Is it? What was he doing? Was he hiding out as did Yaakov his grandson, in the famous but maybe mythical yeshiva of Shem and Ever? Who were they? Avada you all know that Shem was the prodigal son of Noiach and his yeshiva seemed to attract a few very interesting characters especially those for whom we cannot account many missing years. In a few weeks another medrish quoted by Rashi will tell us that Yaakov spent 14 years in this yeshiva. Was Shem even Jewish? Moreover, if Avrohom was the first Yid, the first monotheist mamish, the father of the Chosen People, and the first to follow the RBSO, who was Shem and what was he teaching at his yeshiva? Nuch a shaylo (yet another question): If Avrohom was taka the first Yid, was Noiach, about whom we read just last week, the very person the RBSO selected to save and repopulate the world, mamish a goy gomur (complete gentile)? And if Noiach was taka a goy, we would assume that his son Shem, unless he was the first gare (convert), too, was a goy, and if Shem was taka a goy, what sort of a yeshiva was he running? Was there a Jewish curriculum being taught by goyim? Which parent would, unless tuition was mamish free or very heavily discounted, send their kinderlach (kids) to a yeshiva run by goyim and with a curriculum that seemingly did not have any Jewish content? How could there be Jewish content? Were there a Toirah to study? Was there a Mishne or heylige Gemora? Not!
Shoin, some might argue that Noiach, although taka not a Yid, was instructed to keep the seven Noahide laws and taka we will can find those delineated in the Art Scroll chumish at the end of last week’s parsha. Was Shem’s yeshiva then limited to study of these seven mitzvis, ver veyst?
Ober let’s get back to Avrohom who may have been an insolent child. Various medroshim will tell us that his father Terach was in the getchka gisheft (seller of idols). We will be taught this his father, mother and the entire population of his time were taka all idol worshipers. It’s mistama the case and so say at least some, that little Avrom started out following the religion of his parents. He too served idols. Shoin, at least the family had a thriving business.
And the questions are azoy: If Avrohom was raised in a house of idol worshipers and was also surrounded by neighbors and many others that were all worshipers, how and when did Avrohom turn away from his parents beliefs and towards the RBSO? When did this happen? What was the seminal event? Why was he selected to be the first of our forefathers? What did the RBSO see in him at the age of 75? And what took so long? Were there other candidates on the short list? Was there a primary? Nu, taka we have so many questions ober do we have any answers?
Shoin, it would appear that Avrohom may have been the first ever ‘baal tshuva’ (penitent). And efsher that’s why the RBSO selected him. Some say that Kayin, after being exposed for murder, also did tshuva, mistama he did. Anyway, depending on which medrish or commentator talks to you, Avrohom was either 3 or 40 when he found the RBSO. What was bothering him about idol worship, ver veyst. One medrish will teach us that he was klerring azoy: “How is it possible that this celestial sphere should continuously be guiding the world and have no one to guide it and cause it to turn round: for it cannot be that it turns round by itself.” That’s what Avrohom was thinking about as a 3 year old? Why not? Which 3 year old can spell celestial?
Shoin, maybe he had videos of Star Wars and other such movies, why not? Another medrish will teach us that he taka began to think about how the world really runs at the age of 3 but it wasn’t until he was 40, that his views were fully developed. Until then, his mind was spinning as were the spheres. He was star gazing. Was Avrohom the first space cadet? One thing is zicher: he was seemingly a rebellious child and teen.
Shoin, if you like that pshat, it all makes sense. Avrohom’s mind was busy spinning until he figured out pshat. He reflected until he chapped and understood that there is but one G-d and that He, the RBSO, is the one that guides the celestial sphere. Therefore it must also be the RBSO that created everything and that there is no other god besides Him. Rashi and others will tell us that when his light bulb turned on, he began to preach his findings and began to spread the word of the RBSO’s existence and sole power. Therefore Rashi, who chapped everything, will teach us that Avrohom who was by now in the family business, turned against his own father and smashed all his father’s inventory of getchkis (idols). Shoin, whether Terach his father had business interruption interruption insurance we don’t know, ober a happy father and camper he could not be. What we do know is that as the parsha opens, Avrohom is 75 years old and the RBSO has seemingly selected him for greatness.
If you have trouble digesting that Avrohom at the age of 3 was thinking about celestial beings and wondering how the world worked, you are not alone.
And taka says the heylige Gemora (Avoida Zoro 9A) azoy: Avrohom was 52 years old when he became the first Jew. Shoin, was he 40, 52, 75 or 99, ver veyst? Why doesn’t anyone agree? Poshit giredt (plain and simple): it’s against our religion for all to agree. So much so that were all the Sanhedrin, all 70 of them, to agree to a person’s guilt, he was to be set free. Yiddin aren’t allowed to agree: it’s not in our DNA. Moreover, it’s a kal vochoimer which goes like this. Hey, what’s a Kal Vochoimer? Didn’t you learn anything in yeshiva? In any event, a Kal Vachoimer is (lit. “light and weighty”); a principle of scriptural interpretation whereby a conclusion is drawn from a minor premise or more lenient condition (“light”) to a major or more strict one (“weighty”) or vice versa, a fortiori argument. Or, more poshit giredt (in common parlance), “all the more so.” And it goes like this…….. Madach a man and his eishes chayil, people who are naturally attracted to each other, at least physically, cannot agree on kimat anything, of course it’s understood and accepted that strangers -all looking at the same words- cannot agree to their meaning! Shoin and case closed? Not yet!
One medrish will tell us that Avrohom was but 3 years old when he looked around at the world of nature with all its perfection, beauty, symmetry, precision, timing, balance, integration, coordination, and unity and concluded that for the world to be designed so perfectly there obviously must be a higher power. Was he a member of AA, ver veyst. And taka those were some big thoughts and words for a three year old. On the other hand, what’s wrong with the theory that he was only 3? Aren’t 3 year olds mature? And won’t we be learning, next week mamish, that Rivka may have been but 3 years old when she married Yitzchok? We will ober let’s not jump ahead. As an aside, Rivka’s age when she married Yitzchok is another hotly debated topic. In any event, according to this view, Avrohom discovered the RBSO taka at age 3. That’s the good news. And while most of you discovered yours before high school – avada we speak of higher powers, chazerim that you are- seemingly, Avrohom didn’t discover his mila until he was in his 80’s. The heylige Toirah will tell us Avrohom was 86 when his first son, Yishmoel, father to all our Arab cousins, was born.
Some say that Avrohom was quite prolific, and authored a 400-chapter book refuting idolatry. Efsher you can find an older copy on Amazon, ver veyst. And he endured all types of mockery and persecution for holding beliefs that were outside the box for his time, efsher also the first to be politically incorrect. In fact, the Toirah calls him “Avrohom Ha-Ivri” – Avrohom the Hebrew. HA-IVRI translates literally as “the one who stands on the other side.” The entire world stood on one side, with Avrohom standing firm on the other.
Others say that what makes Avrohom unique is not just that he recognized the RBSO, but that he understood the need to go out and share this with others. The Medrish likens spiritual knowledge to a bottle of perfume. If you leave the bottle of perfume corked and sitting in a corner, what good is it? Shem and Ever were like a closed bottle of perfume, off studying in a corner somewhere.
Avrohom went out and taught people about monotheism. He pitched his tent, which was open on all four sides, in the middle of an inter-city highway. Avrohom distinguished himself as being a lover of all humanity. When the RBSO sought to destroy the corrupt city of Sodom for their less than exemplary behavior, if you chap, a topic we’ll zicher cover next week, Avrohom was willing to stand up and argue with the RBSO that they should be spared. He cared about everyone, and viewed himself not as an individual trying to perfect himself, but as the progenitor of a movement to bring the RBSO’s existence into perfect clarity. Some say that his midos (character traits) uniquely qualify him as a role model for all humanity and as the first Yid.
So , was he or wasn’t he the first Yid? Ver veyst. There’s a good chance that Avrohom was the first humanitarian. From all we read, he was seemingly a good man, helped others, saved his nephew Loit, fought with kings, loved his wife, sometimes, at least, married his pilegesh, sent her off, took her back, and left a portion of his riches over to the children (seemingly at least a few) of his concubines. Doesn’t sound like a bad guy, and efsher for all those reasons Avrohom is considered the first Jew.
Others, as would seem logical, posit that Avrohom initially did have the halachic status of a non-Jewish Noahide, but that once he shortened his member, as commanded at the end of the parsha, he entered the covenant with the RBSO, and was considered a full-fledged Yid. His lifetime membership, though somewhat shorter, if you chap, has been passed on for generations since. Less is more, if you chap. However, most disagree and believe that he was never a goy. Shoin: it’s a tradition that Avrohom was the first Yid, and avada we must follow traditions: case closed!
What we know with certainty is this: As the parsha opens, the RBSO instructs Avrohom to leave his entire past behind. He is to leave his land or country, his place of birth and his father’s house. Nu, efsher we can kler azoy: in order for Avrohom to taka achieve greatness and a promise from the RBSO that he will be given the gift of what would eventually be known as the land of K’nan (Israel today), he taka needed a break with the past. Avada you all heard the famous quote of ‘mishaneh makom, mishaneh mazel’ (a change of location brings about a change of luck) and seemingly that works for some. Ober for Avrohom, efsher because of his background in the family gisheft of dealing with idols, he seemingly needed more than just a change of venue. He needed a complete break from his past. Avada we have seen athletes in every sport who were slouches on team A yet achieved greatness once traded. For Avrohom, the RBSO decided that he needed a full makeover.
Raboyseyee, as we go through life, each one of us is Avrohom. Each of us may need a new makeover. Some require but a change of address and some more drastic measures, if you chap. And like Avrohom, as we go through life, each of us is tested, each in his or her own way.
A gittin Shabbis! LET’S GO METS!
The Oisvorfer Ruv