Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Red Light Green Light 123
Did you know that the traffic signal was first invented in 1912 by a Detroit policeman named Lester Wire as a two-color, red-and-green light with a buzzer to warn pedestrians ahead of the impending transition? Likely not! And did you know that William “Engineer Bill” Stulla, an early Los Angeles children’s television show host, inspired a generation of Southern California baby boomers to drink their milk with his signature “Red Light, Green Light” game? Mistama also not. It’s also mistama likely that you did not know that back in the year 2488, mamish weeks before the Yiddin were to cross the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land, the very first version of red light, green light was already being played in the Midbar? The heylige Ois is here to explain how it worked, but first this…
Shoin! The three weeks are in full bloom and Choidesh Ov and the ominous ‘nine days’ begin Friday night. Be careful; bad stuff happens!
Speaking of bad stuff, as I was going through the archives to see what was previously written on this week’s parshas, yes a double-header, I noticed that it was a year ago this time when I posted a longer special edition missive rant on the battle between the VAAD of the Five Towns and the new Mehadrin Hashgocho (new kosher certifying agency). Two local rabbis, also friends were not very happy with questions I raised, in fact, one raised his voice to yell. A full year has gone by and where are the parties? Has progress been made towards resolving the issues? Not! Things have seemingly only gotten worse and this is where things stand today: the parties are now in court. Why court? Why not settle their difference through a Din Torah (Rabbinical Court)? Taka an excellent question and the answer -and what you’re about to read is factual- goes like this. The aggrieved parties (the two restaurants bad-mouthed by the VAAD letter(s)) did summon certain rabbis to the rabbinical courts. And? After many months of making believe they might appear, the VAAD’s representative (on this matter), not a lawyer but one who would argue their position, declared that the rabbis need not appear. Why not? Aren’t we taught that disputant Jewish people must avoid courts and settle their difference only through the rabbinical courts? We were! The VAAD however has declined. If the VAAD feels so strongly about their position, why not appear? Ober, the VAAD’s representative decided that the aggrieved restaurants had no standing to summon the VAAD to a Din Torah. In other words: who do these guys think they are by calling the VAAD to a rabbinical court? What chutzpah!? Is the VAAD on solid ground with this argument? When the heylige Ois read their position a few weeks back -printed in most local Jewish newspapers- and after getting over the shock of what he read, he called six different rabbis of stature who regularly appear at Din Torahs to argue for one side or the other, and asked if the decision by the VAAD’s representative was oisgihalten (held water and rooted in halocho). To a one, they all laughed at the question and stated with more than a degree of certitude that there is no such concept. Any one Jew with a complaint against another, may summon that individual, or rabbi, and even a shul to a din Torah. The bottom line: as of today, the matter is on the docket. For when? Ver veyst? Another bottom line: a mockery has been made and a reckoning will surely come one day.
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 Bolok, 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. Bikitzur (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) which killed 24,000 Yiddin, stopped. The RBSO shouted out Pinchas and gave him credit for stopping the plague. A sad instant ending to many lives followed the happy endings they 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? Shoin, crash landings do at times follow meteoric rises; Pinchas may have been among the first to soar then crash and burn, but certainly not the last. This week 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 chareidi boys and girls, 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 1,000 or 3,000? 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 koillel yung-alite (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 one 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 huben gihargit (killed) all menner (males) including Bilam and five kings ober (however) the women, children, herds, flocks, and possessions of Midian were taken as booty. he 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 vilde and 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. The bottom line: had the Yiddin taken matters into their own hands, if you chap, instead of becoming entangles with the shiksas, mistama their lives would have been spared.
Ober what did the Yiddin do during the war? Did they kill the veyber, those very women that caused such a shanda (embarrassment), and angered the RBSO so? A necthiger tug (fuhgeddaboudit): Instead, they killed the men only, took the booty and let the women off the hook. The women were war booty. 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?
Let’s read this most incredible medrish on what went down between Moishe and Pinchas upon his triumphant return to base camp. To chap it we must first read the actual exchange in the pisukim below. Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 31), azoy:
|9. The children of Israel took the Midianite women and their small children captive, and they plundered all their beasts, livestock, and all their possessions.||טוַיִּשְׁבּ֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־נְשֵׁ֥י מִדְיָ֖ן וְאֶת־טַפָּ֑ם וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־בְּהֶמְתָּ֧ם וְאֶת־כָּל־מִקְנֵהֶ֛ם וְאֶת־כָּל־חֵילָ֖ם בָּזָֽזוּ:|
|14. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had returned from the campaign of war.||ידוַיִּקְצֹ֣ף משֶׁ֔ה עַ֖ל פְּקוּדֵ֣י הֶחָ֑יִל שָׂרֵ֤י הָֽאֲלָפִים֙ וְשָׂרֵ֣י הַמֵּא֔וֹת הַבָּאִ֖ים מִצְּבָ֥א הַמִּלְחָמָֽה:|
|15. Moses said to them, “Did you allow all the females to live?||טווַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ם משֶׁ֑ה הַֽחִיִּיתֶ֖ם כָּל־נְקֵבָֽה:|
|16. They were the same ones who were involved with the children of Israel on Balaam’s advice to betray the Lord over the incident of Peor, resulting in a plague among the congregation of the Lord.||טזהֵ֣ן הֵ֜נָּה הָי֨וּ לִבְנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בִּדְבַ֣ר בִּלְעָ֔ם לִמְסָר־מַ֥עַל בַּֽיהֹוָ֖ה עַל־דְּבַ֣ר פְּע֑וֹר וַתְּהִ֥י הַמַּגֵּפָ֖ה בַּֽעֲדַ֥ת יְהֹוָֽה:|
|17. So now kill every male child, and every woman who can lie intimately with a man you shall kill.||יזוְעַתָּ֕ה הִרְג֥וּ כָל־זָכָ֖ר בַּטָּ֑ף וְכָל־אִשָּׁ֗ה יֹדַ֥עַת אִ֛ישׁ לְמִשְׁכַּ֥ב זָכָ֖ר הֲרֹֽגוּ:|
|18. And all the young girls who have no experience of intimate relations with a man, you may keep alive for yourselves.||יחוְכֹל֙ הַטַּ֣ף בַּנָּשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יָֽדְע֖וּ מִשְׁכַּ֣ב זָכָ֑ר הַֽחֲי֖וּ לָכֶֽם:|
Ok, let’s review. Moishe was not at all tzifridden (happy) that the officers gave the women “the very women” of Midian a pass since it was mamish the women who were instrumental in the downfall of the Yiddin in the Pe’or affair and the consequent plague. Ober, the question is azoy: how did Moishe know -in posik 16 above- that the “very women” whose lives were spared were the one’s whoring with the Yiddin? Were they marked with a scarlet letter? Were they observed during ‘a walk of shame’? Says the medrish so amazingly creative and colorful, azoy: the Yiddin could tell specifically which women were immoral and which did not participate. Ober, how is this possible? Nu, lest you think you were the first to wonder about this miracle, says the Abarbenel azoy: women’s innocence or guilt was determined by leading each and every one of them before the Koihen Godol whose wardrobe included the tzitz. The what? Let’s go back to Sefer Shmois (28:36) where the heylige Toirah gave very specific instructions on the dress code of the kohanim. Zicher you recall that the Koihen Godol (high priest) was to don a total of eight garments and one of them was the tzitz.
You shall make a tzitz (headplate) of pure gold, and you shall engrave upon it… “Holy to Hashem.” One more time: The golden Tzitz was a mysterious ornament worn on the high priest’s forehead. Says the heylige Gemora (Zevochim 88b) and the medrish (Vayikra Rabbah 10:60), azoy: the tzitz, positioned as it was on the koihen godol’s forehead, brought about information if the person was righteous and deserving of a divine pardon for the sin of impudence, known in Hebrew as azus panim, “hardness of the face,” or more commonly known as a wisenheimer. The tzitz recognized hardness? Hardness on the face? Says the heylige Zoihar azoy: the Koihen godol could observe whether the words inscribed on the tzitz, “Holy to Hashem,” were reflected on the face of the person standing before him. If so, that meant that the person was righteous and deserving of a share in the world to come. If not, the koihen godol knew that he was impudent, and the high priest would pray to the RBSO to have mercy on the wicked person and forgive him.
The bottom line: it was a magical ornament. That’s nice but how did it work in Midian following the war? Says the heylige Gemora (Yevomois 60b), azoy: in the aftermath of the war with the Midianites, the tzitz was used to determine which of the captive Midianite women had been involved in the sex-capade and were therefore to be executed. And it worked -according to some- azoy: all women were to pass before the tzitz. If a woman had sexual relations, her face would turn green; if she never engaged in relations with any man, her face underwent no change in color at all. Ober, says the Yalkut Shimoni that instead of green, those who had engaged in sexual relations turned a fiery red. The bottom line: based on what we read above, as the women were paraded before the tzitz, their faces turned either green or red as a sign of guilt and participation in the orgy. Red light, green light, 1,2,3 and Moishe wanted them dead. Did the tzitz also recognize their measurements, ver veyst? Another bottom line: the midbar, as we have discussed over and again, was magical, Disney-ish mamish. Is it so far-fetched to believe that the Midianite meydlich were paraded in front of the tzitz and that it was able to determine virginity? Ober, why are we discussing virginity if all the tzitz was to determine was whether or not they participated in the great Moabite and Midianite orgy? Let’s find out.
Shoin, let’s get back to the story of the whores. Moishe complains in posik 16 that the very women who were involved in the sex orgy, were given a pass. 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, those whose faces lit up and changed color, 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. Shoin: 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 Midian were involved in the plot to seduce the unsuspecting men, the war of revenge is described as being against Midian 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 Bilham 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 Moabites be killed, how would Dovid Hamelech ever have come to be? And how would the Moshiach, he a decedent mamish, ever be born? The bottom lines: the RBSO always has a plan; sometimes it takes years for us humanoids to see it. Also, sex is nisht giferlech, the RBSO understands and forgives. Ober when coupled with avoido-zoro -as the heylige Ois has told you for many years- it’s is mamish like speaking loshoin horo with one’s talis over his head, and is disgusting mamish.
Chazak, chazak, vnischazake!
A gitten Shabbis and Choidesh
The Oisvorfer Ruv