Raboyseyee and Ladies,
We begin with mazel tov wishes -big one’s- to our dear friends Mandy and Rubin Brecher upon the wedding -this past Sunday- of their son Elie. In a beautiful and moving ceremony, Elie married Alyssa Berman, she the beautiful daughter -mamish- of Sheila and Allan Berman. Mazel tov Alyssa and Elie; may you merit to enjoy many decades of harmonious and blissful marriage. Mazel tov to Elie’s siblings, Ayelet, Eliana, Shmuli and their respective families and to the entire extended Brecher and Spirgel families. Mazel tov to Alyssa’s siblings and their families. A special shout out to Elie’s grandparents Esther and Charles Spirgel and to Mrs. Regina Brecher.
Two weeks ago (Parshas Bereishis), the Medrish told us that Chava was snookered into having sexual rations with the snake. Last week, they told us that Noiach was either raped or sodomized -as in castration- by his own son. The heylige Toirah itself told us that the Niphilim came, or fell down and began to take for themselves any women they desired. Oy vey! This week will not disappoint and welcome to Parshas Lech Lecha where, among other great storylines -some mamish difficult to comprehend- we will learn that Avrom (later known as Avrohom Ovenu and used interchangeably in this review) was a wealthy man. Did he make a killing selling face masks, sanitizer and other pandemic related items? Not! Was he in the nursing home business where seemingly all owners are doing well? Also not! Was he speculating in Bitcoin, or efsher the founder of a hi-tech or a biotech company? Not! Did he efsher inherit some decent money from his father Terach who was in the getchka-gisheft (business of collecting and selling idols for a living? Also not! How then did he become so wealthy? Not to worry: the heylige Toirah shockingly does tell us just what went down. And long before JP Morgan and other Wall Street firms were founded, it appears that Avrohom was mamish the world’s first trader; seemingly, a natural. What was he trading? Not much. He had but one valuable asset, namely his wife Sorai (later to be known as Soro, also used interchangeably in this review) and the heylige Toirah tells us befeirush (in the text mamish) that Avrom’s wife was taken by king Paroy’s henchmen, that Paroy took Sorai as a wife and that as a result, Paroy gifted Avrom with an abundance of sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, a few maidservants and slaves. The deal of the century mamish: he gave his childless wife -albeit a very good looking one- and came out the other end a wealthy man. What? Would our zeyda Avrom, the first of our holy forefather’s trade in his wife for possessions and wealth? What’s pshat here? And did the RBSO mamish allow Paroy to violate our foremother Soro? Say it’s not so please, but was it? Not to worry because Rashi -and who knew more- quoting the medrish will tell us azoy: Avrom’s wife was taka taken to King Paroy’s palace, to the master suite, and that he married her. Ober not to worry: Paroy the minuvil had trouble consummating the marriage when the RBSO afflicted his royal scepter, if you chap, with some form of skin disease. The bottom line: it was hard for him -zicher it was- to perform and presumably Sorai was -in the end- not violated. Of course not! You can’t make this stuff us. The Toirah will tell us that all came about when Avrom instructed Sorai to lie and state she was his sister (not his wife) in order to save his own life. Medrish -many- will debate whether Avrom did the right or wrong thing. The bottom line: she went along with the poly, was taken as mentioned above, and the king showered Avrom with the riches listed in the text itself. Avrom seemingly loved the outcome: he got rid of his still childless wife for a day or two -one medrish says she was gone for two weeks and without having to lift a finger, left town with Soro a wealthy man. While King Paroy did not have the happy ending envisioned, Avrom was elated with the result, and went on to try this one more time as we will read in next week’s parsha. Same wife, different king. Is that it for the entire parsha? Of course not!
Parshas Lech Lecha also contains the historical account of a war between four and five kings where the four kings beat up on the five kings and shoin. During the war, Avrom’s nephew Loit was taken hostage -mistama the first ever POW- and guess what? It’s yet another story – a scandal mamish- involving sexual desires and our matriarch Soro, say it’s not so but the medrish insists otherwise. What happened this time? This one is centered around a giant of a man by the name of Oig (Og for those who went to more modern yeshivas). Oig? What’s he doing in our parsha? And how do we know he had desires for Soro?
Shoin, medrish will out him as the person -the refugee- who came from the frontlines of the four-against-five king was war to report to Uncle Avrom that his nephew Loit had been taken. Uncle Avrom sprang into action, got his army (of either 318 or 1 person, depending on which medrish talks to you), together and went chasing after the kings holding Loit. What about this Oig guy? Medrish will tell us that he desired Soro and wanted to marry her. There was one thing in the way: she already had a husband and his name was Avrom? What to do? Not a problem for the big guy -so says the medrish- because he concocted a plan to have Avrom killed after which he would step in, sweep a vulnerable heartbroken Soro off her feet (literally), and nurse her back to health with his winning personality. Mistama, given his size, he had other tools with which to win her heart, if you chap. How was Avrom to be killed? He wanted Soro? What’s really pshat? Ober, how was he going to get her? Was he going to use his size, if you chap? Seemingly, his plot involved Avrom going to war, to the frontlines mamish to find and rescue Loit and where Avrom would likely get killed. Grada, Dovid Hamelech (King David) read the Toirah, and came up with a similar plan to get rid of Uria, Batsheva’s husband. And while Oig’s plan was foiled when the RBSO helped Avrom rescue Loit without injury or death to himself, Uria wasn’t as lucky. The bottom line: Oig did not get the woman of his dreams, Dovid Hamelech did. Another bottom line: it’s good to be the king!
Is that why the RBSO saved Oig’s life during the mabul? Ver veyst. Or, is this story about Oig’s plot but the fanciful imagination of the medrish? Is the heylige Ois suggesting -say it’s not so- that the medrish may be fictional? Of course not! the bottom line: Hollywood makes it its business to hire Jewish writers well versed in the heylige Toirah, Tanach and ofc course medrish where storylines have inspired (and so continue) to inspire plotlines of many a detective and crime series. Toirah, as the rebbe would often say, is “di beste sechoira” (loosely translated: the heylige Toirah provides the best source material). Well blow me down!
Is that it for Parshas Lech Lecha? Avada nisht! At some point, a still childless Sorai concocts her own plan. Her husband is to bed and wed her shiksa housekeeper Hogor (Hagar), get her pregnant and Sorai will act a mother of sorts to the child. Men rarely say no to a sanctioned relationship with the shiksa housekeeper and shoin, Yishmoel was born. By this time Avrom who was 75 years old as the parsha began, was now a more mature 86. Veyter!
Thirteen years later, the RBSO has a new idea; it’s time for Avrohom to become complete. What’s pshat whole or complete? He was to undergo a bris (circumcision). He was to remove the foreskin from his member and thereby became a member in good -but efsher painful- standing in a new club; the club of the Ivrim an early descriptor of what was to become the Yiddin. Shoin, we can only imagine what Avrom was thinking ober our zeyda did not argue with the RBSO and at the age of 99, did in fact remove the foreskin. What’s pshat removed? Who did the removing? Who performed the ceremony? Who was the moiel? That too is of course hotly debated in the medrish, the heylige Gemora, and elsewhere, and there are several candidates. Let’s read the instructions and then discuss a few interesting thoughts, insights, medroshim and some heylige Gemora. Said the RBSO to Avrom (Bereishis (17:1) azoy:
“And Avrom was 99 years old, and the RBSO appeared to Avrom, and He said to him, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be perfect.” A few pisukim (verses) later we will learn that being perfect (in the future) means having a circumcision on the 8th day. Shoin: circumcision is the one commandment and mitzvah which resonates with us as a sine qua non of Jewish identity. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 17:9-11) azoy: “The RBSO further said to Avrom, as for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.”
Efsher you’re taka wondering azoy: Ershtens (firstly): How was the bris performed back then on a 99-year-old man? Who did the metzitza bipeh? If you don’t know what that means, look it up. Was his 8th grade wayward rebbe in attendance and ready to help, if you chap?
Says the Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer (29) azoy: There was a moiel present and his name was Shaim Ben Noiach. Shaim who? Seemingly, Shaim, Noiach’s son, no youngster himself, performed the bris. Others suggest that a more careful reading of the medrish proves that Shaim was not the moiel for Avrohom but was maybe the moiel for Yishmoel, Avrom’s first son (through his concubine/wife Hogor).
According to some, Shaim ben Noiach was there. Shaim was the good son -let’s recall he was taka a co-founder of the (efsher mythical) yeshiva with his grandson Ever, the very one was attended by other Toirah personalities whenever we cannot account for their time. What they studied there, ver veyst? Was the Toirah already given? Not! Was the Mishneh or the Gemora being discussed orally? Also not? What were they studying? Ver veyst: no one ever told us the curriculum. In any event, Shaim may have been the moiel. Exactly how all that worked out ver veyst, but if the medrish so tells us, of course it’s possible. The heylige Ois never argues with the medrish; he merely reads them and reports their findings.
Ober if he wasn’t, who was? Did Avrom, at age 99, act as his own moiel? Did anyone help? Maybe, and another medrish will tell us azoy: when Avrohom heard the big news about getting a longer name but a shorter member, if you chap, he asked the RBSO who would be performing his milah (bris). Said the RBSO that Avrohom should do it himself: ouch! Is that even possible? Ober Avrohom, good servant of the RBSO that he was, immediately took a knife and was about to cut, but didn’t. Instead, he hesitated because he was worried about his age. What next? Says the Medrish Rabba (Bereishis 49:2) that the RBSO held Avrohom’s hand and helped him perform his own bris. He did? The RBSO sent His hand down and held onto Avrohom while Avrohom himself did the cut. Is that gishmak or what? And now you know Raboyseyee, the meaning of a few words you utter each morning without ever stopping to think of their significance. Every day, we recite the words “vechorois emoy ha’bris (and He cut with him). That’s mamish what happened; the RBSO assisted while Avrom did the cutting. Is that how it came off? Let’s see another view.
Says the Medrish (Tanchuma VaYeira 3) azoy: Avrohom only circumcised himself after consulting with his friend Mamrei. Who is that? Nu, we’ll meet him next week (opening posik) when Rashi will tell us that the RBSO revealed Himself to Avrohom on Mamrei’s property. Did Avrohom not immediately perform his bris but instead hesitated and went to efsher hide -maybe in the yeshiva of Shaim and Ever, where else- or seek advice from his best friend? Seems only logical for a 99-year-old man. Mamrei gave him the OK.
Shoin, speaking of the bris, what’s wrong with the foreskin? Why did the RBSO want it removed? Did it commit a crime? And if the RBSO didn’t want us to have one, why are we in fact born with the foreskin. Could He not have made a slight design change and saved us thousands of dollars on the moiel, and the breakfast to follow? Besides, doesn’t circumcision maim the body? Doesn’t it hurt the baby? Taka good questions, ober says the medrish (Bereishis Rabbah) azoy: foreskin removal actually perfects the body. Ober who needs perfection? Veyter!
As an aside, many consider Avrohom to be the first Yid, was he? And if he was, was Noiach a goy mamish? And if Noiach was a goy, how was it that his son Shaim and other descendants started what was a world- famous Yeshiva known as Yeshiva Shaim Vo’ever, an institution the medrish talks about quite a bit and the Yeshiva where, as Rashi tells us in a few weeks, Yaakov Oveenu was a student for many years? Would parents have sent their teens to a yeshiva run by goyim mamish? Was he the first of the Chosen people, and did the Chosen nation start with him? And a few more questions: given that Avrohom (and the other forefathers) all lived well before Yitzyas Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt) and the giving of the heylige Toirah on Har Sinai -two defining 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? And if he was taka the first ever Jewish person, just when did he become Jewish? At birth, his bar mitzvah maybe or, efsher at the age of 99 when he was commanded by the RBSO to put some ‘skin in the game’, if you chap? Isn’t that what the heylige Toirah tells us? It is and that’s taka what they taught us in yeshiva. Ober says the RambaM that Avrohom was 40 when he became Jewish. He was? Was he Jewish at 40 though he didn’t have a bris until 99? The RambaM will tell us that it was at 40 that he began challenging the idolatrous beliefs of his father and others and also smashed their getchkas (idols).
Ober 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 stricter 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 three 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. 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 thee? Aren’t three-year old’s mature? And won’t we be learning -next week mamish- that Rivka may have been but three 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 your mila, if you chap, before high school, seemingly, Avrohom didn’t discover his 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.
In case you’re wondering, an interesting and somewhat controversial Toisfis (Rosh Hashonoh 11a) tells us azoy: Avrohom’s bris was performed on Yom Kippur. Was there Yom Kippur before the heylige Toirah was given? Of course, not but let’s not forget that our Ovois kept the entire Toirah anyway.
Nu, efsher you’re wondering why the RBSO chose circumcision of the male organ as a sign to forever bind the Yiddin to Him? Vus epes (why) was the reproductive organ chosen for this imprint? And how are women bound, ver veyst? Couldn’t we just have a simple contract? We seem to have paperwork for everything else. And would it have been so giferlich if the Yiddin didn’t have to give before they knew for sure they had what to spare? Let’s see what a few had to say:
Some say that taka the male organ was chosen because the bris weakens sexual desire and pleasure. It does? Not necessarily for you, ober biderech-klal (generally speaking), maybe yes. Seemingly, the bris is designed to give a person more strength to restrain himself from engaging in forbidden sexual encounters. Does it work? Usually not!
Says the heylige Gemora (Nedorim 32B) azoy: following his bris, Avrohom achieved control over all parts of his body, including his organ, which expresses the male sex drive. It was only then that all parts of his body were dedicated to one altruistic goal, and he was able to give to others with the totality of his being. And the bris then represents the consecration of the male sex drive to serving the loving and life-giving purpose of the RBSO.
And says Rashi: we perform the bris because we are so commanded. It’s a covenant-our nation has a certain relationship with the RBSO which is branded through circumcision. Why, is not our business? He doesn’t address why.
Ober said the RambaM azoy: circumcision lessens the man’s sexual pleasure. Ober, what’s wrong with some pleasure now and then? Isn’t a lessening of sexual pleasure already accomplished when a man gets married, if you chap? Says the RambaM that the bris was given to physiologically remind us that we need to limit ourselves in that area of life. The circumcision will somewhat reduce our physical attachment to sexuality and it will also mold our character by reminding us of how to put that part of life into proper perspective. How? By virtue of this circumcision. Did that work out for Shlomo Hamelech and his thousand plus wives? Or for Dovid and his desires? How about you? Bottom line: nice pshat in theory.
And says the RambaM, there are additional reasons for the bris. The bris is a sign that binds the Yiddin together, since others would never do this to themselves. Of course, in our times, many umois-ho’oilom (other goyim) also have themselves circumcised. And he also agrees with Rashi that the bris was the covenant between Avrohom and the RBSO about monotheism, a way for each Jew to demonstrate in his person his belief in the RBSO.
Ober says the Ramban: the bris reminds us to only use the male organ in a permissible and positive way. And the bottom line: uncharacteristically, both the RambaM and the RambaN agreed that the bris is at least partially about sex and its curtailment of pleasure, nebech.
Lets’ close with this: specifically, why the RBSO insisted on foreskin removal, we are not told. Does it make man complete? Ver veyst: it worked for Avrohom. As to the rest of us, not so well. What we know with certainty is this: circumcision gets seven shout-outs in the heylige Toirah and Tanach; seemingly, the topic and ceremony was of great interest to the RBSO. Why, is none of our business. Aside from the instructions in our parsha to Avrohom, the bris is mentioned again in a few weeks (Bereishis 34) where we will read of Dinah’s rape and how her brothers Shimon and Levi duped all the Shechemite males to undergo the bris ceremony.
The third mention of the bris (Shmois 4) is profoundly obscure and takes place after Moishe accepts his divine mission to free the Yiddin from slavery. As he makes his way from Midian to Mitzrayim, he meets the RBSO who for some reason not specified, is extremely angry at him and a snake the RBSO seemingly commissioned wants to kill him. Moishe’s wife Zipoirah saves the day: “Zipoirah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.” more on that in a few months.
The fourth mention of the bris appears in Shmois (12), in the context of the RBSO’s instructions about celebrating Pesach. There is no mention of Miami Beach, Orlando, or even Mexico, but we do read azoy: even a “servant that is bought for money” may participate in the Seder ceremony, but only if he is circumcised.
Then, in Vayikra (12), the RBSO lists commandments for Moishe to pass on to the Yiddin as they sojourn in the desert. One order, essentially repeating what he had already told Avrohom to do, is to circumcise their sons on their eighth day. And over in Tanach (Yehoishua) we find the sixth mention of the bris. After the Yiddin cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Israel, He commands Yehoishua azoy: “Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.” Again? Ouch! That pshat for another day. And the seventh and last mention of the bris ceremony is in the givaldige story of Dovid’s ascent to the monarchy (1 Shmuel 18). There we read that after Dovid slew Goliyas (Goliath), he became too popular for the liking of Shaul Hamelech (King Saul) who slyly devised a plot to eliminate the upstart Dovid. He has his henchmen tell Dovid that if he brings 100 foreskins of Philistines, the king will marry his daughter Michal to him.
Shaul thought it a suicide mission, ober Dovid returned with 200 foreskins and went on to become king. The bottom line: we started this week’s review with tales of the penis and so we end.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv