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

Mishpotim 2014 – All About Doctors

Mad doctorThis week’s parsha review is dedicated to the memory of the Oisvorfer’s father- Reb Yacov ben Reb Chaim Yitzchok Halevi whose 10th yurtzeit will be marked this coming Sunday. In his 87 years on this earth, he saw but one movie when he accompanied the Oisvorfer, at the tender age of six, to see Swiss Family Robinson which grada was on TV just last week. He spent nearly every available minute of his life learning the heylige Toirah and Gemora.

No mazel-tov shout-outs this week. Why? Because when it comes to making a wedding, of course it’s ok  during Sefira, the three weeks and even in July and August, all of which were no-nos not too many years back. Ober no one dares scheduling a Simcha during winter break. Of course not! It might interfere with their own scheduled vacation.  We will instead begin with a few shout-outs to fellow oisvorf readers around the globe. Ershtens, this past Monday evening, a dedicated reader over in Paraguay wrote azoy (quoted verbatim):

Dear Oisvurf Rebbe,

I thought that the Ruv might like to know that as my business has had me mainly based in Paraguay, I have had the opportunity to share the weekly Toirah with my fellow “Shul go-ers” down here. As it turns out, it’s just as entertaining when translated into Spanish, which is now done weekly and read to all who attend Friday night! 

I think I speak for all down here when I say “Gracias!”

Your Oisvurf Talmud,

Simcha K.

Response: the Oisvorfer is mamish shepping big nachas knowing that his weekly review is reaching way over to Paraguay ober notes that in one post you referred both to a Ruv and a Rebbe. Your assignment is to learn the difference.


Last Friday, close to shabbis mamish, email was received from Jeff Foster (what kind of Jewish name is that anyway) over in Houston Texas, who wrote azoy:

Rabbi, thank you as always for your inspirational and uplifting posts, always look forward to them!  We had a discussion in our shul (Ahavat Yisrael in Houston) on the following topic: the Torah tells us that when the Jews left the area called Rephidim to go to Sinai, “And they traveled (Vayisu) from Rephidim, and they encamped (Vayachanu) in the desert, and he encamped (Vayichan) over there, the Jewish people, opposite the mountain.” (Exodus 19:2) The Sages ask, why does the Torah change from the plural (And they) to the singular (And he)?

We can’t figure out or find the answer… If you get a chance, help us shed some light on this! A gittin Shabbos!


You asked a serious question, here then a serious response. Many years back when the Oisvorfer was still in high school, over in the Mirrer Yeshiva, his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shrage Moshe Kalmonovits, said as follows: The RBSO was not prepared to give His heylige Toirah to any individual. He would only give it to us as a people. As long as we stood by ourselves, a disjointed quarrelling people, we had no chance. Only by removing friction, infighting, animosity, sinas chinom and loshoin horo, did the Yiddin merit its receipt. When the Yiddin arrived at Har Senai, a miracle took place. They went from Va’yachnu to Vayichan, form plural to singular. There was sudden unity. By becoming unified as one- Vayichan- and speaking with one voice and one heart as does Rashi quote, a people of unity and peace, did the RBSO allow us the privilege of receiving His Toirah.

And say our Sages azoy: the singular term, Vayichan, is used to indicate unity. Of course you must be thinking- unity? There was a time in our history when the Yiddin had unity? Seemingly yes, albeit for a brief moment in time, and says the medrish azoy: whenever and wherever the Yiddin encamped during their 40 year midbar journey, there was friction and many internal arguments. There was but on exception: Upon their arrival to Har Sinai. And because of this once in a lifetime event, the RBSO said “since there has come a time that the Yiddin put their differences aside and want to live with peace, I will give them the Torah”.

Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:

All about Doctors

While many of you were, or are still, away on vacation, the Ruv is home hurriving (struggling) over this week’s parsha trying to select one or two, out of 50+ mitzvois given this week for further discussion.  Given that this is the fourth time we are covering parshas Mishpotim (see previous posts at www.oisvorfer.com) which we will read this coming shabbis, it’s a shtikel challenging. Nu, let’s try.


Earlier this week, while no one was looking, the Oisvorfer and one of his boys went to see 12 Years a Slave, a very sad but phenomenal movie, based nebech on a true story about slavery in the 1800’s. It so happens that slavery is the first topic discussed as the parsha opens and the first machshova (thought) was to write all about slavery ober the Ruv remains too emotionally distraught by what he saw. It’s zicher (surely) a far cry from the very detailed instructions the RBSO taught Moishe about the treatment of Jewish and even goyishe (gentile) slaves. One thing is zicher: abuse was not permitted. And taka, the heylige Gemora (Kiddushin beginning on 15a and for the  next 5 blatt (pages)) sets forth all the protections due to a Hebrew bondsman. At the end of the day, the Gemora (ibid) concludes with this thought “one who purchases a Jewish slave is purchasing a master for himself!” Even a “Canaanite slave”, the gentile slave of a Jew, enjoyed better conditions than other slaves throughout the world. He did not work on the heylige shabbis and had to be immediately released if he were bodily injured by his master. It’s hard to believe that slavery in any variety existed, but of course if the heylige Toirah tells us it did, who are we to argue. The good news: Jewish slavery was seemingly abolished by the good rabbis. Even harder to imagine is that one day when the Moshiach makes an appearance (presently he’s mistama hiding in Crown Heights), that we could go back to this? Ver veyst.


On Tuesday evening, the Oisvorfer was on a social call with Dr. Charles Traube, noted Cardiologist and chaver who thanked the Oisvorfer for including salient parsha statistics from time to time. Here we go. Parshas Mishpotim is sometimes called Sefer HaBris (“the Book of the Covenant”), since it contains over 11.5% (53 of 613) of all of the mitzvois (commandments) found in the entire heylige Toirah. As discussed, they include a wide range of civil, criminal, ritual, financial and family laws.  Some, if violated, carry the death penalty. These include premeditated murder, cursing one’s parents, kidnapping, practicing witchcraft, engaging in bestiality-say it’s not so please- and offering sacrifices to idols. The RBSO abhors idols. Of course not everyone agrees that the heylige Toirah really means the death penalty mamish; rather, according to various chazal (sages), the oft-quoted famous statements of  ayin-tachas-ayin, shein-tachas-shein (“eye for eye, tooth for tooth”) refer instead to the administration of equitable justice in redress of damages, and not corporal punishment (Buba kama 83b). In other words: go see your local doctor, then sue the farbrecher (bad guy) that hit you.


We are taught that Moishe taught these laws to the Yiddin the very same day they received the heylige Toirah. In the morning they were awed by the powerful presentation of the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments). They learned all the mitzvois that show love for the RBSO – Bain Adam L’Makom (between man and the RBSO). And as evening was setting in, it was time for night seder (class) where Moishe taught the Mishpotim (laws) meant to help the newly minted Chosen People get along and  love one another. Nu, that didn’t work out as planned; oh well, nothing is perfect.


From time to time the Oisvorfer reminds you just how benevolent the RBSO was and continues to be with his Chosen People, especially when it came to employment and professions and this week, there’s mamish a boatload of opportunities for Toirah entrepreneurs; learn the parsha and see how kimat (nearly) every mitzvah came with opportunity.


Kimat every parsha in the heylige Toirah has a sentence, at times but a few words, and sometimes but a single letter, that is the root cause of many a machloikes (disagreement) as to its true meaning. And this week, as Moishe teaches the Yiddin a good number of civil laws, mostly between man and man, it’s a total of but two words that gave rise to pages and pages of discussion from many sources. What are they? Soon we’ll learn, pay attention.


Shoin, just last week, we got married to the RBSO under the mountain and like young couples should, instead of living off the in-laws, the Yiddin were thinking about parnoso (making a living). Lucky for them, so was the RBSO who built into the Toirah mamish, though sometimes with an assist from the heylige Gemora and the Medrish, a guide to jobs, professions and business opportunities.  And taka how would so many Yiddin, fresh out of slavery, all make a parnoso? Nu, avada not all the Yiddin can live off one mitzvah and efsher taka, that’s why the RBSO gave the Yiddin 613 of them, ver veyst. Somewhere in all of those and their derivatives, there’s seemingly enough for everyone. And this week the RBSO, with five Hebrew words mamish and especially the last two (at the very end of a longer thought), gave birth to one of the better jobs and professions ever created for Yiddin. It also gave parents much nachas and bragging rights for many years.


This week, the RBSO ordered or allowed injured people and by extension also sick people, according to most, to seek medical attention and to be treated by caregivers. Shoin and just like that, hundreds of thousands of Jewish doctors later, here we are. And that’s the way it’s taka been until recently when that  minuvil president decided to tamper with the  heylige Toirah and make substantive changes, mistama not sanctioned or envisioned by the many commentators from Rashi, Rebbe Yishmoel, the heylige Gemora, Rambam, Ramban and so many others, to the health care system. Shoin, if you want more information how Obamacare affects your local doctor, feel free to contact the Oisvorfer’s neighbor and chaver  Dr. Barry Dorf, an excellent Gastroenterologist and Internist, who has single handily steered hundreds of aspiring teens away from medicine as a career.


What are those five words that gave birth to medical schools, students, doctors, interns, nurses, PAs, surgeons, medical billers, pharmacies, specialists and even chiropractors? And what are the two magical words that caused so much controversy? Nu, let’s learn the entire 2 pisukin innaveynign text) and then we’ll begin to chap.


Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois 21: 18-19) azoy: “And if men quarrel together, and one strikes another with a stone, or with his fist, and he’s bedridden from his injury but does not die, If he rises again, and walks out with the help of a cane, then the one who struck him will be acquitted; The ‘hitter’ will only have to pay for the lost time of the injured, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed”.  In Hebrew the last two words read-  v’rapoi yerapay (And will surely heal or more literally. ‘heal will heal’). We must remember these two words because of course the heylige Toirah, unlike your eishes chayil,  doesn’t repeat words unless they are absolutely necessary and the fact that they appear as written, must mean something, ober what?


And therein lies the machloikes -a shtikel controversy, what else is new, about the real meaning of the words. Avada if you went to yeshiva, you should recall learning that the perpetrator (the fellow who struck his buddy), will be responsible for paying his damages along with a few other bills including the victim’s pain, suffering and even embarrassment ober that for another day. In fact, the aggressor must seemingly make two forms of restitution. The injured party is entitled to be reimbursed for his lost wages and also for all medical expenses.Today we will stay focused on these two words and what we learn from them.


Says the heylige Gemora (Buba Kamma 85a) azoy: from here (these two words), we derive that a doctor is permitted to treat and heal the sick. And adds the Gemora:  and we do not say that since the RBSO afflicted the person, it is forbidden to cure him. Taka good news!  Shoin, case closed. And the big news? Though we are taught to of course always rely on the RBSO for good health, we may use a doctor’s services anyway. Of course, we must have proper insurance and meet the co-pay, preferably in cash.  Seemingly, the doctor is closer and at times, easier to get an appointment with.  Moreover, once you have an appointment with the RBSO, likely, it’s too late. Is it mamish case closed? Seemingly not and says the Mishnah (Kiddushin 82a) that the best doctors will be punished in Gehenim (Hell). And how do we reconcile these two statements? Ver veyst, efsher we’ll find an answer as we go along. Halt kup!


So what’s the big deal? Isn’t it only logical that the aggressor pay his victim for damages and for the victim to seek medical attention? Seemingly not! And while all this banter about going to a doctor may sound elementary to the average reader, the heylige Gemora and others hotly debated this topic. In the end the heylige Gemora and a few others rely on the double language, of virapoi-yirapay, davka (specifically) the repetition of them, to conclude that the victim be reimbursed for his medical expenses.


And herein lies yet another opportunity. Halt kup here to see mamish how the RBSO thought of others who couldn’t pass the MCATs. Since the case at bar seems to involve a tort whereby one fellow beat up on another, and since restitution was involved, there was suddenly a need for lawyers to sue for the money, MRI centers for evidence, physical therapist to treat the injured, judges to hear the cases and accept the requisite bribes to rule in favor of their lawyer friends, ambulance chasers to chap and control the cases, debt collectors and so many others to run the entire apparatus that these few words called for. Moreover, not just did the RBSO give the nod to doctors, but also found in this weeks parsha is the call for specialists. The heylige Toirah tells us about broken teeth, knocked out eyes and broken legs and the Ruv asks avada rhetorically: would you go to a generalist to treat a broken leg? Zicher not and shoin!


Said Rebbe Yishmoel: From this verse we see that permission is granted to a doctor to heal. Says the heylige Gemora:  “nitna reshus laroifeh lerapos” (The Toirah grants permission to a doctor to heal)Efsher you’re scratching your head and wondering azoy: what’s the big news here? Do we really need two Toirah words to tell us that we can seek medical attention? Isn’t this poshit (plainly understood) that when one is sick, he seeks medical attention? Seemingly not and believe it or not some suggest that one may only seek medical attention when he has been injured by fellow man or in an accident, ober in a case where the affliction, the illness or disease is from above, from the RBSO, in that case, he may not seek medical attention. In other words: it’s efsher the case that a spontaneous illness is an expression of the RBSO’s will to punish the person; He wishes the person to be stricken with this illness, mistama for bad behavior, if you chap. Accordingly, it should be up to the RBSO as to when the person heals and by a doctor prescribing medication or other elixirs, he might be considered tampering with the RBSO’s will. Zicher no good can come from tampering and usurping the RBSO’s role as chief healer. Do some really suggests this to be the case, is that emes? Yes!


Says the Ibn Ezra azoy: not so fast! The permission the heylige Toirah granted physicians to heal is limited to external blows and injuriescaused by humans. And as proof, he quotes the two pisukim we quoted above which tell us that “If a man strikes his fellow with a rock or with his fist…he shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.” In other words: external injuries caused by fellow man. Ober, internal maladies on the other hand, come upon a person at the RBSO’s behest. Therefore, the physician is not permitted to heal these maladies. It is the RBSO’s exclusive prerogative to heal them, as is written, “For He makes sore and He binds up.’


And guess what? The Ibn Ezra is not alone and said Rabbenu Bachya azoy:a mortal physician should not heal an internal illness. Its cure comes only at the hand of the RBSO, the Healer of all flesh, and in whose hand lies the soul of every living being.


Ober said Toisfes, it’s not emes and that the heylige Toirah sanctioned healing of both external injuries and internal diseases. And his proof? The same two words of v’rapoi yirapay. The doubling of the words, is meant to include both sets of ailments. Had the word “heal” appeared only once, one might have argued that permission had only been given for healing external wounds inflicted by human beings and not for internal diseases. In the latter case, the physician might have appeared to be violating the RBSO’s will. To preclude this interpretation, the Toirah repeats the word “heal”. This assures us that a physician is also sanctioned to heal a blow inflicted by divine, rather than human, agency and that the RBSO gives him the capacity to heal.’


Ober commenting on the heylige Gemora (Buba Kamma 85a) says Rashi,  himself  a very noted physician, azoy: We might assume that a spontaneous illness is an expression of the RBSO’s will and therefore should not be treated by a doctor. Ober says the Gemora that we are not to make this argument. Says Rashi: what the Gemora  is telling us is that we are not to assume that we should leave to the RBSO the recovery of a person who is ailing. Instead, it is appropriate to provide medical treatment. Shoin, when it comes to business, avada we can find a heter for a doctor to treat (Rashi does not say that last part). And how does Rashi know this or assume this? From the same two words. Gishmak.


Says the Ramban (VaYikra 26:11): Toirah law does not contradict or ignore the laws of nature and we are to care for our health properly and medical treatment is appropriate when we are ill.

And says the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (code of Jewish Law):  we need to be treated by a doctor for two reasons. Ershtens (firstly), it is prohibited to not seek this treatment. Why? Because there is a well-known principle that we are not permitted to rely on miracles. A person who does not seek medical treatment violates this principle.

Moreover, since we know and accept that the RBSO will care for those who are righteous and mamish performs miracles for those good people, few as they are, people who rely on the RBSO to heal them and don’t see a doctor, are making the implicit assumption that they are righteous and deserving of a miracle. For most people, especially oisvorfs like yourselves, assuming that you are deserving of a miracle by way of the RBSO’s intervention, is the height of chutzpah. And given that we are to conduct ourselves with humility as all the good Mussir seforim teach us, we must see a doctor when not well.  Humility demands that we do not regard ourselves as Tzadikim ( righteous people)  deserving of a miracle from the RBSO.

And to  ensure that doctors received just compensation for their services, along came Targum Unkelos, a translator of the heylige Toirah’s words  into some language that few can understand and said azoy:  the words “and he shall provide for his cure”  mean  that  “he shall pay the physician’s fee.” Shoin!


Moreover, the heylige Gemora records  many remedies to internal diseases. Even if (today) the prescriptions are not followed, nor trusted, as does say the Rambam, himself a noted physician, one would assume that the Gemora, back then,  intended for them to be used. Moreover, the heylige Gemora is replete with stories about healing and not just by ordinary schmoes but by Tannaim and Amoraim doing the healing.


Lemoshol (by way of example only):  says the heylige Gemorah (Buba Metzia 85b) azoy: Samuel Yarhina’ah (the Babylonian Amoira Shmuel) was Rebbe’s physician. Now, Rebbe having contracted an eye disease, Shmuel offered to bathe it with a lotion, but he said, ‘I cannot bear it.’ ‘Then I will apply an ointment to it,’ he said. ‘This too I cannot bear,’ he objected. So he placed a phial of chemicals under his pillow, and he was healed. Rebbe was most anxious to ordain him, but the opportunity was lacking. And the lesson? Though the eye disease was seemingly an internal issue, the Tanna went to a physician, which, some suggest might be prohibited. Miraculously, the Amoira actually healed him. Bazman hazeh (in our times), one with an eye disease should immediately make his way over to the Five Towns where he can see experts mamish like Dr. Rubin Brecher, Dr. Yonah Hamlet and Dr. Jeffrey Frieling, all Oisvorf followers. And if you happen to live in Baltimore and have dry eye disease or suffer from color blindness, make sure to see Dr. Thomas Azman, a well renowned specialist in that area and the shver of the Oisvorfer’s niece.

We close with the words of Rebbe Yehudah HaChossid who said: The individual who is afraid to learn and engage in medicine lest a patient die at his hand, is likened to one who kills the patient. This is so because he could have learned to heal, but refrained.

A gittin Shabbos

The Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman

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