Where have the years gone? This week we begin with wishes of mazel tov to the Oisvorfer, his eishes chayil and the gantze mishpocho upon the occasion of the aufruf this coming shabbis of their son Zachary who will with the help of the RBSO be getting married on Sunday to the love of his life, Ariella Perl, of Teaneck, New Jersey. Mazel tov to the kalla’s mishpocho, Karen and Allen Perl, to their entire extended family and a special shout out to the grandparents on both sides. Mazel tov to Ellie and Irving Bader, mostly referred to over the years in this column as the shver and shvigermeister who will have the zechus to attend the wedding of a grandchild, many more to come IY’H, and a special mazel tov to Margot Silverman, the kalla’s grandmother.
Mazel tov as well to our friends Yaffa Leah and Seth Schreiber on the bat mitzvah, this past week, of their daughter, Yakira. Good people!
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
The curious case of Mrs. Loit
If you’re over 50, efsher you recall that way back, when you were still a yinger tzutzik (youngster) and took ill, the family doctor made a house call to see you, mamish. And way way back when, post mabul but before the famous akeydo myseh that we will read this week, if your name was Avrohom Ovenu and you had just, at the age of 99 given yourself a bris, you were also entitled to a visit by three malochim (angels) dressed up as human beings. Moreover, you got a house visit from the RBSO Himself. Ober all that was before Obama Care. And as parshas Vayero opens, we taka find Avrahom Ovenu on day three following a rather unusual surgical procedure in which he acted as patient and doctor engrossed in a conversation with the RBSO. Ober before we jump into this more than amazing and exciting parsha, here are a few highlights and storylines, each one worthy of discussion.
And if you want action, shut the TV and other such narishkeyt and read this week’s parsha! It’s zicher more exciting than Homeland season three and Breaking Bad is over and done; learn the heylige Toirah instead. Parshas Vayero, as mentioned above, features the first recorded bikkur cholim (checking in on the sick) visit by the RBSO himself, fire and brimstone leading to the complete destruction of Sedoim, yet another king making eyes at Soro, efsher a second attempt by Avrohom Oveenu to rid himself of his eishes chayil, incest between Loit and his daughters, attempted homosexuality by the people of Sedoim, Hogor and Yishmoel make another appearance, the birth of Yitzchok by parents now 90 and 100 years old, and the big one, the most dramatic story in the Sefer Be’reishis, the Akeidas Yitzchok (the binding of Isaac) myseh and much more. We have previously covered most of these topics b’arichus and avada you are invited to visit www.oisvorfer.com to see previous editions of parshas Vayero. Too many topics to cover and precious little space, where shall we begin? Nu, let’s begin with highlights, then a shtikel discussion on Mrs. Loit and, time permitting; we’ll cover one more inyan.
Shoin, only two parshas back, the RBSO, disgusted mamish by the behavior of man, also most animals, and men behaving like vilde chayis, regretted creating man and taka made good. He destroyed the gantze velt leaving only Noaich and his kinderlach, also a few animals to start all over. They did and here we are two shabosim later and mistama a few generations later. New people have come and they too are sinners ober this time the issue seems to be localized. Man has reverted to his old way, efsher his natural tendencies, ver veyst. There’s a crisis brewing in a city called Sedoim (Sedoim): the people there are gantz giferlich and shlect. Sedoim is in chaos, Agents 86 and 99 are nowhere to be found. The people are robbing, stealing; they are sexual deviants, maybe training to be rebbes in local yeshivas, ver veyst? In general, not such nice people. This week, the RBSO sets His sights on Sedoim and before chamishi (fifth portion) He will have wiped out its inhabitants and destroyed forever the entire city.
Nu, as mentioned, the people of Sedoim were beyond repair. Eventually the RBSO decided that their behavior was off the reservation, it was time for them to go, all but Loit, Avrohom’s nephew and his mishpocho, some of them. The RBSO sent malochim to get the job done. We have previously covered this part of their story and efsher you also recall learning that Mrs. Loit failed to follow strict instruction about not looking back and turned into a pillar of salt. You forgot? Lommer chazerim (let’s refresh): As Loit departs the scene of destruction, his personal malach (angel of salvation) tells him not to look back while the cities are being given their divine punishment. Most of the Loits follow orders, ober Loit’s eishes chayil, not unlike many wives, if you chap, looks back. Biclall (in general) women look back at everything especially all the things the husband may have done wrong over the years. Says the heylige Toirah (Bireishis 19:26) “His wife looked back, and ‘vatehi netziv melach,’ (she became a pillar of salt).” Our good rabbis tell us that she will remain in that position until tichiyas hamaysim (awakening of the dead). She did? She will? Why?
And ever since, the heylige Gemora and many medroshim (commentators) have been fascinated with Mrs. Loit and have wondered aloud what really happened to her and why. Who was Mrs. Loit, did she have a name, do we know it, why did she taka turn around and why was she punished so severely? On the other hand, who cares what her name was? On the other hand, the Medrish and many others were quite taken and bewildered by her story and needed as they often do, to plug the holes, fill in the blanks. Moreover, if she was on the save list, what terrible crime did she commit that sealed her fate? Nu, the heylige Toirah does not tell us ober leave it to the Medrish to name her and develop a story that perfectly fits her crime.
Says the medrish (Tanchuma, Vayera 8) azoy: her name was ‘Idis’, pronounced EE-dis. Or, her name may have been “Idit”, ver veyst and this is her story. She was a giferliche woman/wife married to Avrohom’s nephew Loit who himself is of questionable character as we will soon learn. How do we know this was her name? As proof positive, in March 2004, this was a question on Jeopardy, where the answer was “Who was Idith?” And… as noted above, the heylige Toirah does not mention Loit’s wife by name. Indeed, it barely mentions her at all. While Soroh was busy baking, cooking, serving for her guests, Loit’s wife is absent and he, Loit is doing all the work. Later on we will read about some extra workload he took on, if you chap. He was quite the busy beaver, with the beaver, if you chap. To be fair, she is referenced three times- all three while being escorted from Sedoim- ober no name shout out, perhaps not worthy. Efsher you’re taka wondering what great crime she committed that the RBSO meted out such swift and permanent punishment.
Ober let’s stay focused. Seemingly she sinned through salt and was punished through salt, proving once again that salt, too much of it, can have a deleterious affect on one’s body and also that old axiom of mida k’neged mida (an eye for an eye). Her crime: well it depends on which medrish talks to you, let’s explore a few. Says one azoy: she approached her neighbors asking to borrow salt. They asked why she needed salt and why she didn’t have any in the house. Said she: “I took enough for our own needs, but guests came to us and it is for them that I need salt.” Because of her big mouth, all the people of Sedoim knew that Loit was harboring guests. They stormed his house and demanded that he hand them over to the townspeople, this part from the heylige Toirah itself (19:26). In an extremely problematic passage, Loit offered his daughters to the crowd in place of his guests. Wait until you hear what Rashi has to say about that incident ober halt zich eyn (keep you’re your pants on); we’ll get to that part soon. Because she sinned through salt, Loit’s wife was punished by being turned into a pillar of the same material (Bireishis Rabbah 51:5). Gishmak!
Vus epes salt, why did she need salt? Givaldige kasha ober let’s recall that Loit found three strangers loitering and invited them in for a meal. The angels (dressed as common folk) did not initially want to be her guests, but rather those of her husband Loit, since he was more righteous (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5); she even tried to bar their entry to the house. Loit’s wife divided their house into two parts and told Avrohom: “If you want to receive them, do so in your part” (Bereishis Rabbah 50:6). Loit, having learned the great trait of gimilus chasodim (hospitality) from Uncle Avrohom, asked Mrs. Loit to bring them salt. Why salt, ver veyst? Let’s remember this is medrish. She responded: “Do you even wish to learn this bad habit from Avrohom?” In the end, she finally complied with her husband’s request, but acted cunningly in order to remove the guests from her house. Seemingly guilty and deserving of the salt penalty.
Of course, not every Medrish agrees that she was so shlecht a person and says another that she was quite compassionate. Avada you recall learning that the Loits had four daughters, two married and two singles, but engaged at the time. The two married daughters and their husbands refused Loit’s order to evacuate and remained in the doomed city, as did her two future sons-in-law (Bireishis Rabbah 50:9). Ober when Loit and his wife were escorted out of Sedoim, she felt bad, took pity on her married daughters who stayed behind and looked back, efsher to see if they were trailing behind. Ober the Rashbam and Chizkuni say farkert; she turned back to see if her sons-in-law were coming. Which was it, ver veyst?
And says Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer azoy: as she turned back, she saw the back of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) and was immediately transformed into a pillar of salt. Says Rashi and who knew more, azoy: it is not proper for someone who is saved from the disaster to see the punishment of others. And says the Alshich: those who were worthy to be saved should not look on the RBSO’s awesome power.
Ober said Rav Mordechai Gifter (Pirkei Toirah) azoy: though Loit’s wife disobeyed the commandment of the angel of the RBSO by looking back, and was punished for it, she also displayed a certain measure of love and compassion, expressing her inner concern for her family. This show of concern was rewarded by her being turned into a pillar of salt that would be preserved until the time when she would again see her family. Gishmak!
Says the Keli Yokor: Loit’s wife turned back because she was still worried about her possessions that were left behind in Sedoim. Thus, she became fixated in the past, and was unable to change her ways. And to bolster that opinion, said Rav Aharon Soloveichik azoy: the message the angel was conveying in telling Loit and his entourage not to look back was that one should not engage in retrospective thinking, thereby becoming trapped in the past. Veyter!
And says the Yalkut Shimonoi azoy: the pillar of salt was left by the RBSO as a memorial for all time. According to legend and the Mechilta de-Rebbe Yishmoel: Moishe was given a glimpse of the pillar when the RBSO allowed him to climb the mountain and see the land he would not be entering. Says Rabbi Eli Munk, (The Call of the Torah) azoy: Josephus reported having seen the pillar. Did he, ver veyst?
And so amazing is this story of Mrs Loit that it has sparked debate on whether or not a brocho is to be made when one sees the pillar. And if a brocho is to be made, which one? Or is it more than one? Nu, since we got stuck on this salt myseh with Mrs. Loit, let’s learn some more.
Says the heylige Gemora azoy (Berochois 54a–b): Anyone who sees Loit’s wife is required to recite two brochos. The first, “Blessed be the One who remembers the righteous,” expresses thanksgiving and praise to the RBSO for having remembered Avrohom, by the merit of whose righteousness He saved Loit and his wife from the upheaval. This brocho relates to the miracle that was performed for Loit. The second brocho, “Blessed be the true Judge” (that is recited upon hearing of someone’s death), is recited for the punishment visited on Loit’s wife. And says the Sefer ha-Yashar (Vayera 39A), an aggadic source (not necessarily true or false) azoy: Loit’s wife stands in her place to the present; every day passing oxen lick her feet and every morning she rises once again to her previous shape as a pillar of salt. What that means, ver veyst?
Ober says the Chizkuni azoy: the land itself turned into a mass of salt. And says the Ralbag, that it’s not at all plausible that Loit’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, because that would constitute a miracle, and the RBSO performs miracles if people will witness them and as a result come to fear Him. Here, however, there was no one, other than the small group fleeing with Loit, who would have seen what happened.
The story of Loit and his family has many layers of meaning and interpretation; which is the real story, ver veyst? Seemingly no one fared very well as we soon learn what happend to Loit following this incident. In the end, the RBSO had enough of the lawlessness and wiped out Sedoim, seemingly forever. On the other hand, the punishment of Loit’s wife seems totally disproportionate to the “crime,” as it were. How can looking back be worthy of such a fate?
Nu, a few pages ago, we mentioned that there was an ugly incident during which Loit, magnanimous character that he was, had a run in with the Sodomite townspeople; they wanted him to surrender his guests so that they, the bad guys, could have their way with the unwelcomed in Sedoim guests. Let’s quickly review that incipient and see what Rashi tells us what went down or nearly. Later that night, the guests arrive in Sedoim and meet Loit who happened to be loitering around the city gate. Having learned hachnosas oirchim from uncle Avraham, Loit welcomes the guests to his own house and also prepares some food. The bad people of Sedoim are pissed off as they hate guests and surround Loit’s house demanding that Loit send out the guests so that they can have their way with them. The Midrash suggests that they wanted to get to know them physically- implying ‘mishkav zochor (homosexuality), if you chap.
But Loit our hero said no- chas’vsholom! Send out my houseguests, complete strangers that I met but 20 minutes ago? Never! Instead he offered his two daughters, virgins who had never been with a man, in their stead. Did we just read that correctly? Did we just read that a father offered his two virgin daughters to the entire townspeople, the Sodomites nuch der tzei? Is this the same Loit that the malochim were here to save, under direct orders from the RBSO? What’s p’shat here? What are we to understand from this offer?
Noch a mole (one more time): Loit was quite the negotiator. The Sodoimites demand the two strangers and Loit the genius countered and offered the mob his two teenage daughters, both virgins. He mamish says to the mob ‘leave my stranger houseguests alone, instead I’ll give you two young virgins;’ sounds like a reasonable trade, no? What’s p’shat here? Did you ever hear of a father offering one virgin daughter to a guest, let alone two? Did you ever hear of a father offering his virgin daughter to her boyfriend, even her choson? Loit offered his two daughters to an angry mob, what’s going on? And for this great mitzvah, the RBSO decided to save him and sent malochim to get him out of Sedoim? Ober Raboyseyee, the Oisvorfer has mamish a pshat that could blow you away, it’s mamish a chiddush. None of the medroshim brings this down though it could very well be real pshat in his thinking. P’shat here is like this, listen up. Loit avada understood that the people of Sedoim were very very bad, very. And avada he also understood that their preference was in fact mishkav zochor (gay sex). Turns out that Loit was a genius: Loit figured out that if he offered his two virgin daughters to this oversexed gay mob, they’d be mamish safe and for that reason, seemingly he was zoiche (meritorious) to be saved.
Seemingly, Loit’s daughters needed to be saved and were part of the RBSO’s master plan. Sometime after Loit and his two daughters were saved, (seemingly Loit had four in total but two were away and the heylige Toirah does not tell us what happened to them), the story takes quite a twist from the mishkav zochor incident. Here we go.
Loit and his two virgin daughters find themselves in a cave and guess what? The daughters started acting like cavemen. Settle in for what you’re about to read: You would normally be paying $7.95 for a magazine in a brown bag at the local Pakistani 24 hours stand for this kind of schmutz, err…gishmake Toirah story, ober here in this week’s parsha, it’s free for you giferliche oisvorfs. Let’s follow along in the fourth aliya, also known as riviee, also of course a choshova aliya.
Following the apocalypse in Sedoim, Loit and his two virgin daughters fearful to live in the city of Zoar leave and seek refuge in a cave. The girls believe that they and their father were the sole survivors left on earth. Who will propagate and rebuild the world? Nu, they decide that it’s up to them, but with whom? Only one man living (so they believed) and it’s their own tata (father). Let’s be don l’kav zechus (judge them favorably) and suggest that they believed mamish, that their own and the survival of the species could only come from propagating their father’s seed, if you chap.
And what a givaldige plan they concocted. They were going to accomplish this by having intercourse with their father, rachmono litzlon. Can anyone even think of such a dastardly act, even you? What happened next? Let’s follow the Toirah and see. The eldest daughter suggests that they get their father drunk since he might not agree with the plan. On the first night the first daughter had relations with her father and then on the second night, the second daughter. Somehow, Loit chapped two sister, daughters, virgins, in two nights- a feat more typical of an NBA player. OMG! Amazing? Emes? So says the heylige Toirah and not the medrish. Veyter in the parsha: Both girls are impregnated on the first shot, gevald! Loit, according to the Toirah, which never ever chas v’sholom doesn’t tell it like it is, was apparently unaware of what had happened. In his drunken state ‘he knew not when she lay down or when she arose’; these words repeated twice for both daughters (Bereishis 19:33, 35). Shoin: now it’s all clear why the RBSO sent malochim to save this givaldige person named Loit. They were on a mssion!vada and as expected, not everyone holds that Loit was such a tzadik. At least one source suggests that Loit secretly lusted after his daughters, minuvuil that he was. He was totally wasted (intoxicated) when his older daughter lay with him, but he was sober when she rose, as is indicated in the Toirah by the dogosh (dot) over the word u-ve-komah (when she rose). Seemingly, he rose as well, if you chap, and despite his knowledge of what had transpired, what did he do? Did he go to mikveh for some spiritual cleansing? To the Beis Hamedrash efsher to learn the next day? Did he do t’shuva? Not! Instead he made a few more lechaims, drank the wine again the next night and repeated this act noch a mol (one more time) with his younger daughter, a minuvil mamish. Avada some of you might be klerring that the Oisvorfer makes this stuff up ober it’s emes mamish. You can find this myseh in the heylige Toirah and more colorfully described in the medrish (Beriershis Rabbah 51:8–9), check it out. What happened next?
Nu, each daughter delivered a son; appropriately named Moav (meaning from father) and Ben Ammi (son of father – Ammonites). We will be hearing about their progeny and the mischief they caused the Yiddin later on when we learn Sefer Bamidbar and Devorim, stay tuned. Efsher you’re left scratching your heads and klerring azoy: How could the girls think that sleeping with their own father was somehow good and moral?
Ober the Ramban gives them a pass with a lenient approach. Says he: the daughters might be thought of as the Noiach of their time; they, like him, thought that they were saving the world’s existence. As expected the Midrashim present a mixed opinion about this act of incest. One describes it as lesheym shomayim (an act for heaven), another as an act of fornication. Which was it, ver veyst? One suggested that even if Loit, with his elder daughter was unaware as a result of being drunk, he should have realized when he awakened how happy and relaxed he was and should have been more cautious the second night. Nu, men are men and who are we to judge; would any of you minuvulim not have feigned drunkenness if you had the opportunity to chap virgins on two consecutive nights?
Ober let’s remember Raboyseyee that this all took place before the RBSO gave the Yiddin the heylige Toirah. Back then we can kler that incest was best and avada it’s bavist (well known) that other Toirah luminaries enjoyed intermishpocho relations. Avrohom Oveenu claimed to be married to his half-sister Soro, some say that Shimon, one of the heylige shevotim (tribes), married his sister Dina, Moishe rabaynu’s father Amram apparently married his Aunt Yoicheved and of course, last but not least, Yehudah who married his daughter-in-law Tamar. They seemingly found creative ways to solve whatever shidduch crisis may have been brewing in their time.
And the bottom line: who are we to admonish Loits’ behavior? Says the Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer: Loit was a righteous man similar to his Uncle Avrohom. Do we need any more proof than the RBSO himself sending a set of his finest malochim (angles) to rescue him and his family prior to the destruction of Sedoim? Has He sent any for you? Efsher you’re wondering why Loit didn’t admonish the girls for their date rape ober, after their own father offered them up to a mob of Sodomites for a potential orgy, efsher we can kler that it would have been difficult for him to criticize their behavior.
A gittin shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv