A big mazel tov to our close friends Mandy and Rubin Brecher and to their machatunim, Ora and Mark Watson (also shouted out last week), upon the birth earlier this week of a baby girl born to their children Eliana and Moshe Watson. May baby Watson provide only joy to her parents and grandparents until at least 120. Mazel tov to both extended families.
Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Yishmoel’s Bar Mitzvah Gift
We begin with a gishmake comment received this past week from reader Ken (last name unknown) out of northern New Jersey (city also unknown).
Great post as always. we have a bit of machloikes to trouble you with, something been on our minds quite a lot lately. Hashem decided to destroy the world and kill all the people because they were evil. but why kill all the animals, all those birds, lions, bears, thank you as always, looking forward!!!
Reader Ken asked why the RBSO also chose to kill all the animals and beasts with the exception of the few selected by Noiach to join him on the Teyvo (Ark). The Oisvorfer is avada happy to receive your kind comment and answers your question azoy. The heylige Toirah does not tell us that the animals were evil. Devilish efsher but not evil. Neither does Rashi or the medrish. What the heylige Toirah did tell us was that the RBSO was fed up. He mentioned that the world was being destroyed “ki hishchis kol bosor.” Next time you’re in shul, find a free moment when you are not occupied by listening to some loshoin horo, or discussing new business opportunities which may arise in the coming Trump administration and take a peek at a very telling and explicit Rashi found in parshas Bereishis (6:12) which on those very words “ki hishchis kol bosor” (for all flesh had corrupted the way upon the earth), tells us azoy: the words ‘kol bosor’ mean -all flesh. They sadly and mamish include all living things with flesh. They had all become corrupted. They, like man (and mistama a few women), became sex fiends. Their desires and actions had expanded beyond their natural boundaries. In other words: the behavior of the biheymis (animals) was off the reservation. And by corrupted, Rashi does not mean that they were accepting bribes or doing special favors for friends who made donations to their favorite local zoo. The animals were engaging in perverted sex with other breeds, and with the vilde chayis (beasts). The animals were no longer content to mate with their own kind and began experimenting on the outside.
Efsher that’s taka why straying humans are referred to as acting mamish like biheymis. Avada we have to remember the clear distinction between humans and animals. Animals have many mates. Any two (male and female) can hook up and produce offspring. The idea of spouses and raising families is foreign to the animal kingdom. Mrs. Ewe is not married to Mr. Ram, nor is a particular cow forever attached to one particular bull. They are free to roam about. Ober, during the ‘doir hamabil’ (generation of the flood), even this freedom was seemingly not enough to satisfy their cravings. They wanted more. Monkeys wanted more than bananas, if you chap; they wanted to share their flesh with lions and tigers. Even cats and dogs were mating. Later, a Toirah inspired entrepreneur invented a game and a night activity still scheduled in many camps ad hayoim hazeh (until today), by that name. Moreover, men (and mistama women) were having sex with animals. A medrish will tell us that men mamish entered into marriage contracts with the animals. Shoin, if one is entering an animal, executing a contract does not see all that outlandish. The bottom line: they all had to go. Shreklich mamish. There is no mention of what the mermaid was doing ober we can imagine that in a corrupted world, it’s shayich that the sperm whale was also doing some chapping.
A number of decades back, in honor of the Oisvorfer’s bar mitzvah, his parents, OBM, avada sponsored a kiddish in shul. The year was 1968. The entire bar mitzvah bill was just under one hundred dollars and yes, you read that correctly. The kiddish was a one-forker. Years later, the one-fork kiddish routine was incorporated into a bar mitzvah speech given in honor of Dov Friedman’s bar mitzvah. Herring came out on frilly toothpicks. Slices of gifilte fish were served on small white plates. Those delicacies were followed by platters (sheet pans) laden with larger plates of potato kugil and chulent. Shoin. The one fork was licked clean following the fish so that it could be used again to stab and chap a piece of kugil as the waiters (taller men in shul) passed by. A few were machmir and insisted on a second fork. Those from wealthier homes -a few- also had an open-house on a Sunday during which friends and family came by for food and to drop off gifts. A small number, very, had their bar mitzvah celebrations a in a real banquet facility. The Oisvorfer recalls attending but one such bar mitzvah for a boy on the block by the name of Tommy Markowitz in a facility by the name of K’hal Chasidim. Back then, the future Oisvorfer beloved that the Markowitz family were mamish multi-millionaires. If anyone knows this man, please send him a copy of this week’s review as the Oisvorfer has not seen him since 1969.
The next generation of boys began to enjoy more lavish bar mitzvah celebrations and in years to come (and at present), bar mitzvahs have become kimat indistinguishable from weddings. In another upgrade to bar mitzvah celebrations, a number of families have begun flying to Yirusholayim where the bar mitzvah boy has the honor of donning his tifilin for the very first time at the Kotel (Koisel for the Oisvorfer’s chasidishe readers and Western Wall for the umois ho’oilom). Grada that’s exactly what the Oisvorfer himself did seven years ago for the bar mitzvah of his youngest son Max. And how is all this bar mitzvah nostalgia relevant to this week’s parsha of Lech Lecho? Lommer geyn veyter (let’s go further); we will attempt to connect the dots shortly.
The title reads Yishmoel’s Bar mitzvah gift, ober did Yishmoel ever have a bar mitzvah? Was a kiddish tendered in his honor? Was he the recipient of gifts? And who cares about Yishmoel? Wasn’t he the son Soro rejected and evicted? We will be discussing that topic below.
Welcome to parshas Lech-Lecho where Avrohom Ovenu takes center stage. By the end of parshas Bereishis (two weeks ago), ten generations had come and gone. Seemingly they were all or mostly bad and the RBSO decided to start again with Noiach. The world was in chaos filled with robbery, thievery, sexual immorality, bestiality and more. Some say that a number of people (there were no Yiddin back then) were chapped mixed dancing. The animal kingdom too was guilty of sexual depravity. Sadly, as you read just above in response to Ken’s question, the animals too were also experimenting with men and mistama also women. One medrish tells us that men were entering into marriage contracts with members of the animal kingdom. Yikes! The RBSO had seen enough and simply hit the reset button. Shoin, the gantze velt (world) was washed away. Flood waters washed away other chazerishe fluids, if you chap. Ten more generations had come and gone since Noiach; few are mentioned as having been good guys and not one superstar amongst them. Thankfully Avrohom arrived on the scene just as parshas Noiach was closing out and with him, the RBSO’s faith in His creations will be restored.
Towards the end of parshas Noiach, we were introduced to Avrohom via a brief mention of his birth. We next read that his father Terach took him and Loit (Avrohom’s nephew) to the land of K’nan where they settled in Choron. As Lech Lecho opens, Avrohom is already seventy five years of age. The events in this week’s parsha will span the next twenty five years. As an aside, kimat 2000 years have passed in the first two parshas of the heylige Toirah. Where was Avrohom (then still known by his shorter given name of Avrom) and what kept him occupied for the first seventy five years of his life? Ver veyst. We mamish don’t know because it’s one of those huge lacunas in the heylige Toirah. Surprisingly, few medroshim pontificate on these years, ober says the Oisvorfer azoy: mistama he spent a number of them learning in the not-yet famous yeshiva of Shem and Ever, if it ever existed. Go prove otherwise. Isn’t that where the medrish places a few other Toirah personalities whose years are unaccounted? It does. One medrish will tell us that Avrohom worked with his dad in the family business which sold idols. Like many Jews to come, he was a retailer. Shoin, business is business.
By the time we meet him this week, he is already married to his eishes chayil Soroh (then known as Sorai). Sadly, they remain childless after a few decades of marriage. The heylige Toirah tells us that shortly before their arrival to Mitzrayim (Egypt), Avrohom asked Soro to fib and tell the less than admirable -very bad- people of Mitzrayim that she was his sister. Avrohom was nervous about them killing him and taking her. Why was he nervous? Rashi also tells us that Avrohom was suddenly taken aback by her beauty. Why suddenly? Rashi knows and says he azoy: in all the years they were married, Avrohom never looked at her. He didn’t what? Was she ugly? Very? Shoin, if he never looked at her, efsher we can kler that they never had relations. That would avada help explain why she was childless. On the other hand, another medrish, also quoted by Rashi, will tell us that Soro was very beautiful, mistama they did have relations, many times, ober sadly, Soro was unable to conceive due to the fact that she was born without a uterus, a part sorely needed for pregnancy and childbirth. What really happened, ver veyst? Another medrish, based on the heylige Gemora (Megillah 15A), teaches us that Soro was one of the four most beautiful women in the history of the world. How the medrish knew this, ver veyst.
We have previously well covered with mamish givaldige chaps and insights, Avrohom’s travels and travails, the story he concocted, Soro’s adventures when taken on a palace tour to meet King Paroy, how the RBSO struck Paroy with pains which did not allow him to perform with Soro, if you chap, how Avrohom got his wife back and a bunch of parting gifts from the king, his relationship with his nephew Loit, Loit’s captivity, the war Avrohom waged against a number of kings (and seemingly won with an army of but 318 non-soldiers), and much more. If you want to learn while being entertained, you should avada click onto the site (www.oisvorfer.com) and then to the archive section where you will find five or six postings on this parsha. Each was mamish a gem. Shoin, another shameless plug!
Several weeks back a question was raised as to the source of a bar mitzvah. Is having a bar mitzvah ceremony or celebration commanded anywhere in the heylige Toirah? Is it at all mentioned? What taka is the source for having a bar mitzvah celebration? Nu, as expected, the Oisvorfer found himself on the opposite side of an argument which broke out on this very topic. Where is it mentioned? And the answer is nowhere! At least nowhere explicitly. It’s taka the case that nowhere in the heylige Toirah can we find the words bar mitzvah. It’s zicher the case that nowhere will we find that a bar mitzvah celebration must be accompanied by a weekend, a trip to Israel, a lavish party with music, dancing and other trimmings. Those all came later and were mistama introduced by Toirah inspired entrepreneurs.
Ober said the Oisvorfer azoy: Rashi, everyone’s favorite super commentator, tells us that there is a reference to a bar mitzvah, and it can be found in parshas Toldois where the heylige Toirah recounts the birth and early years of Yaakov and Eisav. Nu, we are zicher jumping ahead a few weeks ober halt kup, we will shortly return to this week’s parsha. Efsher you recall that Yaakov and Eisav were twins with Eisav having made an appearance first, followed closely by Yaakov who was holding onto the heel of his slightly older brother. More on them and the chicanery which surrounded their dealings at the appropriate time. We read about their birth in Bereishis 25:26. Nothing else is mentioned about their childhood until one possik later where we read two key words (Bereishis 25:27), “Vayigdilu Haniorim” (and the lads grew up). Says Rashi, quoting a givaldige medrish (Bereishis Rabbah 63:10), azoy: while they were younger, their personalities were indistinguishable. Ober, as soon as they turned 13 years of age -bar mitzvah- Yaakov was drawn to the RBSO and the world of yeshiva, while his brother Eisav was inclined towards idolatry. Moreover, in the very next verse, each is referred to as an ‘ish’, a man, a term reserved for those having reached the age of thirteen or bar mitzvah. Shoin and taka an excellent source.
Upon hearing that, the other fellow dismissed the Oisvorfer’s source and argued defiantly and stated with a degree of certitude and chutzpah that the heylige Oisvorfer was clueless mamish. He insisted that we first learn about bar mitzvahs from another set of brothers, namely Shimon and Levi, the dynamic duo, who took their respective swords and wiped out (killed) all male inhabitants of the city of Shechem following the rape of their sister Dina. Again, we will give them proper coverage in a few weeks. Interestingly enough, Shimon and Levi executed on a plan they concocted under which all of Shechem’s male inhabitants had agreed (as a precondition for Dina marrying Shechem, and other Yiddin marrying Shechemites), for all male inhabitants to undergo a bris. A medrish will tell us that one of the boys (Levi) was but 13 years of age. He had just celebrated his bar mitzvah. Mistama he and his older brother Shimon each received a set of swords as a bar mitzvah present from one of the invited guests. Go prove otherwise.
Ober, why are we discussing Yaakov, Eisav, Shimon and Levi this week? Because they are the source, according to many, for having a bar mitzvah. Ober is that emes? Or, can we find an earlier reference to a bar mitzvah? Efsher in this week’s parsha? Nu, let’s chazir (review) a few historical facts as told to us in the heylige Toirah. We met Avrohom when he was already seventy five. Ten years later, still childless, Soro suggests that Avrohom come upon (have sex with) Hogor. He jumped at the opportunity; who wouldn’t when (and if) the eishes chayil condones a relationship with a hot shiksa princess? According to some, she was the daughter of Paroy. Nu, some aren’t as machmir (strict) and will -bidieved- (as a second or third option), jump at the opportunity even in cases where the shiksa is not from royalty. Others have decided it’s best not to seek permission from the eishes cahyil. Ober, kimat all agree that it’s far better and zicher much safer, if the eishes chayil is not at all involved. And kula alma loi pililgi (all agree) that if questioned, avada the husband should deny it vehemently. Veyter.
Guess what? Hogor became immediately pregnant -most shiksas do- and gave birth when Avrohom was eighty six. The RBSO Himself told Hogor to name the baby Yishmoel. Avrohom loved Yishmoel, he was after all his child. Seemingly the RBSO also loved Yishmoel and promised Avrohom that Yishmoel too would flourish. Later in the parsha, the RBSO enters into a covenant with Avrohom, and assures him that his children (sans Yishmoel) will inherit the land and that their numbers will multiply. Veyter.
Shoin, as mentioned, Avrohom was eighty six at Yishmoel’s birth. Says who? The heylige Toirah. And then this: Avrohom was 99 years old when he was commanded to have a bris. Avrohom does just that, or does he? One medrish we will explore shortly, will tell us that Avrohom hesitated and who can blame him? But…..on that day, Avrohom either performed a bris on himself, and either arranged brissim for, or also performed them on all males in his household. All males would avada include Yishmoel who was now 13 years of age. Ouch and ouch! Did Yishmoel’s bar mitzvah bris and celebration include any of the more contemporary celebratory events and or venues that have since become standard? A kiddish? Epes? Nu, his did include trimmings, if you chap! Ober, instead of a shul kiddish, open house, party in a hall, or a trip to Israel, he was home smarting from the painful bris performed on him in honor of his special day. Is he then our source for boys marking and celebrating their bar mitzvahs at thirteen years of age? Es ken zeyn (might just be). The heylige Toirah doesn’t tell us; nor does it tell us otherwise. Having established that Yishmoel may have been the first Toirah character to have had a bar mitzvah and a celebration that was zicher if not a cut above, zicher a cut below, if you chap, let’s look at what Rashi and the medrish tell us took place that day. Ober, first let’s review a few telling pisukim. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 17:23-26) azoy:
|23. And Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house and all those purchased with his money, every male of the people of Abraham’s household, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day, as God had spoken with him.
|כגוַיִּקַּח אַבְרָהָם אֶת יִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנוֹ וְאֵת כָּל יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ וְאֵת כָּל מִקְנַת כַּסְפּוֹ כָּל זָכָר בְּאַנְשֵׁי בֵּית אַבְרָהָם וַיָּמָל אֶת בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתָם בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ אֱלֹהִים:|
|24. And Abraham was ninety-nine years old, when he was circumcised of the flesh of his foreskin.
|כדוְאַבְרָהָם בֶּן תִּשְׁעִים וָתֵשַׁע שָׁנָה בְּהִמֹּלוֹ בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ:|
|25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised of the flesh of his foreskin.
|כהוְיִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנוֹ בֶּן שְׁלשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה בְּהִמֹּלוֹ אֵת בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ:|
|26 On that very day, Abraham was circumcised, and [so was] Ishmael his son.||כובְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה נִמּוֹל אַבְרָהָם וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנוֹ:|
Said Reb Ayvu: When Avrohom circumcised those that were born in his house (Yishmoel included), he set up a hillock of foreskins. A small hill of foreskins? He saved them? What happened next? The sun shone upon them and they became putrefied. Their odor ascended to the RBSO like sweet incense. Said the RBSO: when my children lapse into sinful ways, I will remember that odor in their favor and be filled with compassion. Shoin, who knew that foreskins could evoke such powerful emotions? Seemingly, it’s all in the preparation.
Let’s look at another Rashi and medrish on what went down, or better said, what came off during the mass circumcisions? Let’s again look at the words used by the heylige Toirah to describe the day. Says Rashi (17:25) and pay close attention, azoy: Regarding the circumcision of Avrohom, it does not say the word ‘ES’ when describing his circumcision because he (Avrohom) lacked only the cutting of the foreskin which had already been worn out through marital relationships. Whereas Yishmoel, who was but a 13 year old child (bar mitzvah), required a cutting of the foreskin, and also the opening (peeling back) of the corona membrane (what we call ‘priyah’). In other words: Avrohom’s foreskin was, from extended use, already somewhat worn out. What did Rashi just tell us? That Avrohom’s foreskin had become flabby and a shtikel worn out as a result of sexual relations with women? Exactly. We have to kler that this medrish was not aware of a Rashi we learned earlier which told us that Avrohom had never before looked at Soro. Ober Yishmoel, only bar mitzvah at the time and a presumed virgin, had a firmer and harder foreskin which had not been made flabby through sex with a woman. His ‘besor erlosoi’ (foreskin) was fully intact and needed some trimming. Accordingly, the word ‘ES’ meaning also, is used to describe Yishmoel’s bris. His bris required a more severe surgical procedure: cutting, snipping, and some pruning- in order for him to have entered into the bris of Avrohom. Shoin, you mamish have to love Rashi!
And says the heylige Gemora (Yivomis 71b) azoy: Avrohom our father was not obligated to do priya following the cutting. Nonetheless, he fulfilled this mitzvah in the same way he fulfilled the entire Toirah kulah although he was not obligated. He thus demonstrated the great mitzvah of overcoming the yetzer horo who was most certainly whispering into his ear not to.
Efsher you’re wondering who was designated to perform a bris on a 99 year old man? Did he engages the services of a Moiel (foreskin snipper)? Was Avrohom efsher capable, at his age and stage of life, to perform a bris on his own member? Again, Rashi has an answer. We are told that he took a knife and held it to his foreskin. He wanted mamish to cut it but was afraid to because he was old. What to do? How did the Holy One, Source of Blessing (RBSO) help? He (figuratively avada) stretched out His hand and held it (his foreskin) with him. Nu, with assistance from above, the cutting below was accomplished and came off without a hitch. Was the RBSO then Avrohom’s Moiel? The assistant Moiel? And we know this how? Rashi quotes the words of the Novee (Nechemya 9:8) which we recite daily and which state azoy: “Vichorois Emoy Habris (“He cut with him the covenant”). The words do not state that He cut for him, rather they suggest that He cut with him. The RBSO assisted Avrohom, or partnered up with him, to perform the bris. Sadly, nowadays, a few rebbes and others off the reservation, efsher trying to emulate the ways of the RBSO, also reach out their hand -literally- and chap not just the foreskin but the gantze member. A few are more machmir and also add the mitzitza bi’peh, if you chap.
Another medrish will suggest that Avrohom, upon hearing the RBSO’s instructions, was somewhat hesitant to execute them. What to do? He consulted with his buddies. Is the medrish suggesting that Avrohom consulted others before carrying out the very specific command of the RBSO? Perhaps. Says the medrish (Tanchuma Vayero 3) azoy: at 99 years of age, and mistama somewhat, or at least a shtikel frail, Avrohom taka sought advice. His three best friends were gentlemen known as Avner, Eshkol, and Mamrei. Avrohom shared the RBSO’s instructions with them. Said Avner: are you sure you want to maim yourself at your advanced age? Moreover, Avner felt that Avrohom was putting his life in danger because it was possible that the families of the King’s he defeated while waging war and reclaiming Loit and all the riches they had looted, might take advantage of him while convalescing and kill him. Avner seemingly voted no to the bris. Eshkol too voted no. He said Avrohom was too old for the surgical procedure which Avrohom was set to perform on himself. He might die as a result of the surgery. Ober said Mamrei, to go forward. His rationale: the RBSO had already saved Avrohom from previous dangers and surely would not let him die while performing this amazing mitzvah. Ober shelt zich di shaylo azoy: why did Avrohom seek advice to begin with? Would he have cancelled the procedure had all three voted no? Was he lacking in emuna (belief and faith) in the RBSO? Not to worry because yet another medrish (Bereishis Rabba 58:4) paints a much brighter picture of these three friends and tells us they were all truly tzadikim -very righteous people. And the medrish knows this how? From another medrish we will come across following the passing, funeral and burial of Soro. We will learn that she died in a place known as Kiryas Arba. Asks the medrish why this place was named Kiryas Arba? Answers the medrish: it was named Kiraya Arba (Arba meaning four) for four great people who lived there. And the four? Avner, Eshkol, Mamrei and Avrohom. Gishmak mamish and yet another reason to love medrish.
And how important is the bris? It the credit for its performance of the once-and-done variety? Or, do we get credit daily for walking around with a circumcised member? Nu, believe it or not, this very question is discussed in the heylige Gemora (Minochis 43b) -where else- which tells us this myseh (story): Dovid Hamelech (King David) was once in the bathhouse and appropriately sans clothing. It dawned upon him that he was naked and efsher completely (at the moment) devoid of any mitzvis. Mistama he had put down his traveling Sefer Toirah, or Art Scroll Gemora, and also removed his yarmulke and tzitizis. What to do? He looked down at his circumcised member, if you chap, and decided that he was mamish staring at a mitzvah! He was instantly heartened by concluding that while circumcised, he was performing a mitzvah every minute of every day. As an aside, the heylige Gemora (Soitah 10b) tells us that Dovid was born fully circumcised. As to whether or not his circumcised member was performing a mitzvah while he was with Batsheva, shoin, that subject for another day.
A Gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv