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

Masei 2011

moshemovingRaboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:

Moishe’s moving, Tzelofchod’s daughters- round two and much more


Long before Moishe’s moving company got started here in the United States, Moishe Rabaynuu ran his own moving company, only his didn’t provide  long distance or interstate services; local and desert delivery only. This week‘s parsha of Maseye, the last in Sefer Bamidbar, recounts the travels and encampments of the BNY from when they left Mitzrayim  (Egypt)  until their last stop in the desert.

logo_senecaAnd long before luxuriously appointed modern orthodox sleep-away camps like the exceptionally run Seneca Lake (a plug for the Shver), where the Oisvorfer has been enjoying his naddin (dowry) for the last 15 years- kain yirbu (so it should multiply), it was the Yiddin who left mitzrayim that mamish were the forerunners of this model; bonfires, color wars and night activities included. A few weeks back we learned that some of the Yiddin (24,000) even participated in a few raids on Moabite girls’ campus, if you chap. Innovators for their time, our ancestors went to a traveling camp, and taka valgered (wandered) in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time they pitched their tents, among other things- if you chap, in 42 different places, each one delineated by name in the parsha.

Efsher you’re wondering why the heylige Toirah, where every  word counts and means something,  would be so verbose and devote 49 pisukim to  list every single place they camped out, especially those way stations where nothing nefarious took place, and so were Chazal (our Sages). Ober (however), like I’ve told you many times; avada there’s an answer, in fact several. What difference does it make to us if they moved from A to B or from C to D?

Says Nechomo Lebowitz, mamish a Toirah scholaress, that the Toirah itself prefaces the chapter with the portentous words ‘Moishe wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of the RBSO.’ Seemingly the RBSO wanted the BNY to remember each stage of the journey to the Promised Land. Do we need additional answers? Avada nisht but that didn’t stop various medroshim from waxing on about this topic and their own versions. And who can go without some color from Rashi who says:  that the BNY needed to remember the good and the bad that had happened to them during the wilderness journeys so that they will have a degree of perspective when they reach their new home in Canaan. But we haven’t time for all that; let’s move on, if you chap?

We have more to cover and soon we’ll get to the perplexing section on the ‘Shoigeg killer’ (accidental murderer) who enjoys life in his choice of cities but before that, let’s look at what else is going on. This parsha is also famous for another form of delineation: In Parshas Maseye, the RBSO lays out Israel’s very specific borders and Moishe also has the job of apportioning the land to the shevotim. And Moishe, now a mature 120 and near death, his fate sealed a few weeks back, enlists the help of the Niseeim which included these two characters by the names of Eldad and Maydad- remember them? Of course you don’t – so let the Oisvorfer remind you.

Who were Eldad and Maydad and how were they able to survive the 40 year midbar adventure when everyone else from their generation including Moishe, Aharoin and Miriam and the other Zekaynim (elders) with whom they served, didn’t make it over? The heylige parsha (35:20-28) provides the answer and lists the names of the Neseeim who will head each Sheyvet during the process of dividing and inheriting the land for their tribesman.  Says the Medrash Tanchuma way back in Parshas Bahaloisecha that two of those Neseeim were Eldad and Maydad, named Elidad ben Kislon and Kemuel ben Shiftam.  Moreover we learn this week that they were appointed Neseeim in the fortieth year in the desert, just before entering EY. So far so good.

Says the Targum Yoinoson azoy: way back in Mitzrayim, when Paroy the Minuvil decreed that all male children should be drowned, Amram divorced his eishes chayil,  Yoicheved, which started a movement that others followed (Soitah 12). It took the cajoling of Miriam to re-unite her parents, leading ultimately to Moishe’s birth. But what took place following their divorce? Was she (Yoicheved) alone? Seemingly not!  Says Yoinoson: that following her divorce, she married Elitzaphan and that Eldad and Maydad are offspring from that marriage. That makes them Moishe’s and Aharoin’s, half brothers. Gevaldig!  And…………………….

In case you’re wondering how Yoicheved could re-marry her ex- husband Amram  and give birth to Moishe after marrying Eltzofon in between…you’re not alone. Isn’t that strictly verboten? Ober let’s also remember that all this happened before matan Toirah and avada, all (almost) was allowed. Sounds good to me, ver veyst?

Another version of who they were goes like this: pick the one you like best for the shabbis tish. The Ksav v’Kabbolo quotes that a certain scholar (unnamed) sent a letter to Rav Amram Gaon     saying he saw the graves of Eldad and Maydad and on their tombstones is written “Brothers of Aharoin from the father but not the mother.”  What??   According to this version, Yoicheved was his aunt and became forbidden to him with the giving of the Toirah. In other words: before mattan Toirah – riding and marrying the tanta (aunt) seemed normal ober immediately following, this became verboten and Amram immediately divorced her. Gevaldig! What happened next? Let’s see. Nu, I see you’re stuck here and wondering –  Amram married his Tanta? Ok-so he did, no big deal: incest is best, no?  But  he  was lonely and nebech tzibrochin (broken apart) but not for long as he immediately  remarried and had two other children named in a way to emphasize that they came from a kosher marriage: Eldad – “ainoy dodah,” not from my aunt and; Maydad  – “mi hu dodasi” who is my aunt. The relationship between Eldad and  Maydad  and Moishe, Aharoin, and Miriam in this version is mamish  farkert (the opposite) of the Targum we just studied but so what- it’s medirsh and who says it has to make sense or be true? In any event, in this version, they are half brothers through the same father. Moreover the writer of this p’shat questions the authenticity of this legend; in other words: he wrote it but didn’t believe it.

And his reasoning is quite logical: If Amram divorced Yoicheved only after matan Toirah, that only leaves two intervening years until the episode of where Eldad and Maydad became prophets. Could Mrs. Amrom , during those two years, have delivered two kids and could they have become prophets when they were not yet two?   Too much to swallow.  Ver Veyst?  We taka learned just last week that girls are mature enough for action at 3 years and one day but prophets at age 2?  And what was their prophecy?

Says Targum Yoinasan azoy: Eldad gave prophecy that Moishe would die in the desert, and that Yehoishua would lead the BNY into Eretz Yisroel: he was 2 for 2- maybe at age 2? And Maydad predicted about the quails that would fall the next day: he was also right. Ober, they both prophesized about the battle of Goig and Mogoig which hasn’t happened yet but still can and mistama will just before the coming of Moshiach. And as the old axiom goes: every medrish is true, some just didn’t happen yet!!.

Or, how about this version? A final opinion cited by many commentaries (including the Da’as Zekeinim) is that of the Tanchuma, that Eldad and Maydad were neither brothers, nor were they related to Moishe and Aharoin. In fact, Eldad was alias Elidad ben Kislon and Maydad, Kemuel ben Shiftan and according to this medrish, Eldad was from Sheyvet Binyomin  while Maydad was from Epfraim. And how do you like that?

The  bottom line: we don’t really know who their parents were but we do know that the RBSO liked them; did they need more? Zicher nisht (surely not)

Nu, are you sleeping yet? Wake up because we’re getting to the meat: murder suspense. The parsha also contains a mamish mind boggling section on murder and what happens to someone who murdered someone else b’shoigeg (accidentally).

Let’s start with some background:  a shoigeg killer is a person who accidentally kills another. And the parsha in great detail tells us how this person is to be treated. Let’s learn the Mitzvah:

Says the heylige Toirah: Where a Jew killed accidentally, he would go into exile by fleeing to one of the established Orei HaMiklot, “Cities of Refuge” in the Holy Land. There, he would live out his life until the death of the Koihen Gadol. (Bamidbar 35)

What’s pshat?  Reuvain unintentionally killed Shimoin; he is called a “shoigeg killer” and he must flee to a city of exile. While the Toirah understands that his act was unintentional and certainly not premeditated, had he shown a greater regard for life, he would have been more cautious, and this incident would not have occurred. The Toirah therefore holds him accountable for Shimon’s death, and he must remain in exile forever or until another death- namely the koihen godol

He is sent to the one of the six cities set aside for shoigeg killers where he gets to rest and relax. Basically, it’s a safe house, safe from relatives of the murdered person’s family who would otherwise be seeking revenge. Are you chapping all this?

I know you have many questions about this even without Medrish so let’s taka first understand the mechanics and if space permits, we’ll go tiffer (deeper). Six principal cities of refuge were designated in the Holy Land, three on either side of the Jordan River. Why so many? Avada we wouldn’t want to inconvenience the killer by making him jump on a bus to travel long distances, after all, killing could be tiring. And the RBSO in His compassion instructed that the yiddin have six.  Moreover, in addition to these six, there were according to the heylige gemoro (Makkois 10A), 42 cities that were assigned to the Liviyim (these were scattered throughout the Land) and these too served as safe havens for the accidental killer. So, what then was the difference between the six and the others? Says the gemoro: that the six primary ones, those designated on either side of the Jordan, were unique because its dwellers were not required to pay for lodging, whereas such expenses were incurred in the other forty-two Levite cities. You hear this? Free room and board mamish. Seemingly the RBSO was hinting that the Yiddin were still mischievous and that accidental killings would be a regular occurrence.

So far, this sounds like a gevalidige place to live out one’s life. In case you’re wondering why even regular killers wouldn’t run to these places and claim that it was all an accident…nu the heylige gemoro tells us that there was mamish a system to root out the intentional murderer and it went like this. A murderer (all) could flee to the Orei Miklot, where he’d come before a judicial tribunal. If the killing was ruled intentional, he was handed over to the victim’s relative and anyone who committed a pre-meditated murder was put to death. If the tribunal found in his favor, that the murder was unplanned and without malice, he could stay in the Orei Miklot until the Koihen Godol’s death, at which time he was free to go home. Even the intentional murderer couldn’t be condemned to death unless two witnesses incriminated him. The willful murderer couldn’t commute his death sentence nor could the accidental murderer escape the Orei Miklot by monetary payments.

We can mamish  envision the check- in lines and registration desk for these resort cities as the killer arrives and is confined to reside within the walls of the city he selected as his safe house. And how long could he enjoy his stay? Indefinitely or until the death of the current Koihen Godol.

Did you just read that right? Some random person kills another and he (the killer) gets to live worry free in his choice of cities forever or until the Koihen dies. Not just any koihen but the big kihunna. Gotta love it!

Until the death of the Kohain Godol?  Yes you read that correctly too. He sits there until the koihen godol, who is mamish not at all involved, not related to the individuals, may never have met them and in general does not have to know them, dies. And then he’s set free; justice mamish!?  And while he’s there, who looks after him? Says the heylige gemoro that the mothers (seemingly a few actually died during this period) of the Koihain Gadol makes sure he’s ok, resting comfortably  and being fed properly and mistama also gave him a massage. You find this strange? Hey: it’s Mishna, Gemoro and Medrish and who are you to argue?  The Mishnah tells us that since shoigeg killers could only return home when the Koihen Godol died, the mother of the Koihen Godol would bring the killers food and clothing. By acting with great kindness, she would create in the accidental killer a sense of appreciation so they would not pray for her son to die. Are you confused yet? In other words: the Koihen’s mother was afraid that the davening of the killer would have a deleterious effect on her son: namely death.

Why should his prayer kill the Koihen Godol? Isn’t this the same fellow that just killed someone? Since when does the RBSO listen to the prayer of a killer, accidental or not, to then kill the koihen godol so that he (the accidental killer) can go free?  Is this ‘tag and YOU’RE IT??’  What’s p’shat here?  Is this mamish emes?

This Gemoro is rather difficult to understand: no kidding!  The Koihen Godol is considered one of the greatest men of his generation, certainly a Tzadik. The shoigeg killer, on the other hand, is viewed as someone who can’t even remain amongst the nation; he must be exiled. Yet it appears that had the shoigeg killer davened, his prayers might have been answered, and the Koihen Godol would have died. Logical,ver veyst?

Ober the RBSO seems to have a soft spot for the accidental killer and the heylige gemora tells us another amazing detail. And how did he find his way?

Chazal tell us that signs with directions to the Orei Miklot appeared on every cross-road in settled territories. Beautiful!  And this is why gemoro is so gevaldig and this is why you should have paid attention when the rebbe was talking instead of daydreaming about meydlich (girls) or chas v’sholom boys. Now hear this: there were no signs directing one to Yerusholayim where the yiddin came to bring Korbonois (sacrifices) and taka  why? Say the medrish: that if the accidental killer, while en route to the Orei Miklot, was forced to ask directions, he might be discovered by the gossip mongers and this would avada make him a “marked man”. On the other hand, if yiddin journeying to Yerusholayim asked for directions, it would lead to discussion of the Yom Toiv and how good it was to be holding one day versus two days (a topic the Oisvorfer will cover near the yomim tovim) and this could bring achdus (brotherhood) and unity for the journey.

And while you’re pondering all this gevaldige Toirah, here’s another tidbit you mistama never learned. In this week’s parsha, we’re again told about Aharoin’s death and the exact date he died. It is, to the Oisvorfer’s knowledge (which isn’t all that great,) the only case in the entire Toirah where a date is given for someone’s passing. Just this tidbit alone will make even a bum like you look good at the shabbis tish.


And we conclude the parsha and Sefer Bamidbar with the next chapter of Tzelofchod’s five very intelligent daughters who asked for and received permission from the RBSO Himself to inherit land that might have come their father’s way had he lived. Says the heylige Toirah that as Moishe is divvying up the new land, a few rabble rousers from the girls own Sheyvet  (Menashe)  came forth and worried aloud about the real potential that land given to the girls would change hands were they to get married, (which they do in this parsha) to bochurim from other shevotim. They used toira law which transfers land to the hands of their husbands as their guise to protest the potential of losing land and to keep the assets in the mishpocho, so to speak. Avada you all know that many people including choshovo leaders, at times do things in the name of the heylige toira, mostly for their own personal agendas.

Nu, when it comes to land and money, it’s tribe members only and people get serious. What to do? The RBSO however chaps that money and land are critical and declared as follows: “The daughters of Tzelofchod will marry the best prospects in their eyes. They must however marry within the sheyvet of their father”, to keep the property within the tribe. In effect, though they now lost opportunities to marry men from 11 of the 12 shevotim, the RBSO understood the sensitivities when it comes to money issues. Or we can posit that efsher the RBSO also understood that with land as an asset, they would zicher (surely) find someone to marry them,  the marriage pool potential being cut to 1/12th the size notwithstanding. And who said money isn’t everything? Seemingly, in this case, money was everything.

Chazak, chazak and a gitten shabbis-

Oh,  and if you find any typo’s or grammatical errors on page 6, nu- you can blame the eishes chayil who fell asleep on the job waiting for the Ruv to finish his (less than) holy thoughts for the week.

A gittin Shabbis

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer


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