Raboyseyee and Ladies,
Moishe & His 250 Women & Five Very Strong and Aggressive Women:
Moishe had 250 women? Was it party time following his divorce from Tzipoirah? Mamish azoy? More on that below, but first, a warm welcome to Choidesh Ov, the Nine Days, Tishe Beov, the last two Parshas in Sefer Bamidbar, and then, less than a full week later this year because Tishe Be’ov is being observed on Sunday the 10th, Shabbis Nachamu followed by the great and joyous day of Tu-Beov the 15th of Av. Our emotions are all over the place in these next 15 days; got pills? As well, let’s also welcome back our holy brothers over in Israel who have been one parsha ahead of us these past few months. Beginning next week, Jews all over the world will all be reading the same parsha.
From time to time a reader asks if the heylige Ois repeats himself. Just last week, two posed the question. And the answer- as we are about to complete year twelve- is azoy: for the most part, over 95% of the time, the material is fresh mamish. There are times when a shtikel is repeated, say it’s not so, but it is. When that’s the case, the Ois does tell his readers at the outset. And such is the case this year as the Ois presents -and repeats- his review of the Nine Days. Originally shared in 2017, here they are again, freshened up for 2022. Ober not to fret: inspired by Lydia, we close out Sefer Bamidbar with some new material on five very strong and inspiring women. Who is Lydia?
What are the Nine Days? If you are FFB (frum-from-birth), you avada know that the nine days leading up to, and including Tisha Be’ov (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Ov), are the real thing. Tisha Be’ov is the 2nd most solemn day in our Jewish calendar. These days are not to be taken lightly. For reasons that remain mysterious, bad stuff happens to our people during the Nine Days. Bad luck is in the air and falls on some. Not to everyone, ober, to enough; enough to leave one mamish spooked. And for that reason alone, most observe this day by mamish refraining from eating or drinking.
How do we -in our times- observe these Nine Days? Nu, that depends on who you ask, on minhogim (customs) you may have seen growing up, or learning about in yeshiva, and other places. The Mishneh Birura has 18 subsections (Vol 6: Section 551) dedicated to the Nine Days, and the week of Tisha Be’ov restrictions. It’s generally accepted that the verboten list -in our times- has grown to include the following restrictions: the eating of meat and the drinking of wine; making weddings; listening to live music; getting haircuts; shaving; doing laundry (now expanded to include a restriction against wearing new, or even freshly laundered clothing); going to the movies; Broadway shows included; executing contracts and or entering into new business ventures; swimming, bathing and even showering: OMG!
Ober, it’s not all bad, and before you consider throwing down your yarmulke and seeking out a less restrictive religion -many to pick from- there are -of course and as one would expect- generally accepted loopholes to all, or most items listed above. In fact, some Sephardim make weddings during the Nine Days. Mamish! You can rest assured that the bride, groom, and the rest of the guests, are eating meat, drinking wine, and listening to live music. We assume they also all shower, wear clean underwear, and shave -where and if necessary- if you chap. Their customs are beyond the scope of this review.
Ober, where is all this written? In the heylige Toirah? Not! Efsher in the Mishneh or heylige Gemora? Also not! Where? No place! Shoin and fartig. Who made these Nine Days so restrictive? Let’s find out. Says the Mishneh (Taanis 26b), azoy: Mi’she’nich’nas Av, mi’a’tin b’simcha (when the month of Av arrives, we diminish our happiness). That’s all! How does one diminish happiness? Says the heylige Gemora (Yevomis 43a) as elucidated by the Tur Oirach Chayim, azoy: what the heylige Gemora wants to tell us is that during these Nine Days, we should decrease our business activities, refrain from construction, planting for pleasure, we should not make weddings, and we should not make a festive meal in celebration of an engagement. Others, decrease happiness by spending more time at home with their spouses. Shoin!
Did you see anything on that short list which includes a prohibition against eating meat and drinking wine? How about wearing clean underwear? You did not: gotchkis should be changed regularly! Yet, the nine days are -in today’s times- very closely associated with the restrictions on meat and wine, and the rest of the list found above. And the good news? Like many -seemingly most, if not all- restrictions in our beautiful religion and tradition, these too come with loopholes. Boruch Hashem (Blessed be the Lord) that a few rabbis saw fit -at times- to find what they call legal workarounds around what we might consider onerous laws and customs on our books. We have previously discussed the selling of one’s chomatze over Pesach as loophole #1. The Pruzbil and its first cousin, and the Heter Iska, both designed to overcome business issues which arise -of course- when we loan money to friends, and other Jewish people, come in at #’s 2 and #3. The bottom line: people like Hillel Hazokane came along and recognized that a strict interpretation of certain laws found in the heylige Toirah, or elsewhere, were too challenging. Mistama he chapped that people would violate them regularly, and decided to create legal loopholes. May his memory be a blessing! The bottom line: Those following the loopholes now had a legal and kosher way of circumventing the laws as originally given or understood.
So happens that one of the generally accepted customs which seems to have morphed into law, is not to eat meat and or enjoy wine during the Nine Days. Why not? The restriction is seemingly connected to our mourning of the Botey Mikdash (Holy Temples) which were both destroyed several thousand years ago, both on Tisha Be’ov. So happens that we mourn them and pray daily for the rebuilding of the Temple in parts of our davening.
Again, avoiding meat and drinking wine top the list of nine-day restrictions. Why these two items? Seemingly both are associated with joy; both are also associated with the Temple offerings where the Yiddin brought sacrifices and libations. Ober, we ask again, is the restriction against eating meat and imbibing wine during these Nine Days mentioned anywhere? Is it in fact law? Where can we find it? And the answer is azoy: It’s not law! At least it was not law: It is abundantly clear that the only restriction against eating meat and enjoying wine mentioned in the heylige Gemora, is to refrain only on the day before Tishe Be’ov (day eight), and even then, only at the last meal before the beginning of the fast. In the frum world, this last meal is known as the ‘seudas hamefsekes’ the meal which separates eating from fasting. What happened next?
A new minhag was born. Those of Ashkenazic descent began to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine on the first day of Av, on Roish Choidesh mamish -a day typically associated with gladness, joy, and at times, even with a special meal in honor of the day. Why? Ver veyst? What happened next? The minhag somehow morphed into a din (law) which remains on our books. Ober, doesn’t the heylige Toirah warn us against adding or subtracting new laws? It does! Did all the Yiddin join their Ashkenazic cousins and refrain from enjoying meat and wine during the Nine Days? Of course not! The Sephardim -some- do not include Roish Choidesh on their nine-day list; they mourn only eight days and continue to celebrate Roish Choidesh the way it was intended, a happy and special day to be enjoyed with meat and wine. Other Sephardim -most- only begin remembering and mourning the lost Temples in the week during which Tisha Be’Ov falls. Mamish? For them, if Tish’a Beov falls on a Monday, they begin nine-day restrictions but one day before. In other words: their observance is limited to but two days. Gishmak!
Let’s get back to the Ashkenazim, and focus in on one of the nine-day loopholes, this one known as the ‘siyum.’ A siyum is a party given, or made, when one completes the learning of any tractate of the Mishneh or, more commonly, the heylige Gemora. It’s a completion party. It’s well known and established that any siyum must be followed by a coalition of sorts, and such an event is called a seudas-mitzvah (a mitzvah meal). Says who? So happens that the Tanna Abaya -he most famous for sparring with his counterpart by the name of Rovo, and he, also most famous for winning but eight of those halachic disputes, as we generally follow Rovo’s view on all else- spoke of the siyum (Shabbis 118b last line). Abaya was seemingly inspired by a medrish too long to recount teaching us that making a siyum is a good thing. And while Rovo very much enjoyed arguing with Abaya, we don’t. We follow his recommendation of sorts to follow the completion of any tractate with a siyum and party.
We all also chap that a seudas mitzvah is considered a festive occasion. And? A meal is only festive if it includes meat and wine. Let’s get real: have you ever seen people get really happy over macaroni, tuna or egg salad? How about salad, fish, and yogurt? Not! Happiness is kimat always associated with a good piece of meat. A good shtikel fliesh is good before, during, and after the Nine Days, if you chap. Veyter. And yearly, in order for masses of Yiddin to be happy -even during the Nine Days when, according to the Mishneh, we are to be less happy- all over the world, Yiddin make and attend at least one siyum marking the completion of any tractate. In other words: our sadness, mourning, and remembrance of the Temples which once stood in Yirusholayim, is now legally interrupted. And listen to this: one may attend a siyum and interrupt his nine-day sadness each and every day of the Nine Days. Well, blow me down! And the bottom line? A good party trumps sadness; gishmak mamish!
How it happens that so many Yiddin are davka completing different tractates of the heylige Gemora during these nine days, remains one of the unexplained wonders of the world, ober that for another day. Over in Baltimore, MD, the Ois has a chaver who relates an expanded version of the siyum loophole. When he was much younger, he would, with permission, but not necessarily the blessing of his parents, appear at a well-known glatt-kosher restaurant where he proceeded to make a siyum. He charged a small fee and also ate for free. In fact, he typically hit two restaurants a night. So far so good and nothing unusual as siyums will be breaking out this week in the throes of the Nine Days in many fine establishments all around the world. But wait: it gets better. We all chap that those in attendance at the siyum -though only one guy spent time studying the tractate- may attend, listen to the siyum, and partake in the festive meal. Why the entire assemblage may partake and is suddenly eligible to enjoy the meat and wine festivities when only one fellow studied, is of course discussed, argued over, and is also for another day. The bottom line: it’s kosher! Ober the big surprise is azoy: the Baltimore chaver whose father – a well-respected rabbi is known to be more than strictly observant -shtick strictly verboten- recounts that -with his father’s blessing- once he made the siyum at the restaurant, not just could those in attendance participate and enjoy a good meat and wine meal, but also those who arrived much later. In other words: though the siyum was long over and he, already long gone, anyone arriving to the establishment at a later hour, could also partake in a great meat meal of their choice. The siyums were in fact sanctioned by no lesser an authority than the Va’ad Hakashrus of Baltimore which is led by a very esteemed rabbi; my kind of rabbi. The bottom line: the holy words spoken during the siyum, magically -efsher by osmosis- permeated the walls of the restaurant and anyone entering before closing, was permitted to partake in this special event, the festive meal. And that’s what the Ois calls a loophole and a great rabbi.
And the sheylo (question) for 2022 is azoy: given what took place in Baltimore, and may still be, may one participate in a nine-day siyum given on-line? May one tune into a sium and then, either enjoy a meat and wine meal in the comfort of one’s own home, or go out to a restaurant of one’s choice? The virtual siyum! Or, must one attend the siyum live in the restaurant or catering facility? The answer should be a resounding yes!
The answer should be derived using the second of Rebbe Yishmoale’s 13 hermeneutic principles, the KAL VO’CHOIMER (an a fortiori argument), which goes like this. Madach, one who never heard or attended the siyum in Baltimore made by the chaver, was covered nonetheless, and was able to partake of meat and wine just because someone else made a siyum there hours earlier (which seemingly permeated the walls), avada and avada (certainly and even more certainly), one should be covered and permitted to partake when listening and watching the entire siyum over the Internet via live streaming on his smartphone! Shoin, case settled! What’s needed in our times is for the few holdout Chassidic and other Internet bashing rabbis to embrace the heylige smartphone which is avada connected to the heylige Internet. This could mamish be a win-win. Rebbes and others can then have their finest prepare the siyum, charge a small fee for all those participating (only on-line of course) and shoin. Unlike the good folks in Baltimore, these people will have heard and perhaps watched via live streaming every word of the siyum. Hey doesn’t Chabad -and now others- sell your chomatze on-line? They do! Let’s get with the times.
Bottom line: Between the siyum loophole, the Friday night and shabbis must-eat meat meals, and other loopholes which allow showering, the donning of clean underwear and laundered clothing, and despite the many pages dedicated to the listing in the Mishneh Birura, and other places, of each and every restriction that seemingly began as customs that morphed into Jewish laws, and whether of Ashkenazic or Sephardic decent, Nine Day Observance and restrictions have been significantly reduced to a very manageable number. Between Shabbis, participation at a Sephardic wedding, and a few in person or virtual siyums, there’s absolutely no reason for the many carnivores to miss even one meat meal. Nisht giferlich.
Let’s close with this: This past Tuesday, the Ois had the opportunity to have a long chat with a very strong woman he has known since the early 70’s; let’s call her Lydia. Lydia reminds the Ois of five women we met last week (Parshas Pinchas). They appear again this week and close out the parsha and Sefer Bamidbar. Let’s say hello again to the five daughters of a fellow by the name of Tzelofchod. Why are they back? What was special about them? Why did they merit not one, and not even two, but three different shout-outs by name in the heylige Toirah and Novee? Let’s recall that Mrs. Noiach is never mentioned by name; she’s not the only one. With the exception of Yoisef who married Osnas, are we told the names of the wives of any of the shvotim? Not! Ober, last week, without an introduction, mamish out of nowhere, the heylige Toirah told us that together, these five (Machlah, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah) approached Moishe to talk about their share of the land. Land was to be apportioned according to the father’s household. But there was no father and Tzelofchod had no sons; what to do? What’s taka going on here? Let’s set the stage: it’s year 40 and the Yiddin are about to cross the Jordan to chap the land -by means of war- promised to Avrohom back in Parshas Lech Lecho. Moishe is given instructions on who gets what. The girls are seemingly -at least at first- left out. Before launching into their plea, the girls, by way of introduction, said: “Our father died in the desert. He was not part of the group that rebelled against the RBSO in Koirach’s assembly, but rather, he died due to “his own” sin.” Next, they tell Moishe that their father had no sons. What sin was “his own” and what’s the big deal about not having sons? Nu, depends on who you ask and let’s see what some say, mind boggling as it may seem. Says the Lev Aryeh azoy: the heylige Gemora (Moied Koton18B) tells us that members of Koirach’s group all accused their wives of having illicit relations with Moishe, deeming them all Soitas. A soita is a woman accused by the husband of having had sex outside the marriage. You hear this? Moishe was accused and implicated in an illicit relationship with 250 women? Say it’s not so please but so says the heylige Gemora and who are we to argue? Who would concoct this terrible scenario and plot? Ver veyst, but that’s what this Lev Aryeh says and taka the heylige Gemora mamish brings it down. The heylige Ois is merely, as always, but repeating what’s already been printed: so, shoot me! Avada you recall learning that if a woman is accused of being a Soitah (having strayed from her marriage) but is exonerated after drinking the magic water-based concoction, she is rewarded. How? If she previously had only daughters, she merited having a son. All those who followed Koirach and accused their wives, merited sons shortly thereafter proving avada not just their innocence but also that Moishe had clean hands. The wives were innocent. Exactly how these 250 women became pregnant and from whom, is a shtikel kasha given that all of Koirach’s followers disappeared into another hole, if you chap. On the other hand, it’s but a medrish; not always are the loose ends tied up. Veyter.
What other terrible sin could the father of the girls have committed for which he died in the Midbar? Well, according to many, but of course not all, Tzelofchod was the fellow caught playing with his wood on shabbis (a few weeks back in Parshas Shelach) and was sentenced to an immediate death leaving behind five bereaved daughters. So says Rashi, quoting Rebbe Akiva. Ober, Reb Shimon says: “He was among those who were defiant [attempting to enter the Land, after the sin of the meraglim (spies)].”
We are taught, as you will read below, that the girls were all righteous, intelligent and learned. So much so that at age forty, they were still husbandless; seemingly too qualified for most men. None could find a spouse that was at her intellectual equal: They were too good, seemingly too smart and too picky for the many oisvorfs wandering the midbar. Says the Medrish (Oitzar Midrashim pg. 474): the daughters of Tzelofchod were among the 23 most righteous Jewish women in history. And says the Medrish (Sifri Bamidbar 133): they were scholarly; they appear to have been learned women. Bamidbar Rabbah (21:11) says that this is how they knew to speak up exactly when Moishe was learning the laws of inheritance. When they heard Moishe say the land is to be divided according to the number of male children in the family, they realized that, under this ruling, their father’s name will be forgotten and they would be wiped out financially. What to do? They decided to claim their father’s inheritance so that his name would be perpetuated. Bottom line: this entire episode was their initial Toirah appearance (Bamidbar 27). Moishe consulted with the RBSO, who said they were correct. A share of land should go to them. Case closed? Seemingly not!
The daughters are back in our parsha. We meet the girls again when Gileadite leaders (great grandchildren of Yoisef) observed a kink in the new inheritance law. Should the girls, or any daughter, inherit land, and then marry outside the sheyvet (clan or tribe), their achuzah would pass to the husband or the husband’s family, thereby permanently diminishing the tribe’s original territorial allotment. As such, the land of Menashe (their tribe) could end up in another tribe. How would other tribe members feel about losing land because the girls married out? Not very good! Land is valuable and what to do? Because this nikuda (point) wasn’t covered last week, the girls are back this week for further clarification. Again each of their names is shouted out. No small honor. The issue is brought to Moishe, who, at the RBSO’s behest, rules that females who inherit must marry within the larger kinship unit. This dictate secures a tribe’s land holding in perpetuity, mollifies the elders, and all is well. Is it? Based on this ruling their marriage options became limited; they could only marry men within their own sheyvet. And let us recall that the girls -so the heylige Gemora tells us- were already 40 and still single; oy vey! What to do?
As an aside, why Moishe didn’t rule that if a woman who has inherited marries outside the tribe, the landholding they carry does not pass to the husband or his family, ver veyst? He could have said that any such inheritance remains as a heritage within the original clan. Ober, let us keep this in mind: Moishe did ask the RBSO for guidance and the RBSO ruled by restricting the girls from marrying out. How the loss of conjugal freedom would work in today’s woke times, ver veyst? A Supreme Court issue? The bottom line: Marrying out of the tribe was ruled a no-no because it came with a great financial loss to the sheyvet (clan). Another bottom line: over the generations, many parents have followed the RBSO’s lead: marry out mamish, if you chap, and suffer the financial consequences of being cut out.
The girls make yet a final appearance, this time in the Novee (Yehoishua 17) where they approached Yehoishua during the division of Israel, and took their appropriate shares -and more- among the sheyvet of Menasheh. More?
Another Medrish, my personal favorite, tells us that the girls were mamish geniuses. Based on what? When confronted, Moishe punted on the question and took it to the top, to the RBSO who answered azoy: “Keyn Benois Tzelofchod Dovrois,” “The daughters of Tzelofchod speak accurately.” And what did they get? Their portion of the land? No! They actually received three or four shares. What? They got azoy:
According to one medrish, the daughters took three portions of the land holding: the portion of their father, who was among those who left Egypt; and two portions of their grandfather Chepher (who, as a firstborn, had received a double portion. Another medrish maintains that they took four portions, since Tzelofchod had an additional brother who had no sons. According to this pshat, found in the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 119a), Moishe knew that they would inherit but sought counsel from the RBSO because he did not know whether they were entitled to take the firstborn’s share. In the end, the girls ended up with land on both sides of the Jordan (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:12). Half of the tribe of Menashe took land on the east of the Jordan, and the other half waited until the Jews crossed the Jordan. The daughters took from both areas. Aggressive? Very!
And as you can only imagine, shortly after, they had no problem getting married, even past 40. Says the midrash based on the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 119b) that even the youngest of the sisters did not marry before the age of forty, because they waited to marry the husbands who were fit for them, from their own tribe. So Moishe had instructed. And while it’s typically very challenging to become pregnant and deliver past the age of forty, due to their righteousness, the RBSO performed a neys (miracle) for them; each was blessed with children. Mamish gishmak!
It gets better: though the law Moishe passed down would have ordinarily caused them to lose their land – Moishe declared for that generation alone (Taanis 30b), women who inherited land would have to marry within their tribe, or forfeit the land- these sly foxy daughters were excepted from this ruling. And we know this because the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 120a) tells us that Moishe said the daughters of Tzelofchod could marry whomever was “good in their eyes!” The Gemora concludes that the daughters were exempt from this rule.
Final bottom line: the five daughters were strong women who stood up respectfully and were not afraid to fight for justice. Kudos to them. The RBSO sided with them and our sages paint them with beautiful brushes.
Chazak, chazak, vi’nischazake! A gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv