Toirah Birthdays and Celebratory Customs:
A scavenger hunt is a game in which the organizers prepare a list defining specific items, which the participants seek to gather or complete all items on the list, usually without purchasing them. Usually participants work in small teams, although the rules may allow individuals to participate. The goal is to be the first to complete the list or to complete the most items on that list. In variations of the game, players take photographs of listed items or be challenged to complete the tasks on the list in the most creative manner. A treasure hunt is another name for the game, but it may involve following a series of clues to find objects or a single prize in a particular order. According to experts, gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell popularized scavenger hunts in the United States with a series of exclusive New York parties starting in the early 1930s. Ober, is that emes? Not! The first ever scavenger hunt was created by the RBSO in the year 2448 as the Yiddin were traversing the midbar thinking (at the time) that entry into the Promised Land was but days or weeks away. As the heylige Ois repeats with some regularity; there is nothing we do today that is not rooted in either the heylige Toirah or Gemora. More on that below.
Two weeks ago, the Yiddin married the RBSO (metaphorically of course), and received the Ten Commandments. Last week, Moishe delivered -in smorgasbord style- and additional 53 mitzvis. The marriage was beginning to take shape; the RBSO barked out orders, Moishe delivered them, and the Yiddin would go on to break most of them. Welcome then to Parshas Teruma where all that is reduced to writing, took place either before or after the sin of the golden calf which is vividly described in Parshas Ki Sisa which we will read in a few weeks. Is the Toirah not written chronologically? That’s of course a great debate with most agreeing that in fact there is no such order. Accordingly, what we read this week and next have yet to take place. Why is that? Ver veyst? The bottom line: the Yiddin, in this week’s parsha, are instructed to get busy building the RBSO a house, a dwelling, a place here on earth where the RBSO’s essence would reside. How essence resided anywhere is of course above the heylige Ois’s paygrade, ober one thing is zicher: the massive project is described over the next five parshas and closes out Sefer Shmois. The bottom line: everyone needs and deserves a place to live; the RBSO included himself.
We have previously written about the Mishkan Project and avada you are encouraged to read earlier postings over at Oisvorfer.com. That being said, every year as these parshas roll around (literally), the Ois is excited and astounded as he reads the ‘materials list’ given by the RBSO. One thing is zicher: the RBSO knew exactly what He wanted. He was its planner, architect, designer and decorator. He gave specific instructions on fabrics to be used, and their colors. It’s quite remarkable and one is hard pressed to find more color and detail anyplace else in the entire heylige Toirah. Let’s quickly read the materials to be sourced. Says the heylige Toirah (Shmois 25: 3-8), azoy:
|3. And this is the offering that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper;||גוְזֹאת֙ הַתְּרוּמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּקְח֖וּ מֵֽאִתָּ֑ם זָהָ֥ב וָכֶ֖סֶף וּנְחֽשֶׁת:|
|4. blue, purple, and crimson wool; linen and goat hair;||דוּתְכֵ֧לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָ֛ן וְתוֹלַ֥עַת שָׁנִ֖י וְשֵׁ֥שׁ וְעִזִּֽים:|
|5. ram skins dyed red, tachash skins, and acacia wood;||הוְעֹרֹ֨ת אֵילִ֧ם מְאָדָּמִ֛ים וְעֹרֹ֥ת תְּחָשִׁ֖ים וַֽעֲצֵ֥י שִׁטִּֽים:|
|6. oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the incense;||ושֶׁ֖מֶן לַמָּאֹ֑ר בְּשָׂמִים֙ לְשֶׁ֣מֶן הַמִּשְׁחָ֔ה וְלִקְטֹ֖רֶת הַסַּמִּֽים:|
|7. shoham stones and filling stones for the ephod and for the choshen.||זאַבְנֵי־שֹׁ֕הַם וְאַבְנֵ֖י מִלֻּאִ֑ים לָֽאֵפֹ֖ד וְלַחֽשֶׁן:|
|8. And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst||חוְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָֽׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם:|
Did you read the material list of posik 5 above? The RBSO wanted the Yiddin to use ‘atzei shitim?’ What the hec is a shittim tree and where did the Yiddin find it in the midbar? Just where in the midbar were the Yiddin to find a 72 Amah (approximately 160’ foot) wooden beam? Not just one, but 48 of them?! Says the medrish: Avrohom Ovenu originally planted this tree and in its shade, he served his Malochim guests and davened. This was the original source of shittim wood. Over time, the tree grew, and during Kriyas Yam Suf (splitting of the Sea) the Malochim (maybe the same ones, ver veyst) cut it down and dropped it on the shore. The Yiddin figured that such a large tree could be used for something important and schlepped it along. Size matters; long wood is always useful, if you chap, Sure enough, this tree was destined to be used as the middle beam of the Mishkan. Nu, gey veis (go know) how the RBSO thinks.
Says the medrish (Yalkut) azoy: Yaakov Ovenu saw through ruach hakoidesh (prophetically) that the Yiddin would have to build the Tabernacle. He therefore took large acacia trees from the Holy Land and replanted them in Mitzrayim. Yaakov commanded his descendants that upon their eventual departure from Mitzrayim, to take those trees with them, since such wood could not be found in the midbar. The Yiddin followed his orders, and mamish bashert, therefore had shittim wood with which to build the Tabernacle.
Speaking of Shittim wood, here’s a pshat that will blow you away. These trees are called shittim because they were planted along the Shittim Brook. This brook -as we will be reading much later in the heylige Toirah- had a rather unique quality. Whomever drank from its waters would become sexually stimulated, aroused, and immoral. An early version of Viagra? Ver veyst! The Sodomites used to drink from this brook regularly, and were taka a bunch of chazerim perverts, oy vey. Nu, one could easily chap, especially after drinking from its waters, how this could become a popular brand. Says the medrish: when the Moshiach arrives (from Crown Heights), this brook will dry up completely. Nu, thankfully you’re safe until then. You hear this chevra? Long before Viagra and other such stimulants, there was the shittim brook. Not FDA approved but seemingly still gave wood!
And this is why Yaakov took some of these trees with him when he went to Mitzrayim? He wanted his descendants to davka use this wood to build the Tabernacle? Say it’s not so but seemingly it is. And in that zechus (merit), the power of the urge that leads to sexual misconduct would be weakened? Shoin, go argue with the medrish. Yaakov also realized that when the Yiddin would leave Mitzrayim, they would rest nearby this Shittim Brook. Ober (but) if the shittim trees were used to build the Tabernacle, the waters would not lead them to sexual temptation. Seemingly, the brook had magical powers. Excellent plan! How did it work out? Not too well as we will read over the summer in Parshas Bolok. Moreover, many of you oisvorfs are living proof!
As stated above, the heylige Ois has covered these topics in the past and has come to but one conclusion. Knowing in advance -as He knows all else- that the Yiddin were not ready for prime time, that they were sinners deeply steeped in salve mentality and unable at this early stage to behave as He was directing, the RBSO needed to keep them busy and so did. The RBSO avada knew the Yiddin would worship a golden calf and would also be swayed by the miraglim (spies). As a result, they would be valgering (wandering) about the midbar for a total of forty years. What to Do? Keep them busy! Build a mishkan. Draw plans, retain an architect, hire an assistant, get approvals, build, inspect, furnish and more. The generation of Yiddin to leave Mitzrayim were not yet land worthy. Among other purposes, busying themselves with the Mishkan kept them occupied and unified for a while. The bottom line: mission accomplished. The planning, design, building and inaugural festivities are described in no fewer than five different parshas.
Ober, given that Zayin Adar is upon us, let’s begin with a birthday shoutout to Moishe Rabaynu while also marking his yurtzeit (date of his passing). What the hec is Zayin Adar you ask? To some it’s the day Moishe Rabeinu was born and the day he died. To some it means Purim is only a week away and Pesach planning -to include flight reservations, booking a condo over in Orlando, an apartment in Miami, preparing for the in-laws, ordering food from various caterers, arranging extra chairs, tables, garbage bags, and the list goes on, is in full swing. Shoin, unless you attended yeshiva for a number of years, mistama you never knew that Zayin Adar (the 7th day of the month of Adar) has been attached to Moishe Rabaynu, fearless leader of the Yiddin for forty or so years, as his official birthday. And so is the date of his passing. Is that so? Do all agree?
Does the heylige Toirah mention Moishe’s birthday? Not! Anyone’s birthday? Also not. Does it specifically tell us that any one individual was born on a date certain? It does not! And the lead question for the week is azoy: how do we know from Toirah sources that Moishe, whose yurtzeit (date of passing) we mark this evening and tomorrow on the 7th of Adar (Zayin Adar), was also born on that very date?
And before we go veyter on this birthday topic, it’s avada worth mentioning that while not one birthday is recorded in the entire heylige Toirah, one birthday celebration and bash is specifically shouted out. One would think, and logically so, that the heylige Toirah made mention of an important personality, but one would be wrong. That distinction was reserved for Paroy, wicked king of Mitzrayim who enslaved the Yiddin for several hundred years. Why his birthday was mentioned, ver veyst, ober the heylige Toirah does tell us it was celebrated and what took place that day. Spoiler alert: aside from typical birthday festivities befitting a king, he took a life and spared one.
Shoin, back the question: if the heylige Toirah does not tell us when Moishe was born, who decided it was on Zayin Adar? And who decided that he also passed away on that very date on the Hebrew calendar? To answer these questions, let us then begin by reviewing a recurring theme the heylige Ois reminds you of from time to time: when the heylige Toirah is silent and or where there are gaping holes in the text, and our sages wanted to know what went down, when, and who was involved, they had their way of figuring things out. Were they correct? Ver veyst?
In fact, all we know about Moishe’s birth from the heylige Toirah is from these few pisukim (Shmois 2:1-3) which fail to mention a month or the date he was born.
“a man from the house of Levi took the daughter of Levi as his wife. The woman conceived and gave birth. Seeing that the child was good, she hid him for three months. When she was no longer able to hide him, she prepared a box (‘teiva’) of reeds and covered it with a coat of clay and pitch. She put the child in it, and placed it in the rushes by the banks of the Nile”
That being said, the heylige Gemora (Soitah 12b) teaches that Moishe was both born and died on the 7th of Adar. The heylige Toirah records (Shmois 2:2) how Moishe’s mother hid him for three months prior to placing him in a basket on the Nile river. Our sages suggest that Moishe was placed in the basket by his mother Yoicheved on the 6th day of Sivan, which years later, would be the day, according to the consensus of most, of Revelation at Sinai. Therefore, the heylige Gemora concludes (based on a Toisefta Soitah 11:7) that Moishe was both born and died on the seventh of Adar. Got all that? Amazing! Ober does everyone agree? Of course not! Another opinion, also found in the heylige Gemora suggests Moishe was placed in the basket on the 21st of Nissan, which was the day the Sea Split, and the rabbis still maintained that the 7th of Adar was 3 months prior. Which date is correct? We shall address that below. Veyter.
According to many, Moishe was born and passed away on Zayin Adar and so says the heylige Gemora (Soita 12b), and as a result it has become the minhag to increase in joy on this day. Why not? Let’s also keep in mind that we are in the month of Adar where we are instructed azoy: when the month of Adar enters, we are to increase our joy. Add that to Moishe’s birthday and we’re supposed to be exceedingly happy. That’s nice until we come across this: because he also died on the very date, some are accustomed to fasting -mourning style- as we remember with sadness the passing of a great leader. Of course, not everyone agrees with the fasting portion to mark the day. Others have the minhag to increase their charitable endeavors on this day in lieu of fasting, and for those in shul during these corona days, some do not say Tachanun on this day. Others, skip davening altogether but that for another day. What to do? Be happy that he was born on the 7th of Adar, or sad that he died on that date? Are we efsher supposed to be both happy and sad at the same time?
And if that weren’t enough and avada it should be, we find in the medrish (Esther Raba 16) that Moishe passed away on the 7th of Shevat. And says the Mogen Avrohom (580:20) that Moishe was born and passed away on the first of Adar. Shoin, when was Moishe born? Are you confused? Ver veyst? Says the Anaf Yoisef that he was definitely not born on the 7th of Shevat and that any such assertions are attributed this to a misprint. The printer wrote Shevat but meant to typeset the 7th of Adar and taka so says the heylige Gemora. We don’t argue width the heylige Gemora; we can however blame the printer. Settled? Not yet!
When was Moishe really born? For that we need to see what the achroin Wikipedia has to say. “On the Jewish calendar, the seventh day of the month of Adar marks the traditional date of the death of Moishe. It is also the date of his birth, 120 years earlier. It is believed that Moishe was born in Adar I and died in Adar II.” And they know this how and from where? From the heylige Gemora which proves this date azoy: In Devorim (34:8 ) we read that the Yiddin mourned for thirty days following Moishe’s death in the Plains of Moav. This area borders Israel, just east of the Jordan River. Sefer Yehoisuah (The book of Joshua) begins with the RBSO’s command to bring the Yiddin people across the Jordan River. The RBSO specifies that they are to cross in three days’ time. This instruction was given immediately after Moishe died, meaning at the earliest possible opportunity after his death. This would have been following the thirty days of mourning. Halt kup (pay attention): In Joshua 4:19 we are told that the Yiddin crossed the river on the tenth of Nissan. If we subtract the three days between the command and actual crossing, plus the thirty days of mourning, we find the date of Moishe’s’ passing is the seventh of Adar. Incidentally, the seventh of Adar is also Moishe’s birthday. This we derive from what Moishe said on the day of his death (Devorim 31:2): “Today I am one hundred and twenty years old.” In other word, today was his birthday and shoin. Does the joy of his birth override the sadness of his passing? Seemingly so, or maybe not.
Shoin, since we have more time and space, let’s add to the confusion. Zicher you all know that punkt (specifically) the month of Adar does at times present itself twice. In other words, when our calendars indicate a leap year, we have two consecutive months of Adar, known as Adar Rishoin and Adar Sheyne. Shoin. And we ask azoy: if in fact we celebrate two months of Adar, during which are we to mark Moishe’s birthday and passing? Is it celebrated once or twice? If once, which one? We need to figure out what to do and when to celebrate or mark with sadness, Moishe’s passing. What happens and when do we celebrate Moishe’s birthday and Yurtzeit in a leap year? Says the heylige Gemora,azoy: on a leap year, Moishe’s birthday and Yurtzeit are [Halachicly] commemorated on the 7th of Adar I. However, the spiritual aspect behind the auspicious day applies to both 7th of Adar I and 7th of Adar II. In other words: in some years, his birthday is celebrated twice in two consecutive months.
Ober, was Moishe born during a leap year? That topic too is hotly debated and the heylige Gemora records a machloikes (dispute) on this matter: Some say Moishe was born on Adar Rishon of a leap year. Others say he was born in a regular year with a single Adar. But wait: there’s more. On which weekday, and at what time, did Moishe pass away? According to informed sources (soon to be revealed) Moishe passed away on Shabbos afternoon, towards the time of Mincha. [Admur 292:5]. And those Raboyseyee, are incredible details considering that none of this is recorded in the heylige Toirah which Moishe himself wrote as the RBSO was dictating.
Did Moishe taka pass away during a leap year? Says the Mogen Avrohom (580:20) azoy: it’s a dispute! Shoin and now you know. The Terumos Hadeshen (294) writes Moishe passed away in a regular year that contained one Adar. However, the Yalkut Yehoshua writes that there are opinions who say Moishe passed away during the first Adar of a leap Year. According to the opinion in the Gemora that Moishe was born on Adar Rishon one must conclude that he also passed away on Adar Rishon, as it states regarding Moishe that the RBSO filled his years that he lived an exact number of years. Settled? Not! Other sages to include the Chacham Tzevi, (Sheilas Yaavetz 1:117; Siddur Yaavetz); the Chasam Sofer 163; and others suggest that during a leap year Moishe’s Yurtzeit is to be commemorated on Zayin Adar II. Now you know? Why all this controversy? What difference does it make? Our sages of yore teach that the righteous die on their birthdays, as did Moishe. They tell us that the three patriarchs and Dovid Hamelech also passed away on their birthdays. Says the heylige Gemora (Rosh Hashana 11a) azoy: the reason for this is that the RBSO sits and “completes the years of the righteous from day to day and from month to month” based on a Biblical verse, “the number of your days I will fulfil” (Exodus 23:26).
Was Moishe born in Adar 1 or Adar 2? A preceding shaylo might be asked azoy: was there an Adar 2 in the year he was born? Was he born in a plain year with 1 Adar or a leap year with 2 Adars? If it was a leap year on in what Adar did he pass? And how does this argument affect us? Does it?
The final bottom line: in hyntige tzeytin (todays times), Moishe’s birthday is not really celebrated but his day of passing is commemorated. How? As mentioned above, some fast, some omit the Tachnun prayer and others increase their charitable activities. And we close with this. On Zayin Adar (leap or regular year, whichever it was on that date), the RBSO alone did the work typically performed -in our times- by members of the Chevra Kadisha. He alone buried Moishe whose burial site remains unknown. The RBSO is not talking. It has become the custom of the Chevra Kadisha worldwide to mark the yurtzeit of Moishe by gathering for a festive meal but not before fasting all day. Seemingly, they are both happy and sad on this day. This group of dedicated selfless people is entrusted with preparing our brothers and sisters for their final journey in this world, lovingly purifying the bodies of the departed and then assisting in the burial. It’s a weighty responsibility, as well as a tremendous honor.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv