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

Shelach 2024: Instant Séminal Emissions

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Two big mazel tov shoutouts among very close friends.

A big mazel tov to our very dear friends Aliza and Shloime Liechtung upon the upcoming aufruf -this Shabbis- and wedding this coming week of their amazing son Ben who will be marrying Ariella Levin, she the beautiful daughter of Tzippy and Yoram Levin of Woodmere. A big mazel tov to both extended families and a special shoutout to grandmothers and matriarchs, Shirley Schachter (who celebrated a birthday just last week) and to Charlotte Liechtung. As well, mazel tov to all of Ben’s siblings, their spouses and extended family. We have known Ben since birth -mamish- and are looking forward to participating in this great simcha.

And in the great news department, a big big mazel tov to Rafi Levy, son of our decades long and special dear friends, Bina and Isaac Levy, upon his engagement -seemingly over in Paris three days ago- to Shevy Franklin, she the beautiful daughter of Avi and Chaya Franklin, they of Brooklyn, New York. We could not be more excited and look forward to participating in this simcha. Mazel tov to both extended families.  


Instant Séminal Emissions:

OMG, and is that even shayich (possible)? Mamish without effort? Instantaneously? Yes and so says the heylige Gemora where all is discussed including this very topic. Shoin, now that I whet your appetite – so to speak- let us begin.

Welcome to Parshas Shelach which -as you all know- features Spy-gate, the famous myseh of the 12 spies sent out by Moishe on a reconnaissance mission in advance of the Yiddin crossing over the river and into the promised land. The mission was a disaster; the end result was that the Yiddin were sentenced to an additional 38 years of wanderings in the midbar. They were the lucky ones; the others were sentenced to death. Indeed the entire slave generation -males only, a few women too- and with but a few exceptions, was to die off. Moishe too is now gone, succeeded by Yehoishua bin Nun, who seemingly -in the Novee- talked with the RBSO with some frequency, and who, like his predecessor, was to engineer a parting of the waters when necessary, albeit with the less daunting flow of the Jordan River. Shoin.

We have previously covered the miraglim, their sin, and the RBSO’s response. As well, we covered the good guys, the individual efforts of Kolave and Yehoishua bin Nun to quell the uprising following the negative report of the scouts. Twelve were selected for the mission, ten came back badmouthing the land and but two – Kolave and Yehoishua spoke up for the land; they told the Yiddin that it could be conquered.  The bottom line: as mentioned, the mission was a failure and the RBSO cancelled all the visas of the Yiddin. Want more on spy-gate? You can find Parshas Shelach posts going back 13 years at www.Oisvorfer.com. Ober what about this year? What to cover in the last twelve weeks of year fourteen?

For the first time, the heylige Ois will skip the parsha and move right to the haftoirah attached to this parsha, and my-oh-my; you will be astounded and amazed as you read the epilogue to this story. For my not so religious readers -yes, the heylige Ois has many thousands- on Shabbis and Yom Tov mornings, a selection from one of the biblical books of the Prophets is read after reading the parsha of the week from the Toirah itself. This portion is known as the haftoirah. Veyter.

At the end of year forty -of mostly aimless wanderings, the Yiddin were finally set to enter the land. The haftoirah tells the story of another scouting mission, this one with better results. It’s shocking, tantalizing, entertaining and oh, so real.

Let’s get right into it and say hello to one of the most famous prostitutes to have ever lived, one whose story we read every year, one who is covered, uncovered, and more in the heylige Gemora and many a medrish. Es farshteytzich (it’s avada understood) that the heylige Ois needs to chime in and here we go: Let us meet Rochov.

As told in the heylige Novee (Joshua 2), Rochov is a Canaanite shiksa zoina (prostitute) who hides two Jewish spies in her abode. When the king of Jericho sends men to capture them -they are spies after all- she sends back a message that the spies have already skedaddled out of town. In fact, she hid them, thereby offering them much needed protection. The full story is a great read, one that will inspire you to learn even more Novee, Gemora and medrish. Sex sells, then and now. The short version is azoy: To chap how to attack and capture Yirichoi (Jerico) upon crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moishe’s successor, Yehoshua, sends two spies to recontour the land. The king of Jerico gets wind of their presence -is given inside information that they may have checked in at Rochov’s place- and asks her to produce the spies. She – having heard of the RBSO and His miracles and having concluded that the Yiddin will be victorious- decides to switch teams and follow in the RBSO’s ways.

Next: She takes the men up to the hagagah (roof). There she hides them under a pile of flax stalks, it being, apparently, flax season, and flax being a source of fiber for rope making, a necessary component when fashioning the rope used in their escape.  There she confides to them that the men of Jericho are certain they will be Israel’s next conquest.

Whether she is conveying common knowledge or stam azoy pillow talk -on which we can call her an expert- ver veyst? She tells them, the citizenry has heard about the Parting of the Red Sea and the people’s hearts have melted with terror because, as she says: Ki Hashem Eloheychem hu Elohim

כי י אלהיכם הוא אלהים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת

“Because Hashem, your G-d, is G-d in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Words we still sing or not in the Oleynu prayer.)

She hides the people but not before making a deal. In a turn of events, they need to afford her protection. We can assume that Rochov – given her profession and traffic -chapped just how vital protection was.

The spies agree; they are saved and in turn save Rochov and her immediate family. Of course there is a machloikes (disagreement) concerning Rochov’s sisters; some say they too were saved; others say farkert. Were they also service providers? Ver veyst? Rochov lives happily ever after as a nice Jewish woman -meaning avada that her shop was now closed to the public and if she was taka an orthodox woman, mistama mostly also mostly closed to her new husband. Shoin. As an aside, according to some and as fate would have it, she ended up marrying Yehoishua himself.

Wait, we have a few questions. Who were the two spies sent on this daring mission? Guess what? The RBSO doesn’t tell us ober not to worry; the medrish identifies them as Kolave and Pinchas. Avada you recall that Kolave was on the first mission; he was one of the two good guys and the RBSO loved him.  And Pinchas? Why was he selected? Nu, in a few weeks we will learn that he stood up -against all odds- in an act of zealotry, when he publicly killed the leader of the tribe of Shimon and the Midianite princess with whom he was seemingly fornicating in public. As a reward, ironically, Pinchas will spend some quality time in the whore house with Rochov. Was he still a stand-up guy, if you chap? The RBSO is great!

Ober, was Rochov mamish a zoina, a harlot, a prostitute? And the spies couldn’t find any other accommodations? In all of Jerico, they couldn’t epes find a nice motel, a moderately priced desert inn? Seemingly, they were working under cover, if you chap. The bottom line: though their first mission was a flop, for whatever reason – we are not told- this time they played it safe and went directly to the whore house where for the right price, they were assured of a happier ending, if you chap.  Another bottom line: Rochov, despite her reputation and moniker as the local whore -mamish referred to in the Novee and elsewhere as “Rochov the whore,” did very good things for the Jewish people and that factoid left the heylige Gemora to ponder how it was shayich to be a whore and yet do such good? What to do? Change the storyline!

Let’s see how the heylige Gemora and others tried dancing around the descriptor given to her in the Novee. The heylige Ois has told you -over and again- that when our sages of the medrish disliked someone, they went to town and painted that person quite ugly. In our case, in the case of Rochov the harlot, it’s punkt farkert; they mamish went out of their way to clean her up as through she were a holy virgin and purer than the driven snow. Let’s begin with real poshit pshat (simple meaning of the term used to describe her).

The term harlot (זונה) in the heylige Toirah does typically refer to a prostitute who is paid for sex, or more generally to a promiscuous woman.  The bottom line:  the term is meant as a pejorative, not one that would be included on the shidduch resume. Ober, davka because Rochov’s story is so heartwarming – she becomes a convert and marries into the fold- a number of exegetes decided that her background as a harlot simply did not fit: it was time for reputation management and a cleanup in aisle 5 -so to speak, if you chap.

Says Targum Yoinoson that Rochov was not a harlot, not at all! Shoin! Calling her a whore was nothing but Russian disinformation; case closed and signed by 51 experts. What was she? Says the targum that Rochov was a pundakita (פּוּנְדְקִיתָא), a tavern-keeper. Seemingly this word is borrowed from the Greek language. Guess who agrees? This translation is quoted approvingly in the comments of Rashi who, using a play on the word zoina, says azoy: What zoina!? She was no whore; she sold mizoinis (bakery goods)! You hear this? Both words, zoina and mizoinis share a few Hebrew letters and therefore we should assume that Rochov either had a bakery or stam azoy, she had a concession, where she sold baked goods. The bottom line according to this pshat is azoy: the Jewish spies were hungry for some danish -who isn’t- and shoin, they stopped off at the bakery. Hopefully the yeast didn’t infect her body, ver veyst.

Let’s review: in the cleanup aisle, the word “zoina” refers to an innkeeper who sells food (mezoinis) and supports travelers and wayfarers. Ober, some say [that it means] she nourished (mazneh) others with her beauty.

זונה – פונדקיתא שמוכרת מזונות ומכלכלת עוברים ושבים. ויש אומרים שמזנה אחרים ביופיה.

What? In that attempt to clean her up, the word zoina means that men sought only to contemplate her beauty. What that means, ver veyst! That being said, let’s get real: the simple meaning of the term in the heylige Toirah is harlot, and that very word ‘zoina’, is how the heylige Novee introduces the hero of the story. It’s part of her name. So happens that the heylige Gemora (Zevochim 116b- a must read), understands this word in its more usual sense. The spies, specifically visited her house because she was frequented by the aristocracy of the land, which made her an important source of intelligence. Another reason was that entry into the home of such a woman would adequately cover up for the spies: who would suspect Pinchas of visiting the whore house? Then again, she seemingly did offer entry into her own promised land, if you chap. Moreover, the Canaanites knew that promiscuity was forbidden to the Yiddin -not that they ever took this too seriously as we will be reading in a few weeks- and they would not suspect her visitors of being Jewish spies. Of course not: Jewish people never visit such places; right! Then again, some years back, if you’re old enough to remember, David Suskind dedicated a full hour to a few whores who claim just the opposite. Shoin, that for another day. Want more? Here we go.

Here are other factoids you may or may not have known about Rochov the whore. The medrish includes Rochov among the four most beautiful women the world has ever known. Shoin, is it a wonder that her place was so well known and frequented? Who were the others? For the Shabbis tish, they were Soro, Avigayil and Esther.

And let’s check out the most explosive -if you chap- shtikel Gemora (Megillah 15a) which says this about Rochov: Anyone who mentioned her name, saying, “Rochov, Rochov” immediately lusted after her. Lusted? What’s pshat? In plain English: anyone who said Rochov Rochov would have an instant orgasm! Instant ejaculation. Mamish? Does everyone agree? Not! Said Rebbe Nachman, azoy: “But I say ‘Rochov, Rochov’ and nothing happens to me!” Take that! The Gemora answers azoy: “This refers to one who knows her and is intimate with her.” Folks, this is real Gemora, kimat verbatim; feel free to check it out. Want the verbatim language? Sure you do; check it out here:

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: רָחָב בִּשְׁמָהּ זִינְּתָה, יָעֵל — בְּקוֹלָהּ, אֲבִיגַיִל — בִּזְכִירָתָהּ, מִיכַל בַּת שָׁאוּל — בִּרְאִיָּיתָהּ. אָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק: כׇּל הָאוֹמֵר ״רָחָב״ ״רָחָב״ — מִיָּד נִיקְרֵי. אָמַר לֵיהּ רַב נַחְמָן: אֲנָא אָמֵינָא ״רָחָב״ ״רָחָב״ וְלָא אִיכְפַּת לִי! אֲמַר לֵיהּ: כִּי קָאָמֵינָא בְּיוֹדְעָהּ וּבְמַכִּירָהּ.

The Sages taught in a b’raisa, Rochov aroused impure thoughts by her name, i.e., the mere mention of her name would inspire lust for her; Yael, by her voice; Avigayil, by remembering her; Michal, the daughter of Saul, by her appearance. Similarly, Rabbi Yitzchok said: Anyone who says Rochov, Rochov, immediately experiences a seminal emission due to the arousal of desire caused by Rochov’s great beauty. Rav Nacḥman said to him: I say: Rochov, Rochov, and it does not affect me. Rabbi Yitzchok said to Rav Nacḥman: When I said this, I was specifically referring to one who knows her personally and recognizes her beauty. Only for one who has met Rochov in person is the mere mention of her name capable of arousing lust.

Fascinated? Let’s learn some more medrish which tells us azoy: Our sages describe how Rochov was ten years old at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. She engaged in prostitution during the forty years of the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness, until the age of fifty. Since there was no prince or mighty one who did not visit Rochov the harlot, she was well acquainted with people’s thoughts. When she reported to the spies who came to her house: “no man had any more spirit left because of you” (Yehoishua 2:11), she alluded to her professional knowledge of the dimensions of the people’s fears, because their apprehension affected their vitality when with her (Zevochim 116a-b). The bottom line: it appears that not all of Rochov’s clients experienced instant satisfaction.

The bottom lines: we must all admit that Rochov was a fascinating character. She had a pivotal role in the plot to capture Yirichoi by providing crucial intelligence. As well, through her actions, she also provided a tikkun -a rectification-  of the disastrous scouting trip of the previous generation. Instead of leading the Yiddin to believe that their success was untenable, she convinced them it was, in fact, inevitable; the RBSO so decreed. She was a believer. Mamish farkert from the last mission.

Another bottom line: as the Ois has shared many times over these past fourteen years, the RBSO -from time to time- let’s us know that He has a sense of humor. He seemingly selects for greatness characters we were taught not to be. Was Loit’s daughter – one of the two who intoxicated their father and took turns fornicating with him chosen to be the many times great grandmother of the Moshiach? Indeed she was. Was Dovid -despite some unruly behavior, such behavior deserving of the death penalty, chosen? Yes, he was! Was Tamar who also had a roadside encounter while dressed as a harlot, chosen? Indeed she was. The list goes on.

Though Rochov’s background was somewhat checkered and very colorful, our sages of the medrish and Gemora obsessed about Rochov davka because she was a person of exceptional virtue. She was -in the end- the model convert, perhaps even more heralded than Rus. As mentioned -according to some- she married Yehoishua himself becoming the foremother of many prophets, among them Jeremiah and Chuldah, one of the several female prophets mentioned in the heylige Novee. The medrish of course also tells us that in her new faith she retired -after forty years successful years- from being a prostitute.

Though her background was somewhat checkered and very colorful, our sages of the medrish and Gemora obsessed about Rochov davka because she was a person of exceptional virtue. She was -in the end- the model convert, perhaps even more heralded than Rus. As mentioned -according to some- she married Yehoishua himself becoming the foremother of many prophets, among them Jeremiah and Chuldah, one of the several female prophets mentioned in Tanach. The medrish of course also tells us that in her new faith she retired -after forty years successful-  from being a prostitute.

Have we been fed bad information? A false narrative? Fake news? Must we be all-good to be selected for greatness? For leadership? Rochov, who turned tricks, betrayed her people and her king- teaches otherwise. So does Dovid Hamelech and so many other great heroes of our people. Perhaps, we have to be but more good than bad?!

The end!

A gittin Shabbis!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman

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