Raboyseyee and Ladies,
We begin with big mazel tov wishes to Rabbi Yechezkel and Rifki Freundlich upon the bar mitzvah -this coming Shabbis- of their son Shai. So happens that the Ois and eishes chayil was in shul last evening for some wedding planning when the rabbi and Shai came in for some last minute chazoro of the parsha. Mamish a gishmak to listen to and we look forward to participating in this great simcha. Mazel tov to the entire Freundlich family.
One more mazel tov shout out to our dear friends Lemor and Murry Englard upon the wedding -last week and sheva brochis this week- in honor of the marriage of their son Mikey who married Tyler Schwartz, the beautiful daughter of Yocheved and Marc. And the big news in town? The heylige Ois scored a brocho under the chuppah and at the sheva brochis sponsored by his siblings Bernard & Chavi Englard and Chani and Moish Weiss. Mazel tov to the entire family and may the new couple be blessed with good mazel, health, and happiness always.
And….a big mazel tov to our friends Suzi and Dov Klein upon the wedding and sheva brochis -with the heylige Ois and eishes chayil in attendance at the latter -of their grandson Nachum Klein.
Changing G-d’s Mind & What Will the Goyim Say
Shoin, let’s get started: in Yiddish, “a shanda far de goyim,” literally means “a shame before the nations,” describing embarrassing behavior by a Jew where a non-Jew can witness it. In another version the heylige Ois heard from his own parents -mostly when involved in some mischief- the expression is, “vus vellen di goyim zugin (what will the gentiles say), or, “vus vellen di shichaynim klerrin” (what will the neighbors think). What will the goyishe neighbors say? What will the goyim say when they see you behaving in this manner? It’s a term meant to make us stop dead in our tracks. Did it work? Sometimes! Ober, did you know that this very term is so damn powerful, it got the RBSO to stand down?
Welcome to Parshas Shelach most famous for the spy-gate caper which resulted in the elongation of the Yiddin’s wandering though the midbar to forty years; yikes! The parsha also introduces us to the concept of Tzitzis (fringes), a topic the Ois was planning on but is not covering. Oh, and let us not forget this week’s haftoirah, which retells the fabulous story of Rochov, she the local town zoina -some say she was but an innkeeper, many others suggest that she was indeed the town whore -not that there’s anything wrong with that- who helped the Yiddin and was rewarded. Ober, that fantastic story for another day. The Novee tells us that Rochov lowered the spies out the window using a rope. Let’s read the posik:
|15. And she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was in the town wall and she dwelt in the wall.||טווַתּֽוֹרִדֵ֥ם בַּחֶ֖בֶל בְּעַ֣ד הַֽחַלּ֑וֹן כִּ֚י בֵיתָהּ֙ בְּקִ֣יר הַֽחוֹמָ֔ה וּבַֽחוֹמָ֖ה הִ֥יא יוֹשָֽׁבֶת:|
Why she happened to have rope long enough to help the spies climb down and sneak out of her inn, ver veyst? Mistama the inn was frequented by other males -mistama married one’s- who needed to make a quick getaway. That being said, let us get back to the goyim and the role they played in our parsha. Let’s chazir what went down after the spies went up to tour the land of Israel.
When the meraglim (scouts or spies) returned to the camp and disparaged the land, the Yiddin believed their negative report. All hell broke loose. A few pisukim later, the RBSO -now very frustrated, upset and disillusioned with the Yiddin, however these emotions manifest in G-d- told Moishe that he will eradicate the Yiddin in a plague, and start a new nation from Moishe. He was about to mamish wipe them out. Did that happen? Not! Why not? Because our man Moishe was able to convince the RBSO to stand down, not to kill the Yiddin. He beseeched the RBSO to forgive the people, telling Hashem that the people of Mitzrayim will talk. Moishe invoked a new version of the old “Lama Yomru HaGoyim” (what will the goyim say) argument and played it hard. Lets’ read pisukim 13 and 14 innaveynig:
|13- Moses said to the Lord, “But the Egyptians will hear that You have brought this nation out from its midst with great power.||יגוַיֹּ֥אמֶר משֶׁ֖ה אֶל־יְהֹוָ֑ה וְשָֽׁמְע֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם כִּי־הֶֽעֱלִ֧יתָ בְכֹֽחֲךָ֛ אֶת־הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה מִקִּרְבּֽוֹ:|
|14. They will say about the inhabitants of this land, who have heard that You, O Lord, are in the midst of this people; that You, the Lord, appear to them eye to eye and that Your cloud rests over them. And You go before them with a pillar of cloud by day and with a pillar of fire by night,||ידוְאָֽמְר֗וּ אֶל־יוֹשֵׁב֘ הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּאת֒ שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ כִּֽי־אַתָּ֣ה יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּקֶ֖רֶב הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה אֲשֶׁר־עַ֨יִן בְּעַ֜יִן נִרְאָ֣ה | אַתָּ֣ה יְהֹוָ֗ה וַֽעֲנָֽנְךָ֙ עֹמֵ֣ד עֲלֵהֶ֔ם וּבְעַמֻּ֣ד עָנָ֗ן אַתָּ֨ה הֹלֵ֤ךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם֙ יוֹמָ֔ם וּבְעַמּ֥וּד אֵ֖שׁ לָֽיְלָה:|
Moishe’ entire argument was that the goyim will hear and be talking -even bad-mouthing the RBSO. Miraculously, the plan worked; the RBSO said “I have forgiven them in accordance with your word.” Wow! Ober, this idea that the RBSO can change His mind raises a serious theological question. When human beings “change” their minds, they are fundamentally admitting that the first decision had been incorrect — or, at the very least, not perfect — and therefore needed to be revised. But if the RBSO is all-knowing and just -avada He is- then every decision He makes is — by definition — the correct, fair, and right decision. How can Moishe, or any other human being, for that matter, pray, beseech, and argue for a change of heart, mind— and succeed?! It’s mamish a givaldige kasha (question).
That being stated, when the RBSO suggested to kill all the Yiddin for bad behavior -for having tested and disappointed Him ten times- and start anew, Moishe replied azoy to the RBSO, “And what will happen when the Mitzrim hear about it? You have brought this nation out from among them with Your great power! And what if they tell the people who live in this land? They have heard that You, the RBSO, have been with this nation [Israel]. You, The RBSO, have revealed Yourself to them face to face, and Your cloud stands over them. You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night. Now you want to kill this [entire] nation like a single man! The nations who hear this news about You will say that the RBSO was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert.” Read all about it in Perek 14 of our parsha. It’s high drama mamish. What is happening here?
Yet, once again, Moishe successfully saved the day! What’s pshat once again? Mistama, you recall how the RBSO wanted to kill the Yiddin and begin all over again back when the Yiddin cheated on Him with the golden calf. There, among the cards Moishe played was this very argument; what will the goyim say? More specifically, what will the Egyptians say? Let’s harken back to Parshas Ki Sisa where we read this:
|2. Why should the Egyptians say: ‘He brought them out with evil [intent] to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from upon the face of the earth’? Retreat from the heat of Your anger and reconsider the evil [intended] for Your people.||יבלָ֩מָּה֩ יֹֽאמְר֨וּ מִצְרַ֜יִם לֵאמֹ֗ר בְּרָעָ֤ה הֽוֹצִיאָם֙ לַֽהֲרֹ֤ג אֹתָם֙ בֶּֽהָרִ֔ים וּלְכַ֨לֹּתָ֔ם מֵעַ֖ל פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה שׁ֚וּב מֵֽחֲר֣וֹן אַפֶּ֔ךָ וְהִנָּחֵ֥ם עַל־הָֽרָעָ֖ה לְעַמֶּֽךָ:|
In our parsha, his central argument relates to the fact that a gentile nation- the goyim- this time, the Canaanites, will get the wrong perception of the RBSO. It does appear that one of Moishe’s favorite claims in the defense of the Yiddin relates to the claims of the gentile world: “Lomo Yoimru HaGoyim (why should the goyim talk)?! Moishe has now pleaded the Yiddin’s case masterfully, and saved the fate of the nation. His key argument -seemingly the winner- was the goyim trick. Moishe suggested that were the RBSO to destroy the nation, it will “look bad.” He was seemingly arguing that the RBSO should care about world opinion.
And the questions include these? Should we care what the goyim think? Why would the RBSO care what the goyim think or say? Are we not His chosen people? Why did Moishe invoke this argument? What chance did Moishe have? Did it work? Was this the first time Moishe tried this approach? Ober, let’s get real: does the RBSO care about the goyim? About public opinion? Does He change His mind? Does the RBSO sometimes regret His own decisions? The heylige Ois has gotten into it with a few friends over the years -mamish over these very questions. At the very end of Parshas Bereishis, the heylige Toirah tells us not once, but twice in two pisukim that the RBSO had in fact regretted creating man. Man 1.0 was seemingly a disaster. Let us read those pisukim innavenyig:
|5. And the Lord saw that the evil of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of his heart was only evil all the time.||הוַיַּ֣רְא יְהֹוָ֔ה כִּ֥י רַבָּ֛ה רָעַ֥ת הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וְכָל־יֵ֨צֶר֙ מַחְשְׁבֹ֣ת לִבּ֔וֹ רַ֥ק רַ֖ע כָּל־הַיּֽוֹם:|
|6. And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart.||ווַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהֹוָ֔ה כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֥ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּתְעַצֵּ֖ב אֶל־לִבּֽוֹ:|
|7. And the Lord said, “I will blot out man, whom I created, from upon the face of the earth, from man to cattle to creeping thing, to the fowl of the heavens, for I regret that I made them.”||זוַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֗ה אֶמְחֶ֨ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֤ם אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֨אתִי֙ מֵעַל֨ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה מֵֽאָדָם֙ עַד־בְּהֵמָ֔ה עַד־רֶ֖מֶשׂ וְעַד־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם כִּ֥י נִחַ֖מְתִּי כִּ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽם:|
On the other hand, in the Novee Shmuel, (I Samuel 15:29) that possibility is denied: The Prophet Shmuel notifies King Shaul (Saul) that he will be deposed, adding, “Moreover, the Glory of Israel does not deceive or change his mind, for He is not human that He should change His mind” Since The RBSO is not human and never changes his mind, Saul’s pleas will be to no avail. However, Samuel’s statement has an ironic dimension: The RBSO sent him to Saul because he is sorry He appointed him monarch: “The word of the Lord then came to Samuel: ‘I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from Me and has not carried out My commands” (I Samuel 15:10-11). Well, blow me down! Is the RBSO sorry or not?
On the other hand, in our parsha, it would appear -at least to the naked eye- before the many exegeses on what went down- that the RBSO changed His mind more than once. Following Moishe’s plea, the RBSO states in posik 20, azoy: “And the Lord said ‘I pardon, as you requested’.” Did He? The words read like the quintessential statement of forgiveness. Indeed, we chant this phrase at the start of the Kol Nidrei service. And yet, does the nation gain their pardon? The next few pisukim talk about how the nation will all wander for forty years and will die in the desert. Forgiveness? Pardon? Vey is mir (wo is to me)! Were the Yiddin forgiven or not? The bottom line: where is it written that we need to understand everything? Do you understand your wife?
Says the Seforno (on posik 20), azoy: I have forgiven you to the extent that I will not destroy you. The RBSO mean this: I will not annihilate the nation at once, however I will kill you off in stages, year by year, and not one person will enter the Land. Does that read like forgiveness? And let’s read this: according to the Rambam, what the RBSO was granting was exactly what Moishe asked for, “as you requested.” Seemingly, Moishe did not request an absolute atonement of the sin, but a mere delay, a suspension of the sentence, a deferment. Is that emes? Did Moishe not daven for forgiveness? Did he merely ask the RBSO to spare them because of what the goyim might say?
Says the Rambam (on posik 19), azoy: later in Parshas Devorim, Moishe recalls the eygel incident and how he davened for the Yiddin. “And I fell before the RBSO and prayed (9:18) and he also mentions Aharoin’s prayer (9:20.) Ober, in the context of the Meraglim, he never mentions his having davened for forgiveness. Taka, Moishe did not daven that the Yiddin be forgiven but merely that the RBSO should tolerate their sin…and his prayer was not ideal and perfect.” Well, blow me down! One wonders why Moishe did not ask for more. What was stopping him from asking for absolute forgiveness? And the question is this: had he requested total forgiveness, would the RBSO have complied with his wish? Efsher we can kler (Ois pshat) that Moishe chapped the RBSO’s mood and decided to ask only for what he thought could be achieved. Gishmak! The bottom line: managing expectations is the key to resolving many an issue.
From a theological perspective, the notion of Man arguing with the RBSO, the Almighty, is the epitome of absurdity. But in the heylige Toirah -as we read it- the absurd is seemingly normal; it’s elementary and a natural gesture to daven, argue and beseech the RBSO to change His proverbial mind. Man can indeed daven to the RBSO, argue with, debate, and even accuse the RBSO. Moishe accused the RBSO of making the lives of the Yiddin worse once he presented himself to Paroy. Every Jewish schoolchild takes this point for granted. And from whom do they learn this radical principle? From our man Moishe. In fact, as we make our way through the Toirah, we find several instances where Moishe intervened with various arguments to save the Yiddin from extinction. In each case, Moishe immediately approached the RBSO, to take up the matter and argue for Him to change His mind – however that manifests in reality. Was Moishe davening? Not necessarily: Instead, we find Moishe confronting, persuading, and insisting that the Yiddin be saved. In each case, he was relentless, and he succeeded. In each situation, he averted the awful decree. Says the medrish (Shmois Rabba 43:1; Yalkut Shimoni Eikev #852) for those reasons and more, among the many descriptions of Moishe, we find him referred to as the “Defender of Israel.”
Ober we ask this question again: how is that the RBSO changed His mind? May we believe that RBSO has emotions and can be persuaded to change His mind? On the one hand, our understanding that the One who is omniscient should not be able to reverse a decision is influenced by the Rambam who says (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1: 11), azoy: “He does not change, for there is nothing that can cause change in Him. There does not exist in Him… anger or laughter, happiness or sadness…”. And that being the case, If the Creator does not experience emotions, then there would never be motivation to mitigate against any divine decision. Moreover, how could Moishe present the RBSO with a new argument against His decision? In all of His omniscience, surely, He already knows any and all of the arguments that Moishe might make.
On the other hand, and oib azoy (if that’s taka the case), efsher we can ask this: Why does, or why would the RBSO reveal to Moishe, or to any other Novee (prophet), what He intends to do? Why signal to Avrohom that He was about to destroy Sedoim (Sodom)? The RBSO certainly does not need permission to act. And if His purpose in doing so is to boost the prophets’ standing, giving them the means to impress others, when they predict the future, as revealed to them by the RBSO — it is worth nothing that, often enough, the prophets’ audiences are not impressed by them.
On the flip side, what happens when the RBSO does signal His intentions? What happened over and again when Moishe got advance notice of pending doom? Moishe’s response is praying and fasting for the people’s salvation. Might that be the reason the RBSO signals in advance? Does the RBSO reveal the intended destruction with this very outcome in mind? Does the RBSO davka want the Nivi’im to daven on behalf of the people? And, might we suggest, that the revelation is designed to provoke the people to repent? That might be pshat. Here’s how it might play out: When the Yiddin go astray and sin, the RBSO renders a judgement based on the seriousness of the crime. He then puts the prophet in place to defend the people. Similarly, the RBSO welcomes Moishe’ argument for clemency. The bottom line: The RBSO never wanted to destroy the people to begin with. Just kidding!
The final bottom line: as to the goyim and the winning argument Moishe put forth twice -what will the goyim say- well, in these cases, one can argue that the goyim played a role in saving the Yiddin.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv