Fringe Benefits and more…
I have more than amazing news to report; in fact, it’s mamish oisergevayntlich (outstandingly good). After you finish reading all about the Meraglim (spies) and the fellow tending to his wood on shabbis and as you continue to make your way through the rest of Sefer Bamidbar, you might come to the conclusion that you’re not such a giferliiche oisvorf and minuvil, in fact not at all such a terrible person. And you might be right. Compared to the less than exemplary behavior of the Yiddin (at least a portion of them) during their 40 year Midbar experience, you might be quite the tzaddik!
Perhaps it’s by design that Sefer Bamidbar is read during the summer months when as kids or teens, we had already lost interest in the Parsha or were away for the summer. The emes is that this Sefer is quite depressing as we find the yiddin spiraling mamish out of control, in constant trouble and moving from one mess into another. Are they ready for prime time?
After 210 shverer (difficult) years as slaves, the BNY had just experienced open miracles: freedom, the wondrous splitting of the Red Sea and drowning of their oppressors, an encounter with the RBSO himself atop the smallest mountain in the midbar, receipt of the Ten Commandments, daily nourishment in the form of Munn and much, much more. Ober was that enough? Were they ready to believe in the RBSO, His promises and heylige toirah or were they Doubting Thomases? Are they prepared for the big entrance into the land that the RBSO promised hundreds of years back to Avrahom Oveenu? Seemingly not! And in Sefer Bamidbar, beginning last Shabbis, the heylige toirah recounts each one of their mishaps as they spun out of control. In the end, very few of those leaving mitzrayim make it over to the Promised Land including Moishe Rabaynuu. Nu, could it be more depressing? Efsher we should skip this part and re-read other ‘feel good’ parshious. How about another reading of the emotional Vayigash where Yoisef reunites with his holy brothers (who, avada you recall, plotted to kill him).
And with that less than cheerful introduction let me give you a one paragraph overview of the gantze Parsha of Shelach before deciding if we should delve further into any particular topic or move onto to other inyonay deyoimo (other topics of the day). We can always discuss shul politics; that topic seems always able to solve issues related to low blood pressure.
With the RBSO’s permission (or, as we will learn later this summer – at the insistence of the BNY), Moishe sends 12 Miraglim (spies or scouts), one from each Sheyvait (tribe), to check out the Promised Land of Canaan. Prophetically sensing trouble, he, Moishe, changes Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua, expressing a prayer that the RBSO not let him fail in his mission. 40 days later they return carrying unusually large fruit. 10 of the 12 spies state that the people in Canaan are as formidable as the fruit they just smuggled over the border. In other words: best we don’t fight them, and the Yiddin quickly lose faith in the RBSO and begin crying like little children. They’re mamish depressed. Colev and Yehoshua, the two good guys, try but fail to bolster the people’s spirit. Too late! The Yiddin are petrified and nervous about war against the Land’s inhabitants and demand a return to Mitzrayim where they had shelter, an expanded menu, hot shiksa Mitzri women and other good times; hey, didn’t we learn that the yiddin had sunk to the 48th of the 49 levels of Tumah (impurity and shmutz)? Yes we did! Mistama they didn’t get there by laying just bricks, if you chap. Seemingly it’s not so easy to break out of that slave mentality after 210 years. The RBSO is, avada fed up with His people and tells Moishe that He would like to wipe them out and start all over again (not the first time this has been suggested) using Moishe as the master seed. Ober Moishe davens and through his fervent prayers, saves the nation once again from annihilation. Though their lives are saved, the RBSO does not give the BNY a free pass and instead decrees that they must remain in the Midbar (desert) for 40 years in total, one year for each day of the spy mission (where they will commit many more transgressions) and until the men who wept at the scouts’ false report pass away. A renegade and remorseful group rashly begins an invasion of the Land based on the RBSO’s original command. Moishe warns them not to proceed, but they are Yiddin who avada don’t like to take orders (hey- how many listen weekly when the Rabbi asks them not to remove their Taleisim until after Adoin Oilom); they act impetuously, ignore him and are massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites. There are dead Jews all over the place.
The next topic in which the RBSO gives Moishe new rules concerning the Korbonois (offerings) is mamish boring and we’ll just skip it. If you want more information about Korbonois, visit the website (www.oisvorfer.com) and look up parshiois in Sefer Vayikra. Veyter (moving on): The BNY are told to remove challah from their dough, seemingly the source of challah removal ad hayoim hazeh (till today): we won’t discuss that subject either- too many carbs. A new rule is handed down: should someone blaspheme against the RBSO, chas v’sholom (a subject we covered a few weeks back) and be unrepentant, he will be cut off spiritually from his people. Don’t tune out: the best is upon us right now. Towards the end (7th aliya), a man is found gathering wood on public property in violation of hilchois Shabbis and he’s stoned to death. Next: The laws of tzitzis are taught. Nu, are you dizzy yet?
Shoin! We just covered the gantze Parsha with its 100+ pisukim in one paragraph and many of you are wondering why I don’t do this abridged version weekly. Nu, if epes you’re not in the mood to hear your Rabbi sermonize about how righteous the Miralgim were, each a leader of his tribe and don’t feel like shul this shabbis, you just chazered (reviewed) the Parsha. But did we? Or, did we just glance over the highlights and not realize that we know mamish nothing about this Parsha? Yes it’s convoluted, yes it screams out for further illumination from the Oisvorfer and taka, let’s see if we can taka shed some light on a subject or two. Nu, let’s learn.
As you just read, the beginning of the Parsha details the travails of the Meraglim (spies) and their misdeeds. What they said that was so terrible I never really chapped. I’ve said much worse to the Eishes Chayil and hec, not just am I alive, but still married! And these poor fellows, not just did they get admonished; they got the death sentence- right there in the midbar. Maybe they weren’t allowed to bring fruit over the border, ver veyst. Just two weeks ago, a chaver told me that he was stopped at the Canadian border where they taka found fruit in his car. Nu, lucky it wasn’t the RBSO he was dealing with; perhaps, chas v’sholom, he wouldn’t have made it home.
What terrible sin did these meraglim commit? Weren’t they specifically selected because each was an upstanding person, each a leader who could mistama articulate and communicate? Isn’t that why each was referred to as a leader, a Nosee of his sheyvait? Indeed they were instructed to report the facts, and that’s exactly what they did! Furthermore, even if we consider their report as deliberately biased, why the death sentence for some loshoin horo? Just last week Miriam got a seven day sentence of leprosy for speaking ill of her brother, should the entire nation be punished for being misled by a small group of 12 people? Finally, even if the yiddin’s initial reaction wasn’t as enthusiastic as the RBSO had hoped, is this a valid reason for annihilation? Does this rise to the sin of the Eygel (golden calf) where the Yiddin mamish worshipped a false god? Moreover, we just read that they did tshuva (repent) by declaring their willingness to take the challenge of conquering the Land and some did! What’s p’shat here? Isn’t tshuva supposed to work? And if not, why are we davening a whole day on Yoim Kippur? And can you imagine how empty our Shuls would be if we were all sentenced to death for some loshoin horah? Ver veyst- who knows and how are we to understand this story?
Rashi calls these spies upstanding citizens in one posik and then just a few earlier, he refers to them as “these wicked people.” The answer Raboyseyee is that you need to spend some time learning and reading the myriad medroshim on this story. For me, it’s 20 pages of writing which I would gladly do, but for you toirah starved ladigayers (lazy good for nothings) who just read this toirah while stopped at red lights and don’t give it the proper attention it deserves, why bother?
Yet a few more questions to ponder. Why then is Dor HaMidbar (the generation that wandered the desert) punished so severely? Why must they wander forty years until they perish? Why couldn’t the RBSO just wipe them out as he does to smaller groups throughout sefer Bamidbar and take the rest of the BNY over to the land? Who needed all these headaches?
And how many miraglim were there? Was it really12 as we were always taught? Maybe not. The Toirah uses a double expression of ‘ish echad ish echad’ to describe the meraglim sent by each sheyvait. Common knowledge is that one spy was sent from each sheyvait; however, Toisfos (Sota 34a) cites the opinion of Rebi Akiva (whom I quote later in this toirah again) quoted in the Yerushalmi who derives from the double language that in actuality 2 spies (ish-ish) went from each sheyvait for a total of 24. Rebi Yishmael disagrees, no surprise there.
Avada you’re shocked to hear that Rebi Akiva has a different view than the words of the heylige toirah mamish and you might be klerring (thinking) azoy: According to his view, why does the Toirah list only twelve names at the beginning of the parsha when actually 24 were sent? Ah…..answers The Toirah Temimah (not the Yeshiva whose principal covered up one of the notorious sex offenders for over 30 years- vehamavin yovin) that only the important, prominent ones were mentioned by name; the less prominent remained anonymous.
Perhaps the less prominent 12 were not involved in or not responsible for causing the BNY to complain and lose faith; leadership comes with responsibilities. Or, efsher they stayed behind to taste the real fruit in the land, if you chap. Accordingly, only the leaders, the chashuvim (big shots) are named at the the beginning of the parsha. Ver veyst?
Finally if you’re wondering which fruits the Meragim smuggled back that caused all this trouble, the answer is 1- a cluster of grapes; 2- a pomegranate; 3 – a fig. And it took 8 miraglim to carry them.
My advice: if you’re visiting another country as a spy, err…I mean tourist, bring back a t-shirt or anything else but zicher no fruit. This farkakta fruit seems to have been at the root cause of the yiddin having to spend an additional 39 years wandering through the midbar looking for a port-a- potty. Oh and let’s not forget the trouble that fruit caused over in Gan Eden way back. Ok, we’ve juiced this topic- veyter.
Sadly I am only too aware that many of you lose interest after the first aliya or two and when you realize that you’re not getting an aliya this shabbis, you’re totally zoned out. But hold on, don’t go. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating story found mamish near the end of the parsha. Just before the Mitzva of tzitzis and its blue thread is given, we read this mamish fascinating story, one that zicher your Rebbe didn’t teach you in yeshiva. It’s the story about wood and it’s not what you chazerrim are thinking about.
|32. When the children of Israel were in the desert, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day.||לב. וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיִּמְצְאוּ אִישׁ מְקֹשֵׁשׁ עֵצִים בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת:|
|33. Those who found him gathering wood presented him before Moses and Aaron and before the entire congregation.||לג. וַיַּקְרִיבוּ אֹתוֹ הַמֹּצְאִים אֹתוֹ מְקֹשֵׁשׁ עֵצִים אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל כָּל הָעֵדָה:|
|34. They put him under guard, since it was not specified what was to be done to him.||לד. וַיַּנִּיחוּ אֹתוֹ בַּמִּשְׁמָר כִּי לֹא פֹרַשׁ מַה יֵּעָשֶׂה לוֹ:|
|35. The Lord said to Moses, The man shall be put to death; the entire congregation shall pelt him with stones outside the camp.||לה. וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה מוֹת יוּמַת הָאִישׁ רָגוֹם אֹתוֹ בָאֲבָנִים כָּל הָעֵדָה מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה:|
|36. So the entire congregation took him outside the camp, and they pelted him to death with stones, as the Lord had commanded Moses.||לו. וַיֹּצִיאוּ אֹתוֹ כָּל הָעֵדָה אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה וַיִּרְגְּמוּ אֹתוֹ בָּאֲבָנִים וַיָּמֹת כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת מֹשֶׁה:|
Says the heylige toirah, that while the Yiddin were in the desert, they discovered a man gathering wood on Shabbis. The ones who found him gathering wood brought him to Moishe, Aharoin, and the entire community. Since it was not specified what must be done with him, they initially placed him under guard (read: they arrested him). The man is not identified but as you can only imagine, though the heylige gemora was written many years later, and not to anyone’s surprise, there we find Page 2 or the rest of the story and here it is.
Says the heylige gemora (Shabbos 96b): Tunu Rabonon (The rabbis taught): The Wood-Gatherer was Tzelophchad, as it says, “While the Jews were in the desert, they discovered a man gathering sticks on Shabbos…” (BaMidbar 15:32), and as it later states, “Our father died in the desert …” (BaMidbar 27:3). Just as here it refers to Tzelophchad, so too in the case of the Wood-Gatherer does it refer to him. This is Rebi Akiva’s opinion. Rebi Yehudah ben Besira said, “Akiva! Whether you are right or wrong, you will have to account for what you have said. For if you are right, then you have revealed the name of a man which the Toirah hid; if you are wrong, you will have slandered a righteous man.” As an aside, Rebi Yehuda is of the opinion that this person’s identity is to remain unknown. Grada this opinion seems sensical; if the RBSO wanted us to know, zicher He would have told us.
On the face of it, the story is simple: somebody desecrates Shabbis, the Yiddin inquire as to the appropriate sentence, and they carry out the verdict that the RBSO decrees. However, further reflection gives rise to several questions:
Ershtens (firstly), what’s so special about this guy’s sin? Isn’t it just a case of one fellow and his wood, what’s p’shat here that he got a shout out and a quick death sentence by stoning? Over the course of all the years of wandering in the wilderness, there must surely be many instances of personal transgressions. And many midroshim suggest that the Yiddin epes weren’t so careful about shabbis in the midbar, say it’s not so- chas v’sholom.
And who is this guy? What exactly did he do? What does the term “mekoishesh” really mean, and why is it not clear what his sentence should be? And what’s this story doing here? Doesn’t it belong near the laws of Shabbis? Ver veyst but as I always say: the RBSO had a plan and mistama He put things here for a reason and who says that we’re supposed to know or understand? Maybe the land wasn’t ready for so many Jews. If all was so clear, who would need Yeshivas, Rebbes and Rabbis and avada thousands of books? You chap? Efsher it’s written so that we should become hungry to chap p’shat and spend time learning instead of giving in to our Yetzer Horos or playing with wood. Ver veyst?
Back to the story and why you Oisvorfs should learn the heylige gemorah. Did we just learn that Rebi Akiva, most famous for the axiom “love they neighbor as thyself” potentially spoke loshoin horo about Tzelophchad? Was he even sure it was him and even if yes, why reveal his name if the toirah was silent? Isn’t this loshoin horo? Oy vey! Wasn’t it just last week where we learned that Miriam spoke ill of her younger brother Moishe and was immediately punished with a case of leprosy? We did! When will we ever learn?
Not to worry because according to the Pri Tzaddik, the “Wood-Gatherer” had not been out collecting wood on Shabbis because of boredom, or even to gather wood to make a fire. On the contrary, he was trying to teach a very deep lesson to the yiddin. He understood that a person who transgresses and then does tshuva (repents) can cause a tremendous rectification in the world. According to this p’shat, Tzelophchad’s only desire in breaking Shabbos was to make this point. He set himself up to do tshuva, and in effect, helped to begin an important process of spiritual rectification. Mistama you’re bursting at the seams to ask: according to this pshat, why was he sentenced to death through stoning?
But not so fast and not so simple because for tshuva to work, one cannot plan and deliberately sin hoping for repentance. You hear this? Let this be a warning to all of you chazerrim that always rationalize your behavior by planning to do tshuva on Yoim Kippur: it’s useless and toooooo late!
Interestingly enough, the Gemora (Shabbis 118b) relates that had all the yiddin kept the laws of Shabbis for 2 weeks in a row then Moshiach would have and can still come. In this week’s parsha, (were it not for Woody), we came very close and mistama since then, never again. Indeed the gemora has many discussions about keeping shabbis and its benefits. Here, a few.
Anyone who has 3 meals on Shabbis will be saved from the 3 harsh days: 1) birth pangs of Moshiach (which is compared to a woman in labor), 2) judgment in hell, 3) the coming war of Gog & Magog (the war before the coming of Moshiach). Furthermore, he is given his heart’s desires…etc. Lastly, Rashi (Bamidbar, 15;41) relates that Shabbis is as important as all of the other commandments combined, then again so are Tzitzis.
We close, as does the heylige Parsha with the mitzvah of Tzitzis. Why do we wear them and say the heylige Shema twice daily? Says Rashi (who else) in Bereishis 9:23 that in the merit of Shem’s alacrity in covering the nakedness of his drunken father (Noiach, the minuvil, remember him), he merited that his descendants – the Yiddin – would receive the mitzvah of tzitzis. Well, whoopidy doo!
So let’s get this straight. Noiach is drunk and engaged in some minuvildike sex act…Shem, his elder son sees him and to protect his father’s dignity, covers him with a blanket and for that reason we wear Tzitzis? Would you want to see your father naked? Avada nisht! Sounds perfectly logical to me. Nu, I see you perked up and want more details…here they are. Seemingly, when approaching his drunken father with the shmatta to cover him, Shem walked backwards and turned away so that he wouldn’t see Noiach’s face or his wood. As a result, the first thing one does when donning a tallis is to wrap it around one’s face so that he cannot see. Chap the connection? Is that the visual I want when I put my tallis on? Though I never knew why we did this face covering while donning the tallis, perhaps I was better off.
Given that we covered Noiach many months ago and given your level of curiosity and in case you don’t recall the Noiach incident, here goes. Mitzrayim, the person was a son of Cham (Bereishis 10:6), who either castrated or sodomized his passed-out grandfather, oy vey (Yalkut Bereishis 61), depending on which approach you like, you chazzir. And what does drunkenness, nakedness and deviant sexual behavior have to with Tzitzis? Says another Medrish: that the Mitzrim (Egyptians) were mamish an immoral and depraved people, perhaps the most in de gantze velt (the whole world). Therefore, in the portion of the shema which we find in this week’s parsha, the same portion which discusses Tzitzis, contains language stating that we should remember our exodus from that giferliceh and immoral place as the Tzitzis represent the triumph of morality and decency. Another business is born!
Adds the heylige gemora in Menachos (44a) that once upon a time a man was about to sin with a zoina (harlot) when he was saved from his immoral plan by his tzitzis. Mistama she freaked out and ran away or efsher, he didn’t have exact change.
A gitten shabbis-