Gershom and Eliezer:
Efsher you recall that just a few weeks back, following the incident where Moishe inappropriately used his shtekin, he was immediately advised that he, too, would be among those destined not to enter the land and this week he got his official notice of termination. He is being fired! Welcome to parshas Pinchas, one of the most dizzying in the gantze Toirah and one that retells the story of how and why Pinchas was rewarded by the RBSO for having killed Zimri and Kosbi, they the dynamic duo that were having sex, seemingly in public. Shoin, we have previously covered that topic several times and avada for those who can’t get enough and would love to read the salacious details –over and over- and the amazing myseh of how more than 24,000 Yiddin participated in a mass orgy masterminded by Bilam and perfectly executed, you should avada check out all previous postings on this parsha which can be found here: https://oisvorfer.com/?s=pinchas
We have also previously covered the fabulous story of the Tzelofchod Five, a myseh that features the fabulous daughters of a fellow named Tzelofchod who seemingly died during the 40 year midbar excursion, but left behind only girls –five of them- and no boys. They were early Zionists who wanted badly to share in the apportionment of the land, complained to Moishe who then conferred with the RBSO who avada resolved the matter. That’s what the RBSO does. Veyter.
All agree that the laws of inheritance are derived from this week’s parsha and specifically taka from the myseh (story) of the Tzelofchod 5. Ober……not spoken about is another myseh about inheritance, also in this week’s parsha and one in which the father was unable to transfer his powers and title over to his children. They were mamish shut out. Welcome to Parshas Pinchas, where we will encounter this amazing story of how Moishe was fired and how the RBSO Himself decided on who would next lead the Yiddin. Ober whom did he have in mind? It appears from Rashi and others that Moishe did not have Yehoishua in mind, not at all, and instead wanted one or both of his own boys to take over. After all, isn’t that how the rebbes of today, especially the grand Rebbes do it? Isn’t that why their children are always fighting about control?
Says Rashi azoy: When Moishe heard the RBSO’s instructions to give Tzelofchod’s inheritance to his daughters, he said, “It is time to ask for my own needs – that my son should inherit my high position.” Seemingly, like any father, he was trying to get his son a good job, a great one. Moishe was klerring and reasoning that if Tzelofchod’s daughters inherited from their father, why couldn’t his own children inherit his position of honor. Ober the RBSO immediately let it be known that they were out of the running; so was everyone else. And taka says another Rashi that when a son is competent, it’s his job to get.
Ober didn’t Moishe’s children fit all the requirements? Didn’t they observe him regularly for 40 years as he held the fragile nation together? And didn’t they observe how he handled crisis after crisis that included rebellions, civil disobedience, challenges to his leadership and more? Maybe not as we will read below. And didn’t they come from a good gene pool that included Moishe, Aharoin, Miriam and others? Or is it the case that yichus, as we have stated many times in the past, didn’t count. And this week’s parsha contains yet another example of how one’s own yichus is all that counts. When Pinchas took out his spear and was about to kill the two chazerim, an entire anti-Pinchas faction were quite upset and were wondering how he, Pinchas, of questionable lineage on his mother’s side, would have the chutzpah to take on and out, Zimri, who was from royal ancestry. Ober Pinchas’ opponents were told that they were totally incorrect, for yichus, in this case, albeit poor, was not a factor; Pinchas could be viewed as the regal grandson of Aharoin the Koihen just as easily as he could be viewed as a descendant of lowly Midianites. The RBSO instructed the people to look at Pinchas’ deeds, not his background, for one’s own deeds are what count when it comes to spiritual endeavors and standing up for Toirah principles. Lets’ remember this givaldige halocho: a Toirah scholar who is the product of an illegitimate parental union is to be accorded greater honor that a Koihen who is not a talmid chochom.
Let’s say hello again to Gershom and Eliezer, they the boys born to Tzipoirah, Moishe’s wife. Though Moishe may have had another wife, at least according to some, she being the Kushite and though he may or may not have had kids with her, ver veyst, -some say he never had relations with her either, ver veyst- this week we focus on the two boys, Gershom and Eliezer, whose names appear in the heylige Toirah.
Shoin, let’s roll back the heylige Toirah to parshas Yisroy where the heylige Toirah speaks of their births and naming. We will hear about one of the boys one more time when Moishe, roadside on his way to his shilichus (mission) to redeem the Yiddin from Mitzrayim will encounter a snake or two that will swallow him from his head to his eyver, if you chap, or penis if you don’t chap and another that swallowed him from his toes to his eyver, which by now you should chap. From there on, they will get one more Toirah shout out, four parshas later before they are gone from the script.
What happened to them? Did they go into hiding over at the yeshiva of Shaim and Eyver, seemingly a popular maybe even mythical institution where previous personalities whose years we could not account for, were students? In any event, there is, as mentioned above, one final mention of them over in Parshas Yisroy (Exodus 18:2-5) where we read this. Moishe went out to greet his shever “……after Yisroy brought Tzipoirah and Moishe’s sons back to him. In Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles 1 23:14), we will find a listing of Gershom and Eliezer’s male descendants but it only tells us that they were normal Leviim. Or were they?
Moreover though the RBSO ordered several counts and certain names are repeated over and again and lesser personalities were counted by name, we hear nothing mentioned about whether Tzipoirah or the two boys were with Moishe in the midbar or not. Shelt zich di shaylos (these questions arise): where are they and where were they while Moishe was busy in the midbar dealing with a series of calamities and crisis? Were they alive? Were they present at Har Seenai when Moishe received the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments) and the heylige Toirah? Vus zugt der medrish or others (what sayeth the medrish) about their disappearance)? Do we know anything more from the Oral Tradition? Isn’t oral always the answer? Noch eyn kasha (one more question); why are we discussing these two boys in this week’s parsha of Pinchas. Nu, now that we asked a few givaldike kashas, the Oisvorfer will try to tie them all together so that this coming shabbis, you can mamish sound intelligent at the shabbis tish.
Shoin, let’s see what we know with certainty. At some point, either when the Yiddin left Mitzrayim or in the midbar, the boys (Gershom and Eliezer), along with their mother Tzipoirah and zeyda ( grandfather) Yisroy, did rejoin their father Moishe. If so, did they stay? And if they did, why is there no mention of them? And why are they not mentioned in either census?
Ober says the medrish Tanchum (Pinchas 11) azoy: in this week’s parsha mamish, when Moishe was advised of his termination, he requested of the RBSO that one of his sons be appointed. Ober the RBSO said no! “Your sons sat and did not occupy themselves with Toirah. Ober Yihoishua on the other hand, who served you, is fitting to serve Israel.”
Moreover, while Moishe’s boys seemingly did not live up to his example, his brother’s kinderlach, the two that survived, did in fact succeed their father as koihanim (priests) and did carry on the noble traditions of their father and uncle Moishe. Though Moishe’s own kids did not make the cut, we also know from our days back in yeshiva, that the RBSO considered Moishe’s nephews as his own children, for he was the one who taught them the heylige Toirah. And we know this how? From the posik in Bamidbar (3:1), which begins “These are the descendants of Moishe and Aharoin…” but only lists Aharoin’s four boys. Says Rashi quoting the medrish azoy: one who teaches someone Toirah it’s considered as if the teacher is the father. Shoin! In the end, we can therefore kler that in some way, Aharoin’s kids were really also Moishe’s kids and therefore since they went on to serve following Aharoin’s passing, that in some way, it was Moishe’s kids that took over. Is that gishmak or what? Ober in reality that was of course only a consolation prize because avada we know that Moishe’s real kids did not succeed him. Ober what became of them?
And before we answer that question, we should also keep in mind that the absence of Moishe’s family being mentioned is felt most acutely in certain narratives where we would expect them to appear. The heylige Toirah lists Aharoin’s descendants as far as our hero Pinchas, as well as the lineage of Koirach, ober not a word about Moishe’s own children. Were they estranged? Did Tzipoirah following the divorce –according to some- take off with the kids and tell them not to contact their father? And if she was, many have sadly followed suit.
Nu, as we all know, when information is missing from the script, others jump in to fill the lacuna. Holes should not be left open or should they? We will soon see. And listen to this amazing tale which could avada be emes, ver veyst which is found in the Novee Shoiftim (Judges). There we will earn that Moishe’s calling to lead the nation out of Mitzrayim and then the forty years in the midbar, came at a price. Seemingly, his boys had an absentee father and their anguish took its toll on them. Shoin, efsher you recall the ugly myseh of the Pesel Micha (idol of Micha). Towards the end of the story, we discover the name of the leyve who had served as the priest to the idol that Micha had fashioned. Says the Novee (Shoftim 18:30) azoy: And the children of Dan set up the idol; and Yehoinoson, son of Gershom, son of Menashe – he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. The letter nun in the name Menashe is traditionally written as a “superscript.” Says Rashi: Out of respect for Moishe, the nun is added so as to change his name. In other words, there was no MeNashe in the story, it was really Moishe who was the father of the Gershom that acted as the priest. Oy vey!!
And Rashi knows this how? Because the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 109a and elsewhere), identifies Yehoinoson as the son of Gershom, son of Moishe. According to Rashi, then, the nun is added to Moshe’s name out of respect for him, but in truth the Yehoinoson and his progeny who ministered to this idol for several generations were Moshe’s very own descendants. Ober could that taka be emes?
Is it taka possible that Tzipoirah and her sons, following the divorce, or as the heylige Toirah tells us, – after he sent her away- led totally different lives? Could it taka be emes that their lives and experiences back in Midyan were not quite what the Yiddin experienced at Har Senai? And could that taka be pshat in why the heylige Toirah is silent about her and the two boys? Maybe! One thing is zicher: They played no active part in Moishe’s life or leadership. Moreover, this pshat might fit perfectly for those who believe that Moishe married a second wife, the tinkele Kushite beauty, only after sending Tzipoirah and also her two boys, packing.
And , if this is taka pshat, it would appear that his divorce weighed heavily on his boys. Neither Tzipoirah nor the boys were then present for Yitzyas Mitzrayim (Exodus), nor did they experience the splitting of the Yam Suf and they also likely missed the thunder and light show before the RBSO came down to hand deliver the Aseres Hadibrois. In other words: they were not believers as were the Yiddin following the open miracles.
Shoin, now that our good sages found a way to besmirch Moishe’s mishpocho, efsher we need to ask this shaylo: If the RBSO left this information out of the heylige Toirah so as not to embarrass Moishe and instead left us with a big hole, why weren’t our rabbis of the medrish and the Gemora as careful with his honor? Why bring this up and have us believe that it’s even possible that Moishe’s own boys were not just unworthy of leadership but at least one of them may have also been involved in idol worship? Are we not defaming Moishe by discussing this very topic? Taka an excellent question. Could it be that for certain topics, for certain holes, it’s efsher better to leave them open?
Bottom line: it would appear that Moishe sons were never in the running. It’s also possible that Moishe’s sacrifices on behalf of the Yiddin included the breakup of his own family and the inability therefore to control or influence his kindelach. Not the first or last rabbi who was able to lead many but had no control of his affairs at home. Azoy geyt is, that’s how it sometimes sadly goes.
Seemingly, Moishe was mamish a true leader and concerned only with continuity. Instead of asking for a pardon or reprieve, he instead wanted to make sure that the Yiddin would have a competent leader.
Nu, efsher you’re wondering why Yehoishua got the nod. Where did he come from and what were his qualifications for the job? Why not Pinchas, the apparent hero of the parsha, whose actions and vigilantism, efsher saved the Yiddin from being wiped out by the plague? Were there not any other potential candidates among the over 600,000 men? Not one of the Sanhedrin that Moishe appointed? Why not Kolave ben Yefuneh, he the very good spy that the RBSO gave a special shout-out to? He was of course destined to enter and seemed like a decent candidate. Wasn’t he, too, a good guy and didn’t he good mouth the Land?
Says the medrish (BaMidbar Rabba 21:14) azoy: Moishe said “Master of the Universe, I am getting old. We need a new leader. I want my sons to take over.” Ober the RBSO responded that Yehoishua deserved this position because he never left Moishe’s side. He was Moishe’s trusted disciple and he would become the next leader of the Yiddin. Says the Yalkut, the conversation went like this: the RBSO said: Moishe, it is not like you think. Your sons will not inherit your position. You know that Yehoishua served you with devotion and showed you much respect. Morning and evening he was the one who arranged the benches in your academy and spread down the carpets. He shall take the rule. As it says, ‘He who guards a fig-tree shall eat its fruit” (Mishle 27:18). Moreover, the RBSO Himself testified that of all of Moishe Rabbeinu’s talmidim, only Yehoishua truly served Moishe with all his strength. Moishe had a Yeshiva in the midbar? It had benches? Nu, ver veyst ober as you should well know, the medrish uses color to give oisvorfs like many of you, a fuller picture. Avada you recall that the midbar was a magical place and if you can imagine Mun for food, tichelyles (blue wool), clouds of glory and many other miracles, why can’t you also imagine a yeshiva with benches and carpet that Yihoishua arranged?
Interestingly, it does not tell us that Yehoishua was a great Talmud chochom, a great leaner; what we know is that he was a dedicated student who arranged the benches and laid out the carpet in Yeshiva; is that enough? Seemingly, yes !
Let’s close with some good news. Though Moishe was instructed to climb up the mountain and have a last peek at the Land before dying, he does not die in this parsha; what a relief. And taka had he died here, would the Toirah end here with Parshas Pinchas? Ver veyst? And taka asks the Abarbanel azoy:”The ninth question concerns the RBSO telling Moishe, ‘Ascend this Mt. Avarim and see that land,’ concluding with the words, ‘And you, too, shall be gathered to your people AS AHAROIN YOUR BROTHER WAS GATHERED’ – but Moishe did not die upon receiving this command! Aharoin, on the other hand, upon being commanded to die, ascended the mountain and taka died. Likewise, Moishe, will follow suit ober not until Parshas Ha’azinu (Devarim 32:48-52, 34:1-5).and that being the case, why did the RBSO command him to ascend the mountain if the day of his death has not yet arrived?
And the good news suggested earlier: A great distance separates parshas Pinchas, where we find ourselves, and Ha’azinu and Ve-Zos Ha-Brocho, where Moishe is commanded once again to ascend to die, and he does so. We will get to enjoy Moishe all summer.
A gitin shabbis,