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

Tetzaveh 2022: The Missing Shoutout & The Magic Lights

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

The Missing Shoutout & the Magic Lights:

shoutout, so they say, is a short public acknowledgement of someone or something, especially by name. It’s usually to recognize someone in appreciation of them or something they did. Shout-outs are typically given in a public setting, such as on the radio, during a live performance, or on social media. The bottom line: just about everyone enjoys the shoutout, and why not? It’s a feel-good moment.

It’s zicher not a small honor to be shouted out in the heylige Toirah and welcome to Parshas Tetzaveh, seemingly most well-known for who and what’s missing. What’s missing is a significant person by the name of Moishe. What’s pshat missing? Poshit geredt (simply speaking), the name Moishe is not found anywhere in the parsha. He’s not shouted out by name; oy vey, and who more deserving? This anomaly avada caught the attention of many an exegete and much ink has been spilled trying to figure out why taka Moishe went missing from the script. Back in yeshiva days, every rebbe went out of his way to explain the disappearance. Moishe, they told us, seemingly brought it upon himself; case closed. What’s pshat? We were taught that his disappearance harkens not backward but forward to next week’s parsha (Shmois 32:32), where, following the eygel caper, Moishe told the RBSO to either forgive the Yiddin for their indiscretion, or, remove him from His Book. Shoin! One cannot threaten the RBSO or force His hand: fartig (game over). The RBSO removed Moishe’s name from this week’s parsha and Moishe went missing. Did he? And what’s pshat the event takes place in Ki Sisa and he’s gone one parsha earlier? Moreover, the opening words of the opening posik “And you, command the Children of Israel…” is obviously addressed to him; how could he be missing when the RBSO addresses him with the first words of the parsha? And even if his name is missing, is that so bad? What’s so giferlich if Moishe’s name does not appear anywhere in the parsha? Is that a crime? Does it appear in all of Sefer Bereishis? It does not! Does it appear in various parshas -to include Ekev, Re’ey, Shoiftim, or Ki-Say-Tzey, in Sefer Devorim?  It does not?  Why is no one bothered? Moreover, his name is only mentioned once in last week’s parsha of Terumah; again, why isn’t that bothering anyone? Oib azoy (if so), what’s the big deal that his name went missing from our parsha?

Another point to ponder: Moishe was front and center in the year leading up to redemption of the Yiddin from slavery and Mitzrayim, yet he’s not at all -even once- shouted out in the Pesach Hagodah from which many will be reading in various parts of the world in the coming weeks? He’s not even referenced; gornisht, not even as a pronoun: Shreklich (OMG)! What happened to his Hagodah shout out? Was he punished? By the compilers? It’s taka emes that all the heavy lifting- makos, signs, wonders & and tricks- were performed by the RBSO and let’s not forget His words “ani v’lo malach, ani v’loi saraf,” (I’ll do it all Myself), ober Moishe was front and center for all of it. He was the RBSO’s personal messenger and emissary to Paroy, yet no shout out? Is his MIA status in the hagodah at all related to him being missing in our parsha?  And the last question: do all agree with the one pshat taught in yeshiva that Moishe brought this upon himself?

This year we shall shed some new light on Moishe’s disappearance. Speaking of new light, we shall also further illuminate more midbar magic as our parsha also introduces us to the Urim V’tumin. What that was and how it worked before batteries were introduced in 1800 -that’s correct- has baffled many, and taka, as a youngster, I thought often and deeply about this magic when Tetzaveh rolled around. And the question we will be addressing is this: how were the Yiddin to know how to make this item if never instructed in the heylige Toirah? More on that below but let’s first find Moishe, or at least grasp his disappearance.

As mentioned, and as our rebbes drilled into our heads -a few attempted to drill elsewhere, if you chap- Moishe was cut out of the parsha because he so demanded of the RBSO. Pshat is that Moishe didn’t want to appear. We bought into that answer davka because that’s what they told us and they had sources which told us just what went down. They also had shtekens (sticks) which they used on us regularly. What went down in Ki Sisa is this: a very angry RBSO was ready to divorce the Yiddin, the very group He married but 40 days earlier. They cheated on Him with the eygel and if there’s one thing the RBSO abhors, it’s cheating through idolatry. The eygel was an idol, case closed. Let’s review the conversation:

When the RBSO threatened to destroy the Yiddin following the Sin of the Golden Calf, Moishe staunchly defended them, stating: “And now if You would but forgive their sin! – but if not, erase me now from Your book…” Tough talk from a mere mortal, ober the RBSO didn’t ignore Moishe and answered him azoy: “Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase from My book.”

Ober let’s examine Moishe’s words more carefully; were they not conditional?  If the RBSO refused to forgive the Yiddin, Moishe did not wish to be included in the Toirah.  Ober the mitzius (reality) was that the RBSO did ultimately forgive the Yiddin -in fact we’re still married to Him- and there was no longer any need to remove Moishe’s name from the heylige Toirah at all. Yet, he’s gone? What’s pshat? Why did he go missing? As an aside, if our marriage to the RBSO has endured over 3300 years, yours – no matter the circumstances- should too! Shoin!

And if by chance Moishe is taka not mentioned in Tetzaveh, why not extend the parsha to include the very beginning of Ki Sisa, which begins with “God spoke to Moishe” and shoin, issue resolved!  The bottom line: Moishe’s name is missing from the parsha because someone decided that our parsha ends where it ends. Ober who did it? Let’s read this: Said Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (Devash Lefi 80:3) azoy: it’s not real a question because Parshas Terumah and Tetzaveh are really but one long parsha, and if that’s the case, the RBSO did not remove or delete Moishe from this week’s parsha. He’s there! If that idea doesn’t talk to you, let’s blame the “canonizers” of our weekly parshas; seemingly they omitted him when they separated the parshas. Shoin!  Let us taka recall that when the heylige Toirah was written, there were no parshas at all; they were only introduced many hundreds of years later. In fact, perokim (chapters) were introduced by non-Jews and parshas only came about in the Talmudic era. Ober not so fast because says the Baal Haturim that Tetzaveh is davka a stand-alone parsha not associated with the previous one or with Ki Sisa. And if that’s the case why is Moishe missing? For that answer we turn to the heylige Gemora (Makos 11a -bottom of the page mamish) where we see this:

א”ר אבהו קללת חכם אפילו על תנאי היא באה מנלן מעלי דקאמר ליה [עלי] לשמואל (שמואל א ג, יז) כה יעשה לך אלהים וכה יוסיף אם תכחד ממני דבר ואף על גב דכתיב (שמואל א ג, יח) ויגד לו שמואל את כל הדברים ולא כחד ממנו [ואפ”ה] כתיב (שמואל א ח, ג) ולא הלכו בניו בדרכיו וגו

Since this is gibberish to most of you, let’s try in English:

Rabbi Abbahu says: With regard to the curse of a Sage, even if it is stated conditionally, it comes to realization. From where do we derive this? It is derived from an incident involving Eli the High Priest, as Eli said to Samuel, after the latter had received a prophetic vision with regard to Eli, that his sons do not follow his path: “Therefore may God do to you, and more also, if you hide any matter from me of all the matters that He spoke unto you” (I Samuel 3:17). And even though it is written immediately thereafter: “And Samuel told him all the matters, and did not hide from him” (I Samuel 3:18), it is written at the time of Samuel’s death: “And his sons did not follow in his ways” (I Samuel 8:3), indicating that God did to Samuel as he prophesied with regard to Eli, and his own sons did not follow his path. Despite the fact that Eli stated the curse conditionally, Samuel was affected by the curse.

In other words: The curse of a scholar, even with a condition, will always come true. And though the condition was not met, what Moishe asked of the RBSO came to fruition anyway. Does the text support this pshat? Is there any textual evidence that Moishe’s curse was fulfilled when he uttered the words “erase me from Your Book that you have written?” Not! What to do? Shoin, to demonstrate the power of words and fulfill the heylige Gemora’s dictum, the “canonizers” brilliantly created a parsha without the mention of Moishe’ name. The bottom line: Moishe’s disappearance was man-made.

Ober, while this pshat, is nice, it still doesn’t answer this question: Why was Moishe’s name specifically left out of this week’s parsha as opposed to any other? Says the Vilna Gaon and a few others- azoy: the yurtzeit of Moishe, 7 Adar, traditionally coincides with the week when Parshas Tetzaveh is read, and taka his yurtzeit was marked yesterday. To remind us that Moishe was taken away from the Jewish people, the Toirah purposely removed his name from our parsha. In other words: people would take notice that Moishe is missing and would -as a result- begin to ask questions and proffer answers. Efsher (ois pshat) that’s precisely what should be done to observe a yurtzeit? We are to remember that our deceased loved one’s are missing. Gishmak! And can we by extension also kler that people would ask the same question when reading the hagodoh leading to yet more discussion on Yitzyas Mitzrayim and the great miracles performed by the RBSO. Who wouldn’t recall Moishe when retelling the story? Certainly plausible; why not? Ober, how do we taka know the date of Moishe’s passing? Is it mentioned in the heylige Toirah? Not! Not worry; our sages figured this out as well; that for another day. Veyter!

Let’s close out this week’s review by shining a light on the mysterious and magical Urim V’tumim. Let’s find out what it was, how it worked and what magic it performed. We begin with the instructions as delineated in our parsha. Says the heylige Toirah (Shmois 28:30, azoy).

וְנָתַתָּ אֶל חֹשֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֶת הָאוּרִים וְאֶת הַתֻּמִּים וְהָיוּ עַל לֵב אַהֲרֹן בְּבֹאוֹ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְנָשָׂא אַהֲרֹן אֶת מִשְׁפַּט בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל לִבּוֹ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה תָּמִיד.

“Also put the Urim and the Tumim in the breastplate, so they may be over Aharoin’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord.  Thus Aharoin will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.”

So far, we know this: Among the garments of the High Priest, the breastplate and the Urim and Tumim were perhaps the most enigmatic. The breastplate was a patterned brocade made from gold thread, blue, red and crimson wool and twined linen. It was set with four rows of precious stones mounted in gold settings – twelve in all. The names of the twelve tribes were engraved on the stones – one on each stone – as well as the names of the Patriarchs, Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov.  We also know where the Urim V’tumin was to be placed ober, what is, or are, the Urim V’tumim? Is it one item or two? How was it be fashioned? By whom? What’s written on it? And the questions go on. Does the heylige Toirah provide any more information? Not in our parsha, but elsewhere in the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 27:19 – 21) we read this:

יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה קַח לְךָ אֶת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ בּוֹ וְסָמַכְתָּ אֶת יָדְךָ עָלָיו. יט וְהַעֲמַדְתָּ אֹתוֹ לִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְלִפְנֵי כָּל הָעֵדָה וְצִוִּיתָה אֹתוֹ לְעֵינֵיהֶם. כוְנָתַתָּה מֵהוֹדְךָ עָלָיו לְמַעַן יִשְׁמְעוּ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. כא וְלִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן יַעֲמֹד וְשָׁאַל לוֹ בְּמִשְׁפַּט הָאוּרִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה עַל פִּיו יֵצְאוּ וְעַל פִּיו יָבֹאוּ הוּא וְכָל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִתּוֹ וְכָל הָעֵדָה.

“So the Lord said to Moishe, “Take Yihoishua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

Do we now know what the Urim Vetumin was or were?  Not? We don’t know because the heylige Toirah does not disclose much. What we know is that this mysterious and magical ‘whatever’ was to be placed into the Choisen (breastplate). You know the drill: when the heylige Toirah is silent, our sages of the medrish, heylige Gemora and others (many), went to work. They had free license to tell us whatever they were imagining.

And we begin with Rashi who knew everything -and where he didn’t, he dug for answers. Says he azoy: the Urim V’Tumim was a piece of parchment on which the holy name of the RBSO was written. It was placed inside the breastplate, which was embedded with precious jewels, engraved with the names of the heylige shvotim (tribes). Adds the heylige Gemora (Yoma 73b), azoy: it was called Urim because it shed light (illuminated) on obscure matters (as in אור), and Tumim because its answers were whole, i. e. they always came to be true. In plain English: When the Koihen Godol (High Priest) consulted the Urim V’Tumim for divine advice on a particular matter, the letters on the stones, charged with the power of the RBSO’s holy name -akin lihavdil to batteries- lit up and conveyed the answer. At that point, the Koihen Godol had to unscramble the illuminated letters into a meaningful phrase, which formulated the solution to the question posed.

Says the heylige Zoihar that the Urim and Tumim were the Forty-two and Seventy-two Letter Names of the RBSO placed in the folds of the breastplate that caused the letters engraved in the stones to light up in sequence in order to spell out an answer to a question asked by the Koihen Godol. According to another view found in the heylige Gemora, the letters actually jumped up and fused on their own. Says the RambaN, the Urim and Tumim represent the two components of the answers; the letters lit up, and then they were combined in a complete and meaningful manner. According to him, there were separate divine names called Urim and Tumim, which were designated for each function, respectively. As an aside, Rashi’s view is that only the Tetragrammaton was inscribed on the Urim V’Tumim. In other words: long before Jumble was created in 1954 by Martin Naydel, who was better known for his work on comic books, the RBSO, back in the year 2448, presented us with His version of jumble and it was used for serious matters.

To add to their mystery, says the heylige Gemora (Yoma 21b) that the Urim V’tumim were one of the five phenomena that were found and in use in the First Beis Hamikdash but missing from the Second Temple. Some believe that these were a couple of stones used to communicate with the RBSO. The bottom line: what were the Urim V’tumim? Unseen and unused for some two and a half millennia, it isn’t surprising that the Urim and Tumim remain clouded in mystery.

And check this out: Says the Chida that he found in a sefer by the name of Likutei Rav Betzalel which tells us that the names of the shvotim were written on the stones of the Koihen Godol’s Choishen and Eyphod. The names were not written by a human, but by the RBSO Himself. However, the Chida admits that this pshat is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the statement of the heylige Gemora that the names of the tribes were miraculously engraved by the shamir worm. The shamir worm? What the hec is, or was, the shamir worm? Did the worm write?

Referenced throughout the heylige Gemora and medrish, the shamir was reputed to have existed in the time of Moishe, as one of the ten wonders created on the eve of the first shabbis, just before the RBSO finished creation. Moishe reputedly used the shamir to engrave the Choishen (Priestly breastplate) stones that were inserted into the breastplate. Much later, Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon), aware of the existence of the shamir, but unaware of its location, commissioned a search that turned up a “grain of Shamir the size of a barley-corn.” Shlomo’s artisans reputedly used the shamir in the construction of Solomon’s Temple. The material to be worked, whether stone, wood or metal, was affected by being “shown to the shamir.” At times, visuals are very helpful, if you chap. Following this line of logic (anything that can be ‘shown’ something must have eyes to see), early sages described the shamir almost as a living being. Other early sources, however, describe it as a green stone. For storage, the shamir was meant to have been always wrapped in wool and stored in a container made of lead; any other vessel would burst and disintegrate under the Shamir’s gaze. The shamir was said to have been either lost, or had lost its potency (along with the “dripping of the honeycomb”) by the time of the destruction of the Bayis Rishon (First Temple). Want more? Check out the heylige Gemora Jerusalem Talmud Sotah 9:13:5.  We’re talking midbar magic! Back to the Urim V’tumim.

Ober says the RambaN azoy: although the RBSO commanded Moishe to place the Urim V’Tumim -a parchment on which the RBSO’s Ineffable Name was written- inside the Koihen Godol’s Choshen (Breastplate), nowhere do we find that Moishe receive an explicit commandment to make it. Nor is its assembly mentioned in Parshas Pekudei together with the other priestly vestments. And if that’s the case, seemingly it is, how did Moishe know what to do? RambaN explains that the Urim V’Tumim was so holy that its secrets were known only to Moishe. Craftsmen were unable to be involved in its construction. Instead, it was either produced directly by the RBSO or by Moishe, who subsequently placed it inside the Choishen prior to Aharoin’s investiture as Kohen Godol (Vayikra 8:8). And that Raboyseyee, is what the heylige Ois call midbar magic. Veyter gigangin (let’s go further) and ask azoy: does everyone agree with either Rashi and or the RambaN? Of course not, and says the RambaM (Hilchos K’lei Koidesh 9:6-8 and elsewhere), azoy:  the Urim V’Tumim was but another name for the stones of the breast plate, which imparted the divine messages without relying on the piece of parchment.

As you can see, there are other views -seemingly many- on what the Urim V’Ttumim was/were and how they operated. Let’s try one or two more and see how you like them.  Says the Bechor Schor (a person we have quoted often these last few weeks), azoy: the main purpose of the Urim V’Tumim was quite different than what Rashi and the heylige Gemora stated with certitude. What were the Urim V’Tumim and how did they work? Azoy: on separate pieces of paper (or whatever was used to write on back then), the exact boundaries of the territories allotted to each tribe was written out. Why would that be necessary?  Because the RBSO -who avada knows all- foresaw a time when border conflicts may arise. When it comes to real estate, every buildable foot counts, and shoin. In the future, should and when a conflict would arise between the holy shvotim- let us recall that interfamily machloikes dates back to Kayin and Hevel- the Koihen Godol would easily solve the issues by looking up the original boundaries recorded in the Urim V’Tumim. Well, blow me down! And when the heylige Ois went on to read the entirety of what Bechor Schor wrote, he also found this: ובשעת מלחמה ובשעת הצורך היו עולות האותיות הכתובות ואומרות מה שצריך להם לשאול. Which means? That the Urim V’Tumim would function as a miraculous oracle during times of war and need. More magic.

Others see urim rooted in the root arur, “cursed”, and tumim from tam, “innocent”. In other words:  the stones were used to figure out if a person was guilty or innocent, or if a certain decision was right or wrong. In the heylige Novee (I Shmuel 14:36-44) we read how King Shaul (Saul) debated whether or not to pursue the Philistines in battle. The Koihen Godol addressed the question to the RBSO ober there was no response. The good king concluded there must be a guilty person among them causing the RBSO to turn away. He then separated the people into groups to see which group contains the guilty party. It turned out that it was Saul’s own son Yoinoson who was the guilty party. In this passage the Urim and Tumim were used in divine communication, both in finding whether an action was right or wrong, and in determining guilt and innocence.

And we close with this: says Rabbi Chaim Vital that this is how the Arizal could “read” people’s faces, by seeing a sort of Breastplate on their forehead. In Sha’ar Ruach HaKodesh, he explains that each person’s forehead has the twenty-two letters mystically engraved upon it, and the letters glow allowing the adept to penetrate into one’s soul and fortune. Each letter symbolizes different things. If no letters at all are shining, the person is nearing their death! And just like that, Toirah inspired mikubolim (kabbalists) went into business.

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman



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