Several weeks and parshas back, as we were making our way through Parshas Chukas, an amazing thing happened: 38 years passed by from one posik to the next. The events described in the beginning of Chukas took place in year two of their sojourns through the midbar (desert). Ober suddenly, it was year 40 and the Yiddin were in the last year and making final preparations to enter the Promised Land. What took place during those -missing from the text- 38 years? Were the Yiddin resting comfortably in one location? Were they on the move? Shoin, if you want the specific itinerary the Yiddin followed during their entire 40 year midbar stint, make sure to read Parshas Maseye, the second parsha we will read this coming shabbis. The Oisvorfer will not be covering their stops.
Shoin! The ominous three weeks are in full bloom and in about an hour or so, we will welcome in Choidesh Ov and with it the ‘nine days.’ Bad stuff happens!
And this coming shabbis we will say goodbye to Sefer Bamidbar while listening to the back end the Matos- Maseye double header. Lots going on, much ground to cover including discussions about vows by girls and women and how to undo them; the war against the Midianites and how those in command did not, according to Moishe, execute the plan properly; the spoils of war and how to properly divide the booty; laws about kashering (the method by which a utensil that had been used with non-kosher food is rendered permissible for use). and toiveling (oft- time confused as being the same: they’re not); a shtikel breakaway by 2 ½ shevotim (tribes); a review and detailed listing of the Yiddin’s wanderings during the past 40 years; the command to conquer the Promised Land; very clear delineation of the boundaries of what we call Israel today; the appointment of leaders who will oversee the lottery system to be implemented when divvying up the Land; instructions for taking good care of the Leviyim (Levites) who nebech (sadly) weren’t to receive a real portion of the Land, and, finally but seemingly quite important, a discussion on the setting up of the various ‘Oray Miklat’ (cities of refuge), designated safe-houses, so to speak, for the inadvertent killer. Shoin: take a breath and exhale: we just covered two gantza (entire) parshas and a total of 244 pisukim in one long run-on sentence and paragraph.
Two weeks ago as we were closing out parshas Chukas, Pinchas who was seemingly treated to a public display of lewdness and was efsher an eye witness to the Zimri and Kosbi entanglement became an instant hero. Bikitzr (in short), Pinchas became a zealot, and murdered a sinning Jew and his accomplice in the middle of an orgy. He speared them through their stomachs, which the heylige Gemora goes on to explain was a code word for their genitals, while they were belly to belly. He performed Pinchas Interruptus and the magayfo (plague) stopped. The RBSO shouted Pinchas out and gave him credit for stopping the plague and sad endings to many lives which followed the happy endings the Yiddin enjoyed with the Midianite and Moabite shiksas. They came and they went, if you chap. A week later, he was rewarded with his own parsha ober things can change rather quickly and in this week’s parsha, our friend Pinchas is seemingly hero no more. How does one go from zero to hero and back in so short a time period? Leyda (sadly), it happens, if you chap! he will get tongue lashed by Moishe and let’s then start by finding out why Moishe was all upset with General Pinchas and the army. Here’s what unfolded.
The RBSO ordered and declared war against the Midianites for their complicity and underhanded methods employed in seducing a good number of Yiddin – more than 24,000 of them- into sex acts with their daughters, rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid). When the war orders and battle instructions were given, the RBSO also told Moishe that this would be his final act as leader of the Yiddin and that he would pass away immediately thereafter. Not exactly great motivating words for Moishe to hear, not words that would cause him to act with zerizus (haste) ober says Rashi azoy: Moishe sprang into immediate action. Moishe drafted 1,000 men from each sheyvet and shoin, an army of 12,000 was born. Did the army include chareidim, ver veyst? And do all agree that the army had 12,000 men or that every sheyvet participated? Avada nisht! There is of course a machloikes (disagreement) as to whether or not the Leviyim (Levites) participated in the war, or, instead hid out in some draft dodging yeshiva. Some say that the Leviyim did join the army since this was a war of revenge and avada when it comes to revenge; all are interested in serving and must.
On the other hand, another medrish tells us that although the specific instructions called for 1,000 soldiers per sheyvet, the real instructions called for 3,000 men per tribe for a total of 36,000. And how do we reconcile these two numbers? Who says the numbers need to be reconciled? And what difference is it to you if each sheyvet sent 1000 or 3000? Nu, since it’s medrish, avada this isn’t much of an issue, ober one answer proffered tells us azoy: Taka there were 3,000 soldiers per sheyvet ober of those, only 1,000 per tribe were real fighters. And the others? Seemingly, they were there for moral support which they showed by davening (praying) for the real soldiers to win the war. Shoin! Davening is at times seemingly also a job. Gishmak mamish and maybe a shtikel plan for dealing with the koillelyun galeight (willfully unemployed) over in Israel?
Is everyone tzifridden (satisfied) with this Medrish? No! Why would an army of 12,000 in total require an additional 24,000 daveners? Were they the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? Isn’t one good davener and shokeler enough to cover the entire army? Nu, mistama it depends on how well and in which directions he shokels and avada if the davener has his talis over his head or not. After all, isn’t that the hallmark of a good davener and shokeler? Moreover that same medrish tells us that the 24,000 daveners also accompanied the Yiddin into the battlefield for moral support, ober some question why this was necessary. Isn’t the RBSO anywhere and everywhere? Why not daven in shul or in the midbar? Says R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz so gishmak azoy: emesdike davening (true prayer) can only be generated if one can feel deep empathy for the fellow Yid for whom one is praying. Without this key ingredient, the prayer will never be genuinely heartfelt. This is why, although the RBSO is everywhere, the davening Yiddin needed to be on location, on the battlefield, witnessing in real time, everything that their brothers were experiencing. Only then could they effectively pray for their brothers at arms. Veyter.
Pinchas was appointed to lead the war and why not? Avada you recall that he was adept with his spear. Some say he was appointed because of a tradition we Yiddin have to allow the person starting a mitzvah to also finish it. And since Pinchas began the mitzvah of avenging the RBSO’s honor by killing Kosbi the Midianite princess, he was rewarded with finishing the job and the Midianites; Gishmak mamish. The war was on: the Yiddin hubengihargit (killed) all menner (males) including Bilam and five kings ober (however) the women, children, herds, flocks, and possessions of Midyan were taken as booty. The cities and palaces were destroyed. Sounds like the mission was accomplished, but was it? Was Moishe happy? Seemingly not!
Moishe, Elozor, and other leaders went out to greet and congratulate the returning army. Avada he knew they were going to win the war by killing their enemies because this particular war was a war of revenge, so ordered by the RBSO Himself. And when the RBSO orders war, one needn’t worry about the mission or its outcome. And taka why was the RBSO so upset with the Midianites? Seemingly He was still upset over their role in the sex games in which the Midianites and Moabite meydlich (girls) entrapped the hapless Yiddin into mishuga sex acts coupled with the ever dangerous avoido zoro – always a lethal combo – leading to the death of 24,000 Yiddin before Pinchas took matters into his own hands. Says the Ohr HaChaim so gishmak azoy: Midyan represents physical lusting, (no kidding)! They have to be seen as evil and needed to be destroyed. Moishe would then know that the Yiddin were ready to cross the Jordan and into the land.
Ober what did the Yiddin do during the war? Did they kill the veyber, those very women that caused such a shande (embarrassment), and angered the RBSO so? A necthiger tug (fugetaboutitt): Instead they killed the men only, took the booty and let the women off the hook. And Pinchas did this why? Is it that Pinchas had or didn’t have hard feelings for these women, if you chap? Ober we are taught that the troops and their general (Pinchas) made a cheshboin (reasoning) that since women did not participate in the battle, they were but innocent bystanders and were not deserving of death. Moreover efsher they thought that these fine women still had what to give to society and to the Yiddin, if you chap. Efsher they planned a shtikel reunion, ver veyst?
Moishe was not at all tzifridden (happy) that the officers gave the women of Midyan a pass since it was mamish women that were instrumental in the downfall of the Yiddin in the Pe’or affair and the consequent plague. Nor was he happy about the children being spared and though Pinchas and his commanders figured that the young males would make good slaves, Moishe reprimanded them mamish. His thinking was that the males would grow up and threaten the Yiddin while the women were all whores and had been the only cause both of the immorality and the idolatry of the hapless Yiddin. Shoin! Moishe ordered the Yiddin to go back and wipe out the women, which this time they did. All the women and male children were killed; the girls remained captive. Which girls, and how old were those selected for life vs. death? Nu, believe it or not, this selection was based on whether or not they were of age to have sexual relations. Explains the heylige Gemora azoy: The command was not just to slay those women who had actually had intercourse mamish, but also to kill anyone that was “fit for intercourse.” How does one get ‘fit’ for intercourse? Says the heylige Gemora: it’s a technical term within halocho (Jewish law) that intercourse at a specific age is considered intercourse, whereas at an earlier age the act is not called intercourse. If she wasn’t fit, Pinchas could acquit! And what is that age? Says the Gemora: three years old and one day. Shreklich (OMG)!
Some of you may be wondering why the RBSO waged war against the Midianites when it was the Moabites that supplied the whores that enticed and seduced the Yiddin; what’s taka pshat? Ober we should never question the RBSO because avada He knows best and although the women of both Moiav and Midyan were involved in the plot to seduce the unsuspecting men, the war of revenge is described as being against Midyan alone. Taka why? Says the heylige Gemora (Buba Kamma) azoy: the Moabite daughters were forced by Bolok to have sex with the Yiddin ober the Midianite daughters of Bilam did so willingly. Accordingly the RBSO gave specific order to kill the Midianite shiksas and for the Moabite women to be spared. Moreover we must avada keep in mind that our favorite of all Jewish heroines, Rus (Ruth), she, the maternal grandmother of the Davidic kingship and dynasty- was a Moabitess. And had Moishe ordered that all of the Moabites be killed, how would Dovid Hamelech ever have come to be? And how would the Moshiach, he a decedent mamish, ever be born? Shoin, as you can see, the RBSO had a plan. Sometimes it takes years to see it.
And say the medrish azoy: The Moabites were not so giferlich after all and mistama they threw a good party. They were driven by their sexual lust only, whereas those Midianite whores were doing the old bait and switch routine, forcing their clients to perform avoido zora (idolatry) for their god as well. Chap that? In other words: sex alone is nisht giferlich ober sex coupled with avoido zoro is mamish like speaking loshoin horo with the talis over the head and is disgusting mamish. And following these war games and the mass killings, the soldiers were ordered to remain outside the camp for seven days because of their ritual impurity. They were tomay (impure).
And speaking of Pinchas going from hero to goat, some of you may be familiar with the following myseh as recorded in the Novee (Shoiftim) which teach us that Pinchas’s fame got to his head and he became at least a shtikel arrogant. As retold, arrogance struck two great Jewish leaders of biblical times, Pinchas the koihen Godol, and Yiftach, the Judge during his time. Here is the story of that tragic incident.
Yiftach was preparing to go to battle against the Ammonites, who were persecuting the Yiddin. Before leaving for the battlefield, Yiftach spoke to the RBSO and said azoy: “If You, O G-d, help me to defeat Ammon and bring me home in peace, I will sacrifice as an offering unto You, the very first thing that leaves my door to greet me.”
The RBSO was with Yiftach and helped him defeat Ammon. Yiftach’s happiness knew no bounds, but it all changed to horror as he approached his home and saw his daughter emerge from the doorway to greet him. “Woe is me,” cried Yiftach, “for I have vowed to sacrifice to the RBSO the first thing that came from my doorway to greet me.”
When the people heard what happened they came to Pinchas, the koihen godol, who was also head of the Sanhedrin and said: “You have heard of the vow that Yiftach has made. You have it within your power to absolve him of this vow. “We ask you to go to Yiftach in Gilad and absolve him of it.”
Ober Pinchas replied: “What? Shall I, Pinchas, the High Priest, who is of the seed of Aharoin the High Priest, condescend to go to Yiftach? If he wishes to absolve himself of his vow let him come to me and then I shall release him. And when the people saw that Pinchas would not be moved and would not go to Yiftach, they hastened to Yiftach and said: “Hurry, now, and go to Pinchas the High Priest, and ask him to absolve you of your terrible vow.” Yiftach, however, was just as arrogant, and he replied: “I am Yiftach, the judge and leader of Israel. Shall I, the head of the people go to the High Priest? It is incumbent upon him to come to me and to absolve me of my vow.”
No amount of pleading on the part of the people could move either Yiftach or Pinchas. Each man stood by his honor and dignity and would not deign to bow to the other. When the RBSO saw this, He grew angry and declared: “I shall lower them from their heights – these two arrogant men.” And so He did. Pinchas, was deprived of his power of the Divine Spirit and became as one of the people, with the High Priesthood passing from his hands, while Yiftach was stricken with a terrible disease and died.
In Parshas Masseye, the RBSO lays out Israel’s very specific borders and Moishe also has the job of apportioning the land to the shevotim. Moishe, now a mature 120 and near death, his fate having been sealed a few weeks back, enlists the help of the Niseeim which included two characters by the names of Eldad and Meydad, 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 medrish (Tanchuma) way back in Parshas Bahaloischa azoy: 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 the Land. 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 Elitzophon and that Eldad and Maydad are offspring from that marriage. That makes them Moishe’s and Aharoin’s half-brothers. Givaldig! And…………………….
In case you’re wondering how Yoicheved could re-marry her ex-husband Amram and give birth to Moishe after marrying Elitzofon between marriages to Amrom, 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. Kosher! 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 matan Toirah, marrying the tanta (aunt) seemed normal, ober immediately following, this became verboten and Amram immediately divorced her. Givaldig! 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,” meaning 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 medrish 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. Amram, during those two years, have delivered two kids and could they have become prophets when they were not yet two years old? Too much to swallow, ver veyst? Shoin: it’s one thing to chap that a girl can have sex at three years of age and therefore Pinchas was ordered to kill them ober to chap that a two year old can also be Novee? And what was their prophecy?
Says Targum Yoinoson azoy: Eldad gave prophecy that Moishe would die in the desert, and that Yehoishua would lead the Yiddin into the Promised Land: Seemingly a Novee indeed he was because both predictions came true. 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, especially if some our sworn enemies get their hands on a certain bomb. On the other hand the RBSO had a plan when He instructed the Moabite girls not be killed. Soon enough, the Moshiach whose mother, as we mentioned above, was indeed Moabit #1, will make an appearance. On the other hand, it’s but a medrish and as many a rabbi has stated over and again: Every medrish is true, some just didn’t happen yet!
Chaazak, Chaazak, Vinischazek – a gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv