POST PESACH THOUGHTS & PARSHAS SHMINI
Eliyohu Hanovee (Elijah the Prophet) in Your Bedroom:
Eliyohu Hanovee where? What the hec would he be doing in your bedroom? Is he the Afikoimon present, if you chap, for some? We shall explore that below. Shoin, another two sedorim were observed this past week and once again, as has been the case for at least as long as the Oisvorfer can recall, Eliyohu Hanovee, about whom we sing and read about, and whose arrival we patiently await with bated breath, was a no-show. Ober, as has been the custom for many decades -exactly how many, ver veyst- and though we no longer really believe he is coming any time soon to herald the coming arrival of the Moshiach, we continue to pour him a cup of wine, and open the front door as if he’s there waiting to enter, and to have a drink with us. Why do we do this, ver veyst?
Anyone who went to yeshiva avada knows that we are obligated to drink four cups of wine during each Seder and that these four cups are symbolic of the four expressions -single words- the RBSO stated to Moishe about the coming end to the slavery in Mitzrayim. Ober are all expressions of freedom the same? Seemingly not! And avada we all know that in addition to the four expression which our Sages of the heylige Gemora (Pisochim 118a and myriad other places) decided to connect to four cups of wine to be drunk at the Seder, the heylige Toirah (Shemois 6:6 – 8) contains yet a fifth such expression -the word V’ihayvaysee- that was seemingly left out. We are not obliged to drink a fifth cup to recall this last expression of freedom. Are we? Ober, why was the word V’hayvaysee (and I will bring you) punished? Does it not deserve its own cup of wine and should we efsher be drinking a fifth cup? Did we ever? Nu, so many questions ober where do we get answers?
And while we are asking questions, avada you all know that the first night of Pesach is also known as “leyl shimurim” (a protected night) which in plain English means that on this night we are guarded -we have special protection. Protection is avada helpful, if you chap, and if one does, especially so. As a result, many have the minhag (custom) to keep their doors unlocked on this night. Ober, a minhag the Oisvorfer came upon while trying to chap all this, mamish blew his mind. Says the Baal Hatanya azoy: “In some places, it is the custom on the first night of Pesach to leave the bedroom doors unlocked for it is a propitious night for the Jewish people unto all generations that they be redeemed from this exile.” Nu, is it a wonder so many follow the Rebbe and his teachings?
Leaving the bedroom door unlocked can taka be propitious ober not always as intended, if you chap, and especially after a few of the Seder guests have imbibed four or more cups of wine. On the other hand, leaving the bedroom door unlocked does not necessarily mean that one, especially a married man, will have a propitious moment, or any moment at all. All it means in reality is that he can sleep in the same bedroom! Ober, why keep a bedroom door unlocked? If Eliyohu is expected, and if we eagerly await his arrival, should he be expected to walk into our bedrooms? Is the unlocked bedroom door part of the redemption master plan? What’s taka pshat here? On the other hand, were he to walk in, and chap you in a state of undress, he would not be shocked. Let’s recall that according to tradition, Eliyohu does make an appearance at every bris; he has already seen each of us (boys only) in our birthday suits while undergoing the bris (circumcision) ceremony.
As kids we were mamish excited to pour Eliyohu’s cup, ober this year, as the Oisvorfer was getting ready to move on with the seder and as the third of the four obligatory cups of wine was being poured, he began to think more about this rather strange custom of pouring a cup of wine for a person who has for decades and longer been a no-show. Why taka do we do this? When will we chap and internalize that he is not coming any time soon. The facts on the ground that have delayed his arrival have not changed: people still can’t stand each other and ‘sinas chinam’ (baseless hatred) is as abundant as it ever was, mistama more so. For the most part, Yiddin don’t like each other. Fartig and end discussion. And given those sad facts, what are we to do with his full goblet of wine once the Seder is over? As it turns out there are at least two different answers; of course. Some pour the wine back into the bottle while others recite kiddish over it the following day. Which is correct? Ver veyst? How many tablecloths need to be sullied while attempting to pour his untouched cup of wine back into a decanter or bottle? Is pouring his cup back into the bottle or decanter mutir (allowed)? Do some drink the fifth cup? Who started this minhag? When and why?
Nu, to answer these questions and to share this information with his hundreds of thousands of readers, the Oisvorfer, knowing he was not going to be redeemed in his bedroom this year, if you chap, decided to conduct some due diligence. Is the custom of pouring wine for Eliyohu -typically in a goblet larger than the one we use for the four cups- nothing more than a custom initially suggested, and later perhaps mandated, by those who sell silver bechers (goblets)? Are they in cahoots with those who sell wine?
Nu, believe it or not, this entire fifth cup controversy may hearken back to two different versions of the same heylige Gemora. Are we suggesting that the same Gemora had two different texts? Perhaps! Said Rebbe Tarfoin: we are indeed obligated to drink a fifth cup to honor the expression of V’hayvaysee. In that expression, the RBSO stated “….and I shall bring you to the land of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.” And guess what? No lesser a giant than the Rambam mentions a fifth cup. On the other hand the Rambam also tells us that the drinking of the fifth cup is not obligatory. And says Toisfis: anyone who needs to drink a fifth cup, may do so. Ober who would need a fifth cup? Efsher it’s a person hoping to be redeemed in the unlocked bedroom, ver veyst. Ober, do all agree? Of course not and when it comes to drinking wine, be it four, or five cups, and perhaps even more, few agree.
The bottom line: there is a machloikes in the heylige Gemora (Pisochim 118) as to the necessity of pouring a fifth cup of wine. And since the matter was never settled -the rabbis could not come to an agreement, maybe because they had already imbibed four full cups- it was decided to pour a fifth cup but not to drink it, and to call it the ‘”kois shel Eliyohu.” Why was it so named? Shoin, that’s quite poshit: ever since we began to learn the heylige Gemora, we were taught that when Eliyohu does finally appear, he will clarify and resolve all the open questions that we Yiddin have had for generations. All doubtful halochois (laws) will once and for all be clarified and we will find out, among other things, if we need to observe two, or but one day of Yom Tov vs. two (here in golus (Diaspora)); if we are mandated during davening to shokel side to side, or forward and back. He will also tell us if we need to use a kli-shlishi while making tea on shabbis and if we may open the refrigerator only while the motor is running. Hec, he may even clarify what we may, and may not, tell the shabbis goy regarding the lights, heat, air conditioning and more, on the heylige shabbis. And he may also give us clarity on which holy roller rabbis’ endorsements are real and which were just bought by shtupping a few thousand dollars into the hands of the rabbis gaboim (bagmen). Shoin, just thinking out loud. The bottom line: though we desperately need him, it’s no wonder he has yet to make an appearance: he’s afraid of being chased out of town as a result of business disruptions he may cause. Hec, those on the losing side of revenues as a result of any clarity he might provide, might resort to desperate measures. They might even stone him, chas v’sholom, say it’s not so please. Sadly it is. Case closed on Eliyohu and his cup?
Of course not! Says the Shulchan Aruch HaRav: is it clear that the fifth cup and the kois Shel Eliyohu are two different things. We may need both! Moreover, there are questions regarding the requirement to pour and drink a fifth cup of wine. Wait there’s more: additional questions are raised: if the fifth cup is required, is it to be poured for every Seder participant? Or, can one poured cup represent all who are in attendance? And the answer? Ver veyst? Years back there were rumors, later discredited, that the Maharal, he most famous for building the Golem which some say he brought to life, ver veyst, and which has since become a major tourist attraction to thousands who visit Prague, not just poured a fifth cup but also drank it. He did? And then left the door unlocked? Yikes! The bottom line: like many of our customs, we don’t know. Veyter. Let’s learn some parsha, ober before we do, one more Pesach thought.
Though many of us aren’t auditors, accountants, or even bookkeepers, avada we can do simple math, and over Pesach many are taka busy calculating the revenues and profits being made by the myriad kosher for Pesach programs’ operators. Daily, we take count of the number of people at the hotel, then multiply that number by the amount we (or for those lucky enough, our family) are paying. Next: we quickly calculate the gross revenues. Then we guestimate the rack rate the hotels are charging per night, then deduct for the freebie rooms the operators’ hotels give out to rabbis, shadchonim (matchmakers), speakers with beards, staff and others needed to make it all flow. We then arbitrarily attribute a number for food and other expenses and shoin- we decide that each operator is about to become a multi-millionaire over the 8-9 days. We also conclude that it is our obligation therefore, to eat as much as possible and to hoard food just in case Iran is launching a nuclear missile aimed at our location. Though we are stuffed like chazerim (pigs) after the first day mamish, we make sure not to miss one single meal. We rush to the dining room with zerizus, chas v’sholom we should be a minute late. Though we finished eating breakfast at 10ish and are still digesting, there we are when the dining room reopens at 1:00 on the dot. We say we’ll come to lunch and not eat- just to be with the family- ober is that what we do? Avada nisht! We come and we sit, but after five minutes of watching other Yiddin attack the shmorg as if it were Motzei Yoim Kippur, there we are, plates in hand. We are weak and give into the Yetzer Horo, as we typically do, nebech, who is whispering into our ears that it’s ours, that we paid, that it’s a chiuv dioyryso (obligatory) to eat and stuff ourselves, and if we don’t eat our money’s worth, that we’ve been robbed, taken advantage of. Nu, is it a wonder that we become bloated, that calls are going out daily for engineering to come fix toilets, that we can’t close our pants, skirts and whatever? Oy vey!! We chap plates, we overstuff them, we make multiple trips to the buffet to see the same foods over and again and we do this non-stop for eight full days. Some check in early to chap araein the pre pesach bbq, some stay after Pesach for the grand chometz party. We rate each meal, we decide we can do better, that we can deliver a far superior product, and over Yom Tov each of us has fantasies and delusions of grandeur of opening our own program next year. Why? Because that’s what Yiddin do!
Nu, Pesach vacation is over and it’s time to pay the pied piper for the binging we did like chazerim mamish. And as Pesach ends, and for those that enjoyed the special Yoim Tov at hotels around the country, where we celebrate our freedom, we must ask ourselves a fifth question: how is it that when we’re home all year, we get by on one and sometimes two meals per day, skip a meal here and there, can go for hours without eating, but as soon as we check into the hotel, we develop these insatiable appetites and feel that it’s our duty to eat at least three full meals supplemented by a kiddish, the tea room, snacks and other foods we’ve schlepped from the dining room to the our rooms. Are we behamois or chayis (both mentioned in this week’s parsha)? Have you ever gone into a restaurant where you typically pay from $30-$50 for the main dish and ordered two? Zicher nisht! And why is it that when we check into hotels we feel obligated to order a second and efsher maybe also a third? Are we out of control? Could this be the reason that the RBSO declared the chazir (pig), in this week’s heylige Parsha to be non-kosher? Ver veyst!
It’s time to jump onto our scales and say Dayanu: enough. It’s also time, after a two week lapse, to return to the regular reading of the heylige Parsha, and this week you’ll have the special zechus (privilege) of hearing Parshas Shimini wherein the RBSO created the biggest industry yet for the Yiddin, and I don’t mean schnorring for money. This week we’re introduced to kosher and to dietary laws, a few pisukim in the heylige Toirah that have produced more jobs for the Yiddin than any other. From mamish but a total of 33 verses in the heylige Toirah, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been spawned, that include: the kosher and glatt kosher industry, mashgichim (kosher supervisors), kashrus organizations (mafia), manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, food establishments, caterers and much more. Is the RBSO great or what? He mamish understood that many thousands of Yiddin, otherwise ladigayers (lazy good for nothings) would need a parnosa (job) and how, as always, He came to their rescue by creating a need for mashgichim and a plethora of organizations and rabbis that offer hashgochois (kosher certification) at a hefty price of course. Yes, it all started right here in Parshas Shimini and you thought Vayikra was all about korbonois; a nechtiger tug (bs…). Ober that all comes at the very end of the parsha, what happened before that?
As the parsha opens, it’s the eighth day. The eighth day of what, avada you must be wondering and the answer is that it was Roish Choidesh Nissan in the year 2449, the day the Tabernacle was to be anointed. The seven-day inauguration of Aharoin and his sons was completed and the ceremonies for the Mizbayach’s consecration had begun. Over 40 korbonois (offerings) would be brought on that first day. Moishe Rabaynu, the fearless leader of the Yiddin zicher thought he was to be the master of ceremonies ober the RBSO had other plans. We’ll learn that the RBSO has a long memory and it’s avada not good to anger Him, and let that be a lesson to many of you that already stopped counting sefira with a brocho, that were looking for chometz ad sheyodi maseges (as far as the hand reaches) in the wrong places, if you chap, that skipped shul over Yom Toiv thinking that you’re on vacation, that chas v’sholom walked by the TV in the hotel lobby and chapped a few minutes of the games on Yom Toiv, that went mixed swimming and had machshovois zorois looking at other veyber, that brushed up too closely, beshoigeg of course (accidentally), to married women while chapping food at the buffet breakfasts and lunches that most hotels serve, that went into the dining room in their bathing suits thinking that the RBSO wasn’t watching, that did other avayrois mamish too despicable to even mention here, that chapped where they shouldn’t have, yada yada.
Welcome to Parshas Shimini (meaning eighth) where Moishe is unceremoniously fired and Aharoin his eltere brider is installed. The emes is that it was the culmination of the preceding seven days, which Moishe spent in preparation for the official inauguration. They say when the heylige Toirah uses the word ‘Vayihi’ (it was), it’s always a shtikel ominous sign, and this Parsha which begins with the words Vayihi bayoim hashmini (and it was on the eighth day) is not different. And what was Moishe’s grave sin? Nu, it goes all the way back to Parshas Shemois in the mayseh (incident) where the RBSO asked Moishe to go take the Yiddin out of Mitzrayim. Said Moishe to the RBSO (Shemois 4:13): “No! Send whomever you will send.” Is that the way to talk to the RBSO? Did Moishe think he was talking to his eishes chayil at the time? Nu, the RBSO took note of this shtikel incident and said to Himself that one day…..He’ll remember this. Avada now many can chap why many meforshim state that the RBSO has male and female characteristics: remembering every detail of everyone’s chatoim (sins) is zicher a character trait the RBSO gave to women. In fact my own eishes chayil can, in any disagreement we have, and nebech does, instantly recall anything and everything the Ruv did wrong in the past 25 years. Gevald! Anyway….we are taught that during the past seven days (going back to Parshas Tzav which nebech you already forgot) Moishe was acting as the Koihain Godol (High Priest) and es- far- shtaytzich (stands to follow and reason) that Moishe assumed that he would continue in that role. Ober said the RBSO in the first few pisukim of Shimini: “Aharoin and his sons will be the ones to serve as Koihanim. You will remain outside; you have no portion in the Kihuna.” Shoin: Moishe fired, Aharoin and his kinderlach hired. Unfortunately for Aharoin, this happiest of days was also to be his saddest as two of his four children were killed that very same day. Seemingly Aharoin’s past also came back to haunt him. And as you can see, the RBSO does not forget. Raboyseyee: let’s keep that in mind.
Ok, what happened here? One minute Nodov and Avihu are dedicating the Mishkan and bringing korbonois- all is good- the next minute, they themselves are burnt offerings, though seemingly their clothing remains unsinged. This entire episode seems a shtikel shocking and we need to better understand what took place there. Grada this incident, the death of Aharoin’s two sons and Aharoin’s silence upon hearing the grave news, is one of the more difficult episodes to chap in the entire Toirah. Although their deaths were very clearly an act of the RBSO and though there are some very compelling textual and midrashic hints which offer possible bases for their divine punishment, we do not have any simple and definite explanations of this tragedy. And vos meynt dus (what does all that mean) you ask? Raboyseyee it means that the heylige Toirah doesn’t tell us why they were killed or died? But did that stop the Medrish and the heylige Gemoro from creating various crimes and scenarios under which they were deserving of the death penalty? Avada nisht and as you can imagine, there are myriad theories offered, only one to my liking.
And what did these two poor souls do that were so giferlich that death was proclaimed and executed on that very same day, in mittin dirrinin (in the middle) of the inaugural ceremonies? Did they eat in the children’s dining room and then again with the adults? All the Toirah tells us is that they brought some strange fire and that that they died. Vult ich gemaint (I would have thought) that when a person is executed, we would expect that he, she or they did something terribly wrong but the heylige Toirah is silent. What to do? Leave it up to medrish and the heylige Gemora to come up with a crime that fits the punishment and that taka is what the medrish does. Post partum, the medrish tells us that they were guilty of numerous crimes but were still great people. How these two ideas mesh, ver veyst? Is Medrish emes? All of them, some of them? Ver veyst but zicher they too were struggling to chap what happened and decided that Nodov and Avihu were guilty of the following crimes, one or more of which resulted in the death penalty, ver veyst.
Reb Mani, Reb Yehoishua and Rebbe Yoichanan in the name of Reb Levi said azoy: The sons of Aharoin died on account of four things:
1- They had drunk wine, as it says [immediately following the incident], “Drink no wine nor strong drink… that you die not” (VaYikra 10:9).
2- Because they served in the Sanctuary lacking the prescribed number of priestly garments (maybe they forgot to put on their gotchkis (underwear) (Shmois 28:43).
3- Because they entered the Sanctuary without washing their hands and feet (Shmois 30:21).
4- Because they had no children… as it says: “And Nadav and Avihu died… and they had no children” (Bamidbar 3:4). Nu, avada many of you can relate to one or more of these logical reasons, I can’t. Zicher (of course) it’s challenging to have children once you’re dead!
Ober says the Ohir Hachaim: They came close to the RBSO and died–they approached the supernal light out of their great love for the Holy, and thereby died. Thus they died by ‘divine kiss’ such as experienced by the perfectly righteous; it is only the righteous that die when the divine kiss approaches them, while they died by their approaching it… Although they sensed their own demise, this did not prevent them from drawing near to the RBSO in attachment, delight, delectability, fellowship, love, kiss and sweetness, to the point that their souls ceased from them. Let’s then learn p’shat like the Ohr Hachaim: Gishmak mamish and also settled. Nodov and Avihu were taka good guys after all. Maybe the previous medroshim confused them with another set of brothers or hoodlums – remember that movie ‘My Cousin Vinny’? Veyter.
Later in the Parsha, the RBSO commands Moishe to speak to the Yiddin and tell them that ‘this is the Chaya (animal) that you may eat.’ Rashi, and who knew more or better, tells us that Moishe gave a live demonstration holding each permitted and forbidden animal saying this you may eat, and this you may not eat. He did the same with the fish, the birds and with the creepy crawly creatures. And can you image all that? Nu, if we can believe in kriyas Yam Suf (sea splitting) and all other miracles and avada we do, is this so hard to imagine? Only a tipish (fool) doesn’t believe.
Says the Medrish Tanchuma that one should not be misled into thinking that the RBSO, through these eating restrictions, prohibited the joys of life. (Grada (so happens) that for every forbidden item, we may partake in an equivalent item from which to partake. Seemingly we have similar restrictions in human relationships but with fewer choices and alternatives, if you chap. Sadly no example are provided.) Says the Medrish that although pork is prohibited, there is a certain fish called Shibuta that has the same taste. How the Medrish knew this without tasting pork, ver veyst? The medrish provides numerous examples of permitted alternatives and concludes that the RBSO gave us these restrictions on non kosher foods in order that the Yiddin be rewarded for keeping his mitzvois. Givaldig!
Says the RambaN that the forbidden fowl are all birds of prey and their cruel habits render them unfit for our unique, spiritual diet (VaYikra 11:13-19). Among the prohibited birds, there is one which is reputed to be generous and kindly, alleged to being busily engaged in delivering ‘bundles of joy’ to grateful parents – the stork. Jewish tradition also seems to attest to the noble character of this remarkable bird. The Hebrew word for stork is Chasidah. This name is derived from the word Chesed, which means loving-kindness. And taka why is the stork called a Chasidah? Says the heylige Gemoro: “because it shows kindness to its own kind,” by sharing food with others storks.
What could be a nicer name for a bird? Ober shtlet zich di shilo (the question arises) azoy: if, according to the RambaN (Nachmanides), the reason that prohibited birds are not eaten is because they are predatory and cruel, what can we say of the stork that does only chesed? Why is this kind and sympathetic bird not kosher? Doesn’t it deserve to be included among the kosher rather than the forbidden fowl? Taka an excellent question ober says the Kotzker Rebbe (1787-1859) that it is because the Chasidah shows kindness only to its own kind. It shares its food only with its close companions. It is concerned only with the needs of its own immediate group. This selective and parochial type of kindness is, in fact, an extreme form of cruelty. Generosity extended to favorites only, while withholding it from others, is not Chesed, but a form of discrimination and cruelty. True kindness must be indiscriminate – whoever needs help is deserving. Grada it’s quite easy for the Oisvorfer to chap the Chasida and her modus operandi : do you enjoy doing chesed for people you can’t stand? Avada nisht!
Adds the Ibn Ezra that the Chasidah is seen only at specific intervals of the year. Efsher we can infer from this statement that the Chasidah performs its acts of kindness only at its own pleasure. I still like the Stork. And adds the Chiddushei HaRim that although this species appears to be kind and giving, the Toirah teaches that showing compassion and giving only to those who are close to us without a sense of unity and concern for the greater whole is a non-kosher attitude. The Matamei Yaakov citing Rashi (Kiddushin 49b) explains that the underlying motivation for the Chasidah’s actions is to flatter its friends. Although its actions appear merciful, the Toirah reveals that its intentions are inappropriate and it is therefore forbidden.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv