The Oisvorfer begins this week’s chazora of the heylige Parsha of Shoiftim with a special shout out and mazel tov to his friends Laurie and Dr. Eli Bryk upon the incredibly beautiful, elegant and memorable wedding this past Sunday, of their son Jordan to Caroline Lobel. Paragraphs could easily be written about the chuppah, the elevators, the music, and the nes min hashomayim mamish (miracle from heaven) when the entire white, and also decked out in their finest white formal jackets, band, more than a dozen of them, suddenly all turned shvartz (black), some into females, for about an hour of spirited dancing, and then turned suddenly white again; it was mamish amazing. It was gishmak mamish to be in attendance.
In the inyan (topic) of hakoras hatov (recognizing a good someone did for you, albeit somewhat late), the Oisvorfer recalls (and is forever grateful) that when he and the eishes chayil moved to Lawrence, just over 22 years ago, and knew but a handful or even fewer people, it was Laurie and Eli, perfect strangers at the time, who extended the first shabbis lunch invitation. During the chuppah, the mesadear kidushin (officiating Rabbi) mentioned that the kidushin would be valid and recognized as far away as South Africa, where the Oisvorfer zicher has readers and a shtikel following, and let them all know that the Lobels did quite okay with the Bryks; they’re good people. A hartziken mazel tov to both families, and may they have much and only nachas from the young couple.
And while kimat the gantze velt is moving to the right, this past Sunday evening, at the aforementioned chasuna, the Oisvorfer found himself moving left -to the left side of the chuppah room that is- where traditionally one typically finds the veyber sitting. As an aside, who decided many years ago that men would sit on the right side and women on the left? What was the Ruv doing in the ezras noshim (ladies section)? Taka an interesting sheylo, though zicher nisht di ershte mul (not the first) it was asked, if you chap. Nu, believe it or not, though the Oisvorfer has attended many (many, many) hundreds of chasunas, sadly and happily a good number for the same chaverim who remained determined to keep doing it until they got it right, this was only the second time that he had to great zechus of sitting next to his eishes chayil during the chuppah ceremony. Though we were but one day into choidesh Elul, when we begin mental preparations for the coming tshuva season, this gala wedding featured mixed seating at the chuppah, and there the Ruv found himself alongside his eishes chayil, a treat mamish. More of a treat was the look of confusion on some of the faces, the look of horror on a select few, and the puzzled look on others. Watching the crowd of hundreds settle in got the Ruv thinking…..what’s wrong with mixed seating at the chuppah? Is this arrangement even discussion worthy, and shouldn’t every chuppah feature it? Efsher avada (maybe for sure) it should, at least at weddings that also feature the mixed shmorg and seating experience. What’s pshat with a separate seating chuppah when the rest of the chasuna is mixed? Isn’t there a greater chance of mixed dancing breaking out, chas v’sholom, during the shmorg than at the chuppah? Is the chuppah a shul, and are we davening? Though the Ruv has seen a marked increase in brides and grooms shokeling and reciting tehilim, is this considered the type of prayer that would call for a mechitza? Have you ever seen Mincha or Maariv, which could require separation, break out during the chuppah? Avada nisht!
Kudos then to Rabbi Haskell Lookstein, who seems to chap that one can be orthodox, shomer Toirah and mitzvois (most anyway) and still be seated next to his eishes chayil during the chuppah ceremony. And for that reason, or so I suspect, he encourages couples to sit together at the chuppah. As an added bonus, and as any clever and experienced Rabbi of a large shul would know, it’s a much easier task asking husbands and wives to stop chatting to one another as the chuppah is about to begin: they’re hardly talking before! Shoin! An entire page was dedicated to coverage of the Bryk/Lobel and Lookstein show, let’s learn some parsha, but first…
Oy vey!! It’s only just past mid August and all the kinderlach are home from camp; is this what we get for over $9,000? Ver veyst (who knows) and certainly not the Oisvorfer who had the foresight kimat 25 years ago to marry into a camp family. Grada not a terrible naddan (dowry). They’re home a ganzte finif tug (5 days) and not just are they bored out of their minds and going mishuga, they’re making us quite crazy as well. What to do? It’s mamish shreklich? What happened to an 8 week summer program? Yikes?
Let’s finally turn our attention to Parshas Shoiftim which covers a dizzying array of topics, mostly unrelated to one another, or what we Yiddin affectionately call a shmorg, and who among us doesn’t enjoy a good shmorg? And if you haven’t opened a Chumish all summer long because you were vacationing from the RBSO, you might consider learning Parshas Shoiftim which contains 41 mitzvois, mamish. Many are taka repeats – we are in summer repeat season – but also quite a few very interesting new halochois (rules) about the court system, kings, wars, and much more. It gets really exciting towards the end and leading into next week’s parsha about men, girls, booty and war ober chap nisht, and keep your pants on: the introduction to this givaldige war benefit is laid this week, if you chap.
Though Sefer Devorim is known as mishne Toirah (a repeat), it does contain well over 100 mitzvos that cannot be found in earlier seforim. And while you were wasting away your years committing aveyros of every variety, you could have had just as much fun had you spent just a bit of time absorbing the heylige Toirah that the RBSO was good enough to send down, not once but twice. Isn’t twice better than once, if you chap? And as an added bonus, Shoiftim happens to be chock full of mitzvois of every variety: ah-says (thou shall do) and of course the loi-sa-says (thou shall not do), unfortunately the lois have it over the ahs 27-14, kimat a 2 to 1 ratio, and given that we’re inching up on Yom Kippur, the big one, the day of possible atonement, it’s best we pay attention to the parsha and learn what we shouldn’t be doing.
For many of you Oisvorfs, keeping the ah-says isn’t half the battle as compared to not violating the lois; seemingly the yetzer hora seems to concentrate, excel and typically also prevail, devil that he is, when it comes to the lois. And since Elul is upon us, efsher it’s taka time to be –as the Rebbe would often say- mefashfesh b’masov – somewhat reflective and introspective about our own giferliche actions during the past year, including as recently as yesterday or the day before, chas v’sholom (say it’s not so, please). Hopefully the RBSO will find it in His heart to forgive you for all your many indiscretions. Then again you can efsher (maybe) invoke the emotional instability and insanity defense and tell the RBSO that you were once a normal person before the Rebbe beat you and himself with the shteken, if you chap.
And in Spark Notes fashion, here’s the gantze Parsha in one paragraph. Moishe hands down rules and regulations for the establishment of a system of leadership in the land. Moishe still pontificating, instructs the Yiddin on the appointment of courts, judges, and officers in every city. After delineating the process of prosecuting an idolater, the heylige Toirah teaches that the death penalty shall be imposed upon any scholar who renders a decision against the Great Sanhedrin (High Court of 71 judges), no matter how important or great the disputing scholar may be. Shreklich! The Yiddin are, according to some, but zicher not all, commanded to request a king once they have settled in the land. More on this topic below. The king may accumulate wealth but avada not too much. Too much wealth is only reserved for modern day mukubolim (kabbalists) who, for a price, will predict and promise anything one desires. Interestingly enough, the next major topic is about prophecy, real and fake, and from there we are again reminded that avada we must protect the accidental murderer in special cities we call Oray Miklat, (cities of refuge). An entire tractate of the heylige Gemora called Makkos was written based on a few words in this parsha about Edim Zomemim (false and conspiring witnesses). Towards the end of Parsha and into the beginning of Ki- Saytzay, next week’s mamish thrilling parsha, the heylige Toirah discusses various halochois relevant to warfare. War preparations; conditions for exemption including fear of warfare, newlyweds who got called up to war before they had an opportunity to chap, and others, may stay home. We are taught that the enemy must first be given the opportunity to make peace, the Yiddin to chap a piece, and that they must be careful not to destroy any fruit trees while mounting a siege. Avada not all mounting is verboten, if you chap, which seemingly the RBSO allowed for soldiers on the battlefield and in heat. Nu, zicher you’ll be in shul early next week to learn all about the special permission granted to our dedicated soldiers as we study the case of the soldier, the female fugitive (hot shiksa), the pre marital sanctioned encounter, if you chap, the chasuna and much more. Our Rabbis call this booty, gishmak!
The Parsha concludes with the case of the unresolved murder and the ritual of the eglah arufah, the axed heifer, which serves as an atonement for the people of the neighboring cities for not preventing a murder. What the hec is an eglah arufah? Nu, this topic alone needs another 10 pages, and who cares? Have you ever seen an eglah arufah? According to legend this was the last topic that Yoisef Hatzadik and Yankif Oveenu, before his less than holy brothers ditched him, literally, were studying. And now, let’s focus in on a few highlights.
Speaking of war and piece…err I meant peace, we come across this most amazing possik (Devorim 20:5-7) Then the officers shall speak to the people saying, ‘Who is the man who has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will inaugurate it. And who is the man who has planted a vineyard and has not redeemed it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will redeem it. And who is the man who has betrothed a woman and not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will marry her.’ What’s pshat and what’s going on here?
Seemingly, before the Yiddin went to war, the Koihen would address the army and offer war exemptions. These folks were sent back to their families. The first three mentioned demonstrate the importance of a strong family life. A man who has built but not dedicated a house is to go home and dedicate it. A man who has planted a vineyard but has not harvested it is to go home for the harvest. A man who is betrothed to a woman to become his wife, but is not yet married is to go home and be married. Avada it’s understood that once married for a number of years, those very men were the first to enlist.
Says Rashi, and who understood people better than he: these people have Agmas Nefesh (anguish of the soul). And these individuals can’t and won’t fight properly since their minds are preoccupied with finishing what they started. Voish Achair Yachnichenu (another man will inaugurate it) and avada we can chap that Agmas Nefesh is coming about only because the soldier is afraid that he will die in battle and someone else will complete what he started or didn’t. Avada we see from here and from so many other places how the RBSO understands humans and their needs, and why the RBSO is great. He offers three exemptions from military service for extenuating circumstances. The RBSO who knows all, also chapped that men are behaymis (animals), seemingly the young wives not much better, and if these young men weren’t going to be home to take care of the neshey chayil (their wives), others might be, if you chap. Ober Raboyseyy we can also see that Moishe is reminding the Yiddin that their future actually rests in family life. Without a strong, dedicated family, we are taka nothing. Veyter.
Why would the Yiddin need or want a king given their relationship with the RBSO? Moreover, given their rocky relationship with Moishe these last 40 years and with authority in general, why would they ever want a king? Ver veyst but the RBSO who avada knows all, tells us that such a day will come and when it does, He also provides guidelines and other rules for the kings selection and his own behavior.
Though it’s avada good to be the king, he too has rules and restrictions, let’s see what they are and if, given the onerous restrictions, there were many applicants. Lommer lernin (let’s learn). Says the heylige Toirah ” (Devarim 17:16) “However, he must not acquire an abundance of horses for himself so that he will not return the people to Egypt in order to acquire an abundance of horses, and G-d has said to you. You shall no longer return on this route again.”
In the overview, we learned that the Yiddin were either commanded to, or perhaps had the right to, ask for a king. From the words in the Toirah it seems that such an appointment, is mamish a mitzvah ober the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 20b) records a machloikes (dispute) between Rav Yoichanan and Rav Nahorai as to whether the appointment of a king is obligatory or only optional, but either way it still is a mitzvah. Nu, those of us who learned a shtikel Novee will zicher recall that Shmuel wasn’t very tzifridden (happy) with the Yiddin when they requested a king though the RBSO seemingly explicitly commanded them to do so. What’s pshat? Nu another 10 pages can be written on this topic ober we must go veyter.
17. And he shall not take many wives for himself, and his heart must not turn away, and he shall not acquire much silver and gold for himself.
18. And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.
Let’s chazir: The king must not accumulate too many horses. Seemingly too many horses will drive the people back to Mitzrayim, and the RBSO has prohibited this return. Says the RambaM: we’re not allowed today to establish a permanent residence in Egypt, (seemingly even for tax purposes).
Says the heylige Gemora (Sukkah 51b) azoy: once upon a time…. that there was taka a very large Jewish community in Alexandria. This community was wiped out by the Roman emperor Trajan. And the reason for the devastation? Because the Yiddin violated the prohibition against dwelling in Mitzrayim. Shoin! Avoid this place. Ober taka why is Mitzrayim on the permanent bad-boy list? Aren’t there sadly enough, a plethora of other countries that weren’t so nice to the Yiddin? Why was Mitzrayim singled out for this prohibition? Says the Ramban (Ramban al haToirah, Dev. 18:16): “Since the Egyptians and the Canaanites were exceedingly evil and sinful to the RBSO … the RBSO wished that Israel not learn from their deeds. He destroyed every soul of the Canaanites and said ‘Do not allow them to live in your land.’(Shemois 23:33) And he commanded regarding Egypt that we must not live in their land.” In Ramban’s view, the prohibition protects the people of Israel from the evil influence of the people of Egypt. Ober business is avada business and when it comes to making money, all bets are off and says the RambaM: It is permissible to return to Egypt for business and commerce, and to [pass through to] conquer other lands, (but don’t buy too many horses, especially if you’re the king). Nu, Israel is also a nice place for a first or second home.
A gitten shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv