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

Shemois 2023: Dead Yet Alive & Taking Advice From Those Less Fortunate

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Dead Yet Alive & Taking Advice From Those Less Fortunate:

And in the shout out that slipped through the cracks last week, a big mazel tov to our friends Yussy and Estie Silverstein upon the engagement of their daughter Shira to Joey Mogilner, he the son of Myra and Alon Mogilner, they, of New Rochelle, N.Y. The Ois and eishes chayil had the pleasure of attending the festivities this past motzei Shabbis. We have known Shira since birth and watched her blossom into the beautiful and spiritual young lady she is today. Mazel tov Shira! A big mazel tov to Shira’s siblings and the extended Silverstein and Mogilner families. A special mazel tov shout out to the grandparents, Yussy’s mom, Mrs. Arlene Silverstein, and Estie’s mom, Mrs. Joyce Colton, and Joey’s paternal grandmother over in Israel, Mrs. Rochel Gastwirt. May you all have continued nachas from your expanding family.  May Shira and Joey be zoche to build a beautiful home together.

Are rich people smarter than those less fortunate with money? Do rich people offer better advice than do the poor? Or, does a poor person offer more honest and sound advice? Does money make one smart and influential? We shall discuss this parsha related topic below but first…

We begin Sefer and Parshas Shmois, otherwise known as Exodus where the action is fast and furious. The Yiddin, once on top and respected, are now enslaved. A few hundred years have gone by in but seven days. As we do yearly in this parsha, we’ll meet Moishe whose name will appear 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. His own parents -so says the medrish- called him by other names; each parent seemingly had a different name for him. We’ll learn how Moishe -a teen or slightly older- committed a murder, ran away to Midyan, met his bashert at the well, romanced her, married her, and had a shtikel encounter with a burning bush; not related to his marriage, if you chap. Later in the parsha, Moishe is almost killed by a Malach Hashem (G-d’s angel) in some strange roadside incident. In fact, so strange is this myseh (story) that should try covering the topic. Let’s set the scene.

Moishe grows up, walks among his brethren, is an eye witness to things that displease him, kills a goy, and is outed by a Jew, two actually. Rashi and others all seem to agree that Doson and Aviram, they, rabble rousers and protagonists for decades to come, were the rats on the case. Every case seems to have at least one. Now a wanted man – we are taught that Paroy and his people were intent on murdering Moishe for his act- 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 is Tzipoirah. Struck with her beauty -some say she was a black beauty- Moishe marries her and together, they have two boys who would turn out to be rather unremarkable. Their names, Gershom and Eliezer- about whom we won’t be reading much in the gantze Toirah. The bottom line: Children of leaders don’t necessarily follow in the footsteps of strong parents. Moishe was neither the first not the last Jewish leader whose children weren’t quite remarkable; some were quite bad. Another bottom line: it’s seemingly difficult to juggle and manage an entire nation and one’s own household at the same time. All that for another day.

Moishe -as just mentioned- married and became a shepherd. The good news: he had a real job; he did not enroll into a Kollel, or the Yeshiva of Shaim & Ever and schnorr off his father–in-law.  Next: the RBSO meets him at the burning bush -somewhere in the desert 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 is granted. Why he may have needed permission, is for another time.

Next, he packed up his eishes chayil, his elder son Gershom and his newborn infant Eliezer and they’re on the road to Mitzrayim.  But wait: just after Moishe seeks and gets his FIL’s permission and blessing to leave, the heylige Toirah interrupts the narrative with this one very interesting posik; let us read it. Says the heylige Toirah (Shmois 4:19), azoy:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֤ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ בְּמִדְיָ֔ן לֵ֖ךְ שֻׁ֣ב מִצְרָ֑יִם כִּי־מֵ֙תוּ֙ כׇּל־הָ֣אֲנָשִׁ֔ים הַֽמְבַקְשִׁ֖ים אֶת־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃

The RBSO said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who sought to kill you are dead.”

And the question is azoy: what is this posik doing here? Didn’t the RBSO previously instruct Moishe to return to Egypt? Didn’t we just read many pisukim where the RBSO and Moishe are engaged in conversation about going back to Mitzrayim? We did. Moishe has already been deputized. In this posik, the RBSO adds some new information and tells Moishe the coast is clear. Those who wanted you dead are themselves not among the living. Who are “all those people” who wanted Moishe dead? Who killed them?  Are they in fact dead?

Says Rashi that the people who wanted Moishe dead were in fact none other than the infamous duo of Doson and Aviram, they, a thorn in Moishe’s side from decades back. As an aside, it has always been difficult for the Ois to chap (understand) why both of these men should have wanted Moishe dead, given that he -Moishe- had saved the life of one of them by his interference in their quarrel? The bottom line: no good deed goes unpunished! Veyter. In the posik above, the RBSO advises Moishe not to worry as they are dead. Ober, are they? They are not! In fact, they are very much alive and will only die sometime -exactly when is hotly debated- sometime later in the midbar during the Koirach revolt.  How could they be dead and alive at the same time? And if that’s the case and so the facts on the ground were, why would the RBSO tell Moishe they’re dead when clearly, they are not? Can one be dead and alive at the same time?

It’s taka emes that just last week we mentioned that Yaakov may never have died through he was physically dead and buried, ober these two rats? They are mamish alive and will be rabble rousing for a few more years. Not to worry as Rashi cannot be tripped up that easily and offers the following explanation. They weren’t really dead but they since they lost all their money, they had come down in stature. Did they get caught in a down market? Was their zoning application for Midbar expansion denied? Holding Tesla too long? Did they overspend? Make bad investments? Ver veyst? The bottom line: Rashi is telling us that that when one has lost his money, one’s stature is also greatly diminished and shoin. No money = no stature = dead! Is that mamish how it goes?

Nu, sadly we know this to be true ober to that extent? Mamish like being dead? Rashi references the heylige Gemora (Nedorim 64b) which tells us that Doson and Avirom were now poor and poor people may be regarded as dead people. And dead people cannot influence Paroy to kill a now eighty-year-old Moishe. Well. Blow me down! Is that nice? Is that what we were taught? Not to respect one’s opinion because one is poor or has gone from rich to poor? Epes es shmekt nisht git (this pshat doesn’t epes smell so good, it stinks).  Aren’t we taught to be sensitive to those who are down on their luck? Doesn’t the heylige Gemora in the very same tractate but on a different folio (Nedorim 81a) teach us not to neglect the children of the poor, for from them will go forth the Law? It does just that. And didn’t Rebbe Assi (Baba Basra 9a) teach us that “Tzedakah is equally important as all the other mitzvis put together? Are we not to respect the poor because of a reversal of fortune? We are! What’s pshat here? Isn’t wealth preordained?

And taka asks the Tur HaAruch (4:19:2), mamish just that:  How could the RBSO describe them as “having died,” when during the uprising of Koirach a couple of years later, they were very much alive and ringleaders in that rebellion? The answer is azoy: At the time of Moishe’s incident -with the Egyptian he whacked- these two men were among the wealthiest Jews in Egypt. What they said mattered; it carried weight. However, since that time, both had become paupers so that their influence was nil, no more than that of dead people. They weren’t necessarily dead; their influence was dead! Gishmak but not so nice.  How certain Jews became super wealthy during enslavement, ver veyst but that question for another day.

Let’s check this out from the Sifsei Chachomim (4:19:1): Although it is stated (Nedarim 64b) that “Four [kinds of people] are considered as if dead: a poor man, a blind man, a metzora and someone without children,” [nevertheless, for the following reasons Rashi knew that] here -in our posik- “died” certainly means poverty. We cannot say they became blind, for regarding Koirach’s rebellion it is written (Bamidbar 16:14): “If you put those people’s [Doson and Aviram’s] eyes out.” [This implies they could indeed see.] And we cannot say they were afflicted with tzora’as, for it says (Devorim 11:6) that they were “in the midst of the camp,” [and a metzoira -one suffering from some form of leprosy- must dwell outside of the camp]. And we cannot say [they were afflicted with tzora’as or blindness at the time] but were healed when the Toirah was given, because all the people’s blemishes returned after the sin of the Golden Calf (Bamidbar Rabbah 7:4). And we cannot say they were considered as if dead because they had no children. For why would Hashem tell Moishe to return to Egypt because of this? Would their lack of children cause the authorities not to accept their slander against Moishe. Moreover, the heylige Toirah describes their challenging Moishe (Bamidbar 16:27) brazenly together with their wives and children. Rather, it surely must be that Doson and Aviram [were considered as if dead] because they became paupers, and for that reason Paroy would not heed their words. And taka, so says the Ran (Nedarim 7a).

And says the Daas Zkenim azoy: Doson and Aviram were neither blind, nor afflicted with tzora’as, nor childless. And his proof? The Hebrew words and expression for becoming impoverished is ירדו מנכסיהם and the numerical value of the combined letters is 445. So what? The numerical value of the word מת” (the dead)” is 446, or just about the same. What’s pshat about the same? Don’t Gematrias need to match up? Seemingly not! In this case, it’s off by 1, almost the same. Says the Ois azoy: close enough and could be that’s pshat: they weren’t quite dead! Gishmak!

The bottom line: Living from hand to mouth, constantly worrying about the next meal and bill taka drains a person. It saps one’s vitality. When one’s energy is spent worrying about finances, such a person -no matter how intelligent- has little energy to be influential and offer sound advice. That could taka make one feel as if they are dead. Without gelt – so the heylige Gemora tells us- a person’s opinion doesn’t count and therefore Moishe no longer had to worry about Doson and Avirom influencing Paroy to kill him. Is this pshat? On the other hand, the heylige Gemora (Chagigah 9b) tells us that the RBSO searched through all the good qualities (middos) to give the Yiddin and found nothing better than poverty. It grounds people.  On the other hand, the heylige Gemora tells us that although the RBSO is particularly fond of poor people, He does not provide all their needs. Why not? In order that the rest of the community can gain merit by helping them out. And just like that, the entire tzedoko (charity) industry was born.

Don’t care for that pshat? Not to worry because there are others and here’s one that’s rather clever and easy to digest. Says the Sforno azoy: it wasn’t that Doson and Avirom were dead, they weren’t. Who was dead? Who are the people being referenced with the words  כי מתו כל האנשים  -that all those who have an interest in your demise- are now dead? King Paroy and his servants who tried to kill you. Veyter.

The bottom line on taking advice from someone with or without money comes from my father, OBM, whose yurtzeit will be observed next month. In Tihilim (Psalms 146:3), we read these words:

אַל־תִּבְטְח֥וּ בִנְדִיבִ֑ים בְּבֶן־אָדָ֓ם ׀ שֶׁ֤אֵ֖ין ל֥וֹ תְשׁוּעָֽהPut not your trust in the great, in mortal man who cannot save.

He would break the words down azoy:

אַל־תִּבְטְח֥וּ בִנְדִיבִ֑ים— בְּבֶן־אָדָ֓ם ׀ שֶׁ֤אֵ֖ין ל֥וֹ תְשׁוּעָֽה – My father told us that if a person wants real advice, one should not rely on those with wealth. Instead, go to a person who does not have; that person will give you a true and honest, agenda less answers or advice. Gishmak!

One posik later and Moishe was on his way back to Mitzrayim but how was the journey? Let’s read pisukim 24, 25 and 26.

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 haven’t -ever- gotten this far into the parsha. Mistama you’re’ busy thinking about and discussing the upcoming Giant game scheduled for Sunday at 4:30 pm; when better than during laining? Ober this givaldige and amazing story all unfolds in shishi (sixth aliya). All you seemingly remember from the gantze parsha is that Moishe was born and the burning bush. On the other hand, who can blame you? Who wouldn’t remember an encounter with a burning bush, if you chap?  We must read the pisukim above and chap pshat.  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 what? Kill him!? Kill the messenger? We’re not supposed to do that! What the hec is going on here? What’s pshat? Forget about pshat, 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?  Many exegetes were challenged to explain this event, they too -even with Rashi’s help- couldn’t really chap the pshat from the words but they do try. Here’s a sampling of their thinking; select the pshat 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 pshat?

Says the Chizkuni, azoy” according to Rebbe Shimon ben Gamliel, the angel attempted to kill Eliezer, the uncircumcised baby. Kill the innocent child because his father neglected to give him a bris? A different interpretation: the angel tried to kill Moishe. He had been guilty of not circumcising Eliezer on the eighth day of his life as the RBSO had commanded. Moishe should have done so and left him with his mother in Midian. This would have enabled him to carry out the mission entrusted to him by G-d without delay and without hold ups due to consideration of the needs of his family. Instead, he had walked slowly while his family was riding. (Nedarim 31)

Or, do we follow a Beraisa in which Reb Yosi said: “rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid)! Moishe wasn’t negligent!”  Moishe thought azoy: 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, the RBSO has commanded me, “Go!  and return to Egypt.” Then, why was he punished? Because his first concern was his lodging – pshat 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).

Reb Shimon ben Gamliel says it was the baby whose death was sought. Others 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 Midianite very dark looking shiksa? According to this pshat, 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?

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? Pshat here is that Yisroy made Moishe and Tzipoirah promise that they would not circumcise him as long as they lived in Midian and as long as they were living off the in-laws, and they complied.

What taka went down or came off? Tzipoirah, yes, a woman, acted as a mohelet (female moiel) at a critical juncture in the story of the exodus. In what is one of the more mysterious episodes in the gantze Toirah, Tzipoirah seized a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, averting the danger threatening his life. Well, blow me down! Just kidding!

Nu, efsher you’re klerring (pondering) azoy: if Tzipoirah did such good work, why don’t we see more brissim performed by women? And the sheylo is this: in our times, are women able to perform brissim? And by able, the questions is azoy: is it permissible to have a female perform the bris on a newborn baby boy? It would seem from our parsha that a woman may indeed serve as a mohelet. Grada a few years back the heylige Ois was zoiche to attend a bris where taka both the ceremony and the cutting was 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. How the Vaad would react if a female Moiel showed up to Shul to do a bris and the metzitza, ver veyst?  Efsher you’re wondering and taka some ask, why Moishe didn’t perform the bris? Why Tzipoirah? Ober, according to the pshat that he (Moishe) was swallowed up by the malach/snake, we must consider how difficult it would be for Moishe to move about while inside the snake.

The bottom line: the heylige Gemora declares that a woman is ineligible for this mitzvah. Why not? Because women are themselves exempt from the mitzvah of circumcision and since they are not obligated to circumcise their son’s, they may not perform the mitzvah act of circumcision.  Grada, this principle applies to a small number of other mitzvis where someone not obligated in a mitzvah may be ineligible for creating the mitzvah object or performing the mitzvah act. Case closed? Not! The general consensus (Shulchan Oruch YD 264:1) is that a woman is eligible to serve in this capacity, however, she should only do so if there is no qualified man available.  Though a woman is eligible, there remains a preference for a man. The reason is never fully articulated.

What can we learn from all of this? Two things. Ershtens (first of all) – imaginations on real pshat 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 tzadikim (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 and us. Most of us have nothing to worry about as our list of chatoim (misdeeds) is so long and over so many years, that the RBSO will (likely) not deal with us in this world, though if lucky, one may get swallowed up once in a while, if you chap.

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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