Tzipoira: a cut above…
The first 16 chapters of Sefer Shemois deal with slavery and freedom; that will take us through the next four shabbosim. How did we become slaves? What happened to the Yiddin? Just last week Yoisef was still the Viceroy of Mitzrayim and he, his brothers, and the gantze mishpocho were living big. They were well respected and flourished – eych noflu geboirim (oh, how the mighty have fallen, vus iz gisheyn (what happened)? Zicher you recall that way back in Parshas Lech Lecho, the RBSO promised Avrom Oveenu that his children would one day be strangers (read: slaves) in a nation that does not belong to them. Guess what? He didn’t forget and in this week’s Parsha of Shemois, He makes good and it all unfolds. Seemingly the RBSO has a long memory and avada that cannot be good news for most of you giferliche Oisvorfs who think otherwise.
Yankif’s family had been living in Mitzrayim (Egypt) and prospering, mistama shvindeling (ripping off) the goyim wherever they could and had grown from a family of but 70 bodies, into a nation of 3 million and that’s what I call fertility. A new king, who did not know Yoisef, came to rule over Egypt. Avada there is a machloikes (dispute) in the heylige Gemora as to whether he was actually a new king, or whether it was the old Paroy with new policies who enacted harsh decrees against the Yiddin. In either event, it wasn’t a pleasant situation; seemingly they had forgotten Yoisef’s great contributions to Egypt, what else is new? Sadly, people forgetting favors is the one minhag (custom) people follow ad hayom hazeh (until today).
The supernatural, rapid increase in the Jewish population had made the Egyptians nervous and wouldn’t you be if you witnessed Jewish mothers giving birth by the litter? Says the Medrish (Yalkut): that each pregnancy produced sextuplets. Says another that each pregnancy produced a dozen children and says yet another, that sixty, yes 60 kinderlach came out of each pregnancy and that’s what I call fertility. Said the Mitzrim:– “there are too many of them, what if they rise up against us” – we need a plan. Paroy feared a revolt and issued a genocidal decree: Kill all the Jewish boys. You hear this Raboyseyee? Paroy thought we the Jews were going to grow up, enroll in the army and become fighters. What was he thinking? Only a goyishe farshtuppta kup would think of such a nonsensical idea.
He forced the Jews to do intense back breaking labor in order to crush their spirit and curtail their growth. The Yiddin became his slaves and were forced to build two large cities, by hand mamish. Paroy was a genius and understood that Yiddin don’t enjoy manual labor. Of course, it took them 116 years to build these cities because they had frequent breaks for minyan, mishmar, Sunday school, fund raisers for other kings, concerts, Melava Malkas, weekend bar mitzvahs and parlor meetings for visiting out of town Rebbes. And nebech they fell behind because they refused to work on chol hamoied, Isru Chag, erev Yom Tov and, also went home early on Fridays.
As always, the RBSO had a master plan and mamish at the same time we’re learning how the Yiddin fell into slavery, we’re about to meet the appointed redeemer. The RBSO is avada great and not just did He have a plan but it also involved Paroy’s own tuchter (daughter) Bisya or Basya, who would fish baby Moishe out of the river. And before we meet Moishe Rabaynu, the centerpiece mamish of this week’s parsha and his parents for the first time, let’s quickly chazir Parshas Vayichi. Just last Shabbis, Yankif felt the end was near, gathered his wonderful kinderlich, bentched them all, passed away and was buried in the Me’oras Hamachpela. Eisav too, died and his head, according to some, was also buried there. Unlike many of the Chasiddic Rabbis of today who die without leaving a will and let their chasiddim duke it out in court and in other places, Yankif left clear instructions with his kinderlich. With great specificity, he told them who was destined to lead, where he wanted to be buried and even told them a few things they didn’t want to hear or remember. He bentched most of them and had a stern message for the others. Yoisef too passed away at a young 110, the first of this brothers to die, but not before he enjoyed an 80 year run as the Viceroy of Egypt. During his reign he cleaned out the Mitzrim (Egyptians) of all their cash, their animals, their land, and made Paroy a very wealthy man. Mistama he and his brider (brothers) also made a few dollars on the side; avada it’s good to have friends (even family) in high places. He too, left instructions about what to with his bones.
We begin Sefer and Parshas Shemois, otherwise known as Exodus and there’s lots going on. The Yiddin, once on top, are now enslaved. Soon, we’ll meet Moishe Rabaynu whose name you’ll see in every parsha in the heylige Toirah going forward but one. We’ll meet his parents and avada read the great story of how baby Moishe was pulled from the river by an Egyptian Princess, Paroy’s own daughter no less. She also named him. We’ll learn how Moishe killed someone, ran away, met his bashert at the well, romanced her, married her and had a shtikel encounter with a burning bush-avada not related to his marriage-, if you chap. Also in this week’s parsha, just a few aliyos after we meet him, Moishe is almost killed in some strange roadside incident. In fact so strange is this mayseh shehoya (true story) that we’ll look into it right now and out of order. Hey, didn’t you learn in yeshiva that eyn mukdom umuchar batoirah (there is no chronological order to the heylige toirah)? Ok, let’s set it up.
Moishe grows up, walks among his brethren, witnesses a few things that displease him, kills a goy and is outed by a Jew, yikes!!! About to be taken and “sent away” for murder, he high tails out of Mitzrayim and eventually ends up in the land of Midyan, which is across the Sinai Peninsula. There he meets Yisroy (Jethro), an excommunicated priest who has several daughters, one of whom named is Tzipoirah. Struck with her beauty, some say she was a black beauty, Moishe marries her and they have two rather unremarkable sons- Gershom and Eliezer- about whom we won’t be reading much in the gantze Toirah. Efsher the first Jewish leader to not have remarkable children, zicher not the last. Seemingly, it’s difficult to manage the entire nation and one’s own household. Moishe becomes a shepherd, also a parnoso (living); at least he didn’t enroll in Yeshiva Shem Vo’ever and schnorr off his father–in-law. Next: the RBSO meets him at the burning bush and convinces him to be the messenger to free the Yiddin from slavery. Moishe asks his shver (father-in-law) for permission to go, which he granted. Why he needed permission, we’ll efsher cover later. Next, he packed up his eishes chayil, his elder son Gershom and his newborn infant Eliezer and they’re on the road to Mitzrayim. Avada you can imagine that they needed to rest along the way and on the way to the inn, or at the inn, the Toirah tells us this is what happened. Hurch ois and halt kup (listen up and pay attention).
Rashi, who else, mentions the heylige Gemora (Nedarim 31B) which tells us that two angels in the form of snakes engulfed every part of Moishe’s body except his makoim milah (penis). In other words: he was swallowed up, efsher a first for a Jewish husband, if you chap. His eishes chayil (wife) Tzipoirah realized that the crisis was being caused by their son Eliezer’s lack of a bris milah. How she made this connection, ver veyst, but when she noticed that all that was left of her husband was his Mila, she deduced that epes wasn’t right. What to do? She, in the first ever Jewish bris performed by a woman, chapped a sharp stone and circumcised her son. Immediately thereafter, the snakes released Moishe unharmed. Is there any reason to read a farkakte novel when you can learn Toirah? Not!!!
Nu, avada you’re klerring (pondering) azoy: if Tzipoirah did such good work, why don’t we see more Brissim performed by women? And the sheaylo is: are today’s women also able to perform brissim? Grada the Oisvorfer was zoiche to attend a bris in the past year where taka both the ceremony and the cutting were performed by a woman. And it so happened that both parents of the baby were also women; such yiddishe nachas. Shoin! And wouldn’t you know, this very topic is discussed in the heylige Gemora (Avoidah Zoro 37A) where we find a machloikes between Rav and R’ Yoichonon about this very topic. The Gemora tries to use the Tzipoirah incident as proof for R’ Yoichonon’s view that women are indeed able to circumcise, but Rav isn’t biting, if you chap. Says Rav: that Tzipoirah did not perform the bris on her own son. He posits that she either told someone else (presumably another Jew) to circumcise Eliezer or that she only did part of the milah, with Moishe finishing the job. Grada this theory makes perfect sense as we can all agree that mistama Tzipoirah, as a nice Jewish woman wasn’t going to perform metzitza be’peh on anyone, let alone on her own son. Ober says, Reb’ Yoichonon that all women are able to perform a milah, just as Tzipoirah did. Shoin!
Supporting Reb Yoichonon’s view that women may in fact perform a bris are no lesser giants than the Rif, Rosh, RambaM, and the Shulchan Aruch. The Rif in particular writes, at the very end of his commentary on Perek R’ Eliezer D’Milah, that we pasken like Reb Yoichonon.
Efsher you’re wondering and takeh some ask, why Moishe didn’t perform the bris, why Tzipoirah? Nu, how would the Vaad react if a female Moiel showed up to Shul to do a bris and the metzitza? OMG! Nu- according to the p’shat that he (Moishe) was swallowed up by the malach/snake, I reckon it would be hard to move about while inside the snake. Moreover, why is the snake making trouble again, didn’t he cause enough tzurus (issues) back in Breishis? Didn’t he learn his lesson when the RBSO cut his legs off for making moves on Chava with the forbidden fruit? And with that background, let’s learn the pisukim.
|24. Now he was on the way, in an inn, that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.||
כד. וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ בַּמָּלוֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ:
|25. So Tzipporah took a sharp stone and severed her son’s foreskin and cast it to his feet, and she said, “For you are a bridegroom of blood to me.”||
כה. וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ וַתַּגַּע לְרַגְלָיו וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי חֲתַן דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי:
|26. So He released him. Then she said, “A bridegroom of blood concerning the circumcision.”||
כו. וַיִּרֶף מִמֶּנּוּ אָז אָמְרָה חֲתַן דָּמִים לַמּוּלֹת:
Nu, I can see that you’re lost; likely you never got this far into the parsha before being interrupted by discussions of the upcoming Giant game and efsher also some Tebow talk. Ober this givaldige and amazing story all unfolds in shishi (sixth aliya). All you remember from the parsha is that Moishe is born and the burning bush- and taka, who wouldn’t remember an encounter with a burning bush, if you chap? Nu, we can clearly see that there’s more to the heylige Toirah than this little incident (now even smaller). You must read the pisukim above and chap p’shat. The family is on the way to Mitzrayim for the big meeting with Paroy. Moishe is acting on the RBSO’s command to save the Yiddin and the RBSO wants to kill him!? Since when do we kill the messenger? What the hec is going on here? What’s p’shat? Forget about p’shat, what do the words mean? Didn’t the RBSO just finish convincing Moishe that he’s the man for the job, and now death? Are you confused? The miforshim can’t make sense of it either from the words or even from the Rashi but they do try, and here’s a sampling of their thinking; select the p’shat that talks to you. 1- Moishe was negligent and deserved to die because he didn’t circumcise his son Eliezer, and the penalty was death. Is this p’shat?
Or, do we follow a Beraisa in which Reb Yosi said: rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid)! Moishe wasn’t negligent! Moishe thought: ….If I circumcise him and set out on a journey, the child’s life will be in danger for three days. On the other hand, efsher I should circumcise him and wait three days, ober [but,] the RBSO has commanded me, “Go! and return to Egypt.” Then, why was he punished? Because his first concern was his lodging – p’shat is that Moishe was wasting time arguing for an upgraded desert view room. (Nedarim). Nu, so what happened? The angel turned into a snake and swallowed him (Moishe) from his head to his thigh [and spit him out] and then again swallowed him from his feet to that place (his penis).
Or, Reb Shimon ben Gamliel says it was the baby whose death was sought. And some commentaries (notably Rabbenu Chananel in Yuma 85b) suggest that Tzipoirah was at fault due to her idolatrous upbringing (efsher maybe Moishe should not have married her at all); what would your father say if you brought home a Midyanite very dark looking shiksa? According to this p’shat, it was the baby that the Malach swallowed feet first till his genital organ, then swallowed the child’s head first, also stopping at the organ. Beware of the one-eyed snake!. One thing they all agree on: that none of them agree on what may have taken place. What else is new?
Or, RambaN and Targum Yoinoson posit that the child Tzipoirah needed to circumcise was Gershom, Moishe’s older son. Huh?? Gershom? How old was he and why wasn’t he already circumcised? P’shat here is that Yisroy made Moishe and Tzipoirah promise that they would not circumcise him as long as they lived in Midyan and as long as they were living off the in-laws, and they complied.
What can we learn from all of this? Two things. Ershtens (first of all) – imaginations on real p’shat ran wild and are all over the place; the Medrish is very creative. Secondly: we see that the RBSO is quite serious about the bris milah, serious enough to almost lose the central character of the entire book of Exodus. Where would we be without Moishe Rabaynu? And we also learn that when it comes to tzadikkim (truly righteous people), the RBSO is exacting to the hairsbreadth- he punishes them for their tiny misdeeds in this world so that they can enter the next world perfectly free of any taint. And that, Raboyseyee, is gevaldige news for most of you giferliche bums. Seemingly you have nothing to worry about as your list of chatoim (misdeeds) is so long and over so many years, that the RBSO will (likely) not deal with you in this world, though if you’re lucky, you may get swallowed up once in a while, if you chap.
Nu, we forgot to learn about Moishe’s parents and Yichus (credentials), let’s go back. Paroy had ordered two Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Pu’ah, to kill all the male babies (by partial birth abortions.) The midwives, at risk to their own lives, ignored Paroy’s decree; no great surprise here, since when do Jewish women listen to anyone, even the king? Rashi tells us they were really Yoicheved and Miriam, Moishe’s mother and sister. One medrish tells us that this dynamic duo weren’t Jewish at all; rather, they were Egyptians who were mistama pro life.
Next we learn that this same Yoicheved gave birth. Moshe was secretly born to his father Amram, and his mother Yoicheved. And who was Amram? Amram at 105 years old was the leader of the Jewish community in Goshen in the year 2,361 and was, according to the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 121), one of the only people alive that saw and remembered Yankif Oveenu. Moreover he was seemingly attracted to older women and we learn that his eishes chayil Yoicheved, was 130. And how is it that she became trugidik (pregnant) at her age? Let’s recall what a big deal the Toirah made over Soro becoming pregnant and delivering at 90. Taka a kasha (good question) but not one without a teretz (answer): Says the heylige Gemora (Soita 12a) that she became young again. Long before the development of anti-aging creams, ointments, treatments, face-lifts, Botox and other zachin (methodologies) that my chaver Abe has in his office, the RBSO performed His own magic. Her wrinkles smoothed out, her skin became soft, her period returned and she gave birth not just to Moishe but also to his siblings Aharon and Miriam. Was she taka 130? Ibn Ezra says no ober the Ramban and others say it’s emes. Was she or wasn’t she- ver veyst? Whatever her age, no one argues that she gave birth to Moishe. The Gemora discusses this and one day when you oisvorfs are ready, you’ll pick up the Gemora and learn this for yourselves (you’ll also save me a few hours of hard work).
Shoin! A baby is born, and a few weeks later finds himself floating down the river. We meet Paroy’s daughter Basya who went to bathe in the river, saw the basket, reached out to grab it and the rest is history. And who is Basya besides being Paroy’s daughter, an Egyptian Princess and Moishe’s adoptive mother? Listen to this amazing medrish and amazing piece of Kabolah and you’ll quickly understand why it’s not recommended that people under 40 study it. Why? Because, it blows your mind. Citing the Zoihar Hakoidesh, the midrash tells us azoy: halt kup here (pay attention) as that is not explicitly said in the Chumash- but the midrash avada has literary license and tells us this givaldige chiddish (breakthrough). Basya- Paroy’s daughter and Tzipporah- Moishe’s wife, – have something else in common besides a relationship with this Moishe. Tzipporah and Basya were twin sisters, sold in the market place shortly after birth and separated when two different men, Yisroy and Paroy respectively, purchased them. They have somewhat similar upbringings: Both are raised in homes of royalty (one in an Egyptian palace and the other in the home of the High Priest); both are steeped in homes and lands of Avoida zoroh (idolatry). Each, in their own way, will play significant roles in shaping and molding the man named Moishe who will lead a slave nation to freedom; to nationhood as the RBSO’s chosen people; and ultimately to the establishment of a holy kingdom settled by a holy nation of kings and priests. Their pagan backgrounds, devoid of any “yichus” of an Avrahom, Yitzchok or Yankif, will actually serve them in their later roles in life. Having “been there, and done that”, their strength of conviction and commitment to the RBSO’s laws and the Jewish people will defy any human power on earth and outshine their peers spiritually privileged to have been born into the covenant. Well, blow me down. So much for Yichus as a priority, perhaps – efsher maybe we need to look for shidduchim in the Far East. And as I’ve said in the past, it’s one thing to mess with the Zohan but one should never argue with the Zohar!
Back to the still nameless and crying baby floating down the Nile. Basya sent for a wet nurse to feed the baby, but the baby refused to nurse from an Egyptian shiksa; what was he thinking? Efsher you’re wondering why his parents didn’t name him and if they did, why we aren’t told his name; me too! Back to Basya: She tried to nurse him but Moishe wasn’t sucking. Avada you’re wondering why a hungry and thirsty baby wouldn’t want to be nursed by a hot young shiksa princess, or any shiksa for that matter. Me too! Efsher the tayvo (strong desire) for sucking on the bosom of a shiksa princess only kicks in later in life, ver veyst?
Says the Ramo (Yoreh Deah Siman 81 Sif 7): that a child should not nurse from an Egyptian woman (or any other Akum (shiksa) since it brings to Timtum HaLev (stuffing up of the Jewish heart) and Teva Ra (bad tendencies), as you well know, rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid). And what’s his source for such a devastating halocha? Answer: the origin is in this week’s parsha where Moishe turned down Basya’s bosom. And just because you’re not Moishe Rabaynu, that doesn’t mean that you have a free pass for your chazerish (slime bucket) behavior, if you chap. Some state that if you are going to be with a hot shiksa, that’s ok but you zicher should stay away from her bosom.
The Toirah advances 40 years into the future of this child’s life as we are introduced to Tzipoirah, daughter of the Chief of Midyan who Moishe Rabaynu meets at the well (still the best place to meet one’s bashert) and who is given to Moishe as a wife. There he married Tzipoirah, the daughter of Yisroy, and had two children Gershom and Eliezer. They all lived happily ever after. But is that what really happened?
Not according to the Targum Yoinoson ben Uzeil who says azoy when Yisroy found out that Moishe was a fugitive from Mitzrayim, he threw Moishe into a pit where Moishe languished for 10 years. During that time, one of his daughters (hopefully Tzipoirah) took care of Moishe’s needs and eventually became his eishes chayil- wow! What those needs are, he does not say but we imagine that food was also included.
So who is Moishe? He grows up as the grandson of Paroy the most powerful ruler of the mightiest nation on earth. He could easily have grown up to be a totally assimilated, a totally spoiled Egyptian kid. But Paroy’s own daughter has hired Moishe’s own real mother as his nanny and he never loses the connection or the commitment to his people. That is until he’s snake-bitten when in a classic case of misirah (ratting), he’s outed by a Yid, oy vey — Jews informing on other Jews, not nice. Moishe has to flee for his life. Or, efsher maybe it can be said (merely a theory, not p’shat) that after 80 years Moishe had enough of his own dysfunctional family- an absentee father, a Jewish mother who set him off to sail the Nile (without food nuch der tzei) , a sister who stood by watching and a shiksa Egyptian Princess who saves him and gives him the most popular Jewish name ever- Moishe- (to show her Hakoras Hatoiv to the water that saved him -ki min hamayim mishisehu- for I drew him from the water). Seemingly Paroy forgot to be thankful, ober (but) not his daughter. All this could be a shtikel confusing, no? Maybe his therapist told him to get away, that being in Mitzrayim was bad for him and he took off to Midyan to start anew, ver veyst?
A gitten shabbis-