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

Noiach 2022 – Nimrod: A Decent, or a Very Bad Man?

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

We begin with big mazel tov wishes to our good friends Elliot (excellent oral surgeon) and Gail Ostro upon the birth of a grandson born to their children Ariel and Jason Sugarman. Mazel tov to the very excited parents, to the machatunim, Suri and Bob Sugarman and of course to older brother, Abie. May the new arrival bring his parents, grandparents, and the entire extended family, only joy and nachas. Sadly, the Ois will not be in attendance at the bris on Tuesday as he will be out of the country but will be represented by the eishes chayil.  

Nimrod: A Decent, or a Very Bad Man?

Welcome to Parshas Noiach where the forecast -at least here in the holy Five Towns- calls for sun; what’s pshat? Doesn’t it always rain on Parshas Noiach? Veyter.

From time to time the heylige Toirah will introduce us to a person by name, provide some basic information about the character, only to see that person -shortly thereafter- disappear from the script and stage; never to be heard from again. Such a person we will meet in this week’s parsha.  We shall read how the heylige Toirah introduced him, what a few exegetes had to say about him based on the words of the heylige Toirah, to be followed by a barrage of bad press he got from other commentators who painted him with quite the ugly brush. The bottom line: when the heylige Gemora and or medrish did not like someone- for whatever reason, real or even imagined- they went out of their way to badmouth, discredit, and totally destroy that person. Nimroid, whom we will officially meet just below is one of those people. Once lambasted by the medrish, he never got back the reputation the RBSO seemingly bestowed upon him Let’s read; you decide.

Welcome to Parshas Noiach most well-known for the great flood that destroyed humanity save Noiach, his family and the various birds, and animals -kosher and not- he was ordered to invite onto his teyvo (ark). Towards the end of the parsha -at the sixth aliya- and just after Noiach died at the age of 950, the heylige Toirah delineates Noiach’s progeny by name. His sons and grandsons are listed.  When all was said and done, Noiach’s sons would father a new generation of people. Medrish will teach us that at least some of his great grandchildren would go on to be co-conspirators in the Migdal Bovel (Tower of Babel) construction project. They were among the chevra -so we are taught- who joined this fellow named Nimroid -himself a descendant, a great grandson- who seemingly led, supervised and participated in the construction of the Tower. Does the heylige Toirah attach his name to the project? Not!

Nu, mistama you thought you’d be reading about the ugly incident which took place while Noiach -post mabul- was asleep in a drunken state and how Rashi told us that Noiach was either sodomized or castrated -or both- by his own grandson while his son Cham was there watching. Say it’s not so but so does Rashi -mamish- and others tell us. Having previously covered Noiach -so to speak- and this very disturbing incident in prior postings, we shall skip over the subject and concentrate on a fellow not known for his sexual promiscuity but instead as a mighty warrior and more. Es farsheytzich (it’s readily understood) that his talents on the field transferred over to his personal life, if you chap. As well, we shall skip over the prediluvian facts on ground which compelled the RBSO to declare that the world was full of “chomos,” robbery, thievery, lawlessness sexual immorality, and much more. Want to read those details? Check out the archives for the very explosive reviews on this parsha: www.Oisvorfer.com.  This year -year 13 of weekly and uninterrupted parsha posts -I know I remind you weekly- we shall take a look at Nimroid (Nimrod for the goyim; we will use the names interchangeably) who is mentioned by name mamish in our parsha. in fact, he   gets two consecutive Toirah shoutouts and then disappears -never to be heard from again, or read about in the entire heylige Toirah. For the record, he does appear once in Divrey Hayomim (Chronicles) and also makes an appearance in Micha.

Let us begin by reading carefully the words of the heylige Toirah as we are introduced to him. Let us also take a look at how Rashi, the heylige Gemora and so many others decided that the RBSO’s description was not for them. Seemingly they were not content with the words used by the RBSO!? What to do? They -Rashi and others- took the RBSO’s own words and turned Nimroid into one of the greatest villains in the entire heylige Toirah? Ober, was Nimroid deserving of such bad press? Was he guilty as charged in the medrish and Gemora?  Let us read all about him before we take sides. In our parsha and as mentioned, Nimroid garners two name shoutouts in two consecutive pisukim. Not too shabby; other Toirah personalities will come and go, and remain nameless forever. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 10:8-9), azoy:

ח וְכוּשׁ, יָלַד אֶת-נִמְרֹד; הוּא הֵחֵל, לִהְיוֹת גִּבֹּר בָּאָרֶץ. 8 And Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
ט הוּא-הָיָה גִבֹּר-צַיִד, לִפְנֵי ה; עַל-כֵּן, יֵאָמַר, כְּנִמְרֹד גִּבּוֹר צַיִד, לִפְנֵי ה. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; wherefore it is said: ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.’

What do we know so far? Cush -Noiach’s grandson- fathered Nimrod. We assume he had a mother but she -like most women in that time- remained nameless. In fact, Nimroid is seemingly the only great-grandson shouted out and by name in the parsha. Impressive! Following Nimroid’s second name shoutout, he disappears from the script but not from the attention of Rashi and oh, so many others. We also know that he was the first man of might on earth. He was a mighty hunter before G-d; hence the saying `Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ This description is from the heylige Toirah mamish and what can be more accurate, descriptive and emes mamish? Nothing! Or, so one would/should believe.

The Chizkuni agrees and says this: הוא החל להיות גבור  “he began to be outstanding amongst the people who had survived the deluge.” Adds the Ibn Ezra: Do not attempt to ascertain the meaning of any names encountered in the Toirah if Scripture itself does not explain them. In other words: let us go with the words the Toirah used and not dig further for schmutz. The Toirah says not one negative word about him. He also says this: Nimrod was the first to display man’s power over the wild beasts for he was a mighty hunter.

So far so good and let’s also check out the Radak wo says this: Nimroid was accorded prominence, i.e. separate mention, seeing that he developed into such an historic personality. הוא החל להיות גבור בארץ, this does not mean that there had not been warriors, brave heroes, before his time. Clearly, amongst the antediluvian giants, נפילים, there had been such men. Besides, the expression החל is never used to describe that some phenomenon occurred for the first time. The word החל describes an act that was performed for the first time, not the existence of something or someone for the first time. Nimrod displayed his power and bravery either vis a vis one nation, or even vis a vis numerous nations by conquering them and being appointed or appointing himself as their ruler, their king. Until the time of Nimrod no one had possessed the effrontery to lord it wholesale over his fellow man. Nimrod invented the concept of “dictator.” These developments were a by-product of mankind having dispersed over different areas of the globe after the collapse of their attempt to “conquer” heaven.

And says the Ibn Ezra, the meaning of before the Lord (posik 9) is that Nimrod built altars and offered the animals he hunted as whole offerings to G-d. the bottom line: it does appear that Nimroid was a man dedicated to the RBSO. This is the literal meaning of the verse. So far so good; his reviews are more than decent. Ober, in the medrish, the interpretations of these same words is totally different. And why is that? We shall get to these midrashic interpretations just below.

Settle in because what you’re about to read is mamish the complete opposite of what the heylige Toirah seemingly told us. And the questions include these: What was wrong with the way the heylige Toirah described Nimroid? Why question the RBSO’s words? Why paint him differently? Why vilify a man the Toirah described as being of might and more?  A number of sages pictured him as a savage warrior, an evil king, the instigator of the Tower of Bovel,   and more. And yet, the heylige Toirah mentions him in just a few rather ambiguous lines! What’s pshat? What caused certain sages to declare war -in Kanye West Def Con 3 style- and state with certitude that Nimroid was a bad actor? Shoin, let’s see what they said and perhaps try chapping why.

Says the heylige Gemora (Chullin 89A), azoy:  “The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel, ‘I desire you because even at the time that I give you greatness, you humble yourselves; I gave greatness to Avrohom, and he said before me, ‘I am dust and ashes’; to Moishe and Aharoin, they said, ‘what are we’? to David, he said, ‘I am a worm and not a man’ But the idol worshippers are not like this. I gave greatness to Nimroid, he said, ‘let us build a city…” The purpose of this building – the Gemora want us to chap, was to ‘fight’ with the RBSO for the control of the world. And the heylige Gemora (Chagiga 13A) stresses Nimroid’s attitude towards the RBSO. It says that the name, Nimrod, derives from the word, mered, which means rebellion. This is to teach us that Nimrod sought to cause the world to rebel against the RBSO. The Gemora connects Nimroid with another mighty leader, Nebuchadnezzar, describing the latter as Nimrod’s descendant.  But were they even related by blood? Not to worry because explains the Maharsha azoy: they were not necessarily related genetically but that both had the same attitude in that they tried to ‘compete’ with the Almighty. Says the medrish (Midrash HaGadol, Bereishis, 11:26) that Nimroid set himself up as a deity and designated a place for his worship.)

The bottom line: according to the Gemora, Nimroid was granted exceedingly great power from the RBSO, but instead of humbling himself he allowed himself to become arrogant and thereby reject the concept of One G-d that Avrohom taught the world.

As mentioned, many a medrish portray Nimroid as one of the most frightening and insidious Toirah characters. One medrish -not yet written- may one day suggest that Nimroid was behind Covid-19, and also caused the stock market crash of 1929. In the shortlist of giferlich acts attributed to him are these: he initiated and organized the Tower of Bovel project with the aim of fighting none other than the RBSO Himself! It was he who sought to dispose of our zeyda and first monotheist, Avrohom Ovenu, by throwing him into the flames of an enormous furnace. Do you not recall learning that myseh (story) in yeshiva? Not? You are mamish a bum! In later history, Nimrod’s heir is the other `hunter’ -Eisav -whom we will meet again in a few weeks (Bereishis 25:28). As an aside, according to the Medrish, it was Eisav who stalked and killed Nimrod, stripping him of his magical hunting camouflage clothing which Yaakov then used to fool his father. Magic clothing? What’s that you ask? Shoin, let quickly address the special garment Nimroid wore while hunting. Says the medrish azoy: One of the major changes that took place post mabul was that the RBSO permitted man to eat meat. Women too, if you chap. Previously, all mankind was vegetarian. The first person to make use of this permission was Nimrod who became a known, well respected, and admired hunter. The fame of his prowess spread far and wide. It was said that he never missed his target. The key to his success, however, had nothing to do with a sharp eye or a steady hand. Nimrod possessed a secret that made his success unassailable. What was it? When Noiach left the teyvo, one of the heirlooms he brought out with him were the garments that the RBSO had fashioned for Odom and Chava. Of course, you recall that Odom and Chava were prancing around Gan Eden mamish naked. Ober, prior to the original sin, they themselves were un-aware of their own nakedness. Let’s not ask too many questions; just follow the medrish which continues azoy: Chom, the second of Noiach’s three sons, stole those garments. Chom bequeathed them in secrecy to his son Cush. Cush, in turn, passed them on to his favorite son, Nimrod. It was these garments that gave Nimrod the power to slay any animal of his choosing. Whenever Nimrod wore the Odom’s garments, Nimrod’s targeted prey would fall to the ground when he merely drew his bow back. Does clothing make the man? Seemingly yes! Ober, efsher you’re klerring azoy: What is the connection between Odom’s clothes and the ability of Nimroid to subdue animals? Not to worry; medrish is all over this like a cheap suit.  When the RBSO created the animals, He brought them before Odom and asked him to give each one a name. Odom was able to look into the essence of each animal and give it its proper name. And? We were also taught that a Hebrew name defines the essence of a person; the same for animals. A name is not conventional, it is essential. The name is the clothing of the essence. The name is the connection to the spiritual root in the upper worlds. And? When Nimroid wore the garments of Odom, he was able to subdue the animals because he had access to the garments of their essence, to their names. Got all that?  Not? Still gishmak.

More color on Nimroid can be found in Avos D’rebbe Noson #24, Bereishis  Rabba (38, 65.16 and 63:32). The bottom line: Medrish vilified Nimroid. There, he is portrayed as a powerful man of violence with enormous influence. He’s bad! To their credit, a few sages ask azoy: how can a warlord and emperor rebel? After all, he is the king! He has no-one against whom to rebel. He is in control! Ober, they answer azoy: The only `thing’ which Nimrod would want to resist and oppose is a force that seeks to control him, to stand in his way. That `thing’ is the RBSO, G-d. Nimrod the rebel rebels against the only power which can possibly oppose him. He wages a war against the RBSO. He makes G-d his enemy. Ober the kasha is this: is this the impression we get when we read the pisukim in our Parsha? Not! Farkert, the opposite may be inferred.

The heylige Toirah told us only that “Cush fathered Nimrod. He was the first man of might on earth. He was a mighty hunter before the RBSO; hence the saying `Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom were Bavel, Erech, Akkad and Kalne in the land of Shinar. From that land emerged Ashur who built Nineve and Rechovos-Ir and Kalach. Resen was between Nineve and Kalach. This was the Great City.” (10:8-12). A casual reader of these few lines would not blink at this description. It all seems very normal, harmless, and benign. A mighty king, rules over an expansive kingdom. Where is the evil, the rebellion, the heresy? From what source did chazal (our sages) draw their negative view? In fact, we can argue farkert:

Ober, Rashi following the medrish, chooses to view Nimroid in a negative light. Nimrod is the rebel supreme, instilling stirrings of religious rebellion, a rejection of the RBSO throughout the world.  Rashi states azoy: TO BE A HUNTER: leading the entire world in rebellion against G-d with his ideas in the generation of the dispersion (Tower of Babel). He would snare people’s minds with his powerful rhetoric influencing them to rebel against the RBSO. He wanted to anger G-d in a direct confrontation. And more: Hence the saying `LIKE NIMROD A MIGHTY HUNTER BEFORE THE LORD’ – whenever we see an evil arrogant person who knows of G-d but freely chooses, brazenly, to reject His authority, we proclaim him to be `like Nimroid – a mighty inciter in direct confrontation with the Lord. It does epes appear that Rashi did not like Nimroid.

The bottom line: Nimroid was but one of several Toirah characters where the text shares not one bad word about them but where the medrish chose to vilify them anyway.  Why? Ver veyst? Next week we will meet Yishmoel whom the RBSO seemingly loved very much. In fact, the RBSO directed a Malach (angel) to save his life and yet the medrish has kimat nothing good to say about him. In a few weeks, we will meet Eisav – a man who honored and respected his father. Once again, not one bad word from the RBSO about Eisav. Ober the medrish hated him and asserts that Eisav was an evildoer (rosho), a bad guy. Ober, from the reading of the texts and simple pshat, it is abundantly clear that neither Nimroid, Yishmoel, nor Eisav appear to do anything “evil.”  Why then do most assume that they were evildoers? The bottom line: Nimroid may have been among the first to suffer at the hands of the medrish but is that any consolation? And we ask again azoy:  Why did the medrish vilify them? Why did they take such license? Why take innocuous descriptions and turn seemingly innocent people into villains?

If you want your head to spin a bit more, let us recall that the RBSO does specially spell out the sins of Shimon & Levi, Yehudah and others. They all did some giferlich things that seem pretty evil (they all sold their brother into slavery, the Shimon and Levi duo killed an entire city, and more), Yet, all are considered tzadikkim (righteous)? How can this be? On the other hand…it’s taka emes that Eisav married shiksa Canaanite women, which angered his parents, ober so did our hero Yehudah. Let’s not forget that Yaakov married sisters. And it’s taka emes that Eisav threatened to kill his conniving brother Yaakov. On the other hand, did he? Not!  Unlike the hot-headed Shimon & Levi duo who wiped out an entire city of males, Eisav reconciled with his brother.  Yes, it says Yishmoel was מצחק, and that Soro didn’t like this. But מצחק is not evil – in fact, Soro herself -3 verses earlier- says צחק is a good thing – “וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה–צְחֹק, עָשָׂה לִי אֱלֹהִים: כָּל-הַשֹּׁמֵעַ, יִצְחַק-לִי.”

Ober, let’s once again shoutout the Ibn Ezra who interpreted the same words and concluded that Nimrod was a good guy! And says Targum Yoinoson azoy: Nimrod refused to participate in the tower of babel, at great personal cost.

On the other hand, perhaps the answer to all these questions is azoy: the medrish read history backwards. In Yishmoel’s case they knew that he was not chosen; Yitzchok got the nod. He was selected to be the recipient and carrier of the RBSO’s blessing and promise to Avrohom.  The authors of the medrish assumed that there must have been something undeserving in him, or he must have done something very giferlich. And for those reasons, they walked away from the script and poshit- pshat. Instead, they “read into the texts” wrongdoings or flaws of Yishmoel to justify his destiny. The same is true of Eisav. We know that Eisav was not chosen (or even “co-chosen”, as were the shvotim (tribes) as Yitzchok’s primary progeny; in fact, let’s check out the words of  Malachi (1:2-3) where he sates: ” הֲלוֹא אָח עֵשָׂו לְיַעֲקֹב נְאֻם-יְהוָה וָאֹהַב אֶת-יַעֲקֹב וְאֶת-עֵשָׂו שָׂנֵאתִי.” In English: G-d hated Eisav.  We are taught that Eisav was a bad guy but why wonders the medrish? He must have been a bad person to deserve the RBSO’s hatred. And for those reasons the medrish will not hesitate to interpret slight nuances in the text or come up with back-stories that explain Eisav’s evildoing. This logic also explains why the heylige Gemora and medrish cover up Reuvain’s bed mounting incident, if you chap, coming up in a few weeks. The logic works both ways. If you were selected by the RBSO, you could do no bad; fartig and case closed. In the coming weeks, we will be meeting and reading of a few others -selected and not- and how medrish painted those not. Which view of Nimroid is correct? It comes down to Rashi vs the Ibn Ezra, both very reliable sources; you decide. The final bottom line: being selected is better.


A Gittin Shabbis!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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