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

Shelach 2015

Lots of shouts-outs, here we go:

Mazel tov to our friends Judy and Yossie Simpson upon the aufruf this coming Shabbis and the marriage this coming Sunday, of their son Tzvi, who will be marrying Dana Kandel. We look forward to dancing at this Simcha.

Mazel Tov to supermom Rachelle Rohde and her entire family upon the wedding, one week from today, of her son Kevin whom we have known since birth.The amazing Kevin will be marrying Courtney Lovett. We can’t wait to dance and enjoy at this wedding.

And in international news…Mazel Tov again to Mandy and Rubin Brecher upon the wedding this past Monday evening over in Yirusholayim of their son Shmuli to Bracha Bruce. We missed the wedding but enjoyed watching the mitzvah tantz live on face time.

And mazel tov again to our friends Aliza and Shlomie Liechtung, and to their machatunim, Ronnie and Beth Stern, upon the wedding this past Sunday of their children Yonnina and Max. The Oisvorfer will be speaking at shabbis sheva brochis; all are invited!

Raboyseyee and Ladies:

Cheating on the RBSO

Shoin! last week a record 71,029 people not currently on the Oisvorfer’s email list, made their way to the site to read the givaldige story of Moishe’s celibacy and Miriam’s and Aharoin’s gossip about Moishe’s Kushite wife. Was it the title or the content that drove the traffic, ver veyst? We did end off on a serious note about loshoin horo (bad mouthing,) and who among us hasn’t been guilty of speaking some now and then? And who among us hasn’t been the victim? Shoin, since many of you mamish enjoyed the topic  and since the Chofetz Chaim’s writings on this topic were still open on my desk, and since this week’s parsha of Shelach opens with yet another myseh (incident) regarding the consequences of idol gossip -this time about an inanimate object- and since the RBSO reacted so harshly to the gossip mongers, we will once again take a look a this subject before we getback to our daily routines of bad mouthing others.

As has been reported, Sefer Bamidbar, besides recounting the travels and travails of the Yiddin throughout their 40 year midbar (desert) trek, also delineates their poor behavior. And if you thought the Yiddin were in trouble last week, brace yourself for another adventurous week. The coming weeks won’t disappoint either. By the time we’re done with Sefer Bamidbar, your own behavior, no matter how egregious at times, may seem pale in comparison. This week’s events seem to have taken place just over one year after they left Mitzrayim, and not too long after they received the heylige Toirah. The loshoin horo incident between Miriam and her brother Aharoin -the one that closed out last week’s parsha- the very one which left her stricken with tzora’as and the lesson learned as a result, seems to have been forgotten as this week’s parsha will open with the fascinating tale of the miraglim (spies) sent to reconnoiter the land. Taka a big word for a boy from Brooklyn. The cycle of bad behavior and complaining continues, and in Shelach we’ll encounter some of the most complex and maybe saddest stories in the gantze Toirah, mamish. This week’s protagonists include the meraglim and the wood gatherer, who violated the heylige shabbis. Sandwiching these two incidents, we’ll read something about challah and the special mitzvah of tzitzis which many of you nebech stopped wearing many, many years ago. Space permitting, we will repeat some of what was previously written on this topic. Remember to check out the archives at www.oisvorfer.com if you have an interest in chapping why the RBSO wants us to wear tzitzis and how looking at them might prevent some of you from sinning, especially if you have plans for a massage that might include a  happy ending, if you chap.

Ober what did the Yiddin do that was so giferlich, that so angered the RBSO? Let’s set the stage so that we can properly chap why the RBSO reacted so harshly. As the Yiddin prepared to enter the Promised Land, miraculously conquer it from its inhabitants, settle and live happily ever after, something went awry. Twelve handpicked miraglim (spies), eminent leaders of the nation were sent to survey Israel. All twelve returned but ten delivered a bad report to the people, they bad mouthed the land claiming that it would be impossible for the Yiddin to conquer the powerful nations living there. Its inhabitants were too mighty. The Yiddin became frightened, expressed their desire (Bamidbar 14:2-3) to die in the wilderness or even return to Mitzrayim rather than attempt to enter the land. Ober refuting their reports were Kolave ben Yifuna and Yishoishua bin Nun, two of the twelve. Sadly, the Yiddin refused to hear them. Instead, the entire nation cried and complained throughout a night of total hysteria. Kolave gave it his all to calm them; sadly he was shouted down. Moreover, the masses called for the crowd to stone the two good guys (see- 14:10) for their positive report about the land. They accepted the negative land report from the majority over the good report provided by the two. And what happened next? We don’t know because the story ends abruptly: we are told that the RBSO’s glory appeared, whatever that means. Of course we come to learn that Kolave and Yihoishua were, in the end, unharmed. No one messes with the RBSO’s glory.Veyter!

The RBSO was quite upset with His Chosen people. He threatened the Yiddin with extermination – not the first time- at which point Moishe pleaded successfully that they not be totally annihilated. What good is a leader without a people to lead? The RBSO relented but not before declaring that they would be punished with forty years of valgering (wandering) in the midbar (desert), during which time, that entire generation (of men) would die out. Death came quickly to some. It kept coming and coming as we will be reading in the coming weeks. Realizing their grave error, a group insisted on immediately advancing into the land.Again they acted impetuously, against the RBSO’s will, and were immediately wiped out by the Amalekites and the Canaanites.

From the swift punishment meted out, it’s epes mashma (appears) that this particular sin angered the RBSO at least as much, if not more, than most that proceeded or even followed. Ober, why were all the Yiddin punished for the sins of but 10 individuals who were at the outset of their mission considered leaders and great people, people our rabbis refer to as ‘great people’? What about the report by the group of ten caused the RBSO to lash out as He did by punishing the masses? Of all the bad behavior, rebellions and other mischief recounted in the heylige Toirah, was the miraglim caper so giferlich? Only ten bad guys; why punish over 600,000 seemingly innocent men? Was the spy caper considered as egregious as or maybe even more so than the ‘cheyt ho’eygel’ (sin of the golden calf)? But wait, we have a few more questions? Ershtens (firstly), if this was year two and so the heylige Toirah tells us, and if the Yiddin entered the Land in year 40, was their punishment mamish 40 years, or was it but 38 years? Shoin, if these questions are bothering you as well, you are not alone.

Says the medrish azoy: The cheyt ho’eygel and the cheyt hamiraglim (sins of the golden calf and the spies) are twins mamish, on equal footing, sins that characterized the fickleness of the generation that left Mitzrayim. It does appear that the sin of the nation brought about by the miraglim, was like the sin of the eygel, an act that changed the whole course of the history of that generation. And just as the cheyt ho’eygel involved a breach of the covenant…cheating on the RBSO with another god, so too, the sin involving the miraglim was efsher a breach of the covenant and a rejection of the RBSO and His promise that the Promised Land would be an inheritance for the Yiddin.

Ober how can we compare the cheyt ho’eygel, a sin of idolatry mamish to a group of ten people bad mouthing some land? Didn’t logic dictate that the Yiddin follow the majority report of twelve experts hand-picked by none other than Moishe? Moreover, would it be so giferlich to assume that the prohibition of gossip, like all mitzvois between man and man, apply only to living human beings and not to inanimate objects? In any event, could loshoin horo be equated with or considered even worse than avoido zoro (idolatry)? Is loshoin horo one of the Ten Commandments? It is not! Ober idolatry did make the top ten; in fact it is number one!  No wonder the RBSO wanted to do away with His chosen people following the eygel, this avada makes perfect sense. Ober why a similar reaction to mamish wipe out His people and start all over again because of some bad mouthing? Was the honor of the land mamish so inviolable?

Shoin, our wise sages were wondering the same thing and, basing themselves on a close reading of the heylige Toirah’s words, linked these two sins. They found elements of idolatry within the episode of the spies. They decided that the loshoin horo, though spoken about land, might have been as giferlich or maybe ever more so, then other shenanigans. Said the miraglim (13:31) azoy: “We cannot go forward against those people. They are too strong mimenu.”  And that means what? While the standard translation of mimenu is ‘from us’, Rashi will tell us that it can and maybe does mean “than Him”. In other words: a heretical proclamation that even the RBSO was no match for the land. Shoin, the people became frightened and suggested to appoint a new leader and go back to Mitzrayim where they at least enjoyed a good menu, unusual familial relationships, if you chap, and also a few hot shiksa Mitzri women while they were laying bricks. Said they (14:4): Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Mitzrayim. Says the medrish azoy: their intention was not to replace Moishe as their leader, they seemingly wanted a new god to lead them. Hence their desire to return to Mitzrayim which offered many choices of gods. And for these words and thoughts, they were condemned.

Said Rav Chaim Shmuelivitz azoy:  the punishment of the spies was handed down because they spoke loshoin horo against the Promised Land of Israel, the very land the Yiddin were anxiously awaiting to enter following 210 years of slavery and other suffering.  And the sentence? A year for each day of their mission, 40 years in total. Ober as we pointed out just above, the numbers don’t epes add up. Ersthens, they did not speak loshoin horo for 40 straight days (or maybe they did among themselves, ver veyst). The emes is that the trip may have lasted 40 days but their report, as retold in but a few pisukim in the heylige Toirah was given over in but one day and mistama in but a few minutes. Their report was given only on day 40, the very day they returned. Shelt-zich-di-shaylo (the question arises) azoy: why were they punished with 40 years for 40 days? Ober, es veyst zich-ois (it appears) that the punishment did not just come for the speaking of loshoin horo. They, like Miriam last week, were seemingly punished for their negative judgment as well. They were punished for having developed negative assessments and perceptions during the entirety of their mission. And for this the RBSO got quite upset. And if this rings a bell and sounds epes familiar because we just covered this topic last week, is should. And taka says the Chofetz Chaim azoy: The battle lies in training ourselves not to jump to negative conclusions. Loshoin horo is not merely a crime of speech. It is a crime of perception. The miraglim used negative perceptions to draw negative conclusions and then verbalized those by bad mouthing the land.

Ober listen to this Kli Yokor who says azoy: the Yiddin were in fact punished one year for each day of the trip but the punishment only took place one day each year of the 40 years. Ober which day? On Tisha B’Av. They only died on Tisha B’Av? That’s what he believes. As an aside,  this was the official beginning of the tragic day of Tisha B’Av; many other tragedies have befallen the Yiddin on this date. They were taka punished but for only 40 days representing the 40 days of their mission, ober the 40  days were spread over 40 years. Gishmak! And even more gishmak….all those who should have been in the army and insisted on not listening to the spies (ages 20 to 60) were allowed to live out their “service life” and were punished by dying at age 60. Did that happen? Ver veyst?

And says Rabbi Munk azoy:  since those who had turned 60 the previous year died on each Tisha B’Av, it took forty years for the punishment to complete. This allowed the children (under 20) to grow up and replace them so that there was a fully trained and complete community ready to go into Ki’naan to fight and to conquer the land from its inhabitants.

And says the medrish azoy:  Seemingly, the mission was to last longer ober the RBSO shortened the time of the meraglim’s stay in the land so that the trip would take but 40 days.  And says the Toisfis Yom Tov (Soitah 1: Mishna 9) azoy: the Yiddin had free will and could have resisted the temptation. Ober the RBSO knew of the possibility of the sin and the necessity of the punishment. As a result, He shortened the trip so that the punishment could be carried out in such a way as to ensure that the lesson had been learned. The 40 year punishment was an act of rachamim (kindness), not retribution.

Earlier we mentioned that the parsha is most famous for the Miraglim because that incident changed the course of our history and elongated our trip by 38 years. The parsha closes out with the mitzvah of wearing tzitzis (fringes). The final paragraph of the parsha contains the mitzvah to attach tzitzis (fringes) to the corners of one’s clothing. Efsher you’re wondering why this mitzvah, seemingly out of place, was attached to this parsha? And while you’re pondering the question, efsher you’re also wondering why some have the minhag (custom) to wear them out of their hoizen (pants), why some come in all white while others feature one blue fringe and why in general we are commanded to wear tzitzis. Shoin, we have previously covered this topic ober a few readers asked for a shtikel chazoro on this topic (review); here we go.

image002How many times did your parents ask you to put them on and how many times were you sent home or suspended from Yeshiva after an unexpected tzitzis check where the Rebbe chapped you all over, if you chap, and then sent you home to get your tzitzis? Nu, efsher we can kler that the minhag to wear them outside one’s pants began because the Rebbes, some of them, taka did a tzitzis check inside the hoizen. Efsher he convinced you to drop your pants so that he could taka see that your strings were hanging correctly, ver veyst? Efsher, he wanted to adjust them so that they wouldn’t touch your mokoim erva, if you chap, ver veyst. Maybe he just wanted them out of the way so he could taka touch the erva, ver veyst. Or, we can kler that wearing tzitzis outside the pants was mamish instituted as a measure of self-defense. Veyter:

Says the heylige Toirah:  “Speak to the children of Israel,” says the RBSO to Moishe, “and tell to them that they make themselves fringes (tzitzis) in the corners of their garments throughout their generations.”And they shall put upon the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.And it shall be to you as fringes; and you shall see it, and remember all the commandments of G-d, and do them; and that you seek not after your heart and your eyes, after which you go astray. That you may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy to your G-d.I am G-d your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d: I am G-d your God.

Seeing the tzitzis seems to be a critical component of this mitzvah. And wearing them is avada a mitzvah but also a symbol for remembering the RBSO. Why must we remember? Nu, says the posik (15:39 ):  “look at it and recall all the commandments of the RBSO and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.” Is the RBSO suggesting that without tzitzis we might efsher give into our lustful urges? You bet He is! So we taka learn in the heylige Gemora (Menochois 44a) which tells us this myseh (story).

Says the heylige Gemora: There was once a man who was meticulous and scrupulous in the observance of all mitzvois including avada, the mitzvah of tzitzis. Notwithstanding his otherwise exemplary behavior, nevertheless, when word reached him of a beautiful zoina (prostitute) who had come to a town nearby, his interest and desire became overwhelming. Her going and coming rate, if you chap, was 400 talents of gold. Shoin, efsher klerring (thinking) that anyone who charged such exorbitant fees, also had special talents, if you chap, he sent her the 400 talents and scheduled a date to meet. He prepaid, efsher he expected or negotiated a steep discount for prepayment, ver veyst.

Nu, when he arrived at the appointed time, she had prepared seven beds for him, one atop the other — six of silver and the highest one was made of gold. Six silver ladders led to the six silver beds, and a golden ladder led to the uppermost one. The prostitute unclothed herself and sat on the uppermost bed, and he, too, joined her. Yes, this is all found in the Gemora, where else? As he was unclothing himself, (a shtikel miracle took place)his four tzitzis (fringes) suddenly and mysteriously slapped him in the face (efsher he was shokeling too hard). Next:  He slid off the bed onto the floor, where he was quickly joined by the woman. What happened next? The woman came and sat beside him on the ground. She asked what was wrong with her for she sensed that he had lost his desire, if you chap. He explained, that it was not that his desire had gone, but rather that the sight of the tzitzis had reminded him of the RBSO’s role in his life and the obligation to be holy. Seemingly his tzitzis helped him overcome the lust of his heart and eyes. The tzitzis, according to this myseh, inspired not only him, but also the woman who became a convert, and later his wife, to live according to the ideals of the heylige Toirah, and here’s how it went down:

Said the zoina: “I swear by the Roman Caesar, I will not leave you until you reveal to me what flaw you have found in me.” Said the good Jew “I swear, that I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you. However, there is one mitzvah which we were commanded by the RBSO, and tzitzis is its name. Concerning this mitzvah it is twice stated in the Toirah ‘I am the L-rd your G‑d’ — ‘I am the one who will seek retribution, and I am the one who will reward.’ Now the four tzitzis appeared to me as four witnesses, testifying to this truth.”

Said she “I still will not leave you until you provide me with your name, the names of your city, rabbi and the school in which you study Toirah.” He wrote down all the information and handed it to her. The woman sold all her possessions except her linens – chap nisht- soon you’ll hear why. A third of the money she gave to the government (as a payoff so that they would allow her to convert to Judaism), a third she handed out to the poor, and the remaining third she took with her — along with the silver and gold beds — and she proceeded to the school which the man had named, the study hall of Rabbi Chiya. “Rebbe,” she said to Reb Chiya, “I would like to convert to Judaism.”

“Perhaps,” Rabbi Chiya responded, “you desire to convert because you have taken a liking to a Jewish man?” The woman pulled out the piece of paper with the information and related to the rabbi the miracle which transpired with the tzitzis. “You may go and claim that which is rightfully yours [i.e. the right to convert],” the rabbi proclaimed. She ended up marrying the man. And the linens from her many beds?  Well, those very beds which she originally prepared for him illicitly, she now prepared for him lawfully. Such was his reward for meticulously observing the mitzvah of tzitzis.

In the end, he got his tzitzis reward, came into gold, silver and much more, if you chap, and they lived happily ever after. One can only imagine what reward awaits those donning  tzitzis upon arrival to  Oilom Haboh (the World to Come),  but if the previous story is emes and any indication, it can’t be bad. And certainly worth a try, no? Gishmak mamish!

And the lessons from this myseh? Seemingly from this givaldige story and other rabbinic teachings on tzitzis, we learn the importance and power of having visual reminders of the Toirah’s commandments and ideals in our lives. Efsher that’s also the reason we wear a kippa on our heads and hang a mezuzah on the doorpost? Seemingly the Yiddin need symbols and objects to remind us of our obligations to the RBSO and to inspire us to live a life of holiness. Ver veyst? What else can we learn from this story? Seemingly for the tzitzis to come to the rescue in case one has wandered and followed his lustful heart, one must wear them outside his pants so that they can magically slap him in the face just in the nick of time.  On the other hand we can kler that the tzitzis will jump into action and to the rescue even if they were hidden from view inside the pants, because we have to assume that the pants will come off once the person is seeing action, if you chap.

And to tie all this together, let’s close with this thought. The miraglim whose job it was to check out the land, instead sought after their hearts and their eyes. They went astray and lost their way. The mitzvah of tzitzis was efsher given as a correction for the sin that preceded it and protection against it being repeated. We can kler that efsher the RBSO gave the Yiddin the tzitzis mitzvah as an aid to help the next generation fare better in the tests where the previous one failed in so many areas. The principal aim of the tzitzis is to remind a person at all times of the RBSO and His commandments, and thereby to avoid the symptoms of lack of faith that arise from forgetting. Had the Yiddin worn tzitzis while in the Midbar, perhaps the meraglim would have looked at them and not spoken loshoin horo and the Yiddin could have avoided a total of 40 years in the midbar and tens of thousands of deaths by decree and also natural causes, ver veyst.

And the last word on tzitzis is this: Wearing them is not absolutely obligatory. It’s not? It is avada possible to avoid the commandment of  tzitzis altogether by never wearing a garment of four or more corners. Ober says the RambaM and so rules: “Even though one is not obligated to acquire a [four-cornered] robe and wrap oneself in it in order to [fulfill the command of] tzitzis, it is not fitting for a pious individual to exempt himself from this command” (HilchoisTzitzis, 3:11). And oisvorfs who need every mitzvah they can get their hands on in order to tip the scales back in their favor, should zicher not pass up the opportunity to chap this mitzvah. Hec, it’s a freebie, not terribly inconvenient, a good counterbalance for other chapping and avada you all know that they can come off in a flash when the moment so dictates, if you chap. Bottom line: tzitzis are seemingly vitally important and praiseworthy, but not categorical. The mitzvah is conditional: if your garment has four corners, you must put fringes on it. Settled and case closed.

A gittin shabbis-

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer

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