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

Lech Lecha 2023: Avrohom and His Foreskins

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Avrohom and His Foreskins

Is that the name of some band? Not, but welcome to Parshas Lech-Lecho where Avrohom Ovenu (still known as Avram at the beginning of the parsha) takes center stage. We shall begin by leaning a new word and its meaning. The word is epispasm and says Wikipedia azoy: it’s a form of foreskin restoration to reverse circumcision, historically practiced among some Jews in Hellenistic and Roman societies. What? Is that even possible? We will surely cover that topic below ober let us -in these perilous times- begin here.

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. Man 1.0 was not what the RBSO had hoped for and needed to be disposed of. Not a terrible idea was He to select a few specific countries and people for a similar fate. The RBSO cannot be very happy with their behavior towards His chosen people. The Ois will have more to say next week.

As Lech Lecha opens, Avrohom is a mature seventy-five years of age. The events in the parsha 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; who are you to dig further? Surprisingly, few medroshim pontificate on these years, ober the heylige Ois was klerring (thinking) azoy: was Avram studying to be a moyel (mohel)? A what? One who performs circumcisions? Was anyone circumcised back then? Was it a thing? Was it so commanded? Was this a new business opportunity? Not! Where was he until 75? According to one medrish, he joined the family business where his father was a retailer; he sold getchkas (Yiddish for idols). Was a younger Avram in sales and marketing? Let us recall that the business of idols was huge at the time; many were believers.  Shoin, business is business.

A bit later in the parsha, it’s ten years later, Avrom -married for a bunch of years- is still childless. His wife 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, forgiveness is easier. 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 the Avrom Ovenu defense: he was 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! Veyter.

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. Did he ever! As an aside, most medroshim paint Yishmoel with an ugly brush. The Ois vehemently disagrees ober that for another day. 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.

As mentioned, Avrohom was eighty-six at Yishmoel’s birth. Says who? The heylige Toirah. Next, we read this: Avrohom was 99 years old when he was commanded to have a bris. The heylige Toirah tells us that 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.

Let us read the relevant pisukim; they are mamish amazing. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 17:10-14 and 23-26) azoy:

10 This is My covenant, which you shall observe between Me and between you and between your seed after you, that every male among you be circumcised. יזֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַֽחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר:
11 And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be as the sign of a covenant between Me and between you. יאוּנְמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלַתְכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה֙ לְא֣וֹת בְּרִ֔ית בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵֽינֵיכֶֽם:
12 And at the age of eight days, every male shall be circumcised to you throughout your generations, one that is born in the house, or one that is purchased with money, from any foreigner, who is not of your seed. יבוּבֶן־שְׁמֹנַ֣ת יָמִ֗ים יִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֛ם כָּל־זָכָ֖ר לְדֹרֹֽתֵיכֶ֑ם יְלִ֣יד בָּ֔יִת וּמִקְנַת־כֶּ֨סֶף֙ מִכֹּ֣ל בֶּן־נֵכָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹ֥א מִזַּרְעֲךָ֖ הֽוּא:
13 Those born in the house and those purchased for money shall be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. יגהִמּ֧וֹל | יִמּ֛וֹל יְלִ֥יד בֵּֽיתְךָ֖ וּמִקְנַ֣ת כַּסְפֶּ֑ךָ וְהָֽיְתָ֧ה בְרִיתִ֛י בִּבְשַׂרְכֶ֖ם לִבְרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם:
14 And an uncircumcised male, who will not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin-that soul will be cut off from its people; he has broken My covenant.” ידוְעָרֵ֣ל | זָכָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִמּוֹל֙ אֶת־בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלָת֔וֹ וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מֵֽעַמֶּ֑יהָ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֖י הֵפַֽר
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. כגוַיִּקַּ֨ח אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־יִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בְּנ֗וֹ וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־יְלִידֵ֤י בֵיתוֹ֙ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־מִקְנַ֣ת כַּסְפּ֔וֹ כָּל־זָכָ֕ר בְּאַנְשֵׁ֖י בֵּ֣ית אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיָּ֜מָל אֶת־בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלָתָ֗ם בְּעֶ֨צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר אִתּ֖וֹ אֱלֹהִֽים:
24 And Abraham was ninety-nine years old, when he was circumcised of the flesh of his foreskin. כדוְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם בֶּן־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים וָתֵ֖שַׁע שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִמֹּל֖וֹ בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ:
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised of the flesh of his foreskin. כהוְיִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בְּנ֔וֹ בֶּן־שְׁל֥שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִ֨מֹּל֔וֹ אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ:
26 On that very day, Abraham was circumcised, and [so was] Ishmael his son. כובְּעֶ֨צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה נִמּ֖וֹל אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְיִשְׁמָעֵ֖אל בְּנֽוֹ:
27 And all the people of his household, those born in his house and those bought with money from foreigners, were circumcised with him. כזוְכָל־אַנְשֵׁ֤י בֵיתוֹ֙ יְלִ֣יד בָּ֔יִת וּמִקְנַת־כֶּ֖סֶף מֵאֵ֣ת בֶּן־נֵכָ֑ר נִמֹּ֖לוּ אִתּֽוֹ:

Ok, let us review:  The RBSO gave Avrohom an order.  Avrohom listened and circumcised himself, his 13-year-old son Yishmoel and, says the heylige Toirah, he also circumcised “all the people of his household.” Ober, what happened after he circumcised himself and all other members of his family? Did he continue in the business? Did his career take off as he had, if you chap?

Was Avrohom a trained moyel? Was this craft on the curriculum over at the -efsher mythical- yeshiva of Shaim and Ever? We don’t know but what we do know with certainty is this: at every bris of a Jewish child, the brocho (blessing) made by the father shouts out Avrohom, seemingly the first ever moyel and also the first ever person to be circumcised.

“Baruch atah A-donay, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu le-hach-ni-soh bivrits shel Avrohom Ovinu.”  The brocho -translated- reads azoy:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to bring him into the covenant of Abraham, our forefather.”

Says the heylige Ois azoy: Avrohom was more than an excellent spokesperson and salesman for the RBSO; he was also a client! How could people say no when Avrohom was able to show off the results of his own bris performed on himself at the tender age of 99? Avrohom chapped the art of the sale.

But wait!  Let’s also check out this astonishing medrish (Bereishis Rabbah 45:8) which tells us the following: Said Rebbe Levi, ‘In the age to come Avrohom will sit at the gate of gehenim [hell], and he will not permit a circumcised Israelite to go down there. Then what will he do for those who sinned too much? He will remove the foreskin from infants who died before they were circumcised and will place it over [Israelite sinners] and then lower them into gehenim. He will do what? What’s happening here? Avrohom will be removing foreskins and transplanting them? Is that even possible? Well. Blow me down, not literally avada. Let’s read the exact words in Hebrew:

אמר ר’ לוי: “לעתיד לבוא אברהם יושב על פתח גיהינם ואינו מניח אדם מהול מישראל לירד בתוכה, ואותם שחטאו יותר מדיי מהו עושה להם, מעביר את הערלה מעל גבי תינוקות שמתו עד שלא מלו ונותנה עליהם ומורידם לגיהינם, הה”ד: ‘שלח ידיו בשלומיו חלל בריתו’ (תהלים נה כא).”

Says the medrish that our zeyda Avrohom keeps vigil over the entrance to hell in order to prevent “real Jews” -that is, circumcised Jews- from entering hell. Well, blow me down, again! Is that all it takes? Are all other sins forgiven just because we are card-carrying members of the foreskins-be- gone- group? Is it time to party hearty because we have free passes? This is givaldig mamish! Sadly, there is at least one exception and we shall discuss it below.

Ober how many times did our parents, our teachers, and others -wives and friends included- tell us that we are going to hell? Many! Some mamish told us to go there. What’s pshat here? Hell or no hell? Does the removed, and in some instances, the transplanted foreskin offer protection? Shoin, for that answer, we need to check out the heylige Gemora where every topic -and avada hell and foreskins- is discussed. Let us read a few lines from Maseches Eruvin (Tractate Eruvin 19a) where find this exchange:

הָכִי נָמֵי מִסְתַּבְּרָא, דְּאִם כֵּן קַשְׁיָא דְּרֵישׁ לָקִישׁ אַדְּרֵישׁ לָקִישׁ. דְּאָמַר רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ: פּוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵין אוּר גֵּיהִנָּם שׁוֹלֶטֶת בָּהֶן, קַל וָחוֹמֶר מִמִּזְבַּח הַזָּהָב.

So too, it is reasonable to say this, for if you do not say so, there would be a contradiction between one statement of Reish Lokish and another statement of Reish Lokish. As Reish Lokish said: With regard to the sinners of the Jewish people, the fire of gehenim has no power over them, as may be learned by a fortiori reasoning from the golden altar.

What’s going on and what is the heylige Gemora saying? Seemingly Resh Lokish takes the position that Yiddin never go to hell and even if -and while there- the fires of hell do not overtake them. They are penis protected. As an aside, he seemingly takes the opposite position in another passage but that for another time. And the question is azoy: do Yiddin -specifically those circumcised- go to hell or not? Does the circumcised penis save the day?

Says the heylige Gemora that its taka the case that most Yiddin do not go to hell but there is an exception. Mamish? How does one who is circumcised get into hell? Says the heylige Gemora that entrance to hell -even for those who were circumcised- depends on only one thing: where else the penis made an entrance. Let’s read it:

…ההוא דמחייבי ההיא שעתא בגיהנם, ואתי אברהם אבינו ומסיק להו ומקבל להו, בר מישראל שבא על הגויה דמשכה ערלתו ולא מבשקר ליה

…[The wicked Jews] are at that time under sentence to suffer in gehenim, but our father Avrohom comes, brings them up, and receives them, except such an Israelite as had immoral intercourse with the daughter of an idolater, since his foreskin is drawn and so he cannot be discovered. What that means literally, ver veyst but it appears to the Ois that sex with a shiksa does something to the foreskin and that something makes it impossible for Avrohom to save the person from hell.  Got that? No? Let us chazir: According to this answer, the reason Yiddin -males- don’t go to gehenim is because Avrohom goes down to hell periodically and removes them. However, Yiddin who try and become gentiles and sleep with gentile women are their own worst enemies. Since these men remove all signs of their Jewishness by uncircumcising themselves (a process called epispasm), when that happens, our zeyda Avrohom doesn’t know they are Jewish and, therefore, ends up leaving them to their fate. OMG!

As the Ois read this medrish over and again, the literal translation of the medrish in Bereishis Rabba suggests thar Avrohom does not just accidentally leave certain sinners -those who enter shiksas, if you chap- to their fates, but he himself actively removes the marker of their Jewish identity, thereby essentially expelling them from the covenantal community and condemning them to gehenim. And he does this how? By taking the foreskin of uncircumcised infant boys who died and grafting them onto these Jews, thereby killing two birds with one stone: all those who Abraham refuses to save are no longer circumcised, and the infant boys now are circumcised. And now you know.

Says R Avigdor Miller (Rav Avigdor Miller on Olam Haba, pp. 264ff) azoy, based on the heylige Gemora in Eruvin 19a, that… the children of Avrohom are promised that they are going to be saved from gehenim. Avrohom himself comes down into gehenim and plucks his children out from there. However, sometimes, Avrohom must leave some of his children there.  Those are some Jewish men who sin by having relations with an Aramis [non-Jew]. The Gemara says, Avrohom cannot help them. He only helps those who have a bris koidesh, who have kept holy the covenant sealed in their flesh. […] Avrohom tries his best to take Jewish sinners out of hell, but there are some sinners even he can’t save.

That epispasm was fairly widespread among the Yiddin seems evident from 1 Maccabees (1:11-15), where we are told that some built a gymnasium in Jerusalem and “made themselves uncircumcised.” As might be expected, the rabbinic references to epispasm condemn it (while at the same time reflecting that it must have been a fairly widespread phenomenon). Wow! In, various midrashim several notorious biblical sinners, such as  יְהוֹיָקִים (Jehoiakin), Achan -read all about him in Sefer Yihoishua and others are said to have submitted to epispasm. Says the Rambam (Mishneh ToirahHilchos Teshuvah 3.6) that “anyone who elongates his foreskin [to conceal his circumcision]” is denied a share of the world to come.

On the other hand, some Talmudic rabbis are less harsh. They consider whether one who has undergone epispasm (a mashuk) should be re-circumcised when rejoining the rabbinic fold. On the other hand, “Rabbi Judah says, `One who has his prepuce drawn forward [i.e., who has submitted to epispasm] should not be re-circumcised because it is dangerous.’ They said to him, `Many were circumcised [after epispasm] in the time of Ben Koziba and they had children and did not die.’

The bottom line: once circumcised, it’s best to protect the penis, avoid the shiksas and improve your chances for avoiding or getting out of hell without serious damage.

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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