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

Pinchas 2022: Dynasty, Pedigree and Privilege

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Dynasty, Pedigree and Privilege

Raboyseyee, in a few more weeks, the heylige Ois will be wrapping up year 12 of his heylige posts; OMG, and what to do for year 13? After the overwhelming response to the ‘Searching for Cousins’ post – see it here if you haven’t already- aside from all the comments and calls, I did also hear a few mamish incredible stories of people connecting and thought these should be shared in the coming year. These emotional stories of closure, repatriation of items lost/stolen during the war, finding lost relatives, or even a picture, need to be told. The Ois will be sharing a few.

In hyntige tzeyten (todays times), when a Chasidic rebbe passes on, a son will typically step up and take over. In many ways, rebbe dynasties resemble the monarchy; already from birth, one knows his/her place in line.  It’s all about pedigree and privilege.  How do rebbe dynasties work? How does one begin a dynasty? Who is qualified to lead and or take over a dynasty? It works azoy (like this): first, each leader of the dynasty is known as the ADMOR (abbreviation for ADoneinu MOreinu veRabeinu – “our master, our teacher, and our rabbi”), or simply as “the Rebbe.”, At times, he is called the “Rav” (“rabbi”), and sometimes referred to in English as a “Grand Rabbi.” Got all that? Veyter:  The dynasty -kimat always- continues beyond the initial leader’s lifetime by succession (typically a family descendant). The dynasty is usually named after a town in Eastern Europe where the founder may have been born or lived, or where the group began to grow and flourish. And the dynasty has (or once had) followers who, through time, continue following successive leaders (rebbes), or may even continue as a group without a leader by following the precepts of a deceased leader. Veyter: In cases, where there is no son, all hell breaks loose. If the good rebbe was blessed with more than one, all hell breaks loose and the case will typically end up in a rabbinical court. Fist fights will break out among the Chasidim, and it may, or may not, ever resolve as the rebbe had intended before passing. Sadly, this is the case even when the rebbe leaves clear instructions. When certain individuals aren’t happy with the rebbe’s instructions, they might -and have so in the past- claim that the rebbe was no longer with his faculties when he left instructions contrary to their desires.  The bottom line: when the leader of a rabbinic dynasty dies, the person stepping in to fill the shoes -and mostly their pockets- is a son or very close relative. It’s all about control of the institution, the money and the real-estate.  One thing is clear: it’s not about talent. Successors to dynasties need not present their credentials, their bona fides or anything else. They must carry the last name by blood and shoin. When all this began and how it started, ver veyst, ober (however) there are the generally accepted rules of engagement when it comes to succession in that world.

All that being stated, efsher you’re klerring (thinking) how this information is at all relevant to our parsha of the week, named after Pinchas, a fellow who -at the end of last week’s parsha- took matters into his own hands -and in vigilante style- killed Zimri and his paramour Kosbi? Let the heylige Ois connect the dots please. It so happens that not one but two different storylines in this week’s parsha all are about inheritance and succession. One features none other than Moishe and his kids.

This week, the RBSO gives Moishe very specific instructions in succession and according to some, Moishe was not a happy camper. Rashi will tell us that Moishe had intended or was desirous of appointing one, or both his own sons to leadership positions; instead, he was told verbatim that his protégé Yehoishua was going to lead the Yiddin into the land. And taka as a result, many have asked azoy: what happened to Moishe’s kids? How is it that most rebbes get to appoint their kids -even without talent- and yet Moishe our fearless leader- the man who led the Yiddin for 40 years, the man who had direct communication with the RBSO was unable to set any of his kids up for life into cushy positions? Were they bad guys? Were they too modern? No black hats? Not controversial enough? Too controversial? How did all this come about? More on this topic below but first…

Shoin, we’re into the three weeks leading up to the solemn day of Tishe Beov. One summer-fast-day– that of Shiva Osor B’tamuz (17th day of Tamuz) -a nidche this year- is behind us and of course we can’t wait for Tishe Be’ov to be in our rear-view mirrors. A nidche for those who didn’t attend yeshiva is this: when the observance of a fast day falls on the Shabbis (except for Yom Kippur), we don’t fast and push the fast forward by one day. Why? Because shabbis is a happy day; we eat on happy days! Instead, the fast gets pushed ahead, typically to Sunday. Bottom line: it fell on shabbis when we cannot fast and was pushed to Sunday when we can but don’t want to. And so it was this past week: the 17th of Tamuz fell on the heylige shabbis and shoin, the fast was pushed to Sunday. And for those planning ahead, this year Tishe Be’ov too falls on shabbis and will be marked on Sunday the 10th of Av. Got all that? Next time: pay attention in yeshiva. Shoin, speaking of Shiva Osor B’tamuz being a nidche this year listen to this: did you know, or where you ever aware, that the 17th of Tamuz wasn’t always the date set aside and observed for commemorating certain sad events? It wasn’t? Nu, believe it or not, this date itself was made up hundreds of years later. Originally the fast known as the 17th day of Tammuz was observed on the 9th day of Tammuz. What? Mamish? It was moved?

Indeed so and once moved, our good rabbis got to work to plug in the many lacunas for those wondering why it was moved and why we fast on the 17th.  Bottom line: In order to get us to fast on the 17th. our sages were forced to dig up some history -or make some up-  and have us believe that many terrible things befell the Yiddin on the 17th of Tamuz. Not much is written about the change in observance from the 9th to the 17th ober, them are the facts my friends; check them out. The 9th of Tammuz does correspond to the collapse of the walls prior to the destruction of the first Temple. On this occasion, our Sages of Israel instituted a fast as a sign of mourning. Ober, by the second Temple however, the walls of the city collapsed on the 17th of Tammuz and shoin, here we are. What happened next? Our Sages, led by Rabbi Yoichonon ben Zakai, decided to move the fast to the 17th of Tammuz because of the importance of the Second Temple in relation to its predecessor which was rebuilt. A significant number of walls stood imposingly, surrounding Jerusalem, thus providing the illusion that the city was an impregnable bastion. They were all destroyed by the Roman army. As to fasting this past Sunday- on a hot humid day- pushed off from Shabbis and pushed off from its original date of the 9th of Tamuz – a double niche if you will-  nu, if you found yourself in the pool but did not drink the water, mistama you won’t burn in hell.

Shoin, let’s talk succession: Efsher you recall that a few weeks back, following the incident where Moishe inappropriately used his shtekin (stick or staff), he was immediately advised that he, too, would be among those destined not to enter the land; his tenure was coming to an end and his visa into the land, cancelled. Grada, just this week, over in Israel, another shtekin abuser, if you chap, was denied a visa into the land. Bottom line: keep your shtekin where it belongs! Veyter. Back to the parsha where Moishe gets his official notice of termination. He is being fired! Thank you for your service and veyter gigangin!

Pinchas is one of the most dizzying parshas in the gantze Toirah and begins by retelling 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. Bottom line: keep the shiksa out of sight please! We have previously covered that topic and avada, for those who can’t get enough and would love to read the salacious details –over and over- check out all previous postings on this parsha which can be found here,  https://oisvorfer.com/?s=pinchas

With Moishe out and told he was going to die, the RBSO Himself decided on who would next lead the Yiddin. Ober whom did Moishe 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 monarchy works? And isn’t that how rabbinic dynasties work? And 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 a father should, he was advocating for his son -or both- to get a good job, a leadership position. 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? Perhaps not, as we will read below. Ober, (that being said), didn’t they come from a good gene pool that included Moishe, Aharoin, Miriam and others? Shouldn’t pedigree have come into play? Or, is it the case that yichus (pedigree), as we have stated many times in the past, didn’t count? Says the medrish that when Pinchas took out his spear and was about to kill the two protagonists, an entire anti-Pinchas faction were quite upset and 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. Let’s 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. Bottom line: when it comes to pedigree, best efsher to make your own mark.  Veyter.

Shoin, let’s now say hello to Gershom and Eliezer, they, born to Tzipoirah, Moishe’s wife. Though Moishe may have had another wife -at least according to some-  she a Kushite, and though he may, or may not have had kids with her, ver veyst, this week we focus on the two boys, Gershom and Eliezer, whose names do appear in the heylige Toirah. Did Moishe have another wife and did he have children from her? According to one medrish, Moishe had a wife with whom he had no children. That same medrish tells us that Moishe never had relations with that wife!  Mamish never? Bottom line: Moishe was a trailblazer: efsher the first not have relations at home with the eishes chayil; zicher not the last.

Whatever happened to Moishe’s boys? They are mentioned at birth, get one more shout out in Parshas Yisroy and are seemingly forever gone from the script? Gone too are they from the census conducted in our parsha. They are not even referenced. Gornisht (nothing), as if they were dead. What’s taka pshat? 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 Saini when Moishe received the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments) and the heylige Toirah? Do we know anything more from the Oral Tradition? Isn’t oral always the answer? And noch eyn kasha (one more question); why are we discussing these two boys in this week’s parsha of Pinchas?  let’s read the relevant pisukim (Bamidbar 26:59-60).

59- The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, whom [her mother] had borne to Levi in Egypt. She bore to Amram, Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam.   נטוְשֵׁ֣ם | אֵ֣שֶׁת עַמְרָ֗ם יוֹכֶ֨בֶד֙ בַּת־לֵוִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָֽלְדָ֥ה אֹתָ֛הּ לְלֵוִ֖י בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וַתֵּ֣לֶד לְעַמְרָ֗ם אֶת־אַֽהֲרֹן֙ וְאֶת־משֶׁ֔ה וְאֵ֖ת מִרְיָ֥ם אֲחֹתָֽם:
60- Born to Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.   סוַיִּוָּלֵ֣ד לְאַֽהֲרֹ֔ן אֶת־נָדָ֖ב וְאֶת־אֲבִיה֑וּא אֶת־אֶלְעָזָ֖ר וְאֶת־אִֽיתָמָֽר:

What do we see here? Posik 60 mentions that Aharoin had children, four of them 0even the dead one’s are shouted out- but not one word about Moishe’s wife or children. Moishe’s kids are deliberately not mentioned. What do we know with certainty? At some point, either when the Yiddin left Mitzrayim or were in the midbar, the boys (Gershom and Eliezer), along with their mother Tzipoirah and zeyda (grandfather) Yisroy, did rejoin their father Moishe. And so we read back in Parshas Yisroy. If so, did they stay? And if they did, why is there no mention of them? Why is there no mention of them in either census? Their absence is the big elephant in the room; they are missing where we would expect them to appear. The heylige Toirah lists Aharoin’s descendants in every count, 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? Oy vey! And if she was, many have since and very sadly followed suit.

Is it 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? Were they no longer observant? Were they ever? Could it be emes that their lives and experiences back in Midyan were not quite what the Yiddin experienced at Har Sinai? 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. As well, having a broken marriage and no contact with his kids, did not deter Moishe from his leadership duties. Perhaps it’s farkert: Moishe may have been selected because he was willing to sacrifice his own family. Is this heylige Ois off the reservation with this thought? Perhaps not! Moreover, this pshat might fit perfectly for those who believe that Moishe married a second wife, the Kushite beauty, only after sending Zipporah and her two boys packing. And, if this is taka pshat, it would appear that his divorce weighed heavily on his boys. It’s also logical and believable that neither Tzipoirah or 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. And for those reasons, they were not living with Moishe in the midbar and hence, no reason to mention them in the census. Es iz myglich (it’s certainly possible).

The good news: Moishe never forget about his two boys. Says the medrish (Tanchuma Pinchas 11), azoy: when Moishe -in our parsha- 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 Yehoishua 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 – Elozor and Isomor- 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 but a consolation prize because avada we know that Moishe’s real kids did not succeed him.

What taka became of them? Let’s piece it together: Moishe had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. They were not part of the Exodus proper. While still in Mitzrayim, Moishe sent them off with their mother Zipoirah to their grandfather Yisroy in Midian. After the Exodus, they joined their father in the midbar [Shmois 18: 1-6] and this is the last mention of them in the heylige Toirah. Ober not to worry because in Divrey Hayomim [1 Chronicles 23:14-17], we get more information: the descendants of Gershom and Eliezer have been found and the lacunas now filled.  And there we find this: The sons of Gershom [were] Shebuel the Chief. And the sons of Eliezer [were] Reḥavia the Chief. (Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Reḥavia were very numerous. The bottom line:  it appears that both Gershom and Eliezer went on to get married and established their own families. Moishe had descendants, seemingly many, but we just don’t know who they are. They disappear from history.  Says the heylige Gemora, from where do we [derive that all of the RBSO’s promises are fulfilled? From Moishe our teacher. [G-d said to him…] I will make from you a mighty nation [Devorim: 9:14] … The promise was fulfilled, as it is written … “the sons of Reḥavia [Moishe’s grandson] were very many” (1 Chronicles 23:17) … And Rav Yoisef taught: “Many” means more than 600,000. Moishe had 600,000 decedents?  That math for another day.

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. Let’s get real: had he died in our parsha, would the heylige Toirah have come to close with Parshas Pinchas? 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). That being the case, why taka did the RBSO command him to ascend the mountain if the day of his death has not yet arrived? Much to share on that topic, but that too for another time.

The final bottom lines:  Moishe Rabaynu (our rabbi), efsher the first rabbi of them all, handed over the reins to Yehoishua and so on down generations of rabbis and leaders chosen seemingly for their qualifications. On the other hand, Aharoin, the first kohen Godol (High Priest), handed his office to his son Elozor, and Elozor to his son, and so on: the kohanim were the first dynasty. Shoin, absent of the Beis Hamikdash, for the most part, kohanim are out of business. On the other hand, the kohen still does -in our times- get some extra respect.  In the Chasidic world too, heirs matter. When it comes to rabbis, wouldn’t all be better served were they chosen based on the model the RBSO laid out to Moishe?

A gittin Shabbis!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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