Says Shlomo Hamelech: “toivim hashnayim min hoechod…” (two are better than one). And this week our good friends Judith and Shlomo Gottesman find themselves with two kallahs when days earlier there was but one. We wish them and their entire extended family a big hearty mazel tov on the engagement two days ago of Shayna to Ezzi Ungar. The Oisvorfer has known this special kallah for over 20 years and lucky is the fellow that is getting her.
And speaking of shnayim, this week we also wish a second mazel tov in four weeks to our friends Shevy and Richie Cooperberg on the engagement earlier this week of their daughter Jodi to Tzachi Popowitz. Richie has been an Oisvorfer chosid since the very early editions and taka reads most of them. The Cooperbergs have raised givaldige daughters ober soon the house will be empty as both move out to begin their new lives. Mazel tov to the entire extended Cooperberg and Popowitz families.
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
When soft is better than hard
Oy vey! Though it’s only August 1, the pressure is mounting. It epes feels like the summer is mamish drawing to an end. Because Rosh Hashono will mamish follow Labor Day by just days, Shuls are sending out seating requests, demanding bill payment and threatening to withhold seating for the Yomim Toivim (high holy days). Though this week’s parsha of Re’ay tells us in no uncertain terms and emphasizes that we need to assist those in need, try telling that to the shul’s seating committee; yikes! When it comes to shul business, it appears, sadly, that business matters override the heylige Toirah mamish. Ober all is not lost, efsher it’s a blessing in disguise: if the shul won’t accommodate your needs, stay home! Tell the RBSO that you had good intentions, wanted to daven to Him with a minyan, wanted to beg His forgiveness ober the Shul wouldn’t allow you to be seated because you owed them a few dollars. Efsher you can pay a part of your bill and strike a one day deal; are you really in the mood for that much Shul during the coming three day Yom Toiv? The emes is that the RBSO will zicher forgive you if you stay home, He understands most transgressions….ober zicher not all. Later in this parsha, we’ll learn once again what the Oisvorfer has been telling you for three years now: the RBSO absolutely abhors those that follow avoido zoro (idol worship) and also those that promote it. In fact, here in our parsha, He demands (Devorim 13:16) that an entire city be wiped clean of its inhabitants – dead mamish- in the case of the Ir Hanidachas. What’s that you ask? An Ir Hanidachas is a wayward city, a place whose residents are devoted to worshipping idols, soon we’ll efsher explain. This occurs when the majority of the members of a city become spiritually corrupt and worship idols. How many constitute a majority? Nu, soon we’ll find out. The heylige Toirah instructs us to destroy the city completely and not keep any of its spoils. And speaking of Avoido Zoro, mistama you never knew that they heylige Toirah mentions the prohibition against idolatry 44 times and that’s zicher more than any other mitzvah, a lot. And avoido zoro is one of the Ten Commandments, one of the Six Constant Mitzvois, one of the 7 Noahide Laws that all non-Jews are instructed to uphold, and it is also one of the Big 3 Yehorag V’al Y’avor (let yourself be killed rather than transgress).
Another Oy vey! Last week the Oisvorfer told his readers that the Hebrew letter ‘pey’ is not to be found in the entire bentching. In response to the gishmake vort on bentching, this week, the Oisvorfer was bombarded with emails stating that the Oisvorfer was wrong. In fact, there are many ‘pey’s to be found in the bentching. And taka they were correct. The devil is in the detail and what the Oisvorfer forgot to mention is that bentching does not have one word that ends with the letter ‘pey’, the pey sofit. The Oisvorfer stands corrected. Ober many good things came out of this omission. A good number of the complainers and seemingly many others, were forced – some for the first time in years- to look over the bentching –some even went so far as to bentch. Gishamk mamish!
And as we approach Parshas Re’ay, we are mamish inching closer to the finish line. We’re in parsha #47 out of 54 and yet another cycle of the heylige Toirah will soon be completed. The Yiddin are still on the wrong side of the Jordan and waiting to cross. Moishe is still talking and dealing. With this speech, he introduces yet a new approach. What’s pshat? Mistama you already forgot that just last week, Moishe resorted to bribery in a desperate attempt to get the Yiddin to listen and follow the RBSO. It’s a parsha later and he has seemingly had a change of heart. This week he begins by threatening the Yiddin and here’s what he said:
“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse.” (Devorim 11:26). Gone are the offers of the RBSO’s blessings including fertility and lots of dough. They are replaced with potential curses if we don’t follow: nice! Ober (but) he does tell the Yiddin that they have free will: they can mamish decide which path to take. How all this ties in with the concept of Hashgocha Pirotis (all is preordained),ver veyst, though many rebbes have, over the years, insisted that there is no conflict between these two seemingly mutually exclusive principles. Nebech, the Oisvorfer’s head was elsewhere.
Just a few weeks back we began Sefer Devorim with one of Moishe’s famous soliloquies and here we are four weeks later and guess what? It’s Parshas Re’ay and Moishe is still talking. And despite his age and eminent demise, he’s still going quite strong and will this week lecture the Yiddin on an array of topics, way too many to cover in this short review. Though Sefer Devorim is also called Mishneh Toirah (review) and though you mistama thought that this sefer is merely a repeat of the previous four, it’s not the case. In fact, Parshas Re’ay contains 55 new mitzvois not previously learned by the Yiddin. Gevald! How are we to absorb so much information in such a short period of time and still talk to our friends during laining? We can’t! Avada we cannot cover all of them. Moishe directs the Yiddin and tells them that upon entry, they are to destroy all vestiges of avoido zoro (idolatry) from the Promised Land. Lommer unfangin by shedding some more light on the Ir Hanidachas (the wayward city).Ershtens ober, a shtikel one paragraph or more review as Re’ay is the longest parsha in Devorim which, as stated above, covers myriad topics, many unrelated.
Among the mitzvois of every variety discussed this week are; the false prophet or one who entices others to worship idols, miracle-workers, and dream-diviners who might try to woo the people into worshipping other gods. Even if their predictions come true, they must be killed; the laws governing an idolatrous city; kashrus of animals, fish and birds-Sushi is avada ok but it didn’t catch on until centuries later-;Maasros(Tithes); the mitzvah of charity which obligates the Yiddin to aid a needy fellow with a gift or loan (typically the loan becomes a gift),money lending, debt wipe out during the Shmitah (sabbatical year); the Eved Ivri (Jewish slave); the consecration of the first born animal, and a review of the sholosh regolim (three festivals) of Pesach, Shavuois, and Succois. Though Moishe doesn’t mention that it’s a mitzvah Di’oyraiso to spend any or all of the holidays in a hotel setting, preferably over in Jerusalem, seemingly this is implied. Some taka ask why he only reviewed the three regolim and not the big ones of Rosh Hashono and Yoim Kippur ober says Rav S.R. Hirsch in his introduction to Sefer Divarim azoy: the two big ones (RH and YK) are not reviewed here or anywhere in Sefer Divarim because there were no changes in the practices of those Yomim Tovim when living in the desert or living in Eretz Yisroel. Gishamak! Of course, in true Toirah fashion, Moishe does not present much in comprehensive code; instead he lays out general principles, relying on the yet unwritten oral tradition of the heylige Gemora to specify the details. Though we avada believe that the oral tradition was given at the same time as was the heylige Toirah, it was only codified many years later.
Nu, earlier we mentioned that the Yiddin were instructed to destroy the Ir Hanidachas, the wayward city. The inhabitants are subject to the death penalty and the city is razed to the ground, never to be rebuilt. In fact there is a positive mitzvah to burn it and everything in it. This law applies to a city that has been deemed an “ir hanidachas,” meaning that they meet certain conditions. Lemoshol (by way of example), they have to have been led astray by at least two deceivers (Devorim 13:14). Those deceivers have to be from the same shayvet (Tribe) as the city they misled (ibid.) and the majority of its population has to be so misled. How much is a majority you ask? Up to half the Tribe. A city must have at least 100 residents to qualify for Ir Hanidachas status; smaller cities fare better. On the other hand, if a city fails to be deemed an ir hanidachas, the idolaters are still liable to the penalty of stoning and their heirs inherit their property. Yerusholayim and cities of refuge are ineligible to be deemed cities led astray. There are many more conditions for a city to be judged an ir hanidachas, check out the heylige Gemora in Sanhedrin 111b. Luckily this mitzvah only applies at a time when the Yiddin reside in their land. It is codified in the Mishneh Torah in the fourth chapter of Hilchos Avodas Kochavim. This mitzvah is #184 of the 248 positive mitzvois in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos.
Efsher you’re wondering how an entire city can be wayward. Or, efsher you’re klerring that wiping out an entire city, its inhabitants and all else seems a shtikel harsh in response to some avoido zoro. Taka why? And as it turns out, this particular mitzvah is one of the most difficult topics in the gantze Toirah. For most Yiddin, it’s a shtikel shver to chap this concept. We picture idolaters as regular people who just happen to worship a statue instead of going to shul. Haven’t you done much worse? Is that so giferlich or giferlich enough to wipe out an entire city? Ver veyst. Ober, based on reading, it appears that the ir hanidachas is considered to be a cancer and avada all know that a cancer must be removed and totally eradicated. It is so thoroughly corrupt that it must be altogether wiped out. Seemingly, this cancer attaches itself to others, to their families and possessions and all must be destroyed. Ober did this really happen, ever? Soon we’ll see.
Ober Raboyseyee we are taught that idol worship, at least back then, was much worse than bowing down to a getchke (statue). Seemingly, part of ancient cult worship involved various sexual immoralities like public orgies, temple prostitutes, incest, bestiality and carnal molestation (Leviticus 18:27), mistama you can imagine or recall this entire grouping, chazir that you are. They also were known to sacrifice children to the gods (Deut. 12:31). And Rebbe Akiva reported that he saw a son bind up his father and feed him to ravaging dogs in service of idols. The RBSO knew His chosen people and realized that the Yiddin could easily fall prey to this type of behavior as they did in the Midbar with the Moabite and Midianite meydlich. Being exposed to this type of behavior and seeing avoido zoro would have a deleterious effect on His fragile Nation. This was not the proper laying of the foundation for the new nation. Therefore, the RBSO commanded that the Wayward City be totally destroyed along with its inhabitants.
On the other hand, the total destruction by violent means of those residing in the Ir HaNidachas was contrary to the way Yiddin are supposed to live; we are not a violent people. Ober not to worry because says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 71) azoy: the Wayward City never occurred. The case is theoretical! Shoin, what a relief! Is it possible that the RBSO gave such specific instructions, commanded through Moishe that the Yiddin execute this upon entry and that all this was only in reality but theoretical? Sounds like a fake colorwar breakout.Yikes!! And why would the heylige Toirah mention such a case? Ver veyst ober one answer given is that had we never known the penalty, we would never appreciate the severity of the crime. Veyter!
This week (Devarim 12:20-21) the Yiddin are given permission to eat meat: steak, ribs and more, even Chinese. And just like that, a new industry was born: Fleishig (meat) restaurants, catering and in chasidishe circles, even fleishig Brissim (circumcisions). Moreover and as we will shortly learn, the entire Shichita (slaughtering) industry, mashgichim (kosher supervisors) and all, has its roots right here in Parshas Re‘ay. And if you’ve ever wondered why we need a Mashgiach timidi (steady) to sit in your favorite food establishment, the Vaad will point to Parshas Re‘ay for validation of their existence. Is all that emes? Ver veyst but we’re stuck with them until the Moshiach makes an appearance to straighten this entire mess out. Nu, let’s learn the heylige Toirah, the story of the Yiddin being permitted to eat meat, slaughtering procedures and more. Here we go.
And what is the big deal about eating meat? What’s the chiddish (big news in town), you ask? Weren’t they eating meat before they got to EY (Israel)? Didn’t we spend 10 weeks learning Sefer Vayikra, dedicated mostly to Korbonois (sacrifices) and weren’t we taught that the Koihanim (priests) and in some cases also the regular Joe bringing the Korban (sacrifice), were also able to eat a good piece of meat, albeit always well done? Indeed we did. And didn’t we learn that the Yiddin were also allowed to eat meat after the Mabul when all the vegetation was destroyed? Does anyone have an answer, anyone?
The big news is that this week Moishe tells the Yiddin in the name of the RBSO that they can eat unconsecrated meat-animals that are slaughtered just for their pleasure, meaning even if they are not being brought as Korbonois (offerings). In plain English as only the Oisvorfer speaks: up until now, were they in the mood for a burger, a steak, a lean brisket sandwich, rack of lamb or even any other rack, if you chap, they would have to bring a Korban and under certain conditions, they would also get to partake. In fact, were they to chap a rack, they would be required to bring yet another korban. Ober this week, the RBSO, mistama under pressure from the local Vaad, and you know what kind of Mafia style pressure they can exert, tells the Yiddin it’s OK to eat meat anytime. Anytime, as long as you pay the Mashgiach and Vaad (Kosher Supervisory Agency) their vig. And now if one is taka in the mood for a good piece of meat and who at times isn’t, if you chap, it’s all ok but only under certain conditions. And what might those be, pray tell? Shoin ginig (enough) with all the teasing… let’s taka get to the meat of the Toirah’s consent to enjoy some flankin..
Says the heylige Toirah azoy: “When God will enlarge your border, as He has promised you, and you shall say, ‘I would eat meat,’ for you have a desire to eat meat, to your heart’s entire desire may you eat meat. If the place that God will choose to place His name will be far from you, you may kill from your herd and from your flock, which God has given you, in the way I have commanded you and you shall eat in your cities according to your hearts’ desires.”
Ok- that was one big juicy givaldige run-on sentence, just like this Toirah at times but let’s take a closer look at all that was said here. Ershtens (first of all): Seemingly the RBSO avada understood that His chosen people are full of desires, especially to chap a good piece of meat, and realizing that such desires are at times difficult to tame, said OK to meat. And He also said that the Yiddin can eat as much meat as they desire…nu that was avada way before cholesterol became an issue.
More: the RBSO also realized that people don’t want to schlep too far for good meat and said that if people will live far from where the RBSO designates His home (nowadays – Yerusholayim), they may have meat in their own cities and neighborhoods. Yiddin of course interpret this as being allowed to and encouraged to open food establishments immediately next to one another in order to ensure that none of them makes a living. Yiddin!!
Ober, at the same time, the RBSO gave specific guidelines under which one can enjoy his meat and none of these include the way you chazerrim oisvorfs do, loi olainu and lucky for most of you, Yoim Kippur is very soon approaching.
Nu, let’s chazir (review): Until this specific permission was given, in order for the Yiddin to have a good order of ribs, they had to bring a specific Korban (Korban Shelomim) which allowed for the giver to also partake in the game. And if you read the RBSO’s instruction paragraph carefully, you would have seen these words: “………..in the way I have commanded you and you shall eat in your cities according to your heart’s entire desire.” These few words are bolded so that you can mamish absorb the givaldige chiddish (amazing breakthrough) that the Chachomim (sages) came up with.
Shteltzzich di shaiylo (the question arises): where are those (above) commandments given? When? To Whom? And the answer is: to no-one! They are not found in the gantze Toirah shebecsav (Five Books). Nowhere!! Ober not to worry because it so happens that our Chachomim have mamish a brilliant answer, don’t they always, and that’s taka why they are called chachomim. They say: what do you mean the rules for slaughtering were not written down and therefore don’t exist? Are you an idiot? These rules were given to Moishe orally when he was up there for 40 days without eating and drinking and you can only imagine how hungry and thirsty he was while listening to the RBSO go over the details of shichita and food preparation. Moreover, the chachomim use this language to prove that Toirah she- baal peh (the oral tradition) is taka real because otherwise the gantze parsha of kosher makes no sense. Mistama at the same time, the RBSO also told Moishe that every kosher establishment needs a full time Mashgiach though this rule wasn’t to become effective until later in the 20th century, and that Broccoli needed to be hand washed and even more shtusim (bs). Hey: it’s oral law, do we dare argue over oral? Not the Oisvorfer.
In fact, the laws of Shechita have been passed down in an unbroken chain from Mt. Sinai until today, so they say, and who are we to argue? If any of you amoratzim wish to argue, you’ll need to first become proficient in Gemora, Maseches Chulin and in the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 1-28. Sadly, the Oisvorfer has concluded that it’s just easier to pay for the Hasgocho and be done with it.
Hey wait a minute! It appears that you already forgot a question we raised earlier about Noiach being given permission to eat meat post Mabul (flood) and if that’s taka (in fact) the case and it looks very much like it taka was, so what is the big news in this parsha? Nu, the Oisvorfer admits that he doesn’t know ober here’s what he dug up while enjoying a rack…of lamb. Way back in Parshas Noiach, we were taught that he Noiach was given the heter (permission) to eat meat. And not a moment too soon as we also learned that his grandson Kin-an the chazir minuvil that he was, couldn’t wait and took to Noiach’s meat, oy vey. Exactly what the issue (prohibition) to meat eating was pre-Mabul, is avada the subject of a great machloikes rishoinim (argument among early Rabbis), but we do know that back then too many people were doing not such nice things with meat, if you chap, and that’s what led to the entire flood to begin with. Efsher (maybe) there was too much mixing of white and dark meat? Ver veyst?
In fact, one of the major changes in world order post-Mabul was the allowance of meat on the menu as the heylige Toirah itself states: “Behold, I have given to you all herbage yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit; it shall be yours for food. And what does that mean? Says Rashi, still my all time favorite: that the RBSO equated them [people] to animals and beasts as to food, and did not allow man and woman to kill a creature, and eat its meat. Ober, when the children of Noiach came out of the “teiva” (ark), he permitted meat to them, as it says (Breishis 9:3), “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; like the green herbage; I have given you everything”
One thing we do know is that the RBSO did not like meat prepared rare and forbade us from eating the blood of an animal. Says the heylige Toirah (Devarim 12:23): “However, be strong not to eat the blood, for the blood is the soul, and you may not eat the soul with the flesh.” What’s pshat and why must one be “strong not to eat the blood”?Hey….hey… isn’t blood good for the body and doesn’t it make one strong? Doesn’t this defy logic? What’s pshat here?
Count on Rashi who says: ”From the statement ‘be strong,’ you can infer that [the Jewish people] used to eat blood excessively. And maybe their excessive strength led to other desires, if you chap. In other words: being too strong and having strong desires can lead to other indiscretions, do I need to spell them out for you? Therefore, the Toirah found it necessary to say, ‘be strong’”—these are the words of Rebbe Yehudah. Case closed? No!
Rebbe Shimon ben Azzai says farkert (opposite) and that the Yiddin had no taivo (desire) for blood: “This statement comes only to caution you and to teach you the extent to which you should strengthen your observance of the mitzvos. For if the Toirah needed to ‘strengthen’ you to observe the prohibition of eating blood—which is easy to guard oneself against, because a person has no desire for it—then how much more so [must one strengthen oneself to observe] all other commandments.” Of course, there are more opinions and here, then, are two more.
Rashbam: Blood becomes absorbed into all the organs of the body. Therefore, the Toirah warns us to be especially careful not to eat it. And finally Rabaynu Bachaye: Eating blood strengthens the body. Therefore, the Toirah promises that a person will be strong even if he does not eat blood. Seemingly this Rabaynu Bachaye was ahead of his time because avada nowadays, people are injecting themselves with new blood, their own blood , blood mixed with stem cells and maybe even bloody Marys and others. The bottom line on blood: everyone has an opinion, what else is new?
In any event, we know that the RBSO does not allow us to eat or drink blood and this is not the first time we are hearing this prohibition. The Rambam in his (Sefer Hamitzvois) , maintains that this prohibition is mentioned no less than seven times in the Toirah, three times just in this parsha and of course many wonder why it’s repeated here again in such strong language. Ober Rashi chapped that the Yiddin, and that includes most of you, are not great followers of the rules and concluded that even 40 years after they left Mitzrayim (Egypt), where they seemingly got used to eating blood excessively, they were still at it and that they needed yet another warning. And the bottom line: enjoy your meat: have it your way.
One more gidank (thought):Says the heylige Toirah: “If there shall be a destitute person among you, any of your brethren in any of your cities, in your land that Hashem, your God, gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother. (Devarim 15:7). Moreover, not just are the Yiddin commanded to give but they must also be happy.“You shall surely give him and let your heart not feel bad when you give him…” (15:10). Oh, we forgot to mention posssik #9:“You shall not harden your heart or close your hand… lest there be a lawless thought in your heart .”(15:7-9). Seemingly, when it comes to giving and helping, it’s good to be a softie: Hard is not always good, if you chap!
A gittin Shabbis
The Oisvorfer Ruv