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

Shoiftim 2015: Journeys

traveltoIsraelRaboyseyee and Ladies:


Shoin: Where were we or efsher we can ask, where am I? This past Friday when the Oisvorfer stopped off at Brach’s to pick up the local papers, the regular giveaways, he noticed a publication he had never seen before. It had a glossy cover, its name was TACHLIS and it was crying out to be picked up. Two hours later upon arrival to the pool area where we were for shabbis, TACHLIS was opened and inside the front cover, the  opening paragraph, a letter from the editor to volume 1, Issue 3, contained these very words.


“Chazal say that every Jew makes 42 journeys in their lifetime that mirror the wanderings of the Generation of the Desert before the Jewish People entered Eretz  Yisroel. That’s one way of understanding the stops and starts that all of us have experienced in our lives.” And as we read the last few parshas of Sefer Devorim (Deuteronomy), the Yiddin are on stop #42 and getting ready to enter the land. As these words are being typed, the Oisvorfer begins a new journey; hopefully his last before many years of bliss somewhere in some land.


Parshas Shoiftim  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 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 (keep your pants on): the introduction to this givaldige war benefit is laid this week, if you chap.


As mentioned just last week, 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?  Certainly, not always, 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 , keeping the ah-says isn’t half the battle as compared to not violating the lois’; the ever powerful yetzer hora (evil inclination) seems to concentrate, excel and typically also prevail – devil that he is- when it comes to the lois’. Ober  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 (us) for all your many indiscretions. Then again you can efsher invoke the emotional instability or  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.


How can we cover the ganzte parsha in but a few pages? We can’t ober, here goes a shtikel overview and then, time permitting, we’ll look into what’s on the Oisvorfer’s mind with a shtikel bikius (depth). 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 Yakkov 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, peace and chapping a piece, if you chap,  says the heylige Toirah   (Devorim 20:5-7)  azoy: 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, azoy: 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) mamish, 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 Raboyseyee 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. Good place to close ober let’s cover on more topic.

As mentioned above, it’s in this week’s parsha where the Yiddin are given instructions about the appointment of a king. Ober, 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 ober  the RBSO who avada know 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.
  1. 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) azoy: “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-

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer

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