Is it possible that the Oisvorfer forgot to wish a mazel tov to his good chaverim Judith and Shlomo Gottesman on the engagement a few weeks back of their beautiful daughter Aliza to Yitzy Fuld? Seemingly it is and this week, the Oisvorfer begins with belated wishes of mazel tov to the Gottesmans, Rabbi and Rebbitzen Gottesman and avada to Mrs. Blanche Lerer, all proud grandparents of Aliza. All have a special place in the Oisvorfer’s heart. A big mazel tov to Yitzy’s parents Chaya and Yoel who threw a givaldige bbq in honor of the occasion and to Rabbi and Rebbitzen Fuld, very proud grandparents who happen to be very dedicated readers of the Oisvorfer’s weekly missives. We look very much forward to participating in this simcha and to others that will hopefully follow bekoroiv mamish.
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
Shoin: It’s July 4th weekend and the heylige Oisvorfer finds himself, along with the choshova eishes chayil, spending a few days with Avigayil and Moshe Azman, one of his favorite nieces and her givaldige husband, in Baltimore, MD. This coming heylige shabbis, many will find yourselves in various places of tumah including hotels, motels, casinos, beach resorts and other places where you will nebech forget to, or, chas v’sholom even worse, intentionally decide not to attend shul. Efsher you’ll rationalize your absence by suggesting that the Shul is epes too far from your resort or efsher you will have forgotten to pack hoizen. Efsher you’ll blame it on the electronic key needed to get into rooms, the pool and efsher even the elevator; oy. Avada you wouldn’t think of being michalal shabbis, heaven forbid. Not to worry: the three weeks have begun, tisha be’av looms and Yom Kippur is just around the corner: the tshuva season is mamish approaching. Let’s begin with a short overview of Parshas Matos and Massei – a summer double header- in one short paragraph (one for each parsha that is), here we go.
Nu, where are the Yiddin this week? It’s year 40 and yes, they’re still in the midbar. This week, we say goodbye to Sefer Bamidbar which describes the travels, travails and the foibles of the Yiddin while valgering in the midbar over the forty-year period that began with their miraculous exodus from Mitzrayim. As we complete parshas Massei and Sefer Bamidbar, the Yiddin, a new generation of them, are mamish poised to enter the Promised Land.
In parshas Matois, Moishe teaches the Yiddin a series of rules and restrictions governing oaths and vows with some emphasis on the role of a husband or father in either upholding or annulling them. Last week the Yiddin were told to prepare for war against the Midianites, this week war is declared. More on the war effort below. With the RBSO on their side, avada they prevail, killing all the males, the five Midianite kings, and Bilam. Is Moishe happy? Not! Once again, the Yiddin did not listen to orders, do they ever? Instead of also killing all the women, as instructed, they flashed back to Parshas Bolok and efsher recalled that the Midianite veyber has special talents, if you chap, and brought them home as part of their booty. More on them below as well. They didn’t however forget to take the spoils which are counted and doled out. Amazingly, not one soldier died along the way proving once again that if one is to be drafted, it’s good to belong to the RBSO’s army. After 40 years of waiting to cross the Jordan and enter the land, the very land that the Yiddin have been hearing about since pre-redemption, two shevotim, eventually two and ½ have a change of heart and want to stay put. Suggesting that their animals will fare better, they request their portion of land be given outside the Land. Shoin! Moishe is not happy, at least not initially, at their disloyalty. After some deal making, Moishe grants their request. The end!
Welcome to Parshas Massei where the heylige Toirah names: all forty-two encampments during their forty year journey from their initial redemption to the crossing of the Jordan River into the Land are delineated. The RBSO commands the Yiddin to drive out the Canaanim and to demolish all vestiges of their idolatry. The Yiddin are warned not to fail in this mission: those Cannanites who remain ‘will be pins in their eyes and thorns in their sides.’ Ouch! The boundaries of the land are defined, and the shivotim are commanded to set aside forty-eight cities for the Leviim. Cities of refuge are to be established: murderers also need a place to live in peace and quiet and a person that commits murder bi’shoigeg (unintentionally) may flee there. The daughters of Tzelofchad make yet another appearance, their last. In a special ruling, they need to marry members of their own tribe so that their inheritance, which they argued for and won, will stay in their own tribe. Chazak, Chazak! And now a few interesting topics.
Though Moishe Rabaynu is a ripe 120 years old and seemingly at times forgetful, efsher the first person ever to show signs of Alzheimer’s, and though the RBSO had told him that his end is imminent, he has one more job to do: the RBSO tells him to wage war.
Last week: zicher you recall that the RBSO was still quite upset over the role the Midianites, especially the hot shiksas, played in seducing 24,000 Yiddin into sexual immorality plus avoido zoro- a dangerous combo. He was also angry with the Midianite men for plotting the successful caper – a formula that has seemingly had success ad hayoim hazeh- and avada you know by now that the RBSO doesn’t easily forgive and forget, especially when it comes to avoido zoro. In fact, this story is now covered in three successive parshas and has gotten as much play as did Avrohom and Yitzchok, who are also mentioned in three parshas each. And this week, He orders Moishe to wage war against the entire nation. The war is on! And, as mentioned above, when the RBSO declares war, it’s mamish a foregone conclusion as to who the victor will be.
“Avenge the Children of Israel of the Midianites. Afterwards, you will be gathered unto your people.” (31:2) and like a good and trusted servant Moishe spoke to the People, saying “Arm men from among you for the army.” You hear this? Is this motivation or what? Go to war, win, come home and die.
And if you think Moishe wasn’t motivated, you would be thinking logically; after all who wants to perform the last task knowing that he’s dropping dead immediately thereafter? Ober you’d be dead wrong since Rashi tells us that though the RBSO told Moishe that this mitzvah would be his last, he proceeded to fulfill it without delay, and with joy. And how does Rashi know this? Because as you have been told many times: Rashi knew everything and what he didn’t, he made up. Shoin and veyter. And even if he did, who are we, especially you, to argue with Rashi’s conclusions? Rashi deduces this from the fact that in the possik (verse) immediately following the RBSO’s instructions, Moishe called the nation to arms to do battle against Midian. Gishmak.
Some of you may be wondering why we went to war with Midian? Did they bother us? Were they in the way? Did they have weapons of mass destruction? And did you know and zicher you didn’t, that this particular war is referred to in two ways: 1-a war of revenge for the Yiddin and 2- a war of revenge for the RBSO. What’s taka p’shat?
Says the heylige medrish: both the Yiddin and the RBSO had bad feelings towards the Midianites. Avada you recall that the Midianites were guilty on two counts: count #1- 24,000 Yiddin died following sex games with the hookers until Pinchas who speared a couple, spared others from a certain death. They were also guilty on count #2: the RBSO was also quite upset because it was the lowlife Midianites who epes incited the Yiddin while they were in heat, not desert heat, if you chap, to worship the idol of Baal Peor. And as you heard just last week, that combination is abhorrent to the RBSO and with those charges, it’s easy to chap why the war is called a war of revenge.
Mistama (likely) just about now, you’re scratching your heads and thinking….hey…wait a minute, what gives here? Why are the Yiddin warring against the Midianites? Didn’t we learn just last week and this you zicher didn’t forget, that it was the Moabitie meydlich who were busy seducing the Yiddin into avoido zoro and sex acts? What’s p’shat, did we get the wrong ones?
Let’s review: The women of Moiav participated in the affair, but it was the Midianite women who were the source and energizing factor behind it all. Balak the minuvil was a Midianite who ruled over Moiav. Their plot included the seduction of Jewish lay, if you chap, leadership including Moishe Rabaynu, say it’s not so. Oy vey!
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? This is because the Moabites were not so giferlich after all and mistama they threw a good party. Says the medrish: these women (of Moiov), were driven by their sexual lust only, whereas those of Midian were zealous for the avoido zoro (idolatry) as well. Chap that? In other words: sex alone is nisht giferlech ober sex coupled with avoido zoro is mamish like texting while also driving and is strictly verboten. Veyter.
As mentioned above, Moishe was not at all tzifriddin (pleased) with the war’s results. Seemingly the Yiddin remembered to kill all the males including their leadership and kings, ober they forgot, seemingly on purpose, to kill the women. Efsher they went suddenly soft and thought that these women could solve other issues, if you chap. They also spared all the children. Their thinking? Seemingly the troops and their general (Pinchas) made a cheshboin (reasoned) 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, if you chap. And they also figured that the young males would make good slaves. Ober Moishe was not a happy camper and 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 cause mamish of the immorality and the idolatry of the hapless Yiddin. Shoin! Moishe gives new instructions: they are to go back and kill all the males as well as the women who had had sexual relations. And how were they to know who did and didn’t? Say the Medrish azoy: the women were passed by the Tzitz (a golden plate worn on the forehead of the koihen godol). How the Tzitz knew which women had sexual relations, we’ll discuss in a minute; avada you won’t want to miss this reading. Ober the poshit (plain) reading of the text indicates that the women to be saved were simply determined by referring to their age and physical development: As you can imagine, this job had many applicants.
Says the heylige Gemora: 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.” In other words: 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. .Avada, this is no excuse for any of you chazerrim to get involved with younger meydlich claiming an age exemption. And what is that age? Says the Gemora: three years old and a one day.
Back to the war for a moment and listen to this moiradike (more than amazing) medrish which will have you running to your local seforim store, sale or no sale, to buy the entire set of Medroshim. Says the Medrish on this incident that Bilam, in an effort to escape the wrath of the Yiddin flew up in the air, superman style, and (in certain variants) that Pinchas also flew and brought him down to earth. Black magic? Nissim? Ver veyst.
Long before Harry Potter and the myriad flying objects that are the hallmark of the books and movies, we find a fascinating Medrish. Ober to chap it, we have to learn this special possik. Ready? Here we go. First the possik, then the medrish as quoted by the heylige Rashi, who else?
| 6. Moishe sent them one thousand from each tribe to the army, them along with Pinchas the son of Elozor the koihain to the army, with the sacred utensils and the trumpets for sounding in his possession.
ו. וַיִּשְׁלַח אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה אֶלֶף לַמַּטֶּה לַצָּבָא
אֹתָם וְאֶת פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן לַצָּבָא וּכְלֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ וַחֲצֹצְרוֹת הַתְּרוּעָה בְּיָדוֹ:
Moishe sent not just the soldiers but also sacred utensils and the shoifar Avada we can chap the role of the shoifar but holy utensils?
In yet another version of the flying Bilam story, Targum Yoinoson tells us that not just was Bilam flying but, Pinchas as well. How was he able to fly? By utilizing a Divine Name; let’s learn two more pisukim, we’re flying with Toirah.
ז וַיִּצְבְּאוּ, עַל-מִדְיָן, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה, אֶת-מֹשֶׁה; וַיַּהַרְגוּ, כָּל-זָכָר.
|7 And they warred against Midian, as the RBSO commanded Moishe; and they slew every male.|
ח וְאֶת-מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן הָרְגוּ עַל-חַלְלֵיהֶם, אֶת-אֱוִי וְאֶת-רֶקֶם וְאֶת-צוּר וְאֶת-חוּר וְאֶת-רֶבַע–חֲמֵשֶׁת, מַלְכֵי מִדְיָן; וְאֵת בִּלְעָם בֶּן-בְּעוֹר, הָרְגוּ בֶּחָרֶב.
|8 And they slew the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.|
Says Targum Yonoson (loosely translated because the Oisvorfer cannot make out every single word) azoy: And the kings of the Midianites they killed on their camps – Evi, Rekem, Tzur – he is Balak, Chur, and Reva, the five kings of Midian. And Bilam son of Beor they slew with a sword.
And it was, when Bilam the guilty saw Pinchas the priest running after him, he performed a magical feat and flew in the air in the sky. Immediately, Pinchas pronounced the Great and Holy Name and flew after him, and grabbed him by the head and brought him down(1) and was about to slay him. He (Bilam) opened his mouth with words of supplication and said to Pinchas: If you let me live, I swear to you that as long as I live I will not curse your nation.
Pinchas responded: Are you not Lavan the Aramean who wished to destroy our forefather Yankiff? And you descended to Mitzrayim (Egypt) to destroy the descendants. And after they left Egypt you incited against them (the Yiddin with the wicked Amolake. And then you hired yourself out so curse them. And when you saw that your actions did not help and that the RBSO did not accept your words, you counseled an evil counsel to Bolok to place his daughter at the crossroads to lead them astray, and because of this 24,000 of them died. Because of this, it is not possible anymore to spare your life- you’re done, over and kaput! And immediately, he drew his sword from its sheath and slew him.
Was Bilam efsher the inspiration for the original Superman? Did this really happen or is the Medrish out to make a point. Ver veyst? Avada now you want to hear more about the magic tzitz- here goes.
The magic tzitz did even more: Said Rav Chana bar Bizna in the name of Rabbi Shimon the Pious: The Midianite women were passed before the tzitz. Any woman whose face turned sickly was determined to be fit for cohabitation; any woman whose face did not turn sickly was determined to be too young for cohabitation. Said Rav Nachman: A symptom of sin, is hydrokan (a bloating of the stomach). Rashi states that this was a miracle, no kidding. The heylige Toirah is great!
Nu, let’s take a quick peek into Massei.. Long before people starting talking in code so that not all would understand what was being said, it appears that they heylige Toirah was the first to introduce code words which seemingly meant not what they said but mamish something entirely different. And Parshas Massei, which offers a shtikel chazoro, or more accurately stated, an exhaustive list of the Yiddin’s 40 year travel itinerary, is mamish exhibit number one. Says the Merdrish azoy: there is no historical basis upon which to substantiate the existence of these places (all the stops and encampments listed in the parsha); rather, the names of the places are veiled allusions to all of the transgressions perpetrated by the Yiddin while there. Judging by the major scandals we have been reading about throughout Sefer Bamidbar, one might be left to wonder how 42 places were enough to adequately cover their many foibles. And says Rashi : the place listed as Chatzerois refers not to a place by that name and instead is a veiled reference to the insurrection of Koirach and his followers. Ober asks the heylige Maharal: why would the heylige Toirah refer to the story of Koirach as “Chatzeiros” when the events actually occurred in Poron? Taka an excellent kasha Moreover, Moishe also mentions Poron in the same posik. Did the Koirach rebellion take place in chatzerois as started or in Poron? And like many who pose questions, the Maharal also suggest an answer: seemingly the place called Poron was already being used to reference yet another transgression by the Yiddin and when it comes to transgressions and veiled allusions to the terrible and shameful behavior of the Yiddin, it’s one name only per transgression. Accordingly, since Poron was already reserved to refer to the meraglim debacle, the cause of the entire Midbar stay, Moishe used Chatzerois to refer to the Koirach caper. Moreover, Poron was close enough to Chatzerois. Gishmak mamish!
Efsher you’re wondering why the heylige Toirah, where every word counts and means something, would in Parshas Massei, be so verbose and devote 49 pisukim to list 42 different places, each one delineated by name in the parsha. You are? Nu, guess what? So were Chazal (our Sages). Ober (however), as the heylige Oisvorfer has told you many times; it’s none of your business. If the RBSO saw fit to list them, mistama there’s a good answer, in fact several. Your job is to learn the Toirah and be amazed that ours is the only religion, that doesn’t seek to cover up these embarrassing moments and scandals. We only cover up stories that involve misuse of the Rebbe’s shtekin, if you chap, on unsuspecting talmidim who are then scarred for life.
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 Gemora (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 Gemora: 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 gevaldige 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 Gemora 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 Gemora 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, Gemora 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 Gemora 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 Gemora 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 Toirah 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 Toirah, mostly for their own personal agendas. Nu, when it comes to land and money, it’s tribal and members are quite protective. 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
The Oisvorfer Ruv