Raboyseyee and Ladies,
Yishmoel’s Bris & Bar Mitzvah
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Let’s begin here. The heylige Ois just got back from Milan mamish minutes ago. Sadly, the WI-FI was out -kaput- the entire flight home. What follows was written on the way there and on the back of napkins on the way home.
Of course, we are all aware that Yishmoel was the son Avrohom fathered with his maidservant Hogor. WARNING: Do not try this at home. We also know that Yishmoel was ultimately rejected in favor of Yitzchok, his brother from the same father, but another mother. We have previously and at length discussed Yishmoel and analyzed the myriad exegesis that debate his character: a good guy, or another very bad man? If you want more on that, check out the archives at www.Oisvorfer.com.
Ober, did Yishmoel ever have a bar mitzvah? Did he lain his parsha? Did he deliver a pshtel (speech)? Was a kiddish tendered in his honor? Was he the recipient of gifts? Savings bonds? On the other hand, who cares about Yishmoel? Wasn’t he the son Soro rejected and evicted? He was! This week, we will be discussing circumcisions, bar mitzvah’s and explore the possibility that Avrohom got away on the cheap when he combined Yishmoel’s bris and bar mitzvah on the very same day. Is that possible?
Welcome to Parshas Lech-Lecho where Avrohom Ovenu (still known as Avram at the beginning of the parsha) takes center stage. By the end of Parshas Bereishis (just two weeks back), ten generations had come and gone. Seemingly they were all, or mostly bad, and the RBSO decided to start again with Noiach. The world -during Noiach’s time- was in chaos filled with robbery, thievery, sexual immorality, bestiality and more. What did we leave out? Some say that a number of people (there were no Yiddin back then) were caught mixed dancing, say it’s not so. The animal kingdom too was guilty of sexual depravity. According to at least one medrish, the animals were experimenting with men and mistama also women.
Seemingly the snake we met two weeks ago was the first, but not the last to desire human interaction. Or, was it farkert? One medrish tells us that men were entering into marriage contracts with members of the animal kingdom. I kid you not! The RBSO had seen enough and simply hit the factory 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 -for sure- 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 concluding last shabbis, and with him, the RBSO’s faith in His creations was to be restored.
Towards the very end of last week’s parsha, 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, also later to be rejected) 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. The RBSO chose not to share this information and who are you to dig further? Surprisingly, few medroshim pontificate on these years, ober the heylige Ois was klerring (thinking) 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 other Toirah personalities whose years are unaccounted? It does. One medrish suggests that Avrohom spent a number of his early years working with his dad in the family business which sold idols. Like many Jews to come, he was a retailer; perhaps, he sold and shipped larger order at some discount; let us recall that the business of idols was huge at the time; many were believers. Shoin, business is business.
By the time we meet Avrom this week, he is already married to his eishes chayil Soro (then known as Sorai). Sadly, they remain -after a few decades of marriage- childless. 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? 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? One thing is zicher: the heylige Ois is not making any of this up and is but repeating what Rashi and a few medroshim suggest. 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 -if you chap- with Soro, how Avrohom got his wife back and was also the beneficiary of many 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 ten plus postings on this parsha. Each is mamish a gem. Shoin, another shameless plug!
Earlier we asked if Yishmoel had a bar mitzvah. Is having a bar mitzvah ceremony or celebration commanded anywhere in the heylige Toirah? Is it at all mentioned? Not! What taka is the source for having a bar mitzvah celebration? Nu, some years back, the Ois found himself on the opposite side of an argument which broke out over this very topic. Where is the bar mitzvah mentioned? And the answer is nowhere! At least not 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. How many times -over the past 12 plus years has the Ois told you that Toirah is the best place to get new business ideas? Many!
Ober said the Ois 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 (pay attention); 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 posik 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 Ois’s source and argued defiantly and stated with a degree of certitude and chutzpah that the heylige Ois 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. We will read how Shimon and Levi -whom we mentioned just last week- 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. It so happens that most aren’t 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 chayil. 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. On the other hand, if caught with the maidservant, one can try pleading his case -with some attitude- by stating that one is merely following in the ways of our heylige Ovis (forefathers); weren’t we taught -over and again- that this is what we are to aspire to? We were!
Guess what? Hogor became instantly 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 was said and zicher done- his child. Seemingly the RBSO also loved Yishmoel and promised Avrohom that Yishmoel too would flourish. As an aside, most medroshim paint him ugly. 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; who could 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 G-d 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:|
The bottom line: from the pisukim (plain text) it does epees appear that Yishmoel was not only the first -and maybe only Toirah personality whose bar mitzvah is shouted in in the heylige Toirah – he may be the only person in Toirah times to have combined his bar mitzvah with a bris on the very same day. And now you know.
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. Mamish? 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 and precise surgical procedure: cutting, snipping, and some pruning- in order for him to have entered into the bris of Avrohom. And for such clarity and many more reasons, we all 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 engage the services of a Moiel (foreskin snipper)? Was Avrohom efsher capable, at his age and stage of life, of performing 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, in our times, 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 Mamrei advised Avrohom to look forward (not down). 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 (the question arises), 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? Do we who been circumcised get but one credit, one mitzvah for having undergone the procedure? Is it a one and done mitzvah? 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- where else- (Minochis 43b) 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, 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. Are those who hold onto their member regularly -if you chap- also performing a mitzvah?
A Gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv